Archive for the Tales Category

The Story of Dido and Aeneas

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2014 by Mj Rains

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I abandoned your shores, Empress, against my will. ~ Aeneid, Book 6

Aeneas was a Trojan hero who was at the fall of Troy. Devastated and heart-broken, he gathers some of his remaining friends and trusted men and sets sail away from his lost home.  Before long, a massive sea storm assaults his small fleet and Aeneas and his friends Achates are washed onto an African shore near a city being built. The city is Carthage and its Queen is Dido.

Aeneas and his buddy use magic to make themselves invisible (think cloaking device or an invisibility cloak like Harry Potter’s) and steal into the city to check it out.  This Queen they hear of is ambitious and it is apparent in this newly formed city. She is building a gorgeous place, raising temples, supporting small businesses (with major tax cuts), building schools and a gem-filled theater because she knows the arts are important baby! The people are busy…busy and happy and Aeneas and Achates are impressed, but not as impressed as they are when they see Dido herself appear in town with her entourage.  Aeneas sort of stalks her, watches her unfairly when she can’t see him, under the guise of protecting himself. She is radiant in beauty, a generous soul within shines without. She is a woman of commanding strength, for she hides well the pain of tremendous loss.  Her loss of love. She grieves yet for her young husband who has died suddenly, and fiercely passionate as she is she has pledged that:

He who first wedded me took with him when he died,
My right to love:  let him keep it, there, in the tomb, for ever.

“For ever” is a very long time.

Dido is approached by visitors. While the cloaked Aeneas and Achates watch close by, the rest of Aeneas’s men have made it to the city. With reverence they bow before Dido and ask for shelter and the means to repair their storm-shattered ships. They also say that they have lost two of their greatest companions and hope to search for them as well.  Dido is moved by their pleas and welcomes them whole-heartedly.  She understands their loss and will do anything to help, generous as she is, and she also wishes that they find their lost comrades as well. Upon hearing these words Aeneas and Achates decide to reveal themselves:

The words were hardly spoken, when in a flash the cloud-cloak
They wore was shredded and purged away into pure air.
Aeneas was standing there in an aura of brilliant light,
Godlike of face and figure: for Venus herself had breathed

His manhood and a gallant light into his eyes…

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Aeneas says:  “I am here, before you, the one you look for…”

Now, Dido wasn’t looking for anyone.  She’d given her love to a man in a grave, but seeing Aeneas in all his glorious Venus-blessed embodiment woke up a darkened flame of love within her. Not only does Dido find him physically appealing, but his tales of his war, of his loss, and the stories of the sea enchant her disenchanted heart. She is smitten. Plus, they have a few things in common. They are both royalty…and they have both suffered.

I too have gone through much; like you, have been roughly handled
By fortune, But now at last it has willed me to settle here.
Being acquainted with grief, I am learning to help the unlucky.

Dido gives Aeneas’s men hundreds of cattle, sheep, swine, and the best materials that can be found to rebuild their ships. She privately has dinner with Aeneas, and soon they are “dating.”  She tells him he can stay as long as he wishes. Without meaning to, she has fallen deeply in love. She becomes “a woman wild with passion…” She thinks about him all the time. She cannot sleep. (Can anyone relate to this?)

Aeneas, too, has fallen in the same way. After a day of hunting together, a storm forces the young couple, alone, to seek shelter in a cave. The cave.

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There, they make love (aka: fuck their brains out) and exchange vows and promises of love.  To Dido, it is like a pledge of marriage.  They experience a luxuriant period of marital bliss and life with each other becomes perfect. Happiness threatens to overwhelm them.

But the Gods have other plans for Aeneas. They haven’t forgotten him. A strong warrior cannot be left to wallow his life away with love and happiness.  He is ordered to return to Italy, to build a new city in his lost homeland.  It is his duty. His fate.

Aeneas is torn between his love for Dido and his duty, but duty, of course, always wins.  And no matter how strong the bugger claims to be, or appears to be, Aeneas is a coward. He plans to sneak away with his men in the middle of the night, leaving Dido behind to just figure it out. (Maybe he’d leave her a note: “Sorry, can’t do this anymore”.  “It’s not you, it’s me.”  “The Gods have ordered it. I have no choice.” He blocks her on Twitter and Instagram. “Block me too, so I won’t be tempted to come back…” etc.)

But Dido has many loyal ears in her house, her city, and the rumor of her lover’s plans reaches her.  She becomes unbalanced with grief, grief so powerful, she wonders what she can do, what she could have done differently, to change his mind.  After her first husband died, she had gone into hibernation; she had buried her heart.  Aeneas, with is love, his kind words, had resurfaced it. He had made her feel alive again in a way that only a lover can do. And now he was burying her heart again.

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 In her anguish, Dido implores him to stay. And, though we don’t want her to, a regal Queen begs:

By these tears, by the hand you gave me-
They are all I have left, to-day, in my misery – I implore you,
And by our union of hearts, by our marriage hardly begun,
If I have ever helped you at all, if anything
About me pleases you, be sad for our broken home, forego
Your purpose, I beg you, unless it’s too late for prayers of mine!
Because of you, the Libyan tribes and the Nomad chieftains
Hate me, the Tyrians are hostile: because of you I have lost
My old reputation for faithfulness- the one thing that could have made me
Immortal.  Oh, I am dying! To what, my guest, are you leaving me?

None of her pleas moves him. Aeneas gathers his men and even though his heart breaks for her, he leaves her.  But not before Dido slips from her devastation and sorrow and becomes angry.  She curses him. She wishes him ill fortune, bad seas, and endless, and I mean endless misery. (Fucking Royal Bastard!)

She takes the bed they had shared, gathers all his belongings that he hadn’t picked up yet – all the presents she gave him, including a sword,and his clothing – and drags them to courtyard where she builds a bonfire.

Climbing to the top, she takes the sword falls upon it, and dies, knowing that he will see her funeral pyre from his ship as he leaves. (We wish she could have found a way out of this misery. We wish she could have been stronger, but classic literature always knows how to write women fucked up by men.)

Later, in the Aeneid, Aeneas is granted safe passage in the underworld to visit his dead father…While he is there, he see Dido wandering in the woods, a wispy, ghostly figure. He is so filled with pity, and remorse, upon seeing her, he approaches her and begs her forgiveness.

I abandoned your shores, Empress, against my will.

He swears that it wasn’t his will to abandon her but the iron will of the Gods, the heavenly commands that he was powerless to disobey. He speaks tenderly to her spirit, “trying to soften the wild-eyed/Passionate-hearted ghost” who remains “stubborn to his appeal.” Dido must have looked at him long, so beautiful, full of lovely words. But she finally rushes away, (her final “Fuck you”) without saying a word, without forgiving him, “hating him still.”

__________________________

Text inspiration is from The History of Love by Diane Ackerman

The beautiful images are from the Sasha Waltz production of Purcell’s classic opera Dido & Aeneas
Photos by Sebastian Bolesch

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Of Peace with bonds of harmonious love….

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2012 by Mj Rains

Come, ye Powers who dwell above
Unforgetting, our witnesses be

Of Peace with bonds of harmonious love —
The Peace which Cypris has wrought for me

Alleluia! Io Paean!
Leap in joy – hurrah! hurrah!
‘Tis victory….

There the holy chorus ever gladdens,
There the beat of stamping feet,
As our winsome fillies, lovely maidens,

Dance…

Like the Bacchae’s revels, hair a-streaming.
Leda’s child, diving and mild,
Leads the holy dance, her fair face beaming…

Literature: Lysistrata by Aristophanes
Images: click image for artist link

The Story of Demeter and Persephone

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2010 by Mj Rains

The maiden, Persephone, daughter of the Earth Goddess, Demeter, is out picking flowers in a meadow when the earth opens up and out charges Hades, God of the Underworld.  He scoops Persephone up, and the Lord of the Dead (not the devil or Satan mind you) plunges back down into the Underworld.  When Persephone is late, Demeter goes out searching but can find her lovely daughter nowhere.  Demeter, the great Goddess of grain, harvest, and fertility lights a torch and scours the earth into the night. After nine futile days of searching, she comes across an old lady, the quintessential Hecate, a crone of great knowledge of the earth and its going-ons (the harbinger of bad news and good) and the Goddess of the dark moon, the crossroads of life.  She explains to Demeter that Persephone has been abducted.

Demeter grows full of rage and gives up her divine earthly duties, allowing the crops to dry up and wither, the earth to become a cold wasteland.  She disguises herself as and old woman and travels to the town of Eleusis where she wallows in despair.  Zeus, the great God, notices this and tries to talk some sense into Demeter.  Hades will make a nice son-in-law, he says.  She needs to lighten up and let the crops grow.  Demeter will not budge.

The earth becomes so desolate and wasted Zeus has no choice but to consult with his dark brother of the underworld and orders Hades to give up Persephone.  Persephone prepares to leave, but Hades loves her and does not want to give her up completely. They have one last meal together, and the Lord of the Dead slips some enchanted pomegranate seeds into Persephone’s food.  She swallows the seeds, which ensures her return to Hades domain for a third of each year.

Persephone and her mother are reunited on the first day of Spring.  Demeter can sense some changes in her young daughter.  Demeter is not happy when she learns about the pomegranate seeds, but Persephone insists she did not know and that she does not mind in any case to go back to see Hades.  Demeter stops her mourning and allows the earth to flourish again. After all, her daughter is back. Not the same innocent girl who picked flowers without a care in the world, but a woman transfigured by her experience.

This is my favorite mythological story about a mother and daughter reunion, about a daughter’s growth and change, about the seasons of the earth as they were formed by the mythic gods.

Story is inspired by an excerpt of Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd

Images:
Persephone by Blackeri
Hades and Persephone by Sandara

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge…

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2009 by Mj Rains

RedRidingHoodThe more I look into fairy tales…the more I love.  I’m currently working on my book of fairy-tales re-told, but here’s a piece on the Little Red Riding Hood traditions from The Annotated Brothers Grimm by Maria Tatar:

 The French and German titles for the story–“Le petit chaperon rouge” and “Rotkappchen –suggest caps rather than hoods.  Psychoanalytic critics have made much of the color red, equating it with sin, passion, blood, sexuality and thereby suggesting a certain complicity on the part of Red Riding Hood in the symbolic seduction enacted in the tale.  But these views have been rebutted by folklorists and historians, who point out that the color red was first introduced in Perrault’s literary version of the tale and that it can have political as well as moral associations.  These days, a girl wearing red produces a nearly automatic association to the story, and advertisers ceaselessly exploit that allusion as they turn Little Red Riding Hood from a childish innocent into a red-hot femme fatale.”

red2561031-2-lil-red-riding-hood Lil Red Riding Hood by Karri Klawiter www.redbubble.com

Out of the Ashes: The Symbolic Story of Cinderella

Posted in Tales with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by Mj Rains

___cinderella____by_citronrouge

We again find our fairy tales are so much more than kids stories.  “The fairy tale fo the cinder-maid originated as an anti-ecclesiastical allegory repeated by real ‘fairies’ –that is, pagans.”  Ella was the daughter of Mother Earth and her ugly stepsisters were considered the church’s darlings, the military aristocracy and the clergy. 

“An early German version of the story said Cinderella’s real mother, the Earth, though dead, sent from her grave a fairy tree in answer to her daughter’s prayer.  This tree produced golden apples, fine clothes, and other gifts.”  Thus the “fairy godmother” of the tale may have been the ghost of the mother. 

Beautified with her new riches, Cinderella won the “prince” who represents mankind, and their union was symbolized by fitting her foot into a shoe, which was a common sexual allegory.  The Eleusinian Mysteries signified sacred marriage by placing a phallic object in a woman’s shoe.  The glass slipper perhaps stood for the Crystal Cave by which pagan heroes entered. 

Like other secret medieval prophecies of the overthrow of the rich, powerful theocracy, the downfall of Cinderella’s ugly stepmother and stepsisters may have been intended as a prophecy.”

Source: The Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

Photo: Cinderella by Citron Rouge at Deviant Art

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