Monday, November 11, 2013


Yesterday I was reading a short booklet that accompanies a CD of ancient Roman music. I came across the word iynx. I was puzzled by this word and so began my day’s search. The original Iynx was a nymph who made magic love potions. She passed one of these potions on to Zeus who then fell in love with Io (what an old story that one is). Instead of Zeus being punished for his infidelity, Iynx was turned by a furious Hera into a bird: the wryneck for which iynx is the Greek word. (I wrote a poem about Io in my book, Cow.)

I then found out that the original invention was attributed to Aphrodite who attached a wryneck to a small wheel. 

Aphrodite gave this to Jason which enabled him to seduce Medea. Now Medea is no fool when it comes to magical tricks and potion, so this has to have been a powerful invention by Aphrodite.

When the wryneck is attached to the wheel, and it flaps its wings, the wheel begins to spin. The resulting sound is a breathy noise as the wheel winds up, unwinds and rewinds.

So we have the musical instruments, a strange love trick that involves attaching a bird in a rather horrible way to a loop of string. Then there’s the word itself which Steve Moore thinks is related to the word jinx.

I now had a linguistic thread to follow. Steve Moore says that ‘iynx’ would be pronounced like ‘yunx’ and from this comes ‘jinx’. This ‘yunx’ reminded me of the Sanskrit root word √yug. It’s the same root in fact as yoke and yoga. It is also the word used for marriage. It’s not a big leap to connect the yoking of the bird with the yoking of Medea in marriage.

There it was, the perfect jinx for Medea. Attach the bird to the spinning wheel in marriage. The ultimate jinx of a woman’s life in a heavily patriarchal society.

Medea, of course, took her revenge. But that’s another story for later.


that poor iynx was tortured
yoked to a four-spoked wheel
caught in eternal flight
her wings in mad rush of breath

a lure for Medea
by unscrupulous Jason
she catches her breath on the bird’s wings
is caught yoked in marriage

a Jason jinx
the original fall
they fell one after the other
Tiamat Medea Eve

Synaulia: La Musica dell’Antica Roma: Volume 1: Strumenti a fiato. Amiata Records.

Moore, Steve. The Magic of Jinxing.

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