How to invoke the muse… this is probably best answered through questioning:
What is a Muse?
In Greek mythology, the Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory). They were believed to be the source of all knowledge and provided the inspiration for music, literature, science, history, and the arts.
According to Hesiod:
He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses to men.
Sounds pretty good, huh?
Which Muse should I invoke?
The answer depends on the work you’re undertaking. These are the nine Muses and their domains:
Clio — history
Urania — astronomy
Melpomene — tragedy
Thalia — comedy
Terpsichore — dance
Calliope — epic poetry
Erato – love poetry
Polyhymnia — songs to the gods
Euterpe — lyric poetry
Personally, apart from Clio, I’ve had very little need to invoke the Muses mentioned above. So following the time-honored tradition of summoning Muses according to artistic need, I’ve added two personal Muses to the nine:
Photila — photography
Artesia — artistry (catch-all)
Feel free to invoke them if you have need.
What is an invocation?
An invocation is a plea, a prayer, a petition for help, inspiration, guidance, and support. It’s a type of conjuring. Traditionally the Muses are invoked at the beginning of a project or work of art.
Do I need a Muse?
You can, of course, try to go it alone, but some help from the Muses couldn’t hurt. Some of the greatest minds that ever walked the earth conjured the Muses for inspiration and help:
Homer — Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns…
Shakespeare – O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention…
Dante — O Muses, O high genius, aid me now! O memory that engraved the things I saw…
If those guys needed a Muse, I figure I need a whole legion of them.
Which invocation should I use?
Taking a cue from the great minds above, invoking the Muse is a personal endeavor, so your invocation should be personal as well. It’s best to start out with a plea begging the Muse for help. Follow this plea with compliments extolling the virtues of the Muse — no one ever turned away from a compliment. Next, summon as much humility as you can and explain why you are unworthy and why you cannot even think of starting your endeavor without help from the Muses — be honest, no one likes a charlatan. Finish up by telling the Muse exactly what you need help with and what you wish to accomplish.
This might seem difficult, but I recently came up with two invocations of about seven or eight lines each and I was surprised at how easily they flowed.
Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.
Is there anything I should beware of?
Whenever one deals with Greek gods or goddesses, there is the risk of insult and the scary repercussions that result from such transgressions.
Case in point: There was once a king of Macedonia who had nine daughters that he named after the nine Muses because he believed them to be their equal. As punishment for his impudence, the Muses turned the nine daughters into chattering magpies. Cute birds, but still…
Remember to be humble and you should be fine.
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