October 29th, 2008 by sabrina

Thou fill’st from the
wingèd chalice of the soul
Thy lamp, O Memory,
fire-wingèd to its goal.
—Dante Rossetti, inscribed on the frame of his painting, left

Mnemosyne (pronounced ni-MAW-sin-ee) is the Greek Goddess of memory. She is the daughter of Gaia and Ouranos, and therefore one of the Titans. With her nephew Zeus, she is the mother of the nine Muses. Zeus lay with Mnemosyne for nine nights in a row, and a year later she bore their nine daughters—Kalliope, Kleio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsikhore, Thalia, and Ourania. Mnemosyne is also said to have invented language, giving names to all things, although this is also said to have been the invention of Hermes, God of travel, trade, and language.

Mnemosyne, in her rule over memory, played an important role at an oracle in Boeotia. Before consulting the oracle, initiates first drank from the pool of Lethe, Goddess of forgetfulness, to clear their minds of all preconceptions. They then drank from the pool of Mnemosyne, so that they would remember what they learned from the oracle. Similarly, those who had crossed over into Hades were given the choice of whether to drink from a spring of Mnemosyne and remember their lives, or to drink from the pool of Lethe and forget. Mnemosyne’s name, which means “memory,” is also seen as Mnamosyna, and the epithets Golden-robed, Fair-robed, and Gentle-eyed were used to describe her.

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1 response about “Mnemosyne”

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