The Greek goddess Athena, wise and fair, was born from the head of her father, Zeus. This came to pass because of a prophecy that any child born of Metis, goddess of wisdom, and Zeus, first among gods, would grow to be even more powerful than its father. Fearing such a fate, Zeus swallowed Metis before she could bear him a child.
Some time later, Zeus began to suffer pounding headaches, which were remedied only when his head was cleaved open by a mighty ax. Athena leapt forth, fully grown and fully armed, from her father’s head. She became his favorite daughter, a patroness of the arts and a counselor of heroes.
At the time that the great city of Athens was founded, Poseidon, god of the seas, and Athena each coveted the city. To determine which god would be granted the city, the citizens decided that both Poseidon and Athena would give the new city a gift; the giver of the best gift would be awarded the city as his or her own.
Poseidon struck the earth with his triton, causing a salt water spring to appear on the dry land. Although beautiful and impressive, the salty water was of little use to the people. Athena’s gift was more subtle–an olive tree. But although the tree was small and delicate, its gifts were great: shade, olives, oil, wood. The city was given to, and named for, Athena.
The simplest gifts are often the greatest. They may be hidden, they may seem mundane, yet these are the things that nourish our lives and give them meaning.
And speaking of beautiful goddesses born fully grown (and armed) from their father’s head… today is Father’s Day and my sister’s birthday. So this post is both for my father (first among gods, but never afraid of his children’s potential) and my sister (a goddess of fire, passion and creativity if there ever was one). I love you both.