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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Circe, Book X

After Odysseus and Circe were finished, he bathed and was presented with food and wine by Circe’s handmaidens.  But Odysseus refused to eat because his men were still under an enchantment and were turned to swine.  Circe, complying with Odysseus’ request changed the swine back into men and urged Odysseus to bring the balance of his crew to her house to be refreshed; only Eurylochus made resistance.  Eventually, Odysseus and his men were won over by Circe’s hospitality, staying one full year on her island. At last, the crew became homesick and pressed Odysseus to continue their homeward journey.  Won over by the crew, Odysseus asked Circe for help in getting home.  The nymph replied as follows: Royal son of Laertes, Odysseus, old campaigner, stay on no more in my house against your will. But first another journey calls.  You must travel down to the House of Death and the awesome one, Persephone, there to consult the ghost of Tiresias, seer of Thebes, the great blind prophet whose mind remains unshaken. Even in death-Persephone has given him wisdom, everlasting vision to him alone. . . the rest of the dead are empty, flitting shades (X, 537-545) Odysseus wept at hearing these words from Circe, and remonstrated with her.  But she assured him that it was necessary to go to Hades and meet Tiresias.  She then gave him instructions on how to find the grove that held the entrance to Hades, and then told him how to proceed once he entered Hades: Dig a trench of about a forearm’s depth and length and around it pour libations out to all the dead- first with milk and honey, and then with mellow wine, then water third and last, and sprinkle glistening barley over it all, and vow again and again to all the dead, to the drifting, listless spirits of their ghosts, that once you return to Ithaca you will slaughter a barren heifer in your halls, the best you have, and load a pyre with treasures-and to Tiresias, alone, apart, you will offer a sleek black ram. . . (X, 569-578) Calypso then ordered Odysseus to slaughter a ram and an ewe and pour their blood into the trench, while saying prayers to Hades and Persephone.  He should then offer the mixed blood to Tiresias in order to enervate him. Having received directions from Circe, the men set sail for the entrance to Hades.  Elpenor, one of the crew, having taken too much wine the night before departure, fell from the roof of Circe’s house, and his body was left behind, unburied, when the men departed the island.