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: