Thursday, January 19, 2006


The kid and I are studying Greek Mythology together, as I prep for the Mythology in Literature class I'm teaching, TR afternoons this semester.

(You should see this 2 volume Manga book on Greek myths she got for Hanukkah this year -- it's manga everything these days, I suppose, but nevertheless it cracks me up, especially the footnotes: for example, right after Gaia and Ouranos "get married," which is how the text puts it, the manga version has a footnote: "You're probably wondering how a mother can marry her son! Well! Lots of strange things happen in mythology!" <-- That's the entire footnote, I swear.)

Anyway, studying an academic subject with your seven year old is an experience not to be missed. She asks me endless questions, some of which are just annoying, but some of which are actually fruitful -- for instance, what *is* up with those ashtree nymphs?

You remember. This is after Kronos castrates his father (The Manga version tastefully cuts away and doesn't show precisely what Kronos is doing to Ouranos, just that he's wounding him somehow) and throws his whanger into the sea?

And as he's flinging the whanger into the sea, some drops of blood fall onto "the dark earth"?

And from that union of dark earth and blood spring first the Furies, and second, the Giants, and finally the Ashtree Nymphs.

Okay, the Furies make sense. They're Vengeance demons. You can see why the blood of a castrated father would cause them to be born.

And the Giants, well, they're monsters. They cause a lot of trouble during the War with the Titans, later on. Still making some sense.

But the Ashtree Nymphs? They're sort of...sweet. What is up with that?

(And the last thing to be born, after Ouranos's whanger falls into the sea, by the way? It floats around, and foam foams up around it? And from this foam? Arises Aphrodite. Lovely Aphrodite. Goddess of Love. Meditate on that one a bit.

But even that sort of makes sense. Love is dangerous, as Billy Bragg says. And Aphrodite did start the Trojan War, as the kid pointed out to me. So.)

So why the Ashtree Nymphs?

I hunted around and found this article

which helped a bit -- basically what it's saying is that the ashtree puts out a substance like honey or like manna, a sweet sap, which, when it ferments, will get you high.

Peyote, if you will.

Blood of the gods.

Or the god, in this case.

Since we're all born of Aphrodite, in one sense, born of her blood, which is in another sense Ouranos's blood; and since the ashtree puts out Ouranos's blood, exudes that blood, if we drink that blood, according to this myth, we're connected back to the god.

Anyway, the ashtree nymphs are another way to connect to the gods -- I think. They leak the blood of the wounded god, and if we drink that blood, we become part of the god, for awhile.

Not that I'm advising anyone to do such a thing! Heavens no! This is all academic here!


zelda1 said...

Okay that sort of explains why the son of god was crucified on a tree, wonder if the tree had a name and was lost through history. Same concept, that cannibilism, drink this blood, ect....

delagar said...

Ha! Another thread. I wonder if it was an ash tree Christ was crucified on. Hmm.

zelda1 said...

I also noted on the site that you so graciously shared that the ash tree was suppose to be the giver of life and that babies were given a taste of its sap. So, wonder if the tree of life myth is from the same ideas and is this Greek or Roman myth older than say the myth of creation, and was there a way that the ash tree could have come from Egypt and futher back. Wow! How cool to research all that. I have always loved tree symbolism. Toni Morrison uses a lot of tree symbolism in her books and most of it reflects, or I think, AFrican mythology, but she is well versed in Greek and Roman as well. If I were in your class, I would be trying to connect the ash tree to Egypt, then to the Jewish people, and maybe a connection could be shown between other trees. That's what we did with the tree that Abraham sat under. It kept reoccurring in the old Testament and soon it spark an aporia and from there we found that it had strong ties to the Egyptian tree, same one a god was forced into and that same god guarded the Nile and other such things. OOOO, wish I were there.