Just as people have called on the spirit world for assistance with crops and fertility or for the strength to get through the darkest nights, humans have called on the spirit world to assist them in the mysterious process of making art. Here is a sampling of some of the Muses from various cultures:
The Hindu Goddess Saraswati
“In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, and power. Hindus worship her not only for "secular knowledge", but for "divine knowledge" essential to achieve moksha.
She is generally shown to have four arms, which represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego. Alternatively, these four arms also represent the 4 Vedas, the primary sacred books for Hindus. The Vedas, in turn, represent the 3 forms of literature:
• Poetry — the Rigveda contains hymns, representing poetry
• Prose — Yajurveda contains prose
• Music — Samaveda represents music.
She is shown to hold the following in her hands:
• A book, which is the sacred Vedas, representing the universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as her perfection of the sciences and the scriptures.
• A mala (rosary) of crystals, representing the power of meditation and spirituality.
• A pot of sacred water, representing creative and purification powers.
• The vina, a musical instrument that represents her perfection of all arts and sciences. Saraswati is also associated with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music. It is believed that children born with that name will prove to be very lucky in their studies." from Wikipedia.
The Muses of Ancient Greece:
"The Muses in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature are the goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.
The Roman scholar Varro relates that there are only three Muses: one who is born from the movement of water, another who makes sound by striking the air, and a third, who is embodied only in the human voice. However the Classical understanding of the muses tripled their triad, set at nine goddesses, who embody the arts and inspire creation with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing, traditional music, and dance.
According to Hesiod's Theogony (seventh century BC), they were daughters of Zeus, the second generation king of the gods, and the offspring of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory." From Wikipedia
Emblems of the Muses:
Muse -- Domain -- Emblem
Calliope - Epic poetry- Writing tablet
Clio - History - Scrolls (pictured above)
Erato - Lyric poetry - Cithara (an ancient Greek musical instrument in the lyre family)
Euterpe - Music - Aulos (an ancient Greek musical instrument)
Melpomene - Tragedy - Tragic mask
Polyhymnia - Choral poetry - Veil
Terpsichore - Dance - Lyre
Thalia - Comedy - Comic mask
Urania - Astronomy - Globe and compass
The Japanese Goddess Benten
“ The Goddess of luck, love, eloquence, wisdom and the fine arts, Benten is the patron of the geishas and the art folks. She is shown with eight arms riding on a dragon.” Ppictured to left, painted by Hanko Kajita 1870-1917, sourced here.
Chinese Goddess Luo
“Lady Mi was the daughter of FuXi, the legendary Chinese emperor deemed to be the mythical creator of fishing, trapping, and writing.” (Interesting combination. Visual below to the right.) “Because she was very fascinated with the beautiful scenery on both sides of the Luo River, Lady Mi descended onto the Luo River basin and lived there to teach them how to create nets, the skills of hunting, etc." Sourced here.
The Celtic Goddess Brigid
“The Celtic Goddess Brigid is beloved as the muse of poetic inspiration and the mistress of the healing arts. She is also associated with smithcraft, which held special import for the early Celts. The site of her well still exists in Ireland, and it's eternal flame is still quietly attended by eighteen maidens. The Catholic Church made her a saint due to her fervent worshippers, who accepted Christ, but could not endorse a religion that excluded her.” Sourced here.
“Brigit is the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians.
In Cath Maige Tuireadh, Bríg (sic) invents keening while mourning for her son Ruadán, after he is slain while fighting for the Fomorians. She is credited in the same passage with inventing a whistle used for night travel. …And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow."
Her British and continental counterpart Brigantia seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena (Encyclopedia Britannica: Celtic Religion), goddesses with very similar functions and apparently embodying the same concept of 'elevated state', whether physical or psychological. Sourced from Wikipedia.
Celtic Goddess Cerridwen
In researching this, I came across a quite astounding artist named Maxine Miller. Here’s what she has created and written about the muses (and goddesses). "Cerridwen, the Celtic goddess of knowledge and creativity, stirs a potent magic in her bottomless cauldron. A primal force of shadow and light, her magic draught bestows inspiration upon all who seek their muse." [© 2006 Maxine Miller]
Egyptian Goddess Isis
Isis was a goddess in Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. She was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, the downtrodden, as well as listening to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers. Isis is the Goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility." Sourced from Wikipedia.
Causes Jess Wells Supports
Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Friends of the Urban Forest, The Heifer Project, Forests Forever, NRDC