Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rethinking Blood

The Kingdom of the Dead

Odysseus knew that finding his way back home to Ithaca after leaving the island of Circe the sorceress would be impossible without special guidance. The enchantress advised him to seek out the counsel of the blind prophet Teiresias. There was one small problem, however. Teiresias had died some time ago and now dwelled in Hades, the kingdom of the dead. Upon hearing these words, the Greek king was filled with dread and trepidation. He knew that his destiny lay along a path that would take him through the underworld and death itself. Nevertheless, with great courage and emboldened by the desire to return to his kingdom of Ithaca, Odysseus commanded his crew to follow the directions given by Circe.
For days on end they sailed, until the sea itself seemed to flow in an unnatural slope. Darkness filled the horizon as the terrified sailors journeyed toward the growing gloom of Hades.
When the ship neared the lands of the dead, the winds ceased, but the sail still billowed. The sailors next saw dark meadows with black sheep grazing on black grass. Believing that the ghosts of men could be attracted by blood, the Greeks seized two sheep and quickly killed them, draining their blood into a trench in hopes of summoning the phantom of Teiresias. However, a host of specters surrounded them, each wanting to drink of the warm blood that flowed in the trench. There at the edge of the trench, Odysseus communicated with not only the blind prophet but several other spirits as well.
In ancient times, the color red (associated with blood) symbolized the magical power of being alive. Why do you think the ghosts were drawn by the blood in the trench? What were they really seeking?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Rethinking the Shadow of Death

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.
William Wallace

It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
Jonathan Swift

Death. Let’s face it—the word itself can bring us down. For adolescents, the concept of death and dying is one that can cause feelings of dread and foreboding. Yet every student will eventually have to face the cold, hard fact of human mortality, whether through a friend, a family member, or an acquaintance. When someone near to us dies, it shakes our world and forces us to take a personal inventory of our own lives. The minions of the enemy—fear, isolation, defeat, despair, and depression—smell blood in the water and begin to encircle the student who has been dealt one of life’s most severe blows. In the next few posts, we will examine the concept of death and dying, and how to guide and fight for students through the grieving process, by sifting through the words of Homer as he describes Odysseus’s journey through Hades.

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