Sunday, February 3, 2013

Will You Be My Muse?

Of all the religions in all of time, the Greeks probably had the most gods. They had a god for everything. The sun, a rainbow, each of the winds, even (as I was once told) their doorjambs. For the most part, no one believes in these gods anymore (though you might be surprised by what you found if you looked). Still, the gods the Greeks once believed in have become the muse for many persons today.

Allusions to Greek myth are everywhere. For starters, did you notice the one I used? A lot of people refer to things as their 'muse' though few know what that truly means. In myth there were nine muses, goddesses of the arts. It was believed that artistic expression was a gift of the muses.
The Nine Muses

Here are some of the most well known allusions:

A Herculean task: Hercules was a Greek hero, one of the demigods (half god, half man). Many have probably seen the Disney movie- but as with all things Disney, it was changed to make it okay for children. Here is the true story:

Hercules was the illegitimate son of Zeus. His stepmother, Hera, hated him for this and tried to kill him numerous times. At one point, because of this, he lost it and killed his entire family. When he realized what he had done, he tried to regain his honor by completing twelve tasks given to him. A few of these tasks are in the movie: capturing the three-headed dog guarding the underworld, slay a nine headed beast, ect.

These were all tasks a 'mere mortal' could never do, thus the phrase.

Let the Fates Decide:  The Fates were three goddesses in control of peoples' fates. They chose when someone died and if they had success in life. They were depicted as carrying a ball of string which they cut with scissors when someone died.

Sleeping Beauty: That has nothing to do with Greek mythology! Actually it does. This Disney Princess's name was Aurora Rose and was said to have been given the beauty of the dawn. Well, the Greeks had a goddess of the dawn and her name was Aurora as well (Well, really it was Eos and the Romans called her Aurora).

Nike: That's right, the shoe. In myth, Nike was the messenger of the gods. At the time all messengers were runners by profession and Nike's symbol was that distinct check mark.

Midas and his daughter

Trust the Midas Touch: Remember that jingle? It refers to story about King Midas who asked the gods for the ability to turn all he touched to gold. The moral of the story, gold will not make you happy, is revealed when Midas goes to hug his daughter and she becomes a golden statue.

The Medical Winged Staff Entwined with Snakes: This was the staff of Hermes, the god of basically anything the other gods didn't want. Namely, that was thieves and liars and orphans. He was also supposed to be the gods' version of a doctor.

Medical Staff
I Feel Like Sisyphus: This was a villain in mythology who was far too ambitious for the gods' taste. In punishment, after he died, he spent eternity pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll down and he need to start over.

Today, in the American culture of success, he has become a hero. Ally Condie, in her book Crossed,  likens him to Dylan Thomas's poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night".

Personally, I love that poem, though not the comparison. These are the words:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"


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