INVOKED BY POETS, ARTISTS, and musicians, these nine goddesses presided over the arts and sciences in ancient Greece. The Muses offered their supplicants the purest form of inspiration—infusing spirit into creative works to animate them.
The Muses were often worshiped with libations of milk, honey, or wine, which were poured upon the earth. They were especially honored in Boeotia, where the oldest city in Greece originated. Parnassus, a mountain that towered over the sacred site of Delphi, was considered the birthplace of the Muses; Apollo, the god of music and other arts, was also associated with Parnassus. Poets from Roman times believed that a sacred spring ran from Parnassus, bringing the gifts of the Muses to those fortunate to drink of it.
Though their parentage is uncertain, most stories hold that the Muses were the daughters of Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, and Zeus. As such, the goddesses held a special place next to their divine father’s throne, where they often sang songs in praise of the ruling god.
Originally there was only one Muse. Over time, they grew to number nine goddesses, suggesting the expansion of their powers. Each of the nine Muses concerned herself with an area of art.
Calliope, the mother of Orpheus, was the most eloquent; she inspired epic poetry. Clio ruled over history, while Erato was usually depicted with a lyre. Other Muses included Euterpe (flute playing), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (sacred music), Terpsichore (dance), Urania (astronomy), and Thalia (comedy).
The power of the Muses still exists today, though mainly within words in our language. When we are amused, we are reminded of the charms wielded by these graceful goddesses. Our ears are soothed by transforming music which bring harmony and peace into our lives. Museums, latter-day shrines to the Muses, offer us inspiration and education
The Book of Goddesses: Expanded Anniversary Edition