Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (6) Circe & Calypso (Sirens)

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MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

And now for the bad girl goddesses of the Odyssey, Circe and Calypso (tied in sixth place, but if I had to choose between them, I’d place Circe). Circe was daughter of Helios, god of the sun, and divine enchantress on the poetically named island of Aeaea. She used her magic to transform men into animals, changing Odysseus’ crew into pigs (no surprise there really). Fortunately, Odysseus was made of stronger stuff as he set out to rescue his men with a little help from the gods – he resists her magic and has her swear him no harm by the gods. She changed his crew back and they stayed on Aeaea for a year, while she and Odysseus became lovers (so much for Penelope, although in fairness to Odysseus, it is dangerous to get on the wrong side of a goddess). At the end of the year, she helped him with advice for his quest back home (through the underworld). She has continued to be a model femme fatale for Western art and literature, not least as the immortal adversary of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman…

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On the other hand, Calypso was a nereid or sea-nymph on the island of Ogygia, who kept Odysseus ‘captive’ as her lover even longer on her island – for seven years (the large majority of the ten years of his odyssey to return home). Again, so much for Penelope, but these goddesses are tricky, and in fairness to Odysseus, she wanted to make him her immortal husband but he pined for his mortal life with Penelope – “now he’s left to pine on an island, wracked with grief”. Again it takes the intervention of the gods to release him, and she sorrowfully sends him back on his way home.

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Close runners-up are those other bad girl goddesses of the Odyssey – the Sirens, who lured men to death with their beautiful voices or siren song. Forewarned, Odysseus ordered his crew to deafen themselves by placing wax in their ears – although he had himself tied to the mast to hear their song. Interestingly, Homer depicted them as horrific bird-women in appearance. (“It is strange and beautiful that Homer should make the Sirens appeal to the spirit, not the flesh”). Subsequently, however, they were depicted as beautiful women or mermaids, whose bodies were as seductive as their voices, so much so that the word has passed into common usage for seductive females, especially in cinema (directly invoked as the singing sirens in the Coen Brothers adaptation of the Odyssey, O Brother Where Art Thou?).

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TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (7) Penelope

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MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (7) PENELOPE

This may be cheating as Penelope is the good girl of the Odyssey (at least if you weren’t one of her suitors), faithful wife of Odysseus and queen of Ithaca – but I just have too much of a mythic crush on her. Indeed, she is arguably the true hero of the Odyssey, preserving their marriage and kingdom despite his absence of twenty years fighting at and returning from Troy (where a more cynical heroine might have had him declared legally dead) – an achievement particularly striking given that she is besieged by her numerous suitors, who abuse the royal hospitality by camping at the palace and cavorting with her handmaidens. She proves herself a good match for her wily husband, keeping the suitors at bay with an assortment of tricks to buy time, most notably pretending to weave a funeral shroud for Odysseus’ father and secretly undoing her work at night. Fortunately, Odysseus returns home in time home to take out the trash, killing the suitors in a bloody battle

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HONORABLE MENTION – GOOD GIRLS OF THE ODYSSEY

  • NAUSICAA Phaeacian princess Nausicaa finds Odysseus after he is washed up naked on the beach after having lost all his ships, men and possessions on the last leg of his homeward journey. Unlike her stereotypical giggling handmaidens, she keeps her head and arranges for him to receive her father’s hospitality. Young and beautiful – Odysseus compares her to a goddess – she is presented almost as a potential love interest for Odysseus, but instead ensures his return home, after he is born again naked from the sea – “Never forget me, for I gave you life”
  • INO LEUCOTHEA  white goddess of the sea foam, she saves the shipwrecked Odysseus by lending him her divine veil to keep him alive in the storm-wracked sea. Indeed, one is struck by how prominent are the roles of women, divine or otherwise, in the Odyssey – and how persistently reliant Odysseus is on the help of such women, not least his patron Olympian goddess, Athena of the shining eyes. (As such, some have even attributed the authorship of the Odyssey to a woman)

 

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (8) Andromeda & Ariadne (Maenads)

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MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

 

A tied entry in eighth place for two of my favorite heroines of classical mythology, although if I had to choose between them I would probably lean more towards Ariadne. However, I just have a soft spot for Andromeda, the archetypal damsel in distress – indeed the classic princess offered up to a monstrous beast or dragon. Her mother, queen Cassiopeia, foolishly boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea-nymphs or nereids, although as is often the case for crimes against the divine in classical mythology (and biblical mythology for that matter), an innocent had to pay the price (and the price was completely disproportionate) . As punishment, sea god Poseidon sent a beast to ravage the kingdom until Andromeda was chained up to a rock as a sacrifice to it. Fortunately, glamorous Greek hero Perseus was at hand – he slew the beast, rescued her and claimed her in marriage. Of course, these days a girl might fight her own monsters…

 

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On the other hand, Ariadne was definitely not a damsel in distress. Indeed, she essentially rescued the hero Theseus by helping him slay her monstrous half-brother half-bull, the Minotaur – the Cretan royal family’s embarrassment locked up in their equivalent of the attic, the Labyrinth. Theseus had volunteered to be amongst the sacrificial party offered up by Athens to Crete so that he could kill the beast – fortunately for him, princess Ariadne fell in love with him on and helped him, giving him a sword to kill the Minotaur as well as a thread to find his way back out of the Labyrinth. Theseus took her with him, but the cad abandoned her on an island en route to Athens. Fortunately, she was found by a better suitor, becoming the consort of Dionysus, god of wild ecstasy, and joining the other gods in Olympus.

 

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Of course, Ariadne had to compete with the Maenads or Bacchae, Dionysus’ retinue of wild women, following him in wild dance and passion, akin to a roving rave party (fittingly as their name literally means “raving ones”). However, it wasn’t just sex, wine and pipes’n’timbrels – these perpetual party girls had a darker side of mad violence. Theban king Pentheus was torn apart by them when he tried to ban the worship of Dionysus. In their madness, they believed him to be a savage beast – his own mother amongst them tearing off his head and bearing it as a trophy to show her son until the divine madness wore off and she looked in horror at the head she was holding…

 

TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (9) Zeus Girls (Europa & Leda)

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MAKING PAGANISM SEXY – TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS: (9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

The Bond girls of classical mythology – the most beautiful and glamorous goddesses, nymphs or women caught the roving eye of the lord of the gods for his amorous conquests. Of course other gods (and goddesses) also slept around, but none were quite so prolific as Zeus (in part due to a desire to trace genealogy to the king of the gods). Akin to the shifting spy personae of James Bond, Zeus pursued his conquests in various animal or other metamorphoses – symbolic of divine transfiguration (although I prefer their characterization in The Simpsons, where Dionsyus drunkenly complains “You used to be fun. What happened to the Zeus who used to turn into a cow and pick up chicks?” Zeus retorts “He grew up. Maybe you should too.”)

 

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Amongst his more famous conquests are Europa and Leda. Zeus appeared to Phoenecian princess Europa in the form of a beautiful white bull and carried her off on his back to Crete. Zeus came to Spartan queen Leda as a swan, ravishing her in a flutter of his “feathered glory”.

 

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TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Making Paganism Sexy – Top 10 Classical Bad Girls: (10) Tyche Fortuna (Nemesis)

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MAKING PAGANISM SEXY: TOP 10 BAD GIRLS OF CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY

Ah – “to the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome”!

In my youth, I was converted to classical paganism upon reading Bulfinch’s Mythology, which I fortunately read at the same time as the Bible. Ultimately paganism won out, as it was simply more compelling for me, with its heroes, and even more so, its bad girls – visions of angels just couldn’t compete with dreams of nymphs (or in the words of Edgar Allen Poe leading to the above quote, “naiad airs”). These are my top ten bad girls of classical mythology.

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(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

In my usual wildcard entry in tenth place, we have a goddess somewhat more minor and abstract than the classic Olympian goddesses. Greek Tyche was the goddess of luck. Fittingly for such a mutable goddess, she tended to be identified in more than one form – increasingly, each city came to have its own iconic Tyche, who ruled over its fortune or destiny. The most iconic of all was her Roman counterpart, Fortuna, goddess of the Eternal City and its fortunes. She continued to rule popular imagination after the ascendancy of Christianity –frequently associated above all with the image of the Wheel of Fortune. And she has persisted in the modern imagery of Lady Luck, although her contemporary representation might be closer to a Vegas showgirl – a neon goddess or “lucky little lady in the city of lights”.

 

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Of course, that representation perhaps comes perilously close to the jaded description of her as a capricious whore, or in the words of philosopher William James, that “bitch-goddess Success” – “if luck was a woman, she’d be my ex-wife”. Others of us, however, prefer to woo her, perhaps to charm her for one more roll of the dice while playing her game. After all, Fortune favors the bold…

 

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Close runner-up is another somewhat minor and abstract goddess – Nemesis, the personification of divine retribution or vengeance. And as much as I’d prefer Lady Luck, in these days I think that Nemesis is more my goddess. Let’s face it – I just have a soft spot for righteous retribution. None of that turn the other cheek crap – I prefer an avenging kick-ass goddess. After all, they had it coming, walking around with their hubris and all. You don’t think that she’s just going to let you walk out of here, do you? Vengeance is mine, saith the Lady.

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TOP 10 CLASSICAL BAD GIRLS

(10) TYCHE FORTUNA (NEMESIS)

(9) ZEUS GIRLS (EUROPA & LEDA)

(8) ANDROMEDA & ARIADNE (MAENADS)

(7) PENELOPE

(6) CIRCE & CALYPSO (SIRENS)

(5) PERSEPHONE (HECATE)

(4) ARTEMIS DIANA

(3) PANDORA

(2) HELEN OF TROY

(1) APHRODITE VENUS (AMAZONS & NYMPHS)

 

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Apocalypse

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REVELATION X

In my end of the world, the sun is black, the moon is red, and the stars fall screaming from the sky.

Dark enough for you?

It was for me as I lay dying in those last days…

I was blind and then I could see the light at the end of the world.

I was born again in Babylon and torn apart in Jerusalem.

I was gored by the horns of God – His left horn was death, his Right horn was the devil, and in between where there should have been His face, there was only an abyss.

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And in the end, we were all judged, many were sacrificed, and no one was saved.

O yes, there were visions in those days. Visions…

Eightfold Path 7 (Zen Catholicism)

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(7) I BELIEVE IN THE GOD OF DOUBT (ZEN CATHOLICISM)

 

I believe in the god of doubt –

the sound of one hand clapping,

a tree falling in a forest,

a finger pointing at the moon,

your face before you were born,

the goose in a bottle,

and three pounds of flax.

 

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My horns won’t fit through the door!

 

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Eightfold Path 5 (God)

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(5) I AM THE SERPENT OF MY EDEN AND THE BEAST OF MY APOCALYPSE (MR MOJO RISIN’)

 

I am the serpent of my Eden and the beast of my apocalypse –

I rise writhing from my own resurrection!

 

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I am horned god and hanged man –

hell-harrowed hero and sweet-tongued trickster,

satyr, savior, sorrower and stranger.

 

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