November 7, 2019

Before Odysseus ever got to Calypso’s island, he stayed a year with another beautiful goddess, Circe, and how different she was from Calypso. When his black ship first encountered her island of Aeaea, he had no idea where he was and we don’t either, but he still had his crew with him when he arrived.

Odysseus sent an advance party inland to scout out the island and they soon found Circe, the sea witch, who entertained the bullies hospitably. She fed them, sang to them, flirted with them, all the while encouraging these distant travellers to forget their homes and their wives. That’s one of the paradoxes of travel; it always reminds you of the home you left behind. But it can be assuaged with alcohol and sex and drugs, and Circe knew her drugs. When she waved her long magic wand, presto, she turned them all into grunting swine, the archetypical image of men in the thrall of sexual heat. If this isn’t the origin of the term “sexist pig,” then it ought to be.

Could Circe ever find a real man? Eventually Odysseus came looking for his crew and he seemed to know how to overpower her sexually. This was only because Hermes, sneakiest of the gods, gave him an antidote to her drugs and no doubt some precise instructions on a seduction sequence that would appeal to her. The antidote turned out to be moly, a small herb black at the root but with a milky flower (garlic, speculate the scholars). Circe liked a natural man, an earthy man, a man who was a match for a fertility goddess. She lived in an open plan house of well-polished stone and shiny doors surrounded by forest and she could charm wild animals — the wolves, the lions who lived on her island — and so too she charmed Odysseus. Into her arms came this rugged handsome fellow, his hairy chest guarded by those piercing eyes. He was wiry and weather-beaten, like a hunter, hard, tangible, scented. Her erotica must have a touch of the perverse and she made love that way. In her terrific bed he learned of the future frights he would encounter with similarly dangerous feminine figures: the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis. She taught him to understand that these are all projections of masculine fear and disgust with women’s sexuality. Men must learn to hate themselves before they can love women….

Sexual Fables:
Homer’s Women
Why Did It take Odysseus 19 Years to Get Home from Troy?

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