Modern Mythology

Don’t know why I still read the New York Times Book Review every Sunday. I rarely am interested enough in a reviewed book to buy it. I get upset because they don’t review near as many books by women as they do men. And yet, there I was yesterday, reading NYTBR again. And being happily surprised.

One thing I like is that they recently added a monthly romance review column. They’ve had one for mysteries for years, so, about time! Anyway, I was also gratified to note that many of the romance novels they deigned to review were self-published. The Times, they are a changin’. I bought Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade.

What hooked me in the review was the tie-in to the love story between Aeneas, a Greek god, and Dido, ruler of Carthage. Dido is said to be ugly, yet Aeneas, aided by Cupid, loves her anyway. This ancient storyline, like all the stories of Greek and Roman gods and the humans who amuse and infuriate them, can be found in the 1940 classic Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

Mythology was my first literary love. My first class, in 1973, in high school, whetted my appetite for those ancient origin stories. I went on to read many more of the original plays in college and grad school. Hamilton’s book, pictured above, is my third or fourth copy. I’ve referred to Mythology so often through the years (as I have this morning) that they fall apart on me after twenty years or so. My current copy has yellowed pages but the spine remains intact.

In Spoiler Alert a contemporary novelist retells the story of Aeneas and Dido. His mastery captivates fanfic writers online and nabs a Hollywood remake, which is as horrible as the massive series of tomes are wonderful. The guy who plays Aeneas is a hot and handsome star, who’s smart too. He has a secret. He’s one of the writers on a popular fanfic site. As is his online BFF, a woman.

That’s all I can say about the plot of Spoiler Alert without spoilers. Oh, except when the female online BFF of the actor playing Aeneas decides to out herself as fat (her word, not mine) all hell breaks loose with the Twitter trolls. I’m enjoying this wild brew, a mix of old and new. It’s a nice respite from the historical romances I’ve buried myself in since the pandemic outbreak in March.

Ha! So that’s why I continue to read The New York Times Book Review. It’s rare, but every once in awhile, I still find an intriguing book reviewed there.

Full Moon in Cynthia

Wasn’t it a glorious full moon the other night? I took my friend Ali’s advice and lay my crystals out on the window sills to give them a hit of moonglow energy. Here is a tarot card of the moon featuring moon goddess Cynthia. She is sometimes called Diana Cynthia, but most often, Artemis. Cynthia comes from the Greek, from the mountain where Artemis and her twin brother Apollo were born of Greek God Zeus and immortal Leto, on the tiny island of Delos in the Aegean Sea. Zeus as usual was trying to keep his shenanigans secret from his wife Hera.

Hera figured out what was going on and barred Leto from giving birth on any land and because Delos was so tiny and not attached to the ocean bed, Leto was able to deliver her twins there. Later, a temple was erected in Artemis’s honor and Delos became a spiritual center of the ancient world. The name of that mountain in Delos where Artemis and Apollo were born is Cynthus (Kynthos in Greek) and thus the goddess is sometimes given the name Cynthia. You don’t often hear it, that’s for sure. Like Leto herself, Cynthia fades into the background.

Cynthion_Steep_street

A high school course sparked my interested in mythology even before I looked into one of those “what your name means” books and saw to my utter surprise the title “moon goddess” next to my name. I would have thought Cynthia meant “scullery maid” or possibly “milk maid.” Nothing so grand as a goddess. I of course never brought this connection up in college when I studied Greek and Roman literature, history, and philosophy. In academia, the moon goddess is Diana or Artemis. Cynthia is the unnamed one. I was content with that until I read a memoir by Sue Monk Kidd called The Dissident’s Daughter about Kidd’s break with mainstream Christianity in favor of goddess worship. Kidd, like so many before her for thousands of years, took a pilgrimage to Mt. Cynthus in Delos.

As I read of this trip, I felt a yearning to take the pilgrimage myself. But at the time my life was busy with teaching and writing and I never imagined I’d have the resources for such an endeavor. I could only look a little deeper into Cynthia. Pretty much all I know is the name is derived from the mountain and somehow mountain and moon formed a bond that the ancients honored by bestowing Cynthia the title of moon goddess.

I like that Cynthia was a bit elusive; she’s a secret. As Artemis is called the huntress, I too hunted down my namesake through the years, certain only of the fact that I possess a secret goddess name and I should see what I might do to live up to it. I’ve never held a bow and arrow or seen a unicorn. Still, the honor and mystery of my name has grown on me to the point where I suggested to my husband we travel to Greece. To Delos. To climb Mount Cynthus. And to my surprise and gratitude he said yes. I expect I will find something at the top of that mountain, something that has been inside me all along will spring forth and reveal its secret to me.

Either that or I will just have a nice view and tired legs. Oh, and the trip of a lifetime.