Båvingr – “Offering the Cup”

Any dungeon synth fans here? Though not technically metal, this genre of keyboard-driven medieval ambience substantially overlaps with metal (especially black metal) in terms of fanbase. Naturally, a few dungeon synth projects also treat classical themes, including Båvingr from Oxford, England. This song is part of a 2018 concept album Bycirce about the most iconic sorceress of Homer’s epic universe, and her artistic reception.

That’s right, it’s a veritable work of meta-reception that begins with a song about the poet Homer, our first literary source for Circe. The next song, “Offering the Cup,” takes its title from the 1891 painting “Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses” by John William Waterhouse, which the album uses for its cover artwork. The painting captures the moment when this magical daughter of the sun-god Helios, after already transforming many Odysseus’ men into animals, offers the same poison cup to himself. Little does she know that the Ithacan hero had been warned by the god Hermes of her treachery and was given an antidote to counteract it. Odysseus took the cup, drank, and to Circe’s surprise remained human and drew his sword against her. At this point, Circe was forced to restore his men’s humanity, and possess Odysseus by more conventional means, sexual seduction. Odysseus spent an entire year with his new mistress, forgetful of his own wife Penelope back on Ithaca.

The next track, “Circe Invidiosa” (‘Jealous Circe’) is based on another Waterhouse painting from the following year (1892). This painting, inspired not by Homer but Ovid, depicts Circe pouring poison into the water that would cause Scylla to be changed into a sea-monster, because her lover Glaucus had rejected Circe’s advances. After that is the song “The Sorceress,” the title of Waterhouse’s final painting of Circe, from 1911, which depicts her alone at her loom.

As the first track is dedicated to Homer, so the final track is titled “Waterhouse,” the painter himself. Båvingr unite poetry, music, and visual art to prolong and enrich the immortality of Helios’ mighty daughter.


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