Thursday, 23 July 2015

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Summer

For those of you who have the misfortune not to be on the Raven Mailing List - and therefore miss out on the wonder that is the Raven Newsletter (sub £5.00 per year UK and NI, £10 Eire and Europe) here is an article which appeared in the last edition and I hope you will enjoy:

     We are now into the Dog Days when Sirius is snapping at the Sun's heels, making the Sun God burn even more brightly, heating the Earth.
     In these days people long to sit in the shade, or relax in the sun, but mainly doing nothing in the heat.
     Roses are in full bloom and the jasmine fills the evenings with sweet, seductive perfumes, for as the temperatures rise, so do the passions.
     Summer is the time when you can fall in love (or in lust) and perhaps do something stupid or out of character, like having a wild affair. Hopefully this will be just a brief aberration and no-one will get hurt, but that is rare and more often other passions will be roused: jealousy, anger and even the desire for revenge. How we humans hurt each other, even the ones we love.
     But how much more destructive and terrible can it be when gods are involved.
     Adonis is a typical story of love and passions, not all of them amorous.
     Let us start with the boast of a proud mother, that her daughter Myrrha was more beautiful than the Goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodite who all men fell in love with as soon as they saw her beautiful face. Aphrodite who was jealous of any rival who might cause heads to turn away from her.
     So Myrrha's mother thought her daughter was beautiful enough to temps any man, Aphrodite mused, and laughed, so shall it be.
     And one night when drink had flowed freely and the inhibitions of the king, her father were lowered, King Cyniras seduced his own daughter and made her pregnant.
    When he found out what had happened, the king was both ashamed and angry and chased after his daughter with a sword to kill both her and her unborn son. Some say that Myrrha changed into a myrtle tree and her son grew safe within her. Others say she was killed by her father, but Aphrodite showed compassion by saving her unborn son, yet others that Myrrha and her son were locked in a box and thrown into the sea, and were rescued on a distant shore.
     But certainly the baby survived and was named Adonis, which means 'Lord' and he was the most beautiful baby, and child and young man that anyone had seen.
     Indeed he was so beautiful that the goddess of love, great Aphrodite fell in love with him and went down to earth to spend time with him. But she was not the only goddess who had seen the lovely young man striding through the forests, his bow taking down whatever game he aimed at.
     The goddess Artemis goddess of hunting and eternal virgin, had had the youth in her sights too - but Aphrodite had swooped down and carried off the prize.
     Artemis was furious, how dare Aphrodite take Adonis from her. Artemis grew more and more angry and in her rage sent a huge boar rampaging over the land, its tusks sharp, its anger as fierce as her own. It trampled and gored every creature it came across, laying a swathe of devastation through the land. And there stood Adonis, the youth, the Lord who would save the land by killing the boar.
     But Artemis was in a killing fury and when the boar passed, its tusks dripped red with the blood of Adonis, sprinkling the earth. Aphrodite found him, his blood sinking into the black earth and wherever the drops fell, wind flowers, anemones, bloomed, their blossoms as beautiful, fragile and short lived as Adonis.
     Aphrodite wept and the spirit of Adonis slipped away, down into the black, endless night of the kingdom of Persephone, queen of the Underworld.
     Aphrodite was inconsolable, she wept in Olympus and begged mighty Zeus to release Adonis from the Underworld. She begged and pleaded, baurtiful even in her grief, so beautiful that seeing her made the world weep with her. And in the end Zeus agreed and sent clever Hermes, the messenger, to the kingdom of Hades to retrieve the soul of Adonis.
     But the beauty of Adonis had survived even into the Underworld, and when Hermes found Adonis he was seated with Persephone. Hermes smiled and pleaded, and threatened and cajoled and Persephone said 'Whoever enters my kingdom will not leave again, that is the law.'
     Hermes returned to Zeus alone, and Zeus's temper grew and mount Olympus was shrouded in dark clouds and the thunder boomed and lightning flashed in sheets and spiky bolts, striking the earth randomly, but never reaching Persephone where she sat upon her throne in the Underworld and gazed upon the beauty of Adonis.
     So Zeus raged and Aphrodite wept, until Hermes suggested that they hold a hearing, where both goddesses could plead their case.
     Zeus appointed the Muse Calliope to hear the testimony of the goddesses and her ruling was that Adonis would spend four months in the Underworld with Persephone, four months with Aphrodite, and would have four months of freedom to roam the world as he wanted.
     So in the Spring Adonis returns from the Underworld and is free to wander the wide world, sprinkling his flowers to welcome the returning life and light. And in the Summer the earth blossoms with the flowers of love because Aphrodite is with her lover once more. And in the cold winter, when the earth lies dead as a corpse, Adonis sits with the cold queen of the Underworld and brings a semblance of roses to her pale cheeks and a hint of cherries to her lips.

Hymn to Adonis, the Dying God

In Adonis's rosy arms the Lady of Cyprus lies, and he in hers.
A bridegroom of eighteen or nineteen years is he.
His kisses are not rough, the golden down being still upon his lips.
And now goodnight to Cyprus, in the arms of her lover
But in the morning, we will all of us gather with the dew,
And carry him forth among the waves that break upon the beach,
And with hair loosed, bosoms bare, and robes falling to the ankle,
We will begin our sweet, shrill song.
Be gracious to us now, dear Adonis, and in the coming year.
Dear to us has thy coming been, Adonis,
And dear it shall be when you come again.

                                                               Theocritus 3rd century bce

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