O is for Orpheus.
Orpheus was quite an important figure in Ancient Greek mythology.
Considered as the chief representative of song and music, Orpheus was most famous for his perfection of the lyre.
Originally a priest of Dionysus, Orpheus was well-known as a practitioner of magick and ritual, and was also the one who introduced initiatory and purificatory rites to mankind.
Orpheus was a very skilled musician.
His lovely lyre was given to him as a gift from Apollo, who in some myths is said to be his father.
The lyre was originally made by Hermes, which he had fashioned out of a turtle shell.
As Orpheus played his blessed lyre, he could charm the hardest of hearts, make the trees and rocks dance, change the course of rivers and tame wild beasts.
Orpheus was in love with the beautiful Eurydice.
Hecate weaved her charms over Eurydice, drawing her to the Maenads.
But Orpheus became aware of the spell on his beloved, and combated it with the sacred sound of his music.
Not to be deterred, Hekate sent Aristaeus, who also had designs on Eurydice, to snatch her away from Orpheus and into the cult of Bacchus.
Frightened, Eurydice fled from his advances.
During her escape, she trod on a snake hiding in the grass and was fatally bitten.
Orpheus was overcome with grief at the loss of his love and began to play the most saddest and mournful tune ever heard, upon his lyre.
The trees, rocks, rivers and nymphs, were deeply affected by his sad songs, and all cried along with the stricken Orpheus.
This went on for some time, until Orpheus hatched a plan.
He would travel to the Underworld to convince Hades and Persephone to return his Eurydice to him.
Orpheus went first to Hekate, to whom he played his mournful songs.
Affected by his emotive notes, Hecate agreed to lead him into the Underworld, and they proceeded down, deep into a cave, where they came to an entrance way.
Orpheus sat at the foot of the thrones of Hades and Persephone, King and Queen of the Underworld, and played to them the tune of his broken heart.
Such was the power of his music, the whole of the Underworld stopped, and mourned right alongside the devastated Orpheus.
Even the terrible Erinyes had tears rolling down their cheeks, such was the beauty of his sad song.
Tender hearted Persephone, begged her husband to grant this terribly sad man his wish, to return to him his great love.
Hades conceded, and granted Orpheus his deepest desire, he could take Eurydice back to the surface with him.
His one condition being that Eurydice must walk behind him, and Orpheus must, under no circumstance, look behind him until he had reached the upper world.
His lover returned to him, Orpheus and Eurydice began the journey back to the surface.
But in his anxiety, Orpheus glanced back behind him, only to see his beloved Eurydice being pulled back into the depths of the Underworld.
His lover was, once again, lost to him, this time forever,
Orpheus was now completely overcome with grief.
He wandered, a lost and broken man, through the forest, shunning all human contact and wishing only for his own demise, so that he may be reunited with his lost love in the Underworld.
Once a priest of Dionysus, he gave up on his God, a God that had allowed such an awful fate to become him.
Instead, he turned himself over to the light of Apollo.
One morning, Orpheus made his way to the oracle of Dionysus, to make his daily devotion to the rising sun, his God, Apollo.
It was there he was set on by a drunken and reveling pack of Maenads, furious at the sight of Orpheus, who had forsaken their God for another, and now dared to worship this new God at the sacred site of Dionysus.
The maenads, in a frenzy of madness, lust and intoxication, tore the poor Orpheus to pieces, ending his misery for all time.
In the fracas, Orpheus’ head was torn from his body, his magickal lyre ripped from his hands.
The maenads tossed both his head and lyre into the river, where they floated, still singing and playing the mournful tunes he had played in his sad life.
Eventually they washed ashore and his head was buried, a shrine built on the burial spot.
Only then, did the mournful song of Orpheus cease.
His lyre was carried back to Olympus by The Muses, daughters of Zeus, and was put to rest among the stars.
Orpheus was returned to the Underworld, where he was finally reunited with his lost love, Eurydice.