Philemon and Baucis’ snake

(or Why you should always tend your household guardian)

Agathodaimon - Casa Del Centenario, Pompeii

Agathodaimon – Casa Del Centenario, Pompeii

Sitting there in the humble abode of the one couple in the whole village that would take them in were two strange travelers. The owners of the decrepit house bustled around outside trying to put together enough food to feed four.

One sat there rumbling, muttering about inhospitality and what ifs. “There will be consequences! We can’t have this type of attitude towards those in need.”

“What are you going to do?” chuckled the other. “Wipe out the whole valley?”

“EXACTLY!” the first one thundered, slamming down his drink onto the unstable table. “A perfect punishment. Nip this in the bud, right now!”

Just then a small snake that was hiding in the corner slithered forward. As it got closer to the strangers, its appearance changed. It became larger and more colorful, so colorful that it looked like a rainbow.

“Excuse me Zeus-Anax. May I interrupt your plans?”

“Certainly young phulakes*.  What have you to say about this village?”

“Oh Great Agathos Daimon I stand before you to report about this house. Of the village I know little because I am quite content here and so rarely stray abroad. The master and mistress of this house are quite kind and generous despite their low means. I get milk and honey and the occasional bit of fruit. In return I keep the rodents and insects out of their cupboard. They are the first to help a neighbor or a traveler. The love they bear for each other is a fine example of what love is all about. So I ask, that whatever you plan, these two be spared.”

“I will take your information into careful consideration. Thank you phulakes.”

The large snake bobbed its head in respect and then returned to its original shape as it made its way to the pantry.

“Well,” said the second traveler, “there you have it. Instead of destroying the whole valley, leave this one house. Make it a shrine to us and make them,” gesturing towards the couple outside, “our priests.”

“You are good for something Hermes, no matter what Apollo says about you.  It will be done,” stated Zeus emphatically.

Hermes grinned and refilled his father’s cup just as Philemon and Baucis reenter the hut to attend to their guests.

*Guardian or watcher

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