The Garden of Proserpine

I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven

Protogone

Kore Protogone. The first born girl.

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My idea was to focus on the night at the beginning of the world. An Orphic egg of golden-flashing labradorite in the darkness.

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And a snake  made of obsidian and bone surrounding the dark beginning.

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Kore

Kore (1)

Kore. Kora. Koure. The girl. The maiden. For my second piece of devotional jewelry inspired by Persephone’s titles and epithets, I chose one of her best-known and most-honored names.

kore2

The maiden is springtime, young and soft and pastel, a flower in the meadow. This is the flower, these are the petals, with accents in rose quartz.

koreflat

While I love the soft, light tones of this piece, maybe it’s time for one of her gloomier epithets next. If you have a favorite title of hers, let me know.

 

 

Karpophoros

karpophorosfront

I’ve started a project to make a piece of jewelry for each of Persephone’s epithets. This is my design for Karpophoros – bringer of fruit.

I beaded a rope to mimic a basket handle, with the copper piece in the center as the upturned “basket,” from which the fruits come forth. I feature garnet in the details, a stone I associate with Persephone.

karpophorosfocus

fruitsclose

I loved the experience of creating this, and the culmination in a special piece of devotional jewelry. I plan to work with other epithets of Persephone’s, and those of other gods as well.

Which epithets would you like to see as jewelry?

 

Orpheus and Greek Religion Chapters 7 & 8: “Orpheus and Other Greek Religious Thinkers” and “Orpheus in the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman World”

This is my LAST notes post (and a short one) – because this is the end of the book!

Notes:

  • Pythagoreans: The Orphics and Pythagoreans were similar in that they promoted a specific lifestyle, and were concerned with purification of the soul. However, the Pythagoreans were not centered on Dionysos like the Ophics; they were more focused on Apollo. The authors compares the two groups to two sects of Christians who accept the same dogma, but have a different patron saint. Pythagoreanism was also a philosophy as well as a religion. There was overlap between the two groups but they were not the same.
  • Milesian/Ionian school: They shared the assumption/question that there is a divine unity transcending what we see of the world, and that from this unity of the divine comes multiplicity. This is what the Orphics thought of as Orphic Zeus, the One who is Many who come back to One. The Ionians tried to discover what they would call this underlying divinity; Anaximander ended up calling it “The Unlimited,” and his cosmogony had interesting similarities to that of the Orphics.
  • The book goes on from there to show how many other ancients were NOT Orphic. I was less interested in this section.
  • Syncretism was huge in the Hellenistic world. It was how the Greeks could understand the existence of non-Greek gods. Orphism was a part of this world too. This can be seen in the diversity of gods and spirits addressed in the Orphic Hymns.
  • Orphism and Christianity: The author suggests that we, the readers, “make up our own minds” about the connection between Christianity and Orphism, but says that the figure and myth of Orpheus was inspiring to the early Christians for sure. Comparisons were made between Orpheus and David of the Old Testament, another magical musician who played for the animals. One interesting artifact is the amulet of a man on a cross, crowned by a crescent moon, with the inscription “Orpheus Bakkikos,” which seems to be a syncretism of Orphic and Christian imagery. There are obvious similarities between Orphism and Christianity, such as the doctrine of original sin (though the Orphics meant something very different by it), the dying-and-rising god, and the similarity to the being “born anew” of the mystery religions. The details of the two belief systems, however, are very different despite the basic similarities.

I’m glad I read the book; it clarified a few things for me and makes me feel better-informed. It was a fine overview. I hope these notes can be helpful to others who may not have much time for academic books.

And with that, I’m going to take a break from studying, and will go forth and practice my Orphic-influenced religion!

The river nymphs in July

julynymph2

My intention is to, at least once a month, visit with the nymphs, leave offerings for them, and get to know them. This time, a friend and I visited the river nymphs.

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We walked the trail, waiting for the moment we would know we were in the right place to settle and leave our offerings. That moment came as we sighted the waterfall, and a cavernous area a little before it, where we could sit on the rocks under the spreading arms of the willow tree. We’d found the place. People had littered it, so the first thing we did was clean.

nymphjulybottle

As I read the hymn to the nymphs we left our offerings, watched the river accept them, and later walked into the water, where we stayed for an hour, feeling as though we were between worlds, somewhere time stopped and the physical world could bend.

We spoke to the nymphs then, and they told us to come back and continue leaving offerings, but that they were not ready to speak to us further at this time. Understandable; they don’t know us or our intent. We were informed that in that area were dryads (but not hamadryads), who roam with Artemis in the woods, and naiads/potamides (they were fine with either name) in the river who go with (and this surprised us) Apollo. (Of course, Apollo has a history of loving naiads, but we’d forgotten that at the time.)

nymphjulywater

From the water they gifted us a couple of stones. I think I’ll drill one that’s a good shape and use it to make a pendulum exclusively to communicate with them.

I’m looking forward to returning in August and looking for the small changes, the variations that come with the passage of time. I’m looking forward to standing in the river again, and emerging cleansed and new and good.

Orpheus and Greek Religion Chapter 6: “Life and Practices of the Follower of Orpheus”

Orpheus with animals, Roman mosaic

Notes:

  • Three doctrines of Orphism: the composite origin of humankind (Titan and God, earthly and heavenly), the hope of final apotheosis (elevation of the soul into a god), and transmigration (reincarnation, the passage of the soul from one body to another).
  • The belief in reincarnation explains the Orphic practice of vegetarianism (Guthrie calls it “the most important Orphic commandment”), since the soul of a former human may be present in an animal, and then be born back into a human, and so on – making meat-eating essentially cannibalism.
  • An Orphic needed to do two things to attain salvation: 1. Undergo initiation, and 2. Live a life aligned with Orphic notions of purity. Part of that life of purity was vegetarianism. There was the idea that there was a pre-Titanic age during which people found it “impious to eat flesh or to offer it to the gods,” and that the Orphics were resuming that practice. Another Orphic prohibition was against taking wool into temples, or being buried in wool. There is also a fragment which suggests white (and possibly linen) as a pure color, and the avoidance of birth and death.
  • Were there Orphic moral teachings? Not so much. Orphism was more individual and personal – about your own journey of soul-elevation, in whatever form that may take.
  • Orphic initiations (or conversions): Professional freelance Orphic initiators, orpheotelestai, would perform initiations for profit. They were not always regarded well by others. The Orphic Hymns are seen as significant (a form of teletai, divine writings and rites) – sacred writings in general were a lot of what Orphism depended on. The author thinks it probable that the recital of the hymns along with the appropriate (meatless) sacrifice, along with a “pantomime illustrating the theme of the recital,”  for example of the myth of Dionysos and the Titans, were what consisted an Orphic ritual. But, we don’t really know for sure.
  • Orphic initiation, pure speculation: Studying the Orphic tablets and writings written about in the Chapter 5 post can lead to a lot of speculation about what an Orphic initiation my have been like. The appendix to this chapter lists some theories – was there a bathing in (possibly boiled) milk, from the line “a kid I have fallen into milk?” Was there an Orphic ritual of the wheel? (There were wheels in temples of Persephone.) Did the Orphic initiate climb a ladder to enter a sacred enclosure? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Was Orphism a sect? Yes in the sense that they had complicated dogma in writings which had to be studied – which was quite different from mainstream Hellenic religion, so the Orphics were always a small group. However, there is not much evidence for organized Orphic communities. The author states that there likely was some sort of organization, and there are a couple pieces of evidence, but again, we don’t know much.

Quotes:

  • “‘Many bear the wand, but few become Bakchoi’. That is to say, there are many who join in a Dionysiac orgy, but few who carry out all that an Orphic thought necessary for the attainment of union with the god. That the verse is Orphic we may say with confidence…” p.194
  • “According to the words which Aristophanes puts into the mouth of Aeschylus in the Frogs, Orpheus was famous for two things – he revealed the ways of initiation, and he taught men to abstain from killing.” p.196

Orpheus and Greek Religion Chapter 5: “The Future Life as Seen by Orpheus”

The Milky Way

Notes:

  • Orphic views on the afterlife were different than what could be called more “mainstream Hellenic” beliefs, which saw the afterlife in Hades as a gloomy, wraith-like existence without any of the pleasures of life. Though in time, more hope was available to many people in the form of  the mystery-religions and rites, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Kore (promising a blessed afterlife to all initiates, rather than just the privileged heroic class for whom Elysium was normally reserved). It was possible for an initiate at Eleusis to be an Orphic as well, though “the religion of Eleusis remained fundamentally different from that of Orpheus.”
  • The purpose of Orphism: Orphism was a way of life and not just one ritual. The purpose of this way of life was to stifle one’s own “Titanic,” sinful nature, and to elevate one’s inherent divinity. (See my last post on the origins of this belief.) The Titan-self was associated with the body as a prison for the Divine-self (soul), making Orphics ascetics. There were also rites which were performed for the purpose of purifying the self. An Orphic both participated in Orphic initiation and led the Orphic life (including moral goodness).
  • Wicked Orphics? The author makes an interesting (?) note that Orphism may have appealed to the “wicked,” those who needed easy redemption. What happens to the uninitiated or those who do not live the Orphic life? There is one saying that they “shall lie in Hades as if in mud.” There are also references to punishments in Hades, such as eternally carrying water in leaky vessels.
  • Reincarnation: Orphics believed in immortality and in reincarnation – a cycle of birth and death and birth again until finally achieving “perfected divinity.” The soul’s last incarnation is as the most enlightened type of person (and Orphic initiates would likely have believed they were in that stage), a prophet or spiritual guide or healer or ruler, and finally the soul becomes a god.
  • Instructions for the dead: There have been found in graves written verses contained in cylinders attached to gold chains, worn as amulets, that gave instructions to the dead person as to what to do upon finding themself in the Underworld. I am going to copy some of these verses exactly here:

Plate from Petelia, South Italy, fourth-third century BCE:

‘Thou shalt find to the left of the House of Hades a spring,
And by the side thereof standing a white cypress.
To this spring approach not near.
But thou shalt find another, from the Lake of Memory
Cold water flowing forth, and there are guardians before it.
Say, “I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven;
But my race is of Heaven (alone). This ye know yourselves.
But I am parched with thirst and I perish. Give me quickly
The cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory.”
And of themselves they will give thee to drink of the holy spring,
And thereafter among the other heroes thou shalt have lordship.’

Plate from Thurii, South Italy, fourth-third century BCE:

‘But so soon as the spirit hath left the light of the sun,
Go to the right as far as one should go, being right wary in all things.
Hail, thou who hast suffered the suffering. This thou hadst never suffered before.
Thou art become god from man.
A kid thou art fallen into milk.
Hail, hail to thee journeying the right hand road
By holy meadows and groves of Persephone.’

Three more tablets from Thurii, roughly the same date as previous:

‘I have come from the pure, pure Queen of those below,
And Eukles and Eubuleus, and other Gods and Daemons:
For I also avow that I am of your blessed race.
And I have paid the penalty for deeds unrighteous,
Whether it be that fate laid me low of the gods immortal
Or…with star-flung thunderbolt.
I have flown out of the sorrowful, weary circle.
I have passed with swift feet to the diadem desired.
I have sunk beneath the bosom of the Mistress, the Queen of the underworld.
And now I have come a suppliant to holy Persephoneia,
That of her grace she send me to the seats of the Hallowed.–
Happy and blessed one, thou shalt be god instead of mortal.
A kid I have fallen into milk.’
  • Notes on the verses: The “earth and starry heaven” go back to the mythology, for the Titans were children of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven), but at the same time the initiate must show that they’ve lived a pure life and are only of Heaven. The initiate has atoned for the Titans’ crime. The springs mentioned are Lethe (Oblivion) and Mnemosyne (Memory), and the initiate must drink from Mnemosyne. The “kid into milk” may be a reference to Dionysos and the gifts of milk, honey, and wine, or may be a way of saying that the initiate has fallen into something good. It may even be interpreted as the starry Milky Way (see note below). Eukles and Eubuleus can both be epithets of Zeus Chthonios. Eubuleus could also be Dionysos. Dionysos is sometimes syncretized with Hades (Zeus Chthonios) anyway.
  • Where does the god-soul go? Heaven, or the aither, where the gods dwell, and of which stars are made. There is actually evidence for the Greco-Roman belief that the Milky Way was “the abode of souls,” each possibly its own star. The god-souls go to the stars, aither to aither.

Quotes:

  • “In Homer the generally accepted notion is that death is the negation of all the attributes that make life worth living.” p.149
  • “Orphism was a religion with a belief in immortality an in posthumous rewards and punishments.” p.164
  • From the Timaeus of Plato: “When the Creator first made the individual souls, he made them ‘equal in number to the stars, and assigned each one to a star’, and while they were still on the stars he taught them the nature of the Universe, and what was to be their own fate, namely to be implanted in bodies. ‘When they had been implanted in bodies by the workings of necessity,…first of all the faculty of sensation, one and the same for all, would be naturally aroused in them as a result of violent impressions, and secondly love, mingled with pleasure and pain, and in addition to these fear and anger and all the passions which either result from these or are their contraries. If they conquered these passions, they would live with righteousness, but if they were conquered by them, with unrighteousness; and the one who lived his appointed time well, would travel again to dwell in his proper star, and live a blessed life according to his true nature.'” p.186-187
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