O My Prophetic Soul

Behold* - here she is at last. Or rather, here they are: Two Cassandras.

Cassandras Cover

Why Two?

Initially because the design was inspired - or perhaps I should say forcefully demanded - by two good friends of mine; both knitters, both named Cassandra. This sock and its duality were intended to be a tribute to them, and to the resemblances and differences between them; but as I began to plan it I found that the more I thought about that duality the better it seemed to fit the original Cassandra and her story.

It’s a story about reversal and reflection; it’s a story about extremes; it’s marked by irony and contradiction and paradox. Cassandra herself, like most women, embodies two opposing principles, or rather any number of pairs of opposing principles; as someone I know is fond of remarking, she is “both sides of every coin.” There’s Cassandra the princess and Cassandra the prophetess; Cassandra the priestess and Cassandra the high-born beauty with a dozen royal (and immortal) suitors at her feet; Cassandra who truly knows the future and Cassandra whose visions of the future can never be believed; Cassandra the clairvoyant and Cassandra the mad; Cassandra the brilliant and Cassandra the universally scorned; Cassandra who has everything and Cassandra who has nothing, because it’s all been taken away from her.

Or to look at it another way… there’s Cassandra before Apollo and there’s Cassandra after Apollo, because her interaction with him is the catalyst for all her reversals.

The gift of prophecy is itself a dubious one, perhaps, but all the versions of the story seem to agree that Apollo’s initial intent was to confer a benefit on Cassandra, as such. Not without strings, however; and when she refused him the sexual favors he had come to expect in return, he turned it against her, depriving her of the power of convincing others, by spitting into her mouth during one final kiss.

(That there were kisses at all appears to support Aeschylus’s contention that in rejecting Apollo’s advances she was renegeing on a promise she had made him. This adds Cassandra the Tease to the many aspects of her personality; still, the curse seems a heavy price to pay, and is an object lesson of sorts about dealing incautiously with gods.)

From that point on everything in her life turns to dust and ashes, all the more bitter in that she foresees every element of it and her warnings go for nothing. She warns her parents against allowing Paris to live; she warns Paris against bringing Helen to Troy; she warns Hector against going into battle; she warns the Trojans against accepting the gift of the great wooden horse; she warns Agamemnon of his impending death, as well as her own, at the hands of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus; all to no avail, and she knows it.

Her own father declares her insane, and who is to say that a destiny like hers would not be enough to drive any woman mad?

Whether the course of events Cassandra foresaw would have been affected at all if her prophecies HAD been believed is a question the present pattern does not presume to answer; it does, however, propose to raise the issue - which goes to the heart of every theory ever mooted about predestination and the human struggle for free-will - and to keep it in play during some part of the knitting of the sock.

Cassandras Tsocks

The sock.

The sock makes heavy use of broad symbolism.

Apollo is represented by the classic laurel wreath;

Laurel Wreath

the laurel berries, in clusters of three, stand in for the three metals that define the Bronze Age - copper, tin, and bronze itself.

Laurel Wreath

Cassandra herself is represented by the poet’s favorite device: her hair. It is golden-brown - an otherwise somewhat improbable blonde - because Homer calls her “golden as the goddess Aphrodite.” (Actually, the production version of the yarn is slightly darker and browner than the prototype shown here; such are the vicissitudes of logistics, sometimes.)

Cassandra before Apollo is elaborately braided and elegantly wrought, after the style of the high-born ladies of her time.

Braids

Braids

After Apollo, after the curse? she appears as the poets and painters have depicted her, crying distractedly from the ramparts, with her hair loose and tangled about her shoulders. Whether you consider that as betokening madness or merely extreme distress, either way the chaos of her hair is a reflection of her mental state after the curse of Apollo.

Dishevelled

This, incidentally, is where all those predictions come into play. The Dishevelled Hair is not quite as random as it looks, but part of its pseudo-random appearance comes from the use of your prophecies, and their results, to determine the sequence in which the elements are worked.

The flap and gusset are worked in pattern - so much so that the decrease line of the gusset fades into the woodwork and becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the tangle.

Dishevelled

As usual, there are optional elements. The patterned flap is one of them, as is the snake on the toe.

Snake

You may want to omit him for comfort and fit; equally you may choose to omit him out of skepticism. He represents the alternate version of the first part of the story - in which Cassandra received the gift of prophecy, not directly from the lips of Apollo himself, but from a serpent in his temple who supposedly licked her ears when she was left there as a child. (I rather like him myself, even though he doesn’t really fit my preferred interpretation of the myth… but then again, who says I have to be entirely consistent? So I’ve put him on one sock and not the other.)

Chief among the optional elements is the orientation of the laurel wreath, or actually the whole head wearing it; I’ve chosen to use it as a symbol of reversal by making it face backward in the second sock. The angle of the cabled i-cord cuff is also affected; on both socks it is taller over the “part” and shorter over the front of the wreath.

So the bow at the base of the wreath

Bow

appears on the heel of one sock and the instep of the other.

There are a few little structural quirks to keep you on your toes, as it were. The wreath and the braided section are worked flat, in biased sections that dovetail at a braided part.

Flat Piece

The flat piece is then joined at its widest point…

Flat Piece

… and the gap filled in to form the ankle.

After which construction goes into the round (except for the flap), the ironic result being that you’re working the most normal part of the sock structure under the most chaotic part of the patterning.

And that is all I can tell you for now about the Two Cassandras. Oh - except for one other thing. They shipped today. All of them. Every. Single. Kit.

Start making some predictions: how long till yours arrives?

 
*and please notice how cleverly I started this post with the letter ‘B’ - yes, all is now well again in keyboard-land.

16 Responses to “O My Prophetic Soul”

  1. Cassandra Says:

    Wow. I’m honored to have had anything at all to do with the inspiration for this.

  2. kutous Says:

    This is absolutely The Most Ultimately Beautiful Sock or Tsock I have ever seen! Thank you sooooooo much!

  3. Karen Says:

    This single sock kit is worth the entire club membership. I know you’re damn good at this; you’re rapidly sliding into the land of the great.

    Many, many thanks,

    Karen

  4. Tan Says:

    Two Cassandras is a winner. Or would that be “are” a winner? And why not Two Cassandras because I have two feet?

  5. Byde Says:

    Wow! I cannot wait to start these babies. My mom majored in Classics, and her birthday is at the end of August. It’s clearly fated that these belong to her ;D

  6. The Boy (tm) Says:

    A Tsock from the ages and for them.

    Two Heralds of Arms Extraordinary, in tabards woven of fine gold filament, should flank your booth at the Sock Summit, lances before them–from each of which hang one of the prototype Cassandra Tsocks.

    And should the relentless pressures of commerce ease sufficiently to permit you to leave the booth–Please, God, no!!!–the Heralds should precede you as you process.

  7. The Boy (tm) Says:

    And as they enter a Hall before you, the Heralds should announce, “As Faberge was to the egg, so is the Tsarina to the sock.”

  8. onafixedincome Says:

    Of course the question is, “Why please God no”? Beyond the obvious “because then she’s not making sales”, there’s also the more-subtle “because then she’s OUT and we’ll never fit in the house again.” :) Sneaky Boy.

    Wow. Sock of Tsocks! Very incredibly neato!

  9. emily10 Says:

    Having just seen the computer Cassandra episode of Red Dwarf (yeah, not exactly a Greek classic…), I’m really excited about this sock! And it’s pretty, really pretty.

  10. Marina Stern Says:

    Wowee zowee, that’s some fancy knittin’! If I knit it as written, can I call myself “advanced”?

  11. Marina Stern Says:

    The package came in today’s mail. Very, very cool.

  12. Cassandra (really!) Says:

    I think I totally need this!

  13. Sharon Rose Says:

    Woman, you are a goddess yourself. Well done!

  14. Melissa Says:

    I’m sure I’ll find the Cassandras in a bin with the rest of my mail when I return from my dual vacation–the Las Vegas wedding of friends of mine, and Sock Summit in Portland (with wandering of Portland in between). I’m hoping to finish Frozen Margarita, or at least get the second sock close to finished, before I get home next Monday.

  15. Erica Says:

    I love how you incorporate so many subtle theme elements into your designs. It’s like deciphering a hieroglyph!

  16. Epiphany « In Her Web She Still Delights Says:

    […] was reading Tsock Tsarina’s post about one of her recent designs, Two Cassandras, and came upon this quote: The gift of prophecy is itself a dubious one, perhaps, […]

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