Then Eurynome, Ocean’s fair daughter,
Bore to Zeus the three Graces, all fair-cheeked,
Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and shapely Thalia;
Their alluring eyes glance from under their brows,
And from their eyelids drips desire that unstrings the limbs
— Hesiod, 8th century B.C.E.
What could be more perfect for a discussion of the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, as well as juiciness, beauty and youth than a visit with the Graces?
Known as the Gratiae by the Romans and the Kharites in Greek mythology, they were Goddesses of grace, beauty, adornment, mirth, festivity, dance and song. They presided over the pleasures of life, including play, amusement, banqueting, floral decoration, happiness, rest and relaxation.
The Graces were attendants of the Goddesses Aphrodite and Hera. They were usually depicted in classical sculpture and mosaic as three nude women, holding hands and dancing in a circle. They were sometimes crowned with myrtle and held sprigs of myrtle in their hands.
While their names and even numbers differed by region, generally the Graces were considered the three beautiful daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. The attendance of the Graces, Aglaia (Splendor, Radiance), Euphrosyne (Festivity, Cheerfulness), and Thalia (Blooming, flowering, Joy), was the assurance of peace and happiness. Each represented an individual quality that was revered by the ancient Greeks.
According to Goddess scholar and author Patricia Monaghan, in earliest Athens, they had two predecessors, Auxo (“waning one) and Hegemone (“mastery”), pointing to a much older connection with the Moon. In fact, they were known for dancing by moonlight.
In Greek art and poetry, the Graces form the retinue of Aphrodite. According to Homer, they wove the material for Aphrodite’s robe. They also tended to Aphrodite when She returned to the island of Kypros (Cyprus), humiliated after being caught in the trap Her husband, Hephaestus, had set — catching Her with Ares in a romantic tryst. The Graces comforted and bathed Her, anointed Her with ambrosial oil and dressed Her in delightful clothing so that She might resume Her loving duties.
Patricia writes that they “represented the delight in living that produces art, dance, music and love. Agelessly young, they nonetheless were older than Aphrodite, whom they met as She rose from the sea.”
And indeed, the Graces were the perfect entourage for the radiant Goddess of love. As beautiful and joyful companions, there were also especially welcomed by the Muses, as well as most of the other Olympian Gods and Goddesses.
In their honor, the Greeks offered to them the first cup of wine at every banquet. For where the Graces glance, love flows from their eyes. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (90-21 B.C.E.) wrote “They are given the adornment of personal appearance, and the embellishment of each part of the body; consequently, they are the very incarnation of beauty and grace. Near the topmost peak of Olympus, there are the dancing-places of the Muses, and beside them, Himerus (Desire) and the Graces live in delight.”
May the Graces bless your day today, and may their eternal youthfulness, radiance and good cheer fill our journey through Spring together.