22. Dec, 2016

When Old is New Again

I relax and pick up my latest book and become a hero. I am transported through time to a land where I have to face a woman who can turn me to stone at a glance. In another chapter I am ordered to jump off a cliff. I turn the pages further and become a god. Now, I am forced to stay in the land of the dead for a third of each year, indefinitely! I can't put my book down as I am shut into a tight-security bronze cell. How will I escape?

I close the book and take a breath. These stories can be scary. There is romance, but if you ignore the vast amounts it's not that bad. Where did I find these cool new stories? Who are these awesome authors? What if I told you they have been around for thousands of years? Now for the reveal: It's Ancient Greek mythology!

I owe thanks for my discovery of the Ancient Greek myths to Rick Riordan; his Percy Jackson series was the perfect introduction. I continue to enjoy his modern spin on these stories, but have also checked out the original stories, which are just as exciting. I'll give you the start of some of the legends, but not the whole thing!

My favourite story has to be Psyche's. She was unbelievably beautiful and though she was mortal the others went as far as to worship her. They did this in place of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. She was angry and sent her son Eros to take care of things. Eros fell in love with Psyche but didn't dare tell his mum. Psyche was given a prophecy from the Oracle that she should go to the highest spire of rock on a certain cliff and jump. There she would marry a monster…

I also like Hercules. He's probably the most famous Ancient Greek hero ever, but his tale is really gruesome in some parts. His mortal mum was cursed by Hera (the goddess of marriage) for marrying Zeus (the king of the gods), who was already Hera's husband. Once born, Hercules made it obvious that he hated Hera. Frightened, Hercules' mum left him in the wild to die. Zeus was watching out for Hercules and sent the wise goddess Athena down to collect him. Athena decided that she should give Hera the baby to look after - she wouldn't even know who it was…

In the tale of Theseus he faces the dreaded Minotaur in a labyrinth. His mum Aethra married a king, Aegeus, but had a fling with Poseidon, the sea god. Aegeus wasn't that angry. Earlier that day, Aegeus and Aethra had prayed to the gods for a son (everyone wanted one in those days) so this was their answer. Aegeus said he would claim the baby for his own though, if it was a boy. Aethra agreed. Theseus was born but he didn't even know who his dad was… It's a really interesting story.

Perseus' grandfather King Acrisius was a nasty piece of work. There was a prophecy that his daughter Danaë would have a son who would kill him and take his throne. Acrisius was so worried that he shut Danaë into his hardiest cell so that she could never marry. She cried and prayed for help and Zeus heard her from up on Mount Olympus. He thought she was beautiful and visited her as golden glitter through the air shaft. They had a baby, which was Perseus. Acrisius found out about this and was furious. His guards built a large box with a few air holes. He didn't want to kill Danaë outright or the gods would kill him, so he did this instead. But anything could happen to them out at sea and he wouldn't even be blamed for it…

And now for some gods. Persephone was absolutely beautiful and she was Demeter's favourite daughter. Demeter, goddess of the harvest, denied all marriage requests because she didn't want anything to happen to her. All the other gods accepted that Persephone was a bad choice except for Hades. Hades was the god of the Underworld which is, according to Ancient Greek Mythology, the place where you go when you die. He asked Zeus for help, and Zeus assisted Hades in kidnapping Persephone. She was terrified and knew that if she even ate one thing in the Underworld she would have to stay there for eternity…

So there are chunks of some Ancient Greek myths for you. They are not for the faint-hearted - a dad eats his children, there is torture in unimaginable ways, sacrifices and worst of all, LOVE. But personally, I think these age-old tales are awesome!