In the Port Vieux, the Old Port of Biarritz, there is a small shop dealing in underwater equipment for fishermen which has a metal plate hanging above the door with the inscription “Poseidon Protège Nous”, “Poseidon Protect Us”. Zeus’ brother, the God of the Sea, is apparently still the Protector of spear-fishermen and surface snorklers. Not far from there is the famous Rock of the Virgin with a statue of Mary, Star of the Sea, atop a rock along with a number of crosses recalling several deaths by shipwreck on this south-western French Atlantic coast.
It would be a refreshing contrast in religious credulity, if the Poseidon prayer were a serious expression of faith, instead of the send-up it clearly is. But both are equally absurd statements of belief that an unearthly power is willing and able to intervene when the Cruel Sea threatens human life. Neither was much help to the passengers of the capsized ocean liner in the 1972 fictional disaster classic movie, “The Poseidon Adventure”, nor to those on the ill-fated real ship, the Titanic, in 1912, nor even to swimmers and sailors in harm’s way on the Basque coast.
The Poseidon sign will have served its purpose if it makes believers smile at their own naïveté in expecting protection from the Mother of God on land, in the air or at sea.