Lair of the Minotaur – “The Wolf”

The Roman poet Ovid is well known for his poetry on erotic themes, including a handbook on how to seduce women that likely got him exiled by the emperor Augustus. However, he is more or less equally famous for his 15-volume epic poem Metamorphoses, a loosely connected anthology of myths from the creation of the universe down through the founding and history of Rome. The poem takes its name from a common element in many of the myths Ovid retells, that they feature some form of change, often of human beings into animals or plants, or gods into animals to seduce mortals. Change is the only truth. Though a Roman writing in Latin, Ovid has ever since been an invaluable source for students of Greek mythology.

One of the first myths that Ovid presents in the Metamorphoses is that of the lightning-wielding king of the gods Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter) and a malicious mortal named Lycaon. Zeus holds a council of the gods and proposes to purge the human race with a great flood, saying that he arrived at this decision after he appeared on earth in human form, in a region of Greece called Arcadia, in order to test the moral worth of humanity. Out of good will, Zeus gave signs to the Arcadians that he was a god in disguise. Their king Lycaon, however, was skeptical, and decided to test the stranger by inviting him into his palace serving him the human flesh of a prisoner for dinner. Zeus, being omniscient, detected this ghastly crime, and punished Lycaon not only for murder and cannibalism but also for violating the laws of hospitality that Zeus characteristically safeguarded. The penalty for Lycaon was to be transformed into a wolf, a punishment that fit the crime, as the king became something more fitting to his true nature, more of a beast than man. But Zeus did not see Lycaon as an exception, but saw the whole human race as like him. “Man is a wolf to man” as the poet Terence had earlier written. So Zeus decided to reboot humanity with a biblical deluge. Only the righteous Pyrrha and Deucalion would survive the flood and start it all over.

Ovid was not the first to relate the myth of Lycaon in his own way, nor the last. The American band Lair of the Minotaur, whose entire lyrical concepts center around the darker side of classical mythology (as suggested by the cover artwork), set the tale of Lycaon to a crushing composition of thrashy, doomy sludge metal. This second track on their 2004 debut “Carnage” tells of Zeus walking the earth and being offered human flesh at Lycaon’s table, whereupon the god ravaged the earth with lightning. However, at no point do they say that Zeus transformed Lycaon into a wolf. Instead, they suggest that “the wolf possessed Lycaon,” that the spirit of the carnivorous animal inhabited the man who kept on killing. He became the origin of the cult of Zeus Lycaeus, which involved rituals of human sacrifice and the lycanthropy of its priests. Lair of the Minotaur, in true Ovidian fashion (see his work “Fasti”) root pagan religious rites in mythical origins. Behold Lycaeon, the original werewolf.

“Zeus walks the Earth as man,
To relate evil deeds,
Firghtful with hiding beasts,
Lycaon tests deity,

Throne of the hostile king,
A shadowed offering,
Knife slits the servant child,
Served as a dish of flesh,

Avenging thunderbolts,
His wrath destroyed all men,
Punish deformity,
The wolf possessed Lycaon,

A lust for butchery,
Pleasure in the pools of blood
He howls at the night he bleeds,

Bring down society,
Slaughter eternity,
Defect obliterate,
Design a sect of hate

Bring forth the blood of nine,
Chanting unholy priests,
At Mount Lycaeus’ peak,
Prepare cannibal feast,

Feel how I pierce your Earth,
Sacrifice mortal dirt,
Revel Arcadia now,
The oxen death will plow,

End time, Rise
New life, spine,
Evil curse, cries
You must die!

Blood of nine,
Sacrifice,
Feed the beast,
Human meat,

Cult of the wolf!

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