Turning Men Into Swine

In Greek mythology, which sorceress was known for turning men into swine?

And the answer: Circe.

The mythological Circe is perhaps best known for her ability to turn men into swine or any other animal of her choice. The daughter of a Titan, Circe was banished to an island for her insurrection and lack of god-like ability. There she learned to perfect spells and enchantments.

As Homer’s Odyssey relates, Circe often used her enchanting abilities to defend herself and her island from the meddling forces of mortals. The story details how Odysseus and his men, exhausted from battle, discover what they think is a desolate island. Far in the distance, they soon spot a plume of chimney smoke. The weary men take their chances, and upon exploration discover scores of powerful beasts -- lions, wolves and the like -- lounging lazily around a small, solitary cabin. The woman inside, Circe, treats Odysseus' men to fine wine and food, which they devour in single gulps. However, with a quick wave of her hand, powerful enchantress Circe quickly turns on her guests and transforms them each into a squealing pig.

Ultimately, clever Odysseus learns of Circe's scheme. With help from the Greek messenger god, Hermes, he demands the restoration of his men and asylum for himself. Impressed by his bravery and cunning, Circe grants him his wishes, and Odysseus' crew remain on the island for a year to come. In fact, in some legends it is said that Circe went on to bear several of Odysseus' children.

The myth of Circe has since been adapted into many new forms. A 2018 novel release titled Circe by Madeline Miller is a popular, fictionalized version of Circe’s life and dealings with humans. Buy it on Amazon here.


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