Essay:Athena the Crafty Mentor

The Odyssey shows two instances of Athena engaging in gender-bending. This was necessary because of the low status of Ancient Greek women. Though the Greeks made a goddess the patron of wisdom.

She assumed the guise of a two wise men to advise Odysseus’s son Telemachus how to rule Ithaca and his household. These two men were family friends and Athena used their forms to get Telemachus to listen to her. These mythic episodes brought the term “mentor” into the language.

I’m surprised there aren’t more instances of Athena using gender-bending. Perhaps the Ancient Greeks didn’t want to admit they wouldn’t recognize the voice of wisdom when it spoke?

Most times she gives heroes advice as herself. It’s as if a female must have divine prerogative to speak out in Ancient Greek society. The male Olympians could amuse themselves in mortal guise and still be heard. A goddess has a voice as a goddess but needs to assume the form of a man if she wants anyone to listen to her as a mortal.

Basically Athena did this to move freely in human society and see them in their natural state. She could awe them into respecting her as a goddess but it would’ve been too troublesome to go about as a mortal maiden. That’s why she used the form of respected family friends and elders to speak her piece.

These episodes are necessities of the narrative. There is no hint she has any proclivities she wants to indulge with her male disguises. The fact she has to disguise herself makes me wonder why they bothered having a Goddess and not a God of Wisdom. Then again she might’ve had to learn to be “crafty” to get her way instead of blasting everyone who ignored her.

However, that doesn’t mean Athena never lost her patience. I dramatize this in “The Weft and Warp of Hubris” in A Heart for Hubris.

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Did Cupid Ever Stop Being a Mama’s Boy?

You’d expect a God of Love to be bold in the pursuit of love. Yet Cupid is reluctant to pursue someone if he must oppose his mother. So the girl who’s so lovely she’s mistaken for a love goddess disappears.

Everyone knows Cupid’s mother is Venus/Aphrodite. His father is unknown. His Dad could be his mother’s husband Hephaestus/Vulcan. It could be her lover Mars/Ares. It could even be some mortal man who caught her eye. It’s inferred other Olympians have hooked up with her too. Either way Cupid is considered a full god and not a demigod.

No one considers this state of affairs improper for a Goddess of Love. Cupid’s unknown paternity causes him to cling to his mother for his identity. He’s like he’s a mortal child with a single mother and absentee father. Given these circumstances it’s only natural Cupid goes into the family business. He becomes a God of Love.

There’s no legend that shows Cupid having any angsty identity crisis. They do show him being a “mama’s boy.” She overshadows him so much that only a maiden who usurps Venus’s worship can catch his eye. He marries Psyche in secret. Psyche is abused by his mother when their secret marriage is discovered. Despite all this Psyche is added to the Olympian pantheon when he finally speaks up for her. He exchanges favors with the Elder Gods to have make her an immortal.

Perhaps he spoke up for Psyche because she proved her love for him by undergoing trials. Maybe his heart was moved by the imminent birth of their daughter since Psyche was pregnant at the time.

The legend of their courtship says he was pricked by his own arrow when he first saw Psyche. Is this a way for Cupid to deny any responsibility for choosing her as his mate or else to show the blindness of love?

Such ambiguity makes it hard to know if the Psyche and Cupid legend is a coming of age for him. Cupid carries out his share of duties with no more bids for independence from his mother. For Psyche’s sake I hoped they worked together as co-partners. Married life would be miserable if he still blindly obeyed his mother.

I can’t argue for any particular interpretation of the Cupid and Psyche myth. However, my own version of their courtship shows him learning to accept a more active role. “Cupid’s Intrigue” is in my A Heart for Hubris release. A flashfic of when she first catches his eye will debut tomorrow on this blog.

Why isn’t Eris a War Goddess?

Eris, Goddess of Discord, is best known for starting a beauty contest that began the Trojan War. You’d think this incident would serve as the credentials needed to get Eris called a war goddess? Some details from her Wikipedia entry answered this question for me. She’s useful in small doses but needs to be kept in check. These are my thoughts on the matter:

Maybe the Ancient Greeks could only imagine “shrews” in a civil society like Olympus. Only barbarians had fierce warrior women. The closest they have to a war goddess is Athena. She knows how to wield weapons and construct battle strategies. Yet she also weaves like any good daughter should.

Eris may not be “mighty” like Aphrodite, yet she doesn’t allow herself to be dissed. When she wasn’t invited to a feast, she crashed it. She offered a golden apple to the most beautiful of goddesses. This left the Olympians with the problem of figuring out who deserved that honor. They in turn delegated the decision to the mortal Paris. Each goddess, even Aphrodite, offered a Paris a bribe. This means that not even Aphrodite can be said to be a clear-cut winner of the contest Eris instigated. Offending Eris caused even more discord than leaving her out. Eris often gets dismissed as a minor goddess, but can be dangerous if you try to ignore her. The Olympians aren’t in the mood to give her more honor than they feel she deserves.

Perhaps, placing Eris in a war goddess role would make her too powerful? The Iliad equates her to a bloodthirsty goddess Enyo that starts small and grows in size into Godzilla proportions during wars.

Eris is treated like a quarrelsome woman and she-demon most times. Though there is reference to a goddess of strife credited with giving people ambition. She inspires people to change and improve the status quo. This could mean an out-and-out war or create talented statesmen, entrepreneurs and inventors.

The Enyo and the Strife goddesses are treated as similar but separate to Eris. Yet what if these goddesses were incorporated as aspects of her personality?

My theory is Eris has her place in the Order of Things but has to be kept in check. Which is why she won’t be promoted to a war goddess position. Eris is a minor goddess. Yet her nuances shows the richness of classical mythology.

Eris becomes a surprising benefactor in my release A Heart for Hubris. The “Eris’s Discord” flash fiction goes live here tomorrow.

January 2018-Free Scifi Writing Prompt

These are the type of scifi writing prompts you’ll see in my upcoming scifi writing prompt releases in 2018.

What if this became a sport? Or a nation’s military policy was based on the outcome of this competition and there were passionate interested parties on both sides?

Are Robots Better Pilots? NASA Pits Human Pilot vs. AI And Here’s What Happened

You can see which scifi prompts I’m writing up in the Khiatons Monthly/Update mailing list

Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Science Finally Collaborate

Colonists often dismissed Indigenous Knowledge in favor of modern scientific methods. Yet climate scientists are now using the Inuit’s traditional knowledge to document the historical and current climate trends in the Arctic. Who better to know the historical trends than a people who have lived in the Arctic year round for generations rather than a group of scientists who may visit the Arctic for short term projects?

see more on First Nations’ Collaborations with Modern Scientific Research