Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ogmios, Gaulish God of Words

According to Lucian, Ogmios is the “Gaulish Hercules (Herakles).” He personifies the power of speech and eloquence and is often depicted as large-boned and wielding a club or a bow. He is often seen as old and balding, a symbol of his wisdom. His skin is darkened by the sun, indicating that perhaps a similar human figure of great renown had once traveled through the Gaulish lands from perhaps a Persian area (speculation, of course).

Also a Deity of binding, Ogmios is said to draw men happily after him tied to his tongue by thin, gold chains at their ears. The people were drawn to him in joy and were depicted doing their best to be as close to him as possible. His utterances are “sharp and well-aimed, swift to pierce the mind” (Green 165-166). Ogmios would use his words to bind people by the power of persuasion and lead them into the Underworld, so the argument has been made for calling to him as a psychopomp Deity. He was known to create defixiones, tablets with a curse written on them. Two such tablets have been recovered from Bergenz, Austria in which Ogmios is invoked to curse a barren woman that she may never marry (Lucian 63-67).

Invocation to Ogmios

The Children of the Earth call to Ogmios!
God of strength and eloquence!
Might by arms and by tongue!
Remind us this day and all days of the power of words!
As your words flow like sweet honey
from your lips to the ears of your follower’s eager ears,
May we be inspired to choose our words carefully—
For so, too, do our words bind us to those who hear them.
Guide our speech, Ogmios, that our words be well-chosen,
inspired and pleasing to the Kindred.
Teach us the power of words,
Inspire our hearts and minds as we speak and listen!
Ogmios! We honor you!

Green, Miranda. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. Thames & Hudson, London: 1992. Print.

Lucian. The Works of Lucian: with an English Translation by A.M. Harmon I. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press: 1913. Print.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vac, Vedic Goddess of the Voice

Vac literally means “to speak,” but to the Vedic Indians, Vac embodies much more than mere speech. Vac is centered around speech as well as song (sung word) in connection with a sense of “calling forth,” of “raising.” Vac has been used to refer to the roaring of animals, the rustling sound of a blazing fire, the sound of flowing Soma (the song that Soma utters), the thundering of the clouds (the sound of Soma pressing stone) and personified in a glorious Goddess, Vac. In short, Vac is the divine embodiment of sound.

Vac is always named in the process of creation, including the creation of the world. She has been noted for her interaction with Sarasvati, Agni, Soma, Prajapati, Brhaspati and Usas. She was created for the performance of sacrifice, and from her sprang forth the Holy mantras, for when her name is added to a prayer, it becomes a charm, a spell. Her presence will transform the words that they may be given to Agni and carried to the Gods. She is said to control the tone, meter and speed of the spoken words as well as their cessation when silence is necessary.

Vac is sometimes looked upon as a cow capable of yielding all desired things equating the powerful and sacred nature of words with the divinely revered animal. She has given the voices to all the creatures, including humans, through her breath.

Pingle, Pratbha M. The Concept of Vac in the Vedic Literature. Sri Satguru Publications, India: 2005. Print.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who was Orpheus?

Orpheus is one of the premiere bardic figures from Hellenic times. He was a spinner of tales, a poet, a musician, a lyricist and a well-respected performer. He was also a highly proclaimed scholar and religious innovator.

His listed parentage varies. In one version of his story, his father is Oaegros, King of Thrace and his mother is Kalliope, the Muse of Music. In another, his father is Apollo himself. Some say he invented the lyre, though this invention is typically attributed to Hermes, who offered it to Apollo in restitution for stealing his cattle. One thing is clear no matter his lineage: his musicianship was beyond measure. According to lore, his talents landed him a place among the Argonauts on their journeys during which his music and quick moving wit kept the Sirens from destroying them (Kerenyi, Heroes, 253-256). His music and words were so powerful that the plants, animals and even the nymphs were set to dancing by his playing. So great was his talent and the emotion he instilled in his listeners that he set the very Queen of the Underworld to tears and convinced her to allow his deceased wife, Eurydike, to return to him from the Land of the Dead. Unfortunately, he looked back upon her before she was fully returned to the realm of the living, and she vanished back into the Underworld forever.

It is said that after Orpheus lost his beloved Eurydike a second time he kept the company of only men, particularly satyrs and adolescent boys. He is also the founder of a mystery religion, teaching the lessons he brought back from the Underworld with him. Over time, he grew callous, judgmental and intolerant. He began to criticize the ways of those who did not follow his own, denouncing such acts as animal sacrifice, which flew in the face of Civic Law. Eventually, he went so far as to spurn Dionysos and his followers for their lascivious ways, resulting in his destruction. Dionysos set his Thracian Maenads to destroy Orpheus—which they accomplished by tearing him limb from limb while he yet lived. (Kerenyi, Heroes, 279-286)

Orphism, ironically, was later called the Reformed Dionysianism, a more intellectual and controlled form of practice seeking immortality through divinity. The Orphics tended to view the body as profane, tainted, while the soul was divine, and only through bodily purification could one attain salvation. The soul would be required to pass into another form, and another, and another upon death until purity was obtained—the main reason the Orphics are considered the first advocates of reincarnation. Followers were vegetarians, including egg and bean, who abstained from all sexual activity—a far cry from the predecessors who followed the orgiastic ways of Dionysos! (Orphic Religion, 2010)

Today, Orpheus is often called in Hellenic rites for Bardic Inspiration. Whether as a Deity, Demigod, Hero appointed to Deity status, or even as an Ancestor, Orpheus and his talents are still inspiring the world.


Encyclopedia Britannica. "Orphic religion" Encyclopedia Britannica Online: 2010. 21 Feb 2010 Web.

Kerenyi, Carl. The Heroes of the Greeks. Thames and Hudson. London: 1959. Reprint: 1997. Print.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Apollon, God of Music, Prophecy and Healing

Appollon (Apollo) is one of the twelve Olympian Gods. He is best known as the God of Prophecy who spoke through the Oracles at Delphi, the center of the world. His other attributes include plague and disease as well as healing; music, song and poetry; archery and the protection of young children. He is a handsome God often depicted with long hair with any combination of a myriad of accoutrements such as a wreath or a branch of laurel, a bow and quiver, a raven or a lyre.

The tale of his birth begins with his Mother, Leto, beloved of Zeus, being pursued relentlessly by Hera from the moment she discovered Leto was with child. Leto was driven from land to land to prevent her from giving birth. There was no rest for her during the entire length of her pregnancy. Hera declared that no land shall grant her refuge, and so the floating Island of Delos, which was not fixed land, offered a safe place for Leto to rest and bear her children, for she gave birth to twins, Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and patron of young women and Apollon, youthful God of prophecy, music and healing.

There are many tales of Apollon performing great feats, such as the slaying of the Python that guarded the oracular shrine at Delphi and Tityos, the giant who attempted to steal his mother, Leto, but some of the most beautiful stories of love and music are found in the lore surrounding the young God. He fell in love with Hyakinthos, and when he was killed by a discus throw, the God transformed him inot a flower, the hyacinth. The Nymph, Daphne, was counted among his loves, but when she left him, she was transformed into a laurel tree. He fell madly in love with Koronis, but she was slain by Artemis for infidelity. During the Trojan War, he even brought a plague to the Greeks and helped Paris to slay Akhilleus.

There are many tales that illustrate the great bardic prowess of the God. In the Iliad (i. 603), he entertained the mortals with his playing on the phorminx during their banquet. The Homeric Bards were said to have derived their art of song from Apollon and the Muses. But the most revealing tale to the bard is the story of his music contest with the Satyr, Marsyas. Marsyas of Phyrgia was a flautist. The flute was invented by Athene, but she became disgusted with it when she saw in a reflective pond the bloating of her cheeks as she played. As luck would have it, Marsyas was nearby when she discarded the instrument and immediately picked it up. The flute, having been blessed with the breath of a Goddess, emitted a beautiful sound upon first blow. Over time, Marsyas became quite skilled, and in his hubris, he challenged Apollon to a music contest. Apollon inquired of the conditions, and Marsyas, assuming he would win, declared that the victor shall do what he pleased with the loser and even asked the Muses, who were known to be loyal to Apollon, to sit as judges for the affair. Marsyas held his own in the first round, he on his flute and Apollon on the lyre. In the second round, however, when Apollon added his voice to the beautiful music, the Nymphs swooned, the trees swayed and the flowers turned their faces toward the voice of the shining God. After Apollon was declared the winner, he had Marsyas bound to a tree and flayed alive. His blood flowed out and became a river, which Apollon named after him (Strabo, Geography 12. 8. 15).

In many ways, the modern-day bard is a reflection of the God, Apollon, who entertained, competed and was revered for his skill. For this, among many other reasons, we call out to him as a source of Inspiration as we prepare to greet the Gods round our fires.