Oct 102012
 

As for Orpheus’ head: after being attacked by a jealous Lemnian serpent (which Apollo at once changed into a stone) it was laid to rest in a cave at Antissa, sacred to Dionysus.

There it prophesised day and night until Apollo, finding that his oracles at Delphi, Gryneium and Clarus where deserted, came and stood over the head crying: ‘Cease from interference in my business; I have borne long enough with you and your singing!’ Thereupon the head fell silent.

Orpheus’ lyre had likewise drifted to Lesbos and been laid up in a temple of Apollo, at whose intercession, and that of the Muses, the Lyre was placed in Heaven as a constellation.

Some gave a wholly different account of how Orpheus died: they say that Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt for divulging divine secrets. He had, indeed, instituted the Mysteries of Apollo in Thrace; those of Hecate in Aegina; and those of Subterrene Demeter at Sparta.

Orpheus’ singing head recalls that of the decapitated Alder-god Bran which, according to the Mabinogion, sang sweetly on the rock at Harlech in North Wales; a fable, perhaps, of the funerary pipes made from alder-bark. Thus the name Orpheus, if it stands for ophruoeis, ‘on the river bank’, may be a title of Bran’s Greek counterpart, Phoroneus, or Cronus, and refer to the alders ‘growing on the banks of’ the Peneius and other rivers.

The name of Orpheus’ father, Oeagrus (‘of the wold sorb’ apple’), points to the same cult, since the sorb-apple (French = alisier) and the alder (Spanish = aliso) both bear the name of the pre-Hellenic River-goddess Halys, or Alys, or Elis, Queen of the Elysian Islands, where Phoroneus, Cronus and Orpheus went after death. Aornum is Avernus, an Italic variant of the Celtic Avalon (‘apple-tree island’)

Orpheus is said by Diodorus of Siculus to have used the old thirteen-consonant alphabet; and the legend is that he made the trees move and charmed wild beasts apparently refers to its sequence of seasonal trees and symbolic animals. As sacred king he was struck by a thunderbolt – that is, killed with a double-axe – in an oak grove at the summer solstice, and then dismembered by the Maenads of the bull cult, like Zagreus’ or of the stag cult, like Actaeon; the Maenads, in fact, represented the Muses.

In Classical Greece the practice of tattooing was confined to Thracians, and in a vase-painting of Orpheus’ murder a Maenad has a small stag tattooed on her forearm. This Orpheus did not come in conflict with the cult of Dionysus; he was Dionysus, and he played the rude alderpipe, not the civilised lyre. Thus Proclus writes: ‘Orpheus,  because he was the principal in the Dionysian rites, is said to have suffered the same fate as the god’ and Apollodorus credits him with having invented the Mysteries of Dionysus.

The Greek Myths, Robert Graves

 

Jan 172011
 

And this was the death; for the soul’s fire proceeding from the Father’s property turned itself away from the Son’s property, in which alone the divine life consists. Thus the property of the soul remained naked only with its will in the outward Sulphur, and the inward disappeared, and continued steadfast in the eternal unchangeableness, as in an eternal nothing, wherein there was no more any effecting [or working efficacy to bring to pass].

Thus man with his outward body lived barely and merely to the time; the precious gold of the heavenly corporality, which tinctured the outward body, was disappeared, and so the outward body stood barely and alone in the life of nature’s desire, in the soul’s fiery property; understand in the form and property of Mars, in the wrath of God, which is the wrath in Sulphur, the property of God’s anger and the dark world: But seeing the outward body was created out of the time, therefore the time, the constellation with the four elements, presently obtained the dominion in him; and the divine property, the desire of the Deity (which ruled and tinctured time, so that there was a holy life in the creature out of the time), was vanished; its own peculiar love in the divine desire was turned to water, and it became blind and dead in the will and desire of God; and the soul must help itself with the sun’s light.

But seeing that time has beginning and end, and the will with the desire has given up itself to the temporal leader, therefore the dominion of time destroys its own contrived spirit, and so the body also dies and passes away; and this is that which God said to Adam, that “he should not eat of the tree, or plant, of the knowledge of good and evil,” of both properties, lest he died; as it also came to pass, he died in the Sulphur; the Sul in the kingdom of God, the lubet of the divine liberty, out of which the light of God shines, and in which the divine love, the love-fire burns [disappeared and withdrew from him].

Now there was no remedy for him, unless God’s desire entered again into his dead Sulphur, that is, into his Sul, which was dead, into the dead [or mortified] essentiality, and again enkindled it with the love-fire; which came to pass in Christ: And there the heavenly body, wherein God’s light shines, did again arise. But if this must be effected, then the love-desire must again enter into the desire of the enkindled anger, and quench and overcome the anger with the love; the divine water must enter again into the soul’s burning fire, and quench the wrathful death in the astringent fiat, in the desire to nature, that the love-desire, which desires God, might be again enkindled in the soul.

Jacob Boehem, The Signature of All Things

Jun 122010
 

I think of that moment as I prepare myself for the sacred realm of dreaming, but it is a troubled brow that I lay upon the soft fleece and hypnosis does not come easily.

I have vivid memories of the autumn Tristeria – almost two years past – which left me with a sense of dissatisfaction that I cannot place. I wonder if my love for Dionysus has grown too strong. The allure of the youth has power to move me beyond my present confines and I am drawn to follow him in a way that would be irresistible were it not for my oaths to Apollo.

Whether I might share in Dionysus’ gift of eternal life without sacrificing my first allegiance to the Sun-King is a matter that occupies my mind greatly, most often when darkness falls. I cannot safely confide these thoughts to anyone, for if I do not remain true to Apollo and above the temptations of passion, then none will have faith and his rule shall end.

It is my dreams that sustain me. On nights such as this – warm and heady with the thick scent of Datura – my longing for adventure brings the dolphin to Psyche’s realm; I join him as he shoots like an arrow through the deep, swelling sea.

I am of course able to direct the course of my dreams. It is a skill that is cultivated in whomsoever holds this office, and it is upon this that the world’s most powerful men place extraordinary value.

I spread my heavy hair about the fleecy headrest and – with my hands still entwined in the golden threads – I gaze at the glittering constellation engraved above me. It is of the sun-seeker Orion, beloved of the Moon-Queen Artemis. Her love holds him there in perpetuity.

Tonight I shall dream of the huntress in the sky, who raised her bow at Apollo’s behest and claimed the life of her lover unawares. In this way i will learn from her the art of subjugating the crackling fires of desire, by which I shall make the love of my own life immortal.