This is a post for my March book challenge, #marchmonthofmythology.
If you know about Tiresias, you probably know him as the old, blind seer who knows everything and is always right in his predictions. But have you ever wondered how he got his powers? Have you ever wondered how he turned blind?
I never did, actually. I just accepted those things as his permanent character traits. Turns out I was wrong and there’s actually an a very strange story behind it…
It all started with snakes
One day, in ancient times, when Tiresias was still young, he was taking a pleasant walk through the woods – until he happened upon two snakes mating. For some reason, he felt the need to hit the snakes with his walking stick, and for some reason, he was then transformed into a woman. Several years later, having led a normal life as a woman – including marriage and childbirth – Tiresias saw the exact same pair of snakes again, once again mating. And guess what: the exact same thing happened (or, the reverse, if you will). Tiresias was a man again.
A divine argument takes things to the next level
Hera and Zeus were having fun. This happens, once in a while. They had some nectar and for some reason they got into an argument about whether men or women have more pleasure during sex. Hera said men did; Zeus was sure it was more fun for women. (I have no idea what this says about Greek attitudes towards gender and some day when I have time to read academic articles for fun I hope to read more about this. And if there’s nothing to be found, this might actually be an interesting idea for my master thesis. Okay. Hold that thought. Back to the story.) There seemed to be no way to resolve the argument – the only person who could give them an answer, would be someone who had experienced sex as both a woman and a man… but wait! They knew such a person! So they went to see Tiresias.
Tiresias is in big trouble
Having to resolve an argument between the king and queen of everything, however trivial it may seem, is not an easy task. In fact, there’s really no way you can do it right. Tiresias was going to have to piss off one of them – but well, at least the other would be pleased. So he answered that women were the ones who had more pleasure during sex. (Was it the truth or did he think it was safer to please Zeus? We may never know.) Hera was not pleased with this answer and in revenge robbed Tiresias of his sight. Zeus was unable to undo Hera’s punishment because of some ancient rule or something, but to alleviate it he gave Tiresias the ability to see the future.
This story can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, though I think the first time I heard it was in school, from my Greek teacher. I guess teachers love telling weird stories.
Tiresias – weird stories
I borrowed The Call of Cthulhu from my best friend, and I haven’t read it yet – but it literally says ‘weird stories’ on the cover, so it has to fit this prompt.
What’s the weirdest story you’ve ever read?