Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Poine, The Erinyes and Nemesis
How's your mythology?
Poine or Poinae is the spirit of retribution, vengeance and punishment.
The Erinyes known by the Romans as The Furies are angry sisters; they are the goddesses tasked with hunting down criminals and avenging their deeds. Alecto is the personification of the attribute of vigilance; she is unceasing in her pursuit. Tisiphone plans and directs retribution. And their sister Megaera is a notorious grudge bearer. Collectively, they cultivate, plan, pursue and exact punishment for crimes against the natural world. You want to avoid offending them.
And Nemesis. We think of a nemesis as our enemy. The ancients identified her as the goddess of indignation against and retribution for evil deeds.
I do not know which of them is my nocturnal supervisor these days; maybe they split the shift. Whatever the arrangement, one or some combination of them is directing my sleep life.
Gratuitous violence. And blood everywhere.
I wake with the weapon in my hand. Somewhere in the middle of the story. I do not remember what happens before. I do not know what leads to it.
I recognize the setting. We are in the car belonging to the man who abducted and raped me when I was a kid. There is a strong odor of antiseptic just like there was in 1976. But also there is a pungent metallic scent -- the blood. The music is different. Carole King's 'Tapestry' was the soundtrack of my rape. Now it is Poe's 'Control' accenting the scene.
And I recognize the victim. I know his eyes -- have had them with me for over thirty years. Below me. Bleeding from the puncture wounds I must have inflicted, he laughs at me. I get angry because even now, with the weapon and his life in my hands, I still do not matter. He laughs more and I slash at him so furiously I am tasting and wearing his blood.
This is when I wake up. It does not happen every night. But it happens most nights.
When I wake it is with fright which inexorably morphs into hatred. The time it takes for this evolution diminishes each night; it is no longer a surprise. I do not hate him. After all, he let me go. Though I thrust the carving fork into his body, I direct the hostility toward myself.
I am afraid it means I am capable of inflicting horrific violence. I am afraid it means I am capable of an escalating and uncontrollable fury. I am afraid it means I am capable of killing. All for revenge.
But I want to be capable of better.
I place a high value on kindness. And an equally high value on gentleness. They are attributes I never had to dig too hard to find. But I have never known a desire to wield so much violence, spill so much blood and then with such reckless abandon. I am ashamed.
My fingers are trembling as I write. My eyes fill with the water of tears and despite my concentrated effort to dam them, they spill.
I am confused. I am afraid. And I am deeply ashamed of the emerging knowledge that I may possess so great a capacity for rage.
Zeus banished his elders the Titans to isolation below even the underworld. He dropped an anvil that fell for nine days penetrating both earth and sea to ensure they would never emerge to challenge him again.
How do I banish the angry goddesses from my dreams to ensure they never emerge to challenge my values, nurture the bitter seedlings of retribution they planted or tempt my stirring thirst for vengeance again?