“The earth can conquer by the lyre, not by the sword”
Orpheus is an ancient name, a symbol of infinite human talent and strength of dedication. His name is first mentioned in the 7th century BC, in fragments of the poet Diodorus. “The time of Orpheus is already dated – XIII century BC – a generation before the Troja War. Orpheus lived five centuries before Homer. Prior to Homer is the period in the creation of ancient civilization – this is the contribution of Thracians in world civilization, which in ancient times was called Orpheus period in world civilization (XIII-VIII century BC). “- said Nikola Gigov. The Thracian king, a unique musician and singer, obeyed all nature with his music; as a legendary poet, healer and magician, priest and spiritual teacher he embodied the Good, Love and Wisdom. The singer with the golden lyre appealed: “Help for weak; consolation for suffering; hope for everyone.” The hero, who participated in the march to Colchis for the Golden Fleece is the creator of mystery and sacred books. He involves faith and hope for immortality, he teaches that music is the cosmic language of nature accessible to anyone who wishes to harmonize with it. In ancient times, music was part of the rituals, wordless language that connects all life. Much later it separated as performing arts. So Orpheus taught people by chanting of verses about creation of the world and man’s place in it. Today we know of the existence of multiple Orphic hymns, 86 of which have reached us. They contntain prayers to various gods gathered in the collection “Tiepoleo” – Prayer. Most of them are accompanied by instructions for burning a certain herb or spice. The magical recipes were so influential and popular that worried Marsilio Ficino, who declared the book dangerous.
The collection, containing besides the hymns and “Argonautica” of Orpheus, texts by Homer, Callimachus, Proclus, preserved and kept by Chrysostom and exported in Venice in 1432, lost over the years, it is the archetype for future editions. The content of the hymns tells us how the Orpheus mysteries flew.
Knowledge became occult, but it remained stored in our generic memory as “catching fire alive”, as well as in the age-old customs with “chanting of flower bunches”, in fire dancing, Orpheus vine singing, folklore dances, the rachenitsa folk dance* and in many other characteristic elements of folk tradition and culture, where we find the subtle threads of ancient spiritual fabric, woven in our souls. Even the meaning of the word “fire-dancer”**, could be explained by the Thracian verb “nes”, meaning “carry, move” – to move and “Anar” – man – (nesting dance explained by Pavel Serafimov).
Thracian Orphism fits the man in nature, perceived it as part of it. It accepts the stone as sacred touchstone for temples buildings. Every morning Orpheus climbed the mountain to greet the sun. The solar sanctuaries, where the mysteries were held were high in the mountains, situated in inaccessible places, in the vicinity of springs and caves. People dressed in white gowns were grouped in two rounds. The outer circle is a show for everyone, with scenes from the life and bliss of the righteous. There in it were the candidates for the inner circle of initiates. The dedicated “Misties” sipped special drinks and were in contact with the sacred. Reported by Plato special ritual drinks were mixed, seeds and fragrant herbs were burned.
According to Valeria Fol’s research works on mythology, Orpheus made the dragon fall asleep by magical rites. He burned crocus, plantain, red roots, ferns and ox tongue. Orphism changed the existing traditions of bloody sacrifices, transformed group orgies in sacred rituals, the lyre replaced the sounds of kimballs, cymbals and timbos. For thousands of years the knowledge was passed, in order to reach us under the name “Orphism”, conveyed by the myths and legends surviving dozens of historical records and artifacts, rituals and customs.
We find its spiritual imprint in contemporary religious sacraments and in values of contemporary philosophies and practices.
More than three millennia the name of the legendary Orpheus is covered with unfading glory, despite the prohibitions and destruction of books. These are evidenced in archaeological finds from different eras, preserved in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Germany, Syria, Egypt and others. Orpheus was deified, revered and often identified with the gods as Dionysus, Zalmoxis or Sabazius /Zagrey, but never forgotten and for centuries considered a mythical figure. Orpheus was recognized for a real person after 50 years of researches, made by Nicola Gigov. The finds near the village of Gradeshnitsa – the Orpheus covenant with the first plate, discovered in the 60s by the archaeologist Bogdan Nikolov, is a proof that Orpheus lived in these lands. The linguistic analysis, made by Dr Stefan Guide, talk about thracian alphabet before 7000 years, preceding the Egyptian pictorial letter almost 2,000 years! Many votive tablets in Silistra, Butovo, the sculptural group in Stara Zagora and others attest to the popularity of the Thracian genius. Prof. Ovcharov announced discoveries in Tatul as a “tomb of Orpheus” and Perperikon was declared as the sanctuary of Orpheus. The continuity in the spiritual paths of civilizations gives us a real opportunity to understand who the Bulgarians are, what and where our place is in the global culture and our own spiritual journey.
MEng. Ginka Stoeva PhD