On my way to finding new stories and speculative fiction I take a look back at an old forgotten tale.
Zeus, the ancient Greek god that ruled Olympus was a jealous old man. Mention of his name still strikes a chord with many though mostly the stories of his exploits are now forgotten. These days he is remembered as a legendary character, a frozen relic from another time and place.
One story about Zeus has all but vanished from our trove of myths and legends. That story is the complicated relationship between Zeus and his first wife, Metis (pronounced Meetus).
Metis was one of the original Greek gods and goddesses, the Titans. Chronus, the father of Zeus was also a Titan. When his wife Rhea gave birth to a son Cronus feared that the child would overthrow him. To prevent this he swallowed all five of his children. When Rhea gave birth to another child she saved him from this fate by hiding him in cave. That child was Zeus.
When Zeus grew up he did indeed seek to throw his father. Metis helped him in this. She concocted a drink which caused Cronus to regurgitate the children he had swallowed. By this time they too were adult. Two of them, Poseidon and Hades, helped Zeus overthrow their father. Zeus then killed him.
Soon afterwards Zeus and Metis got together and Metis became pregnant. Fearful his children might eventually seek to overthrow him Zeus tricked Metis into shapeshifting into a fly. He then swallowed her.
As an archetype Metis represents those parts of ourselves that have been swallowed up by the culture we live in. Perhaps it is that you are a person who has sacrificed a career to raise your children and are now unemployed and unemployable. Perhaps you are a person who supported your partner as they climbed the career ladder only to have them leave you without ever acknowledging your contribution to their success. Perhaps you are a person – male, female or agender – who’s voice has been silenced because of race, class, disability or gender bias.
Perhaps there is some other reason why you feel you feel your voice has been swallowed for Metis represents a type of intelligence that is often overlooked or discounted. We live in a culture where rational, logic, scientific thinking is given preference. Metis intelligence is intuitive, subtle and resourceful. This type of intelligence is often dismissed as unscientific and illogical.
The ability of Metis to shapeshift can be seen as a metaphor for that kind of street wise cunning and ability to strategize quickly that can get you out of a sticky situation. The shapeshifting ability can also be seen as the capacity for metamorphosis. By thinking things through on a deep level and calling on the practical skills we have learnt through experience we can figure out how to move forward. We find ways to adapt and respond to changing conditions by calling on our under-developed abilities and resources.
In these difficult times where so many of the old ways that have underpinned our culture are beginning to crack and crumble under the weight of their own deceptions Metis intelligence offers a way forward. Quick, intuitive thinking that utilizes practical wisdom gained through experience may just be the thing that saves us – individually and collectively.