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Posts Tagged ‘Minthe’

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"The Tree of Forgiveness." by Edward Burne-Jones. 19th century.

“The Tree of Forgiveness.” by Edward Burne-Jones. 19th century.

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⇒“Metamorphoses” by Ovid:

"Metamorphoses" by Ovid. Illustration by George Sandys. 1632.

“Metamorphoses” by Ovid. Illustration by George Sandys. 1632.

In my previous post, I have mentioned Ovid´s book “Metamorphoses” as a key source of Greek Mythology. 

“Metamorphoses” is a narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid, completed in 8 CE.

It is a “mock-epic” poem, written in dactylic hexameter, the form of the great epic poems of the ancient tradition, such as “The Iliad” and  “The Odyssey.

This poem describes the creation and history of the world, incorporating many classical myths.

Love and hubris are main topics in Ovid´s “Metamorphoses”. 
Unlike the predominantly romantic notions of Love, Ovid considered love more as a dangerous, destabilizing force.
However, there is an explanation for this attitude: during the reign of Augustus, the Roman emperor during Ovid’s time, major attempts were made to regulate morality by creating legal and illegal forms of love, by encouraging marriage and legitimate heirs, and by punishing adultery with exile from Rome.
As to hubris, (overly prideful behaviour) Ovid emphasizes that it entails a fatal flaw which inevitably leads to a character’s downfall. Hubris always attracts the punishment of the gods, as human beings might attempt to compare themselves to divinity.
As a side note, I think the best example of hubris in a Greek Myth is the one featuring Icarus, whose father built two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for them to escape from the Labyrinth for King Minos in which they had been imprisoned, and which had a fearsome Minotaur as guardian. Daedalus (Icarus´father) tried his wings first, but before taking off from the island, warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea, but to follow his path of flight. But soon later, Icarus was so overcome by the incredible feeling of flight, that he tried to fly higher and higher, trying to reach the sun; until, inevitably his wax wings melted, he fell from the sky into the Sea, and died.

Besides, in my last post, I introduced the subject of metamorphoses as it appears in Greek Myths, stating that it is generally defined as the origin of one or more transformations which most times occur as a result of death (tribute), but also as a way exoneration; or punishment.

Ovid. Publius Ovidius Naso. ( 43 B.C/ 17 A.D).

Ovid. Publius Ovidius Naso. ( 43 B.C/ 17 A.D).

Transformation is a common theme in Greek mythology. The gods had the power to change themselves into animals, birds, or humans and often used this power to trick goddesses or women.
In this same sense, I have previously mentioned the case of Zeus, the Ruler of Gods, who took different appearances as a way of courting potential lovers. Furthermore, sometimes the gods and goddesses transformed “others”, either to save them or to punish them.
Daphne, for example, was changed into a laurel tree; whilst Narcissus and Hyacinthus became the flowers that bear their names. 
The metamorphoses I have previously considered involved exclusively flowers, plants and trees and this post intends to present a few more examples of this sort.
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  ⇒“Flowers and Plants in some Greek Myths II”:

►Minthe: A naiad, fond of Hades/ Mint Plant:

Minthe was a naiad or water nymph associated with the Underworld river Cocytus. This river (also known as the River of Wailing) was one of the five rivers that encircled the realm of Hades, alongside rivers Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe and Styx- .

Minthe fell in love with Hades, but Persephone, Hades’ wife became enraged with jealousy, turning Minthe into a crawling plant so Persephone could crush her.

Hades could not reverse the spell so he made Minthe smell good when she walked on, making it so Minthe would always be noticed and never be taken for granted. 

The story also makes sense in a Greco-Roman context as mint was used in funerary rites to disguise the scent of decay. Besides, in Greece, the herb was also a main ingredient in the fermented barley drink called kykeon, which seemingly was the principal potable associated with the Eleusinian mysteries. It seems like this beverage included some really strange psychoactive ingredients, mint among them.

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On the Left: Nymph Minthe by W. Szczepanska. 21st century. On the Right: Mint Plant.

On the Left: Nymph Minthe by W. Szczepanska. 21st century. On the Right: Mint Plant.

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►Crocus, friend of Hermes/Crocus Plant:

Crocus was a friend of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods and god of travellers, liars, thieves, all who cross boundaries.

One day, while they were throwing the disc to each other, Hermes hit Crocus on the head and wounded him fatally.

As the young man collapsed and was dying, three drops from his blood fell on the centre of a flower thus becoming the three stigmata of the flower named after him.

Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek “kroki” which means weft, the thread used for weaving on a loom. 

As a medicinal and dyeing substance, crocus has been known in ancient Greece for its aroma, vibrant colour and aphrodisiac properties, thus making it one of the most desired and expensive spices.

Another use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery also using it to perfume the water while bathing. Frescoes in the palaces of Knossos (16th century b.C.) clearly depict a young girl gathering crocus flowers as well as in the archeological site of Akrotiri, in Santorini and Homer, in his writings calls dawn “a crocus veil”.

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On the Left: "Mercury (Hermes)” Statue at the Museum Pio Clementino, Vatican. On the Right: Crocus Flower.

On the Left: “Mercury (Hermes)” Statue at the Museum Pio Clementino, Vatican. On the Right: Crocus Flower.

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►Paean, Asclepius´pupil/ Peony, Plant of Healing:

Peony was named after Paean, who was the physician of the gods who healed, among others, Hades’ and Ares’ wounds.

The flower myth related, says that Paean was a student of Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing

Asclepius excelled as a doctor, partly because serpents helped him to discover the healing properties of certain herbs.

Unfortunately, Asclepius became so skilled that he was able to revive the dead. Angry that the son of Apollo had interfered with nature and human mortality, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Asclepius, killing him. However, while they understood that interfering with natural death was wrong, humans continued to worship Asclepius as the founder of medicine.

Back to Asclepius´pupil, Paean, he was once instructed by Leto (Apollo‘s mother and goddess of fertility) to obtain a magical root growing on Mount Olympus that would soothe the pain of women in childbirth.

Asclepius became jealous and threatened to kill his pupil. Zeus saved Paean from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower. 

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On the Left: Statuette of Paeon . 2nd century. On the Right: Peony, flower.

On the Left: Statuette of Paean . 2nd century. On the Right: Peony, flower.

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►Cyparissus/ Cypress tree:

Cyparissus was a handsome young man from the island of Kea, the son of Telefus and grand son of Hercules.

He was god Apollo‘s protege as well as of god Zephiros (god of the wind). He asked the heavens for a favour; that his tears would roll down eternally. The favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed stag, which he accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay sleeping in the woods. The gods turned him into a cypress tree, whose sap forms droplets like tears on the trunk. Therefore, the cypress tree became the tree of sorrow, and a classical symbol of mourning.

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On the Left: "Cyparissus" (mourning his deer) by Jacopo Vignali. 1670. On the Right: Bald Cypress Leaves.

On the Left: “Cyparissus” (mourning his deer) by Jacopo Vignali. 1670. On the Right: Bald Cypress Leaves.

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►Phyllis, Demophon´s wife/Almond Tree:

Phyllis was a daughter of a Thracian king.

She married Demophon, King of Athens and son of Theseus, while he stopped in Thrace on his journey home from the Trojan War.

Demophon, duty bound to Greece, returns home to help his father, leaving Phyllis behind. She sends him away with a casket, telling him that it contained a sacrament of Rhea and asking him to open it only if he has given up hope of returning to her. From here, the story diverges. In one version, Phyllis realizes that he will not return and commits suicide by hanging herself from a tree. Where she is buried, an almond tree grows, which blossoms when Demophon returns to he

A daughter of king Sithon, in Thrace, fell in love with Demophon on his return from Troy to Greece. Demophon promised her, by a certain day, to come back from Athens and marry her, and as he was prevented from keeping his word, Phyllis hung herself, but was metamorphosed into an almond-tree, which is a symbol of hope and rebirth.

In my previous post, I also made reference to another myth featuring an almond tree, which I will summarize here again.

This myth involved Cybele, his son Agdistis and his grandson Attis.

Medallion depicting Cybele and the sun god in the sky looking on as she rides in her chariot. 2nd century BC

Medallion depicting Cybele and Helios, the sun god in the sky looking from above as she rides in her chariot. 2nd century BC

Cybele (the so called “Great Mother”) gave birth to the hermaphroditic demon Agdistis.

Afraid of such creature, Cybele cut off his male sexual organ and from its blood sprang an almond tree.

When its fruit was ripe, Nana, who was a daughter of the river-god Sangarius, picked an almond and laid it in her bosom.

The almond disappeared, and she became pregnant.

Soon after the baby (named Attis) was born, Nana abandoned him, but a couple took care of him. 

When he was a young man, the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king’s daughter. 

Just as the marriage had started, Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, as she was jealous because she had fallen in love with Attis (his grandson).

Attis went mad, cut off his genitals and died. From Attis’ blood sprang the first violets.

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On the Left: "Phyllis and Demophoön" by John William Waterhouse. 19th century. On the Right: Almond Trees.

On the Left: “Phyllis and Demophon” by John William Waterhouse. 19th century. On the Right: Almond Trees.

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►The Nymph Pitys/The Fir tree:
Pan, the god of the wild and shepherds, was in love with the nymph Pitys. The god of the North wind was also attracted to Pity, but the nymph chose Pan over him.
The North Wind wanted to take revenge so he blew her over a gorge and killed her.
Pan found her lifeless body laying in the gorge and turned her into sacred tree, the Fir-tree.
Ever since, every time the North wind blows, Pitys cries. Her tears are the pitch droplets that leak out of the fir-cones in autumn.
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On the Left: "Pan and Pitys" by Edward Calvert. 1850. On the Right: Fir Trees.

On the Left: “Pan and Pitys” by Edward Calvert. 1850. On the Right: Fir Trees.

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►Rose, created by the goddess of flowers, Chloris, from a dead Nymph:

"Flora and Zephy" by Bouguereau. 1875.

“Flora and Zephy” by Bouguereau. 1875.

In Greek mythology, the rose was created by the goddess of flowers, Chloris (Roman equivalent: Flora).

One day, Chloris found the lifeless body of a nymph in the forest and she turned her into a flower.

She called Aphrodite, goddess of love, and Dionysus, the god of wine.

Aphrodite gave the flower beauty as her gift and Dionysus added nectar to give it a sweet fragrance. Zephiros, god of the West Wind, blew the clouds away so Apollo, the sun-god, could shine and make the flower bloom. That is how the rose was created and rightfully crowned “Queen of Flowers”.

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On the Left: Chloris. Detail "Primavera" by Sandro Botticelli.1478. On the Right: Rose Flower.

On the Left: Chloris. Detail “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli.1478. On the Right: Rose Flower.

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►Orchis (son of a nymph and a satyr)/Orchid Plant:

In Greek mythology, Orchis was the son of a nymph (a female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform) and a satyr (a rustic fertility spirits of the countryside and wilds).

During a celebratory feast for Dionysus, Orchis committed the sacrilege of attempting to rape a priestess.

His punishment was to being torn apart by wild beasts. From his death arose Orchids which are a testament to the male reproductive organs (the testis). Today, the orchid means refinement as well as beauty. The origin of the plant name comes from the word orkhis, a word to describe part of the male genitalia, because of the shape of the bulbous roots. 

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On the Left: Fight between Nymph and Satyr. Naples National Archaeological Museum. On the Right: Orchid Plant and flowers.

On the Left: Fight between Nymph and Satyr. Naples National Archaeological Museum. On the Right: Orchid Plant and flowers.

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Flowers and Plants

Flowers and Plants: Peony, Rose, Orchid, Cypress (Leaves), Crocus, Mint (Leaves), Almond Tree (Flowers), Fir Tree (Branch).

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►Links Post:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocus_(mythology)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyparissus
http://amphipolis.gr/en/fyllis/
http://www.valentine.gr/mythology5_en.php
http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Paion.html
http://www.mythindex.com/greek-mythology/P/Phyllis.html
http://www.ancient-literature.com/rome_ovid_metamorphoses.html
https://tropicalfloweringzone.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/dendrobiums-orchids/
http://www.dominiquehackettchc.com/mint-wonderful-go-to-herb/
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