Category Archives: Greek mythology

Sacred springs…

inWater is life.      —First Peoples saying

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Greek bronze Pegasus figure, 6th century BCE

Having spoken of the Muses’ sacred spring, Hippocrene (which translates to mean “horse fountain”), it seems fitting to mention the myth of the spring’s creation. Tales tell that Pegasus—himself described as the steed of the Muses—upon launching himself skyward, that his hoof clove the rock of Mt. Helicon, opening the Hippocrene fountainhead  at that place. The Hippocrene remains accessible to hikers on Mt. Helicon today, with a battered old bucket chained to the stone well opening, allowing visitors to reach the subterranean water a few yards (meters) below the opening.

A Scattering of Sacred Springs

Look within, for within is the wellspring of virtue…      —Marcus Aurelius

As the Standing Rock water protectors have reminded us all, “Water is Life.” Freshwater sources, wells and springs, are and have been from time immemorial, regarded with respect at the least and awe at the most. Freshwater natural springs & wells are sacred around the globe.

  • Licton Spring, which I have had the honor to visit personally, is sacred to the Duwamish and intermarried regional tribes of Puget Sound; a source for the medicinal red ochre.
  • The goddess Brigid’s well in Kildare is older than the saint into which the goddess was subsumed. Brigid symbols abound: her sacred flame for forge & crafting; her sacred well for healing & inspiration; her Celtic cross for sun & grain.
  • Aquae Sulis The natural hot springs in Britain’s city of Bath are named for the mineral springs there revered by the Celtic Brythons before Rome supplied the Latin name. The occupying Romans knew her as Sulis Minerva (Minerva is the name they knew Athena by, goddess of wise counsel & creativity), while the Brythonic folk knew Sulis as a healer and judge.
  • Hippocrene fount, sacred spring of the Muses upon Mt. Helicon; the name (Greek compounded of words meaning “horse” & “fountain”) refers to the myth that Athena brought Pegasus as a young colt to be raised by the Muses; when the adult Pegasus leapt for the sky, his hoof clove the stone open to reveal the water beneath, which was reputed to grant inspiration to those who drink of it.

On Muses…

Most references state that the Greek Muses number nine, a few of whose names are part of modern English—terpsichore, the art of dance; and, calliope, a steam organ. These nine best-known Muses are connected with Hellenic Greek mythology of Mt. Olympus and the Olympian deities—these are sometimes called the Younger Muses.

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Mt. Helicon’s Hippocrene spring—sacred to the Muses

One must do further reading to learn that before the muses numbered nine, they numbered three, and before that, there was one. The little-known three Elder Muses have their own sacred mountain, Mt. Helicon, and their three attributes consist of voice, memory, and meditation. Those three attributes enable performance: of poetry, of theater, of music.

Whatever their number, Muses inspire.

When I was a music & theater major, that latter quality of meditation we called “concentration”—the focused, practiced production of sound, emotion, intention that seized and moved our audiences. And when I was brought in to the Wicca, I found that the same sort of “concentration” enables our magic. As the Brits say, “Snap!”