Although the Orphic Hymns are nowhere mentioned in other ancient texts, and they are obscure even to classicists and historians of antiquity, contemporary polytheists (as well as occultists and witches) have rightly adopted this corpus as a central devotional hymnal. Firstly, no other hymn collection from antiquity (or compiled in modern times) is remotely as comprehensive. Secondly, whereas many surviving hymns are meant for lavish festivals including animal sacrifice, the Orphic Hymns are intended for simple, bloodless rites performed by a solitary devotee – precisely the situation many modern practitioners find themselves in.
Due to their popularity, several English translations have already been produced at this point. However, the present version (once complete) will be the only one that is freely available online apart from the 1792 verse translation by Thomas Taylor (off-site link), which is eminently chantable but often very loose and now quite archaic. It will also be a living document, open to change as I read more or (hopefully) receive criticism and suggestions.
The commercial translations I am aware of are by Apostolos N. Athanassakis 1977 (revised 2013), Patrick Dunn (2018) and Sara Mastros (2019), as well as another that is forthcoming; selected hymns are also translated in Barry Powell, Greek Poems to the Gods (2021). I have not looked at these version enough to form much of a judgment, but I have endeavored to hew closer to the original, and provide more explanatory footnotes, than I have seen from other authors. If other renderings are, perhaps, more poetic and workable in ritual, I imagine that mine will be more useful in study.
I should say a few words about the intellectual context of the Orphic Hymns. Like all Orphic poetry, it is not really composed by Orpheus, a hero-poet of remote antiquity, but ascribed to him pseudepigraphically. Nor is every Orphic hymn part of the corpus of the Orphic Hymns – this is one specific collection, likely composed by a single poet or group of poets. They did not choose to include, for instance, a very old and famous Orphic hymn to Zeus we know from other sources (see Porphyry, On Cult Statues), nor any of the other Orphic hymns quoted by ancient authors.
With that out of the way, next we must consider what ‘Orphic’ means to begin with. It does not refer to a religious or philosophical system of “Orphism”, but rather to an assortment of doctrines, rituals and poems said to have originated with Orpheus – but which, unlike the doctrines of philosophers, the rituals of temples, or the poems of Homer, were always open to rewriting and change. Thus, Orphic poetry is a loose genre more than a specific body of texts.
Recognizably Orphic features in the Orphic Hymns are rare and few between. In fact, the poems are quite representative of mainstream polytheism in the time they were written (probably in the 2nd century CE), with some local Anatolian features (such as the inclusion of Hipta and Sabazius). What is Orphic is the bloodlessness of the rites, rooted in the vegetarianism that the especially pious often advocated (based on Orphic, Pythagorean, Platonic and other teachings), and the prominence of deities and myths whose mysteries were claimed to have been founded by Orpheus, namely those of the Eleusinian gods and Dionysus – with much greater emphasis on the latter.
But although the speaker styles themself an initiate, and occasionally refers to a ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, the prevailing notion that the Orphic Hymns were the liturgy of a community of initiates into Orphic-Dionysiac mysteries is built on weak foundations. If the hymns were written for those who were already initiated, and only accidentally came into the hands of those who preserved them for uninitiated posterity, we should expect to find explicit references to the content of the mystery rites; and if they were for the uses of a community, there should be many more signs that specific hymns were intended for specific ritual purposes. But such indications are almost entirely lacking, except for a very few references to one particular festival (the triennial or Trieteris), and references to initiation are all vague and generic.
My impression, therefore, is that these are not esoteric texts, but intentionally exoteric (public) ones using a rhetoric of esotericism. If I am right, they were meant for a general audience who desired to have a treasure house of pious hymns that could serve as the private equivalent of mystic initiations, or as a household complement to the mysteries. That said, I am still open to counterarguments, and I do not doubt that there was some close connection to community rites, including at least some mysteries. Obviously, the hymns were not written in a vacuum, but it seems equally obvious to me that the collection as we have it is not meant for the localized needs of one single community of secretive worshippers.
It remains to discuss what strikes many readers as the strangeness of the Orphic Hymns, that is to say, their differences from early Greek poetry like Hesiod’s hymn to the Muses at the beginning of the Theogony or the corpus of the Homeric Hymns. Two basic observations have to be made: firstly, that in many respects, Hesiod and Homer are the odd ones out, and secondly, that the Orphic Hymns come from a much later period, and are representative of that time.
To the first point, Hesiod and Homer represent the gods as something like superlative humans, and in their hymnic passages, they largely use mythical narrative as the mode of praise. This attitude to the gods was critiqued by some of the earliest Greek philosophers, including Xenophanes and Heraclitus, and perhaps most famously by Plato in the Republic. But even at the time these poems were composed, they represented only one sub-genre, that of epic poetry. The hymns of other kinds of poets are often much less focussed on narrative, and more on a deity’s powers and beneficence, their attributes and relationship to the worshippers and their ceremonies.
The Orphic Hymns continue this latter tradition, in a grammatically simple style that favors the enumeration of a great many names, bynames, epithets and laudatory descriptions both literal and symbolic. Many lines are simply lists of nouns and adjectives (not so strictly distinguished in ancient Greek) that refer to the deity; longer phrases only occasionally extend beyond one line in length. As such, there is no distinction between the initial invocation and the subsequent praise of the god, as in other Greek hymns, but the praise is all invocation. The most grammatically complex portion is often the closing prayer, usually making up one to three lines.
However, to digress a little, what may be straightforward in one language can be difficult in another, and vice versa. Thus, while it is impossible to replicate the grammatical structure of the prayers in English, their meaning can be replicated quite easily. The lists of names, however, present considerable challenges. Consider line 8 of Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes: Kōrykiôta, mákar, erioúnie, poikilómythe!
- Kōrykiôta. The first byname means ‘(inhabitant) of Corycus’, and it could by translated as such, or as ‘Corycian’, as I did. Since the word is already unfamiliar, however, it would be legitimate to hew even closer to the Greek, using some form like ‘Coryciote’ or ‘Kōrykiōtēs’ (the nominative case; –a is the vocative ending).
- mákar means ‘blessed one’, not in the sense of having been blessed by another but living a life of complete happiness, which is the status of all the gods. This is impossible to express unambiguously in English, so I have opted for the conventional translation (i.e., ‘blessed’), which will at least mean something to those who already have some familiarity with ancient Greek religion. In order to preserve the word order, I write “Corycian, blessed one” – but one might equally well choose to preserve word count and write “blessed Corycian”.
- Erioúnie (vocative of Erioúnios) is particularly problematic, since it is an adjective, but of uncertain meaning. It is not entirely satisfactory to simply Anglicize ‘Eriounios’, since this implies it is a proper name. But if the adjectival character is to be preserved, we have to translate either ‘Eriounian’ (which does not mean anything) or adopt one of the meanings proposed in antiquity – but then we are only translating that one meaning, when the point of using Erioúnios no doubt lay precisely in its ambiguity.
- poikilómythe means something like ‘of varied speech’ or ‘of changeful words’. Ideally, it would be translated as something like ‘various-worded’, but while this kind of compound is extremely common in Greek, it is sufficiently unusual in English that it will be incomprehensible to most readers.
So, my translation “Corycian, blessed one, Eriounios, of various speech” is the result of a number of choices that go in different directions. In this case, I preserved the word order, but sacrificed some concision. While generally striving for transparency of meaning, I opted not to make genuinely foreign words unduly recognizable – that clarification is what footnotes are for.
Regarding the second point, that the Orphic Hymns are representative of their time, this goes in two directions. On the one hand, Greek-language writers in the Roman period constantly read and emulated much older literature, so that it is typical of this time that a large number of the hymns actually do not contain anything that is typical and unique to it. Orphic Hymn 28 to Hermes is a good example of this, being simply a compilation of traditional lore about the god.
On the other hand, people of the post-classical era were not content to merely reproduce their models; they also wanted to understand, explicate, deepen and surpass them. This, together with only a few unprecedented innovations and idiosyncrasies, explains the novelty of the collection. Let me give a few examples.
[OH 1, 2, 5, 6, 12, 16?]
(From the Greek edition of W. Quandt.)
Orpheus to Musaeus: Good fortune, friend!
Learn, Musaeus, the most sacred manner of worship (thyēpolíē),
Prayer, which is the most excellent of all.¹
King Zeus, and Earth, and the holy celestial flames
Of the Sun, and the Moon’s light, and all the Stars!
(5) And you, Poseidon, holder of the earth, of dark blue hair,
And holy Phersephone and Demeter of goodly fruit,
Arrow-shooting Artemis Kore,² and Ēios Phoebus,³
Who dwell on the sacred site of Delphi! And you who have
The greatest honors among the immortals, Dionysus the dancer!⁴
(10) Ares too of mighty courage and holy force of Hephaestus,
And foamborn goddess, who has gifts of magnificent glory!
And you, king of those under the earth (katakhthónioi), eminent daemon,
Hebe, Ilithyia⁵ and the noble force of Heracles!
I also call the great boon of Justice (Dikaiosynē)⁶ and Piety (Eusebiē),
(15) The famous Nymphs and great Pan,
And Hera, the flourishing spouse of aegis-bearing Zeus,
I also call lovely Mnemosyne and the nine holy Muses,
The Graces and the Seasons as well as the Year (Eniautos),⁷
Fair-haired Leto, august Theia (Theiē) and Dione,⁸
(20) The armed Curetes, Corybants, Cabiri
And Great Saviors at once, the imperishable children of Zeus,
The Idaean gods,⁹ as well as the messenger of the celestials,
Hermeias the herald, and Themis, the diviner of men.
I also call Night, the eldest, and light-bearing Day¹⁰ (Ēmar),
(25) Faithfulness¹¹ (Pistis) and Justice (Dikē)⁵ and blameless Thesmodoteira,¹²
Rheia and Kronos and blue-robed Tethys,¹³
Great Oceanus, together with the daughters of Oceanus,¹⁴
And those of Atlas,¹⁵ and the great eminent strength of Eternity,
Everlasting Time¹⁶ and the brilliant water of Styx,¹⁷
(30) The Propitious Gods,¹⁸ and good Providence¹⁹ over them,
The Good Daemon and the Daemon baneful to mortals,²⁰
The daemons²¹ of heaven and air and in the water,
Those of the earth and under the earth and dwelling in fire,
And Semele of Bacchus,²² and all his fellow revelers,²³
(35) Ino Leucothea and wealth-giving Palaemon,
Victory of sweet words and the queen Adrasteia,²⁴
The great king Asclepius, the giver of drugs,
And Pallas, the virgin (koúrē) who rouses to fight, and the Winds all together;
And I sing the Thunders²⁵ and the parts of the four-pillared Cosmos.²⁶
(40) And I call the Mother of the Immortals, Attis and Mēn,²⁷
The goddess Ourania, together with the holy immortal Adonis,²⁸
As well as Beginning (Arkhē) and End (Peras)²⁹ – for it is the greatest of all –,
Come well-disposed and with a gladdened heart
To this sacred offering (thyēpolíē) and august libation!³⁰
1: Or “the most excellent prayer of all”. The following portion can be used as a hymn in its own right, but also functions as a kind of table of contents for the rest of the corpus of Orphic Hymns – but not one that entirely agrees with the hymns as we have them. Perhaps (but not necessarily), some hymns have dropped out, or were planned but not written; perhaps the process of production is still more complicated.
2: Kore, ‘girl, virgin’, does not necessarily refer to Persephone, but as a divine name can also refer to Artemis (who is, at the same time, also frequently identified with Persephone).
3: Ēios is perhaps not so much a name as an invocatory interjection, ‘Ēie!’, which looks like a vocative.
4: The fact that Dionysus is praised in such lofty terms coheres wonderfully with the extremely prominent presence of Dionysus in the OH.
5: There is no separate hymn for Ilithyia, but she is addressed in OH 2 to Prothyraia (where she is also =Artemis).
6: The fact that Dikē and Dikaiosynē are listed separately, and also receive separate hymns, is a strong indication of a link between the preface and the corpus.
7: There is no OH to him.
8: There are no OH to Theia or Dione.
9: It seems that Curetes, Corybants, Cabiri, the Great Gods of Samothrace, the Dioscuri (apparently) and the Idaean Dactyli are being identified.
10: There is no OH to it (or her).
11: There is no OH to her.
12: I do not know who she is.
13: The OH to Thalassa also calls her Tethys.
14: Oceanid Nymphs. There is no such OH, but there is one to the Nereids.
15: The Pleiades. There are no OH to them.
16: There are no OH to Eternity (Aeon) or Time (Chronos).
17: There is no OH to her.
18: The Propitious (meilíkhioi) Gods are not a definite group, but they are (certain) gods who must be propitiated, euphemistically named as if already propitious.
19: There is no OH to her.
20: There is just one hymn to the god Daemon, i.e., Fortune, in the hymns (OH 73). Good and Evil Daemon are equivalent to Good and Bad Tyche (Fortune), and distinct from the notion of good and evil daemons.
21: There are no hymns to daemons in the OH, let alone different classes, but daemons are often distinguished by element, so there probably were such hymns. The structure – fiery, heavenly, aerial, water, terrestrial (chthonic) and underworld (hypochthonic) – lines up very closely with Artemidorus.
The daemons²¹ of heaven and air and in the water,
Those of the earth and under the earth and dwelling in fire,
22: That is, Semele the mother of Dionysus.
23: Perhaps referring to Satyrs and Bacchae (see Nymphs).
24: There is no OH to her.
25: There is no OH to them, but compare OH 19–20 the mention of Lightning as a deity in Artemidorus.
26: There is no OH to him, but Heaven (OH 4) is called Father Cosmos.
27: There are no OH to Attis and Mēn, although they are connected to the Mother as prominent Anatolian deities.
28: There is a hymn to Adonis (OH 56), and also one to Aphrodite that calls her Ourania and mentions Adonis (OH 55), but note that Aphrodite has already been named before in the preface, but there are not two hymns.
29: Heaven (OH 4) is addressed as beginning (arkhḗ) and end (teleutḗ) of all things.
30: Notably, there is only one mention of libations in the instructions that come with the hymns, although they are sometimes mentioned in the hymns themselves. This suggests the instructions may have been added at a later stage.
· ΟΡΦΕΥΣ ΠΡΟΣ ΜΟΥΣΑΙΟΝ.
· Εὐτυχῶς χρῶ, ἑταῖρε.
Μάνθανε δή, Μουσαῖε, θυηπολίην περισέμνην,
εὐχήν, ἣ δή τοι προφερεστέρη ἐστὶν ἁπασέων.
Ζεῦ βασιλεῦ καὶ Γαῖα καὶ οὐράνιαι φλόγες ἁγναὶ
Ἠελίου, Μήνης θ’ ἱερὸν σέλας Ἄστρα τε πάντα·
(5) καὶ σύ, Ποσείδαον γαιήοχε, κυανοχαῖτα,
Φερσεφόνη θ’ ἁγνὴ Δημήτηρ τ’ ἀγλαόκαρπε
Ἄρτεμί ‹τ’› ἰοχέαιρα, κόρη, καὶ ἤιε Φοῖβε,
ὃς Δελφῶν ναίεις ἱερὸν πέδον· ὅς τε μεγίστας
τιμὰς ἐν μακάρεσσιν ἔχεις, Διόνυσε χορευτά·
(10) Ἆρές τ’ ὀμβριμόθυμε καὶ Ἡφαίστου μένος ἁγνὸν
ἀφρογενής τε θεά, μεγαλώνυμα δῶρα λαχοῦσα·
καὶ σύ, καταχθονίων βασιλεῦ, μέγ’ ὑπείροχε δαῖμον,
Ἥβη τ’ Εἰλείθυια καὶ Ἡρακλέος μένος ἠύ·
καὶ τὸ Δικαιοσύνης τε καὶ Εὐσεβίης μέγ’ ὄνειαρ
(15) κικλήσκω Νύμφας τε κλυτὰς καὶ Πᾶνα μέγιστον
Ἥρην τ’, αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς θαλερὴν παράκοιτιν·
Μνημοσύνην τ’ ἐρατὴν Μούσας τ’ ἐπικέκλομαι ἁγνὰς
ἐννέα καὶ Χάριτάς τε καὶ Ὥρας ἠδ’ Ἐνιαυτὸν
Λητώ τ’ εὐπλόκαμον, Θείην σεμνήν τε Διώνην
(20) Κουρῆτάς τ’ ἐνόπλους Κορύβαντάς τ’ ἠδὲ Καβείρους
καὶ μεγάλους Σωτῆρας ὁμοῦ, Διὸς ἄφθιτα τέκνα,
Ἰδαίους τε θεοὺς ἠδ’ ἄγγελον Οὐρανιώνων,
Ἑρμείαν κήρυκα, Θέμιν θ’, ἱεροσκόπον ἀνδρῶν,
Νύκτα τε πρεσβίστην καλέω καὶ φωσφόρον Ἦμαρ,
(25) Πίστιν τ’ ἠδὲ Δίκην καὶ ἀμύμονα Θεσμοδότειραν,
Ῥείαν τ’ ἠδὲ Κρόνον καὶ Τηθὺν κυανόπεπλον
Ὠκεανόν τε μέγαν, σύν τ’ Ὠκεανοῖο θύγατρας
Ἄτλαντός τε καὶ Αἰῶνος μέγ’ ὑπείροχον ἰσχὺν
καὶ Χρόνον ἀέναον καὶ τὸ Στυγὸς ἀγλαὸν ὕδωρ
(30) μειλιχίους τε θεούς, ἀγαθήν τ’ ἐπὶ τοῖσι Πρόνοιαν
Δαίμονά τ’ ἠγάθεον καὶ Δαίμονα πήμονα θνητῶν,
Δαίμονας οὐρανίους καὶ ἠερίους καὶ ἐνύδρους
καὶ χθονίους καὶ ὑποχθονίους ἠδ’ ἐμπυριφοίτους,
καὶ Σεμέλην Βάκχου τε συνευαστῆρας ἅπαντας,
(35) Ἰνὼ Λευκοθέην τε Παλαίμονά τ’ ὀλβιοδώτην
Νίκην θ’ ἡδυέπειαν ἰδ’ Ἀδρήστειαν ἄνασσαν
καὶ βασιλῆα μέγαν Ἀσκληπιὸν ἠπιοδώτην
Παλλάδα τ’ ἐγρεμάχην κούρην, Ἀνέμους τε πρόπαντας
καὶ Βροντὰς Κόσμου τε μέρη τετρακίονος αὐδῶ·
(40) Μητέρα τ’ ἀθανάτων, Ἄττιν καὶ Μῆνα κικλήσκω
Οὐρανίαν τε θεάν, σύν τ’ ἄμβροτον ἁγνὸν Ἄδωνιν
Ἀρχήν τ’ ἠδὲ Πέρας – τὸ γὰρ ἔπλετο πᾶσι μέγιστον –
εὐμενέας ἐλθεῖν κεχαρημένον ἦτορ ἔχοντας
τήνδε θυηπολίην ἱερὴν σπονδήν τ’ ἐπὶ σεμνήν.
<1. Of Hecate>
I call Enodia¹ Hekate, lovely Trihoditis,²
The celestial, chthonic and marine,³ the saffron-robed,
The funereal, who revels with the souls of the dead,⁴
Perseia,⁵ the solitary one, who exalts in deer,
(5) The nocturnal, protector of dogs, the irresistable queen,
Of animal roars, ungirdled, whose form is undefeatable,
Bull herder,⁶ the key-holding queen of the entire cosmos,⁷
Ruler, Nymph, childrearer, who haunts the mountains.
As I pray for the virgin⁸ to be present at the sacred rites,
(10) And to always be gracious to her worshipper,⁹ with gladdened spirit.
1: Although often a byname of Hekate, Enodia is sometimes a distinct goddess, sometimes also identified with Artemis.
2: ‘She of the fork in the roads’, one of the most common bynames of the goddess. She was worshipped at crossroads.
3: Hekate’s rule over Heaven, the Sea and the Earth is explained in the Theogony.
4: “Revel” is bakkheúein.
5: Daughter of Perses.
6: All the attributes after ‘Perseia’ up to this point refer to Artemis, who is consistently said to be the same as Artemis. ‘Bull herder’ (Tauropólos) can be interpreted in various other ways as well.
7: The key, as a symbol of power, is a frequent attribute of Hekate.
8: Virgin (koúrē) can be taken generically (Artemis is virginal) or as the name Kore.
9: Literally, ‘cowherd’, a metaphorical name for a devotee.
· Εἰνοδίαν Ἑκάτην κλήιζω, τριοδῖτιν, ἐραννήν,
οὐρανίαν χθονίαν τε καὶ εἰναλίαν, κροκόπεπλον,
τυμβιδίαν, ψυχαῖς νεκύων μέτα βακχεύουσαν,
Περσείαν, φιλέρημον, ἀγαλλομένην ἐλάφοισι,
(5) νυκτερίαν, σκυλακῖτιν, ἀμαιμάκετον βασίλειαν,
θηρόβρομον, ἄζωστον, ἀπρόσμαχον εἶδος ἔχουσαν,
ταυροπόλον, παντὸς κόσμου κληιδοῦχον ἄνασσαν,
ἡγεμόνην, νύμφην, κουροτρόφον, οὐρεσιφοῖτιν,
λισσόμενος κούρην τελεταῖς ὁσίαισι παρεῖναι
(10) βουκόλωι εὐμενέουσαν ἀεὶ κεχαρηότι θυμῶι.
2. Of Prothyraia,¹ storax as fumigation.
Hear me, o much reverend goddess, daemon² of many names,
Helper in childbirth, sweet watcher of the bed,
Sole savior of women,³ lover of children, gentle-minded one,
Quick deliverer, who help the young of mortals, Prothyraia,
(5) Key-holder,⁴ gracious one, who loves to nurture, gentle to all,
Who possess the houses of all, and cheered them with joy,
Ungirded, who are unseen, but appear in all works,
You have sympathy with labor pains and cheered them with easy births,
Ilithyia, who dissolve the labors in terrible necessities;
(10) For they call you alone as the soul’s repose for those who give birth,
For in you are the pains of delivery freed of suffering,
Artemis Ilithyia, [unintelligible] august Prothyraia,
Hear, blessed one, give aid, grant us children,
And preserve them, since you are the savior of all forever.
1: Prothyraia means ‘before the door’, literally referring to Artemis or Hekate as a guardian before the door of a house. Although the precise name is not unusual, exact parallels are Hekate Prothyraios in Proclus; Propylaia Artemis in Pausanias 1.38.6; and Propylaia as a byname of Hekate in the ~ of Hesychius. Here, the name is transferred to Ilithyia (often identified with Artemis) who watches over the entry into life as a helper in childbirth. We are probably also to understand her as a gatekeeper of sorts for the Orphic Hymns, standing as she does at the beginning of the collection.
2: ‘Daemon’ is here simply a synonym of ‘goddess’.
3: The Greek term includes female animals.
4: An attribute of Hekate, resonant with the gatekeeper.
· Προθυραίας, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Κλῦθί μοι, ὦ πολύσεμνε θεά, πολυώνυμε δαῖμον,
ὠδίνων ἐπαρωγέ, λεχῶν ἡδεῖα πρόσοψι,
θηλειῶν σώτειρα μόνη, φιλόπαις, ἀγανόφρον,
ὠκυλόχεια, παροῦσα νέαις θνητῶν, Προθυραία,
(5) κλειδοῦχ’, εὐάντητε, φιλοτρόφε, πᾶσι προσηνής,
ἣ κατέχεις οἴκους πάντων θαλίαις τε γέγηθας,
λυσίζων’, ἀφανής, ἔργοισι δὲ φαίνηι ἅπασι,
συμπάσχεις ὠδῖσι καὶ εὐτοκίηισι γέγηθας,
Εἰλείθυια, λύουσα πόνους δειναῖς ἐν ἀνάγκαις·
(10) μούνην γὰρ σὲ καλοῦσι λεχοὶ ψυχῆς ἀνάπαυμα·
ἐν γὰρ σοὶ τοκετῶν λυσιπήμονές εἰσιν ἀνῖαι,
Ἄρτεμις Εἰλείθυια, † καὶ ἡ † σεμνή, Προθυραία.
κλῦθι, μάκαιρα, δίδου δὲ γονὰς ἐπαρωγὸς ἐοῦσα
καὶ σῶζ’, ὥσπερ ἔφυς αἰεὶ σώτειρα προπάντων.
3. Of Night (Nýx), fumigation of a torch.
I shall sing of Night, the mother of gods and men.
Night, origin of all, whom we also call Cypris,
Hear, blessed goddess, who shine dark blue and burn with stars,
Who gladden us with rest and sleepful quietude,
(5) Good cheer (euphrosýnē), delight, all-night-festival-loving, mother of dreams,
(10) Who send the light below the underworld and chase it
Into Hades; for dread necessity rules over all things.
I call you now, blessed one, of great abundance, desired by all,
Gracious one, may you hear the supplicant voice,
Come well-disposed, and chase away the terrors that shine in the night!
· Νυκτός, θυμίαμα δαλούς.
Νύκτα θεῶν γενέτειραν ἀείσομαι ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
Νὺξ γένεσις πάντων, ἣν καὶ Κύπριν καλέσωμεν,
κλῦθι, μάκαιρα θεά, κυαναυγής, ἀστεροφεγγής,
ἡσυχίηι χαίρουσα καὶ ἠρεμίηι πολυύπνωι,
(5) εὐφροσύνη, τερπνή, φιλοπάννυχε, μῆτερ ὀνείρων,
ληθομέριμν’ † ἀγαθή τε † πόνων ἀνάπαυσιν ἔχουσα,
ὑπνοδότειρα, φίλη πάντων, ἐλάσιππε, † νυχαυγής,
ἡμιτελής, χθονία ἠδ’ οὐρανία πάλιν αὐτή,
ἐγκυκλία, παίκτειρα διώγμασιν ἠεροφοίτοις,
(10) ἣ φάος ἐκπέμπεις ὑπὸ νέρτερα καὶ πάλι φεύγεις
εἰς Ἀίδην· δεινὴ γὰρ ἀνάγκη πάντα κρατύνει.
νῦν σε, μάκαιρα, ‹καλ›ῶ, πολυόλβιε, πᾶσι ποθεινή,
εὐάντητε, κλύουσα ἱκετηρίδα φωνὴν
ἔλθοις εὐμενέουσα, φόβους δ’ ἀπόπεμπε νυχαυγεῖς.
4. Of Heaven (Ouranós), frankincense as fumigation.
Heaven, universal father, ever indestructible part of the cosmos,¹
Elder-born, beginning of all things and all things’ end,
Father Cosmos,² who rolls around the Earth in a sphere,³
House of the blessed gods, who move in whirling rotations,⁴
(5) Heavenly and chthonic⁵ guardian encompassing all,
Who have the unbearable necessity of nature in your breast,⁶
Dark blue in color, unsubdued, all-varied, of various shape,
All-seen⁷ father of Kronos,⁸ blessed one, all-highest daemon,⁹
Hear and bring sacred life to the neophant initiate!¹⁰
· Οὐρανοῦ, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Οὐρανὲ παγγενέτωρ, κόσμου μέρος αἰὲν ἀτειρές,
πρεσβυγένεθλ’, ἀρχὴ πάντων πάντων τε τελευτή,
κόσμε πατήρ, σφαιρηδὸν ἑλισσόμενος περὶ γαῖαν,
οἶκε θεῶν μακάρων, ῥόμβου δίναισιν ὁδεύων,
(5) οὐράνιος χθόνιός τε φύλαξ πάντων περιβληθείς,
ἐν στέρνοισιν ἔχων φύσεως ἄτλητον ἀνάγκην,
κυανόχρως, ἀδάμαστε, παναίολε, αἰολόμορφε,
πανδερκές, Κρονότεκνε, μάκαρ, πανυπέρτατε δαῖμον,
κλῦθ‘ ἐπάγων ζωὴν ὁσίαν μύστηι νεοφάντηι.
5. Of Aether, saffron as fumigation
O Zeus’ high-built one,¹ whose might is ever-indestructible,
Portion of the Stars, the Sun and the Moon,²
All-subduer,³ fire-breather,⁴ spark of all living beings,⁵
High-shining Aether, noblest element of the cosmos,
(6) O shining growth, light-bringing, and burning with stars,
I call and pray to you to be temperate and fair.⁶
1: ‘Of Zeus’, i.e., ‘house of Zeus’, refers to Heaven, the region of Aether, as ‘(house) of Hades’ means the underworld.
2: Aether is the realm and stuff of the stars.
3: Aether, according to (the popular understanding of) Stoicism is the principle ruling all things.
4: Aether is often synonymous with (heavenly) fire.
5: Souls are often said to be aethereal, and drawn from Heaven.
6: Referring to a calm and clear sky and moderate weather.
· Αἰθέρος, θυμίαμα κρόκον.
Ὦ Διὸς ὑψιμέλαθρον ἔχων κράτος αἰὲν ἀτειρές,
ἄστρων ἠελίου τε σεληναίης τε μέρισμα,
πανδαμάτωρ, πυρίπνου, πᾶσι ζωοῖσιν ἔναυσμα,
ὑψιφανὴς Αἰθήρ, κόσμου στοιχεῖον ἄριστον,
(5) ἀγλαὸν ὦ βλάστημα, σελασφόρον, ἀστεροφεγγές,
κικλήσκων λίτομαί σε κεκραμένον εὔδιον εἶναι.
6. Of Protogonus, myrrh as fumigation
7. Of the Stars, fragrant herbs as fumigation
8. To the Sun, frankincense powder as fumigation
9. To the Moon, fragrant herbs as fumigation
10. Of Nature, fragrant herbs as fumigation
11. Of Pan, variegated fumigation
12. Of Heracles, frankincense as fumigation
Heracles of mighty courage, of great strength, brave Titan,¹
Of strong hand, unconquerable one, full of strong victories in contest,
Of changeful form, father of time,² everlasting and happy,
Ineffable one, of wild courage, much prayed-to, all-powerful one,
(5) Who have an all-powerful heart, great strength, archer, diviner,
Eater of everything,³ all-father, all-highest, helper to all,
Who brought an end and drove away the wild species for mortals,
Yearning for child-rearing peace of splendid honor,
Self-born, untiring one, bravest offspring of the Earth,
(10) Who flash with firstborn missiles,⁴ Paeon of great name,⁵
Who carry Dawn and the black Night around your head,
Passing through twelve labors from each sunrise to each sunset.⁶
Immortal one, of much experience, unbounded and unshaken!
Come, blessed one, who bring all means of soothing sicknesses,
(15) Drive out evil attacks by swinging the club in your hand,
And with your flying arrows, send away hard fates!
2: Insofar as time is told from the movements of the Sun.
3: The gluttony of Heracles was a favorite topic of comedy.
5: Apollon (the Sun) as healer.
6: Equating the labors of Heracles with the twelve hours from sunrise to sunset.
· Ἡρακλέος, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Ἥρακλες ὀμβριμόθυμε, μεγασθενές, ἄλκιμε Τιτάν,
καρτερόχειρ, ἀδάμαστε, βρύων ἄθλοισι κραταιοῖς,
αἰολόμορφε, χρόνου πάτερ, † ἀίδιέ τε † ἐύφρων,
ἄρρητ‘, ἀγριόθυμε, πολύλλιτε, παντοδυνάστα,
(5) παγκρατὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, κάρτος μέγα, τοξότα, μάντι,
παμφάγε, παγγενέτωρ, πανυπέρτατε, πᾶσιν ἀρωγέ,
ὃς θνητοῖς κατέπαυσας ἀνήμερα φῦλα διώξας,
εἰρήνην ποθέων κουροτρόφον, ἀγλαότιμ[ον],
αὐτοφυής, ἀκάμας, γαίης βλάστημα φέριστον,
(10) πρωτογόνοις στράψας βολίσιν, μεγαλώνυμε Παιών,
ὃς περὶ κρατὶ φορεῖς ἠῶ καὶ νύκτα μέλαιναν,
δώδεκ‘ ἀπ‘ ἀντολιῶν ἄχρι δυσμῶν ἆθλα διέρπων,
ἀθάνατος, πολύπειρος, ἀπείριτος, ἀστυφέλικτος·
ἐλθέ, μάκαρ, νούσων θελκτήρια πάντα κομίζων,
(15) ἐξέλασον δὲ κακὰς ἄτας κλάδον ἐν χερὶ πάλλων,
πτηνοῖς τ‘ ἰοβόλοις κῆρας χαλεπὰς ἐπίπεμπε.
13. Of Kronos, storax as fumigation
Ever-flourishing one, father of blessed gods and of men,
Of various counsel, undefiled one, of great strength, brave Titan,¹
Who consume all things and increase them again yourself,²
Who hold the boundless cosmos in unbreakable chains;³
(5) Eternity’s all-father Kronos, Kronos of various speech,
Offspring of Earth and starry Heaven,⁴
Birth, growth, increase, Rhea’s spouse, august Prometheus,⁵
Who dwell across all parts of the cosmos, ancestor,
Of crooked counsel, most excellent one! Hear the suppliant voice,
(10) And may you always send a wealthy fulfillment of life without reproach.
1: The children of Ouranos are called the Titans.
2: A metaphorical interpretation of the myth in which Kronos devours his children.
3: The chains of Kronos are either those with which Zeus bound him, or his own attributes; here they serve to give limits to what would otherwise be a boundless, indefinite cosmos.
4: Gaia and Ouranos.
5: Probably not an identification with Prometheus so much as a byname, ‘forethinking, providential’.
· Κρόνου, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Ἀιθαλής, μακάρων τε θεῶν πάτερ ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν,
ποικιλόβουλ‘, ἀμίαντε, μεγασθενές, ἄλκιμε Τιτάν,
ὃς δαπανᾶις μὲν ἅπαντα καὶ αὔξεις ἔμπαλιν αὐτός,
δεσμοὺς ἀρρήκτους ὃς ἔχεις κατ‘ ἀπείρονα κόσμον,
(5) αἰῶνος Κρόνε παγγενέτωρ, Κρόνε ποικιλόμυθε,
Γαίης τε βλάστημα καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος,
γέννα, φυή, μείωσι, Ῥέας πόσι, σεμνὲ Προμηθεῦ,
ὃς ναίεις κατὰ πάντα μέρη κόσμοιο, γενάρχα,
ἀγκυλομῆτα, φέριστε· κλύων ἱκετηρίδα φωνὴν
(10) πέμποις εὔολβον βιότου τέλος αἰὲν ἄμεμπτον.
14. Of Rhea, fragrant herbs as fumigation
Lady Rhea, daughter of many-shaped Protogonus,
Who drive a sacred chariot drawn by bulls(?),
Who sound with drums, lover of frenzy, girl who rattles with bronze,¹
Mother of Zeus, the Olympian king, the aegis-bearer,
(5) all-revered one, of beauteous shape, blessed bedmate of Kronos,
Who delight in mountains and frightful cries of mortals,²
All-queen Rhea, raising the din of war, with great courage,
Liar,³ savior, deliverer, original ancestor,
Mother of gods and of mortal humans;
(10) For Earth and broad Heaven above
and the sea and rivers are from you; lover of the run, of aerial shape!⁴
Come, blessed goddess, delivering us with cheerful will,
Bring peace down to us, with wealthy possessions,
But send ruin and doom to the ends of the Earth!
1: A reference to the rites of the Mother-of-Gods, which involved playing the drum (tympanum) and frenzied dances of young men wearing bronze armor, weapons and shields. The use of koúrē (‘girl’) is probably in analogy to her servants, the Curetes.
2: Probably in ritual.
3: Sense unclear to me.
4: So we are to understand her as an aerial deity, running or coursing like the celestial bodies, or, perhaps more fitly, as the Nymphs do through the air.
· Ῥέας, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.
Πότνα Ῥέα, θύγατερ πολυμόρφου Πρωτογόνοιο,
† ἥτ‘ ἐπὶ ταυροφόρον † ἱερότροχον ἅρμα τιταίνεις,
τυμπανόδουπε, φιλοιστρομανές, χαλκόκροτε κούρη,
μῆτερ Ζηνὸς ἄνακτος Ὀλυμπίου, αἰγιόχοιο,
(5) πάντιμ‘, ἀγλαόμορφε, Κρόνου σύλλεκτρε μάκαιρα,
οὔρεσιν ἣ χαίρεις θνητῶν τ‘ ὀλολύγμασι φρικτοῖς,
παμβασίλεια Ῥέα, πολεμόκλονε, ὀμβριμόθυμε,
ψευδομένη, σώτειρα, λυτηριάς, ἀρχιγένεθλε,
μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
(10) ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ καὶ γαῖα καὶ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθεν
καὶ πόντος πνοιαί τε· φιλόδρομε, ἀερόμορφε·
ἐλθέ, μάκαιρα θεά, σωτήριος εὔφρονι βουλῆι
εἰρήνην κατάγουσα σὺν εὐόλβοις κτεάτεσσι,
λύματα καὶ κῆρας πέμπουσ‘ ἐπὶ τέρματα γαίης.
15. Of Zeus, storax as fumigation
Much-honored Zeus, imperishable Zeus, we lay down
This propitiatory prayer in recognition of you.¹
O king, these divine beings appeared through your head,²
The goddess Earth, Mother of Mountains,³ the ringing Hills,⁴
(5) The Sea⁵ and all things,⁶ anything Heaven arranged in itself.⁷
Zeus Kronios,⁸ scepter-holder, you who descend,⁹ of mighty courage,
All-father, beginning of all things and all things’ end,¹⁰
Earthquaker, increaser, purifier, who shake all things,
Zeus of thunder, storms, lightning and growth,¹¹
(10) Hear me, you of changeful form, and grant reproachless health,
The goddess Peace¹² and blameless glory of wealth.
· Διός, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Ζεῦ πολυτίμητε, Ζεῦ ἄφθιτε, τήνδε τοι ἡμεῖς
μαρτυρίαν τιθέμεσθα λυτήριον ἠδὲ πρόσευξιν.
ὦ βασιλεῦ, διὰ σὴν κεφαλὴν ἐφάνη τάδε θεῖα,
γαῖα θεὰ μήτηρ ὀρέων θ‘ ὑψηχέες ὄχθοι
(5) καὶ πόντος καὶ πάνθ‘, ὁπόσ‘ οὐρανὸς ἐντὸς ἔταξε·
Ζεῦ Κρόνιε, σκηπτοῦχε, καταιβάτα, ὀμβριμόθυμε,
παντογένεθλ‘, ἀρχὴ πάντων πάντων τε τελευτή,
σεισίχθων, αὐξητά, καθάρσιε, παντοτινάκτα,
ἀστραπαῖε, βρονταῖε, κεραύνιε, φυτάλιε Ζεῦ·
(10) κλῦθί μου, αἰολόμορφε, δίδου δ‘ ὑγίειαν ἀμεμφῆ
εἰρήνην τε θεὰν καὶ πλούτου δόξαν ἄμεμπτον.
16. Of Hera, fragrant herbs as fumigation
Seated in dark blue folds, air-shaped¹
Hera, all-queen, blessed spouse of Zeus,
Who proffer gentle breezes to nurture the souls of mortals,
Mother of rains, nurse of winds, mother of all!,
(5) I do not know any nature of life without you whatsoever;²
You share with all, tempered with reverend air,
For you alone have power and rule over all,
Quaking with all hissing airs as in a stream.³
Now, blessed goddess, of many names, all-queen,
May you come graciously with beauteous, gladdened face.⁴
· Ἥρης, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.
Κυανέοις κόλποισιν ἐνημένη, ἀερόμορφε,
Ἥρα παμβασίλεια, Διὸς σύλλεκτρε μάκαιρα,
ψυχοτρόφους αὔρας θνητοῖς παρέχουσα προσηνεῖς,
ὄμβρων μὲν μήτηρ, ἀνέμων τροφέ, παντογένεθλε·
(5) χωρὶς γὰρ σέθεν οὐδὲν ὅλως ζωῆς φύσιν ἔγνω·
κοινωνεῖς γὰρ ἅπασι κεκραμένη ἠέρι σεμνῶι·
πάντων γὰρ κρατέεις μούνη πάντεσσί τ‘ ἀνάσσεις
ἠερίοις ῥοίζοισι τινασσομένη κατὰ χεῦμα.
ἀλλά, μάκαιρα θεά, πολυώνυμε, παμβασίλεια,
(10) ἔλθοις εὐμενέουσα καλῶι γήθοντι προσώπωι.
17. Of Poseidon, myrrh as fumigation
18. To Pluton
19. Keraunos Zeus, storax as fumigation
20. Zeus Astrapaios, frankincense powder as fumigation
21. Of the Clouds, myrrh as fumigation
22. Of the Sea, frankincense powder as fumigation
23. Of Nereus, myrrh as fumigation
24. Of the Nereids, fragrant herbs as fumigation
25. Of Proteus, storax as fumigation
26. Of Earth, all seed except beans and fragrant herbs as fumigation
27. Of the Mother-of-Gods, variegated fumigation
Immortal gods’ god-honored Mother, nurse of all,
May you come here, ruling goddess, towards these prayers to you, o lady,
Having yoked a fast-coursing chariot with bull-killing lions;¹
Scepter-bearer of famed heaven,² many-named, august one,
(5) Who hold the middle throne of the cosmos,³ wherefore you
Possess the Earth, and yourself supply the pleasant nourishments for mortals.
From you the origin of both immortals and of mortals was brought forth,
The rivers and all the sea are forever ruled by you,
Who are named Hestia;⁴ and they also call you wealth-giver,
(10) Because you favor mortals with gifts of all kinds of goods.
Come to this rite,⁵ o lady, who delight in drums!⁶
All-subduer, Phrygia, savior, Kronos’ bedmate,⁷
Child of Ouranos, ancient one, life-sustainer, lover of frenzy,
Come in joy, gladdened by acts of piety!
1: The Mother-of-Gods is often depicted with lions to either side of her.
2: Meaning ‘ruler of heaven’, with pólos (‘axis’) being a common metonym for the heavens, not ‘one who bears the pole star as a scepter’.
3: (Around) the Earth. Usually, the central position of the Earth in the cosmos is seen as negative (the center being understood as the lowest point), but here it is turned into a seat of authority.
4: Hestia too was regarded as the Earth or its ruler, like the Mother-of-Gods.
5: Teletḗ. This may or may not refer to ‘mystery rites’.
6: Tympanums, more specifically.
7: Presupposing the identity of the Mother-of-Gods with Rhea.
· Μητρὸς θεῶν, θυμίαμα ποικίλα.
Ἀθανάτων θεότιμε θεῶν μῆτερ, τροφὲ πάντων,
τῆιδε μόλοις, κράντειρα θεά, σέο, πότνι‘, ἐπ‘ εὐχαῖς,
ταυροφόνων ζεύξασα ταχυδρόμον ἅρμα λεόντων,
σκηπτοῦχε κλεινοῖο πόλου, πολυώνυμε, σεμνή,
(5) ἣ κατέχεις κόσμοιο μέσον θρόνον, οὕνεκεν αὐτὴ
γαῖαν ἔχεις θνητοῖσι τροφὰς παρέχουσα προσηνεῖς.
ἐκ σέο δ‘ ἀθανάτων τε γένος θνητῶν τ‘ ἐλοχεύθη,
σοὶ ποταμοὶ κρατέονται ἀεὶ καὶ πᾶσα θάλασσα,
Ἑστία αὐδαχθεῖσα· σὲ δ‘ ὀλβοδότιν καλέουσι,
(10) παντοίων ἀγαθῶν θνητοῖς ὅτι δῶρα χαρίζηι,
ἔρχεο πρὸς τελετήν, ὦ πότνια, τυμπανοτερπής,
πανδαμάτωρ, Φρυγίη, σώτειρα, Κρόνου συνόμευνε,
Οὐρανόπαι, πρέσβειρα, βιοθρέπτειρα, φίλοιστρε·
ἔρχεο γηθόσυνος, κεχαρημένη εὐσεβίηισιν.
28. Of Hermes, frankincense as fumigation
Hear me, Hermes, Zeus’ messenger, Maia’s son,
Who have an all-powerful heart, patron of contests, ruler of mortals,
Kindly one, of various counsel, minister, slayer of Argos,
With winged sandals, lover of humans,¹ exegete of reason² for mortals,
(5) Who delight in naked and deceitful tricks, possessor of sustenance,
Interpreter³ of all things, who (bring) profit in business, and drive away cares,
Who have a blameless weapon of peace in your hands,⁴
Corycian, blessed one, Eriounios,⁵ of various speech,
Helper in trades, friend to mortals in dire straits,
(10) Awful weapon of the tongue,⁶ object of humans’ veneration!
Hear me as I pray, and grant a good fulfillment to a life
Of (good) business, grace in speech and memory.
1: Literally, ‘lover of men’, but what is meant must be philanthropy or concern for humanity.
2: More closely to the Greek, ‘prophet of lógos’, where a prophet is literally a kind of priest who announces the message of a god. For lógos and Hermes, see my page on this god.
3: Hermēneús, a word derived from the name of the god.
4: His herald’s staff, which can awaken people or put them to sleep.
5: A very ancient Hermaic byname of unknown meaning.
6: Here Hermes is speech (lógos).
· Ἑρμοῦ, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Κλῦθί μου, Ἑρμεία, Διὸς ἄγγελε, Μαιάδος υἱέ,
παγκρατὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, ἐναγώνιε, κοίρανε θνητῶν,
εὔφρων, ποικιλόβουλε, διάκτορε ἀργειφόντα,
πτηνοπέδιλε, φίλανδρε, λόγου θνητοῖσι προφῆτα,
(5) γυμνάσιν ὃς χαίρεις δολίαις τ‘ ἀπάταις, † τροφιοῦχε,
ἑρμηνεῦ πάντων, κερδέμπορε, λυσιμέριμνε,
ὃς χείρεσσιν ἔχεις εἰρήνης ὅπλον ἀμεμφές,
Κωρυκιῶτα, μάκαρ, ἐριούνιε, ποικιλόμυθε,
ἐργασίαις ἐπαρωγέ, φίλε θνητοῖς ἐν ἀνάγκαις,
(10) γλώσσης δεινὸν ὅπλον τὸ σεβάσμιον ἀνθρώποισι·
κλῦθί μου εὐχομένου, βιότου τέλος ἐσθλὸν ὀπάζων
ἐργασίαισι, λόγου χάρισιν καὶ μνημοσύνηισιν.
29. Hymn of Persephone
Persephone, daughter of great Zeus, come, blessed one,
Only-born goddess, and accept the pleasing sacrifices!²
Plouton’s much-honored spouse, diligent one, life-giver,
You who possess the gates of Hades under the depths of the Earth,
(5) Praxidike,³ of lovely hair, holy offspring of Deo,⁴
Mother of the Eumenides,⁵ queen of those below the Earth,⁶
You whom Zeus engendered as his daughter (korē) in unmentionable begettings,⁷
Mother of loud-thundering, many-shaped Eubouleus,⁸
Playmate of the Seasons,⁹ light-bearer of bright shape,¹⁰
(10) Revered, all-ruling Korē abounding in fruits,¹¹
Brilliant one, horned one,¹² the only one longed for by mortals,¹³
You of the spring-time, who delight in meadow winds,
Who show your sacred body in sprouts of green fruits,¹⁴
Abducted and given to autumnal marriage-beds,¹⁵
(15) Only life and death to much-suffering mortals,
Phersephone!¹⁶ You nourish (pherbeis) and murder (phoneueis) all things.
Hear, blessed goddess, and send up the fruits from the Earth,
Abound in Peace, in Health of gentle hand,¹⁷
And in a prosperous life, which delivers a comfortable old age
(20) To your realm, queen, and to the good rule of Plouton!¹⁸
1: Not the original title, which was apparently lost somewhere in the transmission. Hence, the format is different and the incense is not named.
2: This reference to offerings (hiera) indicates that the omission of an incense is not intentional (see previous note).
3: Praxidike is ‘she who enacts punishments’, sometimes seen as a deity in her own right, but here a name for Persephone because of her control over the punishments of the wicked dead.
4: Deo is Demeter, perhaps simply a shortened form of her more common name.
5: This is not the usual genealogy of the Furies, but as goddesses dwelling in the underworld and subject to the rule of Hades and Persephone, there is a clear logic to it.
6: The hypokhthonioi are the inhabitants of the underworld, including the dead.
7: Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who in Orphic poetry and mysteries was sometimes considered to be the same as his mother Rhea, the Mother-of-Gods. This – unlike relations between brother and sister – was seen as incestuous even among gods, and as such unmentionable (arrhēton) in ordinary contexts and suitable to the unique atmosphere of the mysteries, whose contents were generally arrhēta, ‘not to be spoken of’.
8: Eubouleus here means (Chthonic) Dionysus, son of Persephone with her father Zeus. This incestuous relation was connected to the one alluded to in the previous line.
9: The Seasons (Horae) have nothing to do with the underworld, but with Persephone as an overseer of vegetation.
10: Persephone is now being described in lunar terms, reflecting the popular identifcation with the Moon herself.
11: Although the now common idea that Korē was Persephone’s name before she came to the underworld is not ancient, it is true that the former name (meaning ‘Daughter’, namely of Demeter) is more commonly used in the context of agriculture, and Persephone in relation to the underworld.
12: A return to lunar imagery; the Moon is often pictured with bovine horns, symbolizing the crescent moon.
13: Referring to Persephone’s annual spell in the underworld. Her return to the world above is the cause of the season of Spring.
14: The sense “who make the sacred body of spouts of green fruits appear” may also be implied.
15: In the season when Persephone joins Plouton in the underworld (here imagined as repetition of her abduction and marriage), her influence on the Earth wanes.
16: One of many variant forms of the name Persephone, chosen here to allow the subsequent wordplay, a punning repetition of the proclamation that she “alone is life and death”.
17: The goddesses Health (Hygeia) and, especially, Peace (Eirene) are associated with agricultural abundance, for obvious reasons.
18: Literally, “to well-ruling (or ‘mighty’) Plouton”.
· Ὕμνος Περσεφόνης.
Φερσεφόνη, θύγατερ μεγάλου Διός, ἐλθέ, μάκαιρα,
μουνογένεια θεά, κεχαρισμένα δ‘ ἱερὰ δέξαι,
Πλούτωνος πολύτιμε δάμαρ, κεδνή, βιοδῶτι,
ἣ κατέχεις Ἀίδαο πύλας ὑπὸ κεύθεα γαίης,
(5) Πραξιδίκη, ἐρατοπλόκαμε, Δηοῦς θάλος ἁγνόν,
Εὐμενίδων γενέτειρα, ὑποχθονίων βασίλεια,
ἣν Ζεὺς ἀρρήτοισι γοναῖς τεκνώσατο κούρην,
μῆτερ ἐριβρεμέτου πολυμόρφου Εὐβουλῆος,
Ὡρῶν συμπαίκτειρα, φαεσφόρε, ἀγλαόμορφε,
(10) σεμνή, παντοκράτειρα, κόρη καρποῖσι βρύουσα,
εὐφεγγής, κερόεσσα, μόνη θνητοῖσι ποθεινή,
εἰαρινή, λειμωνιάσιν χαίρουσα πνοῆισιν,
ἱερὸν ἐκφαίνουσα δέμας βλαστοῖς χλοοκάρποις,
ἁρπαγιμαῖα λέχη μετοπωρινὰ νυμφευθεῖσα,
(15) ζωὴ καὶ θάνατος μούνη θνητοῖς πολυμόχθοις,
Φερσεφόνη· φέρβεις γὰρ ἀεὶ καὶ πάντα φονεύεις.
κλῦθι, μάκαιρα θεά, καρποὺς δ‘ ἀνάπεμπ‘ ἀπὸ γαίης
εἰρήνηι θάλλουσα καὶ ἠπιοχείρωι ὑγείαι
καὶ βίωι εὐόλβωι λιπαρὸν γῆρας κατάγοντι
(20) πρὸς σὸν χῶρον, ἄνασσα, καὶ εὐδύνατον Πλούτωνα.
30. Of Dionysus, storax as fumigation
I call Dionysus, the loud roarer, who cries ‘Euai!’,
The firstborn,¹ two-natured, thrice-born Bacchic king,
Wild, ineffable, hidden, two-horned, two-shaped one,
Green with ivy, bull-faced, Areian,² Eian,³ holy one,
(5) Omadios,⁴ triennial one,⁵ who bear grapes and are wrapped in foliage,
Eubuleus of many counsels, begotten on Zeus and Persephone’s
Unspeakable couches, immortal god!
Hear, blessed one, my voice, inspire us, you who are sweet and without reproach,
And have a kindly heart, with your well-girdled nurses.⁶
1: Or Protogonus.
2: ‘of Ares’, i.e., ‘of Areiac, warlike character’.
3: Ḗïos is a byname of Apollon, perhaps in contrast to “Areian”.
4: ‘Of crude sacrifices’. Perhaps meaning human sacrifices. He is supposed to have been called by this name, Ōmádios, at Chios, where there were human sacrifices. But we only know of a tradition that this supposedly used to be done (Porphyry, On Abstinence 2.55), not that it was actually done.
5: Referring to festivals celebrated every third or (counting inclusively) every second year.
6: Certain of his attendants.
· Διονύσου, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Κικλήσκω Διόνυσον ἐρίβρομον, εὐαστῆρα,
πρωτόγονον, διφυῆ, τρίγονον, Βακχεῖον ἄνακτα,
ἄγριον, ἄρρητον, κρύφιον, δικέρωτα, δίμορφον,
κισσόβρυον, ταυρωπόν, Ἀρήιον, εὔιον, ἁγνόν,
(5) ὠμάδιον, τριετῆ, βοτρυηφόρον, ἐρνεσίπεπλον.
Εὐβουλεῦ, πολύβουλε, Διὸς καὶ Περσεφονείης
ἀρρήτοις λέκτροισι τεκνωθείς, ἄμβροτε δαῖμον·
κλῦθι, μάκαρ, φωνῆς, ἡδὺς δ‘ ἐπίπνευσον ἀμεμφής
εὐμενὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, σὺν ἐυζώνοισι τιθήναις.
31. Hymn of the Curetes
32. Of Athena, fragrant herbs as fumigation
33. Of Victory, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
34. Of Apollon, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
35. Of Leto, myrrh as fumigation
36. Of Artemis, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
37. Of the Titans, frankincense as fumigation
38. Curetes, frankincense as fumigation
39. Corybas, frankincense as fumigation
40. Of Demeter Eleusinia, storax as fumigation
41. Of Mother Antaia, fragrant herbs as fumigation
42. Of Misē, storax as fumigation
43. Of the Horae, fragrant herbs as fumigation
44. Of Semele, storax as fumigation
45. Hymn of Dionysus Bassareus Trietericus
46. Of Licnites, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
47. Pericionius, fragrant herbs as fumigation
48. Of Sabazius, fragrant herbs as fumigation
Hear, father, son of Kronos, Sabazius,¹ glorious god,
Who sewed Bacchus Dionysus, loud-roaring Ephariotes,²
Into his thigh, so that, when ready, he would come
To holy Tmolus, beside beautiful-cheeked Hipta.³
(5) But, blessed one, ruler of Phrygia,⁴ greatest king⁵ of all,
May you come as a gracious helper to the performers of mysteries!
1: Sabazius here is Zeus, not Dionysus as in many other texts (see section 2 of my Dionysus page), but Zeus in a peculiarly Phrygian conception.
2: A byname of uncertain meaning, here evidently interpreted as ‘sewn in’.
3: See next hymn.
4: Although we do not get much of an impression of what makes the Phrygian Sabazius unique, it is clear that Zeus is being understood as tied to this land here.
5: Literally, ‘king-est’.
· Σαβαζίου, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.
Κλῦθι, πάτερ, Κρόνου υἱέ, Σαβάζιε, κύδιμε δαῖμον,
ὃς Βάκχον Διόνυσον, ἐρίβρομον, εἰραφιώτην,
μηρῶι ἐγκατέραψας, ὅπως τετελεσμένος ἔλθηι
Τμῶλον ἐς ἠγάθεον παρὰ Ἵπταν καλλιπάρηιον.
(5) ἀλλά, μάκαρ, Φρυγίης μεδέων, βασιλεύτατε πάντων,
εὐμενέων ἐπαρωγὸς ἐπέλθοις μυστιπόλοισιν.
49. Of Hipta, storax as fumigation
I call Hipta,¹ the nurse of Bacchus, the Euhad² girl,
Who exults in the mystic rites of holy Sabus³
And the nocturnal dancing-troupes of loud-thundering Iacchus.⁴
Hear me as I pray, chthonic mother,⁵ queen,
(5) Whether you possess the holy mountain of Ida in Phrygia
Or Tmolus,⁶ the beautiful dancing-ground of the Lydians, delights you;
Come to the rites, rejoicing with sacred countenance!
1: Hipta, or Mother Hipta, was a goddess worshipped in Lydia.
2: From the Dionysiac exclamation euhan (or euan).
3: The word sabós elsewhere refers to followers of Sabazius; here it may name Zeus-Sabazius or perhaps Dionysus.
4: Iacchus here means Dionysus.
5: Previously called a girl or virgin (kourē), which suggests an unwed Nymph nursing the infant Bacchus, Hipta is now called ‘mother’, suggesting identification or assimilation to the Mother-of-Gods, which is confirmed in the next line: both Phrygia in general and Mount Ida in particular are sacred to that goddess.
6: As in the previous hymn, Mount Tmolus serves as a markedly Lydian sacred locale.
· Ἵπτας, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Ἵπταν κικλήσκω, Βάκχου τροφόν, εὐάδα κούρην,
μυστιπόλοις τελεταῖσιν ἀγαλλομένην Σάβου ἁγνοῦ
νυκτερίοις τε χοροῖσιν ἐριβρεμέταο Ἰάκχου.
κλῦθί μου εὐχομένου, χθονία μήτηρ, βασίλεια,
(5) εἴτε σύ γ‘ ἐν Φρυγίηι κατέχεις Ἴδης ὄρος ἁγνὸν
ἢ Τμῶλος τέρπει σε, καλὸν Λυδοῖσι θόασμα·
ἔρχεο πρὸς τελετὰς ἱερῶι γήθουσα προσώπωι.
50. Of Lysius Lenaeus
51. Of the Nymphs, fragrant herbs as fumigation
52. Of Trietericus, fragrant herbs as fumigation
53. Of Amphietes, every fumigation except frankincense, and libate milk
54. Of Silenus, Satyrus and the Bacchae, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
55. To Aphrodite
56. Of Adonis, fragrant herbs as fumigation
Hear me as I pray, many-named one, most excellent god,
Of delicate hair, lover of solitude, full of songs of love,
Eubouleus,¹ many-shaped, conspicuous nourisher of all,²
Girl and boy,³ you who are always a child for all, Adonis!
(5) You are quenched and shine in the beautiful, cyclical seasons,⁴
Increaser of growth, two-horned one, so very lovely, honored with tears,⁵
Beautifully shaped, delighting in hunts, of thick long hair,
lovely of mind, sweet child of Cypris,⁶ offspring of Love,
Brought forth on the beds of Persephone,⁷ decked with love-locks,
(10) Who sometimes dwell below misty Tartarus,
And then again, you turn your body of timely fruits towards Olympus,⁸
Come, blessed one, bearing fruits of the Earth to the initiates.
1: ‘Of good counsel’, a byname of several different gods.
2: As overseer of the growth of (certain) fruits.
3: Ptolemy Chennus also reports that Adonis changed between genders.
4: Referring to his cyclical passing to and from the underworld.
5: The Adonia were a festival of lamentation.
7: This language is confusing. Grammatically, it ought to mean that Adonis is the son of Persephone, but elsewhere, she and Aphrodite are his lovers, not mothers.
8: Meaning not so much heaven as the whole region above the underworld.
· Ἀδώνιδος, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.
Κλῦθί μου εὐχομένου, πολυώνυμε, δαῖμον ἄριστε,
ἁβροκόμη, φιλέρημε, βρύων ὠιδαῖσι ποθειναῖς,
Εὐβουλεῦ, πολύμορφε, τροφεῦ πάντων ἀρίδηλε,
κούρη καὶ κόρε, σὺ πᾶσιν θάλος αἰέν, Ἄδωνι,
(5) σβεννύμενε λάμπων τε καλαῖς ἐν κυκλάσιν ὥραις,
αὐξιθαλής, δίκερως, πολυήρατε, δακρυότιμε,
ἀγλαόμορφε, κυναγεσίοις χαίρων, βαθυχαῖτα,
ἱμερόνους, Κύπριδος γλυκερὸν θάλος, ἔρνος Ἔρωτος,
Φερσεφόνης ἐρασιπλοκάμου λέκτροισι λοχευθείς,
(10) ὃς ποτὲ μὲν ναίεις ὑπὸ Τάρταρον ἠερόεντα,
ἠδὲ πάλιν πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἄγεις δέμας ὡριόκαρπον·
ἐλθέ, μάκαρ, μύσταισι φέρων καρποὺς ἀπὸ γαίης.
57. Of Chthonic Hermes, storax as fumigation
You who dwell on the road of Cocytus,² from which none return, of Necessity,³
Who lead down the souls of mortals under the depths of the Earth,
Hermes, son of Dionysus of the Bacchic dance
And the Paphian girl, Aphrodite of the quick glance;⁴
(5) Who tend to the sacred mansion beside Persephone,
Who are the guide of souls below the Earth at their unhappy end,
Which you lead down whenever the moment of fate has arrrived
Enchanting with your sacred staff, giving sleep to all things,
And in turn wake those who sleep; for to you gave
(10) The goddess Persephone the office to show the road
Below Tartarus to the everlasting souls of mortals.
Now, blessed one, may you give the initiates a good fufillment of their works.
1: ‘Of the underworld’.
2: A river of the underworld.
3: Fate, and thus death.
4: Hermes Chthonios is also said to be the son of Dionysus elsewhere; the ‘ordinary’ Hermes never is, I think, and so they can (to some extent) be considered different gods. Cf. Servius auctus, On the Aeneid 4.577, who makes the infernal Mercury (Hermes Chthonios) the son of Liber (Dionysus) and Proserpine (Persephone).
· Ἑρμοῦ Χθονίου, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Κωκυτοῦ ναίων ἀνυπόστροφον οἶμον ἀνάγκης,
ὃς ψυχὰς θνητῶν κατάγεις ὑπὸ νέρτερα γαίης,
Ἑρμῆ, βακχεχόροιο Διωνύσοιο γένεθλον
καὶ Παφίης κούρης, ἑλικοβλεφάρου Ἀφροδίτης,
(5) ὃς παρὰ Περσεφόνης ἱερὸν δόμον ἀμφιπολεύεις,
αἰνομόροις ψυχαῖς πομπὸς κατὰ γαῖαν ὑπάρχων,
ἃς κατάγεις, ὁπόταν μοίρης χρόνος εἰσαφίκηται
εὐιέρωι ῥάβδωι θέλγων † ὑπνοδώτειρα πάντα,
καὶ πάλιν ὑπνώοντας ἐγείρεις· σοὶ γὰρ ἔδωκε
(10) τιμὴν Φερσεφόνεια θεὰ κατὰ Τάρταρον εὐρὺν
ψυχαῖς ἀενάοις θνητῶν ὁδὸν ἡγεμονεύειν.
ἀλλά, μάκαρ, πέμποις μύσταις τέλος ἐσθλὸν ἐπ‘ ἔργοις.
58. Of Eros, fragrant herbs as fumigation
59. Of the Fates, fragrant herbs as fumigation
60. Of the Graces, storax as fumigation
61. Hymn of Nemesis
62. Of Justice (Dikē), frankincense as fumigation
63. Of Justice (Dikaiosynē), frankincense as fumigation
64. Hymn of Nomos
65. Of Ares, frankincense as fumigation
66. Of Hephaestus, frankincense powder as fumigation
Hephaestus of mighty spirit, of great power, tireless flame,
Who shine with fiery rays, god who shine upon mortals,
Lightbearer of powerful hand, eternal, whose office is crafts,¹
Workman, lot of the cosmos, blameless element,²
(5) All-devouring, all-subduing, all-surpassing, all-consuming!
Aether, Sun, stars, Moon,³ undefiled light! –
For these shine upon mortals as limbs of Hephaestus.⁴
You possess every house, every city, all peoples,⁵
And you inhabit the bodies of mortals,⁶ auspicious in blessings, powerful one.
(10) Hear, blessed one, I call you to the sacred libations,⁷
That you may always come gentle to the happy works!
End the raging fure of the tireless flame,
But keep the heat of nature in our bodies!
1: Or ‘who spend your time in crafts’.
2: As one of the four element or elemental regions, fire, air, water, and earth, thus one of the ‘lots’ or ‘parts’ of the cosmos.
3: These were all thought to consist of fire (or aether).
4: All celestial bodies consisting of fire are understood as body parts of the god or element.
5: Because, presumably, all these have their fires, their hearths and their altars.
6: Referring to the vital heat that distinguishes a living body from a corpse.
7: The ordinary libation would be wine.
· Ἡφαίστου, θυμίαμα λιβανομάνναν.
Ἥφαιστ‘ ὀμβριμόθυμε, μεγασθενές, ἀκάματον πῦρ,
λαμπόμενε φλογέαις αὐγαῖς, φαεσίμβροτε δαῖμον,
φωσφόρε, καρτερόχειρ, αἰώνιε, τεχνοδίαιτε,
ἐργαστήρ, κόσμοιο μέρος, στοιχεῖον ἀμεμφές,
(5) παμφάγε, πανδαμάτωρ, πανυπέρτατε, παντοδίαιτε,
αἰθήρ, ἥλιος, ἄστρα, σελήνη, φῶς ἀμίαντον·
ταῦτα γὰρ Ἡφαίστοιο μέλη θνητοῖσι προφαίνει.
πάντα δὲ οἶκον ἔχεις, πᾶσαν πόλιν, ἔθνεα πάντα,
σώματά τε θνητῶν οἰκεῖς, πολύολβε, κραταιέ.
(10) κλῦθι, μάκαρ, κλήιζω σε πρὸς εὐιέρους ἐπιλοιβάς,
αἰεὶ ὅπως χαίρουσιν ἐπ‘ ἔργοις ἥμερος ἔλθοις.
παῦσον λυσσῶσαν μανίαν πυρὸς ἀκαμάτοιο
καῦσιν ἔχων φύσεως ἐν σώμασιν ἡμετέροισιν.
67. Of Asclepius, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
68. Of Hygeia, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
69. Of the Erinyes, storax and (frankincense) powder as fumigation
70. Of the Eumenides, fragrant herbs as fumigation
71. Melinoe, fragrant herbs as fumigation
72. Fortune (Tyche), frankincense as fumigation
Come here, Tyche!¹ I call you, ruler of good things, with prayers,
Gracious one, Enoditis,² set over abundant wealth,
Ruling Artemis,³ of great name, born of Eubuleus’
Blood,⁴ who receive indefatigable prayer,
(5) Funereal one, ever-shifting, famous to humankind!
For in you lies the much-variegated life of mortals,
Since now you create great wealth for them, a multitude of possessions,
Now you devise evil poverty for them, bitterness for their heart.
Now, goddess, I pray that you draw near, gracious to my life,
(10) Full of happiness and wealthy possessions.
1: Fortune, especially Good Fortune, although the word can also mean ‘random chance’.
2: ‘Of the road’, more usually Enodia; she appears as a goddess in her own right or as a byname of Artemis/Hekate.
3: Identification of Tyche with Artemis is not frequent, but neither unique. Artemis was honored as the Fortune of the city in ancient Gerasa (modern Jerash), and appears as such on coins.
4: It is not clear to me who Eubuleus is here (Zeus? Hades?), but the birth from blood seems to be derived from the account of the Erinyes, who sprang from the blood of Kronos.
· Τύχης, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Δεῦρο, Τύχη· καλέω σ‘, ἀγαθῶν κράντειραν, ἐπευχαῖς,
μειλιχίαν, ἐνοδῖτιν, ἐπ‘ εὐόλβοις κτεάτεσσιν,
Ἄρτεμιν ἡγεμόνην, μεγαλώνυμον, Εὐβουλῆος
αἵματος ἐκγεγαῶσαν, ἀπρόσμαχον εὖχος ἔχουσαν,
(5) τυμβιδίαν, πολύπλαγκτον, ἀοίδιμον ἀνθρώποισιν.
ἐν σοὶ γὰρ βίοτος θνητῶν παμποίκιλός ἐστιν·
οἷς μὲν γὰρ τεύχεις κτεάνων πλῆθος πολύολβον,
οἷς δὲ κακὴν πενίην θυμῶι χόλον ὁρμαίνουσα.
ἀλλά, θεά, λίτομαί σε μολεῖν βίωι εὐμενέουσαν,
(10) ὄλβοισι πλήθουσαν ἐπ‘ εὐόλβοις κτεάτεσσιν.
73. Of Daemon, frankincense as fumigation
I call Daemon, the great and awful ruler,
Zeus Meilichios,² father of all, life-giver of mortals,
Great Zeus, the ever-shifting, Alastor,³ king of all,
Giver of wealth, whenever you enter a house in fullness;⁴
(5) For in you, the keys both of grief and of joy are contained.
And so, blessed one, holy and mournful one, who bring funerals,
Inasmuch as you send destruction of life over the whole Earth,
May you grant a glorious, sweet and good fulfillment of life!
1: This hymn has little or nothing to do with daemons, but rather with Daímōn in the sense of Fate or Fortune, which can be found from Homeric poetry down to late antiquity. That is why this hymn comes just after that of Tyche or Fortune/Chance.
2: Gracious Zeus. The identification with the king of gods seems to reflect the universal rule of Fate.
3: ‘Avenger’. Daímōn often carries the sense of ‘cruel fortune’, sometimes ‘retributive fate’.
4: As this line suggests, Daímōn especially refers to the individual fortunes of a person or household.
· Δαίμονος, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Δαίμονα κικλήσκω † μεγάλαν ἡγήτορα φρικτόν,
μειλίχιον Δία, παγγενέτην, βιοδώτορα θνητῶν,
Ζῆνα μέγαν, πολύπλαγκτον, ἀλάστορα, παμβασιλῆα,
πλουτοδότην, ὁπόταν γε βρυάζων οἶκον ἐσέλθηι,
(5) ἔμπαλι δὲ τρύχοντα βίον θνητῶν πολυμόχθων·
ἐν σοὶ γὰρ λύπης τε χαρᾶς † κληῖδες ὀχοῦνται.
τοιγάρ τοι, μάκαρ, ἁγνέ, πολύστονα κήδε‘ ἐλάσσας,
ὅσσα βιοφθορίην πέμπει κατὰ γαῖαν ἅπασαν,
ἔνδοξον βιοτῆς γλυκερὸν τέλος ἐσθλὸν ὀπάζοις.
74. Leucothea, fragrant herbs as fumigation
75. Palaemon, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
76. Of the Muses, frankincense as fumigation
Daughters of Mnemosyne and loud-thundering Zeus,
Pierid Muses of great name and splendid fame,
Most beloved by mortals, to whom you are present, many-shaped,
Who produce the blameless virtue of all culture,
(5) Nourishers of the soul, straighteners of thought,
And guiding queens of mighty intellect,
Who revealed the mystically enacted rites to mortals,
Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, and Melpomene,
Terpsichore, Erato, Polymnia, Ourania, and
(10) Calliope, together with your mother, the mighty, holy goddess!
Now, may you come to the initiates, manifold and holy goddesses,
Bringing good repute and lovely, much-hymned fame!
· Μουσῶν, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Μνημοσύνης καὶ Ζηνὸς ἐριγδούποιο θύγατρες,
Μοῦσαι Πιερίδες, μεγαλώνυμοι, ἀγλαόφημοι,
θνητοῖς, οἷς κε παρῆτε, ποθεινόταται, πολύμορφοι,
πάσης παιδείης ἀρετὴν γεννῶσαι ἄμεμπτον,
(5) θρέπτειραι ψυχῆς, διανοίας ὀρθοδότειραι,
καὶ νόου εὐδυνάτοιο καθηγήτειραι ἄνασσαι,
αἳ τελετὰς θνητοῖς ἀνεδείξατε μυστιπ‹ο›λεύτους,
Κλειώ τ’ Εὐτέρπη τε Θάλειά τε Μελπομένη τε
Τερψιχόρη τ’ Ἐρατώ τε Πολύμνιά τ’ Οὐρανίη τε
(10) Καλλιόπηι σὺν μητρὶ καὶ εὐδυνάτηι θεᾶι ἁγνῆι.
ἀλλὰ μόλοιτε, θεαί, μύσταις, πολυποίκιλοι, ἁγναί,
εὔκλειαν ζῆλόν τ’ ἐρατὸν πολύυμνον ἄγουσαι.
77. Of Mnemosyne, frankincense as fumigation
I call upon Mnemosyne,¹ the sharer of Zeus’ bed, the queen,
Who bore the sacred Muses, the holy, clear-voiced ones,
And who is ever free of evil, mind-ruining oblivion,
Holding together every mind dweilling with the souls of mortals,
(5) Who increase the powerful, mighty reasoning of mortals,²
Sweetest one, wakeful one, who recall all things,
Each of which forever sets down a thought in our hearts,
You disregard nothing, but raise the mind of all!
Now, blessed goddess, raise the initiates’ memory³
(10) Of sacred ritual, and avert oblivion from them!
1: Memory, hence the opposition to oblivion (gr. lḗthē).
2: In the Greek, two different words for ‘mortal’ are used.
3: Memory (mnḗmē) here means ‘a memory’, whereas mnēmosýnē refers more to the ‘faculty of memory’.
· Μνημοσύνης, θυμίαμα λίβανον.
Μνημοσύνην καλέω, Ζηνὸς σύλλεκτρον, ἄνασσαν,
ἣ Μούσας τέκνωσ’ ἱεράς, ὁσίας, λιγυφώνους,
ἐκτὸς ἐοῦσα κακῆς λήθης βλαψίφρονος αἰεί,
πάντα νόον συνέχουσα βροτῶν ψυχαῖσι σύνοικον,
(5) εὐδύνατον κρατερὸν θνητῶν αὔξουσα λογισμόν,
ἡδυτάτη, φιλάγρυπνος ὑπομνήσκουσά τε πάντα,
ὧν ἂν ἕκαστος ἀεὶ στέρνοις γνώμην κατ‹ά›θηται,
οὔτι παρεκβαίνουσ’, ἐπεγείρουσα φρένα πᾶσιν.
ἀλλά, μάκαιρα θεά, μύσταις μνήμην ἐπέγειρε
(10) εὐιέρου τελετῆς, λήθην δ’ ἀπὸ τῶν‹δ’› ἀπόπεμπε.
78. Of Dawn, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
79. Of Themis, frankincense as fumigation
80. Of Boreas, frankincense as fumigation
81. Zephyrus, frankincense as fumigation
82. Notus, frankincense as fumigation
83. Oceanus, fragrant herbs as fumigation
84. Of Hestia, fragrant herbs as fumigation
Hestia, daughter of the mighty Kronos, queen,
Who possess the middle dwelling of fire ever-flowing and most great,¹
May you raise these sacred initiates in the rites,²
Make them ever-flourishing, very wealthy, happy and holy!
(5) O dwelling of the blessed gods, strong foundation of mortals,³
Eternal one, many-shaped, most beloved, green-shaped,
Smiling and blessed one, receive these offerings readily,
Breathe wealth upon us, and health of soothing hands!⁴
1: ‘Middle dwelling’ suggests the Earth (with whom Hestia is sometimes identified, or seen as the ruler of), which should be in a different place than Fire (which Hestia is connected to since her name means ‘hearth’). Servius puts these ideas together by saying that she is “the goddess of fire, that is, the Earth” (On the Aeneid 2.296).
2: Or ‘initiations’.
3: Clearly, Hestia is being understood as the Earth; but as dwelling of the blessed gods, is she also the sphere of Fire? Note that she is “many-shaped”.
4: Imagining Health as anthropomorphic, with soothing hands.
· Ἑστίας, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.
Ἑστία εὐδυνάτοιο Κρόνου θύγατερ βασίλεια,
ἣ μέσον οἶκον ἔχεις πυρὸς ἀενάοιο, μεγίστου,
τούσδε σὺ ἐν τελεταῖς ὁσίους μύστας ἀναδείξαις,
θεῖσ’ αἰειθαλέας, πολυόλβους, εὔφρονας, ἁγνούς·
(5) οἶκε θεῶν μακάρων, θνητῶν στήριγμα κραταιόν,
ἀιδίη, πολύμορφε, ποθεινοτάτη, χλοόμορφε·
μειδιόωσα, μάκαιρα, τάδ’ ἱερὰ δέξο προθύμως,
ὄλβον ἐπιπνείουσα καὶ ἠπιόχειρον ὑγείαν.
85. Of Sleep, fumigation with poppy
86. Of Dream, fragrant herbs as fumigation
87. Of Death, (frankincense) powder as fumigation
Status: under construction ()