Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Stygian Witches

The Stygian Witches
"Give us back the eye!"

The Stygian Witches were a peculiar group of three Greek crone-sisters, the Graeae, who were brought back to prominence in our culture by their portrayal in the classic 1981 epic Greek fantasy movie, Clash of the Titans. In the famous Ray Harryhausen movie, they were played by three veteran British actresses, Flora Robson, Anna Manaham and Freda Jackson.

The Stygian Witches (Portrayed by Flora Robson, Anna Manaham and Freda Jackson)
 As is so often the case in Greek mythology, there are a number of different clashing details about the Stygian witches. Some things are certain, though. They were the daughters of Phorcus and Ceta, and may have been born as triplets. They were the sisters of the Gorgons (the famous Medusa and her two obscure sisters, Euryale and Sthenno), and also their assigned guardians. They were grey-haired from the moment of birth – Graeae means ‘Grey Woman’ – and shared between them just a single eye and a single tooth. They were able to pass these organs around between them, so that each could take her turn seeing and eating. However unlikely it may sound, the Graeae are described as originally being beautiful – “fair-faced and swan-like” – although by the time they feature in any legends, they have become old and hideous.

The witches were named Deino, Pemphredo and Enyo. Their names give some indication of their perceived nature – respectively, they mean Dread, Alarm, and Horror. They lived in a dark cavern near the entrance to Tartarus, close to the island where the Gorgons were banished. Enyo in particular lived up to her name; she often appears drenched in blood, and was said to lay waste to entire cities. There are also suggestions that she may have been related to Ares, god of war, either as his mother, sister or daughter, although that is more of a comment on her nature than her genealogy. All three were said to be extremely wise in knowledge, monster-lore and witchcraft.

Let the witchery begin! Celebrate Halloween all October long
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