(en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses-The Love of Erato
This the Fourth posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series
During a weekend in Boston with my daughter while she was at the Boston Conservatory, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts. We came to one of the hallways and I looked up and saw a beautiful dome painting of the Nine Muses and Apollo by John Singer Sargeant. As I scanned the image I imagined what type of energy would be in abundance as the Muses danced in free abandon around Apollo, God of the Sun. I thought about the sensuality of this energy and the grace and ease with which it appeared each was connected to the other. The feeling was one of being totally lost in the moment, carried by the urge to create, to move and to inspire. I thought about the tales I had read of the lives of the Muses and the Gods and Goddesses and the common thread of pure passion that flowed through even the most desperate of tales. After all, is it not passion, whether it be positive or negative that fuels the will to live. All of the emotions- jealousy, love, anger, mercy, joy and more, have all come into being because of what we see, what we experience and how we translate these emotions into how we live and ultimately how and who we love.
Painting: Apollo and the Muses John Singer Sargeant (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.1921)
I also realized that passion is the motivation that guided my life as a dancer. Passion is what has motivated me in parenting and sharing my life with my husband of 37 years. Passion is what drives me to write, to teach and to make magick. And, through all of these acts of creation, desire and drive, the Muse Erato has been gently guiding me on her path of inspiration.
The Muse, Erato is given the title of Muse of Erotic poetry and Mime. Her name means “the lovely” or “beloved” and is derived from the Greek word, Eros meaning “intimate love.” This derivation connects her to the Greek God, Eros whose nature was to stimulate sexual desire and attraction. As a Muse, her work of inspiration is not simply through poetry and lyrical verse, but ore specifically, erotic poetry that stimulates the senses and charms the attendees into romantic liaison.
The Greek Epic poet, Apollonius Rhodius calls upon the gifts of Erato to aid in the writing of the journey of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. The passion of youth and the desire to conquer all worlds and any obstacle for the object of their desire flows through many of the epic tales and in the Argonautica we read the author’s invocation to Erato to infuse his epic with her gifts….
“The poet invokes Erato as he begins the tale of the love of Jason and Medea:] Come, Erato, come lovely Mousa (Muse), stand by me and take up the tale. How did Medea’s passion help Iason (Jason) to bring back the fleece to Iolkos (Iolcus).” 1.
Everything related to Love, the eroticism of love and the passion that inspires love is attributed to the gifts of the Muse Erato. Hers is the inspiration found in the wooing of the beloved by song, the flowering gifts of the natural world and the gentle caresses that lead to passion’s act. In this way she whispers in the ears of the would-be suitors and lovers, providing the inspiration that will draw their beloved to them…
For the name of each Mousa (Muse), they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her: . . . Erato, because she makes those who are instructed by her men who are desired and worthy to be loved.” 2.
In the Orphic Hymn to the Muses, Erato is invoked as one who is alluring and seductive in her gifts. Her visage enough to cast the spell of longing…
“Daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus . . . Kleio (Clio), and Erato who charms the sight, with thee, Euterpe, ministering delight: Thalia flourishing, Polymnia famed, Melpomene from skill in music named: Terpsikhore (Terpsichore), Ourania (Urania) heavenly bright.”3.
In art, Erato is depicted holding a Lyre or a garland of roses and myrtle representing the sweet music of a lover’s song and the fragrant rose and myrtle offered as token of a lover’s heart. She was considered the mistress of hymeneal song, playing her Lyre and crafting the poetry of the nuptials of young lovers and the consummate act of their union that followed.
She is also depicted holding a golden arrow from the bow of the God, Eros as reminder of the sexual desire and attraction that are part of the process of passion and romantic love. In the painting below by Charles Meynier, there is a sense of the Muse being inspired herself as she sits in the setting of the natural world and the God Eros stands intimately at her shoulder. She writes her poems of erotic love with the tip of an arrow from Eros’ quiver, water reflecting the heart’s desire at their feet and flowers readied to seed the lover’s pursuit. I am particularly fond of this painting and the many layers that are extracted each time you look at it. For me, this is the reminder of how complicated, yet simple and profound matters of the heart truly are.
Painting: Charles Meynier (Cleveland Museum of Art. 1789)
During the Age of the Renaissance we see Erato’s influence strongly present in the ballads of the troubadours, the bards, artists and writers. Another attribution of gift was given to Erato and she came to be known as the Allegory of Music. This title was directly related to the painting by Filippino Lippe entitled The Allegory of Music-Erato. In this form she is depicted with various instruments, white swans at her feet and a lyre. It is thought that this image was the artist’s statement of the intimate and all encompassing nature of complicated relationships and the various passions that drive them.
Painting: Filippino Lipp (Gemaldegalerie, Berlin, Germany. 1500C)
“The painting shows the Muse Erato leading a swan by a golden leash. The swan, an attribute of Apollo, may be associated with Musica as well; its symbolic role is based on the fact that it miraculously sang before its death; thus the concept of the swan song.”
The addition of a stream or water in the paintings of her refers to the idea that the Muses were originally nymphs of streams that had the power to inspire creativity, before these attributes were assigned to human like beings. And, we still associate the images of swans and being serenaded as gestures of love and romantic admiration.
So, next you see one you hope to make a lover, or passionately embark down a new trail of experience call to Erato to inspire the way and fan the fires of your desire. Honor her gifts in allowing the need to interact and share all the dynamics of your emotions. Consider the pleasure of make-up sex after a heated argument that you thought would surely have no resolution. Or, the desire to beat your personal best, after achieving a sought after goal that you have given your all and devoted yourself to pursuing. These are the poems of love’s achievement that are written in your life’s story as the arrows of Eros guided by Erato’s penning hit their mark.
In Honor of Erato
Heart beats wildly with
Each approaching step
As anticipation of loving union
Creates images of satisfied longing.
Breath comes in shallow flow
As my lover pulls me near and
Skin tingles in response to whispered
Words of love that are heated by desire.
Breath hot and sweet
Comes in rapid wave as
Lover’s hand gently caress
Arch of porcelain white neck.
Finger gently traces line
Of butterfly wings in
Hollowed dampness of throat
Moving lightly with desire over
Flushed skin of silky breast.
Fingers trembling as passion
Rises wrap around base
Of delicate waist and curve
Of arched lower back.
Thighs warm and strong
As knees weaken from
Passion’s greedy lips
Pressed insistently against mine.
And at once our passion pulls
Us into its gift of life desirous
Of the touch of another and the
Promise that this union holds.
The next post will focus on the Muse, Terpsichore and her Gifts of Dance.
1. Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica (Greek Epic C3rd B.C.).
2. Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History (Greek History C1st BC).
3. Orphic Hymn 76 to the Muses (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.).
About the Author:
Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.
She is the author of:
The Inner Chamber, Vol. One
It’s Written in the Stars
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two
poetry of the spheres
The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three
Awakening the Paths
A Year With Gaia
The Eternal Cord
Temple of the Sun and Moon
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A Collection of Esoteric Writings
The Elemental Year
Aligning the Parts of SELF
The Enchanted Gate
Musings on the Magick of the Natural World
Sleeping with the Goddess
Nights of Devotion
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A Weekly Reflection
Musings for the Year
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