Sunday, September 16, 2012

"A Modern Woman for the 21st Century" - a new Greek myth

Every man and woman faces major challenges in life.  They are part of a continuing cycle: love, security, courage, the ability to communicate, and confidence.  In “A Modern Woman,” an offer is made to a lady to show how she has faced those demands.  However, the summons for her presence and a set of encounters that follow has come from the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, who will decide her fate. 
The unexpected offer as well as outcome is far greater than anything she has ever known or considered:  if she wins, immortality is granted.  If she loses…she may face death.  Her results indicate how each one of us can decide our own future when our own challenges occur.  The way we view ourselves and how we have prepared our own values are our greatest gifts that we either use or discard.

Short answer/essay response:
Why are each of the answers given by the novice accepted by each of the challenging gods and goddesses? How and why are they convinced? 
How does she use her answers to them?  Describe her comments: what impression is she presenting?  Be descriptive: how does she speak? How are her answers received? Who adds to the importance, and why does it help make a difference? 

Who really appears to be in control of Olympus and why does this make the lesson of the story that much more empowering?  Why and how is this different than other stories of adventure? Finally--and optional: if you think this story reminds you of someone--anyone--even you--why? How? What difference has your story brought regarding Character, Wisdom, or Encouragement in YOUR life?


A Modern Woman for the 21st Century

          The gods and goddesses were surprised at the news.  A new arrival was to be heralded on sacred Mt. Olympus.  All were interested to meet the newcomer and prepare their tests of measure and worth.  Hera, queen of the gods, enlisted several of the others to be sure that they understood the challenge.  A new goddess had not been selected to sit on a throne on Mt. Olympus for many thousands of years, long after the glorious days of Socrates and Solon, of Athens in her splendor and Sparta in fighting majesty, had long passed to dust.
          Zeus himself was pleased:  another goddess might mean another female to pursue, a womanly figure to entertain his eye and desires.  And then a conch shell blew.  It was Poseidon, god of the Sea, calling all together to hear the reading of the Scroll of Immortality.  Hermes, the Messenger, stepped forward into the Circle of Light and held aloft the scroll and the names inscribed upon it.  Before him sat brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles; all gods and goddesses of Universal magnitude and authority.
          There was Ares, defiant god of War; Aphrodite, goddess of Love and pleasure; Apollo, keeper of the Chariot of the Sun; stern Hades, ruler of the Underworld and the riches of the earth; Athena, goddess of Wisdom, bearing her shield with the image of the Medusa’s head, and an owl perched on her shoulder.  And watching carefully over the others, Queen Hera.  She wanted to ensure that the novice goddess-to-be was worthy of a sip of ambrosia, nectar of the gods, and the immortal life that would follow.  All were directed to bring their full energies to bear upon the initiate during her test.  Zeus threw a thunderbolt earthward, announcing to the mortals below that the trial had begun.
          Up stepped Apollo, brandishing the reins to the horses that drew his chariot.  For a full day, he raced across the sky, pulling the Sun behind him.  And when the day had passed, he returned and addressed the others.  “I have let the strength and brightness of the Sun fall upon her,” he said.  “I have not been able to diminish her presence.  She radiates a greater light from within than the Sun itself.  She has passed my test.”
          Next came Ares, carrying his sword and shield of battle.  “I can handle this woman, who would dare call herself a goddess,” he swore.  “Come forward, if you dare, and face a true warrior!”  The gathering became a field of combat, the sounds of armor and weapons clashing.  Finally, Ares lowered his sword and said sullenly, “She knows the arts of fighting.  I accept her as an equal.”  The novice brought her own sword to bear, and swung at Ares.  A new battle followed, with the initiate taking the role of aggressor.  Athena stepped in and brought the fight to a halt.  “It seems, brother, that she has issued her own challenge.  Do you accept her answer?”  Ares gave her a dark, baleful stare in reply as he wiped the blood from fresh wounds, but a stern look from Hera, his mother, silenced his thoughts.
          “She has met me on the arena of battle.  I declare her to be a warrior of strength and courage,” he admitted to the others.  The initiate spoke up:  “Take up arms not against such as me.  I have faced greater fights and stronger opponents and won, and do not take lightly the thought of being oppressed by the foolishness of anyone.”  Zeus smiled at the boldness of the answer and a murmur of approval was heard through the gathering.  Hercules spoke up, giving his favor.  “I would gladly take this one along on an adventure if she is willing!”  Hebe, bearer of ambrosia and wife of Hercules, crossed her arms softly and stared at her husband, and he quickly added, “Of course, it would be for the glory and praise to be reckoned for such a noble one as she!”
          “I am next,” said Hesta, keeper of hearth and home.  “Come show me, little one, what you know of the comforts of a place for dwelling and rest, a shrine for body and soul.”  The novice replied, “Behold my own abode:  I have guided and built it with my own energy and vitality to be a welcome and warm beacon for all who would become my friend and family.  Come feel the security, the beauty, of that which I have forged with my hands and heart, and the serenity that brings company to my door.”  Hesta gazed down at the sight of the home and smiled.  “I should have easily recognized the lady and owner of such property before me.”
         “My test is far more difficult,” said a voice that floated with the sighs of heroes and gods hanging on her words.  Aphrodite came down off her throne to the silent gaze of all others.  The gods who were present had all longed for her in their hearts.  She had been promised to Hephaestus the lame, forger of metals, but her affections were not for him.  Among mortals, only Adonis had truly won her over, and his death had wounded her deeply.  “What do you know of love, of giving yourself to another, my friend?  Have you ever shared heart and soul without reserve, and longed for a warm embrace?” she asked.
          Her words did not come aloud; they burned across the distance and were only heard between the two women.  The look that carried the answer held the stories of lovers come and gone, of marriage and a lifetime’s dream cast aside, of loneliness and empty arms; and hope, for happiness yet to come.  The goddess of Love knew the heart that gave the answer, for she had helped craft the emotions that were found there.  “I have known your response before it was asked by me,” she said softly.  “You have my approval and trust forever.”
          “My turn,” cried Hermes, god of words and thoughts.  “And what do you know of the versatility of the mind, of speech; the nimbleness of an idea well spoken?  Can you outwit me, the master of liars and thieves?  Are you clever enough to charm your way out of the snare of a god?”  The initiate looked back at him.  “I know enough,” she replied, “to know that my thoughts and words can travel to the ends of the earth, and men and women find me most entertaining.  Would you deny that I favor you highly amongst those who reside on this sacred mountain?  I find the idea of a well-turned phrase most pleasing to my ear.  I trust that a good conversation is a cup well sipped from.  Is not the gift of speech, and a timely thought best offered in the company of those who can appreciate it to the fullest?”  Hermes bowed gracefully and tipped his winged hat in admiration.  “I salute your eloquence and imagination!”
          And then Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon stood. Only Hades stayed behind, for he knew he was losing a soul to safeguard at the door of the Underworld.  Poseidon spoke first:  “I see within this child, the depths and mysteries to the ocean deep that I rule.  I give to those who ask, the answers to the illusions of the seas that I keep hidden from the eyes of men and women.  Guard my secrets carefully; you have earned my respect.”
       It was then Zeus’s time to address the gathering.  “My brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, we have been cast aside by those who once worshipped us. But the old ways are not forgotten by those who remain faithful to those times long passed by.  I now call this test to its completion, and bid the bearers of ambrosia to bring the sacred cup forward to be sipped by our newest member.  I give her the safeguard of Athena, for wisdom and merit.”
           Athena bowed graciously to her father and stood beside her charge.  “Let the artisans begin work on a throne for our new companion,” she declared.  I find her worthy to be known as the goddess of Perseverance, of Determination, and Endurance, for she has met our challenges most strongly with those qualities.  I call upon those mortals below to grace her name with dignity and respect.  And I bid them to call upon her by her name when she was a mortal, for now she has become one of us.  For I, Athena, will take this one’s fame to the far corners of the world.”
          Finally, Hera spoke.  “I have championed your invitation to sit amongst us, to be rewarded for your vigilance and commitment.  I need not ask for approval; by my request for your presence, you have already been accepted.  I give both blessing and approval to your words, Athena.  Herald the new goddess on Olympus and welcome her by my order and her new name as a goddess:  We knew her when she was called “******” at birth.


(c) MDLOP8 1992

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