greekmythology

The sorceress Circe

circeCirce  lived on the island Aeaea, near Italy. Her father was the sun-god Helios and her mother the sea nymph Perse. Surrounding her palace were wild animals wich were tame, since they really were bewitched humans. Circe is widely known from Homer’s Odyssey where she plays a leading role in one of Odysseus‘ most important adventures. She was immortal and lived on an island somewhere in the distant ocean, where she lived alone with her enchanted servants the domesticated lions, wolves and other animals. All of these were actually men she had transformed with her magic.

When Odysseus and his companions arrived on the island of Circe, the witch greeted him kindly, but the food she served was watered with a drug that made them fall asleep. So when the drug acted, she touched them with her magic wand and they all transformed into pigs; everyone except Odysseus. He would have had the same fate, if he had not first met the god Hermes, who had given him to swallow an herb like the lily, which protected him from the spell of Circe.

Because Odysseus resisted Circe, she recognized him like the hero they had prophesied would one day come to her island. So she transformed his companions again into people, but younger and more beautiful than before and became a friend and mistress of Odysseus.

The men stayed on the island of Kirki for a year. He told them to visit the land of the dead, where Odysseus went down to Hades to receive an oracle from the seer Teiresias. When they returned, they asked Circe for instructions to return to Ithaca.

She warned them that they would face many dangers in their journey. Specifically, she told them not to disturb the cows of Helios (God of the Sun) , who were on the island of Thrinakia. In the end, Odysseus was the only one determined to follow this advice, which is why he was the only member of the crew to complete the return journey. Circe also participates in the legend with Jason and the Argonauts.

According to Apollonius the Rhodian, when Argo arrived on the island of Circe, she anointed Jason and Medea with pig’s blood in order to atone for the seizure of the golden fleece. Medea and Circe were related and descended from the god Helios. The daughters and granddaughters of the Sun were generally dangerous women. One of them was Pasiphae, the mother of the Minotaur.

In a newer version of the myth of Circe, Odysseus had with her a son, Telegonus, who when he grew up sought out his father. He arrived in Ithaca and without knowing where he was he raided the island. Odysseus ran to repel him and in the ensuing battle Telegonus killed him, unaware that he was his father.

This fulfilled a prophecy that Odysseus’ death would come from the sea. Telegonus then married Penelope. The two of them together with his half-brother Telemachus traveled to the island of Kirki, where Telemachus married Kirki. Then she bestowed immortality on all three.