Sibyl Riversleigh has arrived at the Grove of Carmentia in time for the annual, 14th of January Festival in honor of Carmeta. Here she is leading the festival and may be seen doing a ritualistic, fertility dance to honor the Camenae who were originally goddesses of springs, wells and fountains, or water nymphs of Venus . They were wise deities similar to the muses and sometimes gave prophecies of the future. Carmenta bears much in common with Themis, the Greek Goddess of divine law and wisdom and Sibyl, like Enchanteur knows to pay respect to she who keeps watch over the fires of inspiration.
In ‘The Greek Experience’ by C.W. Bowra, Bowra writes that “In primitive societies the poet was regarded as an instrument of an external power which possesses him and speaks through his voice. He is the prophet, a seer, a man who speaks with tongues, an agent of the unseen incalculable forces. Art hardly depends on him; for he depends on inspiration. He may see what others do not see; he may master the arcane knowledge, which he utters in dark and difficult words. But neither his knowledge nor his words are regarded really as his own… The poets paid tribute to inspiration when they spoke of the Muse, the divine power which directed their work. Homer begins each of his epics with a summons to hear the Muse singing on Mount Helicon, and they gave him a poet’s staff and told him to sing. The Muse then is the divine power whom the poet invokes to his aid, and the assumption is that without her he is more or less powerless. She is outside his control, and she can do for him what he cannot do for himself.”
Writing may or may not be divinely inspired but men have been encouraged to write down their thoughts and feelings for a long time. Poetry was a part of common life, honored and enjoyed by a large number of people. It was needed for hymns and supplications to the gods but it was also a repository of stories for people who were deeply interested in the achievements of their ancestors. It was and still is needed to celebrated glory, victory, for people to unburden themselves of loves and hates. Writing provides a kind of natural decompression chamber to unleash a whole range of feelings.
If the Muse is a conduit it makes sense that we should feed and look after the ether like creature, this creative creature who wafts about in white robes. Pamper her I say.
One way to feed the Muse is to respect her and recognize her divine power by setting up a plate with some candles and stones on the desk where you write. Then you can light the candles and invite the Muses to be with you. Your invitation can be as simple as ‘Calliope, please hear my call and be with me today.’
You can go a step further and participate in a guided imagery where you wander up the sacred way at Delphi and sit in the Temple of Apollo, waiting for her to see you, to give you the poet’s staff that Hesiod speaks of.
Make sure that you take a gift with you. The Greeks traditionally gave honey and milk and seed cakes but given the wealth in the treasure house at Delphi they came bearing more valuable gifts as well. Herodotus describes how Croesus ’caused a statue of a lion to be made in refined gold, the weight of which was ten talents.’ Croesus sent ‘two bowls of an enormous size, one of gold, the other of silver, which used to stand, the latter upon the right, the former on the left, as one entered the temple.’
One of my year twelve students describes a fog clearing to reveal Calliope ‘seated in a brilliantly polished seat of gold. She is covered in jewels that I could only ever imagine owning. Brooke knew not to go there without a gift if she hoped to be shown ‘what she knew inside’ Be prepared to make real sacrifices and actually give away something of great meaning to you.
There are lots of other things that you can do to feed the muse. A basic chore is to write every day. If you were a marathon runner training to win a marathon you would not consider starting without an enormous amount of preparation, unless you wanted to kill yourself or make a complete fool of yourself. So how can you expect any self respecting Muse to help you and give you the poet’s staff if you are not prepared to write the miles. Anyone who offers a quick and easy path to coming to know yourself and help you find your authentic voice is a trickster. You cannot become a good writer without the practice and the training. You have to make writing a daily practice. To write and feed the Muse:
Prepare a special psychic place where the creative force knows it can find you and regularly inhabit that place.
Be careful not to allow over responsibility to steal your time. Put your foot down and say no to things that you know you do not have to do.
Art is not meant to be created in stolen time so set aside time for your art each day.
Read some poetry every day. Take a line and just write without thinking. This is called stream of consciousness writing.
Alter your perspective by taking a piece of broccoli from the refrigerator. Talk to it about the meaning of life.
Go for long walks in tree filled parks and just gaze up through the leaves, or walk watching what is happening at ground level.
Observe life and write about it.
Have races with yourself to see how many words you can get on to the page. Take a visual symbol from a magazine and then write for ten minutes without stopping.
Do Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’
Get a packet of Tarot cards, shuffle and lay out some cards. Meditate upon them and begin to write without thinking.
Be a bit eccentric and dress to please yourself. Wear flamboyant, ecclectic accessories.
Drape a fur coat, from a recycled clothes shop, around yourself and write sensuously and erotically
Give up ideas of glory. The Muse will rush away in terror if she suspects that you are only in it for instant fame, money or name.
from ‘The House of The Muse’ by Heather Blakey
Audience comments from another time and place when Sibyl danced.