Saturday 24 December 2022

Saturday 24th December - The Golden Fleece

 So, we have made it to the end of Stabvent alive! Honestly, given the month we have just seen, it's a miracle any of us made it, what with all the duplicity, jealousy, anger and generally stabby-ness we have witnessed.  It's enough to make you want to stay at home with the doors locked.  But I have to get a nut roast from Sainsbury's later, so send your thoughts and prayers to me.  I remember one year when Lily was about 4 years old, we were doing the Christmas food shop stupidly close to the big day and the tannoy announcements kept dropping in and out so all you could hear was 'Could Maureen come to Aisle 4 (crackle, crackle) necessary (crackle, crackle) wet (crackle)' and Lily asked what that all meant.  I told her fighting had broken out and everyone in Aisle 4 was dead and Maureen had to mop it up.  Lily found that far too funny.  Actually, that was probably close to the truth. Anyway, let's crack on with our last tragic death...

The Golden Fleece (1904) Herbert James Draper

I've saved this one for last.  I know I'll get complaints because no-one is being stabbed but I thought a boob-flash might compensate and it is both murder-y and pretty tragic.  Oh and it's gorgeous! So, what on earth is going on here?
Medea (1868) Frederick Sandys

The lady with a boob out is Medea, a favourite with the Pre-Raphaelites as she is the epitome of 'sexy witch' but also brings a bit of Fatal Attraction styling to her second act.  One thing I didn't know about Medea is that she was Circe's niece, which is impressive, but also gives you some idea of the family.  Probably best not to mess with them. In most of the Pre-Raphaelite images of her, she is doing her magic and looking a bit wild.  She was a helpful sorceress that Jason (of Argonaut fame) needed to get the Golden Fleece, so the Goddesses cast a spell on her to make her fall in love with Jason.  Medea agreed to help him if he agreed to marry her. Let's get that fleece!

Jason and Medea (1907) John William Waterhouse

Medea's father, King Aeëtes of Colchis tells Jason he can have the fleece if he performs some frankly impossible tasks. Luckily, Jason has Magical Medea to help!  The first task is to plough a field with a fire-breathing ox.  Medea gives Jason some magic oven gloves or sun cream or something, so that he won't get burnt, hurrah!  The second part is to sow the field with dragon teeth.  Weird, but okay.  However, Medea knows that Ray Harryhausen's skeleton army will rise up and give me nightmares for years...

Yep, still creeps me out. Anyway, helpful Medea tells Jason how to confound the nightmare-fuel stop-motion skeletons and so he defeats them too.  Finally, Jason has to fight and kill the sleepless dragon, so Medea gives the dragon a sleeping draft and Bob's your uncle, they pinch the fleece and sail off together.

Medea (undated) Evelyn De Morgan

Okay, so all is good and no-one, save a few skeleton soldiers, has perished so why is Medea in Stabvent? Well, just running off with Jason was not enough as Medea's father was pretty hacked off to be out-smarted by Jason and his daughter, so was in hot pursuit of the Argo and his golden fleece. Medea needed a way to distract her father for long enough for them to properly escape.  She killed her brother and scattered the bits everywhere so her father would have to stop and gather the lumps of his son back together in order to bury him.  Flipping Nora...

So, here in Draper's fabulous painting we have Jason fannying about with his lovely Gold Fleece, while Medea, boobs a-go-go, is seemingly directing for her brother to be flung overboard. That sea is  a lovely colour. In the background, the sails of her father's fleet are bearing down on them and she needs a distraction.  I love the look on one of the chaps's faces...

'We're not being paid enough for this nonsense...'

Anyway, I though Draper had gone soft on me and Medea was just lobbing her brother over the side of the ship where he'd be fine and Dad would pick him up in a minute anyway. Newspaper reviews of the 1905 Royal Academy exhibition explained that Draper is showing us Medea hurling Absyrtus, her brother, into the sea to drown, but then I noticed this...

I know we're all distracted by Medea's right boob but behind her is a chap with a ruddy big knife!  Given that most of the crew are rowing their little socks off and Jason is busy with his fleece (yes, yes, it's very nice now come and help with the escape!) why is that chap holding his knife and appears to be about to help Medea? Absyrtus is going into the sea, obviously, but maybe not all at once. Either way, escape they did and they lived happily ever after...

Medea about to Murder her Children (1862) Eugene Delacroix

...for about five minutes, then Jason decided he didn't want to be married to the woman who basically enabled him to fulfil his dream of getting the fleece and saved his life umpteen times, plus murdered her own brother to help him escape. Jason dumped Medea to marry Glauce, the daughter of the King of Corinth, where the couple escaped to. Medea was a tad hacked off and sent Glauce a cursed, poisoned dress that stuck to her body, engulfing her in flames. In some versions of the story, she managed to take out the King too, which is pretty impressive. Medea then killed her and Jason's children, which is a bit harsh, refusing to let Jason touch the bodies.  Jason called her the most hated to Gods and Men, but Medea simply stepped on her golden chariot, a present from Helios the Sun God and flew off. She absolutely gets away with it.  There is no retribution at all - I mean, everyone else is a bit dead and she's been double-crossed by the man she loved, but in the end she flies off to Athens, gets married again and lives her best life. Blimey.

Medea gives Jason the Magic Potion (undated) Unknown French Artist

So, what we have learnt today?  If you are getting some pretty serious help from a very powerful sorceress who is demonstrably able to kill her nearest and dearest, do not double-cross her. It will not go well. Medea's murder of her brother, either by drowning or dicing, is about as hard-core as it gets this month because it's done cynically, in order to achieve their escape.  The murder is absolutely nothing to do with the brother, he's done nothing wrong apart from being the son of the man in the boat that's gaining on Medea and Jason. The brother's dead body is merely a distraction, which is awful.  Of all the reasons we have seen to kill people this month - jealous, anger, war, entertainment - distraction seems a terrible cause of death.  The fact that Medea repeatedly walks away from her appalling acts is remarkable, and I have to admit it makes a change that a woman is not punished for transgressing the 'natural' nurturing state of womanhood. She just gets on her flying golden chariot and clears off.  Excellent.

Looking back at Stabvent, I think we have learned quite a bit.  Try not to fall in love with someone your family hates, try not to invade other people's countries as the local people will not like it, try not to be the Queen of Scotland at six days old - all of that is sage advice, I think you will agree.  Most of all, however much your family, friends or other people in Sainsbury's hack you off today and over the festive period, keep your temper.  Laying waste to the frozen aisle because someone else took the last Viennetta is not worth it because, unlike Medea, you do not have a golden chariot.  If you have someone in your life you really quite fancy murdering, then they probably don't need to be in your life, so hold close those that you cherish and make you happy and not-at-all-stabby instead.  Make 2023 the year you cut appalling people out of your life and see how much happier and less murderous you feel by next Blogvent.  If the people who you want to murder are your family, good luck over the next few days and can I recommend audiobooks and chocolate to get you through?

Happy Christmas, my most beloved ones, and I will see you next week somewhen...


  1. What a fabulously stabby story to end with. I have thoroughly enjoyed Stabvent this year, many thanks, Kirsty. It's a much warmer climate where Jason and Medea were, obviously - walking about with one boob out would not be wise over here. I loved (and still do!) the Jason and the Argonauts film and Ray Harryhausen's animations in particular, despite the scary skeletons.
    I shall bear your advice in mind and wish you luck in braving the shops.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
    Best wishes

  2. These have been great. Around 7 years ago at the SW & Isles Pagan Conference I heard the lovely Professor Ronald Hutton give a talk on Medea. He started it, 'I like bad girls'. It was extra impressive as it was a last-minute stand in for a no-show. Wish I had a recording. Thank you so much Kirsty for all the Stabvents and all the beauty, insight and laughs over the years. Happy Christmas. Now I'd better finally get out of my jammies. Love to all. M xxx

  3. Well done on surviving the month and thank you for your company! I hope you had a very happy Christmas indeed.


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