Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Iris - Rainbow goddess, rainbow symbolism

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 8 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"The Titans had children. Those of Oceanus and Tethys were called Oceanides: Asia, Styx, Electra, Doris, Eurynome, Amphitrite, and Metis."

ELECTRA, i. e. the bright or brilliant one. A daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and the wife of Thaumas, by whom she became the mother of Iris and the Harpies, Aëllo and Ocypete. (Hom. Hymn. in Cer. 419; Hes. Theog. 266; Apollod. i. 2. §§ 2, 6; Paus. iv. 33. § 6 ; Serv. ad Aen. iii. 212.)

The  Harpies were the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind.

Virgil, Aeneid 6. 287 ff (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors [of the Underworld], Centaurs and double-shaped Scylla, and the hundredfold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna, hissing horribly, and the Chimera armed with flame, Gorgons and Harpies, and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon]."

 Gustave Dore, Harpies in the wood of the suicides

Homer, Odyssey 1. 241 & 14. 371 (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"But no, the Harpies, Storm-Spirits have snatched him [Odysseys] ingloriously away."

 Elliott Dangerfield - The Spirit of the Storm


Plato, Theaetetus 155d (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"Socrates: He who said that Iris (Rainbow or Messenger) was the child of Thaumas (Wonder) made a good genealogy."

In the Homeric poems she appears as the minister of the Olympian gods, who carries messages from Ida to Olympus, from gods to gods, and from gods to men. (Il. xv. 144, xxiv. 78, 95, ii. 787, xviii. 168, Hymn. in Apoll. Del. 102, &c.) In accordance with these functions of Iris, her name is commonly derived from erô eirô; so that Iris would mean "the speaker or messenger.

In the Homeric poems, it is true, Iris does not appear as the goddess of the rainbow, but the rainbow itself is called iris (Il xi. 27, xvii. 547)

Date: ca 480 BC
Detail of Iris from a painting depicting her in the attendance of Hera. Iris appears as a winged goddess, whose hair is wrapped in a sakkos scarf. She holds an oinochoe jug and kerykeion (herald's wand) in her hands.

Museum Collection: (last known) Sotheby's, London, UK
Iris, the winged messenger of the gods, stands at an altar holding her kerykeion or herald's wand.

In the earlier poets, and even in Theocritus (xvii. 134) and Virgil (Aen. v. 610) Iris appears as a virgin goddess; but according to later writers, she was married to Zephyrus, and became by him the mother of Eros. (Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 391, 555; Plut. Amat. 20.)

With regard to her functions, which we have above briefly described, we may further observe, that the Odyssey never mentions Iris, but only Hermes as the messenger of the gods: in the Iliad, on the other hand, she appears most frequently, and on the most different occasions. She is principally engaged in the service of Zeus, but also in that of Hera, and even serves Achilles in calling the winds to his assistance. (Il. xxiii. 199.)

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 12. 189 ff  (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"Zeus . . . charioted upon the Anemoi (Winds), Euros (the East), Boreas (the North), Zephyrus (the West-wind), and Notos (the South) [the four-wind gods in the shape of horses]: for Iris rainbow-plumed led 'neath the yoke of his eternal ear that stormy team."

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 10 (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"And the chlamys he [Amphion] wears, perhaps that also came from Hermes; for its color does not remain the same but changes and takes on all the hues of the rainbow." [N.B. Here Hermes, the messenger of the gods, is closely connected with rainbow.]

Date: ca 500 - 450 BC
The winged goddess Iris, messenger of the gods, nurses the infant Hermes on her breast. She is depicted with a tiara-crown and a kerykeion (herald's wand) in her hand.

 Spranger, Bartholomäus, Hermes and Athena

Punishment of Ixion: in the center Mercury holding the caduceus, on the right the throning Juno, behind her Iris. On the left Vulcanus with Ixion already tied to the wheel. At Mercuries feet sitting Nephele. Roman fresco from the eastern wall of the triclinium in the Casa dei Vettii (VI 15,1) in Pompeii.
Virgil, Aeneid 5. 655 ff (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Spreading her wings, the goddess [Iris] took off from earth, describing a rainbow arc under the clouds as she flew."

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3. 20 (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.) :
"[Cicero's critical essay on the nature of the gods:] Why should not the glorious Rainbow be included among the gods? It is beautiful enough, and its marvellous loveliness has given rise to the legend that Iris is the daughter of Thaumas (Wonder). And if the Arcus [Iris the Rainbow] is a divinity, what will you do about the Nubes [Nephelai, Clouds])? The rainbow itself is caused by some coloration of the clouds."

Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 80 ff  (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"The winged Arcadian [Hermes] is the messenger of supreme Jove [Zeus]; Juno [Hera] hath power over the rain-bringing Thaumantian [Iris the rainbow]."

 Wenzel Hollar

Venus, supported by Iris, complaining to Mars, exhibited in 1820 at the RA "to acclaim" (in the Ceiling of the Ante Library Chatsworth House) – Winner of the Royal Academy Painting of the Year in 1823

Iris and Jupiter, Michel Corneille the Younger, Palace of Versailles, Versailles

 Morpheus and Iris, Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - The Rainbow

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 103 ff (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Hera made her way brooding to the waters of Khremetes [Chremetes, a river of North Africa] in the west . . . and she sought out the wife of jealous Zephyrus (West-Wind), Iris (Rainbow), the messenger of Zeus when he is in a hurry--for she wished to send her swift as the wind from heaven with a message for shadowy Hypnos (Sleep). She called Iris then, and coaxed her with friendly words: ‘Iris, goldenwing bride of plantnourishing Zephyrus, happy mother of Eros (Love) [i.e. Pothos]! Hasten with stormshod foot to the home of gloomy Hypnos in the west. Seek also about seagirt Lemnos, and if you find him tell him to charm the eyes of Zeus uncharmable for one day, that I may help the Indians. But change your shape, take the ugly form of Hypnos' mother the blackgirdled goddess Nyx (Night); take a false name and become darkness . . . Promise him Pasithea for his bride, and let him do my need from desire of her beauty. I need not tell you that one lovesick will do anything for hope.’

At these words, Iris goldenwing flew away peering through the air . . . seeking the wandering track of vagrant Hypnos (Sleep). She found him on the slopes of nuptial Orkhomenos . . . Then Iris changed her shape, and all unseen she put on the look of dark Nyx unrecognizable. She came near to Hypnos, weaving guile; and in his mother’s guise uttered her deceitful speech in cajoling whispers . . . Iris begged him to fasten Kronion with slumber for the course of one day only . . . Then goddess Iris returned flying at speed and hastened to deliver her welcome message to her queen."

Iris visits the Sleep. Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid's Metamorphoses Book XI,
Iris (the Rainbow) and Zephyrus (the West-Wind) were occasionally called the parents of Pothos (passion): the imagery of the rainbow and the west wind corresponding to the variegated brilliance of passion.
POTHOS (or Pothus) was the god of sexual longing, yearning and desire. He was one of the winged love-gods known as Erotes.
The three Erotes--Pothos, Himeros, and Eros--were often depicted together in Greek vase painting.

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 103 ff (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Iris] he wife of jealous Zephyrus (the West-Wind), Iris (the Rainbow), the messenger of Zeus when he is in a hurry . . . Iris, goldenwing bride of plantnourishing Zephyrus, happy mother of Eros [i.e. the eros Pothos]!"

Hesiod, Theogony 780 ff (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And seldom does the daughter of Thaumas, fleet-footed Iris, come her [Styx's] way with a message across the sea's wide ridges, those times when dispute and quarreling start among the immortals, and some one of those who have their homes on Olympus is lying, and Zeus sends Iris to carry the many-storied water [of the Styx] that the gods swear their great oath on, thence, in a golden pitcher."


Zeus sent Iris to call Demeter back to Olympos when she went into self-imposed exile following the abduction of Persephone. But the goddess refused to heed the call.

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 315 ff (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"First he [Zeus] sent golden-winged Iris to call rich-haired Demeter, lovely in form [to return to the gods on Olympus]. So he commanded. And she obeyed the dark-clouded son of Cronus, and sped with swift feet across the space between. She came to . . . Eleusis, and there finding dark-cloaked Demeter in her temple spake to her and uttered winged words: ‘Demeter, father Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, calls you to come join the tribes of the eternal gods: come therefore, and let not the message I bring from Zeus pass unobeyed.’ Thus said Iris imploring her."


Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 42 from Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 2.297)  (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :

"Hesiod also says that those with Zetes [the Argonauts] turned and prayed to Zeus: ‘There they prayed to the lord of Ainos (Aenus) who reigns on high.’ Apollonios indeed says it was Iris who made Zetes and his following turn away, but Hesiod says Hermes."

Hesiod, Theogony 775 ff Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And there [in Hades] is housed a goddess loathed even by the immortals: dreaded Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus, who flows back on himself, and apart from the gods she lives in her famous palace which is overroofed with towering rocks, and the whole circuit is undergirded with silver columns, and pushes heaven; and seldom does . . . Iris (the Rainbow), come her way with a message across the sea's wide ridges, those times when dispute and quarreling start among the immortals, and some one of those who have their homes on Olympus is lying, and Zeus sends Iris to carry the many-storied water that the gods swear their great oath on . . . Such an oath did the gods make of the imperishable, primevil water of Styx; and it jets down through jagged country."

Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2. 286 ff (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
"Yet even with Heaven against them [the Boreades], the long chase would certainly have ended with their tearing the Harpyai (Harpies) to pieces when they overtook them at the Ekhinades (Echidnades), but for Iris of the swift feet, who when she saw them leapt down from Olympus through the sky and checked them with these words: ‘Sons of Boreas, you may not touch the Harpies with your swords: they are the hounds of almighty Zeus. But I myself will undertake an oath that never again shall they come near to Phineus.’

And she went on to swear by the waters of Styx, the most portentous and inviolable oath that any god can take, that the Harpyai should never visit Phineus' house again, such being Fate's decree . . . The Harpyai and Iris went their different ways . . . Iris soared up to Olympos, cleaving the air with her unflagging wings."

STYX was the  goddess of the underworld  River Styx, one of the Titan generation of Oceanides. Styx was also the personified Daimon (Spirit) of hatred (stygos).

STYX, connected with the verb stugeô, to hate or abhor, is the name of the principal river in the nether world, around which it flows seven times. (Hom. Il. ii. 755, viii. 369. xiv. 271; Virg. Georg. iv. 480, Aen. vi. 439.) Styx is described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys (Hes. Theog. 361 ; Apollod. i. 2. § 2; Callim. Hymn. in Jov. 36), and as a nymph she dwelt at the entrance of Hades, in a lofty grotto which was supported by silver columns.

 Gustave Dore, Virgil pushes Filippo Argenti back into the River Styx.  Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno

 Gustave Dore, Wrathful trying to emerge from the River Styx. Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno

Styx was sometimes identified with several other chthonian goddesses, including Demeter, Erinys the wrathful earth, the oath-protecting Eumenides and Nyx (Night) the darkness of night.

Eumenides,  Greek term for the Erinyes (Furies). three netherworld goddesses ,sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses".

 Gustave Dore, Virgil pointing out the Erinyes. Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno

And Gustave Moreau's version of Furies

 Gustave Moreau, Orestes and the Furies

 Arnold Böcklin - The night

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 816 ff (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"This I [Jove, Zeus] swear by the source of the inexorable river, Styx--the one dreadful and binding oath for us heaven-dwellers."

 Franz von Stuck, The angel of the court

 Angelica Kauffmann, Hope

The rainbow, a natural phenomenon noted for its beauty and inapplicability, has been a favorite component of mythology throughout history.
Whether as bridge, messenger, archer’s bow, or serpent, the rainbow has been pressed into symbolic service for millennia.

In Judeo-Christian traditions signs it as a covenant with God not to destroy the world by means of floodwater.

 Noah's Thanks offering by Joseph Anton Koch. Noah builds an altar to the Lord after being delivered from the Flood; God sends the rainbow as a sign of his covenant (Genesis 8-9).

In Norse mythology, Bifröst or Bilröst is a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (the world) and Asgard, the realm of the gods. The bridge is attested as Bilröst in the Poetic Edda; compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and as Bifröst in the Prose Edda; written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the poetry of skalds. Both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda alternately refer to the bridge as Asbrú (Old Norse "Æsir's bridge").
John Lindow points to a parallel between Bifröst, which he notes is "a bridge between earth and heaven, or earth and the world of the gods", and the bridge Gjallarbrú, "a bridge between earth and the underworld, or earth and the world of the dead." Several scholars have proposed that Bifröst may represent the Milky Way.

The god Heimdallr stands before the rainbow bridge while blowing a horn by Emil Doepler.

In 1866, Constantino Brumidi's oil on canvas Apotheosis of George Washington "America’s founding father wears a [calm] expression… as he is propelled heavenward on a rainbow... Surrounded by thirteen maidens, Washington serenely supervises an armed Lady Liberty beneath him as she tramples out the powers of kings and tyrants." The Victorians of Brumidi’s age were merely "inheritors of a long tradition of exploiting the rainbow’s powerful visual symbolism," perpetuated by thousands of years of human communication.

Constantino Brumidi, Apotheosis of Washington

Details of Apotheosis of Washington.
 "Agriculture": Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, is shown with a wreath of wheat and a cornucopia, seated on a McCormick reaper. Young America in a liberty cap holds the reins of the horses, while Flora gathers flowers in the foreground.
 "Commerce": Mercury, god of commerce, with his winged cap and sandals and caduceus, hands a bag of gold to en:Robert Morris, financier of the Revolutionary War. On the left, men move a box on a dolly; on the right, the anchor and sailors lead into the next scene, "Marine."

"Marine": Neptune, god of the sea, holding his trident and crowned with seaweed, rides in a shell chariot drawn by sea horses. Venus, goddess of love born from the sea, helps lay the transatlantic cable. In the background is a form of iron-clad ship with smokestacks.

"Mechanics": Vulcan, god of the forge, stands at his anvil with his foot on a cannon, near a pile of cannon balls and with a steam engine in the background. The man at the forge is thought to represent Charles Thomas, who was in charge of the ironwork of the Capitol dome.

"War": Armored Freedom, sword raised and cape flying, with a helmet and shield reminiscent of those on the Statue of Freedom, tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power; she is assisted by a fierce eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt.

Sumerian mythology
The Epic of Gilgamesh, who was an ancient Sumerian king (ca.3000 BC), is our first detailed written evidence of human civilization. In a Victorian translation of a Gilgamesh variant, Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton's Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar, King Izdubar sees "a mass of colors like the rainbow’s hues" that are "linked to divine sanction for war." Later in the epic, Izdubar sees the "glistening colors of the rainbow rise" in the fountain of life next to Elam’s Tree of Immortality.

In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow snake is the Creator (Kurreah, Andrenjinyi, Yingarna, Ngalyod and others) in the Dreaming, which is the infinite period of time that "began with the world's creation and that has no end. People, animals, and Eternal Beings like the Rainbow Serpent are all part of the Dreaming, and everyday life is affected by the Dreaming's immortals," in almost every Australian Aborigine tribe. In these tribes, of which there are over 50, actual rainbows are gigantic, often malevolent, serpents who inhabit the sky or ground. This snake has different names in different tribes, and has both different and similar traits from tribe to tribe.

late 14c., flowering plant (Iris germanica), also "prismatic rock crystal," from L. iris (pl. irides) "iris of the eye, iris plant, rainbow," from Gk. iris (gen. iridos) "a rainbow; the lily; iris of the eye," originally "messenger of the gods," personified as the rainbow. The eye region was so called (early 15c. in English) for being the colored part; the Greek word was used of any brightly colored circle, "as that round the eyes of a peacock's tail" [Liddell and Scott].

The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys is a stylized lily (in French, fleur means flower, and lis means lily) or iris that is used as a decorative design or symbol. It may be "at one and the same time, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in heraldry.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Troyes

The White Lily or the Lotus is a symbolic flower of ancient Egypt.
The goddess Isis is said to have pointed out that the rhizomes were edible, and its flowers, buds and leaves are often depicted on ancient monuments, in murals, on pottery and on furniture. The blooms were in great demand for religious festivals, offerings of the flowers being made to the dead or to the gods, as well as for gifts to visiting noblemen as a gesture of friendship and goodwill.
The blue lily or Nymphaea Caerulea (blue lotus) was represented in ancient Egyptian art. Its common name is Blue Lotus, Egyptian Lotus, Blue Water Lily, Sacred Narcotic Lily of the Nile. 
The blue lotus was found scattered over Tutankhamen's body when the Pharaoh's tomb was opened in 1922. ”. In wall paintings on Egyptian ruins you can see they really loved this flower. It's fragrant with a nice fruity scent. There are wall frescoes with Egyptians smelling the blossoms. It's even thought to be narcotic. They even infused their wine with the blossoms.
Many historians thought it was a purely symbolic flower, but there may be some reason to believe that ancient Egyptians used it to induce an ecstatic state, stimulation, and/or hallucinations, as well as being widely used as a general remedy against illness, old age disease and to this day is used as a tonic for good health. For some, it may act as an aphrodisiac.
 Ancient Egyptian funerary stele showing a dead man, named Ba, seated in the center, sniffing a sacred lily.
Blue lotus symbol (Nymphaea caerulea) among other ancient Egyptian symbols on an 18th Dynasty jar. Found at Amarna in the 19th century.
Ceramic jar decorated with the ankh, djed pillar, was-sceptre, and blue lotus on display at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California.

 Queen Elizabeth The Rainbow Portrait  We see eyes, ears on her coat, and of course, a serpent.

Inca State, founded in the twelfth century , was expanded in a vast empire in less than 200 years before the discovery of America by Europeans. State of the Incas, the Kingdom of the Incas, the Inca Empire ( Empire of the Four Parts, Part Four States - see the map of administrative division) - the historical state in the western part of South America , during its heyday covering the areas of present-day Peru , Ecuador and part of Bolivia , Chile , Colombia and Argentina.

The Wizard of Oz - Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Let’s look at L. Frank Baum, the author of Wizard of Oz.

Later, he and his wife, encouraged by Matilda Joslyn Gage, became Theosophists, in 1897. He wrote 17 of Oz books. One is titled The Emerld city of Oz.

In 1900, Baum and Denslow (with whom he shared the copyright) published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to much critical acclaim and financial success.

It reminds me The Emerald tablets of Hermes.

The Emerald Tablet, also known as Smaragdine Table, Tabula Smaragdina, or The Secret of Hermes, is a text purporting to reveal the secret of the primordial substance and its transmutations. It claims to be the work of Hermes Trismegistus ("Hermes the Thrice-Greatest"), a legendary Hellenistic[1] combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.

We also have Order of the Rainbow Girls.

Order of the Rainbow Girls - Founded in 1922 , the American organization associated with Freemasonry . It brings together girls aged 11-20 years that are usually daughters of Freemasons. Local groups were generally supported and sponsored by local Masonic lodge . The symbol of the Order is a rainbow

The order came into existence in 1922,[1] when the Reverend W. Mark Sexson, a Freemason, was asked to make an address before South McAlester Chapter #149, Order of the Eastern Star, in McAlester, Oklahoma. As the Order of DeMolay had come under his close study during his Masonic activities, he suggested that a similar order for girls would be beneficial. The first Initiation consisted of a class of 171 girls on April 6, 1922, in the auditorium of the Scottish Rite Temple in McAlester. The original name was "Order of the Rainbow for Girls".[2

And we see rainbow in Sweet Dreems.

In Tibetan Buddhism  Dzogchenrainbow body is a level of realization. This may or may not be accompanied by the 'rainbow body phenomenon'. The rainbow body phenomenon has been noted for centuries, including the modern era. Other Vajrayana teachings also mention rainbow body phenomena.

David G. White, professor o religious studies at University of California has explained that in tenth-century Kubjikamata, the hexagonal configuration of Yoginis is a thinly veiled reference to penis (vajra) engaged in vulva (padma).

White further explains that “having entered into forbidden forest, one uses one’s one blood to trace fearsome diagram (mandala), at those six corners one situates a series of terrifying goddesses. One worship thee goddesses with mantras, and then places them in the midst of one’s own body. They are worshipped with pieces of own flesh as well as an offering of blood. Then having pierced his eight body parts and having mixed blood and flesh together with urine, feces, and some liquor, the practitioner places the mixture in the offering bowl. Having thus offered his own bodily constituents, he then worships these goddesses with food offerings, incense and so on. (White, 2003 p. 71)

White D. 20003.  Kiss of the Yoginis.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.