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Ronnie Pontiac

The Sacred Songs of Orpheus

sectitle-featuresorpheus_pictureThe Orphic Hymns are the grow light for western cultural renaissance.  Wherever the writing and themes of Orphism found their way into the lives of composers, painters, musicians, philosophers, and mystics a flowering of spirituality and the arts followed.

The Hymns of Orpheus is a mediocre translation of something much more subtle and rich with meaning in the ancient Greek. “Hymns” isn’t the ideal word to translate the ancient Greek word teletai. Ritual, initiation, marriage, bearing fruit in season, ripening fruit to perfection, magical potency, and finishing are all related to teletas.

If Orpheus wrote these sacred songs, we’d have to ask which Orpheus, while the question remains as to whether any Orpheus ever existed, except in myth.  Most likely these psalms to the gods and goddesses of the pagan world were written down in Asia Minor around three hundred years after the birth of Christianity, though they show no sign of Christian influence.  But this gathering of so many different cult traditions under the umbrella of Orpheus may have been a reaction to Christianity, an attempt to preserve the fading traditions of the pagan world.

The first reference we have to them is from the early 12th century A.D., although Plato and Pausanius refer to Hymns of Orpheus most scholars today believe they were not referring to the specific collection we call by that name, but rather to a style of literature.  The great fourth century B.C. Athenian orator Demosthenes does say in one of his orations that Orpheus places the goddess of justice Dike beside the throne of Zeus watching over human beings, which closely resembles “I sing of the all-seeing eye of beautiful radiant Justice, on the sacred throne of Zeus the Lord, looking down from heaven on every human life” from the Orphic Hymn to Dike; but for all we know a later author deliberately mimicked Demosthenes to lend credence to the antiquity of his or her forgery, or most plausibly, both writers were drawing from a common myth.

That one man Platonic revival Thomas Taylor wrote extensively on the inner meaning and symbolic language of Orphism.  It would take two lifetimes to really assess his work, one to read it, and the other to consult the appropriate sources and commentaries, but Taylor has been more ore less dismissed, though his work was an important influence on the great poet and artist William Blake. Taylor believed the hymns as we have them were the actual liturgy of the Eleusinian Mysteries, but later scholars have shown how unlikely that is.

Who was the author?  Perhaps imagine a rather uninspired antiquarian working with various texts, some ancient, some more recent, compiling the formulas and sayings, probably during a period in the Roman Empire when the religion of Dionysus was in vogue, perhaps the short lived Severan dynasty, founded by a Berber born in Africa, a general declared Emperor by his army, who earned and kept the throne by battle.  He was a strong emperor who fortified the empire’s most distant borders.  For ten years he tolerated all religions but then he put severe penalties on Christians and closed the key Christian school at Alexandria.  Some have argued that he feared the spreading popularity of a religion that preached peace while he was busy burdening the imperial coffers with more military debt, so embroiling the military in Roman politics that some historians blame him for creating the conditions that led to the fall of the empire.  The next four emperors of that dynasty were assassinated and the fifth was killed by his own troops.

Others scholars, following Aristotle, say the ancient hymns were edited by a poet named Onomakritos who invented or reformed the Orphic mysteries in Athens around 500 B.C The Greek grammarian of Constantinople Joannes Tzetzes (c. 1150 A.D.) claimed Onomakritoas was one of those who arranged the books of Homer under Peisistratos.

Peisistratos was a benevolent tyrant of Athens who protected small farmers. His ambitious building program included a majestic temple of Olympian Zeus. During his reign, Attic coin and black-figure pottery achieved prominence throughout the Greek world. After the death of Peisistratos, his eldest son Hippias ruled Athens. Poetry, sculpture, and architecture flourished under the patronage of Hipparchus, the younger brother of Hippias. Hipparchus encouraged the development of red-figure pottery. The Oxford Classical Dictionary says he was “frivolous and amorous.”

Herodotus records that Hipparchus was a friend and patron to Onomakritos. A rival poet accused Onomakritos of adding an oracle to the Oracle of Musaios. Some believed Musaios was a great poet musician, high priest of the Mysteries of Demeter during the time of Herakles. Others believed he was the son of Orpheus.    Interpolating sacred circles was an act of sacrilege. Hipparchus banished Onomakritos.

History loses track of Onomakritos at this point. Hipparchus was eventually assassinated. The Oxford Classical Dictionary hints: “Personal vices led to his murder.” Hippias tightened his grip, but, beset by Persians to the north cutting off his gold supply in Thrace and Spartans attacking from the south, he fled Athens. H reappeared at the court of Xerxes. Hippias brought Onomakritos with him to read omens for the Great King of the Persian Empire.

By command of Hippias, Onomakritos was careful to read only the omens favorable for an invasion of Greece. Xerxes promised to restore Hippias to the throne. Old Hippias stood with Xerxes when the Spartan king Leonidas, three hundred of his guard, and five thousand Spartan Helots, Aracadians, Corinthians, Thespians, and Thebans held back a million Persians for three days at Thermopylae. Some historians say Hippias was killed when the Athenian fleet defeated Xerxes at Salamis. We know nothing of the fate of Onomakritos.

Pausanias believed Onomakritos invented the myth central to Orphism.   The Titans cover their faces with chalk or quicklime (titanos: quicklime). They use toys to lure baby Dionysos away from the throne of Father Zeus. They tear Dionysos apart, cook and eat him. Athene alerts Zeus, whose lightning destroys the Titans. Athene saves the heart from which Dionysos is reborn. From the electrified fusion of the flesh of Dionysos and of the Titans, humanity is born.

Every human is a confusion of Dionysos and Titan. The Dionysos part is immortal, beautiful, serene, wise, of the race of the stars.   The Titan part is mortal, anguished, rebellious, violent and deceitful. In two words: soma sema, the body, a tomb.   Forgetfulness is the Orphic evil, lethe.    Knowledge is memory and freedom. We live many lives purging the Titans.   From this point of view the Orphics taught catharsis through a course of abstinence and self-discipline similar to Jain yoga and the practices of the medieval Cathar sect that led to the Albigensian crusade.   They replaced drunken frenzy with rites of purification and spiritual enthusiasm and ecstasy, the Orphic enthousiasmos (to have a God within) and ekstasis (to stand outside oneself in trance.)

As uninspired and formulaic as the extent Hymns of Orpheus may be they do provide a glimpse into a vital and inspiring world view. That they include content much older than their date of composition is obvious from the inclusion of deities like Eileithyia, with origins in early Minoan culture and beyond to Paleolithic cult. In my renditions I’ve tried to minimize the formulas, to make the language as immediate as possible. Where hymns seemed especially devoid of the character of the deities addressed I took the liberty of adding sparse poetic details drawn from myth and cult practice to enhance the experience for those who have no associations for these obscure names of almost forgotten deities.  I even tried each one out.


franz-von-stuck-orpheusOrpheus by Franz Stuck

I was a star college student but I didn’t want to take classes anymore.  Two of my professors had made clear the economics and politics of their positions, dispelling any romantic notions I had about life in academia. So I asked if I could turn in some epic project in place of most of my senior year credits.  I proposed a poetic rendition of the Hymns of Orpheus and historical survey of the Orpheus myth and Orphic Cult.  Much to my surprise my proposal was accepted.

I wanted some idea of how these hymns really had worked.  I wasn’t willing to burn storax incense as prescribed in many of the hymns, but I did want to render them into simple English, and to flesh them out here and there with details of the gods, since the hymns are so formulaic.  I was perhaps more honest to Thomas Taylor than to the Hymns as translated today. The plan was to softly sing them by the window, usually but not necessarily at dawn or dusk.  The window overlooked a street of apartment buildings but I could see a few trees and the sky above.

I had taken ancient Greek in college because I was the only student my teacher had and she let me smoke with her as we studied in her garden.  At the time the Hymns of Orpheus fascinated me but I was frustrated by the poor translation.  I decided to huddle with Liddle and Scott’s Greek Lexicon to work out the individual words.  I also wanted to try performing them since they were meant to be sung and my girlfriend agreed to research herbs, scents and such associated with certain gods hopefully fulfilling the necessary correspondences.

Our experiences were strange to say the least.  The owl that landed on the corner of the roof of our apartment building immediately after the hymn to owl-eyed Athena.  The rumble of thunder and flash of lightning in an otherwise blue sky at the moment the hymn to Thundering Zeus ended.  The wind was always blowing from the right direction when we addressed the winds.  I remember looking ahead several days to a hymn that suggested rain when the weather report promised sunny skies.  Everyone buzzed about the “surprise shower” that day.

We didn’t know what to make of it.  We didn’t believe that we were creating these phenomena.  It felt more like being pulled into harmony with a series of improbable events.  We were witnesses, not active agents.

We felt like we were hallucinating at times, because the coincidences were so marvelous.  Several years later we read about Ficino’s similar experiences and his recommendation that “no magic is more powerful than that of the Orphic hymns.”  We don’t expect anyone to believe it; we wouldn’t have believed each other, or our senses, if we hadn’t both been there together.  We figured if we were going to try the hymns out we should go whole hog, so we were celibate and drug free.  We even ate as Orphically as we were able.  We didn’t try to replicate the results.  We figured innocence can only be as good as wisdom that lucky first time, and not everyone is lucky their first time.

One more example of these mysterious coincidences: my senior project in college found a home with a wonderful indie publisher.  I didn’t tell the publisher that I was learning to play guitar, or that I had long hair, or that my guitar had tiny multicolored glass beads glued on it to look like constellations in the sky.  I had never seen the illustration the publisher chose for the book cover, Luis Milan’s El Maestro (1536) the first known depiction of what we today call the guitar.  Milan’s Orpheus has long hair and stars on his guitar.  Not worth a shrug without the timing of its arrival.  In the background of the woodcut is a city in flames.  When the first copies of the book arrived at my front door Los Angeles was in flames during the Rodney King riots, columns of fire were visible from all my windows.

But then it’s equally strange that in the 1960s through the 1990′s a culture evolved where traveling musicians held tremendous sway over their disciple like fans.  Singing songs about stairways to heaven and highways to hell they were rewarded with the 20th century version of a golden fleece, a gold record.  Even Spinal Tap was Orphic since they sang “Rock and Roll Creation,” their Orphic Rhapsody about how the world began.


300px-DSC00355_-_Orfeo_(epoca_romana)_-_Foto_G._Dall'OrtoBoast all you want;
sell meatless food.
Call Orpheus lord.
Practice Bacchus rites
of ecstasy and revere
your windy scriptures.
I’m on to you.
I say to everyone:
beware these men.
They hunt their prey
with holy books
hiding shameful schemes.

After devoting his youth to education he learned stories about the Gods. Then he went to Egypt, where he furthered his education and became the greatest man among the Greeks, for his knowledge of the Gods, and for his poems and songs. And because he so loved his wife he dared the amazing deed of descending into Hades where he enchanted Persephone with his song and convinced her to help him bring his wife back to Earth.
–Apollonius of Rhodes

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain-tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing die.

Her scholarship is dated now, and many of her conclusions suspect, but Jane Harrison, England’s first female professional academic, had a deep understanding of her subject.  In her Prolegomena to Greek Religion she wrote “The religion of Orpheus is religious in the sense that it is the worship of the real mysteries of life, of potencies rather than personal gods; it is the worship of life itself in its supreme mysteries of ecstasy and love … It is these real gods, this life itself, that the Greeks, like most men, were inwardly afraid to recognize and face, afraid even to worship … Now and again a philosopher or a poet, in the very spirit of Orpheus, proclaims these true gods, and asks in wonder why to their shrines is brought no sacrifice.”

I invite readers to explore in a series beginning with this blog an Orphic perspective on the gods of Ancient Greece. This is not a scholarly translation, having been created with the intent of providing a text for enjoyment as poetry, play and ritual.  In the world of Ficino and his friends the hymns were not limited to ritual use.  In his letters he writes about the pleasures of singing them alone or with good company.  Such casual use still has the profound effect of tuning up the souls of the performer and listeners, including animals, obviously.

In the writings of Iamblichus about Pythagoras, whom Ficino considered an Orphic initiate, Ficino found inspiration. Pythagoras, according to Iamblichus: “held that music contributes greatly to health, if used appropriately.  The healing he got from music he called purification.” In spring a lyre player was seated in the center, and those who were good at singing sat round him in a circle and sang, to his accompaniment, songs of gratitude and praise, which raised their spirits and established inner harmony and rhythm. They also, at other times, used music as a kind of medicine. There were songs designed for afflictions of the soul, to counter despair and grief, and others to deal with rage or indignation.

I haven’t used the songs that way, perhaps surprising since I’m a musician.  I found it embarrassing enough just the two of us.  If you are interested in doing more than reading them I recommend that you write them out for yourself, and feel free to make adjustments that are personally meaningful. If you have interesting experiences you’re willing to share, theories about how and why, or suggestions for refinement please post a comment.

The first seven poems are based on fragments found on small sheets of hammered gold buried with Orphic initiates in Crete and South Italy.  The rest are the Hymns of Orpheus, except for five interpolations of my own: “Magical Formula” based on two common Orphic sayings; a hymn to Number to replace a lost hymn to Number; and hymns to Iakchos, Zagreus and Asteria.

A special thank you to Professor Apostolos Athanassakis for providing me with a photocopy of his book of translations of the Hymns of Orpheus.


orpheus1[1]Over the next three months we’ll be posting the complete text of my revised versions of the sacred songs of Orpheus, including, in honor of Onomakritos, several interpolations.

Series 1: Orphic Fragment to The Sun
Series 2: The Moon to The Seasons
Series 3: Semele to Death
Part 4: Extensively footnoted brief historical essay with annotated bibliography

For a detailed survey of current Orphic scholarship and of the impact of Orpheus and the Orphic Mysteries on western culture please see my blog Orpheus and Counterculture.

Orphic Fragment

Milky-Way-A-Crowded-Neighborhood1Exploding from the Great Soul,
souls reel and writhe,
seeking each other in space.

From planet to planet we fall,
crying for home in the abyss,
we are your tears, Dionysos.

Mighty one! God of Freedom!
Bring your children back into
your heart of singing light.



Soul Ladder

hubble_fountain_2To the left of the house of Hades
under a graceful white cypress
a well offers spring water.
Don’t drink there.

Find the well by the lake of memory.
Guardians protect the cold water.
Tell them:

I am a child of earth
and of starry heaven,
but my race is of heaven.

This you know.
I am parched
and perishing.

Give me cold water
from the lake of memory.

They will give you water
from the sacred spring
and you will live
a lord among heroes.



The Well of Memory

4500-year-cypress-tree-YazdI am parched with thirst—

Drink from me, the eternal spring
on the right by the cypress.

Who are you?
Where are you from?

I am a child of earth
and starry heaven,
but my race is of heaven.



Hammered in Gold

00828901As soon as the spirit
has left the sunlight
then be wary of everything.

Hail, you have suffered
the Suffering. This you
have never suffered before.

Once man
now God.

You are a kid
fallen in milk.

Hail, to you
walking on the right
by the sacred groves
and meadows of Persephone.





First born Earth,
counsel us.
All-mother, sacred child
of the Mother,

all seeing Zeus,
Serapis, the sun,
far seeing fire,
maker of appearances;

Victory and Fortune,
Eros and the Fates,
preserve us, manifest
the spirit of healing.

Controller of everything,
you make thunder
and the sickle.

Save us from
noxious vapors
and tumors.

I will fast seven days.
In the night
and after daybreak.

Zeus, penetrator,
all seeing ruler
of every stream,

open the spring
of healing,
spare your drops of fire.



Cecilia’s Golden Armor

Petelia-tabletShe comes from the pure,
O pure Queen of the Dead.

Child of Zeus,
here is the armor
of memory:

a gift men love
to sing songs about.

For you, Cecilia Secundia,
to forever avert
the darkness of forgetfulness.



A Kid, I Have Fallen in Milk

milk_splash_11_by_h_d_stock-d1zc4i5Out of the pure I come.
Pure queen of the dead,
I am of your starry race.

I have paid the penalty
for unrighteous deeds.

Fate and the Immortals
struck me with lightning
thrown from the stars.

I have flown away
from the weary wheel
of sorrows. Queen,

with eager feet
I come to your circle
in the heart of the underworld.

I ask mercy
from Persephone,
that by her grace

she receive me
among the blessed
happy to find God in mortal.



Magical Formula

milkhoneyMix honey with milk.
Drink it before sunrise
so you can have something
holy in your heart.

many pretend;
few know.



Friend, Use it to Prosper


Hear this song,
know a most sacred way.

Kind Zeus and Gaia our earth,
pure fire of the sun,
holy light of the moon and all stars,

Poseidon, shadow haired earth belter,
pure Persephone,
and Demeter, mother of fruitful splendor,

Arrow pouring Artemis,
good Apollo who prophesies at Delphi,
and intoxicating Dionysos
the dancer we honor most,

High spirited Ares,
quick to spill blood,
mighty maker Hephaistos,
sublimely gifted Aphrodite
risen from foam to light,
and the King of the Underworld,
we honor you.

Hebe, giver of youth,
virile Herakles, master of work,
Eileithyia the deliverer,
protector of birth,
opener of the gates to Earth,
we honor you.

The great blessings of Justice and Faithfulness,
splendid Nymphs,
and musical Pan, lord of all,
we honor you.

Lovely Hera, queen of Gods,
gracious Memory and the holy Muses,
golden Leto, mother of Artemis and Apollo,
the oracle Dione of Dodona, mother of Aphrodite,
clanging Kouretes dancing for Rhea,
dancing Korybantes celebrating Cybele
and the Kabiri who began the Mysteries in Samothrace,
saviors all, immortal children of Zeus,
the Dactyls on Mt. Ida whose fingers
first worked metal in fire,
we honor you.

Hermes, messenger of the immortals,
Themis, who sees the future,
primordial Night, and Day, bringer of light,
Faith, Justice, and Law
guide us.

Kronos of the golden age,
lord of the sickle of time,
Rhea, mother of the gods
in a chariot drawn by lions
and Thetis veiled deep blue,
mother of Achilles,
and wife of Okeanos of the seven seas,
father of the nymphs of the brine,
steady Atlas, unbound Eternity,
and everflowing Time, we honor you.

The glistening water of the river Styx,
gentle gods all, Foresight,
Good Luck laughing in a vineyard
and Bad Luck the bane of man,
gods of heaven, air, water,
on earth, under earth, and of fire,
we honor you.

Leukothea, white goddess,
bright as dawn at sea,
sister of amorous Semele,
mother of great Dionysos,
Palaimon, giver of bliss, protector of ships,
inescapable Adresteia
nemesis of injustice,
defender of the righteous,
nursemaid of Zeus,
honey tongued Nike, sweet Victory,

Asklepios the soothing,
Athene, master of war,
all winds, Thunder,
every part of the four columned Cosmos,

Mother of the immortals,
Attis bringer of spring,
and Men, of the pine cones,
backlit by the moon,
She of starry heaven,
and sacred Adonis
immortal beauty of desire,
the Beginning and the End
to all most important
we honor you,

hear us with joy and mercy
our rite is holy
and our offering respectful.




crossroadsBeautiful Hekate, of the roads and crossroads,
saffron-shrouded soul of the tomb
seen only by barking dogs,
friend of the dead.

Queen of blackest night,
torch held high
you walk beside Demeter
searching for Persephone.

You work from afar,
weaving spells of water
earth and sky you catch
every eye in a fatal trance.

Persian Artemis,
invincible huntress,
nurturer of youth,
you hold freedom’s key.

Each night drawn by bulls of mist
you shine light across the sky.
Full of your fire
crazed stags rattle antlers.

Mother of sorcery and witchcraft,
of spells, and superstitions,
you are the black puppy
and the black she lamb.

We offer you eggs and fish.

Traditional incense: storax
Suggested incense or oil: crushed lavender, willow, cypress, saffron
Traditional Greek offering for Hekate: Leave a clove of garlic on top of a small pile of pebbles at a crossroads.



Artemis, Opener of Gates

K19.1EileithyiaEileithyia attending Zeus at the birth of Athene

Goddess of many names,
sight sweet to women in labor,
you alone care for children,
helpful to young mothers
you give swift births.

Gracious to all,
yours is the power to nurture every house.
Delighted by celebrations
you loosen sashes.
Invisible, but seen in every action
you share in our pain
and rejoice in our births,
you love the playful crowd
of children, cubs and flowers.

Eileithyia, free from pain
even those suffering terribly.
Comfort our souls.
Pregnant women call only you,
you alone give relief from pains of labor.
Bring our children into the light
and save us,
savior of all.

Traditional: storax incense
Suggested: Artemisia, wild gathered if possible.




Arte_romana,_statuetta_di_nyx_o_selene,_I_secolo_acNyx, mother of Gods and men, Night,
let us call you Aphrodite, mother of all
jet-black, star spangled Goddess,
sleepy serenity and quiet delight you.
Mother of dreams,
you love celebrations that last all night,
gently easing our cares
you give rest from work,
giver of sleep.

Gleaming in darkness
you drive your black horses
appearing then disappearing
from earth and sky
you force light into the dark,
surrounding phantoms
as you flee again to the underworld,
dark stream, you drench the Earth,
your drowsy power cleaves the day.

Ancient night, black winged bird,
dread necessity rules all
yet I call on you
to disperse fears
that glisten in the night.

Traditional: burning torch
Suggested: single candle



The Sky

220px-Aion_mosaic_Glyptothek_Munich_W504Father of all,
source and end,
dance forever around
your Earth seed.

Universe, space,
home to gods and goddesses,
the roar of your whirl
protects our world,
earth and sky.

Nature’s invincible urgency,
indomitable glittering indigo
father of time,
divinity sublime,
Show us how to live blessed lives.

Traditional: frankincense
Suggested: outdoors under the stars




The_sun1Endless power and dwelling of Zeus,
to you belongs a share
of the sun, moon, and stars.
Your fiery breath tames every creature.

Sublime light of life,
purest cosmic element,
radiant, luminous
born from the stars,
give us calm and clarity.

Traditional: saffron
Suggested: light on water



The First Born Revealer

cimrm695aBlack winged Night
loved the wind.
A silver egg was born.

Scattering dark mist from your eyes
your golden wings burst from the egg
shining pure light in four directions
the cock at dawn
roaring like a bull
setting the world whirling.

Unforgettable seed
of all life
first born father of gods and men,
give us seeds, and wisdom.

Traditional: myrrh incense
Suggested: dandelion scattered to the wind



The Stars

stars_1230_600x450Sky spirits
of purest light,
children of Night,
we honor you.

Dance circles
of far shining rays,
revealers of fate.
Suspended in space
you gaze on seven luminous orbits.

Shining on night’s cloak of darkness,
indestructible in your blazing paths,
reflecting bright beams,
visit this contest of learning,
ripen us for works of glory.

Traditional: any aromatic herb
Suggested: outdoors under the stars



The Sun

SunTitanic golden eye
lighting our sky,
self born every instant
inexhaustible radiance,
sweet sight to every creature,

You tune the seasons
as you guide the dancing horses
drawing your chariot of light
along your whirling courses.

Harsh to the wicked,
guide to the good
play your golden lyre,
light our world with harmony.

Father of time,
show us the way to prosper,
teach us how to be noble,
ripener of every fruit.

Eternally pure all seeing eye,
you rise and set in a nest of color,
ideal justice, lover of water,
defend all who keep faith.

Most high, you help everyone.
Eye of right, light of life, crack your whip
and guide your shining horses,
show us the sweetness of living.

Traditional: pounded frankincense
Suggested: sun reflected on water


Series 2: The Moon to The Seasons


Creation and Salvation in Ancient Orphism

Alderink, Larry J.

American Philological Association, 1981

Instructions in the Netherworld

The Orphic Gold Tablets

Bernabe, Alberto and Cristobal, Ana

Brill   2008

Under the Spell of Orpheus:

The Persistence of a Myth in Twentieth-Century Art

Bernstock, Judith

Southern Illinois University Press, 1991

The Derveni Papyrus:

Cosmology, Theology and Interpretation

Betegh, Gabor

Cambridge University Press, 2007

The Tree at the Navel of the Earth

Butterworth, E.A.S.

Walter de Gruyer, 1970

Dionysus Slain

Detienne, Marcel

John Hopkins University Press, 1977

The Writing of Orpheus:

Greek Myth in Cultural Context

Detienne, Marcel

John Hopkins University Press, 2002

“Tearing Apart the Zagreus Myth:

A Few Disparaging Remarks On Orphism and Original Sin”

Edmonds, Radcliffe

Classical Antiquity Journal 18.1

University of California Press, 1999

Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World

Dickie, Matthew

Routledge, 2003

“Extra-Ordinary People: Mystai and Magoi,

Magicians and Orphics in the Derveni Papyrus”

Edmonds, Radcliffe

Center for Hellenic Studies

Harvard University Press,  2010

“To Sit in Solemn Silence?

Thronosis in Ritual, Myth and Iconography”

Edmonds, Radcliffe

American Journal of Philology 127.3  2006

Myths of the Underworld Journey:

Plato, Aristophanes, and the “Orphic” Gold Tablets

Edmonds, Radcliffe III

Cambridge University Press, 2004

The God of Ecstasy:

Sex-Roles and the Madness of Dionysos

Evans, Arthur

St. Martin’s Press, 1988

Neoplatonism and Indian Thought

Harris, R. Baine ed.

State University of New York, 1982

Empedocles: An Interpretation

Trepanier, Simon

Routledge, 2004

Amazons: A Study in Athenian Myth Making

Tyrrell, William Blake

John Hopkins University Press 1984

Paradise Earned:

The Bacchic-Orphic Gold Lamellae of Crete

Tzifopoulos, Yannis

Center for Hellenic Studies

Harvard University Press,  2010

Orpheus with his Lute:

Poetry and the Renewal of Life

Henry, Elisabeth

Southern Illinois University Press, 1992

The “Orphic Gold Tablets and Greek Religion:

Further Along the Path

Edmonds, Radcliffe, ed.

Cambridge University Press, 2011

Tracing Orpheus

Studies of Orphic Fragments

Ana Isabel Jiménez San Cristóbal

Walter de Gruyter,  2011

Pythagorean Politics in Southern Italy

An Analysis of the Sources

Von Fritz, Kurt

Columbia University Press, 1940

Early Orphism and Kindred Religious Movements

Nilsson, Martin

Harvard University Press, 1935

Studies on the Derveni Papyrus

Laks, Most ed.

Oxford University Press, 1997

The Arts of Orpheus

Linforth, Ivan

University of California Press, 1941

Orpheus and Greek Religion

Guthrie, WKC

Methuen, 1935

Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity

Jaurgeui, Miguel

De Gruyter, 2010

Ritual Texts for the Afterlife:

Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets

Graf, Fritz and Johnston, Sarah

Routledge, 2007

Restless Dead:

Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece

Johnston, Sarah

University of California, 1999


Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion

Parker, Robert

Oxford University Press, 1996

Reading Neoplatonism:

Non-discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus and Damascius

Rappe, Sara

Cambridge University Press, 2000

The Greek Commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo:


Westerink, LG

The Prometheus Trust, 2009

The Greek Commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo:


Westerink, LG

The Prometheus Trust, 2009

The Rise and Fall of the Afterlife:

The 1995 Read-Tuckwell Lectures at the University of Bristol

Bremmer, Jan

Psychology Press, 2001


The Myth of the Poet

Segal, Charles

John Hopkins University Press, 1988

Orpheus: The Metamorphosis of a Myth:

Studies in the Orpheus Myth from Antiquity to the Renaissance

Warden, John, ed.

University of Toronto Press, 1985

The Orphic Moment

Shamn to Poet-Thinker in Plato, Nietzsche and Mallarme

McGahey, Robert

State University of New York,  1994

Interpretation and Dionysus:

Method in the Study of a God

McGinty, Park

De Gruyter, 1978

Myth of the Magus

Butler, E.M.

Macmillan Company, 1948

Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity

Uzdavinys, Algis

Sophia Perennis, 2010

Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism

Burkert, Walter

Harvard University Press, 1972

Orpheus in the Middle Ages

Friedman, John

Harvard University Press, 1970

Religion in the Ancient Greek City

Zaidman, Louise and Pantel Pauline

Cambridge University Press, 1992

Greek and Roman Necromancy

Ogden, Daniel

Princeton University Press, 2004

“The Children of Earth and Starry Heaven:

The Meaning and Function of the Formula in the ‘Orphic’ Gold Tablets”

Edmonds, Radcliffe

Orfeo y el orfismo: nuevas perspectivas

Bernabé, Casadesús y Santamaría (eds.)

Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 2010

“Recycling Laertes’ Shroud: More on Orphism and Original Sin”

Edmonds, Radcliffe

Center for Hellenic Studies

Harvard University Press, 2008


A Lyrical Legend

Crowley, Aleister

Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, 1905

Marsilio Ficino

Voss, Angela, ed.

North Atlantic Books, 2006

“Marcilio Ficino, the Second Orpheus”

Voss, Angela

Music As Medicine:

The History of Music Therapy Since Antiquity

Hordon, Peregrine

Ashgate, 2000

‘Orpheus redivivus:

The Musical Magic of Marsilio Ficino’

Voss, Angela

Alan, Rees and Rees, ed.

Marsilio Ficino:

his Theology, his Philosophy, his Legacy

Brill, 2002

“Father Time and Orpheus”

Voss, Angela

The Imaginal Cosmos:

Astrology, Divination and the Sacred

Voss and Lall, ed.

University of Kent at Canterbury, 2007

The Natural Magic of Marsilio Ficino

Voss, Angela

Historical Dance:

The Journal of the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society v. 3 n. 1, 1992

The Orphic Hymns:

Text, Translation and Notes

Athanassakis, Aposotolos

Scholars Press, 1988


The Song of Life

Roe, Ann

Overlook Press, 2012

Under the Spell of Orpheus:

The Persistence of a Myth in Twentieth-Century Art

Bernstock, Judith

Southern Illinois University Press, 1991


Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic:

Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition

Kingsley, Peter

Cambridge University Press 1995


Watmough, J.R.

Cambridge University Press, 1934


Post-Mortem Judgments in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

Stilwell, Gary

iUniverse, 2005

Enlightenment Orpheus:

The Power of Music in Other Worlds

Agnew, Vanessa,

Oxford University Press, 2008

The Early Greek Concept of the Soul

Bremmer, Jan

Princeton University Press, 1983


The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks

Rohde, Erwin

Routledge, 2000

Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion

Harrison, Jane

Cambridge University Press, 1903


The Social Origins of Greek Religion

Harrison, Jane

Cambridge University Press, 1912

The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library

Fideler, David ed.

Phanes Press, 1988

Homage to Pythagoras:

Rediscovering Sacred Science

Bamford, Christopher, ed. 1994

The Hymns of Orpheus:


Hogart, R.C.

Phanes Press, 1993

The Philosophy of Proclus

The Final Phase of Ancient Thought

Rosen, Laurence

Cosmos Press, 1949

The Masks of God:

Occidental Mythology

Campbell, Joseph

Viking, 1964

Plutarchus and Theophrastus on Superstition

Hibbert, Julian

London, 1828

Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity

Jáuregui, Miguel

De Gruyter, 2010

How Philosophers Saved Myths: 

Allegorical Interpretation and Classical Mythology

Brisson, L.

University of Chicago Press, 2004

A Cult Ordinance

Essays on Religion and the Ancient World

Nock, A. D.

Harvard University Press, 1972

The Dramatic Festivals of Athens

Pickard-Cambridge, A. W.

Oxford University Press, 1968


The Song of Life

Wroe, Ann

Jonathan Cape, 2011

Homer the Theologian:

Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition

Lambert, Robert

University of California Press, 1989

Life of a Poet:

Ranier Maria Rilke

Freedman, Ralph

Northwestern University Press, 1998

A Ringing Glass:

The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke

Prater, Donald

Oxford University Press, 1994

“Voices of the Fire:

Understanding Theurgy”

Uzdavinys, Algis

Eye of the Heart, Vol 1, 2008

The Mystical Hymns of Orpheus

Taylor, Thomas

Chiswick, 1824

“Dante’s Metam-Orpheus:

The Unspoken Presence of Orpheus in the Divine Comedy”

Schwebel, Leah


The McGill Journal of Classical Studies, Volume IV: 62-72, 2005


One thought on “The Sacred Songs of Orpheus

  1. Just fantastic! I hope it’s ok, I copied a bit of your translation and your photo to use in my own blog. https://medium.com/invisible-illness/mourning-doves-82e9442842d1

    Posted by swmohan | June 7, 2017, 3:17 pm

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