Dear Patrons and Readers:
This publication uses fiction as a vehicle to inform readers of Minoan culture. Much of it is fantastic and unbelievable, but not any more unbelievable than the ancient mythologies and the images depicted on artifacts of Greece. Combining mythological allusions, archaeological research, and the imagination to develop the plot, the events Hyacinth participates in are created. At first John Kluth set up the backbone of the story, laying out numerous opportunities to convey historical accuracy. Then I went through the narrative, morphing and fusing the events of the story, adding themes and imagery. The collaboration is to be entertaining and informative. It is also very very interesting and unique. The content that is included here, may be considered inappropriate but it is thought to be consistent with available information about the past. The truth cannot be erased from the cultural imagination. To be informed is to prevent problems in the future.
The hope is that this ancient material which was stimulating to the art of ancient Greece would also be stimulating to contemporary artists. You can judge for yourself if this is so. There is also an opportunity to set aside current values and study them from afar in the context of an ancient culture.
F. John Kluth
Sacrifice and Epiphany
At the Dig
The Debut of Hyacinth
Stuart Pruitt Copy of a Fresco watercolor April 30, 2003
The FJKluth At Gallery 300 N. Water Street Ste. I Kent, Ohio 44240-2423 Phone: (330) 676-1999
At the Dig
by Frederick John Kluth and Erin Boguski
The sun, in its close proximity, fed irritability into all. All day long people dusted off the fragments of history as a gentle, warm breeze blew the dust back on. Co-workers bickered, their patience worn thin by the lack of evidence found and the heat that accompanied their endless toil. All were thankful it was coming soon to an end. Soon they would be back home, especially Hyacinth and her family. Hyacinth was the teenage daughter of archaeologists who went with them to the dig on Crete. She was full-bodied, though not that tall, with a sunny disposition. Her hair was long, red, braided, and swung down to the arch of her back. She was an active girl enjoying nature and exercise. She was fairly studious and spent much time reading about the ancient Minoan culture that her parents were investigating. She knew these ancient people were fun-loving and productive, with a largely unknown but interesting religion.
That afternoon Hyacinth’s mother asked her to do some chores around the campsite while her parents were at the dig. Hyacinth, being a spoiled daughter with her fair share of adolescent angst, told her mother off and ran into the nearby woods. She told her mother that she did not need her and wanted to be alone forever. Her mother agreed and concurred, which upset the daughter more. Hyacinth felt sad as she walked down a well-trodden path away from the dig, mixed with both anger and guilt. Her face was red and hot with tears from the welling emotion starting in her gut creeping like a twisted vine into her lungs and throat, and finally spurting out of her mouth and eyes in uncontrollable sobs and spilt tears. Once she calmed down, she decided to take a bath to gather her thoughts.
On the cliff behind their tent she found a small cave that she could just crawl into and inside was a depression where she had found a small amount of water the previous day. It was late morning when she entered the cave. Oddly, the depression was fuller with water than before, which was very inviting. She removed her sandals, shirt, pants, and undergarments and stepped into the calm, cool water. Her skin tingled as she immersed herself, sliding her back along the groove of the depression. The caress of the water soothed her from her neck to her toes and she laid her head back. Her heartrate and breathing slowed and she fell into an afternoon nap.
Suddenly she was startled awake by strange foreign voices. They seemed to be young women like her, but they dressed in strange garb; a fluffy skirt, a waistband, and a vest that left their breasts bare. She could see that the skirts were not woven at all, but were made of row after row of string. They were dressed, sort of, but she, of course, was totally nude. Worse yet, her clothes were totally gone. She demanded her clothes but the girls did not understand. When they spoke she could not understand thaem at all. She understood Greek but these girls did not speak Greek. Rather than answer her demand they all kneeled down and bowed to her. Then they motioned her to come with them.
She did not move because she did not want to expose her nudity to anyone else. But they were not willing to let her stay and they quickly grabbed her and began to carry her outside of the cave. They did not bind her hands but they placed a collar around her neck with a cord that one of the girls carried. Then she was placed in a litter so she could be carried on the shoulders of the girls. When she looked around from her heightened perch, she noticed the landscape changed. All traces of her camp were gone. And in the distance, in place of the dig, was a large multi-storied building teeming with life. She thought of escaping from these people but with the camp gone there was nowhere to go. Helplessness overcame her and her face crumpled up like she was about to cry. She wanted to cover her nudity but there was nothing available. As they approached the building and the people around it her anxiety about her nudity increased and she blushed and kept her eyes lowered in shame.
As they moved she noticed some different things. The girls were moving in line and they seems to move in unison. It was as though they were keeping tome to music. The journey had a certain bounce to it. They approached a group of young little girls gathering herbs in the brush and the response to the nude girl was surprising. Their response was a cross between a gesture of patriotism and religious reverence. Their faces revealed a look of awe and admiration, yet solemnity, too, and they offered her a small bouquet of red poppies, which one of the girls accepted with a grateful bow. Hyacinth’s nudity seemed expected and normal. In fact she seemed to inspire reverence. She wondered how her situation could justify this.
The girls approach the town building.
As they approached the building it loomed large. It had several stories with porches and columns. It formed a hollow square around a central court. Later she deduced almost the whole community lived in the one building. The upper stories seemed to be living quarters, while the outside shops were built into the lowest floors. The bustling of the marketplace was noisy with banter and trade.
They entered an apartment at the edge of the building that faced a lush garden full of flowers and fruits. One girl presented a slab of gypsum, on which the poppies were set down. Another girl sliced the flower open and it was taken away. Then Hyacinth was lead to a large stone block. She thought it looked like an altar. It was the only funiture in the room except for a shelf that seemed to run around the outside. In front of the altar was a fireplace. The girls pushed her up on the altar where the had her sit. Some of the girls left. Soon they cam back with basins and sponges and a lamp. The had her stand before the altar while they cleaned her body. They also held her while they burned off her body hair. While two girls held her arms outstretched and two others spread her legs, an oil lamp was brought and her hairs were singed off. Hyacinth screamed when the flame neared her. A hand from behind her clasped her mouth, which she in turn bit. But with the flame so near her, she was afraid to make any sudden moves. The girls were adept and though she felt the tingle of the process, she was not scorched. Last of all they put a crown on her head an sat her back on the altar.
Now came a ceremony. All but the girl holding her neck leash left the room and formed a single line into the temple. Now some other people joined them. As they came into the room their hands were full. They filed up to the altar, placed their offering on it and bowed to Hyacinth. The last girl brought with her a ribbon which she placed around Hyacinth’s neck and tied with a knot in the back. Now Hyacinth knew she was special because she recognized that she had been given a sacral knot. Streamers were also ties around her knees, elbows wrists and ankles. Lastly they placed a band around her waist with what looks like a tail attached. The tail aspect was emphasized because the tail was attached to a stiff piece that held the tail material in the proper angle and place. She had more clothing but it did not seem to help her nudity. It actually seemed to emphasize it. And the tail tickled her backside and legs.
The sacral knot is tied
Hyacinth then thought what she was being dressed up to look like. Her crown had antlers and her backside sported a tail. She was being dressed up to look like a deer. She would like a deer skin to cover her up but that did not seem to be in the plans. Hyacinth recalled that Artemis was the huntress of the deer, but how would that relate? She did not want to be hunted like a deer. Then she was given a liquid, proving to be a mixture of wine, vinegar, and frankincense, which was spit back into the bowl held out and carried away by one of the girls. Her mouth was immediately filled with a numbness in her tongue, teeth, and gums. These natural cleansing agents prepared her mouth for the necessary purity of body required for the ceremony. She felt at peace with her situation and relaxed some. At least she was being respected.
The girls gathered around Hyacinth. The altar was piled high with offerings, but perhaps there was to be more ceremony. The girls formed a line with Hyacinth in the middle. She really had no choice. The girl with the leash was in front. Behind were other girls. They started to dance. They seemed to want Hyacinth to dance too, so she did. They danced out the door and down the street. They they entered the big building. It was dark and the path crooked. The girls seemed to know the way. It reminded Hyacinth of the stories of the Labyrinth. She did not think she would be able the find her way out and hoped she really would. And she also hoped she would not end up confronting the Minotaur.
Soon they danced out of the dark into the light. There, in front of them, was a wide court was spread out. On the porches surrounding the court many people gathered in obvious anticipation of the upcoming events. Hyacinth was taken to the court in a dancing procession. She glanced back at her tail, which was thick and full and swished while she moved. The other girls wore elaborate skirts that would move with the dance. The skirts were all different, very colorful, and drawn tight at the waste. Above they wore a fancy vest that revealed their breasts that bounced with each step. Hyacinth was handled like a prize during the procession. The other girls followed in a dancing procession. After some time and dancing in a spiraling path, they arrived at the center of the court. Hyacinth was ushered to the front and she stood naked in the center of the dance floor while the dancers swirled behind her. Everyone cheered and waved from the balconies on all sides. She noticed that the streamers she wore matched those hanging from the porches around the court.
When the dancers danced around her, they performed a line dance that wove in and out. The patterns were very complicated and it seemed as though they danced past lines in the floor. This confused Hyacinth and she did not know which way to turn. As the dancers approached Hyacinth they grabbed at her tail and yanked a streamer off. At first she just stood there, stunned. A girl ran out with a switch and whacked her butt and a welt was raised. The dancers shouted their approval. The crowd went into a wild frenzy. While Hyacinth’s back was turned, a girl ran up from behind and yanked off another streamer. Again she was whacked. The dancing continued, but now she tried to avoid the girls. She found herself weaving in and out of the lines on the dirt floor and danced with the other dancers. Twice more the streamers were pulled she was whacked. She felt the heat of four licks, which were red stripes on her pale butt. The dancers, of course, were frustrated that she was so skilled at avoiding them. Some in the crowd cheered when she dodged the girls’ attacks, but most cheered when she was caught. She glanced backwards and saw how noticeably thin her tail had worn. Feeling self-conscious and totally humiliated, she forfeited by lying down on the ground and the girls swarmed around her. They let her alone though, and offered to help her up and took her to one side.
Then a door in a wall open and out came a bull. This was almost as bad as seeing a Minotaur. All but one of the girls stood till while one raced to the bull. Then she started dancing and the bull charged. She was able to leap over the charging bull and get away. Then another girl raced forward and did the same. The style of jump seemed to determinedetermined the magnitude of the crowd reaction. Leaps over the charging bull got an enormous reaction. After about a half hour one of the girls tried one of the most dangerous leaps over the bull’s head. For her reward she received the bull’s horn right through her soft belly and out her back. This was unfortunately ironic because the bull’s horns were symbolic of women’s fertility. The horns of the bull resembled the mysterious tubes inside the female belly. Therefore, in this case, the bull destroyed the very thing it symbolized for these people. The crowd oohed and awed. The bull then tossed her twenty feet into the air. She fell in a bloody clump with a thud.
Hyacinth was rushed to the fallen girl while other girls distracted the bull. She was encouraged to console the dying girl. When they arrived, the girl was all crumpled up and covered with blood. Her bare bones were exposed and blood gushed from the gaping hole in her midsection. She writhed in pain, going in and out of consciousness. Vomit rose up to the back of Hyacinth’s throat and filled her mouth with the nasty bitterness of death as she took in the condition of the girl. Hyacinth laid her out, hugged her, kissed her and then she smiled and passed away. Hyacinth felt tears in her eyes as the body was taken away. She had never witnessed death before. The victim died in Hyacinth’s arms. But she seemed strangely happy.
The girl’s body was taken away and the dancing continued. The girls no longer grabbed at Hyacinth’s tail, and she closed her eyes and sighed in relief. With closed eyed eyes, she danced to the beat her body and mind supplied. She danced with such fervor in memorial of the girl’s tragic end. Next thing she knew, silence surrounded her and she stopped, opening her eyes. Next to the ground was a wall that rose up maybe ten feet. There were a number of places in the wall with doors while other places had sturdy fences. Above the wall was porch after porch to three and sometimes four stories. On the porches sat the older people of the community. There was not one porch empty, and wool streamers matching Hyacinth’s hung everywhere. A few of the spectators wore the same outfits as the girls, but most wore simpler attire. There were some older men that simply wore loincloths, but there were few men to be seen. A few of the women were nude as Hyacinth was, but these all seemed to be servants. They wore nothing, whereas Hyacinth was adorned with perfumes, jewelry, and streamers. She glanced upwards towards the highest balconies, squinting to see through the sun’s glare. Many poured out wine and waved streamers.
Hyacinth glanced up at one particular balcony, where an older man in a loincloth stuck his head over the side of the porch and vomited all over the audience down below. They stood up and shook their fists at the drunken man, while small children threw things at him. The sun hurt her eyes, so she lowered her head, noticing the dancers had cleared the floor. The audience was then still. The girls had fallen away without Hyacinth knowing while she danced. Her heart jumped when she realized she was all alone in the courtyard. She spotted a movement in her peripheral vision. She physically jumped as the bull snorted from the edge of the courtyard. Her heart skipped a beat and rose to her throat. Steam bellowed from the bull’s nostrils. Fresh in her mind was the image of the girl who was run through a moment ago. The bull put his head down and began to paw the ground. Wafting dust started around the bull. Hyacinth dizzied as the haze drifted upwards. She prepared for the worst as the bull charged. She held her hands out defensively and shut her eyes tight as he neared. Then she felt a moist and warm sensation. She opened her eyes and the bull nuzzled her hand and licked her fingers. The facility filled with more whoops and hollers than throughout the entire day combined. The girls leapt out, rejoicing in dance. They sat Hyacinth on the back of the bull and paraded her around the court. The crowd would not stop, and Hyacinth felt very powerful.
When they took her off the bull, they slaughtered it on the spot by slitting its throat. They were careful to catch the dark blood that they placed in a large bowl. This was the second time that day Hyacinth experienced death, which affected her mind in a way that would remain forever with her. She could not help shedding at least one little thankful tear for the bull who did not run her through. The girls took turns embracing her.
Then they carried away the blood and Hyacinth was led to some nearby fields. There the girls deposited blood in rows with seed while Hyacinth watched. She carefully stepped on the place where each seed was planted. Then there was a procession back to the court. They had cut up the bull in seven pieces and were roasting it in preparation for the banquet. While the bull roasted, wine was passed around. Hyacinth did not want to drin it but it was literally poiured into her throat. It spilled out of her mouth and onto her body. When she closed her mouth she was whipped. She had only drank wine a couple times before, at Christmas with dinner, so she took advantage of her strange circumstances. Hyacinth actually laughed during the activity, because she often lost her balance and fell in the dirt, which would stick to the wine that was drying on her body in the hot sun. She only received one lick and when she finally threw up, a bowl awaited to receive her matter. This action left the bitter taste in her mouth that the girls were happy to fix. They rinsed her mouth with the frankincense mixture, which she spit into the bowl. Her body was already numb with the buzz of red wine, but now the numbness overcame her every orifice.
Then one of the girls came in through a gate, presenting the slab of gypsum to the crowd. On it was a red poppy given to them by the little girls that morning. So much time had passed, however, that the gum oozed from the flower and became a black resin-like substance encrusted on it. Another girl held a wide, flat chalice with two handles, into which the tar was balled up and added. Hyacinth eagerly accepted the kantheros, which was filled with grape juice. She drank and quickly went limp. She could see, but her eyelids felt heavy. She felt things, but had no acute pain. She was taken inside and placed in a large basin of warmed water filled with flower petals. The warmth and sweet scents immediately took over Hyacinth’s consciousness and she drifted off into a drug-induced sleep.
When Hyacinth awoke, she never felt more comfortable. Her body was as light as air. She felt a euphoric buzz throughout her entire body. She was heavily sedated. The welts on her body were dressed with herbs and covered with wool to ease the pain and promote healing, but she felt no pain. She blinked several times and exhaled slowly. The room was dark, cool, and quiet. She propped herself up on her elbow, realizing she was wearing a beautiful dark blue robe fit for a priestess. The girls watched silently, as they lounged on cushions, bodies touching and overlapping one another, exhausted from their activity. Naked women, slaves, fanned them. She laid her head down and sunk into the feather cushions, relieved this ordeal was over.
Next thing Hyacinth knew, she was abruptly awaken by the girls, who shook her and cuffed her ankles and wrists with wool straps. They laid her on a long hard table. She was carried back to the cave from which she came and held over the depression in a bent over position with her legs spread apart. A girl held each arm and leg. Another girl held Hyacinth’s ropes of hair, pulling back on it to expose her neck. In her mind, she knew she must be frightened and must struggle to free herself. Fear rose into her throat, but no sound or action emerged from within. She fought to keep her eyelids open. She seemed a distant observer, watching in silent horror with fright her fate.
A young man came into her view, wearing nothing but a piece of cloth around his waist. In his hand was a sharp dagger. Everyone was quiet, especially Hyacinth. The warrior was young and scared, but forced a look of bravery onto his face. He took out his knife. He aimed carefully and the sharp blade plunged into Hyacinth’s soft neck. She felt the blade puncture her carotid and the hot blood spurt forth to fill the depression with her own blood.
As her consciousness faded, Hyacinth became aware of a transformation taking place before her eyes. Her limbs turned light brown hair sprouted. The digits of her hands and feet fused into hooves. Her eyes began to fail her as her ears grew and she produced a snout. The last glimpse she had was of her reflection in the water that rapidly filled with blood. She was a deer. She heard the girls chanting a sacred prayer and the young warrior slinked away, the effect of his actions changing him into a young boy, clinging to the skirts of the girls in fear. Hyacinth did not let out a sound.
Hyacinth is transformed to a deer as she is sacrificed.
She awoke with a new sense of feeling and awareness that she could now move her body. She laid in the depression with water, not blood, about her body. She was totally nude, the water was clear and her clothes were beside her. She looked at and moved each hand and foot in turn. She drew her hand to her throat and felt the blood pumping rapidly. She dressed and rushed out of the cave. There she saw the tent, camp, dig, and the brilliant afternoon sun in the distance. She squinted to see if her parents were near. Before she went to them, she stood at the foot of the cave. There she saw ancient sketchings of the word “Artemis,” and she realized what had happened. Like Iphigenia, at the moment of sacrificial death, Artemis saved her soul and transported her, leaving a dead deer instead. An appreciation of Artemis filled her and she gave a silent prayer to the goddess, much like the girls’ sacred chant. Her experience made her realize how important her parents were to her safety and her life. Her heart was filled with gratitude for her loving parents who protected her from harm.
She rushed to her tent and hugged her mother who was making lunch. She handed Hyacinth a roast beef sandwich and looked at her with an inquisitive eye. She was worried when her daughter ran off, and she even thought for a split second that perhaps she was gone for good. She did not demand to know her daughter’s whereabouts because something in her daughter’s eye, newfound maturity perhaps, told her to respect her privacy. She simply complimented her luminescent complexion. Then Hyacinth described to her mother excitedly in great detail about rubbing certain flower petals on the body to achieve a luminous, goddess-like effect. The mother was taken aback by this because her daughter had just described the ancient techniques that, until today’s dig, had remained a mystery. She led her daughter to the fresco that illustrated in great detail how to prepare the body with great ritual. Such an artifact had never been found before, and this one was indeed incomplete and broken in several spots.
Hyacinth’s father came over, hypothesizing what this ritual could have been in preparation for, completely ignoring his daughter; marriage, a rite of passage, a fertility ceremony . . . he droned on incessantly, ignoring his daughter’s attempted interruptions. He knew Hyacinth had been causing her mother trouble, and the beads of sweat that did not stop on his forehead for days was more than he could bare. But if only he knew she could fill in the blanks. Frustration filled her. Finally, after enduring countless looks of annoyance, Hyacinth suggested that perhaps the ritual was in preparation of a sacrifice victim and offered the colors of the flowers depicted on the carved slab. She even offered a complete theory, to the contrary of her father’s. He brushed her aside and told her to tend the fire and not to bother him at work. She was about to add to her evidence by telling the whereabouts of the cave, but on second thought, decided against it. She decided that place should remain sacred and unknown; pure. Silence was her sacrifice to Artemis, because even though it would remain unknown, the place and ritual would remain sacred forever.
Glossary of Terms
- Gypsum- a marble-like substance used by ancient Greeks made up of hydrated sulfate of calcium.
- Frankincense- an herb used most commonly in incense, it is here used as an astringent mouthwash. Works to release negativity and to induce an emotional spiritual state.
- Emissary- a person sent out to do the work of another in a specific mission.
- Immolation- Something that is being sacrificed.
- Ethnocentrism- The belief that one’s own culture is the best.
- Strigil- A tool used to cleanse the body. The Ancient Greeks used this tool with olive oil, covering the body and scraping it with the tool, exfoliating the skin.
- Red poppy- Flower used to produce opium, which acts as a heavy sedative.
- Kantheros- A two-handled chalice made of pottery for drinking water and wine.
- Carotid- an artery in the neck that brings blood from the aorta to the head.
- Fresco- An image created by applying paint to plaster.