The women of Lemnos

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The “women of Lemnos” illustrate the quest for “exotic spiritual forms” in lieu of an aspiration to transform oneself

The first episode which the seeker is faced with is illustrated by the episode of the women of Lemnos.

The Argonauts arrived at the abode of the Sintians on the island of Lemnos where the entire male population had been massacred.

Since the women of this island had long neglected to honour Aphrodite the latter set their husbands against them and their husbands rejected them. (According to Apollodorus, the women emitted a nauseating odour caused by the goddess.) On the other hand, their husbands felt a violent love for the captive maids brought from their pillage of Thrace on the coast opposite to Lemnos, and they bore them children. And so “while they treated their lawful children with contempt an obscure race of bastards was rising.”

The heroes arrived a year after the jealous and furious wives had not only slain their husbands and their mistresses but also all of the male inhabitants, including children and old men. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas who was ruling over the country, placing him in a chest that she left to drift on the sea.

“The labours of Athena” were now incumbent upon the women. Since they feared that the Thracians would come they were wary of the arrival of the Argonauts and streamed down toward them carrying arms, and according to Sophocles a battle did take place.

But their apprehension was soon dissipated and the Argonauts united with the Lemnian women under the influence of Aphrodite “in order that Lemnos would regain its integrity”. The Argonauts remained on the island for an entire year and Jason resided at the palace of Hypsipyle who bore him his son Euenos.

They enjoyed heir stay on the island so much that it took Heracles’ firm admonition to persuade them to depart. Thus they took to the sea again and “in the evening by the injunctions of Orpheus they stopped at the island of Electra, daughter of Atlas, so that by surprising initiations they might learn the secret rites that would permit them to sail over the sea that freezes with fear”. Apollonius further states: “Of these I will make no further mention; but I bid farewell to the island itself and the indwelling deities to whom belong those mysteries about which we are not permitted to sing.” (Argonautica, Book 1, Verse 910-921).

This story unfolds on the island of Lemnos where Hephaestus was flung down by Zeus from atop Mount Olympus during one of the quarrels between him and his wife Hera as he could not bear that Hephaestus had taken the side of his mother. According to another tradition Hera found him so ugly when he was born that she flung him down herself.

Hephaestus is the creator god of forms, mainly spiritual forms, while his brother Ares is their destructor. But these forms are imperfect since in our times they stand on only one of the two pillars of the mind, the reasoning logical mind, in accordance with the cosmic cycle of the mind. But Hera, a symbol of the highest consciousness could accept only perfect forms despite being the one who had created Hephaestus and so she rejected him.

Lemnos is thus a symbol of a necessary union of polarities.

The seeker who embarks on the quest begins by rejecting the spiritual goals formulated in the forms of his culture, his “legitimate spouses”. According to some, “they smelled badly” because they were in the process of decaying being no longer stirred by the primary inspiration. They had “stiffened” because they had “neglected” the eternal adaptation to the movement of becoming necessary for the expression of love, which is  issued from evolution of union (Aphrodite daughter of Dione).

However the new spiritual forms and respective goals which the seeker discovers during his quest and unduly claims as his own (the young maids who were brought from their pillage of Thrace) charm him more than the forms and religions of his own culture.

All new seekers in fact have a tendency to reject the spiritual forms of their own culture and raise foreign forms on a pedestal but they often retain from them only what suits their ego and its need for the new, mysterious and exotic. The seeker creates his own “mixture” taking here and there the bits of truth and forms that suit him (a bastard race was rising).

Only the impetuosity present at the beginning of the quest survives (Thoas is aged) and attempts to go through the highest doors (Hypsipyle) throughout all these experiences.

But the spiritual forms of his own culture continue to have a strong influence on the seeker since they are rooted in the subconscient. (Some masters also contend that they are influences from the invisible world who keep the believers under their laws). And so the women of Lemnos finally iron out all these cravings for the exotic before their union with the Argonauts, the old spiritual goals calling for enrichment and renewal by the new forces.

According to Sophocles the battle that set the women of Lemnos up against the Argonauts most likely corresponds to the struggle that the seeker must engage in to free himself from the “dead beliefs” that confine him before new ones can impregnate his quest.

Only a strong determination and the qualities represented by the Argonauts allow one to overcome these stages and enter a new one which is more about transforming oneself than about changing from one to another spiritual tradition.


Despite their enjoyable stay at the island of Lemnos the Argonauts had to leave the island to pursue their journey on the foundation of old goals freshly renewed.

Through the union of the greatest forces of each current – Jason and Hypsipyle – Euenos, “good evolution”, was created during this long stay.

According to Pindar celebratory games were played in honour of the men killed by the women or in honour of Thoas, which shows that the quests for other spiritual forms were not pointless as they helped to expand consciousness.

Apollonius alone mentions the halt at the island of the Atlantide Electra, “the bright and pure island”, a place conducive to receiving psychic lightning flashes of truth. Electra is associated with the word ηλεκτρον “amber” and also with a precious metal made from 4/5 gold and 1/5 silver which was dedicated to Apollo. Electra is one of the Pleiades, daughter of Atlas, who corresponds to the illumined mind plane.

There the Argonauts received “astonishing initiations” to undertake the certain dangers of the quest that would bring them to “sail over the chilling sea“. At the beginning of this chapter we have mentioned some of these “surprising initiations” such as “invisible protections”, “encounters”, “accelerated confrontations” and “recovery” of past knowledge retrieved by the seeker by means of theoretical and practical lessons in esoteric and occult fields through which he regains knowledge which seems to him obvious.

It is difficult to be conclusive on the nature of lessons imparted in ancient Greece to seekers of the mysteries but it can be assumed that they were closely related to the legacy of Ancient Egypt and covered all domains of the evolution of consciousness mentioned in this work as well as immense occult knowledge which has mostly disappeared.

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