Circe – Book Review

Imagine living in a world much like ours – full of hatred, evils, war, rape, and fear beyond measure. Now, imagine being immortal in a world of this nature, surrounded by other immortals who thrive off of their pride, along with the praise and fear of those they have deemed beneath them.

This is my impression of the basis of Circe, a fiction book written by Madeline Miller on the Goddess and Nymph of Greek mythology.

Circe, daughter of Helios (Titan of the Sun), had always been an outcast. She looked an sounded nothing like her siblings or parents. Circe was ridiculed for her voice and eyes that didn’t shine as bright as the others. Her own family hated her and could not wait for her to be gone.

Struggling to find her place in the world, young and spurred to action by her tempers, Circe finds herself banished to the island of Aeaea for eternity by the God Zeus for her decisions living on Ithaca in her childhood.

Here, “she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.” [X]

I often do not choose to read fiction novels, preferring self-help books and educational resources. This book, however, was a delight to read; Not only was it entertaining and emotionally captivating, it also held many lessons woven into each experience Circe took us on with her.

First, this book is a reminder to all (men, women, and other alike) that we are powerful forces of nature. Part of our humanity is the ability to be as we are, fully, and to harness our Will into our work. This is where the magic lies, and it is what will carries us in and out of every experience we have in these finite bodies. Our powers can never be taken from us once we are aware of them. Even in the midst of fate itself, we have a choice- Just as Telemachus did in the face of Athena. Calling upon other forces and gods to give us blessings and power may have its place, but it is ultimately what we choose to do with our own Will and the blessings bestowed that holds the most importance and weight. In the book, the immortal beings merely care to have their names glorified. To create heroes that will carry the names of the gods with them into eternity. They crave the weeping and pain of humans, so that they may create altars in their homes to beg for blessings and make offerings to the Olympian Pantheon. This is, essentially, a giving away of power on the part of the human. They surrender their own Will and ability to see things through in hopes that lady luck may shine down upon them and do the work for them. Only, gods may be relentless and unforgiving, do what will make them receive the most glory, rather than doing what is best for those in need.

Before I go further, this is in no way a reflection of my own spiritual beliefs nor what I feel all religions and belief systems reflect. This is simply my interpretation of the book. In this light, it became a powerful lesson of the importance of responsibility, right action, and doing things fairly with courage, a peaceful heart, and willpower to create desired outcomes. 

Second, I learned about the delicacy and preciousness of humanity itself. Circe grew up around immortals and gods, being one herself. Yet, she never held affinity toward eternal life on Earth, nor that of the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus. For an immortal, she was incredibly human, and admired the fragility and life cycles humans must play out. The finite nature of humanity adds depth to the experiences we hold here on Earth, making every moment, every lesson, and every love something to hold dear and be present for.

Lastly, the opinions of others can in no way define us. We ultimately get to choose what kinds of lives we live, regardless of limitations and boundaries that are thrust upon us. No matter what other people tell us we can and cannot do. Circe grew up hearing she was worthless with no real power, ugly and wretched to be around. Yet, she discovered she was more powerful than even the gods through her witchcraft and became a force that was feared.

I am not saying this is a lesson to strike fear into the hearts of those who oppose us, rather it is our responsibility to cultivate patience and dig deep into our own hearts to see what hidden talents and abilities lie within us.

Each one of us are incredibly unique with our own sets of powers waiting to be manifested in varying shapes and forms. Circe found her strength through her witchcraft, working with herbs and spells. Her son, Telegonus, found his power in heroic, virtuous deeds and stories. Telemachus found his power in the simple things, such as herding and wood whittling. His mother, Penelope, loved the loom and would dedicate days to creating beautiful fabrics with it.

The story of Circe is a beautifully written tale that is bound to empower any reader. It is full of love, ugliness, coming of age, tragedy, and happy endings expertly wound around a powerful lesson. The lesson that our lives are incredibly precious, and it is a duty we hold unto ourselves to make the most of each moment. To be present for every situation, good and bad, through pain and sorrow. We are taught that our Will is where our powers truly lie, and in harnessing that Will we may overcome any obstacles that face us, even righting past wrongs. Discovering and embodying our power is how we heal. It is how we heal in the present and how we heal from past burdens and traumas. Once we know our own power, we may utilize it to help others as well and keep ourselves out of harmful situations.

The story of Circe may have been a fantasy, but the lessons are deeply woven into the workings of each of our lives and humanity as a whole. I highly recommend this book to all of the soul seekers, witches, fantasy lovers, and mythology junkies out there, along with anyone else who is interesting in a compelling tale with heavy impact.

Have you read Circe? What were your impressions, and what is your main takeaway from the story? Leave a comment below x

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