Saturday, February 4, 2012
Circe is back!
Circe was both a Goddess and a Sorceress, sometimes been referred to as “The Dread Goddess.” Circe was a very powerful not only did she have strong connections with the Underworld, and the ability to turn men into a variety of wild animals, including lions and wolves; she also had the ability to see into the future. While Circe’s magic transformed the men into animals, never once did she ever do anything, which might alter their spirit or their soul. She simply transformed a man’s body into whatever animal she believed best suited his true nature. What is extremely interesting about Circe is that even though her magic may have transformed men into animals, it did not, in any way, impair their ability to reason, and they were totally aware of everything that was happening to them.
Like many other Goddesses, Circe also had a strong association with birds. Birds have frequently been believed to travel freely between the Underworld and the Earth, often taking their God or Goddess with them. Circe has often been linked to falcons, who circle their prey before they finally dive in for the kill; which is, in reality, an excellent way of describing Circe, since she encircled her human prey within her island home, and then used her magic to enchant them. A falcon’s cry sounds something similar to “circ-circ,” and many have considered this sound to be the magical cry of Circe, whenever she was beginning one of her acts of creation or destruction. Creative Destruction??
KIRKE (or Circe) was a goddess pharmakeia (witch or sorceress) who lived with her nymph attendants on the mythical island of Aiaia. She was skilled in the magic of metamorphosis, the power of illusion, and the dark art of necromancy. When Odysseus landed on her island she transformed his men into animals, but with the help of the god Hermes, he overcame the goddess and forced her to release his men from her spell. Kirke's name was derived from the Greek verb kirkoô meaning "to secure with rings" or "hoop around"--a reference to her magical powers.
In Homer's Odyssey, Circe is described as living in a mansion that stands in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Around the house prowled strangely docile lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic; they were not dangerous, and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom. She invited Odysseus' crew to a feast of familiar food, a pottage of cheese and meal, sweetened with honey and laced with wine, but also laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they gorged themselves on it. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus and the others who had stayed behind at the ships. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted by his great grandfather, Hermes, who had been sent by Athena. Hermes told Odysseus to use the holy herb moly to protect himself from Circe's potion and, having resisted it, to draw his sword and act as if he were to attack Circe. From there, Circe would ask him to bed, but Hermes advised caution, for even there the goddess would be treacherous. She would take his manhood unless he had her swear by the names of the gods that she would not. Odysseus followed Hermes's advice, freeing his men. Odysseus and his men remained on the island for one year feasting and drinking wine. According to Homer, Circe suggested to Odysseus two alternative routes to return to Ithaca
Circe, after having changed several of his companions into pigs, became so much attached to the unfortunate hero, that he was induced to remain a whole year with her. At length, when he wished to leave her, she prevailed upon him to descend into the lower world to consult the seer Teiresias. After his return from thence, she explained to him the dangers which he would yet have to encounter, and then dismissed him. (Od. lib. x.--xii.; comp. Hygin. Fab. 125.) Her descent is differently described by the poets, for some call her a daughter of Hyperion and Aerope (Orph. Argon. 1215), and others a daughter of Aeëtes and Hecate. (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iii. 200.) According to Hesiod (Theog. 1011) she became by Odysseus the mother of Agrius. The Latin poets too make great use of the story of Circe, the sorceress, who metamorphosed Scylla and Picus, king of the Ausonians. (Ov. Met. xiv. 9, &c.)
PARENTAGE OF CIRCE
Homer, Odyssey 10. 135 ff (trans. Shewring) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"Kirke, a goddess with braided hair, with human speech and with strange powers; baleful Aeetes was her brother, and both were radiant Helios the sun-god’s children; their mother was Perse, Okeanos’ daughter."
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 662 ff :
"Passing swiftly over the Ausonian Sea, with the Tyrrhenian coast [of Italy] in sight, they [the Argonauts] came to the famous haven of Aea, took Argo close in, and tied up to the shore. Here they found Kirke bathing her head in the salt water. She had been terrified by a nightmare in which she saw all the rooms and walls of her house streaming with blood, and fire devouring all the magic drugs with which she used to bewitch her visitors. But she managed to put out the red flames with the blood of a murdered man, gathering it up in her hands; and so the horror passed. When morning came she rose from bed, and now she was washing her hair and clothes in the sea. A number of creatures whose ill-assorted limbs declared them to be neither man nor beast had gathered round her like a great flock of sheep following their shepherd from the fold . . . The Argonauts were dumbfounded by the scene. But a glance at Kirke’s form and eyes convinced them all that she was the sister of Aeetes.
As soon as she had dismissed the fears engendered by her dream, Kirke set out for home, but as she left she invited the young men to come with her, beckoning them on in her own seductive way. Iason Told them to take no notice, and they all stayed where they were. But he himself, bringing Medea with him, followed in Kirke’s steps till they reached her house. Kirke, at a loss to know why they had come, invited them to sit in polished chairs; but without a word they made for the hearth and sat down there after the manner of suppliants in distress. Medea hid her face in her hands, Iason fixed in the ground his great hilted sword with which he had killed Apsyrtos, and neither of them looked her in the face. So she knew at once that these were fugitives with murder on their hands and took the course laid down by Zeus, the god of suppliants, who heartily abhors the killing of a man, and yet as heartily befriends the killer. She set about the rites by which a ruthless slayer is absolved when he seeks asylum at the hearth. First, to atone for the unexpiated murder, she took a suckling pig from a sow with dugs still swollen after littering. Holding it over them she cut its throat and let the blood fall on their hands. Next she propitiated Zeus with other libations, calling on him as the Cleanser, who listens to a murderer’s prayers with friendly ears. Then the attendant Naiades who did her housework carried all the refuse out of doors. But she herself stayed by the hearth, burning cakes and other wineless offerings with prayers to Zeus, in the hope that she might cause the loathsome Erinyes to relent, and that he himself might once more smile upon this pair, whether the hands they lifted up to him were stained with a kinsman’s or a strangers blood.
When all was done she raised them up, seated them in polished chairs and taking a seat near by, where she could watch their faces, she began by asking them to tell her what had brought them overseas, from what port they had sailed to visit her and why they had sought asylum at her hearth. Horrible memories of her dream came back to her as she wondered what was coming; and she waited eagerly to hear a kinwoman’s voice, as soon as the girl had looked up from the ground and she noticed her eyes. For all the Children of Helios were easy to recognise, even from a distance, by their flashing eyes, which shot out rays of golden light.
Medea, daughter of Aeetes the black-hearted king, answered all her aunt’s questions, speaking quietly in the Kokhian tongue. She told her of the quest and voyage of the Argonauts, of their stern ordeal, and how she herself had been induced to sin by her unhappy sister and had fled from her father’s tyranny with Phrixos’ sons; but she said nothing of the murder of Apsyrtos. Not that Kirke was deceived. Nevertheless she felt some pity for her weeping niece.
`Poor girl,’ she said, `you have indeed contrived for yourself a shameful and unhappy home-coming; for I am sure you will not long be able to escape your father’s wrath. The wrongs you have done are intolerable, and he will soon be in Hellas to avenge his son’s murder. However, since you are my suppliant and kinswoman, I will not add to your afflictions now that you are here. But I do demand that you should leave my house, you that have linked yourself to this foreigner, whoever he may be, this man of mystery whom you have chosen without your father’s consent. And do not kneel to me at my hearth, for I never will approve your conduct and your disgraceful flight.’
Medea’s grief, when she heard this, was more than she could bear. She drew her robe across her eyes and wailed till Iason took her by the hand and led her out of doors shivering with fear. Thus they left Kirke’s house."