The Myth of Halcyone
The mythical story of Halcyone
by Lilian Stoughton Hyde
The Myth of Halcyone
Hera, sitting on her golden throne on Mount Olympus, could look down and see all that happened on the earth. She watched over the fortunes of good women among mortals, and was the special protectress of brides. Her two special birds - the peacock and the cuckoo - might often be seen near her. On the steps of her throne slept her messenger, Iris, always half-awake, and ready to dart down like a bird, to the earth, to the Underworld, or to any other place where Hera might send her.
Iris was the granddaughter of Old Ocean. Her sisters were the Dark Clouds; her bridge was the rainbow, which joined heaven to earth. She had golden wings, and her draperies were as many-colored as her bridge, which was made of the most beautiful flower-tints ever seen.
One of Hera's most faithful worshippers was Halcyone, the wife of King Ceyx of Thessaly. It happened that King Ceyx was obliged to take a distant journey, far away over the seas. One night during his absence a very heavy storm came up, and the winds blew a gale.
Picture of Halcyone
Halcyone, being the daughter of the wind-god, Aeolus, knew well what her brothers, the Winds, could do, and passed the night in great terror. The next day she walked back and forth all day on the shore, longing for tidings of her husband's ship, yet fearing to know what might have happened. She was almost beside herself, and did not know what to do. At last, toward night, she carried wreaths to Hera's temple, and implored help from the goddess.
Hera knew all that had happened during the storm - how the king's ship had been broken to pieces upon the rocks, and how poor King Ceyx was already floating with the seaweed.
But the gods could do wonderful things. At a word from Hera, Iris set her beautiful rainbow bridge in the sky, while her sisters, the Dark Clouds, gathered together behind it. She came swiftly down the bridge to the earth, then flew toward the cave of Somnus, the god of sleep and dreams. She flew low over great fields of scarlet poppies - the poppies that bring sleep - and heard the trickling water of the river Lethe, which had its source within the cave of Somnus. Soon she reached the dark, cool, silent cave, and there lay Somnus, sleeping very soundly, on a great bed heaped high with black feathers. Around the god were dreams of every kind - good dreams and bad ones, beautiful and ugly, true and false. As Iris entered, her coming lighted up the darkness, and the wonderful colors of her garments were reflected to the farthest recess of the cave. She roused Somnus and delivered Hera's message.
That night Somnus sent a dream to Halcyone, - a dream of a wreck at a place some distance down the coast. Early the next morning, Halcyone ran to the place of which she had dreamed. She saw floating beams, and something bright among them - something which shone like the king's crown. Having a sudden longing to go to this spot, she started forward, and immediately felt herself raised on wings and carried out over the tossing waves, for Hera had changed her into a bird with plumage of Iris's own colors. With a loud cry, Halcyone flew to her Ceyx. Just as she lit on the floating beams, the bright crown became a crest of feathers, and the dead king a living bird with plumage like Halcyone's own.