Jenna December, 2010
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.