Writing Wednesday: Which Grecian Muse is the Right One to Inspire You?

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Peristyle of the Muses' of Achilleion (in Corfu, Greece)

Peristyle of the Muses of Achilleion (in Corfu, Greece)

In the arts, we often to refer to “the muse” as this mythological source of inspiration, one that is often just out of reach. When we are able to tap into it we are able to reach great creative heights. Whether actively searching or idly waiting for inspiration to strike, the hope that the muse will speak is a common desire among artists. This fount of artistic awakening has reached such mythic heights for good reason – the word “muse” comes from classic Greek mythology in which nine female daughters of Zeus, personifications of knowledge and the arts, were known as the “muses.” Some, like Erato and Clio, remain in the public consciousness (possibly because they make such great crossword puzzle answers), but others, like Terpsichore, are oft-forgotten.

So, when you hit a roadblock in your next writing project, maybe it’s just because you’ve been looking for inspiration in the wrong place! Each muse was known for being at the height of her art form, and thought to help guide other artists in their endeavours. Get a bit more specific with the muse you’re calling upon (they’re each responsible for very specific artistic realms), and who knows, she may just offer some wisdom!

Clio

Subject: History

Instrument: Guitar (or the lyre)

Significance: Clio was known as “the proclaimer,” and her name refers to the Greek word for heroic acts (kleos). If your characters need to do something brave or you’re hoping your story will live in infamy, Clio is the muse for you.

Erato

Subject: Love Poetry

Instrument: Lyre, arrows and bows

Significance: Often partnered with the god Eros, Erato is the source of epic love stories and erotic poetry. Speak to her when searching for appropriate words to describe that indescribable feeling of falling in love.

Terpsichore

Subject: Dance

Instrument: Harp

Significance: Terpsichore, though one of the lesser-known muses, is responsible for the invention of dance. For a lighthearted tale (terpo in Greek refers to amusement), Terpsichore can help inspire music and frivolity.

Euterpe

Subject: Music and lyric poetry

Instrument: Flute (among others)

Significance: Euterpe is remembered for discovering several musical instruments and was especially fond of the flute. Referred to as the “giver of delight,” Euterpe can be called upon to add harmony and fluidity to your poetry, song lyrics or even prose.

Thalia

Subject: Comedy

Instrument: Theatrical comedy mask

Significance: Let the comedy flourish in your next piece of writing by connecting with Thalia. Of course, that doesn’t mean this muse can’t be serious – she’s also the protector of symposiums, so be prepared to be intellectually challenged even when writing a joyful or indulgent scene.

Melpomene

Subject: Tragedy

Instrument: Theatrical tragedy mask

Significance: At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from Thalia sits Melpomene. If you need help putting your characters through the right amount of hardship, call on her to create a tragically beautiful story.

Polymnia

Subject: Sacred music and poetry

Instrument: Lyre

Significance: A serious, pensive or meditative story would be best served by channeling the talents of Polymnia, the protector of the divine and eloquent.

Ourania (or Urania)

Subject: Astronomy

Instrument: Bow compass and celestial sphere

Significance: Probably not the first muse you’ll call in your writing, Ourania (or Urania) is named for the ancient Greek word for “heaven,” and she is the muse of astronomy. If you’re needing a little divine intervention or help from the stars in your writing, then she’s the muse for you.

Calliope

Subject: Heroic poems and rhetoric

Instrument: Writing tablet

Significance: The best known of the muses, Calliope has always been revered as superior. As the protector of epic poetry, she is said to have inspired Homer in writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. If you need a sense of grandeur added to your writing, ask for help from the wise and eloquent Calliope.

Peristyle of the Muses' of Achilleion (in Corfu, Greece)

Peristyle of the Muses of Achilleion (in Corfu, Greece)

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