22 June 2007

The Muses

As writers, we love to talk about our Muses. Ethereal beings who carry our ideas, our motivation, our art with them. And when they flee, we're helpless.

*snort* I'm extremely hard-headed regarding that idea, believing rather that our creative ability stems from within, but that's not the point of today's post.

Today, I'm going to talk about the actual Muses of mythology. I know. You're expecting another pantheon. Next time, I promise.

Originally, there were only three, Aoede (song), Melete (practice), and Mneme (memory). Other tales suggest that nine were named by Pierus the Macedonian, but for today's purposes, we'll go with this version. Zeus, before he married Hera, was the lover of Mnemosyne, the personification of Memory. He slept with her nine nights, begetting nine Muses:

Calliope ~ The eldest child, leader of her sisters and muse of philosophy and epic poetry.
Clio ~ muse of history.
Melpomene ~ muse of tragedy. Not sure why, really, because she's also known for her singing and chanting. She's the mother of the Sirens -- beautiful singing monsters.
Euterpe ~ muse of music, especially the flute. She is also a muse of lyric poetry, a quality she shares with her sister, Erato.
Erato ~ muse of love poetry. Lyrics for music, especially marriage songs, stem from her.
Terpsichore ~ muse of dance, which was considered an important aspect of being civilized.
Urania ~ muse of astronomy and astrology, two very different approaches to reading the stars. She also represents philosophy, along with her sister Calliope.
Thalia ~ the muse of comedy (my personal favorite). She's also the muse of idyllic or bucolic poetry. Lots of comedy in trees and sheep, apparently.
Polymnia/Polyhymnia ~ the serious one. She is the muse of sacred poetry and she brings everlasting fame to writers. She is also a muse of religious dance, mime, and, oddly enough, agriculture.

Yet what is their true function for us as writers -- as people? To inspire. Temples were built to the muses to inspire people to beauty. Whether in art, song or literature, the muses brought people together and promoted peace and harmony.

So whether you take a particular Muse to heart, create your own, or believe in your own ability to create, the power and purpose of the Muses remain the same. They inspire us.

Tell me about your own Muse. Which one speaks most powerfully to you?
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