I’ll admit, Poseidon as a sea god isn’t much on my radar. I was born and raised in a desert, so while the ocean was never a present thing in my life. Despite spending many vacations by the sea, and currently living less than an hour from the ocean, Poseidon is not an ocean god to me. He’s the god of horses, his rape of Demeter produced Despoine a goddess with a strong connection. When I rode, it was never with Epona (despite my Celtic family history) it was always with Poseidon. For me the hymn to Poseidon was Xenophons foundations of dressage: controlled energy and movement until the precise moment to release it. In this form, Poseidon still makes an appearance in my practice and I have two horses on my altar.
But if we use the Athenian devotional calendar as a foundation, it doesn’t make sense for me to include Poseidon as my December offering. The Athenians were to a seafaring people, the Acropolis gave the Athenians access to the sea and an advantage over their land-locked competetiors. Their naval supremacy lasted for centuries, and the Battle of Salamis is still taught in military history courses. Athens gets the most rain in December, and floods are at their most likely. To me, this sounds like the emphasis isn’t so much on Poseidon but on his control of water and the sea.
Because the sea was always so far away, it was a deeply inscrutable thing for my childhood and into my adult hood. As a scientist, I know a lot about the sea, more than the average bear. But this doesn’t make it any less mysterious, less the mother of life, or less grief stricken. The sea is Thalassa, and to her I make my offering in December.
Thalassa isn’t one of the more popular sea goddesses, but hear me out. She has the standard mother of the sea and all sea life aspect; and that’s cool. But she has this great sea witch look: a middle aged woman with crab claws as horns, dressed in sea weed, and holding an oar from a sunken ship. YAS QUEEN.
What makes her even better is she’s so salty, pun intended. When a shipwrecked sailor rails stands on a beach and rails at her Thalassa appears and says “Dude, don’t blame me. I didn’t blow your ship to bits. I’m as calm and as firm as the earth; but even the earth is whipped into fury by the wind sometimes.” When the river gods came to complain to Thalassa about they gave her fresh water, and she made it salty; she replied “don’t come near me and you won’t get salty!” When a farmer saw a ship sink into the waves, he scolded the sea calling her the enemy of mankind. To which Thalassa replied “Don’t tell evil stories about me! The winds make me cruel, when there are no winds you’ll find I’m gentler than your dry land.”
Thalassa is a feminist sea goddess. I am what I am, she says. My nature is firm and gentle, she says. The cruelty of the elements, the cruelty of the environment, shapes me into something harder than I am. Thalassa lives in the salt of each woman who is shaped into something harder than she is; no matter how far we are from the shore.
Thalassa I call, with eyes cærulean bright, hid in a veil obscure from human sight;
Great Ocean’s empress, wand’ring thro’ the deep, and pleas’d with gentle gales, the earth to sweep;
Whose blessed waves in swift succession go, and lash the rocky shore with endless flow:
Delighting in the Sea serene to play, in ships exulting and the wat’ry way.
Mother of Aphrodite, and of clouds obscure, great nurse of beasts, and source of fountains pure.
O venerable Goddess, hear my prayer, and make benevolent my life thy care;
Send, blessed queen, to ships a prosperous breeze, and waft them safely o’er the stormy seas.