Illustrious Kharites, mighty named, from Zeus descended, and Eunomia famed [Eurynome], Thalia and Aglaia fair and bright, and blest Euphrosyne, whom joys delight.
– from The Hymns of Orpheus, translated by Thomas Taylor (1792)
The Graces, also called the Charites (sometimes spelled Kharites), were three beautiful daughters of Zeus, the supreme God of ancient Greece. Their mother was the sea-nymph Eurynome, daughter of the Titan Oceanus.
The three sisters Euphrosyne (mirth), Thalia (bringer of flowers), and Aglaia (splendor) belong to a triad of female deities who had been venerated as spirits of vegetation in pre-classical Greece and then were later adopted in Roman mythology. They live on Mount Olympus with the other immortals.
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.
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.”
The Graces were rarely treated as individuals, but were referred to as a triple embodiment of grace and beauty. The Graces, therefore, are related to the motif of the “Triple Goddess“, which occurs in so many different mythological traditions.
The exception was the youngest, Aglaia. Next week, we’ll explore what is known about Her from the ancient poetry and stories.
Meantime, over the weekend, I invite you to meditate on the meaning of grace. Can you think of women you admire who embody gracefulness and beauty? Women do not hold exclusive rights to these qualities, of course. There are men, as well, who have devoted themselves to flowering, radiance, and mirth. See if you can make a list of five men and women whose qualities of grace you admire.
Make yourself comfortable, for our journey of mystery to Graceland is now underway.