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Greek Myth: Circe

Circe was a daughter of the Greek sun god Helios, and his wife the Oceanid Perseis. Her siblings include another powerful sorceress, Pasiphae, the wife of Midas, and their brothers Perses and Aeetes. The brothers didn’t seem to inherit any magical abilities but the niece of Circe, Medea infamous did.

Circe was one of the most powerful enchantresses of Greek mythology, who some have called a witch and others a goddess. Circe is best known as the hostess of Odysseus and his crew when they sought shelter on their return after the Trojan War.

Of the three female sorceresses, Circe, Pasiphae and Medea, it is Circe who is considered the most powerful. She concocted potions and transformed humans and animals into other shapes. She is also known for calling upon Chaos, Nyx and Hecate for assistance.

Circe was banished to the island of Aeaea and delivered there by her father, Helios using the god’s golden chariot.

Aeaea does not appear on any map and in antiquity there was great debate about where it could be found.

Circe remained an important mythological figure through until the Roman period where writers told of the Island of Aeaea as actually being the island of Ponza.

Circe lived within a stone mansion on Aeaea which was located in a forest clearing. She reportedly had her own throne and was attended by nymphs who provided flowers and herbs Circe used in her potions.

She also had a menagerie of animals including lions, bears and wolves and reportedly these wild beasts behave like domesticated animals around her. There are some stories that Circe tamed the beasts but others tell darker tales that they were once men who Circe had transformed into beasts.

One famous take involving Circe was she loved Glaucus, a minor sea deity, but Glaucus knew loved Scylla, a beautiful maiden. Circe poisoned the water in which Scylla bathed, and she was transformed into a hideous monster who later became famous for wrecking ships.

Circe is most famous for her encounter with Odysseus told by Homer in The Odyssey. Odysseus and his men landed on the island Aeaea not knowing where they were but seeking safe refuge.

Quickly it became clear that Odysseus and his men were in as much trouble as they had been previously. When one the men searched the island, came across Circe’s mansion, and they were enticed to enter by Circe herself. These unwary men ate of food given to them by Circe but as they ate they were transformed into swine.

Circe would have used her magic upon Odysseus as well, but the king of Ithaca was aided by Hermes with the god advising him about a potion to counteract that which Circe had concocted. Circe and Odysseus became lovers and Circe transformed Odysseus’s men back into their previous forms. For a year, Odysseus and his crew lived in the relative paradise on the island of Aeaea.

Eventually, Odysseus decided to leave Circe and she Circe gladly have him aid to enable to return home. Circe tells Odysseus how he can enter the Underworld and afterwards how he can safely traverse between the monster Scylla and Charybdis.

In the generation before Odysseus and his men, Circe hosted Jason and the Argonauts after Medea led the Argo to the island of Circe when Jason and his men fled from Colchis.

To enable the escape of the Argonauts from the Colchian fleet, Medea killed her own brother, Apsyrtus, and then tossed his dismembered limbs into the sea which delaying her father Aeetes, who stopped to retrieve all of the body parts of his son.

For such a crime, Medea and Jason required absolution, and Circe purified them and allowed them to continue their voyage unmolested.

Circe and Odysseus had three sons: Agrius, Latinus and Telegonus. Of these three, Telegonus is the most famous for not only being a king of the Etruscans, but Telegonus accidentally kills his father. Subsequently, Telegonus marries Penelope, while Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, marries Circe.

Circe was apparently made Penelope, Telegonus, and Telemachus immortal through her potions and all four lived on the Islands of the Blest.

Manifestations: She is eternally young, attractive and beautiful. As a great sorceress, and can appear in any form she chooses but as a descendent of the sun god, her eyes shine with brilliant light. That is clue to her true identity.

Sacred animal: Pig

Sacred plants: Alder, nightshade, junipers and mandrake