150. Halcyone and Ceyx become birds

Once upon a time, Halcyone, the wife of King Ceyx of Trachyn, dreamt that Ceyx had drowned at sea.

Awaking from her sleep, in profound despair, Halcyone beat her face, ripped her garment, and tore her hair. When her worried old nurse asked the cause of her grief, she related that Ceyx, as a vision had come to her in a dream, informing that huge waves had swallowed him.

She mourned that if she had gone with him, then they would have met death together. With lamenting hands she struck her woe-ridden heaving breast, which hauled up moaning groans and dragged down pitiful sighs. She grieved that while she lay alive on a royal bed, Ceyx lay dead on a cruel wave. But more cruel than the wave seemed her miserable heart, for it did not stop, although it was bleeding to death in sorrow. She decided to join Ceyx in death. In life, forever faithful she had remained to Ceyx, and in death also, she would remain faithful to him.

Halcyone rushed to the seashore to end her life, when she noticed a floating object. As the waves washed it near, she recognized it as the lifeless body of her luckless husband. With maddened grief, she ran towards the body, held it and kissed it profusely. In the corpse’s half-open eyes, she could see her picture and from the dead parched lips, she could hear her name being uttered. Unable to live a moment more without her beloved Ceyx, she ran to a human crafted mole, which broke the shoreward charge of rushing waves, and from there, jumped into the sea. But while she fell, the merciful gods changed her to a moaning bird, and she flew skimming above the waters. The gods also took pity on Ceyx and changed his corpse into a bird.

Together as birds, Halcyone and Ceyx lived on, became parent birds and their nest floated on calm waters. For full seven days, during each winter, the sea remains calm and gives smooth passage without any storms. On such calm days, the sailors call the sea as the Halcyon Sea.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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