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These they call Giants by name among the Blessed Gods, for that they were born from Earth (Ge) and from the blood of Heaven (Ouranos).  [1] 


The primordial situation of the Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος) is not able to be defined, as the Neo-Platonic philosopher Damáskios (Damascius; Gr. Δαμάσκιος) states, it is ineffable [2] or what Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) called Unutterable, concerning which it would seem that Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος), Orphéfs, the Chaldean Oracles, Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων), and Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης) are all in agreement. [3] This Unutterable Principle is the Universe. In Greek the Unutterable Principle is called Árritos Arkhí (ρρητος ρχή), árritos meaning "that which cannot be expressed" + arkhí, "beginning." Another interpretation of the Árritos Arkhí is that it is forbidden to speak of it, as the word árritos can also mean "not to be divulged."


The force of Anángki (Anangke; Gr. Ἀνάγκη), Necessity, pushed a portion of the primordial mixture into the division of its constituent parts, resulting in the birth of a new condition. The creative force of Anángki is the greatest force in the universe. The primordial Anángki is not dependent on Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως), Attraction. Anángki causes the potential of the Unutterable Principle to be expressed. This is true not just once in remote history but at every evolutionary step and is continuous (ἀειγενεσία, perpetual generation). The constituent parts of the primordial mixture which are pushed into division are called ousía (Gr. οὐσία), matter, material, or substance. This material is of two kinds.


Orphic or Mystic Materialism is the view that the Kózmos consists of material substances. This material is primordial and does not arise out of "nothing," as is said in the Dærvǽni (Derveni; Gr. Δερβένι) Papyrus:

"...beings that are now come to be from the already subsistent..." and "...the beings that are now come to be from (or: out of) subsisting things." [4]

Thus, the view of Orphéfs is (in Latin, as is famously expressed in Western philosophy) creatio ex materia ("creation from [pre-existent] matter"), not as the monotheistic religions believe, creatio ex nihilo ("creation from nothing"). "Creation," from this perspective, is not so much a creating but more of a revealing of what already exists. If something exists, it must consist of something, and that something is called material or substance. The monotheistic theologians talk of the spiritual versus the material, and they say that the soul, for instance, is spiritual. But if the soul exists, or anything, really, it must consist of something; if the soul consists of "spiritual" substance, it is still some kind of substance, some kind of material. This is why we avoid the term spiritual and generally equate it with superstition. There is a similar dualism in Platonism, separating mind and matter, which is discussed more thoroughly below.

The view of Orphéfs is a materialistic view, but not in the sense we are accustomed to; this materialism is not somehow "lower" than some unknown something else. Since there is nothing which is immaterial, there is nothing separating us from the divine. And because of this understanding, we are not afraid of the natural world, as if it is somehow "sinful;" quite the contrary, the natural world is sacred. The materialism of Orphéfs is not hedonism. Ordinarily, materialism is thought of as unbridled indulgence in sensual pleasure, the accumulation of "things," and the subordination of everything to one's own comfort and security. Aligning one's life with the world as it truly exists, the Kozmic materialism unveiled by Orphéfs does not support hedonistic pursuits. The profane world of hedonism is the result of a life lived out of harmony with the natural world. 

Now, what 'material' is Orphéfs talking about?


Of the material from which the Universe consists, there are two primordial kozmogonic substances, what Orphéfs calls Earth (Yi or Ge; Gr. Γῆ) and Water (Ýdohr or Hydor; Gr.Ὕδωρ). In various kozmogonies we find more substances: Earth, Water, Fire, and Aithír (Aether or Ether; Gr. Αἰθήρ), the classical elements, but the teaching of Orphéfs is that Water = Fire = Aithír. It is not so much that Water equals Fire equals Aithír, but, as Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) in Tímaios (56d-57a) describes in the section following triangles, these three elements have a quality in common and they can become one another, whereas Earth always remains Earth. So from this perspective there are two: Earth and Water-Fire-Aithír. The concept that the Kózmos consists of two primordial substances, Earth and Water, is called Mystic Dualism.

There is no emptiness: the Water-Fire-Aithír fills all the space. There is no immaterial God. For this reason, we avoid the use of the term "spiritual" (incorporeal or immaterial) in Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός): all the Kózmos is material substance.

Earth is receptive and called "female." Water is active and formative and is called "male." Earth is receptive to the active and formative nature of Water.

Earth is able to be divided and is called in Greek the Mæristí (divisible or particulate) Substance (Meristi Ousia; Gr. Μεριστή Οὐσία). Water is not able to be divided and is called in Greek the Synækhís (continuous) Substance (Synehis Ousia; Συνεχής Οὐσία). [5] Earth represents the infinite number of undivided material atoms, which Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας) calls Apeirohn ("endless, formless;" Gr. Ἀπείρων) and the Indefinite Dyás or Dyad (Gr. Δυάς). Out of the Primordial Mixture, Earth was substantiated first, hence, Pythagoras calls Her Tólma (Gr. Τόλμᾰ), "daring." Because of its formative nature, Pythagóras gives Water the name Prohtéfs (Proteus; Gr. Πρωτεύς), as the God Prohtéfs is mutable and capable of assuming many forms. [6]


When the two Kozmogonic substances attain harmony, they merge together: the Aithír enters the Particulate Substance, the Mæristí Substance: Earth. This unification forms the most elemental cell, what Orphéfs calls an Egg, from which the entire Universe emerged, as described in the Orphic Rhapsodies:

"(All things were in confusion) Throughout the misty darkness.  Then great Chronos fashioned in the divine Aither a silvery Egg. And it moved without slackening in a vast circle.  And it began to move in a wondrous circle. And at the birth of Phanes the misty gulf below and the windless Aither were rent.  First-born, Phaethon, son of lofty (beauteous) Aither." [7]

This evolving Egg is called the Soul (Psykhí; Gr. Ψυχή). [8]  The Kózmos itself is a Soul. Likewise, all creatures have souls and are the result of the union of the two Kozmogonic substances. 

For additional information on this topic, please visit this page: The Soul and the Orphic Egg.


According to the mythology, Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) is the king of Gods and the father of Gods and men. Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα) is said to be his sister and wife. The meaning of this mythology is that Zefs is the manifestation of the active kozmogonic substance, Water-Fire-Aithír. Íra is the manifestation of the receptive kozmogonic substance: Earth. These kozmogonic substances are primal, from the beginning, and exist together; therefore, poetically, they are siblings, i.e. brother and sister. Without the interaction of Earth and Water, Zefs and Íra  there is no "creation;" therefore, they are, poetically, married.

All the Gods as well as everything expressed in the Kózmos are the manifestation of the interaction of the two kozmogonic substances. Therefore: we are of the substance of Gods. And it is because of this, that we do not prostrate in Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), neither to any man nor even when we pray or enter temples or sanctuaries, to respect the very dignity of our true nature. And, further, because we are of the identical material as the Gods, all sentient beings are basically good, because they share in the same goodness which is the nature of the Gods. This is true of all beings and, indeed, of all the Kózmos. The soteriology (theory of salvation) of Orphismós is to become aware of one's own genuine nature and become completely in harmony with it. This is achieved by means of great personal effort and with the help of Diónysos and the pairs of Olympian Gods.

"The race of men and of the Gods is one.
For from one mother have we both
The life we breathe.
And yet the whole discrete endowment
Of power sets us apart;
For man is naught, but the bronze vault of heaven
Remains for ever a throne immutable.
Nevertheless some likeness still
May we with the immortals claim, whether
Of mind's nobility or body's grace,
Though knowing not to what goal
Has destiny, by day or through the right,
Marked out for us to run." [9]


If the reader considers the ideas presented above, it should be evident that the teachings of Orphéfs do not simply present a fantastic story of the origin of the universe, a simplistic explanation designed to satisfy children's curiosity, but rather, these teachings have a logic connected with the phenomenal world, and, if the reader is familiar with Hellenic philosophía (philosophy; Gr. φιλοσοφία), one can see that the Orphic ideas are at its root, particularly in Plátohn and those who follow after him. These principles are the underlying foundation of our understanding of the world; it is not so much that one must accept them as some kind of creed, but the critical point to realize is that Orphismós (Orphism; Gr. Ορφισμός) offers a natural way of viewing the Kózmos, based on Natural Laws and substances. Ællinismόs stands in sharp contrast to the monotheistic religions which place deity in an entirely separate realm, a spiritual or supernatural realm which must be accepted on faith, but rather we are inclined to a materialist philosophy that attempts to divorce itself from superstition, superstition being the belief in things which defy the laws of nature. In our religion, the Gods partake of the same laws by which we are governed, to such an extent that our very substance is identical to that of the Gods: we are of the substance of Gods and they are intimately available to us; both we and they are part of the natural world. We are enveloped by deity, for the Kózmos is divine.


The Platonic philosophers very much relate to concepts found in ancient Orphic texts which they frequently quote in their writings; indeed, they generally view themselves as within that lineage (as indeed they are) 
and espouse principles which are fundamental to Orphismós. In Neoplatonism, the concept of Æn (Hen or One; Gr. Ἕν or Τὸ Ἕν, neuter form of εἷς, meaning singular or one), the One, is such a central principle that it seemed necessary to find its place in the Orphic teaching, and as such, it has been equated with the Árritos Arkhí being that the Árritos Arkhí is primary and exists before the two kozmogonic material substances are substantiated (if it makes sense to think of it as linear); but there may be problems with this identification, some of which are discussed on this page: Monotheism in Ællinismόs

The Platonists imply that Mind or Nous (Gr. Νοῦς), the first and most perfect emanation of Æn, is immaterial. The implication is that Æn itself, the absolute primal Idea, is immaterial, although by definition, it's nature cannot be expressed. If Mind is immaterial, what is it? What does it consist of? Even thoughts must consist of something. Mind and thoughts are difficult concepts to grasp because we cannot see them; it is almost as though they are some kind of phantoms; we know they exist, yet they have an aithirial quality. Like air, we do not see them, but like air, they also consist of something, and that something we call materialalthough it may seem foreign to think in this way. Our perspective is very much colored by two millennia of Platonic influence; I would propose that we think more Platonically than we are aware of. 

This being said a statement can be made: if something does not consist of something, it cannot exist. Certainly such logic must have occurred to Plátohn and other Platonic philosophers, but the idea of a gulf between mind and matter was certainly implied in the dialogues (see the quotation below for one example); it has considerable implications as to how we view the phenomenal world and it is a huge contributing factor in the condemnation of the "flesh" by the Christian church. Many of the early church fathers were enamoured of the Platonic ideas and incorporated them into their theology. The Christian terminology simply substitutes "spiritual" for Nous or Mind or Ideas, making a separation between the spiritual and the material. The Neoplatonic philosophers were ascetic, and this asceticism found its way into Christianity and some of this characteristic persists to this day, particularly with issues regarding sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, for, while modern readers pick up on the acceptance in the ancient world of eroticism between males found in Platonic dialogues such as Sympósion (Symposium; Gr. Συμπόσιον), the Christian writers took more notice of passages in Plátohn in which he condemned homosexuality (Νόμοι [Laws] 1.636a-d and again in Πολιτεία [Republic] 3.403a-c). In truth, Plátohn's views concerning homosexuality were complicated, but the later Neoplatonic asceticism was a natural extension of the idea of a gulf between idea and matter, and the implications of such a separation have ramifications in significant areas beyond sexuality. Unfortunately, when these ideas are incorporated into legal and religious systems, there are enormous consequences. The pre-Platonic Orphism, while acknowledging the reality of the profane (as more dense or gross), does not make the separation between nature and the divine at all, for Nature is sacred, an idea which is typical of ancient polytheism in general.

We are making generalizations concerning the views of Platonists, Neoplatonists, and other Platonists, but it must be understood that there are many variations of thought in these schools, including an understanding of a material nature to the universe. Nonetheless, these generalizations hold for most who belong to the various schools in the tradition of Plátohn.


Earth and Water

Damáskios (Gr. Δαμάσκιος), describing the kozmogony according to Ieróhnymos Ródios (Hieronymus of Rhodes; Gr. Ιερώνυμος Ῥόδιος) or Ællánikos (Hellanicus; Gr. Ἑλλάνικος)

"Originally there was water, he (Orpheus) says, and mud, from which the earth solidified: he posits these two as first principles, water and earth...The one before the two, however, he leaves unexpressed, his very silence being an intimation of its ineffable nature." [10]

In another translation of the Damáskios

"The theology according to Hieronymus (ed. Ieróhnymos Ródios) or Hellanicus (ed. Ællánikos), even if the latter is not the same personage, is as follows. In the beginning, he says, there were water and matter, from which earth was coagulated, and these he establishes as the first two principles, water and earth, the latter as capable of dispersion, and the former as providing coherence and connection for earth. He omits the single principle (before the two) [on the grounds that it is] ineffable, since the fact that [Hieronymus] does not even mention it, shows its ineffable nature. But as for the third principle after the two, it arose from these, I mean from water and earth, ..."   [11]  

He then goes on to describe the whole of creation, all arising from Earth and Water.

From the writings of Thomas Taylor: 

"According to Orpheus, as related by Proclus, in Tim. p. 292.  Earth is the mother of every thing, of which Heaven (ed. literally Ouranos, Sky, being the poetic word to express Aithíris the father." [12] 

Please also visit these two pages:

The two substances delineated by divisibility and the creation of the soul

Plátohn (Plato) in Timaios (Timaeus; Gr. Τίμαιοςspeaks of the two substances being combined to create the soul: 

"And now I shall explain how he made soul and what materials he used. He combined the two kinds of substance--the one indivisible and never changing, and the other the divided, and created substance of the physical world--into an intermediate, third kind of substance, and then again, in the case of both identity and difference, he likewise formed intermediates between, in each case, that aspect of them which is undivided and that aspect of them which is divided in the physical realm." [13]

Damáskios, in his commentary on Phaidohn (Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων), states: 

"Creation being twofold, either indivisible or divided, the latter, according to the commentator, is ruled by Dionysus, and therefore divided." [14]

We are born of the two substances

From the Golden Tablet 29 (Thessaly) a phrase oft-repeated in many of the golden tablets:

"I (masculine) am parched with thirst and am dying; but grant me to drink
from the ever-flowing spring. On the right is a white cypress.
'Who are you? Where are you from? ' I am a son of Earth and starry Sky.
But my race is heavenly."  [15]

Using the word Sky or in Greek, Ouranós (Uranus; Gr. Οὐρανός), is a poetic way of saying Aithír.

The Gods are born of the two substances

From the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony:

"These they call Giants by name among the Blessed Gods, for that they were born from Earth (Γῆ) and from the blood of Heaven (Οὐρανός)." [16]

In this quotation, this Orphic fragment, the author is not speaking of the "Giants" as in the Theogonía of Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος); if this was his intention, he would not likely refer to them as among the "Blessed Gods;" rather, he is speaking of the Titans, the Olympians, and all the great Gods, describing them as mighty ones, hence giants. While he could be simply saying that all the great Gods have as their oldest ancestors Yaia and Ouranós (hence, "blood of Heaven"), it could be argued that Orphéfs is using the word sky or in Greek, ouranós (Gr. οὐρανός), as a poetic way of saying aithír, a common practice in the ancient Greek tongue. If this is the case, then he is saying that all the Blessed Gods have Earth and Water as their source. But since Yaia is the progression of Earth and since 
Ouranós is the progression of Water, either meaning is identical with the other.

Water, Fire, and Aithir can transform into one another, but Earth cannot pass into another form

Plátohn (Plato) in Tímaios (Timaeus; Gr. Τίμαιος):

"Earth will keep moving when it happens to meet with fire and has been dissolved by its acuteness, whether this dissolution takes place in pure fire or in a mass of air or of water; and this motion will continue until the particles of earth happen to meet together somewhere and reunite one with another, when they become earth again; for assuredly earth will never change into another form.  But water, when broken up by fire or even by air, is capable of becoming a compound of one corpuscle of fire with two of air; and the fractions of air which come from the dissolving of one particle will form tow corpuscles of fire..."  [17]

Materialism and the Incorporeal in Plátohn

It would seem that Plátohn diverges from Orphismós at various points, in particular in his discussion of the forms, which he seems to separate from the material world. We find this discussed in Sophistís (Sophist; Gr. Σοφιστής) in his inquiry into the nature of being and non-being:

Stranger: There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.

Thæaititos (Theaetetus; Gr. Θεαίτητος): How is that?

Stranger: Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and oaks; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if any one else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

Thæaititos: I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

Stranger: And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters. [18]

Admittedly taking this somewhat out of context, this brief exchange could be seen as a conflict between the two fundamental substances, Earth and Sky, with the inference that there is a preference for Sky; but the perspective of Orphismós is that there is no preference, and if wisdom is to be obtained, there would needs be a proper balance between the two, or an acknowledgment that there exists, by nature, a proper balance that we could be in harmony with.

Regarding those things which are "unseen," such as the ideas, the forms...the perspective of Orphismós is rather simple: for a thing to exist, it must consist of something. That 'something' we call substance or, in Greek, ousía (Gr. οὐσίἁ). Said another way, that which does not consist of anything cannot exist; you can only speak of an idea as a concept and a concept consists of something. So this is not the same as the Sophistic riddles of language spoken of in the dialogue. Nonetheless, Plátohn seems to grapple with the world of the senses and that of ideas, but it could be said that ideas are things which are perceived by the sense organ we call the mind, and, therefore, concluding that ideas are material, a material that is more ethereal, thus, it has also been proposed that ideas consist of Aithír.

Abbreviations can be found at the bottom of this page: Glossary Home)

Ækpýrohsis - (Ecpyrosis; Gr. Ἐκπύρωσις, ΕΚΠΥΡΩΣΙΣ) Ækpýrohsis is conversion into fire, conflagrationIráklitos (Heraclitus; Gr. Ἡράκλειτος) believed in the periodic destruction by fire of the Kózmos, only to rise again; that all things in existence are born from and dissolve into fire. (Dioyǽnis Laǽrtios [Diogenes Laertius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος] Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book IX Iráklitos, Chapter VI, trans. C. D. Yonge in 1853, Henry G. Bohn Publ. p. 378) The early Stoics held a similar belief. Cf. Diakósmisis.

Aithír - (Æther, Aether, Aither, or Ether; Gr. Αἰθήρ, ΑΙΘΗΡ) In the mythology, Aithír is the pure air breathed by the Gods. In Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος), Aithír is the son of Ǽrævos (Erebos = Darkness; Gr, Ἔρεβος) and Nyx (Gr. Νύξ). (Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) Thæogonía [Theogony; Gr. Θεογονία] 124.) 

Aristotǽlis (Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης) calls aithír the "fifth element" (quinta essentia), earth, water, air, fire, and aithírSo there are various ways of understanding Aithír.

In the Orphic theogony of the Orphéohs Argonaftiká (Argonautica of Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά), Aithír is the child of Khrónos (Chronus or Time; Gr. Χρόνος) and Anángki (Anangke or Necessity; Gr. Ἀνάγκη)

"To mortal men, and to the initiants (of) the great mysteries;
First the implacable necessity of age old Chaos I disclosed"

(Ὀρφέως Ἀργοναυτικά 12-14, trans. by S. P. Petrides in Orphica Vol. Two: Orpheus' Argonautica, 2005, [published by the author?] Athens, Greece, where this quotation may be found on p. 41.)

Aithír-Water-Fire is one of the two basic material kosmogonic substances, in Orphic literature referred to as simply Water. These three are indeed different, but they have the continuous (Synækhís; Gr. Συνεχής) quality in common and other things. The Aithír is inseparable or continuous: it is the Divine Energy, above all the Gods: Aithír is Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς). To create souls, the Aithír enters into the Mæristi (divisible) Substance (Earth). The Aithír is spinning, filling all the space, and by spinning it draws the particles of Earth into its center and unites with them, creating Form. 

Anángki - (Anangke; Gr. Ἀνάγκη) Anángki is the force of Necessity or NeedAnángki is defined as the excess of inertia.
- Lexicon entry: ἀνάγκη, Ion. and Ep. ἀναγκαίη, ἡ, forceconstraintnecessity2. necessity in the philosophical sense; logical necessity: in pl., laws of natureb. natural needd. ἀνάγκη δαιμόνων, αἱ ἐκ θεῶν ἀνάγκαιfatedestiny: freq. personified in Poets. 3. compulsion exerted by a superior. b. violencepunishment, esp. of torture, mostly pl.. c. duressstress of circumstances. d. treatment by mechanical force, τῶν ἀναγκῶν τινὰ προσφέρειν. 4. bodily painanguishII. tie of bloodkindredIII. = ἡ δικαστικὴ κλεψύδρα. (L&S p. 101, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Arkhí - Lexicon Entry (edited for simplicity): ρχή, (v. ρχωbeginning, origin2. first principle, element3end, corner, of a bandage, rope, sheet, etc4. Math., origin of a curve. 5branch of a river. 6sum, total7. vital organs of the body. II. first place or power2. empire, realm3. magistracy, office4. in pl., α ρχαί the authorities, the magistrates5command, i.e6.  pl., heavenly powers. (L&S p. 252, left column)

Árritos - Lexicon Entry (edited for simplicity): ρρητος, ον, also η, ον E.Hec.201:— unspoken. II. that cannot be spoken or expressed, διανόητον κα . κα φθεγκτον κα λογον Pl.Sph.238c: hence, unspeakable immenseIII. not to be spoken: hence, 1. not to be divulged2. unutterable, horrible3. shameful to be spokenIV. of numbers. (L&S p. 247, left column)

Árritos Arkhí (ρρητος ρχή, árritos meaning "that which cannot be expressed" + arkhí, "beginning.") The Árritos Arkhí is the Unutterable Principle, the beginning which cannot be expressed.

Diakózmisis - (Diacosmesis; Gr. Διακόσμησις, ΔΙΑΚΟΣΜΗΣΙΣ. Noun.) Diakózmisis is the orderly arrangement of the universe, especially in the Pythagorean system. (L&S p. 398, right column, amongst the entries beginning with διακοσμέω) Diakózmisis is a description of creation, the natural process by which the Kózmos unfolds and generates itself in an orderly fashion. Cf. Ækpýrohsis.

Earth - (Yi or Ge; Gr. Γή, ΓΗ) Earth is a Goddess, characterized as female, receptive, and represented by Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα).

Earth is one of the two
basic material kozmogonic substances. Earth is the Mæristí Ousía, the divisible substance. The other kosmogonic substance is Ýdohr (Water-Fire-Aithír). Earth is receptive female. Ýdohr is active, formative male. Earth is divisible. Ýdohr is continuous (Synækhís Ousía). Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) calls these two substances the One (Monad) and the Other. See Ýdohr.

Ecpyrosis - See Ækpýrohsis.

Mæristí Ousía - (Meristi Ousia; Gr. Μεριστή Οὐσία. Ety. from mærís [Gr. μερίς], "part, portion." L&S p. 1104, left column.) The Mæristí Ousía is the divisible kozmogonic substance: Earth or Yi.

There is a story from mythology that Ǽrmis (Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς) brought the infant Iraklís (Herakles; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς) to suckle the breast of the sleeping Íra but she awoke and pulled away her breast, spraying milk throughout the universe creating the galaxy of the Milky Way. (Hyginus' Astronomica II.43.) Gála (Gr. γάλα) means "milk" (L&S p. 335, right column.)Galaxías (Gr. Γαλαξίας) means "the Milky Way." (L&S p. 336, left column.) The Mæristí Ousía in the Kózmos is symbolized by the milk of Íra.

Ousía - (Gr. οὐσίἁ, ΟΥΣΙΑOusía is the ancient Greek word for substance, matter, material.
Lexicon entry for ousíaοὐσία, II. stable beingimmutable reality. 2. substanceessence. 3. true nature of that which is a member of a kind. 4. the possession of such a nature, substantiality. 5. in the concrete, the primary real, the substratum underlying all change and process in nature. Etc. (L&S p. 1274, right column, edited for simplicity.)
- Cf. ýli (ule; Gr. ὕλη), a word which can mean "matter" or "material." You can compare eidos (Gr. εἶδος), form, to ýli, matter. Eidos or idǽa (idea; Gr. ἰδέα) are two words which are translated as "form" when discussing the Platonic forms (so in this case, they are equivalents of each other, i.e., these two word have here the exact same meaning) and it is in this context that you can compare form to matter. This is important because if form is not a type of matter, then we have a conception of the universe which separates material from the shapes which material takes, shapes which are mental constructs, but which the Platonists say are not matter; therefore, the forms or ideas are immaterial. But according to Orphism (or, in this case, the pre-Platonic Orphism), everything consists of matter. It seems counter-intuitive to think that form or idea could be material, but if form is not material, what is it?

Synækhís Ousía - (Syneches Ousia; Gr. Συνεχής Οὐσία) The Synækhís Ousía is the continuous kozmogonic substance: Water-Fire-Aithír.

Lexicon entry for synækhís: συνεχής, holding together : I. of Space, continuous. II. of Time, continuous, unintermitting. III. of persons, constant, persevering. (L&S p. 1714, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Water-Fire-Aithír are all Synækhís Ousía, continuous substance (in contrast to Earth, the Mæristí Ousía or divisible substance). In Orphic literature, Water-Fire-Aithír are usually simply called Water (Ýdohr; Gr. Ὕδωρ). See Ýdohr.

Ýdohr - (Hydor; Gr. Ὕδωρ, ΥΔΩΡÝdohr is WaterWater is a God, characterized as male, formative, represented by Zefs (Zeus; Gr.Ζεύς). 

Ýdohr is one of the two basic material kosmogonic substances. Ýdohr is the Synækhís Ousía, the continuous substance. The other kozmogonic substance is Earth. Ýdohr is active; Earth is receptive. Ýdohr is continuous; Earth is divisible. Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) calls these two substances the One (Monad) and the Other. In Orphic literature, the word Water usually represents all three types of Synækhís SubstanceWater-Fire-Aithír. See Earth. See Water-Fire-Aithír.


"We have all one mother---the Earth."  

Victor Hugo Les Misérables (This said in response to the death of Fantine, Fantine Book Eighth, near the conclusion of Chapter V, trans. by Charles E. Wilbour,1862; Everyman's Library edition, Alfred A. Knopf, where this quotation may be found on p. 301.)


A list of abbreviations can be found on this page: Glossary Home.

[1] Orphic Fragment 63 from the Hieros LogosThe Orphic Rhapsodies, as found in Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1952 but in the 1993 edition, Princeton Univ. Press, p. 137.

[2] Damáskios, presenting the view of Hieronymus, Princ. 123c bis {i. 317-19 R.}; = Orphic fragment 54. 

[3] "That Orpheus greatly availed himself of the licence of fables, and manifests every thing prior to Heaven by names, as far as to the first cause.  He also denominates the ineffable, who transcends the intelligible unities, Time; whether because Time pre-subsists as the cause of all generation, or because, as  delivering the generation of true beings, he thus denominates the ineffable, that he may indicate the order of true beings, and the transcendency of the more total to the more partial; that a subsistence according to Time may be the same with a subsistence according to cause; in the same manner as generation with an arranged progression.  But Hesiod venerates many of the divine natures in silence, and does not in short name the first.  For that what is posterior to the first proceeds from something else, is evident from the verse,

'Chaos of all things was the first produced.'

For it is perfectly impossible that it could be produced without a cause; but he does not say what that is which gave subsistence to Chaos.  He is silent indeed with respect to both the fathers of intelligibles, the exempt, and the co-ordinate; for they are perfectly ineffable.  And with respect to the two co-ordinations, the natures which are co-ordinate with the one, he passes by in silence, but those alone which are co-ordinate with the indefinite duad, he unfolds through genealogy.  And of this account Plato now thinks Hesiod deserves to be mentioned, for passing by the natures prior to Heaven, as being ineffable.  For this also is indicated concerning them by the (ed. Chaldean) Oracles, which likewise add "they possess mystic silence," σιγ' εχε μυστα (ed. siyækhæ mistah).  And Socrates himself in the Phædrus, calls the intellectual perception of them μυησις (ed. miïsis) and εποπτεια (ed. æpōpteia), in which nearly the whole business is ineffable and unknown." 

(Extract from the Manuscript Scolia of Proklos On the Kratýlos of Platohn, found in The Theology of Plato/Proclus, trans. Thomas Taylor, Prometheus Trust, Vol. VIII of The Thomas Taylor Series, pp. 679-680.)

Editor: Kháos (Gr. Χάος) is not "nothing" as some readers think. Isíodos (Hesiod; Gr. Ἡσίοδος) says that Kháos was produced first. He does not say that Kháos existed before everything. The ancient Greek kháos is not the same as the modern English word chaos, but is more of a great chasm or, more likely in this case, unformed matter. Liddel & Scott's definitions are as follows: 

χάος [ᾰ], εος, Att. ους, τό, chaos, the first state of the universe, πρώτιστα χ. γένετ', αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα Γαῖ' εὐρύστερνος κτλ. Hes.Th.116, cf. Ibyc.28, Epich.170.3, Acus.Fr.5J., Arist.Metaph.1091b6, Ar.Av. 693 (anap.); χάους . . παῖς καλεῦμαι Simm.Alae 7; represented sts. as infinite space, S.E.P.3.121, cf. Plot.6.8.11; sts. as unformed matter, Luc.Am. 32 (esp., acc. to the Stoics, water, Zeno Stoic.1.29 (with deriv. fr. χέω). 2. space, the expanse of air, ἄτρυτον χ. B.5.27, cf. Ar.Nu.424 (anap.), 627, Av.1218. b τὸ χ. τοῦ ἐφ' ἑκάτερα ἀπείρου αἰῶνος, of infinite time, M.Ant.4.3. 3. the nether abyss, infinite darkness, joined with Ἔρεβος, Pl.Ax.371e; with ὄρφνη, Q.S. 2.614; represented as in the interior of the globe, Plu.2.953a; χάους κύνα, of Cerberus, APl.4.91. b. generally, darkness, A.R.4.1697. 4. any vast gulf or chasm, LXX Mi.1.6, Za.14.4; of a pit, Opp.C.4.92; of the gaping jaws of the crocodile, ib.3.414, cf. 4.161, H.5.52. 5 Pythag. name for one, Theol.Ar.6. (L&S p. 1976, right column)

[4] Dærvǽni (Derveni; Gr. Δερβένι) Papyrus, Col. 16, trans. by Gábor Betegh; quoted from The Derveni Papyrus: Cosmology, Theology and Interpretation, Cambridge University Press, 2004,  p. 35.  Professor Betegh, in his commentary on the poem, states: "...the Derveni author is making here an explicit ontological claim. His point is that the things which exist now were not created out of nothing, but were formed out of already existing things." (Ibid. Betegh, p. 225.)

[5] "For the female is the cause of progression and separation, but the male of union and stable permanency." (Extract from the Manuscript Scolia of Proclus On the Kratýlos of Plato, found in The Theology of Plato/Proclus, trans. Thomas Taylor, Prometheus Trust, Vol. VIII of The Thomas Taylor Series, p. 684.)

[6] Όmiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος) Odýsseia (Odyssey; Gr. Ὀδύσσεια) IV.408-641. In this passage, Mænǽlaos (Menelaus; Gr. Μενέλαος) wrestles Prohtéfs (Proteus; Gr. Πρωτεύς) to obtain knowledge. As he struggles with the God, Prohtéfs,  the "Old Man of the Sea," assumes many disguises: a great lion, a serpent, a panther, a wild boar, a torrent of water, a massive tree. But  Mænǽlaos would not give up and he finally is given the answers he has come for.
[7] Rhapsodic Theogony - Orphic fragments 67 and 70-75 as found in Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1935, revised 1952 but found here in the 1993 Princeton Univ. Press edition, Princeton NJ USA, on p. 137.

[8] "For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything; and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one, the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him, and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and without feet." (Plátohn Tímaios 34a; translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892, Vol. 2 of the 1937 Random House edition entitled The Dialogues of Plato, where this quotation may be found on p. 16.)

[9] Πίνδαρος Νεμεόνικαι 6.1-11, trans. G. S. Conway and Richard Stoneman, 1972. We are using the 1997 Everyman Paperbacks edition entitled Pindar: The Odes and Selected Fragments J. M. Dent Orion Publishing Group (London) and Charles E. Tuttle (Rutland, VT USA) where this quotation may be found on p. 227.

[10] Damáskios, presenting the view of Ieróhnymos Ródios (Hieronymus of Rhodes; Gr. Ιερώνυμος Ῥόδιος)Princ. 123c bis {i. 317-19 R.}; = Orphic fragment 54. As found in The Orphic Poems by M.L. West, 1983; quoted here from the Sandpiper Books Ltd. 1998 edition, p. 178.

[11] Damáskios Problems and Principles Concerning First Principles, Chap.123.2 [this text gives the numbering slightly differently], trans. Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Oxford Univ. Press, 2010 copy. by The American Academy of Religion, pp. 415-416.

[12] The Hymns of Orpheus trans. by Thomas Taylor, 1792; this passage found in a note attached to XXV. To The Earth, on p. 150.

[13] Plátohn Tímaios 34c-35a, trans. Robin Waterfield in Timaeus and Critias, Oxford World's Classics (Oxford and New York), 2008, pp. 22-23.

[14] Damáskios Commentary on Phaedo. 3. Dionysus and the Titans; trans. L.G. Westerink from The Greek Commentaries on Plato's Phaedo, Vol. II, Damascius, Amsterdam, Oxford, and New York: North-Holland Publishing Co., 1977. This excerpt from Westerink was found in The Golden Chain: An Anthology of Pythagorean and Platonic Philosophy, Selected and edited by Algis Uždavinys, 2004, World Wisdom, p. 274.

[15]  Golden Tablet 29 (Thessaly), translation found in Ritual Texts for the Afterlife by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston, Routledge, 2007, p. 41.

[16] Orphic Rhapsodies Fragment 63, translation found in Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1906, in the 1993 Princeton edition on pp. 137-142.

[17] Plátohn Tímaios 56d-e, trans. R. G. Bury in 1929; found here in the 2005 edition of Plato: Timaeus-Critias-Cleitophon-Menexenus-Epistles, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA and London England), Loeb LCL 234, on pp. 137-139.

[18] Plátohn Sophistís (Sophist; Gr. Σοφιστής) 246a--c; translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892, Vol. 2 of the 1937 Random House edition entitled The Dialogues of Plato, where this quotation may be found on p. 253-254.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself.  An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website.  For more information, visit these three pages: 

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