Monday, 30 April 2012

Witch - good and bad? Classical literature

   Long time back I started reading Greek myths. I was more than fascinated with them, I was stunned by them. I don't  really know what I found so close to my person in them, but there was definitely something special. Oh yes... there was magic in them. All those Gods and Goddesses endowed with supernatural powers made me my imagination go far beyond the rational. My favourite Goddess was Artemis. I used to play as I was her, hunting in the forests with a bow, which was made from a simple hanger :)
Modern Artemis
Classical Artemis
   Well, when I grew up I got to know that besides Greek myths there is also a classical literature, in which Homer's "Odyssey" takes the most attention. A heroic epos, full of adventures, stories about love and, of course, magic. One of the most famous witches in all ancient Greek literature was of course Circe. Was she a good or a bad witch? Let's see what are her actions in "Odyssey".
    Circe is a minor Goddess of Magic. Sometimes she used to be described as "witch" too. "Circe transformed her enemies or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions" (Wiki). If you remember she did the same with the Odyssey crew, when turned them into pigs and only Odyssey could resist her magic as he was warned by Hermes and given a special drug called "moly". As I had said in a post Witch - good and bad? Russian Baba-Yaga, witch as I found out, could play a dual role as a helper and a dreadful ruiner. Circe's function in Odyssey is similar to that of Baba-Yaga. 
   Circe guides Odyssey and his crew in their further journey. Though she doesn't do it by virtue of her kind nature, she does it only after Odyssey agrees to stay on her island Aeaea for one year as in return of her turning Odyssey's crew into humans again. Hence the witch remains witch - she does good but not forgetting about her own profit.
  Another not less famous than Circe witch is Medea. Her character is presented in Greek myths as well as in an ancient Greek literature. Mythological Medea figures in a myth about Jason and the Argonauts. Her actions start when Jason is asked by Medea's father Aeetes to perform tasks in order to obtain Golden fleece. Medea helps Jason to get Golden fleece with the means like herbs and ointment. In  late work by Apollonius of Rhodes "Argonautica" (3 century BC) Medea fell in love with Jason and promised to help him only of he succeed in the tasks and then take her with him and marry.
I was rather puzzled with the statements that Medea was either Hecate's daughter or her priestess, because this difference makes her less or more powerful witch then.
Jason and Medea
     Obvious that in whatever written sources Medea figures she is said to use such means of a witch as potions, herbs, hypnosis, drugs. However in contrast with Circe, Medea is a mortal woman who has strong emotions and strong character. In Euripid's tragedy "Medea" her personage lives through the Jason's betrayal. Medea takes revenge by murdering Jason's new wife by sending her poisoned dress and coronet. More, she also kills her own children in anger and despair. One important note is that in Euripid's tragedy Medea herself says that she was hated because she was considered to be too wise and cunning. These qualities of a witch, which help her to solve complex issues with an outstanding knack.
   I attempted to understand whether witch is good or bad as shown in classical Greek literature. Witch's good as soon as she acts for a success of the main hero, otherwise her actions are viewed as wrong and punishable.

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature


  1. omg....such deep study. I love it .

    1. Hi, dear. It was published (just got into spam folder cause of unknown reason) :))) Thanks for appreciating!