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Living Myth

Episode 356 - The Furies in Myth

Living Myth
Living Myth

On this episode Michael Meade turns to Greek myths about the Furies in order to imagine ways that deeper understanding and healing might be found amidst the tragic events engulfing Gaza and Israel and the “unbearable losses and blood-dimmed blindness that currently plague humanity as a whole.”

The Furies appear as primordial spirits of vengeance and retribution that can rise from the underworld when people violate the rules of nature, when innocent blood is wrongfully spilled on the earth and when age-old feuds are provoked.

Once stirred to a frenzy, the Furies enter the daily world in many shapes and forms, causing people to act out vengeance in ways that are deeply personal, but are also the expression of unhealed wounds and grievances that go back to ancestral roots. In Homer's Iliad the Furies frequently cloud people's judgment and cause them to act irrationally. However, the prolonged presence of the Furies can shift fierce passions to violent rages and beyond that to untold madness; for the Furies were known to punish people by driving them mad.

The Furies are stirred by acts of violence that violate nature and shed innocent blood and there is a kind of primal, albeit blind justice in that. Yet, there is also a greater sense of the sacredness of life and a level of justice that exists deep in the soul of humanity, that can reveal ways to greater understanding and make true healing and forgiveness possible.

When the Furies threatened to torment all inhabitants of the Earth and make the land toxic and unlivable, the goddess Athena persuaded them to relent and break the cycles of blood vengeance. The wisdom of Athena includes a deep knowledge of the difference between protecting life and being caught in tragic battles that can only continue the violence and vengeance that drives people apart, that can drive them mad and destroys the Earth in the process.

As goddess of wisdom and protector of civil society, Athena gave the Furies a place of respect in her own temple. Instead of simply being the hard hand of retribution, they could also contribute to finding mercy for the suffering of people. Vengeance and retribution could not simply be removed from the world; however, a balancing capacity for mercy and forgiveness was revealed to be a necessary part of finding justice and preserving life.

Thank you for listening to and supporting Living Myth. You can hear Michael Meade live by joining his new free online event “Living in a Time of Overwhelm” that on Thursday, November 16. Register and learn more at mosaicvoices.org/events.

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