Tantalos

25 August, 2011

His wife could not bear to see him go. She stayed behind in the palace while Tantalos sailed along the river towards the sea. He had been called by the gods – instructed by Zeus himself to come to Mount Olympus and become a cup bearer. The role of cup bearer to the gods was such an honour that not even the ruler of a kingdom could refuse, and so Tantalos bid farewell to his three children and his beloved wife. She had tried to stop him. “This is madness, you are a grown man and a king. How could the gods desire you for this work, surely Zeus longs for a fair maid or a comely lad to do his bidding.”

But Tantalos was a pious man, and when the gods called, he responded. He had tried to placate his wife, “The gods are just and wise. They know what is best and so I must go to them.” This had earned him scorn from his beloved – “The gods are fickle and cruel and you will know this soon enough, begone, I am done with arguing. All I can do now is to weep for you.” So she wept salt tears and as she did the river flowed into the ocean taking Tantalos’ boat into the domain of Poseidon. The god of the oceans lifted the little boat and bore it to Mount Olympus where Tantalos was ushered in to meet the King of the gods. Trembling before the throne of Zeus, Tantalos humbly offered his services as cup bearer.

“And who exactly are you?” asked Zeus.

“I am Tantalos, King of Lydia who you desired to serve you.”

“Oh no, ” cried mighty Zeus, “I didn’t mean you, I meant that handsome youth who I spied a few weeks ago. What would I do with a man like you? Well, waste not, want not. Begone to the kitchens and let us never set eyes upon you again.”

And so Tantalos was taken from the table of the gods and set to work in the kitchens – cutting, peeling, soaking, boiling, roasting, carving, slicing. This once mighty king was reduced to servants labour and only his piety kept him sane. He repeated to himself over and over, “The gods are just and wise. They know what is best.” But being on Mount Olympus allowed Tantalos to see the actions of the gods and what he saw appalled him. The Olympians were no moral bastions, but cruel and wicked tyrants. Their moments of kindness were interspersed with terrible rage and petty revenge. The scales were gone from his eyes and Tantalos vowed to return home.

Moreover he had discovered the secret of the gods power. The nectar and ambrosia of the gods was really all that kept them apart from mortal men. But what if everyone could have access to these gifts, what if everyone could live forever like a god? Tantalos thought of his wife and children. They deserved better than old age and death and so one night when the gods were revelling, Tantalos sneaked out of Olympus. He carried with him more than enough ambrosia for all of Lydia. Alas for Tantalos, although it was dark, Panoptes the hundred eyed giant saw him attempt to flee. The giant quickly scooped up the fleeing king and brought him before the gods.

There was outrage at Tantalos’ crime. Stealing the secrets of immortality could not be dealt with lightly. Zeus pronounced his sentence – Tantalos would be taken to Hades and tortured for all eternity. But then nimble Hermes spoke up.

“Fellow gods, what Tantalos has done is surely the worst of crimes. If mortal man becomes like a god, then we become like mortal man! What status would we have if we did not deny mankind the riches of the world? Nothing that they planned would be too difficult for them. No, this is the worst of crimes and the punishment will be severe.”

Zeus replied, “I am already punishing him for all eternity, what more do you propose?”

Hermes smiled. “I think it will serve to punish his descendants. For his daughter Niobe I will make her fertile and grant her many children. Then we shall kill the children before her very eyes and afterwards turn her to stone. His son Broteas we will drive mad before burning him to death. As for Pelops… Ah, that shall be the best. Since Tantalos worked in our kitchen we will bring Pelops there and cook him for a feast.”

Zeus frowned. “I do not intend to eat a human. I would sooner eat a horse.”

Hermes chuckled, “Oh I have no intention of eating the child, we will just throw the parts to the birds. But then we shall spread the tale of how it was Tantalos himself who cooked his own son, and that is why we are punishing him.”

Tantalos was pale. “Please, punish me as you will but spare my children, I beg you.”

Hermes simply smiled. “I think I will enjoy telling the story of Tantalos and his son. And I think I will start by telling your poor sweet wife…Perhaps I will bring her something to eat while she mourns her son…”

The gods are just and wise. They know what is best.

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kurukshetraArjuna stood in the chariot and gazed out over the valley. Thousands of warriors had gathered here at Kurukshetra, alliances of Kings bound together into two great forces. Spearmen, archers, chariots and elephants filled Arjuna’s sight. The larger force was on the other side of the valley, lead by Arjuna’s cousin. This was a family war, Arjuna and the other Pandavas against their cousins the Kauravas. The Kauravas had taken the Kingdom from Arjuna’s brother who was the rightful King. Now, after many years in exile, the Pandavas had returned to take what was theirs. Arjuna maneuvered his chariot to the front of his battle group and looked into the faces of the enemy.

There he saw his cousins, and his uncles. Friends from childhood and his mentors stood across the field waiting to deliver death to Arjuna and his brothers. Arjuna knew his skill with the bow was great and knew he would kill many people today. The thought turned his stomach, and a sadness bore down upon him. The warrior turned to his charioteer, the noble Krishna, a godling who was friend to both sides of the conflict.

“Krishna, we are about to do something hateful. How can I lead my men into battle against my family, against my friends? Look, there is Drona who taught me how to use my bow and arrow when I was so young. Am I truly to kill him? How can this be my dharma?”

Krishna the godling replied, “Oh Arjuna, do not worry about this coming battle. There will be death on both sides, indeed few will survive this glorious battle at the end of this glorious age. All you must do is perform your sacred duty as a warrior. Do not expect and anticipate the result, just be the best you can, act without attachment and know that it will only be the bodies that you kill, their souls will go on forever.”

Arjuna listened to Krishna’s wisdom and steeled himself for the fight. “Very well, I shall do as you ask. You show much wisdom as always. I never quite understood how you could know so much of the way of things.”

“Oh Arjuna, have I been with you so long and yet still you do not recognise me? I am no mere descendant of the gods as you are, I am the one, the only, that which is greatest made manifest in human form.”

Arjuna felt a shiver along his spine. Could this be? Was Krishna an avatar not merely of a god, but of the eternal? “Show me. If I am to die in this battle then so be it, it is my karma, but before I fight I must see with my own eyes, show me your glory! If I can ask but one more thing of you my friend, let it be this!”

Krishna smiled and the air stilled. All was silent, no bird was singing, no horse neighing. The armies were frozen in time, only Arjuna and Krishna moved. Krishna touched Arjuna on the forehead, his finger opening a divine sight within the warrior. And then Arjuna saw.

He saw infinite eyes and mouths. He saw a body that went on forever, unbounded, unchained, eternal. Were a thousand suns to rise at once they could not outshine the magnificence Arjuna saw. The lotus flower floated beneath the being that Arjuna’s mind struggled to comprehend. All the gods were contained within it, all of creation was encompassed by it. Arjuna then saw his cousins and the enemy forces running headlong into the mouths of the glorious one, all being devoured and absorbed.

“What are you?”

“I am Time, and I am Death, destroyer of all worlds. Those who you fight will die with or without you. You have to decide to do what is right. Follow your dharma.”

Arjuna trembled with dread, the numinous shaking him to the bone. The forms swayed, they drifted away from Arjuna and his divine sight too was lost. Arjuna opened his mortal eyes and gazed upon the human form of Krishna once again. His lips trembled, his arms still shook. The banner of Hanuman that he wore on his shirt was dark with sweat and tears.

“No words…”

Krishna smiled. “You have glimpsed understanding, but that is all that you can ever achieve. But even a glimpse is better than living in the dark. Do you understand now the oneness of the universe?”

Arjuna nodded. “Yes, I see now. I understand. I know what must be done. All is one. And I must fight this war.”

The horns blew and the battle commenced. Arjuna drew his bow and he killed and he killed and he killed.

The Spiritual Centrist

24 June, 2009

buddha palaceWhen Siddhartha Gautama was born, his father the King sent for the wise men to foretell his future. After examining the infant child they all proclaimed the same thing: “Siddhartha is destined to become either a great ruler whose Empire will cover the world, or else to become a great prophet, who will discover the means of salvation for all of mankind.” The King was not one for philosophy, or meditation. He asked the sages how he could ensure the child would become a great ruler. The wise men replied “He must not receive any religious teachings. Keep him away from the sacred scriptures, the Vedas and the Upanishads. Do not let him eat after midnight and above all do not let him see suffering!” The King agreed to these terms and kept the young Prince in an indulgent idle lifestyle. No suffering or torment was allowed within the walled Palace-city where Siddhartha grew up, and on his sixteenth birthday he was given a beautiful and kind cousin to marry and a party to rival all other sweet sixteens for thousands of years. Life was easy for the Prince, and no thoughts of becoming a saviour entered into his head. Alas for his father, he did not seem too interested in ruling a great Empire, but he was still young and there was plenty of time for him to become King of the World.

Meanwhile, in the realm of the Gods, trouble was stirring. The Gods themselves, although powerful, could not escape the greater powers of Karma and Fate. Through reincarnation they knew that they too could die and perhaps be reborn as a lower life-form. Although this prospect was many millions of years away for them, they were aware that salvation for all beings was at hand, if only Siddhartha could escape his indulgent lifestyle. And so they sent messengers down to the mortal world in order to bring the young Prince to his destiny.

When he was twenty nine years old Siddhartha found himself longing to see the world outside of the Palace. He asked his father to let him ride down to a neighbouring city and the King agreed, but not before he had sent an order to remove the old, the sick and those who suffered from the streets. On his chariot Siddhartha rode through the city, enjoying this new experience. But the Gods forced an old man onto the street and the Prince ordered his charioteer to stop.

“What has happened to that man? His skin is wrinkled, his hair gone and he walks so crookedly.”

The charioteer had been ordered by the King to say nothing, but the Gods loosened his tongue. “Oh Prince, that is a man struck by old age. All people, if they are lucky, will experience this, even you.”

“If they are lucky? You speak nonsense charioteer. Ride on!”

And so they did, but then they encountered a man who was severely ill. Again the Prince was horrified, and again the charioteer explained that illness came to us all. After this they encountered a corpse, and the Prince wept. “This is your fate too my Prince” said the charioteer.

On their way back to the Palace, Siddhartha was quiet. He spoke only once as they passed a mendicant monk. “Who is that fellow there? What brings him to live in rags and beg on the side of the street?” The charioteer replied, “He is a monk, an ascetic who renounces the ways of the world in order to achieve enlightenment and uncover the true nature of things.”

That night Siddhartha made a decision. Faced with suffering he could no longer live in his idyllic pleasure palace. He kissed his sleeping wife goodbye and rode out again in the night with his charioteer. Near the forest he took off his clothes and all signs that he was royalty. He gave them to the charioteer and went alone into the forest, to starve himself and live a life of denial.

Days passed, and then weeks. Siddhartha meditated and grew stronger in spirit but weaker in body. He became gaunt, a hollow reflection of his former self. Always he tried to find the truth of things but as he grew weaker his thoughts began to spiral away from him. Eventually he collapsed by a pool of water, too weak to drink.

Fortunately a group of dancing girls came by, singing a song about tuning a sitar. The lyrics told the listener that one shouldn’t leave the strings too slack or the sitar would be out of tune. One also shouldn’t tighten the strings too much or they would snap and be useless. At that point Siddhartha had a revelation and asked for some food and water. The girls gave him fruits and after getting his strength back he followed them for a while.

Now he had experienced extreme luxury and extreme deprivation. Neither was enough, neither was satisfying, neither led to the truth and to the virtuous life. Siddhartha knew now that he must walk a new path, he called it the Middle Way. Extremes were interesting, and good to be experienced, but could not hold all the truth. With this in mind he left the dancing girls and headed into the forest again. There he sat beneath the Bodhi tree and meditated. He was ready to become the Buddha, and bring salvation to everyone.

Echo

28 March, 2009

reflection1It was often the case that the goddess Juno would search for her errant husband in order to catch him at his most beloved hobby, that of seducing the fair nymphs that lived on the mountainsides and in the streams of the world. But during her search she would often be waylaid by one particularly clever Nymph who went by the name of Echo. Echo would prattle on to the goddess about this and that and distract her long enough that Juno’s husband would have time to get back to Mount Olympus and pretend that nothing had ever happened. It was not for the sake of mighty Jupiter that Echo would slow down Juno’s rampage, but for her own sisters who would often be on the business end of the goddess’ tantrums. Alas for Echo it was only a matter of time before Juno grew aware of the trick and as punishment she altered Echo’s speech so that she could only speak when others had spoken, and could only repeat what she had heard. The loquacious Echo was devastated by her lack of speech and fled from her sisters to wander the world.

After a time Echo spied a young man walking in the woods. He was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen and Echo immediately fell madly in love with him. He seemed lost in thought, but Echo ran out to talk to him. She beamed in delight but could say no words until he spoke first. Alas for poor Echo she had encountered a man who was under his own curse. He could not fall in love with anyone less beautiful than himself, and although Echo was a nymph of exceptional splendour, she was not quite the equal of the young man. He had never known love, only the attentions of many who he could never find companionship with. Now yet another woman was gazing at him but saying nothing. He turned away but she was insistent and followed his every move.

“You are quite the most annoying creature!”

“Annoying creature” she replied.

“What do you want?”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to go away and leave me!”

“leave me?”

“Yes, I just want to be left alone!”

alone…

Echo fled from the young man, weeping as she did. She could not communicate with him, could not speak and explain what had happened. She fled to a lonely mountain and stayed there, crying and sobbing, never sleeping, always awake. For weeks she cried and neither ate nor drank and she slowly wasted away until nothing of her remained but her voice.

Many months later Echo returned to the woods. No longer a nymph, merely a spirit, she once again spied the young man. This time he was kneeling by the edge of a calm and clear pool of water. He looked as if he had been there some time and he spoke to his reflection.

“Oh my love, I hate this barrier between us, how I long to kiss your lips. How I wish you would talk to me.”

“Talk to me.” replied Echo.

“You speak! Finally you speak to me! Oh how I have waited for this moment, to ask do you love me?”

“Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I love you!”

“I love you.” she replied.

“Then answer me this one question and I will happily live here forever, but if you should not I would sooner die than stay here.”

“Stay here!”

“Oh I will, but I must say this quietly, I may have to come closer.”

“Come closer.” said Echo.

The young man bent over the pool and bowed down until his lips kissed the waters. There he whispered his question, but it was so quiet that Echo could not hear it and could not reply. The man waited for an answer but when none came tears started to run down his cheeks.

“Is that your answer then? Can you not speak aloud the thing that I cannot?”

“I cannot.”

“Then I cannot live.” He pulled a dagger from his side and plunged the blade in deeply. Blood welled up around his mouth and he collapsed at the side of the pool.

“Live!” cried Echo, but it was too late. The handsome man was dead, his curse played out. Echo left the forest again vowing not to return. She would stay in the canyons and the caves, and perhaps the vaulted chambers of the cities. But never again would she speak in the woods, and a whisper would always bring a tear to her eye.

A Lukan Christmas Story

17 December, 2008

Shepherds

Shepherds

Many years after King Herod had died the Romans decided to help out in Judea. They sent a Governor and included Judea in the latest round of taxing that the Emperor had declared. The Governor was new at his job and didn’t quite understand how taxing worked. The romans were keen to know how many people lived where in order to work out the taxes and expected revenue, but the Governor decided it would be better if people returned to their hometowns for some strange reason. And so Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife Mary traveled to Bethlehem, an arduous journey made more difficult by all the traffic on the roads. Eventually they made their way through the morass of donkeys and arrived at an inn which gave them lodgings in the stable, with a handy manger for the child that Mary had just delivered.

Meanwhile, some nearby shepherds were having a snooze on the hills when they were awoken by a bright light as a mighty angel appeared to them. The shepherds were terrified and cowered before the shining bright light as it spoke to them of a new joy and a saviour for the people. Then the angel was joined by a choir and they sang an amazing song, and danced some tap and put on a show that would not be equaled for thousands of years. The shepherds fear left them as they watched the angelic host. After they left and the shepherds had put away their popcorn, these hardy men of the hills decided to tell the world about this new saviour and to visit the inn where the angel had told them their new king would be.

And so the inn’s stable was overrun by sweaty shepherds who got very excited by the whole event. Alas they had brought no gifts and Mary was a touch miffed at missing out on some nice spices and gold. The shepherds oohed and aaahed over the infant and then went out around the town spreading news of this new miracle. Fortunately there was no jealous king around at this time or he might have done something mad like ordering the death of all newborns. Mary was a devout Jew and performed the rituals of purification to expunge the sin that childbirth had brought. The child was named Jesus and circumcised after eight days and then it was time to take him to the Temple in Jerusalem where he would be offered to God. Joseph knew that all male firstborns had to be given to god in sacrifice and was glad to be leaving the shepherds who continued to spread the word of the child and also would often stop by the inn and chat to Joseph for hours and hours and hours.

It had long been the practice that instead of actually killing your firstborn son for God that a different offering would be accepted instead. And so the parents arrived in Jerusalem and bought two turtle doves whose blood would sate God’s appetite. When they went to the Temple a couple of old prophets got excited, almost as excited as the shepherds but not in such an uncouth way. They praised the child, thanked God that they had lived to see the saviour and watched the blood rituals.

After all this was done Joseph pondered whether or not he should return home to Nazareth, after all they had already traveled to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, perhaps a holiday was in order? Maybe a trip to Egypt? But no, that would be expensive and there was much work to be done at home, and so the holy family returned to Nazareth, eagerly looking forward to changing the Word of God’s nappies.

Sekhmet

copyright Hrana Janto, used by permission of the artist. http://hranajanto.com

Ra had ruled the gods for countless years. He was stern and fair in matters of justice, and wise in the council he heeded from the other gods. But now the ravages of time were affecting even the mightiest of the gods for Ra was growing weaker and older. He spent many hours asleep and less time attending to the matters of state and running creation than he used to. His Eye still blazed from above though and he gazed upon the humans who worked the land. All was in order along the fertile river banks, but when Ra’s gaze wandered to the desert he saw some humans plotting a coup. This went against the ancient order and Ra was furious. He summoned his council of gods and spoke to them.

“Oh woe is me, the humans are plotting against the sacred order. After all I have done for them, after I created them from my own tears they turn against me. You that I have summoned are the wisest gods of my council, created by me – as the humans were created by my tears so you gods were created by all my other fluids (and I do mean all…). What punishment should I mete out to these ungrateful mortals?”

Apis spoke up, “Oh mighty Ra, should we destroy them utterly? Send a flood perhaps to wipe them out?”

“No Apis, that is a stupid idea. I only want to punish the wicked, and besides a Flood is a good thing to happen since it makes the land around the river fertile. No, only an insane god would countenance such a thing.”

Thoth gave his council, “Ra of the Heavens, perhaps we could send a lion to diminish their numbers?”

“Umn, not that terrifying really, unless it was a lion who was also a god. Perhaps you are onto something there…”

Ptah spoke, “Eternal Ra, you know that the only punishment that is fitting is for your own Burning Eye to scorch these wicked people from the earth.” The other gods nodded in agreement.

Then Hathor, Ra’s beautiful daughter spoke. “Father, the council of gods is wise, and your Burning Eye should indeed be the instrument of destruction. But you are tired and sometimes look the wrong way when you are trying to concentrate. Let me take your Eye and be your vengeance. It would be a shame for the pyramids to be burned to a crisp because you needed your afternoon nap and your attention wavered.”

“Wise council indeed”, replied Ra, “Very well, so it shall be.”

And Ra took his Eye and gave it to the enchanting Hathor – and with the power of the burning sun she changed – no longer was she the goddess of love and affection, now she was Sekhmet, goddess of war and destruction. Her head was that of a Lion (Thoth nodded in approval), and her eyes shot fire. She descended to the desert and began to destroy the humans who had been prepared to bring chaos to the land.

“Well, that was tiring”, said Ra, “I’m off for a nap. Wake me when my daughter returns…”

Ra slowly returned to consciousness. He could hear mumbling around him, voices whispering “You tell him”, and “No, you tell him!” Ra stood up and the gods who had come to wake him shuffled quickly back from his bed.

“Oh mighty Ra, there’s been a bit of a problem” said Osiris. “While Sekhmet has indeed carried out your wise plan and killed the evil ones who plotted against the order of the universe, she has, umn, gotten a bit carried away. In fact we can’t stop her from killing people, it seems she has gotten a taste for human blood.”

“Oh dear, well this wont do. And none of you can stop her eh? All right, I’ll just get the Eye of Ra and stop her with that.”

“Er, she has the Eye of Ra, that’s why we can’t stop her, oh mighty and aged one.”

“All right then, I have a cunning plan. Bastet, bring in the harvest and start making as much beer as possible. Seth, go and fetch as much red dye as you can. And Apis…”

“Yes, my lord?”

“Prepare a flood!”

And so it came to pass. The beer was dyed red and put into the Nile. And a great flood came upon the river and it burst its banks spilling the red beer all over the land. When Sekhmet saw this she thought it was blood and quickly ran over to drink it. And so she did, gallons and gallons of beer, she drank it all, reveling in the taste, not noticing that it was not the blood of humanity. Eventually she grew quite drunk and collapsed, and as she was asleep Ra took back his magical Eye and Sekhmet became Hathor once again.

The next day while Hathor the beautiful stayed at home nursing a hangover, Ra addressed the gods.

“My fellow immortals, through my own negligence the humans were nearly wiped from the face of the world. Never again should this happen, and rather than make some grandiose promise (which some other god will only end up breaking) I shall instead retire. Gub, my grandson, will become the new King of the Gods and rule in my stead. As for me I shall go up into the heavens and flow through the sky each day, watching over you all.”

And so he did, and the Gods never again made such a mistake as to nearly kill the people they so loved.

 

Image copyright Hrana Janto, used by permission of the artist.  http://hranajanto.com

Hephaestus’ Net

1 May, 2008

Hephaestus TrapHephaestus was not the most handsome of the gods. His mother Hera, queen of the Gods, had hurled him from Mount Olympus when she saw how ugly he was. His rather forceful landing left him lame and more than a little upset at his mother. He grew up and planned revenge, eventually trapping Hera on a Golden Throne. Only after much persuasion by the other Gods, and the offer of Aphrodite as a bride, did Hephaestus relent and release his mother. His reward was truly a great one, Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and none could outshine her beauty. In her honour Hephaestus forged a great palace where they could spend time together. There Aphrodite would spend her time while Hephaestus worked at his forge deep within the bowels of the earth.

As time passed Aphrodite grew tired of her marriage. She was the Goddess of passion, of heartache, of undying love. Her time with Hephaestus while pleasant, was not enough for Aphrodite. Fortunately for her, Ares, the God of War, was prepared to take up the slack. The two immortals began an affair. It wasn’t long though, before someone noticed. Helios, the all seeing sun, was high overhead while Ares and Aphrodite spent a frantic afternoon rolling around the grass playing “hide the war god’s sausage”. After only a few hours of watching the lovers Helios rushed with all haste to tell Hephaestus of what he had seen. Sparing no detail Helios told the Godly Forger of all the X-rated things that his wife had done with Ares. Hephaestus was crushed. He sent Helios away and brooded.

His plan was simple. He had forged a trap in the past for his ungrateful mother, now he would do the same for his ungrateful wife. Working with steel, and gold, and aluminium, and unununium, he created a subtle weave – a chain that was also a net. He worked all day and all night on the net, and only when the rosy-fingered dawn appeared did he finish. By the time he returned to his palace Aphrodite had already risen. He carefully placed the net on their bed and then announced that he would be leaving for a while.

“I must go to Lemnos for a while oh beautiful wife. They spend their time making such wonderful sacrifices to me there, and I haven’t sniffed a good bit of Ox in ages. Don’t get up to anything I wouldn’t do while I am gone!”

“Of course not husband.” Aphrodite replied. She counted as high as ten before sending a messenger bird to Ares. For his part Ares was already lurking about hoping to get down and dirty that afternoon. Upon getting the messenger bird he rushed to the palace and embraced his lover. They quickly disrobed and ran to the bedroom where the trap was waiting. In mid thrust the golden web caught both of the gods in it’s grasp. Hoisted up they dangled above the bed, unable to move, only able to shout for help. Ever watchful Helios heard them and alerted Hephaestus who rushed back to them. Grabbing the net he dragged them up to Mount Olympus.

“Look at this! My unfaithful wife! I demand compensation from her father the almighty Zeus!”

The Goddesses on Mount Olympus were suitably embarrassed and hid indoors. But the Gods saw the naked forms entwined in a net and rushed out to see what was happening. When they saw the mighty War god being pulled along by the lame Hephaestus they burst into laughter. “Poor Ares, beaten by a cripple! Not so mighty now, his ‘sword’ has led him to a sweet trap.”

“Who wouldn’t like to be trapped like that though, if that’s a punishment bring it on!” said Apollo.

“Wrap me up with whatever you want if it means I get wrapped up with her!” cried Hermes.

Hephaestus awaited the outrage and condemnation for his wife’s adultery, but the Gods just laughed and laughed. On they laughed, longer and longer, they couldn’t stop. Like a simile from the Iliad, it starts off gently enough but keeps going, on and on, with no end in sight. A sentence, maybe two, and before long you have forgotten what the simile is even referring to, so caught up in this mini story you have become. That is how long they laughed.

Eventually Poseidon, Earth Shaker, showed up bearing a bit of gravitas. He calmed poor Hephaestus and offered to ensure that Ares would pay the forfeit for his action. Again Hephaestus relented and released the deathless gods from their trap. Red with shame Ares fled to his sacred alter, and Aphrodite fled to hers. The other Gods left one by one, sides sore from their laughing until only Hephaestus was left. He was a pitiful sight, tears of anger and sorrow flowed down his cheeks. But perhaps one of the immortal women who watched from behind slightly open doors would take pity on him? The goddesses did not laugh as the gods did, maybe one would have the compassion to comfort the forging God?

None came out. None comforted him. They thought of Hera and of Aphrodite and none would risk being caught in his next trap…

Picture ”Hephaestus’ Trap’ by Nancy Farmer