16 JULY

THE DREAMING PIT

SERIES II · PROLOGUE I

At first there was only the darkness, long and endless, and she lay in the earth, the deep and the rock.  Here is the navel of the world; here is the Adayton - the Cave of Mother Night. With one charged eye, she they call Nyx gazes out across the limitless expanse; and inside its circumference gleam the heaven’s first sparks.

          Deep within, he is chained - Khronos, the Father of Time - rolling in the throes of sleep; and as he sleeps, he dreams; and as he dreams, he speaks. And Mother Night hears the words, and she weaves the words into speech and into song. The words go forth like scything winds to part and to bind...

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The Dreaming Pit is the first of four 'mini-episodes' or prologues to our second season of Lore & Legend, which focuses on Greek mythology. They allow us to tell some stories and pieces of lore from the setting which are rich, dramatic and exciting, but weren't big enough to spin a full episode from. This first episode is based upon Greek myths of cosmogony - stories about the origins of the world as a natal drama, the sexual union of primordial gods and spirits, and the birth of their children, who embody and personify all of the physical and spiritual aspects of our universe.

There are many different Greek cosomogonies and theogonies, offering conflicting and variant accounts of the lineage of the Gods and the birth of universe. In the manner of myth-making then, The Dreaming Pit combines elements from several different Greek cosmogonies to weave a story around the central theme of our own canon of Greek stories - those which tell of the birth of dreams, and the role of dreaming in the Greek cosmos.  For this reason, the story isn't true to a single source, but combines elements from several early and later works of Greek myth: Hesiod's Theogony, the Orphic theologies, and the Orphic hymns.

HESIOD'S THEOGONY

At the heart of The Dreaming Pit lies the story of the primordial goddess Nyx giving birth to the dark forces which bound the human experience: those of fate, necessity, conflict and affliction. In Hesiod, Nyx is not the first of the gods. She is preceded by Chaos, Gaia (Mother Earth), Tartarus (Deep Earth) and Eros (Desire).

Nyx and Erebus were the children of Chaos, the primordial void. According to Hesiod, Nyx gave birth to the following children:
​​

Doom

Destiny (Violent Death)

Death

Sleep

Dreams

Blame

Pain

Daughters of Night

The Fates

Destinies (Violent Deaths)

Retribution

Deceit

Love

Old Age

Discord

Several of these feature in the sequence of The Dreaming Pit, and the names and interpretations of some deities can vary. 'Nemesis' is invoked as 'Envy' - she was later associated, especially by the Romans, with Invidia, or Jealous Retribution. We have called Oizys 'Misery' rather than simply 'Pain'. The concept of Ker as 'Violent Death' is invoked as 'Murder', but the Spirits of Murder proper (the Phonoi) are listed amongst the children of Eris (Discord) by Hesiod. Ker and her sisters the Keres represented the taking of life as opposed to Thanatos, who represented a more peaceful and natural death. For this reason Thanatos and Sleep were sometimes depicted together as brothers who came to bear away the dead.

 

ORPHIC THEOLOGY

The narrative of The Dreaming Pit is based upon the following account, apparently described in fragmentary Orphic texts:

 

Nyx took on an even more important role in several fragmentary poems attributed to Orpheus. In them, Nyx, rather than Chaos, is the first principle from which all creation emerges. Nyx occupies a cave or adyton, in which she gives oracles. Cronus – who is chained within, asleep and drunk on honey – dreams and prophecizes. Outside the cave, Adrasteia clashes cymbals and beats upon her tympanon, moving the entire universe in an ecstatic dance to the rhythm of Nyx's chanting. Phanes – the strange, monstrous, hermaphrodite Orphic demiurge – was the child or father of Nyx.

 

- 'Nyx'  entry onWikipedia

Other Orphic creation myths focus more on Phanes and his birth from an 'Egg of Chaos'. Orphism was a later development of Greek mythology and religion in Hellenistic Greece, and departs significantly from the traditional accounts given by Hesiod and Homer.  It contains many elements that are alien to those early traditions, and is thought to have been influenced by Near Eastern mythology and culture.  It is called 'Orphism' because many of its texts were attributed to the culture hero Orpheus, believed to be communicating the wisdom which he attained during his trip to the Underworld. Orphic mythology also focused on the god Dionysius as a savior-like figure whose death and rebirth provided a model for the Orphic initiates who sought spiritual purification and rebirth through initiation into religious rites and mysteries.

As well as Nyx, this legend includes the characters of Adrastea (another name for Ananke, the Goddess of Necessity), and Cronus, the original father of Zeus. In The Dreaming Pit, Cronus is conflated with Chronos, the Father of Time. It was not unsual for these two two gods to be consciously identified as the same being in Greek mythology.

Ω

Unfortunately, Wikipedia gives no citations on the sources for this account of Nyx's role in the birth of the universe!  It may be from an Orphic text like the Derveni papyrus. Any help identifying the original source would be welcome.

— Rick

Ω

 

 

ORPHIC HYMN TO DREAMS

A more complete set of Orphic texts is the collection of 87 verses known as the Orphic Hymns dated to the first or second century BC. These and similar texts would often be used in rites and rituals by Orphic priests and holy men, who initiated followers of Orphism into the secrets or 'mysteries' of the religion.

 

The verse performance in the latter half of the Dreaming Pit is based upon the Orphic Hymn to the Divinity of Dreams.  Ours is a free adaption of the English verse translation of the hymns by the 19th century translator and classicist Thomas Taylor. 

Orphic Hymns, Hymn 85

Translation by Thomas Taylor

 

LXXXV. TO THE DIVINITY OF DREAMS [ONEIROI]

The Fumigation from Aromatics.

Thee I invoke, blest pow'r of dreams divine, angel of future fates, swift wings are thine:


Great source of oracles to human kind, when stealing soft, and whisp'ring to the mind,
Thro' sleep's sweet silence and the gloom of night, thy pow'r awakes th' intellectual fight;


To silent souls the will of heav'n relates, and silently reveals their future fates.
For ever friendly to the upright mind sacred and pure, to holy rites inclin'd;


For these with pleasing hope thy dreams inspire, bliss to anticipate, which all desire.
Thy visions manifest of fate disclose, what methods best may mitigate our woes;


Reveal what rites the Gods immortal please, and what the means their anger to appease:
For ever tranquil is the good man's end, whose life, thy dreams admonish and defend.


But from the wicked turn'd averse to bless, thy form unseen, the angel of distress;
No means to cheek approaching ill they find, pensive with fears, and to the future blind.


Come, blessed pow'r, the signatures reveal which heav'n's decrees mysteriously conceal,
Signs only present to the worthy mind, nor omens ill disclose of monst'rous kind.

Lore & Legend
Adaption for The Dreaming Pit​

 

HYMN TO THE SPIRITS OF DREAM

Oh holy powers, dreams divine,

On the swift wings made by fate you fly;

 

Gleaming spirits, flock to our bed-side,

Pass gently behind our sightless eyes;

In sleep’s soft silence and the veil of night

Your light enflames the spiritual eye.

 

And above our head, from heaven’s cloth unwind,

Our mortal thread from the grand design

Faithful with those whose hearts are white

True in tongue and act and mind

 

Come blessed Dreams, your signs unspool,

The hidden work of heaven’s looms

Open wholly to bright and steady eye

That no warped weave will there descry

 

A blessed mirror are the good man’s dreams

Their visions well guide him where he gleans

While terrors and sorrows blind the sleep

Of polluted souls in black sin steeped

 

Oh dreams! 

Reveal the dues the gods demand

To curb the stroke of their pitiless hands

To loyal soldiers be virtuous shields

And scout ahead the treacherous field

 

Dreams, like stars, you light our steps

That we may cross the sea-dark depths

We hope to dream; and dream to hope,

That we might turn a fair course home.

As well as modernising the style and delivery the verse order has also been re-worked, so not every verse can be compared side-by-side: in particular the final verse of Taylor's translation makes our fourth verse, while our final verse is a free improvisation based on the themes of the work, and a need for a more decisive conclusion to the song that aligns with the dramatic theme and intent of The Dreaming Pit.

 

THEMES & FOLKLORE

DREAMS, MYTHS AND COSMOLOGY

The Dreaming Pit gives the first of several different accounts of the birth of dreams. According to other sources, they were the children of Gaia (Mother Earth) or they were created later by Zeus. These stories will appear in later episodes, demonstrating the dynamic role that myth plays in shaping narratives about power, license and justice.

Why are dreams represented amongst the spirits of darkness, misery and death? Greek myth tends to focus on the troubling qualities of dreams: on their ability to inspire confusion and fear. Because they brought visions, they were sometimes thought to offer prophetic visions of the future. But their lack of clarity, and their random nature in contrast to the controlled and ritualistic nature of oracular prophecy, meant they were distrusted and seen as as deceitful and trickster-like.  In future episodes, we'll explore Greek beliefs about the distinction between dreams that were deceitful and those that were trustworthy.

The Orphic Hymns, in their invocation to the Oneiroi, give a more benign and positive view of the nature of dreams. Here they are said to have strong moral force: those who are good and righteous are able to trust their dreams, while the 'wicked' are tormented by them. This account of dreams often doesn't match up well with the mythological stories. This comes up often in traditions and arguments which hold the gods as arbiters of moral justice: they appear at odds with the older stories, or have to explain away the petty or dark nature of the god's morality in these accounts.


THE SHAPE OF DREAMS

Descriptions of dream spirits and their actions are scanty, but those that do, seem to potray them as dark, winged creatures which brood or roost under rocks and trees. The allusion to bats seems to be clear. In later artistic traditions, bats would be used as symbols or allegories for deception of the senses. It seems likely this is inspired by the description of dreams spirits as bat-like in classical sources.

 

Dreams were said to live in the deep earth or in Erebus, and in the House of Sleep, located somewhere adjacent to Hades, the Realm of the Dead. The River of Forgetfulness (Lethe) flows through their domain. Sometimes they are said to follow the train of their Mother, Night, and she in turn is said to lock and unlock the Gates of Dream. 

SEASON II

 

The Dreaming Pit special video includesa preview of just some of the characters who will appear in this season of stories: Endymion, Penelope, Agamemnon, Alkyone, Asclepius, Bellerophon, Odysseus, Klytemnestra, Orestes, Kirke and Elpenor.  You will hear all of their stories of the course of the series. Check out the Series page for a glimpse of the episodes that are coming out over the course of this year.

You can also subscribe to the Season 2 Spotify Playlist to keep up to date not only with each episode as it's released, but also to hear tracks by lyre player Michael Levy and composer Caleb Henessey in-between episodes! Make sure to subscribe for this enhanced listening experience!

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Sebastian Odell
STORYTELLER

Rick Scott
STORYTELLER

EPISODE CREDITS

Story interpreted by Rick Scott. Performed by Rick Scott and Sebastian Odell.
Sound editing, audio design and original illustrations by Rick Scott.
Lore & Legend Series Themes composed and performed by Robert Bentall.

Podcast hosting by Anchor. Video and audiogram creation using Headliner.

Additional sound and effects sourced from the community at Freesound.org.

AUDIO CREDITS

Incidental music, background ambience and sound effects by multiple authors sourced from Freesound.org. See below for the full list of audio files and attribution credits:

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