The Muses (Mousai) were the goddesses of inspiration in Greek Mythology. The were known to inspire music, song, dance, and poetry. They were also considered goddesses of knowledge, who remembered all things that had come to pass. The Muses were the very best at whatever they represented, a fact frequently proven when a foolish mortal tried to challenge them.
Most people know of nine Muses, but that wasn’t always the case. According to theoi.com, “They were originally regarded as the nymphs of inspiring wells, near which they were worshipped, and bore different names in different places, until the Thraco-Boeotian worship of the nine Muses spread from Boeotia over other parts of Greece, and ultimately became generally established.”
Three or four ancient Titan-goddesses of music who formed the first generation of Muses in some versions of the myths.
Melete (Practice, ponder)- the Muse of thought and mediation.
Aiode (Song)- the Muse of voice and song
Mneme- the Muse of Memory
Thelxinoe- the Muse of the Heart’s Delight
Arche (origin)- the Muse of Beginings
and Mnemosyne– The daughter of Uranus and the goddess of memory and remembrance and the inventress of language and words. She was also a minor goddess of time. She represented the memorization required to preserve the stories of history and the sagas of myth. She was also one of the oracle goddesses like Dione, Themis, and Phoibe. She also presided over a pool in the Underworld that acted as a counterpart to the Lethe.
Mnemosyne is credited as being the mother of the Muses most of the time. The story goes that she slept with Zeus for nine consecutive nights to conceive them.
The Nine Muses
The Nine Muses, made famous by Hesiod were considered daughters of Zeus and the Titaness Mnemosyne most of the time. But sometimes they are considered daughters of Uranus and Gaea, or in rare cases, minor nymphs. They are frequently associated with Apollo. They either lived on Mount Helicon, Mount Parnassos, or near Mount Olympus.
Calliope (Kalliope) was the leader of the nine Muses, and she was the goddess of epic poetry, so that means she was most frequently the goddess invoked at the beginning of Epics. She also bestowed the gift of eloquence upon kings and princes. She’s Orpheus’s mother, so she’s already been featured in a Mythology Monday.
Clio (Kleio- To Make Famous) was the Muse of historical writings and lyre playing. She is sometimes referred to as “The Proclaimer.” Clio was the mother of Hyacinth and in some versions of mythology Hymenaios. and Linus,
Erato (Lovely or Beloved) was the Muse of love poems and mimicry. She charms the sight (as in love at first) and is often accompanied by Eros.
Euterpe (giver of much delight) was the Muse of music or lyric poetry.
Melpomene (to celebrate with dance and song, to sing, melodious) was originally the Muse of chorus, but she later became the Muse of tragic plays. In some myths she is the mother of Sirens.
Polyhymnia (many praise) was the Muse of religious hymns and sometimes sacred poetry, dance, eloquence, agriculture, geometry, meditation, and pantomime. She was also known as Polymnia and is the namesake of one of my favorite Madeline L. Engle characters.
Terpsichore (delighting in dance) was the Muse of choral dance and song.
Thalia (the joyous, the flourishing), not to be confused the Grace by the same name, was the Muse of comedy drama and idyllic poetry. Sometimes she and Apollo are credited as the parents of the Korybantes, the armed and crested dancers who worshipped the goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing.
Urania (Ourania) was the Muse of astronomy and astronomical writings. In some versions of the myths, she can read the future in the stars. Sometimes she is the mother of Linus or Hymenaios. She is associated with universal love. She is sometimes identified as the oldest of the Muses and was said to have inherited Zeus’ majesty and power and the beauty and grace of her mother Mnemosyne. During the Renaissance, Urania began to be considered the Muse for Christian poets and is invoked in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The Appolonides were three daughters of Apollo who were sometimes considered to be a younger generation of Muses. They were worshipped at a shrine in Delphi. They also came in sets of three).
Cephiso (named after the river near a shrine in Delphi), Apollonis, and Borysthenis
Nētē, Mesē, and Hypatē- Named after the strings on a lyre.
Some other mentions of Muses include: Neilo, Tritone, Asopo, Heptapora, Achelois, Tipoplo, and Rhodia, but other than being listed among the Muses, not a lot else is said about them.