Moncrieff, A R Hope. Gramercy Books. New York. Avenell

Commantary by Berverley Zabriskie (JAP, 2000, 45, 427-447)

Family tree of the Greek gods

What are the themes here:

  • music
  • love
  • creativity
  • the Gods
  • the mother son muse relationship
  • the power of art
  • lost love
  • hades - death
  • politics - the ability for Orpheus to win over
  • his music worked outward towards others

Orpheius and dead Eurydice may then be seen as mythic rendetions of both artistic and analytic endeavour, illustrative renderings of the all too familiar dilemmas in both creative process and psychic passage.” page 433.

yet know one is unable to express the soul itself.” page 434

page 436 “Archetypal motifs cannot be collapsed into personal accounts or human personalities”

page 437 “Only when individuals identify their entire being…” etc. The gods come to life.

page 438 “psyche is made up of processes whose energy springs from the equilibration of all kinds of opposites” Jung, CW8 'On the Nature of the Psyche' §407

equilibration: bring into or keep in equilibrium.

page 444, Jungs quote - experience is key. Intellect and understanding does not add to the experience.

Dionysus : orgia. Alchemey - albedo, the reflective white.

Apollo : Katharsis. In Alchemey - rubedo, the passionate red.

ORIGIN early 19th cent. (sense 2) : from Greek katharsis, from kathairein 'cleanse', from katharos 'pure'. The notion of “release” through drama ( sense 1) derives from Aristotle's Poetics

Maenads : (in ancient Greece) a female follower of Bacchus, traditionally associated with divine possession and frenzied rites.

Orpheus the Thracian was famed as sweetest minstrel of old. Son of the muse Calliope, he was born under home of the gods, enchanting also with his song the wooded slopes on Parnassus and the sacred spring of Helicon.

Calliope - the wisest muse. The muse of epic poetry. She had another son Linus who was killed by Heracles. Linus taught music to his brother Orpheus and then to Heracles. Heracles killed Linus with his own Lyre when Linus reprimanded him for making errors. (these lyres didn't really work out for Orpheus and Linus, now did they!)

The tale goes how when, with the skill taught by his mother-muse, he struck the golden lyre given him by Apollo,

Apollo was potentially his father. A gift from the gods. “The ideal of the kouros (a beardless, athletic youth), Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of light and the sun; truth and prophecy; medicine, healing, and plague; music, poetry, and the arts; and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis.”

fierce beasts of the forest would come forth charmed to tameness; the rushing streams stood still to listen; and the very rocks and trees were drawn after that witching music, that softened the hearts of savage men. The singer who could breathe life into a stone, readily won the heart of fair Eurydice, not the less since he had shown himself brave as well as gifted when he followed Jason on the quest of the Golden Fleece.

But all too short was the happiness of that loving pair. As she danced at their bridal feast, a venomous snake, gliding through the grass, stung the heel of Eurydice, her only among the merry guests, so that she died on the night she was wedded.

The snake, like the garden of Eden.

The lamenting husband bore her to the grave, playing mournful airs that moved the hearts of all who followed that funeral train. Then, life seeming to him dark as death without his Eurydice, Orpheus pressed on to the very gates of Hades, seeking her where no living man might enter till the day of his own doom.

But at this man's tuneful strains, Charon silently ferried him across the Styx, that black stream that divides our sunlit world from the cold realms of Pluto. So moving were the notes of his lyre that the iron bars slid back of themselves, and Cerberus, the three-headed guard of death's gloomy portal, sank down without showing his teeth, to let the lulling music pass. Without check or challenge Orpheus stole boldly into the world of the shades, flitting about him from all sides to fix their dim eyes on the man who could work such a spell even among the dead.

Fearsome and gruesome were the sights he saw in the dark caves of Tartarus, yet through them he held on undismayed, straining his eyes after Eurydice alone.

He came past the daughters of Danaus, who, all save one, had stabbed their husbands on the wedding night, and for such a crime must do eternal penance by vainly pouring water into a sieve; but, as the Thracian singer went by, they had a brief respite from their bootless task, turning on him looks which he gave not back.

So, too, his music made a moment's peace for Tantalus, that once rich and mighty king, that for unspeakable offence against the gods was doomed to suffer burning thirst in a lake whose waters ever fled from his lips, and in his hungry eyes bloomed clusters of ripe fruit shrinking and withering as he stretched out his hand to clutch them; and over his head hung a huge stone threatening in vain to crush him out of his misery.

Again, Orpheus passed where Sisyphus, for his life's burden of wickedness, had to roll uphill a heavy rock always slipping from his arms to spin down to the bottom: he, too, could pause to wipe his hot brow as the singer's voice fell on his ears like balm.

Nor did the spell of music fail to stop Ixion's wheel, bound to which that treacherous murderer must for ever whirl through the fiery air in unpitied torment. Then for once, they say, were tears drawn to the dry eyes of the Furies, those three chastising sisters, whose very name men fear to speak.

“Heavenly o'er the startled Hell,

Holy, where the Accursed dwell,

O Thracian, went thy silver song!

Grim Minos with unconscious tears,

Melts into mercy as he hears -

The serpents in Megaera's hair

Kiss, as they wreathe enamoured there;

All harmless rests the madding throng; -

From the torn breast the Vulture mute

Flies, scared before the charmed lute -

Lulled into sighing from their roar

The dark waves woo the listening shore -

Listening the Thracian's silver song! -

Love was the Thracian's silver song!” Schiller

But Orpheus looked not aside,

Interesting that he never looked, engaged or felt anything. He does not relate to any of the consequences of those who have encountered the gods…its telling and perhaps indicates or points to his fate.

and the thin ghosts ever made way for him as he pressed on till he came before the throne where the dark-browed king of Hades sat beside his queen Persephone, her fair face veiled by the shadows of that dire abode. Then, striking his softest notes, the suppliant minstrel raised a chant to stir the hardest hart, beseeching its sovereign for once to loose the bonds of death.

“Love”, he sang, “gives me strength to seek the shades before my time; love, that if tales be true, has had power even here, when stern Pluto came forth to win a bride snatched from the world of life. Let me take back my loved one, doomed too soon by fate! Or, if that may not be, oh! dread king, in mercy accept two victims for one, nor bid me return alone to the upper air.”

He would die to be with Eurydice. Not die for her. He would give up everything to be with her…not to take her place in Hades or wish the snake bit him. Eurydice is his obsession. Ironically he die's in the end and is with her so he enacted on earth in another way his alternative, i.e. to have Pluto 'accept two victums for one'.

Black-browed Pluto nodded to his prayer, when Persephone whispered a pitiful word in her consort's ear. Then the lyre of Orpheus was silenced by a hollow voice proclaiming through the vaulted halls a boon for once granted to mortal man. All Hades held its breath to hear.

Is Persephone helpful? She whispers a pitiful word, an intimation that what she says is in empathy to Orpheus' plight. But where in some tales Eurydice is the handmaiden to Orpheus it makes me wonder what her role to play is in this. Also, there is no real mention of Eurydice' returned affection/feelings for Orpheus.

“So be it! Back to the world above, and Eurydice shall follow thee as thy shadow! But halt not, speak not, turn not to look behind, till ye have gained the upper air, or never mayst thou see her face again. Begone without delay, and on they silent path thou wilt not be alone.”

Me thinks that Hades would not give up a soul so easily. I think there were only two occassions when Hades released or had a soul taken from the underworld; cupid and psyche, Heracles?

Makes me think of Lot's wife, having being told by the angles not to look back, she turned back to look at Sodom as they fled and was turned to salt.

“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” [Luke 9:62]

I'm reminded of Faust, Part II, Act V, when Faust meets 4 witches/old hads/grey woman - Want, Need, Debt and Care (German - Sorge: Sorgen = grief , sorrow worry , apprehension , anxiety , care , trouble , uneasiness).

Care (speaking to Faust)
Whom I once possess, shall never
Find the world woth his endeavor:
Endless gloom around him folding,
Rise nor set of sun beholding,
Perfect in external senses,
Inwardly his darkness dense is;
And he knows not how to measure
True possession of his treasure.
Luck and Ill become caprices;
Still he starves in all increases;
Be it happiness or sorrow,
He postpones it till the morrow;
To the Gurture only cleaveth;
Nothin, therefore, he achieveth.

Care is the spectre of Fausts death and as she leaves him, breaths on his eyes blinding him.

The reason I think there is a connection here with Orpheus is his (later on perhaps) eternal pining for Eurydice. His inability to move from that position, his inability to grow or evolve from that position. To be stuck and not realise what his going on around him - the spectre of his death.

In grateful awe, the husband of Eurydice turned his back upon death's throne, taking his way through the chill gloom towards a faint glimmer that marked the gate of Hades. Fain would he have looked round to make sure that Eurydice came behind him, fain would he have halted to listen for her footfall. But now all was still as death, save his own hasty steps echoing dreadfully as he pressed on to the light that sone clearer and clearer before him like a star of hope. Then doubt and impatience clouded his mind, so that he could not trust the word of a god. He had not yet gained the gate, when, giving way to eager desire, he turned his head and saw indeed behind him the shrouded form of her he loved so fondly.

From an archetypal perspective, he looked into the deep but in doing so lost his love. Although you get the feeling that Orpheus was a character who needed to look internally, to the depths but that he didn't do it at the right time, or with the right intention. His intention was to be with Eurydice, not heroic at all, not to die for her, but to have her. You cannot own or have your soul, your anima - you cannot marry your anima. If his intention was correct perhaps it would have been different. He had such a gift but perhaps did not look inwardly to hades, to death. The soul - the psyche, the Self - demands a death.

“Nature herself demands a death and a rebirth.” §234, Jung, C. G. (1969) CW 9i The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Bollingen Series XX

His action is hardly heroic in that he does not go to save her per se. You could argue he went down to rescue her using his skill and talent but his premise is not to live, but to have her to live with or he doesn't want to go on living. An immature albeit romantic gesture.

“Eurydice!” he cried, stretching out his arms, but they clasped the cold thin air; and only a sigh came back to him, as her dim shape melted away into the darkness.

In vain the twice-bereaved lover made Hades ring with Eurydice's name. He was never to see her more while he lived. Out of his senses for despair, he found himself thrust into the daylight, alone. There he lay like an image, for days unable to speak, or to sing, with no desire but to starve himself back to death.

At last he rose and took his way into the world of men. Now he went silent, the strings of his lyre broken like his heart. He shunned all dwellings and scenes of joy, nor would he look upon the face of women, though many a maid smiled kindly to bid him forget his lost Eurydice. Henceforth, his solitary haunts were the mountain forests of Thrace, where beasts rather than men would be his companions among the rough thickets.

In beasts being his companions he regresses on the journey of individuation. He also has no female, no anima in his life…and ironically it is the animal instincts - in a way - of the Maenads, that end up killing him. His attitude was definitely a little childish too, “its my ball and I'm going home.”…kind of thing.

But ere long, as he would have retuned his lyre to strains of woe, the rocks rang with a clamorous din, and forth upon him burst a troop of Maenads, women frenzied by the rites of Dionysus, to whom, with jangling cymbals and clanging horns, they yelled a shrill chorus Evoe, Evoe! Clothed in fawnskins, and garlanded with vine leaves, they danced towards the stranger; but he rose in horror to fly from their flushed faces, nor heeded the wild outcry with which they called on him to join their revel. Furious at this affront, the maddened votaries of Bacchus followed him like fierce hunters closing on a deer. They stoned him to the ground, they broke his lyre in pieces, and, their drunken rage heated by the sight of blood, that ruthless crew ended by tearing their disdainer in pieces. His limbs were flung into a stream which bore them to the sea; and they tell how his head, still breathing Eurydice's name, was washed ashore on the isle of Lesbos, there to be buried by the Muses in a tomb that became a sacred shrine, on which the nightingales sang more sweetly than elsewhere.

Even to his last breath he was calling her name. He did not really recognise his anima, in fact - it was his anima (the snake) that 'stole' his love to teach him perhaps, to open his eyes (like the garden of Eden) but it did not work it seems. Fitting that he ends up on Lesbos then too - forever in the hands of woman.

Orpheus seems under-developed to me. He entered Hades where he was not ready to do so. He was given a gift without earning it and therefore did not know how to manage it or use it with the experience and maturity that comes from having earned it or 'lived' in the world (where he would have empathised and recognised the suffering as he walked through Hades. He was perhaps still hanging on to his mothers apron (so to speak), his mother muse.

A little like Narcissus too perhaps.

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