Saturday, 21 October 2017

girl interruptus or from here to paternity

The introduction to a particularly brilliant crossover episode that profiled the intersection of the history of Ancient Greece with that of witchcraft was a nice reminder of the bizarre and complicated origin story behind the liminal figure of Tiresias of Thebes, the blind seer who tried to keep Oedipus from investigating too far into the murder of the former king and posthumously advised Odysseus how to return home and avoid the traps in store for him and his crew. For disturbing a pair of copulating snakes whilst hiking up Mount Kyllini, he garnered the displeasure of Hera who punished him (I guess) for his transgression by transforming him into a woman.
Seeing this baffled individual, Apollo came and offered a measure of explanation, saying that Tiresias would be made his former gender should he encounter mating serpents a second time. Legends vary but some accounts hold that female Tiresias was a prostitute of great fame, and giving birth to and rising a daughter, sired by none other than Hercules (though some dispute paternity), called Manto, who was also gifted with the curse of prophesy and was the namesake of the city of Mantua (Mantova). Seven years later, Tiresias came across another pair of snakes entwined in the act and either did or didn’t interrupt their activity (accounts vary) and his manhood was restored. At some point afterwards, Zeus and Hera were having a heated debate as to which gender derived more pleasure from sexual congress (though they didn’t specify what sort of intercourse) and at an impasse decided to bring in Tiresias who had experienced it from both sides as arbiter. When Tiresias sided against Hera once again by saying that ninety percent of the pleasure was the woman’s share, the goddess was so enraged that she gouged out Tiresias’ eyes. Out of pity and unable to countermand the punishment of his sister-wife, Zeus tried to compensate by granting Tiresias the ability to see into the future and a number of other superhuman talents plus a life extension that crossed seven generations and he became a prophet of Apollo.