Circe

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In Greek mythology, Circe (pronounced /ˈsɜrsiː/; Greek Κίρκη Kírkē "falcon") is a minor goddess of magic (or sometimes a nymph, witch, enchantress or sorceress) living on the island of Aeaea, famous for her part in the adventures of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey.

By most accounts, Circe was the daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and Perse, an Oceanid, and the sister of Aeetes, the keeper of the Golden Fleece, Perses, and Pasiphaë, the Wife of King Minos and mother of the Minotaur.[1] Other accounts make her the daughter of Hecate.[2]

Circe transformed her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions. She was renowned for her knowledge of drugs and herbs.

That Circe also purified the Argonauts for the death of Apsyrtus, as related in Argonautica,[3] may reflect early tradition.[4]

Contents

In ancient literature

In Homer's Odyssey

In Homer's Odyssey, Circe is described as living in a mansion that stands in the middle of a clearing in a dense wood. Around the house prowled strangely docile lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic;[5] they were not dangerous, and fawned on all newcomers. Circe worked at a huge loom.[6] She invited Odysseus' crew to a feast of familiar food, a pottage of cheese and meal, sweetened with honey and laced with wine, but also laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they gorged themselves on it. Only Eurylochus, suspecting treachery from the outset, escaped to warn Odysseus and the others who had stayed behind at the ships. Odysseus set out to rescue his men, but was intercepted by his great grandfather, Hermes,[7] who had been sent by Athena. Hermes told Odysseus to use the holy herb moly to protect himself from Circe's potion and, having resisted it, to draw his sword and act as if he were to attack Circe. From there, Circe would ask him to bed, but Hermes advised caution, for even there the goddess would be treacherous. She would take his manhood unless he had her swear by the names of the gods that she would not.

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