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What's Your Canon Event?

Hello everyone, and welcome to LukeLore. A quick deep dive into a folklore topic, where I share some of the stories from around the world that have piqued my interest. This episode is a pretty great suggestion from Brennan, my editor and producer from The Ghost Story Guys Podcast if you’re not also a follower over that way. The Pride 2023 episode had a brief focus on how Achilles worried the gods he was so enraged in his grief he nearly broke free of destined events, and this had some pop culture synergy with the brilliant recent release Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. So we’re going to have a deeper look at Greek folklore’s ideas on Canon Events, how trapped we may be by fate, and what we can do to take control of our lives back from the machinations of the gods. SECTION BREAK – Greece Again We seem to be having a Greek Mythology Summer this year, which isn’t such a bad thing but I’m starting to feel a little trapped in the setting as it keeps pulling me back in. It’s not that surprising really: Combine a compelling setting that was well recorded across the ages, in no small part promoted by the Roman Empire that shared a lot of the content under different names, and then there’s the geolocation of me being in Europe so therefore formative continental classics are very easy for me to blunder in to. There’s a lot to unpack from Ancient and Classical Greece when it comes to predestination, however. Not least of all it being foundational for the language that conveys the concepts as we know them today, along with being the point of origin for a lot of the philosophy that underpins the topic. What surprised me digging deeper into the topic, is how separate the individual concepts are. That’s going to take a little explaining, but is pretty fascinating. As it stands, in common modern usage of the words, fate and destiny are broadly the same concept of someone being doomed to suffer fixed events in their life. Specifically the ending of it. Here’s the thing, simple sentence just then? Three completely different concepts in the original context. Your Fate is how much life you have, and when it will end. This is immutable for the most part, that’s your run. Destiny is broadly speaking the quality of that life. What you achieve, how you will be remembered, and this you can change as well as having a lot of flexibility in dealing with it if you have the will to take charge of events. Your Fate is how much time you have. Your Destiny is what you do with it. Attempting to avert your Fate is futile, while your Destiny can in theory be worked with (only often with unintended consequences). I mention that my simple sentence had three concepts, and the third was simple to miss if you aren’t aware it’s a separate driving force: That being the concept of a Doom. People tend to think of being Doomed as a bad thing, and they’re not especially wrong given that it relates to dying, but it’s ultimately a neutral force. It’s like your own personal gravity, guiding you down to your sudden stop at the end of your life. So your Doom, then, is what would find a way to drive you into the street if you were fated to be hit by a bus at the end of your life. Or else if you’re really doing a good job of avoiding public transport routes, finding a way to Final Destination a bus through your bedroom wall at the preordained time. The three concepts relate to each other, all being about your life. Quite alarmingly, your death. But it’s interesting that while in common usage the terms are interchangeable, or at least oversimplified, as a fundament of the philosophy behind the folklore they can be approached individually for greater context. They’re the subatomic components of an individual’s unique existence. Well, excluding the Destiny of places and global events, but this is a bit of a tangled mess as it is, so let’s look through the lenses of the individual within the Greek tradition. SECTION BREAK – The Weavers of Fate Remaining within Greek myth, the Fate of mortals had a cadre of goddesses to deal with them. The Moirai, in English frequently just referred to as The Fates, are an example of a triple goddess archetype that seems common across cultures. Three sisters who wove the stuff of life for every person to be born, each taking responsibility for a different stage of the allotment of a lifetime. Clotho The Spinner was – as her name would suggest – the spinner of the threads of life, turning the embodiment of time that can be lived into a string to pass along to her sisters. Lachesis The Alloter would come next, she measured out the length of time to be given. Finally would come Atropos The Inflexible with her shears, she would snip the thread to give it its immutable ending. The sisters come with a few possible origins. They may be daughters of the primordial goddess of necessity: Anneke. They could be some of the children Zeus sired with the Titan of natural and moral order: Themis. But the oldest available sources as we know them call them the fatherless children of Nyx, the goddess of Night and the darkness. Whichever origin they have, and I do quite like the oldest alternative here where they came into being from a primordial darkness to begin sending life out into the new world, no one wanted to mess with them. No god or monster dared to interfere with their affairs, no matter how otherwise mighty they may have been. There are broadly speaking two depictions of the trio’s appearance. Those who are asking for trouble show them as hideous crones, nominally this feels like a bit of backhanded respect given how much fear their power can inspire. The wiser, as flattery can at least do no harm, depict the sisters as handsome older women, accomplished and confident in their trade of lifespans. As a sidenote for something that annoys me, the Fates are where we get the umbrella terms of “fairy” and “fae”. This stems from English academics trying to dismiss all folklore native to the British Isles as too common to be worthwhile, so they set out to link the local otherworldly creatures to some “proper” classical mythology instead of just allowing them to roam around all plebeian and the willy-nilly suchlike. Hopefully the sidhe got the chance to have words with the esteemed academicals who pulled that one out of their arses some 600 years ago, even if the massively reductive and disrespectful term did gradually become a useful umbrella category for global folklore in modern times. While the gods mostly left the Moirai well alone, as they’re not worth angering, they do have a good relationship with the Greek pantheon. Something that generally served the gods well, even leading to personal aid at times. This is something that can be seen in the Gigantomachy, when Zeus and the gods as we come to know them overthrew the old religions to fully establish themselves, waging war on the Gigantes children of Gaea. Sometimes this came in the form of cunning, such as tricking Typhoeus – or Typhon, father of all monsters – into eating fruit that would weaken the one hundred headed fire breathing dragon’s incredible power to the point the gods stood a chance in a fight. Other times it was more direct intervention. This appeal for help from The Fates led to a very significant feat in the war, allow me a moment to give it some context. This was, no giant based pun intended, the biggest war in Greek myth. As much a war of prophesy as might since the Gigantes had prophetic protections that could need the heavens ground to a halt to neutralise, although there was plenty of brute strength at play too. One famous example is Alconeus. They could only be defeated by someone born mortal, so Heracles was brought in to fix this one. Even then, with the godproofing sidestepped, the giant still couldn’t die while on the soil of his homeland. So the legendary bruiser has to battle an actually unkillable giant across an entire country to get it somewhere it becomes vulnerable enough to finish off for good. I touch upon this because there was another way to kill these nigh invulnerable powerhouses. The giants Agrius and Thoas where dealt with by simply asking the Fates to kill them. Now, you may assume there’s some sort of mystical thread snipping possible here, but what actually happened was equal parts hilarious and terrifying. This feat was achieved by the sisters leaving their cave with bronze cudgels they keep handy and beating the two to death with them. These giants, the likes of which in one case need all lights in the sky extinguished for a day to get around a prophetic shield, one of whom Heracles himself had to fight across an entire country to subdue… The Fates take a short break from their work and club a couple to death. You do NOT mess with the Moirai sisters. No one and no thing stands a chance. They were beaten precisely never, and only ever partially bargained with the once. Taking it back to the Canon Event theme we can look at how they were partially tricked a single time, with the terrible consequences that followed. The sun god Apollo had a mortal friend who he knew was coming to the end of his fated thread, so he came up with a sneaky method to win the sisters over and beg for more time. Incredible amounts of the finest alcohol a god could find. Apollo travelled to the cave of the Fates and proceeded to get all three drunk, before pleading for more time for his friend. While drunk, the sisters eventually agreed, on one condition: Someone must be brought to them as a sacrifice, another life must end for only an extension, only once as a concession to the effort and humility of the great god of the sun. Unfortunately, Apollo couldn’t find a willing sacrifice in the time his friend Admetus had left. He tells his friend his fated end is near, but they need someone to take his place, and still they cannot find someone willing to make the trade. Only for one unfortunate person to overhear this, Admetus’s wife Alcestis. The two truly loved each other, so Alcestis accepted the offer on her love’s behalf. The Fates took her instead, to the absolute devastation of Admetus. To dabble with fate, with THE Fates, is impossible in all but one single exceptional case, and that ended in a tragedy that should have just been left well alone. SECTION BREAK – Man Plans, Destiny Laughs The Fates are also associated with destinies, but Destiny does for the most part feels like its own separate force. Your Fate is about your lifespan, plus its inevitable end, while your Destiny is what happens within a lifetime. It can be interacted with to an extent, although it will then usually just unfold in a strange way. In the episode before this, as a part of the unplanned yet apparently destined Greek Summer of Folklore, I told the story of Achilles in the Trojan War. A tale in part about how someone got so damn angry they risked breaking destined events, scaring the crap out of the gods who had to chase after the grief fuelled rage monster Achilles had become, smoothing everything over until Destiny found a way to unfold as it was supposed to. Destiny is ever present in Greek mythology. The story once it is told is simply the description of what inevitably had to happen. One massive example of this, and in our framework of Canon Events is the Canon very winning at every attempted turn, would be Oedipus. Some bad actor with the gift of foresight took it upon themselves to warn King Laius of Thebes and his Queen Jacosta that their newly conceived son would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. This would lead to a simple yet effective plan: Go through with the birth of the child, then pay a shepherd to chuck the baby off a cliff. Or just leave the baby on the floor out in the wilds somewhere. Nature will take its course one way or the other, with the royalty technically not committing infanticide so no passing goddess like Hera will quite rightly smite them (even if it’s a very shaky technicality). Unfortunately for them, although very fortunately for zero years old Oedipus, the shepherd they hired wasn’t heartless enough to play Yeet The Baby Off The Mountain. Showing basic mercy instead, they passed the poor child off to another shepherd who was heading to Corinth. This seemed like the perfect fix at the time, but was instead the set up for the Dominoes of Destiny to come crashing down later. One childless King of Corinth later, baby Oedipus was adopted into royalty as per their particular destiny. Upon our poor hero of the tale growing to manhood, enter the next busybody to nudge everything in a dire direction. While he was the happy son of King Polybus and Queen Merope, someone took it upon themselves to insist Oedipus wasn’t really their child. Missing many centuries to come of discussions surrounding nature vs nurture, and genetic donors vs the parents who raised you, Oedipus had the unwelcome fact holding over him for a while until it compelled him to visit the Great Oracle of Delphi. Upon the two finally meeting the Oracle promptly ignored his question of parentage, the perhaps not all that Great after all Oracle instead repeated his Destiny to him: He WILL kill his father, and marry his mother. Being a loving son, he didn’t inspect the small print of this predestination and instead ran away from home so he was physically incapable of such a terrible act. Going back to Thebes, where surely nothing bad could happen. As he ran away from Corinth, Oedipus is nearly run down by his birth father King Laius riding a chariot. Having no idea they are bonded in blood, this led to a heated argument about who has the right of way, and who is some dumb pedestrian who should gladly yield because this is a King joyriding damn you! Oedipus is proud, and of the position that being run over would be bad. The King and his charioteer were of the opposing view that he should have just gone under the horses and wheels without making a fuss. This turned into a fight that Oedipus went on to win, slaying his attackers, one of whom was his sperm donor. Fulfilling the first part of the dread prophesy. Oedipus runs away from the crime scene, and gets away with it as it was ruled an armed robbery by bandits. Not looking a gift perfect crime in the mouth, he continues on to Thebes and promptly runs into an infamous Sphinx. The challenge is a classic: Answer the riddle, or become dinner. Oedipus turned out to be at least as good at riddles as he was patricide, and the Sphinx bashed its own brains in against the rocks of the valley it occupied from the frustration of losing its riddle-off. This incidentally was where a classic riddle comes from! What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening? The trick to it was the “day” was metaphorical, referring to the amount of time the Fates gave someone to live. The course of the day was the life of the man. It was a man who crawled on all fours before he could walk, then walked on two legs in their prime, before walking with the aid of a stick at the end before Atropos brings their shears to bear upon the ending. The answer was: A man. The consequences of Oedipus’s remarkably eventful trip back to his birthplace were twofold. The King of Thebes was tragically dead from definitely bandits, and the monster plaguing the city was defeated by a triumphant hero who definitely didn’t murder the king in a road rage incident. Queen Jacosta’s brother Creon marries the hero to her, replacing his father as both King and husband to his mother. Something I’m going to move right on along from now. As such, everything played out exactly as was destined. If anything, attempting to avert events was exactly what had to happen to lead to them. The King died exactly as foretold, Oedipus married his mother. A moderately dreadful turn of events that would lead to Sigmund Freud frothing at the mouth some aeons later and having the figure of legend become the namesake of a worrying complex. SECTION BREAK – The Daemon of Doom We touched upon a person’s Doom in the introduction, that it’s the force of fate. Your Doom is the irresistible current dragging you to the sudden waterfall at the end of your journey. To be Doomed has the connotations of a terrible event set to happen, but you’re just as Doomed to pay your taxes, or to pass away peacefully at a ripe old age surrounded by your family. It just is. A bad end is a bad Doom for sure, but not every Doom is set to be a bad end. Folklore has plenty of portents of Doom. Most Black Dogs of Britain, for example, may be a warning you are about to be hit by a car, but they’re not the ones driving it. I stipulate “most” Black Dogs, as some will take it upon themselves to personally maul you, so mind how you go on remote country crossroads around the British Isles. Keep the essential defences against the otherworld handy: An old iron horseshoe for warding against the sidhe, and a companion you’re not too emotionally attached to who you can run faster than. Then over in the new world you have such cryptids as The Mothman, who was a portent of a devastating accident but broadly speaking not directly to blame for the event when there’s perfectly rubbish public planning to blame. As with most things, Greek myth had a god for this! Not a surprise when there’s a spot on the Olympic pantheon for everything, this comes from a particular cluster of death gods with a responsibility Hades will usually get wrongly blamed for. Hades, for the record, is the god of the dead and the underworld. He’s the manager, not the hands on executioner of mortals. So you have Thanatos as the god of death, he’s your misunderstood yet basically nice Greek Reaper dealing with gentle passage and release from suffering. Then you have his sister Ker who is the goddess of violent demise and being struck down by disease. Feel more than free to be afraid of her! For large scale disasters beyond even the scope of Ker you have Enyo, the goddess of destruction. Then, we have the god for our topic at hand, Moros. The spirit that is the personification of Doom. Technically Moros is a Daemon. Daemon, not DEMON, like the spirit of enlightenment that appeared to Socrates as a warning against making mistakes. As a quick aside, Daemon versus Demon is an interesting one. There’s some argument over the pronunciation of Daemon. Do you pronounce the A to distinguish it from the fallen angel in a Christian hell idea of a Demon? Digging down into Demonology muddies the water further, as the Demons found in the Abrahamic traditions overlap with the spirits of enlightenment in the knowledge and secrets they can be entreatied to share. You have the first book of the Lesser Key of Solomon explaining individual demons in detail, and you get some cool owl dude who will tell you the secrets of astrology, leaving the distinction between the two traditions of spirits a muddled mess. For the sake of conveying that I mean the worldly spirits I’ll leave the A in, I’ll happily be wrong for the right reasons in audio form. It felt worth the diversion due to the interesting amount of overlap and confusion the topic carries. Anyway, back to Moros! Daemon or daimon in the Greek mythological tradition. One of the spirits that bridge the knowledge between the mortal and the divine. He is a child of Nyx, a sibling of Thanatos and Ker, looking like another fatherless child like the Fates. There was a problem with Moros, however. What he represented, the knowledge he brought, essentially made existence unbearable for mortals. As the embodiment of Doom to know Moros was to know exactly when, where, and how you will die. Even to be dead was no release, as those in the underworld were burdened with their Doom hanging over their death as much as it did their life. An endless torment that you lived only to die, and that was it. Knowledge can be a terrible burden. It can fester, it can be an overwhelming obsession overshadowing everything good with this one painful point in time. But this changed. Moros became an invisible force, or a daemon the foolish would need to purposely seek out, thanks to events set in motion by one of the archetypal tragic heroes of humankind. In a roundabout way Prometheus intervened to separate mortals from Moros. Something simple, if still somewhat tragic, broke the hold of the Canon Events here. So the story of Prometheus does go, he stole fire from the gods for all his fellow mortals. This made Zeus rather angry, and it then led directly to the tale of Pandora. Having a massively petty meltdown, Zeus’s only other speed aside from “horny”, chaining Prometheus to a mountain in the underworld to have his liver eaten by a bloody great bird every day wasn’t quite retribution enough. The vengeful god did say “I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.” Hephaestus, god of many crafts and forgings, was given the task to make a dread vessel. What is now simplified as Pandora’s Box was originally a maiden shaped urn that Zeus filled up with every terrible thing he could think of, that Hermes then took to King Epimetheus. Now, Prometheus had warned Epimetheus to always refuse a gift from Zeus, as it would definitely be a bad thing. It most certainly was a bad thing, it was in fact EVERY bad thing, but Prometheus was a little bit eternally damned at this point and the king took the suspiciously attractive pottery with no questions asked. Enter Pandora. The sexy jar had a deliberately tempting great lid to pick away at, and curiosity getting the better of her Pandora she takes a peek that unleashes every terrible thing possible upon the mortal realm. But this all has been a sequence of events the gods did not fully understand. In their divine privilege they failed to understand the needs of humanity. There was one last crucial daemon in the vengeful pottery. A spirit of Elpis, of Hope. In some meanings of the word false hope, but hope nonetheless, and after being freed from the lip of the jar where it had been caught when all the terrible things had poured out ahead of it, Elpis replaced Moros in the hearts of mortals. Instead of the miserable burden of their Doom casting a shadow over their whole life, and then their whole afterlife beyond, humankind got to live with hope. Sometimes, in some points of view, yes, a false hope. The Doom was still there. But the Doom was not everything. Within their Fated time, while under the drag of their inevitable Doom, there was now a driving force to face it all. To face their Destiny, and to strive for a greater lot in the life they are afforded. Two fundamentally tragic heroes in Prometheus and Pandora, linked together in a roiling divine temper tantrum, judged as “bad” and “wrong” by the gods as well as uncharitable readings across the millennia, left us with the guiding light of fire and the hope to do great things with it! In your face, Canon Events. SECTION BREAK So, the unanticipated Greek Summer continues! I may try to escape this theme for the end of the month, but if it is destined to be we’re stuck here until events have unfolded as per Destiny. I may return with a Canon Events Part two next year when we have Beyond the Spider-Verse. I’m a big old nerd, so the topic suits me, and I’m anticipating we can take a very different approach once that particular story resolves. If you aren’t a comic book nerd, worry not! The folklore that are the fundaments of our stories are there to be enjoyed either way. But they ARE fun movies if you haven’t taken the chance to join in with them as yet. LukeLore is a Ghost Story Guys production.

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