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Danse of the Gods

We walk a half-hour through rain, wet from shoes to hair. I do not

care. We find the building off the Avenue de l’Opéra. In the foyer

are milling young—a few Adonises and nymphs.


A bulletin board: Mythologie Conférence, Rez-de-chausée, Salle

zéro[1]. We climb a flight of stairs, pass a mural of vigorous

muscular youths circa the ‘20s, doing calisthenics for the state.

We peek in a room, see dancers at the barre.



Richard darts into the bathroom.


I peek again.  A miffed French woman with slicked back hair appears: “Nous

n’avons pas fini cette classe![2]


Richard returns. We go up. We ask a woman if she knows the way

to the myth room. Down below, she thinks.


We go down to the basement. A Zen teacher smiles peace into us,

but Richard cannot feel it. He feels lost.


Up we go again. Wrong room.


Down we go to the main floor. I open a door that leads outside. Richard

snaps his fingers at me, as if I were a dog. I know it’s just stress. I follow him

into a small dark room with a mirror covering one wall. An empty dance



A small Asian man enters. A tall heron of a teacher bustles in,

turns on the lights, sets up a slide projector and arranges notes on a

desk.  One by one, men enter. One looks like an accountant in a

short-sleeved shirt. Another is pudgy, shifty. There’s a young,

sleepy Frenchman.


We unstack the folding chairs, Richard and I at the back. Am I the only

woman in Paris who loves myth?


The lecture begins. Slides on the screen. Hermes has wings on his

hat, his caduceus, his shoes. He is “légèreté de l'être, rapidité,

l'échange d'énergie, mais pas commercial, nonL'échange

d'énergie spirituel, comme dans les secrètes d’Égypte[3],” or

something like that.



This teacher understands the essence of these êtres divins[4]. Here is

Zeus, king of the gods, bearded, powerful, gripping his

thunderbolt. As Monsieur speaks of Zeus, the rumbling overhead

gathers in volume—a stamping of feet in a ballet class, or the

god’s thunder? A back window blows open behind us. One man

moves to close it. It opens again. Another man closes it harder. It

opens to the rain and noise of the sky and the street. Another man

closes it. It opens again. Zeus will not be shut out. We surrender.



Here is Athéna, snake-haired Medusa on her shield. Perseus cut off

her head, freeing Pegasus, the winged horse of poetry. Athéna has

a creature on her helmet, resting on its haunches. Is it a lion? A



Athena and Ares 

And here is Hephaestus, the ugly god. His mother, Hera, dropped

him from Olympus, and he limps, ankles broken. He is heavy,

lourd, and he works with heavy things, iron, making weapons, also

jewelry for the goddesses, lovely things for his wife, Aphrodite.


Look at Aphrodite! In this painting I’ve never seen, she is all milky

skin with pink blush, up on clouds like swans, and swans are riding

the clouds.


Her lover is Ares, god of action, of muscular body and war.

(I think of him as the god of Italy, its shape a boot for walking, 

exploring, and hunting booty.)


Apollo is here in a painting with Daphne, who chose to become a

laurel tree, rather than sleep with him. A laurel wreath is now the

crown of achievement. He is inner beauty, says Monsieur. (But

I thought he was more a communal god of music and harmony.)



And here is Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Of the purity of nature.

Of cleanliness and chastity. When Actaeon happened upon her as

she was bathing, she turned him into a stag, and his own hounds

tore him apart.



And here is another painting I’ve never seen, of Hestia—ample-

bodied, in long dress, leaning against an altar holding a flame.


I am thrilled to hear his subtle understanding of this family I know

so well. Thrilled that I can understand much of what he’s saying.


Now he takes questions. First to wave his hand is the pudgy man

who’s been sneaking peeks at himself in the ballet mirror

the whole lecture. He asks a meandering question

about Aphrodite (of course!): “Elle, elle Aphrodite ... la bataille

entre le feu et l'eau .. la guerre à l'intérieur de nous ... les cygnes

la suite de son ... Zeus un cygne, un cygne ... Ares ai eue aussi, un

combat intérieur de ma tête,”[5] and who knows what else.



It’s painful listening to this question that never ends. The lecturer

grows tense and so do we. He tries to answer the man and move on.


I’m the last to ask. I agree with him, I say, on Hermes being about

spiritual exchange, rather than, as many say, commercial.


He suggests I ask the question in English. He’ll translate for the

class. Dang, I was so happy to understand, but I still can’t

voice what I mean. I ask him later about the bag Hermes



“Is it the sac[6] d’un égrue?” He looks confused.


C’est un oiseau de l’eau[7],” I say. He doesn’t understand.


“Oh! Je veux dire, grue.[8]


“Crane! Oh!” He gets it. But he doesn’t know.


We talk about the next lecture.


“It’s next Monday,” he says.




But I forgot to ask, What was the animal on Athene’s head?

Who did the painting of Hestia? Who did the glorious Aphrodite

with white swan clouds?


The Invisibles take many forms in the imaginations of visionaries and artists

of every country, every time in history. The characters and shapes

of the goddesses and gods envisioned by the ancient Greeks have endured

over many centuries and miles. They still speak to us here today in Paris.


Hermes as Crane

[1] “Mythology Conference, Ground Floor, Room Zero.”

[2] “We have not finished this class!”

[3] “lightness of Being, speed, energy exchange, but not commercial, no! The exchange of spiritual energy, as in the secrets of Egypt.”

[4] “divine beings”

[5] “She, she Aphrodite … the battle between fire and water… the war inside us…the swans following her… Zeus a swan, a swan… Ares got her too, fighting a battle inside my head,”

[6] “bag”

[7] “It’s a bird of the water.”

[8] “I mean, crane.”

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Reader Comments (8)

Oui! Etre divins!
Mon francais ne pas bien d'ecrit dans francias..mais...

Thank you for the lovely sharing, and the great depiction of Athena, with the snake and Ares.
Glad to see the invisibles are with you!
Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 5:39 | Unregistered CommenterMary
Love this. I got to see and hear and experience the mythology class in Paris. Thank-you.
Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 8:27 | Unregistered CommenterTristine
"Danse of the Gods" is another superb entry in Paris Play! May I share it on my facebook page?
Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 7:25 | Unregistered CommenterFloyce Alexander

Thank you so much for this. You must have an affinity for Athena, the goddess of statecraft and crafts and peace. Oui? She was considered a greater warrior than Ares because she had a cooler head, and so could strategize. He, of course, was the biggest hot head in the Olympian family.

Yes, I feel those Invisibles around me (and inside me) all the time. They're around all of us, whether we're tuning in or not.

Love you,
Kaaren and Richard
Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 15:18 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
Dear Tristine,

We're so happy you were there with us in this mythology class in Paris. I think your ruling goddess is Artemis, she of wild nature, Lady of the Beasts (you still have horses, don't you?) and protector of young girls. She also rules the sign, Cancer. Naturally, Richard picked an image of this swift huntress outdoors.

Can't wait to see you here in Paris in a few months!

Kaaren and Richard
Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 15:23 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell

Thank you! You honor us. Please do post this on your Facebook page.

Love to you,
Kaaren and Richard
Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 15:26 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell
C'est magnifique! I love how Zeus' thunder would not be denied! And your beautiful descriptions of the gods and goddesses. [Yes, what *was* on Athena's head? I'd love to know!] And Richard's images are - as ever - so perfectly in poetic synchrony with your words (la belle danseuse... and that saucy Aphrodite! and that graceful crane taking flight at sunset made me think of our walks along Ballona...)

Thank you for taking us along with you on your ever-unfolding journeys!

Much love to you both...
~ dawna
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 2:03 | Unregistered Commenterdawna
Hi Dawna,

It really did feel as if Zeus was trying to blow into the room. I wish I could find that image of Athena, but I've never seen it before or since.

It is so pleasurable working in poetic concert with Richard. I love that image of the dancer too, even though the graffiti says Merde. And Aphrodite shows up in the most scandalous poses all over the place. But that's her nature, as we all know. Armoured Artemis does NOT approve.

You're right, Dawna, that egret whom we're calling a crane was snapped at Ballona Wetlands. A part of me is still walking there--and seeing you Sundays at the house to read our work.

Thank you for your appreciation. It is so appreciated!

Much love,
Kaaren & Richard
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 19:44 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

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