Ceyx, the son of the morning star was the king of the Greek city of Trachis. He was married to Alcyone, whose father Aeolus was the keeper of the winds. The two were very much in love, and though they hated to be apart, Ceyx decided to travel across the sea to consult the Delphic Oracle. Having spent her childhood watching storm clouds and lightning dance about her father's palace, Alcyone was fully aware of the power of the winds. She begged Ceyx not to go, but he refused to listen to her warnings. Seeing that her husband's mind could not be changed, Alcyone demanded that she be allowed to accompany him on his trip.
Ceyx would hear nothing of it. Instead he left his tearful bride standing on the shore, as his ship slowly disappered into the misty darkness of the sea. Ceyx had only traveled a short distance into his journey before a huge storm suddenly erupted over the water.
The winds blew violently, tossing the ship about the waves as if it were only a child's toy. The crew was mad with terror, and in the final moments of his life, Ceyx's mind was filled with only thoughts of Alcyone.
Unaware that any harm had befallen upon her husband, Alcyone prayed to Hera to protect Ceyx and to provide him with a quick and safe return home. Hearing the prayers, the goddess was consumed with pity for Alcyone, for she knew that the young man was already dead.
Hera dispatched her messenger Iris to the house of Sombus, the god of sleep. Sombus lived near the Cimmerian Nymphs, in a valley never kissed by the golden rays of the sun. In the darkness the only sound to be heard came from the nearby Pool of Lethe. The brilliance of Iris' rainbow cloak penetrated the dismal interior of Sleep's abode. Once the god was fully awake, Hera's servant instructed him to send Alcyone a vision revealing the sad truth about Ceyx's death at sea. Sombus summoned his son Morpheus, the god of dreams. Morpheus, who was able to change his shape at will quickly flew to Alcyone in the guise of Ceyx.
He appeared at her bedside wet and naked, and with much sadness recounted the gloomy details of his shipwreck and death. Alcyone awoke from her sleep in tears. Finding herself alone in her room, she called out into the night, desperately begging Ceyx to wait for her.
When morning came, she raced down to the shore and stood alone on the sand. Gazing out into the water she saw something floating gently upon the waves. Recognizing the body to be that of Ceyx, Alcyone rushed into the sea after him, but before she could drown, the grieving widow sprouted wings and flew off into the horizon. Ceyx, now full of life, also took on the shape of a bird. The couple, who had been transformed into a pair of Kingfishers (Halcyons), happily made their way across the sky. Together again, Ceyx and Alcyone are a perfect example of how the strong bond of true love can never be broken. Each winter for a period of seven days, the waves of the sea become calm and still. It is at this time that Alcyone broods over her nest as it floats quietly atop the water. The spell is broken when the babies hatch and the water again returns to normal. This time is still known to us as Halcyon Days.
This version of Ceyx and Alcyone comes from the writing of the Roman poet Ovid. There is another account given to us by Apollodorus which says that the couple were turned into birds by Zeus as a punishment for calling themselves Zeus and Hera. According to Apollodorus, Alcyone was changed into a Kingfisher while Ceyx donned the shape of a sea gull.
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