The Charities are a group of lesser deities (ie not counted within the main Olympiad) who represent concepts such as charm, nature and beauty in the smell way the muses represent the creative arts.
Known singularly as a Charis (/ˈkeɪrɪs/; Greek: Χάρις, pronounced [kʰáris])
together they are collectively known as the Charites /ˈkærᵻtiːz/(Χάριτες [kʰáritɛːs]) and although their number and names may vary from region to region the three best known are Aglaea (“Splendor”), Euphrosyne(“Mirth”) and Thalia (“Good cheer”)
As with many aspects of Greek mythology the details of their parentage, spouse and offspring vary across time and region but generally speaking it is recorded that the parents of the three above domestic names Charities are Zeus and Eurynome.
Though the Charities did not have a strong cult in their own right but were often incorporated into the cults of other deities and remembered at specific points of the social calendar / life one place which was particularly held as sacred to them was the river Cephissus near Delphi.
Aglaea is the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment. She is sometimes referred to as the youngest of the Charite. Her names means “splendor, brilliant, shining one”
Aglaea was married to Hephaestus after hemail separated from Aphrodite. They had children together who became Charities themselves; Eucleia (“Good Repute”), Eupheme (“Acclaim”), Euthenia (“Prosperity”), and Philophrosyne (“Welcome”).
Euphrosyne is a Goddess of Joy or Mirth, and the incarnation of grace and beauty. She is referred to as the sister of Thalia and Aglaea, who was married to Hephaestus however Euphrosyne is a slow referred to as the half sister of Hephaestus, the god of metalworking and volcanoes. Her name is the female version of a Greek word euphrosynos, which means “merriment”.
Thalia (“Good cheer”)
Thalia is the goddess of festivity and rich banquets. Her name literally means “abundance” and in Greek is an adjective applied to banquets, meaning rich, plentiful and luxuriant. Her name is used for the character Thalia Grace in the Percy Jackson series. This character is the daughter of Zeus by a mortal woman and joined the ranks of Virgins of Artemis to avoid being swept up in the great Prophecy by stopping her from reaching the age of 16.
Connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries
Open Wikipedia or any like minded online encyclopedia you will see the assertion that the Charities are associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. As with any juicy connection like this is it often said but never referenced and it is not entirely clear why the association is made.
One possible explanation may be found in the Orphic Hymn to the Horae (Hymn 43), where the Charities are counted amongst the companions of Persephone in advance of her kidnap by Hades and then after during her sojourn in the celestial realms. They are also identified as being attendants to the God/daimon Iacchus, who in turn is the attendant of the Goddess Demeter/ He is named by Aristophanes as the God of the Call in his play satirising the Eleusinian Mysteries, Frogs.
I have not got to the bottom of this matter just yet, it is possible that there are other connections that I am not aware of.
Hekate and the Charities
The inspiration for today’s post is part my favourite Roman statue of Hekate and part a follow on from my past post about Hekate and the Homeless.
Hekate is depicted in the company of three figures, commonly identified as the Charities/Graces, in a statue from (origin). Why she is depicted with the Charities in attendance is not entirely clear but it is likely that it is because of their joint association with Persephone and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The whole point of the second part of this post rests both on this association and the fact that that the Latin name for the Charities is Graces. The concept of Heketean virtues has been advanced a number of times within groups and individuals the process of writing my post on Hekate and the Homeless these three virtues or “Graces” came to mind.
The Three Graces
I believe that participation in devotional act in Her Honour should inspire us to better know ourselves and the world around us. I would present these processes as three main ‘graces’ through which this can be attained.
Compassion – to garner an understanding and empathy of our fellow humans it is important to have an understanding of their suffering. This is an act beyond sympathy, which is just feeling of pity and sadness alone; it is a process by which in addition to sympathising with a person and situation a process of attempting to alleviate this suffering is also undertaken. Through compassion we not only come to understand the condition of others we can reach a better appreciation of our own.
Humility – there is a saying ‘there but for the grace of the Gods go I’; this reminds us that there is little difference between those less fortunate than ourselves beyond our circumstances. The roll of the dice, the fall of the stones; it doesn’t take much to brighten us down low. It is important to remember that the graces in our lives do not make us better than someone else, nor their misfortunes less. The process of rising someone up neither brings us down nor makes us greater.
Wisdom – it is important to maintain a sense of proportion on all things. Looking after others can be a full and draining pursuit and it is important to exercise moderation in the use of one’s owns resources. You cannot help others if you are not helping yourself, self-compassion is indeed a thing. Wisdom is also knowing how to help, when to help and when you are no longer able to support someone for whatever reason. Not everyone wants to be helped, for a myriad of reasons, and it is necessary to know the signs and what to do in response. No deity who has directed you to help others wants you to wear yourself down in the process and as in all things Hekate can open the door for people and given them the opportunity to walk through it but she will not force the matter. As we all know, she is more than willing to let us learn our lessons the hard well.