Moly (herb)

Moly (Greek: μῶλυ) is a magic herb mentioned in book 10 of Homer's Odyssey.[1]

In the story, Hermes gave this herb to Odysseus to protect him from Circe's magic when he went to her home to rescue his friends.[2] These friends came together with him from the island Aiolos after they escaped from the Cyclops. "The plant 'moly' of which Homer speaks; this plant had, it is said, grown from the blood of the Gigante killed in the isle of Kirke; it has a white flower; the ally of Kirke who killed the Gigante was Helios (the Sun); the combat was hard (Greek malos) from which the name of this plant".[3] Homer also describes Moly by saying "The root was black, while the flower was as white as milk; the gods call it Moly, Dangerous for a mortal man to pluck from the soil, but not for the deathless gods. All lies within their power".[4]

There has been much controversy as to the identification. Philippe Champault decides in favour of the Peganum harmala (of the order Rutaceae),[5] the Syrian or African rue (Greek πἠγανον), from the husks of which the vegetable alkaloid harmaline (C13H14N2O) is extracted. The flowers are white with green stripes. Victor Bérard relying partly on a Semitic root, [6] prefers the Atriplex halimus (atriplex, a Latin form of Greek ἀτράφαξυς, and ἅλιμος, marine), order Chenopodiaceae, a herb or low shrub common on the south European coasts. These identifications are noticed by R. M. Henry,[7] who illustrates the Homeric account by passages in the Paris and Leiden magical papyri, and argues that moly is probably a magical name, derived perhaps from Phoenician or Egyptian sources, for a plant which cannot be certainly identified. He shows that the "difficulty of pulling up" the plant is not a merely physical one, but rather connected with the peculiar powers claimed by magicians.[7] In Tennyson's Lotus Eaters the moly is coupled with the amaranth ("propt on beds of amaranth and moly").[2]

Notes

  1. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 681 cites: Homer, Odyssey, x. 302-306
  2. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 681.
  3. ^ HELIUS : Greek Titan god of the sun, http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Helios.html 
  4. ^ Homer & Butler 1898, Book X.
  5. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 681 cites: Phéniciens et Grecs en Italie d'après l'Odyssée (1906), pp. 504 seq.
  6. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 681 cites: Victor Bérard Les Phéniciens et l'Odyssee, ii. 288 seq.
  7. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 681 cites: R. M. Henry Class. Rev. (Dec. 1906), p. 434.

References

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  • moly — moly1 [mō′lē] n. [L < Gr mōly] 1. Class. Myth. an herb of magic powers, as, in Homer s Odyssey, that given to Odysseus to protect him from Circe s incantation 2. a wild, garliclike European plant (Allium moly) of the lily family moly2 [mäl′ē]… …   English World dictionary

  • Moly — Mo ly, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?.] 1. A fabulous herb of occult power, having a black root and white blossoms, said by Homer to have been given by Hermes to Ulysses to counteract the spells of Circe. Milton. [1913 Webster] 2. (Bot.) A kind of garlic… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • moly — (n.) 1570s, fabulous magical herb with white flowers and black root, given by Hermes to Odysseus as protection against Circe s sorcery, of unknown origin …   Etymology dictionary

  • moly — noun /ˈməʊli/ a) A magic herb or plant used by to overcome . It excels Homers moly, cures this, falling sickness, and almost all other infirmities. b) Any plant associated with the mythological moly, especially the European allium, Allium moly.… …   Wiktionary

  • moly — moly1 /moh lee/, n., pl. molies. Class. Myth. an herb given to Odysseus by Hermes to counteract the spells of Circe. [ < L moly < Gk môly] moly2 /mol ee/, n. Informal. molybdenum. [by shortening] * * * …   Universalium

  • moly — noun Etymology: Latin, from Greek mōly Date: 1567 a mythical herb with a black root, white blossoms, and magical powers …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • moly — [ məʊli] noun 1》 a plant related to the onions, with small yellow flowers. [Allium moly.] 2》 a mythical magic herb with white flowers and black roots. Origin C16: via L. from Gk mōlu …   English new terms dictionary

  • moly — n. (pl. ies) 1 an alliaceous plant, Allium moly, with small yellow flowers. 2 a mythical herb with white flowers and black roots, endowed with magic properties. Etymology: L f. Gk molu …   Useful english dictionary

  • Allium Moly — Moly Mo ly, n. [L., fr. Gr. ?.] 1. A fabulous herb of occult power, having a black root and white blossoms, said by Homer to have been given by Hermes to Ulysses to counteract the spells of Circe. Milton. [1913 Webster] 2. (Bot.) A kind of garlic …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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