78. Medea resolves to help Jason

Once upon a time, King Aeetes of Colchis had received the Golden Fleece from Phryxus. Jason, the son of Aeson, along with the Argonauts, approached Aeetes to ask the Golden Fleece. Aeetes agreed to give, provided Jason completed three tasks. Firstly, after taming fierce bulls, Jason had to make them plow the field of Mars. Secondly, he had to sow the teeth of a dragon in that field and lastly, he had to defeat the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece.

While Aeetes was explaining the tasks to Jason, the virgin Medea, daughter of Aeetes, was present near her father’s throne. As soon as she saw Jason, at the very first sight, she fell in love with him. Her love-struck heart frantically began to beat with happiness, but knowing the hard labours that Jason faced, her heart sank into unhappiness. Desire persuaded her to help Jason, but reason persuaded her otherwise.

Later in the day, Medea went to the altar of goddess Hecate to pray. While walking she thought that was her heart made of stone? If not, then why would she deny any help to Jason? Even a heart of flint would be moved by his youth, nobility and handsome countenance. If she did not help, then he would surely die. But, if she helped, then he would marry her. She thought of sailing away with him, forsaking her father, brother, Gods, and her native land. Forsaking would be easy, as her father was strict, her brother was just a child, the Gods were always in her heart, and her native land was rough. If she left, then she would not be leaving behind valued hopes. As Jason’s bride, in his sweet embrace, she would forget all fears and sorrows. But what if he sailed away alone, leaving her behind?

With such mixed thoughts, while Medea proceeded to the altar of Hecate, she met Jason on the way. Holding the hallowed Sun and goddess Hecate as witnesses, Jason promised marriage to Medea. Thus assured of Jason’s love, Medea resolved to help him gain victory in his tasks.

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

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77. Boreas and Oreithyia

Once upon a time, Boreas, son of Eos and Astraeus, was inflamed with love for the fair-cheeked Oreithyia, daughter of Praxithea and King Erechtheus of Athens. With gentleness and agreeable speeches, Boreas asked Erechtheus for the hand of Oreithyia. But Erechtheus took light of his kind words and declined Boreas’ wish.

Boreas refused to suffer humiliation and debase himself to weakness. After all, he was mighty Boreas, the great cold North wind. His might was his right and violence was his strength. Great actions comprised his drink of life. The snow was broken by him. He could drive out the gloomy clouds, toss the waters of the seas, and uproot large oak trees. He could pelt the Earth with hail and sleet. Rushing through limitless spaces, the hollow clouds rumbled his fury. The farthest caves of the Earth were penetrated by him, and from those limitless deeps, the terror-stricken shades of hell scattered away. With such powers at his command, Boreas concluded that force was the law of life, and using force, he decided to abduct Oreithyia.

Thus, the impetuous Boreas, spread out his rustling wings, traveled across mountain summits, wide seas, and reached Athens. There, while the men of Erechtheus were busy closing the gates and windows, which were furiously flapping in the gusty wind, Boreas forced himself into the palace. In sheer contempt of Erechtheus, who had rejected him as a suitor, Boreas caught Oreithyia and keeping her close to his breast, he flew away. Swiftly crossing great lands, his large wings fanned the cold winds near Ciconian Walls, where Oreithyia willingly became his wife.

Oreithyia gave birth to Cleopatra, Chione, Zetes, and Calais. The hero twin sons, Zetes and Calais, had their mother’s face, but like their immortal father, they had bird-like wings, which appeared when their golden hair and beards had grown. Later, they joined the Argonauts, to help find the Golden Fleece.

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

76. Procne and Philomela take revenge

Once upon a time, Procne was maddened with rage for her husband Tereus, the king of Thrace had raped her sister Philomela. Thereafter, to keep his evil act hidden, Tereus had sliced off Philomela’s tongue. Consumed with terrible fury, Procne raved to cut the tongue of Tereus, blind his lustful eyes, burn him alive, and give every painful death, ever imagined in the wretched anger of hate.

While the frenzied Procne was raging wildly, her little son, Itys, came running and clung to her. She thought Tereus would suffer most, if he lost what he loved the most. Since Tereus loved Itys the most, Procne resolved to kill Itys. Discarding her maternal love, in great anger she took a sword and fatally struck Itys, while Philomela cut through his tender throat. Then both the sisters mangled the remains of Itys, boiling a part of it in steaming pots bubbling over with the child’s blood, while the rest they roasted over hissing and spitting fires.

Thus, when the mangled remains of Itys were cooked, Procne, under a false pretense of a holy rite, invited Tereus for a feast. The gluttonous Tereus gorged himself and called Itys, to share the excellent meat. Procne, eager to rejoice over Tereus’s sorrow, cried out that the child whom Tereus was calling, was inside him. At that moment, Philomela, with disheveled hair spattered with the blood of Itys, sprang forth and hurled the head of Itys, in front of Tereus’s horror-struck face, while more than ever longing for her sliced tongue to utter fitting words.

The howling Tereus overturned the table, thrust his fingers deep in his mouth, vainly struggled to disgorge the half-digested flesh of his son, wept burning tears, and rushed with his sword, to kill the two sisters. But Procne and Philomela fled as if birds on wings, and truly they turned to red-breasted swallows, with the red feathers branding them for the murder of Itys. The chasing Tereus also turned to a sharp-beaked bird, called as Hoopoe.

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

75. Procne rescues Philomela

Once upon a time, Tereus, the king of Thrace, had raped Philomela, the sister of his wife Procne. To keep his evil deed unknown, he had sliced off her tongue and kept her imprisoned in a dismal old house, in the deepest recess of a solitary forest. Thereafter, Tereus, with tearful eyes, expertly spun a false tale about Philomela’s death, which everybody believed, and they mourned her death. A year had passed, since that horrendous event took place.

During this time, the tongueless Philomela burned for revenge. Using a warp, she wove a cloth with white and purple markings, which told the tale of the crime. Then by gestures she begged her guard to give the cloth to Procne. Failing to understand the dreadful tale woven artistically in the cloth, the guard delivered it to Procne. In sad silence, Procne deciphered the mournful story. Procne’s grief was great, but greater was her anger for the evil done, and greatest was her flaming desire to punish Tereus.

As it was the festival time for honoring Bacchus, Procne loosed her hair, covered it green with vine leaves, hung a deer skin on her left, a light spear on the right, and rushed in the night to the woods, with a screaming horde of women followers, in Bacchic frenzy. They reached the house where Philomela was imprisoned, overpowered all the guards, and entered the house. Seeing the pale and emaciated Philomela, the eyes of Procne brimmed with tears, but she quickly disguised Philomela, in ivy leaves, deer skin, and other symbols of the Bacchanalian rites.

Both the sisters, disguised as frenzied Bacchics, rushed from the woods, to the palace of Procne, where they hugged each other and cried for a long time. Philomela, unable to lift her tearful eyes heavy with sorrow, raised both her hands instead, as if to call upon the Gods, to give witness that she had truly not done any wrong. Wiping her sister’s tears and holding her hands, Procne shared her grief, but Procne’s enraged heart, yearned for vengeance.

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

74. Tereus rapes Philomela

Once upon a time, Tereus, the king of Thrace, to fulfill his wife Procne’s desire to meet her sister Philomela, had brought Philomela from Athens to Thrace. When the ship reached his kingdom, instead of taking Philomela to the palace, he hurriedly took her to the deepest solitary place of an ancient forest, where stood an old sinister house.

In that wretched house, Tereus tried to take advantage of Philomela. With unending streaming tears and piteous cries, the terrified Philomela implored Tereus to spare her, but the stony heart of Tereus did not melt. Using brutal force, while she screamed calling her sister and father, Tereus cruelly raped Philomela several times, until his lust could fulfill no more. Philomela lay unconscious, trembling like a dying lamb, just released from the frothing jaws of a hungry wolf, who had viciously torn his mouthful of flesh.

After some moments, when consciousness returned, in frenzied grief, Philomela beat her chest and tore her hair. Hysterically, with upward arms addressing Heaven, she declared letting everyone know the heinous crime of Tereus. Although such an act would also shame her, yet her voice would echo over the trees exposing Tereus.

Tereus became afraid with guilty fear. He grabbed her arms, bound them against her back, and then drew his sword above her head. Seeing the flashy steel of sharp point, Philomela desiring to die, offered her bare throat. But the other hand of Tereus took pincers, with which he held her tongue. Then swiftly bringing his sword down, he sliced her tongue off. Thus silencing Philomela, the monstrous Tereus again raped her, as if challenging her sliced tongue, to now publish his crime to the whole world. Leaving her imprisoned in that house, Tereus left.

When Procne anxiously inquired about her sister, the vile Tereus, with tears and sighs, told a false story about her death with such mastery that everybody, including Procne, believed him. Procne grieved Philomela’s death.

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

73. Tereus sails away with Philomela

Once upon a time, Procne, the daughter of King Pandion of Athens, told her husband Tereus, the king of Thrace, that she desired to meet her beloved sister Philomela. Tereus set out on his long ships and landed on the fortified Piraeus. After greeting his father-in-law, Tereus recounted the desire of Procne and asked Pandion, to allow him to take Philomela, for a brief visit to Thrace.

While Tereus was expressing Procne’s wish, Philomela appeared richly attired in glittering royal robes, but which seemed less brilliant, being overshadowed by her own virgin radiance, sparkling charm, and glowing beauty. As soon as Tereus saw the blushing loveliness of the beautiful Philomela, he was consumed with love for her. But his love was not a worthy love, rather it was a base, lusty, and criminal love, which burned with unholy fires of lawless character. His frenzied heart desired Philomela at any cost. His wicked mind thought of bribing her trusted maids, or corrupting her virtue with most expensive gifts, or seizing her by waging war against Athens.

But as he was in the royal court of Pandion, Tereus utilized skillful duplicity and poignant acting. Pretending to lend voice to Procne’s wish of Philomela visiting her, the evil mouth of Tereus begged Philomela with passionate words, which became all the more eloquent, being waxed by his own desire. His eyes brimmed with tears, as if Procne herself was lovingly pleading Philomela, to come. Pandion and all the courtiers were moved. Philomela sweetly embraced her father and asked for his permission, to visit her dear sister Procne. The old king consented for her to depart with Tereus, on the next day at morning.

At night, the frenzy of Tereus pictured Philomela’s beauties yet unseen, and as frenzy feeds on itself, Tereus remained sleepless all night. At daybreak, Philomela sailed for Thrace along with Tereus, who throughout the journey, devoured her with wicked, lustful eyes.

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

72. Tereus marries Procne

Once upon a time, King Tereus of Thrace, rushed to help King Pandion of Athens, as Athens was attacked by a fierce horde of savage warriors. The valiant deeds of Tereus helped Athens win the battle. Pandion, took note that Tereus was a descendent of Ares, possessed vast wealth, and had also proved his friendship, by supporting Athens in its time of need. Thus impressed, Pandion gave his beloved daughter Procne, in sacred wedlock to Tereus.

However, the wedding was marked by bad omens. Juno, the goddess of the sacred rites did not attend. Hymenaeus, as well as the Graces, also did not come. From funeral pyres that were ablaze on the edge of the city, the Furies snatched burning brands, and made them into torches that lit the wedding hall. As the marriage bed was being prepared, an owl flew over the room of the bride, and did not go away, but sat silently on the roof. These bad omens cast a shadowy sadness on the entire wedding. However, disregarding the omens, the wedding continued and Tereus married Procne. The newly wedded couple left Athens and arrived at Thrace. But even at Thrace, the dire omens continued in one form or another, until Itys, the son of Procne and Tereus, was born.

The birth of Itys, gave the Thracians a reason to be merry and all of Thrace, erupted in festive merriment. The Thracians abandoned all limitations in their celebrations, and in their arrogant rejoicing, they even impudently blessed the Gods, for making the baby Itys see the light of the day. Tereus and Procne ordained that the day of their marriage, shall every year be commemorated as a festival day. Likewise, the birthday of Itys, shall every year be celebrated with banquets, songs, dances and laughter.

But, the ways of Fate are mysterious. By such a veil of present temporary happiness, Fate concealed the future permanent misery, which was to fall on Tereus and Procne, as wretched and unbearable woes.

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