Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So...Who's Mnemosyne??

In the complicated theology (or mythology, if you prefer) of ancient Greece, Mnemosyne was the Titan goddess with whom Zeus the Cloud-gatherer slept for nine nights in a row.  A year later, the greatly pregnant Mnemosyne gave birth to the nine Muses.  Thus, one of Mnemosyne’s daughters was Clio, the Muse of History who inspires all those who look back upon the past and write about it.

Aside from her role as the “mother of the muses”, Mnemosyne was also charged with the responsibility of watching over the sacred Pool of Memory, which occupies a prime piece of real estate in Hades.   Those who drank deeply from her pool were able to remember the people and events of their past, unlike those who drank from the river Lethe, where all things were forgotten.  She was therefore the goddess of Memory.

Genealogists, of course, prefer to drink heavily and often from her Pool of Memory.

Oh, yes.  Then there’s that “magic mirror”.   Mnemosyne’s magic mirror lets us see even further back, far beyond our own memories and into the distant past.  In effect, we get to look backwards into the lives and times of our ancestors and their companions.

By the way, if chatting in ancient Greek isn’t your thing, here’s the skinny on saying her name.  It’s pronounced “Nem –MAAS – sin –nee”, with the accent on the second of the four syllables.  (At least that’s what my professor of classical Greek drilled into me during my freshman year at university long, long ago and far, far away. I took a First in the course, so I’m pretty sure it’s right.)

Since you asked, the headshot of Mnemosyne above was painted by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882), and exudes that special William Morris-y “arts and crafts-ness” of the period. Her dancing Muse daughters below were captured in the 15th century by Italian master Andrea Mantegna.


  1. Mnemosyne was was name of my high school year book. Good looking blog Mel! Let's talk baseball!! LOL

  2. The U.S. Supreme Court should make use of Mnemosyne's magic mirror with greater frequency. If they did some of their more rediculous recent decisions might have been avoided to the benefit of us all.

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