Mythology Monday: Cupid, Psyche and a Guest Blog

Hi guys,

This week we’re going to break format a little to do something special for a very special set of myths. Today we have a guest blog from the author of Struck: What’s Really Real?, Maya Mirza-Gill, with a peek at her work in progress inspired by her favorite myth followed by my telling of the myth (so keep scrolling). Because this myth is a long one, instead of doing the Way Back Wednesdays this week, I’m going to be posting a picture from a story inspired by the myth with each blog and skipping For Real Friday in favor of telling the rest of the myth. Enjoy 🙂

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“Whoever said it was a ‘damsel’ in distress was an enormous idiot,” Sky exclaimed, hitching her skirt up high above her knees.

“That’s elegant,” smirked Coop, lying on the bank behind her. “A lady standing in the middle of a river of… well…” he searched for a word, “mud, showing off her bare legs for all to see!”

Sky rolled her eyes and pulled her foot up through the sticky mud and thrust it forwards, shuddering as the mud squelched beneath her feet. “Well, I am trying to save your highness.” She scoffed, bracing herself to repeat her jagged, stilted walk across the muddy river.

“You know, I’d believe that if I didn’t know you were planning on using the box for your own beauty,” Coop rolled over onto his back.

Sky blushed. Coop didn’t know why she needed it. “I am not!” She mumbled, flailing her arms about for balance. “And its ‘Sky’.”

“Careful, Eeks,” Coop’s voice sounded playful again, “You don’t want the Thunderer to come whisk you away for playtime.”

Sky’s face went bright red, again. “Excuse me?” She put her arm on her hip, trying to look menacing and offended.

Coop reeled off laughter, watching the tiny girl in a big, pink dress, standing in mud, with a defiant expression that resembled a dirty kitten more than the menacing creature she deemed herself.

After watching him laugh for a few moments, Sky sighed, turning around again. “Will you just go away and let me do this?” Exhaled Sky, taking another trudging step forwards.

“And miss out on all this fun?”

“You’re so annoying!” exclaimed Sky. “I don’t know why I’m bothering saving your sorry butt in the first place.”

“Because I am dashingly handsome and you crave my company,” piped up Coop.

Despite herself, Sky stole a glance at him; he was staring at the sky and his brown hair was flopped over onto the grass. His blue eyes were suddenly on hers and Sky flinched. “Aren’t I, Eeks?”

Sky shook her head. “No… that’s definitely not it.” Stupid, Beautiful Deity.

“You could say you owe me,” Coop pressed a blade of grass between his teeth. “For scarring and maiming me with mortality.”

“I-…” Sky stopped short. With how cocky and annoying Coop could be, she often forgot that she had badly injured him; and he had saved her life. His back was scarred with the loss of his beautiful blue wings.

Coop sat up, wincing, “Eeks, I’m only joking!” He watched her expression become unreadable from guilt.

Sky was almost an eighth of the way into the river now, Coop was looking smaller and smaller as she made her way across.

“You might want to hurry up; I’m mortal now so I’d rather be saved before I die of old age!” Coop shouted towards her.

“Go home then!” Sky shouted back, “you’re distracting me!”

“That’s because you can’t help but be pulled in by my devilish good looks and charm!” He struck Apollo’s signature pose from the perfume ads; leaving Sky in a momentarily carefree fit of giggles.

“You seriously have nothing better to do than watch me wade waist deep into a mud and bring back a fire-breathing sheep?”

“The sheep doesn’t breathe fire! It is MADE of fire, Eeks,” Coop shook his head, mockingly, “honestly, you’re such a dunce with myth.”

I knew that…. Why did he have to be such a damn know-it-all? “Just because you’re a million years old you’re PART of the myth. And stop calling me that!” Sky retorted, getting annoyed again.

“Eeeks? Aww but, it suits you so well! You’re ickle, and you’re a scaredy-cat, and you have this mouse like expression permanently glued to your face. Eeks!” Coop carried on making fun of her, laughing at himself.

“GO AWAY!” Sky’s breathing was getting heavier as the mud was getting thicker and heavier. She was very deeply waded into the mud now.

Myth inspiration:

My all-time favourite myth is the Hades/Persephone, East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Norwegian folk tale) and Beauty and the Beast one. Because all of these seem to stem from Cupid and Psyche. I love how the tale has evolved and adapted into so many retellings and adaptations; and so when it came to writing some flash fiction, I had to go with my gut instinct love for Cupid and Psyche.

I do have an entire novel in mind, but won’t be starting it up for a while; this is a sneak peek into the story. Hence the names: Sky is a play on Psyche (changing round the sounds of this name) and Coop is like Cupid. I am excited to start this novel, but haven’t yet becase I am working on my first trilogy, and having published the first novel, Struck, I have begun work on the sequel.

The Myth as told by Kaitlin Bevis:

20140314-114621.jpgOnce upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Psyche. She was the youngest of three daughters. Her two older sisters were also beautiful, but only in an ordinary, human way. After they were married, her parents consulted an oracle inquiring what to do about their inhumanly beautiful daughter. They were a bit worried her beauty would inspire the wrath of the gods.

It already had. Poor Psyche was so beautiful that the people of her kingdom worshiped her instead of Aphrodite. They claimed she was a second coming of Aphrodite, or at least her daughter.

In truth, Psyche was neither. She was a completely typical human unlucky enough to be compared to a goddess. Aphrodite sent Eros to get revenge on the girl who dared to be beautiful. Meanwhile, the parents received troubling news from the oracle. Instead of expecting a human son-in-law, their daughter would marry a dragon that even Zeus feared.

Terrified, they dressed their daughter up for a funeral and marched her up the mountain. But Eros, sent from Aphrodite to exact her revenge, saw the princess and immediately fell in love. With the help of Zephyrus, the western wind, he spirited the princess away.

Psyche woke up in a beautiful meadow and decided to go exploring. Soon she discovered a beautiful house and a random, creepy, echo told her to make herself comfortable. In a very “Beauty and the Beast”-esq scene, she is entertained by a feast that serves itself and instruments that play by themselves. She dances along to “Be Our Guest” and eventually finds herself in a bedroom where she has sex with a man cloaked in darkness and kindness. He won’t allow her to look upon his face and always departs before sunrise.

To be continued on Wednesday

 About Myra:

My name is Maya Mirza-Gill, I am a new author, I live in London, UK and I studied English Literature at University. I love reading, and writing, including on my website www.mayamirzagill.com – where I post reviews, snippets of work and also ootd inspired by novels and characters. You can stay up-to-date with me on twitter (@mayamaomao) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/mayamirzagillwebsite).

Myra’s work:

I have recently published my novel; Struck which is a Young Adult Fantasy Fiction about a girl called Dawn who travels through time. She meets a boy called Stephan, but as she tries to get back everything gets more and more complicated; making her question what’s really real.

Mythology Monday: Hestia

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Hestia arrived right on time. The goddess was soft-spoken and diminutive. After looking askance at my papasan chair with her smoldering gray eyes, she created a side room for our lessons that contained a simple wooden table and two wooden chairs. The most interesting thing in the room was the fireplace.

Then she took one of the seats, motioning for me to take the other. In her soft voice she gave me a brief rundown on all the living gods and proceeded to tell me the history of the gods of Olympus. She spoke for precisely one hour and fifty minutes, leaving ten minutes for questions.

~@~

Hestia was one of the original six children of Cronus and Rhea. She was the goddess of the hearth and home. The Romans called her Vesta. She is both the oldest and the youngest daughter (born first, thrown up last). However, I replaced that bit of her with Demeter for story telling purposes. Hestia never married, swearing to always be a virgin (hence the vestal virgins). She chose no symbol for herself, and for a god as widely worshiped as she was (every house honored Hestia) was remarkably quiet and drama free. When any offering was made to any god, a small offering to her preceded it. In my story, she teaches Persephone the history of the gods.

Mythology Monday: Mother’s

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In honor of Mother’s day next week, I’m dedicating this week to the amazing mom’s in Greek mythology. Ancient cultures may not have had the most respect for women in general, but they respected the role of motherhood. Here’s the top three mommy myths in Greek mythology. By the way, I’m leaving both Hera and Gaia off this list because in my opinion they sucked as mothers.

Demeter

I’ve already went into Demeter’s myth at length several Mythology Mondays ago, but I can’t leave her out of this list.

She was by all accounts, an awesome mom. She took great care of Persephone, protected her, and kept her out of the drama of Olympus, no small feat.

When her daughter went missing, she scoured the earth to find her and didn’t rest until her daughter was returned to her arms.

It’s a pretty epic myth, all things considered and in my opinion the most powerful myth about motherhood in Greek mythology.

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Rhea

Rhea was married to a kind of awful guy. And yes, it took him eating a couple of her kids to realize the true depths of his depravity, but eventually that mothering instinct took over and rather than allow Cronus to kill Zeus, she, at great risk to herself, snuck him away and tricked her husband. Later, she gives Zeus the tools he needs to save her other children. This decision cost her a kingdom, a husband, every bit of status she had ever gained. She wasn’t killed with the rest of the Titans but she faded into obscurity.

"For two days and two nights the boat was and hither and thither" by Walter Crane - The story of Greece : told to boys and girls (191-?) by Macgregor, Mary. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:For_two_days_and_two_nights_the_boat_was_and_hither_and_thither.jpg#/media/File:For_two_days_and_two_nights_the_boat_was_and_hither_and_thither.jpg

“For two days and two nights the boat was and hither and thither” by Walter Crane – The story of Greece : told to boys and girls (191-?) by Macgregor, Mary. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:For_two_days_and_two_nights_the_boat_was_and_hither_and_thither.jpg#/media/File:For_two_days_and_two_nights_the_boat_was_and_hither_and_thither.jpg

Danae

Danae was a princess whose child was fated to kill her father. Her dad locked her up so no man could reach her, but that didn’t stop Zeus. As punishment for getting knocked up, her father locked her and her baby in a coffin and threw them out to sea so Poseidon would get the blame for killing them, not him. Poseidon didn’t cooperate so mom and son, Perseus, made it to shore, where a king fell in love with her. She wasn’t interested in marriage (no doubt emotionally scarred from her horrible treatment with her father), but the king raised Perseus and agreed not to pursue her for awhile anyway. When Perseus grew up, the king lost patience and tried to marry Danae, but Perseus used Medusa’s head to turn him to stone.

That tells me a few things about Danae. The main one being she’s an awesome mother. Perseus loved her enough to go to great risk and kill a father figure for the love of his mom. That means rather than shutting down or blaming Perseus for all the trouble he brought her, she kept mothering on like a good human being. Given her insane childhood, that’s kind of awesome, so props to Danae.

So there you have it. My top three favorite Mom myths in Greek mythology. What’s your favorite Greek mother?

Mythology Monday: Charon

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 Dinner chatter began on the far side of the table, seeming to revolve around Charon recounting his day on the ferry. I stared down at the white tablecloth, trying to remember which of the silver utensils I needed to use for the first course. A silver plate was placed before me with a fried pink oyster mushroom served with grapefruit. It was topped with an orange nasturtium blossom. “So . . . ” I turned to Moirae, who glared daggers at me, and quickly turned back to Hades. “Uh, what did you do today?”

He looked surprised by the question. “It’s barely been an hour since I last saw you.”

“It’s called small talk,” I snapped. “You should try it some time.”

He sighed. “Fine. I spoke with Hestia about your history lessons, arranged for you to begin self-defense lessons with Charon—”

“What?” Charon piped up from his end of the table. “When did that happen?”

“Just now,” Hades said around a bite of chicken. “I’m multitasking.”

“Why does she need to learn self-defense?” Aeacus asked. I

popped the flower into my mouth, savoring the spicy flavor. I wondered how they’d known I was a vegan. Everyone had something different on their plates. Maybe it was just a cool Underworld trick, like the rooms decorating themselves.

“You’re going to have Charon teach her?” asked Thanatos. “He won’t be able to shut up long enough to teach her a single move. I’m way better at self-defense.”

“Not everyone can kill someone just by touching them,” Hypnos pointed out.

“You’ll be busy guarding Persephone any time she leaves the palace.” He looked at me. “You’re perfectly safe in all but the public areas of the palace. Only certain souls can enter the living quarters. Just stay out of the public sections, the ballroom, the front lobby, the banquet hall, and the court room, unless either myself, Cassandra, or Thanatos are with you.”

“Hah!” Thanatos laughed at Charon. “You may be the self-defense guru, or whatever, but I’m the one people want around if there’s any real trouble.”

 Charon snorted. “Give us a week, Thanatos. Persephone will be able to kick your bony ass across the Styx.”

The table erupted into cacophony. Everyone was talking over everyone else, adding wagers and jesting with each other. Lethians deftly ducked between the dueling deities, serving the main course. A plate of corn-filled phyllo tulips and eggplant topped with tomato sauce was put in front of me and I took a nervous bite.

“You’re on!” Thanatos replied. He gave me a devilish grin. “One week, Persephone.”

“That’s okay,” I squeaked. I didn’t want to go hand to hand against Death. No one heard me.

 ~@~

Charon is the ferryman of the Underworld. He takes the newly departed from the entrance of the Underworld across the River Styx. In most versions of his myth he charges a coin (usually an obelisk, and some myths say two) for the passage. This was the reasoning behind putting coins on the eyes of the dead. People didn’t want their loved ones stranded in the Underworld. My version of Charon charges no such fee, and he’s also much more friendly than his mythological counterpart.

He’s yet another child of Nyx and Erabus, so I guess he’s Thanatos’ and Hypnos’ half-brother. His name means “keen gaze” which may refer to that fixed, unmoving gaze that corpse have (you’re welcome for the creepy imagery of the day). There’s not a lot of active mythology about Charon. He’s present in a ton of artwork and is mentioned in most epics or heroic quests, but other than taking people back and forth he doesn’t have a very active roll.

He’s supposed to be ugly and unkept, with a long, straggly, greasy beard. My Charon is cleaner, but I suppose hand rowing a ferry full of people back and forth over a misty, swampy river multiple times a day could take a toll on your appearance.

Mythology Monday: The Fates

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Dinner was awkward, mostly because I finally got to meet Moirae. The “Fates” were embodied in this schizophrenic woman. She was middle-aged and average height, average build, average looking—brown hair, brown eyes, brown skin so light she could be any ethnicity. She referred to herself as “we,” and apparently had three voices vying for attention in her head at any given time. The past, present, and future; the young, middle-aged, and old; and the maiden, mother, and crone in one. Good times.

I sat next to Cassandra, and she moved me to an ornately carved wooden chair to the immediate right of where Hades would sit, heading the table. The banquet hall was surprisingly homey. I’d been expecting something as grandiose as the throne room. The floor was divided into wooden squares. The wooden paneled walls had sporadically placed paintings depicting different gods. Feeling out of place, I squirmed in my seat, watching as everyone else gathered around the table. Moirae turned in her chair to glare at me.

“It’s her,” she hissed, and then nodded in agreement with herself.

“Persephone,” I said helpfully. “Pleased to meet you.”

“You are the reason we’re down here.”

I looked at Cassandra for clarification and she shrugged. Leaning over, she whispered, “There’s a reason Hades keeps me around. She may be able to see the future too, but I’m way easier to talk to.” When I nodded in agreement, eyes wide, Cassandra laughed. “Okay, that’s not the only reason. She can’t see anyone who’s been marked.”

“Marked?”

“When a god gives someone a blessing or a curse, it interferes with their fate. They drop out of Moirae’s sight. She can’t see gods, either; that’s why Hades needs me.”

I nodded again, amazed at how badly I’d misjudged Cassandra. She was without a doubt the most important soul in the underworld. No wonder she felt comfortable taunting Hades; her position here was completely safe. I turned back to Moirae. I was dreading the answer, but had to ask, “How am I the reason you’re down here?”

“We are the fifth generation of Fates. We took our sisters’ place before the fall of the gods. Hecate, your mother, and you are meant to release us and be the sixth generation of Fates. Instead, you will choose to remain in the realm of the living. Hecate with her witches, your mother with her foolish crops. And you . . . ” She sneered. “What will you do while shirking your duties?”

I blinked. “I . . . uh . . . what? I haven’t even come into my powers yet!”

“You will.”

“There’s something to be said for a self-fulfilling prophecy,” I muttered, shaking my head. If she wanted to be mad at me for something I hadn’t even considered doing yet, fine. I wouldn’t have to feel bad for not stepping up as the next Fate later. Good. I didn’t want to be a Fate.

~@~

Pretty much every mythology has some version of the three women that control the threads of life.

They were called the Moirai. The main three in most myths were Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the allotter) and Atropos (the unturnable). The Moirai always belonged to the Underworld but through their weavings directed life on the surface. Every event in life was fated. If you did something awesome it wasn’t all that awesome because you were always going to do that. If you did something horrific, it was really the fates who determined that you did that horrible thing. People were helpless at the hands of the fates, but I imagine it took the pressure off.

The names of the fates rarely changed, but their parentage changed depending on the myth. In early mythology they were the daughters of Nyx (Night) and Ananke (Necessity.) Later myths say Zeus is their father, and their mother is Themis.

That there are three fates isn’t coincidence. Ancient Greeks were big fans of the whole mother-maiden-crone relationship so pretty much all female goddesses were part of one of these triads. Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate are one set of triple goddesses, or Artemis, Selene and Hecate, as are Athena, Brigid, and Gaia. The three furies and the three graces form two other triple sets. Athena, the virgin goddess, Aphrodite (the erm… experienced goddess), and Hera, who generationally would be considered their mother or grandmother standing in for the crone, formed another triad during their doomed beauty pageant.

I try to explain the reoccurrence of triple goddesses in my story by putting the fates as a temporary position. So the weavers would have been the first generation, Gaia and group the second, Moirae the schizophrenic the third (okay, she was never referred to as schizophrenic but there is a myth where she appeared as a single entity embodying all three of the fates, so I took that to the logical place in my head), and Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate presumably are a future generation as far as Moirae is concerned.

In my universe, Persephone and group are never going to take their place as fates, so Moirae is pretty mad about that. She can’t see the future of other gods, but she can see her own, and her position as the Fates isn’t going anywhere.

My fates don’t actually direct anything either. Free will prevails. The fates judge where souls go in the Underworld. Moirae can see the past, present, and future act of every mortal being that hasn’t been touched by a divine hand. So she can tell if drinking from the Lethe will reform a soul or if a soul truly belongs in Tartarus based on all their actions, including things they haven’t done yet.

It’s a bit of a different interpretation, but I think it works.

Mythology Monday: Cassandra

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Cassandra caught my quizzical look and shrugged. “Problems adjusting. You just missed the latest of the new souls. It would seem none of us are quite as good with people as you are.”

That was an understatement. With any luck, Cassandra hadn’t caused any psychological scarring with her “Yeah, you’re dead, get over it” speech. She wasn’t a people person. Ordinarily, I greeted the new souls and took special care to deal with any “adjustment problems.” I enjoyed that part of my work. It was one of the few good deeds I could credit myself with. But as much as I’d love to tell myself otherwise, I wasn’t settling in the souls out of the goodness of my heart. Just lack of better alternatives. The other gods had difficulties relating to humans. But those difficulties were nothing compared to the problems the humans in my court had relating to each other. Souls lose something the longer they’re dead. They forget what it was like to worry, to be scared, to be human. Just yesterday, I’d caught Cassandra telling a frightened new soul I’d gone through a dark phase back when Dante passed through, but not to worry. I hadn’t gone off my meds for centuries.

~@~

Cassandra was a Trojan Princess and by all accounts a royal beauty. She definitely caught the eye of Apollo, her patron god. He granted her and in some versions of the myth, her twin brother Helenus the gift of prophecy and tried to seduce her, but when she spat in his face (literally) he twisted gift. She would see the future, but try as she might, no one would believe her visions. Her brother was still believed according to Virgil.

Can you imagine what it would be like to know something horrible was going to happen and not do anything to stop it? She saw the Trojan War, saw every one she cared about die. Saw herself raped in the temple of Apollo by Ajax and her own death at the hands of Clytemnestra (long story, we’ll get there in another Mythology Monday). And she could do nothing to stop it.

In some version of the story she had twin boys but they were killed. Had they lived the gift of prophesy and her curse would have been passed down to her descendants.

Cassandra pops up in other myths from time to time (like Hercules) each time she is portrayed as being insane and her warnings are never taken seriously. She’s also popped up in books, movies, and television shows for centuries.  But every incarnation I’ve ever seen of Cassandra focused on one thing.

Her life sucked.

But that was life. My Cassandra’s a bit different because she’s dead. And she’s having a great time. She still has the visions, but that whole bit about no one believing her so long as she lived no longer applies. She’s Hades’ most trusted advisor, and she practically runs the Underworld. She’s over the top cheerful, but she’s got a healthy sense of snark. She doesn’t put up with much drama and has a very practical way of looking at things.

Overall, she’s one of my favorite characters

Mythology Monday: Helen of Troy

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“So,” I said when they fell silent for a minute, “you two knew each other when you were alive, right? In Troy? What was it like?”

The quality of the silence changed. I peeked through half open eyes to see Cassandra and Helen share a long look.

“I’m so sorry,” I stammered. I couldn’t believe I’d just asked that. “I didn’t think about… You two must want to forget all about—”

“It’s okay,” Helen assured me, collecting some pink powder onto an angled brush. “There are days I would give anything to drink from the Lethe.” She paused for a second before putting the blush on my face. I closed my eyes instinctively. “I think about it every morning when I wake up. Just forgetting all those horrible things. But all those people died for me. It wouldn’t be right to forget them.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Cassandra said as though reciting a familiar line from a familiar argument. “Menelaus was bound to attack Troy eventually. He was greedy. You were just—”

“A convenient excuse.” Helen’s voice was bitter.

“What happened?” I asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“You’ve heard the stories, I’m sure. You’re a daughter of Zeus, so you understand better than most the way people can change around us.”

“It’s not change,” Cassandra said. “You just bring out the—”

“I understand that,” Helen replied. “It’s still not something ordinary girls would have to worry about. But then we’re not ordinary, are we, Persephone? We’re lucky.”

I looked at her, and she saw that I understood.

“I was taken from my husband and daughter and given to Paris as a prize.”

“You had a daughter?” I shook off my surprise, remembering how different things were back then.

“Hermione.” Helen smiled fondly. “The last time I saw her was her ninth birthday. I imagine she’s down here somewhere, but she probably drank from the Lethe to forget me. They all hated me in the end.”

“You were just a scapegoat,” Cassandra reminded her.

“I wish they would have just listened to you,” Helen replied.

“Even without the curse, my brother was too much of a moron to listen to anyone.”

Helen of Troy had a pretty crazy life. She was conceived when Zeus raped Leda….as a swan. Her half brothers were Castor and Pollux, the gemini twins. The twins were also demigods, but the way it broke down with them is that one of them was a full god, the other was a full human. 

~@~

 As a child she was already lovely and turning heads. When Theseus and Pirithous made their pact to marry daughters of Zeus, Theseus chose the then ten year old Helen. The two kidnapped her and stashed her with Theseus’ mom for safe keeping then went down to the Underworld to try to abduct Persephone. We all know how that went.

Meanwhile,Helen was rescued by her brothers and returned home where she was later married off to Menelaus. She had a daughter named Hermione, and by some accounts an infant son when she was taken to Troy by Paris. Sources are conflicted here as to whether she went with Paris of her own volition or was abducted. Either way, her disappearance was just the excuse Menelaus needed to go to war with the very wealthy kingdom of Troy. The Trojan war was fought for ten years before Troy fell, and Helen, according to different accounts, either captured, killed, or escaped with Paris.

I always felt sorry for Helen so I tried to portray her as a sympathetic character in my story and give her a happier life in the Underworld.

Mythology Monday: Persephone

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I touched the flower, feeling the silky petal brush against my hand. The wind pushed me forward forcefully. My bag of pomegranate seeds blew over, spilling around the poppy. My dress flapped against my ankles as chills shot across my skin. I heard crackling and spun around to see the ground freezing around the flower.
The frost crept toward me. The branches above me stretched toward my face, ice inching along the branches. I heard a loud snap and a massive branch broke from the tree and hurtled toward my head.
I screamed and stumbled backward. The branch crashed in front of me, scraping my legs. I ran for the parking lot as fast as I could. The frost closed in, surrounding me. I’d never been claustrophobic, but as the frost cut off my escape path with a solid white wall, I panicked.
Fog rolled in, like cold death, cutting off my view of the park. It curled around me, brushing against my face, arms, and legs. I turned back to the tree and ran faster, my dress tangling between my legs as the fog and icy wind blew against my skin.

The parking lot is the other way! my mind screamed. The other way was cut off by a mountain of ice. I felt as if I was being herded. By ice?
I slipped on the icy ground, falling face first into the frost. Ice crept up my toes and along my legs. I thrashed and screamed. I felt the fog becoming a solid mass above me, pinning me to the ground. The ice piled around me. Am I going to be buried alive?
I dug my nails into the frigid snow in front of me and tried to claw my way out of the frosted death trap. I was so panicked I didn’t feel it when my nails broke against the impenetrable wall of ice, leaving red crescents of blood welling up on sensitive skin. An hysterical sob worked its way out of my throat as I gouged red lines into the ice. The ice was above my knees, snaking its way up my thighs. I shivered.
Shivering’s good, I reminded myself. It means your body hasn’t given up…yet. The cold was painful, like a thousand little knives pricking my skin. A violent tremor went up my spine, sending waves of pain through me.

“Help me!” I screamed, knowing it was futile. I was going to die here.

Except I couldn’t die. Could I? Mom said I was immortal, but was that all-inclusive? Did I have a weakness? Was snow my Kryptonite? If I got hurt, would I heal or would I be trapped in an injured body in pain forever?

I suddenly didn’t know if immortality was a good thing or a bad thing. The cold hurt. I was kicking, screaming, and clawing my way out of the frost, but for every inch I gained a mountain piled around me. I thought I heard a man’s laughter on the wind, the sound somehow colder than the ice freezing me into place.
The ground before my outstretched hand trembled. The shaking increased. The earth lurched beneath me. The surface cracked and the sound was so loud that for a moment all I could hear was high-pitched ringing in my ears. The ground split into an impossibly deep crevice. My voice went hoarse from screaming as I peered into the endless abyss, trapped and unable to move away from the vertigo-inducing edge. A midnight black chariot, drawn by four crepuscular horses that looked like they’d been created out of the night sky, surged from the crevice. I ducked my head into the snow with a frightened whimper as they passed over my prone body.
The fog around me dissipated as the ice melted away from my body. Terrified, I sprang to my feet, stopping when I was eye-to-eye with one of the frightening horses pulling the chariot. For a moment I could do nothing but stare into its huge, emotionless eyes. A strangled whimper tore from my throat and the horse snorted at me.
They weren’t black; they weren’t anything. They were an absence of color and of light, a nauseating swirling void. They hurt to look at. My head ached, and my stomach lurched in mutiny. I clenched my fists and turned to the driver.

His electric blue eyes met mine, and he seemed to see everything I’d done and everything I’d ever do. I had the strange sensation I’d been judged and found wanting. No way this guy was human. His skin could have been carved from marble; his hair was the same disorienting black as the horses. A terrifying power emanated from his tall, statuesque frame.

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. His ebony cape billowed behind him as he marched toward me. At the grasp of his hand I snapped back to life and jerked away from him.
“We have to get out of here.”
“Let me go!” I yelled, yanking my arm away. He closed in on me, pushing me toward the chariot. I struggled against him, shrieking with rage when he picked me up and slung me over his back like a sack of potatoes.
I punched his back, kicking my legs. “Let me go! Someone help me! Help!”
I recalled the instructor of some self-defense class long lost in memory reminding me dead weight was harder to carry than a thrashing captive. My body rebelled at the idea of going limp so I pushed aside his cape, pulled his shirt up and raked my torn and ragged nails across his bare skin. His hands jerked in surprise and I slid off his back and onto the hard ground.

My breath left my body as I hit the ground with enough force to make me dizzy. With strength I didn’t know I possessed, I scrambled away, clawing at him as he pulled me back.
“Enough!” he shouted. “We don’t have time for this! I have to get you out of here!”
“No!” I yelled. Did he really just expect me to go Okay, strange creepy man, I’ll get in your scary chariot of death. No problem?
His furtive gaze took in the empty park, and he swore in a voice as smooth as silk. “I’m sorry.”
My eyes widened in surprise as his lips pressed against mine. I went wild, hitting and scratching and pushing for all I was worth. He didn’t budge. He exhaled, and I sank lifelessly into his arms.

~@~

Kore/Kora as she was called before her rise to Queen of the Underworld, was the Goddess of Spring, and by all accounts gorgeous. Almost every god wanted to court her, but her mother, Demeter, was determined to keep her child sheltered from the corruption of Olympus. Little did Demeter know that Zeus had already negotiated their daughter’s hand in marriage to Hades, Lord of the Underworld.

Technically, as her father, it was Zeus’ right at the time to give away his daughter to whomever he chose. But Demeter was a terrifying goddess when she was angry, so he advised his brother to keep the whole him giving permission to marry Kora thing under the radar.

Hades complies and instead of a long engagement, he waits until Kora wanders off alone/with a nymph friend or two to pick some flowers in a meadow. Then, with some help from Gaia, he breaks open the ground and charges forth with his creepy chariot of death, grabs the startled goddess, and drags her to the Underworld.

The moment Kora is raped/married, her name changes to Persephone. That’s not uncommon in Mythology. Names change to reflect a god’s purpose or role. Most gods had a whole slew of names depending on the occasion. Think of them more like titles.

Naturally, Demeter is furious and terrified for her daughter when she learns of her abduction, but more on her next week. This myth is about Persephone. Actually, part of the reason I wrote Persephone is that every version of the myth I heard growing up focused on Demeter’s anguish at losing her daughter, Hades and Zeus’ backroom deal, and the people suffering through winter. Not a single one of them focused on what Persephone was going through or her perspective of the myth. She’s treated like an item, a prize, by literally every being in the myth and every telling of it. Never as a personified concept like the rest of the gods.

Persephone’s transformation should be a fascinating story in and of itself, but we never get to hear it. In this one fell swoop, she goes from an innocent victim content to pick flowers all day to The Iron Queen. People didn’t fear Hades the way they feared Persephone. He was, by all accounts, a pretty laid back god. Persephone on the other hand was a force to be reckoned with. I wanted to tell that story. And I wasn’t the only one. Persephone has been retold to account for that lack over and over and over again throughout time. But more on that Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Persephone knows that eating the food of the Underworld will bind her to the land and negate any hope of future rescue. Apparently gods don’t actually need to eat to stay alive, because she resists the temptation for months until she’s tricked into eating 3-7 pomegranate seeds (the number varies depending on the myth, as does the flowers she’s picking, the number of nymphs with her, and any other detail. Myths were oral retellings and when they were written down, every author added their own spin. So never assume anyone got the details “wrong.” They’re just telling a different version) by the god Ascalapus, Hades’ gardener.

The pomegranate wasn’t just chosen for its taste. In terms of symbolism, it’s a pretty loaded fruit. It stands for death, fertility, and royalty. All things Persephone.

Ascalapus gets turned into a screech owl in retribution for his crime, and when Persephone is finally rescued from the Underworld, she’s still forced to return to the Underworld for a month every year for each seed she ate. And that, friends, is where Winter comes from.

Myths evolve and change over time with each retelling. Wednesday, I’ll be talking about some Persephone retellings throughout time, but I want to hear your favorite version of the myth? What details changed? Why?

Mythology Monday: Brumalia

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Originally, Brumalia was a holiday intended to honor Cronus, Demeter, and Bacchus. Bacchus by some beliefs was another facet of Hades’ personality so I chose to use it in my book. It was typically held in November, which makes no sense because it was intended to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Some sources indicate that the festival lasted for weeks, so that may explain the date discrepancy.

Brumalia was full of prophesied, visions, and not surprisingly, copious drinking. It really sounds like a surprisingly typical holiday party. There was even kissing under mistletoe and holly themed decorations.

So why did I use it in my book? I felt like the Underworld wouldn’t celebrate mainstream holidays like Christmas, but they would celebrate something around the same time. Hades is pretty considerate when it comes to encouraging the souls to keep their customs. Choosing an ancient holiday makes sense because he’s ancient. The celebration is kept open enough to where the souls could interpret it however they want. The palace had a ritzy party, but Brumalia was celebrated all across the Underworld in different ways.

Mythology Monday: Christmas

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He sees you when you’re sleeping,
he knows when you’re awake,
he knows if you’ve been bad or good
so be good….

Or Else

For over a century this menace to society has been breaking into homes at night, and apparently watching you sleep. Even mice are paralyzed in fear by his presence.

No it’s not Edward Culllen, it’s Santa Claus. Nowadays we are not bought off by his gifts, and our children know better than to take candy from strange men.

What can you do to protect yourself from this holiday horror? Follow the simple instructions below and you can enjoy a silent night.

1) Write a letter pleading for your life. Explain what makes you valuable to society and why you should be passed over. Better yet, have your kid do it. Santa may have a soft spot for children. It worked on the Grinch. You can send Santa and email, call him, post to his Facebook page, or twitter.

2) Be on the look out for his misunderstood twin brother Krampus. Every year on the fifth of December this deformed creature roams the Alps ringing bells and dragging rusty chains as a harbinger of Santa’s arrival. (Go on, google it).

3) Know his whereabouts. Modern science allows us to track Santas movements. Simply type Santa into google maps or google earth to find up to the minute details on his location.

4) Deck the halls with boughs of holly: M Night Shamalan taught us that the beasts do not care for the color red. Red of course is the most proven way to deter Mr. Claus, but science has proven any bright color will do. Pay special attention to your roofs as strings of lights sometimes have the unintentional benefit of getting tangled in his sled.

5) Light the fire and hang your old socks. The heat and the smell may be enough to frighten Santa away from your abode.

6) Leave milk and cookies. If it doesn’t slow him down it may eventually lead to diabetes, protecting future generation from this night of terror.

Good luck! And have a safe and Happy Holiday Season!