Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 48 – A Balance of Power

Hercules Balance of Power

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 48 – A Balance of Power


“Another confusing one to make sense of – yes, I know!” said John, looking at my slight scowl, as I sat down to the freshly brought coffees. “But, as we’ve seen, re-telling the story can help to prompt the right questions…”

I had no idea where the sudden angst had come from. He never put me under any pressure; just made suggestions that, usually, opened a door in my own thoughts. Why was this one different?  I sipped some of my coffee and traced the feeling of unease… And then it was there, and easy to define…

“Killing people – Heracles is always killing people!” I said, with some vehemence. “I know he’s not a real human, but, honestly, if he was he’d be locked up as a psychopath by now!”

“Yes, ancient wisdom tales tend to be violent… but are the victims really people?” John asked, smiling. “And emotion is good, by the way–it releases energy for our use, hopefully not for violent purposes!”

He drank some more coffee, blowing over the surface to cool it, and appearing to smile, ruefully, at the memory of last week’s burnt skin.  “So who dies?” he asked.

I took a slow breath, letting the unwarranted anger subside; then began, “Heracles’ task is to capture the Erymanthian Boar, which has savaged an unnamed part of the country.” I thought for a moment, because the re-telling had triggered another link. “In some myths, the boar – one down from the lion in the hierarchy of admired ‘beasts’, attacks vineyards, a pristine image of cultivation.”

John nodded, “And is that it – that’s all he has to do?”

“Not quite,” I said. “Confusingly, he is also told to ensure he takes the time to ‘eat’ as well, suggesting that this task is going to be a breeze.”

“And is he armed?” asked John.

“That’s a good point,” I replied. ” No less a person than Apollo gives him a new bow, but, in some versions, he leaves it behind because he feels it will increase the chances of him killing, again – a mistake he’s determined not to repeat…” I snorted “… as though that made a difference once the wine got into his head and he starts swinging that deadly club of his!”

“Another use of a blunt instrument, then?” John said, smiling at me before continuing with, “Wine? Who did he drink wine with?”

“With Pholos, a centaur – half man and half horse,” I replied. “But the wine was neither his nor Hercules’ to drink.”

John widened his eyes, “Whose wine was it, then?”

“It belonged to all the centaurs–a gift of the Gods– and only to be drunk when they were gathered together.”

“So why did Pholos allow it to be drunk?”

“Because Hercules was half mad with the smell of it, and Pholos didn’t want to be inhospitable with the famous warrior… perhaps?.” I replied, trying to think on my feet. “And Chiron, another famous and wise centaur joined them in the party, after pointing out that they were acting against the rules!”

“But, Heracles was there to catch the wild boar, wasn’t he?”

“Yes,” I answered, “And after the brawl wherein he murdered the two friendly centaurs, who were only drinking with him, he did so, by setting a trap high on the mountain near the snow line – and proceeded to show off by walking the boar down to the town by holding its hind feet and making it descend on its front limbs…”

“Hmm,” said John.

“Oh come on, uncle John, do one of your summaries for me… throw me a few clues!”

“Wily niece…” he said, narrowing his eyes and draining his coffee. “Still…. think Libra, the month of this Labour, and also think of the related symbol of the blindfold woman set tall and apart, holding the scales. Why is she blindfold? Is it just that ‘justice is blind’? Think of the two centaurs he killed under the influence of the wine, who were they? Did either of them have a prior relationship to Heracles? Think about the way Heracles captured the boar – was it his usual club led style? Also, remember that Libra is the seventh month of the zodiac.. what changes in the movement from six to seven?”

He looked at the empty cup of coffee and, clearly considering another, sighed.

“No… got to go,” he said, getting up and kissing me on the top of the head as he had since I was a child. “Most of all, remember that I don’t have all the answers… there may not be definitive answers to the myths, as their creators are long gone… but their other-worldly skill is written in the tales. Always remember that, – they were meant to do something to the opening mind…”

He was just opening the door when he called back, “And did he eat?” I turned to look at him, then laughed. “No, actually, he didn’t. He got drunk, instead…”

I mused on that and watched him leave. I knew I’d miss the old curmudgeon during the coming week.

(Image – composite by author. Underlying image of Hercules the child, from Wikipedia, public domain licence)


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

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