Orphics

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Orphics

 

members of the ancient Greek religious and mystical movement Orphism. The origin of Orphism is connected with the ecstatic mysteries of Dionysus-Zagreus. Orphism spread from Thrace to Greece, southern Italy, and later Rome. The Orphics considered themselves followers of Orpheus and his pupil Musaeus, who supposedly left a secret tradition for the initiates. Fragments of Orphic literature have been preserved, the earliest of which date from the sixth century B.C.; they include hymns and other texts in verse composed in ancient Orphic style and dating from Roman times.

A myth dealing with the creation of man is central to Orphic doctrine. The bisexual Phanes, born from the egg of the world (fragments of the shell form heaven and earth), was swallowed by Zeus, who thus concentrated all divine potentials within himself. Zeus then produced an heir, the future blessed master of the world—Dionysus-Zagreus. However, the Titans tore Zagreus to pieces and devoured him. Zeus slew them with lightning, and from their ashes man was born; man thus combined within himself the evil nature of the Titans and the good nature of Zagreus.

To free the divine soul imprisoned within the body, it was necessary to observe special purification rituals and ascetic prescripts, such as abstention from meat; the Orphics claimed secret knowledge of these rituals. Bliss in the next life awaited the pious, and torment in Tartarus awaited the impious. At the same time, a doctrine of metempsychosis (the reincarnation of souls) was developed. The relationship of Orphism and Pythagorean-ism is unquestionable; however, the question of priority remains in dispute.

In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., the Orphics were particularly successful among the lower strata of the population. Many authors ridiculed Orphic doctrine and rituals as plebeian charlatanism. However, Neoplatonism attempted to make the Orphic texts its “sacred writ” in order to counterbalance the Bible of the Jews and Christians.

WORKS

Kern, O. Orphicorum fragmenta, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1963.

REFERENCES

Losev, A. F. Antichnaia mifologiia v ee istoricheskom razvitii, part 1. Moscow, 1957. (Chapter 4 with translations.)
Guthrie, W. K. C. Orpheus and Greek Religion, 2nd ed. London, 1952.
Moulinier, L. Orphée et l’orphisme a l’époque classique. Paris, 1955.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

References in periodicals archive ?
Orphic Songs and Other Poems) In this essay, I will mostly concentrate on poems that were already included in the 1914 edition, but I will indicate in the notes when the text I am using was not contained in the original volume.
It is revealed in orphic mysterious ways, different from the mystical lights of religion, and bridges over cultural archetypes and teleology.
From the Summer Solstice on, the day begins to decrease; the light gradually wanes; the Sun enters the sign of Cancer which, in the Orphic tradition, is regarded as "the threshold through which the soul enters upon its incarnation" (Guenon, Symboles 237).
The remaining Greek draws on Heraclitus about constant change, on the Homeric hymn about music, on a diatribe against Apollo (from Cassandra's madness in the Agamemnon, which puns on the god's name that also means "destroying" in Greek), and ends with a reference to the Orphic cult words soma, sema--"body," "sign" (of the soul).
This is the original blend to complete the orphic, militant, nativistic cosmopolitanism that Biodun Jeyifo links to a post-colonial position.
Milanovic's "lonely scribe" finds solace in the Orphic myth and the natural cycle, where death brings rebirth.
In this paper I argue that Statius's description of a necklace made by Vulcan in book 2 of the Thebaid alludes at several points to the Orphic Theogony.
The recently discovered Strasbourg and Derveni papyri manage to shed considerable new light on the Orphic tradition and on Empedocles.
some orphic voice, Mother, turn on the breathing light, turn
arguably parodies the Orphic foundational moment that sings a nation
Following Andre Boulanger (Orpheus, Connections between Orphism and Christianity, 1992), Nicu Gavriluta analyzes the hypotheses that convincingly explain the analogies between Orphism and Christianity and the survival of some Orphic elements in the Christian consciousness, sharing the belief that the presence of these elements "becomes a very serious argument for the scientific research of the religious phenomenon regarding the unity and power of creation specific to homo religious since prehistoric times until today.
In Longus' account, to which Bloom briefly alludes, Echo is a chaste singer whose scattered body parts continue to produce ravishing music after her Orphic demise.