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"Lady Hamilton as Cassandra" from Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, Scene 2"; painting by George Romney (1734-1802)

Cassandra was a princess of Troy, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba; she was also a priestess of Apollo, famous for true prophecies which were never believed. She was beautiful and clever, but thought to be insane, so her parents locked her up under the care of a woman keeper, who was charged to inform King Priam of all her prophetic utterances. In Greek religious mythology, she was offered the gift of prophecy by Apollo, in return for sex or marriage. She accepted agreed-upon terms but did hold up her end of the bargain because she was under a previous oath to remain celibate for life. Since Apollo had already given her the gift, and could not take it back, he added the curse that no one would ever believe her prophecies. In another version of her life-story, it was said that she and her twin brother Helenus, as small children, were left in Apollo's temple overnight; in the morning, serpents were seen licking their ears. They both grew up to be true prophets; her brother was always believed, but Cassandra never was.

Cassandra foresaw that another of her brothers, Paris, would bring about downfall of Troy; at his birth, she dreamed that Queen Hecuba gave birth to a fire from which many serpents issued. Cassandra demanded that Paris be killed. Her dream was interpreted by her half-brother Aesacus, and so the infant was exposed to starvation and the elements. However, he was rescued, raised by a shepherd, and returned to Troy to reclaim his place in the royal family. Cassandra also prophesied that Helen ("the face that launched a thousand ships") would be the cause of the Trojan War; when Paris brought Helen to Troy, Cassandra assaulted her. Helen had in fact been kidnapped from Achaea and her husband Menelaus, and so the Achaeans went to war to reclaim her. Toward the end of the war, they feigned retreat, leaving behind a huge wooden horse. The Trojans brought it into the temple of Athena as a war trophy, despite Cassandra's warning that it was filled with armed men, which it was. After many trials and tribulations, Cassandra foresaw her own death in the house of Agamemnon, who received her as a living war trophy. Learning of Cassandra's arrival, his wife Clytemnestra slew them both.

Cassandra is typically depicted as a woman with fiery red unbound hair, an allusion to the temple serpents which gave her and her brother wisdom, and also to her dream of fire and serpents at the birth of Paris. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who petition the Greek deities within the Pagan and Neo-Pagan traditions on behalf of clients may work with Cassandra when there are pending spiritual and magical issues regarding divination, fortune telling, religious prophecy, or the interpretations of dreams, signs, and omens.


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