Posted in Library, Poems and Prose

Sisyphus Tricks Death

Who is Sisyphus this man who struggles endlessly in Hades to push a rock to the top of a mountain, only to watch it roll down again. Who is this man who knows only labor and futility in death. This man who is denied rebirth by Persephone the merciful and denied rest by his very host and Lord Hades? This man Sisyphus who was so mighty and clever in life now knows only backbreaking strife and heartbreaking frustration. Ah but why?

Once, Sisyphus was a king. He founded the city Ephyra which later became known as Corinth and he had a lovely and loyal wife and a fine, fine palace by the sea which shone in the light of the setting sun; an inviting trap for the unwary traveler. And so as sailors and soldiers and wanderers alike came to his home seeking shelter, Sisyphus would invite them in, all smiles, and feast them and hear their news and entertain them with bards and dancers and put them to bed in the finest, most sumptuous rooms with soft beds and a warm fire and as soon as they were asleep he would slit their throats and steal their belongings.

This violation of the Code of Hospitality soon attracted the attention of Zeus who consulted with Hades on the subject and decided that the easiest way to be done with Sisyphus was just to kill him and move on. So Hades called Thanatos and told him to fetch Sisyphus, “But” said Hades, “Sisyphus is a crafty one. Best take these along with you.” And Hades presented Thanatos with a set of special manacles and shackles that could bind a spirit tight, to ensure Sisyphus made it to the Underworld without any trouble.

Sisyphus was quite surprised to find Death standing in his bedroom that night with a pair of handcuffs and shackles but he thought quickly because he was, after all, ridiculously clever.

“Why Thanatos, is it that time already? What is that contraption you have there?”

And as Thanatos displayed the handcuffs and shackles and explained what they were for, Sisyphus oohed and ahhed until he had Thanatos right where he wanted him. Then he quickly snapped the shackles shut on Thanatos’ wrists, then ankles and, to make things even worse, fastened a dog collar to his neck and dragged him, struggling, to an alcove in his room where he shut him up inside a wooden chest.

It wasn’t long before Hades noticed Thanatos was missing. He wasn’t the only one. Ares was soon rather frustrated at the lack of death on the battlefield, as it made it rather difficult to tell who was winning. He complained to his father Zeus who sent Hermes to investigate the situation. Although everyone knew that Thanatos had been on his way to see Sisyphus when his whereabouts were last known, it was a full month before They figured out what happened.

In the meantime Sisyphus knew he’d be found out soon enough and he call his wife to him and said to her, “My darling I fear that my time is coming soon and I want to make sure that you know my wishes before I die. When I have passed on I do not want the usual ceremonies and offerings, I want you to throw my body in the street and leave me there for the buzzards to eat.”

His wife was horrified at this idea. What would the neighbors think? But he said, “If you truly love me, you will see my final wishes carried out to the letter.”

Of course she figured he was talking nonsense. He looked healthy and strong to her and would probably change his mind before the end anyway, so she agreed and promised that she would toss his body into the middle of the street for the buzzards to eat when he should finally pass away.

And so when Ares had finally had enough of the other Gods indecision and burst into Sisyphus’s home and grabbed him by the throat demanding to know what had become of Thanatos, Sisyphus was ready. He pointed to the chest in which Thanatos was imprisoned and Ares hastened to release him and give him a good shaking while he was at it. Thanatos and Ares then shackled Sisyphus and Thanatos hauled him down to the Underworld where he belonged.

It wasn’t long before Sisyphus’s wife found his body and, since her promise was still quite fresh, she remembered it and tossed his body out into the street to feed the buzzards and alarm the neighbors.

When Sisyphus was taken to the underworld, he was lost among the masses of backlogged deaths and it took him a few days to make it to the throne room of Hades. There he appealed to the King of the Dead and His Queen Persephone and he complained that his wife did not give him a proper funeral. He pointed out that because his body was above ground, it was really improper for his spirit to be in the underworld. And since no one had placed a coin in his mouth for the ferryman, Charon had been ripped off. The injustice of it all. Since there was no one on Earth who cared for him, his wife certainly didn’t, that was obvious, the only way things would possibly be set right, is if he handled it all himself and, he proposed to do so immediately. Persephone saw reason in this and assisted Sisyphus to make his departure after extracting several solemn promises not to dawdle so that he could return before he was missed.

Sisyphus returned home immediately, retrieved his body, hopped right back into it and went on living as if nothing had happened. Thanatos flat out refused to go chasing after him again and the other Gods must’ve decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble because they went on with their own business and left Sisyphus to his.

It came to pass that as Sisyphus was enjoying the countryside, he witness the abduction of a certain young maiden, who was the daughter of a certain river God by a certain amorous King of the Gods.

Sisyphus wasted no time in letting the River God Asopus know that he knew what had happened to his lost and beloved daughter but, of course, the information would not be free. Sisyphus wanted a spring in his citadel for the convenience and enjoyment of his household. That was the price of his informing on Zeus and he considered it a bargain well made.

Zeus soon got wind of this, of course and was furious. Who was this Sisyphus to inform upon him? And anyway, wasn’t he supposed to be dead? He sent Hermes to gather him and Hermes dragged him back to the Underworld post haste where he was brought immediately before the throne of the King and Queen.

There was no talking his way out of things now. As Thanatos stood by glowering at him and the Queen Persephone refused to even look upon him, so furious was she that he had betrayed her mercy by breaking his word to her, King Hades brought down his punishment. That he should remain in the Underworld forever, with no chance of rebirth, and every day he should roll a stone to the top of a mountain and every night it should roll back down again.

Posted in Library, Poems and Prose

Orpheus and Eurydike

Orpheus was a bard, a singer of great renown, son of the Muse Calliope and also the King of the Cicones, a tribe that lived in the Rhodope Mountains in Thrace (part of what is now Bulgaria). They say that he was the first to master the lyre that Hermes made upon the first day of his birth, a gift from his first teacher Apollo who taught young Orpheus to play upon the slopes of Mount Parnassus. None have played the lyre so perfectly since Orpheus. His voice, trained by his dear mother Calliope, was so perfect in pitch and tone that none could hear it and not be moved and the songs that he created and performed with his two instruments, voice and lyre, charmed birds from the trees, tame beasts and even coaxed the trees to dance. He was also a seer and a servant of the Gods Apollo and Dionysus and he taught his people to honor them and keep their feast days.

It came to pass the Orpheus met and fell in love with a maid who could dance as well as he could play and she was called Eurydice. She was charmed by his singing and he by her dancing and they loved each other in form and speech as well. Two people never were so in love as Orpheus and Eurydice and on their wedding day all of the Muses and the naiads came and there was much feasting and singing and dancing. Eurydice was as lovely as ever in her wedding dress with ivy in her hair dancing among the naiads until she appeared to stumble and fall! In her joy she hadn’t noticed a small snake resting on a rock and she’d stepped upon him and the poor snake in his fright had in turn bitten her on the ankle. And so it was that poor Orpheus watched his dear bride die of the poison bite before she ever had the chance to be his wife.

After Eurydice’s death all days were the same to Orpheus. He rose in the morning and played her an epitaphe. He wandered through the streets singing a dirge he wandered the hills lamenting and his requiem filled the night. All who heard them were moved to pity. Women went about with tears streaming down their faces, men became too depressed to work, the birds ceased singing in favor of Orpheus’s lament and even the trees had no interest in fruiting, which is just as well because the bees had lost all interest in pollinating them.

Finally, Orpheus’s mother Calliope called him to her and said, “My son, you must put aside this constant weeping. You are bringing the rest of the world down with you. What can we do to ease your pain?”
“Nothing.” He declared, “Will ease my pain save to hold Eurodyce in my arms once more.”
“Don’t be unreasonable and wish for the impossible. You must come to terms with reality.” His mother advised. “No one who enters the realm of Hades returns. Life is for the living.”
“I will not forget her.” He declared. “Perhaps I will go and get her.”
Now Calliope wasn’t sure this was such a good idea, but at least it gave the poor boy something to do, so she said, “Then go down to the Kingdom of Hades, He and His Queen are kin to us both. Perhaps they will grant an exception to their rules just this one time, for love of family.” And she told him the way and he went.

He walked a long way until he came to the grim path that leads to the place where the river Acheron(woe) meets the river Cocytus(lament). There he met the ferryman Kharon. Kharon was disinclined to ferry him across, but that got Orpheus lamenting again and Kharon, tears soaking his tattered robe, finally agreed to ferry Orpheus across if he would just stop singing!

On the other side, Cerberus, the great three-headed dog of Hades, greeted Orpheus with suspicion. He crouched down and growled, blocking the way before the gates of the underworld. But Orpheus had charmed great beasts before with his little golden lute and Cerberus was not so much different from other beasts. Soon he was quite calm, enchanted with Orpheus’s song, and let Orpheus pass unharmed.

For many days Orpheus walked across the colorless plains of Asphodel among crowds of the dead. Some were walking purposefully, like he was, toward the palace of Hades which could be seen in the distance. Others wandered aimlessly, lost, confused, crying out for their loved ones. The din was terrible but still he marched on and soon brought out his lute again to cheer himself and the wailing of the lost souls was quieted.

Finally, he came to the Plain of Judgement where those who are too wicked to enter the presence of the Dread Lord and His Queen are turned away and cast into Tartarus and where those whose names are to be remembered with honor for all time are sent instead to the Ilses of the Blessed. There the three judges Minos, Radamnthus and Aeacus saught to challenge him but when they heard the music of his lute, they agreed that their King and Queen must hear it as well and they sent him in to to see Them right away.

Orpheus came before the thrones of Hades and Persephone and bowed low. “I am your cousin, the son of Your half-sister, my Queen and the grandson of Your brother, Oh King. Please attend to my boon and accept the offering that I have for you in exchange.”

“I have come to retrieve my lost love. And if you should refuse me, then I should stay, for there is no life without her.”

Hades and Persephone found it quite amusing that this young upstart should expect them to change the rules for him, even if they were family. Were they themselves not subject to these rules? Persephone smiled gently and said most politely, “You are welcome to stay with us cousin.”

“Then let me entertain you.” He said and brought forth his lute and began to play and sing. He sang a lovely song praising the fairness of Persephone and the strength of Her Lord Hades. Then he sang a love song that he had written for his bride and played for her on their wedding day and the song was so lovely that Sisyphus was compelled to cease his labors and sat upon his rock to listen. Then he sang the lively tune that she’d been dancing to when she died and Hades’ long fingers, resting on the arm of his cold stone throne, began to tap the rhythm. Then Orpheus began to sing of his sorrow for his lost love and he sang and he sang and soon Persephone’s face shone with tears, even the Erinyes wept and finally Hades put up his hand that he should stop.

“Cousin, you have caused trouble in my kingdom. You fill us with sorrow so that even the strongest among us may be rendered weak if you continue. Go forth now and make your way back home. Trust that your bride will follow and do not look back until you are home.”

Overjoyed, Orpheus prepared to leave at once. He rushed out of the castle, practically dancing with joy. And he did not look back. He waved cheerfully to the judges on the plain of judgement and he did not look back. He sprinted across the fields of Asphodel and he did not look back. Cerberus yeilded to him as he approached, but he didn’t stop to give the dog a kind word but rushed right up to Kharon to procure transport for himself and his wife back to the land of the living. He sang with joy and laughed and as he stepped onto the ferry he turned around to ensure that his Eurydice had stepped up too. And all he saw was a whisp of a shadow fluttering and disappearing back into the underworld and he heard a small voice whisper, “Alas and goodbye my love.”

He tried to go back, but the ferry had already launched. Kharon restrained him and Cerberus snarled viciously from the shore. Soon Kharon deposited him back in the land of the living and he quickly moved his ferry away ignoring his pleading. Orpheus launched again into a dirge and he sang for days not eating or sleeping but nobody heard him except the souls of the dead who had no more power in the situation than he did.

Finally, he made his way back home. He never sang or played again and he foreswore thereafter the love of all women, and the worship of all Gods save Apollo. Some time later he was killed by Manaeds, wild women of Dionysus. Some say because he rejected their advances, others say because he rejected his former God Dionysus. Either way, he is together with his Eurodyce now.

Adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphosis and other sources.

Posted in Rites of Passage

Where will you go when you die?

Discussing the recent one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, a friend of mine asked me where the old man was buried. As it happens, my grandfather has was not buried. His body was sent to a medical school anatomy lab to help a new generation of doctors learn how the human body works. When we talk about it in our family, it’s as if it was just another adventure the old man’s body was taking. Grandpa, who went to work when he was 11 and never graduated High School has gone to college. We haven’t got him back yet, but when we do, he’ll be in an an urn which will be interred with my grandmother whenever her body finishes its journey.

Anyway, all this got me thinking about what I would like to have done with my body when I go. Being buried is just so boring and cremation isn’t very exciting either. No, my body needs an adventure. I was an Anthropology major in college and I really would have liked to study forensic Anthropology (like Bones) but the college I lived near and could afford (not that I really could afford it) had nothing like that. I have heard that some colleges (The University of Tennessee being the original) have a place called a body farm where corpses are laid out in different biomes so students can see how they decay and what sorts of bugs are attracted to them and such. Now that would be cool. But a cadaver lab would be cool too.

My friend told me about a book she read on the subject called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers that she and her husband both enjoyed, recommended to her by her mother in law. I haven’t read it yet, but there’s three recommendations people who liked it. It’s on my list.

I was there when my grandfather died and there was a state of blessed confusion. (Blessed because everyone was too busy being confused to be overcome with grief, that came later.) Although his will stated his wishes, although we had told the doctors, nurses and chaplain what his wishes were, when the time came to have him sent on his way, nobody was sure how to go about it. We had to contact a funeral home to sort it all out and, since there wasn’t going to be a funeral (he did have a memorial service at our ancestral Lutheran church, but there was to be no body, no coffin, no burial) nobody had thought of this. And since he’d been transported by helicopter to the hospital, we had no idea whether to use a local funeral home, one by us, or one by their house. Meanwhile, grandpa was getting cold.

So I thought it would be a good idea for me to handle as much of the particulars ahead of time. I am working out my will (willing.com or Legalzoom.com can help with this) and registering as a donor (you can do this at Sciencecare or at Medicure or contact your local Medical or Forensic Anthropology school). I will also consult my local funeral home to make sure everything is in place ahead of time.

But then there’s the rest; Where to lay my mortal remains. I’m not sure how much I care about all that… Circle Sanctuary has a cemetery in Wisconsin, but I’m not sure the family wants to travel to Wisconsin on Samhain and Memorial Day. I don’t like the idea of being pumped full of chemicals and being put in a non-biodegradable box, so if burial were my destination, I’d be looking for a Green burial, but I believe cremation is the ultimate destination for a donated body so I’ll let my loved ones figure out what to do with my ashes. If my husband outlives me, I’ll probably end up in a storage unit with all of his other priceless treasures he can’t find room for and doesn’t have any immediate use for…

So… where will you go when you die?

Posted in Book of Shadows, Rites of Passage

A Burial Rite

The person who has passed may be cremated and presented for burial in a wooden or clay urn or the corpse may be wrapped in cloth for burial. This way, he or she will quickly decompose and nourish new life. It would be ideal for this person to be buried wrapped in a cloth, instead of a sealed coffin, but there may be laws that make this difficult. Biodegradable coffins are available in some places, and embalming is not always required. All of these options should be looked into.

Process to the burial site, chanting-
“We sailed with you on the river, as long as our path was the same. But be not afraid though it swept you away, we will meet again in the sea.”

Or something else appropriate.

Upon reaching the gravesite, establish your sacred space as normal, or as in the Departing ceremony.

Priest(ess)- “We welcome the spirits of our ancestors and the honored dead not yet reborn. We invite you to witness as we commend [name] to the Earth and ask that you accept him/her into your number.”

The body is lowered into the earth.

Priest(ess)- “All material beings come from the Earth, and to the Earth we must return in time. ”

Coins are tossed into the grave.

“Coins for the ferryman, may he see you safely to the shores of Hades and the arms of our ancestors.”

A candle is tossed into the grave, or placed on it.

“For your journey friend, may it light your way.”

At this time, other mourners should step forward with their own offerings and words of farewell.

Close the circle and return in silence to the feast.

Some chants I have found that are appropriate for the procession to the burial place.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwIUuSZ01f4

See also The Pagan Book of Living and Dying by Starhawk and M. Macha Nightmare

Posted in Book of Shadows, Rites of Passage

Departing Ceremony

For this ritual, there may be an open coffin, or the deceased may be laid out on a bed or settee for viewing. This should be in a somewhat out of the way place, rather than the centerpiece, as some guests will have no desire to view the corpse. Alternatively and additionally, pictures of the deceased should be placed around the room in themed groupings according to the roles he or she played in life. For instance, if the deceased was a writer, his or her books should be placed in a group with newspaper clippings of press releases and interviews and pictures. If he or she was a soldier, another area should feature pictures in uniform, medals, commendations, etc. If he or she was also a parent, pictures of the deceased surrounded by his or her children would also be appropriate, as well as handmade gifts and cards that he or she may have received from his or her children. The idea is to reflect the humanity of the deceased in a joyful way. In addition, the officiate may wish to talk to the family about playing some of the passed loved one’s favorite music and home videos.

The acolytes shall welcome guests as they enter and introduce them to the officiating Priest or Priestess who should be moving among the guests offering quiet council.

Call the people into the sacred space and begin as normal. Members of the family or Circle should stand at the four corners and light candles while speaking thusly in turn:

West- “As the sun sets, so has a life ended. As we bid farewell to the sun at the end of each day, knowing it will rise again at dawn, so we bid farewell to name knowing he/she will return to us when his/her night has passed.”

South- “Like the sun which sparks within all things below it the fire of life departs our sight when the day has ended, so too has our friend descended into the darkness of the unknown, and like the Sun, he/she will return to us when the time is right.”

East- “So let the air be filled with song as we await the approaching dawn. Let us not mourn but rejoice that our friend shall now learn the mysteries that those living have forgotten.”

North- “As the Earth has formed us, so we return to her. So we commend our friend to her cool embrace.”

Address the Gods-

Priest(ess) says-
We invite the Gods of old to join this circle so that you may take part in these rites of farewell to our friend and be honored in our faith. We ask that you comfort him/her and when you depart again, may you guide him/her to the afterlife.

Priest(ess) says-
“We welcome to our rites our ancestors whom we know are always among us and give particular honor to the newest of your number, [name].”

Priest(ess) says-
“Like all humans, [name] was a person who was many things to many people. He/she was a mother/father, a daughter/son, a (whatever else is appropriate). I ask each of you now, to whom he/she was important to come and speak to him/her and tell him/her so.”

Priest(ess) addresses people by name and encourages them to come and say something to the deceased. Include children, parents, siblings, friends, employers, etc.

Priestess says-
“[Name] you have lived a good life. You have touched the hearts of all these people. I cannot say whether or not you have fulfilled your purpose, only you know that, but I can say that to these people, you were important and that is worth a lot. You have laughed, you have loved and you have learned much through your life and for that you have earned an honored place among the ancestors. We commend you and we celebrate your passing. Hail, [name] and farewell.”

People- “Farewell friend”, etc. as appropriate around the circle.

The acolytes snuff four candles in the four directions around the coffin saying-

East- The sun will rise again
South- Life continues.
West- Love is our only certainty
North- Only Nature is eternal

Group chant while leaving the circle and processing past the coffin.
Recommend We all come from the Goddess https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5Y73oMcS7w

Posted in Library, Poems and Prose

Orpheus and Eurydike

Orpheus was a bard, a singer of great renown, son of the Muse Calliope and also the King of the Cicones, a tribe that lived in the Rhodope Mountains in Thrace (part of what is now Bulgaria). They say that he was the first to master the lyre that Hermes made upon the first day of his birth, a gift from his first teacher Apollo who taught young Orpheus to play upon the slopes of Mount Parnassus. None have played the lyre so perfectly since Orpheus. His voice, trained by his dear mother Calliope, was so perfect in pitch and tone that none could hear it and not be moved and the songs that he created and performed with his two instruments, voice and lyre, charmed birds from the trees, tame beasts and even coaxed the trees to dance. He was also a seer and a servant of the Gods Apollo and Dionysus and he taught his people to honor them and keep their feast days.

It came to pass the Orpheus met and fell in love with a maid who could dance as well as he could play and she was called Eurydice. She was charmed by his singing and he by her dancing and they loved each other in form and speech as well. Two people never were so in love as Orpheus and Eurydice and on their wedding day all of the Muses and the naiads came and there was much feasting and singing and dancing. Eurydice was as lovely as ever in her wedding dress with ivy in her hair dancing among the naiads until she appeared to stumble and fall! In her joy she hadn’t noticed a small snake resting on a rock and she’d stepped upon him and the poor snake in his fright had in turn bitten her on the ankle. And so it was that poor Orpheus watched his dear bride die of the poison bite before she ever had the chance to be his wife.

After Eurydice’s death all days were the same to Orpheus. He rose in the morning and played her an epitaphe. He wandered through the streets singing a dirge he wandered the hills lamenting and his requiem filled the night. All who heard them were moved to pity. Women went about with tears streaming down their faces, men became too depressed to work, the birds ceased singing in favor of Orpheus’s lament and even the trees had no interest in fruiting, which is just as well because the bees had lost all interest in pollinating them.

Finally, Orpheus’s mother Calliope called him to her and said, “My son, you must put aside this constant weeping. You are bringing the rest of the world down with you. What can we do to ease your pain?”
“Nothing.” He declared, “Will ease my pain save to hold Eurodyce in my arms once more.”
“Don’t be unreasonable and wish for the impossible. You must come to terms with reality.” His mother advised. “No one who enters the realm of Hades returns. Life is for the living.”
“I will not forget her.” He declared. “Perhaps I will go and get her.”
Now Calliope wasn’t sure this was such a good idea, but at least it gave the poor boy something to do, so she said, “Then go down to the Kingdom of Hades, He and His Queen are kin to us both. Perhaps they will grant an exception to their rules just this one time, for love of family.” And she told him the way and he went.

He walked a long way until he came to the grim path that leads to the place where the river Acheron(woe) meets the river Cocytus(lament). There he met the ferryman Kharon. Kharon was disinclined to ferry him across, but that got Orpheus lamenting again and Kharon, tears soaking his tattered robe, finally agreed to ferry Orpheus across if he would just stop singing!

On the other side, Cerberus, the great three-headed dog of Hades, greeted Orpheus with suspicion. He crouched down and growled, blocking the way before the gates of the underworld. But Orpheus had charmed great beasts before with his little golden lute and Cerberus was not so much different from other beasts. Soon he was quite calm, enchanted with Orpheus’s song, and let Orpheus pass unharmed.

For many days Orpheus walked across the colorless plains of Asphodel among crowds of the dead. Some were walking purposefully, like he was, toward the palace of Hades which could be seen in the distance. Others wandered aimlessly, lost, confused, crying out for their loved ones. The din was terrible but still he marched on and soon brought out his lute again to cheer himself and the wailing of the lost souls was quieted.

Finally, he came to the Plain of Judgement where those who are too wicked to enter the presence of the Dread Lord and His Queen are turned away and cast into Tartarus and where those whose names are to be remembered with honor for all time are sent instead to the Ilses of the Blessed. There the three judges Minos, Radamnthus and Aeacus saught to challenge him but when they heard the music of his lute, they agreed that their King and Queen must hear it as well and they sent him in to to see Them right away.

Orpheus came before the thrones of Hades and Persephone and bowed low. “I am your cousin, the son of Your half-sister, my Queen and the grandson of Your brother, Oh King. Please attend to my boon and accept the offering that I have for you in exchange.”

“I have come to retrieve my lost love. And if you should refuse me, then I should stay, for there is no life without her.”

Hades and Persephone found it quite amusing that this young upstart should expect them to change the rules for him, even if they were family. Were they themselves not subject to these rules? Persephone smiled gently and said most politely, “You are welcome to stay with us cousin.”

“Then let me entertain you.” He said and brought forth his lute and began to play and sing. He sang a lovely song praising the fairness of Persephone and the strength of Her Lord Hades. Then he sang a love song that he had written for his bride and played for her on their wedding day and the song was so lovely that Sisyphus was compelled to cease his labors and sat upon his rock to listen. Then he sang the lively tune that she’d been dancing to when she died and Hades’ long fingers, resting on the arm of his cold stone throne, began to tap the rhythm. Then Orpheus began to sing of his sorrow for his lost love and he sang and he sang and soon Persephone’s face shone with tears, even the Erinyes wept and finally Hades put up his hand that he should stop.

“Cousin, you have caused trouble in my kingdom. You fill us with sorrow so that even the strongest among us may be rendered weak if you continue. Go forth now and make your way back home. Trust that your bride will follow and do not look back until you are home.”

Overjoyed, Orpheus prepared to leave at once. He rushed out of the castle, practically dancing with joy. And he did not look back. He waved cheerfully to the judges on the plain of judgement and he did not look back. He sprinted across the fields of Asphodel and he did not look back. Cerberus yeilded to him as he approached, but he didn’t stop to give the dog a kind word but rushed right up to Kharon to procure transport for himself and his wife back to the land of the living. He sang with joy and laughed and as he stepped onto the ferry he turned around to ensure that his Eurydice had stepped up too. And all he saw was a whisp of a shadow fluttering and disappearing back into the underworld and he heard a small voice whisper, “Alas and goodbye my love.”

He tried to go back, but the ferry had already launched. Kharon restrained him and Cerberus snarled viciously from the shore. Soon Kharon deposited him back in the land of the living and he quickly moved his ferry away ignoring his pleading. Orpheus launched again into a dirge and he sang for days not eating or sleeping but nobody heard him except the souls of the dead who had no more power in the situation than he did.

Finally, he made his way back home. He never sang or played again and he foreswore thereafter the love of all women, and the worship of all Gods save Apollo. Some time later he was killed by Manaeds, wild women of Dionysus. Some say because he rejected their advances, others say because he rejected his former God Dionysus. Either way, he is together with his Eurydice now.

Adapted from Ovid’s Metamorphosis and other sources.

Posted in Library, Poems and Prose, Uncategorized

Sisyphus Tricks Death

Who is Sisyphus this man who struggles endlessly in Hades to push a rock to the top of a mountain, only to watch it roll down again? Who is this man who knows only labor and futility in death? This man who is denied rebirth by Persephone the merciful and denied rest by his very host and Lord Hades? This man Sisyphus who was so mighty and clever in life now knows only backbreaking strife and heartbreaking frustration. Ah but why?

Once, Sisyphus was a king. He founded the city Ephyra which later became known as Corinth and he had a lovely and loyal wife and a fine, fine palace by the sea which shone in the light of the setting sun; an inviting trap for the unwary traveler. And so as sailors and soldiers and wanderers alike came to his home seeking shelter, Sisyphus would invite them in, all smiles, and feast them and hear their news and entertain them with bards and dancers and put them to bed in the finest, most sumptuous rooms with soft beds and a warm fire and as soon as they were asleep he would slit their throats and steal their belongings.

This violation of the Code of Hospitality soon attracted the attention of Zeus who consulted with Hades on the subject and decided that the easiest way to be done with Sisyphus was just to kill him and move on. So Hades called Thanatos and told him to fetch Sisyphus, “But,” said Hades, “Sisyphus is a crafty one. Best take these along with you.” And Hades presented Thanatos with a set of special manacles and shackles that could bind a spirit tight, to ensure Sisyphus made it to the Underworld without any trouble.

Sisyphus was quite surprised to find Death standing in his bedroom that night with a pair of handcuffs and shackles but he thought quickly because he was, after all, ridiculously clever.

“Why Thanatos, is it that time already? What is that contraption you have there?”

And as Thanatos displayed the handcuffs and shackles and explained what they were for, Sisyphus oohed and ahhed until he had Thanatos right where he wanted him. Then he quickly snapped the shackles shut on Thanatos’ wrists, then ankles and, to make things even worse, fastened a dog collar to his neck and dragged him, struggling, to an alcove in his room where he shut him up inside a wooden chest.

It wasn’t long before Hades noticed Thanatos was missing. He wasn’t the only one. Ares was soon rather frustrated at the lack of death on the battlefield, as it made it rather difficult to tell who was winning. He complained to his father Zeus who sent Hermes to investigate the situation. Although everyone knew that Thanatos had been on his way to see Sisyphus when his whereabouts were last known, it was a full month before They figured out what happened.

In the meantime, Sisyphus knew he’d be found out soon enough and he call his wife to him and said to her, “My darling I fear that my time is coming soon and I want to make sure that you know my wishes before I die. When I have passed on I do not want the usual ceremonies and offerings, I want you to throw my body in the street and leave me there for the buzzards to eat.”

His wife was horrified at this idea. What would the neighbors think? But he said, “If you truly love me, you will see my final wishes carried out to the letter.”

Of course, she figured he was talking nonsense. He looked healthy and strong to her and would probably change his mind before the end anyway, so she agreed and promised that she would toss his body into the middle of the street for the buzzards to eat when he should finally pass away.

And so when Ares had finally had enough of the other Gods indecision and burst into Sisyphus’s home and grabbed him by the throat demanding to know what had become of Thanatos, Sisyphus was ready. He pointed to the chest in which Thanatos was imprisoned and Ares hastened to release him and give him a good shaking while he was at it. Thanatos and Ares then shackled Sisyphus and Thanatos hauled him down to the Underworld where he belonged.

It wasn’t long before Sisyphus’s wife found his body and, since her promise was still quite fresh, she remembered it and tossed his body out into the street to feed the buzzards and alarm the neighbors.

When Sisyphus was taken to the underworld, he was lost among the masses of backlogged deaths and it took him a few days to make it to the throne room of Hades. There he appealed to the King of the Dead and His Queen Persephone and he complained that his wife did not give him a proper funeral. He pointed out that because his body was above ground, it was really improper for his spirit to be in the underworld. And since no one had placed a coin in his mouth for the ferryman, Charon had been ripped off. The injustice of it all. Since there was no one on Earth who cared for him, his wife certainly didn’t, that was obvious, the only way things would possibly be set right, is if he handled it all himself and, he proposed to do so immediately. Persephone saw reason in this and assisted Sisyphus to make his departure after extracting several solemn promises not to dawdle so that he could return before he was missed.

Sisyphus returned home immediately, retrieved his body, hopped right back into it and went on living as if nothing had happened. Thanatos flat out refused to go chasing after him again and the other Gods must’ve decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble because they went on with their own business and left Sisyphus to his.

It came to pass that as Sisyphus was enjoying the countryside, he witness the abduction of a certain young maiden, who was the daughter of a certain river God by a certain amorous King of the Gods.
Sisyphus wasted no time in letting the River God Asopus know that he knew what had happened to his lost and beloved daughter but, of course, the information would not be free. Sisyphus wanted a spring in his citadel for the convenience and enjoyment of his household. That was the price of his informing on Zeus and he considered it a bargain well made.

Zeus soon got wind of this, of course and was furious. Who was this Sisyphus to inform upon him? And anyway, wasn’t he supposed to be dead? He sent Hermes to gather him and Hermes dragged him back to the Underworld post haste where he was brought immediately before the throne of the King and Queen.

There was no talking his way out of things now. As Thanatos stood by glowering at him and the Queen Persephone refused to even look upon him, so furious was she that he had betrayed her mercy by breaking his word to her, King Hades brought down his punishment. That he should remain in the Underworld forever, with no chance of rebirth, and every day he should roll a stone to the the top of a mountain and every night it should roll back down again.

Posted in Food, Kitchen Witch Corner

Walnuts

The walnut is a majestic tree that provides food and shade to those who truly appreciate them and garden-killers that produce a giant mess of stinky fruit to those who don’t. Walnut trees can be grown from walnuts and squirrels plant them often when they fail to collect their entire winter stash. Walnuts are not true nuts but are actually the seed of the walnut fruit, which is a drupe. Walnuts are allelopathic to many other types of plants; that is, they produce a chemical (juglone) that inhibits the growth of other plants. Black walnut is most notorious than this, though all walnuts produce a certain amount of juglone.

English Walnut Juglans regia (aka Persian Walnut) Is native to Persia and is a mild, sweet-tasting nut most commonly used in the commercial nut industry.

Black Walnut Juglans nigra is native to the Americas. It is more strongly flavored but much more difficult to get out of the shell, so it’s not used commercially as often.

Butternut Juglans cinerea (aka White Walnut)  is native to Eastern North America. Also tasty.

Walnuts in the Kitchen

Walnuts should be stored at 27 to 32 °F (−3 to 0 °C) below 70% humidity to keep them fresh as long as possible. Mold growing on walnuts produce aflatoxin which is a carcinogen, so your walnuts should be discarded at the first sign of mold.

walnuts, nuts, healthy
congerdesign (CC0), Pixabay

Walnuts are tasty added to baked goods and I personally like to throw a handful in my oatmeal in the mornings. They are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and are a good source of plant protein. Walnut hulls make a nice dark brown dye. I like it for magical ink and I understand it can be used to dye hair as well.

The extracts of walnut leaves and hulls have been recommended for parasitic infections since ancient Roman times. It does work as a very effective laxative. This should not be used by pregnant or lactating women, as the chemicals do pass though the milk.

More Walnut Lore

According to Medieval Folklore, witches liked to meet under walnut trees and they were called Evil Trees. Another superstition, however, stated that if a walnut were dropped in a witch’s lap, she wouldn’t be able to rise. Walnuts were symbols of death as well as symbols of fertility making them an excellent choice to symbolize rebirth. They contain the dark energy of Earth and help raise your awareness. It is said that they attract lightning and as such, it’s a bad idea to carry them around in a thunderstorm. Could this be a connection with Zeus? Or perhaps just a tendency for tall trees (such as walnuts tend to be) to be struck by lightning on occasion? The Romans associated the walnut with Juno, the Queen of the Gods and it was considered a symbol of fertility.

Women carried walnuts to increase their chances of conception. One custom is to have a bride and groom dance around a walnut tree, to ensure the bride produces an abundance of milk for their future babies. Place a leaf of a walnut tree in the shoe of the one you desire to have his or her eyes and heart turn your way.

It was considered bad luck to plant a walnut tree too close to a stable, lest it cause the death of your livestock. Indeed the walnut tree presents a danger to horses and dogs and poisons the earth around it so that no other plants can grow in its immediate vicinity. The shade of a walnut tree was said to dull the brain and to be poisonous in various ways. The fruits, however, are delicious and nutritious and the hulls

Because walnuts, like most nuts, have a rather long shelf life, they are traditional Yuletide snacks.

Walnuts are tasty in salads, stuffing and baked goods or in a snack mix with dried fruit and other nuts.

Walnut oil has a low smoke point and so should be used for salad dressings rather than frying. It is a wonderful carrier oil for aging skin and for dry, itchy skin conditions.

Walnuts can be used as a substitute for pecans in most recipes.
Some folks are allergic. Take care.

Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamin E, B Vitamins and many minerals.

Correspondences
Element(s): Earth Fire
Planet(s): Jupiter Sun
Season: Winter
Sabbat: Midwinter
Zeus, Juno

Gender: Masculine

death, fertility, rebirth, awareness, love, abundance