The Werewolf and the Flood, pt 1: The Beast

Imagine this: you are privy to the Council of the Gods on Mount Olympus, presided over by the Thunder-Bolt wielding Zeus.

And today He’s mighty pissed about humanity, whom He has essentially, existenentially disowned:

“Mine are the demigods, the wild spirits, nymphs, fauns and satyrs, and sylvan deities of the hills. Since we have not yet thought them worth a place in heaven let us at least allow them to live in safety in the lands we have given them” [Ovid, Metamorphosis].

It’s one man in particular who has raised the Father-God’s ire: His name: Lycaon, King of Arcadia. His crime: Theo-anthropo-phagy and a clear lack of faith. Yes, I made that first word up, but it fits the bill:

Roughly, it translates to feeding humans to Gods.

Lycaon was determined to undermine Zeus, who was visiting the city of Arcadia in semi-disguise (He was dropping clear hints of His deity-hood, which the locals had picked up on, but which Lycaon was not buying to for a hot Arcadian minute). The king offered Him a banquet; a meaty serving of human origins/organs, a fresh serving of some poor hostage* turned stew.

*[in some versions, the meal is prepared from Lycaon’s own son, Nyctimus; in some other versions, Nyctimus is spared by Mother Earth (Gaia). In still other versions…dinner still tastes like Nyctimus. Either way, the End is Nigh for pretty much everybody].

Apparently Lycaon figured that if this stranger was a fraud, he’d eat the impure meal, and if He was a God…

This is where Lycaon’s logic is just a little loopy: what kind of reaction was he expecting in the latter situation?

Zeus, being such a God, threw over the table and brought down the roof, quite literally.

Lycaon “ran in terror, and reaching the silent fields howled aloud, frustrated of speech. Foaming at the mouth, and greedy as ever for killing, he turned against the sheep, still delighting in blood. His clothes became bristling hair, his arms became legs. He was a wolf, but kept some vestige of his former shape. There were the same grey hairs, the same violent face, the same glittering eyes, the same savage image”‘ [ibid].

However, this was just the beginning of Zeus’ wrath, which was now extending to all humans:

“One house has fallen, but others deserve to also. Wherever the earth extends the avenging furies rule. You would think men were sworn to crime! Let them all pay the penalty they deserve, and quickly. That is my intent.”

Thanks, Lycaon.


Now, some of the Gods were down with this project. Others had reservations:

“Who would honour their altars with incense? Did he mean to surrender the world to the ravages of wild creatures? In answer the king of the gods calmed their anxiety, the rest would be his concern, and he promised them a people different from the first, of a marvellous [sic] creation.”

    “Now he was ready to hurl his lightning-bolts at the whole world but feared that the sacred heavens might burst into flame from the fires below, and burn to the furthest pole: and he remembered that a time was fated to come when sea and land, and the untouched courts of the skies would ignite, and the troubled mass of the world be besieged by fire. So he set aside the weapons the Cyclopes forged, and resolved on a different punishment, to send down rain from the whole sky and drown humanity beneath the waves” [ibid].

So, knowing that the Cosmos would perish in Fire, Zeus instead unleashed the Flood:

“The sea in unchecked freedom has buried the hills, and fresh waves beat against the mountaintops. The waters wash away most living things, and those the sea spares, lacking food, are defeated by slow starvation.”

‘Wait a minute!’ you insist. Surely someone was spared. Someone is always spared; it’s a flood-time tradition.

Noah, Utnapisthim, Manu…all flood survivors…


Enter Deucalion and Pyrrha.

Deucalion, son of the Titan Prometheus, the Old God who suffered Zeus’ wrath for giving humans the gift of fire, the great equalizer against toot and claw.

Pyrrha, whose name means fiery (hence our prefix – pyro). Pyrrha, whose father was Epimethius, brother of Prometheus, and whose mother was none other than Pandora, the first woman, the Lady who inadvertently unleashed all Sorrows on humanity, save Hope…

In part two, we’ll examine life during and after the Flood, and how Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulated the planet without any of that pesky incest stuff that is implied when starting a species over with just two individuals of opposite sexes.*

*[yes, if you were paying attention, Deucalion and Pyrrha are already the products of incest, being first cousins. Trust me(!), there will be no more genetic bottle-necking in part two].

Until then, stay dry.

Zeus turning Lycaon into a wolf; engraving by Hendrik Goltzius. Published in Metamorphoses by Ovid, book 1, plate 9; Holland, published 1589

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