Diffusing silver light — The Orphic Hymn to Selene

“Hear, Goddess queen, diffusing silver light,
 bull-horn’d and wand’ring thro’ the gloom of Night.

With stars surrounded, and with circuit wide
 Night’s torch extending, thro’ the heav’ns you ride:

Female and Male with borrow’d rays you shine,
 and now full-orb’d, now tending to decline.

Mother of ages, fruit-producing Moon [Mene],
 whose amber orb makes Night’s reflected noon:

Lover of horses, splendid, queen of Night,
 all-seeing pow’r bedeck’d with starry light.

Lover of vigilance, the foe of strife,
 in peace rejoicing, and a prudent life:

Fair lamp of Night, its ornament and friend,
 who giv’st to Nature’s works their destin’d end.

Queen of the stars, all-wife Diana hail!
 Deck’d with a graceful robe and shining veil;

Come, blessed Goddess, prudent, starry, bright,
 come moony-lamp with chaste and splendid light,

Shine on these sacred rites with prosp’rous rays,
 and pleas’d accept thy suppliant’s mystic praise.”

Selene is the first cousin of the elder Olympians and is one of the second generation Titans that did not side with Chronos when Zeus fought to depose him. She is the daughter of Hyperion the Titan lord of Light.

The portrayal of her as being “bull-horned” is interesting to me as this image tends to make me think of Hera and her epithet of “cow-eyed”. It is also interesting that although the majority of this hymn uses female imagery that she is called both “Female and Male”. This is interesting to me as there are several cultures (such as Egypt) that the Greeks had been in contact with during the period that had male moon-gods. The fact that the moon shone with “borrowed rays” is one that would have been newly discovered (if it was not an artifice of the more modern translator).

She, like her brother Helios, is described as being all-seeing and asked to shine on the rites and accept the praise of the original writer of the hymn. She is described as being a lover of vigilance rejoicing in peace which is a direct contrast to Rhea who is described as being a warlike goddess. She has been conflated in the poem with Artemis (Diana) although this identification was not firm yet in the Orphic worldview as we can see by there being a separate poem specifically written for Artemis. 

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