X is for Xanadu, or How I Finally Met The Muses

(Look! A wild PBP post appears! More later on, because they aren’t done yet. Also, X topics. How I hate you. D:)

Today’s  story is about the Muses I work with and how I met Them. The Muses I work with are not the Olympian Muses. They are called either the Elder Muses, or the Titan Muses/Mousai Titanides. They are a group of three Muses, and are one of the older groups of Muses who existed before the Olympian Muses got solidified into a group of nine and ended up dominating the Muse gig for the rest of eternity (or so it seems.)

I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for these Muses. They tend to get a paragraph in any article about the Muses, if They get mentioned at all. Theoi.com at least gives Them a separate page, short as it is.  I know Their parentage, Their names, and what Their domains are. That’s it. They’ve been forgotten, and I think half the reason They’re happy to work with me is because I know who They are. The other half is because I am willing to write about Them and hopefully inspire other people to get to know Them too.

Anyway. For those who have never heard of the Mousai Titanides, let me introduce you. They were the first group of Greek Muses, born of Ouranus and Gaia. They were the Titan Goddesses of Music, and there were but three of them; Aoide, whose name means Song; Mneme, whose name means Memory, and who is sometimes linked to Mnemosyne, the Mother of the Muses (I don’t experience this connection though; They feel like separate deities to me); and finally Melete, whose name means Practice or Meditation.

I was first introduced to Them as I was researching a Xanadu-inspired Muse story. I wanted, basically, to take the basic premise of the movie Xanadu (yes, that Xanadu), and turn it into an AU fanfic for a couple of my fandoms. (You can read the final story here, if you’re so inclined. Even my fandoms are obscure as fuck. #winning) So the interaction between Muse and human subject, and the creative process, tailored to the people I wanted to write about. Only, I’ve never been particularly drawn to the Olympian Muses, and didn’t want to use them if I didn’t have to, so when I went researching the Muses and discovered the existence of other Muses, I thought that was quite exciting. The three I was most drawn to also fit the story I was writing, so I went with Them.

There was a quote I found that really brought the three Muses to life for me: (though for the life of me I can’t remember where I found it; if you know which website it comes from, let me know. I’d love to properly attribute it.)
The Roman scholar Varro relates that there are only three Muses: one who is born from the movement of water (Mneme, memory), another who makes sound by striking the air (Melete, meditation, exercise, practice), and a third, who is embodied only in the human voice (Aoide, song).

I thought that was the most beautiful description of Muses I had ever heard. I had never really ‘got’ Muses until that moment, and it stuck with me. I still find it beautiful to read. I know it’s a Roman source and not a Greek one, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful for me. The Muses were finally alive for me, and I’m sure that’s why the story turned out so great. I’m sure They lent me some of Their inspiration to get it finished.

So I finished the story, and the Muses kept hanging around after that, so I decided to say hi and start getting to know Them. I often do this with Gods who end up in my fiction works, just so I can acknowledge Them and thank Them for any help I’ve received. Because writing about Gods in a fictional sense, rather than in a mythological sense, and as a polytheist who believe they are all real, makes you approach it in a different way. It’s not just ‘a character’, it’s potentially a being who may be attracted by the attention you’re giving Them, so I feel it’s appropriate to write Them as well as I can, and to be respectful about it, and then say thanks afterwards. Apollo and Hermes turned up in that story too, though They weren’t as present as the Muses.

Finding information on my Muses is ridiculously hard, though, so there’s not a lot I can really refer to. They had been superseded by the Olympian Muses and were forgotten by the time Greek religion really got going, so there’s not a lot I can actually find. Hence, most of this entry is UPG, with what little else I know about Them. So take this as my own experience with Them, and not as historical fact.

When I started working with Them, I had no images of Them. Nor had I ever worked with Greek deities before They turned up either. I didn’t know anything about Them, and couldn’t just look up a thread on a forum about what to offer Them. I was pretty much starting from scratch, with a bare minimum of knowledge about Them and about Greek religion. But I think I like it this way. The more I get to know Them, the better I begin to see Them and understand Their characters.

The first piece of art I did for Them had Them as My Little Ponies, for no particular reason. (What can I say? I was going through a MLP creator phase.) (You will also notice I ‘borrowed’ the same kind of glowiness that Xanadu used for their Muses.) I let Them guide me as to how They might like to be depicted in this form, just so I had something to go on. Any image was better than none, and They seemed happy to work with imagery I was more familiar with and might connect to better. Aoide ended up magenta/purple, with music notes on Her body. Melete ended up white-yellow, with lightning bolts on Her body. Mneme ended up blue, with bubbles on Her body.

I’d also like to say that, at this stage, though I generally refer to Them as female, I don’t experience Them having any kind of strict gender. I think, because I had to find imagery that worked for me, They weren’t fussy about what resonated with me the most, and that description from Varro made me see Them as inherently genderless anyway. But They are referred to as Goddesses, so I shall refer to Them as female for ease of understanding.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it illuminated Their personalities so well. Aoide is of the Air, the voice, and the instruments She likes are ones that use the breath. Woodwind, brass, etc. She’s particularly fond of the recorder. When She communicates with me, She sings. Everything She does is about the voice, so that’s what dominates with my experiences with Her. I think She might be good to call on when writing dialogue, to help guide my ‘voices’ as I’m writing them.

Melete is also of the air, but it’s air+electricity. Lightning. It’s that striking action, mostly. She prefers percussion instruments, drums and so forth. Gongs, I would wager, as well. I haven’t yet heard Her voice, but She does speak when all three speak together. I think She’s more into rhythm and patterns than anything else, so those sort of things might make it easier to communicate with Her. I just had half an idea to try using Morse code, because of the rhythm involved in it. She may work better with that kind of thing.

Mneme is of the water. She also sings to me, too. She likes instruments that sound like water. That was the description She gave me. Things that sound like water. So rain sticks, maybe even a xylophone or a harp. She wasn’t particularly specific apart from ‘things that sound like water’. I also experience something of a healing vibe from Her, like She can heal through song/water (or songwater, as She seems to prefer it written; I don’t know what She means by it though). She’s also the one that ‘feels’ the oldest, though this might be because of Her association with Mnemosyne, who rules Time. When I wrote Her, She was a Muse who remembered everything, because She must, and had a very long memory to cope with (or not, as the case may be).

They often use musicians as avatars/imagery, which doesn’t surprise me, as They are Goddesses of Music. More than once, They have hijacked my music player to get messages through to me. I can’t even describe how They do this, but all I know is that I’m suddenly AWARE of the song that’s being played in a way that I’m not aware of it before and get an impression of Who’s trying to get my attention. The lyrics and music seem to be louder/more clear, and I’m paying attention only to them. The words in particular have my complete attention. Sometimes, the song choice is related to who They are appearing as, because it can then feel like ‘they’re’ talking/singing straight to me using this other voice. Like, if Mneme is being Jeff Lynne one day, She might use a song of his to ‘speak’ to me, and it won’t just be him singing, it’ll be Mneme speaking through him. The voice/vocal sounds different, like it’s suddenly more powerful/fuller/has something behind it that’s not normally there. They do this a lot. (To be fair, Sobek does this too, and perhaps Aset. But mostly the Muses do it. Music is Their language, so it seems to make sense that it would be Their primary way of communicating with me.)

I think this makes me feel like, even though They’ve been long forgotten, these Muses are still here, and They’re still watching over what’s going on. They seem like highly adaptive Gods who can use whatever’s available to inspire creativity. Yes, They would still like me to learn Greek so I can write proper hymns for Them, but They will still happily accept a permanent shrine composed of three My Little Pony figurines because it’s all I have. I can’t just go out and buy statues of them, so anything I make for Them will either be created from scratch, or re-purposed from somewhere else. But this is what you get when you work with obscure Gods. I mean, they were obscure even by Greek standards once the Olympian Muses got established, so it stands to reason that any cult I tend for Them is going to be completely new and not reconstructed, because there’s nothing to reconstruct.

They are a beautiful presence, and I think They’re keen for me to spread word about Them so more people will know and remember Them. They are just eager to help inspire and create. That’s what Muses do. I’m sure They would love any attention you wished to give Them, particularly if, like me, you never particularly felt drawn to the Olympian Muses, or even if you are.

I still haven’t really figured out offerings, though. They don’t really seem to respond to anything other than creative works, so that’s kind of what I’m going with at the moment. It makes sense; as Muses, creative work makes the most sense as something to offer Them, even if it’s not directly for Them, but for something else. I think that’s what They like the most, when They can help inspire like that.

And that’s the end of the story about how a somewhat cheesy (but still highly entertaining) movie from the 80s helped me meet the Muses. <3

0 thoughts on “X is for Xanadu, or How I Finally Met The Muses

  1. Your article resonates very strongly to me. You explained so well how the divine connection works. 🙂

    I will gladly look into this direction, for I have something with water, song, memory and time 😉

    1. Thanks, I’m always glad to hear from anyone who finds what I write useful. 🙂 I hope the Muses offer you much inspiration. <3

      1. They might be of great help actually, since my creavity is rising up 😉

        It’s funny because you describe them in terms that are really… primal, and my work is focused on primal Gods and Spirits. Yeah, they feel more like very old spirits to me, and I can feel they have other associations and field of expertise.

        So thanks for pointing out ^^

        1. Well, they are Titan Muses, and Titans are really old anyway, so I’m not surprised They feel old. But I feel They have the refinement of the later Olympians too, because of Their function as Muses and Goddesses of song. I mean, Sobek feels a lot more primal/primitive than these Muses do. Sobek is more of a Titan than They are, I think. They feel very adaptable to me, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if They have fields of expertise I haven’t even encountered yet. Maybe you’ll discover some of those when you work with them. 🙂

  2. I loved this article i have always felt compelled to make a shrine to creativity and art and honor the muses as part of it. But I get worried whether or not I would offend the muses of 9 if I only honor the muses of 3. of if I honor the muses of 3 and thalia of the muses of 9 because she is comedy and i write a lot of comedy. Do you think if i honered the muses of 3 and thalia that it would be an offense to the rest of the muses? Te reason i ask is i want to make a spirit doll to represent the muses but I don’t know whether to make 4 (the muses of 3 and thalia of the 9) or if I should just make one doll to represent all muses.

    1. I don’t think the other Muses would get offended if you didn’t want to honour them. I don’t work at all with the Olympian Muses, and have suffered no punishment for it, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I mean, they have specific areas of concern, so I don’t see why it would be a problem just to honour Thalia and the Elder Muses, if that is what you need. I don’t recall any kind of law that says you have to honour ALL the Muses. I would follow your instincts and make as many spirit dolls as you feel is necessary. If you want to specifically honour Thalia, maybe you should do one doll for her, and perhaps another for all the Muses in general? Maybe that might be a good way to balance it.

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