Mythology

The Muses: Clio, Euterpe and Thalia Eustache Le Sueur Musée du Louvre, Paris



“I will begin with the Muses and Apollo and Zeus. For it is through the Muses and Apollo that there are singers upon the earth and players upon the lyre; but kings are from Zeus. Happy is he whom the Muses love: sweet flows speech from his lips.” (Homeric Hymm to the Muses and Apollo, 1).

In Greek mythology, the Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. Sometimes these ethereal goddess are referred to as water nymphs, as they were born from the four sacred springs that flowed on Helicon after Pegasus, the winged horse, stamped his hooves on the ground. They are known for their divine beauty, grace, and allure; they arouse the inspiration necessary for creation in artists, especially poets, dancers, musicians, and philosophers. Their favorites were bestowed with the noblest thoughts, the sweetest harmonies, eloquence, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

The number of Muses varies depending on the mythology’s source. According to Hesiod, there are nine goddesses, each presiding over a different art. New Orleanians may recognize their names from, often mispronounced, streets throughout the city: Calliope, Cilo, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. The arts of the Muses are epic poetry, history, lyric poetry, song and elegiac poetry, tragedy, hymns, dance, comedy, and astronomy, respectively.



On Mount Olympus, they entertained their father and other gods with their great artistry. Apollo, the god of music and harmony, became their choir leader, thus earning the name Musagetes, which means leader of the Muses. Their choir sat near the throne of Zeus and was known for commemorating in song the glorious deeds of the Olympian gods. Additionally, the Muses lived on the summits of Mounts Helicon, Parnassus, Pindus, or Olympus. They haunted the wells, springs and fountains of these rocky summits, which were sacred to them and to poetic inspiration.

The Muses: Melpomene, Erato and Polymnia Eustache Le Sueur Musée du Louvre, Paris



Renaissance and Neoclassical art movements standardizes representations of the Muses, identifiable by their artistic emblems and often displayed joyously dancing around a spring on a mountain top.

While known for inspiring creativity, they also punished challenges to rival their divine powers. The Sirens, who lured Greek sailors to rocky coasts with their enchanting music and voices, challenged the Muses to a contest of musical skill. The songs of the Sirens were deceptive and false, while the Muses’ songs were true and loyal. The Sirens were defeated by the Muses, and after victory the Muses plucked out the Sirens’ feathers to make crowns. This contest is commemorated each year with the final Krewe of Muses float.

Greek mythology is rich with tales of gods and goddesses but none were as influential as the Muses. These goddesses were created to give inspiration, artistry, knowledge, and music to the ancient world. The Krewe of Muses hopes to continue this tradition.

 


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