The White Goddess – Leucothea

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Leucothea – the White Goddess – oil on canvas 60x60cm

Here is painting 15/100 for 2013.  The story of Leucothea is a very interesting one.  She was once a mortal woman named Ino, sister of Semele who became a lover of Zeus.  Semele died when Zeus revealed his true nature to her, (at Hera’s hidden instigation, but that’s another story).  The baby Semele was carrying, who was to become the god Dionysus, was saved by Zeus, who completed the infant’s gestation by sewing him up in his thigh.  The baby was given to Ino to raise, but Hera was still on the case and sent Ino’s husband into a murderous rage.  Ino’s husband killed their elder son and Ino fled with her younger child, leaping off a cliff into the sea.  There she became Leucothea, a sea goddess, who aided sailors in times of distress.  She saved Odysseus after Poseidon had destroyed his raft by wrapping him in her bouyant white shawl.

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2 Replies to “The White Goddess – Leucothea”

  1. Your depiction of Leucothea is very original and authentic. She was certainly a beautiful woman (Homer famously describes her as having “lovely ankles”), happy and at ease in the depths of her aqueous element. She exudes a calm self-confidence, and espouses a zen-like philosophy. She doesn’t rescue Odysseus in any conventional sense. Rather, she gives him the counterintuitive advice that to live, he must rid himself of the gifts of his erstwhile-lover Calypso, both the remnant of the well-built ship that is now his lifebuoy and his new, sturdy suit of clothes, and throw himself naked upon the very waves that threaten to kill him. Leucothea offers him only her diaphanous veil, assuring him it has unspecified immortal powers. It is her only raiment, we presume, as she insists that when he reaches land, he shall toss her veil back upon the surf. When he does so, Homer says that she receives it straight into her hand.

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