Muse

For other uses see Muse (disambiguation).

In Greek mythology, the Muses (Greek Μουσαι, Mousai) are nine archaic goddesses who embody the right evocation of myth, inspired through remembered and improvised song and traditional music and dances. They were water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and Pieris. The Olympian system set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetes.

According to Hesiod's Theogony, they are the daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from Uranus and Gaia.

Compare the Roman inspiring nymphs of springs, the Camenae.

Muses in myth

According to Pausanias there were three original Muses: Aoide ("song", "voice"), Melete ("practice" or "occasion") and Mneme ("memory") (Paus. 9.29.1). Together, they form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice.

The canonical nine Muses are:

  • Euterpe (music)
  • Calliope (epic poetry)
  • Clio (history)
  • Erato (lyric poetry)
  • Melpomene (tragedy)
  • Polyhymnia (sacred poetry)
  • Terpsichore (dancing)
  • Thalia (comedy)
  • Urania (astronomy)

Together, they form a complete picture of the subjects proper to poetic art in the archaic period. However, the association of specific muses with specific art forms is a later innovation, and has been called pedantic.

In Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical art, Muses depicted in sculptures or paintings are often distinguished by certain props or poses, as emblems. Euterpe (music) carries a flute; Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyric poetry) is often seen with a lyre and a crown of roses; Melpomene (tragedy) is often seen with a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) is often seen with a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dancing) is often seen dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) is often seen with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a staff pointed at a celestial globe.

Function in Society

Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "song" or "poem". In Pindar, to "carry a mousa" is "to sing a song". The word is probably derived from the Indo-European root *men-, which is also the source of Greek Mnemosyne, Latin Minerva, and English "mind", "mental" and "memory".

The Muses were therefore both the embodiments and sponsors of performed metrical speech: mousike, whence "music", was the art of the Muses. In the archaic period, before the widespread availability of books, this included nearly all of learning: the first Greek book on astronomy, by Thales, was set in dactylic hexameter, as were many works of pre-Socratic philosophy; both Plato and the Pythagoreans explicitly included philosophy as a sub-species of mousike (Strabo 10.3.10). Herodotus, whose primary medium of delivery was public recitation, named each one of the nine books of his Histories after a different Muse.

For poet and lawgiver Solon (fragment 13), the Muses were the key to the good life, since they brought both prosperity and friendship. Solon sought to perpetuate his political reforms by establishing recitations of his poetry—complete with invocations to his practical-minded Muses—by Athenian boys at festivals every year.

The Muses judged the contest between Apollo and Marsyas. They also gathered the pieces of the dead body of Orpheus, son of Calliope, and buried them. They blinded Thamyris for his hubris in challenging them to a contest.

Function in literature

The muses are typically invoked at or near the beginning of an epic poem or story. They have served as aid to an author, or as the true speaker for which an author is only a mouthpiece. Originally the invocation of the Muse was an indication that the speaker was working inside the poetic tradition, according to the established formulae.

Two classic examples: Homer, Book I of The Odyssey:

"Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero
who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy."

... And Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno:

O Muses, o high genious, aid me now!
O memory that noted what I saw,
Now shall your true nobility be seen!

Cults of the Muses

When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine of the Muses at the center of the city, to promote civic harmony and learning.

Local cults of the Muses were often associated with springs or fountains. They were sometimes called Aganippids because of their association with a fountain called Aganippe. Other fountains, called Hippocrene and Pirene were also important to the Muses. The Muses were also occasionally referred to as Corycides or Corycian nymphs after a cave on Mount Parnassos called the Corycian Cave.

The Muses were especially venerated in Boeotia, near Helicon, and in Delphi and the Parnassus, where Apollo became known as Mousagetes "Muse-leader".

Muse-worship was also often associated with the hero-cults of poets: the tombs of Archilochus on Thasos and Hesiod and Thamyris (whom they blinded) in Boeotia all played host to festivals in which poetic recitations were accompanied by sacrifices to the Muses.

The Library of Alexandria and its circle of scholars were formed around a mousaion ("museum" or shrine of the Muses) close by the tomb of Alexander the Great.

Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a "Cult of the Muses" in the 18th century. A popular Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Neuf Soeurs ("nine sisters", i.e. nine Muses), and was attended by Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word "museum" (originally, "cult place of the Muses") to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge.

The classical tradition

The poet Sappho of Lesbos was also paid the very great compliment of being called "the tenth Muse".

The word muse is used figuratively to denote someone who inspires an artist.


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The word muse is used figuratively to denote someone who inspires an artist. Some examples of other mystics:. The poet Sappho of Lesbos was also paid the very great compliment of being called "the tenth Muse". Some examples of Jewish mystics:. One side-effect of this movement was the use of the word "museum" (originally, "cult place of the Muses") to refer to a place for the public display of knowledge. Some examples of Muslim mystics (also called sufi):. nine Muses), and was attended by Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin. Some examples of Christian mystics:.

A popular Masonic lodge in pre-Revolutionary Paris was called Neuf Soeurs ("nine sisters", i.e. Some examples of Hindu mystics:. Many Enlightenment figures sought to re-establish a "Cult of the Muses" in the 18th century. Examples of major traditions and philosophies with strong elements of mysticism are:. The Library of Alexandria and its circle of scholars were formed around a mousaion ("museum" or shrine of the Muses) close by the tomb of Alexander the Great. At the end of the 20th Century books like Conversations With God (a series of books which describes what the author claimed to be his experience of direct communication with God) hit the bestseller lists. Muse-worship was also often associated with the hero-cults of poets: the tombs of Archilochus on Thasos and Hesiod and Thamyris (whom they blinded) in Boeotia all played host to festivals in which poetic recitations were accompanied by sacrifices to the Muses. This trend later became absorbed in the rise of the New Age movement which included a major surge in the popularity of astrology.

The Muses were especially venerated in Boeotia, near Helicon, and in Delphi and the Parnassus, where Apollo became known as Mousagetes "Muse-leader". Madame Blavatsky and Gurdjieff functioned as central figures of the theosophy movement. The Muses were also occasionally referred to as Corycides or Corycian nymphs after a cave on Mount Parnassos called the Corycian Cave. Theosophy became a major movement in the popularization of these interests. Other fountains, called Hippocrene and Pirene were also important to the Muses. The late 19th century saw an significant increase of interest in mysticism in the West that combined with increased interest in Occultism and Eastern Philosophy. They were sometimes called Aganippids because of their association with a fountain called Aganippe. [1] (http://chastitysf.guidetopsychology.com/guide.htm).

Local cults of the Muses were often associated with springs or fountains. In Catholic traditions, mystical theology is informed by revelation, which averts an apparent tendency to become lost in formless thought. Christian mystics, too, are obligated to obey the forms of ascetical and moral theology, as following Christ is their primary objective, rather than seeking mystical experiences for their own sake. When Pythagoras arrived at Croton, his first advice to the Crotoniates was to build a shrine of the Muses at the center of the city, to promote civic harmony and learning. In his work, Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, a prominent 20th century scholar of that field, stated: The Kabbalah is not a single system with basic principles which can be explained in a simple and straightforward fashion, but consists rather of a multiplicity of different approaches, widely separated from one another and sometimes completely contradictory.. And Dante Alighieri, in Canto II of The Inferno:. Readers frequently encounter seemingly open-ended statements among studies of mysticism, throughout its history, for example in Taoist thought and in studies of Kabbalah. .. Thomas Aquinas' mystical experiences all occurred squarely within the love of the Catholic Eucharist.

Two classic examples: Homer, Book I of The Odyssey:. For example, St. Originally the invocation of the Muse was an indication that the speaker was working inside the poetic tradition, according to the established formulae. In some definite cases, theology remains a distinct source of insight that guides and informs the mystical experience. They have served as aid to an author, or as the true speaker for which an author is only a mouthpiece. For example, Christian mystics, through the centuries, have not decided that Jesus is not God after all: in other words, not all mysticism results in syncretism. The muses are typically invoked at or near the beginning of an epic poem or story. Some systems of mysticism are found within specific religious traditions and do not relinquish doctrinal principles as a part of mystical experience.

They blinded Thamyris for his hubris in challenging them to a contest. Mystical philosophies thus can exhibit a strong tendency towards syncretism. They also gathered the pieces of the dead body of Orpheus, son of Calliope, and buried them. The Vedic tradition is inherently mystic; the Christian apocalyptic Book of Revelation is clearly mystical, as with Ezekiel's or Daniel's visions of Judaism, and Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel inspired the Qur'an in a mystical manner. Indigenous cultures also have cryptic revelations pointing toward a universal flow of love or unity, usually following a vision quest or similar ritual. The Muses judged the contest between Apollo and Marsyas. Some mystics perceive a common thread of influence in all mystic philosophies that they see as traceable back to a shared source. Solon sought to perpetuate his political reforms by establishing recitations of his poetry—complete with invocations to his practical-minded Muses—by Athenian boys at festivals every year. Elements of mysticism exist in most religions and in many philosophies.

For poet and lawgiver Solon (fragment 13), the Muses were the key to the good life, since they brought both prosperity and friendship. Based on extraordinary perception, mystics may believe that one can find true unity of religion and philosophy in mystical experience. Herodotus, whose primary medium of delivery was public recitation, named each one of the nine books of his Histories after a different Muse. Mystics of different traditions report similar experiences of a world usually outside conventional perception, although not all forms of mysticism abandon knowledge perceived through normal means. In the archaic period, before the widespread availability of books, this included nearly all of learning: the first Greek book on astronomy, by Thales, was set in dactylic hexameter, as were many works of pre-Socratic philosophy; both Plato and the Pythagoreans explicitly included philosophy as a sub-species of mousike (Strabo 10.3.10). Historically in some cultures and traditions, mind-altering substances -- often referred to as entheogens -- have had a place as a 'guide'; others use rituals and methods such as meditation, self-reflection or self-enquiry. The Muses were therefore both the embodiments and sponsors of performed metrical speech: mousike, whence "music", was the art of the Muses. Some mystics use the term to refer to a manner wherein the mystic plumbs the depths of the self and reality in a radical process of meditative self-discovery to discover the true nature of reality experientially.

The word is probably derived from the Indo-European root *men-, which is also the source of Greek Mnemosyne, Latin Minerva, and English "mind", "mental" and "memory". In philosophy, the term Perennial Philosophy is used, and relates to a primary concern:. In Pindar, to "carry a mousa" is "to sing a song". This causes the subjectivist tendency of mysticism to be curtailed, as experiences not aligned with truths otherwise known are discarded. Greek mousa is a common noun as well as a type of goddess: it literally means "song" or "poem". In Catholicism the mystical experience is not sought for its own sake, and is always informed by revelation and ascetical theology. In Roman, Renaissance and Neoclassical art, Muses depicted in sculptures or paintings are often distinguished by certain props or poses, as emblems. Euterpe (music) carries a flute; Calliope (epic poetry) carries a writing tablet; Clio (history) carries a scroll and books; Erato (lyric poetry) is often seen with a lyre and a crown of roses; Melpomene (tragedy) is often seen with a tragic mask; Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) is often seen with a pensive expression; Terpsichore (dancing) is often seen dancing and carrying a lyre; Thalia (comedy) is often seen with a comic mask; and Urania (astronomy) carries a staff pointed at a celestial globe. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic mystic of the 13th century, defined it as cognitio dei experimentalis (experiential knowledge of God).

However, the association of specific muses with specific art forms is a later innovation, and has been called pedantic. St. Together, they form a complete picture of the subjects proper to poetic art in the archaic period. One can receive these very subjective experiences as visions, dreams, revelations, prophecies, and so forth. The canonical nine Muses are:. Theistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic classical pantheist/cosmotheist metaphysical systems most often understand mystical experience as individual communion with a god or goddess. Together, they form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice. Many assert that the triggering of such experience can involve ritual prayer and contemplations focused on such union, or may sometimes occur spontaneously with some individuals.

9.29.1). Among these the idea of union or interrelationship of oneself and of all mortal beings with the ultimate imperishable being is often declared to be something that can be experienced in profound, definite, and personally undeniable ways, rather than something that is merely conjectured. According to Pausanias there were three original Muses: Aoide ("song", "voice"), Melete ("practice" or "occasion") and Mneme ("memory") (Paus. Different traditions adopt a range of intellectual or rational assessments of what is likely, possible, provable, approvable, or factual. Compare the Roman inspiring nymphs of springs, the Camenae. A wide range of perspectives occur among spiritual traditions and beliefs which embrace direct experiential knowledge of God, Divinity, or Ultimate Reality. For Alcman and Mimnermus, they were even more primordial, springing from Uranus and Gaia. In the context of epistemology, it can refer to using any kind of non-rational means, such as feeling or faith, in attempt to arrive at any kind of knowledge or belief.

According to Hesiod's Theogony, they are the daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. Mysticism (ancient Greek mysticon = secret) is meditation, prayer, or theology focused on the direct experience of union with divinity, God, or Ultimate Reality, or the belief that such experience is a genuine and important source of knowledge. The Olympian system set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetes.. Zen Buddhism. They were water nymphs, associated with the springs of Helicon and Pieris. Yoga. In Greek mythology, the Muses (Greek Μουσαι, Mousai) are nine archaic goddesses who embody the right evocation of myth, inspired through remembered and improvised song and traditional music and dances. Vedantic Hinduism.

Urania (astronomy). Transcendentalist Unitarianism. Thalia (comedy). Tibetan Buddhism. Terpsichore (dancing). Taoism. Polyhymnia (sacred poetry). Sufic Islam.

Melpomene (tragedy). Quakerism in its theology. Erato (lyric poetry). Near Death Experiences. Clio (history). The New Age movement

    . Calliope (epic poetry). Native American Ghost Dances of the late Nineteenth Century were mystical in origin.

    Euterpe (music). Mystery religions and cults. Mormonism, being founded on visions, revelations, and angelic ordination. Judaic Kabbalah. Eastern Orthodox Hesychasm.

    Christian mysticism. Christian Gnosticism.

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