A catalogue of Cassandras

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Cassandra praying in a temple, Lille, Bibliothèque Municipale, 391 (c 1460 AD)

Do you remember Cassandra, the prophetess of the ancient sad countenance who possessed the gift of true prophecy but could never be believed? She was reportedly murdered by Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra along with her husband, but the truth is that she’s still alive. The rumour has it that she married the boy who cried wolf and that their powers, as well as their curse, increased twofold.

Cassandra is certainly not dead. Every crisis has a Cassandra, every impending disaster calls for a Cassandra, or rather Cassandra calls out to us, who fail to acknowledge her gift and our own incredulity. She is a post-factual figure, honoured after the fact, when it matters least, after the event consumes itself. Her prophecy bears its own destruction but also points to our own, to our inability to learn from our mistakes, to close the vicious circle and jump onto a different orbit.

As far as I know, nobody has ever attempted to track Cassandra through the centuries, to outline the meanderings of this wandering Greek priestess, and classify her failures. For she always fails. Hers is the voice of the one who whispers: ‘I told you so’. She’s the one who doesn’t shout anymore because all she did was shout but you didn’t listen anyway. Now she gloats over her proud ruin seeing that the greatest of powers is always misunderstood. That the future is always closed onto itself, and that our ears are tuned for the present. A present blind to the lessons of the past and deaf to the warnings of the future.

 

 

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