Orphic Hymn to Chronos — a few thoughts

Etherial father, mighty Titan, hear,
 great fire of Gods and men, whom all revere:

Endu’d with various council, pure and strong,
 to whom perfection and decrease belong.

Consum’d by thee all forms that hourly die,
 by thee restor’d, their former place supply;

The world immense in everlasting chains,
 strong and ineffable thy pow’r contains

Father of vast eternity, divine,
 O mighty Saturn [Kronos], various speech is thine: 

Blossom of earth and of the starry skies,
 husband of Rhea, and Prometheus wife.

Obstetric Nature, venerable root,
 from which the various forms of being shoot;

No parts peculiar can thy pow’r enclose,
 diffus’d thro’ all, from which the world arose,

O, best of beings, of a subtle mind,
 propitious hear to holy pray’rs inclin’d;

The sacred rites benevolent attend,
 and grant a blameless life, a blessed end.
There are two views of this Titan Chronos in the mythology (or at least two views on what happened to him after his sons deposed him). This hymn seems to be taking the view that Chronos is an important part of the Cosmic Order. He is being portrayed as the root “From which the various forms of being shoot” as well as the hymn stating that “all revere” him. That view corresponds to the view of him that has him ruling the Isle of the Blessed in the Underworld (having been released from Tartarus).

The Orphic view of Chronos SEEMS to be one of him being the wise ruler who governed mankind during the Golden Age, when “a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Chronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils.” (Hesiod, Works and Days). The following races in Hesiod’s account were ruled by Zeus and the other Olympians. This hymn seems to be calling on Chronos to grant us the same life and end as the golden race with his power diffused throughout the world.

Yes, this is at variance with the view of him as a tyrant needing to be deposed by his sons. I feel that the more violent view is a throwback to the days when the Hellenic tribes were first coming into what is now Greece and supplanting or absorbing the older pantheon. I would not be surprised if Chronos was once an agricultural god associated with the changing seasons. But, that is a thought for another time.

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