The tale of Ceyx and Alcyone in Greek Mythology embodies the epitome of love, if there is any, and an age-old personification of the phrase “everlasting love.” Ambiguously enough, it’s also a fable that serves as the origin of the term “halcyon days.”
Alcyone was the daughter of the emperor of Aeolia and the god of wind, king Aeolus, and his wife, Aigeale, also known as Enarete. However, it needs to be clarified whether Alcyone’s father was the Aeolus who ruled Aeolia or the one who ruled over Thessaly.
Nonetheless, the latter makes more sense considering the events in the story of Ceyx and Alcyone.
On the other hand, Ceyx was the son of Eosphorus, sometimes referred to as Lucifer or the Morning Star. Although it’s vague if he had a mother, a few records eliminate this obscurity by ascertaining Lucifer’s partner, Philonis, as his mother.
It’s said that Ceyx founded the city of Trachis in Thessaly, crowning him as the first king. Shortly after, he married Alcyone, making her the rightful queen of Trachis.
According to ancient records in scriptures and evidence gathered by mythological researchers, Ceyx was regarded as a significantly hospitable king. He put a roof over Peleus when he was exiled from Aegina. Also, he gave refuge to the followers of Hercules as the demi-god lived in the region of Trachis until his last breath.
Ceyx provided a hideout for all descendants of the God of Strength. At the same time, they were hunted by the King of Mycenae, Eurystheus. Knowing his army wasn’t strong enough to hold off Eurystheus for long, he moved the descendants to Athens as well.
Ceyx And Alcyone Anger The Gods
Everyone in Greek Mythology, including gods and mortals, appreciated the love Ceyx and Alcyone had for each other. Besides, they were also famous for their physical appearance, rivaling the beauty of even a few gods, who harbored silent resentment at the sight of such gifted mortals.
As mentioned above, Ceyx was a caring, patient, and kind-hearted king who loved his wife, Alcyone, dearly. Similarly, Alcyone was a devoted wife whose tales of faithfulness traveled far beyond the world’s edge.
This act of love was seen as nothing more than treason by the king of the gods, Zeus. It angered him to a massive extent because he believed that no mortal should possess the courage to compare themselves to the king of the gods.
The gods who resented the couple for their romance and allure saw this as an opportunity to provoke Zeus further, hoping to see him act on his anger. Although Zeus had already decided to punish Ceyx and Alcyone for their sin, he was waiting for the opportune moment.
Ceyx Loses His Brother
Ceyx’s brother, Dandelion, was well-regarded for his bravery and brutality. Moreover, he had a daughter, Chione, known for her attractiveness and aesthetics. On top of that, her looks were so visually pleasing that they aroused men and gods alike.
Upon failing to resist their animalistic instincts, Apollo, the god of light, and Hermes, the god of speed, deceived and impregnated Chione with twins. The first twin resulted from Hermes’ lust, while the second was Apollo’s misdoing.
Although disgraceful, being on the receiving end of such a deception surprisingly filled Chione with pride. It led her to believe she was the most beautiful woman.
On a specific occasion, she even compared herself to Artemis, the goddess of virginity. She stated that she was prettier out of the two. Unsurprisingly, such a claim angered the goddess, and she shot an arrow through Chione’s tongue, killing her instantly.
After receiving the news of his daughter’s death, Dandelion cried bitterly and refused the consolation his brother, Ceyx, offered him. Additionally, he tried to take his life by jumping into his daughter’s pyre on three separate occasions, but Ceyx rescued him.
During his fourth attempt, Dandelion took a steady run up and jumped off the cliff of Mount Parnassus. Apollo feared that Dandelion’s death would forever stain his conscience. He showed mercy by turning him into a hawk just moments before impact.
Nonetheless, this transformation meant that Ceyx had lost his brother forever, along with his niece. Upon getting riddled with anxiety and paranoia over his brother’s death, Ceyx decided to consult the Delphi Oracles.
Ceyx And Alcyone Have a Conflict
Before setting out on a journey to Claros to find the Delphi Oracles, Ceyx thought of discussing the decision with Alcyone. Nevertheless, call it the obsession and possessiveness that comes along with the kind of love they share. Still, Alcyone wasn’t pleased with Ceyx’s decision.
According to several mythologists, Alcyone drenched herself in tears continuously for the next three days. He wondered how Ceyx could even think about abandoning her for so long for a trip to Claros.
She kept insisting by arguing about the dangers of the sea and the harsh weather conditions that jostle over the deadly waters. Moreover, she begged Ceyx to take her on the journey.
Although gut-wrenched by his wife’s persistence and concern, Ceyx was adamant about seeing the Delphi Oracles. Regardless, he attempted to console Alcyone with numerous comforting words and tried to assure her of his safe return, but it all proved futile.
Ultimately, Alcyone moved and allowed Ceyx to embark on the hazardous journey to Claros. The latter swore on his father’s light that he would be back before two rounds of the moon cycle.
Further on, Ceyx asked for the ship to be brought to the port so that he could board it. Upon seeing the boat fully geared and prepared to set sail, Alcyone couldn’t hold back her tears. Ceyx had to console her again, much to the displeasure of his crew members, who were in a hurry.
Lastly, Ceyx boarded the ship and waved goodbye to his wife as it drifted away from the shore. Although still in tears, Alcyone collected the pieces of her broken heart and gathered the courage to return the gesture.
The Death of Ceyx
During the initial stages of Ceyx’s journey, the seas were kind, with soft winds and waves driving the ship forward.
On the contrary, at night, the waves became harsh, and the breeze that was once gentle started toying with the ship. In addition, the water began to pour into the ship. At the same time, the crewmembers trampled the vessel to fetch any container they could find to throw the water out of the boat. The ship’s captain shouted his lungs out, but it made less than no impact against the storm’s roar.
Soon after, the ship started sinking, and all attempts to save it were in vain. A massive wave came howling towards the boat, hit it, and threw most sailors into the ocean.
Upon seeing such a horrible sight, Ceyx realized his end was near. But strangely enough, he felt happy knowing he didn’t allow his wife to accompany him. Also, in his last moments, Ceyx’s mind ventured home, wishing to see the shores of his kingdom, Trachis.
While wondering what Alcyone would do when she heard of her husband’s passing, an “arc of black water” broke onto his head. He then died. All this while praying to the gods to let his body get washed away to the shores of his home. Simply so that he could be in the arms of Alcyone for one last time.
Alcyone Learns of Ceyx’s Death
Unaware of the end her husband had met, Alcyone waited patiently for Ceyx by counting the days. He had promised his safe return before the completion of two moon cycles. Unfortunately, she even sewed attires for her husband and carried out various preparations for his homecoming.
As his return came closer, Alcyone started praying to the gods for his safety. It offered sacrifices to Hera, the goddess she had offended.
He was unable to stand Alcyone’s condition anymore and knew the fate Ceyx had met. Hera sent her messenger, Iris, to get ahold of Hypnos, the god of sleep.
Hera’s mission encompassed Hypnos sending a character resembling Ceyx to Alcyone’s dream to inform her of her husband’s death.
When Iris went to the Halls of Sleep, he noticed Hypnos in a slumber of his influence. Iris woke him up and informed him of the entire mission, following which Hypnos sent for his son, Morpheus.
To gain the necessary context, you must know that Morpheus was a brilliant craftsman and simulator of human forms. As a result, he was assigned the task of creating a live replica of Ceyx.
Morpheus flew to Trachis and adorned a precise form of Ceyx, consisting of his voice, mannerisms, behavior, and accent. While Alcyone was asleep, he stood beside her bed and entered her dreams to inform her of his (Ceyx’s) demise. Additionally, he requested her to mourn him while he spirals into the void of Tartarus.
Immediately after, Alcyone wakes up, crying frantically, and rushes to the shore only to notice her husband’s washed-up dead body.
The Death of Alcyone And Zeus’ Mercy
After Alcyone discovered Ceyx’s demise via the dream induced by Morpheus, she mourned him for days to come. She also carried out her husband’s last rites to allow him a safe passage into the Underworld.
Feeling empty, bleak, and aware that she couldn’t live the rest of her incomplete life without Ceyx, Alcyone jumped into the ocean. It drowned her to reunite with her husband.
Surprisingly, the gods melted away at such a strong display of love between the couple, as even death could not separate the two. Hence, Zeus felt guilty for asking his brother, Poseidon, the god of the sea, to kill Ceyx as a punishment for comparing their love to his and Hera’s.
So, to make amends, Zeus brought the couple back to life and transformed them into a couple of kingfishers or halcyon birds.
The Legend of The Halcyon Birds
The term “halcyon birds” has been derived from Alcyone’s name, as her sacrifice brought glory to her and Ceyx’s love story.
According to legends, Alcyone’s father, Aeolus, the god of winds, would calm down the breeze for the birds to hunt. Furthermore, he would reduce the wind intensity over the sea for the first couple weeks in January to allow her daughter to nest and lay eggs.
Aeolus is also said to quiet the waves so the couple can catch fish for their little ones.
As a result, those weeks came to be known as the halcyon days.
Either way, another interpretation of the term signifies a period of calm and peace, owing to the atmosphere created by Aeolus.
It’s suggested that before being transformed into a couple of kingfishers, Ceyx and Alcyone conceived a son named Hippasus. He was a prince who served as Hercules’ ally during his war against Oechalia. Eventually, he lost his life in the war.
In a few works of literature, Hercules’s friend and companion, Hylas, is said to be Ceyx and Alcyone’s offspring. Yet, several other more likely parents of Hylas have also been stated.
Undoubtedly, the story of Ceyx and Alcyone is exceptionally touching and exhibits the kind of intimacy that stands firm in facing adversity. After all, the young couple was so fond of each other that neither death nor the gods could separate them.
It’s also essential to note that Alcyone followed her lover, Ceyx, to the Underworld of her own accord. Although surreal, such a display of love is best suited for mythological and story-telling purposes. Hence, the lesson of Ceyx and Alcyone story is rooted in faithfulness, trust, and loyalty that doesn’t surmount rationality.
An enthusiastic dream journaler who has connected sleep-time visions with real-life occurrences in the past and present, Karandeep believes in tapping into the subconscious and demystifying strengths, insecurities, and deep-rooted desires. Besides identifying the interconnectedness of dreams in his personalized dream journal, he continues to study the significance of celestial objects and their relation to mythological tales that keep modern society intrigued about past civilizations.