Itone, daughter of Lyctius by Frederick John Kluth of Kent, Ohio

 

In the Form of an Ancient Drama

Artemis

Through the woods I roam.
It is not just the chase I favor,
But the life that is there.
On my head I wear the sign of the crescent Moon,
And so I look to the moon for inspiration.
It is a poet's gaze, not one of need.
It is Helios, the bright sun
Whose rays fertility gives.
Yet this is not all there is.
Helios is just a part of the whole.
From the oceans warmed by the sunshine
The vapors rise up to form the clouds,
the realm of Great Zeus, the thunderer.
Zeus, in his wisdom brings soft rains to the parched land.
This water is not yet in the realm of Poseidon
But belongs to the water nymphs,
Those gorgeous creatures that play
In the sparkle of dewdrops and water falls.
This play of water and rock is not without its drama.
As hard as they are in Pluto's realm
The rocks give way to the water.
In that water the rocks' residue becomes the stuff of life.
The living plants send their roots down deep
To gather these substances within themselves for growth
And they leave the water pure and tasty.

One such plant is the willow tree.
This plant grows where water is plentiful
and stays there in quiet beauty.
Lyctius had finished harvesting for the day 
And found this tree in a quiet glade.
When his daughter was born he provided it
with surrounding land as a dowry.
Now she visits it regularly
To gather the sweet water that flows
from the spring beneath the tree.
Here she comes now.

Artemis exits. Itone enters and sits under her willow with her jug by her side.

Itone

Blessed are the gods for providing this place.
The water is the best, cool and sweet on a summer's day.
Oh what is to become of me?
I am a maiden in the bloom of youth but no one has chosen me.
I think my father has too high a standard.
He expects a girl of my quality to have a high-born beau.
But how can I tell who might be good enough?
I know young men but some seem so silly.
How can I know how they will be years from now?
Listen! Someone is coming.
Who could be in this lonesome spot?

Itone, goddess of the willow

Itone under the willow tree.

Minos enters

Minos

Hello! What? How is a Maiden in this lonesome spot?
I have ranged far and wide in wilderness
With a hunting party and now I am quite alone.
What are you doing here?

Itone

I belong in this wonderful spot.
I belong to it just as it belongs to me.
My father, Lyctius, gave this Willow tree
And the land that surrounds it to me.
And my name, Itone, means "willow tree".
So it is you who are out of place.
And if you threaten his men are just a call away.
But if you are a traveler I can offer you
Sweet water from the spring.  How is it with you?

Minos

I mean you no harm but I am thirsty
From a day in the sun and hunting,
So I gladly take your offer of sweet refreshment.
But I am no traveler.  I am near to home
If only I knew the way.
You could tell me you were a water nymph
and I would believe it.
You have a lovely and gracious manner.
I am Minos, son of Asterius and Europa,
But my mother insists that I am a son of Zeus.
She says he brought her to Crete from across the sea
On the back of a bull and left her to care for three sons.
And Asterius took her in out of sympathy.
Because of this she says great things will come of me,
But right now I am only thinking of getting home.

Itone

I can tell you the direction to your home,
But should we do with your hunting party?
Were they after some wild beast menacing crops,
Or providing food for the table?

Minos

Neither, but the wild bull we sought.
This bull has long curving horns and a strong back.
We brought no fierce weapons of destruction.
With us was a gentle cow we used as bait
and many strong nets and ropes.
We hoped to catch him alive and add him to our herd.
We might use him in a religious festival.
The priestess made the request and we honored her.
I like to help the priestess with her work.
We heard a noise in the brush and I investigated.
But it came to naught and I returned to find them gone.
I think they saw the bull in another direction
and moved after it leaving me alone.
They are many and so not worry.
It is a lost feeling when you are alone.
But I do not feel lost now.  Do you live far?

Itone

No! We are only a short while from my father's house
At the edge of his barley fields. I venture here
To gather the sweet water for our drinks.
My father's other servants go to another spring
For the water for cooking and bathing.
But tell me about your priestess.
I like the way the priestess leads the ceremonies
At the splendid holy festivals.
This is when I get to dance and sing and converse.
With many other wonderful people.
I like when the people get together and celebrate.
How does your priestess do this?

Minos

Here is what she wants to do.
It all sounds very exciting.
We start at the temple at the edge of the fields.
She is going to take the goddess out of the temple and bathe it.
Then she will lead a procession to the court of our house.
She will be at the beginning with the goddess
In a cart drawn by a donkey
Next come the dancers, men and women.
Then come the food bearers with grain and vegetables.
Then come the sacrificial animals.
Then comes the strong bull led by his nose.
Then come the people from the surrounding countryside.
When she gets to the court we circle around
While she prays and leads dances.
Finally the bull is lead in and she dances with the bull.
She says she can do it and we will see how.
After a while when the bull tires he will be sacrificed.
The priestess will take his blood to the fields as a sacred libation.
She says the crops will grow better.
Then we will cut up the bull and roast the meat.
Finally we feast on the meat, the bread, the fruits and vegetables.
It sounds pretty exciting to me.
What do you think?

Itone

It sounds exciting.  Come tell my father.
We should all go to this festival.

Itone and Minos exit. Artemis enters.

Artemis

Mistress of all the animals am I, and them I nurture
Each one is born and dies yet in that life there is a sharing.
Some share their life with others of their kind.
Yet many provide sustenance for others.  Some do not take this sustenance
But look to the trees and other plants.  
It is all a great chain of being wondrous to behold.
So it is appropriate to celebrate the many blessings.

Artemis exits. Itone and Minos enter.

Itone

What a wonderful festival. But I have a request.
This celebrates the animals and is in the center of society
We should have a quiet festival as well that celebrates
The quiet places and the things that hold us up by their roots.
My willow tree should be a sanctuary for all time to come.
Could you arrange such a thing, Minos?

Minos

Festivals rejuvenate.  They invigorate.  Work has its place.
But so does celebration and festivals.
What a good idea to have a quiet festival.
This brings out a whole new aspect of worship.
I like the idea for a new celebration.
Let me organize and consult and perhaps it will happen.
Return to your home and let me visit in a while
With the answer to your kind request.

Itone and Minos exit. Artemis returns.

Artemis

All my realm is carefully planned and obeys the rule of law.
I set these laws down ages ago and now they are obeyed.
But buried in this law is the opportunity of choice.
Not everything is determined.  Choices are made and consequences met.
It is all part of the divine plan.
Now we have a young man and woman together.
What are their choices?  What conclusions will they draw?
I like the direction because it is respectful.
On the festivals they spend their time.
Many will benefit from this. Not them alone.
For this they receive my blessing.

Artemis exits. Enter Itone and Lyctius

Lyctius

Daughter!  Who is this young man I have seen you with?
And what are his intentions?  You know a young girl must be careful.
Is he good enough for you?  I want you to be happy later.

Itone

He is Minos, son of Asterius and Europa.
His mother came from abroad, on the back of a bull they say.
She was a princess in Tyre.  This is good.  But they also say
That it was Zeus that raped her and took her away.
Perhaps she behaved poorly to cause all this but 
There is no sign of this in Minos.  
I also hear that it is a blessing to be an offspring of Zeus.
Minos seems blessed and wonderful.
He does so much to help with worship and festivals.
He is even planning to make my Willow tree a sanctuary.
He should be her soon.

Lyctius

We shall see what some of this.
From evil evil follows but things from Zeus
Must be considered carefully.
If a bad seed grows in hin it will spring out.
But if he springs from Zeus we had best
Let him have his way
For in him lays great power and promise.

Lyctius exits and Minos enters

Minos

I give greetings to you.  What a pleasant place!
To get to your house I had to pass through a gate
And there was revealed a large garden with a wall all around it.
It is full of beautiful trees--pears, pomegranates,
And the most delicious looking apples. 
There are luscious figs also, and olives in full growth.
Pear grows on pear tree, apple on apple tree, and fig on fig tree. 
Beyond there is an excellent vineyard with grapes hanging.
On the level ground of a part of this, 
The grapes are being made into raisins.
In another part they are being gathered.
Some are being trodden in the wine tubs. 
In the furthest part of the ground
Beautifully arranged flowers bloom.
Two streams go through it, the one turned in ducts throughout the whole garden,
While the other is carried under the ground of the outer court
To the house itself, and the local people draw water from it.
What beauty of produce and growth!

Itone

Yes! And the source of those streams is the spring under the willow tree.
The willow is a symbol both of water and of garden produce.
Beyond the garden walls are the fields of grain.
And further still are the pastures where the goats are grazed.
The grain and the fruits provide us food
But the goats provide the wool we spin and weave.
It is the wool and the wine that allows us to trade
Beyond the sea in the ships with great sails.
Often we place the goods in two-wheeled carts
And take them down to the ships pulled up on the beach.  
I love the tales I hear when we travel to the ships.

Minos

And look at what this produce has provided.
This house is wonderfully appointed.
I came through the strong wooden doors into a beautiful court.
On each side is a flowing fountain
In the center is a fire pit for cooking banquets.
Look at the pillars that hold up the porch around the court,
And the roof of round red tiles.
Opposite the doors is a wonderful room for banquets,
And above this are apartments for the security of women.
You must be very happy.
And I want to keep you that way.

We have planned a fine ceremony.
The worshippers will meet at the market place of the next town.
They will form a procession and walk to the willow tree.
There we will have a ceremony and a blessing of the tree
Then we will return to the market place.
There we will have dancing and a feast.
Will you lead the dancing Itone?

Itone

This is just as I wished it.
I will prepare a special dress just for this.
It will have tassels and will move as I dance.
When will this festival be?

Minos

Next month will be appropriate.
Now I must leave to spread the word.

Exit Minos and Itone. Enter Artemis

Artemis

A festival has its leaders and its followers.
It is when everybody works together that there is the most benefit.
Work only is too much. Reclining only is too much.
A stimulating variety makes all else good.
It motivates to find the way that is worship.
It is not about what each can get but how to give
that worship makes in a good society.
It is not about pleasing others to receive their wage.
Worship is a way of organizing a community
That each to each can give an receive 
And when it is done satisfaction reigns.
Let us see how the quiet festival went.

Exit Artemis. Enter Minos and Itone.

Itone

How well you organized the festival.
Everyone found a place
And the spirits of the hard pressed where raised.
The dancers you found followed me well
And found a sympathetic rhythm
The blessing you gave to the tree,
"May this tree grow to lift the nourishment
And the spirits of all, weak and strong."
Inspired my thoughts to good work.
When we go to the market the food waited.
All were satisfied and many mouths were fed.
The people will go and work well
On their appointed tasks.
To you I give thanks.

Minos

You danced as only a goddess could
To sanctify the cherished wood
Your arms like the leaves of the willow played
Your body like the fine stalks of the willow swayed.
Your feet danced on the smooth pavement
and twinkled like the stars in the firmament.
I see the fruits growing on your vine
Will you walk with me and be mine.
I plainly see the life that is to be.
Will you marry me Willow Tree?

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