In the beginning, there was only Chaos.

Out of Chaos came Earth, Love, Darkness, and Night. Sky was born of the union of Darkness and Night. Sky and Earth mated, and thus conceived Heaven.

From Heaven and Earth came the Titans, who ruled the ancient world. A Titan named Memory became mother to the nine Muses.

Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry, loved Apollo, the Sun God, master of the lyre, and Orpheus was born. Blessed with his mother's creativity and taught to play the lyre at his father's knee, the lad grew to become the divine minstrel, who brought the gift of music to the world of men. His magical songs charmed humans and gods, trees, rivers, and rocks. Wild animals gathered quietly in the forest to hear him sing and play.

Orpheus accompanied Jason and the Argonauts on their fabled quest to find the Golden Fleece. His songs of peace inspired the warriors, soothing their anger and showing them the folly of argument. His hypnotic rhythms made the long hours of rowing pass quickly, but his greatest contribution was yet to come.

The oceans of the ancient world were filled with peril, not the least of which was the fatal attraction of the Sirens. The beaches of the isle of Anthemoessa, home to these magical mermaids, were white with the bleached bones of sailors, lured to their deaths by seductive songs. These irresistible arias fell upon the ears of the Argonauts as they sailed close to the rocky shore. It was Orpheus who saved them, drowning out the deadly melodies with his own enchanted ballads.

Perhaps the greatest love story of all time begins with the return of the Argonauts to Thrace, where Orpheus fell in love with a beautiful dryad named Eurydice. They were joyfully married, and celebrated with a great feast.

Later, as Eurydice strolled with her friends through a sunny meadow, she was confronted by Orpheus' half-brother, the shepherd Aristaeus. Obsessed with the nymph's beauty, Aristaeus tried to force his attentions on her. She turned and ran swiftly away but, in so doing, she stepped upon a poisonous serpent, which bit her foot and killed her. Eurydice's spirit was taken to Tartarus, the underworld, the ultimate destination of all mortal souls.

Orpheus was disconsolate, and roamed the land consumed by grief until Love led him to enter a mountain cave that was a gate to Tartarus. His impassioned lyrics charmed the three-headed dog Cerberus, guardian of the gate; Charon, the ferryman, who took him across the river Styx; and all of the shades of the underworld. Even the cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears. Persephone, wife of Hades, King of the Dead, persuaded her husband to allow Orpheus to lead Eurydice back to the land of the living, but on one condition: that he not look back at her until they had both stepped into the sun.

No one knows exactly why but, just before they emerged from the cave into the sunlit, dappled green forests of Earth, something made Orpheus turn around for a quick glance at his beloved. She faded into a wisp of vapor before his eyes and, with a whispered "Farewell," was taken back to the underworld.

In hopes of winning her release again, Orpheus tried to return to Tartarus. This time, though, Charon would not listen to his song, and the heartbroken minstrel eventually returned to Thrace. He vowed never to love another woman, and lived out his remaining years making the woodlands weep with the saddest of songs.

One day, a group of young Thracian maidens that had been driven to frenzy by the hedonistic rites of Dionysius tried to seduce Orpheus. When he refused their advances the women screamed to drown out his song, tore him to pieces, and threw his head into a river. It floated, still singing of his lost love, to the Isle of Lesbos where it was enshrined as an oracle. The Muses solemnly gathered up his limbs and buried them at Libethra, where the nightingales are said to sing more sweetly than anywhere else on earth. Zeus placed his lyre among the stars.

The shade of Orpheus descended again to the underworld, where he was reunited with his lost love to roam the Elysian Fields forever...

until 1967, when the music of Orpheus returned to the world of men after thousands of years, and now, as Orpheus is Reborn!

Stephen Martin

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