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Ronnie Pontiac

The Sacred Songs of Orpheus Series II: From the Moon to the Seasons

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Editor’s Note: Also read Part One of the Sacred Songs of Orpheus.

tumblr_muj4bppDdh1s5zatco1_500 “Clothed all in white, I shun childbirth and coffins alike, and keep myself from eating food that once had life.”  Euripides

In the west we are fond of myths about gods shriveling up because we no longer believe in them, as if something immortal could be dependent on the momentary emotional excretions of creatures born to die.  The original Star Trek television series in the episode “Who Mourns for Adonais” depicted an alien or god eager for the worship of mortals, but in ancient Greece, giving attention to Apollo was all about getting Apollo’s attention back, because that meant good things in your life, the transformation of your darkness to light, and the fulfillment of your highest potential.

The careful reader can detect in the writing of ancient Egypt and of ancient Greece, a fear not only of offending the gods, but also of boring them.  In The Odyssey the goddess Athena looks out for Odysseus because he’s so damn clever his antics delight her.  She even takes the form of a swallow to fly frantically in the rafters while Odysseus kills the suitors who have dishonored his house.  The ancient Egyptians took this a step further.  In the cult of Sekhmet the great goddess was disgusted by humanity and our world that smells of excrement.  She required daily attention in the temple where a different statue of her was dressed in jewelry and the finest red cloth every dawn.  Ritual, as well as dedication to justice, erotic intoxication, unflinching truth, and unselfish healing, reminded this goddess that something beautiful could grow even from waste.

For the Greeks the gods were very near indeed. The obscure ocean god Nereus, for example, was the grandfather of Achilles. In ancient Sicily slave soldiers carved the name of Zeus and a symbol of a thunderbolt on the stone bullets they used in their slings.  A man hit by lightning was “Zeus struck” and blessed with immortality in paradise even if all that was left of him was a flower-scarred corpse.  Some scholars have argued that Zeus-struck was the metaphor preferred by Orphics for purifying the soul, not unlike the dorje, or thunderbolt of enlightenment of Tibetan Buddhism.

Artemis depicted in a vase painting about the defeat of the Persian Emperor Darius had rich overtones of meaning for Athenians who knew that the victory on land at Marathon that stopped the invasion from the east was fought on the day sacred to Artemis, and that the small victory at sea near Artemision, soon led to the disastrous defeat of Darius in the sea battle of Salamis fought under the shining full moon.  To the ancient Greeks these were clear signs that the goddess Artemis had helped them to defeat the Persians.

WHAT ARE THE ORPHIC HYMNS AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

Orpheus_Thracians Attic vase 440bc Are the Orphic songs ritual declarations, archived ceremonies in shorthand, an unqualified attempt to preserve precious pagan liturgies, a lone writer’s sacred poetry, or the patchwork of a collective?  Or are these narrative notes for live ritual performances that may have been the origin of drama?  Or were the hymns merely a cheap and occasionally haphazard collection peddled door to door by the Orphic priests who had a knack of showing up whenever a death occurred in some wealthy family. Picture something along the lines of a plagiarized De Laurence book of spells purporting to be a lost book of Moses, or, with apologies to the film Kung Fu Hustle an old man telling a gullible kid “you have the bone structure of an Orphic master.”

How do we reconcile the often contradictory statements of antiquity?  Orpheus invented farming, one ancient scholar declared, the story of him taming animals and plants with his music was really a poetic way of describing animal husbandry and the cultivation of crops.  An early scholar of the Christian church accused Orpheus of introducing animal sacrifice to religion but how could that be possible when the salient feature of Orphic cult was the refusal to eat any meat, or as the Orphics called it: “cannibalism.”

Orpheus, we are told by the ancient writers, first taught men how to purify their souls, divine the future, and make music.  But we are also told that he brought the ancient Egyptian mysteries of Osiris from the Nile to the mystic rites of Dionysus, reforming them, and informing them.  Was the myth of baby Dionysus ripped apart and then gathered and reborn merely a Thracian adaptation of Osiris dismembered by Set but reborn, thanks to Isis and Horus in Egypt, and Athena and Zeus in Greece?

The early fifth century A.D. Roman antiquarian Macrobius wrote that the myth of the dismemberment of Dionysus was meant to illustrate how numbers reveal the way pure conscious being becomes divided up whether into a universe or the myriad cells of a human body.  How does the term Orphic include mathematical philosophy but also Olympias the mother of Alexander the Great, whom Plutarch tells us was “addicted to the Orphic rites,” which she celebrated with her wild Thracian sisters, handling serpents, the ancient Greek version of the Pentecostals of Appalachia?

For the Theosophists and Platonists of the late nineteenth and early 20th century The Hymns of Orpheus were the actual lyrics of the musical performances of the Eleusinian Mysteries.  G.R.S. Mead’s once authoritative book Orpheus followed Thomas Taylor’s interpretation of second century A.D. geographer Pausanias who wrote: “Thracian Orpheus…his Hymns were few and brief. The Lycomedes, an Athenian family devoted to sacred music, know them by heart and sing them for the solemn mysteries. They are less elegant than the Homeric Hymns but our religion has adopted the Hymns of Orpheus, and has not given the same honor to Homer.”

This and other provocative but perhaps ultimately misleading evidence was compiled by sincere scholars for generations to create the impression of a pagan church that rivaled early Christianity, but the theory was demolished by two classics of Orphic studies W.K.C. Guthrie’s Orpheus and Greek Religion (1935) and Ivan Linforth’s The Arts of Orpheus (1941).  Guthrie examined the evidence and found that while the hymns may have been used in some sort of organized ritual, this was not the liturgy of a once popular religion.  He emphasized that even for the ancient writers, including Plato, the works of Orpheus were considered literature.  Since writers hoping to gain fame often released their books with Orpheus as author Orphic literature loosely defined presents a huge body of work.  Plato famously complained of itinerant Orphic priests hustling gullible rich widows with spells to ensure a happy afterlife and endless piles of books and assorted doodads to buy.

Guthrie also pointed out the significant differences between the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries.  Eleusis was a spectacle of lights and color, theatrical apparitions and dramatic experiences that were intended to wake the soul and reinforce morality.  You had an experience that changed you forever.  The Orphics demanded disciplines of diet and other self-denial, and continual study. The initiates called themselves mystai, from which we get our English word mystic.  Eleusis was a one-time epiphany.  Orphism was a lifelong devotion. While the average pagan was aware of Orpheus and the mysteries only a few really lived the Orphic life to achieve the full measure of self-knowledge.  “Many carry the wand,” a famous Orphic saying went, “but few are the Bakhoi,” the mystically initiated, the spiritually awakened.

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Yet we have so little evidence regarding Orphism in general no author of antiquity ever pointed out any specific person as an Orphic in all the works of the pagan world that survive to us.  The earliest investigators found the hymns already hopelessly anonymous.  Some ancient scholars argued that Pythagoras himself had authored some of them, but the more common belief was that Pythagoras had learned his numerology from the Orphic mysteries.  The Pythagorean prohibition against beans appears in the incense recipe for the hymn to Gaia, the earth.  But that’s slim evidence.  How do we differentiate between what might be called literary influence, or poetic appropriation of a metaphor, and genuine identity of content and practice?

At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th rogue scholar Thomas Taylor, following Pausanias and others, believed the hymns closely connected to an Athenian named Onomakritos. The usually reliable 6th century A.D. scholar Philoponus wrote that Aristotle credited Onomakritos with inventing or reforming the Orphic writings including the hymns in Athens around 500 B.C. Pausanias believed Onomakritos invented the myth of the dismemberment of baby Dionysus by the titans.

However Linforth argued persuasively that when Pausanias referred to Onomakritos he may have been using a sort of shorthand to refer to a certain edition of the hymns his readers would have associated with the notorious Athenian. Therefore the texts we have may have nothing to do with Onomakritos, as if some monk who had compiled books for the Holy Bible wound up being credited with authoring it.  Linforth also deconstructed the connection between the Orphic materials and the murder of Dionysus myth reminding all serious scholars on the subject that we know very little indeed about Orpheus and the literary and artistic remains associated with Orphic cult.  Onomakritos was accused by Lasus of Hermione, another poet under the wing of the Athenian tyrants, of adding his own verses to the traditional text, a serious crime.  For more on Onomakritos see The Sacred Songs of Orpheus: Series I.

The best guess of the time and place of origin of the songs of Orpheus as we have them is near Pergamon in western Asia Minor, on the west coast of what we now call Turkey, not far from where the great Sufi poet Rumi grew up. Asiatic deities addressed in the hymns, Melinoe, Hipta, Mise, are foreign to the ancient Greeks and were found only in the hymns until an archeological dig in western Anatolia discovered inscriptions mentioning them.  Most likely the hymns were written down during the Severan Dynasty, around 200 A.D. a time when eight emperors ruled over half a century, several created and dispatched by the Praetorian Guard.  Pagan antiquity became popular in those days as people sought to reclaim the virtues of a lost world.  Perhaps they sensed that even worse times were just ahead, when many emperors reigned for only months, or weeks.

THE MYSTICAL PURPOSE

Qabbalistic Theurgy And Evocation Methods

The songs of Orpheus can be read as fairly straightforward requests for health, wealth, peace and the other joys of life, for freedom from fear and anger, and abundant harvests.  But subtle messages and nuances in the text suggest a higher purpose.  Something closer to the practice of Ficino at the birth of the Renaissance when he translated the Hymns of Orpheus and performed them for his friends, his head famously tilted, and his eyes gazing away in trance, as he played and sang.

As Porphyry wrote: “…we should worship the supreme deity in profound and pure silence, with pure thoughts exalted by divinity.  Having joined and integrated ourselves to the sacred, we should approach the sublime with piety that reflects praise on the divine and protection on ourselves.  Only a soul free from material attachments, a rational eye full of conscious light, can contemplate God.  But to the offspring of the first God we should present hymns composed rationally.  It is the custom everywhere to offer the first fruits of the gifts we receive from the divine.  So the farmers present handfuls of fruit and grain, so should we offer our purest thoughts, the best of the soul, thanking the deities for the epiphanies they give us, and for seeding our minds with ideas about their qualities, for communicating with us, and revealing themselves to our mental sight, for shining on us their holy splendors, and saving us.”

Thomas Taylor’s translation of the hymns, however isolated and idiosyncratic, inspired Shelley and the early 19th century Romantics, Emerson and the mid 19th century Transcendentalists, and Thomas Johnson and the late 19th century American Platonists, as well as Theosophists, and later the Golden Dawn’s Yeats and Crowley.  Taylor wrote in his Dissertation on the Life and Theology of Orpheus: “If it should be asked, in what the power of prayer consists, according to these philosophers?  I answer, in a certain sympathy and similitude of natures to each other; just as in an extended cord, where when the lowest part is moved, the highest presently after gives a responsive motion.  Or as in the strings of a musical instrument tempered to the same harmony; one chord trembling from the pulsation of another, as if it were endued with sensation from symphony.  So in the universe, there is one harmony though composed from contraries; since they are at the same time similar and allied to each other.  For from the soul of the world, like an immortal self-moving lyre, life everywhere resounds, but in some things more inferior and remote from perfection than in others…we must not conceive, that our prayers…draw down divine beneficence; but that they are rather the means of elevating the soul to these divinities…for the divine irradiation, which takes place in prayer, shines and energizes spontaneously, restoring unity to the soul, and causing our energy to become one with divine energy…as the great Theodorus says, “all things pray except the first.”

“Hymns” isn’t the ideal word to translate the ancient Greek word for these strange creations: teletai. In the language of ancient Greece ritual, initiation, marriage, bearing fruit in season, ripening fruit to perfection, magical potency, and finishing are all related to teletai. In the sacred song Mise, for example, consider the multiple meanings of:

Notice our holy rites,
reward reverence
with seasons ideal
for the growth of good fruit.

The request is not only for the right amounts of heat, cold, sunshine and rain to produce an abundant harvest but also for a long life with appropriate successes for its various stages, because the fruit to be ripened is the soul.

A NOTE ON INCENSE

incense-burner1In the original text not every hymn included incense.  In some cases, as with Hades and Persophone, it may be that the last thing the mystic desired was to provide smoke for a feared deity of the dead to manifest in.  Most of the incenses provided by the text are either frankincense, storax, myrrh, or aromatic herbs.  The mystics would have imported their storax from Phoenicia and their frankincense and myrrh from Arabia.

Storax came from the late Latin styrax.  The styraka of the hymns is not the same as storax in stores today, the gum of Liquidamber styraciflua.  Styrax benzoin comes closest to the storax of ancient times. With the help of a friend who has compiled herbal and related correspondences for years I took the liberty of including suggested replacements.  These are meant to inspire the reader to come up with personally relevant approaches.  Seaweed, for example, is hardly good incense, but a bit burned on a hot coal hits the right note when addressing deities of the ocean.

The subtlety of botanical correspondences enriches understanding of the use of incense or herbs as sacrifices or wine and oil as poured libations.   For example, Persephone’s crown was woven of Asphodel flowers, the flower said to fill the meadows where the dead forget.  Often planted on tombs it became known as the food of the dead. The bulbs, heated in a fire, explode like fireworks, when knocked against a rock. Was this considered evidence of spiritual power?  Asphodel had its medicinal uses in those days but perhaps the most intriguing association would be the use of it by ancient Persia to make a well known strong glue.  In the Asphodel fields the dead were thought to be unable to focus, they simply drifted, without blood, like smoke that never dissipates, having lost all sense of self, or power to act or communicate, they were stuck in the mire of having wasted lives left unexamined and without heroic or virtuous accomplishments.  Interesting to note that 1700 years later famous American psychic Betty White described as “gelatinous” people who entered the afterlife unprepared. Unable to pull together a form, or a coherent identity, they are lost in a dream they don’t know they’re creating as they are pulled and pushed by whatever attracts their attention.

If you plan to use incense, traditional or as suggested, use only a pinch, a leaf, and do so in a fire safe environment with fresh air.  If you plan to explore the manifestation of forms in smoke you’ll need to study the art of incense making to create a more potent blend.

A NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION

clarityHowever formulaic the hymns, and seemingly haphazard, in many lines great beauty, true poetry, perhaps points to some lost original, translated and transliterated, divided and compiled by so many hands, only fragments remain, embedded in the dross of the centuries.  Professors Athanassakis and Wolkow’s collaboration published in 2013 is the definitive translation and a significant step forward for English readers revealing the stark splendor while sparing us the formulaic repetitions.

Yet literary faults may have spiritual virtues.  Repetition, for example, inspires trance.  The abbreviated diction of the hymns, at times they become little more than a list of attributes, in itself an important ancient form of worship, of attracting a deity’s attention, takes on another dimension when subtle aspects of context and metaphorical overtones become known.

For example, in the sacred song Earth I’ve taken the liberty of mistranslating a word.  “Seed of the eternal universe” should be “seat of the eternal universe.”  But the English word seat lacks certain overtones of meaning it has in the ancient Greek.  Proclus wrote: “heaven must be imagined as remaining entire in its own seat…this “seat” of heaven is the place of the body,” or as Michael Griffin explained in his essay Proclus on Place as the Luminous Vehicle of the Soul: “light “embraces” the body as its seat of motion and movement.”  The word “seat” then for the Orphic initiate did not mean that the gods took a load off their feet by having a nice sit on earth.  Just as the teeming organization of the body filled with microscopic births and deaths second by second is the focal point and fixed state of a soul, so the earth is the focal point and fixed state of the entire cosmos, or universe in harmony.

I have added stanzas, and added new hymns, one to replace a missing hymn to number, and others for gods and goddesses whose stories seemed to me to deserve inclusion, since they were part of these myths as told everywhere else, for example, Asteria who appears briefly in the Hymn to Leto, here receives her own hymn.  In other words, this is a poetic work, not a scholarly translation having been created with the intent of providing a text for enjoyment as literature, play and ritual.

The sacred songs of Orpheus exist in that moment when reverential and even fearful attempts by a mystic to draw the attention of the deity by praising divine attributes shifted to compelling spirits, angels, or devils to do the bidding of the magus who knows their secret names.  Partially this must have been a reaction to Christianity, but the hymns provide an intriguing glimpse at a sacred practice central to pagan religious history, that nexus of drama, myth, music, philosophy, symbology, hierarchy, cosmology, literary art, performance and practice that gave hope to the ancients.

MOON

tumblr_lv48rut1pc1qe7pbfo1_500Splendid bringer of light,
bull-horned goddess Moon,
crossing the sky, racing the night,
we honor you.

Stars attend your orbit
as you glide
a torch in the night,
waxing and waning,
male and female.

Your light glistens horses
and ripens fruit,
mother of time.

Brooding amber shining in the night,
all-seeing vigilance
in the sky full of stars,
evening’s splendor,
like a jewel you offer
fulfillment and favor.

In your long cloak of shadow
moving in circles
you shepherd the Milky Way.

Holy and gentle lady of the stars,
let your light shine
and save us.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: moonflower incense

 

 

 

NATURE

earth-curvature-from-spaceResourceful all-mother,
industrious goddess,
untamed all-tamer,
eternally splendid first born queen
of constantly unfolding creation,
men glorify you in fables,
seeing in the night
your imperishable light,
the constellations.

Oldest of all,
on your swift silent feet
our demise arrives
but you are self creating
so you never end.
We are all a part of you
but you are unique.

Joyous virtue,
you know us all,
nurse of flowers,
for love you twine,
mingle, and lead.

Giver of life and nourishment,
you have many names,
you give the Graces
the power to persuade.

Justice herself, queen of heaven,
earth and ocean, to the vulgar
you are bitter but sweet
to your obedient children
whom you nourish dissolving
everything that ripens.

All-mother and all-father,
you bless us with swift births,
treasuries of seeds,
and the fever we call seasons.

Magnificent, mighty giver of form
to everything; subtle, eternal
motion of every movement,
secret source of all skill,
you forever turn fast streams
into swirling currents,
flowing in everything,
circling, changing,
your designs alone succeed.
Your loud roar commands kings.

Life everlasting, destined fate,
breath of light everywhere
you alone do all these things.
Help us grow healthy.
Give us peace.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: assorted flowers

 

 

PAN

tumblr_lvimx3lwe01qe7pbfo1_500Pan!
God of the wild universe,
of sky, sea and earth,
eternal light
restlessly frolicking
with the Seasons,

You love-frantic pleasure,
weaver of universal harmony
in a playful song,
star-haunted goat,
you panic mortal minds
with delusions of terror.

Gushing fresh water springs
delight you, friend of
shepherds and herdsmen,
dancer with nymphs,
keen-eyed hunter,
Echo lover,
everything that grows
grows because of you.

Lord of the universe,
you have many names.
Zeus with horns, healer,
the light that turns a flower
into a fruit fully ripe.

You hold up the earth,
and the ocean that belts it,
the deep flowing waters
of the tireless sea,
the air that gives life
and the sublime eye
above of floating fire,
each has a place in your harmony.

Your power changes every nature
as you nurture all on the vast land.
Give us good endings to our lives,
and free us from fear.

Traditional: Aromatic herbs
Suggested: pine

 

 

 

HERAKLES

1990.24.0387

Strong-handed Titan
with the heart of a lion
renowned for courageous action,
and all-conquering energy,
help us, father of time.

Beyond words, lord of all,
everlasting ever changing,
all-conquering archer and seer,
devouring everything you create,
highest peak, helper to all,
you tame wild tribes, bringing
peace that nurtures children
and shining honors.

You are the most brave of earth’s sons,
illustrious healer, the gleam of dawn
and dark of dusk cling to your head.

Your twelve heroic labors
reach from east to west.
Irrepressible worldly immortal,
blessed charm against disease,
with your club drive misfortune away
and with your poisonous arrows
keep cruel death at bay.

Shake the tree,
give us a bite
of golden apple
for immortality.

Traditional: Frankincense
Suggested: white poplar

 

 

 

KRONOS

cronus and rhea relief pieceEternal father
of immortals and mortals,
pure, mighty, resourceful,
you consume all
but replenish, too.

Your unbreakable chains
are stronger than anything
except bonds of virtue.

Kronos, maker of time,
wily shifter of stories,
first child of earth and starry heaven,
in you we have birth and decline.

Revered source of foresight,
husband of Rhea the divine,
ancient root of all
you are everywhere,
give a blameless end to a good life.

Traditional: storax
Suggested: patchouli

 

 

 

RHEA

T7.1Rhea

Daughter of many faced Eros,
your chariot is drawn by
bull-slaying lions.

Furious frenzy of pounding
drums and clashing cymbals
delights you.

Mother of Zeus,
who bears the aegis
of omnipotence,

blessed consort of Kronos,
wild mountains please you,
where the horrible shrieks
of your ecstatic priests
echo the din of war.

First born mother
of immortals and mortals,
liar and savior, you gave
father Kronos a stone to eat
instead of Zeus
so a new world could be born.

From you come the land,
the vast sky above,
the ocean and the winds.

Restless purity, gentle savior,
give us peace and wealth,
send death and mire,
pollution’s filth far away
to the end of the earth.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: silver fir

 

 

 

ZEUS

tumblr_lxbq0wJM4X1qe7pbfo1_500 The Bright One,
clear blue sky,
you were
you are
you will always be
supremely sacred Zeus,
we dedicate this to you.

Under the oak of Dodona
your prophet priests
with unwashed feet
crouch on the ground
listening to your voice
speaking softly in rustling
leaves and cooing doves.

We lay before you
testimony in our favor.

You brought to light
divine mother earth,
hills swept by shrill winds,
oceans, and all the stars of the sky.

Strongest spirit, all father,
your scepter is a thunderbolt.
Beginning and end of everything,
you shake the earth.

Purify us, give us increase,
for father of thunder and lightning
you are also Zeus the planter,
friend to farmers.

You are the law of hospitality,
the civility of privacy
and respect for property.

The Milky Way,

the ladder of lights,
the path of souls
we call the road of Zeus.

God of many faces,
grant perfect health,
holy peace,
blameless glory and wealth.

Traditional: storax
Suggested: oak

 

 

 

HERA

tumblr_lxbpyfeER51qe7pbfo1_250In dark hollows
your soft breezes
nourish mortal souls,
mother of rain clouds,
you nurture the wind.

Queen of everything,
blessed wife of Zeus,
flowers at your feet,
without you nothing grows,
life becomes death.

Glory of the peacock’s
vibrating tail,
you are the toss
and the turn of the gust,
mother of us all.

Bless us,
goddess of many names,
with your beautiful smile.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: irises

 

 

 

POSEIDON

poseidon_sculptureEarth belter,
the tides obey
your bronze trident.
From your dark mane
at the bottom of the sea
great waves flow.

Deep roaring ruler of oceans,
land shaker,
your flowers are waves
and your blossoms foam,
gracious one, as you urge
your watery horses and chariot on.

Rushing and splashing through
the rippling brine
you delight in the wild dwellers
in the waves, spirit of the deep.

Keep safe the foundations
that make the earth stable,
Protect swift ships,
give us peace and health
and blameless wealth.

Traditional: myrrh
Suggested: seaweed

 

 

 

HADES

tumblr_lxw4n03EBu1qe7pbfo1_1280A meadow in the afterlife,
shadows in darkness,
Earth, seat of the immortals,
mighty lap for all mortals,
your realm, Zeus subterranean.

You hold the keys
to everything earthly.
You give us the yearly wealth
of ripened fruit.

Your throne stands in moonless night,
in the dismal plain that stretches
from horizonless darkness to the same,
where breathless specters roam
in the windless distance
seeking light in dark dreams
there you reign
by the river of pain
where Gaia binds her roots to Fate.

Death obeys only you,
you receive us all,
master of mortals,
in muddy Tartarus,
the asphodel meadows
or the Elysian Fields.

You took Demeter’s daughter,
tore her from the meadow
plunged her into the sea
then through the gate to your realm
in the famous cave near Eleusis.

Only you were born
to judge the obscure
and the conspicuous.

Holiest glorious ruler,
with respectful reverence
we ask for joy and favor.

Traditional: none
Suggested: mint

 

 

 

THUNDERING ZEUS

zeusOminous changes of weather
tell us you are near.
The rumble of your chariot
thunders through gathering gloom.

You drive the blazing cosmos,
the celestial flash of your lightning
shakes earth, seat of the immortals,
as you shroud flame in clouds.

Bringer of storms and hurricanes,
roaring thunder like a shower of arrows
you light up everything
burning anything
so strong you make our hearts pound
as we feel our hair stand on end.

Holy, invincible sudden
endless spiraling din,
sound all devouring,
unbreakable, threatening,
gale swooping down
in a flash, the column of smoke
dreaded on land and at sea.

Wild animals cringe, faces reflecting lightning,
as thunder fills the hollows of the heavens.
You throw the fiery bolt that rips the sky.

Calm angry waves and stormy peaks.
All of us know your power.
Grant us all things that please the heart,
a prosperous life, and royal health.
Nurture our children with peace
crowned with honor.
Give us existence ever flowering
with joyful thoughts.

Traditional: storax
Suggested: oak

 

 

 

GOD OF LIGHTNING

Zeus_lightning_Glyptothek_Munich_4339Magnificent, pure,
glorious, resounding,
ethereal Zeus your whip
blazes in the sky.

With a deafening crash
your winged fire thunders
light through the clouds,
swift as a diving eagle.

Frightening, angry,
and invincible lord of lightning,
all-father and highest king,
be kind and grant sweet ends to our lives.

Traditional: powdered Frankincense
Suggested: oak

 

 

 

CLOUDS

clouds Mothers of rain
traveling over
heaven’s plain,
nourish our crops.

Wind driven
water bellies
full of thunder

you fill the sky
with tremendous crashes
driven by rushing winds.

With dewy robes
blown by fair breezes
send mother Earth
crop-nourishing rain

Traditional: myrrh
Suggested: myrrh

 

 

 

THE SEA

Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_OceanGray-eyed Tethys, bride of Ocean,
dark-veiled goddess of dancing waves
blown to shore by sweet breezes.

Your tall waves break on rocky beaches.
Calm, gentle, smooth
you are the delight of ships.

Mother of rivers whose waters
quench the thirst of wild creatures,
mother of Aphrodite, of darkening clouds,
and freshwater springs swarming with nymphs,
send a fair wind to fill our sails.

Traditional: pounded frankincense
Suggested: frankincense

 

 

 

NEREUS

Nereus

Ocean root,
in blue almost black darkness
fifty beautiful nymphs,
your daughters,
dance gracefully
in the waves.

Ocean floor,
end of the earth
where everything begins,
you make the ground tremble
when you lock
storm winds in your
gloomy deep.

Save us from earthquakes,
give us peace, wealth,
and soft-handed health.

Traditonal: myrrh
Suggested: myrrh

 

 

 

THE NEREIDS

tumblr_lvimp8OoGs1qe7pbfo1_1280 Daughters of Nereus,
beauties of the deep,
dancers in the waves
at the bottom of the sea
riding the backs of Tritons,
your mermen with wings,
you delight in the creatures
of the billowing brine.
At home in water
you leap and twirl
like glistening dolphins
roaming the roaring ocean.
Give us wealth,
you who first showed us
the sacred rites of Dionysus
and pure Persephone,
you and Kalliope
first born muse
of music and dance,
and great Apollo.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: seaweed

 

 

 

PROTEUS

tumblr_lvimn90LGB1qe7pbfo1_500Old man of the sea,
you hold the key
that unlocks the deep.

Firstborn,
by your power
seed becomes
mighty tree.

Changing intricate matter
you elaborate life
into endless shapes.

You know what is,
what was and what will be.

Transforming more than
the immortals of snowy Olympus,

soaring over land and sea
through the air and nature,

visit us, father, with holy guidance
and grant a good end to a productive
and prosperous life.

Traditional: storax
Suggested: seaweed

 

 

 

EARTH

Planet-earthGaia divine, mother of mortals
and the blessed immortals,
you nourish us all,
you give all,
you ripen everything,
you destroy everything,
creator of all you devour.

In spring, heavy with fruit
and growing flowers
in the pains of labor
you give birth everywhere,
to beings who revere you,
seed of the eternal universe.

You are the pure pulse
in everything,: vast, eternal, deep.

Yours is the breath of sweet grass,
and the joy of rain,
goddess of flowers.

Around you flows
the intricate world of stars
endless and awe-inspiring.

Blessed goddess,
increase our harvests,
with your companions
the gorgeous Seasons,
show us favor.

Traditional: aromatic herbs and any grain except beans
Suggested: wildflowers

 

 

 

THE MOTHER OF THE GODS

K13.2HestiaMost honored mother of the immortals,
nurturer of us all,
let your bull-killing lions
draw your swift chariot,
queen of the sky,
hear our prayers,
motion in every movement.

Ruler of rivers and the sea,
you gently give us nourishment.

You are Hestia,
goddess of the hearth fire,
they call you wealth giver
because you give all gifts.

We pound drums to delight you,
frenzy loving
nurturer of all life.
You cause madness
and cure it.

Consort of Kronos,
child of starry heaven,
joyously and graciously
know our deeds of piety.

Traditional: various
Suggested: silver fir

 

 

 

HERMES

tumblr_lvim20mFjs1qe7pbfo1_250

Messenger of Zeus,
son of Maia
daughter of Atlas
who shoulders the world,
almighty heart,
gentle and clever,
you judge every competition.

Guide of the dead,
you lulled then killed
hundred eyed Argos
to give the peacock
gorgeous feathers.

Doorways, roads
and borders amuse you.

Gracious sage,
good shepherd,
and guardian,
guide with winged sandals,
you love gymnastics,
secrets and tricks.

Athletics and deceit
delight you equally.

Free us from worry,
lover of profits,
and prophets,
interpreter of all,

in your hands you hold
the pure instrument of peace,
your gifts are casually
found treasures.

Master of words,
those dreaded weapons,
help us do our work,
friend of mortals in need.

With the touch of your wand
you bring sleep,
a dream or death.

Give us graceful speech,
and productive virility.
grant us mindfulness,
Close our lives in peace.

Incense: Frankincense
Suggested: Copal or cinnamon

 

 

 

PERSEPHONE

2720131_f496

Where is Persephone?
Wearing her crown
of asphodel flowers,
food of the dead.

Daughter of great Zeus,
only child of Demeter,
wife of Hades,
quiet giver of life,
you command the dismal gates
deep in the earth
that separate the living from the dead.

Pure blossom of Demeter,
practice of justice,
mother of the Furies,
mother of Dionysos,

Radiant playmate of the Seasons,
giver of harvests,
bulls and goats,
mortals adore you.

In spring you are the joy
of a breeze in a meadow.
We see your sacred body
in fresh shoots and green fruits.

Bride of a kidnapper,
you were a virgin
walking in a field
collecting flowers
when Hades saw you
and took you away
in his black chariot.

Your mother searched
everywhere for you.
She found you
in the underworld.

Persephone,
because you ate
pomegranate seeds
at the table of Hades

Zeus decreed
you spend six months
every year underground.
We call it winter.

When you return
to wander smiling
in fields of sweet grass
your footsteps and voice
awaken spring.

Persephone
of the beautiful ankles
and aspen hair,
you are the star
in the apple.

Autumn wed
giver of life and death,
you nourish, and kill.

Peacefully flowering,
give gentle-handed health,
lifelong blessings
and noble old age
to we who sail to the realm
you rule with mighty Hades.

Traditional: none
Suggested: asphodel or pomegranate

 

 

 

DIONYSUS

909bRoar loud, and revel!
Dionysos!
Primal,
of two natures,
thrice born!

Face of the mighty bull,
vigorous as ivy,
howler in battle,
though pure
you take raw flesh
at three annual feasts.

Broad leaves of the wild
wrap you, clusters of grapes
adorn you, son of the forbidden
love of Zeus for Persephone.

With the rain nymphs of Nysa
who nourished you
fill us with the breath
of your perfect kindness.

Traditional: storax
Suggested: red wine

 

 

 

KOURETES

Kouretes3 Leaping to the sound of weapons,
howling mountain men,
you pound the ground
with your nimble feet,
striking a sour chord on the lyre
to hide the cries of baby Zeus
in danger from his father.

Famous warriors,
well-armed guardians,
priests who protected a mother
struck wild on the mountain,
hear our praise and visit us
with joyous hearts
give us grace.

Traditional: none
Suggested: clash metal together

 

 

 

ATHENE

athena1001Spear-shaker
born fully armored
from the womb
in the head of Zeus,
the noise of war
makes you more courageous.

In caves and on windy hilltops,
in mountain shade, and charming meadows,
we stand hesitating to speak of you.

You love swords, spears and shields,
you arouse battle frenzy in our souls,
oh powerful, and terrifying anger.

Mother of every art,
you ignore love’s bed.
Impetuous, to the virtuous
you give good sense
but to the wicked
you bring madness.

Male and female,
war-maker,
shrewd counselor,
shape shifting she dragon,
illustrious frenzy,
destroyer of the hundred giants
who dared make war on the gods.

Horse driver,
free us from suffering,
ever-victorious goddess.

You gave Athens
her olive trees
and the golden words
that gilded Greece.

In the day
and in the small hours of night
hear our prayers
and give us the full measure
of peace, wealth, and health.

Give us pleasant seasons,
gray-eyed goddess of invention
adored by many.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: olive oil

 

 

 

NIKE

6894106614_70e4251a8e_z Omnipotent Victory,
desired by everyone,
only you can free us
from impatient competition
and the confrontations of war.

You judge the hero,
you grant the prizes,
no boast is sweeter
than your favor
in the aftermath of battle.

You rule us all,
from your good name comes glory,
glory born from strife,
and teeming with celebrations.

With joy in your eyes
crown works of renown.

Traditional: powdered frankincense
Suggested: laurel

 

 

 

APOLLO

1623200-statue-of-apollo-on-the-blue-skyBlessed healer,
slayer of the giant
who assaulted your Titan mother,
you are the sun,
on the peak of Parnassus,
giver of wealth,
illustrious Horus of Memphis,
to you we cry.

Yours are the lyre,
the seed and the plow.
You freed the oracle of Delphi
by killing the dragon Python.

Wild light bringer,
glorious youth,
loveable immortal,
your arrows fly far.

Leader of the dance of the muses,
holy one, slayer of vermin,
your ambiguous oracle
deceives the deceitful with truth.

Your eye sees everything,
bringing light to all beings,
golden haired giver of
clear prophecies  to the virtuous.

Hear with heartfelt kindness
prayers for the people.

You gaze on ceaseless light
and on the fertile earth
through the twilight.

In the quiet dark of starlit night
you watch the roots of earth
as you hold the limits of the world
harmonizing the poles with your lyre.

Yours are all beginnings
and every ending.

You make everything bloom
with your versatile lyre
you give the races of living beings
our natures and differences
as you infuse harmony into every fate,
giving equal measures
of winter and summer,
striking low notes in winter
and the highest in summer,
no minors notes for
the lovely flowers of spring.

Always everywhere
you give subtle advice
through oracles, dreams
and bird flight.

Teach us the science
of harmonies and limits.
Tune winter’s deep string
to spring’s sweetness.

Strike summer’s purest chord.
Let the wind song
of the syrinx sing
a dance for Pan
two horned god
of whistling winds,
for yours is the seal
of all the cosmos.

Hear us and save us.

Traditional: powdered frankincense
Suggested: sunflower

 

 

 

LETO

720px-Tityos_Leto_Louvre_G42Dark-veiled night,
mother of the twin dancing lights
to whom many pray.

You suffered the birth pangs
of Zeus’s bright children,
you bore Apollo the sun
and arrow-pouring Artemis the moon.

For you Zeus fixed
to the bottom of the sea
floating Ortygia,
isle of the quail
where Artemis was born,
and Apollo under the shining peak of Delos,
under the watchful gaze
of your sister starry Asteria,
by the rushing stream
and the sacred pool,
in the shade of palm and laurel.

Hear us, goddess,
sweeten every ending.

Traditional: myrrh
Suggested: date palm

 

 

 

ASTERIA

tumblr_lxop1uMPn81qe7pbfo1_400Deathless Titan,
mother of Hekate,
to refuse amorous Zeus
you threw yourself
like a meteor
into the boiling sea.

You became Ortygia,
Sicilian isle of the quail,
noble Delos,
where your sister Leto
bore Artemis and Apollo,
twin lamps of the sky.

The glory of your light
shines through endless space.
You inspire prophetic dreams,
star reading, and messages
between the living and the dead.
Bring us illumination.

Suggested: star flower

 

 

 

ARTEMIS

tumblr_lmivcchc9W1qe7pbfo1_250 You have many names,
daughter of Zeus.
Revered archer,
with your torch you bring
light to us all.

In the mountains of eastern Crete
they call you Diktynna
of the dancing plants,
protector of animals.

Helper of labor
you will never know,
virgin, huntress,
fire your arrows
and drive our worries away.

You are the moon
roaming the wilds.
Redeemer, fame-bringer,
nurturer of the young,
immortal, yet earthy
you love to hunt deer
in your realm the forests
on the mountains.

Beautiful eternal flower,
for you girls with pine torches
dance around laurel trees.
Happy dogs follow you.
Hear us, savior,
give us the lovely fruits of earth,
health that makes hair shine.
and fair peace.

Banish pain and disease
to the most distant
mountain peaks.

Traditional: powdered Frankincense
Suggested: artemisia

 

 

 

THE TITANS

goya.saturn-sonGlorious children of sky and earth,
ancestors of our fathers,
you dwell deep underground.

From you comes every toiling creature,
mortals of the sea and of the land,
the birds, and all the ephemeral
generations of this world.

Drive out cruel anger.
If some unknown forefather
stormed your homes
forgive innocent descendents.

Traditional: Frankincense
Suggested: Frankincense

 

 

 

THE KOURETES

Kourites

Bronze clashing
priests of Ares
in your bodies
of sky, earth and sea,
life-nurturing breezes,
glorious saviors,
protectors of sailors
you were the first
to teach us sacred rites.

Whirled by you,
oceans crash
against shores,
your pounding feet
shake the forest
as your armor gleams
flashing in the sky
all wild animals cower
at your onslaught
as your shouts
fill the heavens
and dust from your march
reaches the clouds.
Then every flower blooms
under the rainbow.

Immortals, you nurture,
and you destroy,
fretting angrily over us
you ruin our crops,
spoil our possessions,
and kill mortals
as the ocean deep groans,
tall trees fall uprooted,
and the noise of shaking leaves
fills all the sky.

Celestial twins of Olympos,
gentle saviors, bring clear skies
and sweet breezes,
nurture the seasons,
and the fruit on the trees,
breathe on us.

Traditional: frankincense
Suggested: clash metal together

 

 

 

KORYBAS

bloody_mary

Greatest king of immortal earth,
grim warrior,
save us from fear in the night.

Roaming deserted places
save us from delusions.

Male and female,
you take many shapes.
Bloodied by murder
you wander, slaughtered
by your own twin brothers.

For Demeter you changed
into a dark, ferocious dragon.
Hear us, drive away anger,
and free souls stunned by necessity
from fearful fantasies.

Traditional: frankincense
Suggested: frankincense

 

 

 

 DEMETER

demeterGoddess all-mother
of many names,
revered nurturer
of every youth,

pure mother bee,
giver of wealth,
nourisher of corn,
you love peaceful hard work.
Watch over the sowing
the harvest and the threshing,
ripener of unripe fruit.

You dwell in holy solitude
in the valley of Eleusis.
Spellbinding beauty
nourishing every mortal,
your gentle wisdom
first yoked ox to plow.

Green of every leaf,
you were the first to give
bountiful harvests rising
up from below the ground.
You are how we all grow,
you make every flower bloom.

The glorious roar of your torches
shines joy on the rainbow brood
of children, offspring, flowers and fruit,
mother of summer.

Bridled dragons draw
your mighty chariot
as you whirl, howling
in ecstasy round your throne.

Only daughter
with your many powers over mortals
you mother countless children.

Your sacred blossoms
the variety of flowers
reflect your ten thousand faces.

Pure and blessed being
give us summer’s fruit,
peace, wealth, success,
good laws, and health
that rules them all.

Traditional:  storax
Suggested: wheat

 

 

 

MOTHER ANTAIA

tumblr_lxw4jfXdMT1qe7pbfo1_400Mother of immortals and mortals,
weary searcher far and wide,
grieving wanderer, your fast
made barren the earth,
depriving the gods of sacrifice,
you opposed all, hostile to life,

until you drank water,
barley-meal and pennyroyal
in the valley of Eleusis
where you came to Hades
for iillustrious Persephone.

The innocent child
guiding you brought news
of the sacred wedding
of subterranean Zeus.

Hear our need
and give good counsel
to all who pray to you,
graciously notice the pious.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: wheat

 

 

 

MISE

601px-Mainade_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2645 Female Dionysus,
divine lawgiver
of many names,
a pinecone-tipped
stalk of fennel
wrapped in ivy
is your scepter.

Unforgettable seed
of good counsel,
holy ineffable
female and male,
hear us.

You delight in
your mother’s rites
in elegant Eleusis,
wild Phrygia,
and lovely Cyprus,

on wheat field plains,
and by the flooding Nile
where your revered mother
black-robed Isis reigns.

As rain and ocean nymphs
tend your every need,
with kindness notice
our initiation games.

Traditional:  storax
Suggested: wheat

 

 

 

THE SEASONS

tumblr_lxbq0wJM4X1qe7pbfo1_500Daughters of Themis
and all-father Zeus,
we honor you.

You are law-abiding,
justice and peace.
You inspire green spring
and meadows of flowers,

we find you in all colors,
and every fragrance
floating on breezes.

Always blooming,
ever turning sweet-faced Seasons
your robes are the dew
of flourishing flowers.

Playmates of holy Persephone
as the Fates and the Graces
come out to the light,
pleasing Zeus,
and the giver of fruits,
their mother.

Notice our holy rites,
reward reverence
with seasons ideal
for the growth of good fruit.

Traditional: aromatic herbs
Suggested: any fruit

Next month: Sacred Songs of Orpheus #3

Semele to Number

In December #4: Ares to Death

will complete the series.

For a complete list of sources see Sacred Songs of Orpheus Part 1

For this series I found especially useful:

Proclus on Place as the Luminous Vehicle of the Soul

Griffin, Michael

The University of British Columbia

Academia.edu

Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion

Cook, Arthur

Cambridge, 1914

The Orphic Hymns

Athanassakis and Wolkow

John Hopkins University Press, 2013

Ritual Texts for the Afterlife:

Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets

Routledge, 2007

“Summoning Plotinus:

Ficino, Smoke and the Strangled Chickens”

Allen, M.J.B.

Plato’s Third Eye:

Studies in Marsilio Ficino’s Metaphysics and its Sources

Variorum, 1995

Article Written By Ronnie Pontiac

Newtopia staff writer RONNIE PONTIAC is a founding member and primary guitarist of Lucid Nation, executive producer of the documentaries Rap is War, Exile Nation, and the award winning animated short Cohen on the Bridge.  He associate produced The Gits documentary, and was art editor, then poet in residence for Newtopia Magazine in its former incarnation . He’s a published author of works on obscure topics such as ancient Greek religion and the history of alchemy. Follow him on Twitter @AmerMysteries.

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