There was once an old man named Philemon and his wife, Baucis, who lived peacefully and frugally in their small home in the Phrygian hill country. They had a small garden, a few chickens and a warm hearth to cook their meals on each day. One of their most prized possessions was a goose that they were planning on cooking for a special occasion. They had lived together for many years and were perfectly happy with living their lives this way. One day, two peasants came to knock on their door and asked for food and a place to sleep for the night. The couple cheerfully swung their door open and bade them to come in. They led the two strangers to their seats and began to prepare a meal for their visitors. The old man was named Philemon and his wife Baucis. They lived in poverty but were hard-working and very spirited people. Their was amiable talk as the two bustled about to prepare a sumptuous meal for their guests. Baucis fanned the coals of the little hearth until a small flame grew and then hung a kettle above it with water. While she did this Philemon came in with a cabbage from the garden. In the kettle it went along with the most delectable slice of pork that had been hanging from one of their beams for such an occasion. Baucis set the table and propped the broken leg with a broken dish. While the main course was cooking she placed olives, radishes and fresh eggs upon the table. She then brought cups of beechwood and wine to the table. They provided their guests with all of the food and drink they could desire from their paltry stores and accommodated them most generously. They were delighted to have such company and enjoyed their presence.
While they were feasting, the old couple noticed a most peculiar phenomenon happening to their guests’ wine cups. No matter how much they drank, their cups would refill themselves. Thinking it was a sign of their bad hospitality, they offered their goose to their guests. After much chase and toil outside the elderly couple was unable to catch the bird. Their guests decided then to reveal their true forms. They were Zeus and Hermes. With astonished looks upon the faces of their hosts, they told them that they had traveled the countryside for many days and had been refused by hundreds of others who had been much wealthier and avaricious than they had. They commended them highly for their magnanimous generosity. The two gods then led Philemon and Baucis outside and then asked them they could have anything they wished. They asked that they could become the priests of both Zeus and Hermes and that they would be inseparable until their deaths. Highly pleased, the gods assented an transformed the little hut into their temple. One day while the old couple was reminiscing upon their lives they began to sprout leaves. Knowing their time had come, the two embraced and became trees: An oak and a linden. From lands afar many would travel to look in awe at the two beautiful trees and would hang wreaths of flowers on the limbs of Philemon and Baucis in honour of their faithfulness and humility.
In the Greek myth of Philemon and Baucis we can learn many lessons that can apply to our lives. Baucis and Philemon represent a life of mutual devotion and loyalty to each other that never wavers or recedes. We must all strive to become as Philemon and Baucis in our devotion to our spouses. Their transformation into trees represents our relationship with Mother Earth. Just as trees give all of their life force to us and ask nothing in return, so did Philemon and Baucis to their unknown guests. Mother Nature provides us with all of our life necessities and only asks that we treat her with the respect she deserves. Trees give us our warmth and air and humbly do not ask for anything in return. They are eternal and silent. They are powerful yet peaceful. When Zeus and Hermes offered them anything in their divine power the old couple did not ask for untold riches or wealth but to be their priests. They chose a life of devotion and reverence of the divine over a life of luxury. Their neighbors neglected their duty to their own people and were severely punished for it by having their homes flooded. They chose to not serve their own kin but to serve only for their immediate interests. For their unselfish deeds, Philemon and Baucis were immortalized in their honour. They exemplify our need to set aside our own immediate desires and instead work for a common objective for our European race and people.
Hail Philemon! Hail Baucis!