cookinglight.comIt’s winter, the equinox has passed, and now the days are getting longer. I sacrificed a bar of chocolate upon the altar of Persephone to welcome the rebirth of a new year. Actually, I’ve been knee-deep in edits, on the phone with my incredible editor every day, debating on where to put commas (actually there is no debate, she says “put one there” and I put); finding typos (if she says “put” and I putt, I expect my readers will be confused); untangling complicated sentences (no one wants to spend five minutes figuring out who is saying what about what); and generally smoothing out the books in the series. Let us sacrifice another bar of chocolate to the nine muses, who help us in our artistic creations. In ancient days, the muses were invoked by the artist to help him. For example:

Homer in The Iliad begins many of his stanzas by invoking the muses to help him tell the tale: “Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus…”

The first lines of The Iliad invokes the muses: “Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades…”

And in The Odyssey, “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”

We say we’ve “lost our muse” when we can’t create, we muse, are amused, bemused, and we go to museums. Museum is from Greek mouseion “place of study, library”, originally “a seat or shrine of the Muses,” from Mousa “Muse”.

Here are the nine muses, and the art they represent:

Thalia (“The Cheerful One”) was the Muse of Comedy;

Urania (“The Heavenly One”) was the Muse of Astronomy, and you can often see her holding a globe;

Melpomene (“She Who Sings”) was the Muse of Tragedy;

Polyhymnia (“She of the Many Hymns”) was the Muse of Hymns and sacred poetry;

Erato (“The Lovely One”) was the Muse of Lyric Poetry;

Calliope (“The One with a Beautiful Voice”) was the Muse of Epic Poetry; Hesiod claims that she was the foremost among the nine, since “she attends on worshipful princes”;

Clio (“The Celebrator,”) was the Muse of History;

Euterpe (“She Who Pleases”), was the Muse of Flute-playing;

Terpsichore (“The One Delighting in the Dance”), was the Muse of Choral Lyric and Dancing.

A word to remember the names of the Muses uses the first letters from their names: TUM PECCET, which Latin students everywhere know means ‘He (who) sins (makes a mistake), will sin (make a mistake)’, but as a pun can mean, ‘If you get it wrong, you’ll make a mistake’, meaning that if you can remember TUM PECCET, you can’t forget the names of the muses!

The Muses may have had Mnemosyne, the goddess of Memory, as their mother-however, their mission was to make people forget their sorrows and cares. Even now, when we’re feeling blue, art and music can lift our spirits. Let’s sacrifice another bar of chocolate to the muses!

The Road to Alexander

What do you do when the past becomes your future?

The year is 2089, and time-travelling journalist Ashley Riveraine gets a once in a lifetime opportunity to interview her childhood hero, Alexander the Great. She expects to come out with an award-winning article, but doesn’t count on Fate intervening.

Alexander mistakes Ashley for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. Being stuck 3000 years in the past with the man of her dreams wouldn’t be so bad if the scientists of the Time Institute hadn’t threatened to erase Ashley from existence if she changes history.

Ashley must now walk a tightrope, caught up in the cataclysmic events of the time, knowing what the future holds for the people she comes to love but powerless to do anything to influence it.

Join Ashley on her hilarious, bumpy journey into the past as she discovers where her place in history truly is…

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Alexander loved when I sang. He adored rock and roll songs, soft ballads, and opera arias. The music they played in Alexander’s time was heavy on percussion, strings, woodwinds, and brass. Choruses were popular, and the music would give me shivers. It could be amazing, especially when the trumpets sounded. I loved the sweet music of the harps and flutes, and there were reed instruments like oboes, included at every banquet. However, music was also commonplace with the soldiers singing as they marched or worked. People sang as they went about their everyday business. And children were taught with songs, as I found out when Callisthenes came for my first lesson.

We had stopped for the night on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The wind was making the tent lean in a way that frightened me, but Alexander assured me there was no danger. I expected to be blown away any second, but the tent held. Callisthenes came by after dinner. I was lying on the bed, and Alexander was at his table going over the day’s journal with Ptolemy Lagos and Nearchus. Plexis was being treated by Usse – his collarbone still hurt – and I was playing a game of checkers with Axiom.

I was winning, for once, so I was cross when Alexander ordered Axiom to fold up the game, and told me to go sit in the corner with Callisthenes for my first lesson. I made a face, but obeyed. Besides, I was curious. What would I learn?

Callisthenes took a small harp out of his robes and proceeded to sing a very cute song about nine women called ‘muses’, who lived on an island somewhere and did all sorts of artistic things. Their names were lovely in themselves, and the song had three verses, with a chorus that went like this:

We are the muses, standing in line,

Nine sisters, nine inspirations divine,

We sing, dance, tell stories and give you stimulation

For all your artistic inspiration.”

Well, it loses something in the translation. However, it was the first little song a child learned. It told him about the nine subjects he would study: epic poetry; history; lyric poetry and hymns; music; tragedy; mime; dance; comedy; and astronomy. Those would be my lessons, and since each subject belonged to a muse, that’s where we started.

I went around humming about Clio and Calliope, Urania and the other sisters until my next lesson.