Friday, November 2, 2012
Friday’s Mythological Creature of the Day – Harpy
With one hand covering my eyes, my swirling finger lands on a page in my mythological encyclopedia. Once again I find myself stumbling upon the Greek mythology. Harpies are fascinating creatures -- so strong, so ravenous, that their names are remembered through human history and our language! Even today we refer to nasty, annoying women as being “harpies”. So who are these mortifying creatures?
Harpies are the daughters of a seagod Taumas and an oceanid Elektra. They ravished the Earth even prior to the arrival of the Gods of Olympus (aka Zeus and Company). How many of them existed? Estimations run from two to five, depending on the source. That’s all! Their names are Aello (The Storm Swift), Aellopo (The Stormlike), Podagre (The Fleet-Foot), Ocypete (“The Swift Wing), Celaeno (The Dark)). Some scholars believe some of these names are just aliases for the same two or three harpies.
Typically they are portrayed as ugly-faced creatures, half-female, half-bird, kind of like an ugly mermaid, but with wings...
In mythology they are described as evil kidnappers of kids and lost souls (the name itself “Harpy” comes from the Greek “Snatching”). They swoop down quickly to snatch their victims and disappear just as fast into the wind. The relationship of the harpies to the winds can be proved by one of the myths about the divine nature of Achilles’ stallions. They were special mares, born from Podagre and Zephyros (the Wind of the West).
Another well-known story about harpies is their torture of a king Phineus, who was cursed for a crime he unknownly committed. They were devouring his food, starving him to death.
Harpies were banished by the relatives of Phineus, sons of Boreas (the North Wind). Iris, the rainbow goddess, the messenger of Zeus, prevented Boreas’s sons from murdering Harpies. I wonder why? (TMZ alert: allegedly Iris was their half-sister).
That’s all for today. Come back soon and spread the word!