Saturday, May 7, 2016

Paulette Spescha-Montibert writes

My Turtle-dove

I am looking at you
all day long going
up and down
your birch-tree

what about me
years now
since I left
my school

say my tender one
is it time
to leave our garden
is it time now

enter the house

 Image result for turtle dove images


  1. The European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), a member of the bird family Columbidae, is a migratory species with a range that covers most of Europe and the Middle East and includes Turkey and North Africa. One of the latest migrants, it rarely appears in northern Europe before the end of April, returning south again in September. Its arrival in spring is heralded by its purring song, a rather deep, vibrating “turrr, turrr,” from which the bird's name is derived. (The "turtle," from the Latin "turtur," has no connection with the reptile, whose name comes from the Late Latin "tortuca.") The “Song of Solomon” (2:11-13) makes the point quite poetically: “For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!” [New American Standard Bible] Because of its mournful voice and its strong pair bonding, it has become emblematic of devoted love. During the Renaissance, it was the symbol of devoted love as the partner of the Phoenix, the emblem of perfection. Robert Chester's 1601 poem “Love's Martyr” explored the relationship between the birds and articulated its symbolism, culminating with their joint immolation and the birth from the ashes of a more beautiful bird. The poem was followed by a brief collection of "Diverse Poeticall Essaies" by the "best and chiefest of our moderne writers, with their names sub-scribed to their particular workes;” after introductions by Catum Chorus and Ignoto, William Shakespeare presented his then-untitled “The Phoenix and the Turtle,” which ended by mourning the deaths of the perfect lovers; John Marston went on to refer to their “glorious issue,” George Chapman provided more details about their relationship, claiming that the Phoenix provided every variety of life to the Turtle: "She was to him the Analysed World of pleasure, / Her firmness cloth'd him in variety." And Ben Jonson ended the anthology by idealizing the Phoenix, whose judgment shone as "Clear as a naked Vestal, / Closed in an orb of Crystal."

  2. But, much earlier, the turtle dove was associated with Demeter and her devotion to her daughter Persephone, the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon and are referenced in tablets found at Pylos dating to 1400–1200 BCE. Demeter was the Greek goddess of the harvest who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth as well as over sacred law and the cycle of life and death. Though she was not associated with any particular consort, various myths ascribed to her several different lovers and offspring. On his father’s side, Kadmus was the grandson of the sea god Poseidon and Libya, and of Nilus (the Nile) on his mother's. He was credited with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet to the Greeks, who adapted it to form their own, the invention of agriculture, of working in bronze, and of civilization generally. (Herodotus estimated that Kadmus lived 1600 years before his time, or around 2000 BCE. In a letter to a Hittite King, written in ca. 1250 BC, the king of the Ahhijawa (Achaeans) referred to a specific Kadmos as their ancestor, and many Mycenean Linear B tablets have been found at Thebes, so the legend of Kadmos as the bringer of the alphabet could reflect a genuine historical figure. His name has been connected to the Semitic root “qdm”(the east). In Lebanon, he is still revered and celebrated as the “carrier of the letter” to the world.) His father, king Agenor of Tyre, sent him to recover his sister Europa after she was abducted by Zeus. Failing in this mission, he consulted the oracle at Delphi, who told him to abandon his quest and to follow a special cow, with a half moon on her flank, until the exhausted creature fell down, and to build a town on that spot. Kadmos sent some companions to the nearby Ismenian spring for water, but they were slain by the spring's guardian water-dragon. Kadmus killed the dragon, and Athena told him to sow the dragon's teeth, from which sprang the Spartoi, who helped him found Thebes. The dragon had been sacred to Ares, who made Kadmus serve him for eight years. He then went to Samothrace, an island in the northern Aegean Sea that was sacred to the "Great Gods" and to the Kabeiroi, chthonic deities who may have had Hittite, Thracian, proto-Etruscan, or Phrygian origins but whose mysteries were also later celebrated at Thebes. The Pleiad Electra ("amber," "shining," "bright"), one of the seven daughters of Atlas, was also on the island with her children Iasion (by her Italian husband Corythus), and Dardanus and Harmonia ("well put together"), her children by Zeus. After being initiated in the mystic rites founded by Iasion, Kadmus abducted Harmonia (as her father Zeus had abducted his sister Europa). Their wedding was the first on Earth which the gift-giving gods attended. At its conclusion Demeter lured Iasion away from the other revelers, and they had sex in a thrice-plowed field. When they rejoined the celebration, Zeus saw the mud on Demeter’s backside, and, out of envy, promptly killed Iasion with a thunderbolt. (Some versions of this myth conclude with Iasion and the agricultural hero Triptolemus becoming the Gemini constellation.) The fruit of their union were the twins Ploutos (“wealth,” representing the wealth of the corn that was stored in underground silos or ceramic jars) and Philomelus.

  3. In the theology of the Eleusinian Mysteries, Ploutos was the "Divine Child" and always identified as the one who bore the cornucopia (horn of plenty); in later allegorical bas-reliefs, he was depicted in the arms of Eirene (since Prosperity is the gift of Peace) or of Tyche, the Fortune of Cities. Despite his prosperity, he never shared his good fortune with his brother, so, out of necessity Philomenus bought two oxen, invented the wagon (or plow), and supported himself by cultivating crops, for which Demeter made him the constellation Boötes and his plow the constellation Ursa Major. However, over time Ploutos became a figure of derision; in the 5th century BCE, Aristophanes pictured him as both lame (as riches take their time arriving) and winged (he left more quickly than he came) and blinded by Zeus so he could dispense his gifts without prejudice; when his sight was restored, havoc ensued since he was then able to determine who deserves wealth. He also became increasingly conflated with Pluto, the god of the underworld who was also a god of wealth and money. In the 2nd century CE, Lucian of Samosata personified him as a last will and testament who said, "It is not Zeus who sends me, but Pluto, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Pluto and Plutus are not unconnected, you see. When I am to flit from one house to another, they lay me on parchment, seal me up carefully, make a parcel of me and take me round. The dead man lies in some dark corner, shrouded from the knees upward in an old sheet, with the cats fighting for possession of him, while those who have expectations wait for me in the public place, gaping as wide as young swallows that scream for their mother's return."

  4. Karmanor (perhaps derived from “keiro,” to cut/shear) was another consort of Demeter who was slain by Zeus’ thunderbolt. A priest who purified Apollo after he slew the monster Python, his sons by Demeter were Chrysothemis, the first winner of the oldest contest held at the Pythian Games, the singing of a hymn to Apollo, and Euboulos (“good counsel”), the patron of plowing. Euboulos’ depiction in art as a torchbearer suggests that his role was to lead the way back from the underworld. One account claimed his pigs were eating at the opening to the underworld when Persephone was abducted and were swallowed by the earth along with her; because of that, piglets were ritually thrown into a sacrificial pit dedicated to Demeter and Persephone; "bailers" then retrieved the decayed remains, which were placed on altars, mixed with seeds, and planted. He was sometimes identified as Plouton, but other contexts clearly distinguish the two. A sculptural head found in the Ploutonion of Eleusis in the 19th century has been identified as that of Euboulos but it may represent Triptolemus instead. Diodorus Siculus claimed he was the father of Karme, and thus the grandfather of Britomartis ("sweet virgin"), the Minoan goddess of mountains and hunting who invented the nets (diktya) used in hunting. As Diktynna, she was the goddess of Mount Dikte, Zeus' birthplace. Callimachus’ 3rd hymn to Artemis told how, as Diktynna, "Lady of the Nets," she threw herself into fishermen's nets to escape from Minos and was taken to mainland Greece, thus explaining the spread of her cult. Another myth about Demeter’s children told how Poseidon, originally a horse-shaped river spirit of the underworld, pursued the mare Demeter, who tried to hide among the horses of Onkios, a son of Apollo who ruled over Onkeion in Arcadia. As a result of this rape, Demeter bore Poseidon a daughter, Despoina, and a legendary horse named Arion. Heracles, in his war against the Eleans, acquired Arion from Onkios but later gave him to Adrastus, the king of Argos who was at the center of the war of “the Seven Against Thebes” and the follow-up War of the Epigoni by the descendants of Oedipus. Demeter's mare-form was worshiped into historical times, with a horse's head with snaky hair, holding a dove and a dolphin, probably representing her power over air and water.

  5. Her most important match, however, involved Persephone, the daughter she had with her youngest brother Zeus. Persephone was subsequently abducted to the underworld by Demeter's oldest brother Hades (Pluto). While Demeter ceaselessly searched for her, the seasons came to a halt, living things ceased to grow and then began to die. Her search took her, in disguise, to the palace of Celeus, the King of Eleusis in Attica, who asked her to nurse his sons Demophon ("killer of men") and Triptolemus (threefold warrior"). After she fed her breast milk to an ailing Triptolemus, he not only recovered but instantly became an adult. She planned to make Demophon immortal by anointing him with ambrosia and laying him in the hearth to burn away his mortal self. But his mother saw her son in the fire and Demeter was unable to complete the ritual. Meanwhile, faced with the extinction of life on Earth, Zeus sent Hermes to the underworld to bring Persephone back. Hades agreed to release her if she had eaten nothing while in his realm; but Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds, thus binding her to Hades and the underworld for part of every year, corresponding with the unfruitful seasons of the year, and her return to the upper world with springtime (in much the same way that the turtle dove is associated with the spring). Demeter taught Triptolemus the art of agriculture. With the aid of Demeter and Persephone, he flew around on a winged chariot to teach it to the rest of mankind. After receiving instruction, king Lyncus refused to teach his Sythians how to sow and reap and tried to kill Triptolemus in order to keep the secrets for himself; as punishment, Demeter turned him into a lynx. As one of the five original priests of Demeter, Triptolemus was responsible for the bestowal of hope in the afterlife associated with the expansion of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Porphyry ascribed to him three commandments for a simple, pious life: "Honor your parents", "Honor the gods with fruits" (including grain), and "Spare the animals." He and Demeter had nine children, including Amphitheus, the demigod of panhellenic peace.


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