The Power of Moly

The Power of Moly

How Homer teaches us to embrace the unknown

My very first article concerned the way Homer invited his audience to feel sympathy for the cyclops Polyphemus in The Odyssey. In the Circe episode, the mysterious substance called 'moly' offers Odysseus a chance to make peace with the unknown, unlike the encounter with Polyphemus.

While on Circe’s island, Odysseus needs protection from her magic after it is reported that she has transformed some of his men into pigs. Conveniently, the god Hermes appears at just the right time, before Odysseus goes to confront Circe personally. Hermes gives him an herb called moly that will allow Odysseus to resist Circe’s magic, telling him only that it is “dangerous for a mortal man to pluck from the soil but not for deathless gods. All lies within their power” (line 339-41). It’s unclear if Odysseus had to eat it, mix it in a drink, or if he just had to stick it in a pocket (assuming he had pockets), nor do we know how Circe missed the fact that he had the magical root on him. The important thing is that it works, canceling out the effect of the potion that would have changed him into a pig. As mentioned before, Circe is unaware of the presence of moly and exclaims that Odysseus has “a mind… no magic can enchant” (line 365). It could be that moly just had a placebo effect on Odysseus, that it only had an effect on him because Hermes, a god, said so. Who was Odysseus to argue with him? It could also be the fact that Hermes prophesied to Circe that Odysseus would come to her one day, and whatever the gods say will happen usually comes to pass in these stories.

Hermes giving Odysseus the moly

Readers get a basic idea of how moly is used, but there is no definition that adequately captures the symbolic nature of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary, usually an authoritative text in such cases, only defines it in literal terms as “a fabulous herb with magic powers”, as “a mythical herb white flowers and black roots”, and “a southern European plant related to the onion. These definitions bring us back to the symbolic meaning of moly. Odysseus would rather not use violence against a woman, and Circe’s magic isn’t working on him, so they are forced to try and find an understanding. This prompts Circe to invite Odysseus to “mount [her] bed and mix in the magic work love – we’ll breed deep trust between us” (lines 371-2). It should go without saying that they have chosen to make love and not war. Homer could have been making the point that violence is not always a viable solution in encounters with the strange and foreign, as it was in the case of Polyphemus, with whom humans could find no understanding. In the case of Circe, the unknown is dangerous, but a person can learn to embrace it, and even love it.

The Odyssey turns into a commercial for Axe body spray

Cover Image Credit: theoi.com

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Why I Listen to Depressing Music Even Though I'm Depressed

Music that's powerful, music that speaks to me, music that means something.

It took me a long time to find my preferred genre of music. In middle school, I remember listening to pop songs that I often heard on the radio. I could (and still can) rap the entirety of Super Bass by Nicki Minaj and I dreamt about my crush professing his love to me by serenading me with Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes. 

By my freshman year of high school, those songs were no longer cool, so I went along with the crowd and started listening to the next most popular type of music: trap music. In my experience, these artists talked solely about fucking bitches and smoking ganja, even though, at that point in my life, I had no intent of having intercourse or "doing" the marijuana (boy was I naive). Though I listened to these genres to appease everyone else, I never felt completed like so many people claimed to feel when they listened to music. I did not have a passion for any bands or artists and I did not feel any sort of deep connection while I was listening.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I decided to explore certain genres that I hadn’t yet explored. The first bands I really grew to love were the Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, and The Kooks. Their music not only sounded great, but the lyrics actually meant something. They spoke about relationships, internal struggles, mental issues, and societal problems. Their lyrics resonated with me, and, surprisingly, the most depressing of their material resonated the most.

I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember, though I was not diagnosed until a little over a year ago. I’ve been on meds and have learned coping techniques, but the most counterintuitive of those techniques is listening to these depressing songs.

One of the hardest struggles I have with depression is not being able to tell people how I am feeling, not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t have the words. I find that listening to others put into words the exact emotions that I have not been able to convey myself is quite reassuring.  These songs help me better understand my own emotions and give me an idea of how to turn those emotions into spoken language. 

When Alex Turner says “you can shriek until you’re hollow or whisper it the other way” or when AJJ says "everything is real, but it's also just as fake” I feel as if someone has entered my thoughts and put into lyrics the fears and feelings I struggle with on a daily basis. These songs make me feel as if there is a whole community of people out there who experience the same, seemingly-lonely experiences that I do. I feel more connected to the world when I listen to this type of music. I feel understood.

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Two Inspiring Movies Everyone Should See

Movies that take you on an emotional roller coaster.

I have always loved watching movies, especially ones with inspiring and emotional storylines. I get very invested and intrigued (maybe a little too much), but I love having that whirlwind of emotions throughout the entire movie.

Recently, I got the opportunity to see two amazing movies that I think are very important and had a huge effect on me. The films were “Lady Bird” and “Call Me by Your Name”. Both of these films came out in 2017 so they are fairly new. They are making a huge impact and receiving a lot of deserved recognition.

“Lady Bird” has such a special storyline. It follows the relationship between a mother and daughter in such a realistic way. As many girls know, a relationship with a mother is not always an easy one and the film really captures that frustration.

It follows the life of a young girl that is about to leave to go to college. So many things change for girls during this time and there are so many emotional challenges and obstacles. I absolutely love how this film displays this situation and many relationships in a very graphic and honest way. I think it is so important for young girls to watch this film and channel all those feelings. It is incredibly relatable and it reminds girls to be courageous.

“Call Me by Your Name” is seriously one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. It is a love story, which we have seen is countless movies, but this film displays a relationship in such a unique and beautiful way.

The best thing about this movie is that it is awkward at some points and maybe even a little uncomfortable. I admire this because love and relationships aren’t always magical and perfect. It expresses a type of love that is so unapologetic and pure. I could watch it over and over and still have the same inspiring feeling at the end. If you are a fan of emotional love stories or small independent films watch this movie. You will not regret it.

Cover Image Credit: Connor Limbocker

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