Everyone remembers how he was blind, but nobody remembers the why of it. He blinded himself, when he was made a woman for seven years by pitiless gods.
When he was young and he wasn’t yet a prophet, the gods turned Tiresius into a woman. She found, after being a man among men, that she could not live among her people as a woman. She learned the truth about the men and women of her time and place in a flash of violence: men were drunk and laughing together all the time; women endured. Tiresius could not walk the streets alone without the risk of rape. She could not stand in a doorway and say hello to the men that used to be her friends. They looked at her differently now. They had a smile that should not have been there. They had a lingering touch that promised of unwanted advances, and soon.
To the hills, then, in the night, to the ocean, Tiresius dressed as a man and fled. After so many years spent as a man, Tiresius could pass as a sailor well enough. The storms came, blew the ship to rocks, and she was not as experienced a sailor as she had claimed.
She fell ashore, among stones. Thousands upon thousands of stones. The forest of stones had faces, and arms, and all sorts of pieces broken away from the statues that had eroded. The island was made entirely of crumbling statues.
Tiresius knew where she was. She knew how to survive, there. As a woman, she had learned how to endure, and she could bear it with no shame and no pride. She put out her own eyes with a stone finger.
This is how she became the blind seer: after she put out her eyes, she wandered from rock to rock, searching for the statue’s lips. She let the stones whisper into her ear all the stories of their lives.
All the while, she heard the hissing of the gorgons all around her. They watched her, curiously, that strange woman who ate leaves off the tough vines and shipwrecked seeds that sprouted in the cracks of the marble. This strange woman did not seek the counsel of the gorgons of the island, which surprised the old goddesses, and instead this woman tried to listen to all the stories of the gorgons’ garden of stones.
The gorgons, not truly monstrous, not truly cruel, pitied the blind Tiresius. They brought her sides of roasted goat to eat, sometimes, and fresh fruit from their own gardens.
When all the stones had been listened to, and all the thousands of lives had poured into the blind woman’s ear, the gorgons made a raft for Tiresius. They touched the woman for the first time in seven years, while she was sleeping. The gorgons were strong and quick. The gorgons placed Tiresius upon a raft, stocked with food. The gorgons pushed her out to sea.
The goddesses called to their old lover, the sea, to heal the pathetic woman in the raft.
They had never spoken to Tiresius. They had never harmed her.
When the old sea god saw the woman in the raft, he assumed the woman had blinded herself and, ergo, did not want to be healed from that. Poseidon assumed that the woman wanted to return to her former life, as a man, because that was the wound she had that would harm her most of all at that time and place in the world.
And that is how Tiresius returned to his manhood after seven years spent as a woman.
That is how Tiresius became blind.
That is how Tiresius became wise.