A man becomes a God. Orpheus, an individual of history and the namesake of the Orphic Mysteries, was so impactful on greek culture that he was elevated into the realm of myth and took place in their stories. It was said that he was the bringer of music, and that when he played his seven stringed lyre even the Gods were swayed by his incredible talent.
“There is scarcely a vestige of his life to be found amongst the immense ruins of time.” Writes Thomas Taylor.
Like Pythagoras, he remains somewhat of enigma of the period. Both had an immense impact on the Greeks, and yet there is not much to substantiate their existence. Outside of the teachings that have been attributed to them.
Orpheus is thought to be the founder of theology among the Greeks, and their original prophet. It is believed by some that he was the first of the Greeks to be initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries. Then initiated into the truth of the sacred rites and mysteries, passed them on to his own people through the Orphic Mysteries, leading to the upbringing into truth of the likes of Homer, Pythagoras, and Plato.
The Orphic Mysteries
Orpheus founded the Greek mythological system to propagate his message. To those worthy of understanding, and able to comprehend the knowledge, they were initiated into the truth and meaning of these material symbols. And to those not yet able, were shared the stories alone, continuing to pass on the secrets of the mysteries within their parables, so that they might withstand history for others to once again unlock the under the surface after the civilization came and went.
The Tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is his elevation among the tales of the gods. It tells a tragic tale that potentially contains the deepest meaning of the Orphic Mysteries.
It begins when Eurydice, Orpheus’s love, is bitten on by a snake on her heel, and, succumbing to the poison, dies and descends into the underworld.
Orpheus himself descends into the underworld after her, seeking to return her to life. He charms Pluto (Hades) with the beauty of his music and he agrees to allow Eurydice to return to life with Orpheus, if he can lead her back without turning to make sure that she is following him. However, his fear that she had strayed from him led him to turn his head to be certain, and in that moment he sees Eurydice, “who with a heartbroken cry was swept back into the land of death.”
After losing his love, Orpheus wandered the earth. Of the many conflicting accounts of his death, the most accepted was that he was torn to pieces by Ciconian women for refusing their advances. Then his head and his Lyre were thrown in to the river Hebrus. While drifting down the river out to sea, his head became stuck between the rocks and it gave oracles to those seeking wisdom for many years after. His lyre was taken by the gods and fashioned into a constellation.
Plato stated that “because of his sad fate at the hands of women, the soul that had once been Orpheus, upon being destined to live again in the physical world, chose to return as a swan that be born of a woman.”
The Mystical Meaning
Having become an immortal in the eyes of the greeks for the wisdom he most likely bestowed, they declared him son of Apollo, the sun god of divine and perfect truth, and Calliope, the muse of harmony and rhythm. Therefore, as Manly P. Hall states in his Magnum Opus, The Secret Teachings Of All Ages:
“In Other words, Orpheus is the secret doctrine (Apollo) revealed through music (Calliope). Eurydice is humanity dead from the sting of a serpent of false knowledge and imprisoned in the underworld of ignorance. In this allegory Orpheus signifies theology, which wins her from the king of the dead but fails to accomplish her resurrection because is falsely estimates and mistrusts the innate understanding with the human soul.”
It is reminding us to listen to the all-knowing wisdom that we can tap into, and to not doubt its truth. Answers can come swiftly in a heightened state of consciousness and we must take heed to pay attention. Those answers are ever present and always reachable, it is ourselves that act as filter blocking out their music. Therefore, all we have to do is listen closely and pay attention; to be aware is the answer.
The women who tear Orpheus limb forelimb are the many contending religious doctrines that destroy the body of truth. His head symbolizes his doctrine that withstands his own lifetime, and continues on among his followers. Obviously, seven appears much in divine literature, and like the seven seals of revelation (which is derived from its earliest discovered text wherein it is referred to as Apokalipsis, the etymological origin of apocalypse, meaning to reveal, or to uncover) they are the seven divine truths and keys of universal knowledge.
The swan is the symbol of the initiates of the orphic mysteries, and is a symbol of purity and divine, incorruptible truth.