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►Greek Mythology: “Myrrha, Adonis and Persephone”(Myths and Interpretation):

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Myrrha

“Myhrra assisted by Lucina, the Goddess of Birth” by Jean de Court (1560).

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As we know from the previous postAdonis, Myrrha’s son, was raised up for both Goddess Persephone and Aphrodite.

Myrrha’s mother (being more precise, Adonis’ grandmother) had said that her daughter Myrrha was even more beautiful than Aphrodite herself . This was taken as offensive by the goddess of Beauty, who took revenge on that.

And in this case she took revenge of Myrrha’s mother by punishing her daughter, cursing Myrrha to fall in love and lust after her father, Cinyras.

Aphrodite appears here as a trouble maker. It is not the first time that she had looked for acknowledgment of her Beauty.

We must keep in mind here the Judgement of Paris in which Aphrodite offered Helen the most beautiful mortal woman, to Prince Paris of Troy, in exchange of that famous Golden apple labeled for the fairest one.

Retaking the preceding points, roman poet Ovid referred to Myrrha’s story in “Metamorphoses,” Book 10, lines 467-518.

Myrrha was the daughter of King Cinyras and Queen Cenchreis of Cyprus.

Myrrha felt attracted to her father. Knowing the love was forbidden she fought it as hard as she could to avoid her feelings. But as he couldn’t do so, she tried to kill herself. Just before she was goindg to commit suicide, Myrrha was discovered by her nurse who finally dissuaded her.

Myrrha confided her forbidden love to the nurse. The nurse tried to make Myrrha suppress the infatuation, but could not calm the girl. Finally the nurse agreed to help Myrrha get into her father’s bed if she promised that she would not try to kill herself again.

The women got their opportunity during a feast. Myrrha’s father, King Cinyras, was drunk in his bed. The nurse helped Myrrha to get into the bed by telling the King she was a young woman who was deeply in love with him.

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"Myrrha and Cinyras". Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid's Metamorphoses. Book X.

“Myrrha and Cinyras”. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. Book X.

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In this manner, Myrrha and the nurse were able to deceive Cinyras. The affair lasted several nights in complete darkness to conceal Myrrha’s identity. One night, Cinyras wanted to know the identity of the girl with whom he had conducted the affair. Upon bringing in a lamp, and seeing his crime, the king drew his sword and attempted to kill her but she could escape.

After becoming pregnant of her own father Myrrha walked for nine months, lost in her own guilt.

Zeus finally took pity on her and transformed her into a myrrh tree.

When it came time for the birth, the Myrrh tree was somehow assisted by the birth goddess Lucina and six water nymphs. The tree appeared to wrench and finally cracked and delivered a baby boy, who would be later called Adonis.

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"The Birth of Adonis".  Engraving by Bernard Picart for Ovid's "Metamorphoses", Book X, 476-519.

“The Birth of Adonis”. Engraving by Bernard Picart for Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”.

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Aphrodite found the baby by the myrrh tree. She sheltered Adonis as a new-born baby and entrusted him to Persephone, the wife of Hades, who was the God of the Underworld

Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful youth (possibly because she had been wounded by Eros’ arrow).

Persephone was also taken by Adonis’ beauty and refused to give him back to Aphrodite.

The dispute between the two goddesses was settled by Zeus 

Adonis was to spend one-third of every year with each goddess and the last third wherever he chose. Thus he decided to spend two-thirds of the year with Aphrodite.

Adonis’ death was tragic. He was killed (castrated) by a wild boar and died in Aphrodite’s arms, who sprinkled his blood with nectar from the anemone.  

It was said that Adonis’ blood turned the Adonis River, or Abraham River, red each spring.

After Adonis’ death, Aphrodite was so sad that Zeus decided to make Adonis immortal, allowing him to leave the underworld, to spend eight months of the year with Aphrodite.

He always, however, had to return to Hades and remain there the other four with Persephone.

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"The Death of Adonis" by Giuseppe Mazzuoli.(1709). The State Hermitage Museum

“The Death of Adonis” by Giuseppe Mazzuoli.(1709). The State Hermitage Museum

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Something worth highlighting here. There is a remarkable analogy between Adonis’ stay in both the Underworld and the World of the Living and Persephone’s myth, being also this Goddess one of the women (with Aphrodite) who raised Myrrha’s child, Adonis. 

This is shown specifically by the fact that Persephone (Demeter’s virgin daughter) was abducted by Hades, King of the Underworld.

According to the myth, Hades planted a meadow full of the narcissus flowers in order to entice Persephone. When she pulled on the flower, the Underworld opened up and Hades sprang up, carrying her off.

Later on, he gave Persephone a pomegranate. As she ate it, the fruit somehow cemented her marriage to Hades. Thus, she was bound to Hades for six months of each year, winter and autumn.

Persephone was allowed by her husband to join her mother in the World of Living, but only when summer and springtime arrived. 

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►”Greek Myths of Myrrha. Symbolism and Interpretation”:

Critical interpretation of this myth has considered Myrrha’s refusal of conventional sexual relations to have provoked her incest, with the ensuing transformation to tree as a silencing punishment. It has been suggested that the taboo of incest marks the difference between culture and nature and that Ovid’s version of Myrrha showed this.

Myrrha’ s love for his father may be related to the Electra complex, as proposed by Carl Jung.

The Electra complex is a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father. In the course of her psychosexual development, the complex is the girl’s phallic phase, a boy’s analogous experience is the Oedipus complex.

As a psychoanalytic metaphor for daughter–mother psychosexual conflict, the Electra complex derives from the 5th-century BC Greek Mythological character Electra, who plotted matricidal revenge with Orestes, her brother, against Clytemnestra, their mother, and Aegistus, their stepfather, for their murder of Agamemnon, their  father. This story is told by Sofocles in his tragedy and by Aeschylus in his trilogy “Oresteia” (Second tragedy, “The Libation Bearers”).

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►Greek Myths of Myhrra, Adonis and Persephone. Symbols and Meanings”:

•Myrrha, transformed into a Myrrh Tree: Punishment. Myrrha is transformed and rendered voiceless making her unable to break the Taboo of Incest. The word “myrrh” in Ancient Greek was related to the word μύρον (mýron), which became a general term for perfume.

•Myrrha having sexual relationships with her father: Myrrha’s behavior here might be linked to the hero archetype, known as “The Fall”. It describes a descent in action from a higher to a lower state of being, an experience which might involve defilement, moral imperfection, and/or loss of innocence. This fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as penalty for disobedience and/or moral transgression.

•Myrrha feeling guilty while she is pregnant: This attitude might be associated with, was is known in the Hero Pattern, an Unhealable Wound. Here, the wound, physical or psychological, cannot be healed fully. This would also indicate a loss of innocence or purity. Often the wounds’ pain drives the sufferer to desperate measures of madness. 

•Adonis, castrated by a Wild Boar: Adonis Castration might be considered equal to a Father-Castration, performed by Cinyras (Myhrra’s father and Adonis’  father and grandfather at the same time).

Castration is here performed as an extreme punishment which leads to death. It also entrains the fact that Adonis won’t be able to have sons or daughters with his substitute mothers (Aphrodite and/or Perspehone).

The symbology of Wild Boar is that of truth, courage and confrontation.

In some native Indian tribes Wild Boar was used as a way to teach young braves how to be honest and find their courage when they told a lie to the tribe.

•Aphrodite sprinkling Adonis’ blood with nectar from the anemone: Anemone blossom stories are mostly about death – that’s why its blossom is often liken with being forsaken or left behind. In the Greek version of Adonis’ death, the Anemone is a plant that symbolizes unfading love. 

For the Christian version of the meaning of anemones, it’s a symbol of the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross.  That’s the reason why you’ll see a bunch of anemones on several paintings of the crucifixion.

•Adonis’ death and resurrection: The most common of all situational archetypes, Death and Rebirth grow out of the parallel between the cycle of nature and life. The cycle of death and rebirth was linked with the regeneration of vegetation and the crop seasons in ancient Greece. Besides, this myth is related to the perennial nature of beauty, as Adonis died only to be reborn in the underworld.

•Adonis’ blood, which turned the Adonis River, or Abraham River, red each spring: Red (Blood and river colors) Red represents sacrifice; violent passion, disorder, sunrise, birth, fire, emotion, wounds, death, sentiment, mother. Rivers/Streams: They represent life force and life cycle

•Adonis resurrected, spend his time with both Persephone in the Underworld and Aphrodite in The World of Living: Beyond the fact that both Goddesses raised Adonis, this metaphor might be linked to the double dichotomy Light-Life / Darkness-Death. In which Light usually suggests hope, renewal, life and intellectual illumination; whilst darkness implies the unknown, death, ignorance, or despair.

It might be also related to the opposites Hell (Underworld)/Heaven: Hell represents the diabolic forces that inhabit the universe and heaven the God Forces.

•Persephone eating the pomegranate that Hades gave her: In this myth, the pomegranate is related to the changing of seasons and might be also considered as a symbol of indivisibility of marriage. Seasons: Spring: It represents Birth and New Beginnings. Summer: Associated to maturity and Knowledge. Autumn: Linked to Decline, nearing Death, growing old. Winter: Representing Death, sleep, hibernation.

•Persephone’s realms: The Underworld: Black space. Black color: It represents darkness, chaos, mystery, the unknown, death, the unconscious and evil.

•Persephone released from the Underworld by HadesAs Persephone came back to the Living World to spend six months of each year with her mother Demeter, the flowers and crops grow great. 

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►Links Post:
http://www.uffizi.org/artworks/la-primavera-allegory-of-spring-by-sandro-botticelli/
http://www.iconos.it/le-metamorfosi-di-ovidio/libro-x/venere-e-adone/immagini/21-venere-e-adone/
http://spiritsymbols.blogspot.com.ar/2013/10/wild-boar.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrha
http://ancientsites.com/aw/Post/1260902
http://www.squidoo.com/pomegranatesymbolism
http://froggey.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/the-pomegranate-the-righteous-fruit/
http://www.auntyflo.com/flower-dictionary/anemone
http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/greek_goddess_persephone.htm
http://www.paleothea.com/SortaSingles/Persephone.html
http://mythologyinfo.webs.com/theseasons.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electra_complex
http://www.muhsd.k12.ca.us/cms/lib5/CA01001051/Centricity/Domain/520/English%203/Unit%201%20–%20Early%20American%20Lit/ArchetypesandSymbols.pdf
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