The lonely nymph who waylays Odysseus for eight years on her island of Ogygia. Though the beautiful Calypso offers ease and even immortality, she is in fact selfish, caring only to alleviate her own loneliness. Watch out for self-serving kindness.


Polyphemus, the Cyclops, traps Odysseus and his crew in his cave and eats six men before Odysseus gets him drunk, blinds him with a wooden stake, and escapes with his remaining crew by hiding under sheep. Polyphemus, with his one eye, represents a person with only one point of view. Beware: If you are monofocused and that monofocus fails, you are SOL, just like Polyphemus.

The nymph whose palace on the vowel-heavy isle of Aeaea is defiled by Odysseus’ men. Circe turns the greedy men into pigs. (And then back to men when Odysseus threatens her.) Circe is rather blameless in this exchange, but from the crew’s actions on the island, we should learn not to be greedy pigs.

The Sirens
If Odysseus had not been chained to his ship’s mast, surely he would have jumped overboard toward the Siren’s song describing his heroics in the Trojan War. Keeping with Homer’s track record of rather misogynistic morality (nymphs, sirens, etc. all equal bad news), we should learn from the Sirens not to be overly in love with our past.

The Lotus Eaters
The gentle hippies of the Odyssey. The moral: don’t do drugs. Also, beware distraction of any type.

As Odysseus sails past, Scylla reaches from her cave to pluck away six of his men—one for each of Scylla’s six heads. Scylla represents sudden tragedy, with which we should learn to deal as well as Odysseus.

The whirlpool monster that sucks in O’s ship (though Odysseus clings heroically to a branch until Charybdis closes and the danger is passed). Like the gravitational pull of a black hole, at Charybdis’ outskirts, you might not know you are caught in a deadly current. Beware of getting sucked slowly into things that plan to eat you.

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