ORPHIC FRAGMENT 58 - OTTO KERN

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For links to many more fragments: The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.


SUMMARY: Fragment 58 says that the Gods were created and owed their nature to Water. That Phánîs (Φάνης) was the First-Born (Πρωτογόνος), produced from the Egg, and had the shape of a dragon, and that Zefs swallowed him. That Îraklís (Ἡρακλῆς) had the form of a dragon. It discusses the rise of the Six Kings (mostly following Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου), but then alluding to the union of Zefs (Ζεὺς) with Rǽa (Ῥέα), who became a she-dragon to escape him, and Zefs, also becoming a dragon, uniting with her producing Pæsæphónî (Περσεφόνη). Zefs, again in the form of a dragon, united with Pæsæphónî producing Diónysos (Διόνυσος).


58. (41) Πρεσβεία περί των Χριστιανών Ἀθηναγόρου 20 p. 22, 10 Schw.:

Εἰ μὲν οὗν μέχρι τοῦ φῆσαι γεγονέναι τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ ἐξ ὕδατος τὴν σύστασιν ἔχειν τὸ ἀπίθανον ἦν αὐτοῖς τῆς θεολογίας, ἐπιδεδειχὼς ὅτι οὐδὲν γενητὸν ὃ οὐ καὶ διαλυτόν, ἐπὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἂν παρεγενόμην τῶν ἐγκλημάτων. Ἐπεὶ δὲ τοῦτο μὲν διατεθείκασιν αὐτῶν τὰ σώματα, τὸν μὲν Ἡρακλέα, ὅτι θεὸς δράκων ἑλικτός, τοὺς δὲ Ἑκατόγχειρας εἰπόντες, καὶ τὴν θυγατέρα τοῦ Διός, ἣν ἐκ τῆς μητρὸς Ῥέας καὶ Δήμητρος ἢ δημήτορος τὸν αὐτῆς ἐπαιδοποιήσατο, δύο μὲν κατὰ φύσιν [εἶπον] ἔχειν ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ μετώπῳ δύο καὶ προτομὴν κατὰ τὸ ὄπισθεν τοῦ τραχήλου μέρος, ἔχειν δὲ καὶ κέρατα, διὸ καὶ τὴν Ῥέαν φοβηθεῖσαν τὸ τῆς παιδὸς τέρας φυγεῖν οὐκ ἐφεῖσαν αὐτῇ τὴν θηλήν, ἔνθεν μυστικῶς μὲν Ἀθηλᾶ κοινῶς δὲ Φερσεφόνη καὶ Κόρη κέκληται, οὐχ ἡ αὐτὴ οὖσα τῇ Ἀθηνᾷ τῇ ἀπὸ τῆς κόρης λεγομένῃ· τοῦτο δὲ τὰ πραχθέντα αὐτοῖς ἐπ´ ἀκριβὲς ὡς οἴονται διεξεληλύθασιν, Κρόνος μὲν ὡς ἐξέτεμεν τὰ αἰδοῖα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κατέρριψεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἅρματος καὶ ὡς ἐτεκνοκτόνει καταπίνων τῶν παίδων τοὺς ἄρσενας, Ζεὺς δὲ ὅτι τὸν μὲν πατέρα δήσας κατεταρτάρωσεν, καθὰ καὶ τοὺς υἱεῖς ὁ Οὐρανός, καὶ πρὸς Τιτᾶνας περὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς ἐπολέμησεν καὶ ὅτι τὴν μητέρα Ῥέαν ἀπαγορεύουσαν αὐτοῦ τὸν γάμον ἐδίωκε, δρακαίνης δ´ αὐτῆς γενομένης καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς δράκοντα μεταβαλὼν συνδήσας αὐτὴν τῷ καλουμένῳ Ἡρακλειωτικῷ ἅμματι ἐμίγη --- τοῦ σχήματος τῆς μίξεως σύμβολον ἡ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ ῥάβδος ---, εἶθ´ ὅτι Φερσεφόνῃ τῇ θυγατρὶ ἐμίγη βιασάμενος καὶ ταύτην ἐν δράκοντος σχήματι, ἐξ ἧς παῖς Διόνυσος αὐτῷ· ἀνάγκη κἂν τοσοῦτον εἰπεῖν· τί τὸ σεμνὸν ἢ χρηστὸν τῆς τοιαύτης ἱστορίας, ἵνα πιστεύσωμεν θεοὺς εἶναι τὸν Κρόνον, τὸν Δία, τὴν Κόρην, τοὺς λοιπούς; Αἱ διαθέσεις τῶν σωμάτων; Καὶ τίς ἂν ἄνθρωπος κεκριμένος καὶ ἐν θεωρίᾳ γεγονὼς ὑπὸ θεοῦ γεννηθῆναι πιστεύσαι ἔχιδναν [Ὀρφεὺς]

ἂν δὲ Φάνης ἄλλην γενεὴν τεκνώσατο δεινήν νηδύος ἐξ ἱερῆς, προσιδεῖν φοβερωπὸν Ἔχιδναν, ἧς χαῖται μὲν ἀπὸ κρατὸς καλόν τε πρόσωπον ἦν ἐσιδεῖν, τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ μέρη φοβεροῖο δράκοντος αὐχένος ἐξ ἄκρου—

ἢ αὐτὸν τὸν Φάνητα δέξαιτο, θεὸν ὄντα πρωτόγονον --- οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐκ τοῦ ᾠοῦ προχυθείς ---, [ἢ σῶμα] ἢ σχῆμα ἔχειν δράκοντος ἢ καταποθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ Διός, ὅπως ὁ Ζεὺς ἀχώρητος γένοιτο; Εἰ γὰρ μηδὲν διενηνόχασι τῶν φαυλοτάτων θηρίων --- δῆλον γὰρ ὅτι ὑποδιαλλάσσειν δεῖ τῶν γηΐνων καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ὕλης ἀποκρινομένων τὸ θεῖον ---, οὐκ εἰσὶ θεοί. Τί δαὶ καὶ πρόσιμεν αὐτοῖς, ὦν κτηνῶν μὲν δίκην ἔχει ἡ γένεσις, αὐτοὶ δὲ θηριόμορφοι καὶ δυσειδεῖς;

“If the absurdity of their theology were confined to saying that the Gods were created, and owed their constitution to water, since I have demonstrated that nothing is made which is not also liable to dissolution, I might proceed to the remaining charges. But, on the one hand, they have described their bodily forms: speaking of Hercules, for instance, as a God in the shape of a dragon coiled up; of others as hundred-handed; of the daughter of Zeus, whom he begat of his mother Rhea; or of Demeter, as having two eyes in the natural order, and two in her forehead, and the face of an animal on the back part of her neck, and as having also horns, so that Rhea, frightened at her monster of a child, fled from her, and did not give her the breast (θηλη), whence mystically she is called Athêlâ, but commonly Phersephoné and Koré, though she is not the same as Athênâ, who is called Koré from the pupil of the eye;—and, on the other hand, they have described their admirable achievements, as they deem them: how Kronos, for instance, mutilated his father, and hurled him down from his chariot, and how he murdered his children, and swallowed the males of them; and how Zeus bound his father, and cast him down to Tartarus, as did Ouranos also to his sons, and fought with the Titans for the government; and how he persecuted his mother Rhea when she refused to wed him, and, she becoming a she-dragon, and he himself being changed into a dragon, bound her with what is called the Herculean knot, and accomplished his purpose, of which fact the rod of Hermes is a symbol; and again, how he violated his daughter Phersephoné, in this case also assuming the form of a dragon, and became the father of Dionysus. In face of narrations like these, I must say at least this much, What that is becoming or useful is there in such a history, that we must believe Kronos, Zeus, Koré, and the rest, to be Gods? Is it the descriptions of their bodies? Why, what man of judgment and reflection will believe that a viper was begotten by a God (thus Orpheus:—

But from the sacred womb Phanês begat
Another offspring, horrible and fierce,
In sight a frightful viper, on whose head
Were hairs: its face was comely; but the rest,
From the neck downwards, bore the aspect dire
Of a dread dragon);

or who will admit that Phanes himself, being a first-born God (for he it was that was produced from the egg), has the body or shape of a dragon, or was swallowed by Zeus, that Zeus might be too large to be contained? For if they differ in no respect from the lowest brutes (since it is evident that the Deity must differ from the things of earth and those that are derived from matter), they are not Gods. How, then, I ask, can we approach them as suppliants, when their origin resembles that of cattle, and they themselves have the form of brutes, and are ugly to behold?

(trans. Rev. B. P. Pratten, 1885)


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.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


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 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.

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.

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