Circe In Greek mythology, a sorceress renowned for her enchantments, who turned Odysseus’ men into swine. Described by Homer as fair-haired, she was some- times said to be the daughter of Hecate, patron Goddess of witchcraft and Magic.
Homer said she controlled fate and the forces of creation and destruction with braids in her hair (see knots). She is seen both as a Moon goddess — because she lived in the west of the isle of Aeaea — and as a goddess of degrading love. Circe was married to the king of Sarmaritans, whom she poisoned. She was exiled to Aeaea, which means “wailing,” built herself a palace and learned magic.
She cast a spell over the entire island so that anyone who came there would be turned into an animal. Odysseus’ men were turned into swine, but Odysseus escaped with the help of a magical herb, moly, given to him by Hermes. He forced Circe to restore his men to their human form. Nevertheless, he was so taken with her that he spent a year with her. She was slain by Telemachus, who married her daughter, Cassiphone.
Circe’s very name is synonymous with “sorceress.” The original divine witch, she is no minor spirit, but a goddess of tremendous power. Daughter of Helios and Perse, an Oceanid, Circe comes from a family of divine enchantresses. Relatives include Hekate, Pasiphae, Ariadne, Medea, and Angitia. Circe’s most famous appearance is in Homer’s Odyssey, but she appears in other Greek myths, too. Circe performs the cleansing rituals that purify Jason and Medea after their murder of Medea’s brother, Circe’s nephew.
According to Homer, Circe dwells in a marble palazzo on the Isle of Aiaia (also spelled Aeaea), named for magical Greek vowels. Shespends her days singing and weaving, habits associated with the Fates. Circe is a shape-shifter but is most famous for transforming others. When Odysseus and his crew, trying to return home from the Trojan War, land on Aiaia, they discover an island paradise ruled by Circe and populated by her beautiful handmaidens and strangely human-seeming wild animals.
Circe transforms male visitors into lions, baboons, and other animals, but mainly pigs. Her transformations aren’t random: she reveals the true animal identity within each man. Odysseus alone is saved from this fate because Hermes, one of Circe’s old boyfriends, warns him, revealing an herbal antidote to her magic, a mysterious plant called moly.
Hermes advises Odysseus not to reject Circe’s advances: he stays with her for years, fathering their son, Telegonus. Circe indoctrinates Odysseus into shamanism, teaching him how to journey to Hades, interview dead souls, and return. She is his primary tutor. Foreseeing the future, she offers Odysseus invaluable travel advice. Without Circe, it’s doubtful that Odysseus would ever have reached home.
Homer called her “the fair-haired goddess.” She is eternally young, sexy, and beautiful, but she is a great sorceress and can appear in any form she wishes, with one caveat: as a descendent of the sun, her eyes glint with brilliant light. That’s the telltale clue to her identity.
Alders, enchanter’s nightshade, junipers, and mandrakes
- Fates (1)
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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