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February 7, 2017

Circe


Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses (1891) - JW Waterhouse
Circe (also called Kirke), in Greek mythology is a minor goddess of magic, or sometimes, a sorceress or witch. Circe is the Latinized spelling of the original Greek Kirkê, which derives from the verb kirkoô meaning “to hoop around with rings” and “to encircle,” in Circe’s case which may refer to the binding power of magic.

Circe was a very beautiful goddess. She lived on the island of Aeaea, near the west coast of Italy. Her companions comprised magically transformed animal-servants. With potions and spells Circe was able to turn people into beasts. Her victims retained their reason, however, and knew what had happened to them.

Differing views are available about Circe’s parentage. Pursuant to Homer and Hesiod, she was the daughter of the sun god Helios (Roman  equivalent: Sol) and the sea nymph Perse. However, the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus mentions her as the daughter of Aeetes and Hecate (Roman equivalent: Trivia). Again, a few others call her the daughter of Hyperion and Aerope. She had two brothers, Aeetes and Perses; and a sister, Pasiphae. Her offspring include:

Sl. # Offspring Father Source
  1.  
Agrios Odysseus Hesiod, Theogony (1011)
  1.  
Latinos Odysseus Hesiod, Theogony (1011)
  1.  
Telegonos Odysseus Homerica: Returns (Fragment 4)
Homerica: Telegony (Fragment 1)
Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans (41)
Hyginus, Fabulae (127)
Oppian, Halieutica (2.497)
  1.  
Nausithous Odysseus Hyginus, Fabulae (125)
  1.  
Telegonos Odysseus Hyginus, Fabulae (125)
  1.  
Latinos Telemakhos Nonnus, Dionysiaca (13.327 & 37.10)


Odysseus and Circe - Salomon De Bray
Perhaps the best-known account of Circe stems from Homer’s Odyssey, wherein she is a very beautiful goddess playing a major role in one of Odysseus’ most important adventures. Having barely escaped the Cyclops Polyphemus and the cannibals in the land of the Laestrygonians, Odysseus and his comrades camped on Circe’s island. The weary visitors rested on the sea beach for three consecutive days, until Odysseus saw a wisp of smoke in far-away. Suspecting the presence of human life, Odysseus sent captain Eurylochus with twenty two men to explore the island. In the course of their quest the crew found Circe’s mansion in the deep forest. Circe cordially invited them all to enter her house to join a grand feast. Although all of his companions attended the feast with pleasure, captain Eurylochus decided not to enter the house suspecting conspiracy. In the feast Circe served dishes laced with magical potion, which made the crew drowsy and forgetful of their native land. No sooner had they finished their food, Circe turned the wretched men into pigs with her magical wand. Eurylochus, who was unharmed, rushed back to Odysseus to inform about the sinister incident.

On his way to find help for his men, Odysseus met the god Hermes (Roman equivalent: Mercury), from whom he received a herb that would make him immune to Circe's enchantments. He also advised Odysseus to threaten Circe with his sword so that she surrenders and invite him to bed. However, Hermes also warned him that Circe could still be treacherous and would probably take his manhood unless he had her swear by the names of the gods that she would not try any more tricks. With Hermes’ aid Odysseus was able to catch Circe by surprise. Her encounter with Odysseus reminded Circe of the hero who she had been told by an earlier prophecy would one day come to her. Consequently, as told by the prophecy she befriended Odysseus and invited him to bed. Upon Odysseus’ request she transformed his men back into human shape, younger and more handsome than before.

He and his friends stayed with her for a year. When they finally determined to leave, she told Odysseus how to find the spirit of the Theban seer Tiresias in the underworld in order to learn from him how to conduct safely the homeward voyage. When they went there Odysseus was given a prophecy of his own demise. They then returned to Circe for further instructions. She told them to depart but also warned them of the dangers of the journey ahead. In particular, she told them not to kill the cattle of the sun god, Helios, which lived on the island of Thrinacia. As it turned out, only Odysseus was resolute enough to heed her warning, and consequently he was the only member of the crew to complete the journey.

Lady Hamilton As Circe (1782) - George Romney





References

"Circe”. Wikipedia. 2017. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 16 January 2017
< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circe >.

"Circe”. GreekMythology.com. 2017. GreekMythology.com. 16 January 2017
< http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/Circe/circe.html>.

" KIRKE”. Theoi Project. 2017. Aaron J. Atsma. 16 January 2017
< http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Kirke.html>.

" Circe (Greek mythology)”. Credo. 2017. Credo Reference. 16 January 2017
< http://search.credoreference.com/content/topic/circe_greek_mythology>.

" Witch of the Week — Circe”. Nook of Names. 2017. Nook of Names. 16 January 2017
< http://nookofnames.com/2011/12/13/witch-of-the-week-circe/>.
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