Greek Mythology: The Story of The Centaurs

In Greek mythology the Centaurs are also known as the Kentauroi. They are beings that are semi horse and semi human. Their torso and head are in human form, and their body is the form of a horse. Being half human and half animal they were in continuous conflict with themselves and the world around them.

Origin of the Centaurs

The Centaurs dwelt on Mount Pelion in Thessaly, northern Greece. They are thought to be the result of Ixion, the king of Lapithe, having a mistaken liaison with a cloud. The cloud had been created by Zeus in the likeness of Hera, to foil a planned rendezvous by her and Ixion.

This resulted in the birth of Centaurus, who was to become the father of the Centaurs by mating with Magnesian mares. Sometimes the Centaurs are known as Ixionida from this liaison.

Drunkenness and Debauchery

As worshipers of Dionysus, the god of wine, the Centaurs had a reputation of drunkenness and debauchery and lust for women. There were a few such as Chiron, who was an exception to this behavior and was held in high esteem as one who is wise.

War With King Peirithous

The Centaurs went to war when a part of Thessaly was inherited by King of the Lapiths from his father Ixion. Because they were grandsons of Ixion the Centaurs believed they also had a claim to the land and fighting broke out before a peace was put in place.

King Peirithous was getting married and, as a token, invited the Centaurs to the marriage feast. They then lived up to their reputation by getting drunk, violating the female guests and attempting to kidnap the bride.

This resulted in a battle where they were all driven from Thessaly, with the exception of Chiron. He was the only immortal of the Centaurs and was regarded as someone with great graciousness and wisdom. He was a teacher to Jason and Achilles, as well as Asclepius, and Actaeon.

Chiron is Placed Among the Stars

Having been accidentally wounded by Heracles, he lived in constant great pain and, as an immortal, could not die a natural death. The only release from an eternity of pain was to trade his immortality for the mortality of Prometheus. For this Zeus placed him in the stars becoming part of the constellation of Sagittarius.

Redemption From Savagery

Some scholars think that the Centaur represents a conflict in human nature. Being half human and half animal, the Centaurs could not fully bring into being their humanity resulting in their nature becoming increasingly bestial and wild and, in effect, caught between two worlds. The fact that even a few such as Chiron manage to overcome this condition suggests that in the end they were capable of redemption from savagery.

© 12/18/2013 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright 12/18/2013 zteve t evans

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The Legend Of Madelon And The Christmas Rose

The legend of the Christmas Rose tells the story of how a young shepherdess named Madelon, through her love and devotion, came to give the baby Jesus a gift more precious than gold, frankincense or myrrh.

Madelon and the Christmas Rose - Public Domain

Madelon and the Christmas Rose – Public Domain

The Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose (helleborus niger) is actually a perennial herb and grows in the cold, snowy mountains and high valleys across Europe. The flowers are white and star-shaped and tipped with pink. It is also known as the Snow Rose and the Winter Rose as it blossoms in the mid-winter season when most other vegetation lies dormant and covered by snow.

The Legend

The tradition tells how the shepherds, while watching their flocks, were visited by an Angel who was leading the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus. The Angel told them of the birth of Jesus who would be known as the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings and the Saviour of their people. Overjoyed, the shepherds left their flocks to visit the new born king taking him such gifts as they could afford and were befitting of their status such as, honey, fruit and snow-white doves.

Madelon

Now on that cold winter night when Jesus was born, the shepherds were not the only ones out on the hillside tending their flocks. A young shepherdess, called Madelon, was also out tending her family’s flock and had witnessed the arrival of the Angel and the Magi and heard what the Angel told the shepherds.

Love And Devotion

Hearing the news, the young girl’s heart became full of love and devotion and filled with faith. At a distance she followed the Angel, the Magi and the shepherds to the stable where Jesus lay in the manger, cared for by Mary and Joseph.

The Magi Give Baby Jesus Wonderful Gifts

She watched as they entered the stable and the Magi laid their wonderful gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense before the baby Jesus. She watched as the shepherds gave their gifts of honey, fruit and snow-white doves. Realizing she had nothing to give she rushed back to the hillside to try and find flowers that she could lay before him.

Madelon’s Tears

Finding none on the snow covered hillside she became full of shame and despair and began crying. As she cried her tears fell down her face onto the snowy ground around her. Seeing this from on high the Angel came down and touched the ground and a bush of the most beautiful winter roses sprang forth at her feet.

A Precious Gift Of Pure Blooms

The Angel told her, “No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh, is as precious, or as fitting a gift for the Prince of Peace as these pure blooms that are born from the pure tears of love, faith and devotion.”

Greek Mythology: The Fall of Phaethon

The Fall of Phaethon – Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617). Public Domain

Greek mythology contains many stories that have relevance and significance today.  The story of Phaethon’s downfall is one such myth.  Phaeton was a young man who felt embarrassed and humiliated because he was illegitimate and did not know who his father was. He knew his mother who loved him and he had sisters who loved him but this was not enough.

Ever since he was a boy his play mates had taunted him because he had no father and was illegitimate.  This upset him greatly so one day he went to his mother, Clymene and begged her to tell him who is father was.   His mother told him his father was the sun god, Helios (Apollo).

Phaethon Begs His Father A Favor

Excited by the thought that the great god of the Sun was his father Phaethon went to see Helios and told him what his mother had said. Helios had not known he had a son by Clymene and was pleased and proud to discover that he was Phaethon’s father.   Phaethon was ecstatic that his father was the powerful and important god of the sun and wanted everyone to know the truth.  He begged his father a favor which Helios rashly granted without knowing what it was.

So that everyone would see that in truth he did have a father of such high significance he wanted to ride his father’s chariot across the skies. He thought that in doing so it would prove his own importance and significance.

Helios is Fearful

When Phaethon told Helios what he wanted granted he was full of fear and tried to dissuade his son from this.  He pointed out that even the mighty Zeus, who was the King of the Gods, would not attempt such a feat as the horses breathed fire and were wild and the chariot glowed red hot.  It needed someone of great strength, skill and experience to control the chariot on its journey across the sky.

Phaethon was not put off and insisted his father fulfill his wish as he had promised.  Reluctantly Helios gave in and Phaethon took the reins of the chariot.

Phaethon Loses Control of the Chariot

The fiery, wild horses knowing there was a lesser charioteer than their master, Helios, charged across the sky.  The chariot glowed ret hot and spewed flames and the young and inexperienced boy could not master the powerful horses.

Out of control the horses rampaged across the sky bringing death and destruction to the earth and its inhabitants below.   They flew so high that the earth was bereft of light and grew cold, before turning and diving so close to the earth that cities were scorched and forests set ablaze and turned to ash.

Zeus Acts

At last seeing the danger Zeus decided to intervene.  He threw a thunderbolt at Phaethon killing him.  His body plummeted from the sky falling into the River Erianus.   There his sisters found his body and were transformed by grief and mourning into trees and their tears became amber.

Helios Blames Zeus

Full of grief and guilt for his weakness in giving into his son, Helios blamed Zeus and refused to drive his chariot across the sky for many days. But Zeus insisted that there had been no other way to save the world.  The other gods begged Helios to take to his chariot again as the earth needed light and warmth.  Eventually Helios agreed and light and warmth in proper measure were restored to the earth.

Boy Racers

Today one only has to think of those “boy racers” who drive their father’s powerful cars too fast in search of respect and admiration from their friends only to lose control and meet disaster.  No doubt their father’s, like Helios the Sun god, would rue their own weakness for the rest of their days.

References and Attributions
Phaethon, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Theoi Project
Image - File:Phaeton-engraving.jpg From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository -An engraving  The fall of Phaëton by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) - Public Domain

Greek Myths: Pygmalion Falls In Love

In Greek mythology Pygmalion was a wonderfully gifted sculptor who created a marvelous statue of a beautiful woman. The statue was so flawless and lifelike he becomes obsessed with his own sculpture falling in love with it.

L’Origine de la sculpture ou Pygmalion priant Vénus d’animer sa statue – Painting by Jean-Baptiste Regnault} – Public Domain

Metamorphoses, by Ovid

The myth was passed to us by Ovid, a Roman poet who included it in a long poem called Metamorphoses. This poem had 12,000 lines of hexameter verse in fifteen books. Its narrative tells of the creation of the world up to the rule of the Roman Emperor Augustus, making it of great value to the modern scholar.

Within this long poem are many mythical and legendary stories. A key theme though out is transformation which can be great or small but significant in effect. This transformation often takes place through the intervention of the gods.

It may be a reward for obedience and devotion to the gods or punishment for being unfaithful and disobedient. Passion is a theme that is central through out the work.

Pygmalion

Pygmalion lived on the island of Cyprus where the goddess Aphrodite was widely revered and he was devoted to her.  Not everyone shared this devotion. The daughters of Propoetus of Amathus, who were known as known as the Propoetides, did not worship Aphrodite or pay her due respect.

As a punishment Aphrodite filled them with an immoral passion causing them to act as wanton prostitutes. Pygmalion abhorred their behaviour and grew to loathe them so much that he swore never to marry.  For many years he separated himself from such behaviour concentrating on his work.

Pygmalion Creates a Beautiful Statue

Pygmalion and Galatea – Public Domain

During this time of isolation he created a statue of a woman of the most perfect beauty that was amazingly lifelike.   He saw in the statue everything he believed a woman should be and all that the Propoetides were not.  Indeed the statue was so flawless and its beauty surpassed that of any living woman.  As he gazed upon it in admiration of his own skill and its beauty he fell in love with it.

Pygmalion became obsessed, touching and caressing it, as if it was a real woman.  He put fine necklaces around its neck and dressed it in beautiful clothes and came to believe that it was indeed a real woman.  He would give it beautiful presents such as he thought a real woman would take pleasure in.   He would recline it on a couch and with it dressed in fine clothes and jewelery he began to believe it was his wife.

Aphrodite Grants his Heart’s Desire

In Pygmalion’s time the festival of Aphrodite was an important event on Cyprus.  Being dedicated to her he went to her alter and performed sacred rites to honour her.   In his prayers he asked Aphrodite for a wife similar to his statue, but what he really desired more than anything was for the statue to be his wife, but did not say so as he thought it inappropriate.

Aphrodite was pleased with his dedication to her and reading his mind new his heart’s desire.   She caused the alter flames to flare three times as a sign of her approval.

On his return home Pygmalion immediately went to the statue where he had left it reclining on the couch, dressed in finery.  He began to kiss and caress it…  To his utter amazement the statue’s face felt soft and warm.  To his surprise and delight the statue began responding to his kisses and caresses returning them.

Pygmalion gets Married

Overjoyed, he realised Aphrodite had caused the statue to come to life. Pygmalion thanked Aphrodite with all his heart and she looked down and blessed the couple.   From their marriage came a son named Paphos who gave his name to the city on Cyprus where the cult of Aphrodite was centred.  In later versions of the myth his wife is named as Galatea.

Divine Intervention

The punishment of the Propoetides by Aphrodite who filled them with an immoral passion, Pygmalion’s devotion and dedication to the goddess and passion for his statue, Aphrodite’s transformation of the statue into a real woman are examples of how the gods may intervene in the lives of humans.

References and Attributions