Guest Post: “Hephaestus” by Aquileana

Venus at Vulcan's Forge, by Frans Floris de Vriendt, ca. 1560 -1564. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Having steeped ourselves sufficiently in a molten Mycenaean bronze-age stew, shaken (not stirred) by the brazen and brilliant deeds of warrior kings and heroes, let us turn now to Hephaistos, the Olympic Master Blacksmith responsible for decking out both heroes and gods with the amazing creations of his blazing workshop.

Captivating our imaginations with this latest guest post is the famous and beloved Aquileana, a beautiful bard whose seductive intellect and charming presence always signal the start of an awesome Ancient Greek symposium. (female intellect is nothing if not seductive, no?)

Formally known as Amalia Pedemonte, Aquileana is a self-proclaimed “Über Blogger” entertaining hundreds of thousands of worldwide fans from her home base in Buenos Ares, Argentina.

Covering a wide spectrum of topics related to Greek mythology and philosophy, Aquileana serves up a delightful feast with every post. For over a decade she has been faithfully catering to our shared interests with provocative and thoughtful compositions, accompanied by well-chosen illustrations, and a dynamic symposium of interesting comments and responses at the end of every post.

As in the following guest post, Aquileana often shares her incredibly popular platform, graciously collaborating with fellow bloggers in many imaginative ways. Following Aquileana’s thoughtful discourse on Hephaistos (Latinized as Hephaestus), she introduces us to the poetry of Holly Rene Hunter with Hunter’s poem, “Hephaestus.”

Hephaistos presents Achilles’ new armor to Thetis. Attic Red-figure Kylix, ca. 490-480 BCE. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hephaistos has many interesting claims to fame as the legendary metal smith to the Olympians. We easily recall that he is the creator of many ingenious inventions and fabulous weapons of war, including the Divine Shield of Achilles.

But Hephaistos also offers a prototypical model on a deeper, more personal level. As Aquileana appreciatively points out, “the stories associated with the Greek god Hephaestus are among the earliest representations of disability.” Great food for thought — Dig in!

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“Hephaestus,” by Aquileana

A collaboration with Holly Rene Hunter

originally posted on La Audacia de Aquiles

“The Fall Of Hephaestus” by C. Van Poelenburg. 17th century.

 

Hephaestus (Roman equivalent: Vulcan) was the Greek god of fire, metal work, blacksmiths and craftsmen.

According to Homer’s “Iliad”, Hephaestus was born of the union of Zeus and Hera. In another tradition, attested by Hesiod, Hera bore Hephaestus alone.

Hephaestus. Attic Red Figure. 430 – 420 BC.

Hesiod tells us in “Theogony”, that in order to get even with Zeus for solely bringing about the birth of Athena, Hera produced the child Hephaestus all on her own.

Though Hesiod’s version seems to be the one that is most commonly accepted among readers, its content greatly alters our understanding of the birth of Athena. The ancient texts unequivocally state that it was Hephaestus who released the goddess from the head of Zeus by cracking the god’s skull open with an axe.

After Hephaestus was born, Hera was anything but pleased with his appearance, so she threw him off of Mount Olympus and down to earth.

Luckily, baby Hephaestus splashed down into the sea where he was rescued by two daughters of Oceanus; Thetis and Eurynome.

An interesting point is that he was lame. In vase paintings, Hephaestus is usually shown lame and bent over his anvil, hard at work on a metal creation, and sometimes with his feet back-to-front.

Hephaestus and Thetis – Kylix, Attica red-figure vase

He walked with the aid of a stick. In some myths, Hephaestus built himself a “wheeled chair” or chariot with which to move around, thus helping him overcome his lameness while demonstrating his skill to the other gods. The “Iliad”, says that Hephaestus built some bronze human machines in order to move around.

There are two interpretations which describe how Hephaestus lost full use of his legs. The most basic of the two theories simply states that he was born that way and that was the reason why Hera rejected him and chose to toss him into the sea.

Another myth has it that he once tried to protect his mother from Zeus’ advances and as a result, the Ruler of the Gods flung him down from Olympus, which caused his physical disability; he fell on the island of Lemnos where he became a master craftsman.

Archetypal psychology uses mythical and poetic modes of discourse to deepen our understanding of lived experience and behavior. The stories associated with the Greek god Hephaestus are among the earliest representations of disability.

Vulcan. Roman archaic relief from Herculaneum.

Bitter Hephaestus does not intend to stay hidden away in an underground cave forever. Anger toward his mother inspires him to seek revenge.

These “negative” emotions engender the courage that is necessary for the disabled outcast to claim his rightful place in the world.

The archetypal psychologist Murray Stein suggests that loosening the bonds of his mother frees an introverted Hephaestus from his own psychic entrapment and moves him forward in the process of individuation and personal development. Hence, in Hephaestus, we find a character who is motivated by his anger to confront a world that has discarded him.

In an archaic story, Hephaestus gained revenge against Hera for rejecting him by making her a magical golden throne, which, when she sat on it, did not allow her to stand up. In another story, Hephaestus sent sandals as gifts to all the gods, but those he sent to his mother were made of immovable and unyielding adamantine. When she tried to walk she fell flat on her face as though her shoes were riveted to the floor.

Seeing how events were happening, the other gods begged Hephaestus to return to Olympus to let her go, but he refused, saying “I have no mother”. At last, Dionysus fetched him, intoxicated him with wine, and took the subdued Smith back to Olympus on the back of a mule accompanied by revelers—a scene that sometimes appears on painted pottery of Attica and of Corinth.

Amphora depicting Hephaistos polishing the shield of Achilles. 480 B.C.

Hephaestus crafted much of the magnificent equipment of the gods. He designed Hermes´ winged helmet and sandals, the Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite‘s famed girdle, Agamemnon’s staff of office, Achilles‘ armor, Heracles‘ bronze clappers, Helios‘ chariot and Eros‘ bow and arrows.

There is a still a very relevant intervention of Hephaestus in a  well-known cosmogonic myth. It tell us that Zeus was angry at Prometheus, the Rebel Titan, for three things: being tricked by the sacrifices, stealing fire for man, and refusing to tell Zeus which of Zeus’s children would dethrone him.

As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered Hephaestus make a woman made of clay named Pandora. Zeus gave her a box and forbade her from opening it. Then he sent her down to earth, where her curiosity led her to open the lid. Out flew sorrow, mischief, and all other misfortunes that plagued humanity. In the famous story of Pandora’s box, we may learn how earthly hardship was born.

According to most versions, Hephaestus’s wife was Aphrodite, who was unfaithful to Hephaestus with a number of gods and mortals, including her brother Ares.

After he learned his wife had an affair with her brother, Ares, he devised a plan with which he humiliated both lovers.

Helios, the Sun God (later replaced by Apollo) was able to see most things during the day, as he drove his sun chariot across the sky. It was one of those days that Helios witnessed Aphrodite taking her lover in her bed, while Hephaestus was absent.

The Sun God easily recognised Ares. So, he told everything to Hephaestus.

Hephaestus decided to take revenge on the lovers. Thus using his wit and his crafting skills he fashioned an unbreakable net and trapped the two lovers while they were in bed. Hephaestus walked back to his bedchamber with a host of other gods to witness the disgraced pair. Only the male Olympians appeared, while the goddesses stayed in Olympus.

Poseidon tried to persuade Hephaestus to release the adulterous pair. At first, Hephaestus refused the request, because he wanted to extract the most out of his revenge, but at the end he released his wife and her lover. Ares immediately fled to Thrace, while Aphrodite went to Paphos at the island of Cyprus.

In Renaissance literature, Hephaestus– as master of fire- is identified as the founder of the alchemical arts and its greatest practitioner. He is frequently portrayed as an evil and sinister figure because in turning base metals into gold he is imitating Nature and thus forging the Work of God.

Alchemists believed that the story of the binding of Aphrodite and Ares in Hephaestus’ bed was an encoded recipe. Aphrodite represents copper, Ares represents iron and Hephaestus is the fire that is needed to facilitate an alchemical transformation.

In the archetypal psychology literature, Aphrodite and Ares, Love and War, are always imagined as an inseparable “psychic conjunction”. As the alchemist-smith in our soul, it is Hephaestus who binds the two lovers together.

Vulcan in his forge, by Pompeo Batoni ca. 1750. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vulcan in his forge, by Pompeo Batoni ca. 1750. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vulcan forging the rays of Jupiter, by Peter Paul Reubens, ca. 1636. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vulcan forging the rays of Jupiter, by Peter Paul Reubens, ca. 1636. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, by Alexandre Charles Guillemot, ca. 1827. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan, by Alexandre Charles Guillemot, ca. 1827. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Marriage of Aphrodite and Hephaestus by Johann Georg Platzer, ca. 1750. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Marriage of Aphrodite and Hephaestus by Johann Georg Platzer, ca. 1750. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

►Poem: “Hephaestus,” by Holly Rene Hunter:

Vulcan by Herman Wilhelm Bissen, ca. 1838. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Vulcan by Herman Wilhelm Bissen, ca. 1838. Source: Wikimedia Commons

“Hephaestus”

Hera, you have cast me from the mount.

Shattering the sphere, salt lime stings my

skin where I am abandoned to the sea as

less than weeds.

My cries are the waves that

flow from seashell eyes into the

arms of Oceanus.

Aphrodite plucks me up, a heron

biting my body and harpooned legs

that break against the sea wall.

I have loosed the crown of  Athena,

split with my ax the fearsome bird of prey.

Impaled, his eyes are those of a startled deer.

Seized by fate I have gathered my medium and

with my broken hands and feet I mold precious metals

into creations for Gods.

Goblets for Dionysus,

for Aphrodite, the unfaithful, a copper belt.

A chariot of human form for broken Hephaestus

that I might roam the world unfettered.

For Hera, a golden throne,

where she is bound to dwell forever.

 

©Holly Rene Hunter. 2017

 

►Visit Holly Rene Hunter’s blog here

 

►Visit Aquileana’s blog here

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►Sources:

https://goo.gl/YZgWZn

https://goo.gl/9s76TL

https://goo.gl/CXVoVz

https://goo.gl/9SXlrG

https://goo.gl/xvg4ju

[top image title and credit:]

Venus at Vulcan's Forge, by Frans Floris de Vriendt, ca. 1560 -1564. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Venus at Vulcan’s Forge, by Frans Floris de Vriendt, ca. 1560 -1564. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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6 thoughts on “Guest Post: “Hephaestus” by Aquileana

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this post, dear Kathleen!… It means so much to me to be spotlighted over here. I love your blog and admire the job you have been doing over here… High quality blog it is, you remind us of the importance of Ancient Cultures and how their legacies might be still alive, among us, after so many years.
    I am humbled and grateful for the introductory words, as well.
    We´ll have to set up something… I might link back with special mentions to any of your posts. (Have two collaborations scheduled. But we´ll see after that, if you are okay with it, of course. Sending much love & best wishes. ⭐

    Liked by 1 person

    • The honor is mine, dearest Aquileana! It’s always a treat to visit your symposium and an extra special pleasure to share your thoughtful post here. You are right, I think the timelessness and ever-enduring popularity of our Ancient Greek ancestors is so cool – and the innovative ways that humans continue to regenerate the delight so that new generations will continue to share is something that never ceases to amaze me!
      There’s always more to contribute, isn’t there? I’m up for any idea for a future collaboration – no hurries, tho, life is more rewarding for the patient people!
      Thanks for being such an amazing inspiration, Aquileana. Sending lots of love and best wishes to you, too – Happy weekend! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree with you… We still have so much to learn from the Ancient Greeks!… It is a sort of neverending task, right!? (I guess our blogs might have still any years of life ahead… for sure!)… Great as to a future collaboration. I gave to a temptaive date (month) in my comment back to you on my blog. In the meantime, let´s stay in contact via our blogs! . Thank you so much again, dear Kathleen. Sending love & wishing you a beautiful wekeend ahead! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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