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

 

Apr 252012
 

I begin to sing of Demeter, the holy goddess with the beautiful hair.

And her daughter [Persephone] too. The one with the delicate ankles, whom Hadês seized.

She was given away by Zeus, the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide.

Demeter did not take part in this, she of the golden double-axe, she who glories in the harvest.

She [Persephone] was having a good time, along with the daughters of Okeanos, who wear their girdles slung low.

She was picking flowers: roses, crocus, and beautiful violets.

Up and down the soft meadow. Iris blossoms too she picked, and hyacinth.

And the narcissus, which was grown as a lure for the flower-faced girl by Gaia [Earth]. All according to the plans of Zeus. She [Gaia] was doing a favour for the one who receives many guests [Hadês].

It [the narcissus] was a wondrous thing in its splendor. To look at it gives a sense of holy awe to the immortal gods as well as mortal humans.

It has a hundred heads growing from the root up.

Its sweet fragrance spread over the wide skies up above.

And the earth below smiled back in all its radiance. So too the churning mass of the salty sea.

She [Persephone] was filled with a sense of wonder, and she reached out with both hands to take hold of the pretty plaything. And the earth, full of roads leading every which way, opened up under her.

It happened on the Plain of Nysa. There it was that the Lord who receives many guests made his lunge.

He was riding on a chariot drawn by immortal horses. The son of Kronos. The one known by many names.

He seized her against her will, put her on his golden chariot, And drove away as she wept.

She cried with a piercing voice, calling upon her father [Zeus], the son of Kronos, the highest and the best.

But not one of the immortal ones, or of human mortals, heard her voice.

Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Nov 202011
 

High above the clouds, in a dimension where the sun would shine even at midnight, Zeus brought to mind the Eagles of the East and West, lords of land and sea.

Holding them in sight, he gave to them their mission, saying: “Fly now each of you in his own direction; neither is swifter than the other. The place where you meet I shall pin down forever as the centre of this world”.

The gods had come down from their clouds and assembled at this place, to mark forever the foundation of their temple on Earth. Zeus’s fair twins Apollo and Artemis, sun and moon, came down to where they had been summoned, swiftly followed by the others, each in elemental guise.

Bearing fruits of the earth and dressed in garlands of flowers, the earth mother Demeter walked hand‐in‐hand with her love‐struck daughter, queen of the Styx‐bound underworld.

Ares, Hestia and Hera, Hephestaeus, Poseidon and Athena ‐ each transpiring from their own dominion – fulfilled the summons from their central being.

A bull emerged from the forest, metamorphosising with a swagger into a shining youth, handsome as only a handsome youth can be. He walked hand in hand with the loveliest female in the land, raising to his moistened lips an earthen jar of ruby‐coloured wine.

Her love‐child laughed with his magician.

Hera gazed broodingly at the twice‐born son of his father and a cloud descended on the assembly. “I hope you will not reserve too many honours for this youth, Dionysus, husband, for he is only quite immortal, with half true blood in his blue, engorged veins”.

Zeus roared with laughter and raised a glass in toast to his progeny. “But see the ones who are with him, sister; you must admit he is in great company: The body of desire with the power of love and the herald of all ages. I see no issue here but that which is great!”

“But come forth now Apollo and shine on me son, step beyond the clouds, for I would have you build me here a house, where men from all corners of the world will
come to learn their destiny”

Apr 232011
 

‘‘Then the maidens – those with honour –
Artemis in love, Selene,
Keep thee near the world as Moon Queen,
Govern tides and turn. Athena

‘You shall take the name, Minerva,
Teach the legions with your learning;
Help the Romans conquer Hellas,
Thereby, still be known as Pallas.

‘Hestia, keep your honoured status,
May the Earth exalt your greatness.
You, Demeter, shall be Ceres
Governing over every season.

Zeus who radiates with lightening,
Thunderbolts so freely striking,
Then be Jove with circles binding –
Halos – rings of dust surrounding.

Though I shan’t recall the priestess,
She who kept the gold-leaf mystery,
Shroud the oracle of Delphi
With the endless veil of history.

Jul 042010
 

A cruel folk you are, unmatched for jealousy, you gods who cannot bear to let a goddess sleep with a man, even if it is done without concealment and she has chosen him as her lawful consort. You were the same when Rose-fingered Dawn fell in love with Orion. Easy livers yourselves, you were outraged at her conduct, and in the end chaste Artemis rose from her golden throne, attacked him in Ortygia with her gentle darts and left him dead.

And so again, when the lovely Demeter gave way to her passion and lay in the arms of her beloved Iasion in the thrice-ploughed fallow field, Zeus heard of it quickly enough and struck him dead with his blinding thunderbolt. And now it is my turn to incur that same divine displeasure for living with a mortal man – a man whom I rescued from death as he was drifting alone astride the keel of his ship, when Zeus had shattered it with his lightening bolt out on the wine dark sea, and all his men were lost, but he was driven to this island by wind and waves.

I welcomed him with open arms; I tended him; I even hoped to give him immortality and ageless youth. But now, goodbye to him, since no god can evade or thwart the will of Zeus. If Zeus insists that he should leave, let him be gone across the barren water. But he must not expect me to transport him. I have no ship, no oars, no crew to carry him so far across the seas. Yet I do promise with a good grace and unreservedly to give him such directions as will bring him safe and sound to Ithaca.

Homer, The Odyssey

May 092010
 

“What, pray tell, of Baha-ullah!”
Spoke at once the latest wise-one.
“He’s accepted all the others
Gone before; the way is union?”

“This, you see”, revealed the Rabbi,
“Charts a line which roughly follows
Down through time, a line of prophets,
Give or take a right-tongued Sophist.

“Eastern influences flourished
In our land, but naught surpasses
Now – or ever – true Kabbalah,
Gnostic scripts were ne’er so magic!

“Not so!” claimed the Vedic master.
“Ours, the early bird of progress
`May pass through the stages faster,
Incarnating ever after.

“Vishnu, here, the force outstanding,
Krishna, there, the force transcending,
Both appear within our scripture,
Bhagvad-Gita; song unending.”

“What of us,” cried out the pagans,
“Surely we’re the lords of mystery?
Since the early days of Egypt,
We’ve survived the Western history!”

“Those who claim that resurrection
Is the sole preserve of prophets,
Born beyond the ancient’s time line,
Listen well, and don’t forget it:

“Old Osiris: dead then risen;
Great Demeter’s daughter: risen;
Dionysus next was risen,
Then the Orphic bard was risen!”