Monday, December 10, 2012

Goddesses in the Dust: Ithaka and Me, the Reverse Penelope

Unearthing the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Northern Ithaka, view of a beach while reading


Legend has it that Penelope waited twenty years for her husband, Odysseus, to return to Ithaka from the Trojan War.

For the past twenty plus years, I have been pulling a reverse Penelope. In fact, I felt for many years I identified more with Odysseus than I ever have with Penelope.

Or have I? 

I guess I can relate to both - after all, themes of longing for one's homeland are not privy to just heroic male characters and not all women relate to Penelope's long-suffering character. 

In her book, The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood reverses the theme, telling the story of The Odyssey through the eyes of Penelope. Misunderstood and frustrated with a millennia old narrative as the faithful and patient wife, Penelope offers a retelling of the legendary myth from her point of view. She has her own opinions about her husband's absence and exploits as well as the unfair treatment and murder of her handmaidens by Odysseus upon his return. 

I have lived my own hybrid take on The Odyssey, and can relate to the emotions of both characters. As an archaeologist who began working on Ithaka after graduate school, I have a deep history with the island. Like Odysseus, I've longed to (and have) returned over the past two decades, while cultivating the patience of Penelope during the times I could not return.

In the intervening years 




the island has changed....


and so..... 


have I.....


But no matter how old I grow, I will always be that same girl, standing at the back of the ship, watching the island retreat from my view...

part Odysseus 

 and part - eternally - a reverse Penelope.





Keep Ithaka always in your mind....

Constantine Cavafy

29 comments:

  1. fantastic. And i like your article in Odyssey. I wonder how they build anything in the area, with artifacts in every inch of the soil, seemingly...

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  2. I like the idea of a reverse Penelope. I was always rather frustrated with the legendary one, sitting there weaving for so many years. I could never understand how someone like Odysseus could put up with someone who seemed as dull as Penelope.

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  3. You are your own Penelope — not the one from Homer's story. Adventurous, thoughtful, creative hunter of artifacts and bones. You belong to Ithica as surely as the other Penelope, but you go in and out with freedom and exuberance — back and forth — taking and bringing with each arrival and departure. It may not be your home, but it is your home, whether you are there, or not.

    Travel well, Penelope!

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    1. i appreciate your sentiment that i belong to ithaka because i have long felt that way myself. thank you r-bear for your well wishes - i hope to be able to continue to return to ithaka, like odysseus, for many years to come.

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  4. a faithful Penelope - I was actually always angry about Odyseus's lack of discipline:)
    Blog about life and travelling
    Blog about cooking

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  5. I can read the sign on the last frame...but wish I could understand what it says. Something nice no doubt. Maybe I should seriously set to learning Greek.

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    1. paul - it is a phrase from the poem ithaka by constantine cavafy - "keep ithaka always in your mind".

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  6. I love your posts so much! Honestly, you don't look a day older.
    Odysseus was a long time ago, I pretty much only remember the cyclops story, shame on me, I know.

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    1. thank you, agnes!

      i think the cyclops story was possibly the most memorable part of the whole epic - how could anyone compete with a one eyed monster throwing rocks at our hero?!

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  7. No, you have hardly changed!

    I'm now more than ever looking forward to your book, eager to know your full story. You were attracted to an ancient world with lots of myths and stories, but I'm sure your own hunger for knowledge and discovery is in itself a journey worth reading; after all, living in an ancient land with ancient expectations must have been a remarkable discovery for a modern American girl.

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    1. this means a great deal to me, rosaria - your words have given me a fresh inspiration and yet another angle to work on for my memoir. thank you for this - i am honored to know you will read my book.

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  8. What gorgeous photos! I must go to Greece. I loved the Penelopiad too, especially the chorus of the dead maids. My daughter is ready the Odyssey and the Penelopiad for her English class. She wrote her paper on the different standards for loyalty for men/gods vs women/goddesses.

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  9. ,,,extraordinary,,,journey and projection...

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  10. Hmmm....methinks I must read the *Penelopiad*.... I have always had mixed emotions about Penelope and Odysseus....but one thing remains constant....their mental strength to hold on and go forward.

    When the *Bell Rang* for you (not THAT many years ago) and you entered Ithaka - you found yourself. Every visit recharges that feeling - and now, you carry Ithaka come with you.

    Lovely post, lovely photos - lovely *Twin*. I am happy we found each other.

    I have been absent - but life is warming up my heart, things are improving....I'll stay in touch!

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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    1. you are so right robin - i did find myself on ithaka and every visit does recharge that initial feeling ~ i am so happy we found each other too. sending hugs and wishes for a blessed holiday season and so good to hear that life is warming up your heart.

      with love,

      amanda
      xoxo

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  11. amanda, all i can think right now is how true and alive you are. i've just read this too quickly but what i've come away with is that your journey is both very beautiful and very unfolding.

    with love and best best wishes for these days
    love
    kj

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    1. true and alive - these are such kind words and i am deeply moved and honored. thank you kj. i wish you, jb, chase and your whole family all the best for a beautiful holiday~

      xoxo
      amanda

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  12. Dear Amanda, I have always been thinking about Penelope and identified with her through out most of my youth - also due to some personal reasons, as I too once waited for over a decade for a man... but that is another story.;)
    I think you looked beautiful then and do now, the last image reminds me of a female Indiana Jones for some reason (all that is missing is the hat;)- but I guess in some way that is what you are.;)
    Have a great week ahead,
    xoxo

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    1. haha - thanks Zuzana! I feel like a female Indiana Jones (minus the bullwhip) sometimes so I appreciate the comparison ~ just so you know that last shot of me is from a while back - the foto of me sitting at the overlook of Ithaka (with hat) is more recent.

      I hope you are well and that your holidays are filled with love, peace and joy ~ sending many blessings!

      xoxo
      Amanda

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  13. You have one of the most exquisitely written blogs around. Your beauty is timeless my friend. Time has been kind to you Penelope.

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  14. ahhh, your beautiful mysterious soul, then and now.

    "longing for one's homeland" - this is the human condition, isn't it, not just longing for our physical origins, but rather longing for our actual origin of being. yes, yes))))

    my best to you and your loved ones, amanda, over this holiday season and through the years)))

    xo
    erin

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    1. yes, a longing for our physical and spiritual origins indeed.....

      my love and best wishes to you and your family, erin, for a most blessed holidays and New Year~

      xoxo

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  15. This is your story, and you are blessed to know it. Inspired by a very old one, you make it your own, and following it, you are true to yourself. We should all learn from you! I see great beauty then and now, and the deep connections that are the meaning in your life. Just inspiring.

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    1. thank you ruth, for these generous words.

      wishing you many blessings this holiday and a peaceful and joyful New Year ~ xoxo

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  16. Dear Amanda, just stopping by to wish you a wonderful Christmas and a wonderful Holidays with your loved ones. Thank you for all your lovely comments and visits in the past year.:)
    xoxo

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  17. A great post and stunning pictures by all means Amanda!!!

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