Sensual, Thoughtful, and Very Naughty
I have a confession. I like the way big juicy grapes feel hanging heavily from my vine. Sorry, that was completely inappropriate. What I meant to say is that I’m fascinated with Greek mythology (especially Dionysus–god of wine among other domains). As archetypes, the Greek gods represent timeless, universal patterns of human thoughts and dreams. Though the names may have been different, similar patterns of thoughts and dreams emerged from the early cultures all across the world. There are still lessons to be learned from these timeless dreams in the modern world.
While I have recently been studying Dionysus, my knowledge of Greek mythology in general has divine gaps I would love to fill. For example, I was recently made aware of the three Graces (Greek goddesses) through a collaboration by three women who are divine beauties in their own right: Vic at Victory in Trouble, Nathalie at Arwenaragornstar, and Megan at Murmur and Sigh. If you aren’t following them already, their blogs are fantastic and personal favorites.
As is the nature of the three Graces, their post inspired me to learn more. I invoke their aid in ensuring this journey is a fruitful endeavor.
In Greek mythology, the Graces (also known as the Charites) are a trio of goddesses representing grace, charm, and beauty. From their gaze, it is said the gods and men alike would melt with desire. Their primary movement in Greek society was to bestow well-being and beauty in all its forms upon gods and mortals. The Graces resided on Mt. Olympus and, as you might imagine, were the quintessential social hostesses. No event would be complete or worth attending without their presence.
Each Grace is also associated with unique attributes:
Aglaia represents elegance, radiance, and splendor
Thalia represents youth, beauty, flowering, and good cheer
Euphrosyne represents merriment and joyfulness
The mythology of the Graces is told primarily through their association with the other gods. I’ve structured the remainder of this exploration to describe the Graces through those associations.
Zeus and Eurynome
The Graces were daughters of Zeus (King and “Father” of the Olympian gods) and Eurynome (the daughter of Ocean). Eurynome is sometimes depicted in the form we today recognize as a mermaid. As mother of the Graces, Eurynome’s connection to the ocean and mermaids catches my attention. I have a digital art gallery called Tales of Brave Ulysses dedicated to the mermaid along with some musings.
Additionally, psychologist Carl Jung described the ocean as symbolic of the conscious and unconscious mind with the latter being what lies unknown below the surface. Our drive to explore our creativity and spirituality is analogous to wanting to explore the unknown depths of the ocean. Most of us have experienced the almost hypnotic state of being on the shore as the ocean’s waves wash in and out as we gaze upon the ocean. Perhaps in looking out into the vastness of the ocean we are soul gazing as we consider unknown and untapped potential within ourselves.
The charter for my blog is the quest for deeper meaning and understanding of my past against the backdrop of my relationships with women. In a sense, I am diving into the symbolic ocean in search of mermaids and whatever treasures of self-discovery await.
The Graces are closely associated with Aphrodite. They are depicted at Aphrodite’s birth as she came forth from the ocean’s waves. The Graces gifted her with personal beauty, charm, and adornments such as makeup, oils, perfumes, fine clothing and jewelry. The rose is the scared flower for the Graces and Aphrodite. The Graces were believed to nurture its growth and blossom.
The symbolism of the rose runs deep and we can trace it roots back to the Graces. In the post, Love Is My Life’s Work, I make a tribute to the soul of a woman while extending a rose. That gesture had meaning to me then. It has an even richer context for me now.
Apollo was the god of music, poetry, art, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun, and light. He represents beauty, serenity, moderation and the rational world. The company of the Graces were especially favored by Apollo. As a side bar, Apollo and Dionysus (discussed later) strike me as somewhat opposing forces. Not in a good vs. evil way but as edges of the same spectrum. An affinity towards somewhat opposing archetypes can cause cognitive dissonance. But, if we recognize the source of this inner struggle, we can experience opposing archetypes in a way that ultimately provides balance. This tension between the edges is a recurring theme in my journey. I’ve explored it previously in Batman vs. Superman and in Hestia vs. Aphrodite.
The three Erotes were winged primordial gods—Eros, Himeros, and Pothos— who emerge self-born at the beginning of time to spur procreation. When Aphrodite was born, she was greeted by the Graces and two Erotes (Eros and Himeros). The Erotes and the Graces remained her constant companions and acted as agents of her divine power.
Who were the three Erotes? Eros was the mischievous god of love and often depicted with either a bow and arrows or a flaming torch. We may also recognize his variation in Roman mythology as Cupid. It is he who lights the flame of love in the hearts of the gods and men. Himeros and Pothos were the other two Erotes. Himeros was the god of sexual desire and unrequited love. Pothos was the god of longing and yearning. Pothos is often depicted as carrying a grapevine and is believed to be associated with Dionysus.
Dionysus is the god of divine ecstasy, wine, fertility, and patron god of the Greek theatre. As I describe in the post Dionysus – An Introduction, he also represents the irrational world of our senses as we interact in a rational world (ruled by Apollo) filled with rules and limitations. Dionysus is the god of opposites, reversal, liberation, and inversion. He is the anti-structure to Apollo’s structure. Dionysus is our wild nature and inner beast that longs to be set free.
The Dionysian connection with the Graces appears delicate. Dionysus is the patron god of Greek theatre and the Graces were patrons of the arts to include theatre. Each represents joy but Dionysus takes joy to a higher level—transcendent or divine ecstasy. As divine ecstasy is not moderate, this appears to work against the Graces’ code of moderation endorsed by Apollo. Yet, in the earthly city of Olympia (home of the original Olympic games) there were six altars where the gods were worshipped in pairs. Dionysus and the Graces share an altar which says something about their connection and synergy in the spirituality of the Greeks.
The Nine Muses
The three Graces were also closely associated with the nine Muses. The muses inspired song, dance, music, poetry and the sciences. The Graces were divine patrons of the arts and masterful artists in their own right. While the Muses inspired, it was the Graces that endowed artists and poets with the ability to create beautiful works of art. The ancient Greeks would often invoke the aid of the Graces to guide and assist them in their artistic endeavors.
Pandora (Pandora’s Box)
Pandora is identified as the first human female in Greek mythology. She was created by the gods under the instruction of Zeus as punishment to man for working with the Titans (the original gods defeated by the Olympians) to steal fire from the Olympian gods. Zeus decided to give mankind a gift of retribution that would balance their acquisition of fire–woman. If Man thought thought fire was hard to handle, he had no idea what was being unleashed.
Pandora was thus created and endowed with gifts from all the gods. The Graces were present at Pandora’s birth and given the task of beautifying her. Pandora is covered in flowers, garlands, and the finest of linens and jewelry. She is infused with beauty, grace, and charm. Thereafter, Men would be at the mercy of women for all eternity. Amen.
Pandora means “all-gifted” which reflects the contributions of all the gods to her formation. She was given a box (or jar) filled with evil that was to serve as temptation but was to never be opened. However, it was opened by a curious Titan god and evil was released into the world. Pandora tried to close it but it was too late. All that remained within the box was hope.
The Graces were the subject of worship across Greece and honored during the Charitesia. The Charitesia were annual competitions and games in honor of the Graces. There were athletic competitions, literary, musical and dramatic contests (which took place in the theater). Evenings during the Charitesia were filled with dancing.
The Graces appeared in Archaic and Classical Greek art on pottery, relief sculpture, and coins. Original portrayals had them clothed but gradually it became popular convention to portray them naked or with transparent draping. The Hellenistic Period of Greece revealed the first sculptures of The Graces standing naked and embracing. This became a much-copied theme in Roman and Renaissance art. It does seem that modern man’s excitement about seeing women together naked and frolicking actually has quite a lineage.
“Sometimes late at night, I see their faces. I feel the traces they’ve left on my soul. Those are the memories that make me a wealthy soul” ~ From the song Travelin’ Man by Bob Seger