Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nyxie or 'Nyx'

 Nyx is Night.

NYX was the goddess of the night, one of the ancient Protogenoi (first-born elemental gods). In the cosmogony of Hesiod she was born of Air (Khaos), and breeding with Darkness (Erebos) produced Light (Aither) and Day (Hemera), first components of the primeval universe. Alone, she spawned a brood of dark spirits, including the three Fates, Sleep, Death, Strife and Pain.

Nyx was a primeval goddess usually represented as simply the substance of night: a veil of dark veil of mist drawn forth from the underworld which blotted out the light of Aither (shining upper atmosphere). Her opposite number was Hemera (Day), who scattered the mists of night, or Eos, the goddess of the dawn.

In ancient art Nyx was portrayed as a either a winged goddess or charioteer, sometimes crowned with an aureole of dark mist.

Powerful goddess

Black winged Nyx, some say, laid a germless egg in the infinite bosom of Erebus, the Darkness of the Underworld, and after long ages, sprang golden-winged Eros. But others have said that Nyx is the daughter of Eros, whereas others called both of them children of Chaos. Nyx is Night, a powerful goddess whose dark light falls from the stars, and who dictates not only to men but also to gods. Even Zeus does not wish to upset Night: It happened that Hera bribed Hypnos in order to make Zeus fall asleep, so that she could have it her way during the Trojan War. Hypnos obeyed the goddess in spite of his fears; for once he had performed a similar task, and when Zeus woke up in anger, he sought him everywhere, and would have hurled him from heaven into the deep, had Nyx not saved him. For Zeus stopped and thought twice before doing anything that could displease Nyx. Some seem to think that Nyx appears because light is gone as if anything could be and yet do not exist on its own right. But when counting the days, not seldom the nights are mentioned first as when it is said:

"… a brazen anvil falling down from heaven nine nights and days would reach the earth upon the tenth: and again, a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartarus upon the tenth." (Hesiod, Theogony 725).

Nyx's home

In Tartarus, both a place and her brother, Nyx has her home and spreads around him in triple line like a necklace. At the gates of Tartarus and above it are the sources and ends of heaven, earth and sea, and it is told that if a man should find himself inside the gates, he would not reach the bottom for one year, being carried by blasts in all directions.

Portion of Time

But although it could be said that the days could not be counted if this dark-robed goddess, giver of sleep, would not come between them, night and day are, in a certain way, equals:

"… night's sightless eye, and radiant sun proceed upon their yearly course on equal terms and neither of them is envious when it has to yield." (Jocasta to her sons. Euripides, Phoenician Women 543).

Favours mischief

Nyx is highly appreciated and revered by those who cast snares, for mischief and treachery not seldom arise from night-time, when things are often unexpected, although Destruction is believed to make its way in any case:

"If night leaves anything undone in the working of destruction, day follows to accomplish it." (Sophocles, Oedipus the King 196).

So Cronos, protected by the darkness of the night, attacked his father Uranus from an ambush, castrating him with the sickle of the jagged teeth. And it was in night-time that Heracles surprised his enemies and took the island of Cos, which is off the southwestern coast of Asia Minor, slaying King Eurypylus 4. During the Trojan War it was Night who protected the comings and goings of spies, for it was protected by the darkness of immortal Night that Odysseus entered, disguised as a beggar, the city of Troy; and it was during the night that the Thracian Rhesus 2 met his death attacked by Odysseus and Diomedes . And it was also in night-time that the Achaeans pretended to return home, burning their own tents and waiting with their fleet off the island of Tenedos, which is opposite the coast of the Troad, in order to stealthily sail back disguised by the shades of the following night. This time true beacon lamps, lighted by Sinon, and some say by Helen, guided them, so that they could land and take Troy, which fell by night, but on another night during their returns, the ACHAEAN LEADERS suffered shipwreck because of the false beacon lamps, lighted by Nauplius 1, the father of Palamedes.

Fugitives like her

Also those who escape, commit thefts and other crimes, prefer to do it by night, for this is the time for Deceit, Sleep, Doom, Madness and Death, although no one knows how the children of Nyx will play. That is why Medea guided Jason to the Golden Fleece by night, lulling to sleep the guardian dragon by drugs, and by night the ARGONAUTS left Colchis, taking with them the king's daughter.

Helen appreciated her

When Helen and Paris left Sparta as lovers and sailed to Troy, they started their fateful journey by night, and when she returned after the war, they say that she waited for the night to go out in order to avoid being stoned, if she went out by day, by the parents whose sons had perished at Troy. For Helen was called "Lady of Sorrows" for having caused, as they saw it, that great war. But during the night she was safe, not only because Night provides hiding but also because the others mourned, for tears are shed mostly in night-time.

Remembered meeting

It was on one certain night that Tydeus and Polynices had a fight in front of the house of King Adrastus 1, waking him up; and from the meeting of these three men came out the alliance of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES, an unforgettable moment for those involved:

"It was night when I reached the porch of Adrastus." (Polynices to Jocasta. Euripides, Phoenician Women 415).

Love and Deceit

The DANAIDS deemed their wedding night to be the best moment to murder their husbands, for Love and Deceit, being both children of Night, cannot be properly distinguished from each other when darkness has come, since night-time distorts perception.

Night covers shame, spares lives 

And the guilty love of Adonis' mother Smyrna for her father could not have occurred without Night, for only her dark power and her child Deceit could prevent her father from knowing that he was sharing his bed with his daughter, which he did no less than twelve times. And even if war does not need to stop in night-time, Nyx is also known for parting warriors, thus sparing lives, for the heralds interrupted the duel between Ajax and Hector when it became dark, saying:
"… night is now upon us, and it is well to yield obedience to night's behest." (Homer, Iliad 7.282).

And those who are fortunate do not wish the day to end, but those who are endangered during the hours of light welcome Night as a blessed relief:

"Sorely against the will of the Trojans sank the daylight, but over the Achaeans welcome, aye, thrice-prayed-for, came the darkness of night." (Homer, Iliad 7.487).

Day as dark as Night

And to those who are utterly unhappy it does not make any difference whether it is day or night, and that is why Demeter, when looking for her abducted daughter, carried torches during daytime as well.

Night restores what Day undid and destroys what Day did

Night, they say, carries Hypnos in her arms, but if he refuses his comfort, the night-long vigils make the eyes of mortals sore. For in night-time most things and beings are restored so that they might enjoy or suffer the following day. And even Zeus could not have punished Prometheus for so many years if his liver had been eaten up by the eagle on a single day, but as things are, the lobes of his liver grew by night, so that they could be picked at again the next morning. So what is done by day is undone by night, which was known by Odysseus' wife Penelope, who wove by day the shroud of her father-in-law Laertes and undid it by night, thus deceiving her SUITORS, for she had promised to wed one of them when her work was finished.

Death and Madness are best at night

Night is also an adequate time for her child Death, and that is why the seer Tiresias chose to die in the night-time after drinking water from the spring at Tilphussa. And the same may be said of her child Madness, for this seized Ajax by night, and made him slaughter the cattle with the herdsmen in the Achaean camp, taking them for the Achaeans, whom he hated for having adjudged to Odysseus the arms of the dead Achilles. 

Night and Love

As Night opens the gates of her child Love, mortal lovers prefer to meet by night, as do the gods, for when Zeus visited Alcmena he not only did it by night, but duly prolonged that particular night threefold. And the results of these meetings not seldom are recorded in nights, for it is said that when Alcmena bore Heracles, whom she had by Zeus, he became the elder by one night and Iphicles, whom she had by Amphitryon, was born the night after. But whereas Alcmena consorted with Zeus and Amphitryon in two consecutive nights, Leda consorted with Zeus and with Tyndareus on the same night, giving birth to both mortals and immortals. And the same did Theseus' mother Aethra, for she was loved by Aegeus and by Poseidon during the same night.

Nyx, giver of sleep. 4920: Stephan Sinding 1846-1922: Night, 1914. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

Nights count, days do not

When Heracles 1 visited Thespius and was entertained by him, the number of days of the visit was made to match the number of Thespius' daughters, for it was them who entertained Heracles 1 by night. And the number of days of the visit were fifty, but the memorable were the fifty nights, for almost nothing has been recorded of Heracles 1's activities during daytime, except that he was there to catch a lion in Mount Cithaeron, whose scalp he later used as a helmet. But there are those who found fit to think that Heracles 1 could not tell the difference between one girl and the other, and that he thought that his bed-fellow was always the same. 

Divine manipulations

Some divine manipulations are done in the night-time while mortals sleep, and that is why Thetis used to hide little Achilles in the fire by night, in order to make him immortal, but by day she anointed him with ambrosia, and it was also by night that Demeter put the little Demophon 2 into the fire, with identical purpose.

 Time of inspiration

Night is also a time of inspiration, and that is why it is told that the MUSES sing during night-time their praises to the gods and Nyx on Mount Helicon, and they themselves are the result of the nine nights that Zeus spent with Mnemosyne. 


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