Odyne and Apollo: A Parable

I’d like to preface this piece with a little background and a warning. I am a worshipper of neither of these deities. I was asked by a friend to write a story about the gods and it was these two who came through. The parable below may trigger some because it contains unwilling restraint as well as torture. (I’ll not call it ‘light torture’ because that’s an oxymoron.)  

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As I sit here, kneeling at the altar of my gods, I am doing my best to keep my composure.  I have been waiting, literally, for hours and they haven’t shown up.  Trying to focus on my meditation and chants, my mind wanders to ‘what if they have abandoned me?’ and ‘what if they are simply hallucinations I have to make myself feel better?’  My thoughts wander to wilder places and farther reaches as time stretches on.  As I have yet to tame them completely, my emotions begin to run through the spectrum.  I can’t seem to get myself focused.  My resignation turns to pity and then pity to anger.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.  This is ridiculous. I keep shifting and trying to get comfortable.  Everything below my waist is numb.  Taking another deep breath, I shift again.  I’m getting angry.  Really.  Angry.

“Interesting,” says a male voice, “that you would assume that summoning us meant that we would drop everything and come running.  We are, after all, gods.”

I’m startled from my anger to see none other than Apollo.  Dumbly I say, “But I didn’t call you tonight.”

He laughs.  “No, but you got me,” he replies.  “You mortals are like small, spoiled children.”

I am taken aback at his words.  “Why are you here?  We aren’t like small children!”

The young Olympian laughs at me, again.  Our conversation is then interrupted by the appearance of the goddess.  Apollo smiles and bows to the Lady.  I am confused.  She is not who I called, either.  Before I can say anything, she says, “No, you didn’t call upon me with your words.  You called upon me with your anger and pain.”

I stammer, still very confused.  “I…”

“Stop,” she commands.  “The time for speaking is well past.  Now, it is time for you to listen.  You beg the gods for this and you rail at us when things do not go your way.  You expect we are here for simply your pleasure, yet we are not.  We have been here since before your kind stood up straight and we will be here to pick up the pieces when your kind is gone.  Your anger feeds some of us, just like your joy feeds others.  You openly desire that which feels good, but you secretly revel in that which gives you pain.  I am that pain.”

Suddenly, I am bound and blindfolded, unable to move.  My breath stops for a moment.  This is not what I expected.  “I am Odyne,” she declares as she touches my left shoulder.

I scream as every nerve ending in my back comes alive with white-hot fury.  My anger is forgotten in the midst of the torture.  When she pulls her hand away, my misery almost stops.  Almost.  She begins to speak and her words fall on my ears like minuscule droplets of lava spewing from a volcano.  “You humans all have expectations.  You expect each other to do and say certain things, even when it is not in your nature.  Then, you hurt.  You expect your gods to do for you things that you will not do for yourselves.  Then, you hurt.  It would be more productive and less painful if you simply boiled yourself in a steaming vat of some liquid or another or leaped from a ledge.”

Again, she touches me, this time at the base of my skull.  The pain is dull and throbbing and it spreads down my neck, to my arms and upper back.  I can feel all of my muscles spasm at once.  My mouth opens but no sound emerges.  “You expect the gods to give you good crops.  You expect them to feed your herds and families.  You expect your families to conform to your expectations and for the seasons to bend to your will.  What happens when they don’t?  Anguish.”

When she releases me this time, I topple over.  Unable to catch myself, my face hits the cool tile floor.  Undoubtedly I will have a bruised cheek, but oh is the tile soothing!  My breath comes out in ragged gasps.  Apollo sits me back up and steadies me.  He removes my blindfold, tucks my hair behind my ears and wipes the tear tracks from my face.  “Odyne, I believe that she understands now.  You have struck her dumb with pain,” he whispers.

The goddess looks me up and down.  “We shall see,” she responds.

Suddenly, Odyne is gone and with her my bonds.  Apollo leans me against the altar and sits near me.  “Odyne is a harsh mistress,” he says, “but in meting out pain she removes obstacles.”

My voice refuses to work.  I open my mouth, close it, and open it again.  Apollo shakes his head.  “Shh.  You need only listen for now is my time to bestow the blessings I have brought.”

He takes my still numb hand and begins to rub it, coaxing the feeling back.  “The Lady brought you this pain.  Harsh she may be, but it is her blessing to bestow.  I bring you clarity through the torture.  Observe the behavior of others.  See them with clear eyes.  Hear them with clear ears.  Have no expectations.  If you do not expect that they will behave in a certain way, then you can not be disappointed.  When you see and hear them as they are, you will know their words and actions before they do.  In doing this, you will avoid much of the pain you now experience.”

I look at Apollo and half-smile.  “Thank you,” I say.  “Thank you for making me wait.  Thank you for not being whom I called upon.  Thank you for caring enough to stay with me and for blessing me.  I will carry this lesson with me through this life.  I will bless others with your words.”

Apollo kisses my hand, smiles a youthful smile, and leaves me.  I find my strength and close my ritual.  It is always the unexpected that touches me and leaves me with life-long lessons.

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This piece was originally posted here on Oct. 11, 2015.

River Mourningstar