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How to Use your Muse

Updated on January 4, 2015
The Muse Terpsichore
The Muse Terpsichore

Find your Muse for Inspiration

What inspires you? What sparks your creativity? What fuels your visionary gift and where does it come from?

The miracle of inspiration is a gift from one of the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus, the Lord of Olympus, and of Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.

These Muses preside over song, poetry, the arts and sciences.

Which one of them is your Muse?

Remind yourself of your Muse

So the Muses are the daughters of memory, and of a god. Their name, akin to the Latin mens and English mind means 'a reminder', since in the earliest times the poets, having no books to read from, relied on their memories.

Refresh your own memory, look inside yourself at your source of inspiration and find your Muse.

Who are the Muses?

The Muses dancing together
The Muses dancing together | Source

The Muses dance on Mount Helicon

The violet-eyed Muses preside over the arts and sciences and inspire all questioning minds. They delight in feasts and the pleasures of song, dance and mathematics, and from the Muses we have the gift of letters and the combination of these that we call poetry.

In ancient times they danced and sang along the slopes of Mount Helicon and plotted the geometrical pattern of the stars from the topmost peak of Olympus.

Muse of Epic Poetry

The Muse Calliope
The Muse Calliope | Source

Calliope

The Fair Voiced

Calliope, the "Fair Voiced", is the eldest and she is the Muse of Epic Poetry

You can recognise Calliope from among her sisters as she is almost always depicted with a writing tablet, or a book, in her hand. Often, she is crowned in gold.

Fortunately for Homer (and for us) she was his especial Muse and the inspiration for the Iliad and the Odyssey.

We have Calliope to thank for the story of the Fall of Troy, for the magnificent epic tale of Odysseus and for every other great story that we have ever read.

Did you call Calliope?

Calliope is always mentioned first as her inspiration is the most important for all mortals. The world needs writers!

If you are a writer, a juggler of words, if you need advertising copy or the development of a character in your latest novel, call on Calliope.

Muse of History

The Muse, Clio
The Muse, Clio

Clio

The Proclaimer

The majestic Clio, the "Proclaimer", is the Muse of History.

Her name comes from a word meaning "recount" or "make famous" and, as one who inspired history, that certainly makes sense!

Clio is the mother of that lovely ill-fated youth, Hyacinth, whose story is too tragic to be told around children.

You will often find Clio sitting with a scroll beside a chest of books. She is known as a highly intelligent Muse and is said to have introduced the Phoenician alphabet into Greece.

Detail from The Allegory of Painting by Johannes Vermeer

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Perhaps you need Clio?

Clio remembers things - and she writes them down.

If you need some assistance in your research, if you record people and events for posterity, then you need Clio when you get stuck. She will also, if you ask nicely, inspire you to sing the praises of a hero.

Muse of Lyric Poetry

The Muse, Erato
The Muse, Erato

Erato

The Lovely

Erato, the "Lovely" is the Muse of Lyric Poetry, in particular poetry dealing with love.

Her name means "Desired" and is related to the name of Eros, whom we know as the Greek God of Love.

Erato invented the musical instrument, the kithara, an ancient seven-stringed lyre, although later on it was said that Apollo made the first kithara.

We get the modern word guitar from the Greek word kithara. If you play the guitar, Erato could well be your Muse!

Sometimes she is depicted with an arrow, a reminder perhaps that Love can strike out of nowhere?

It is said that Erato decorates her kithara with roses and these beautiful blooms are still, today, a symbol of love.

Her image is a statue in marble from the 2nd century

Ask Erato for sweet words and beautiful music

Erato is the patroness of guitar players and those who pick up any stringed instrument. Call on Erato for honeyed words and easy communication when you need them, for example a job interview or any situation in which you need words that will please an audience.

Spend time every day listening to what your muse is trying to tell you ~ St. Bartholomew

Muse of Music

The Muse Euterpe with her double flute
The Muse Euterpe with her double flute

Euterpe

The Giver of Pleasure

Euterpe, the "Giver of Pleasure" is also a Muse of Music. In her case it's not a stringed instrument but her own invention, the aulos or double flute.

Euterpe is said by some to have originated in water, but this may be a confusion with her son, Rhesus, a former king of Thrace, who was killed in the Trojan War and whose father was identified as Strymon, the river god of Thrace.

This tale may explain a connection that Euterpe had, in latter days, with tragedy.

Detail, Euterpe and Urania, from Apollo and the Two Muses by Pompeo Batoni

Invoke Euterpe

Euterpe answers the call of musicians who play wind instruments.

Invoke her when you need help with deep breathing to get lots of air into your lungs and, if you're a singer, call Euterpe to sit at your side and fill you with passion for your art.

Muse of Tragedy

The Muse, Melpomene
The Muse, Melpomene

Melpomene

The Songstress

Melpomene, the "Songstress", wears the tragic mask for she is the Muse of Tragedy in spite of her joyous singing.

You often find Melpomene with a garland of cypress. In Greek mythology, the cypress is connected with the underworld, with grief and with mourning and the ancient Romans used cypress in their funerary rites.

Melpomene is the Muse for serious actors and many pictures have been made of her with the mask of tragedy held in her hand. She carries a sword and club, and the boots traditionally worn by tragic actors, the cothurnes.

Image of Melpomene by Elisabetta Sirani of Bologna

Melpomene for the Serious and Grave

Melpomene, of course, is for serious actors and those who play in the deep affairs of the world but you may need her on some very serious occasions.

You will know in your heart when it's time to call on this Muse

Muse of Sacred Poetry

The Muse Polyhymnia
The Muse Polyhymnia

Polyhymnia

The many-hymned one

Polyhymnia, "She of Many Hymns," is the Muse of Sacred Poetry and Sacred Hymn.

She brings brings distinction to writers whose works have won them immortal fame.

If you ever see a frowning Muse leaning on a pillar, that's Polyhymnia. She is a very serious and thoughtful Muse, dressed in a long cloak and veil. She has a distracted expression, often holding a finger to her mouth, and at times pulls her veil over her head.

Possibly this is because she is also the Muse of Geometry and Meditation. In any case, she has a lot to think about.

Polyhymnia in marble from the 2nd century, now in the Vatican.Museum

Meditate with Polyhymnia

Call Polyhymnia at those times when Meditation is hard to hold and when you have some deep thought to follow.

Terpsichore - Muse of Dance

The Muse Terpsichore
The Muse Terpsichore

Terpsichore, the "Whirler", is the Muse of Dance.

She is often seen dancing with a lyre, plucking the strings with her own invention, the plectrum. Terpsichore is another Muse connected with the theatre, and her influence covers that of the dramatic chorus.

Apart from her work as a Muse, Terpsichore is known as the mother of the Sirens.

The statue of Terpischore is in the Vatican.Museum

Dance with Terpischore

If you're a Dancer, an entertainer, you should call on Terpsichore when you need imagination and vision in your work. Call her for a dose of inspirational flamboyancy.

Terpsichore had many daughters

The Sweet Song of the Sirens
In bygone Greek myth the Sirens were Naiads, lovely Nymphs of the Sea, who lived on the island of Sirenum Scopuli surrounded by sheer cliffs and sharp-toothed rocks...

"The Muse gave the Greeks genius and the art of the well-turned phrase." ~ Horace

Muse of Comedy

The Muse, Thalia
The Muse, Thalia

Thalia

The Flourisher

Thalia, "The Flourishing", is the Muse of Comedy.

The ancient Greeks defined Comedy as any story that had a happy ending, not necessarily the form of comedy which we would recognise today. The audience would recognise instantly the mask of comedy as the player walked on the stage.

Thalia wore the Comic Mask in the stylised tradition, just as her sister Melpomone wore the Tragic Mask.

Thalia has a rustic air to her and, indeed, she is also the Muse of Idyllic Poetry. In this context, her name "flourishing" suits her well and we must remember that the praises in her songs flourish through time.

Thalia is sometimes seen with a crown of ivy and a shepherd's crook to remind us of her pastoral associations.

Marble head in the Vatican.Museum

Please, Thalia

When you need a happy ending or just some way that you can live with the results of a hard action, call Thalia.

Muse of Astronomy and Philosophy

The Muse Urania
The Muse Urania

Urania

The Heavenly one

Urania, the "Heavenly" is the Muse of Astronomy and these days, a lot more besides. She is the Muse for those who are most concerned with philosophy and the heavens.

If you see a Muse arrayed in stars, that will be Urania. Her cloak is embroidered with stars, and she wears a crown of stars. Urania has a habit of being seated near a globe, or she carries a globe around with her and has a staff which she can use to point to the globe. She normally keeps her eyes on the heavens for that's where her attention lies as she foretells the future by the position of the stars. Many astronomical observatories are named after Urania.

With her concentration always skywards it's not surprising that Urania came to be associated not just with the heavens, but with Heaven in the abstract. She became the Muse for Christian Poets.

Detail from The Muses Urania and Calliope by Simon Vouet

Urania for Higher Things

Urania, sadly, is not much called upon these days, but if you need to reassess the direction in your life, then invoke Urania

The most potent muse of all is our own inner child

The Pocket Muse - Keep it close for creativity!

The Pocket Muse
The Pocket Muse

Are you a writer? You need a Muse, a modern Muse

 

Modern Day Muses

Explore your creative potential with these fun and spirited Muses in strategies, resources and exercises that provide a bountiful and delicious creativity experience.

The Nine Muses: A Mythological Path to Creativity
The Nine Muses: A Mythological Path to Creativity

Apply the creative inspiration of the Muses to your life

 

Invoke your Muse!

In Ancient Greece, before poets or storytellers recited their work, they invoked the inspiration and protection of the Muses.

Everyone needs a Muse, find yours from among these nine sisters and encourage some inspiration.

I feel that my own Muse is Clio, the Proclaimer, I should invoke her more often.

When you follow a Muse, you must invoke her yourself, and she may sing at your funeral as if you were Achilles.

How about you?

Do you have a Muse?

See results

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Make a Memo for a Muse

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    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      This was so fascinating. I have, of course, heard of the Muses, but didn't really know anything about them. I am pretty sure Clio must be hanging around quite often. My genealogy research gets a little kick every now and then.

    • profile image

      Colin323 3 years ago

      Clio, as the Muse for history, must be keeping an eye on me, as history inspires much of what I write, and want to write. Interesting lens; an accessible way into this fascinating subject.

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 3 years ago

      I like the idea of a muse, but I get inspired by so many things its hard to choose one

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      My favorites are those who aMUSE me and I think they do this by not giving me time to catch up with their inspirations! Calliope is my favorite of the Greek muses.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I think Thalia would be my Muse!

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