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Other names:

Location:  Egypt, Greece

Notes from Hrana

Goddesses & Heroines text

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Hrana's Notes

I painted Sphinx in 1996 for the Goddess Oracle.

from Goddesses and Heroines
  Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]


Sphinx, the "strangler" started her life in Egypt, where the lion-bodied monster had a bearded male head and represented royalty. But in Greece--in a city with the Egyptian name Thebes--the Sphinx became female. She was said to have been a Maenad who grew so wild in her intoxicated worship that she became monstrous: snake, lion, and woman combined.

The guardian of Thebes, she prevented travelers from passing by strangling them if they could not answer a mysterious riddle. (Possibly she descended from the underworld guardian-goddess who, in many cultures, prevented the passage of the living into death's territory.)

"What," the Sphinx would ask, "walked on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?" Finally one traveler, who would become King Oedipus of Thebes, answered her: Human beings, who crawl as children, walk upright as adults, and rely upon canes in age. Her reason for existence having been destroyed, the Sphinx destroyed herself.

Back to TOP Text from Patricia Monaghan's The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines
Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997.   Used by permission of the author.

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