Demetre and the Palace of Kadmos

When I C&P’d that section at the beginning of the first of my posts about Demetre, I was immediately reminded of my first post about Ares.

Kadmos and the Ismenian Dragon.

In that first segment, it seems that legend has it that Kadmos’ legendary palace became Thebes’ first temple to Demetre, which suggests that —assuming Thebans did, in fact, habitually syncretise Demetre with Erinys Telphousia— that while Kadmos’ task earned Ares’ wrath, it was still within the will of Demetre. This also solidifies my thoughts on Demetre as a Great Mother of Civilisation and sustainable urban planning. It also speaks to the kind of mother She truly is: While She certainly has Her loving and nurturing aspects (as should be obvious), She’s also pragmatic and realises that sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good, and sometimes what She has begotten is standing in the way of progress and must be eliminated.

While Her rural associations are impossible to escape, so too are Her urban aspects, as I noted before. Likewise, just as much as She values tradition, She also wills progress.

I’m now reminded of a bit from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, suggesting that while every other deity in the Hellenic pantheon was borderline useless to Man, it was Dionysos and Demetre, agricultural deities, who stood alone in being beneficial. As problematic as Hamilton’s dismissal of other deities is, I can certainly see some similarities between the two, especially in Their domains of “opposing” values somehow united in harmony through Their guidance.

This comes back around to Kadmos, who (modern scholars argue) was initially a unique Boeotian cult hero, and later was syncritised with a Phoenician adventurer. From that story, the still-later symbolic mythology arose of Kadmos inventing the alphabet and introducing people to agriculture (further linking Kadmos and Demetre), and also becoming wedded to Harmonia, which is argued to symbolise the union of an “Eastern” love of learning with a “Western” love of beauty. How Kadmos’ mythology truly developed is lost to time, but the symbols clearly reiterate a union of apparent opposites, and also closely associate the hero with Demetre. Considering this, it therefore makes perfect sense that his palas was soon converted to a grand temple to Demetre.

Now, the archaeology only debatably confirms some of the folk beliefs about Kadmos, including the origin of the alphabet coinciding with the founding of Thebes. The Phoenecian alphabet wasn’t introduced to Hellas until after the estimated date for the Trojan War. While the modern Hellenic alphabet is clearly descended of Phoenecian script, a far older text, called “Linear B” amongst those who study these things, is on tablets that have been found in a disproportionate abundance in and around Thebes, and so this may coincide with Herodotus’ relaying of Kadmos’ founding of Thebes, and bringing his knowledge with him, as significantly pre-dating the Trojan War. Unfortunately, few symbols of Linear B, at best, resemble any form of the Hellenic alphabet known today, but clearly the Linear B writing system was widespread throughout Thebes.

Considering that this became widespread in Thebes from a most-direct origin of the palace of Kadmos, again, this seems to symbolically reiterate the associations of Demetre with Civilisation and urban development —no civilisation in Earth’s history, living or extinct, has ever developed cities without a system of writing. By this, we can infer that writing is also sacred to Demetre; oral tradition is too easily manipulated and can be problematic in its attempts to learn history. After all, the Cyrenaic school was on to something in pointing out that the only true source of potential knowledge we can have is experience, but they were also sceptical of this knowledge in that we cannot truly know the experiences of everything that led up to what we experience; thus oral history seems especially superficial. To gain a better understanding, if not true knowledge, of history, we can learn from the paper trails (and, in this modern era, other recordings) of what happened; this experience is, too, superficial, but has greater potential for understanding than oral traditions alone. Again, we see Demetre as a Goddess of balancing Tradition and Progress in a harmonious and sustainable whole.

I conclude that Kadmos was, thus, most likely a unique Theban hero later syncretised, and that this Theban hero, in all the feats attributed to him, was doing Demetre’s Work on Gaia’s face. Though the alphabet he introduced did not stand the tests of time, we cannot blame because a slightly younger script managed to flourish and Theban pride attributed it to him, anyway; the exacts become less important when the intention still manages to flourish.

Valentinos (Betelgeuce): The Valentine’s Day star

In the grand tradition of re-purposing mythology, I give you this offering, Hedone, who offers us all the simple gift of delight and joy, which can be quite base as much as quite profound.

Valentinos was a keeper at the temple of Orion’s hero cult in Tanagra, Boiotia —at Hyria. He was intelligent, but many saw him as aimless, for after his daily chores of cleaning, fetching and boiling new water, changing clothing and jewellery on the statues that needed it, and collecting the offerings at the timely intervals in order to make room for new ones. After his work was over, he’d go out with his equally youthful friends and take in the delights that the city could offer them, both imported and domestic wines, plays, usually by some Thespian company or another, but often enough with treats from Athens or Cyrene, and on the way home to their apartments over the city’s baths, they’d stop by the old and crooked gentleman who’d park his donkey and cart outside a restaurant that had closed for the evening, selling second-hand and otherwise cheap book — few of the titles were great literature, but every so often, you’d find a second-generation scribe from Pindar’s work, or an illustrated scroll of The Askran Curmudgeon, and every now and again, the boxes of loose racy illustrations of gods and mortals —always four for a small coin— would have some beautifully worked picutres than managed to convey the bliss or an orgasm or the accuracy of how tiring some of those India-influenced positions could be; they’d stop by this cart, browse earnestly, and almost never walk away with more than one good read and a two or three good pictures for each and pair up, either with each-other or the “Akolouthi” women, the free-status versions of the pornai, and so deserved better pay, for they often had earned the skills to earn every last bit of coin nomisma.

Then one evening, Valentinos had become separated from his friends in talking to a girl. He told them to go ahead when he saw her, and then, from no-where, the former pimp from a young-ish girl Valentinos had laid with in the last week spied him turn a dark corner and took the opportunity to stab the youth in the back, slashing his insides, for he’d heard that it was the temple boys buying books and scrolls and pornographos from his former girl’s father that led to her debt repaid, and her freedom won. It was intolerable because she was popular, and perhaps causing despair would work to the old pimp’s favour?

As Valentinos lay bleeding out, he asked his feminine companion if she was alright.

“Oh, Valentinos, that vile creature could not see me. He sees only the children of Eris.”

“Ah,” he said with a cough that expelled a little blood, “he ignored you.”

“No, it’s that he cannot. You see goodness and delight in everything around you, so of course Hedone would show you Her human form.”

“She does, now?” Valentinos asked slyly, as he started to feel himself fade.

“I knew something awful was going to happen to you tonight, but in your heart is the purest feelings of delight. Your family believes you lack ambitions, but what better aims you have for yourself is to be more joyous than they were. They are rich but miserable people, and you take only as much of their money as you need—”

“Well, it’s all they offer. They expect I’ll want more, at which time [coughs hard] they expect me to learn ambition.”

“But you have other desires.”

“I do. I just want to delight in the world around me. I would love to visit Thebes, or Cyrene, or even Athens and Alexandria, but if that’s to be, it will be. All the delights in the world I could want for the moment are here in Tanagra [coughs, sputters]. If that changes, I’ll find a way to seek other delights.”

“And you know this so purely, my friend. You are one of the most natural and pure followers of delight there is in this world today, so I’m here to reward you. What has been your greatest delight, my friend?”

“Today? I changed the cape over the bones of Orion. It’s the softest red wool from Phrygia, and when I affixed it back to the wall…,” Valentinos coughed and wheezed, then spat blood from talking to fast to get his words out with his last breaths.

“Take your time… you have a little more than you may think.”

“After I affixed it back onto the wall over the case of bones, the sun hit it just the right way that it seemed to glitter, even though there wasn’t a bit of gold thread in the wool. I thought to myself, ‘it shall never again look this beautiful, and I have this lovely town and the greatest Boeotian Gods and Heroes to thank’.”

“I know, and so I will affix you to Orion’s cape in the stars, you shall hold it all together, and so Alpha Orionis shall now glow red and pulse like a heart with joy.”

“But why me, Goddess? Surely there are others greater, who’ve given not just delight to themselves, but to others?”

“In relative measure, you’ve given more joy to others than you believe you have. The old man you buy books and scrolls and pictures from used to be a gambler, and sold all four of his daughters for the loan to pay his debtors. Between you and your friends combined, one-by-one, his daughters’ freedom has been bought back, indeed, one of his older daughters is your favourite Akolouthi girl, and the younger such woman you laid with days ago—”

“The one who thanked me queerly? She was his youngest! Oh, Goddess, tell them they don’t have to thank me, ever. Their joy was a pleasure to give, and I give it with no expectations.”

When Valentinos didn’t return to work, one of his friends began looking all over the city, and soon found him in the dark alleyway; his body still there, scraps taken from it by the odd dog for the alleyway was a seldom-used stairway to the city’s Adonis Gardens on the rooftops for the women of the apartments. Valentinos’ friend carried the body toward the direction of his family’s home, and passed the old man with the books and pictures. Soon the old man’s daughters, all now free, caught the sight, and came over to their father to watch with him. When Valentinos’ friend took his body around a corner and out of their lines of sight, the youngest daughter, Phile, looked up at the sky.

She told her sisters and father to look up at the sky. “Don’t you see?”

“Don’t we see what, my dove?” her father asked.

“Orion is higher up in the sky tonight than usual. He must be holding out his arms for His fairest neokoros.”

Her sister Naia, Valentinos’ favourite, then noticed: “And the pin on the Great Hero’s cloak seems sort of pinkish, or a light red, like the sun bleaches his hair in the depths of summer.”

Then their father spoke up: “This is glorious, my girls! The hero of Boeotia sees this youth was of a pure heart, and to take that from this world is worthy of honour. So we shall keep the twenty-first day of Hermaios sacred to the joys and delights that Orion sees this youth has given.”

This year, 21 Hermaios is in 14 February. You may feel free to celebrate Hedone’s gift of the colour of Belelgeuse, a very large pulsating star which, along with the rest of Orion’s constellatiuon, is closest to the midpoint of the southern horizon around early February. And no, I did not make up this nickname for Betelgeuse:

Cult of Haides


I) KORONEIA Village in Phokis

Strabo, Geography 9. 2. 29 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“When they [the Boiotians] got the mastery of Koroneia [in Phokis after the Trojan War], they built in the plain before the city the temple of Athena Itonia . . . Here, too, the Pamboiotian Festival used to be celebrated. And for some mystic reason, as they say, a statue of Haides was dedicated along with that of Athena.”

Boeotian Theoi: Haides

I know, I know, it’s cheesy to do the “spooky” deities around this time of the year, but as in most incidents in life, I just re-assure myself: It could’ve been worse. Also: Better to do cheesy stereotypical actions as an insider than as an outsider.

So, Haides, eh?

The cult and temples to Hekate was small, but Haides’ cult is TINY, in comparison. TINY. The primary reason for this is obvious: Death is a spiritual pollutant, so while the Lord of the Dead must be afforded His due measure, one isn’t really given an incentive to do more than that, is one? Those called to His service, even today, are regarded suspiciously or, at best, as “odd, but necessary”. For some reason, the screenplay-writing industry, especially since about 1985, wants to make Haides synonymous with the Christian “Satan”, even though this is probably the sloppiest parallel that could be drawn (the Abrahamic tale of Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden by the aid of the serpent, unnamed in Genesis, but commonly syncretised with “Satan” by most Christians, comes closer to the mythos of Prometheus, for example, — but that’s another story for another time), as Haides’ role in Hellenic mythology? He is Lord of the Dead and His domains most commonly include funerary rites and necromancy. His epithets even include Νεκρων Σωτηρ (Nekrôn Sôtêr), “Saviour of the Dead”. It’s clear that Haides wants little, if anything, to do with human beings until we’ve passed on, so the only reason I can figure why His name has become synonymous with the Christian “Hell” and linked to an Abrahamic daimon that first gives people knowledge, and then tests individuals’ virtue (and by Jewish tradition, this is clearly in a context of testing man for G-d, as Jehovah’s servant) is pure, unadulterated ignorance.

Hesiod described this son of Kronos and Rhea as “strong Haides, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth”, and some translators feel that Hesiod’s use of “Zeus Khthonios”, “Zeus Who dwells within/under the earth”, in Works & Days is another name for Haides — which makes sense, as Zeus’ domain is clearly as a Sky-God within Hesiod, and so this could extend Haides’ domain to the fertility of the earth, which logically, He’d also be connected to via the mythos of Persephone, whose return to Demetre’s side on Olympos heralds the spring thaw. This also makes sense biologically, as the decay of bodies both animal and vegetable renews the earth’s fertility; death and decay are thus part of the cycle of life.

Another name for Haides that I see in the works of Hesiod, Aidoneus, is translated by Theoi Project as “the Unseen”. I’m unsure if this is the reason for or the result of the ancient custom to avert one’s eyes when sacrificing to Haides, but either way, it seems fitting; the Host of the dead is unseen to those still living.

Hekatean music

If your mem’ry serves you well,
You’ll remember you’re the one
That called on me to call on them
To get you your favors done.
And after ev’ry plan had failed
And there was nothing more to tell,
You knew that we would meet again,
If your mem’ry served you well.

Notes on Hekate of Boeotian mythos

In Thebes, there was a woman named Galinthias. She was a midwife who delivered Herakles from the womb of Alkmene, her childhood friend. Alkmene’s pregnancy offended Hera, and cursed the young woman’s birth pains to never cease. Galinthias, worried her friend would be driven mad, first appealed to Hekate, who concluded that the curse was placed by another Deathless One, and She could not remove those, but perhaps appealing to the right Deity would earn the sympathies of the one Who could. Deciding No-One higher up than the Moirai, for even the other Theoi were bound to Their tapestry, Galinthias then appealed to the Moirai, Who Themselves were becoming exhaused by the sound of the laborous woman’s screaming, and removed the curse in order to hear Themselves think.

When Hera realised Alkemene had given birth to a son, Herakles, She spoke up that Her own curse had become removed because a silly girl took advantage of the Moirai in Their confusion. The Moirai concluded that Hera was technmically correct (the best kind of correct) and it was decided that Galinthias’ fate was to be transformed into a ferret, a creature that looks most absurd in mating and birth labour. Hekate, though, was sympathetic to Galinthias and the girl’s desires to remove Hera’s curse, and did not fault the girl for failing to discover that it was Hera who cast the curse, and therefore only Hera who could be appealed to lift it. Out of kindness, Hekate made the ferret one of Her sacred workers on Gaia’s face, and in Thebes, the animal was held in esteem as the nurse of Herakles, their native Heros.

By Hesiod’s account, Ouranos and Gaia begat Koios (the Titan Theos of the North, also “the Inquirer”) and Phoibê (the “Bright”, the Titan Theon of prophecy); Koios and Phoibê begat Perses (the Destroyer) and Asteria, the Titan Theon of the Stars, astrology, and necromancy. It is Perses and Asteria Who are the parents of Hekate.

As per the playwright Aeschylus, Phoibê is regarded as the previous oracular deity of Delphi, later succeeding Her reign and bestowing Delphi as a gift to Apollon, Her grandson via Leto. Phoibê is also associated with the moon. Asteria, after the Titan war, was pursued by Zeus, but She did not want Him, and so first transformed to a quail, then lept into the sea, swam out, and became the island of Delos, where Apollon was born.

It is through Asteria that Hekate inherited the gift of necromancy and oracles from the dead. Some ancients also may have believed that Asteria was also worshipped as a goddess of prophetic dreams.

Though Hesiod names the mother of Kirke as Perseis (Destroyer) and Her father as Helios; Diodoros Siculus names Kirke’s parentage as that of Hekate and Aeëtes. Some also regard Perseis as an epithet of Hekate, though it seems Hesiod gives Perseis a genealogy distinct from Hekate, and Perseis’ mother is Tethys (“Nurse”) and Okeanos. It’s therefore easy to see Perseis and Hekate as one-in-the-same, as these themes are recurring and may be considered too lofty for an Okeanid. Light bearing. Destroyer. Nurse. Sight.

If one is to syncretise Kirke then as a daughter of Hekate Perseis, this undoubted maintains Hekate’s associations with practising witchcraft rather than merely casting spells and curses Herself for the mortals who supplicate Her.

By Hesiod, Kirke is the mother of Odysseus’ immortal son Latinus, father/ruler of the Tyrsenoi, who have since been identified with the Etruscans, and also Telegonos, Whose story is the subject of the now-lost Telegony, which only exists in summary.

The Scholia of Pindar seem to identify Hekate and Perseis with the name Khariklo (“Graceful Spinner”) who is identified in these notes as the daughter of Perses and Okeanos — and also a daughter of Apollon. Even without meditating on this, this gives the appearance of further linking Hekate and Apollon.

These notes also revive previous themes, as Khariklo is identified as the wife of the Centaros Kheiron, the mentor of a young Dionysos and also Asklepios.

Hekate in My Home

After moving to the house I’m living in now, the *very first* shrine I set up after unpacking was actually not Eros — it was Hekate.  Hekate protects the boundaries of the home, She guards entrances and exits.  She’s one of the liminal deities, existing in the in-between spaces; Her domain is that few inches of wood or earth that is both and neither inside nor outside a door or a gate, the intersection of the crossroads where the possibilities of where to go are endless for only the moment before you decide, and She exists within that moment.  She’s the box that contains Schrodinger’s cat, and the period of time when the creature can be considered both alive and dead, before you open the lid to discover which it is.

Logically, I had to put up Her shrine first.

That said, while She’s a Household Goddess, Her role in this aspect is clearly more the “anti-Hestia” than as Hestia’s partner.  Hestia is the inviting Goddess, the one who warms the hearth and the people before it.  She’s the baker of the bread while Demetre is the provider of the grains and Kore the miller of flour.  Tradition, Prosperity, Continuance:  These Goddesses are the inviters, the personable ones, They make the home.

Hekate, on the other hand, the “worker from afar”, “She who drives off” — She is the lion at the gate, the dog who circles the perimeter, the horse in the stable who’s ready to take the household off at a moment’s notice.  She’s the household Goddess whose function is to keep watch of those outside the home, not to bring abundance to those within it.  She wards off ill-intent and gives pass to those with good, for they in the know will know that they have done nothing to offend Her.  She is the porchlight and the horseshoe over the threshold; she is the deterrant of theives, and the trapper of spirits of ill-intent; She is not the bountiful Goddess, breathing increase and prosperity — indeed, there is nothing in Her mythos that suggest this is at all Her concern for mortals.  It is Tykhe who blesses the house, who grants us and ours with plenty.

Hekate is very focused in Her purpose in human affairs; it’s tempting, at this point, to liken Her to a Mafia Dame running a protection racket, except that She won’t break your legs when you forget to leave a penny, She just won’t stop those who are inclined to do so.

As such, the Deipnon is the time of purging the bad energy and odd malevolent spirit who managed to enter the house during the month, offer Hekate a meal in hopes that She will take them back to the hole they came in from, so a Deipnon ritual is best performed at the gate of the household or a crossroads, and never at the household shrine.  At the old apartment, I’d take the Deipnon ritual to the door of the apartment, and take the meal to a hidden place outside the building; if this was not an option, I would’ve either created a separate shrine for Deipnon purposes only, or (if space was at that much of a premium), spent a significant portion of time before the Noumenia rit to perform purification.  The Deipnon isn’t “whatever you want it to be”, it’s a cleansing, a supplication for a spiritual sweep-up after a physical sweep-up, it is, in a nutshell, asking “Hekate, this household has accumulated negative spirits both seen and unseen; we offer you this meal in hopes that you take these entities far away from this home.” This is not supplication for bounty, this is a supplication for loss. I absolutely agree with those who say that to mix Hekate’s Deipnon and a suppliance for prosperity, to blur the lines of the Deipnon ritual with the Noumenia, is to create a spiritual pollutant

It can be good to lose things like disease and incontinence and enemies and just plain bad luck. Hekate is the one who can properly banish these negative spirits and others. This may make room for good fortune and prosperity, but it is not Hekate Who brings that us those gifts; the room for prosperity is a side-effect of Her actions, not Hekate’s work itself.

While I can understand why modern Hellenists may want to re-envision Hekate as a household Goddess of increase and prosperity, one who cares for the less fortunate, that’s really not Her domain. The passage from Aristophanes often cited, commenting on the poor in ancient times who would eat the meals left for Hekate, is frankly not a suggestion that this was a rationalisation for charity in that time — Aristophanes was, first and foremost, a comedy writer, a satirist, and this was a comment on the assumed impiety of the poor, no matter how necessary it may have seemed for basic survival, who would rather take from a goddess than to ask for charity when needed. To take the work of a comedian lampooning the social climate of his day and use it to paint a “sweetness and light” image of a rather frightful and spooky goddess is, in my opinion, rather fluffy. In maths, we learn that to remove negative numbers, we must first bring it up to zero, neutrality. That’s what Hekate does: By asking Her to remove the spiritually vile and to prevent its influx from recurring, Her goal is to merely maintain Zero, not to increase beyond that. As a household goddess, Hers is apotropaic magic; she’s the guard-dog snarling at invaders, the polecat killing mice and other vermin that would take our storage of grains and cheese (which doesn’t seem an apt metaphor for “tending to the less fortunate”). These are among her sacred animals for a reason, for She is the one who removes that which might harm us.

Inside the door, I have a wall sconce with electric candle and my painting for Hekate, and also a large decorative key with a hook for household keys — my housemate doesn’t use it, but I doubt the Klêidouchos maiden is offended. I also keep a garden wall sconce with a lion at the edge of the porch; it has a crack, and was dumpster-dived, but most people don’t notice the broken spot, and in my defense, I’ve been brainstorming what to do about repairing it in a way that looks nice.