Gaslighting?   12 comments

So, I’d like to have a conversation. This conversation may be triggering for some people, so please participate with caution.

During a recent exchange on Twitter, someone said that authors who treat their characters like real people spiked this tweeter’s anxiety by ‘forcing’ them to participate in delusional behavior. That authors should not say things like ‘I don’t know where the plot is going, I’m waiting for my characters to tell me.’ Because fictional characters aren’t REAL, and it creates a lot of anxiety for this person when they’re treated as if they’re real.

My response that it works very well for me to talk and listen to my characters garnered, ‘But you know they’re not REAL, right?’

Now, y’all KNOW I believe in a universe teeming with Gods whom most of you believe are ‘only’ myths. That I converse with trees and pond spirits and well wights and stars. So ‘real’ for me isn’t, perhaps, quite aligned with what the majority of people in my place and time consider to be real. Yes, I’m aware that my characters don’t have tactile reality. But reality, for me, isn’t a stark and simple black and white. Alice (the Wonderland one, not Alice Liddell) has far more actual impact on my daily existence than most ‘real people’ ever will.

So I wasn’t arguing with this tweeter, simply attempting to put it in a different perspective, one that accommodates both their discomfort and my own paradigm. But it still came back to ‘real’, which is fine. I understand perfectly what they meant, even if I put more nuances into the term. And I’d like to find a place where we can meet and be comfortable, without anxiety or feeling stifled.

I wondered why it matters why or how I interact with my characters, but this prompted some anger and further anxiety, so naturally I apologized for having raised the decibel of the conversation and exited.

But I’m curious. Is it realistic to expect others to both understand and adjust to one’s anxiety triggers? Is it courteous to try to curate one’s conversation to avoid anything that might set someone else off?

Obviously I would never casually use my familiar tone vis-a-vis my characters with this person again, now that I know how it feels to them. But how would anyone just showing up know that it’s an issue? At least prior to triggering them?

I lost an online friend years ago in a similar way. She is a brilliant writer and a fascinating thinker, such an interesting person. She was very upfront and clear about having a pretty severe case of bipolar disorder. We had been friends for a few years when, presumably during an episode, she accused me of some wild and wacky things that I would never do or dream of doing. She got angrier and angrier as I tried to fend off the attacks with what seemed to me to be logic. When nothing worked, I made the fatal mistake of saying ‘Sweetie, this isn’t real. This is your mental illness talking.’

She accused me of gaslighting her (the first time I’d heard the term) and blocked me. She was right, in a strict sense, although I understand the term to mean deliberately using someone’s condition to turn things around and make their perfectly rational behavior seem unhinged.

But right or wrong or well-intentioned or deliberately hurtful, that was the end.

So, sad though it is to have her gone from my life, with her vivid beautiful writing, I have learned to be far more careful about bringing up mental issues during stressful interactions.

Telling my lost friend that her perceptions were wack wasn’t a good way to proceed. But I don’t presume that most folks I meet in the world or on the ‘net have such conversational pitfalls. Should I?

How tightly should I be curating my conversations?

Maybe it’s ablist of me to think that it’s an infringement on my ability to communicate openly and honestly to demand that I intuit everyone else’s hot buttons and avoid them?

I dunno. I spent most of my life trimming my sails in both belief and word to try and please other people. Escaping from that is too hard-won to give up.

I wouldn’t deliberately trip anyone’s triggers in word or deed, any more than I’d misuse pronouns or dead-name someone once I’d been advised of the preference (although I am sure forgetful and screw things up sometimes.)

And I don’t really think that most folks expect me to. I’ve been on Twitter for over a year and it’s the first and only time I’ve encountered this degree of ire over a relatively mild authorial quirk. Naturally we all have things that make us roll our eyes and scroll on past.

For you, gentle readers, at what point does voicing your discomfort with something turn into entitlement?

We tell people all the time to walk away from energy vampires, narcissists, time-suckers and just plain assholes- but we’re also told to be sensitive and accepting of the myriad forms of mental illness.

I’m not particularly bothered by this Twitter conversation. I suspect the other party will block me, despite my apology and withdrawal, and that’s fine. But it took me right back to my misstep with someone I did care about losing.

I wonder if my advancing years, crone mentality and size 10 feet just make it too hard for me to move through the woke world.

How do you handle something that’s just you doing you when that something is making someone else very angry?

Posted April 24, 2021 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

My latest LSQ tale   2 comments

Dears! My latest Luna Station Quarterly blog post is live. Erigone is one of my favorite characters in Greek mythology, and one of the goddesses in my Kore cultus.

I hope you enjoy it!

The Girl Who Swings

The Girl Who Swings

What would it be like to be a girl who meets a god?

Maybe it goes something like this.

Once upon a time, in the region of Athens, there lived a girl called Erigone. Athens was small then but developing importance due to the interest taken by such gods as Athena, Poseidon and Demeter.

Erigone lived with her father, Ikarios, and her mother, Phanothea. She was a happy girl of about ten, with unruly curls of deep brown, with a sheen of purple like the bloom of a wild grape, and brilliant hazel eyes. She helped her father tend the goats and her mother spin and weave the linen for their clothing, all the while singing the songs her mother taught her.

“Erigone!” called her father one spring dusk as shadows pooled in the sheltered dell outside their home. “Draw water from the well and fetch bread and mead! A stranger approaches!”

Erigone dropped the spindle she had been holding for her mother and ran to the door. Her father was standing by the gate of the goat pen, shading his eyes with one hand as he peered into the darkening road before their house. His dog, Maera, stood beside him, hackles raised. Erigone joined them, watching the approaching figure. She thought for a moment that there were many people, dancing and swirling around the central form, but as the person drew nearer she could see that it was just one man, his steps halting as if he were very tired.

Maera started forward, barking, as the man stumbled to a halt in the road before their home. She stopped suddenly, lowering her head, and crept toward the stranger. To Erigone’s surprise, their fierce dog licked his hand.

Ikarios’s hand fell on her shoulder. She whirled and ran to the well behind their home, lowering the bucket and then straining to raise it, brimming, to the surface. Phanothea came to the door as Erigone carried the bucket inside. The woman took a basin from a shelf and set it before the fire. Erigone filled the basin and fetched a clean cloth, then began cutting slices of coarse bread while her mother hurried to milk a goat. Erigone burned with curiosity as she listened to her father greet the stranger and invite him inside.

A young man, so tall he needed to bend his head as he came through the door, preceded Ikarios into the house. He looked around, removed his cloak and smiled at the little girl before the hearth. Ikarios took the cloak and gestured to a stool close to the fire.

“Please sit, traveler, and allow my daughter to tend to you. My wife…ah, there you are, Phanothea. We are honored with a guest. Sir, will you take milk or mead?”

The young man said nothing as he sat before the fire and allowed Erigone to draw the dusty boots from his feet. He sighed as she washed the grime of travel from his feet with cool, clean water. Ikarios and Phanothea stood respectfully nearby. Erigone could see the burning desire in her mother to ask questions, but xenia, the custom of reciprocal hospitality between guest and host, kept her silent until the guest was ready to share.

Erigone sat back on her heels and peered shyly at the young man to see if he was satisfied with her efforts. Her breath caught in her throat at her first good look at the man sitting at her family’s hearth. Blue-black curls cascaded around a face of such beauty that he seemed to have stepped from a bard’s tale. His cheeks were as smooth as a maiden’s, his lips full, curved in a secret smile, and his eyes were a deep amethyst. He reached down and touched her cheek with a long finger.

“Thank you, little one,” he murmured in a voice like music. He turned that enigmatic smile to Phanothea and said, “Mistress, I thank you for your offering. I will take a little honeyed milk, if it does not discommodate you.”

For the first time in her life, Erigone saw her mother at a loss for words. After opening and closing her mouth several times, Phanothea turned silently to make the drink.

Ikarios set the bread on a platter with a nub of cheese and some dried figs. Erigone carefully 

carried the soiled water outside and poured it onto the pomegranate tree as her mother had taught her. Water never went to waste in their arid region. When she returned to the house she joined her parents, sitting silently watching the stranger eat. He was not bothered by the three sets of eyes intent upon him, but finished his meal with seeming pleasure, scattering the last few drops and crumbs into the fire.

“Your courtesy is as welcome as a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day,” he said finally, gesturing for them to join him in front of the fire. “I have a gift for you in return.” He pulled a skin bag from under his robe and set it before them. Phanothea brought a clean bowl and Ikarios rose to pour the contents of the bag into the bowl.

A sharp, sweet smell filled the little room. Erigone gazed with wonder at the rich, red-purple liquid glimmering in the firelight. Darker than blood, it yet evoked the feeling she got seeing the gush of red liquid from the throat of a sacrifice.

“Bring me water, little one,” he said to her. She ran out to the well and returned in moments with a brimming pail. Nodding his thanks, he asked Phanothea to give him a small bowl. He added water to both bowls, enough to the small bowl to dilute the color to a pale rose. He held the large bowl up to the fire, thanked Hestia, sipped, and handed it to Ikarios. A smile played across his mobile face as he watched his host. Ikarios’s jaw dropped. The stranger gestured for him to give the bowl to Phanothea, then he handed the small bowl to Erigone.

“Drink,” he whispered to her. Never taking her eyes from his face, she did as she was bid. Her mouth filled with a strange sweetness and a puzzling undertone of bitterness. She held it in her mouth for a long moment before she swallowed. Warmth followed the liquid down her throat and into her stomach.

“What is this?” said Ikarios in a tone of fear and reverence. “The nectar served upon Mount Olympos must taste much like this.”

The young man rose to his feet, his head brushing the ceiling of the little hut. White teeth gleamed in a smile that promised delight and ferocity. His voice, though not loud, rang inside the small abode like a silver bell.

“I am Dionysos,” he said, “son of Zeus and thrice-blessed Semele. This is my gift to mankind. This is wine.”

Dionysos stayed with Erigone’s family for a full moon phase, teaching them the cultivation of the vines and explaining how to press the juice of the grapes and ferment it. Ikarios, always a careful study, listened and learned rapidly.

All too soon the family gathered in front of the house to see their mentor off. Phanothea had filled a sack with dried goat meat, bread and figs, which the young man carried slung over his shoulder along with his wine bags. He embraced Ikarios, bowed gravely to Phanothea and knelt before Erigone. She was weeping unashamedly.

“Why do you have to go?” she gasped, lifting wet eyes to his face. “We love you.”

He cupped her face in his long, beautiful fingers. His purple eyes gazed deeply into hers. “I am not made to stay in one place, my small friend,” he told her. “My gifts must be spread widely, and thus my cultus. It is important that your family aid me in this endeavor.” As she blinked at him uncomprehendingly he kissed her forehead. “I love you too,” he whispered. “I always will.”

He stepped into the road and out of their lives. Their last glimpse of him as he rounded a curve was his final wave, his joyous laughter wafting to them through the bright air. Maera sat in the middle of the road and howled.

Ikarios tended his new vineyard with zeal. The first year the vines produced just a few little grapes, not enough to press. There were more the second year. In the autumn of the third year, as Erigone approached adulthood, the clusters of grapes hung sweet and fat, glowing like jewels in the hot sunshine. The family remembered the instructions left to them by the beautiful young god, pressing the juice and fermenting it in the jars Phanothea had made for them as the vines matured. They set most of the jars aside to age, but as the autumn gew colder and the leaves flew, they opened the first jar and tasted the wine. It was sharp and bitter, but the heat that they remembered from their visitor’s brew warmed their bellies and made them laugh.

Ikarios set aside a few jars of new wine to take to the agora in Athens, a few days journey from their home. Erigone was awakened a few days before market day by a roar from the vineyard. She ran outside to find her father stomping between the vines, examining the nibble marks on their trunks and leaves. A billy goat leapt over a broken-down place in the fence, eyes wide, Maera at his heels. As Erigone and Phanothea stared, Ikarios strode after the goat, dragged him to the stump behind the hut where their butchering took place, and after a swift prayer, cut his throat.

Ikarios’s brow was thunderous as he began to butcher the goat. “Those vines are a divine blessing,” he growled to his women who were still staring wordlessly at him. “No goat will defile them.” His angry gaze fell on Maera. “If you let that happen again, you’ll join him.” Maera’s ears and tail drooped.

Erigone was excited to go to market with her father for the first time. They loaded up their donkey with the jars and fabrics Phanothea had made to trade, goat milk and goat meat, and the skin of the billy goat who had raided their vineyard, sewn into a round sack and filled with air. Finally, Ikarios added the jars of new wine.

Trade was brisk at the agora. Phanothea was known for her skill in weaving but even more so as a bard. Soon there was a crowd around her as she sang the song she had created about a fascinating stranger bearing gifts of knowledge and delight. As she sang, Ikarios passed around cups of the new beverage, grinning with satisfaction at the reactions from the crowd. When the song was finished he threw the inflated goat skin into their midst, roaring with laughter at the impromptu game of kickball that ensued among the folk, intoxicated with wine and camaraderie.

The family arrived home well after dark, warm despite the cold of the star-spangled night, laden with the goods from the market. It had been their most successful day of trading ever.

That night, Erigone slept warm in her cot, snuggled into a new fur blanket, and dreamed of Dionysos.

In early spring, when the very first spears of snowdrops and crocus poked through the snow, Ikarios opened the first of the saved wine jars. A rich odor permeated the hut. Erigone turned from the loom where her mother was instructing her and followed her nose to her father, who stood staring into the dark depths of the jar.

“Father!” she said. “It doesn’t smell anything like it did last autumn.”

“No,” he agreed. He looked at his wife. She nodded sharply.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked. “Let’s taste it!”

Erigone fetched water while Ikarios poured the strong wine into a bowl, then diluted it with water. The taste, while still sharper than the wine from Dionysos’s bag, was more mellow and sweet than the new wine. But the heat that coiled in their bellies was now familiar. They sat for a while before the fire, enjoying the warmth from inside and out.

Phanothea rose. “We must create a shrine to this god,” she said. “This is a gift unlike any other.”

Ikarios nodded. “And more. We must take this gift and spread it among the people of our land. He left us to spread his worship and his gift. Can we do less?”

Spring was well underway when Ikarios left his home, the donkey once again laden, but this time with jars of wine. Maera went with him, dancing with excitement at the adventure, the plume of her tail waving madly. Phanothea and Erigone saw him off, waving as he rounded the corner where four years ago they had seen Dionysos disappear. The two women put their arms around each other and stood looking at the empty road for a long time.

A moon phase passed. Then another. The days were longer, the sun warmer, the earth softer. Phanothea and Erigone tended the goats, made cheese, spun thread, wove linen cloth, planted the garden and made clay pots, but nothing could deflect their growing concern.

As the two women worked in the vineyard one warm afternoon they heard a familiar sound from far down the road. It grew closer. They stood. Erigone dropped the paring knife she was holding.

“Mother, it’s Maera!” she cried. Lifting her skirt, she ran out into the road, Phanothea following.

Maera rounded the curve and flew to the girl, throwing herself into Erigone’s arms. She was skin and bones, her thick fur matted and filthy, her body covered with wounds, her beautiful tail dragging in the dirt. Her voice rose, no longer a bark but a wail, a terrible sound.

Erigone felt a chill run through her. She held the crying dog, rocking back and forth, but nothing soothed poor Maera. Phanothea and Erigone led her back to their home, combed and washed her, tended her knots and cuts and bleeding paws, and fed her gruel. Despite her starved condition, the dog barely touched her food, crying and whimpering until she fell into a twitching, exhausted sleep before the fire.

The women stared at each other.

“I must go find him,” said Erigone. “I’ll leave in the morning. I’ll take Maera with me.”

“You cannot,” replied her mother. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I must,” repeated Erigone. Phanothea said no more, but turned to start packing.

Erigone and Maere headed west, then turned north, as Ikarios had planned to do. During the first week they met homesteaders like themselves who remembered meeting Ikarios and expressed delight at the wine he had shared with them.

But soon thereafter they came to a small hamlet where furtive glances and closed doors were as eloquent as Maera’s shivering and pain-filled eyes. The hope in Erigone’s heart withered. Before she met the woman who told her the grim story, she knew. She came to a dwelling on the outskirts of the hamlet where a woman was feeding a flock of chickens. She started as she saw the thin dog, and her face fell as she beheld the desperation in the young girl’s eyes.

“Yes,” she replied to Erigone’s now-familiar inquiry. “I saw him, and his dog as well. You’d better come inside.” She led Erigone into the little home and gave her refreshments as xenia required, then took her hands and gazed into her tired face.

The story that she told struck Erigone like a blow. Ikarios had arrived in the hamlet more than a moon phase prior, just a few wine jugs left, Maera prancing at his side. The herdsmen and fishermen who were nearby were called home and everyone gathered to hear his tale, and, more importantly, to taste his exciting new beverage— a gift, as he said, from a god. He produced an inflated goatskin bag, and the community spent a wonderful afternoon drinking the wine and playing with the bag, kicking it, laughing, falling down and making fun of each other.

Several of the men drank a great deal of the wine and fell heavily asleep after staggering around the hamlet and speaking incoherently. Others who had indulged less tried to wake them but could not. That was when one of the young men, after vomiting up purple liquid, shouted, “Poison! This man has poisoned us!”

The woman was silent for a time. When she resumed the story, she spoke hesitantly. Ikarios had begged the folk of the hamlet to see reason. Then he had begged for his life. The men sent the women and children into their homes and dragged him away. She said that was all she knew. But her face belied her words.

When her story was told, the woman turned her eyes from Erigone’s face. She escorted the girl out of the house and closed the door behind her. Erigone stood frozen, a voice inside her head screaming “No, no, no, no, no.” She didn’t recognize the voice, her own voice, her voice when she had still been a very little girl.

Maera took Erigone’s skirt in her teeth and tugged. Erigone stared down at the dog with sightless eyes. She pulled the skirt free, ran to the house and pounded on the door.

“Where is he?” she screamed. “Where is my father’s body? What have you done with him? I must perform the rites!” She beat her fists on the door until they ran with blood, but no one answered. Ripping her hands through her hair, she ran to the center of the hamlet and cried aloud, ululating, her sobs tearing through the soft afternoon sunshine.

No one came to see. The doors stayed shut. Erigone wept with only Maera howling a dirge with her.

Finally Erigone collapsed into exhausted silence. She sat alone in the dust.

Once again Maera tugged at her mistress’s skirt. Erigone lifted bleary eyes and saw the dog, thin and knotted with bruises, and rose wearily to her feet. Maera trotted toward a hill that lay to the south of the village, stopped and looked back to make sure Erigone was following her, then led her up and over the hill.

On an open field, about a mile from the hamlet, stood a gnarled oak tree and an old well. As Maera topped the hill she threw back her head and howled, a terrible sound of grief and fury. She ran down the hill and across the field, throwing herself down at the stones around the well, her body shaking in paroxysms of horror. Erigone ran after her, almost tripping over large stones that lay scattered before the well. She looked around wildly. There was no sign of Ikarios. She hurried over to the great tree. Caught on a branch she saw a torn piece of cloth, fluttering in the gentle breeze. She reached up for it and turned it over in her hands. Her mother’s needlework was as familiar to her as the sound of her singing. Erigone was holding a piece of her father’s traveling cloak.

She looked back at the well. It was clearly long abandoned, probably dry, but the stones that bordered its rim had been torn up and lay disheveled in the soft grass. Some of them bore dark stains.

Erigone crept to the mouth of well. Maera howled one last time and lay silent, panting. The girl peered over the lip. The well was deep. Darkness mercifully hid what lay below, but the smell left no doubt as to where Ikarios had finally escaped his tormentors.

Erigone staggered to the shade of the oak and collapsed. Maera crept into her arms. They lay intertwined for a long, long time.

Dusk inched across the field from the western mountains. The shadow of the oak tree stretched and deepened. As the sun slid out of sight and the sky turned lavender and pearl, Erigone rose. She tore her robe into strips and tied them together, good, tight knots as her father had taught her. She looped the rope over her arm and climbed into the oak tree, not too high, just enough to find a good stout branch. She was a slight girl, and not very tall. She tied one end of the rope firmly to the branch, the other around her neck. She let go of the tree and fell.

Maera watched until the form stopped jerking and swung gently in the gathering dark. She did not make any sound. As night fell across the field, stars blazing in the heavens, the dog walked slowly to the well. She paused on the rim, then jumped in.

In the deep darkness before rosy-fingered dawn brightened the sky, a figure appeared silhouetted against the stars. The form of a tall young man, hair in riotous curls about his head, strode to the well, then the tree. Luminous tears, shimmering pale violet, ran down his cheeks.

By the time the sun rose, tree and well were empty. There was no one in the field where horrors had taken place.

As time passed, something terrible stalked grimly through Athens and the villages and hamlets surrounding it. The figure of a maiden, slender and slight, with burning amber eyes, was reportedly seen near groups of playing children.

For no reason that anyone could explain, young girls began hanging themselves from trees, first one or two, then a few, then many. Parents tried to keep their daughters in sight at all times, but just as children have always done, girls found ways to elude the watchful eyes and found trees. They hanged themselves alone. Best friends and sisters swung from trees together. In some unspeakable instances, entire groves creaked and danced with great clusters of ghastly fruit. In one hamlet, where a deflated goatskin ball lay abandoned in the weeds, every single girl under the age of twenty took their own lives and those of the baby girls and toddlers they brought with them to the tree.

Phanothea left her empty home, abandoning her goats, her loom and her vineyard, and made her way to Delphi where she appealed to the Pythia, the oracular priestess of Apollon. When she had her answer, she created a new form of verse, the hexameter, and composed a song that was soon sung in every home on the Attikan plains. It told the story of Ikarios and Erigone, and how at the Anthesteria, the festival of flowers in late winter, their shades could be propitiated. The Aiora, the festival of swings, was instituted to appease the shade of Erigone. As bright ribbons fluttered from branches, and laughter echoed from swings installed from strong boughs, sanity returned to the girls of the region.

Phanothea stayed in Delphi and spent the rest of her life in service to Apollon and the Pythia.

The folk of Attika noticed new stars gleaming in the skies. One shone within the constellation of Canis Minor, where Maera now hunts joyfully across the night sky as Procyon. The constellation known as Bootes, or Arcturus, shines with the soul of Ikarios. Erigone is honored as the beautiful constellation Virgo.

They shine down upon the whole world, a gift to all. A gift no less beloved and far less dangerous than the liquid amethyst, the blood of the grape, the heady wine of Dionysos.

https://www.theoi.com/Heros/Ikarios.html
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Erigone
http://01greekmythology.blogspot.com/2015/05/erigone.html
https://oxfordre.com/classics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.001.0001/acrefore-9780199381135-e-2487
https://www.theoi.com/Titan/AsterSeirios.html
http://www.ianridpath.com/startales/canisminor.html

Posted March 25, 2021 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

A PSA I posted to Reddit: “Deity work” is not dangerous!   Leave a comment

OMG. This is just wonderful.

rotwork

You, yes you, all the way in the back:

“Deity work” is not dangerous.

This is an insidious lie that damages communities, and activelyharms people.

Gods, and having relationships with them, are not any more dangerous than interacting with any other human being. It is no more dangerous than getting behind the wheel of your car. It is no more dangerous than showing up to work. It is no more dangerous than cooking dinner.

That is, thereisa risk. But it is not what you seem to think it is: it is dangerous if you lack basic respect for that – or in this case,Whom- you are interacting with.

You know who claims gods are dangerous? People who are selfish assholes. People who want to convince you they have special abilities or training that you don’t. People who want power and attention. People who wrongly, stupidly,

View original post 1,292 more words

Posted February 13, 2021 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The Erinyes   2 comments

Yay! My LSQ is out! Let’s see if the link actually posts. WP has been giving me problems with this.

No. Okay. C&P the whole thing.

The Erinyes

The temple of Apollon at Delphi in the pearly light of dawn. The Pythia, oracle priestess of the god, enters the temple to commence morning prayers.

Seconds later she runs out, screaming. Looking in through the open door we can see an exhausted and terrified young man, dripping blood. He is seated upon the omphalos, the huge boulder within the sanctuary that is the sacred navel of the world. He holds a bloody sword and an olive branch wreathed in white wool.

He is surrounded by women, sleeping on benches.

And oh, such women. Rustling, murmuring, heaving like a herd of seals in their black rags and tattered feathers. Even in their slumber they incite mindless terror.

Thus opens The Eumenides, the third play in the trilogy of the Oresteia by Aeschylus. Orestes has made it to the temple of Apollon to seek sanctuary from the terrible Erinyes, or Furies, who are seeking vengeance for his murder of his own mother. But if he dares move from the omphalos, they will be upon him.

Legend has it that brave warriors screamed and fainted when the skene door opened to show the Furies surrounding the hapless Orestes. Pregnant women miscarried on the spot (belying the conventional wisdom that women weren’t allowed into the theaters).

It was a sensation.

Hyperbole, most likely, but it underscores the fear with which the ancient Greeks regarded the Erinyes, ancient goddesses of justice and retribution. The punishments are terrible. Orestes was right to shelter in the only place that might give him sanctuary from their vengeance. Madness, disease, starvation, and agony are just a few of the weapons in their arsenal. In some ancient depictions they just look like winged women, but in most they are ghastly, with snakes entwined in their hair and coiled around their waists, carrying whips, with the faces of hags. In later works they’re said to serve Hades and Persephone by torturing criminals for eternity in a prequel to the Christian Hell.

If the attention of these goddesses seems extreme, consider what it must have been like to live in a society with no police force, jail, or rehabilitation systems. Travelers could die if not given shelter, but who today would unlock the door and welcome an unexpected stranger to their hearth? Without ironclad taboos against foul play, endless clan vengeance was the only recourse (and indeed, that is at the heart of Aeschylus’s trilogy.) Fear of divine retribution was all that kept citizens of a nefarious bent from preying upon the more generous of the population.

Their parentage differs according to source, but most consider them born of the drops of blood that fell to the earth when Kronus castrated his father Ouranos. They are more ancient than the Olympians, and while some say they bring about the will of Zeus, a more likely explanation is that the god of Law rarely has cause to interfere with the punishments meted out by these goddesses. They number at least three: Alekto, or Anger; Magaera, or Jealousy; Tisiphone, or Avenger. Crimes against the natural order are the ones most likely to get their attention—violence against family members, particularly the elderly or very young; murder, especially within a family (killing in battle is exempt); hubris, or disrespect toward the gods; violation of xenia, the ancient law of reciprocal hospitality.

Orestes is the only recorded victim who escaped their wrath, and it took a gigantic societal shift for it to happen. After a trial with the Erinyes as prosecutors, Apollon as defense attorney and Athena as judge, the court system takes over judgment in these cases. The Furies are forced to accept being relegated to protective spirits, propitiated in a temple built for them in Athens and being re-named the Eumenides, or Kindly Ones. Clearly this is an effort to keep them pacified, like referring to meddlesome fae as the Good Folk.

Theseus, that bold-faced buccaneer, gets rescued from being stuck to a stone chair and whipped endlessly by the Furies when Herakles comes along and yanks him free. He leaves behind the skin of his buttocks, later healed by a skin graft from a sheep. His descendants are said to keep warm in winter from wearing the wool grown on the arse of their esteemed ancestor.

But if you’re not lucky enough to have a mighty hero, or in Orestes’s case a god or two, in your court, you’re going to have to rely on purification and atonement. Herakles himself learned this lesson after murdering his wife and children, then suffering madness at the hands of the Erinyes. His purification ritual was so intense that it became the basis for the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries, which provide appropriate cleansing for the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, which require stringent ritual purity. The Argonautika describes rites used by the witch Circe to free a murderer from torment by the Erinyes, and other sources tell how one can use the blood of a piglet or a nice fat steer or, more reliably, the intercession of Apollon. But atonement of some sort is always required. No free rides when it comes to the Erinyes.

Voices in the wind. They shriek and gibber. Fear knots in the pit of your stomach. They are coming.

Search your mind. Have you violated the ancient laws? Have you disrespected your parents or abused the elderly? Committed murder? Have you behaved improperly toward a supplicant of your favor? Worst of all, have you violated xenia?

If so, beware. The goddesses who govern curses that haunt any of these types of criminality will pursue you relentlessly, to madness, death, and beyond.

Better start running.

https://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Erinyes.htmlhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erinyeshttp://www.neokoroi.org/religion/gods/eumenides/

Posted January 25, 2021 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The Future Is More Than Us   3 comments

This post, by Kaye, is so damn good. So friggin’ good.

Posted January 16, 2021 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Dark Pools   5 comments

look, just look at these wonderful images and the evocative, gorgeous poem from Dver! like moving through a dream.

https://imwalde.wordpress.com/2020/12/15/dark-pools/

Posted December 16, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The All-Prevailing Night   Leave a comment

My latest LSQ blog is up, dears!

At the dawn of creation emerge the Protogenoi, the primordial gods who set in place the very foundations of the cosmos.

One of the first children of Kaos from whom everything else flows is Nyx, the goddess of night. Modern folk tend to conflate her with her sibling and mate Erebos, or Darkness, but they are not the same being. It is through the union of Night and Darkness that Hemera, the goddess of Day, and Aethyr, the bright upper air, come into being.

Night and Darkness bear within them the seeds of Light.

Nyx has a host of other children, most conceived parthenogenetically. Hypnos (Sleep), Thanatos (Death), Moros (Doom), Oizys (Pain), the Keres (Destroyers), the Moirai (Fates), Eris (Strife), Geras (Old Age) and Hades’ ferryman, Kharon, are just a few of her unsettling offspring.

One shouldn’t get too hung up on the family trees of the Protogenoi, though, as they get scrambled into all sorts of interesting combinations by various sources. The main thing to keep in mind is that she’s one of the very first.

Nyx was envisioned by ancient authors as being the mists that veil the sky at eveningfall and obscure the light of day. Hemera scatters her mother’s mists with the rising of Helios the sun and allows Aethyr to shine through.

Like all the Protogenoi, Nyx is viewed with a mixture of caution and reverence by the ancient Greeks. Some describe her as a figure of terror, driving a shadowy chariot drawn by raging, inky horses. Yet others speak rapturously of her diaphanous veils, stars gleaming through the mists and swirling around her.

The Orphics regard Nyx as a field of unknowability, without personality or consciousness as we understand it. We conceive of her as a goddess and ascribe human-like attributes to her because we need these handles in order to wrap our minds around the idea of her. But, as we can see from the almost non-existent cultus to her in the ancient world, praying to her or setting up shrines and rituals to propitiate her or attempting to communicate with her directly indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of her nature. Her darkness is indicative of her being utterly beyond our comprehension. She is only a single emanation from Kaos, the potential in which everything exists but is not yet manifest. She is a cauldron. A melting pot. A womb.

Watch the sun sink and the veils gather. Observe the way the eastern sky brightens in concordance with the sunset flare of colors, then faints into the arms of Erebos. Wonder at the stealthy debut of the stars as they prick through the deepening blue. The sky at dusk is so entrancing that night will likely enfold your world entirely before you look around and realize how engulfed you are in the cloak of Nyx.

You’re not outside of her. You are part of the warp and weft of her being. Like the stars themselves, you gleam in her veils. Breathe her into your lungs and belly. You are a creature of the night.

Don’t worship Nyx with shrines and statues. Immerse yourself in her.

Her very self sparkles with stars.

You are one of them.


https://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Nyx.html#Cosmogony
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyx
http://www.hellenion.org/nyx/orphic-hymn-to-nyx/
https://www.hellenicgods.org/nyx—nyx

POSTED IN WAIFS, WOLVES & WARRIORS – WOMEN IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY

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Posted November 18, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Story is live!   Leave a comment

My friend Julie sold this story for MONEYS and I’m so impressed, not just with the sale but with the deft hand and sure tone of this dark little tale. Go read it!

PersephoneKnits

Hey, my flash story is up on Daily Science Fiction!

Public Service

It’s my first pro-sale, and you should go read it. Leave me a few rockets while you’re there and sign up for their daily stories right to your inbox! They are a sweet market for little stories that pack a wallop.

Thank you!

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Posted November 14, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

THE REINOS HALLOWEEN (SAMHAIN) TAROT SPREAD   Leave a comment

I’m always eager to learn new spreads if they’re actually good and thoughtful. I kinda love this one.

Danie's Doodles

What does this time of year mean to me? This time of year many cultures believe the veil between life and death is at its most thin. It is a time to honor our ancestors and show them what we have become and/or remember to follow their guidance as we continue to grow.

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  1. UNDERGROUND: HERITAGE

We start with the past from before you were born. Our cultural identity and family heritage forms the soil in which our roots may grow. This is why being uprooted through trauma can be so damaging to us, and the need for a family history can be very strong.

The cards underground lie sideways in rest. These cards might represent people who are resting in their graves, long gone, fertilizing the soil of your tree. If you want a more “tight” reading, you may choose to lay one card that represents your heritage… However…

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Posted November 1, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The Lonely   Leave a comment

My friend Julie has her beautiful story ‘The Lonely’ published in Psychopomp magazine! You should go read it right now!
https://psychopompmag.com/issue-7-2-summer-fall-2020/

Posted October 1, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized