Károly Kerényi on Hephaestus and Aphrodite

“I shall have much to say about Hephaistos [Hephaestus]. Let is suffice for the moment to say that he was, according to most tales, a skilled and sturdy master metalworker, yet at the same time only a crippled craftsman dwarf. He created young virgins made of gold, who moved as fi they were alive, and thought and talked and worked. He fashioned the first woman, Pandora. She was not his wife, but the wife of beings closely resembling him. Hephaistos’s wife — according to Homer, in his Iliad, and according to Hesiod – was the youngest of the Graces, Aglaia, “the glorious”. Did more ancient tales (which these poets knew) mean that she, took was a living work of art? It may be so, for charis (“grace”) also means the delightfulness of art. Or was it their purpose to give the smith-god a lesser Aphrodite for wife, instead of the great one? In any case, in our tongue the love-goddess could also have been called Charis. In the Odyssey, the spouse of Hephaistos was Aphrodite, and Ares was her lover.”


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On automata and statues:

‘Our imaginary identification with so alien a creature as a moving statue or an automaton can be profoundly satisfying, partly because that identification may spare us diverse anxieties about our place in the world, in our own bodies, about the proper location of the human. The freedom entailed by that identification lies not just in the idea of a turn against the blockage or oblivious figured by the stone, but in the fact that the living statues, for all its motion, yet tends to remain a statue, untroubled and unselfconscious (or at least we hope it does). Yet if the living statues does not disappoint us by becoming all too human (as Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle disappoints her “creator”), the fiction of animation is also likely to remind us of how alien and how disruptive of what we think of as the human are our vital energies, how catastrophic, petrifying, or mechanistic a form the entry into life can assume. Indeed, it suggest the ways in which the fantasy of the animated statue may constitute an implicit critique of our optimistic pictures of human desire, and of our wish that desire and the human could peacefully occupy the same space. The living statue may remind us that there is never any fixed space between.’

‘…Placing the question about the consciousness of stones thus in relation to the automaton fantasy, it starts to seem as if the desire to invite the inanimate into the space of the human conceals or mirrors a desire to push the human into a space of the inanimate. The face of objects granted a more than ordinary life becomes the face of Medusa.’

From The Dream of the Moving Statue by Kenneth Gross

On Centaurs and Satyrs:

From Masks of Dionysus in “The Wildness of Satyrs”:

“Centaurs, on the other hand, make up a real society of their own, attached to neither god nor a master, situated outside the human world and civilization. Heracles cannot pass among them without violence. Nessos tries to rape Deianira. The opening of the wine jar entrusted to Pholus by Dionysus drives the centaurs into a frenzy, and the same kind of rioting at the wedding of Pirithous, where Theseus has to restrain the centaurs’ outbursts as they turn into drunken rapists. Inversely, some centaurs, such as Pholus and Chiron, hold secret powers, medical or magical ones. Chiron is also an educator, a famous paidotrophos. These hybrid beings are more truly on the borderline between extremes of wildness and culture, animality and humanity.

In the case of satyrs, the situation is not quite the same. Satyrs do not form an isolated society, far from the civilized world of humans. They accompany Dionysus, who is present among humans with wine, dance, and music, surrounded by maenads. They have a subordinate status, like that of slaves; servants of Dionysus, they also work as artisans at the forge of Hephaestus; sometimes they are sculptors, sometimes cooks. They can be servants of Heracles, who captures them but does not defeat them, unlike the centaurs who he massacres. By the logic of their servile status, satyrs are depicted as both thieves and gluttons, incorrigible and unrepentant drunkards.”