Friday, July 6, 2007

Aggressive bees

I'm half way through Odyssey, and I much prefer Iliad, to my surprise. I was expecting to like Odyssey more because of the themes. It could be because I spent much more time with Iliad, some parts I read three or four times, so Odyssey might well grow on me.
Iliad has a lot of extended similes, which I love, in which some horrific visceral battle scene is compared to a tranquil, domestic event. This I find incredibly effective, as when Patroklus spears an enemy riding in a chariot through the cheek, and with his own strength flings the man out of the chariot. This is compared to a fisherman catching a salmon.
I found out the first simile of Iliad is a comparison of the Achean troops to bees, and funnily enough it directly follows a dream. Zeus sent king Agamamemnon a false dream to persuade him that victory is at hand, and to muster the troops for an ill-advised massive assault on the walls of Troy. There is a big debate over whether the assault is a good idea or not. Old man Nestor stands up to persuade the generals.
"My friends, chiefs and leaders of the Argives, if any other Achaean had told us such a dream, we would declare it quite false, dismiss it. But now the man who has a claim to be the greatest of Achaeans has witnessed it. So come, let's find a way to arm Achaea's sons."
So Nestor spoke. Then he began to make his way back, leaving the council meeting. The others stood up, all sceptre-bearing kings, following Nestor's lead, his people's shepherd. Troops came streaming out to them. Just as dense clouds of bees pour out in endless swarms from hollow rocks, in clusters flying to spring flowers, charging off in all directions, so from ships and huts the many clans rushed out to meet, group after group. Among the troops Rumour blazed, Zeus' messenger, igniting them. The assembly was in uproar.

I read a really funny review of it: "I believe this was originally passed down orally (much like herpes), so there’s lots of repeating lines to make it easier to recite. I can deal with that, but it gets tedious. The bloodshed and eviscerations and the hurting (OH MY!) make it sound like it’s just begging to be made into a big budget Hollywood movie. I cannot tell you how many people get killed by having a spear go through their nipple. There’s also lots of beheadings and eye sockets being gouged. It’s gory, but fun. Homer seemed to make up about 5 new and interesting ways to die in each battle...Bottom Line: It’s a good read with a disappointing ending. Most people will probably find it too dry to spend time on (most people are stupid). It will, however make people think you’re smart if they see you reading it. In the month or so it took me to read this, I carried it everywhere. People gave me looks like, “Ah, he must be cultured” and “What an intelligent young man” I also started dating since I started reading it. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


In the ancient Near East and throughout the Aegean world, bees were seen as a bridge between the natural world and the underworld. As such, they were a natural theme in the decoration of tombs. There are even some tombs in the shape of beehives, I think there are some near Muscat. I'm fairly sure Muscat is in the Emirates, if I ever go back that way I will visit them.
Dreams are threshold events, so perhaps it's natural that some of mine have been visited by bees. This time they seem to be coming the other way. Perhaps they're from my own tomb, swarming out of the dark to prepare me. Or bringing me a message about something I need to do before I get there.
That's what the analysis is for, and it's almost time to start analysing. So far I've just been fishing, dredging up baskets and seeing if any bees are inside. I think I've been putting off a real procedural analysis, not necessarily because I don't believe it works, maybe because I do believe it. I've always felt that if you dredge up any treasures, they lose their shine once they break the surface - then they just become dull tangible objects. Crude lumps of matter the likes of which we shove around all day long. To truly appreciate them, to allow them their real essence, you have to leave them where they belong, down in the dark.
But that can't be right, because I know they sometimes surface of their own accord, infusing everyday objects with uncanny powers. If you occupy the threshold, you can see that happening.
Doing an analysis might not be so bad. After all, I'm doing it on the computer, which I think is also a threshold. Things appear on my screen and manifest themselves in my world, from where? I put things out there, but where and when is this communication really taking place, what distance is it crossing? Who am I really talking to right now? An absence.
In some way, what's happening here isn't really happening, not yet anyway. It could be the perfect venue for threshold occupants to show themselves and run wild.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Older than wine: Intoxicated with the Honey Goddess

Daydreams being in season, I let my mind wander unchecked lately. It's been stimulating and painful. I went back to the Pindus mountains, and the time I was roaming around that part of the world. I was aiming for the site of the Dodona oracle, which I reached. I remembered the effect this place had on me, but I can't describe it. It's not too easy to reach, in the middle of rocky wooded wilderness. A collection of ruined temples, theater and stadium, surrounded on all sides by mountains. Indescribable.
This was apparently the earliest oracle in Greece, mentioned by Homer in both Iliad and Odyssey. According to Herodotus, the oracle was a woman who interpreted the rustling of the wind in the oak trees as well as the sounds of copper vessels being struck.
Dodoni probably isn't as famous as Delphi, which I think was called the navel of the world. The Delphic oracle was a shrine to the god Apollo, but before Apollo took over, there was a more ancient deity. In his own hymn Apollo gets his gift of divination from three bee-maidens (Thriae). The Delphic priestess was called a bee.
Before the earth goddess Demeter came along, there was the more ancient mistress Potnia, called the "pure mother bee". Potnia is also Artemis, more ancient than the Olympians, goddess of the hunt, wilderness and wild animals, fertility and childbirth. The priestesses of Artemis were young girls described as 'Bees'. Artemis is also connected to Mellissa, the honey-goddess.
Before wine, the Cretans fermented honey. Because of these ancient roots the Classical Greek phrase for being drunk was "honey-intoxicated."
Back in the mountains, night is falling and it feels good. I think I'll stay for a while.