#AtoZChallenge (2017): U is for Uranus and Urns

Day Twenty-One of the A-to-Z Challenge in April 2017. Let’s do this.

This year there’s no linky list or form to fill out to sign up. It might be too late to join at this point (unless you were double posting), but you can always cheer/comment on participants (and find awesome bloggers) at the A-to-Z’s official blog.

Now I should warn, that I didn’t stick to the common sense rule of writing short, pithy posts. Mine are long and bloated, but I’m having fun with it. And if you wanna skim, that’s absolutely cool with me!

Leave a comment down below with your blog so I can visit I’m thrilled to be making new friends. 🙂

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As part of my Greek mythic figures, places, and things theme, my “U” post features Uranus, the father (or grandfather) of the Olympian gods, and because there isn’t much to say about the primeval guy, I also added urns (or Greek pottery) to this quick post.

First up, Uranus:

Image result for uranus god
Look at me, looking down my nose at you.

A primeval god, like Nyx, Erebus, and his “wife”, Gaia, Uranus doesn’t actually have a father or mother. He. Just. Is.

Uranus was the god of the sky, just as Gaia was goddess of Earth. In some variants, Gaia actually ‘produced’ Uranus (she’s his mama, y’all).

With Gaia, Uranus had quite a few children: the Titans (as we know, with Cronus being their leader later), the Cyclopes, and the Hecatonchires. The latter two were locked up in Tartarus, or “away inside the belly of Earth” (source).

Supposedly Gaia watched on as her first children, the Hecatonchires, and the Cyclopes were locked up by their cruel father for no misdeeds (other than being alive…and maybe being more powerful than daddy) and when she had her Titans, she persuaded them to rebel against the Sky itself.

I can’t find an explanation as to why Uranus hated his children so much. Maybe he liked sex, but he didn’t like the consequences of unprotected sex?

Cronus Takes A Stand:

So Cronus, either alone, or backed by most Titans except Oceanus, waited to descend upon Uranus when he came to visit Gaia for some fun times in the sack. Grabbing him unawares, the Titans held him back while Cronus, armed with an adamantine (or diamond) sickle from Gaia, castrated Uranus.

Cronus supposedly tossed the bloodied testicles over his shoulder into the sea where the blood drops formed three new species, the Erinyes (the Furies), the Meliads (ash-tree nymphs) and the Giants. The sea foam around the testicles then formed beautiful, divine Aphrodite.

Image result for aphrodite sea foam

Without his testicles, Uranus is supposedly unfit to battle.

Uranus disappears at this point from most Greek mythology, which suggests his tale was passed from a pre-Greek period. One source even theorizes that the sickle used by Cronus to “un-man” his father is of Asian origin (source) and this tale bears a resemblance to that of a Hittite myth. The Hittite Empire was an ancient Anatolian empire. Unfortunately, there’s a lot about the Hittites out there, and so little room in this post for them. But do research if you’re fascinated!

Now Uranus, or some random oracle, tell(s) Cronus that he, too, will grow to be a tyrant ousted by his son (or some foreign, new power). That’s why Cronus starts swallowing his and his sister-wife, Rhea’s children.

And that’s how Uranus’s power transferred to Cronus, which, now we know, is then forcefully inherited by Zeus, Uranus’s grandson and Gaia’s grandson AND great-grandson – remember, she very well probably is Uranus’s mother. Talk about convoluted family incestual couplings!

Image result for dizzy gif

MORAL: Avoid closer family ties than necessary. It could save yourself.

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Onto Greek pottery (which includes urns – that starts with a U!):

So the Greeks were all about the pottery. And why not, they were masters at creating some of the finest!

As “artists and scientists” (source), Greek potters had created many different kinds of pottery for specific purposes. The piece of pottery was tailored to its use, which was the fun part of my college intro to Greek history course (or what I remember of it anyways).

Painters and potters were usually separate people working as a team, no matter the surface of the pottery they were crafting and designing. So be it a plate or cup or a wine-storing amphorae, they made their professional relationship work to bring to life beautiful (and useful) pieces.

Image result for amphorae

So there were four types of Greek pottery, which makes it easier to classify considering there were a whole bunch of different styles of pottery out there.

The types are 1) the storage and transportation vessels, 2) mixing vessels, 3) jugs and cups, and 4) vases for oil (source). Typically #1 were larger, heavier pottery, like the amphorae you see above there. And the vases in category #4 were smaller, like an alabastron, which “were often carried by a string looped around the neck of the vessel.” (source)

Corinthian Alabastron Vase
Store your perfume in me!

As far as designs go, the pottery was used to tell stories. The same stories we’re told today – about Hercules’s Labors, and Dionysus’s tribunals to win his seat on Mt. Olympus, and so on. Stories that I’ve been sharing with you through this A-to-Z Challenge.

Now to the urns.

Cremation was common in ancient Greece. These funeral pots holding the ashes of loved ones were then buried, but the pottery remained beautiful.

The burial itself was three steps: first, the body was laid out, and then a funeral procession led the body to its final resting place, and then cremation.

During the laying out of the washed and cleaned body, people stopped by to mourn, much like a modern-day wake. This was followed by the funeral procession to the cemetery or final resting place. And finally when the deceased was cremated and buried, they were often buried with very little material treasures, even though the afterlife was very much a living concept in the minds of the, well, living.

And since we’re talking Grecian urns, one of my favorite poems is John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. As an artistic medium itself, it forever captures the immortality that the eponymous Grecian urn has captured in its body. The poem speaks of both the power and weakness of art in its scope to pierce our imaginations and shape our actions.

Now that I’m reading the poem again, it’s getting me all broody.

Ha. That’s my way of saying let’s cut this post off.

MORAL: Try to stay focused when writing a post. I got pretty flustered right now.

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Sources that helped me with this post:

http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/Uranus/uranus.html

http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Ouranos.html

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Uranus-mythology

http://www.maicar.com/GML/Castration.html

http://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Pottery/

http://www.ancient.eu/article/489/

http://greece.mrdonn.org/vases.html

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44477

Check them out whenever you’re free!

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