Hello, dear ones. Because this chapter contains SO MUCH PLOT, there aren’t too many Easter eggs for us to play with during the Real-Time Reading. Accordingly, enjoy this short entry and then re-read this phenomenal chapter to catch up with Matthew and Diana before THE WEDDING. You know you want to.
Don’t consider painful what’s good for you,” Matthew muttered.
“I never should have taught you Greek — or English either. Your knowledge of them has caused me no end of trouble,” Philippe replied, unperturbed.
Throughout the early part of the hay barn episode, Matthew and Philippe trade quotes attributed to Euripedes — the great Greek tragedian, author of Medea, The Trojan Women, Heracles, etc. Along with Aeschylus and Sophocles, his plays constitute the foundation of a classical education. Euripedes was famous for both his pragmatic approach to divine characters and his tendency to paint mythic heroes and heroines as ordinary, flawed human beings.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find a solid attribution for two of the three quotes (“Don’t consider painful what’s good for you” and “those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”). They’re both attributed to Euripedes, but there’s nothing like them in the surviving texts of his plays and the internet let me down rather spectacularly when it came to trying to find them in their original form. If we have classicist Clovers with a penchant for Greek tragedy who can help me out, I’d be in their debt.
The last quote — “Neither earth nor ocean produces a creature as savage and monstrous as woman” — comes from the play Hecuba, which tells the tale of the Trojan queen after the end of the war with the Greeks. In the play, Hecuba vows to avenge the murder of her children, Polyxena and Polydorus. She takes her revenge by murdering the children of King Polymestor, who was to protect Polydorus, and by stabbing Polymestor himself in the eyes.
Hecuba, like most of Euripedes other work, is exactly no fun. Described as a story of “unmitigated hopelessness,” the story ends as it began — with anguish, bloodshed, mourning, and cursing the gods who predestined such terrible fates for mortals.
Matthew is in a blood rage. We manjasang are closer to nature than other creatures — pure predators, no matter how many languages we speak or what clothes we wear. This is the wolf in him trying to free himself so that he can kill.
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb writes that the song she has in mind for this moment is Damien Rice’s “Volcano.”
Philippe’s thumb returned to the place where he began, and he made a mirror image of the mark on the other side, finishing between my brows. My witch’s third eye tingled with the cool sensation of vampire blood.
Amazingly, I don’t think we covered the third eye in our RTR of A Discovery of Witches. In some spiritual traditions, the third eye refers to the ajna or brow chakra. Associated with religious visions and out-of-body experiences, the third eye is associated with heightened consciousness and intuition. Should you be interested in experimenting with yours, the White Witch Parlor offers Ten Ways to Activate Your Third Eye. Let me know how it goes, will you?
The next day was the Feast of St. Nicholas, and the sun shone on the snow.
December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, a Turkish saint whose legend transformed over the centuries into the myth of Santa Claus. December 6 marks the beginning of Advent, the period of the Catholic liturgical year leading up to the celebration of Christmas on December 25.
Saint Nicholas (or Nicholas of Bari) is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, pawnbrokers, and students in Europe. He is also the patron saint of Russia and Greece and figures prominently in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. After Nicholas died, Italian merchants stole his bones and moved his relics from Myra, Turkey, to Bari, Italy. He is celebrated and remembered as a bringer of gifts, particularly to children. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is called Sinterklaas — a benevolent saint who fills the shoes of good children with sweets on his feast day. The Dutch brought Sinterklaas to New Amsterdam in the 1700s, where he became Santa Claus. The association between Saint Nicholas and the Christmas holiday did not begin until well into the 19th century.
Saint Nicholas Day celebrations vary widely from country to country. In Holland, people still put out shoes to receive small gifts and candies. In France, people may enjoy a traditional meal of pork, mustard, and apples. In Eastern Europe, Saint Nicholas is often accompanied by the Krampus, a half-man, half-goat figure who punishes children who misbehave.
If you’re curious, the whole down-the-chimney-with-gifts bit comes from Saint Nicholas’s legendary generosity — he allegedly threw money down a chimney in a stocking for a poor man who could not supply the dowry for his three daughters.
The air felt full, tingling with an almost electrical current. I half expected to hear a rumble of thunder, the atmosphere was so thick. Peter Knox had been mentally invasive, and Satu had inflicted great pain at La Pierre, but this witch was different and somehow more dangerous
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb offers “The Wizard” by Bat for Lashes as the soundtrack to this scene.
We’ll pick up with Chapter 12 on 8 December and attend our favorite wedding.
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Cait and Jen