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Terreson Profile
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The Golden Ass


I've been meaning to share a story with the board. It has some length to it.

I love the story of Lucius, his transformation into an ass. Lucius offends a priestess while travelling in Thessaly. Out of anger she puts a spell on him and turns him into a donkey. He then travels through out the Roman Empire. His adventures and misadventures are picaresque. And his observations on the world's then religious practices are a hoot. Finally he can bear the burdens of his ass-dom no more, since, inside he knows he is human. And he has a dream. He wakes from the dream, bathes himself in the sea, and he propitiates she who he calls the Supreme Goddess. He prays to her to change his destiny. He asks her to either end his life or return him to his rightful form. He then falls quiet. Out of the waves the Goddess herself ascends. She stands, poised, on waves' surface. He first describes his vision of her, after which she addresses him:

~Her long thick hair fell in tapering ringlets on her lovely neck, and was crowned with an intricate chaplet in which was woven every kind of flower. Just above her brow shone a round disk, like a mirror, or like the bright face of the moon, which told me who she was. Vipers rising from the left-hand and right-hand partings of her hair supported this disk, with ears of corn bristling beside them. Her many-colored robe was of finest linen; part was glistening white, part crocus-yellow, part glowing red and along the entire hem a woven bordure of flowers and fruit clung swaying in the breeze. But what caught and held my eye more than anything else was the deep black lustre of her mantle. She wore it slung across her body from the right hip to the left shoulder, where it was caught in a knot resembling the boss of a shield; but part of it hung in innumerable folds, the tasselled fringe quivering. It was embroidered with glittering stars on the hem and everywhere else, and in the middle beamed a full and fiery moon.

In her hand she held a bronze rattle, of the sort used to frighten away the God of the Sirocco; its narrow rim was curved like a sword-belt and three little rods, which sang shrilly when she shook the handle, passed horizontally through it. A boat-shaped gold dish hung from her left hand, and along the upper surface of the handle writhed an asp with puffed throat and head raised ready to strike. On her divine feet were slippers of palm leaves, the emblem of victory.~

And then the lady from the sea speaks to Lucius.

~You see me here Lucius, in answer to your prayer. I am Nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are. My nod governs the shining heights of Heaven, the wholesome sea-breezes, the lamentable silences of the world below. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names, and propitiated with all manner of different rites, yet the whole round earth venerates me. The primeval Phrygians call me Pessinuntica, Mother of the gods; the Athenians, sprung from their own soil, call me Ceropian Artemis; for the islanders of Cyrpus I am Paphian Aphrodite; for the archers of Crete I am Dictynna; for the trilingual Sicilians, Stygian Proserpine; and for the Eleusinians their ancient Mother of the Corn.

Some know me as Juno, some as Bellona of the Battles; others as Hecate, others again as Rhamnubia, but both races of Aethiopians, whose lands the morning sun first shines upon, and the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship me with ceremonies proper to my godhead, call me by my true name, namely Queen Isis. I have come in pity of your plight, I have come to favor and aide you. Weep no more, lament no longer; the hour of deliverance, shone over by my watchful light, is at hand.~

Isis instructs Lucius on what he is to do. He is then transformed back to his original form. After his initiation into the mysteries of Isis and Osiris he devotes the rest of his life to Isis as a priest in her temple.

The author of what is one of the world's earliest novels is a man named Apulius. And he, in fact, was a priest at Isis's temple in Alexandria. He lived in the second century A.D. Robert Graves, whose translation I've copied from, called Apulius's description of she who he himself called the White Goddess the fullest such description found in ancient literature.

Some days ago I noticed a news item that caught my interest. It was a report on an excavation under way in the waters off of Alexandria of Cleopatra's palace. Adjacent to her palace was a temple to Isis. In the article's picture there is a seven to nine ton granite pillar being lifted out of the water by a crane. Later that day, and for some reason I've forgotten, a friend happened to mention Isis in another context. I figured the serendipity, or was it synchronicity, warranted Lucius and Isis speaking in their own words. What a delightful notion, huh? Man as a jack ass.

My apologies for any typos. Typing was to the screen.



Tere



Last edited by Terreson, Dec/24/2009, 12:17 am
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Katlin Profile
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Re: The Golden Ass


Tere,

Just coming to this now. I read The Golden Ass once a number of years ago. I am put in mind of the Minatour sketch by Picasso that Campbell includes in Creative Mythology. I couldn't find the image online, but if you have the book it is Figure 57 on page 667. "In Figure 58," Campbell writes, "from his etching Minotauromachy (1935), the same monster appears from the watery abyss, shading his eyes from the light, in polar contrast to the figure of the sage on the left (Nietzsche's "Socratic Man"), climbing aloft to escape the reality of the Dionysian terror. . ." (p 668). I am also put in mind of the ape references Cohen sometimes includes in his poems, coupled with his interest in the Divine Feminine. It seems to me there is a connection, but as Cohen also says in one of his poems, "I may be wrong." emoticon

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/3/2010, 11:18 am
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Terreson Profile
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Re: The Golden Ass


Thanks Katfriend for the post. I apologize for taking so long to get back to it. I figure neither you or Cohen are wrong.

You kow the really big thing that comes through for me with Apulius' tale written in the Second C A.D.? It is like a window view into a long abandoned garden. In his day there was nothing weird or strange or different, even esoteric about his worship. The temples to Isis, or whatever her local name might be, were many. They could be found from Alexandria to Rome to Asia Minor to the Fertile Crescent. They were well established, well funded, and they were popular. That's the historical perspective the Golden Ass gives me. Father Right religions were not yet dominant. They were not yet defining the terms of what constitutes the divine. They did not yet have a monopoly on the divine. That is the big thing I get. Then, of course, it is a fun story to read.

Tere
Jan/7/2010, 6:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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