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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

ORPHIC COSMOGONY, Orpheus and Eurydice

In antiquity, many theogonies are known to us, such as those by Akousilaos of Argos (Acusilaus), Æpimænithis of Crete (Epimenides), and Phærækythis of Syros (Pherecydes), but only one has come down to us in complete form, the Thæogonia of Isiothos (Hesiod). Isiothos' Theogony is viewed by many Hellenic reconstructionists as definitive and orthodox, in contrast to Orphic theogony, which some view as of a more recent authorship, but this view of precedence is questioned by some scholars and most certainly by ancient authors. The Isiothos is a fixed, known text; the Orphic theogonies vary somewhat from author to author and, to complicate matters, are not found in complete form.
 In reference to the Orphic theogony, there appears to have existed a group of twenty-four Orphic rhapsodiai (parts or lays) viewed as the Orphic theology, according to the Neoplatonist Damaskios.  The Neoplatonists believed that Orphefs himself wrote these poems.  The poems have come down to us only in fragmentary form, found scattered throughout Neoplatonic writings as quotations.  Damaskios tells us of three theogonies, one by Efthimos (Eudemus ), a pupil of Aristotle, another by Ierohnymos Rothios (Hieronymus of Rhodes) or Ællanikos (Hellanicus), and lastly, the Rhapsodiai, the "orthodox" Orphic theogony.

KHRONOS (or Chronus) was the Protogenos (primeval god) of time, a divinity who emerged self-formed at the beginning of creation in the Orphic cosmogonies. Khronos was imagined as an incorporeal god, serpentine in form, with three heads--that of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke (Inevitability), circled the primal world-egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky. Khronos and Ananke continued to circle the cosmos after creation-their passage driving the circling of heaven and the eternal passage of time.
The figure of Khronos was essentially a cosmological doubling of the Titan Cronus (also "Father Time"). The Orphics occasionally combined Khronos with their creator-god Phanes, and identified him with Ophion. His equivalent in the Phoenician cosmogony was probably Olam (Eternal Time), or Oulomos, as his name appears in Greek transcriptions.
Khronos was represented in Greco-Roman mosaic as Aion, "eternity" personified. He stands against the sky holding a wheel inscribed with the signs of the zodiac. Beneath his feet Gaia (Mother Earth) is usually seen reclining. The poet Nonnus describes Aion as an old man with long white hair and beard. Mosaics, however, present a youthful figure.
The primeval gods or "Protogenoi" (Protogenos) of Greek mythology were the basic components of the universe which were emerged at creation. They included Earth, Air, Sea, Sky, Fresh Water, Underworld, Darkness, Night, Light, Day, Procreation and Time.

Aion, the god of time, stands turning the wheel of heaven inscribed with the signs of the zodiac. The god was identified with both Khronos (Time) and Uranus (Heaven). Beneath him reclines Gaia (Mother Earth) attended by the four Karpoi (Fruits) of the seasons - from left to right: Eiar (Spring), Theron (Summer), Phthinoporon (Autumn) and Kheimon (Winter).

Orphica, Theogonies Fragment 57 (from Athenogoras) :
"The gods, as they [the Greeks] say, did not exist from the beginning, but each of them was born just as we are born . . . and Orpheus--who was the original inventor of the gods’ names and recounted their births and said what they have all done, and who enjoys some credit among them as a true theologian, and is generally followed by Homer, above all about the gods--also making their first genesis from water : `Oceanus, who is the genesis of the all’. For Hydros (Water) was according to him the origin of everything, and from Hydros (the water) mud formed, and from the pair of them a living creature was generated with an extra head growing upon it of a lion, and another of a bull, and in the middle of them a god’s countenance; its name was Herakles and Khronos (Time). This Heracles generated a huge egg, which, being filled full, by the force of its engenderer was broken in two from friction. Its crown became Uranus (Heaven), and what had sunk downwards, Gaia (Earth). There also came forth an incorporeal god [Protogonos-Phanes]." 

Orphica, Theogonies Fragment 54 (from Damascius) (trans. West) (Greek hymns C3rd - C2nd B.C.) :
"Originally there was Hydros (Water), he [Orpheus] says, and Mud, from which Ge (the Earth) solidified: he posits these two as first principles, water and earth . . . The one before the two [Thesis], however, he leaves unexpressed, his very silence being anintimation of its ineffable nature. The third principle after the two was engendered by these --Ge (Earth) and Hydros (Water), that is--and was a Serpent (Drakon) with extra heads growing upon it of a bull and a lion, and a god’s countenance in the middle; it had wings upon its shoulders, and its name was Khronos (Unaging Time) and also Heracles. United with it was Ananke (Inevitability, Compulsion), being of the same nature, or Adrastea, incorporeal, her arms extended throughout the universe and touching its extremities. I think this stands for the third principle, occupying the place of essence, only he [Orpheus] made it bisexual [as Phanes] to symbolize the universal generative cause. And I assume that the theology of the [Orphic] Rhapsodies discarded the two first principles (together with the one before the two, that was left unspoken) [i.e., the Orphics discarded the concepts of Thesis, Khronos and Ananke], and began from this third principle [Phanes] after the two, because this was the first that was expressible and acceptable to human ears. For this is the great Khronos (Unaging Time) that we found in it [the Rhapsodies], the father of Aither and Khaos. Indeed, in this theology too [the Hieronyman], this Khronos (Time), the serpent has offspring, three in number: moist Aither (Light) (I quote), unbounded Khaos (Air), and as a third, misty Erebos (Darkness) . . . Among these, he says, Khronos (Time) generated an egg - this tradition too making it generated by Khronos, and born ‘among’ these because it is from these that the third Intelligible triad is produced [Protogonos-Phanes]. What is this triad, then? The egg; the dyad of the two natures inside it (male and female), and the plurality of the various seeds between; and thirdly an incorporeal god with golden wings on his shoulders, bulls’ heads growing upon his flanks, and on his head a monstrous serpent, presenting the appearance of all kinds of animal forms . . . And  the third god of the third triad this theology too celebrates as Protogonos (First-Born) [Phanes], and it calls him Zeus the order of all and of the whole world, wherefore he is also called Pan (All). So much this second genealogy supplies concerning the Intelligible principles."

 Mithraic Kronos

 Mithraic Kronos

 Mithraic Kronos
Chronus, god of time, with wings like an angel, sleeping on Georg Wolff grave at Friedhof IV der Gemeinde Jerusalems- und Neue Kirche. Sculptor: Hans Latt, around 1904

Ananke, the goddess of necessity, is depicted as a winged goddess holding a torch. The figure is labelled ΑΝΑΝΛΗ on the vase. Her iconography is the identical to that of Nyx, goddess of the 470 - 460 BC 

 Ananke as represented by a modern illustration of Plato's Republic.

PHANES was the Protogenos (primeval god) of procreation in the Orphic cosmogony. He was the primal generator of life, the driving force behind reproduction in the early cosmos. Phanes was hatched from the world egg (the primordial mixture of elements) when it was split into its constituent parts by the ancient gods Khronos (Time) and Ananke (Inevitability). Phanes was the first king of the universe, who passed the royal scepter on to his daughter Nyx (Night),who in turn handed it down to her son Uranus (Heaven). From him it was first seized by Kronos (Time), and then by Zeus, the ultimate ruler of the cosmos. Some say Zeus devoured Phanes in order to assume his primal cosmic power and redistribute it amongst a new generation of gods--the Olympians which he sired.
The Orphics equated Phanes with the Elder Eros (Sexual Desire) of Hesiod's Theogony, who emerged at the beginning of time alongside Khaos (Air) and Gaia (Earth). Phanes also incorporated aspects of other primordial beings described by various ancient writers including Thesis, Phusis, Ophion, Khronos and Ananke. Phanes also appears in myth in the guise of Metis (i.e. Thetis, Thesis, creation), the goddess devoured by Zeus, and Tethys, the nurse of all. However these two divinities in the majority of Greek literature remain far-removed from the concept of creator-gods.

Jacob Bryant's Orphic Egg (1774)

Phanes was portrayed as a beautiful golden-winged hermaphroditic deity wrapped in a serpent's coils. The poets describe him as an incorporeal being invisible even through the eyes of the gods. His name means "bring to light" or "make appear" from the Greek verbs phanaô and phainô.

Orphicorum Fragmenta

At the birth of Phanis (Phanes or Fanis), the "misty abyss below" and Aithir were torn.   Phanes has both sexes and is able to give birth all of himself.  He is imagined as marvelously beautiful, a figure of shining light, with golden wings on his shoulders, four eyes, and the voice of a bull and a lion.  He has many names: Phaæthohn (Phaeton), the First-born (Protogonos), Ærohs (Eros), Mitis (Metis), and Irikapaios (Erikepaios) among them.

Phanes gave birth to Nyx (Nyx = Night).  He gave her his scepter and prophecy.  
Night gave birth to Gaia (Gaia = Earth) and Uranus to whom Nyx gave supreme power.   

[Earth] gave birth to the Titans (Titans, Kronos (Cronus ), Ræa (Rhea ), and the rest. They were defeated (by the Olympians) and cast into Tartarus  by Uranus.  
Uranus is castrated by Cronus.  

Cronos fathers Zefs who conspires to overthrow him.Zefs asks Nyx how he should establish his kingdom and have all things one and yet separate.  Nyx answers that he should surround all things in his Aithir and suspend within it heaven and all its constellations and the earth.

 Zefs now becomes the Dimiourgos (Demiurge or Creator.  How can this be since Phanis is the creator?  Zefs swallows Phanis, and with Phanis, who is the first-born and the origin of all, he may be regarded as taking into himself all things that exist.  With this act, Zefs creates everything anew.

 Zefs makes Dionysus  king.  [The Titans] cut him into seven parts.  Zefs asks for the parts.  Vakkhos (Bacchus) rules after Zefs. Dionysus is the sixth and final king.  Zefs enthrones him.  The Titans, jealous of Dionysus, kidnap and tear him into seven pieces, eating of his flesh.  The beating heart is retrieved by Athina (Athena; Gr. Ἀθηνᾶ) from whom a new Dionysus is created.  Zefs strikes the Titans with a thunderbolt and from their ashes Mankind rises up.

Orpheus and Orphism are closely associated with those northern neighbors of the Greeks known as Thracians, and this latter group apparently played a role in introducing the myth to the Greeks.

Outside of the Orphic Theogonies, Khronos, god of time, and Cronus, father of Zeus, are usually identical (cf. Pindar and Cicero below). Nonnus' Aion (Eternity), however, is the primordial Orphic god.

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 24 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[Khronos and the Titan Cronus are identical in this passage :] By Saturn [Cronus] again they denoted that being who maintains the course and revolution of the seasons and periods of time, the deity so designated in Greek, for Saturn's’ Greek name is Cronus, which is the same as khronos, a space of time."

ZAGREUS was the "first-born Dionysus," a god of the Orphic Mysteries. He was a son of Zeus and Persephone, who the god seduced in the guise of a serpent. After he was Zeus set him upon the throne of heaven armed with lightning bolts. The Titans, inspired by the jealous goddess Hera, sneaked into Olympus, tricked the godling into setting aside the lightning bolts with the temptation of toys, then seized and dismembered him with knives. Zeus recovered the child's heart and making it into a potion, fed it to his love Semele. From the drink she conceived the younger Dionysus, as a reincarnation of the first.

Orphic Hymn 30 to Dionysus :
"Eubouleos (Eubuleus) [Zagreus], whom the leaves of vines adorn, of Zeus and Persephone occultly born in beds ineffable."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 4. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"Some writers of myth, however, relate that there was a second Dionysus [Zagreus] who was much earlier in time than the one we have just mentioned. For according to them there was born of Zeus and Persephone a Dionysus who is called by some Sabazios and whose birth and sacrifices and honors are celebrated at night and in secret, because of the disgraceful conduct which is a consequence of the gatherings. They state also that he excelled in sagacity and was the first to attempt the yoking of oxen and by their aid to effect the sowing of the seed, this being the reason why they also represent him as wearing a horn."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 6. 1 :
"But the Aigyptians (Egyptians) in their myths about Priapos [i.e. the Egyptian god Min] say that in ancient times the Titans formed a conspiracy against Osiris [who was identified with Zagreus] and slew him, and then, taking his body and dividing it into equal parts among themselves, the slipped them secretly out of the house, but this organ alone they threw into the river, since no one of them was willing to take it with him. But Isis [Demeter or Io] tracked down the murder of her husband [or son in the Greek version], and after slaying the Titans and fashioning the several pieces of his body into the shape of a human figure, she gave them to the priests with orders that they pay Osiris the honors of a god, but since the only member she was unable to recover was the organ of sex she commanded them to pay to it the honors of a god and set it up in their temples in an erect position. Now this is the myth about the birth of Priapos and the honors paid to him, as it is given by the ancient Aigyptians."

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 75. 4 :
"This god [Zagreus] was born in Krete (Crete), men say, of Zeus and Persephone, and Orpheus has handed down the tradition in the initiatory rites that he was torn in pieces by the Titans. And the fact is that there have been several who bore the name Dionysus."  
Suidas s.v. Sabazios (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Sabazios: He is the same [god] as Dionysus. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him; for the barbarians call the Bacchic cry sabazein. Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry sabasmos; thereby Dionysus [becomes] Sabazios. They also used to call saboi those places that had been dedicated to him and his Bacchantes."

Orpheus  was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. For the Greeks, Orpheus was a founder and prophet of the so-called "Orphic" mysteries. He was credited with the composition of the Orphic Hymns.
According to Apollodorus and a fragment of Pindar,[22] Orpheus's father was Oeagrus, a Thracian king; or, according to another version of the story, the god Apollo. His mother was the muse Calliope; or, a daughter of Pierus, son of Makednos. His birthplace and place of residence was in Pimpleia, Olympus. In Argonautica the location of Oeagrus and Calliope's wedding is close to Pimpleia, near Olympus.] While living with his mother and her eight beautiful sisters in Parnassus, he met Apollo, who was courting the laughing muse Thalia. Apollo, as the god of music, gave Orpheus a golden lyre and taught him to play it. Orpheus's mother taught him to make verses for singing. Strabo mentions that he lived in Pimpleia. He is also said to have studied in Egypt.
Orpheus is said to have established the worship of Hecate in Aegina. In Laconia Orpheus is said to have brought the worship of Demeter Chthonia and that of the Kores Sōteiras  savior maid. Also in Taygetus a wooden image of Orpheus was said to have been kept by Pelasgians in the sanctuary of the Eleusinian Demeter.

Orpheus and Eurydice myth
Orpheus fell in love with a nymph named Eurydice and blissful was their life together until one day she was pursued by a son of Apollo, the minor deity Aristaeus. In her headlong eagerness to escape, she stepped on a poisonous snake, was bitten and died. 

 Gustave Moreau - Orpheus at the Tomb of Eurydice

 Alexander Seon, Orpheus Laments

Disconsolate, Orpheus found a cave which lead to Hades and followed Eurydice to the Underworld. Here his musical charms were so persuasive that the King of the Dead permitted the minstrel to take his sweetheart home with him - on one condition- he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

 George Frederick Watts - Orpheus and Eurydice

 Rubens, Orpheus and Eurydice

 Camille Corot, Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld

Orpheus swore he would never love another, and it may have been the steadfastness of this vow which caused certain wild women of Thrace to tear him limb from limb in a fit of jealousy. They threw his head into a river, and it kept on singing all the way to the sea.

 Gregorio Lazzarini,  Orpheus and Bacchante

 John William Waterhouse - Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus

 Gustave Moreau - Tracianische woman with the head of Orpheus and his lyre

 Gustave Moreau - Thracian Girl carrying the Head of Orpheus on his Lyre

Alexander Seon, The Lyre of Orpheus