Friday, June 3, 2011

Perseus and the Journey Moon

The New Journey Moon

New Journey Moon 2009:
Journey Moon is New

Journey Moon 2010:
The Journey Moon

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Once upon a time, an oracle in the Greek city of Argos told the king that he would be killed by the son of his daughter, Danaë. The king quickly shut his daughter and grandson, Perseus, in a wooden chest and set it adrift in the sea. After two days and two nights the wooden chest made landfall and was broken open by a man named Polydectes
, the brother of the king of this new land. Danaë and her son lived on this new island for many happy years and one day Polydectes asked Danaë to be his wife. When Perseus, now a young man, objected Polydectes sent him on a quest to bring back the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. Perseus promised to bring the head as a wedding gift for his mother, but Polydectes was sure the young hero would never return.



When Perseus had made his promise, he went out from the palace and sat on the cliffs of Seriphos. While he was gazing at the white-capped
sea, Mercury, the messenger of the gods, appeared before him and promised help from himself and from Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Minerva would lend her shield, Mercury offered his sword of light, and both agreed to guide him to the land of the setting sun, where the three Gray Sisters lived. These sisters would tell him the way to the home of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were beautiful nymphs who had three magic treasures, which Perseus must get before he could reach the land of the Gorgons.
Leaving Seriphos, Perseus began his long journey to the land of the setting sun. When he arrived there he found the three Gray Sisters. They were the strangest beings that he had ever seen. They had among them only one eye and one tooth, which they passed in turn from one to another.
When Perseus reached their dwelling the door was wide-open, and so he walked in. He was overjoyed to find the three sisters all taking a nap, with their one eye and one tooth lying beside them; and he quickly seized both these treasures. That done, he awakened the sisters and inquired of them the way to the home of the Hesperides. At first they refused to tell him, but when they found that he had their eye and tooth, they quickly told him how to go. He then gave them back the eye and the tooth. It did not take him long to reach the home of the Hesperides. It was an island in the Western Ocean. The nymphs had been told by Minerva that he was coming. So when he arrived they gave him welcome and agreed to lend him their magic treasures.
"The distance across the sea to the home of the Gorgons is great," said one of the nymphs to Perseus. "Take therefore these winged sandals of gold. With them you can fly through the air like an eagle."
"The Gorgon's head," said another of the nymphs, "must be kept in this magic wallet, lest you look upon the terrible face and be turned to stone."
"To get near the Gorgons," added the third, "you must wear this cap of darkness, so that you may see without being seen."
The hero then slung the wallet over his shoulder, put the sandals upon his feet, and the cap upon his head, and vanished. As swift as lightning, he crossed the dark waters and reached the home of the Gorgons. They were all asleep. Without looking at them Perseus held up the shield of Minerva and saw reflected upon it the frowning face of Medusa. With one blow from the sword of Mercury he struck off her head, and without looking at it placed it within his wallet. Then he hurried away from the weird place.
The other Gorgons awoke at once and followed him in furious haste; but as he wore his cap of darkness they could not see him, and with his sandal wings he flew so fast that he was soon too far for them to follow.
As he was flying along the coast of Africa he heard the sound of weeping. He looked down and saw a beautiful girl chained to a rock at the water's edge. Hastening to her, he took off his cap of darkness that she might see him and exclaimed, "Fair maiden, why are you chained to this rock?"
"Alas!" she said, "I have been offered as a sacrifice to Neptune. You cannot save me, however much you want to."
Her words made Perseus the more determined to help her. "Why is Neptune angry?" he asked. "And who has dared to treat you so cruelly?"
"I am Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of this land," replied the maiden. "My mother boasted that I was more beautiful than any nymph in Neptune's palace. Her pride enraged Neptune so that he raised great storms and sent a terrible monster to devour our people. The priests said that if I were offered to him the rest of the people would be spared."
Then with the sword of light Perseus cut the chain which bound Andromeda to the rock. At this moment the monster, huge and ugly, came plowing through the water. Perseus could not be seen because he had put on his cap of darkness, and before the creature could harm the maiden its head was cut off by the sword of light.
On his swift-winged sandals Perseus, with Andromeda in his arms, now flew to the palace of Cepheus and Cassiopeia.
There had been many glad weddings before that of Perseus and Andromeda, but none was ever more joyful. For he was admired as a wonderful hero, and everyone loved the girl who had been willing to give her life to save her people.
After the wedding Perseus went back to Seriphos, taking Andromeda with him. When he reached the island Polydectes was in his palace feasting, and Perseus hastened at once to the banquet hall and said to the king:
"See! I have brought that which you desired."
With these words he held up the head of the Gorgon. The king and his courtiers gave one look and were instantly turned to stone.
The Gorgon's head had now done its work; so Perseus carried it to a temple of Minerva and there offered it to the goddess. Ever after she wore it upon her shield, and its snaky ringlets and frowning face are to be seen upon her statues. The sword of light was given back to Mercury, who also returned the winged sandals, the magic wallet and the cap of darkness to the Hesperides.
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Faithful readers of my blog will know of my recent enjoyment of the Percy Jackson and the Olympian books. I have a real soft spot for young adult fantasy novels and these are some of the best examples of the genre I've ever read. In these kinds of books the authors can use the cover of the fantasy elements to present and explore The Big Questions In Life that teens are beginning to grapple with. If I didn't feel such a strong calling to be a math teacher I would want to be a middle school literature teacher so I could explore issues of parent/child relationships, friendships, loyalty, duty, life calling, reciprocity, betrayal and revenge that permeate the Percy Jackson (and so many other YA Fantasy) books.
One element so clearly present in these books is the theme of the hero's journey. Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes the hero's journey as an archetypical myth in which "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." That pretty much sums up Percy Jackson in 50 words or less.
One of the reasons that Annette Hinshaw's calendar has remained such a deep well of inspiration for me is that each month is an archetype that resonates with both the outer experience of the season as well as my own inner life at any given point in the year. This month is called the Journey Moon, that time in early summer where it is easy to imagine setting off on a quest of your own and a time to examine the quests you are already on. No matter how tame we may see our lives as, we are on a journey through life. It can be very useful to have the stories of outer journeys to foreign or magical lands to help us frame our own, often more tame, journeys through relationships, jobs and daily life. There are fabulous forces all around us, and we all come back from our adventures with the power to bestow boons. They just usually aren't as spectacular as the Hesperides or a Gorgon Head and can often be mistaken for luck or nothing special.
What journey are you undertaking this early summer? What supernatural forces are aiding you a long the way and what wonders have you already found on your quest? What is your favorite Hero's Journey tale - are you more a Odysseus and Beowulf fan or a Star Wars and Harry Potter fan? George Fox or Guatama Buddha? Spiderman or Bilbo Baggins? Whatever kind of journey you are on, god bless you and keep you well as you wander this summer. Bring back souvenirs! :)
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The first three images come from Olive Beaupre Miller's The Adventures of Perseus found in her 1920 The Treasure Chest of My Bookhouse. They were accessed through the Florida Center for Instructional Technology Clearninghouse clip art library. Search for the keyword Perseus. The photo is probably copyright of George Lucas or something, just don't tell anyone I used it, OK?

1 comment:

fillingcalix said...

Under the patronage of Thor,I'm stepping on to the path of the (Spiritual, I assume) Warrior, training my body and mind to be strong and flexible. I don't know what battles I need to be prepared for, but The God has said "Prepare." So I must.