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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections & Springtime by Rose Anderson

We have a broad theme this month that spans castles, flowers, and gems. Readers are sure to enjoy our different spins!

Because I'm sitting here with a howling snowstorm out my window, my offering today will touch upon springtime.

In Greek mythology the forces of nature were usually overseen by some god or goddess or some monster or the other. Forces of nature were also personified by a different sort of being -- the Nymph. 

Technically, nymphs were not gods, nor were they immortal like the gods. They did eventually die, but in their death, they most often went through a transformation.
The myths are filled with nymphs giving up their lives to transform into trees, plants, water and stone. Nymphs were the embodied aspect of earth, their essence and being tied to the water, air, and trees, etc. in which they lived. When I think about their transformation, Newton's First Law of Thermodynamics comes to mind -- energy only changes form, it never disappears.

Allow me to paint you a picture with words.

Long ago in the wooded mountain glades of Greece there lived a Nymph named Echo. Echo was as lovely as the other Nymphs who lived their lives in the foothills below Mount Olympus, but she had one undesirable trait. You see, nothing pleased Echo more than the sound of her own voice. Worse, when others managed to get a word in edgewise she had to have the last word.

The goddess Hera, busy as she was overseeing the sanctity of marriage, often appreciated Echo's distracting chatter and found the chatty Nymph quite amusing with
her endless stream of gossip and anecdotes. It didn't take long for Hera's philandering husband Zeus to use this distraction to his advantage. The moment Echo began her chatter, he knew his wife's attention wouldn't be on him, so he took himself to earth to seduce mortals and ravish Nymphs.
Of course, Hera eventually became aware of his new round of infidelity. Needless to say, she was furious. It was useless to vent her anger on her husband. As ruler of Mount Olympus, he was pretty much above reproach. What's a goddess to do? Pass the buck. Convinced Echo intentionally created a diversion for Zeus, Hera focused her wrath on the Nymph by ripping the voice from Echo's throat. Hera told her, "You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with which you have cheated me, though you shall still have the last word." From that day on, all Echo could do was repeat another's last word.

Years before Echo's fateful punishment, a boy was born to Leirope, a water Nymph who had been seduced by the river god Cephisus. She named her especially beautiful son Narcissus. Concerned by the fact he grew more handsome by the day, Leirope went to the oracle to inquire about her son's future and was told he would live long provided he never knew himself. Vague answer that. Coming to know oneself occurs whether we want it or not. At age sixteen, Narcissus was loved and desired by all men and women who set eyes upon him. This he knew, and knowing it made him vain. In his vanity he rejected all those who loved and desired him, and as a result, many hearts were broken.

Echo, like so many others, had fallen desperately in love with Narcissus. Helplessly obsessed, she followed him everywhere hoping for the opportunity to tell him how she felt. 

One day Narcissus heard footsteps behind him but turned and saw no one. Walking on, he heard it again. This time he said, "Who is here?"

"Here." came Echo's reply. 

"Show yourself!" He demanded.

"Self" was all he heard.

And so it went throughout the day. Echo, frustrated by the fact she was unable to declare her love, rushed forward and threw her arms around the beautiful object of her obsession.
Repulsed, Narcissus shoved her away and demanded she leave him be.
Echo was devastated.

She wasn't the only one suffering from unrequited love for Narcissus. One day, a shunned maiden uttered a prayer that he might feel what it was like to love helplessly with no return of affection. The goddess Artemis heard the plea and answered. If there was one thing the gods enjoyed more than anything, it was exacting revenge on a whim. She caused Narcissus to fall in love -- with himself.

To set her revenge in motion, Artemis saw to it that Narcissus grew thirsty.
To quench this thirst he sought a clear pond and bent to drink from the water's edge. There in the water he saw a most beauteous sight and instantly fell in love. Over and over he tried to touch the object of his longing not realizing it was his own reflection he saw. Each time the image poured through his fingers. Enraptured, he couldn't tear himself away and the oracle's warning came to fruition. Thoughts of food and rest forgotten, Narcissus longingly gazed on his reflection until at last he perished. There was nothing Echo could do but watch.

But the story wasn't over.
When the Nymphs heard Narcissus had died, they came to place him on a funeral pyre. But all that remained of Narcissus was a patch of beautiful flowers as lovely as he had been in life.

As for Echo... Brokenhearted, she wandered the mountain glades until she faded away. To this day all that remains is the echo.


Thomas Bulfinch was my early introduction to the myths and I just loved it. Read about Echo and Narcissus in his The Age of Fable or Stories of Gods and Heroes. Download Bulfinch's fantastic works for free at Project Gutenberg:

What about springtime? According to the myth, Narcissus gave his name to those spring flowers we all love so well. The family of Narcissi (the amaryllis family) includes jonquils, narcissus, and showy daffodils of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  The ancient Greeks and Romans favored Narcissi in all their varieties and filled their gardens with them. The Romans took them along as they conquered the known world.

The American Daffodil Society

I love spring flowers.
To me they represent the end of winter. Snowdrops will bloom first and I planted them right outside my door so I will be sure to see it. To me this means spring is on my doorstep. I've grown giant amaryllis, pots of small paper whites and an assortment of daffodils over the years, both indoors and out. I just love bulbs of all kinds. In fact, I have a house full of blooming hyacinths right now. (The heady perfume is a little cloying at this stage). In the upper Midwest, bringing a little springtime indoors does much to chase winter blahs.  What flowers do you enjoy? What brings thoughts of springtime to you?

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About Rose
Rose is a multi-published, award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

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Unknown said...

Your blog post is a breath of fresh air as winter bears down on us again here in north Texas. Thanks for reminding me of the Echo and Narcissus story, Rose. It's one of my favorites.

I love all flowers and believe they hold the innocence and purity of the planet in their vibrations. I'm particularly in love with roses, violets and lilacs. said...

Love your article about the old myths, gods, and goddesses. They certainly explained everything in nature, didn't they?

This year is so bad so far that I'm not sure we'll ever see the spring flowers. But we'll hope.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Greek myths were used to explain the change in seasons. They are wonderfully creative. I enjoyed your take on it. I think we're all tired of this unpleasant, dreary winter, at least here on the East coast.
But as Shelley wrote: "If winter's here can spring be far behind?" Let's hope for an early spring!

Tina Donahue said...

I love Greek mythology - was totally addicted to it in high school. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Thanks for such a beautiful rendition of a lovely, sad story. I've always been fascinated by the old mythologies, both Greek and Roman.

Paris said...

Thanks for the wonderful post and the reminder that spring is on the way. We had snow again last night, although not as much as many parts of the country. My daffodils are peeking through the snow at the moment and I'm impatient for more!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Rose! What interesting information about Echo and Narcissus. I'd forgotten all about them. We had a brief spring ten days ago and then were slammed with wintry mix. Another does is coming today. Lots of people are moaning and groaning about the bad weather; however, I relish it because the snow, ice, and rain will help prevent our drought. No water for lawns and pools is not fun.

So rain on!

Melissa Keir said...

Wow.. great post and very informative! The Nymphs were perfect focus for the Gods. Thanks for sharing!

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Spring is coming!

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