Tag Archives: Poseidon

Gripster: Documentary Films, Dolphins & Pirates

11 Jul

Arion Riding a Dolphin, by Albrecht Dürer (ca. 1514; public domain)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Greek American photographer and film director Louie Psihoyos is the son of an immigrant from the Peloponnesus.  The Peloponnesus incidentally is where my immigrant family came from as well.  Whether it’s a coincidence or a matter of upbringing that Psihoyos was intrigued by dolphins, the Peloponnesus has a dolphin myth.

Arion, the poet who invented the song and dance (called the dithyramb) for the wine god Dionysus, was kidnapped by pirates while returning to Greece from Italy.  In an effort to save his life, Arion sang to the poetry god Apollo, before flinging himself off the ship.  His song attracted a pod of dolphins and one of them carried him to safety, bringing him to the sanctuary of the sea god Poseidon in Cape Tainaron.

A swashbuckling tale of pirates, wine, and poetry, you have to admit this is a pretty cool Greek dolphin myth!

It led me to study up on Cape Tainaron.  Also known as Cape Matapan, it is the southernmost part of mainland Greece.  It’s located in Mani, which reputedly has the world’s best extra-virgin olive oil, grown organically on mountain terraces, and is also known for its superior honey and syglino (pork with oregano, mint, and orange peel.)  There are also some stalactite and stalagmite caves, which are partly underwater, and can be visited by boat.

I’m putting Cape Tainaron on my to-do list for the next time I go to Greece.

For more on Poseidon, check out:::

Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth

Gripster: 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade & Greek Mermaid Myths

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Gripster: 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade & Greek Mermaid Myths

20 Jun

I hit the beach for the first time this year for the 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade.  I’ve been going for a few years now, so I was kind of surprised when friends asked me what it is.  It’s pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s kind of like an all-mermaid version of the Village Halloween Parade.  A lot of the outfits are scandalous, but the parade is so much fun!

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is the world’s largest art parade.  It was founded in 1983 by the same not-for-profit arts organization that produces the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.  The official website describes the Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

The Mermaid Parade celebrates the sand, the sea, the salt air and the beginning of summer, as well as the history and mythology of Coney Island, Coney Island pride, and artistic self-expression. The Parade is characterized by participants dressed in hand-made costumes as Mermaids, Neptunes, various sea creatures, the occasional wandering lighthouse, Coney Island post card or amusement ride, as well as antique cars, marching bands, drill teams, and the odd yacht pulled on flatbed.

You probably know that Neptune is the Roman version of the Greek god Poseidon, the god of the ocean.  (If you’re curious about Poseidon, check out my blog entry “Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth.”)  What I was curious about was mermaid Greek mythology.  I always think of the sirens that the cunning Odysseus outwitted as mermaids, when in fact they’re actually half woman, half bird.  So what does Greek mythology actually say about mermaids?

According to myth, Alexander the Great’s half-sister is a mermaid.  Thessalonike was born to King Philip II of Macedon and his concubine, Nicesipolis, in 252 or 345 BC.  According to legend, Alexander the Great bathed Thessalonike’s hair in life-giving water that he retrieved on his quest to find the Fountain of Immortality.  When her older brother died when she was only nineteen years old, Thessalonike tried to drown herself.  In death, Thessalonike transformed into a mermaid, according to legend.

Mermaid Thessalonike lived in the Aegean.  She stopped ships, asking, “Ζει ο Βασιλιάς Αλέξανδρος?” (“Is King Alexander alive?”)

If the passing ship answered, “Ζει και βασιλεύει και τον κόσμο κυριεύει” (He lives and rules the world), she calmed the waters.

If the ship answered anything less positive, she caused a severe storm that would spell death to all sailors.

I took some 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade pictures.

I hear 2011 is the year of the mermaid trend.

Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth

21 Jan

The new IFC series Portlandia has been getting major press.  My eyes have been rattling around in my head, they rolled back so far.  Are hipsters still in?

But, after seeing this clip about how in Portland the dream of the nineties is still alive, I’m amused.  Plus, I love Fred Armisen.

Portlandia is also the name of a sculpture located at the entrance of the Portland Building (1120 SW 5th Avenue, in Portland, Oregon).  Sculpted by Raymond Kaskey, it’s based on Portland’s city seal, which features a woman, the Queen of Commerce, in Classical garb, brandishing a trident.  Wikipedia quotes The Morning Oregonian as stating on March 22, 1878, that the lower portion of the seal contains a wreath of myrtle.

Sound familiar?

The Greek muse Erato was often portrayed wearing a wreath of myrtle and roses.  Interesting, since Portland is none other than the City of Roses.  Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, is often depicted carrying a lyre; however, Portlandia carries a trident, which is the traditional symbol of the Greek god Poseidon.  The irony here is that with its sheaf of grain, the city seal was supposed to recognize Portland’s agrarian, which a pitchfork would have symbolized.  The similar-looking trident symbolizes fishing, and Poseidon used it to wreck havoc on the land by creating earthquakes.  Of course, the Queen of Commerce is standing by a body of water so perhaps she is also Queen of the lower Columbia River.

Another possibility is that Portlandia is based on the Greek goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite.  Aphrodite is often depicted with myrtle and roses.  She is often positioned by the sea, but she holds a scepter instead of a trident.  Aphrodite is the Greek incarnation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, whose symbol is the star.  In the seal of Portland, a star hovers above the Queen of Commerce.

It’s interesting the way Greek mythology resurges, insinuating itself in pop culture.  Does this mean we might be seeing Greek hipsters—Gripsters—in Portlandia?

Portlandia airs tonight at 10:30 on IFC.