Tag Archives: Greek mythology

Afterthought

I didn’t anticipate her response, let alone her thanks. After all, she’s a celeb in the constellation of high stars, a goddess in the pantheon of divine knowledge, and a grand master in alchemy of literature, Or in recognition of her self-titled epithet, she’s the Comma Queen who will not/does not suffer from the grammatical benightedness of ambitious literary proclivity. But it happened, and she did; Mary Norris, author of Greek to Me about which I wrote a review, responded thereto in the following fashion:

Well, it’s nice to be complimented for my work by someone who is famous, and I certainly wouldn’t mind being rich and famous if I turned into an overnight sensation in literary firmament. Yet, I do not write to make a living nor to be popular with hundreds of likes. Writing to me is an act of sovereign remedy for the existential ills, of personal treatise on the workings of the mind and of sheer egotism of relieving the creative urge from within. Come what may, a little tweet from the celebrated writer will not turn love of the book into worship of the writer. For it is the work of her intellect manifested in her literary craftsmanship, not the person herself. Whether or not the author liked my review does not/will not/should not affect my reason for and act of writing with a million dollar memento from Kurt Vonnegut: “To practice art, no matter how well or badly, is to make your soul grow. So just do it.”

‘Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen,’ by Mary Norris – review

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma QueenGreek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ancient Greeks knew what appealed to the senses. The cult of beauty was the caryatid pillars of the culture that sublimated the human body into a divine canvas of the mind. So much so that they codified the value of beauty in their belief system, ranging from mythology to philosophy, in pursuit of kalokagathia , the harmonious combination of physical beauty with spiritual goodness. The perennial upshot of this Greek admiration of kalokagathia is Mary Norris’s charming Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen, a wonderful cabinet of her infatuations with all things Greek, ranging from awesome Goddess Athena to dashing Sean Connery as Agamemnon, to the whimsical variations of Greek pronunciation, and to her exhilarating skinny-dipping in Aphrodite’s Beach. With her gift of scintillating narrative skills flavored with accessible erudition, Norris warmly invites the reader to her own delightful Greek festival of words, gods, romances, and delicacies.

It is said that when you love, you want to know. An erotic impulse charged from the imposing physical presence of Sean Connery as Agamemnon became a stimuli that galvanized a shy celibate Catholic bluestocking into her never-ending solo odyssey in pursuit of a mystical ambrosia, the food of the Greek gods, for the sensuous delight of the arcane Eleusinean Mysteries. Part memoir, part travelogue, and part reference book, Greek to me is a lovely treatise on Norris’s lasting affairs of the heart with words and adventures in the land of the capricious Olympians, olive trees, and phonetic alphabets with infinite varieties. The scholarly subjects of mythology and language of Greece are never dealt with academic superciliousness or elitist snobbishness that separates them (and the author) from a general reader. Contrariwise, Norris is an intelligently gorgeous writer who wears her erudition lightly and writes in plain language felicitously topped with her artless witticism that makes her a winsome literary troubadour. If Edith Hamilton, author of Mythology and The Greek Way, has an aura of dour-faced platonic conservative teacher of the ancient Greek mythology and the culture, Mary Norris is of a coterie of amiable Socrates, sharing her knowledge with the public – literate, illiterate.

In the exhilarating sensation of naked freedom astride the gushing foams of wild waves in Aphrodite’s Beach, the reader feels connected to the author’s paroxysm of pleasure and transformed into a votary of the goddess of love. Norris’s solipsistic adventure becomes a tour of coterie, traveling beyond the territorial borders into the mythological world of gods and goddesses in search of the Golden Fleece fit to one’s appropriate need. Although the chapters devoted to the lexicons of the Greek language can be taxing to comprehend to whom it all looks Greek, most of the book is invested with the vicarious Eureka pleasure of going there, being there, and seeing there, all made possible by Norris’s goddess Athena-like literary prowess. Besides, if the reader happens to be a quiet solo Catholic woman graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ (more specifically, all-women Douglass College therein), secretly desirous of solitary skinny-dipping in Aphrodite’s Beaches basking in freedom from insecurity, this book will feel like a new friend.

The classical love

1035

It would be devastating to know that the heart of your beloved has already parted with you. It would be even more catastrophic to learn that your love has been unrequited and consumable because it was never on equal terms for what’s worth to your once beloved. The affair of the heart is the common human trait that transcends the subjectivity of time and space, the boundary of ethnic, racial, and territorial demarcations. The truth of the matter is that when you are consumed with a burning passion sans the mind and the heart, you play fast and loose with your own life as a collateral. In the ancient times, the unconstrained passion lured the desperately love-stricken to turn to the supernatural dependencies of magic spells or love potions at the expense of their own lives in the hope of making their beloveds fall in love with them. Such was the case of one slave girl in ancient Greece who made love a dangerous game.

T35.1Kirke

the goddess Circa on the left

Her name was Dilitra, and she was in love with her wealthy master named Philoneos, whose interest in her was to satisfy his libido and nothing more. For she was his faithful and obedient bed-mate at his command. And she was in turn assigned to a relatively comfortable domestic drudgery, such as tidying up chambers and assisting in cooking in the kitchen, while other slaves toiled to the bone, as befitted what they were. As a concubine, Dilitra wanted no more and only wanted it to last as long as his master wanted her. Then all seemed to be a denouement of her happy concubinage, when she found out that Philoneos would sell her to a brothel because he was simply “bored” with her. That was a total blow to Dilitra’s faith in Philoneos whom she loved and trusted. Blindsided by her lover’s betrayal, Dilitra resorted to the magical use of herbs and potions – called pharmaka as believed to be empowered from the goddess Circe – from a sorcerer who guaranteed her that he would fall back in love with her. So she poured the potion into wine, which Philoneos voraciously gulped down at dinner. The result was the instant death of her treacherous lover, and the execution of the distressed poor Dilitra after the horrible torture by the authority on the count of punitive nature of crime against her master.

The historical record of the tragic event tells a variety of facts prevalent in the classical times. First, the idea of love was primarily erotic rather than platonic, sensual rather than holistic. In fact, what we now understand about “love” would have felt alien to the ancients in terms of relationship between man and woman because such modern idea of love was no more than a close bond between family members or a master and a horse or a dog. That is to say, love in the minds of the ancient meant the physical play of desires – Lust.In this regard, Dilitra’s desperate measure of using the magic potion betokens her attempt to awaken the flickering erotic love in Philoneos in order that he would not sell her to a brothel to let her become a pornail – a common prostitute. Hence the potion was really meant to be an aphrodisiac that went awry.

Second, the use of spells and love potions was something of a norm in the ancient Greece, where religion and daily life were inseparably bound together. It is said that there were two ways of inducing lust in a person: (1) an agon spell, which included magic, through the power of a demon to drive the desired one mad with lust for the one who initiated it. The effect of the spell, I think, could amount to the image of a fanatic band of maenads accompanying the wine god Dionysus.  It was known to be mostly used by men; and (2) pharmaka, which was regarded as drug-induced love preferred by women because of the supposedly less mortally dangerous than the employment of a demon. However, anyone who opted for this “mild” form of craft did not know that its effect could be more fatal than an agon spell because it was a chemical intoxication consisting of various herbs that could be lethal when mixed improperly as is illustrated in the story of Dilitra.

It would be an anachronistic or impudent mistake of assuming that Dilitra’s tragic end resulted from her own foolhardy, rash decision to turn to quackery and superstition if we were pitchforked backwards in time. It was her only choice to secure her life under the aegis of her lover-master whose lust for her was the only guaranty of the cherished wishes. On one hand, the story of Dilitra tells us how we as humanity have evolved in understanding the meaning of love, many special thanks to philosophers and psychologists, that it complements the body and the mind (as represented by Eros and Psyche, respectively, in Roman mythology.) On the other hand, it shows us at the heat of the passion, we can return to our animal nature governed by id only. Now, that would be quite a thespian tragedy.

Author’s note: This writing is based upon my reading of an article about the history of love spells and potions in ancient Greece from a history magazine. The woeful life of the slave girl who depended upon her master’s desire of her was pathetic enough to put pen to paper. What if she just ran away when she found out her master’s intention to sell her to a brothel, instead of resorting to the drastic measure of getting the drug? No, she should have just escaped from his household forthwith. It seems to me that it was her lack of self-confidence that chained her down to her voluntary enslavement that ultimately led her to death.

 

The moon in colors

71wjr9Kv-JL._SY355_What would it be like to have the luminescent Moon all to yourself in your room? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have it in your hands glowing, strobing, and flashing in rainbow colors? But I know the feeling of how it’s like to be part of the Universe in physical sense because I have it: the Moon, the Queen of the nightly sky, the symbol of goddess Artemis, my favorite goddess of the Greek mythology in the form of  a  new  Moon Lamp 3D Printing  16 Colors Moon Light.

This Moon Lamp is a lovely novelty both in design and in functionality. It is a pretty lamp that bears a striking resemblance to the real Moon with what seems to be lunar swirls and craters on the surface that feel pleasantly soft in touch. It is about as big as a cantaloupe and light into the bargain, so I can move it around in any place. The lamp comes with a cable cord, a small wood stand, and a remote control With which I can change the colors and the intensity of the light as well as set a timer for the moonlight show at night. It’s also relaxing and pacifying to look at the glowing light of the Moon when I read and write at my desk. The mysterious luminance fills the room with serenity and beauty that translates my earthly dwelling into a small universe of my own, part of the mythological world of gods and goddesses, with bestowal of sacred ability of prophecy like a Sybil or Pythia.

I am glad that my choice of this Moon Lamp chimes the bell of my love of mysteriousness and want for calm pleasantness at night when I am home. I glory in the novelty of it all, and it also seems to entertain my mother who likes the most when the lamp turns into a lavender color. As poet W.H. Auden compared woman’s love to the soft and gentle light of the Moon he called “this lunar beauty,” I compare my new lamp to this electronic lunar beauty. 

 

Ambrosia

purple-loosestrife-lythrum-salicaria-ragweed-ambrosia-artemisiifolia-AE8PDK

There is a flower Nymphs – favor-
And Fairies – prefer –
To gain the Purple Ambrosia
The Pythia – desire –

 

Author’s Note: The flower word for Ambrosia is “love reciprocated”. The Pythia, a sacred prophetess devoted to god Apollo in ancient Greek Delphi, lived a rather secluded solitary life, perching on the brink of social isolation, for she sacrificed herself to the devotion to Apollo, the beautiful god of the sun, music, medicine, and knowledge. But it is quite possible that this Pythia might have secretly fallen in love with a mortal man for no other reason than being a woman of flesh and spirit. Lamentably, her love was unrequited and never returned. She was cursed to live alone till her last breath on earth.