Let’s have another Spinning in Cowgirl Boots shall we?
Its the tale of Hercules and Omphale, the Queen of Lydia. Lydia was a kingdom located in what we today would call Turkey. It was a barbarian nation, at least in the eyes of the sophisticated Greeks. Omphale had become its queen when her husband, the king, messed up big time and angered the gods. He got gored to death by a bull.
Speaking of angering the gods, Hercules did that a lot. Being half-god and stronger than any mortal man was a mixed blessing. When Hercules lost his temper, or got drunk, or was driven mad by big mean Hera (sounds like an excuse to me), people died. People like his own wife and sons.
And Hercules always felt really bad about it afterwards. What Hollywood today might use as source material for “the adventures of Hercules” was actually “the punishments of Hercules”. Those 12 labors he performed? That was atonement for having murdered his family.
You would think he would have learned his lesson and stopped killing people but a) that would be boring and Greek story tellers need stories to tell and b) Hercules was kind of a dim bulb. So he goes on a accidentally murders Iphitus who was a king’s son and only trying to talk Hercules out of declaring war on his dad. Hercules feels really bad about this and goes to see an Oracle. She won’t help him so Hercules gets mad (seeing a pattern here?) and steals her magical tripod (which was a little stand that people left offerings in) and here comes Apollo. Now Hercules is in really hot water becasue he’s murdered someone AND messed with an Oracle and its decided that he must be sold into slavery for 3 years to atone for all this idiocy.
He ends up sold to Omphale, the barbarian queen. She doesn’t beat him or mistreat him or anything. Actually she kind of likes him. They spend the next three years being lovers. But she makes him live as a woman. He has to wear dresses and women’s caps. He has to help her get dressed. And he has to play with yarn.
Yep. One of the punishments of Hercules is to spin yarn and work at Omphale’s loom. Renaissance painters loved to show Hercules sitting around with a spindle and a distaff while Omphale, and sometimes her handmaidens, tease him. Spinning really was women’s work and it was (supposedly) a great humiliation for the ideal of manhood to be doing such things.
Beginner Drop Spindle Kit – $69.10
from: Knit Picks
On the other hand, Hercules didn’t accidentally murder anyone the whole time he was hanging out with Omphale and playing with yarn. This speaks to the therapeutic power of crafting don’t you think?
I think so too. I think Hercules probably had a nice time being a queen’s boy-toy, kicking back with all her ladies, and spinning yarn. I imagine he wasn’t very good at spinning but that probably didn’t bother him much.