►Greek Mythology: “The Erinyes” (The Furies):
►Poetry: Verónica Boletta: “Three”:
In Greek Mythology, the Erinyes were mainly goddesses of vengeance.
The name Erinnys, which is the more ancient one, was derived by the Greeks from the erinô or ereunaô, I hunt up or persecute, or from the Arcadian word erinuô, I am angry; so that the Erinnyes were either the angry goddesses, or the goddesses who hunt up or search after the criminal
The goddesses were often addressed by the euphemistic names Eumenides (“Kind Ones”) or Semnai Theai (“Venerable Goddesses”). Eumenides signifies “the well-meaning,” or “soothed goddesses”.
They were probably personified curses, but possibly they were originally conceived of as ghosts of the murdered.
They were depicted as ugly, winged women with hair, arms and waists entwined with serpents:
“You handmaidens, look at them there: like Gorgones, wrapped in sable garments, entwined with swarming snakes!”. Aeschylus, “Libation Beaers” (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.).
According to the Greek poet Hesiod, they were the daughters of Gaia (Earth) and sprang from the blood of her mutilated spouse Uranus; in the plays of Aeschylus, they were the daughters of Nyx; in those of Sophocles, they were the daughters of Darkness and of Gaia. Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number.
Later authors named them Allecto (“Unceasing in Anger”), Tisiphone (“Avenger of Murder”), and Megaera (“Jealous”).
Among the things sacred to them we hear of serpents, chthonian animals associated with the Underworld. Also their sacred bird was the screech owl, a nocturnal bird of ill omen, closely associated with curses and the gods of the dead. As to the plants, they were associated to the narcissus.
They were particularly worshipped at Athens, where a festival called Eumenideia was celebrated in their honour.
These goddesses were sometimes seen as servants of Hades and Persephone in the Underworld.
As the Erinyes not only punished crimes after death, but during life on earth, they were conceived also as goddesses of fate, who, together with Zeus and the Moirae, led such men as were doomed to suffer into misery and misfortunes.
The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways.
The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harbouring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease.
This is mostly what happens in Aeschylus’s “Oresteia”, a three-act drama of family fate, like the “Oedipus trilogy” by Sophocles.
In “Agamemnon”, Clytemnestra herself murders his husband Agamemnon.
In “The Libation Bearers”, Clytemnestra is murdered by her son Orestes.
In the third and last play,”The Eumenides”, Orestes is judged because of his crime by a jury composed of Athena and twelve Athenians. Although Orestes’ actions were what Apollo had commanded him to do, Orestes has still committed matricide, a grave sacrilege. Because of this, he is pursued and tormented by the terrible Erinyes.
In Aeschylus’ tragedy “The Eumenides”, the Erinyes introduce themselves and later on, say to Orestes:
“We claim to be just and upright. No wrath from us will come stealthily to the one who holds out clean hands, and he will go through life unharmed; but whoever sins and hides his blood-stained hands, as avengers of bloodshed we appear against him to the end, presenting ourselves as upright witnesses for the dead”. (Aeschylus’ Oresteia “The Eumenides”. 310).
“We drive matricides from their homes … Since a mother’s blood leads us, we will pursue our case against this man and we will hunt him down”… (Aeschylus’ Oresteia “The Eumenides”. 230).
“Allow us in return to suck the red blood from your living limbs. May we feed on you -a gruesome drink! We will wither you alive and drag you down, so that you pay atonement for your murdered mother’s agony”. (Aeschylus’ Oresteia “The Eumenides”. 265).
At Delphi’s Oracle, Orestes has been told by Apollo that he should go to Athens to seek the aid of the goddess Athena.
Once in Athens, Athena arranges for Orestes to be tried by a jury of Athenian citizens, with her presiding.
The Erinyes appear as Orestes’ accusers, while Apollo speaks in his defense. The jury vote is evenly split.
Athena participates in the vote and declares Orestes acquitted because of the rules she established for the trial.
Despite the verdict, the Erinyes threaten to torment all inhabitants of Athens.
Athena, however, offers the ancient goddesses a new role, as protectors of justice. Thus, she persuades them to break the cycle of blood for blood, as as mercy should always take precedence over harshness. This threat satisfy the Erinyes, who are then led by Athena in a procession to their new city.
►Gallery: “The Erinyes” (The Three Furies):
►Poetry: A poem by Verónica Boletta: “Three”:
Impious triad of
tears and whips.
Talion’s trident, (*)
incarnated in snakes:
in the gathering point
in which Eternity
turn into Hell.
is not solace,
nor sheltering sky.
©2014 Verónica Boletta.-
Note: (*) Talion: the system or legal principle of making the punishment correspond to the crime; retaliation.
►About Verónica Boletta:
Verónica lives in La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has a degree in Economic Sciences.
‘Numbers’ are her Career of Currency as she says.
Regardless, she has her own “B side”. She is also a writer and therefore likes to embrace ‘Words’, particularly in the shape of great poems…
Verónica Boletta dixit: “Abrazo los números como profesión de divisas y las palabras como profesión y esperanza de vida. Reescribo mis credenciales y mis cartas de presentación así como borroneo en bocetos, la vida. Soy la mirada y el ojo, los sonidos y el oído, las letras del abecedario y las palabras, los pies en la tierra y la esperanza en el cielo”.~