to the Erinyes

This is part of an ongoing series of poems dedicated to the deities of the decans, specifically related to calling upon their help for health and healing. The Erinyes, or Furies, are the spirits of retribution. As the deities associated with Libra I, they are associated with the health and well-being of the skin.

To the Erinyes • Libra I (about Sep. 22 – October 2)
illnesses of the skinjasmine incense

Hail, you Erinyes, chthonic fiends, 
who pursue vengeance by flaying the skin:
You harry the reckless and undreeemed, 
the traitor and those harming host and kin. 
The dermis records all our several flaws, 
and it's the canvas the world marks with harm. 
Now, Kindly Ones, put by your ancient laws, 
and make my skin healthy. This sacred charm 
shall empty cyst, drain pimple, calm the nerve, 
slough shingles, absorb blisters, cool down rash; 
Thus my skin's moisture and health you'll preserve, 
and speed the closure of puncture and gash. 
While this verse remains, may this rhyme commend 
praise to your names, and our skin-health defend.

Several ancient priesthoods were staffed as much by doctors and therapists as religious professionals. Their ‘placebos’ insofar as they had them, were often talismans or prayers to the deities that watched over the health and well-being, not just of the body, but of its several distinct parts. When patients appeared in the temples with troubles associated with specific body parts, the priesthoods would treat with the herbal preparations and other therapies they had available; and an amulet or talisman would be given to the patient as well, in order to curry favor with the god who brought on the affliction — and to help the patient believe in the success of the cure. Then as now, peoples’ mental states has a lot to do with the success of the healing regimen!

Libra I was associated with the skin; Libra II with the kidneys; and Libra III with the lower back, the buttocks, and the hips. I like the association of Libra I with the skin. The instruments and weapons of the Furies (they were in traditional sources depicted as three sisters) were the flail, scourge or flogger or whip, and the dagger — harriers and harassers of skin and flesh. This prayer thus asks their help in closing up wounds, disease and illness, and clearing the skin of blemishes, in the same way that their weapons would wound it.

Reading this poem aloud is not an adequate or appropriate substitute for the attentions of a qualified primary care physician or a certified dermatologist.

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