The ancient Greeks used mythology as a means of explaining the natural phenomenon that took place around them. This is true of the warm weather that we experience at about mid January of each year. This period is known as the Halcyon Days or Alkyonides (Greek: Αλκυονίδες). The love and commitment that is seen in this story explains the period of warm sunny days and calm weather that we have in mid January each year. We can also understand why the term ‘Halcyon Days’ has come to signify joy, prosperity and tranquility.
It all began when Alcyone, the daughter of Aeolus (ruler of the winds) married Ceyx (Greek: Κήϋξ), the son of Eosphorus (‘Morning Star’ or ‘Dawn-Bringer’) and the king of Thessaly, also known as ‘Aeolia’. Alcyone and Ceyx were so much is love that they often referred to each other as Zeus and Hera. This finally angered Zeus so much that he decided to punish them.
One day, Ceyx decided to travel to Delphi in order to consult the oracle. Alcyone pleaded with him not to go as she had a premonition that something terrible would happen. Her fears proved to be right because a terrible storm rose and sank his ship not far from the coast.
The gods were amazed at the devotion that Alcyone showed towards Ceyx and so they decided to save them both by transforming them into seabirds so that they could always be together. These seabirds are also known as kingfishers. Zeus ordered Alcyone to lay her eggs in winter, but since her nest was in crevices on the rocky shore where she had found the body of her husband, the stormy waves of winter would sweep her eggs away. She therefore pleaded with Zeus to help her and this he did by giving her 14 days of warm calm weather in order to keep her eggs safe. This period is from after Christmas to mid January, which has become known as the ‘Halcyon Days’ or ‘Alkyonides’.
Besides the story of Alcyone and Ceyx, which is used to explain the mild weather that we experience in mid January, the name Alcyonides also refers to the seven daughters of Alcyoneus. When their father was slain by Heracles, they threw themselves into the sea and were transformed into halcyons or kingfishers by Amphitrite (Poseidon’s wife). Their names were Alkippe, Anthe, Asteria, Chthonia, Drimo, Methone, Pallene and Phthonia. Methone, Anthe and Pallene give their names to the three Saturnian moons. Alcyonides is also the name given to a group of small rocky islands in the Corinthian Gulf (Greek: Κορινθιακός Κόλπος).