Give me a look, give me a face, that makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free — Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all the adulteries of art:
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
~ from Epicæne; Or, the Silent Woman by Benjamin Johnson (1572-1637)
If you have been following my blog for a while, you will remember these Divine Ones, because I dedicated all of 2008 to them. I believe that their gifts and blessings are well worth remembering, especially at this time when certain current events seem so starkly to point to their absence.
Known as the Gratiae by the Romans and the Kharites in Greek mythology, the Graces are Goddesses of grace, beauty, adornment, mirth, festivity, dance and song. They preside over the pleasures of life, including play, amusement, banqueting, floral decoration, happiness, rest and relaxation.
While their names and even numbers differed by region, generally the Graces were considered the three beautiful daughters of Zeus, the supreme God of ancient Greece. Their mother was the sea-nymph Eurynome, daughter of the Titan Oceanus.
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.
Their names are Aglaia (Splendor, Radiance), Euphrosyne (Festivity, Cheerfulness), and Thalia (Blooming, Flowering, Joy). Their presence brings the assurance of peace and happiness to all. Therefore, they were always the first Deities to be invoked at important gatherings. And at every banquet, the Greeks unfailingly offered to them the first cup of wine.
The Graces 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.
Goddess scholar and author Patricia Monaghan writes that 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.
To honor them today, I invite you to meditate on the meaning of grace. Can you think of women you admire who embody gracefulness and loveliness?
Women do not hold exclusive rights to these qualities, of course. There are men, as well, who have devoted themselves to flowering, beauty, radiance, and mirth. Who can you think of that honors what is true and fine about these qualities?
Do you say grace before meals? You might begin to do so in the remembrance of these ancient Goddesses, whose presence brings light, peace, beauty and mirth to all who invite them. Offering libations to them is an important gesture as well.
Such ceremonies of mindfulness before dining connect you and your family with traditions that reach back into the furthest beginnings of history.
In what other ways might you invite a more graceful, pleasurable manner of living into your life?
May the Graces attend you in all things this day and evermore. Blessed be.