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Chapter 7

MYTHS ORIGINATING NATURAL PHENOMENA

Clytie (Sunflower)

Clytie was a beautiful maiden, who fell in love with Apollo, the sun Sun God. She would watch Apollo traverse the sky with his Sun Chariot, all the way across the sky. Apollo did not return the love, and Clytie was eventually transformed into a sunflower, which today, as Clytie did in the past, follows the course of the sun as it travels across the sky, a symbol of unwavering devotion.

Daphne (Laurel Tree)

Apollo and Eros argued one day; Apollo ridiculed Eros' ability with the bow and arrow, as well as his small size. To punish him, Eros shot a golden arrow into his heart, causing Apollo to fall in love with the nymph, Daphne, making her resist the love of Apollo. However, Apollo pursued Daphne, who fled from his advances. While running, Daphne prayed to her father, the river god, Peneus, for aid. Peneus transformed her into a laurel tree.

Apollo took a branch of his transformed love, and, thereafter, to commemorate his affection, used a laurel wreath to crown winners of sporting, musical, and poetry contests.

Daedalus and Perdix (Partridge)

Daedalus was known as a great Greek architect and inventor. His sister entrusted her son, Perdix, to Daedalus so that he might raise and impart some of his wisdom to Perdix. Perdix, though, learned too well, causing his eventual death. Perdix happened to notice that he could saw through wood if he used the jawbone of a serpent. He then fashioned the same design in iron, thereby inventing the first saw. The Athenians paid great homage to Perdix, inciting the jealousy of his uncle, Daedalus. Daedalus lured Perdix to the top of the Acropolis, on the pretense of showing the sights of Athens, and pushed Perdix off the edge. Athena, however, converted Perdix to a partridge, a bird, catastrophe of Perdix.

Procne and Philomela (nightengale and swallow)

King of Tereus of Thrace, a kingdom north of Greece, sucessfully mediated a border dispute for King Pandion of Athens. To reward him, Pandion gave to Tereus one of his daughters, Procne.

Procne married Tereus, having a son, Itys, but Tereus became infatuated with Procne's sister, Philomela. He took her to a remote cabin in Thrace, imprisoned and raped her her, and cut out her tongue, so she could not tell what happened. He returned to his wife, trying to convinced her that her sister had died. The imprisoned sister, Philomela, however, wove a tapestry which conveyeds what had happened to her, and secretly sent it to Procne, who found and released her sister. Procne, greatly distressed, killed her son, Itys, boiling him and serving him to Tereus. When Tereus found out the horrible thruth of what he had eaten, he chased the sisters, knife in hand, but the gods changed then all into birds; Philomena, into a nightengale, which today, amkes the sound similar to the name of her son, "ityn, ityn"; and finally Tereus was transformed into a hawk, a mean-spirited animal, like Tereus.

Leto and the Rustics ( frog )

Since Hera knew that Leto was pregnant by Zeus, she plagued Leto, before she delivered Apollo and Artemis, driving her from land to land. While on the run in Lydia, in Asia Minor, the land of the tribe, the Rustics, Leto paused to quench her thirst in a small pond. The Rustics, unaware of her deity, would not let her drink. Whern Leto continued to attempt to drink water, the Rustics jumped into the pond, muddying the waters to make it undrinkable.

Maddened, Leto punished the Rustics by converting them to greenish creatures which today we call 'frogs', which can never stray too far from ponds.

Arachne ( spider )

Arachne, a princess of Lydia, was known as an expert weaver, but conceited in her abilities. She even mentioned on more than one ocassion, that she was superior to Athena, the patron goddess of weaving. Athena went to Arachne, disguised as an old woman. Arachne repeated her arrogant statements to her. Athena reveled her ture form, and accepted the challenge to see who was the better weaver. Bopth wove superb tapestries. Arachne spun living tales of differents failings of the gods, such as the rape of Europa by Zeus. Athena wove a tapestry, illustrating each of the Olympian Gods in their majestry. Upon viewing the finished work of Athena, Arachne admitted that her work was inferior, and, in anguish, hung herself. Athena, to provide a continuing remembrance to mortals that show arrogance to the Gods, converted Arachne to a spider, an animal doomed to a life of everlasting spinning.

Hyacinthus ( the flower, hyacinth)

Apollo became smitten to a handsome Greek youth, Hyacinthus, one of the first examples in Greek Mythology of homosexual affairs of the Gods. But Zephyrus, the God of the west wind, also was infatuated with Hyacinthus. While Apollo and Hyacinthus were, one day, throwing the discus, Zephirus, in jealousy, threw a gust of wind, directing the discus to strike the head of Hyacinthus, mortally wounding him.

To keep some resembrance of this affair, Apollo caused the blood of his wound to be converted to the flower we call today 'hyacinth', in honor of the handsome youth.

Tyrrhenian Pirates ( dolphin )

In his youthful wanderings, Dionysus, God of Wine, became separated from his train of nymphs, fauns, satyrs, and Maenads. On the Isle of Icaria, he asked for transport to Naxos with Tyrrhenian pirates, who were unaware of Dionysus 'divinity'. They thought he was the son of wealthy parents, and thought a ransom could be obtained if they kidnapped him.

When Dionysus became aware of the intentions of the pirates, he transformed the oars of the boat into vines and caused wild beast to appear on the deck. Terrified, the Tyrrhenian pirates lept into the sea, where they were converted into dolphins. These animals are known for their friendliness to humans, probably because they once were, themselves, human.

Memnon ( morning dew )

Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, and the mortal Tithonus produced an offspringg, Memnon. He grew to be King of the Ethiopians, a handsome a fierce warrior. Towards the of the Trojan War, King Priam of Troy, brother of Tithonus, sought the aid of Memnon and his army of Ethiopians. They readily went to Troy, where Memnon eventually was killed by Achilles in battle. Eos, in her grief for her son, shed 'tears of dawn', or to represent the morning dew, from Eos, Goddess of the Dawn.

Cycnus ( swan )

Cycnus was the devoted friend to Phaeton, the youth whose impetuosity caused his own death (see myth of Phaeton). When Phaeton fell fom the sky, his body was shattered into many pieces when it struck the river Po. Cycnus came to the site, diving many times in search for the pieces to give his friend a propoer burial.

To commemorate his devotion, the Gods converted Cycnus to a swan, which, like Cycnus, constantly puts his head into the water, as if looking for the body parts of Phaeton.

Eos and Tithonus ( grasshopper )

Eos, the Goddess of Dawn, took an amorous interest in Ares, the God of War. Since Aphrodite was in love with Ares, she became spiteful of Eos, and cursed her with constant desire for young mortals. Eos secretly had a succession of young mortals lovers, including Orion, Cephalus, Ganymede, and finally, Tithonus.

Tithonus, a young handsome prince, brother to King Priam of Troy was determined by Eros to be her last lover. Therefore, she asked Zeus to grant him immortality, but forgot to ask for everlasting youth. As time progressed, Tithonus inevitably aged, and became tiresome to Eos to care for him. She locked him in a room, where he was eventually transformed into a grasshopper, which sheds its skin to ward off old age.

Incidentally, Eos's love affairs with young men is said to be the reason that erotic passion seizes men in the early morning hours.

Alcetryon ( rooster )

Ares, God of War, had an ongoing affair with Aphrodite. To help him keep this affair secret, he would place his guard, Alectryon, on duty. Alectryon would specially alert Ares when the dawn rose, so that Apollo, in his Sun Chariot and who saw all, would not see them in the early hours. However, one morning, Alectryon feel asleep, and did not awake Ares at dawn. Apollo witnessed the embracing couple in bed, and quickly notified Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband. Hephaestus immediately went to thir bed, and threw a metal net over them. He then brought the rest of the Olympian Gods to witness proof of Aphrodite's infidelity.

Aftewards, Ares punished Alcetryon for his mistake by changing him to a rooster, an animal which thereafter daily must announce the dawn with crowing.

Cinyras ( myrrth tree)

King of Cyprus had a beautiful daughter, Myrrha, who his wife boasted was more beautiful than Aphrodite. In order to punish such arrogance to a god, Aphrodite cursed the daughter, Myrrha to fall in love with her father.

With the aid of her nurse, Myrrha lay with her father. In the morning, when Cyprus saw Myrrha, he chased her with a sword, wanting to kill her for such a dreadful act.

Aphrodite changed Myrra to a myrrh treee. When Cyprus split the tree with his sword, out sprang Adonis, the son conceived from her conception by her father.

Coronis ( crow )

Apollo had an affasir with Coronis, a mortal maiden. While he was away from her, he entrusted a white crow (its color at the time) to watch over her. Coronis was unfaithful, even though pregnant by Apollo. The crow dutifully reported such a transgression to Apollo, who immediately instructed Artemis to kill Coronis with an arrow.

Before dying, Apollo snatched the child, later to become Asclepius, God of Medicine, from Coronis' dying womb. In anger against the crow from bringing such bad news, Apollo changed the color of the crow from white to black, a color which all the animal's descendants thereafter carried.

Ino ( seagull )

Ino was married to King Athamas, and was the sister of Semele, mother of Dionysus. After Semele was killed by witnessing Zeus in all hi majesty, Zeus asked Ino to raised Dionysus. To avoid the detention of the jealous and vengeful Hera, Ino disguised Dionysus by dressing him in female clothes. But, eventually, hera learned the truth, punishing both Athamas and Ino by driving them mad. Athamas, in a frenzy, killed one of his sons. Ino took her other son and lept into the sea.

Since Ino had aided Zeus by trying to raise Dionysus, Zeus memeorialized her by converting her mortal form to that of a seagull.

Enceladus ( earthquakes and volcanos )

During the war between the Giants and Zeus and the Olympians, Athena jousted with the Giant, Enceladus. Athena picked up the island of Sicily, hurling it at Enceladus, burying him.

Thereafter, when turned, an 'earthquake' would result. When he became restless, he would hiss, flashing out his fiery tongue, and a volcanic eruption would result, from the area that is, today, known as Mt. Athena, in Sicily.

Galanthis ( weasel )

The Goddess of Childbirth, Eileithyia, was influenced by Hera to delay the birth of Heracles. Hera found out that Zeus was the father by Alcmena, and that the child was destined to become the monarch of the lands of Thebes. Therefore, she sent Eileithyia to delay birth. Eileithyia could stop the process of delivery by crossing her arms, fingers, legs, and toes.

But, the servant maid, Galanthis, saw that Alcmena was in distress, so she pretended that the birth already ocurred, yelling out the Alcmena had given birth. Eileithyia, in the next room, uncrossed herself to see what was happening, and in doing so, the delivery proceeded as normal. For such a transgression, Galanthis was transformed by Eileithyia into a weasel.

Cyparissus ( cypress tree )

Apollo had a close frienship with the young hunter, Cyparissus. While out hunting one day, Cyparissus accidentally killed one of his favorites deer. He was severely grief-stricken, so much so that he asked his friend Apollo to let him mourn forever. Apollo converted Cyparissus into a cypress tree, which became known as a common symbol of mourning.

Nyctimene ( owl )

This myth is similar to the one of Myrrha. Nyctimene, like Myrrha, commited incest with her father, Nycteus. Nycteus tried to kill her, but Nyctimene, in shame, hid in the woods. Athena, to ease her existence, changed her into a owl, which avoided detection, since it only came out at night.

Pan and Syrinx ( pipe )

Unlike her sister nymphs, Syrinx wanted to remain a virgin her entire life, like Artemis. However, Pan saw, and became infatuated, with her. While Pan was chasing her in the woods, Syrinx prayed to the gods to aid her. The gods transformed her into a clump of reeds. Pan, to commemorate her, uprooted the reeds, cutting them, and using wax, to fashioned the first "Pan Pipe", or syrinx.