Thursday, June 14, 2012
K - Kharisma (Personal Grace) #paganblogproject
According to the American Heritage Dictionary online, charisma is personal magnetism or charm, a quality that etymologically derives from the Greek word “kharisma,” meaning “divine favor.”
You should already be familiar with the concept of “kharis” – or reciprocity – from your readings and other studies. Indeed, you probably have a relationship with Aphrodite, at the very least, that demonstrates kharis.
Kharis, kharisma and the Kharites are all very closely linked, etymologically.
The Kharites, or Graces, were the Goddesses of pleasure, joy, beauty and happiness. They were the Goddesses of “favor” – the favors of beauty and charm and delight. The favors of those almost unnamable, intangible qualities of attraction. Is it any wonder that the Graces were considered the close companions of Aphrodite, then?
There are generally considered to be three primary Graces. They are Aglaea, whose name means Splendor; Euphrosyne, who is Mirth; and Thalia, who is Good Cheer. However, we’ll discuss in a few minutes that these are actually the oldest of the Graces, and they are the ones specifically honored in certain parts of Greece. There are, in fact, other Graces. Several.
Not only are there more than three, but even the primary three Graces are tied up very intimately with other sets of Goddesses whose qualities have an important impact on our discussion today. Where the Graces bestowed favor, charm and beauty upon Gods and mortals, the Horae (or Seasons) guarded the passage of time, and the Muses bestowed inspiration, intellect and understanding of the Mysteries. The Kharites, Horae and Mousai are often listed as companions of each other, but there are closer links among their ranks than that. The elder Grace Thalia is also a Muse, and both Auxo and Hegemone are listed as Graces and Seasons by the Classical texts.
So, we have several Graces. More than three. In truth, we have a few sets of sisters and some individual Goddesses that make up the retinue of Graces. According to the Theoi Project, the eldest and most prominent set of sisters are Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia.
Aglaia is the oldest of all the Graces, and she is sometimes just called Kharis. She is also sometimes called Kalleis, which means “beautiful.” She is the Grace of beauty, adornment, splendor and glory.
Euphrosyne is the second sister of this triad. She presides over merriment, joy and mirth. Euthymia, or contentment, is another name for her.
Thalia is the youngest of this of this triad of sisters. Her name means “good cheer,” and she is credited with presiding over banquets and festive celebrations. Thalia is also the Muse of comedy.
In my book, Aphrodite’s Priestess, I talk about the fact that only one of the three eldest Graces relates directly to physicality. Only Aglaia (Splendor) has a direct impact on the physical realm of the priest or priestess. Aglaia offers gifts of beauty, which we may feel like we either have or we don’t. She may have given or withheld these particular gifts at our births. But, of course, Splendor is about more than superficial concepts of beauty, as we’ll discuss in another podcast devoted entirely to Aglaia.
The other two Graces bear gifts of personality. Euphrosyne and Thalia are all about our demeanor and outlook. They teach us how to see the world through a certain lens, and they help us set the people around us at ease because we are pleasant.
The oldest Graces, and the oldest lessons about grace – about kharisma – are that beauty and joy and mirth are cultivated qualities. This simple lesson bears out when we look at the nature of the younger Graces, as well.
Athenian vase painting shows a host of young Goddesses that are counted among the Graces who attend Aphrodite. Most of these Graces are not mentioned in literary references, according to the Theoi Project, but are depicted frequently in artistic renderings. Antheia’s name relates to flowers, and she is credited with overseeing floral decorations and the garlands worn to parties and festivals. Eudaimonia is the Goddess of happiness, opulence and prosperity. Paidia is the Goddess of play and amusement. Pandaisia is the Goddess of rich banquets, and Pannykhis is the Goddess of night-time revelries and celebrations.
All of the Goddess mentioned above preside over qualities and skills that can be cultivated in an individual. Yes, sure, one person might be naturally more talented than another at throwing a party or setting an opulent table, but anyone can be taught. Anyone can learn.
Phaenna and Kleta are Graces that were worshipped in Sparta. Phaenna means “shining” and Kleta means “fame, glory.” The radiance of fame and glory, particularly in battle and heroic deeds, would naturally have been honored among the Spartans who were known throughout Hellas as a dedicated warrior people. Aphrodite was honored in her war-like aspect among the Spartans, in fact, as Aphrodite Area.
Auxo and Hegemone were Horae (or Seasons) that were also worshipped as Graces. Auxo was the Goddess of Spring growth. The name Hegemone means “Queen” or “Leader.” The Horae were said to be present at Aphrodite’s birth, and they are usually given credit for dressing her in a garment that is shot with innumerable hues. Not only do they adorn the body of the Goddess, but they adorn the Earth itself as time (ie, the Seasons) shift. It could be said that part of their art as Graces is in physical, bodily adornment.
Furthermore, there may be lessons for the devotee within the name of Hegemone, she who is called “leader” and counted among both the Horae and the Kharites. Perhaps the lesson is that one requires a certain amount of grace in order to lead. Perhaps a keen understanding of the passage of time teaches the needed grace.
Peitho, Goddess of persuasion, is often listed as one of the Graces. Peitho plays a part in all seductions, they say, and she has a very checkered history in Greek myth. She is often seen fleeing the scene of rape and abduction in paintings of Classic tales. Peitho is said to be one of Aphrodite’s daughters, and they are very close companions. In fact, they share the Aphrodisia festival, in many parts of Greece.
Pasithea is the Grace of relaxation, the wife of Hypnos, God of sleep. She may also be associated with hallucinogenic drugs, according to the Theoi Project. At first glance, relaxation may seem like an odd candidate for inclusion on the list of charms or graces; but when you think about life’s pleasures, you may quickly realize how much they all hinge on your being relaxed. The marriage of Relaxation and Sleep makes perfect sense, for she precedes him. And in terms of enjoying the banquet, the beauty, the charms of a beautiful girl or a handsome man, the indulgences of music or theatre or night-time revels, tension is a barrier to it all.
All the Kharites teach us invaluable lessons, and the ancients knew that all of the joys and pleasures in this life passed through the hands of the rosy-cheeked Graces. Seek out these sweet Goddesses in your own life, give them honor and reverence, cultivate the skills that they teach, and you will wrap yourself in their kharisma.
Black, Laurelei. Aphrodite’s Priestess. Asteria Books, 2009.
Theoi Project. http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Kharites.html accessed March 30, 2010