Eliot Circular

Libations! They Cried

Photo by Chris Lydgate ’90

Olympians beseech freshmen in Hum 110.

By Chris Lydgate ’90

Monday morning, 8:45 a.m. First day of class. As the new crop of freshlings streamed towards Vollum for their first real Hum lecture, laden with backpacks and clutching coffee cups and water bottles, they were greeted by an unusual spectacle: a veritable pantheon of Greek gods hooting and hollering on the steps outside the lecture hall.

“Libations!” cried the gods. “Libations to honor mighty Zeus!”

At some colleges, this would be frat-speak for beer or jello shots. At Reed, however, the gods (cunningly disguised as upperclassmen) were beseeching new students to re-enact an ancient ritual they’d been reading about in the Odyssey—namely, pouring a drink on the ground to honor the superhuman inhabitants of Mount Olympus.

Some had nothing to offer—or preferred to keep their drinks for themselves. (“Hubris!” sang the gods in mock consternation.) But many others poured out a few drops of water or coffee on the concrete steps, provoking bellows of gratitude.

President John Kroger, who has enrolled in Hum 110 as a student, initially seemed to be walking on a course to bypass the brouhaha, but then changed direction, marched back into the hurly-burly, and with a steady hand, poured a generous quantity of black coffee onto the steps. The gods erupted in howls of joy.

Inside, students were treated to a rare delight: singing the opening lines of the Odyssey with professor Wally Englert [classics 1981–].