THE CONQUEST BY THE GODS

Agustus 1, 2011 at 11:08 am (Uncategorized) (, )

The Conquest by the Gods

The Tuatha De Danann was the third group to invade Ireland. This third conquest is one of the most mysterious and probably most important of the all the invasions.

The Tuatha De Danann, Children of Danu, is remembered today as the gods of Ireland. There is also evidence to support that they were also the old gods of the greater Celtic community in prehistoric Europe. They were also direct descendants of Nemed, who had left Ireland and settled in the northern islands of Greece. There they had learnt the arts of druidism in which they had become very skilled.

They had fought on the side of the Athenians against the Philistines and had amazed everyone with their feats of magic, but eventually the Philistines became to great to overcome and the Tuatha De Danann fled.

Among the possessions they took with them there were four sacred objects: the Lia Fail, a stone which uttered a shriek at the inauguration of a rightful king; the invincible sword of Lugh; the deadly sword of Nuada and the ever-plentiful cauldron of the Dagda.

First the landed in Scotland but the land was so bleak that the life of the exiles was harsh, so the Tuatha De decided to claim the land they believed was rightfully theirs, Ireland.

They landed in secret at the festival of Beltain (1 May), the most sacred of all Celtic feasts. Once everyone had landed the boats were burnt so that, no matter what, they couldn’t run.

They conjured a darkness around themselves and moved about the country unnoticed. At Connacht they surprised the Fir Bolg into battle.

There were many fierce battles until the Fir Bolg admitted defeat. The Fir Bolg who survived the battles fled to islands on the coast. The final battle between the Tuatha De and the Fir Bolg is known as the First Battle of Moytura.

The Tuatha De could not claim Ireland yet, for the Fomorians still lived on Ireland and had their own claim to voice. This battle is told in the tale of the Second Battle of Moytura.

The Second Battle of Moytura

In the First Battle of Moytura the king of the Fir Bolg was slain and Nuada, the king of the Tuatha De, was severely injured when his arm was cut off at the shoulder. Diancecht the physician fashioned him an arm of silver to replace the one he lost. Unfortunately the law of the Tuatha De states that a king must be whole and unblemished, so Nuada lost his throne to a man named Eochaid Bres or Eochaid the Beautiful. Eochaid’s mother was of the Tuatha De but his father was a Fomorian, their chief. Eochaid knew nothing of this and was brought up by the Tuatha De.

When he was made king a wedding was arranged between him and Tailltiu, the widow of the dead Fir Bolg king. At the same time a marriage between Cian, son of Diancecht the physician, and Ethne, daughter of the great Fomorian warrior Balor.

Bres was made king on the condition that if the people were not happy with his rule he would abdicate.

It was not long before he began to favour the Fomorians and began to oppress the Tuatha De. Eventually the Tuatha De rebelled and reminded Bres of the condition. He agreed but begged to remain for seven years.

His request was granted and he used this time to gather the forces of the Fomorians to destroy the Tuatha De. It was during this time that he learnt who his father was, when his mother took him to the Fomorians and their chief acknowledged him.

It was also during this time that Nuada was healed. The skin around the false arm began to fester and so Nuada sent for Miach, another son of Diancecht, who was known to have great powers of healing. Miach examined Nuada and called for the flesh arm to be found. It was found and was put in place of the silver arm. Miach chanted, “Let this be joined sinew to sinew and nerve to nerve so that there is movement and feeling in every joint.” Nuada was healed in three days.

Diancecht became so jealous of Miach’s healing powers that he hit his son in the head with his sword. Miach was able to heal himself. Diancecht struck him again cut him to the bone and again Miach healed himself. Again Diancecht struck, this time to the brain and again he struck, destroying Miach brains too badly that even his powers were defeated. This was not the end for Miach’s powers though. When he was buried 365 herbs grew from his grave. His sister Airmid gathered them and sorted them, but again Diancecht’s jealousy got the better of him and he mixed them up. If it had not been for Diancecht’s jealousy the cure for every illness would be known.

As Nuada was healed, he was reinstated as king of the Tuatha De Danann. To celebrate this he held a feast at Tara. During the feast the doorkeeper saw a company approach led by a fair, young warrior in regal robes.

“Who are you and what is your purpose here?” asked the doorkeeper.

“Lugh Long Arm is here to see the king. Son of Cian, son of Diancecht and of Ethne, daughter of Balor. Tell the king that I am here to see him and that I can help him.”

“What do you practise? No one can enter Tara without qualifications.”

“Questions me doorkeeper, I am a carpenter,” Luch Long Arm said.

“We have no need of a carpenter, Luchta is our carpenter,” the doorkeeper replied.

“Questions me doorkeeper, I am a smith.”

“We have a smith, we have no need of another.”

“I am a champion warrior,” Luch said.

“Ogma is our champion and we have more warriors of our own.”

“I am skilled in playing the harp.”

“We have a harpist,” the doorkeeper replied.

“I am a strategist.”

“We have them.”

“I am a historian and a poet.”

“We have one.”

“I am skilled in the arts of sorcery.”

“We have the most powerful druids in all the land.”

“I am a physician,” Lugh said.

“Daincecht is our physician,” the doorkeeper replied.

“I am a cupbearer.”

“We have plenty.”

“I am a metalworker.”

“Credne is our metalworker,” the doorkeeper replied.

“Then go and ask the king if he has anyone who has all these skills and learning. If he has I will not enter.”

In response to this message from his doorkeeper, Nuada sent his best chess-player to test Lugh’s mental skills. Lugh defeated him easily. The king invited him into Tara and gave him the seat reserved for the wisest of them all.

Ogma was eager to prove his strength to the newcomer. He picked up on the flagstones of the palace. He heaved it through a wall and threw it right outside the fort. In response to this challenge Lugh picked up the stone and threw it back inside and in an instant he repaired the damage to the wall.

Nuada knew that Lugh was a true champion and he made him responsible for Ireland’s defence against the Formorians.

A great conference took place as he Tuatha De Danann tried to decide what to do about the Fomorians. Under Lugh’s leadership everyone agreed to use what skill they had to help in the fight against the Fomorians. Lugh, the Dagda and Ogma agreed to go to the three warrior goddesses and to learn from them how the battle should be planned. The Dagda met the Morrigan at Samain and he persuaded her to reveal the Fomorians’ plans and to fight on the side of the Tuatha De.

It took the full seven years to prepare for the battle and by the end the Tuatha De were still not quite ready so the Dagda went to the Fomorians to seek a truce to gain more time.

Knowing that Dagda loved porridge, the Fomorians made a large amount and poured it into a huge cauldron sized pit. They threatened the Dagda with death if he did not finish every last scarp because they did not want to be accused of not being hospitable. They spoke with such sincerity that the Dagda seized his ladle, which was big enough for a man and a woman to lie in, and finished every scrap of porridge even using his fingers to scrape the bottom of the pit. He as so full that he fell asleep and the Fomorians laughed at him. When he awoke and left he could hardly walk because his stomach was the size of a cauldron. He leaned on his weapon, a great-wheeled club that as he walked left a track so deep and enduring that it served as a boundary mark for the province.

The Fomorians mocked him but the Dagda had done what he had set out to do and the Tuatha De had the time they needed to complete their preparations.

The Tuatha De decided that Lugh was to valuable to be lost in the battle so when the army assembled he was surrounded by nine of his warriors. He was in charge of strategy but he would not fight in the battle.

On the eve of Samain the to armies met with champions facing each other in single combat. Mostly the Tuatha De was victorious but occasionally a Fomorian was victorious. The Fomorians noticed that unlike their injured the Tuatha De Danann’s injured were well and ready to fight the following day and that their weapons were mended. They sent a spy, Ruadan, to find out the Tuatha De’s secret.

He went into the Tuatha De’s camp and found Goibniu, the smith; Luchta, the carpenter and Credne the metalworker working as a powerful team to mend the weapons. He saw how Diancecht and his sons cast spells over a well and when the wounded and the dead where thrown into its waters they were healed and restored to life. Ruadan grew angry and he attacked Goibniu with his spear. Goibniu removed the spear and sent it into Ruadan and sent him to die among his own people.

His mission was not a complete failure though, because with his dying breath he told the Fomorians about the well and that night they went and filled it with stones.

Now the two armies battled each other and as they confronted one another the Fomorians saw a shining figure at the front of the Tuatha De. Lugh had escaped his guards and was now inciting the Tuatha De to victory.

The battle was fast a furious with people falling on both sides. Then Balor, the king of the Fomorians, killed Nuada Silver Arm and so Lugh fought to the front of the line to confront his grandfather.

Balor was also known as Balor Evil Eye because once, when his father’s druids had been brewing an evil potion, some of the fumes from the brew had wafted into his eye and the poison from the charm had entered it. One glance from the now poisonous eye could destroy armies.

As Lugh confronted his grandfather he shouted a challenge so Balor ordered his eye to be opened so that he could see him. Four men holding wooden pegs were used to lift the heavy lid covering the evil eye.

Before the eye was half open Lugh used his slingshot to cast a stone at the eye. It passed through the eye and carried it to the back of his head where it killed 27 Fomorians standing there.

With Balor dead, the Tuatha De fought with renewed vigour and with the help of the warrior goddesses they drove the Fomorians into the sea and Bres fled with them.

When the battle was over, there were more dead than could be counted. It is said that the standing stones on the plain of Carrowmore, near Sligo, mark the graves of those who died in the Second Battle of Moytura.

With the land free of the Fomorians and the Tuatha De restored to their former positions the Morrigan, war goddess of Ireland, climbed to the mountain tops to chant victory to all those in the land.

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THE CONQUEST BY NEMED

Agustus 1, 2011 at 11:07 am (Uncategorized) (, )

The Conquest of Nemed

This takes place at the beginning, before Ireland was Ireland, when it was inhabited only by a tribe known as the Fomorians. Their name is translated from Celtic to mean ‘those who live under the sea’.

Nemed and his people left Greece to make the westward journey, looking for a new home. They left in thirty-four oared boats with thirty people in each. Thirty years before Nemed and his followers left for Ireland a plague swept through the land leaving much of Ireland desolate.

The journey was going well with calm seas and favourable winds, until a golden tower was sighted. It had smooth yellow walls that glistened in the seas mist and it was so tall that its top was lost in the clouds.

The fleet rowed towards it, hoping to find treasure, but the sea around it surged with treacherous currents that capsized some of the fleet and drove the rest into the jagged rocks. Only Nemed’s boat survived, but most of those travelling with him drowned.

The survivors sailed away from there and came to the shores of Ireland. Here they settled.

But their troubles were not over. Twelve days after they landed Macha, Nemed’s wife, was the first to die of the plague that was still ravaging Ireland.

The Fomorians also wanted to settle Ireland but Nemed and his men were to strong and made them work as slaves. They built two great forts and carved out twelve fields from the forested land. They were not the only things changing the look of the landscape. Natural causes were also making changes. Four mighty cloudbursts created four great lakes (that can still be seen today).

While Nemed lived the Fomorians were under his control. In three battles he lost many men but he subdued them nonetheless. That was until he too died of the plague that still lurked in dark corners of Ireland.

Now the Fomorians saw their chance to turn the tables on the Children of Nemed. Without Nemed his children were defeated.

The Fomorians were cruel and harsh. Every year at the festival of Samain (Today’s Halloween – 1 November) the Children of Nemed were forced to give up two-thirds of their corn, two-thirds of their mil produce and two-thirds of their new born infants.

The Children of Nemed sent messengers to Greece, asking for assistance. Many people set sail from Greece, including druids and druidesses and many vicious animals.

The fleet laid siege to the king of the Fomorians, Conann, in his glass tower, until he was forced to battle the army.

First the druids and druidesses of each army battled, but they were evenly matched, countering every spell the others cast. Then the warriors battled and many men were lost but eventually the Children of Nemed were victorious.

However Conann was still safe in his tower, so the Children of Nemed let loose the vicious animals – wolves and poisonous pigs – and most people fled, but Conann was still safe.

Then, Fergus, con of Nemed, challenged Conann to single combat and so Conann was killed.

But this was not the end as more Fomorians arrived and as they left their ships the Children of Nemed were waiting for them and fierce fights broke out, so filled with battle fury was everyone that no one noticed a tidal wave headed towards them. It was higher than the tower itself and moving faster than any hawk and it broke over the people fighting there on the beach killing all but thirty Children of Nemed and a boatload of the Fomorians.

After this the Children of Nemed couldn’t settle down, being in constant fear for their lives. Eventually they scattered, some returning to Greece and others to Britain. Except for the Formorians, Ireland was empty again for another 200 years.

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LOKI’S OFFSPRING

Agustus 1, 2011 at 11:05 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Loki’s Offspring

When Loki thought it was safe to return he was leading a strange eight legged horse called Sleipnir. Loki gave Sleipnir to Odin and said: “Sleipnir is unlike any other horse for he is my offspring. No horse will be able to keep pace with Sleipnir. He will bear you over the sea and through air, and to the land of the dead and back.”

As was promised Sleipnir never failed his new master Odin, but not all of Loki’s offspring were like him.

One would have to know that Loki was half giant himself, to understand why he had three children by a giantess. The first child is the Fenrir, it is ordained that at the end of the world he will devour Odin. The second child is the Midgard serpent, and the third is none other than the mistress of death herself – Hel.

When Odin came to realize that these children were loose in the world, he had them brought to him. Odin had the Midgard serpant thrown into the sea, but the serpent was so vast that it encircled the world and bit it’s own tail. Odin banished Hel to Niflheim, the Land of the Dead, and gave her power over all those who die of illness and old-age.

Even though Odin the All-Fathner had managed two of Loki’s children Fenrir was not so easily undone. Only the god Tyr was brave enough to feed this monstrosity, but even he could see that when Fenrir was fullt grown it would do terrible harm. The gods decided to create a strong chain that could not be broken and tie Fenrir up. With one mighty kick Fenrir broke it’s bonds and was free. Finally Odin swallowed his pride and asked the dwarfs for help, they agreed and mad a fetter called Gleipnir. Gleipnir was silky and soft to the touch, Gleipnir was made of special ingredients: the soundlessness of a cat’s footfall, a woman’s beard, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, a fishes breath and the spittle of a bird. The gods took Fenrir to a lonely isolated island and challenged it to break Gleipnir. Fenrir sensed a trap, so the wolf agreed only if one of the gods was brave enough to place his hand in his mouth, as a token of good faith. Tyr was the only god brave enough and so he thrust his hand into Fenrir’s fearsome jaws. So the gods bound the giant wolf with the silken fetter, and when he kicked it only tightened. Enraged by it’s captivity Fenrir clamped it’s jaws shut and bit off the god Tyr’s right hand. Even though the gods knew that it was ordained that a time would come when Fenrir would break free and bring with it death and destruction for all, the gods refused to kill it. The gods said : “What must be, will be.

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LOKI AND THE BUILDER

Agustus 1, 2011 at 11:04 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Loki and the Builder

The gods home, Asgard, had no wall around it to protects the gods against their enemies. This fact troubled the gods greatly, so when a strange horseman came to Asgrad offering to build a great wall the gods were pleased.

“This will be a great wall” said the stranger, “a true monument to your greatness. In eighteen months from now it will be complete and all your worries will be for naught.”

“What is your price Horseman?” asked Odin the All-Father.

“I will accept nothing less than the beautiful goddess Freyja as my wife,” replied the stranger, “As well as the sun and moon.”

Naturally the gods were furious at the strangers impertinence, to think they would barter of Freyja for mere building work, let alone the sun and moon. By this time Freyja was weeping tears of gold.

However Loki, also known as Loki the Trickster, had an idea.

He turned to the stranger and said: “If you are able to complete the wall in six months you have a bargain.” The stranger considered his options, once more looking upon the beautiful Freyja, gold tears making shinning trails down her cheeks and said,

” I’ll agree only if my horse is allowed to help me.”

The gods looked at Loki in astonishment, ‘What were you thinking?’ they asked.

“Have no fear,” said Loki grinning,” In six months he will only be able to build half a wall, the bargain will be incomplete, and we will have half a wall for free.”

The gods applauded Loki’s cunning and all were pleased.

However, the stranger worked long and hard during the winter, striving to complete the great wall on time, with the help of his horse he managed to quarry the stone for a massive wall around Asgard.

As summer approached disaster stared the gods in the face for the stranger, against all odds, had almost completed the wall.

Odin the All-Father turned to Loki, “Do something Loki,” he said, “We cannot allow our Freyja to marry this man, he must be a giant in disguise, and if we give up the sun and moon life will be scarcely worth living. You got us into this mess Trickster, so you must get us out!”

Loki thought for awhile and finally he had an answer, “Without his horse he won’t be able to haul the stones to complete the wall.”

Loki was a god who was able to change his shape, so that night he transformed himself into a beautiful mare and lured away the stranger’s horse. When the stranger realized what had happened he became enraged and his disguise fell away. The stranger was a giant, one of the gods foe’s. The gods called on Thor, the god of thunder and lightning. With his mighty hammer, Miollnir, Thor struck the giant with a thunderclap on his head.

That is the end of the story about the giant, but not the end of Loki’s.

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MELEAGER

Agustus 1, 2011 at 7:20 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Son of King Oeneus of of Calydon and Althaea. Seven days after his birth the Fates appeared to foretell his future. Clotho and Lachesis predicted he would be noble and brave. Atropos warn that he would die as soon as one of the sticks in the fireplace burned completely. Taking the hint Althaea pulled the stick from the fire, put it out, and hid it in a safe place.

While still young he came to be regarded as second only to Heracles in his abilities. He was the youngest of the Argonauts and according to some killed the Argonauts chief enemy, King Aeetes of Colchis.

After he returned from this journey he married Cleopatra and had a daughter Polydora. His domestic tranquility was brought to an end when Artemis unleashed the fearsome boar in his homeland. He naturally took a leading role in killing the boar during what became known as the Calydonian Boar Hunt which lead to his death.

There are two versions of Meleager’s death Both start with a quarrel with his uncles over the prize boar skin. To understand what happened it is necessary to know that Althaea was married to Oeneus to help settle a blood feud that may have gone on for generations. While his uncles came to help with the boar there still would have been a lot of tension between them and the Calydonians and Althaea’s brothers. Tensions that were not helped by strange choice of taking Atlanta on the hunt.

In the first version the quarrel over the prize led to a new war between Curetes and Calydon. This put Meleager who had blood relatives on both sides in a terrible position. Without his leadership Calydon was on the verge of losing. His wife appealed to him to save the city. However, while leading Calydon he killed his uncles. As a result his Mother cursed him. Possibly by burning the stick from the Fates visit. With or without the curse, the Erinyes killed him to revenge his killing of blood relatives.

The more romantic version of his death starts with Meleager awarding the prize to Atlanta because she drew first blood. Awarding the prize to a woman angers the rest of the hunting party but, most stay silent. However, his uncles feel their position entitle them to tell Meleager what to do. The quarrel breaks out between them and Meleager kills his uncles. On hearing of her brothers death by his hands, his mother burns the magic stick from the Fates visit. As predicted Meleager dies. Althaea then kills herself in remorse. This is followed by Cleopatra killing herself from grief.

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BELLEROPHON

Agustus 1, 2011 at 7:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Bellerophon provides a lesson in the proper relationship between a mortal hero and the gods. When he was young he honored the gods and won their favor but, then his pride got the better of him and led to his downfall.

Bellerophon was the son of Eurynome, wife of Glaucus, by Poseidon. He was raised by Glaucus who thought Bellerophon was his own son. Considering both his fathers involvement with horses it is not surprising that he quested after Pegasus. After many failures he asked the seer Polyeidus for help.

Following Polyeidus instructions he spent the night at an alter to Athena. Here he had a dream of the goddess giving him a magical golden bridle. He awoke and found the bridle from the dream in his hands. He sensibly sacrificed to both Athena and Poseidon. This done he went to where Pegasus grazed and was able to bridle and ride the horse without difficulty. Triumphant in his success he went to King Pittheus and received permission to marry his daughter Aethra. However, before the marriage could take place he accidently killed a man, possibly one of his brothers, and was banished.

He went to King Proetus to be purified for his crime. This was done but, while staying as Proetus’s house guest the King’s wife, Stheneboea, attempted to seduce him. As an honorable man Bellerophon rejected her advances. This infuriated Stheneboea who then falsely accused him of attempting to seduce her.

Greatly upset, Proetus wished to be rid of Bellerophon without having to accuse him publicly. He was also concerned about harming a house guest as this was an offence to the gods. So he sent Bellerophon to deliver a sealed message to his wife’s father, King Iobates.

Arriving on Pegasus, Bellerophon was warmly received and settled in as Iobates house guest. Iobates unsealed and read the message thus learning of Stheneboea’s accusations against Bellerophon. This left Iobates in the same predicament of acting against a guest that had troubled Proetus.

Iobates solution was to ask Bellerophon to undertake a series of heroic but, normally deadly tasks. However, Bellerophon’s courage and skill as an archer combined with Pegasus as a mount allowed him to prevail. In addition his parentage, his sacrifices, and his acts of honor brought him the favor of the gods. His first task was to kill the terrible Chimaera. Succeeding here he was sent to conquer the neighboring Solymi tribe, who were Iobates traditional enemies. When he defeated them the King sent him to fight the Amazons. He was again victorious. In desperation Iobates laid an ambush against Bellerophon using his entire army. This army was killed to the last man.

At this point Iobates had the wisdom to notice that something was very wrong. He realized that the gods favored Bellerophon and that this favor would not have been given to a dishonorable house guest. Iobates succeed in making amends by giving Bellerophon half his kingdom, including the best farm land and his daughter Philonoe in marriage.

There are two stories concerning the fate of Stheneboea. One that Bellerophon extracted revenge by taking her for a ride on Pegasus then shoving her off to fall to her death. This seems unheroic. In the other version Stheneboea hears that Bellerophon has married her sister. She knows that this means her slander will be reveled and chose to kill herself.

It appeared that Bellerophon would live happily ever after. His glorious deeds were widely sung. He was happily married. Philonoe bore him two sons, Isander and Hippolochus, and two daughters, Laodameia and Deidameia. As a king his subjects loved and honored him.

All this was not enough for Bellerophon. In his arrogance he decided that he could ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus and visit the gods. Zeus quickly put an end to his trip by sending the gadfly to sting Pegasus and throw Bellerophon. He survived his fall but, was crippled. He spent the rest of his life wandering the earth. No man would help him because of his offense to the gods. He died alone with no one to record his fate.

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ATHENA AND BELLEROPHON

Agustus 1, 2011 at 7:06 am (Uncategorized) (, )

 The Chimaera battling Bellerophon on Pegasos
Louvre A 478 (inv. no. MNB 1745)

 

In Ephyre, the city later called Corinth, Glaucus was King. He was the son of Sisyphus who in Hades must forever try to roll a stone uphill because he once betrayed a secret of Zeus. Glaucus, too, drew down on himself the displeasure of heaven. He was a great horseman and he fed his horses human flesh to make them fierce in battle. Such monstrous deeds always angered the Gods and they served him as he had served others. He was thrown from his chariot and his horses tore him to pieces and devoured him.

In the city a bold and beautiful young man named Bellerophon was generally held to be his son. It was rumored, however, that Bellerophon had a mightier father, Poseidon himself, the Ruler of the Sea, and the youth’s surpassing gifts of spirit and body made this account of his birth seem likely. Moreover his mother, Eurynome, although a mortal, had been taught by Athena until in wit and wisdom she was the peer of the Gods. It was only to be expected on all scores that Bellerophon should seem less mortal than divine. Great adventures would call to such a one as he and no peril would ever hold him back. And yet the deed for which he is best known needed no courage at all, no effort, even. Indeed, it proved that

What man would swear cannot be done, –
Must not be hoped for, – the great Power on high
Can give into his hand, in easy mastery.

More than anything on earth Bellerophon wanted Pegasus, a marvelous horse which had sprung from the Gorgon’s blood when Perseus killed her. He was

A winged steed, unwearying of flight,
Sweeping through air swift as a gale of wind.

Wonders attended him. The spring beloved of poets, Hippocrene, on Helicon, the Muses’ mountain, had sprung up where his hoof had struck the earth. Who could catch and tame such a creature? Bellerophon suffered from hopeless longing.

The wise seer of Ephyre (Corinth), Polyidus, to whom he told his desperate desire, advised him to go to Athena’s Temple and sleep there. The Gods often spoke to men in their dreams. So Bellerophon went to the holy place and when he was lying deep in slumber beside the altar he seemed to see the Goddess standing before him with some golden thing in her hand. She said to him, “Asleep? Nay, wake. Here is what will charm the steed you covet.” He sprang to his feet. No Goddess was there, but a marvelous object lay in front of him, a bridle all of gold, such as never had been seen before. Hopeful at last with it in his hand, he hurried out to the fields to find Pegasus. He caught sight of him, drinking from the far-famed spring of Corinth, Pirene; and he drew gently near. The horse looked at him tranquilly, neither startled nor afraid, and suffered himself to be bridled without the least trouble. Athena’s charm had worked. Bellerophon was master of the glorious creature.

In his full suit of bronze armor he leaped upon his back and put him through his paces, the horse seeming to delight in the sport as much as he himself. Now he was lord of the air, flying wherever he would, envied of all. As matters turned out, Pegasus was not only a joy, but a help in time of need as well, for hard trials lay before Bellerophon.

In some way, we are not told how except that it was purely through accident, he killed his brother; and he went to Argos where the King, Proetus, purified him. There his trials began and his great deeds as well. Anteia, the wife of Proetus, fell in love with him, and when he turned from her and would have nothing to do with her, in her bitter anger she told her husband that his guest had wronged her and must die. Enraged though he was, Proetus would not kill him. Bellerophon had eaten at his table; he could not bring himself to use violence against him. However, he made a plan which seemed certain to have the same result. He asked the youth to take a letter to the King of Lycia in Asia and Bellerophon easily agreed. Long journeys meant nothing to him on Pegasus’ back. The Lycian king received him with antique hospitality and entertained him splendidly for nine days before he asked to see the letter. Then he read that Proetus wanted the young man killed.

He did not care to do so, for the same reason that had made Proetus unwilling: Zeus’s well-known hostility to those who broke the bond between host and guest. There could be no objection, however, to sending the stranger on an adventure, him and his winged horse. So he asked him to go and slay the Chimaera, feeling quite assured that he would never come back. The Chimaera was held to be unconquerable. She was a most singular portent; a lion in front, a serpent behind, a goat in between –

A fearful creature, great and swift of foot and strong,
Whose breath was flame unquenchable.

But for Bellerophon riding Pegasus there was no need to come anywhere near the flaming monster. He soared up over her and shot her with his arrows at no risk to himself.

When he went back to Proetus, the latter had to think out other ways of disposing of him. He got him to go on an expedition, against the Solymi, mighty warriors; and when Bellerophon had succeeded in conquering these, on another against the Amazons, where he did equally well. Finally Proetus was won over by his courage and his good fortune, too; he became friends with him and gave him his daughter to marry.

He lived happily thus for a long time; then he made the Gods angry. His eager ambition along with his great success led him to think “thoughts too great for man,” the thing of all others the Gods objected to. He tried to ride Pegasus up to Olympus. He believed he could take his place there with the immortals. The horse was wiser. He would not try the flight, and he threw his rider. Thereafter Bellerophon, hated of the Gods, wandered alone, devouring his own soul and avoiding the paths of men until he died.

Pegasus found shelter in the heavenly stalls of Olympus where the steeds of Zeus were cared for. Of then all he was foremost, as was proved by the extraordinary fact the poets report, that when Zeus wished to use his thunderbolt, it was Pegasus who brought the thunder and lightning to him..

Adapted from Mythology,
Pegasus and Bellerophon
by Edith Hamilton

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THE STORY OF CALLISTO

Juli 30, 2011 at 10:12 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Callisto was another maiden who excited the jealousy of Juno, and the goddess changed her into a bear. “I will take away,” said she, “that beauty with which you have captivated my husband.” Down fell Callisto on her hands and knees; she tried to stretch out her arms in supplication,– they were already beginning to be covered with black hair. Her hands grew rounded, became armed with crooked claws, and served for feet; her mouth, which Jove used to praise for its beauty, became a horrid pair of jaws; her voice, which if unchanged would have moved the heart to pity, became a growl, more fit to inspire terror. Yet her former disposition remained, and, with continued groaning, she bemoaned her fate, and stood upright as well as she could, lifting up her paws to beg for mercy; and felt that Jove was unkind, though she could not tell him so. Ah, how often, afraid to stay in the woods all night alone, she wandered about the neighborhood of her former haunts; how often, frightened by the dogs, did she, so lately a huntress, fly in terror from the hunters! Often she fled from the wild beasts, forgetting that she was now a wild beast herself; and, bear as she was, was afraid of the bears.

Whirpool Galaxy in Ursa Major

Whirpool Galaxy in Ursa Major

One day a youth espied her as he was hunting. She saw him and recognized him as her own son, now grown a young man. She stopped, and felt inclined to embrace him. As she was about to approach, he, alarmed, raised his hunting spear, and was on the point of transfixing her, when Jupiter, beholding, arrested the crime, and, snatching away both of them, placed them in the heavens as the Great and Little Bear.

Juno was in a rage to see her rival so set in honor, and hastened to ancient Tethys and Oceanus, the powers of ocean, and, in answer to their inquiries, thus told the cause of her coming; “Do you ask why I, the queen of the gods, have left the heavenly plains and sought your depths. Learn that I am supplanted in heaven, — my place is given to another. You will hardly believe me; but look when night darkens the world, and you shall see the two, of whom I have so much reason to complain, exalted to the heavens, in that part where the circle is the smallest, in the neighborhood of the pole. Why should any one hereafter tremble at the thought of offending Juno, when such rewards are the consequence of my displeasure! See what I have been able to effect! I forbade her to wear the human form, — she is placed among the stars! So do my punishments result, — such is the extent of my power! Better that she should have resumed her former shape, as I permitted Io to do. Perhaps he means to marry her, and put me away! But you, my foster parents, if you feel for me, and see with displeasure this unworthy treatment of me, show it, I beseech you, by forbidding this guilty couple from coming into your waters.” The powers of the ocean assented, and consequently the two constellations of the Great and Little Bear move round and round in heaven, but never sink, as the other stars do, beneath the ocean.

Milton alludes to the fact that the constellation of the Bear never sets, when he says,

“Let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen in some high lonely tower,
Where I may oft outwatch the Bear.”
Il Penseroso

And Prometheus, in James Russell Lowell’s poem, says,

“One after one the stars have risen and set,
Sparkling upon the hoar-frost of my chain;
The Bear that prowled all night about the fold
Of the North Star, hath shrunk into his den,
Scared by the blithsome footsteps of the dawn.”

The last star in the tail of the Little Bear is the Pole star,
called also the Cynosure. Milton says,

“Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
While the landscape round it measures.
* * * * * * * *
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies
The Cynosure of neighboring eyes.”
L’Allegro.

The reference here is both to the Pole-star as the guide of mariners, and to the magnetic attraction of the North. He calls it also the “Star of Arcady,” because Callisto’s boy was named Arcas, and they lived in Arcadia. In Milton’s Comus, the elder brother, benighted in the woods, says,
“Some gentle taper!
Through a rush candle, from
the wicker hole
Of some clay habitation,
visit us
With thy long levelled rule
of streaming light,
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or Tyrian Chynsure.”

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APOLLO AND HYACINTHUS

Juli 30, 2011 at 10:09 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Apollo loved Hyacinthus, but accidentally killed him: Apollo and Hyacinth Myth. Hyacinth’s blood stained the flower beneath his dying body.

Apollo and Hyacinthus

Apollo was so in love with the very beautiful Spartan prince Hyacinthus, son, perhaps, of King Amyclas and Diomede, that he shared in the mortal youth’s life, enjoying the human’s pursuit of sports. Unfortunately, Apollo wasn’t the only enamored deity. One of the winds, Zephyros or Boreas, was, as well. When Apollo and Hyacinthus were throwing the discus, the jealous wind made the discus Apollo had thrown bounce up and strike Hyacinthus. Hyacinthus died, but from his blood sprang the flower that bears his name.

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POSEIDON’S LOVERS

Juli 30, 2011 at 6:47 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Much like his brother Zeus, Poseidon had many affairs. Unlike Hera, however, Poseidon’s wife was neither jealous nor vindictive. In fact, the myths don’t indicate that Amphitrite took much notice of her husband’s love affairs. (According to one story, however, Amphitrite did notice Scylla and, in a fit of jealousy, turned her into a monster.)

Poseidon had affairs with mortals and immortals alike, fathering many children. The following sections describe the best known of his many conquests.

Aethra

Aegeus, ruler of Athens, was unable to have children with his wife, so he went to seek the advice of an oracle. The oracle warned him not to open his wine flask until he reached the highest point in Athens. Aegeus didn’t understand the oracle’s advice. Disappointed, he went to visit the king of Troezen. The king got Aegeus drunk and sent his daughter, Aethra, to his bed chamber. She and Aegeus made love, but that same night she left his bed to make a sacrifice. Poseidon approached her, and this pair also made love. (Some myths say she was raped by Poseidon and that the whole situation was set up by Athena.)

Aethra conceived a child that night — but no one knew whether the father was Aegeus or Poseidon. Most believed that the child was Poseidon’s, although Aegeus claimed the child, a son, as his own. The child, Theseus, became a famous hero. (See Chapter 19 for details about Theseus’s life.)

Amymone

Amymone was one of the fifty daughters of King Danaus. The king sent Amymone and her sisters to find water in the land of Argos. Poseidon had caused the region to dry up, so locating water seemed an impossible task. After walking for many miles, Amymone became tired and decided to rest. Left alone, she was approached by a satyr. (Another myth states that Amymone, in pursuit of a deer, accidentally hit the satyr with a spear.) The satyr attempted to rape the girl, but Poseidon interceded, using his trident to chase away her attacker.

Poseidon proceeded to court Amymone for himself. After making love to her, Poseidon used his trident to create a spring so Amymone could bring water back to her family. (Some myths tell the story a bit differently, saying that Poseidon did not create the spring intentionally but accidentally struck a rock with his trident while chasing the satyr.) Amymone succeeded in her goal of finding water, and Poseidon succeeded in adding another lover to his list.

Amymone and Poseidon had a son from their union: Nauplius, whose extensive knowledge of the seas and astronomy would make him a hero to seafarers. Nauplius also founded the town of Nauplia, a famous naval port near Argos.

Demeter

Another of Poseidon’s conquests was his sister Demeter. Wishing to escape her brother’s advances, Demeter transformed herself into a mare. But Poseidon wasn’t to be put off. He transformed himself into a stallion and mated with her in a pasture, both of them in the form of horses.

Together they produced Desponia, a nymph, and Arion, a wild horse. Desponia was worshiped alongside her mother in Arcadia. The people there erected statues of the mother and daughter as women with mares’ heads. Arion was a famous winged horse who could speak. Some myths say that his right feet were like a human’s.

Iphimedia

Iphimedia was an unhappily married woman. Her husband, Aloeus, a son of Poseidon, was also her uncle. Iphimedia was in love with Poseidon and made a habit of walking along the seashore. She would often sit down and scoop up the water, allowing it to flow over her breasts. Poseidon found this alluring, and his union with Iphimedia produced two sons: the Giants Ephialtes and Otus.

According to some myths, Iphimedia wasn’t the biological mother of Ephialtes and Otus. Rather, like the other Giants, these two were sons of Gaia. These myths say that Iphimedia raised Ephialtes and Otus, acting as their nursemaid.
Medusa

As you recall from Chapter 4, Medusa was a Gorgon, with snakes for hair and a terrifying appearance that could turn anyone to stone. Some myths say, however, that Medusa wasn’t always this fearsome creature. In these myths, she was once a beautiful woman, and her beauty caught Poseidon’s eye.

Poseidon approached Medusa as she was visiting one of Athena’s temples. They made love in the temple — an act unacceptable to the virgin goddess Athena. As punishment, Athena turned Medusa into the horrifying creature she is known as today. However, this transformation wasn’t enough for Athena; she also helped Perseus to slay Medusa.

When Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, two children appeared — Chrysaor and Pegasus — the results of her union with Poseidon. Some myths say that Chrysaor was born from Medusa’s neck and Pegasus from her blood. Others say that both were born when drops of Medusa’s blood landed in the sea.

Chrysaor means “the man with the golden sword”; he was born wielding a golden sword. He would grow to marry Callirrhoe (an Oceanid) and father two children: Geryon (a Giant with three heads) and Echidna.

Echidna was a horrible beast: half-woman and half-serpent. Not all myths agree that she was born of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe. According to Hesiod, she was the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. Some myths even say that she was the daughter of Gaia and Tartarus. Despite these differences, all agree that she was a frightening creature — and the mother of most of the monsters in classical mythology.
The second son, Pegasus, was a winged horse, who would later play a role in several myths. Pegasus was wild and free until tamed by either Athena or the hero Bellerophon (depending on which myth you read). At the end of his days, Pegasus was changed into a constellation.

Theophane

Theophane was a beautiful young woman who had several suitors, including Poseidon. To avoid competition, the sea god abducted Theophane and took her to an island.

Theophane’s suitors searched for their missing love. They eventually discovered where she was, but before they could reach her Poseidon turned the island’s inhabitants to sheep — including Theophane. At the same time, Poseidon transformed himself into a ram. When the suitors arrived on the island and found nothing but a big flock of sheep, they decided to have a feast. As they prepared to slaughter the animals, Poseidon changed the sheep into wolves that slaughtered the suitors instead.

Poseidon and Theophane mated while in their sheep forms, so their son (whose name is not recorded) was born a ram. But this wasn’t just any ram — he had a fleece of gold and was able to speak and fly.

Thoosa

Thoosa was the daughter of Phorcys (a son of Gaia). Her affair with Poseidon is known mostly for its offspring: the Cyclops Polyphemus. Polyphemus was not one of the original race of Cyclopes. Instead, he was a violent, savage, man-eating creature. Chapter 19 tells what happened when the hero Odysseus ran up against Polyphemus.

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