The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman

Monday, August 9, 2010

Orpheus Descending

Originally published at BellaOnline Mythology.

This is the story of the tragic fate of Orpheus and Euridice.

Once upon a time in Greece, there were 9 Muses. They were all extremely beautiful, the daughters of Zeus and his mistress Mnemosyne. Each was patron to an art. One of these was Calliope, the muse of epic poetry. It was she who inspired Homer to write the Iliad and Odyssey. She was also the mother of Orpheus, a boy who sang the most beautiful ever heard.

Though human, he lived with the Muses until he was a boy. He then came to Thrace, where hsi father had been a king. A raging battle was being waged. When Orpheus sang, the warriors couldn't help but stop fighting to listen to it. It was said that no one could be angry when he sang, his voice was so enchanting.

He fell in love with and married Euridice, a girl from a noble family. It is said that he sang so beautifully on their wedding day that Mother Nature herself stood still to hear it.

All too soon, tragedy befell them. As Euradice danced to his tunes, she stepped on a venemous snake and died on the spot. Hermes took her to Hades, the land of the dead.

He was so sad that Orpheus couldn't sing any more. This made every person on earth sad, because his music was so beautiful. But he loved Euridice too much to even care if all the world had a broken heart. He wandered the earth crying until he found the gate that led down the dark and dubious path to the land of the dead. No one, no mortal anyway, had ever dared walked the path to the land of the dead, but Orpheus did because he loved Euridice so much.

When Cerberus, the vicious three-headed dog of war roared loudly at him, gnashing his fangs to scare him away, he charmed him with his harp. Orpheus walked on to the underworld. When he got there, the dead forgot to weep. Even the wicked were no longer punished so long as he sang and played.

He even sang for Hades and Persephone, the God of the Underworld and his bride. Even his heart was broken by the sad song of Orpheus. He agreed to let Eruidice come back to life. But on one condition, that Orpheus didn't look at her until he saw sunlight. If he looked back, she stayed with the dead forever.

Orpheus was overjoyed and danced singing down the path out of the Underworld. As he began to step out into the light, he paniced because he no longer heard Euridice behind him. Doubt, fear and anger began to cloud his mind.

He was almost in the sunlight but he couldn't control himself, he looked back. He saw Euridice, even saw her smile, and then she disappeared forever. He again wandered the earth, crying and singing dirges. The animals cried with him but he was ostracized from his community because they couldn't stand how sad he was.

At the end of it all, it sounds like a group of women like the Bacchae or the keepers of the Elusian Mysteries found him. First inviting him to join them in debauchary in the forest, they then tore him to pieces. They tossed his body into a river. He drifted to the see and the Muses buried him on the island of Lesbos. So, he joined his Euridice.

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