On not being a Cassandra

Cassandra must surely be one of the most pitiable figures in Classical mythology.

Condemned by Apollo to foresee the destruction of her city but never to be heeded by the people she tried to warn.

I think I have, at times, played the role of Cassandra myself. It is an easy archetype to fall into, especially for cerebral information hoarders like me.

My prognostications about the economy, the environment etc. have fallen on deaf or hostile ears.

But unlike Cassandra, I have learned to keep my mouth shut.

Cassandra’s problem was not that the ancient world was averse to foretelling the future. Oracles such as Delphi did big business and and its gnomic hexameters were highly prized.

What was the difference?

Firstly, detachment. If you must fortell the future, then you want to be as detached as possible from the subject of your prophecy. The Oracle at Delphi could achieve that, Cassandra not.

Secondly, indifference. People sought the Oracle out and her utterances were on a take it or leave it basis. Cassandra forced her dire forecasts on everyone around her. She couldn’t keep quiet.

And finally, Cassandra forced her truths on her hearers in prose. She probably gave the people around her an accurate blow-by-blow account of what was going to happen to them. The Priestess in Delphi was artfully vague.

For the gift of prophecy is a curse without Apollo’s other gift: poetry.