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Alcyon and Ceyx - Legedary Love Stories
144    Dibyendu Banerjee    10/04/2022

In Greek mythology, Ceyx, the son of Lucifer, the morning star and his partner Philonis, was married to Alcyone or Halcyone, the beautiful daughter of Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind and either Enarete or Aegiale. Some maintain that Ceyx founded the city of Trachis in Thessaly and became the king of the city state. He was a kindhearted and hospitable king, who gave refuge to Peleus after he was exiled from Aegina and also gave sanctuary to the descendants of Heracles, when they were being pursued by Eurstheus, the King of Mycenae. Nevertheless, Ceyx and Alcyone were happily married and were admired by gods and mortals alike for their unique physical beauty, as well as the profound love they had for each other.

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The loving pair often playfully called one another Zeus and Hera, which earned the wrath of the King of the gods, who considered it an audacity. However, he did not take any immediate action to punish the mortal couple who dared to identify themselves as gods, but waited patiently for the right moment.

alcyon and ceyx

However, Ceyx was deeply worried and troubled with anxiety, since his brother, Daedalion had been transformed into a hawk by Apollo, while he attempted to cast himself off Mount Parnassus, following the death of his daughter. Ultimately, he decided to consult the oracle of Delphi and the priestess Pythia, who was widely famed throughout the ancient world for divining the future and was consulted before all major decisions. Although he had the option to make the trip by land, it would have been a perilous journey, as the infamous Phorbas, leader of the Phlegyans, had made Delphi inaccessible by land. He, therefore, decided to take the sea route and informed Alcyone all about it. 

However, the prospect of the imminent journey of Ceyx made Alcyone apprehensive and immediately, she felt a chill deep in her marrow, her face grew pale and her rosy cheeks became doused in flowing tears.

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She reminded and warned her loving husband of the danger from the fury of the winds, which even her father, the god of the winds, often found difficult to control: Nothing is strong enough to stop the roaring winds, once they are released and sway over the sea. They are formidable and every country, every ocean is exposed to them. They can create havoc, as they vex the clouds in the sky and create the red lightning flashes from their fierce collisions.  When despite her best efforts, Alcyone failed to stop Ceyx from his intended journey, she desperately pleaded to take her along with him. Nevertheless, Ceyx had no option, but to reject her proposal, as he did not want to put his beloved in peril. But he tried his best to console her and assured of returning to her arms before the moon would complete its circle twice. Alcyone could do nothing more, but bid adieu to her husband with a heavy heart and follow with wet eyes the fleeting ship carrying away her husband.

alcyon and ceyx

Zeus, the King of the gods, who was patiently waiting for the right moment to punish the couple for their sacrilege, took the opportunity and launched a massive thunderbolt that created a furious hurricane engulfing the ship carrying Ceyx.    Within no time, the sails became soaked with spray, waves filled the hollow hull of the ship, the mast and the rudder were shattered and the ship started to sink.

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While most of the crew met their fate with the ship, driven down by the turbulent waves, the rest clung to the broken pieces of the wreck in a desperate attempt to save their lives. Although Ceyx held himself on to a fragment of the wreck, he knew that his end was near and before he got drowned, he prayed to the gods, especially Hera, to allow his body to be washed ashore Trachis and his beloved wife.

alcyon and ceyx
Halcyone on the shore, by Herbert James Draper

The lovely Alcyone had no idea about the death of her husband and every day while she moved around the shore, expecting to see the mast of the inbound ship carrying her husband, she continually prayed to the gods for his safety. Although she piously offered incense to all the gods, she worshipped mostly in Juno’s temple, praying for safety for a man who was no more. Hera, the queen of the gods, could not take it anymore and could not bear the appeals for one who was dead. She felt intense pain for the tragic end of Ceyx and sent Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, to Hypnos, the god of sleep and comforter of the afflicted, to assign him the mission of gently informing Alcyone about the unfortunate death of her husband. Hypnos, an expert in forming apparitions, appeared to Alcyone in her dream in the form of Ceyx and revealed to her the tragic circumstances concerning the shipwreck and his eventual death.

alcyon and ceyx
Alkyone looking desperately for her husband

Alcyone woke up with a shudder and immediately ran to the shore like a woman in a trance, where she found the body of the man whom she loved more than her life.  The lifeless body of Ceyx made her stunned and deep inside her heart, she could feel that it would be impossible for her to continue living without him. In deep frustration, she threw herself into the sea and got drowned, determined to join her husband in the land of the dead.

alcyon and ceyx

However, the tragic fate of the loving couple deeply affected the gods on the Olympus and to mend his harsh treatment, Zeus transformed them into a pair of Halcyon birds or Kingfisher. Interestingly, in the Greek language, Halcyon means kingfisher and while Alcyon gave her name to the halcyon birds, the phrase Halcyon Days owes its origin to the legendary tale of Alcyon and Ceyx. According to the legend, Aeolus, the father of Alcyone, calms down the winds and the waves for two weeks every January, so that Alcyone, in the form of a kingfisher bird, can make her nest on the beach and lay her eggs without any hazard. Thus, the term halcyon days came to signify a period of great peace and tranquillity.

alcyon and ceyx
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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