Kouretes in the House


One group of beings from Greek mythology that I couldn’t recall having read about before but that stuck with me when I read Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods were the Kouretes, warriors and ritual dancers who attended to the infant Zeus. The original Kouretes were said to have sprung from the earth fully grown and in full armor, sometimes said to have been produced by the blood of Ouranos. A major reason that Rhea brought her baby to Crete was that the ritual dancing of the Kouretes, performed in armor and accompanied by drums, was loud enough to drown out the cries of Zeus so his father Kronos couldn’t find and devour him.

Rick Riordan highlights the association with noise by having the Kouretes speak in all capital letters. The Kouretes were the first inhabitants of Crete, and its earliest human residents were their descendants. In addition to being fighters and dancers, the Kouretes were also sometimes seen as metal-workers, healers, and magicians. They are closely associated with the Korybantes, another group of male warrior dancers who lived in Phyrgia and worshipped by goddess Cybele. Also quite possibly related are the nymphs who reared Zeus on milk and honey, and the tiny Dactyls. Often identified as five male and five female spirits, but the number varies somewhat, they are said to have been born when Rhea, in labor with Zeus, dug her fingers into the sides of Mount Ida. They are sometimes seen as representations of human fingers, and are credited as the inventors of metal-working and mathematics. These similar beings are often confused in mythology, but the Kouretes in particular were mostly associated with Crete. Other myths say that they cared for Zeus’s own children Dionysus and Zagreus, so they had a reputation as divine babysitters. There’s also a tradition that they sought out King Minos’ son Glaucus when he disappeared.

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