Administering justice is often placed in the sphere of influence of either Athena or Nemesis, and both Goddesses do, indeed, have connections to it. There is one Theia, however, who is the personification of the phenomenon of justice. Dikē (Δικη) is the Goddess of justice placed upon mortals, fair judgements and the rights established by custom and law. According to Hesiod, She was born from a joining of Zeus and Themis, the Titan Goddess of divine law, custom and prophecy. She has five sisters, Eunomia (Ευνομια, Goddess of good order and lawful conduct) and Eirênê (Ειρηνη, Goddess of peace and spring), with whom Dikē forms the Horai (Ὡραι), the Goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time; and the Moirai, the Goddesses of fate. Their names are Kloto (Κλωθώ, spinner), Atropos (Ἄτροπος, unturnable), and Lakhesis (Λάχεσις, Alotter).
Because it's been a while since the last constellation, I'm going to give you not one but two constellations today (also because it's much easier to describe both in one post, seeing as the mythology surrounding these two has mixed throughout the years, so I'm really just making it easier on myself).
Ever so often, I get the feeling I really need to write about something specific; references to the topic pop up everywhere, I get asked questions about it, and the desire to write about anything else drops to an all-time low. So here we go: today's blog post is about Hestia and Dionysos, and who has the throne up on snowy Olympos.
The ancient Hellenes were very keen people, interested in all things nature, science and philosophy. They searched for answers to questions about their life, as well as the Theoi, and they theorized structurally about any discoveries they made, be it in health care, science or paleontology. Especially in the latter department, there are a few discoveries that might have shaped a large part of ancient Hellenic mythology and religion in general. Today, we'll be discussing some of those.
Nichoria (Νιχώρια) is a site in Messenia, a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese, Greece, on a ridgetop near modern Rizomylos, at the northwestern corner of the Messenian Gulf. It was the home of an Acropolis where many--what we now call--fossils were stored. The Nichoria bone was discovered by the ancient Hellenes roughly around 1000 BC. It is the blackened and petrified thigh bone of an extinct mega mammal--likely a woolly rhinoceros, or a mammoth--that roamed southern Hellas around one million years ago. The rusty-black color of the fossil bone indicates that it was most likely collected from the lignite deposits near the ancient town of Megalopolis, some 55 kilometers (35 miles) away from Nichoria. The Megalopolis basin was known in antiquity as the 'battleground of the Giants', where the Titanomachy was believed to have taken place. The dense concentration of large fossil bones found at the basin inspired the belief that entire armies of giants were blasted by Zeus' thunderbolts, and the Nichoria bone--the distal end of a right femur, 15 cm (5-6 inches) wide, about twice the size of a regular human thigh bone--was most likely believed to have belonged to one of these giants. If the myth or the bone came first is unknown.
At dusk today, one of Hellenismos' most important festivals (if one can give classifications to the festivals at all) starts. It's the Anthesteria, and held in honor of Dionysos Limnaios, wine, and the dead. The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots').
When a whole family gets uplifted into the sky, the breakdown of their constellations gets a little repetitive over time, sorry about that. When we last saw the Aethiopia ruling family, we discussed the constellations Androméda and Cassiopeia. Today, we close the trilogy with Capheus, father of Andromeda, and husband to Cassiopeia, and add a good bit of info to the myth.
I'm doing a combination post today: I'm combining a Pagan Blog Post, and a constellation series post. As such, I'll be talking about the mythical creatures as well as the constellation named after a few very famous examples of the species. Centaurs (kéntauros, kένταυρος) are depicted as half man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful, and in very old Hellenic artwork, they were often depicted as fully human, with a horse's end added to them. This shape for Centaurs remained in art for civilized Centaurs like Kheiron and Pholus.
Today, I'm kicking off a new series, based on ancient Hellenic mythology. Like with the constellation series, in this series, I will take an often well-known piece of knowledge or myth, and will attempt to provide a more well-rounded view, or provide you with information you might not have about it. This series, in particular, focusses on the connection between certain Theoi and the various flowers, plants and trees we associate with Them through mythology.
I'm starting this series off with a flower, associated with a very tragic love story: the hyacinth. From Wikipedia: "Hyacinthus is a small genus of bulbous flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae. Plants are commonly called hyacinths. The genus was formerly the type genus of the separate family Hyacinthaceae; prior to that it was placed in the lily family Liliaceae. Hyacinthus is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey to northern Israel), north-east Iran, and Turkmenistan."
Within Hellenic mythology, we find Hyakinthos (Ὑάκινθος), a divine hero with a cult in Amykles (Αμύκλες), a village located southwest of Sparta.
It's due time for another astronomy post, wouldn't you say? Today, I'm picking up the fourth of the constellations in the zodiac: Capricornus. Capricornus is often referred to as 'Capricorn', the latin word for 'horned goat' or 'goat horn', and in ancient Hellas--and even in most modern interpretations--the hybrid is not between human and goat, as one might expect from a culture with satyrs in its mythology, but goat and fish.
In my previous column, I highlighted some of the best collections of Greek mythology currently available for children. This time around, we'll take a look at some of my favorite single-story titles. Many of these are picture books, retellings of classic tales with beautiful illustrations. A few are novel-length classic or original tales, aimed at slightly older children.
I stumbled across Cupid and Psyche by M Charlotte Craft and KY Craft in a bookstore many years ago and instantly fell in love with the artwork (seriously, if you need a devotional image of Persephone, look no further). I have made a point of picking up anything illustrated by KY Craft ever since. Of course, the younger Craft's storytelling skills are just as wonderful; she does an excellent job of presenting Psyche as a positive role model, a brave woman determined to correct her past mistakes and win back her happiness. (Ages 5+)
And, when I found out that KY Craft had illustrated Pegasus by Marianna Mayer, it was immediately added to my collection. Again, if you are looking for devotional artwork (Athena, in this case), look no further. In addition to the wonderful illustrations, Mayer presents belief in and devotion to the Deities as a natural thing, not the oddities of a primitive people. I love the sequence in which the devout Bellerophon is rewarded for his piety and courage by Athena. Of course, the battle scene is pretty darn cool, too. (Ages 5+)...
[There are more greek mythology books aimed at kids than I could possibly cover in a single column. So, let's start with a few of my favorite collections and move on from there, shall we? :)]
For many people, mention "greek mythology" and "children's books" and their thoughts immediately turn to d'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. It is the standard text for public and school libraries, and for many personal libraries. Not without cause, either: Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire crafted a timeless, skillfully-told, beautifully-illustrated book. That cover is immediately recognizable, and many of the interior illustrations have stayed with me since the first time I cracked that cover.
It is not, however, the only book on Greek mythology for children....