THE ORPHIC FRAGMENTS OF OTTO KERN

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The importance of the Orphic fragments

The vast bulk of the mythology of the Mysteries, originally contained in various writings, including an epic theogony, has been lost or likely destroyed in antiquity. Fortunately, many ancient authors quoted from these texts, thus preserving some of the most important content. These fragments were collected by the philologist Otto Kern and published in 1922 in his book Orphicorum Fragmenta. To anyone other than scholars, this work is completely inaccessible, because its contents are in the original languages, ancient Greek and Latin. There is no existing translation of the book, except for a relatively small collection of fragments which can be accessed online. This same collection is found in Orpheus and Greek Religion by W. K. C. Guthrie. There are also some lengthy passages in English, mostly found in translations of the early Church Fathers.

Why are these fragments important? The Mysteries are the heart, the deepest meaning of the ancient Greek religion known as Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Ἑλληνισμός). Without the Mysteries, there is no explanation of what the religion is actually about. These fragments reveal the story-line from which a theology can be derived. In other words, without the knowledge contained in these fragments, there is inadequate information to properly understand ancient Greek religion. While there survive texts by theologians, mostly the Platonic philosophers, which address particular aspects of the religion, the Orphic fragments are the meat behind those words. The entire texts from which they came, was known and available in antiquity, but now only the fragments remain; they are what remains of the core, the nucleus of the theogony of the Mysteries.

The aspiration of this project is to make English translations available of as many of the fragments as possible, but also to place the Greek and Latin online for those who have need of it. While the entire Orphicorum Fragmenta is available, you cannot copy/paste anything from it as it is online as a photocopy, not actual text. The hope is that this effort will make the job of scholars easier. Many of the ancient texts have not appeared online before and the task of typing it all out letter by letter, diacriticals and all, is very laborious. So our wish is to bestow a present to those who study and love the old religion.

Orphicorum Fragmenta: This is a download of all the fragments as collected by Professor Otto Kern. They are not translated but found in their original languages. This download consists of 415 pages of a photographed book; it may take some time to appear in your browser and it is not practical to navigate the file online, better to just download it

Kern Orphicorum fragmenta


The following are pages of individual fragments from the Orphicorum fragmenta with English translation. This is an ongoing project with the intention of eventually making available translations of all the fragments.

Orphic Fragment 21Zefs (Ζεὺς) is the beginning, the middle, and the source of all things.

Orphic Fragment 33 - The use of symbolism in Orphic texts.

Orphic Fragment 34The Toys of Diónysos (Διόνυσος) from two sources.

Orphic Fragment 35 - The sacrifice of Diónysos (Διόνυσος) by the Titans including the involvement of Athîná (Ἀθηνᾶ) as having retrieved his heart.

Orphic Fragment 36The three births of Diónysos: from Sæmǽlî (Σεμέλη; "out of the mother"), from the thigh of Zefs, and from Pærsæphónî (Περσεφόνη; "torn asunder by the Titans").

Orphic Fragment 37According to the Orphic theogony, Time (Χρόνος) produced Ǽrôs (Ἔρως) and all the souls, differing from Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου.

Orphic Fragment 38The importance of the Mousai (Μοῦσαι).

Orphic Fragment 48The agricultural role of Dîmítîr (Δημήτηρ).

Orphic Fragment 50The abduction of Pærsæphónî (Περσεφόνη).

Orphic Fragment 51Knowledge of the sowing of seed was given to the sons of Dysávlîs (Δυσαύλης) as a reward for their having given to Dîmítîr (Δημήτηρ) information about her daughter.

Orphic Fragment 52Two separate quotations, both related to Vavóh (Βαυβώ) lifting her robes and exposing her private parts to the Goddess Dîmítîr (Δημήτηρ) to make her laugh, the first fragment stating that the infant Íäkkhos (Ἴακχος) was under her robes.

Orphic Fragment 53 - Vavóh (Βαβώ) as appearing in the Orphica.

Orphic Fragment 54A summary of a theogony by Iæróhnymos Ródios (Hieronymus of Rhodes, Ιερώνυμος Ῥόδιος) or perhaps Ællánikos (Hellanicus, Ἑλλάνικος) as outlined by Damáskios (Damascius, Δαμάσκιος) in his work on first principles (ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν). It is in this summary clearly stated the primal nature of Earth and Water.

Orphic Fragment 55 - The commencement of Apíôn's exposition on the origin of the universe.

Orphic Fragment 56 - The conclusion of Apíôn's exposition on the origin of the universe. There is a second quotation, this of pseudo-Clement, a brief theogony of the Greeks. 

Orphic Fragment 57Orpheus invented the names of the Gods and that their origin is Water, which formed Mud, the two together producing a dragon which had several heads, one with the face of a God named Îraklís (Ἡρακλῆς) and Time (Χρόνος). This God generated an egg which split in two; the top became Sky (Οὐρανός), the bottom Earth (Γῆ). Sky and Earth gave birth to the Fates (Μοῖραι) and the 100-handers (Ἑκατόγχειρες), the later of which Sky hurled into Tártaros (Τάρταρος) causing Earth to generate the Titans (Τιτᾶνες).

Orphic Fragment 58The Gods were created and owe 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).

Orphic Fragment 59Zefs (Ζεὺς) begat children by Rǽa (Ῥέα), by his daughter Kórî (Κόρη), and that he took his own sister (Ἥρα) as his wife.

Orphic Fragment 60A Neoplatonic explanation of first principles derived from Ιερός Λόγος σε 24 Ραψωδίες. These first principles being Time (Χρόνος), followed by aithír (αἰθήρ) and kháos (χάος). Next there is a discussion of the Egg from which Phánîs (Φάνης) leaps forth; Phánîs (Φάνης), Írikapaios (Ἠρικαπαῖος), and Mítis (Μῆτις) united as a triad, implying that the Ραψωδίες give these as names of the same God (Φάνης).

Orphic Fragment 61Orpheus calls Phánîs (Φάνης) "son of the God," and that Diónysos (Διόνυσος) is addressed as Phánîs and "son of God."

Orphic Fragment 62Orpheus claimed that he did not invent his stories, but, rather, that he learned these things by petitioning the Titan Phívos (Φοῖβος, i.e. Apóllôn).

Orphic Fragment 63The Giants were born from Earth (Γῆ) and the blood of Ouranós (Οὐρανός), this from the 8th book of Ιερός Λόγος σε 24 Ραψωδίες by Orpheus.

Orphic Fragment 64Orpheus conceived of many Gods in the interval between Time (Χρόνος) and Phánîs (Φάνης).

Orphic Fragment 65Orpheus outlined the following sequence: the Incomprehensible One, Time (Χρόνος), Aithír (Αἰθήρ), and Kháos (Χάος). Under the Aithír is everything, this everything is the possession of and is concealed by Nyx (Νύξ). Earth was in this darkness, but the light of the Incomprehensible One broke through the Aithír and illuminated everything. This Incomprehensible One is 3-fold: Mítis (Μῆτις, Counselor), Phánîs (Φάνης, Light), and Írikapaios (Ἠρικαπαῖος, Giver-of-Life). These three are one power of one God, who is the source of all creation.

Orphic Fragment 66Time gave birth to Aithír causing a vast chasm to open.

Orphic Fragment 67Three brief phrases, all having in common the word ὁμίχλην "mist."

Orphic Fragment 68Orpheus calls Khrónos (Time, Χρόνος) the first cause of all things.

Orphic Fragment 69It can be gleaned from the Orphic stories that the world is a God.

Orphic Fragment 70Time begot an egg in the Aithír.

Orphic Fragment 72 At the birth of Phánîs (Φάνης), the chasm and the Aithír (Αἰθήρ) were torn apart.

Orphic Fragment 73Phánîs (Φάνης), the son of Aithír (Αἰθήρ), is identical with Prôtogónos (Πρωτογόνος), and Phaǽthôn (Φαέθων).

Orphic Fragment 76Phánîs (Φάνης) has four eyes which look everywhere.

Orphic Fragment 85Mítis (Μῆτις) is identified with Phánîs (Φάνης).

Orphic Fragment 88Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς) says that God made the heavens and earth.

Orphic Fragment 89 - Phánis (Φάνης) is the Father of the Gods, for whom he has built an imperishable home.

 Orphic Fragment 91 - Discussion of the moon.

Orphic Fragment 101Nyx receives the scepter from Phánîs.

Orphic Fragment 112 - This is a discussion of marriage between Gods.

Orphic Fragment 114 -  Yî (Γῆ), unknown to Ouranós (Οὐρανός), gave birth to the Seven Pairs of Titánæs (Τιτᾶνες).

Orphic Fragment 117This fragment includes a discussion of certain sea-Gods, and it also establishes that Krónos (Κρόνος) is higher in rank than Okæanós (Ὠκεανός), as, similarly, Rǽa (Ῥέα) is above Tîthýs (Τηθύς).

Orphic Fragment 121Ouranós (Οὐρανὸς) hurls them deep into the earth.

Orphic Fragment 127The birth of Pándîmos Aphrodítî (Πάνδημος Ἀφροδίτη) from the foam produced when the members of Ouranós (Οὐρανὸς) were cast into the sea.

Orphic Fragment 128Plátôn (Πλάτων), in agreement with the Orphic theogonies, calls Krónos (Κρόνος) the father of Zefs (Ζεὺς), and Ouranós (Οὐρανός) the father of Krónos.

Orphic Fragment 129 - Krónos (Κρόνος), out of them all (the Titans?), was nurtured by Nyx.

Orphic Fragment 132There are two quotations, both of which mention the bosoms of Rǽa (Ῥέα) and her role in creation. The second quotation states that Íra (Hera, Ἥρα) is equal in rank with Zefs (Ζεύς).

Orphic Fragment 134The importance of Rǽa (Ῥέα).

Orphic Fragment 135Ôkæanós (Ὠκεανὸς) decides against helping his brothers in their plot to castrate their father Ouranós (Οὐρανός).

Orphic Fragment 139Krónos (Κρόνος) first ruled men on earth and then from he, sprang forth Zefs (Ζεύς). 

Orphic Fragment 140The three ages according to Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς).

Orphic Fragment 142 During the Age of Krónos (Κρόνος) men were immortal with a youthful countenance.

Orphic Fragment 144 - Themis (Θέμις) remained a virgin until Rǽa (Ῥέα) begot a child with Krónos (Κρόνος).

Orphic Fragment 145 - When Rǽa (Ῥέα) gave birth to Zefs (Ζεὺς), she became Dîmítîr (Δημήτηρ).

Orphic Fragment 147Rǽa (Ῥέα) deceived Krónos (Κρόνος) with a stone wrapped in swaddling cloth.

Orphic Fragment 148Kronos, having eaten the cunning food, fell asleep and snored loudly.

Orphic Fragment 149That Krónos (Κρόνος) had fallen asleep (in the oaken woods?).

Orphic Fragment 152 - Adrásteia (Ἀμάλθεια) received copper drumsticks and a goat-skin drum.

Orphic Fragment 153This fragment consists of a string of what are described as violations by Gods, using a literal translation of the mythology. It must be stated that even seeing these stories in such a way, it appears that the author does not know his mythology, i.e. the story of Apóllôn (Ἀπόλλων) violating Ártæmis (Ἄρτεμις).

Orphic Fragment 154Nyx tells Zefs (Ζεύς) that when Krónos (Κρόνος) is drunk with honey in the oaken woods, to bind him.

Orphic Fragment 156Zefs (Ζεὺς) is exhorted to bring purification from Krítî (Κρήτη).

Orphic Fragment 159Justice is produced by Law and Piety.

Orphic Fragment 162The Demiourgós (Δημιουργός) was reared by Adrásteia (Ἀδράστεια), but having intercourse with Necessity (Ἀνάγκη), gives birth to Destiny (Εἱμαρμένη).

Orphic Fragment 163 Discussion of the marriage of Gods and the equality of Íra (Ἥρα) and Zefs (Ζεὺς).

Orphic Fragment 164The involvement of Night (Νύξ) in assisting Zefs (Ζεύς) in the fabrication of the universe.

Orphic Fragment 165All things...the earth, the heavens, the sea, the stars...embraced in the aithír (αἰθήρ) of Zefs (Ζεύς).

Orphic Fragment 166Nyx (Νύξ) advises Zefs (Ζεύς) to surround everything with a strong bond, fitting a golden chain from the aithír (αἰθήρ)

Orphic Fragment 167In the belly of Zefs (Ζεύς) were all things.

Orphic Fragment 168This fragment includes the great Orphic hymn to Zefs (Ζεὺς), wherein it is stated that he is the mind of the world, and created everything therein, and contains the world within himself. There are also many other fragments, all about glorious Zefs.

Orphic Fragment 170Both Diónysos (Διόνυσος) and Zefs (Ζεὺς) antecedently existed.

Orphic Fragment 171The first causes being Ôkæanós (Ὠκεανός) and Tîthýs (Τηθύς) and Phánîs (Φάνης), and that Krónos (Κρόνος) devoured his children.

Orphic Fragment 172Orphéfs (Ὀρφεύς), in a certain respect, considers the sun to be the same as Apóllôn (Ἀπόλλων).

Orphic Fragment 174(That Athîná [Ἀθηνᾶ] was born from the head of Zefs [Ζεὺς]) with shining arms like a brass flower.

Orphic Fragment 175Athîná (Ἀθηνᾶ) is called by the name Virtue, both in the Orphic and Chaldean theologies.

Orphic Fragment 176That Athîná (Ἀθηνᾶ) will accomplish great works.

 

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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