Cassandra and #MeToo

Cassandra by Frederick Sandys 1863-1864

It’s all over the news. Men behaving badly. As though that was news. It isn’t, of course. Has never been news. Not since the Old Goddess was replaced by a male God and women were pushed aside to occupy secondary roles — mother, daughter, wife — valued perhaps, but never equal. Disposable. Usable. Commodities and playthings.

Like everything, in one way or another, there is a sacred myth for this. There is an old story told and retold in which the truth is revealed slyly, but powerfully, nonetheless.

So let us consider Cassandra, Seeress, Oracle, doomed never to be believed. In case you’ve forgotten, here is the part of her tale that is pertinent:

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, the king and queen of Troy. Some versions of the myth say that Cassandra and her brother Helenus¬†acquired prophetic power when they, as children, were left overnight in the temple of Apollo Thymbraeus, and in the following morning, serpents were seen licking their ears. Others have said Apollo himself, wishing to gain her love, promised to teach her the prophetic art. But whether she was gifted prophecy in his temple, or by the god Apollo himself, Cassandra, most beautiful of Priam’s daughters, rejected the advances of Apollo and the furious god, in return, cursed her. Forevermore, she would speak truthful prophecy, but no one would ever believe her.

And so it was, throughout her life, and an eventful life it was, and not without sexual violence, Cassandra would stand and speak the truth and no one would listen to her, no one would believe her. As a result, one disaster after another fell upon the people.

So what do I take away from this?

First, I have enormous admiration for a woman (or anyone) who understands they will not be believed, but who chooses to speak the truth regardless. What strength of will, what a core of integrity such a woman must have. It is a hard and lonely place to be… but such a person understands it is the right thing to do, and so does it. Ignore me, she says, deride me and scoff at me, but the truth will still be told.

Second, ignoring truth-speakers is something we do at our peril. Not only does it harm the prophetess, it harms society. It harms us all.

Might there be false prophets/prophetesses? There might. And due process is imperative, but remember the tale of Cassandra. Take the words of the prophetess seriously.

 

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