Tag Archives: Greek mythology

of man and beast

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Plato once said that Man was originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Perhaps that is why humans possess animalistic instincts and bind them under moral and ethical constraints. However, humans also cannot be totally separated from the beast. The mystical animals featuring in mythology – real or imagined- bespeak a close relationship between mankind and nature bound by mutual benefits in order to withstand the vicissitudes of life peculiar to each of the beings. In this regard, the ancient Greeks were the most observant and imaginative in incorporating the figures of the beast into the ways of human life in the most ingenious way with their poetic authority to create an aura of mysteriousness wonderfully anchored in the realistic surroundings of the culture and society the thematics were originated in, such as the following illustrations of the animals in Greek mythology. 

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The Cretan Bull

  • The Cretan Bull and the Minotaur 

The story of a half-bull and half-man monster known as the Minotaur, which means the bull of Minos in Crete, epitomizes the primordial perspectives of mankind on the law of nature representing the mysterious force, which became a subject of belief tradition peculiar to its natural and cultural environs. The conflicting sentiments of reverence toward the awe-inspiring nature’s creatures and the ambition for domineering them as the ruler of the universe give birth to the bestial creature in the figure of the terrific Minotaur who was fated to be slain by the Athenian hero Theseus. 

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The Minotaur

King Minos, a child of Zeus and a beautiful mortal princess Europa, betrayed Poseidon by keeping his beautiful snow-white bull, instead of sacrificing it to the expectant god, who in turn made his wife Pasiphae unquenchably infatuated with the Bull and copulate with it by taking herself into the form of a hollow wooden cow designed by the Athenian architect named Daedalus. The result was the Minotaur kept in a Labyrinth by the selfsame designer of the wooden cow. The Minotaur showed no human feelings or emotions as the mythology did not treat him any more than a horrible bestial creature from the unnatural union of a woman and a beast. 

The figure of the Minotaur indicates that the Minoans regarded bestiality as an abomination and that the cult of a bull as a sacred rite of the power and the might. A bull in the ancient Greek culture was a chthonic animal associated with fertility and vegetation and also represented the sun and the might. In fact, the famous figure and paintings of bull-leaping are seen inside of the Minoan mausoleum in Knossos as first discovered by the eminent English archeologists Arthur Evans, who also found Linear A and B letters, the mother of the ancient Greek language, at the turn of the 20th century, 

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Argos finally uniting with Odyssey

  • The dog – the best friend of mankind

The perspective on the dog as the loyal canine companion collapses the millenniums between the ancient Greek’s time and ours. Even the Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Hades look tamable with a piece of sweet cake, making it look less of a menacing beast necessitating the blood and flesh of man. This goes without saying that it was Argos, the paragon of the faithful canine, who recognized his travel-weary employer Odyssey after 20 years of absence from home and put forth what might he had to approach him with a wagging tail and died as his long-waited boss in incognito passed by him with his heart pounded by a surge of pathos dubbed in warmth. Of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, and even his family, it was Argos who showed the true, artless unconditional affection to Odyssey and thus rendered his heroic owner all the more humane and sympathetic. 

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Laelaps, the dog that never fails to catch

Speaking of loyalty, Laelaps, a Greek mythological dog that never failed to catch what it was hunting, also denotes how the ancient Greeks perceived the dog as their life companions. Laelaps was originally a gift to Europa from Zeus, then bequeathed to Minos, who gave it to his concubine Procris whose sister included Pandora. She gave the hound to her husband Cephalus as a token of her unbroken love for him as well as a gesture of reconciling with him after being bedded with the king, although forcefully. Cephalus used the hound to hunt the Teumessian Fox that could never be caught. However, during the never-ending hot chase of the Fox by the Dog, Zeus turned both of the animals into the stars as the constellations Canis Major (the dog) and Canis Minor (the fox)

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The Eternal Catch-Me-If-You-Can between Canis Major (the Dog) and Canis Minor (the Fox)

Consequently, the use of the aforesaid animals in the thematic context of the Greek mythology evinces that man cannot exist alone as part of the nature in which he finds what it means to be a human and a purpose in life by imparting the values and precepts of natural law ascribed in the human consciousness to the meta figures of the mythology. The mythological animals, whether wild, imaginary, or ordinary, as depicted in the Greek mythology are therefore the reflection of the human traits interbred with imaginary creatures from the Elysium of Fancy that became the substratum of a belief tradition administering to the modes of human behaviors in society, and thus developed into an organized religion by way of syncretism in the era of Christianity. 

Moonstruck

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Up in the misty airy mountain yonder

Where trees and flowers never wither

The lunar beauty comes upon her

and covers her with a veil of silver

with a wreath of stars on her hair

In the luster of amaranthine glamor;

 

Then her eyes gather light and fire

Burning with felicity, rapture, or desire

Like a condensed colossal meteor

Wrapped in mystic eternal camphor

in serene brilliance of Moon’s Sphere

growing bright and glowing brighter;

 

Nymphs and fairies weave into the ether

The melodies of Aeolian harps sweeter

Softer than the milky way’s gossamer

Allaying the wild untamed waves of dander –

Her heart entranced with elevated Passion

Forgetting the nobility of exalted Reason.

 

P.S.: Fairie-tale is a fantastic means of translating an Author’s inmost feelings, deep-set emotions, and solipsistic philosophy smothered under the necessity of fulfilling demands placed upon daily tasks in existential life in the safest and, therefore, the most eloquent fashion the Author can rely on. As Edmund Spencer, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, and John Keats all used faeries as their faithful and wonderful subjects of their imaginative kingdoms, so do I take the liberty of doing the same as a way of escapism to the Otherworld where I can become all I want to morph into and enjoy what I covet without a moral qualm in the reign of religiosity. Here the subject of the poem is a maiden desiring of beauty which she believes to have been forfeited or deprived of by the callously whimsical play with her fate by the supernatural powers-that-be on a lark. 

the secret of the sea

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In the wilderness of the great ocean

Lies a secret script of the Fate of Man

Sealed in the silence of tidal motion

In dissimulation of the opprobrious plan

Harboring the secrecy of the Age of Man

That gods so have kept to themselves alone.

 

The Ages of Man, the Plays of Man

On the Stages of Acts in Humanity –

Those gods wrote and watched for fun

In the theater of Comedy and Tragedy

As the Wheel of Fortune decided what

Would be played the next, and whatnot.

 

The heart of the ocean sends a pulse thru me

Of the secret hidden in the watery main

With the sunny breeze that pushed Odyssey

To sail forth against the forces of the divine

To find and write a new Age of Man to witness

The victory between the Scylla and Charybdis.

 

P.S.: This is a poem written out of my existential crisis in the reflection of Herodutus’s theory of the Age of Man. I am not a fatalist but a believer of luck as Shakespeare was. I believe that time and chance are what ascribe to the fulfillment of your ends in life or for the nonce. Didn’t Thomas Alba Edison also corroborate that a genius is made of 1 percent of ingenuity and 99 percent of efforts? I want to embark on an Odyssey to claim my own destiny.

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When the night gently descends upon the day on the earth’s bed

And he silences her secretly with a force of darkness

Whispering softly in delirium, murmuring faintly in fever

blinding her with an extraordinary frisson of ecstatic fear

the spirts of tragic heroines of love – Dido and Ariadne-

run to the top of the hill where the sky lies above the earth

and lament their earthly journeys that ended in love alone

as Hounds of Love howl beside the beautiful losers in love

till the lovers’ tryst ends in a mist of passion and intoxication.

 

P.S.: I am always inclined to the stories of beautiful losers whose loves for their figures of the affairs of the hearts are not returned because there’s something tragically beautiful in them. Dido, the beautiful queen of Carthago, was cruelly forsaken by trojan refuge and founder of Rome Aeneas and chose to end her own life thereafter. Ariadne was a Cretan princess who helped Athenian prince Theseus to kill the Minotaur and to bring out the Athenian youths from the labyrinth with her inscrutable ball of threads as a guide to a route out. But Ariadne was also later deserted by Theseus and let alone on an island and forced to marry Dionysus, the god of wine. Hence this poem about those who are unlucky in the affairs of the hearts.