Carys C rosse n
Hera’s cruelest trick was not turning me into a woman, but in giving me beauty. I, Tiresias, always had
an eye for beauty, or what my people considered beautiful. When I was a man, only a man, I loved to
possess it, reach out and grab it, sully its purity and leave it smeared and dirtied. No one remonstrated, or
even looked askance. It was the natural order of things.
When I came across those mating snakes, writhing, entwined, I struck out at them. Why? I ask
because I cannot recall why. Because they were there, I suppose. I was accustomed to meting out blows
without fear of retribution. But my wanton strike aroused Hera’s fury. I knew, when I glimpsed her standing
before me, unearthly eyes glowing like ice under the sun, that her vengeance would be terrible. I didn’t realise
it’s full extent until I came to a still pool and first beheld the fair face and form that were now mine.
The goddess left my reason and intellect untouched, but she might as well have turned me into a
dotard, for that is how I was regarded once I was a woman. A beautiful woman, that is. Good for being
gawped at and pawed and one or two other things. And I soon discovered that my lovely face and limbs were
not mine, not anymore, but were the property of any passing man who took a fancy to me. I shrouded my
luxuriant hair, draped myself in yards of cloth, smeared ash on my face and still they groped and heckled. I
grew to envy the plain women who went about their business almost unmolested.
I acquired a reputation as a shrew for my cutting tongue, my harsh blows. Women can strike as hard
as men, and have fewer vulnerable spots. But such resistance only served the make the hunt more desirable
for the men who loved sport, as a hunter chases the hind that has eluded his hounds for months and years.
I married. It was my only means of defence. I married a kindly, soft-voiced man who never snatched
at me or struck me but who held me close and shared his warmth as we lay together. He stroked my belly as it
swelled and rocked our son when he was born, and my withered heart filled with blood as I watched him.
Seven years passed before I found another pair of mating snakes. This time I took care to give them a
wide berth, and Hera unshackled me. I went home a man in shape that day, my curse ended. It was a dubious
release. I was not a true man any longer, according to the other warriors of my land. What man doesn’t take
his pleasure whenever and wherever he wishes, or refuses to whip a dumb animal? No man, no real man, they
I cared nothing for their taunts. I cared only for the gentle man waiting at home for a wife who would
never return. I went to him, and told him everything. He embraced me and swore he would love me no
matter the form I wore. I laid my head upon his shoulder and wept, and from that day we were not divided.
I am blind now, another little gift from the gods. I spend my days listening to birdsong and
auguring the future from it. People from lands far and near come to me for prophecy. I receive them all, man
and woman and everything between and outside. I cannot see who asks now, and so it matters not who re-
ceives my counsel. They are all as one to me, now.
Except for a man with a gentle voice who, every day, takes my hand to lead me home, where we sleep
entwined, as close and tender as those snakes.