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Generalities Concerning Rǽa 

Rǽa(Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα, meaning "easily" or "effortlessly." Etym. ῥέω, "to flow, stream." [See Πλάτων Κρατύλος 402] Also, ῥᾶ, "easily.")Rǽa is one of the most important deities of all Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, for, in addition to many other awesome qualities, she is a constituent in the progression of deity arising from Earth known as the Three Vasíleiai (Basileiai or Queens; Gr. βασίλειαι) [See Below.]

The parentage of Rǽa 

According to the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony, Yaia (Gaia or Earth; Gr. Γαῖα) and Ouranós (Uranus or Sky; Gr. Οὐρανός) produced the three Kýklohpæs (Cyclopes; Gr. Κύκλωπες) and the three giant Hundred-Handers (Gr. Ἑκατόγχειρες), but these children were hated by their father who cast them into the bowels of the earth. This greatly angered Yaia who then produced the 
Titánæs (Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες [plural]) and used them in an effort to usurp her husband Ouranós; Rǽa is one of the Titans. [1]

The ascent of Rǽa and Krónos

Krónos (Cronus; Gr. Κρόνος) 
is the brother of Rǽa and the leader of the Titans. At the instigation of his mother, Krónos conspired with his brothers against their father, and when Ouranós came to lie with Yaia, they bound and castrated him. This being done, the Titánæs married in pairs and Rǽa and Krónos became the rulers of the Kózmos. Their reign was glorious and is known as the Silver Age of the Íroæs (Heroes; Gr. Ἥρωες) [2].

The offspring of Rǽa

With Krónos, Rǽa begot Æstía (Hestia; Gr. Ἑστία ), Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ), Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα), Ploutohn (Pluto or Hades; Gr. Πλούτων ), and Poseidóhn (Poseidon; Gr. Ποσειδῶν) [3].  And when she was called the mother of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) she became Dimítir [4] (Earth-mother).  Rǽa alone gave birth to the Kourítæs (Curetes; Gr. Κουρῆτες) [5].

Rǽa and the Rise of Zefs

Krónos was warned by an oracle which stated that he would sire a child who would usurp him [6]. To prevent the fulfillment of this prophecy and since he did not know which of his offspring would be the one to steal his throneKrónos began devouring his children as each was born. Rǽa then conceived a trick to save her next child. When Zefs was born, Rǽa wrapped a rock in swaddling clothes and presented it to her husband. Krónos promptly swallowed this rock and this caused him to vomit up all the children. 

Rǽa now rushed the infant Zefs to the Cave of Nyx (Gr. Νύξ) and placed him in the care of the divine goat Amátheia (Gr. Ἀμάλθεια) and the Kourítæs (Couretes; Gr. Κουρῆτες). When Zefs grew sufficiently in strength, Nyx advised him to intoxicate Krónos with honey and subdue him in an oaken wood. He informed his mother of this and she held a great banquet for her husband, giving him generous drafts of honey. Krónos became drunk; he wandered into the oaken wood and fell asleep, snoring loudly. Zefs and his comrades bound him and Zefs castrated him, as Krónos had castrated his own father [7]. From this point forward, Zefs and Íra reign supreme in what is called the Titanic Age...our age...and together with the Olympians they have dominion over the Kózmos forever. [8]

Rǽa is the Mother of the Gods and the Mother of the Mysteries

Rǽa is deeply connected to the teachings of Orphismós for she is equated with the Mother of the Gods (Gr. Μήτηρ Θεῶν), the Phrygian Kyvǽli (Cybele; Gr. Κυβέλη), who taught Diónysos the Mystíria (Mysteries; Gr. Μυστήρια) [9]. Diónysos in turn taught the Mysteries to Khárohps (Charops; Gr. Χάρωψ) to whom he gave the kingdom of Thráki (Thrace; Gr. Θρᾴκη). Khárohps taught the Mystíria to his son Íagros (Oeagros; Gr. Οἴαγρος). Íagros taught the Mysteries to his own son, Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). Orphéfs, in turn, disseminated the Mystíria throughout the world for whose kindness we are the beneficiaries. [10]

Rǽa and the Three Vasíleiai

Rǽa is second in the progression of personal deities who embody the mystic Earth. 
These three deities are known as the Three Vasíleiai (Basileiai; Gr. βασίλειαι, plural of βασίλεια), the Three Queens. The Three Vasíleiai are Yaia, Rǽa, and Íra. Rǽa is, therefore, a pre-form of Íra, which can be illustrated in the Orphic hymn to her in which Rǽa is called the Mother of Gods and men:

μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων· (line 9)

"mother of Gods and mortal men"

...the like being said of her consort, in the hymn to Krónos:

Ἀιθαλής [11], μακάρων τε θεῶν πάτερ ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν (line 1)

"Aithír, father of the blessed Gods and men"

...these attributions usually and famously applied only to Íra and Zefs.

The Three Vasíleiai along with their Divine Consorts are:

Yaia (Gaia or Ge; Gr. Γαῖα) and Ouranós (Uranus; Gr. Οὐρανός)
Rǽa (Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα) and Krónos (Cronus; Gr. Κρόνος)
Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα) and Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς)

The Orphic Hymn to Rǽa [12]

14. Rǽa [Rhea; Gr. Ῥέα] The Fumigation from Aromatics.

Daughter of great Protogonus, divine,
Illustrious Rhea, to my pray'r incline, 
Who driv'st thy holy car with speed along,
Drawn by fierce lions, terrible and strong.
Mother of Jove, whose mighty arm can wield
Th' avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield.
Drum-beating, frantic, of a splendid mien,
Brass-sounding, honor'd, Saturn's blessed queen.
Thou joy'st in mountains and tumultuous fight,
And mankind's horrid howlings, thee delight.
War's parent, mighty, of majestic frame,
Deceitful saviour, liberating dame.
Mother of Gods and men, from whom the earth
And lofty heav'ns derive their glorious birth;
Th' ætherial gales, the deeply spreading sea
Goddess ærial form'd, proceed from thee.
Come, pleas'd with wand'rings, blessed and divine,
With peace attended on our labours shine;
Bring rich abundance, and wherever found
Drive dire disease, to earth's remotest bound. 

14. Ῥέας, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.

Πότνα Ῥέα, θύγατερ πολυμόρφου Πρωτογόνοιο,
τ’ π ταυροφόνων ἱερότροχον ἅρμα τιταίνεις,
τυμπανόδουπε, φιλοιστρομανές, χαλκόκροτε κούρη,
μῆτερ Ζηνὸς ἄνακτος Ὀλυμπίου, αἰγιόχοιο,
πάντιμ', ἀγλαόμορφε, Κρόνου σύλλεκτρε μάκαιρα,
οὔρεσιν ἣ χαίρεις θνητῶν τ' ὀλολύγμασι φρικτοῖς,
παμβασίλεια Ῥέα, πολεμόκλονε, ὀμβριμόθυμε,
ψευδομένη σώτειρα, λυτηριάς, ἀρχιγένεθλε·
μήτηρ μέν τε θεῶν ἠδὲ θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ καὶ γαῖα καὶ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθεν
καὶ πόντος πνοαί τε φιλόδρομε, ἀερόμορφε·
ἐλθέ, μάκαιρα θεά, σωτήριος εὔφρονι βουλι,
εἰρήνην κατάγουσα σὺν εὐόλβοις κτεάτεσσιν,
λύματα καὶ κῆρας πέμπουσ' ἐπὶ τέρματα γαίης.

Thomas Taylor's (generally Neoplatonic) notes to the Orphic hymn to Rǽa:

* Rhea, according to the Orphic and Platonic theology, is one of the zoogonic (ed. producing offspring from within the body of the parent) or vivific (ed. giving life) principles of the universe; having a maternal rank among the universal paternal orders, i. e. between Saturn (ed. Krónos) and Jupiter (ed. Zefs). Hence she calls forth the causes latent in Saturn to the procreation of the universe; and definitely unfolds all the genera of the Gods. So that she is filled from Saturn, with an intelligible and prolific power, which she imparts to Jupiter, the Demiurgus (ed. Dimiourgósof the universe; filling his essence with a vivific abundance. Since this Goddess then is a medium between the two intellectual parents of the universe, Saturn and Jupiter, the former of which collects intellectual multitude into one, but the other scatters and divides it. Hence says Proclus, in Theol. Plat. p. 266. this Goddess produces in herself the demiurgic (ed. generative) causes of the universe; but imparts her diffusive power abundantly to secondary natures. On p. 138 this account Plato assimilates her prolific abundance to the flowing of waters; signifying nothing more by the word flowing, than that fontal power, by which she singularly contains the divine rivers of life. And, p. 267. Proclus informs us, that this Goddess, according to Orpheus, when considered as united to Saturn by the most exalted part of her essence, is called Rhea: but considered as producing Jupiter, and, together with Jove, unfolding the universal and particular orders of the Gods, she is called Ceres (ed. Dimítir).

Ver. 1.] Daughter of great Protogonus. In the note to Hercules (ed. Iraklís or Heracles) it appears that Rhea is one of the progeny of the intellectual earth, resident in Phanes; and from the note to Hymn 5, to Protogonus, we learn from Proclus, that Phanes is to be considered in the intelligible as well as in the intellectual orders. Hence Rhea is, with perfect agreement to the Orphic theology, the daughter of Protogonus, considered as subsisting among the intelligible Gods.

Ver. 4.] Drawn by fierce lions, &c. I have here followed the correction of Pierson, who reads ταυροφονων for ταυροφορον: for Rhea is the same with the mother of the Gods, who is celebrated in the Hymn to her, as seated in a car drawn by lions.

Ver. 7.] Drum-beating. Rhea, in the Orphic theology, is among the mundane divinities, the earth. Hence, according to Varro, she is represented with a drum; because that instrument is a symbol of the earth. August. dc Civitat. lib. vii.

XIII Ver. 12.] Deceitful saviour. When Jupiter was born (says the fable) his mother Rhea in order to deceive Saturn, gave him a stone wrapped in swaddling bands, in the place of Jove; informing him that was her offspring. Saturn immediately devoured the stone; and Jupiter who was privately educated, at length obtained the government of the world. With great propriety, therefore, is she called by the poet a deceitful saviour. This fable, according to Phurnutus (ed. Ἀνναῖος Κορνοῦτος), signifies the creation of the world. For at that time Nature (which among elementary essences is the same with Jupiter) was then nourished in the world, and at length prevailed. The stone devoured by Saturn is the earth, alluding to its firmly occupying the middle place: for says Phurnutus, beings could not abide without such a foundation for their support. From this all things are produced, and derive their proper aliment. Opusc. Mythol. p. 147.

The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic 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.

EPITHETS OF RǼA (under construction)

Sóhteira - (Soteira; Gr. σώτειρα, ΣΩΤΕΙΡΑ) Lexicon entry: σώτειρα, fem. of σωτήρ2. freq. as epith. of protecting Goddesses, of Τύχα; of Θέμις; of Εὐνομία; of Athena; of Artemis; of Hecate; of Rhea, of Demeter; of Kore. (L&S p. 1751, left column, edited for simplicity.)
- Lexicon entry: σώτειρα, fem. of σωτήρῆρος, voc. σῶτερ: poet. σᾰωτήρ:— saviourdeliverer(L&S p. 1751, left column, edited for simplicity.)


[1] Orphic fragment 114. (95) Πρόκλος Commentary on the Τίμαιος 40e (III 184, 1 Diehl): 

δὀξειε γὰρ ἂν (sc. ὁ Πλάτων) τοῦτο λέγειν οὐχ ἑπομένως ταῖς (Ὀρφικαῖς) ἀρκαῖς· ἐκεῖ γὰρ ἀδελφοί λέγοται τούτων, ἀλλ' οὐ γεννήτορες· τίκτει γὰρ ἡ Γῆ λαθοῦσα τὸν Οὐρανόν, ὥς φυσιν ὁ θεολόγος·

ἑπτὰ μὲν εὐειδεῖς κούρας (ἑλικώπιδας, ἁγνάς,)
ἑπτὰ δὲ παῖδας ἄνακτας (ἐγείνατο λαχνήεντας)·
θυγατέρας μὲν (τίκτε?) Θέμιν καὶ ἐΰφρονα Τηθὺν
Μνημοσύνην τε βαθυπλόκαμον Θείαν τε μάκαιραν,
ἠδὲ Διώνην τίκτεν ἀριπρεπὲς εἶδος ἔχουσαν
Φοίβην τε Ῥείην τε, Διὸς γενέτειραν ἄνακτος·

παῖδας δὲ ἄλλους τοσούτους·

Κοῖόν τε Κρῖόν τε μέγαν Φόρκυν τε κραταιὸν
καὶ Κρόνον Ὠκεανόν θ' Ὑπερίονά τ' Ἰαπετόν τε.

τούτων οὖν παρά τῶι θεολόγωι προαναγεγραμμένων πῶς ὁ Τίμαιος ἐξ Ὠκεανοῦ καὶ Τηθύος (de Tethye v. etiam in Tim. 40e [III 179, 8 Diehl]) παράγει Κρόνον τε καὶ Ρέαν;

“(Earth bore) seven fair daughters…and seven kingly sons…daughters…Themis and kindly Tethys and deep-haired Mnemosyne and happy Theia, and Dione she bore of exceeding beauty and Phoebe and Rhea, the mother of Zeus the king. (Her sons were of the same number), Koios and Krios and mighty Phorkys and Kronos and Okeanos and Hyperion and Iapetos.” (Partial translation as found in Orpheus and Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie, 1952; found in the 1993 Princeton Univ. Press edition [Princeton] on p. 138.)
CfἩσίοδος Θεογονία 133.

[2] Orphic frag. 140. Πρόκλος Commentary on Rempubl. II 74, 26 Kr.

ὁ μὲν θεολόγος Ὀ. τρία γένη παραδέδωκεν ἀνθρώπων· πρώτιστον τὸ χρυσούν, ὅπερ ὑποστῆσαι τὸν Φάνητά φησιν· δεύτερον τὸ ἀργυροῦν, οὗ φησιν ἄρχαι τὸν μέγιστον Κρόνον· τρίτον τὸ Τιτανικόν, ὅ φησιν ἐκ τῶν Τιτανικών μελῶν τὸν Δία συστήσασθαι

"Whereas the Theologian Orphéfs conveys that there are three generations of men: the very first a Golden age said to be of Phánis; the second Silver brought forth by mighty Krónos; the third is the Titanic age formed of the Titanic limbs of Zefs." (trans. by the author)

According to Ἡσίοδος Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι (Works and Days) 109 and elsewhere, the reign of Rǽa and Krónos is called the Golden Age.

[3] As the Orphic evidence of the progeny of Rǽa and Krónos is fragmentary, for convenience we are assuming the progeny to be the same as found in Ἡσίοδος Θεογονία 453.

[4] Orphic frag. 145. (106. 128) Πρόκλος Commentary on the Κρατύλος 403e, (90, 28 Pasqu.):

Ῥείη τὸ πρὶν ἐοῦσα, ἐπεὶ Διὸς ἔπλετο μήτηρ, Δημήτηρ γέγονε.

“Formerly she was Rǽa, but having become mother of Zefs, she became Dimítir.” (trans. by the author)

[5] Orphic frag.150. Δαμάσκιος De princ. (ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν) 278 (II 150, 22 Rue.):

τέταρτον καὶ δέκατον, αὐτὸ καθ' αὑτὸ ζητήσωμεν διὰ τί ὁ μέν πρῶτος πατὴρ (sc. Phanes) καὶ ὁ τρίτος (sc. Iuppiter) οὐ παράγει Κουρητικὴν τάξιν παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, 

μόνη δὲ ἡ Ῥέα τους Κούρητας ἀπογεννᾶι,

"where Rǽa alone generated the Kourítæs" (trans. by the author)

οὓς ἀμειλίκτους (v. frr. 146. 151) εἶναί φαμεν· ὅλως δὲ διὰ τί αὐτῆι συντετάχθαι τρεῖς, ἑνὸς ὄντος αὐτῆς ἀμειλίκτου κατὰ τὴν θεοπαράδοτον φήμην.

[6] Orphic frag. 56b. Rufin. Recognit. X 18 (Ed. Basil. 156, Migne PG 1, 1429) (partial only):

"sed de illis sex maribus unus, qui dicitur Saturnus, in coniugium accepit Rheam, et cum responso quodam commonitus esset, quod qui ex ea naseratur for | tior ipso futurus esset regnoque eum depelleret, omnes qui ei nascerentur filios deuorare instituit."

"But of these six (ed. Titanic) males, the one who is called Saturn (ed. Krónos) received in marriage Rhea, and having been warned by a certain oracle that he who should be born of her should be more powerful than himself, and should drive him from his kingdom, he determined to devour all the sons that should be born to him." (trans. Thomas Smith, 1886.)

[7] This according to the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony. A different version of the story can be found in Ἡσίοδος Θεογονία 459-506, where the stone which Krónos ate did not cause him to disgorge the children, but, rather, he was given an emetic later when Zefs grew in strength.

[8] The acquisition of power by Zefs is told differently in Isíodos where, after the children are vomited up from an emetic, there is no castration, but, rather, Zefs defeats Krónos in a ten year war known as the Titanomakhía (Titanomachy or the Battle of the Titans; Gr. Τιτανομαχία). Ἡσίοδος Θεογονία 617-735.

[9] Ἀπολλόδωρος Βιβλιοθήκη 3.5.1.

[10] Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορική 3.65.4-6.

[11] Perhaps from αἰθάλη which can mean "sublimed vapour," i.e. αἰθήρ (Liddell and Scott), or perhaps an alternate spelling of ἀειθαλής meaning "ever-blooming."

[12] trans. by Thomas Taylor, 1792; we are using a facsimile of the original edition, London, England (printed for the author), where this quotation may be found on pp. 137-139.

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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.

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