November 10, 2015

Artemis the Lover of Song and Dance

Rising Full Moon
The Wild Wood
We are familiar with Artemis as the huntress of wild things, the independent Goddess of the Moon who guards young children and refused to marry. But she is also a Goddess closely linked to singing and dancing. 
The Dancing Hunter
In myths and poems, Artemis is described as loving to sing and leading her nymphs in song as often as they hunted. Artemis led the Muses in circle dances and directed their choir singing (before Apollo became their manager). Young girls dressed in saffron tunics and danced a bear dance in honor of Artemis before they were allowed to marry. In myths, girl after girl is abducted while dancing or singing for Artemis (Helen, Ariadne). Aphrodite once disguised herself as a mortal and claimed the same thing had happened to her to make her story convincing. Many dances were considered sacred to Artemis: circle dances, winding chain dances, lively jigs with wild leaps into the air and dances where the dancers dressed as plants, deer (or other animals) and the opposite sex. Karyatis, Kordax and Korythalia are all titles or names linked to Artemis and the dances that were done in her honor.
Deer in Winter
The Moon and Deer are Symbols of Artemis
A few of Artemis's musical (or at least noisy) titles include; 
-Hegemone “leader of dance" or "choir leader.” 
-Hymnia “of the hymns” or "lover of songs." 
-Celadeinus/Celadeine “strong voiced" or "lady of clamors.”
And a final observation of my own; Erato the Muse of erotic and love poetry, wedding music and sometimes dance, is sometimes shown holding a bow and arrows, like Eros the God of love. And Artemis the leader of the songs and dances of nymphs, Muses and Graces, is most often pictured with bow and arrows today.

Eclipse Crescent Moon
When the Moon shines, Artemis dances with the plants and animals
Artemis is the untamed singer beside the forest stream who leads us into the harmonic wilderness. She is the conductor hiding within the ensemble, the dancer in costume, the disguised side of ourselves who sings duets with those she loves.

September 30, 2015

Flute and Aulos in Translation

I have mentioned this before and I know I will again but this particular issue is very widespread and deserves a post all its own. At least if you enjoy researching music in myths.
When reading anything about ancient Greece that mentions "the flute", there are very high odds that it should say "the aulos". Aulos is so frequently mistranslated as flute that you almost have to assume flute means aulos in any English text. The aulos is a double reed instrument played vertically, sometimes in pairs and sometimes not. The flute has no reeds and is played horizontally/transverse and almost no one is crazy enough to try to play two at once.
Pan Playing Double Aulos
Pan Playing Double Aulos Among the White Violets
The recorder is sometimes played in pairs but again, the recorder does not use reeds and so also isn't an aulos. The aulos does not exist as a modern instrument and we don't know all the details of how the aulos was made or played. We do have enough pictures from vases and sculptures, as well as writings about it, to know it was not like the flute at all. The aulos does seem to be somewhat like an oboe but that comparison is not precise either since oboes are not played in pairs and don't require a strap around the head. This means that whenever you run into something saying "Athena invented the flute", "Euterpe was the Muse of flute players" or "Apollo played flute with the Muses" it almost ALWAYS means aulos, not flute.
Now just to confuse things, there was a transverse flute in use in ancient Greece. It was considered a country instrument, not very sophisticated and linked to shepherds. There are almost no mythological stories that feature this instrument and the only reference to a God playing one (that shouldn't actually read aulos that is) that I have run across is Pan and I'm not sure about that one. It is possible that the original Greek text said panpipes or syrinx instead of flute, another common mistranslation. Although since Pan was a God of shepherds, it is not impossible that in this case, they actually meant the transverse flute.
Baby Pan Playing Transverse Flute
Pan Playing Transverse Flute Among the Wild Columbine
The transverse flute just didn't have enough respect to be used in the stories. It is one of the oldest instruments in the world but it took centuries for the flute to gain any standing among other instruments in Western culture. Yet people kept playing it, teaching it and writing music for it. And now, it is so hard for us to believe that this instrument didn't matter in the past that we change the name of other instruments to flute. Flutes can be sneaky little things.

August 1, 2015

Muses, Modes and the Music of the Spheres

This will be a rather long post about a picture called "Music of the Spheres" that was published in 1496 in Francinus Gafurius's Practica musice. This picture gives us some interesting insights into how the people of the Renaissance super-imposed Greek myth onto music theory. My views on the musical elements, mythological ideas and metaphysical ideas that can be seen in this picture are influenced by (but not the same as) Joseph Campbell's essay "The Muses Nine" (can be found in The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1987) which I encourage you to read. (Even though he got the names of the two modes that are the same wrong-he was a mythology expert, not a musician.)

File:The music of the spheres.jpg

"Music of the Spheres" from Francinus Gafurius's Practica musice published in 1496-public domain.
(Yes, this picture uses a pre-Copernican order for the planets and is geocentric.) 

What is shown in this picure
-The Latin scroll at the top reads "The Apollonian mind moves the Muses everywhere." 
-Apollo is seated at the top playing a large lute. The little flying monkeys in the corners (I know they are supposed to be angels or cupids but they look like flying monkeys to me) are playing a smaller lute and a viola da gamba. Both lutes and viola da gambas were often used instead of lyres in the Renaissance pictures of mythological characters.
-Three Graces dance next to Apollo.
    1 Euphrosyne "Mirth, Good Cheer"
    2 Aglaia "Splendor, Beauty"
    3 Thalia "Blooming, Abundance"
-Nine Muses are paired off with the nine planetary spheres and the modes/scales. In between each planet is the word tonus (whole-step) or semitonium (half-step) to show the distance between each note. To hear the different modes/scales, you can follow the whole and half steps starting on any note. Or, on a piano, play only the white key between the notes in the parenthesis below.
    1 Urania “Heavenly one”---Stars---Hypermixolydian (A to A; Aeolian or minor) 
    2 Polyhymnia “Many hymns”---Saturn---Mixolydian (G to G)
    3 Euterpe “Giver of joy”---Jupiter---Lydian (F to F)
    4 Erato “Awakener of desire”---Mars---Phrygian (E to E)
    5 Melpomene “The singer”---Sun---Dorian (D to D)
    6 Terpsicore “Enjoys dance”---Venus---Hypolydian (C to C; Ionian or major) 
    7 Caliope “Beautiful voice”---Mercury---Hypophrygian (B to B; Locrian) 
    8 Clio “Giver of fame”---Moon---Hypodorian (A to A; Aeolian or minor) 
    9 Thalia “Festive, blooming”---Earth---no note
    (Note: These are not the current standard spellings for the names of the Muses.)
-The Greek words next to each Muse (Mese, Lychanosme, Meson etc.) are names for notes that mostly indicate the order of notes in a scale. They basically mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.
-A Three Headed Serpent in the center connects the Grace Thalia (top) to the Muse Thalia (bottom.) There really were both a Grace and a Muse named Thalia in some of the less well known Greek myths.
-The Elements-Fire (ignis) Air (aer), and Water (aqua) surround the Earth (terra) and the Muse Thalia.
I have yet to find any explanation of the vase of plants next to Apollo. I say it represents the blossoming of the earth creating spirit. 

Musical Ideas I See in this Picture
As a group, the Graces create the movement and speed of the sound waves; pitch.
The Grace Thalia shapes the type of sound being heard; timbre. I would tentatively give volume and rhythm to the other two Graces.
The Muses are the organization of the different vibrations/pitches; the notes and scales.
Since Muse Thalia (within the Earth) is not given a note or scale, she becomes not only the substance used to create music (air, wood, reed, string, metal) but also the sounding board or the part of the instrument/voice that reverberates and amplifies the sounds just as she amplifies our connection to spirit.
The whole-steps (tonus) and half-steps (semitonium) between each planet form an ascending minor scale from bottom to top though different scales are formed by starting on different notes/planets. The name of a Greek scale or mode is assigned to each Muse and planet. Hypermixolydian and Hypodorian are functionally the same scale pattern according to the picture. (Not, as Campbell says, Hypermixolydian and Dorian.)
A bit of trivia; the picture itself does not actually use Ancient Greek scales. Renaissance authors didn’t know how the Greek scales really worked and assigned the Greek names to their own scales somewhat randomly. (The Greek scales started on different notes, used different intervals between scale steps and often placed the tonic in the middle of the scale.) However, these ARE the scale patterns and mode names as they are paired off today. They just have nothing to do with the older Greek scales, aside from their names.

More Detail and Mythological Ideas
Apollo as the God of harmony helps people live in harmony with the world and spirit. Harmony can be created between different tones, different beings and different realities. In Greek myth, he was sometimes considered the leader of the Muses (after ousting Artemis.) 
The Graces are the first divisions, reflections or reverberations of spirit. They expand the possible ways of perceiving the divine mask, making it easier to approach. In myth, the Graces lived and traveled with the Muses. The Graces were sometimes considered a triad version of Aphrodite, who had ties to the Muses as well. There are several different sets of names for the Graces so don't worry too much if you haven't heard of this set before. Euphrosyne "Mirth, Festivity, Good Cheer" faces away from Apollo representing spirit moving out into the world. Aglaia "Splendor, Beauty, Triumph, Adornment" faces Apollo representing how the world feeds and seeks spirit. Thalia "Blooming, Abundance" faces the viewer creating a full circle.
The serpent descends through the planetary spheres and four elements (Campbell compares it to the Kundalini spirit descending the spinal column) and its three heads are in the earth with the Muse Thalia, connecting spirit with the physical world by linking the two Thalias. Three headed beings turn up in myth a great deal and often represent balancing our right and left energies (creative and analytical, spirit and body). This serpent helps us connect with or wake the Muse spirit within the earth and ourselves. 
The elements, earth, water, air and fire not only make up the world but are different forms of spirit within the world. The more aware we become of the various forms of spirit in the world around us, the more we experience the inspiration of the Muses. 
The Muses and the planets are the expansion of consciousness through the planetary spheres and different harmonies. Getting to know the Muses and their planetary spheres can be seen as the growing awareness that spirit exists in everything. And since all art, music and learning has its Muse, any art, learning or inspiration is a possible path to spirit.

Chakras and the Tree of Life
Campbell links the Muses to the chakras in his essay although he assigns three Muses to the heart chakra to make the numbers work. He describes encountering the different Muses as moving awareness up through the chakras in the body continuing the Kundalini idea.
Crown chakra----Urania/Stars
Brow chakra------Polyhymnia/Saturn
Throat chakra----Euterpe/Jupiter
                             Erato/Mars---Upper Heart, closer to spirit
Heart chakra-----Melpomene/Sun---Center Heart, balances earth and spirit
                             Terpsicore/Venus---Lower Heart, closer to earth
3rd chakra---------Caliope/Mercury
2nd chakra---------Clio/Moon
Root chakra------Thalia/Earth

Here is an alternative method of linking the Muses to the chakras that I came up with and think is less confusing. It uses two external chakras that are only present in some chakra systems (there are many.) Again, this is to make the numbers work.
External chakra above our heads----Urania/Stars
Crown chakra----------------------------------Polyhymnia/Saturn
Brow chakra------------------------------------Euterpe/Jupiter
Throat chakra----------------------------------EratoMars
Heart chakra------------------------------------Melpomene/Sun
3rd chakra----------------------------------------Terpsicore/Venus
2nd chakra---------------------------------------Caliope/Mercury

Root chakra-------------------------------------Clio/Moon
External chakra below the ground---Thalia/Earth 

This picture can also be used to place the Muses in the Tree of Life pattern. I don't know why Campbell didn't discuss this since the numbers match up better than with the chakras.
1 Kefer Crown/Source------------Apollo 
2 Chokmah Wisdom---------------Urania/Ourania
3 Binah Understanding-----------Polyhymnia
4 Chesed Love------------------------Euterpe
5 Gebunrah Strength--------------Erato
6 Tiphareth Beauty-----------------Melpomene
7 Netzach Victory-------------------Terpsicore/Terpshicore
8 Hod Glory----------------------------Caliope/Kalliope
9 Yesod Foundation----------------Clio/Klieo
10 Malkuth World/Universe-----Thalia
I think Mnemosyne “memory” works just as well for the first station as Apollo since she is the mother of the Muses.
With that in mind, Lethe “forgetfulness” is a good choice for the 11th station, Daath, that is both there and not. 
If you would rather stick with images from the original picture, the serpent would be my next pick for the 11th station. It would also be possible to put the Graces here as a group. (For a short, clear and sane intro to the Tree of Life, I suggest Math for Mystic by Renna Shesso-she discusses it in one chapter.)
Qabalah Tree of Life and Muses

Keep in mind that this order of the Muses was created in the Renaissance and has no relation to anything in Greek mythology. You are in fact free to move them around anyway you want.

Summing Up
Connection to spirit comes from perceiving that the spirit is a part of the physical world and understanding that the physical itself creates the spirit. To deny the physical, the body, as holy in hopes of increasing spirit or connecting with divine is similar to looking at a water glass without drinking it when we are thirsty. Drinking the water is much simpler and far more effective. Not to mention more comfortable.
The Muses bring inspiration of all kinds into our lives and harmony to spirit and matter throughout the universe.

For Music Theory on the Modern Modes Click Here

May 31, 2015

Four Notes, The Pan Call

F - G - C - Eb
The musical call to the God Pan is said to be made up of four notes; F G C and E-flat. These notes invoke Pan. Or soothe him to sleep. Or please him enough to send him dancing peacefully on his way. Since the Greeks used very different musical scales and notation systems than we do, it is likely these are not the notes an ancient would have used to call Pan. But they have a special magic all their own. These notes can fit into a minor scale, the Dorian mode or the Mixolydian mode easily enough. They can be played alone or other notes can be tucked in around them. They can outline chords or become stepping stones in a melody or harmony line. They can move one to the next quickly or linger as drones. They can dance, skip, march, process, grieve or hum a lullaby. All this from just four notes.
Goat-legged Pan is the God of the wilderness and the realms beyond human homes. He is shown playing a syrinx or panpipes so often it would make sense for him to be the God of music. But he wasn’t exactly. His music was the music of the wilds and the country folk. Music that anyone could make and enjoy. He was often shown with Dionysus who also loved untamed music. Some say Pan was the God of theatrical criticism (intriguing since Dionysus was the God of theater).
The panpipes were considered a country or shepherds’ instrument because they weren’t difficult to make. Though learning to play them well was another story. Most Gods didn’t bother with them. But Pan claimed them as his special skill. He invented the panpipes when one lovely nymph transformed herself into a patch of reeds while he was chasing her. The breezes made the reeds hum and sing so beautifully, Pan was inspired to create an instrument named for the nymph who had rejected him, Syrinx. Hermes sometimes is credited with inventing the panpipes but others say he simply learned to make and play them from the master music maker.
Pan was never civilized enough for the more formal gatherings of the Gods where Apollo and the Muses ruled the stage. Yet Apollo took lessons from Pan, both in music and prophecies. Once, Pan and Apollo even had a musical contest. Midas was one of the listeners and preferred Pan’s pipe-music to Apollo’s lyre-playing. He also questioned how fair the contest had been to begin with, since the judges were followers of Apollo. Apollo gave Midas donkey’s ears in revenge for his criticisms.
Hunters asked Pan to lure animals to them with his music. He coaxed Psyche out of her suicidal depression and helped her figure out how to get back her husband, Cupid, all with music. He fell in love with Echo, the nymph who could only repeat what others had said, a mythic call-and-response duo. Pan likes to sleep at noon and pipe his tunes at dawn or dusk. Waking Pan from his midday nap is an especially dangerous activity. His voice alone can panic the Titans into running away. He uses his music to lure young girls and boys into the woods and plays for the dancing nymphs under the stars. He can put a person to sleep or drive them mad with just a tune.
Perhaps we will wander into the woods this spring when the green shoots and early flowers are growing beside the thawing creeks and streams. And perhaps we will play four notes that ring and echo into the distance. If we dare.

March 21, 2015

The Flutes of Gilgamesh and Tammuzi

I put off this post in a deluded attempt to find more information but have now admitted the truth; I likely have all the information I can find. Both of these instruments are only mentioned in fragments of myths, making our information spotty at best but I'll do what I can.
First, a note about the term flute in these myths. The instrument in Gilgamesh’s story is often called a flute in English translations (and other languages) however it most likely was a reed instrument. This seems to be an extremely common mistranslation when dealing with old texts; any old or archaic wind instrument that is basically a hollow pipe is translated as flute regardless of the type of mouthpiece or how it is held. Why I’m not quite sure aside from the translators not realizing that “pipe” is a generic instrumental term and was never exclusively used for flutes. In the case of Gilgamesh's story, there is some doubt as to what kind of instrument is really meant but it was almost certainly end-blown (held vertical to the body instead of horizontal) and most likely had a reed in the mouthpiece. I have yet to find anyone examining the term for Tammuzi’s wind instrument but given the prevalence of musical translation issues and the popularity of reed instruments in this time and area, I think it is safe to assume it wasn’t a flute either. At this point, the use of the word flute in translations of myths is so common, I think it is quite reasonable to include these stories as part of the flute’s mythology so long as it is made clear when the instrument in question was really a flute or reed instrument.
Second, I apologize for using so many different versions of Dumuzi/Tammuzi and Ishtar/Inanna. It is a result of the how many cultures have told these stories and the fact that I do not feel qualified to simply "merge" the names into one without damaging the stories. I have kept things as simple as I could.

The Carnelian Pipe
The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu comes from Mesopotamia. This is a very old and very fragmented poem. The different fragments are pieced together in different ways creating several versions. In short, Gilgamesh is the King of Urek (possibly Sumeria or thereabouts). He has divine parentage (quite common for royalty in myths) and a bad temper (ditto). Enkidu is created by the Gods to be his friend and calm him down. They have a number of adventures and encounters with the Gods which are anything but calm (but at least they stop bothering ordinary people so much). Eventually, Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh holds a funeral for his friend. In the process, Gilgamesh offers a wind instrument made of carnelian to Dumuzi (the Sun God is witnessing this ceremony I believe, not keeping the offerings) so that Enkidu will be welcomed into the afterlife. It is worth noticing that he also offers a flask made of lapis lazuli to Ereshkigal for the same reason (both lapis lazuli and Ereshkigal will be mentioned later). 
He displayed to the Sun God a flask of lapis lazuli
   for Ereshkigal, the queen of the Netherworld:
"May Ereshkigal, the queen of the teeming Netherworld, accept this,
   may she welcome my friend and walk by his side!"
He displayed to the Sun God a flute of carnelian
   for Dumuzi, the shepherd beloved of Ishtar:
"May Dumuzi, the shepherd beloved of Ishtar, accept this,
   may he welcome my friend and walk by his side!"
---from Book VIII of the Epic, lines 144–149

The Lapis Lazuli Pipe
Now for Tammuzi’s other wind instrument we have to look at the story of the descent of Ishtar into the Underworld. Again, there are several different, fragmented versions of this story. Ishtar is often related to Inanna the Sumerian Goddess of love, fertility and war. Tammuzi/Dumuzi (and various other spellings) is Ishtar’s/Inanna’s lover. Ishtar/Inanna decides to go to the Underworld to see her sister Ereshkigal the Queen of the Dead. In the process, Ishtar/Inanna basically dies but being a Goddess, she can return to her home and divine role of keeping the world alive if some one will take her place in the Underworld. Now while she was gone Tammuzi/Dumuzi has been living it up in her palace, sitting on her throne and playing a wind instrument (often called a flute but likely something else) made of lapis lazuli. She sends him to take her place in the Underworld supposedly for not mourning her properly. Tammuzi/Dumuzi took his lapis lazuli instrument with him to play comforting music for the dead. In some versions Dumuzi’s sister takes his place for half the year so he will not always be dead. The seasons change when they trade places in the Underworld. 

A Few Gems
We don’t always know exactly what stones the ancients meant by carnelian or lapis lazuli but they generally meant something reddish with carnelian and something bluish with lapis lazuli. We do know they meant something valuable as these gems were used in trade and by royalty. It would have been expensive to make instruments from them but not impossible and since both stones were associated with the Gods, anything made from them would have been appropriate as offerings. There have been a number of gem encrusted flutes (and other instruments) made in history, both for display and just to see how they would work, so there’s no reason to assume more ancient cultures wouldn’t have made instruments out of something flashy too. It is also quite common to say someone in a story or myth is playing an instrument made out of unusual or exotic materials to enhance the mythic or magical quality of the instrument.

So what shall we take from this? Well, we can't say anything for certain but I like the idea of Tammuzi’s/Dumuzi’s music changing colors as the seasons shift. Blue and red, cool and warm, living and dead, circling and harmonizing every year as the earth spins year after year.

January 31, 2015

Ianuaria the Lady of Pipes

Ianuaria, a Celtic/Gaulish Goddess. The information about her is extremely limited but intriguing. At a healing shrine in Beire-le-Chatal, France, she was pictured as a young girl with curly hair, wearing a pleated coat and playing the panpipes. The site also had images of Apollo, bulls and doves. No one knows if she was associated with music, healing or birds and bulls outside of this site or not. Her name is related to Janus the Roman God of beginnings, doorways, gates, the new year and January. Jana (or Iana) Luna, a moon Goddess, is Janus’s consort and the only other female version of the name Janus (as far as I know).

Music goes back to our beginnings as various finds of 40,000 year old flutes show. Music and healing are often paired and music was sometimes used as a form of healing. Many of the Gaulish deities mixed and matched roles, attributes and even names with other cultures. The ancient Celts traveled so far they couldn’t help but run into other Gods and see similarities to their own. Meanwhile, the Romans were quite prone to creating Roman names for local deities and pairing them up with a Roman God, just to make everything seem Roman to them. All this makes it quite likely that there was a local deity connected to healing or music or both who was simply renamed.

Ianuaria’s roots are long gone but close your eyes and listen for the sound of flute music drifting over the hills on a chilly day and you just might catch glimpse of where she went.

Adkins, Lesley and Roy A. Adkins. Dictionary of Roman Religion.
Theoi, Roman Myth Index: