126. Bacchus punishes Orpheus’ murderers

Once upon a time, the Ciconian women, in Bacchic frenzy, had torn to pieces the famous bard Orpheus, the son of the muse Calliope and King Oeagrus of Thrace, because he had shunned their love.

The birds, stones, animals, and woods, who had followed the poet’s inspiring songs, mourned his death. The trees discarded their leaves, as if tearing their hair in grief. In sadness, the rivers cried and their tears swelled up their waters. With unkempt hair, the lamenting dryads and naiads, wore dark color garments. The torn limbs of Orpheus were scattered in unknown places. Hebros, the river-god of the river Hebros in Ciconia, in eastern Thrace, received the head and the harp of the slain Orpheus.

While floating down the river, Orpheus’ beloved harp mourned immeasurably. Although without any life, yet the tongue voiced a bemoaning sound and sorrowfully, the banks of the river replied. The stream carried the lifeless head to a foreign sandy shore of Lesbos, at Methymna, where a furious serpent opened wide its fatal jaws, but Phoebus appeared and hardened the jaws to stiff stone.

Bacchus grieved for the loss of his beloved poet of hallowed rites, and would not allow the wickedness of the murderers, to remain without punishment. With twisted roots, he bound the feet of all those evil women, who had attacked Orpheus and had torn him apart. Their toes grew long with sharp points, which he thrust in the firm earth. Like a bird, who is entangled in a trap hid by a sly fowler, knows that it is trapped only when it is too late, then frantically beats its wings, and the fluttering only makes the noose more tight with every struggling attempt, likewise, as each cruel woman attempted flight by struggling, the roots went deeper and held them more tightly. Wood grew up and covered them until they became rigid oak trees.

Meanwhile, the shade of Orpheus had descended under the earth, met Eurydice and folded her in his loving arms.

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

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