Lessons of Cassandra in the Age of the Death of Fact

Lessons of Cassandra in the Age of the Death of Fact

Mel on Sep 1st 2022

We are currently living in a world where Facebook is being more readily believed than field experts, where facts are mutable when one, simply, just doesn’t like them, and where we are inundated with hatred, racism, and violence from every possible angle. Even if there is joy here, the world feels bleak, overwhelmed, and fucking tired. There are so many issues that need addressing on so many fronts, but this is certainly not the first time the Earth has felt this way. Cast a weary eye through history and you will find it inescapably sprinkled there. It was in this way that I found Cassandra, screaming, and aching for the perpetual spiral of bleakness and suffering of those around her. This essay is going to be a deep dive into two sources concerning this mythic character. Cassandra was an Apolloian Priestess and Prophetess of Troy who, although accurate in her predictions, was cursed to never be believed by an enraged Apollo. Given what I had already read about her, and personally existing in 2022, I found some very real parallels in her story to what we are currently facing and very wise advice from the doomed Seer that, I believe, could help us all in some way. This is a collation of two sources to illustrate that end but do not sum up what each offer in their unique entirety. 

The first section, Analysis of Antiquity, is based on the source, Cassandra and the Poetics of Prophecy in Greek and Latin Literature by Emily Pillinger. This piece is a linguistical and literary analysis of Cassandra in mythic tales varying from speech translation trouble fueling the disbelief of the Prophet, the individual authors choice of her portrayal and what that reveals about them, and how Cassandra’s plight still connects with audiences today.

The second section, The Archetype Answers, is a quote list sourced from the novel portion of, Cassandra a Novel and Four Essays by Christa Wolf. This text is a phenomenal retelling of Cassandra’s story through a modern lens. The tale also acts as a bridge for contemporary audiences to witness Cassandra’s strength and suffering in a whole new way, by walking alongside her for the totality of the epic’s duration. I highly recommend both publications.

Below, are techniques the cursed Prophetess utilized to survive and cope in her corrupted world followed by quotes from the modern Priestess herself. Maybe, she has wisdom that can guide us still.

Analysis of Antiquity – What Cassandra can Teach Us

To begin, we look to a conscious practice the Seer employs to preserve herself and her time, silence. “Cassandra’s efforts to communicate information about the future are rooted in a human desire to avert those future events, but knowing that her message will be misunderstood regardless, she also recognizes the value in not articulating it at all.” (pg. 16) While it is important to speak and act out against injustice, loudly, it is also important to use discretion about when that energy can be used most productively. Arguing with those who are committed to misunderstanding or arguing with you rather than participating in an actual discussion, in my opinion, falls under the silence category. In this ongoing battle, make sure you pick the battles worthy of you and your energy in that moment because you can’t fight everything, all the time. Constant silence sides with oppression, but selective silence is preservation for the long term.

Following on from preservation, Cassandra “punningly defies one of the proverbial instructions given to visitors to the Pythia – ‘nothing in excess’, whilst she embraces another, ‘know yourself.” (pg.66) All while her peers ignore her predictions or try to convince her of their preferred truths, Cassandra tries her best to remain steadfast in her prophecies. Self-care, searching for accurate resources for information to also know for yourself (or trying to learn how to properly source accurate information), and boundaries are all, in essence, practices in knowing that can fall under the ‘know yourself’ umbrella during these tumultuous times but there are countless more. Being in touch with yourself to maintain your health and developing a fact checking method to be able to discern everything being thrown at you is simply, a suggested starting place.

Continuing with a studying motif we move to Cassandra’s next tool, history. “She has an ability to draw connections between historical and future events and between different literary works that embrace that wider span of time.” (pg 103 -104) Now while we can’t all be Seers with time travelling memory recall, we have something close and that’s history. But not all “history” is truly accurate, so reliable sourcing is an incredible skill to build up here, beginning with who is retelling this history? What sources do they use and cite? How are they an authority on the subject? And even deeper still, what are their motivations for telling this story? Verify what you read, do not swallow what you read.

And the final point for today, empathy. “Cassandra becomes the inspiration for a more profound, extensive, and above all human kind of understanding. This understanding is based on sympathy for another’s suffering, respect for another’s perspective and energetic engagement with another’s creativity, no matter how alien it appears.” (pg. 239) All too often, the true stories of injustice are swallowed up by how much hearing this knowledge upsets the delicate balance of ignorance for others. When someone takes the time to express how a situation directly affected them, the very least that can be given in return, is the uninterrupted time to speak and respect for their truth, even if it makes you uncomfortable. It also means shutting up and not speaking for or over others. Cassandra wasn’t listened to or believed when it mattered most, but what would have been different if she had been? It is not possible to speak for every experience, so make sure to sit back and be humble when called upon to pass the mic and welcome in the experience and expertise of others. Remember, it’s okay to not know everything.

The Archetype Answers – Quotes of Camaraderie

Shooting the Messenger
“Know that we would rather punish the one who names the deed than the one who commits it.” (pg.15)

Refusing to Turn a Blind Eye
“I will continue a witness even if there is no longer one single human being left to demand my testimony.” (pg. 22)

Making Facts Matter Again
“I still believed that a little will to truth, a little courage, could erase the whole misunderstanding. To call what was true, true and what was untrue, false; That was asking so little (I thought) and would have served our cause better than any lie or half-truth.” (pg. 85)

False Victimhood Weaponized, Sound Familiar?
“The stronger current was the king’s party, to which I, his daughter, did not belong. Instead, it was composed of younger men who went around in groups, expressed their views loudly when they met, continually felt they were under attack, believed they had to defend themselves against reproaches which had never been voiced, and found officious men – bards and scribes – who supplied them phrases for their punctilious affectations.” (pg. 94)

For those Never at Fault
“They act in haste and foolishly. Believe the incredible. Do what they do not want to do, and mourn their victims with self-pity.” (pg.104)

There is Immense Global Suffering right now, And we need to Share that in order to Heal
“This was the second breath of relief, although relief is too strong a word for it. There is a kind of pain that stops hurting because it is everything. Air. Earth. Water. Each bite of food. Each breath you draw, every movement. No, it is indescribable. I never spoke about it. No one asked me about it.” (pg. 130)

Choose your Battles
“Now I understood what the god had ordained: ‘You will speak the truth, but no one will believe you.’ Here stood the No One who had to believe me; but he could not because he believed nothing. A No One incapable of belief.” (pg. 136)


I first sought out Cassandra for solace and in search of a way of coping through navigating truth in this age of disbelief. I felt who better to ask than the reliable and accursed Seer? How could she survive the torment of her world and extreme gaslighting for so long? I felt powerless fighting a constant battle with ever shifting rules, but unlike Cassandra, I know I’m not alone. Emily Pillinger, our author from the first section, succinctly sums up this feeling, highlighting the collective chance to unite in this struggle. “(T)o describe their freshly shared experience of the prophet’s paradoxical combination of understanding and disempowerment: Cassandra nunc sumus – ‘Now we are Cassandra.” (pg. 225) While these times feel scary and sometimes, I feel lost and disempowered in all of this, I know others feel it too. We are in this together, we are Cassandra, and there are too many of us who care about this dumpster fire we are living in to go unnoticed forever. As long as we fight the good fight, share the truth, share our experiences, and take care of ourselves, there is true power in being a “Cassandra”, a brave being who refuses to stay silent and submissive in the face of a hateful and seething ignorance. She wasn’t believed but, even in all of her madness, she was good, and, above all, she was right.


Pillinger, Emily J. Cassandra and the Poetics of Prophecy in Greek and Latin Literature. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York,, Ny, Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Wolf, Christa, and Jan Von Heurck. Cassandra a Novel and Four Essays. New York Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 1984.

Further Reading:
Evaluating Sources Where to Begin and General Guidelines – Purdue Online Writing Lab