Stories, Mirrors, Hypnos, Dreams, Nemesis, Nyx, & K’awiil

March 3, 2015 in Humans

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This article doesn’t really have a point to it, it’s merely me referencing various stories from various corners of the world and time, that are connected in my mind, for whatever reason.

Ancient Greek art vase

A shadowy figure, Nyx stood at or near the beginning of creation, and was the birther of other personified deities such as Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death). Her appearances are sparse in surviving mythology, but reveal her as a figure of such exceptional power and beauty, that she is feared by Zeus himself. She is found in the shadows of the world and only ever seen in glimpses.

Nyx took a prominent role in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus. In them, Nyx, rather than Chaos, is the first principle from which all creation emerges. Nyx occupies a cave or adyton, in which she gives oracles. Cronus (eternity) — who is chained within, asleep and drunk on honey — dreams and prophesies. Outside the cave, Adrasteia clashes cymbals and beats upon her tympanon, moving the entire universe in an ecstatic dance to the rhythm of Nyx’s chanting. Phanes — the strange, monstrous, hermaphrodite Orphic demiurge — was the child or father of Nyx. Nyx is also the first principle in the opening chorus of Aristophanes’ The Birds, which may be Orphic in inspiration. Here she is also the mother of Eros.

The theme of Nyx’s cave or mansion, beyond the ocean or somewhere at the edge of the cosmos may be echoed in the philosophical poem of Parmenides. The classical scholar Walter Burkert has speculated that the house of the goddess to which the philosopher is transported is the palace of Nyx; this hypothesis, however, must remain tentative.

Nyx roman art

Adrasteia is the nymph who nursed Zues when he was an infant, and hide him from Cronus by enlisting the Korybantes to beat their swords on their shields whenever he cried, drowning out his sound. She also gave the infant Zeus a beautiful sphaira to play with — which was described as if it were the cosmos. Adrasteia is also said to be an aspect of Nemesis, the spirit of divine retribution against those that succumb to hubris. Which is to say, everything that is done in the world will inevitably create its own undoing and antithesis. Poles locked to poles — the inescapable remorseless revenge of a fate. Implacable justice.

It’s Nemesis that was responsible for the fates of Echo and Narcissus. “Narcissus was a very beautiful and arrogant hunter from the territory of Thespiae and Boeotia, who disdained the ones who loved him. Nemesis lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was only an image. He was unable to leave the beauty of his reflection and he eventually died”.

Nemesis was the patron of gladiators. “Nemesis, winged balancer of life, dark-faced primordial, daughter of Justice, the frivolous insolences of mortals.”

Orpheus head Moreau

Hypnos lives in a cave, whose mansion does not see the rising, nor the setting sun, nor does it see the lightsome noon. At the entrance were a number of poppies and other hypnotic plants. His dwelling had no door or gate so that he might not be awakened by the creaking of hinges. The river Lethe, in the underworld, is known as the river of forgetfulness, and flows through his cave.

In Greek mythology, Phobetor was one of the Oneiroi, the personifications of dreaming. According to some, Phobetor is the son of Nyx, the primordial face of the Night, produced parthenogenetically — or, as others claim, with Erebus, the embodiment of Darkness. Phobetor had the ability to appear in the mortal realm in the guise of various animals and could change their physical forms at will in order to interact with mortals in the waking world.

Phobetor was the personification of nightmares and appeared in dreams in the form of animals or monsters. Among the gods he was known by his true name, Icelus (Ikelos, semblance). Together with his brothers, Phobetor resided in the land of dreams (Demos Oneiroi), a part of the underworld.

Obsidian mirror

Obsidian mirrors had a strong presence in the Classic Maya period, and their use is depicted repeatedly on the polychrome ceramics of the time, where pictorial vases frequently depict scenes from courtly life.

One vase depicts an anthropomorphic dog staring into the depths of a vase, behind the vase an anthropomorphic monkey dances while staring into a mirror held up in one hand. Another vase has a scene involving a group of elderly gods; one of these is applying makeup while using a mirror held up to his face by a female helper

An important vase from Chama near Nebaj, in the highlands, shows a Maya lord communicating with a rabbit spirit through a mirror, demonstrating the mirror’s importance as a portal between worlds. The rabbit spirit is talking to the lord, with its speech scroll passing directly over the mirror.

Classic period Maya god K’awiil was closely associated with mirrors. This deity was represented with one leg in the form of a serpent and a mirror on the forehead that was penetrated by an axe and emitted either flames or smoke. K’awiil was a deity who was associated with Maya divine kingship and the royal lineage and bears attributes that were later inherited by the Aztec Tezcatlipoca, or Burning Mirror. Four Late Classic sculptures of K’awiil were excavated from Burial 195 at Tikal, in each the deity grasps a mirror in its outheld hands.

Water droplet perfect sphere

A “Blind Harper’s Song” — found in a tomb dating to the New Kingdom period, in Egypt (3600-3100 years ago):

I have heard those songs that are in the ancient tombs,
And what they tell
Extolling life on earth and belittling the region of the dead.
Wherefore do they thus, concerning the land of eternity,
The just and the fair,
Which has no terrors?

Wrangling is its abhorrence; no man there girds himself against his fellow.
It is a land against which none can rebel.
All our kinsfolk rest within it, since the earliest day of time;
The offspring of millions are come hither, every one.
For none may tarry in the land of Egypt,
None there is who has not passed yonder.

The span of earthly things is as a dream;

But a fair welcome is given him who has reached the West.

Herakles Ancient Greek art

Maya Rock snake God

Sumerian killing lion carving

Sumerian rock lion carving

Anubis holding globe ancient Egypt

Nyx Ancient Greek art

Maya fresco painting

Maya art carving

Olmec skull carving

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