Friday, July 6, 2018

The Greek Sphinx - Myth, Meaning and Purpose

A creature that can be as equally terrifying as it is protective, the Sphinx still speaks to us today. More specifically, we're talking about the Greek Sphinx, which is depicted as being more defined, mobile, and intelligent. In some Hellenic rooms, shrines and altars these days, you might even see their ancient images in the form of statues or pictures, such as when you look at the picture on the right of my own indoor temple area. But the Sphinx also remains in the shadows, a very curious being that even some Pagans or Hellenists may not be able to directly figure out.

Let's begin our examination on the surface and dig from there. You probably first learned of the Greek Sphinx from the story of the Hero Oedipus, and in this story, the individual Sphinx Oedipus encounters is not a friendly one. Holding an entire population under her control, she kills any passerby who cannot decipher her riddle. In Oedipus she finally meets her match, and throws herself to her death after the traveler answers her riddle with Greek precision. However, we must remember that this was not the Sphinx itself, this was one Sphinx that wasn't of good nature, just as there are certain people who are not of good nature. However, there may be another interpretation to the tale, which I will talk about a little later.

The Greek Sphinx is of the most detail, holding the body of a lion, the upper body of a woman, and the wings of an eagle. Like Oedipus, let us decipher a bit here. Wings are heavenly, are they not? Even certain Gods have them, such as Eros and Eos. What of the lion's body? Very grounded to earth, is it not? But neither wings nor lions can talk to humans. You need a similar state of being to communicate, such as the upper body of a human being. Therefore, the Greek Sphinx is a heaven, upon the earth, that communicates with man. She brings to man Divine communication. With that being said, one might also interpret the story of the Sphinx in Oedipus to not be a villainous one at all, but to simply mean that those who refuse to listen to and understand the Higher Powers, are doomed, and that those who do take the time to understand the nature of the universe, can overcome their obstacles.

More than being a messenger, however, her terrifying weapons and powerful abilities make her a fierce guardian of humans and locations. In Walter Burkert's Greek Religion, page 194, we find that statues of Sphinxes were placed as guardians of graves and the dead. Similarly, that's why I myself have statues of the Sphinx guarding my indoor temple and its altar, for protection of the sacred and loved area. Most certainly a deterrent, the Sphinx is not a creature you want to wrestle with at all. In today's context, we would probably see such Sphinxes as more of spiritual guardians, protecting against negative spirits, energy, and/or pollution. But this kind of spiritual power can also be used to deter physical threats as well.

It is most certainly a magnificent creature. If you ever manage to get one on your side, it's probably not a bad thing.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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