In Greek mythology, Circe, Greek goddess of... in fact she wasn’t a goddess, but a sorceress/enchantress (she was considered a goddess because she was immortal). She was the daughter of Helios (the Sun god) and the oceanid Perseis. Her brothers was Aeetes (the one from the story of the golden fleece) and Perses and her sister was Pasiphae. She lived on the Island of Aeaea, which is probably a peninsula in Italy, south of Rome, called now Mount Circeo.
During his trip back home, after the war of Troy, the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) arrived on the Island of Aeaea. Some members of his crew left the ship and went on the island to look for food and water. In a valley they saw a wonderful palace. Many wolves and lions came to them, wagging their tails. At first they were afraid, but then they saw the animals were very friendly. They heard a sweet voice singing inside the castle, so they hurried to see what it was. One of them, Eurilochus, remained behind and hid, because he wasn’t convinced it was such a good thing.
Inside the palace, the sailors saw the beautiful Circe weaving on her loom. For men who had been at sea for a long time, this vision of domestic life was reassuring. They were warmly received by Circe the enchantress, who invited them to dinner. After many days on sea, they were terribly hungry, so the accepted glady.
But as soon as they tasted the food and sipped the wine, they were transformed into animals, according to their innermost tendencies: pigs, dogs, lions (or just pigs). You can see clearly here the metaphor: the wine turns you into an animal, it makes you show what you really are at heart. After that, Circe took them to the stables, which were full of other animals. There she fed them on acorns, the usual food for swine. The sailors had an animal’s shape and voice, but they still had their human mind. They all cried bitterly, but all one could here was grunts.
When Eurilochus saw that, he ran back to Odysseus and told him what happened. A good skipper, the hero wanted to save his men, but he didn’t know what to do. He took a long walk because he wanted to think about a solution. God Hermes appeared and gave him a plant called moli. If Odysseus put this plant into his wine, it would have no effect on him. All he had to do was take the sword out and threaten Circe, who would then transform his crew again into people.
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