Posts Tagged "Zeus"

Why Winter? Demeter Knows Best | Persephone Snacks

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as winter. This distressed skiing enthusiasts but pleased everyone else since snowplows hadn’t been invented yet.

Meanwhile Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, wandered around the earth wearing flimsy gauze dresses and making the crops grow. Somewhere along the line, she and Zeus had a daughter named Persephone.

Persephone was lovely and Hades, the god of the underworld noticed. Hades invited Persephone to leave the lovely topsoil and dwell (and by “dwell” I mean dwell) with him in the underworld.

Persephone had eaten exactly 6 pomegranate seeds. (Hey—sometimes a girl has to snack.) DearKidLoveMom.comPersephone said thanks but no thanks. You remember that gods don’t like being told no, right? Hades lifted an eyebrow and said, “No?”

Persephone raised both eyebrows and repeated herself. Hades frowned, picked Persephone up, threw her over his shoulder, and took her back to the underworld.

Persephone was not happy. Demeter (her mother) was even less happy. Demeter raged, she ranted, and then she went into a full-fledged funk.

Have you ever seen a goddess funk? Not pretty. And when Demeter funked, the whole world funked with her. Plants turned brown, crops withered, and people went hungry.

Now Zeus was pretty good at ignoring things he didn’t care about, but with the whole world hungry sacrifices to the gods weren’t being made and that got his attention.

Zeus went to talk sense into Hades (and by “sense” I mean tried to talk him into giving Persephone back). Hades refused. They argued. Finally, they consulted the rule book.

According to the Rules, if a person eats while in the underworld, they are stuck there forever (keep that in mind during your travels).

They quickly scoured the various meals Persephone had refused to eat—and discovered that she had eaten exactly 6 pomegranate seeds. (Hey—sometimes a girl has to snack.)

Zeus therefore decreed (being the chief number one honcho god he got to do the decreeing) that Persephone would be returned to her mother for 6 months of the year, but for the other six (one for each aril) she would have to return to Hades and the underworld.

Therefore, for six months of the year the earth is warm and happy. Plants bloom and crops are bountiful while Demeter is happy having her daughter at home. The other six months, Persephone returns to the underworld and Demeter returns to her snit. The earth is cold and barren. You might think Demeter would have gotten over it by now, but you’d be wrong.

It’s a mom thing.

Love, Mom

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Sisyphus | The Man, The Myth, The Rock

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, in a not-so-nice part of Greece (back in the time of Mythology), there lived a king named Sisyphus. By the sound of his name you might think that he was bullied a lot. You would be wrong because he was meaner, nastier, and more powerful than anyone else. Also he was king and had a lot of soldiers at his command.

Sisyphus had lots of bad habits like chewing with his mouth open and killing travelers and guests. (Killing guests back then was an especially Wrong Thing To Do.) But Sisyphus had a marvelous time being a despot and decided that Manners weren’t going to intrude on his tyranny.

For reasons that are complicated and not all that interesting, Zeus got good and mad at Sis. Zeus ordered Thanatos to chain up Sisyphus in the lowest level of Hades.

On the one hand, Thanatos was a minor figure in Greek mythology. On the other hand, he was Death, so chaining people in Hades was well within his job description.

Sisy didn’t really like the idea of being chained up, so he tricked Thanatos by asking Thanatos (who after all wasn’t the god of wisdom) to demonstrate how the chains worked. Flattered, Thanatos obliged and Sisyphus trapped Thanatos in the aforementioned chains.

Back in the rest of the world, while Thanatos was chained up no one could die. For a short time, this wasn’t a big deal, but people were pretty accustomed to Death, especially the warriors who liked to see people die (because that was the whole point of fighting). Ares (our favorite god of war) was particularly put out, so he freed Thanatos and turned Sisyphus over to him.

Because of his trickery in this and other things and his hubris in thinking he was more clever than Zeus (have we not been clear that it is never wise to think you’re smarter/prettier/stronger than one of the gods), King Sisyphus was punished. And the Greek gods were known for their ability to punish people.

Sisyphus was made to push an enormous boulder up an even more enormous hill. Only just before he got to the top, the enchanted boulder would roll away from him and to the bottom of the hill. Rinse and repeat for all eternity.

Love, Mom

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What Is the Gordian Knot?

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time the Phrygians didn’t have a king. Very careless, forgetting where you put your king. So they did the only reasonable thing and consulted the Oracle at Telmissus. The oracle decreed that the next man to enter the city driving an ox-cart should be crowned king.

What have we said about ignoring oracles? Right. So when Gordias the Peasant came into the city driving his ox-cart, the people immediately made him Gordias the King.

Since kings rarely have need of an ox-cart, Gordias dedicated his cart to Zeus and tied it to a pole with the World’s Most Complicated Knot.

The Gordian Knot was slightly more complicated than this. DearKidLoveMom.comThe oracle then predicted that whoever Undid the Knot would rule all of Asia. Since oracles are always (emphasis on ALWAYS) right, many a person came to try to untie it. This was great for tourism and nail salons (it was not possible to untie the Knot and many people broke important fingernails trying).

On and on this went and everyone was reasonably happy with the status quo except all the people who didn’t untie the knot. Although since no one else could untie it, and there were plenty of manicurists, no one got too futzed.

Eventually (historians disagree about how many years are in an “eventually”), young Alexander the Great came to Phrygia. A the G was The Dude of the time and planned to conquer pretty much everywhere (Asia Minor is most definitely part of “everywhere”). Alex took a look at the Knot, realized the ends were missing, re-read the plaque (all tourist sites have plaques), and then took out his sword and sliced the knot in half.

Alexander the Great went on to conquer Asia Minor. Because, oracle. Also, he was a really incredible battle strategist.

To this day, Gordian Knot refers to a complex problem, and cutting the Gordian Knot means finding a ridiculously simple solution to a crazy looking problem.

Love, Mom

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Old McDonald, Io, Prometheus, and the Gadfly

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was a god named Zeus. As you may recall, fidelity was not high on Zeus’ priority list and he was often out in the world cheating on Hera. As you may further recall, Hera did not appreciate or approve of these adventures.

This upon a time, Zeus happened to have become infatuated with Io (pronounced Eee-oh, not E-I-E-I-O). Io was wise and kind and beautiful even if her parents were so poor they couldn’t afford consonants. Throwing on a quick disguise, Zeus began hanging out with Io. And by “hanging out” I mean something else entirely.

Hera, like most gods and goddesses was big on revenge. But she wasn’t stupid and she realized she couldn’t really get back at Zeus except by putting her cold feet in the middle of his back on winter nights. So she went after the floozies. And by “floozy” I mean girls who had no idea that the dude paying attention to them was married much less head chief number one god.

Hera headed down to punish Io. Zeus wasn’t the greatest guy in the world, but he really liked Io and so to save her, Zeus turned Io into a white cow. Yes, there probably would have been better solutions. No one is claiming Zeus is a genius. Also, the whole cow bit didn’t fool Hera for a minute.

Hera said she wanted the cow and Zeus couldn’t really keep the cow without admitting why so after a short argument, Hera took the cow. (Saw that coming, didn’t you?)

Zeus didn’t like the situation at all, but he was afraid of Hera and didn’t say anything. Io didn’t like the situation at all, but all she could say was “moo.” It amounted to the same thing.

Hera had a watchman named Argus who had a hundred eyes. It would have been tough to fit him with glasses but he had great eyesight so it didn’t matter. Argus never closed all his eyes—only half of his eyes fell asleep at any one time, so Io couldn’t escapes and Zeus couldn’t rescue her. (Don’t ask why he didn’t smite Argus because I don’t know.)

Eventually, Zeus bellowed for Hermes (who, as we all know is the messenger of the gods, the god of business men and thieves, and the symbol of the Columbia School of Business). Zeus sent Hermes down to Do Something as he so eloquently put it.

Hermes played his flute and put Argus to sleep. Then Hermes cut off Argus’ head (which was messy but effective) and took Io the Cow into town.

Hera was mightily upset (and you should probably take a moment to imagine what a mightily upset queen of the gods might be capable of). First she took all of Argus’ eyes and put them in the tail of a peacock (now you know where those eyes came from). Then she got mad.

Hera found a gadfly. A big gadfly. A huge gadfly. A gadfly as big as a bat. And she sent the giant gadfly to pester (and by “pester” I mean drive just short of insane) Io. The gadfly buzzed, stung, nipped, and otherwise tormented Io.

The gadfly’s name was Bob. But no one ever remembers that part of the story.

Have you ever been chosen by a mosquito to be the Meal of the Day? That was nothing compared to what Io endured.

Io ran. She became the long distance runner of cows, but no matter how far she ran the gadfly kept up.

Eventually Io came to a place in the mountains where she found Prometheus (Prometheus was just hanging out having his liver eaten daily because Zeus was annoyed that he had given fire to man).

Io felt sorry for Prometheus and Prometheus felt sorry for Io. Big pity party. Prometheus told her (being one of the Titans he could remember into the future) to go south and then west and that she’d get her original body back and eventually be the mother of a race of heroes, one of whom would free him.

Io said, “Moo” but she meant it nicely.

On she trotted. And eventually she got to the Nile where she collapsed in a heap of Tired Cow (she’d been running for more than a year, so you can see why she might need a small snooze).

Right about that time, Hera decided to take a beauty nap. As soon as she began to snore little godess-like snores, Zeus went down to Egypt. He didn’t bother talking to Pharaoh, but he let Io go out of her cow body and back into her sweet girl body. Then he zoomed off, getting home before Hera woke up. You’d think the king of the gods might not worry about getting in trouble, but you’d be wrong.

Sooner or later, the king of Egypt married Io and she lived happily ever after. Many, many generations later (there are too many “greats” involved for me to want to draw a family tree), a hero was born who freed Prometheus. Extra points if you know who that particular hero was.

Love, Mom

The Prometheus-freeing hero in question was Hercules.

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Echo and Narcissus Interpreted and Explained

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was a god named Zeus. The only thing Zeus liked better than hurling the occasional thunderbolt was cheating on his wife (Hera). Hera did not generally (and by “generally” I mean “ever”) take these extramarital bouts with grace and dignity.

In this case upon a time, there was a lovely young mountain nymph named Echo. Echo was a sweet young thing and by “sweet young thing” I mean Echo loved to talk—and to hear herself talk. (You are too young to remember the doll called Chatty Cathy, but it may be a toned-down version of Echo.) There was nothing Echo felt compelled to keep quiet about. Echo was often amusing and entertaining and on the day of this part of the story she was amusing and entertaining Hera.

Zeus loved having Hera amused and entertained and therefore not paying attention to his every move. So he put those moves on the other mountain nymphs. No one said Zeus was brilliant—just randy.

Hera jumped directly to the (incorrect) conclusion that Echo was amusing and entertaining her (Hera) so Zeus could get away with his shenanigans. Which shows the dangers of circumstantial evidence. It also shows the danger of hanging out in the vicinity of the gods, because Hera punished Echo even though her only crime was being in love with her own voice (and therefore being something of a twit).

As punishment, Hera took away Echo’s voice and gave her (Echo) only the ability to repeat words someone else said. This did not improve Echo’s twitness.

Meanwhile, there was a boy (the son of a nymph and a river god) named Narcissus. Narcissus was a good looking dude. From the time he was a wee tot, he made the annual Top Ten Good Looking Dudes list and from the time he was 10 he owned the number one slot. People fell all over themselves falling madly in love with Narcissus, but Narcissus was the most vain individual on the planet (measured by the Bloomberg Vanity Score) and showed no interest in women, men, or goats.

Echo, in her voiceless nymph body, also fell madly in love with Narcissus. Like a love-sick puppy, she followed him around, saying (of course) nothing.

Narcissus; Echo and Narcissus; DearKidLoveMom.comOne day during all this following aroundness, Narcissus thought he heard someone. “Yo! Who’s there?” asked Narcissus. “Yo! Who’s there?” repeated Echo (since all she could do was repeat his words). Narcissus was unimpressed by this dialog. “I said ‘Who’s there’” challenged Narcissus. “I said ‘Who’s there?’” Echo echoed. After this had gone on for a while, Echo leaped out from behind the tree where she’d been hiding and threw her arms around Narcissus.

Much to her amazement, Narcissus did not thereupon declare his undying love for her. Rather, he declared his undying assessment that she belonged in a looney bin. Devastated, Echo wandered off, wasting away until only her voice was left.

Narcissus continued to shun all who adored him. At some point (the timing is sketchy) someone (the gender is sketchy) fell in love with Narcissus and, being scorned, called on Artemis (goddess of the hunt, the moon, and falling in love) to do something about Narcissus and his vanity. Artemis was big on revenge and decided to punish Narcissus.

It’s amazing what deities could get away with in those days.

It so happened then that Narcissus found a pond and wished to take a drink. It was a beautiful pond full of beautiful, clear water that reflected like a mirror. When Narcissus leaned over to take a drink, he saw the most gorgeous creature he’d ever laid eyes on.

Yep, he’d fallen head over heels with his own reflection. And because of Artemis’ intervention, there was no escape.

Narcissus sat at the edge of the pool gazing at the reflection of his beautiful self until either he faded away or killed himself out of desperation (the details in the autopsy report are sketchy). What is clear is that where he died a flower grew. Its blossom leaned out over the water to watch itself. And the nymphs called it narcissus.

Lessons for the day: Do not piss off the gods. Be humble in thy mirror.

Love, Mom

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