- Story of Procris
- Resources for further Study with Links
- Ask a Question about Procris
- Questions and Answers about Procris
Story of Procris
Procris was a woman who lived in the generations before the Trojan war and is referred to in a number of different myths. These tales are different enough to suggest that different persona are referenced by the same name. She lived so long before the Trojan War that she could have lived at the same time as the Minoan culture.
Apollodorus, in his ‘Library and Epitome (ed. Sir James George Frazer)’, 3.15.1 states:
XV. When Pandion died, his sons divided their father’s inheritance between them, and Erechtheus got the kingdom,1 and Butes got the priesthood of Athena and Poseidon Erechtheus.2 Erechtheus [p. 103] married Praxithea, daughter of Phrasimus by Diogenia, daughter of Cephisus, and had sons, to wit, Cecrops, Pandorus, and Metion; and daughters, to wit, Procris, Creusa, Chthonia, and Orithyia, who was carried off by Boreas.3
Chthonia was married to Butes, Creusa to Xuthus, and Procris to Cephalus, son of Deion. Bribed by [p. 105] a golden crown, Procris admitted Pteleon to her bed, and being detected by Cephalus she fled to Minos. But he fell in love with her and tried to seduce her. Now if any woman had intercourse with Minos, it was impossible for her to escape with life; for because Minos cohabited with many women, Pasiphae bewitched him, and whenever he took another woman to his bed, he discharged wild beasts at her joints, and so the women perished. But Minos had a swift dog and a dart that flew straight; and in return for these gifts Procris shared his bed, having first given him the Circaean root to drink that he might not harm her. But afterwards, fearing the wife of Minos, she came to Athens and being reconciled to Cephalus she went forth with him to the chase; for she was fond of hunting. As she was in pursuit of game in the thicket, Cephalus, not knowing she was there, threw a dart, hit and killed Procris, and, being tried in the Areopagus, was condemned to perpetual banishment.”
In the Odyssey (book 11 line 321) while Odysseus is in Hades he says “Then I saw Phaidra, Prokris; and Ariadne, daughter of Minos, the grim king. This puts Prokris in the context of two daughters of Minos.
The myth of Appolodorus says that Procris was born in Athens and sailed to Crete. But the quote from the Odyssey puts Procris in the company of two of the daughters of Minos. Could she have been a daughter of Minos? The other daughters are believed to have been godesses so Procris may have been a goddess too.
Interestingly the work ‘Prokris’ is the Greek word for a dried fig. “Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and then subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece, where they became a staple foodstuff in the traditional diet.
(reference on figs). Does this mean that the story actually relates to dried figs?
Another connection to Crete is the Circaean Root which Procris uses to cure Minos of his genital affliction. Ovid confounds this herb with moly in “Metamorphosis”: Book 14, “Peace bearing Hermes gave him a white flower from a black root, called Moly by the gods. With this protection and the god’s advice he entered Circe’s hall and, as she gave the treacherous cup and with her magic wand essayed to touch his hair, he drove her back and terrified her with his quick drawn sword.
The story of Odysseus bears on these drugs.
“In one of the stories, Odysseus’s men were bewitched by the goddess Circe, who cast a spell that made them forget about their mission (which was to return to Ithaca). Worse than that, she turned them into swine. The potion she used could have been made from jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), which contains atropine, an alkaloid that can induce amnesia and bizarre hallucinations. Jimsonweed is known to have been native to that region, and the people of that time knew of its neurotoxic properties.
To break the spell on his men and restore their memory, Odysseus used a potion of his own, made from a flower that Homer called moly; it was a gift to Odysseus from Hermes, the messenger of the gods, when they met in a forest on the way to Circe’s palace. Based on Homer’s description of it and the pharmacological action he attributed to it, that flower is now believed to have been Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdrop, which was also native to that region. The snowdrop is an antidote to jimsonweed, because galantamine is an antidote to atropine.”
(reference on Galantamine). The location of Circe’s island is not known. But wherever it was, it was not far from Crete.
Circe was the sister of Paciphae, the wife of Minos. Another connection to Circe is the figs: Just then she swallowed the salt-water; I threw myself up to the lofty fig-tree and clung close against it like a bat, because there was no firm foothold there, and no chance of climbing either; the roots were far below, and the big long branches hung out of reach overhead, overshadowing Kharybdis. (Homer, Odyssey 12. 430 ff ) Circe had described the fig tree when she warned Odysseus of what was to come. Finally figs have the shap of male testicles and so it is no wonder that Procris directed her cure at the genital organs of Minos.
The material from Appolodorus mentions a dog. This dog may be described as follows: “LAILAPS (or Laelaps) was a magical dog which was alsways destined to catch his prey. He was first given to Europa of Krete by the god Zeus, and was later handed down through King Minos, to Prokris and Kephalos of Athens.
Kephalos used the hound to hunt down the Teumessian Fox, a monstrous beast which was laying waist to the countryside of Thebes. However, the fox was destined never to be caught, and Zeus, pondering the dilemma of the uncatcheable fox being chased by an inescable hound, turned the pair to stone, or else placed them in the heavens as the Constellations Canis Major and Minor. In so doing he froze their contest or set it to play out for eternity in the heavens.
Lailaps may be the same as Golden Hound which was set to guard the infant Zeus on Krete.” (reference on figs)
The dart given by Minos to Procris was probably the same one that killed her. The story suggest she was killed by accident, but Cephalus would not have been punished if this was the case. Since the dart always found its mark he should have been more careful to identify his quarry.
With the golden crown, the dart that would not miss, the dog, and a taste for hunting, Procris would have been the perfect Artemis. But her story is full of sexual encounters with men. Artemis did not like that behavior. Perhaps this is what finally did her in.
Procris was born in Athens and then, when she was caught relating to Pteleon, she was forced to flee to Minos. In those days it was not that easy to go from one city to another without some prior arrangements. There would have had to have been ships sailing between Athens and Crete and she would have had to have known someone In Crete. Perhaps a priest or priestess in his court was the connection. Minos may have fallen in love with her because she danced in a temple with Ariadne or Phaedra. It would have been as a temple priestess that she learned of the Circaean Root. But Pasiphae would not have cast a spell that was easily undone by a local woman. So perhaps Procris brought this knowledge with her from Athens. It is not correct to say that either Pasiphae or Procris were witches, as some do. There is no Devil involved as is necessary with a witch. Pasiphae was a goddess in every sense and so was perfectly capable of casting spells without any help. Procris might have needed the help of a deity to break a spell cast by a goddess. Hermes did this for Odysseus in the Odyssey. Perhaps Ariadne or Phaedra helped Procris to break the spell.
- “The Death of Procris” (work by Piero di Cosimo)
- (Landscape with Cephalus and Procris reunited by Diana 1645, CLAUDE)
- Cephale et Procris
Ask a Question about Procris
To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Procris) and