Study Guide

Tiresias

  • Profile

    You might easily mistake him for a crazy dude spouting gibberish on the corner, but Tiresias was totally legit. This old, blind man was a priest of Apollo and one of the most famous seers of all time. He could hear the future in the songs of birds (a little trick called augury), and he also received visions sent to him by the gods. Tiresias used his powers to advise seven generations of kings in his hometown of Thebes, though they had a tendency not to listen to what he had to say until it was too late. (We're looking at you, Oedipus and Creon.)

    Even after Tiresias died by drinking from the poisoned water of Tilphussa, he had tons of power. Odysseus himself made a pit stop in the Underworld to get some travel advice from Tiresias, without which the O-man never would've made it home. Tiresias may have been a rough looking dude with a tendency to speak in cryptic riddles, but in the end, he was totally worth listening to.

    Basic Information

    Name

    Tiresias

    Nickname

    The Blind Seer
    Mr. Know-It-All

    Sex

    Male (but spent seven years as a female)

    Current city

    Asphodel Fields on the outskirts of the Underworld

    Work & Education

    Occupation

    Seer
    Priest of Apollo

    Education

    Apollo's School of Prophecy

    Beliefs

    Political views

    It all seems so trivial when you know what's going to happen anyway.

    Family & Friends (& Enemies)

    Parents

    Everes (Dad)
    Chariclo (Mom)

    Children

    Manto (who turned into a pretty awesome prophetess herself)

    Friends

    Apollo (a great god to serve)

    Enemies

    Hera (who struck me blind)
    Athena (who may also have struck me blind, unclear)

    Relationships

    Relationship status

    Very single

    Interested in

    Nobody, really. I can see that it's just never going to work out.

    Favorites

    TV Shows

    Twin Peaks  
    True Blood  
    Lost 

    Quotations

    "The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality"
    – George Santayana

    "Take a little trip back with father Tiresias,
    Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through.
    I have crossed between the poles; for me there's no mystery.
    Once a man, like the sea I raged,
    Once a woman, like the earth I gave.
    But there is in fact more earth than sea."
    – from "The Cinema Show" by Genesis

    "Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
    Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
    All your life, You were only waiting for this moment to be free."
    – from "Blackbird" by the Beatles

    "My darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the outer day-lit world was stumbling and groping in social blindness"
    – Helen Keller

    "Rise up this mornin',
    Smiled with the risin' sun,
    Three little birds
    Pitch by my doorstep
    Singin' sweet songs
    Of melodies pure and true,
    Sayin', ('This is my message to you-ou-ou:')
    Singin': 'Don't worry 'bout a thing,
    'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.'"
    – "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley
    (I actually only like this quote because it makes me laugh. Everything is definitely not going to be all right.)

    Books

    Orlando by Virginia Woolf (A great book about gender shifting.)  
    "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot (I kind of narrate this, which may explain why it's so darn cryptic.)  
    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez  
    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman  
    "Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)" by John Donne (Too true.)  
    The Time Machine by H.G. Wells  
    Oedipus the King by Sophocles  
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad  
    "When I Consider How My Light is Spent (On His Blindness)" by John Milton  
    "Meditation at Lagunitas" by Robert Hass  
    The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers 

    Music

    Lights by Ellie Goulding (I may be an old blind seer, but I'm killer on the dance floor.)  
    Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann  
    The Cinema Show by Genesis (I get a great shout out in the chorus of this song.)  
    Back in Time by Pitbull 
    Blackbird by The Beatles  
    The Wind by the Zac Brown Band  
    Karma Chameleon by Culture Club  
    Three Little Birds by Bob Marley  
    Cabin by the Sea by the Dirty Heads (I just like to chill to this.) 

    Movies

    Winged Migration (You can a learn a lot from the birds.) 
    The Matrix 
    Transamerica 
    Tiresia 
    Hedwig and the Angry Inch 
    The Miracle Worker (You go, Helen Keller.) 
    The Birds 
    Scent of a Woman 
    Brave 

    Activities & Interests

    Likes

    Bird watching... well, better make that bird listening
    Fortune cookies
    The future Blind seers 

    Interests

    Augury
    Astrology
    Fortune Telling

    Groups

    Seers
    Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund  
    League of Prophets
    Bird Lovers 

  • Spotter's Guide

    If you want to have a chat with Tiresias, you'll have to truck it down to the Underworld, where he hangs out in the Asphodel Meadows. He'll be the bearded ghost who looks mega-old (even for a ghost). From what we hear, he's still just as blind as he was in life, so he'll be tapping around the flowery field with his trusty staff. A word of warning, though: be careful what you ask Tiresias; sometimes we're better off not knowing what lies ahead.

    Sex: Male (but spent seven years as a female)
    Age: Super old
    Build: Scrawny
    Complexion: Withered
    Hair Color: White
    Facial Hair: Long, white beard
    Scars/marks/tattoos: Blind
    Jewelry and accessories: Staff
    Clothing: Robes
    Armor: None
    Type of Weapon: Ability to see the future

    Typical Companions:

    The Kings of Thebes (though most of them unwisely decided not to listen to him)

    Known Hangouts:

    Thebes

  • Sightings

    Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

    The Odyssey by Homer

    Odysseus makes a pit-stop in the Underworld to get some travel advice from the ghost of everybody's favorite blind seer in this most epic of epic poems.

    Dec 20, 2019

    Antigone by Sophocles

    In this tragedy, King Creon decides to not listen when Tiresias tells him to let Antigone bury her brother Polyneices. (Spoiler alert: this does not go well for Creon.)

    Dec 20, 2019

    Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    King Oedipus gets majorly ticked off when Tiresias tells him he's the cause of all his own problems in this tragedy. It isn't a happy ending, to say the least.

    Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

    The Phoenician Women by Euripides

    In this tragedy, Tiresias tells Creon that he has to sacrifice his son, Menoeceus, in order to save Thebes. Creon is more than a little unhappy about this.

    Dec 20, 2019

    The Bacchae by Euripides

    Tiresias and Cadmus dress up like ladies and go party at a Bacchanal of Dionysus in this tragedy.

    Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 0099

    Oedipus by Seneca

    The big deal Roman playwright puts his spin on Oedipus' story—Tiresias included. It doesn't get any happier, that's for sure.

    Dec 20, 2019

    The Metamorphoses by Ovid

    Ovid gives you all the steamy details on how Tiresias went from man to woman and back again in this famous collection of mythological poems.

    Dec 20, 2019 - Dec 20, 2019

    The Inferno by Dante

    According to Dante, Tiresias is trapped in Hell with his head spun around backwards. Ouch.

    Dec 20, 2019

    "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot

    Tiresias is the main narrator of this crazy famous modern poem. Let's just hope this poem doesn't predict the future.

    Dec 20, 2019

    Oedipus el Rey by Luis Alfaro

    This modern Chicano riff on Oedipus is set in a LA barrio and comes complete with a Chicano version of the blind prophet.

    Dec 20, 2019

    These Seven Sicknesses by Sean Graney

    Tiresias appears as blind woman in a wheelchair in this modernized marathon of all of Sophocles' extant plays.