Blessed Are the Cheese-Makers

Pindar, Pythian Ode 9. 59 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“[The kentauros Kheiron (centaur Chiron) prophesies the birth of Aristaios (Aristaeus) to Apollon :] ‘There [in Libya] shall she [Kyrene (Cyrene), love of Apollon] bear a son [Aristaios], whom glorious Hermes will take from his fond mother’s breast, and carry to the enthroned Horai (Horae, Seasons) and Mother Gaia (Gaea, Earth); and they will gently nurse the babe upon their knees, and on his lips distil ambrosia and nectar, and shall ordain him an immortal being, a Zeus or holy Apollon, a joy to men who love him. And he shall ever be at hand to tend their flocks, Agreos (Hunter) his name to some, to others Nomios (Shepherd), and some will call him Aristaios.’ So Kheiron spoke and decreed for the god his bridal’s dear fulfilment.”

It’s either National Cheese Day or National Cheese Pizza Day (my searches are saying both), either way, it’s time to honour Aristaios, who may not be a patron of Erotic Hedonism, but is a god I hold very dear.

Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“Aristaeus wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete. His sea-blue mother [the Naiad Kyrene (Cyrene)] could scarcely console his pain, and attached these final words to her speech : ‘Stop your tears, my boy. [The sea-god] Proteus will lighten your loss, and tell you how to regain what is gone. But so he does not baffle you by altering appearance, clamp his two hands in strong chains.’
The youth approaches the seer and binds the limp arms of the sleeping old man of the ocean. Proteus uses his art to shift and feign his looks, but soon resumes shape, mastered by chains. Lifting his dripping face and sea-blue beard, he said : ‘You seek a technique to recover bees? Sacrifice a bullock and inter its carcass: the one interred will supply what you seek.’
The shepherd follows orders. From the putrid ox swarms bubble. One life axed bred a thousand.”

Pindar, Pythian Ode 9. 59 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
“[Aristaios (Aristaeus)], whom glorious Hermes will take from his fond mother’s breast, and carry to the enthroned Horai (Horae, Seasons) and Mother Gaia (Gaea, Earth); and they will gently nurse the babe upon their knees, and on his lips distil ambrosia and nectar, and shall ordain him an immortal being, a Zeus or holy Apollon, a joy to men who love him.”

cheesesEN

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 81. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
“Aristaios (Aristaeus) was the son of Apollon and Kyrene (Cyrene), the daughter of Hypseus the son of [the River] Peneios (Peneus), and the manner of his birth is given by certain writers of myths as follows: Apollon became enamoured of a maiden by the name of Kyrene (Cyrene), who was reared in the neighbourhood of Mount Pelion and was of surpassing beauty, and he carried her off from there to that part of the land of Libya where in later times he founded a city and named it, after her, Kyrene.

Now Apollon begat by Kyrene in that land a son Aristaios and gave him while yet a babe into the hands of the Nymphai (Nymphs) to nurture, and the latter bestowed upon him three different names, calling him, that is, Nomios (the Shepherd), Aristaios, and Argeus (the Hunter). He learned from the Nymphai how to curdle milk [i.e. how to make cheese], to make bee-hives, and to cultivate olive-trees, and was the first to instruct men in these matters. And because of the advantage which came to them from these discoveries the men who had received his benefactions rendered to Aristaios honours equal to those offered to the gods, even as they had done in the case of Dionysos.

After this, they say, Aristaios went to Boiotia (Boeotia), where he married one of the daughters of Kadmos (Cadmus), Autonoe, to whom was born Aktaion (Actaeon), who, as the myths relate, was torn to pieces by his own dogs . . .

As for Aristaios, after the death of Aktaion, we are told, he went to the oracle of his father, Apollon, who prophesied to him that he was to change his home to the island of Keos (Ceos) and told him likewise of the honours which would be his among the Keans. To this island he sailed, but since a plague prevailed throughout Greece the sacrifice he offered there was on behalf of all the Greeks. And since the sacrifice was made at the time of the rising of the star Sirios (Sirius), which is the period when the etesian winds customarily blow, the pestilential diseases, we are told, came to an end. Now the man who ponders upon this event may reasonably marvel at the strange turn which fortune took; for the same man who saw his son done to death by the dogs likewise put an end to the influence of the star which, of all the stars of heaven, bears the same name [i.e. Sirius the Dog-Star] and is thought to bring destruction upon mankind, and by so doing was responsible for saving the lives of the rest.

We are further informed that Aristaios left descendants behind on the island of Keos and then returned to Libya, from where he set forth with the aid of his mother, a Nymphe, and put ashore on the island of Sardinia. Here he made his home, and since he loved the island because of its beauty, he set out plantings on it and brought it under cultivation, whereas formerly it had lain waste. Here he begat two sons, Kharmos (Charmus) and Kallicarpos (Callicarpus).
And after this he visited other island and spent some time in Sikelia (Sicily), where, because of the abundance of the fruits on the island and the multitude of flocks and herds which grazed there, he was eager to display to its inhabitants the benefactions which were his to bestow. Consequently among the inhabitants of Sikelia, as men say, Aristaios received especial honour as a god, in particular by those who harvested the fruit of the olive-tree.

And finally, as the myths relate, he visited Dionysos in Thrake (Thrace) and was initiated into his secret rites, and during his stay in the company of the god he learned from him much useful knowledge. And after dwelling some time in the neighbourhood of Mount Haimos (Haemus) he never was seen again of men, and became the recipient of immortal honours not only among the barbarians of that region but among the Greeks as well.”

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *