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Matveychev O.A. Orpheus: the Phenomenon of the North (Stating the Question)

Published in journal "Philology: scientific researches", 2015-2 in rubric "Myth and mythemes", pages 156-163.

Resume: Particular attention is paid to the author's attempts to find the key to explaining “dark places” in our knowledge about the personality and doctrine of the legendary Orpheus. Since the days of Aristotle, scientists began to express doubts about the historical reality of Orpheus. He was too heterogenous to the Greek world to be recognized as really lived among the Greeks. Many elements of the Orphic doctrine were so uncommon for the ancient Greek thought that since the time of Herodotus they were believed to be imported (from Egypt, Iran, Phoenicia, Asia Minor, Hittite Empire). Some researchers of the XXth century were inclined to seek the origins of Orphism even further, to the north of the Eurasian continent, in the territories of shamanism. Either way, the Orphic doctrine is likely to be of northern origin which can be indirectly proved by the non-Greek (north-Balkan) origin of the name of Orpheus. In his research the author has used the methods of drawing analogies, parallels and conducting a dialogue to describe the similarities and differences of philosophical cultures as well as the mechanism of their interaction. The novelty of the research is caused by the fact that the author has attempted to draw parallels between the figure of Orpheus and archetypal ancient Russian Grand Guslar embodied in the images of Sadko, Bojan and the hero of “The Book of Doves”, tsar David Evseevich. All these figures have the following features in common: their ability to influence nature and natural forces with their music, cosmological nature of their activity, magical nature of their instruments (lyre and gusli), traditionally recognized syncretism of the images of the sage and musician. The researcher also draws the parallels between the epics of Sadko, hymn of Varuna and Vasistha of the Rigveda and Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. The proximity of plots, similarity of the figures of wizard singers may prove that they originate from the same source, in particular, the tradition of the times of the Indo-European community. The main conclusion of the study is that there are reasonable grounds to speak about the origin of the Indo-European image of Orpheus and his doctrine (if we cannot yet speak of him as a real historical figure) and put forward a hypothesis about their invasion into Greece in the second half of the 2d millennium BC.

Keywords: mythology, cosmogony, music, Ancient Greece, Orpheus, Orphics, shamanism, philosophy, Indo-Europeans, ancient Slavs

DOI: 10.7256/2305-6177.2015.2.15069

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