The Words of the Gods

Sometimes, those around us do godlike things.

Consider that trusted friend whose body temperature frequently rivals that of a cucumber’s. He’s Apollonian to the core. Your friend’s harmonious, rational, calm disposition conjures Apollo, the Greek god of sun, light, and music, and, if he’s feeling a tad more illogical that day, prophecy.

Haply you might prefer to trade all this cool sobriety in for a good Bacchanalian night out on the town. You can thank Bacchus, the Greek god of drama, wine, and ecstasy for that. Your frenzied, orgiastic evening that left you sick all over the passenger seat, however, would not have been fondly received by a centurion after 186 B.C, as the Bacchanalia—a festival of wild desire and unrivaled debauchery, was then outlawed. Or, should you desire to take your sins to the level of Original, you might consider stepping up to all things Dionysian. Dionysus invented the first intoxicant, wine, and was always followed by his Friday Night Crew of satyrs and maenads.

Perhaps all this filth has brought you to new lows. Or maybe it has made you jovial. Jovial comes from Jove, the Roman equivalent of Zeus. Your cheerful, sociable, fatherly nature has made you the belle of the ball, or the Santa Claus of the department store.

Capricious with fleet-feet? When something’s Mercurial it has rapid and unpredictable changes in mood. This comes from Mercury, the god of speed and athletics. The planet Mercury was named for him due it its orbital speed, and liquid silver mercury for its skittering out of one’s hand so quickly.

Something venereal has to do with sexual intercourse, or the diseases transmitted by it. This originates in Venus, the goddess of love, who governed all aspects of human sensuality and sexuality. Perhaps these began at the sight of something callipygian; but, if used injudiciously, it will bring about venereal diseases. 

Palladium is a silver-white metal related to platinum that is used in electrical contracts or as an alloy with gold to form white gold. This comes from Pallas Athena. This is the goddess Athena’s full name. During a friendly sparring match with a fellow female warrior, Athena accidentally killed her battle-sister. This warrior’s name was Pallas. Thus, in honor of her, Athena put Pallas’s name before her own.

This article is Hades. Hades is both the land of the dead the God who rules it. Misery loves company. Hades is primarily used today as a euphemism for hell.

Cereal is a grain-based breakfast food often mixed with milk. The word “cereal” comes from the Roman goddess Ceres. She was a serene goddess who did not take part in quarrels with the other gods. I find this a fitting etymology for cereal indeed, as might most people who find serenity in devouring cereal by the boxful. There’s a glazed-over look to people eating cereal. 

Junoesque means to have a matured, poised, dignified beauty. Juno was the wife of Jupiter. She was matronly, mature, and well filled-out. Moreover, she was, for the time, something of an ideal for the Greek Wife. This is no longer true.

Martial arts, martial law, Marshall Mathers: two of these are etymologically consistent with war and military life. Something martial comes from the god of war, Mars. He was in charge of the brutish and chaotic aspects of war. He also dabbled in marching music.

Something vulcanized is a crude synthetic rubber so elastic and strong that it resists decay. This comes from Vulcan, the god of fire.

Something with a glowing, rainbow-like play of color that seems to change as the light shifts is iridescent. Goddess of the rainbow, Iris took messages from Olympus to Earth, using the rainbow as her staircase.

If someone is your muse then she or he is your source of inspiration, or a guiding spirit. Nine goddesses who presided over such things as music and literature were called the Muses. Their temple was called a museum. Many artists have chosen living human beings as muses. Dante chose Beatrice. Chopin: Aurore Dudevant. James Joyce: Nora Barnacle (and her rear end).

One of the nine goddess muses, Calliope was the muse of heroic or epic poetry and responsible for inspiring poets to write beautiful, eloquent-sounding epics, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. A Calliope is an organ in which whistles are sounded by steam or compressed air and is the preferred musical instrument of circuses. It’s also a somewhat rare girls’ name. 

Zephyr a breeze from the west, or a gentle breeze. Not quite a proper god, the Greeks called the west wind “Zephyrus” and regarded him and his fellow winds as gods.

Neither was Prometheus quite a god, rather a titan. To be promethean is to be new or creative in a daring way. During the Titanomachy, Prometheus fought for the gods against his own kind. Thereafter, he brought the gods fire, taught them how to write, farm, build houses, read the stars and weather, cure themselves when sick, and tame animals—in short, all the arts and skills that make humans unique. 

At some point, Zeus decided to chain Prometheus to a titanic rocky cliff, where, for centuries, an eagle daily tore at his liver. Thus, Promethean also means to suffer on a grand scale. And I don’t think that the myth simultaneously conveys the “genuinely unique and creative” and “pure, prolonged suffering” by chance. I believe that not only does the former beget the latter, but also that they’re ineluctable coevals. If one is truly new and creative, then one’s life is inevitably tortured. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s