Today I’m pleased to present a very special guest blog from one of my favorite mythology re-writers, Molly Ringle. If you haven’t checked out the Crysomelia Series yet, you’re missing out. But don’t worry, you can fix it. The first book is only .99 cents today on kindle, so if you were ever going to start the series, now is a great time.
Molly is here today to talk about a character featured in each of our books. Adonis. So without further ado, let me turn things over to her.
Hi everyone! I’m Molly Ringle, a fan of Kaitlin Bevis’ and a writer of my own trilogy of Greek-myth-based novels, which starts with Persephone’s Orchard. This week we’re exchanging guest posts on one of the characters we’ve both featured fondly: Adonis.
People usually know what it means to be called “an Adonis:” namely, the person in question is a beautiful, desirable male. Such figures are much adored by legions of women; in the modern world they’re often celebrities known for their good looks. (I ran a search on “Adonis” on Pinterest just now, and got several photos of Harry Styles, among others.)
In mythology, Adonis was a youth so beautiful that even the goddess of love herself, Aphrodite, could not resist him. The pair became legendary lovers, but their relationship was plagued by complications and tragedies, as is typical in Greek mythology. At one point—sources usually say it was in Adonis’ infancy—Aphrodite, already charmed with him, sent him to the Underworld for safe keeping in Persephone’s care. But Persephone became entranced with Adonis as well, and refused to give him back. Zeus had to settle the case: Adonis was to spend four months of every year henceforth with Persephone, four with Aphrodite, and four in whatever way he chose. (People usually say he chose to be with Aphrodite for those.)
That arrangement is curiously like Persephone’s own: part of the year in the Underworld, part of the year in the upper world. Adonis’ ties to the land of the dead end up manifesting in another way too. In mythology, he dies young, usually said to be killed by a boar sent by a jealous rival. Ares, god of war and intimately involved with Aphrodite himself, is often named as the culprit. The heartbroken Aphrodite brings Adonis to new life, in a sense, by transforming his blood into the red anemone flower. And some versions of the myth claim that, like Persephone, Adonis still gets to spend half the year above ground with his lover, even after his death.
Thus he belongs to the class of resurrection deities, or dying-and-rising gods, a group in world religions that also includes figures such as Osiris, Attis, Dionysos, and Jesus. In Ancient Greece there were cults and festivals dedicated to Adonis, in which celebrants (most often women) lamented the yearly death of the lovely young man, and honored the new life that would arise from his sacrifice—a representation, most say, of the cycle of agriculture, in which plants must fall at harvest time but will sprout again in spring.
In my series, we first meet Adonis briefly in Persephone’s Orchard as a handsome young mortal, a favorite of Aphrodite’s. In the second book, Underworld’s Daughter, we get a closer look at his unhappy childhood, and his disappointment at remaining mortal while his beloved entertains so many enviably immortal men and refuses to be fully faithful to Adonis. After an emotional breakup with her, Adonis ill-advisedly picks a fight with Ares, and takes a lethal knife wound to the belly. Hermes and Aphrodite rush him to the Underworld, hoping for some miracle from Persephone or Hekate, which they get…and that’s where my version really starts to diverge from tradition.
The Underworld magic makes Adonis immortal, but he is still estranged from Aphrodite (who leaves after making sure his life is saved), so he decides to roam the Mediterranean a while and take on a new identity to go with his new immortality. Hearing legends about a dying-and-rising god called Dionysos (who doesn’t truly exist in my version; he’s just a myth), and finding Dionysos’ legends similar to his own story, Adonis drops his old name and takes on that one. Henceforth he will be Dionysos, god of wine, revels, madness, and death-and-resurrection festivals.
Nowhere in mythology does anyone claim that Adonis and Dionysos are one and the same, by the way. I am aware of this. But it struck me that they shared many similarities, and not just because they’re both resurrection deities. Both are also fairly peaceable and non-warlike compared to most of the male gods (although look out for their followers, who might rip you apart). Both have cults that are primarily made up of women. Apparently the rites were often similar in both types of cults, too. So, in my self-appointed task of writing crazy fan-fiction about Greek mythology, I decided I could make a case for this unusual move.
Then, more remarkable still, in reading Kaitlin’s latest installments of the Daughters of Zeus series, I discovered she’s made a similar transformation with Adonis! She wraps his identity up with that of another god too (SPOILERS!)—Eros, in her case; which makes sense, given Eros also has a close link to Aphrodite in the myths, and Adonis surely inspires passion in the world just about as much as Eros does. Kaitlin and I had no idea we were both writing the same type of plot detail for this character (though plenty of our other details differ), which makes it especially interesting: is there something inherent about the archetype of Adonis that suggests transformation? His death-and-resurrection-ness? His being passionately worshipped yet wrapped in mystery? His blend of good fortune and victimhood?
Probably all of that. Adonis may be known these days as merely a pretty face, but like all the Greek gods, he represents so much more than that, and it turns out Kaitlin and I, along with a lot of other people, can come up with quite a bit to say about him. If our new retellings give people a fresh and interesting way to think about the myths, then they were worth writing!
Molly Ringle became fascinated with the colorful weirdness of the Greek myths when she was a kid, and after writing several other novels of love and the paranormal, she finally wrote the Persephone-and-Hades story that had been evolving in her head all those years. It turned into a three-book series, much to her own surprise. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and sons, and she honestly loves the rainy climate there.