Description of the Muses of Greek Mythology
|These are common phrases that I hear as a writer, “I was inspired by my Muse.” or “My muse has abandoned me.” or even, “I owe my writing to ______”(name of whomever their particular muse is). I have often thought about who the Muses were in Greek Mythology, and what their purpose was. I found some interesting things about them.
There are nine Muses listed in Greek mythology. According to legend, the lucky (or unlucky) human to catch Zeus’ eye was Mnemosyne. Apparently, Zeus beguiled her and slept with her for nine consecutive nights. This was how the Muses came to be. The babies were then given to the god Apollo and a nymph named Eufime to raise and develop their gifts. The muses were considered companions to Apollo when they grew up.
The names of the Muses of Greek mythology are as follows : Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania, and Calliope. The name “muse” comes from the Greek word “mosis” which means to the desire and wish. They are credited with giving any artist or writer of verse the inspiration to craft their trade. Homer, one of the greatest writers gives tribute to the muses in his works the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are also works of art which depict goddesses. Even Disney has used them as characters in their animated story of Hercules.
Clio is considered the discoverer of history and the guitar. She is also credited with heroic acts. Her symbols are the clarion (battle trumpet) and a book.
Euterpe is said to have discovered several musical instruments. She is pictured as holding a flute in her hands while surrounded by many musical instruments.
Thalia discovered and protects comedy. She is styled as holding the theatrical comedy mask. Conversely, Melpomene discovered and protects tragedy. She is shown to hold the theatrical tragedy mask.
Terpsichore is the protector and inventor of the dance. She is portrayed as holding a harp and wearing laurels on her head while dancing.
Erato was the protector of love and poetry Her name is a play on the Greek word "eros" (erotic love) She was depicted holding a lyre along with love arrows and bows.
Polymnia is said to be the protector of divine hymns. She is shown looking skyward and holding a lyre.
Ourania was said to be the protector of the celestial objects and stars; she is credited with inventing astronomy. She was always depicted bearing stars, a celestial sphere and a bow compass.
Calliope was considered a Superior muse. She was the one who accompanied kings and princes in the spreading of justice. She is also the protector of heroic poems. Her symbols are laurels that are in her hand.
Now obviously, there are more than these nine muses. People, places, even nature have long been credited with giving writers their inspiration. Some writers even like the quiet and solitude of their own mind. Others, like me, find their muses “out of the blue”. A song, or a verse; a written prompt or even the news can be sources of inspiration. The evening sky, a sunrise, or a rainbow. Then let’s not forget internal sources - happiness, pain, anger, regret - raw emotion can be a great catalyst for writing.
I am often curious when I read something what prompted the writing. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious, but other times not so much. I like to get inside the writer’s head, even for a minute, to see what they were thinking as they write the words down on paper. I find this a great help when I write, or am struggling with writing my own pieces. When an author gives background information as to what inspired them, it helps me to understand what is written just that much more.
What is/are your Muse(s)? How do they inspire you?
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