Learn about Circe: witch of aeaea

Circe, the Witch of Aeaea

In Greek mythology, Circe is the daughter of Sun god Helios and oceanic nymph Perse. Furthermore, she is the granddaughter of titans thanks to Helios, cousin of Zeus and niece to Selene and Eos.

Circe is quick to dawn upon the fact that she is different in every way possible from her siblings, down to her powers of witchcraft. She is noted to not have the beauty or soothing voice of a nymph. Instead, she is short with the voice of a squawking bird. The word Circe in Latin translates into “bird”. Regardless, Circe cannot relate to the powerfulness of her father or the cunning character of her mother.

The sorceress discovers her powers in the mortal land after she travels there to find companionship. Here, away from the nobility of gods, goddesses, nymphs and titans in her family's lineage is Circe able to ignore her shortcomings. Her witchcraft has the ability to turn others into monsters and challenge the gods. As a result, Zeus, god of gods, is threatened and exiles Circe to the island of Aeaea. 

Here on Aeaea, Circe is able to cultivate her powers. During her time here, Circe comes across other famous figures in Greek history including the Minotaur, father and son duo Daedaelus and Icarus, the priestess of Hecate named Medea and, as cited in Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus. 

In the words of late classical Greek writers, Circe is responsible for turning the sea nymph Scylla into the sea monster. This was supposedly done out of Circe’s jealousy of Scylla who was her rival prior to the transfiguration.

Most famously is her involvement with Greek hero Odysseus. After traveling back from the Trojan War, Odysseus and his remaining men have a long and difficult journey home. They find themselves on the island of Aeaea where they become acquainted with the witch in a form changing manner. Circe had transformed the men into swine after seducing them but Odysseus was spared through Hermes' guidance and demanded she change them back. 

After this ordeal, Circe finds company in Odysseus for an entire year before he departs. Through their union, they become parents to three sons, Argius, Latinus and Telegonus.  However, when Odysseus leaves there is word by the Fates that one of the sons would kill their father. Odysseus had accepted that it would be his son Telechomonus, not the young Telegonus who he had never met.

All in all, the sorceress is then left with deciding her identity despite being disliked by both gods and men. She can find classification of other “problematic” women in Greek Mythology, though she showed extreme strength and resilience as a woman in a realm of men. 


Encyclopedia Britannica. Circe. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Circe-Greek-mythology

Madeline Miller. Circe. http://madelinemiller.com/circe/

Smyth, Katherine. Classical Wisdom. Circe: Justice for the Witch. 30 Sept 2019. https://classicalwisdom.com/mythology/monsters/circe-justice-for-the-witch/
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