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Furious Xena
Added Friday 10 October 1997:
"The Furies"

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The Furies

Credits

Kind, Friendly, Really Quite Nice Ladies

Clio must sadly confess she hasn't seen this episode yet. In fact, she won't have a chance to see it until after she sees the second episode, and, having carefully avoided most spoilers, she doesn't know how the Fur--that is, the Kind Ones-- are portrayed in the Xenaverse. But Clio can talk a bit about how the ancients perceived these avenging ladies. She may revise the discussion once she actually gets to see the season premiere....


Through the urns of the dead
and the graves of the unborn
I will follow you . . .
-- Lucan, Pharsalia

"Just one stood at the threshold: as tall as Erichtho, who found herself looking directly into eyes that were the colour and brightness of far lightning. Its skin was jet and its hair was blacker, tied with red silk in six hundred perfect braids. Its gown -- grey, the colour of dead earth or old skin -- hung tattered at the hem from a myriad of pleading victims. Beneath the cloth long breasts like a grandmother's hung below its waist. Erichtho had seen this one or its companions many times, in her mirrors or in other visions, hunting the luckless. A Thessalian sorceress was the only mortal who had ever refused to open her door to them and succeeded. But Erichtho preferred courtesy. She owed hospitality to anyone on her doorstep. . . ."
-- Pharsalia: The Buried God

One Erinys, Two Erinyes, a Bunch of Furiae

We see them today through their Latin name, the Furiae, in furor and fury -- "to rage like an Erinys." They were given individual female names by later writers, but these were only fanciful personifications of frightening primal forces.

These horrifying spirits were the punishers, avenging wrongs done within one's family or one's clan; repaying cruelty to beggars, who have no kin; and restoring violations of the natural order of the world -- when the horse Xanthus was granted human speech by Hera, the Furies silenced it. Above all, the Furies pursued oathbreakers. They did indeed drive mad those whom they pursued, most famously Orestes, son of Agamemnon. The stories vary: either he could not bring himself to kill his father's murderer -- his mother Clytemnestra -- or he found himself in a double bind after killing her and then was haunted by Furies, until given a magic bow by Apollo or otherwise cured. (Homer simply reports that, as new head of the family, Orestes judged and executed his mother, and nobody felt particularly haunted or regretful afterward.)

So dreadful one did not risk their displeasure by calling them by name (much the same way faerie folk of the British Isles are referred to as Good Folk), beings to whom the gods themselves answered, named in the most ancient of records, mysterious, unknowable . . . the Furies are spirits of the Earth, not of rarefied Olympos. They were sometimes confused with the truly benevolent Earth spirits, the Eumenides, who assure the land's fertility. The Eumenides were regularly worshipped. Few people dared draw themselves to the attention of the Erinyes by establishing a cult....

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