A to Z Challenge Folklore

Mystifying Muse #folklore #AtoZChallenge

M is for Muse

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

I wrote about the dark muse of Celtic folklore, but thought to write about the ones more commonly known from Greek mythology.


The Muses. Image credit

Alcman, Fragment 67 (from Diodorus Siculus) :
“Most of the mythographers, including those of the highest reputation say that he Mousai (Muses) are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory); but one or two of the poets, Alkman (Alcman) among them, make them the daughters of Ouranos (Uranus, the Sky) and Ge (Gaea, the Earth).”

Arctinus of Miletus, The Aethiopis Frag 1 (from Proclus, Cherstomathia 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“The Akhaians (Achaeans) then . . . lay out the body of Akhilleus (Achilles), while Thetis, arriving with the Mousai (Muses) and her sisters, bewails her son.”

Homer, Iliad 1. 604 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
“Thus thereafter the whole day long until the sun went under they [the gods on Olympos] feasted, nor was anyone’s hunger denied a fair portion, nor denied the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands of Apollon (Apollo) nor the anitiphonal sweet sound of the Mousai (Muses) singing.”

The Muses. Image credit

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


The personification of knowledge and the arts in Greek mythology. Generally said to be the nine daughters of the god Zeus and Mnmosyne, goddess of Memory, and named Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. Each embodied an aspect of the arts, such as poetry or dance.

*More can be read in the book.

The Muses. Image credit

The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous


The Grove of the Muses is said to have been situated at the foot of Mount Marandali, one of the summits of Mount Helicon. Pausanias mentions that he saw there the statues of famous poets and musicians.

*Read more in the book.

The Muses. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane


Variations: Aganippides

In Greek and Roman mythology a muse was a beautiful nymph known for its dancing and singing; it recited poetry as the gods ate their meals. Over time the role of the muse changed and they evolved into beings akin to lesser gods inspiring human artists. There is no unified mythology explaining the parentage of the muses. Throughout Greek mythology the muses have been associated with many events; they gave the Sphinx her riddle, taught Echo how to play music, and taught healing and prophecy. However, they were malicious and vindictive when contradicted.

*Read more in the book.

Erato, Muse of Love Poetry. Image credit

Further Reading:

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The Muses are the adored goddesses of song, dance and memory – and it’s on their mercy that the creativity, wisdom and insight of artists and thinkers depend.

The nine muses of classical mythology are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (“memory”). Though some ancient scholars such as Pausanias only name three, it is believed that nine is the actual number as Hesoid wrote. He also listed their names: Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. Spellings vary, but their job descriptions don’t.

  • Calliope: Muse of heroic or epic poetry (often holding a writing tablet).
  • Clio: Muse of history (often holding a scroll).
  • Erato: Muse of lyric and love poetry (often playing a lyre).
  • Euterpe: Muse of music or flutes (often playing flutes).
  • Melpomene: Muse of tragedy (often holding a tragic mask).
  • Polyhymnia: Muse of sacred poetry or of the mimic art (often shown with a pensive look).
  • Terpsichore: Muse of dancing and choral song (often shown dancing and holding a lyre).
  • Thalia: Muse of comedy (often holding a comic mask).
  • Urania: Muse of astronomy (often holding a globe).

As the patron goddesses of literature, the arts and sciences, they lend their name to the word “museum”. Poets from ancient Greece called upon the Muses to give them inspiration for their work.

Homer only invokes a Muse or the Muses collectively through his works, meaning that they could have been a vague collection of deities, which is characteristic of early Greek religion where the focus was on the Olympians.

The Muses are unmarried, but they have been credited to be the mothers of famous sons such as Orpheus, Eumolpus, Rhesus and others connected to poetry and song.

They spent a lot of time with Apollo – he is even said to be the father of some of their children – and they also spent a lot of time on Olympus cheerfully singing and dancing. They even attended funerals – Achilles’s funeral being one.

Just like a lot of goddesses, they are protective of their status. When someone challenges them, they always win and humiliate their opponent(s). When the Sirens challenged them, they made crowns from their feathers.

In Roman times, the Muses were distributed among the different arts and sciences instead of being able to inspire all of it. Statues of the Muses became popular decoration in galleries and the like.

In modern times, a muse is a person or supernatural force that serves as the source of artistic inspiration for an artist. There is even a band that called themselves “Muse”. And though I find inspiration in music for my writing, it is my pets that serve as my personal muses.

Clio, Muse of History. Image credit

Muse in Modern Culture

Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan

Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia and Urania are the Muses, nine goddesses who preside over inspiration, the sciences, the arts, poetry and literature. Their leader is the god Apollo, who lead them in song.

The Lightning Thief

The Muses were shown to be starting a concert on Olympus when Percy returns the Master Bolt. The Muses and everyone else bow to Percy as a sign of respect for performing a great task for the gods. As the gods celebrate, the Muses play music that sounds like anything you want, so no one argues about the music.

As daughters of an Olympian (one of the Big Three) and of an Elder Titaness, the Muses are very powerful. They are minor goddesses.

  • Inspiration Manipulation: As the Goddesses of Inspiration, the Muses have divine authority and absolute control over inspiration.
  • Control of the Arts: As the Goddesses of Science, Arts, Poetry and Literature, the Muses have divine authority and absolute control over the specific art that each of them represent.
Learn more here.
Nine Muses. Image credit

Disney’s Hercules

The Muses are the secondary narrators of the film and act as the chorus. They often interrupt Bob, saying that he is making the story boring. Thalia sometimes calls Bob ‘Bobby’.

They claim to be Hercules‘ biggest fans, and then singing “Zero to Hero“, they describe his victories over many monsters and his rise to fame.

  • Lillias White as Calliope, the Muse of epic tales, who wears a headband over her big, curly hair
  • Vanéese Y. Thomas as Clio, the Muse of history, with the ponytail
  • Cheryl Freeman as Melpomene, the long-haired Muse of tragedy
  • LaChanze as Terpsichore, the dance Muse with the short, kinky hair
  • Roz Ryan as Thalia, the short and plump Muse of comedy

The Five Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne – the Titaness of Memory under the Alias name memory which will make Them Half Sisters of Hercules and There, in fact, the nine major Greek Muses.

  • Immortality – they can live forever and cannot be killed.
  • Object Manifestation – They can inhabit statues and images that depict them (bring said statues and/or image to life). The five often do this to begin or join in a song.

In Greek legend, the greatest power of the Muses was a kind of possession – when a poet or actor performed at their best, it was not them, but a muse speaking through them. Likewise, when they were encouraged it was due to the blessings of a Muse. 

Learn more here.
The Muses. Image credit

Winx Club TV series

Musa is the Fairy of Music. She hails from Melody and currently acts as its Guardian Fairy

Musa loves music, dancing, singing, and playing all instruments, but her favorite instrument is the concert flute, the first instrument she ever learned to play. Musa usually plays amazing music, but plays best when she is alone by herself in Alfea in a quiet spot. 

Musa is also able to release sound waves that can be used to calm others and even put them to sleep. Musa can release mental sound waves to communicate with other civilians from Melody and displays this again with her fairy animal. Musa has developed the ability to control others (bodies) by dancing, generating a miniature earthquake by placing her hand on the ground and generating low-pressure sound waves, and even imprisoning others in a sound field. She is capable of controlling musical instruments allowing her to silence, conjure, and levitate them. Musa is capable of casting spells by playing her flute channeling her magical music into barriers, hypnotizing minds, and summoning animals. 

Learn more here.

Muse in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Muse

The Muses are powerful goddesses of all the arts, literature and science. Even if writers, artists and scientists don’t know or believe it. They are also the protectors of creativity, inspiration, thinking and memory. They have the power to possess humans and bring forth these things even in those who have none of it when it is needed by society. The Muses prefer living in the Grove of Muses at the foot of Mount Marandali, though they inhabit Museums and Libraries, too. They are known to create reality TV shows where people sing and dance. They also occasionally own bookstores, publishing companies, record companies and film studios. They can appear in any way they wish. Though they sometimes listen to the appeals of humans, they only grant inspiration if they think the human is worthy.

See them in action:

Solitary Fae (Origin of the Fae #6)

What do you think of this kind of muse? Which muse do you prefer: the dark muse or the muse from this article? Any folklore about muses you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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