Leo M.R. asks:

I’ve a couple of questions about Cassandra, the Trojan princess/seer:

1) Were the conditions of her curse known to other people? I assume not – otherwise it’d defeat the purpose of the whole ‘will never be believed’ thing – but you never know.

2) How *did* her prophesizing work, anyway? Was it involuntary like she’d get pseudo-possessed à la Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter (which I imagine contributed to her madwoman status)? Or did she actively divined like she had to read the movement of birds or something (in which case, couldn’t she have just… *not*?)?

So, part of Cassandra’s deal is that, although we think of her as a character from the Trojan War, which we associate with the Homeric epics, the major surviving texts where she actually does anything are all tragedies (in fact, Cassandra is such a minor character in the Iliad that I don’t think Homer ever mentions her gift/curse of prophecy – it might even have been a later addition to the myth, although of course I can’t prove that). And Greek tragedies are all about mortals rushing headlong into terrible fates that they could easily have avoided if only things had gone a little bit differently. I think we’ve gotta see Cassandra’s prophecies as the same class of Thing as, like, Oedipus’ prophecy about killing his father and marrying his mother: even when you know it’s coming, you’re powerless to stop it, because that’s just the kind of thing Fate does to mortals who know the future.

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