Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hekate, Iphigenia, and the White Island of Snakes

This morning I was doing some research on Iphigenia and her connections to Hekate, which are many. I started with this passage from Wikipedia:
Artemis punished Agamemnon after his soldiers killed a pregnant hare. Artemis, being the goddess of the unborn, was livid and decided that she has to punish Agamemnon for the evil deed his soldiers committed. On their way to Troy to participate in the Trojan War, Agamemnon's ships were suddenly knocked violently into each other, as Artemis caused intense winds in Aulis. The soothsayer, Calchas, revealed an oracle that appeased Artemis, so that the Achaean fleet could sail. This much is in Homer, who does not discuss the aspect of this episode in which other writers explain that the only way to appease Artemis was to sacrifice Iphigenia to her. According to the earliest versions he did so, but other sources claim that Iphigenia was taken by Artemis to Tauris in Crimea to prepare others for sacrifice, and that the goddess left a deer or a goat (the god Pan transformed) in her place. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women called her Iphimede (Ἰφιμέδη) and told that Artemis transformed her into the goddess Hecate. Antoninus Liberalis said that Iphigenia was transported to the island of Leuke, where she was wedded to immortalized Achilles under the name of Orsilochia.
The bit that caught my eye was the bit from Liberalis. He mentions that she was transported to the island of Leuke. Leuke is "White" in Greek, and the Greeks considered the island to be holy. The modern name of the Isalnd? Snake Island. Lots of connections between Hekate and serpents. Coincedence? I'm not sure.

Thetis brought the remains of Achilles and Patroclus to the island to be buried in a sanctuary. Thetis, a goddess of the sea, was the daughter of Nereus. She was said by Homer to be one of the Nereids, who were the daughters of the Old Man of the Sea -- more on that below.

Nereus was the brother of Phorcys, who, according to some myths, was the father of Scylla on Hekate. Nereus and Phorcys were brothers to Eurybia, the strong goddess. Eurybia by Crius was mother to Perses -- Hekate's father. This makes Thetis and Hekate cousins.

The thing about Nereus and Phorcys was that they were both referred to as "The Old Man of the Sea." Nereus seemed to be the gentler of the two, the one sailors could trust, a god of prophecy and good sailing, while Phorcys was the god of the deep sea with all her mysteries, the dangerous places where whole ships could be swallowed up in the dark.

Given that it is conjectured that there was once an ancient god of the sea who was eventually supplanted by Triton, I wonder if Nereus and Phorcys were merely epithets of the same old sea god. If so, that would only strengthen Hekate's connection to both Thetis and the Holy White Island of Snakes.

Connections upon connections.

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