Orphic Hymns as Inspiration

One duty of a Bard is to provide invocations, prayers or music for ritual, but where do you start when called upon to compose for a deity or hearth culture that you are not familiar with or do not work with regularly?

The Orphic Hymns are an excellent way to find inspiration for the Greek culture. Attributed to Orpheus, legendary musician and poet, these 86 hymns provide a wealth of poetic imagery and information.

Looking for an epithet? You’ll find that Gaia can be addressed as “deep-bosomed”, “All flow’ry dæmon” and “All-various maid.” Dionysus is “First-Born”, “Thrice-Begotten” and Bull-faced.

What do the Deities do? Zeus “shak’st with fiery light the world deep-sounding from thy lofty height.” His “pow’r almighty, shakes this earthly ball.” Artemis is found “O’er births presiding” and Demeter “…gave to men, what nature’s wants require, with plenteous means of bliss which all desire.”

Trying to invoke an image of the Deity? Poseiden’s “awful hand the brazen trident bears.” He is “Earth shaking, dark-hair’d God” whose “voice loud founding thro’ the roaring deep, drives all its billows, in a raging heap.”

In addition to prayers to Olympians, you’ll find hymns to other beings as well. If you need to treat with the Outdwellers, try the hymn to the Titans which asks “Avert your rage, if from th’ infernal seats one of your tribe should visit our retreats.” Calling for Inspiration? Ask the Muses to “Bring glorious, ardent, lovely, fam’d desire, and warm my bosom with your sacred fire.”

Like many ancient texts, there are several different translations in the public domain available online. Whether you prefer formal, 18th century poetry or more a literal translation, find the language and style that inspires you. Compare translations and look for what changes and what stays the same. Choose a hymn and use it in your personal devotion. Let the words of the ancient poet lead you to a deeper relationship with the particular Being praised in that hymn. Let your new understanding guide you in your own work as you create original pieces for ritual or recreation.

“The Hymns of Orpheus.” Theoi.com. Trans. Thomas Taylor. Theoi E-Texts Library, 2011. Web. 11 June 2015.