Monday, 20 April 2015
Sisters of the Valkyrie? (Part VI) Harpies
There are Valkyrie-like goddesses and demi goddesses in other belief systems, who resemble the characteristics of the Northern Valkyries. It makes you wonder if they belong to the same species or come from the same root legend. I plan to make several entries about the subject, starting with individuals and then perhaps go onto research different aspects of the Valkyrie.
The sixth entry on the series "Sisters of the Valkyrie" is about the Harpies. From ancient Greek myths and legends, the harpies have been considered demons. They look like winged creatures with heads of women. But earlier pre-classical Greece, the harpies were considered beautiful and quite benign, if not a little possessive and materialistic. Harpies themselves are depicted in art as odd looking monsters. Many feature films based on the Greek legends portray the Harpies as very nasty and always grotesque. However, the Greek philospher Hesiod wrote that the Harpies are "lovely sisters of goddess Iris". Dig deeper, look further back into the past, and myths alter through time.
It were the Romans who defined the harpies as ugly, evil and sinister, and this changed the way people read and interprated mythical creatures. Okay now the word "Harpy" comes from Greek to mean "snatcher" of souls and people. Originally the harpies were beautiful winged women, demi goddesses of storms, who helped to guide warriors of the dead across to the glorious afterlife. As stories were told, told and retold, harpies later became feared and dreaded. They were thought of as cruel monsters who kidnapped people, destroyed lives and ruined crops. They were said to snatch away food from the blind, and this is told in the tale about Phineus, who revealed hidden mysteries of the gods. In his punishment, he was made blind and then he was tormented by the harpies until he was rescued by Jason and the Argonauts.
The harpies were sisters. They were the daughters of divine Thaumas and Electra. Their sister was Iris the glowing winged goddess of rainbows. The harpies were all once regarded as fair haired, light as feathers, friends of the birds, riding winds, beautiful and bright, dressed in feathers and helping spirits. Different poets, philosophers and writers changed the harpies according to their tales. Some described the harpies as beautiful women with wings. Others described harpies as birds with heads of women. Some described them as just ugly and winged. The more hideous the harpies were the more cruel and vicious they were.
Links on the subject:
Harpies Greek info