greek mythology

F is for Furies

The Furies, or Dirae, are part of Roman mythology. In Greek mythology, they’re called Erinnýes (“the angry ones”) or Eumenídes (“the Kindly Ones”). They’re the embodiments of vengeance. One description of their existence is that they came from the blood of Caelus (Greek: Uranus) when it fell upon Terra Mater (Gaia) due to Saturn (Cronus) castrating him. Another variation is that they were born from the primordial goddess of night, Nox (Nyx).

While typically thought of as three sisters, according to mythology, the real number of them are unknown. Virgil, the classical Roman poet, was first to recognize the three known Furies. Their names are Alecto (which means “unceasing”), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“avenging murder”). They tend to appear as women with serpent wreathes on their heads, blood running from their eyes and the wings of a bat or bird. And occasionally even the body of a dog.

When they’re not pursuing wrongdoers on Earth, the Furies are thought to spend most of their time in Tartarus, which is in the underworld below Hades, torturing damned souls.

‘Orestes Pursued by the Furies’ (1921) by John Singer Sargent

Interesting Tidbits:

  • On a rare few occasions, they would be called to punish a god, but mostly, they sought justice on mortals who broke laws such as murdering kin or breaking oaths.
  • A common Greek story featuring the Furies is “Eumenides” by Aeschylus. The Furies torment Orestes until he begs the goddess Athena to convince the Furies to leave him alone.
  • The Furies are known to be just, so if one repents, they will stop tormenting the person and sometimes bestow upon them blessings.
Good links to check out for more information:

What are your thoughts on the Furies? Have you experienced any books, movies, or games with them in it?

C is for Centaur

Today’s topic for the A to Z blogging challenge is Centaurs from Greek mythology. They have the torso of a human and the hindquarters of a horse. Most believe that they came into existence due to the appearance of riders on horseback for non-riding cultures. For someone unfamiliar, the elegant movements of both the rider and the horse can appear as if the both are acting solely as one being.

Centaur with Bow

In classical mythology, centaurs have been considered guardians of their territories and ensured the peace in the nature around them, usually driving the pesky meddling humans away. They’re also known for their dual nature of man and beast, usually behaving somewhere in between the two.

Centaurs’ lifespan is agreed to be much longer than humans, and their magic tied to both earth and the nature surrounding them. Stories also tell of their uncanny skill with both bow and spear, giving even more credit to their “bull striker” name.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • In more recent times, when the Aztecs encountered Spanish cavalry, the Spaniards were mistaken for being hybrid creatures similar to centaurs.
  • While the more typical view of a centaur is a man and a horse mix, in Russian folklore, there are old tales regarding a human/hound (or horse depending on the variation) creature that terrorized the countryside. It’s called a polkan based on the Italian poem I Reali di Francia which featured Pulicane a half-dog character.
  • Their origin dates back to the Bronze Age from terracotta pottery found featuring them.
So, what do you think of Centaurs? Have any favorite books or movies featuring them?