The Homeric Hymns & Analysis


amazon logo about Dionysus and his thyrsus

The complete homeric hymns with analysis
The Homeric Hymns

 

The Homeric Hymns are mostly a collection of short religious preludes. Opening verses sang shamanistic singers petitioning a pagan god or goddess to bestow upon them the blessing to sing a perfect hymn. Why a singer would hope to deliver such perfection is grounded in the Greek psyche that the hymns were not mere oral transmissions.

For them these myths were historical facts, no less factual then our modern concept of gravity. Yet these myths were more than that, pagan Greeks believed the singer would become possessed a primordial spirit when they began the hymnic recital. It was then, not the human singer from where the song emanated, but way of a transcendent entity.

Moreover, the narration itself was thought to be streamed as the events had literally unfolded, mythical facts captured in real time the omnipresent spirit who witnessed them; now resident in the enchanted singer. In this vein, a shaman was unable to sing an imperfect hymn on the account of Greek paganism, like Christianity, has divine infallibility hardwired into its canon of ordinance; and so, any deviation from perfection would indicate the shaman as un-possessed. They would no longer be an epicentre from where the eternal world, fixed and unchanging, could commune with its human audience: whose life experience is unfixed, and in a constant state of change.

The singers were gate keepers, access points from where divine forces would let their presence be most felt, doorways slightly ajar, where the brightness from the sacred illuminated and eclipsed the drudgery of the profane. If only fleetingly. The 33 Homeric Hymns, transcribed and edited Eileen Salter, captures this contrast of the pagan hymns; some of which have not changed for almost 3000 years: their total perfection, analogous to the mythical world they describe, stems directly from their non-evolving radiance that continues to invoke absolute awe.