Tag Archives: Greek mythology

The Gods of the Greeks

The Gods of the Greeks by Carl Kerényi, a 2004 paperback reprint from Thames & Hudson, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Carl Kerényi The Gods of the Greeks from Thames & Hudson

“Drawing on a wealth of sources, from Hesiod to Pausanias and from the Orphic Hymns to Proclus, Professor Kerényi provides a clear and scholarly exposition of all the most important Greek myths. After a brief introduction, the complex genealogies of the gods lead him from the begettings of the Titans and from Aphrodite under all her titles and aspects, to Apollo, Hermes and the reign of Zeus, touching upon the affairs of Pan, nymphs, satyrs, cosmogonies and the birth of mankind, until he reaches the ineffable mysteries of Dionysos. The lively and highly readable narrative is complemented by an appendix of detailed references to all the original texts and a fine selection of illustrations taken from vase paintings.” — back cover


Eleusis

Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter by Carl Kerényi, translated by Ralph Manheim, part of the Mythos / Bollingen series, a 1991 paperback from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Carl Kerényi Ralph Manheim Eleusis from Princeton University Press / Bollingen

“The Sanctuary of Eleusis, near Athens, was the center of a religious cult that endured for nearly two thousand years and whose initiates came from all parts of the civilized world. Looking at the tendency to ‘see visions,’ C. Kerényi examines the Mysteries of Eleusis from the standpoint not only of Greek myth but also of human nature. Kerényi holds that the yearly autumnal ‘mysteries’ were based on the ancient myth of Demeter’s search for her ravished daughter Persephone—a search that equates not only with woman’s quest for completion but also with every person’s pursuit of identity. As he explores what the content of the mysteries may have been for those who experienced them, he draws on the study of archaeology, objects of art, and religious history, and suggests rich parallels from other mysteries.” — back cover


The Homeric Hymn to Demeter

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: Translation, Commentary, and Interpretative Essays, edited by Helene P Foley, 3rd printing of the 1994 paperback published by Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Helene P Foley The Homeric Hymn to Demeter from Princeton University Press

“The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, composed in the late seventh or early sixth century B.C.E., is a key to understanding the psychological and religious world of ancient Greek women. The poem tells how Hades, lord of the underworld, abducted the goddess Persephone and how her grieving mother, Demeter, the goddess of grain, forced the gods to allow Persephone to return to her for part of each year. Helene Foley presents the Greek text and an annotated translation of the Hymn, together with selected essays by Helene Foley, Mary Louise Lord, Jean Rudhardt, Nancy Felson-Rubin and Harriet M. Deal, Marilyn Arthur Katz, and Nancy Chodorow. These essays give the reader a rich understanding of the Hymn’s structure and artistry, its role in the religious life of the ancient world, and its meaning for the modern world. The authors also study the Hymn in the context of early Greek epic and cosmology, examine its critical attitude to the institution of marriage, and analyze the dynamics of mother-daughter relations in the poem.” — back cover

The Anger of Achilles

The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic by Leonard Muellner, a 1995 paperback in the Myth and Poetics series edited by Gregory Nagy from Cornell University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Leonard Muellner The Anger of Achilles from Cornell University Press

“Leonard Muellner’s goal is to restore the Greek word for the anger of Achilles, mênis, to its social, mythical, and poetic contexts. His point of departure is the anthropology of emotions. He believes that notions of anger vary between cultures and that the particular meaning of a word such as mênis needs to emerge from a close study of Greek epic. Mênis means more than an individual’s emotional response. on the basis of the epic exemplifications of the word, Muellner defines the term as a cosmic sanction against behavior that violates the most basic rules of human society. To understand the way mênis functions, Muellner stresses both the power and the danger that accrue to a person who violates such rules. Transgressive behavior has both a creative and destructive aspect.” — back cover

Tartartos

Tartaros: On the Orphic and Pythagorean Underworld, and the Pythagorean Pentagram by Johan August Alm is a monograph available from Three Hands Press. The special leather-bound edition is sold out, but deluxe and standard hardcover editions are still available.

Johan August Alm Tartaros from Three Hands Press

“The magical doctrines of the ancient Orphics and Pythagoreans are poorly understood by modern scholars, in part because they were secretive in their own time. Well-known for speaking in riddles and complex ciphers, its adepts were bound by strict taboo and silence, the breaking of which was punishable by death. The enigma of the cult’s teachings was further shrouded by centuries of suppression, and, in some cases, appropriation or misrepresentation, by the growing forces of Christianity. What remains today are the fragments of its lost books, together with the words of those who, for good or ill, wrote about them. In an original interpretation and synthesis apt for today’s student of ancient mysticism and the occult, August Alm advances a new conception of these ancient mystery-cults and their sublime doctrines of Chaos, Darkness and Light.

A foundational part of these ancient Greek mystery-cults was the concept of Tartaros. As the abyss of primeval darkness and chaos, Tartaros was, in its most ancient conception, the birthplace of the human soul and the cosmos itself. This vast and incomprehensible dominion held at its center a great fire, an Axis Mundi about which the universe was arranged. In later eras, it passed into myth as a vast and voidful underworld; a place of binding for condemned souls and the enemies of gods, sealed fast with barriers of bronze and iron. Christians later appropriated it as a partition of their own concept of eternal punishment, a division of hell which constrained no less than the fallen angels.

An equally enigmatic Pythagorean cipher is the symbol of the Pentagram, or five-fold star, whose form has been revered in western magic for some three millennia, but whose origins and original attributes are shrouded in mystery. Its attribution to the four elements, joined together with aither, was popularized in the middle ages and is its best-known meaning in modern occult sciences. However, its earlier Pythagorean usage was related to health and well-being, and almost certainly adumbrated another retinue of arcana, one which was ancient even at the time of Pythagoras.

Exhuming the scattered fragments of these two elder doctrines of Tartaros and the Pentagram, Alm examines their reverberation as occult—and occluded—concepts through centuries of philosophical thought, in a line connecting the shadowy teachings of such ‘dark traditions’ as the Orphics and the Pythagoreans, later penetrating the adyta of Neoplatonism. Arguing for a new undertanding of the Pentagram, he connects its fivefold mystery to the great powers of Tartaros, and also to such terrifying gods such as Hecate, Nyx, Erebos, Typhon, Cerberus, and the Erinyes. This strand of mystery touches upon such related concepts as the high theogony implicit within the Platonic Solids, the shadowy influence of the Cult of the Idaean Dactyls on Pythagoreanism, the Light which is rooted in Darkness, and the magical pathology of the ‘Unrooted Tree’.” [via]

Dionysos

Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy by Vikki Bramshaw, from Avalonia UK, may be of interest. This volume was due to release in December but appears to still be in pre-order, both via the Avalonia site and through Amazon.

Vikki Bramshaw Dionysos from Avalonia

Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is a phenomenal and scholarly exploration of one of the most complex, liminal and paradoxical gods of the ancient world. The author Vikki Bramshaw guides the reader through the mysterious world of the multifaceted Dionysos, revealing his hidden faces and forms and his presence in different cultures, the growth cycles of nature, the establishment of theatre and the ancient Greek calendar.

The roots of the wine god Dionysos, like his vines, spread throughout the ancient world. From the Cretan Zagreus, to the Thracian Sabazios and the Egyptian Iachen, his stories permeated the myths and traditions of both the untamed wilderness and the culture of cities such as Athens. Joined by slaves and rulers, wild flesh-ripping Maenads and vegetarian Orphics, wine-makers and hunters, the thrice-born Dionysos danced his way through the challenges of rebirth and initiation, with the liberating ecstasy of trance and possession.

The god Dionysos unites opposites, he is many-formed, dying yet eternal, chthonian and heavenly. His ancient myths, mystical symbols, pagan rites and incarnations represent a uniquely detailed and relevant perspective of the transformation he brings through prophecy and personal liberation which is still relevant today.” [via]

Geosophia I

Geosophia: The Argo of Magic I [also] by Jake Stratton-Kent, Encyclopaedia Goetica Volume II, the 2010 Bibliothèque Rouge paperback from Scarlet Imprint, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jake Stratton-Kent Geosophi I from Scarlet Imprint

“Jake Stratton-Kent’s master piece Geosophia: the Argo of Magic traces the development of magic from the Greeks to the grimoires. This further volume in the Encyclopaedia Goetica series is both a scholarly and practical work for the modern magician. JSK takes the role of psychopomp, guiding us along the voyage of the Argonauts and fearlessly descending to the depths of Hades. His journey reveals a continuity of practice in the West which encompasses the pre-Olympian cults of Dionysus and Cybele, is found in the Graeco-Egyptian Magical Papyri and flows into the grimoires. his revolutionary thesis exposes the chthonic roots of modern magic so that we can reconnect with the very source of our ritual tradition.” — back cover

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.