Sailing: a trusting relationship. Day 5

In my opinion there is nothing worse than the sea at crushing a man, however great his strength may be.

Thus spake Homer in book 8 of the Odyssey.

For the ancient Greeks, there was no place on Earth which escaped the power of the gods. In the Odyssey, even the Cyclopes were caught in a relationship with the gods. The gods-despising Polyphemus was the son of Poseidon and in trouble, he would raise his hands to the sky and call upon the god of the sea.

For the ancients, the sea was sacred in a way which it isn’t for us anymore, except perhaps in a post-Romantic immanent kind of way. To fit a ship and set sail on the open sea wasn’t just a nautical challenge, but a sacred endeavour as well. Offer sacrifices and libations to the gods, consider the dangers, even unto death, was a sacred duty, and one which seafarers never neglected.

Sailing in the Odyssey, this epic poem written by and addressed to the sea, is a way of being, not a means of transport. To be on the sea is to be in nostos mode, to prepare the homecoming, to defy the forces of nature and the will of the gods which control it to reach the end of the journey.

As the archetypal traveller, Ulysses is not a character, but all characters, the memory-bank of a culture for whom the sea is the helix of its DNA.

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