MYTH OF ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE
Orpheus and Euridice
Federico Cervelli (1625 - 1700), Querini-Stampalia Foundation, Venice (Italy)
Orpheus, the most famous poet and musician that history has ever had, who had no equal among men and gods was the son of Eagro, king of Thrace and of the muse Calliope (or according to others of Apollo and Calliope).
The GodApolloone day he gave him a lira and the muses taught him to use it and became so skilled that Seneca himself narrates (Hercules on Mount Oeta): "At the sweet music of Orpheus, the roar of the rapid stream ceased, and the fleeting, oblique water to continue the journey, it lost its impetus ... The inert woods moved, leading the birds up the trees; or if any of these flew, being moved by listening to the sweet song, lost their strength and fell ... The Dryads, coming out of their oaks, hurried towards the singer, and even the beasts ran from their lairs to the melodious song (. ..) ".
He acquired such mastery of the instrument that he also added two more strings, bringing their number to nine to have a softer melody.
Orpheus plays the lyre
Roman floor mosaic, 2nd century AD, Archaeological Museum, Palermo, Sicily (Italy)
As the first great enterprise Orpheus participated in the expeditions of the Argonauts (1) and when the ship Argo arrived near the island of the Sirens, it was thanks to Orpheus and his zither that the Argonauts managed not to succumb to the pitfalls hidden in the sirens song.
Every creature loved Orpheus and was enchanted by his music and his poetry but Orpheus had eyes only for one woman: Eurydice, daughter of Nereus and Doride who became his wife. Destiny, however, had not foreseen a lasting love for them in fact one day the beauty of Eurydice made Aristeo's heart burn, who fell in love with her and tried to seduce her. The girl to escape his insistence started running but had the misfortune to step on a snake hidden in the grass that bit her, causing her instant death.
Pindemonte narrates (Epistles: "To Giovani Pozzo"): «Among the tall grass he saw no horrid snake that impressed them of the white dead foot».
Orpheus, maddened by pain and unable to conceive his life without his wife, decided to go down to Hades to try to snatch her from the kingdom of the dead. With his music he convinced Charon to ferry him to the other bank of the Styx; the dog Cerberus and the judges of the dead to let him pass and despite being surrounded by damned souls who tried in every way to grab him, he managed to reach the presence ofHadesisPersephone.
Orpheus and Euridice 1511
Tiziano Vecellio, Carrara Academy, Bergamo (IT)
Once in their presence, Orpheus began to play and sing his despair and loneliness and his melodies were so full of pain and despair that the lords of the underworld themselves were moved; theErinyesthey cried; the wheel of Ixion stopped and the wicked vultures that devoured the liver of Tom did not have the courage to continue their macabre task. Tantalus also forgot his thirst and for the first time in the afterlife, piety was known as Ovid narrates in the Metamorphoses (X, 41-63).
Thus it was that Orpheus was allowed to bring Eurydice back to the kingdom of the living on condition that during the journey to earth he preceded her and did not turn to look at her until they reached the sunlight.
Ovid narrates in the Metamorphoses (X, 41-63). «(...) Neither the royal bride nor the one who governs the abyss refused the unhappy one who begged them and called Eurydice. She, who was in the shadows of the recently dead, advanced, walking at a slow pace because of her wound. The Thracian Orpheus got it back, as long as he didn't look back before he left the infernal valley (...) ».
Orpheus, thus taking his bride by the hand, began his journey towards the light.During the journey, a suspicion began to make its way into his mind thinking that he was leading a shadow by the hand and not Eurydice. Thus forgetting the promise he had made he turned to look at her but at the same moment in which his eyes rested on her face Eurydice vanished, and Orpheus watched helplessly at his death for the second time.
Eurydice and Orpheus Mural painting 1st cent. A.D.
Ovid recounts in the Metamophores (X, 61-63): «And she, dying for the second time, did not complain; and what was she supposed to complain about if not to be loved too much? She offered her husband the final farewell, which Orpheus barely managed to grasp, and plunged back into the place from which he had moved ».
In vain Orpheus for seven days tried to convince Charon to lead him back to the presence of the lord of the underworld but in response he sent him back to the light of life. Orpheus took refuge on Mount Rodope, in Thrace, spending time in solitude and despair. He refused women and received only boys and male adolescents whom he instructed on abstinence and on the origin of the world and gods.
A school of thought (2) instead wants that Orpheus after the descent into Hades and having seen the "things down there" I begin to worship Elio (whom he called Apollo) and no longerDionysusand every morning he woke up at dawn to welcome the sunrise. Then Dionysus instigated the Bacchantes (3) who decided to kill him during a Bacchic orgy. When the appointed time came, they rushed at him with savage fury, tore him to pieces and scattered his limbs across the countryside, throwing his head into the Ebro.
The head of Orpheus (1890),
Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
Musée Moreau, Paris (France)
There are other versions of Orpheus' death: it is said that he wasZeusto shock him irritated by the fact that he revealed mysteries that were not supposed to be in the public domain; according to others it wasAphroditeto instigate the Thracian women and arouse in them such a passion that while they contended for him they quartered him because Calliope, the mother of Orpheus, was called as a judge by Zeus to settle a dispute between Aphrodite and Persephone to have the attentions of Adonis who sentenced that the young man was for six months with Aphrodite and six months with Persephone which had infuriated Aphrodite.
Virgil (Georgics, IV) said: «(...) Even then, while the head of Orpheus, standing out from the neck as white as marble, was overwhelmed by the waves," Eurydice! " the voice repeated by itself; and her tongue already cold: "Ah, wretched Eurydice!" he called with his dying voice; and along the banks of the river the echo repeated "Eurydice".
Whatever the way Orpheus died it is certain that every being of creation mourned his death, the nymphs wore a black robe as a sign of mourning and the rivers swelled from too much weeping.
The Muses recovered the limbs of Orpheus and buried them at the foot of Mount Olympus and even today, in that place, the song of the nightingales (4) is more sweet than in any part of the earth.
But the gods who saw and judged everything, decided to send a terrible pestilence throughout Thrace to punish the crime of the Bacchantes. The exhausted population consulted the oracle to find out how to put an end to that misfortune and the latter ruled that to put an end to so much pain it was necessary to look for the head of Orpheus and pay him the funeral honors. So it was that his head was found by a fisherman near the mouth of the river Melete and was placed in the cave of Antissa, sacred to Dionysus. In that place the head of Orpheus began to prophesy until Apollo, seeing that his oracles of Delphi, Grinius and Claro were no longer heard, went to the cave and shouted at Orpheus' head to stop interfering with his worship. From that day the head was silent forever.
His lyre was also recovered and brought to Lesbos in the temple of Apollo who, however, decided to place it in the sky so that everyone could see it as a reminder of the charm of poetry and the melodies of the unfortunate Orpheus, to which even nature surrendered, creating there constellation of Lyra.
Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli
(1) So called, from the name of the ship Argos, the daring princes (including Castor, Pollux and Heracles), who joined Jason to go to Colchis in search of the golden fleece;
(2) Eratosthenes, Catasterisms;
(3) It comes from the voice Bakkai plural of Bakkos, name that was given to those who were followers of Dionysus-Bacchus. During the festivals that took place in honor of the god in Thebes or in the Thracian mountains, they indulged in all kinds of wildness. They represented themselves covered in wild beast skins or completely naked. They were also known by the following names: Maenads, Tiadi, Bassaridi, Bistonidi, Mimalloni, Edonidi;
(4) The nightingales are identified in the Greek bestiary with Orpheus.
The singer who charmed man and nature
In the panorama of Greek myth and religiosity, Orpheus occupies a particular place: son of the muse Calliope, he receives a magical lyre as a gift from Apollo with which he is able to enchant the elements of nature, as well as man. The attempt to bring his wife Eurydice back from the afterlife to the world of the living will lead him to a tragic end. Its name is linked to theorphism, a set of norms of life and religious conceptions that represented, for the Greeks, an alternative choice to the official cults
The area of origin of the tales linked to Orpheus is probably Thrace, a region north of Greece considered halfway between the barbarian and the civilized world. Thracian is Eagro ("savage"), the king who joins the muse Calliope in generating Orpheus. Apollo gives him a gift of a seven-stringed musical instrument, which Orpheus modifies by adding two more: it is an extraordinary lyre at whose sound the ferocious animals calm down, the stones move, the trees sway even man is fascinated by the harmony of Orpheus, who calms the troubles and regenerates the soul.
His is Apollonian music, non-violent and unbridled like that of Dionysus (the Roman Bacchus), a music that teaches respect for the natural order and purity. Orpheus, like other legendary singers such as Lino, Tamiri or Museo, is placed by the Greek myth in an ancient time, before Homer, and his poetry is always denoted by an aura of mystery belongs to the generation of heroes who participate in the enterprise of Jason and the Argo ship: it is he, indeed, who at the sound of the lyre moves the beams that alone make up the keel of the ship and then embarks with the Argonauts and cheers them in the long nights of navigation with his soothing song , which tells the birth of the world and nature.
Orpheus falls in love with the nymph Eurydice and asks her to marry her, but on her wedding day the shepherd Aristeo, a beekeeper, goes mad and wants to kidnap her.
Eurydice launches into a desperate escape but steps on a snake that bites her, killing her. Orpheus is desperate but with his music he manages to fascinate Hades (the Roman Pluto) and Persephone (the Roman Proserpina) who allow him to bring her back to life: neither he nor Eurydice, however, will have to turn to look back during the ascent from the underworld, on pain of returning to the kingdom of the dead, this time forever.
Orpheus descends into the afterlife and together with Eurydice begins the flight to life. But curiosity betrays Eurydice, who turns around and is forced to stay forever in the underworld. Orpheus sings a dramatic lament for his bride, swearing that he will never love other women again, moving all of nature. But a group of Bacchantes, followers of Dionysus, hear the song of Orpheus: in the throes of Dionysian ecstasy, they decide to punish Orpheus for his oath, kill him and tear his body to pieces. However, a disastrous pestilence strikes the country: Apollo, angry at the loss of his faithful singer, orders as expiation that a temple be built to Orpheus. His head, which the waves of the sea brought to the island of Lesbos, is found by a fisherman, and will continue to give prophecies forever, while the lyre will still sing a melodious harmony.
Connected to the mythical figure of Orpheus is, in Greece, Orphism, one of the most fascinating and mysterious experiences of ancient religiosity. More than a real official cult, theorphism it was a complex of conceptions about nature, the origin of the world and the destiny of man, as well as a way of life based on behaviors considered ethically just and pure (orphikòs bios "Orphic life").
It was an initiatory and mysterious faith, which did not make use of public cults only a few, in fact, were admitted to the knowledge and practice of religious rites. The Orphic became such after a journey of preparation and tests, and performed their rites apart from the city community: for this reason they were often the object of discrimination and contempt.
The initiate into Orphism sought an individual relationship with the divinity - in particular with Dionysus - through the reading of the numerous Orphic texts that explained the birth of the world and the precepts of the cult. He also had to live according to the precepts of nature: he could not eat meat, because he believed in the reincarnation of souls, he could not, equally, cremate the deceased. He had to ensure the salvation of the soul - a concept that just with Orphism began to spread among the Greeks of the classical age - through renunciation and deprivation, moral rigor and purity.
Orpheus (in ancient Greek Ὀρφεύς) is a character belonging to the Greek myth. Orpheus returns from the historical point of view in the sixth century BC, although scholars believe that he may have lived even before Homer. The figure of Orpheus still returns today in the theme of art, philosophy and literature. This is because Orpheus was considered the embodiment of art and aesthetic values. Orpheus would be born in Lebetra, a city located in Thrace. In this area, according to Herodotus, lived shamans endowed with magical powers and who healed people, including through music. This would explain the aura of mystery around the figure of Orpheus. He is the son of Calliope, a muse, and Eagro, a king (although other sources indicate him as the son of Apollo).
In the myth, Orpheus participated together with other heroes in the expedition of the Argonauts, to recover the golden fleece. He asserted himself on several occasions during the mission, for example thanks to the song he managed to start a ship that had remained stationary in Jolco, while he managed to put a dragon to sleep and overcome the siren song. But above all the story of Orpheus is known for what happened to his beloved, Eurydice. Aristeo, son of Apollo, had fallen in love with Orpheus's wife, and he pursued her constantly. She, in fleeing, one day put her foot on a snake that killed her with its poison. Orpheus was destroyed by grief for what happened to his beloved wife, so he decided to embark on a journey to the underworld to try to save his beloved. He managed to overcome Charon on the Styx, bewitching him with his song. Then he also calmed Cerberus, the monstrous three-headed dog, in the same way. Eventually, he came to the prison of Tantalus, a monstrous demi god who had killed his race. He was condemned to eternal torture by the gods: every time Orpheus stops playing, the torture begins again. Finally, climbing a staircase of 1000 steps, Orpheus came to find Hades, lord of the Underworld, and Persephone.
Orpheus, to sweeten them, sang and played for them, relying on feelings and emotion. Persephone was very impressed and took advantage of Hades' sleep to let Eurydice return to earth, on one condition, however: that Orpheus should have preceded Eurydice all the way, up to the threshold of Hades, without turning back. Orpheus obeyed but when he reached the threshold, unable to wait any longer, he turned around: and his beloved disappeared, swallowed up again in the Underworld. Orpheus, back on earth, wept for seven months and did not want to love any other woman. He was killed, according to Virgil's version, by the women of the Ciconi or by the Bacchantes, depending on the versions that are considered.
In this series, 'Myths, the Way Home', author James Sale explains why myths, far from obvious today, remain crucial to understanding the role of humans in the universe, and perhaps even for their future survival.
Orpheus' music was so beautiful that it enchanted the nymphs. “Nymphs Listening to the Songs of Orpheus”, 1853, by Charles Jalabert. (Public Domain)
The journey of the soul! It is a theme that has always fascinated humanity. There are many myths and legends that describe a hero's journey to the afterlife, where souls reside. Today the word 'soul' (soul) is a bit out of fashion, except when used descriptively, as in the case of 'soul music'. Even in this meaning it is possible to see its true meaning: soul music is an authentic music, which comes from the depth of the human being, a music capable of moving because, devoid of the falsity of the intellect, it shakes at a fundamental and emotional level, our being. In fact, today the expression 'self' or 'true self' is often used to refer to the soul. In this way, the journey to find the soul has become the way to find one's true self. Among this kind of stories, one of the greatest is that of Orpheus.
Orpheus and his soul
On the wedding day between Orpheus and Eurydice, the bride is bitten by a snake and dies. “Orpheus mourns the death of Eurydice”, 1814, by Ary Scheffer. (Public domain)
Orpheus (translatable as 'darkness', or 'fatherless') was a poet and cantor son of the god Apollo, the divinity of light, poetry and medicine. Orpheus's wife, Eurydice (translated as 'profound justice'), whom the singer loved with all of himself, is bitten by a snake and dies. Destroyed by pain, Orpheus, whose words and music could move even the rocks, decides to descend into Hades, where the dead reside, to meet Hades, the god of the underworld, and convince him to let his beloved return to the kingdom of the living. .
At this point it is necessary to make two observations: the first is that Eurydice was killed by a snake bite. Why a snake? What does the snake remember? Yes, the Garden of Eden, another myth. Snakes are the symbol of knowledge or wisdom, but not in a positive sense, as we are used to understanding it. As Wordsworth wrote, 'we kill to dissect and obtain knowledge': the Tree of Knowledge leads to ruin, it deceives men into believing they are gods, while in reality they are not.
The second question is: who is Eurydice after all? His wife? Yes, in a way, to him she is the most beautiful and adorable person in the world. But, on a deeper level, Eurydice represents the soul of Orpheus, the soul of his male identity, his true love, the most precious thing according to the spiritual traditions of East and West - the rarest pearl.
The journey of Orpheus to Hades
Thus Orpheus, after having found the entrance to Hades, begins the long descent. On the way he faces many difficulties and overcomes every danger with poetry and song. Regarding his descent, there are two things that are particularly noteworthy: the first is that he goes deeper than any other Greek hero, including Heracles. Thus the power of music and poetry proves superior to all physical weapons and the extraordinary strength of conventional heroes.
Orpheus' music was so beautiful that it could charm animals. Ancient Roman floor mosaic, from Palermo, now in the Antonio Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum. (Public Domain)
As Ann Wroe wrote, quoting Francis Bacon: "As the works of wisdom surpass those of strength in dignity and power, so the exploits of Orpheus surpass those of Heracles." When Orpheus plays the lyre the torments of Hades subside, even the damned stop acting senselessly and their rationality begins to emerge. This is the power of beauty. Everything comes back to life, since the celestial music of his lyre reconnects everything to its divine origin, and therefore alive.
Eventually he manages to reach the throne room of hell and stands in front of Hades, the king, and Persephone, the queen. Here a third, extraordinary phenomenon occurs: listening to the music of Orpheus, Hades sheds a tear (a tear as black as tar), a unique event in Greek mythology. Music moves even the dead, and as a reward, Hades agrees to allow Eurydice to return to the realm of the living.
Although 'reality' and knowledge killed his soul, Orpheus' imagination, manifested through song and music, emerged, allowing him to find a deal with death itself, so that he can return, with his soul. renewed. In any case, the ultimate limit of human beings emerges: an agreement with a divinity.
In front of the throne of Hades and Persephone, Orpheus takes Eurydice away. 'Orfeo ed Euridice', by Jean Raoux. (The J. Paul Getty Museum)
The myth that explains why myths are important
But Hades has a condition to set: that Eurydice follows Orpheus in the ascent, and the hero never turns to look at her before reaching the light.
Orpheus accepts and prepares on the way back. Now he has Eurydice's promise, but in order for it to become a reality he must first believe the word of the divinity: is his beloved really following him, or will he discover that he has been deceived after reaching the surface? Furthermore, he must not turn to look at the soul directly in the unreal world of Hades. It is called 'unreal' because this is how death appears to human beings, as does hell itself.
Although in a sense hell (Hades) is more real than the world in which human beings live. The world we live in, in fact, changes and dies continuously, we are nothing but grass that blooms and goes away. Hades is different, due to its eternal nature. There people are what they have become, and they will be eternally. What can be more real?
Therefore the myth of Orpheus is the myth of the myths themselves: in fact the requirement for the soul to return is not to look back. The 'don't look back' recalls the story of Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt precisely because she turned back. But, in that story, the sin related to looking back seems to be mainly the wife's ingratitude towards the salvation offered by God. More concretely, it seems that her turning back was tied to the passion for her old life, and to her ingratitude for escaping it and for the new life that lay ahead of her.
The story of looking back while escaping death is also present in the Bible. 'The Fire of Sodom' (formerly 'The Destruction of Sodom') by Camille Corot. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Returning to Orpheus, just before reaching the surface and entering the light, he too turns and looks back. However, it seems that in this case it is not so much the 'turning back' that is the problem, but what the turning back implies: seeing Eurydice directly is the act of to see. Considering the person as an object to be looked at (and therefore objectified) means transforming him into an object, a fact, a fragment of knowledge: exactly the same thing that had caused Eurydice's death, through the snake, at the beginning of the myth!
To be clearer, 'objectifying' is antithetical to the law of love. When one considers another person as a subject, on a par with oneself - with a will and a heart like ours - then one is not manipulating or degrading him, nor assuming that his reality is nothing more than an extension of his own. Clearly this is a lack that, ironically, is in contrast with the presupposition of his mission: he went to Hades for the love of Eurydice, however, in the process, his love proved to be inadequate. Love for what? Love for his own soul.
Orpheus saves Eurydice from Hades, but then loses her a second time. "Orfeo ed Euridice" by Gaetano Gandolfi. (Public Domain)
When the imagination (the poet / singer who is in each of us) sees things, it does not do it directly, because otherwise it would be like making the invisible physical. Instead the imagination sees - includes as in a vision - the invisible world where everything comes to life. If it sounds extravagant, consider your own experiences, the most obvious are dreams, where everything comes to life, sometimes in an enchanting way, sometimes in a frightening way.
Therefore one cannot look directly at one's soul. Looking at your soul would be like asking your eyes to look at your own eyes. It is an impossible feat, unless you use a mirror, so that you can observe a reflection of reality. In fact, that's exactly what myths do. They express the most important truths of the universe, but since they do so indirectly, in most cases it is not possible to grasp their meaning and understand their importance. So they simply became stories, some more interesting, some less.
The spiritual message: to come back to life from the dead
Thracian women, who represent hedonism, kill Orpheus. 'Thracian girl carries the head of Orpheus on her lyre', 1865, by Gustave Moreau. (Public Domain)
This myth therefore reveals a profound truth: mankind is in search of its soul that was lost long ago in some primordial catastrophe. Curiously, after returning to the surface without Eurydice - without her soul - it is only a matter of time before Orpheus is killed, torn to pieces, and dismembered by Thracian women. For what reason? Because they could not accept, immersed in their climate of drunkenness and revelry, that a human being could mourn the death of his life - his soul - and prefer it eternally to the superficial hedonism of Thracian women.
This last part of the myth is probably a reference to the perpetual relationship between 'materialistic' people and those more inclined to spirituality. Materialists hate religion and spirituality not because of, as they often claim, the abuses perpetrated in history in the name of religion, but because all spiritual understandings displace mankind from the center of the universe, and this - using the jargon of our own time, where there is no longer talk of 'good and evil' - it is 'unacceptable'.
In any case, without the soul the body dies, because the soul is the immortal part. Each of us, therefore, should accept the challenge: to find our soul, living not simply because we were born, but to return from the world of the dead.
The myth of Orpheus seems to end badly, however it leaves a feeling of nobility, destiny, grandeur and truth. What is the song you have to sing to facilitate the descent? This is what we are looking for. Until we find it, the myth of Orpheus suggests that we will be able to live, but barely.
James Sale is a British businessman, founder of Motivational Maps, which is active in 14 countries. Sale is the author of over forty books published by major international publishers, such as Macmillan, Pearson, and Routledge on management, education, and poetry.
"Cupid and Psyche" - Illustration by Erminia A. Giordano for CineHunters
(Personal rereading of the Greek myth)
A tale written by the Brothers Grimm it told of one beautiful queen but diabolical, which he possessed a magic mirror she used to ask him what it was the most beautiful woman in the whole realm. Sometimes the mirror of desires, to delight the vanity of his mistress, he gave an answer by recognizing her as the most beautiful, others, however, the same he limited himself to letting the queen simply gaze at her own flattering reflection. One day, however, the mirror, to that rhetoric and vain question uttered by the monarch, answered in an unusual and very unexpected way. A little girl with skin white as snow and from lips as red as blood she would become, once she reached adulthood, the most beautiful in the whole realm. The queen, outraged, commissioned a hunter to find the infant and kill it. The hunter, however, will not have the strength to stain himself with such a cruel and heinous gesture will save the baby, hiding it. How this folktale will end is a known story ...
She did not have a magic mirror but she too, similarly to how the queen of the aforementioned fairy tale did, often mirrored herself. With frivolity, she took pleasure in her own beauty, proud to be the most beautiful female creature in all of creation. It was born from the foam of the sea, and had reached the mainland on a shell blown by the wind. The goddess of love, Aphrodite, he lived up in Olympus, dispensing love to men and women. One day, an intolerable rumor reached Aphrodite, according to which, on Earth, there lived a young girl named Psyche ("Soul" in Greek). No mirror of desires had pointed out to her anything about it, but the gods were certain of what they told her: - Psyche has such delicate facial features that it can be considered even more beautiful than the goddess Aphrodite -. As was the case in the heart of that evil queen I mentioned, anger and jealousy hardened her spirit too. Aphrodite, furious, summoned her son Eros ordering him to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. With his great white wings, similar to those of an angel, Eros descended from Mount Olympus, taking with him his bow and his quiver full of arrows.
"Cupid and Psyche" - Painting by Kauffmann
Although she was so beautiful, Psyche could not find a husband and, one morning, heartbroken by her loneliness, she began to cry bitterly while she was near a hill. Eros reached the valley and from there he glimpsed Psyche for the first time. Enchanted by the beauty of the young woman, Eros took pity on her. Like the "Snow White" hunter, he desisted from committing such an iniquitous act and put away his weapon. Eros non riusciva a distogliere lo sguardo da Psiche, le lacrime versate dalla fanciulla lo impietosirono a tal punto da suscitare in lui forti sentimenti. Tirò così fuori dalla faretra una delle sue frecce e si trafisse egli stesso un piede. D’improvviso, Psiche si sentì sollevare dolcemente dai venti zefiri e, volteggiando sul mare, raggiunse una regione sperduta, per essere poi adagiata dinanzi ad una reggia tutta splendente. Eros si era innamorato perdutamente della fanciulla e l’aveva portata con sé nella sua dimora segreta, dove neppure la madre Afrodite sarebbe riuscita a trovarli. Psiche varcò la soglia della reggia e cominciò a visitarla, presa dalla curiosità. Le porte che conducevano alle ampie camere erano d’argento, le mura che delimitavano la sala grande sita all’ingresso erano fatte d’oro, i soffitti d’avorio. I pavimenti erano azzurri con sparse increspature di bianco e davano alla giovane la sensazione di camminare come sulle nuvole. Non ci fu nessuno ad accogliere Psiche, il palazzo regale pareva essere disabitato, eccetto che da servitori invisibili, che, palesandosi a sera inoltrata, le servirono la cena.
"Amore e Psiche" di Antonio Canova
Quando scese la notte, Psiche cominciò ad avere paura, non trovando nessuna lanterna per poter schiarire le fitte tenebre della propria camera da letto. Eros, infatti, non voleva farsi guardare agli occhi della mortale e nel talamo si presentò a Psiche permanendo nell’oscurità. Avvertendo la presenza del dio, solamente avendolo accanto, Psiche ricambiò l’amore di Eros e tra i due cominciò una meravigliosa e dolce unione che perdurerà per tutte le notti a seguire. Psiche vive sostanzialmente “intrappolata” nel castello di Eros, ma non avverte affatto d’essere prigioniera. E’ un po’ come Belle, che non sentì mai d’essere in effetti rinchiusa nel castello magico della Bestia, innamoratasi perdutamente di lei.
Psiche vorrebbe, però, rivedere le sue sorelle, e raccontare loro un tale amore provato e vissuto. Eros la mette in guardia dal rendere noto il loro amore, ma Psiche insiste nel volerle incontrare. Acconsentendo alla richiesta della fanciulla, Eros conduce le sorelle di Psiche alla reggia ma le ragazze, aggressive e perfide come le sorelle della fiaba di “Cenerentola”, insinuano il dubbio nella mente di Psiche circa le reali fattezze del suo amante.
Psiche, senza neppure guardarlo, si era invaghita di lui, perché aveva avvertito empaticamente la purezza della sua anima: era quella la forma di amore spirituale. Ma la curiosità della donna nel voler vedere anche l’aspetto del compagno, e beneficiare conseguentemente della chiarezza estetica di un amore carnale, divenne incalzante. Fu così che prese una lampada ad olio per illuminare il volto del suo amante e raggiunse di corsa la camera da letto. Eros si era appena addormentato. Psiche si intrattenne a lungo ad osservarlo, scorse i capelli dai riccioli d’oro del dio e le rosee guance, ma di più la colpirono le candide ali con riflessi argentei. Nel volerlo osservare ancor meglio, Psiche avvicinò la lampada al corpo dormiente del dio. La sua brama di conoscenza fu fatale, una goccia dell’olio della lampada cadde su Amore che rimase ustionato e, sentendosi tradito, risalì al cielo, abbandonando la sua amante. Fallito il tentativo di aggrapparsi alla sua gamba, Psiche, straziata dal dolore, tenterà più volte di porre fine alla sua esistenza, ma gli dei la salveranno ogni qual volta tenterà di attuare i suoi estremi propositi. Inizia così a vagare per diverse città alla ricerca del suo sposo.
Quando era prossima a perdere la speranza, Psiche fu raggiunta da Afrodite, la quale le disse che per sperare di rivedere Amore avrebbe dovuto sostenere quattro prove: la prova dei semi, della lana d’oro, dell’acqua sacra e la prova del vaso della bellezza. Nella prima, Psiche dovette dividere un enorme mucchio di semi diversi tra loro in tanti mucchietti uguali. L’impresa è ovviamente ardua per una sola ragazza, ma un aiuto inaspettato arrivò da una famigliola di formiche. La seconda prova consistette nel raccogliere la lana d'oro di un gregge di pecore. In realtà, le pecore erano degli arieti aggressivi e perennemente inquieti e, una volta avvertita, Psiche riuscì a raccogliere le lane rimaste tra i cespugli, aspettando la sera. La terza prova consistette nel raccogliere acqua da una sorgente che si trovava in cima ad un’altura a strapiombo nel vuoto. Anche in questo caso la fanciulla avrà un aiuto esterno, riuscendo a compiere l’impresa con l’aquila di Zeus.
Nell’ultima prova Psiche rischiò di morire: dopo aver aperto il vaso offertole negli inferi da Persefone, svenne e caddé in un sonno profondo. La fanciulla venne salvata poco prima di soccombere da Amore che, fuggito dalla prigione in cui la madre lo aveva confinato, strapperà Psiche dalla gelida presa della morte, risvegliandola con un bacio, esattamente come farà il principe di una fiaba con la sua promessa sposa, Aurora.
"Amore e Psiche" - Gruppo scultoreo di Antonio Canova
Eros portò la bella nel suo castello. Zeus, vedendo la fanciulla prostrata alla fatica, mosso a compassione decise di far riunire definitivamente i due amanti. Psiche ascese al cielo, divenne una dea e sposò Amore, dalla cui unione nascerà Voluttà. E così vissero tutti felici e contenti…
Autore: Emilio Giordano
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La tradizione mitologica narra che Orfeo trovò la morte per mano delle Menadi, o Baccanti, le invasate e frenetiche adoratrici di Dioniso. Sulle motivazioni di questo omicidio esistono più versioni del mito.
Virgilio, nelle Georgiche, racconta che Orfeo pianse per sette mesi la morte dell’amata Euridice, rifiutando qualsiasi attenzione femminile a tal punto da scatenare l’ira delle Menadi, che in preda alla frenesia dei culti bacchici lo fecero a pezzi: da qui il famoso sparagmòs, la pratica di dilaniare a mani nude un animale o più raramente un essere umano allo scopo di mangiarne le carni crude come sacrifico in onore a Dioniso.
Ne riportiamo un estratto, molto significativo:
“Nessun amore, nessun imeneo piegò il suo animo.
Da solo passava in rassegna i ghiacci iperborei e le nevi del Tanai
e le regioni mai prive di nevi della Scizia
cercando Euridice che gli era stata sottratta e i vani doni
di Dite e le madri dei Ciconi, rifiutate a causa di questo rimpianto,
tra i rituali degli dei e le orge notturne di Bacco,
dispersero nei vasti campi il giovane fatto a pezzi.”
(Virgilio – Georgiche – Libro IV)
Ovidio narra invece che Orfeo, predicando l’amore omosessuale, condannava la promiscuità e i riti orgiastici delle Menadi tanto da attirare su di sé la furia di Dioniso e di Afrodite. Queste le parole con cui Ovidio descrive la ferocia dell’attacco mortale:
“E una di loro, scuotendo i capelli alla brezza leggera,
gridò: “Eccolo, eccolo, colui che ci disprezza!” e scagliò il tirso
contro la bocca melodiosa del cantore di Apollo, ma il tirso,
fasciato di frasche, gli fece appena un livido, senza ferirlo.
Un’altra lancia una pietra, ma questa, mentre ancora vola,
è vinta dall’armonia della voce e della lira,
e gli cade davanti ai piedi, quasi a implorare perdono
per quel suo forsennato ardire. Ma ormai la guerra si fa furibonda,
divampa sfrenata e su tutto regna una furia insensata.
Il canto avrebbe potuto ammansire le armi, ma il clamore
smisurato, i flauti di Frigia uniti al corno grave,
i timpani, gli strepiti e l’urlo delle Baccanti
sommersero il suono della cetra. E così alla fine i sassi
si arrossarono del sangue del poeta, che non si udiva più.”
(Ovidio – Metamorfosi – Libro XI)
Un’altra versione del mito, sostenuta dallo studioso e scrittore Robert Graves, racconta che Orfeo mancò di onorare con i dovuti sacrifici Dionisio, provocando così l’ira del dio che per vendicarsi inviò le Menadi a far vendetta.
Orfeo massacrato dalle Menadi – Gregorio Lazzarini – Musei Civici Veneziani
Tutte le versioni del mito coincidono nell’affermare che il corpo del divino cantore fu smembrato (sparagmòs) e la testa, gettata nel fiume Ebro, continuò prodigiosamente a cantare, metafora dell’immortalità dell’arte.
Riportiamo nuovamente un estratto di Virgilio:
“Anche allora, mentre l’Ebro Eagrio trasportava la testa strappata dal collo di marmo portandola in mezzo ai gorghi,
la voce stessa e la fredda lingua invocava:
mentre l’anima fuggiva:
in tutto il fiume le sponde ripetevano .”
(Virgilio – Georgiche – Libro IV)
Trasportata dal fiume, la testa di Orfeo raggiunse il mare aperto dove galleggiò fino all’isola di Lesbo, per tradizione centro principale della musica lirica nell’antica Grecia e patria di Terpandro, il più antico musicista storicamente accertato.
La testa di Orfeo che canta ricorda molto quella del dio celtico Bran, poiché anch’essa, recisa dal corpo, cantava dolcemente poggiata sulla roccia di Harlech nel Galles del Nord, come riportato dal Mabinogion, raccolta di miti considerati tra i più antichi della letteratura gallese.