Poseidon

The Grove

December, 2010

Poseidon

Poseidon2 The Grove

The Wheel turns & with it comes the creaking of oars & the smell of brine. The sun retreats for the year once again & I’m finding it hard to remember the promise of spring. It’s clear I needed some time out. Which is why I find myself on the shore watching a bit of driftwood get pulled around by the waves. I know how you feel, I think at it.

I try to divert my mind from dwelling on my problems by studying the waves as they crash against the sand. Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m here at this time. If I understood the article I read recently correctly, there was a month that corresponds roughly to January/December that was named for Poseidon in Athens & other parts of  Greece. I admit I have never fully understood the Hellenic calendar system. It doesn’t help when calendars seemed to vary from polis to polis. If Poseidon was meant to be a god of the seas, why would his festival month be held during a time when the Greeks were least likely to set sail?

It might be easier to understand the god himself than the days given to him.

Poseidon was the child of titans Rhea & Cronus. Cronus feared a child of his would displace him & swallowed his kids upon birth. In most versions of the myth he is devoured along with the rest of his siblings & later rescued by his brother Zeus. Another version of the story tells how Poseidon was hidden amongst a flock of sheep by his mother. Rhea the pretended to have given birth to a colt that she gave to Cronus to eat instead. Poseidon was raised on Rhodes by the Telchines whilst Zeus grew up on Crete.

After the defeat of Cronus the Olympian brothers divided the realms of the world between them. Zeus took the heavens. Hades was granted dominion over the underworld. Poseidon became ruler of oceans. In his benign aspect Poseidon was thought to offer calm seas & create new islands. However he had a quick temper.  One of his many epithets was ‘the earth shaker’. When offended he was said to hit the ground with his trident & cause earthquakes,  storms, shipwrecks, & drownings.

Poseidon was honoured as chief civic god of several cities. He vied for control of Athens with his sister Athena. Both deities wanted control of the city, & so a contest was proposed. All agreed that each would offer the Athenians a gift. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident & a spring spurted up. Unfortunately the water was salty & not at all useful. Athena presented the city with an olive tree, which provided them with wood, oil, & food.  Athena was naturally chosen as their patron.

Poseidon was also known as the father of horses. Like a lot of the Olympians, he had an eye for the ladies. Poseidon once chased after Demeter. She wasn’t interested, even going so far as to turn herself into a mare so she could blend into a herd of horses. Poseidon wasn’t fooled. He simply changed himself into a stallion & mated with her.   The resulting offspring was a horse called Arion which was capable of human speech.

I stand now at the water’s edge, letting it run over my bare toes. If I listen just right I can almost imagine the rush of the waves sounds a bit like the thunder of hooves. Remember the Earth-Shaker at this time. Draw strength from the waves as I am trying to & let them wash you clean.

The Grove

January, 2010

poseidon The Grove

The Wheel turns once again, bringing with it the silly season. Recently a well-meaning acquaintance asked me what did I have planned for the holidays. This sort of got me thinking… what was I going to do?

I don’t claim to have a complete understanding of the Athenian calendar system.

However I’ve read that in parts of ancient Greece there’s a month that roughly corresponds to our December/January that’s called Poseidon for the sea god of the same name.

Why honour Poseidon? Isn’t he just a mood-swinging meathead surfer dude chasing booty as much as waves?

To start with the basics Poseidon was most notably the god of the sea. He also presided over lakes & rivers. He was the mighty Earthshaker, the bringer of earthquakes. His trident can shake & shatter anything at his whim.

His parents were the titans Cronus & Rhea. You think your dad’s tough on you? Cronus feared a prophecy that said one of his children would overthrow him & so he ate each of his newborn offspring as they came along. Rhea managed to hide the infant Zeus, who eventually liberated his siblings by causing daddy to vomit them all back up. After Cronus was overthrown, somebody had to take up the slack. The Olympians held a lottery to determine who took control of each realm. Hades drew the Underworld, Poseidon was granted control of the oceans, & Zeus got the heavens.

Poseidon was never quite content with his lot in life. Although his kingdom was huge, he was still under the ultimate rule of Zeus. Once he grew tired of living in the shadow of his brother & attempted to knock him from his lofty perch. The attempt failed, of course. Clever Zeus was able to escape & punished the perpetrators. You think being grounded for a week with no TV is rough? Zeus exiled Apollo & Poseidon from Olympus, sending them to a year of hard labour helping to build the walls of Troy as humans. No magick, no funky tricks to make the job easier. Harsh!

Perhaps he had a little bit of a greedy streak. He has a history of land disputes, the most notable being the squabble he had with Athena over control of Athens. A competition seemed fair. Whoever gave the finest gift would take the city. Poseidon gave what he knew best: water. He struck the ground with his trident & a spring shot up. Unfortunately it was brackish & unfit for consumption. Athena gave the olive tree. It was able to grow on the rocky Greek soil, providing the people with a source of food, oil, fibres to weave, & opportunities for trade. Guess who lost out?

Sure, he could be a bit cranky at times. Usually quick to take offence, Poseidon turned revenge into an artform. Remember when Odysseus got on his bad side? He got upset when the hero blinded his one-eyed monstrous son Cyclops, nevermind that Odysseus was trying to defend the lives of his shipwrecked crew! Try telling that to the Sea Lord. Poseidon went on an 8-year-long rampage, throwing everything from storms to deadly monsters at him.

His tendency to try & take what he wanted regardless of consequence extended to women too. One of his more noteworthy conquests was the goddess Demeter. A version of myth describes how he tried to get her mind off her grief over losing her daughter Persephone by hitting her up. She wasn’t having any of it. The goddess turned herself into a mare & hid amongst a herd of horses. Persistent Poseidon merely turned himself into a stallion & raped her.

Eventually Poseidon married the goddess Amphitrite, the living embodiment of the sea. Hubby was often unfaithful, but she usually turned a blind eye to his  flings. Then there was the nympth Scylla. A jealous Amphitrite threw certain herbs into the nymph’s bath & changed her into a grotesque monster.

Whilst he undeniably had his negative side, consider this. Men once prayed to Poseidon & made offerings to the Sea Lord in hopes of having a safe journey. He could calm storms with his presence & sea beasts would rise to swim playfully around his chariot. He could bless land to make it fertile & gave protection to sailors.

Ultimately his lesson is one of personal strength. He wasn’t happy to settle for second-best & tried to throw off the mantle of an intolerable situation. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly in some way, remember what the Sea Lord stands for. Succeed or fail, the act of trying can initiate change & bring energies of growth into your life. Whilst his methodologies were certainly questionable at times, Poseidon encourages us to reach for goals that might seem impossible. His gift is that of possibilities.