Today we have a pair of ladies! Ladies who devour sailors.
First up, we have Charybdis. She is basically…a large whirlpool. How does a whirlpool have a gender? Well, she also appears in some myths as an actual sea monster that swallows a bunch of water and then belches it back up.
She is the offspring of Poseidon and Gaia, niece of Zeus. Greek gods always have the weirdest families. They also have the most intense drama.
Here’s a tidbit I stole from Wikipedia:
“Charybdis aided her father Poseidon in his feud with her paternal uncle Zeus and, as such, helped him engulf lands and islands in water. Zeus, angry over the land she stole from him, captured and chained her to the sea-bed. Charybdis was then cursed by the god into a hideous bladder of a monster, with flippers for arms and legs, and an uncontrollable thirst for the sea. As such, she drank the water from the sea thrice a day to quench it, which created whirlpools. She lingered on a rock with Scylla facing her directly on another rock, making a strait.” (Source)
Which brings us to Scylla. She’s more traditional as far as sea monster forms go. She’s kinda like a mermaid but way weirder. Top half is mostly lady. Bottom half is a kētos tail, which is basically a sea creature tail. Could be a shark. Could be a whale. That part is choose your own adventure, I guess. But wait! There’s more. She also has a set of DOG heads sprouting from her body. Sexy kind of!
An even weirder description goes like this:
“While Scylla was bathing in the sea, the jealous Circe poured a baleful potion into the sea water which caused Scylla to transform into a frightful monster with four eyes and six long snaky necks equipped with grisly heads, each of which contained three rows of sharp shark’s teeth. Her body consisted of 12 tentacle-like legs and a cat’s tail, while six dog’s heads ringed her waist. In this form, she attacked the ships of passing sailors, seizing one of the crew with each of her heads.”
According to the myths, these ladies are situated near a pair of rocks. Scylla is trapped on one and Charybdis has the other. Legend says they are so close that if passing ships moved to dodge one of them, they risked ending up in the clutches of the other.
If they were real, I wonder what their relationship dynamic would be like. Would they share their sailor snacks? Would they like each other or resent one another because they’re stuck in their respective situations? The world may never know. Way too much togetherness if you ask me.
I can imagine them sitting down like the ladies on that old SNL sketch, Coffee Talk, and complaining about the sailors they devoured that day in shrill, Jersey-accented voices.
If you’d like to read more about them, they appear in both the Odyssey and Jason and the Argonauts.