Myths are made for
the imagination to breathe life into them

The word music itself is derived from the Muses, the legendary goddesses of sanctuaries like Delphi. Greek Mythology is rich in stories related to music. One of the most well known myths concerns Orpheous, the son of the Thracian King Oeagrus and Calliope, one of the nine muses. Mythology tells us that Apollo presented him with a lyre and the Muses taught him to use it so that he not only enchanted wild beasts, but made trees and rocks move from their places to follow the sound of his music. At Zone in Thrace a number of ancient mountain oaks are still standing in the pattern of one of his dances, just as he left them. After a visit to Egypt, Orpeheus joined the Argonauts, with whom he sailed to Colchis, his music helping them overcome many difficulties. There are many accounts of his death. One says that Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt for disclosing divine secrets. Whatever, the Muses, tearfully gathered his remains and buried them at the foot of Mount Olympus where the nightingale now sings sweeter than any where else in the world.

The Muses delighted in feasts and the pleasure of song. At one such contest the daughters of Pierus defied the Muse in a contest of song and, having been defeated were turned into magpies, greenfinces, ducks and other birds. Likewise the Sirens, who were daughters of one of the Muses completed with them and lost. The Muses proceeded to pluck out their feathers and made crowns out of them for themselves.

The Muses discovered letters and the combination of these we call poetry. These letters were used to celebrate victory. Polymnia is so named because by her great praises she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame. Perhaps it was Polymnia who crowned the Poet Laureate at the Pythian Games which took place at Delphi every five years. This festival not only involved athletic contests but included musical competitions and drama. Unlike our society which has turned sports figures into icons, in Ancient Greece there was no divorce between the intellect and muscle. Pindar, a Boeotian poet made it his professional business to celebrate the athletic contests in music and songs. When a city was victorious it rejoiced in poem and song. Thus these games furnished poets, musicians and authors the best opportunities to present their productions to the public, and the fame of the victors was diffused far and wide.

Homer was clearly present at a number of games and his reports provide us with the most accurate accounts of what happened during this time. There was a contest in which the fight between the god and the monster were represented, the prize was a garland of laurel, which was Apollo's tree. The story goes that Apollo had fallen passionately in love with Daphne, the mountain nymph, a priestess of Mother Earth, daughter of the river Peneius in Thessaly. He pursued her all over the countryside but just as he was about to overtake her Daphne cried out to Mother Earth who, in the nick of time spirited her away to Crete where she became known as Pasiphe. Mother Earth left a laurel tree in her place, and from its leaves. Apollo made a wreath to console himself. It is this wreath that is placed on the victors head.

After defeating the Python Apollo took over Themis the neighboring oracle of Delphi, which was in historical times the most famous oracle in the Greek world. It was after this that Apollo instituted the Pythian Games which took place at Delphi and involved a reenactment of the slaying of the Python.

These myths breathe fire into my imagination because they enable me to participate and reenact some of the rituals involved. As someone who has neither the coordination or the body to engage in physical exercises, I have never been able to conceive of a time when I might be able to enter myself in any sporting events, let alone Olympics. However I can write and I am prepared to move mountains to do whatever is required for me to enter the writing events. I can establish my own Pythian Games and pass out laurel leaves to participants. I can set up my own Writing Gymnasium where I can train and practice my skill and become a true wordsmith. The possibilities are only limited by my imagination.


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Heather Blakey asserts the right to be identified as the author of this work