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‘Bones and Ash’
Part 4 of 8: Impressions of Metamorphoses by Ovid
© 2023 James LaFond
OCT/30/23
Book 7 covers the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, the miracles and crimes of Medea the Barbarian Sorceress and the war of Minos of Crete to conquer Greece.
More nymphs and women and sinners are turned into birds and islands. Jason’s adventures to regain the Golden Fleece among the barbarians of Colchis is only successful due to the intercession of Medea, who falls in love with him. Bronze hooved bulls breathing fire are not defeated, but yoked. Again, as with the founding of Thebes, dragon teeth planted in the ground will grow to be a type of Golem soldier, a cyborg or automaton-like man armed at birth as he springs from the womb of earth. As with the Theban foundation after the slaying of the Dragon, these men turn on one another. A dragon guarding the Sacred Tree where the fleece was kept is tricked with a sleeping spell. The mechanical aspects of these challenges have been created by Vulcan, or Hephastius, the craftsman of the gods who fashioned The Shield of Achilles, had robotic apprentices that spoke with silver tongues and had poisonous qualities.
Likewise, the dragons of Medea, like those of Ceres, and the other numerous flying and swimming snakes, are poisonous not only to mankind but the environment. [1]
Medea is the most wanton sinner of the entire cycle by which Ovid sketches the origins of all things from trees and birds to the lines of kings according to divine intervention. The empathetic brutality and sorrow of life is wrought in extreme seriousness, not bawdy, not cartoonish, but heaped with woes, dooms and fatalistic resignation. Civilized ancients had no real prospect of an afterlife, according to their own and Christian doctrine, other than to moan in a shadowy hell for eternity. Heathenry and Christianity are in agreement that all but a very few were born to damnation. With Ovid, it is clearly seen that the broad and deep acceptance of the new faith in a mere blink of Time’s eye wherever civilization reigned is largely vested in the doomfilled pagan mythos itself, a world in which people are mere spring flowers and only gods and heroes have any chance at a meaningful or un-afflicted beyond.
Ovid’s account paints a world that was begging for a Christ, with most of heaven and some of hell afflicting humanity with sorrow, and hell waiting to drink the teaming souls who had been offered no chance at salvation by God. As with the Book of Job, first book of the Bible to be written, the jealous powers of heaven enlist the denizens of hell in errands to punish humanity. Only on rare whims to powers such as Jove Almighty, Prometheus and Neptune help humanity. For the most part, the feminine deities afflict humanity.
Medea’s powers reek of advanced medical technology as she flies across the world with her dragons picking the plants necessary to either extend life, cure illness or commit atrocious evils. Medea conducts a blood transfusion upon the elderly father of Jason to renew his youth. She then offers this service to others as a ploy for murder. As a man, who in Jason’s day would have been dead by 45 from lung infections, who is only able to write while enduring a fever due to antibiotics at this moment, dispensed by the same system that is murdering many of my friends with poison promises, the account of Medea is chilling.
Thus far, Ovid’s work is utterly dominated by the feminine, in voice, action and context, the men merely pawns attempting to steer sinking ships of state in the cuոt-wracked seas of the Three Fates, weaving on their doomful looms. There are more feminine forces than the Fates and the Furies, those snake-haired sisters of hell, who I suspect reflects the continuation of Anatolian snake cults under Аrуаn rule.
Juno, queen of heaven is jealous of a bountiful land and sends a plague. The plague comes to Thessaly, home of doomed Achilles. It is brought by poison waters tainted by the venom of the heavenly snakes. [1] I am more and more inclined to see the snakes and dragons as post cataclysmic indications of technology but dimly understood after its eclipse. The plague smites wild animals first, then domestic animals, then people. The dead will not be eaten by wolves and vultures, for their flesh has been ruined. The symptoms sound like scarlet fever. Sacrificial animals died before the alter of disease, parents praying for children at the altars died with half-burnt incense in their hand, healers died at their patients bedsides. Many people hung themselves. Mass graves were used, then bodies were left lay as religious faith was washed away in despair.
Despairing that his people will survive and not wishing to outlive his folk, the patriarch journeys to a sacred tree of Jupiter. There, he sees many ants hauling away grains. He prays to Jupiter to make his people as many and hard working as these and that god does so. This is another origin story, as the Mymidons of Thessaly were so named as Ant-men, after Mymex, ant, just as boxing straps that bit and cut were named mymexs or ants. The kings’ prayer named Jove “Almighty Father.”
Minos was regarded as a just ruler, who claimed his right to rule other lands based on Crete being the home of the birthplace of Jove, who was said to have been nursed in secret on Mount Ida on Crete. A princess of Greece, Sylla, betrayed her father, Nysas “shut myself off to all the world,” to marry Minos, her crime, her “criminal act against” her father casting her into moral exile. The constant theme of women alternately being abducted and raped or betraying their father is revisited here. Sylla is transformed into the shearer bird like many another mythic sinner.
The terrible mythic bastard child of Minos, half man half bull, jailed by Deadylus, is slain by Theseus of Athens who is a featured hero of this middle point in Ovid’s account. Deadylus, like other ancient scientists, was held prisoner by tyrants like Minos. His attempt to escape with his son Icarus is one of the better known myths of antiquity. In the flight from Crete Icarus flies too close to the sun and melts the wax holding his wings together, who falls to his death. Maintaining the central theme of flight of mechanical and naturally winged creatures, Deadylus, “demonstrating his skill in the dangerous art of flight,” onlookers from below assuming “that people who can travel through the sky must be divine,” loses his son. Deadylus also murders his nephew, an apprentice he is jealous of, and the slain boy is transformed by Minerva into a species of bird.
The mid-point of Ovid’s work switches focus from Jason to Theseus of Athens, that city reigning as central to his work, Thought-lady, its Goddess, Minerva-Pallas-Athena as well, being Jason’s patron in addition to being the sister of Perseus.
To this reader the name of Athens [Thought] the seemingly muddled technologies regarded as magic, continue weirdly alongside the fate of sinners and victims as originating bird species. It was a convention in Nordic and Amerindian theology that birds were messengers and in ancient Hellas that poets and prophets were informed by birds.
There are two very touching accounts that warmed this reader’s heart towards the end. One was of a terrible sinner who forced his slaves to cut down a tree sacred to Ceres. The grain goddess then sent a nymph on her dragon chariot to find Hunger, and have Hunger afflict the sinner. Hunger is a great minor deity! Hunger afflicts the sinner according to her wanting art. The sinner then eats away his kingdom, then sells everything, finally selling his daughter. The daughter prays to Neptune who disguises her as a fisherman and gets away from her knew owner. The sinner sells her over and over again and she escapes in like wise. Finally, he eats himself and she is liberated, a bride of the Sea God, her savior.
Slavery is central to the subtext of all of Ovid’s work, the slaves often shadowy servitors, but in this case a royal daughter.
Finally, in Phrygia, a husband and wife of common means with a simple house are visited by two gods, much as Lot is visited by two Angels. More pious even than Lot, [2] this husband and wife give all of their modest means to feed and shelter the visitors, who reveal themselves after some time, to be gods. The ancient pagan definition of most “gods” fits the Christian interpretation of “angels” “devils” or “demons.” These just gods bring word that the world is to be flooded to punish mankind. The couple is spared, their house an island in a marshy sea. When the waters receded, Jupiter grants them the wish that they will die at the same time and then live on as an oak and a lemon tree besides his temple.
Notes
-1. One wonders if ichor, the toxic blood of the gods and the venom of these dragons that seem to have iron teeth, and which poison the earth and her attendant waters might not be a dim reflection of an earlier ante-deluvian age in which power sources such that used caustic fuels might have been used.
-2. I realize that modern Christians, as many have confided in me, hold that a heathen or pagan, or member of a Christian denomination holding to less then perfect doctrine, or a Pre Christian can not be pious, that any belief in false doctrine, even if one has not yet been offered the Gospel truth, perhaps as the Gospels had not been revealed yet, bars one from the sympathy due the faithful. This has its origins in the Early Modern Era when the idea of Doctrine [3] as an academic aspect of literate Christianity, offering salvation and damnation based on legalistic interpretations of Scripture and Gospel, began dominating Western Thought and paved the way for Secular Humanism.
-3. Doctor, doctrine, indoctrinate, didact and ideology share common origin and paved the way for our current quasi deification of the medical system, as a collective Medea.
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