Women today are searching for meaning, passion and inspiration. We devote
ourselves to a spiritual path, become politically active, or immerse
ourselves in our chosen art or career. We enter psychotherapy, join women's
groups, and attempt to cultivate loving, enduring relationships. Sometimes,
for moments, for days or even weeks, we feel content, whole, complete. But
then the emptiness returns, and the longing; once more, we question the
purpose of our lives, and seek another inner or outer means of experiencing
substance and joy.
This continual pursuit may leave us restless and unsatisfied,
if we never become attuned to our deepest sources of fulfillment, and learn
to replenish ourselves by evoking our inner Muse or Muses.
Each of us has at least one personal Muse, perhaps as many as the
legendary nine, or more. In ancient Greece, the Mother Goddess, when
referred to as the White Goddess, was the original Muse, the wellspring of
all forms of inspiration. Later, she became worshipped as a threefold
goddess, and eventually as nine smaller, less significant goddesses.
Most people, when they think of the Muse, associate her with poetic
inspiration. But the original Muse encompassed far more than poetry and the
creative arts. She was associated with nature, healing, music, celebration,
fame, comedy, tragedy, astronomy, and erotic expression. Indeed, she was
the catalyst for all forms of inspiration.
The Muse today can be the means by which each of us discovers our own
personal sense of meaning, our creativity, our aliveness, our passion. By
contacting the sources of inspiration in our lives - through reconnecting
with experiences of serenity, pleasure, and empowerment in our past and
present (as well as awakening to new forms of meaning) - we can begin to
create lives which are in deeper attunement with our own needs.
The Muse is the original creative force. We depend upon her energy for
creating and recreating ourselves and our world, so that we live in greater
harmony. As stated by Alyce Cornyn-Selby, in an interview for WOMEN IN
UNISON magazine, "Creativity is not restricted to the arts. Creativity is
an approach to living life." (1) In order to discover, cultivate and
continually live from our creativity, we need to find and name our own
personal Muse or Muses.
Let us do so. Let us, along with Carlos Castaneda, find our "path with the
heart," and with Joseph Campbell, learn how to"follow our bliss." But
first, let us understand the history and meaning of the original Muses, and
what messages they bring to us as women today.
THE HISTORY AND NATURE OF THE MUSES
Originally, the Muse, the White Goddess, known as Cerridwen in Celtic
mythology, was the primordial Mother, the goddess of creation, nature,
healing, love, divination and poetry. "The test of a poet's vision is the
accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess," Robert Graves wrote in his
classic, The White Goddess. "The reason why the hairs stand on end, the
eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs
down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is
necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess or Muse, the Mother of all
Cerridwen bore many sons and daughters, but one son, Apollo, gained the
reverence of the emerging patriarchy. Apollo soon became known for poetry
and prophecy, and for the Delphic oracle, which had been her domain. The
healing arts were then attributed to another son, Aescapulius.
As Greek society developed, Cerridwen became known as Mnemosyne, goddess
of Memory, who in Greek tradition is viewed as the first Muse. Her
association with Memory has particular relevance to modern psychological
theory. According to the object relations school of psychology, which has
gained widespread acceptance today, a child begins to develop a sense of
self as he/she gains object constancy, which results from internalizing the
image or memory of a mother's nurturance and empathy. Without the necessary
experiences of symbiotic oneness with the mother, a child is unable to
develop the deepseated "memory" of oneness, which provides an internal
stability and sense of wellbeing.
In Greek mythology, the nine Muses which evolved from the Muse Mnemosyne
were her daughters, the offspring of nine nights of lovemaking with Zeus,
who sought ecstasy with her upon Mount Helicon. Some sources claim that
three of the daughters, were worshipped as the Muses before the nine became
known, and that these three were the original Triple Goddess (Meditation,
Memory and Song), goddesses of the new, full and waning moon. Of the nine
Muses, Calliope, Clio, Erato, Polymnia and Urania have all been regarded by
different historians to be the original three.
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