Sunday, 14 September 2014

Porphyry - On the Cave of the Nymphs 3

Water - Naiads In Chapters 4-8 Porphyry explores the contents of the caves proper, which he considers to be a complex of interelated symbols, all related to generation and natural growth. Water is considered to symbolize primal matter that goes into generating things and is closely related to the Naids. Naids are related to the humid nature of incarnated souls. He relates this to Heraclitus' concept of humid souls

He makes a distinction between Nymphs and Naiads. Naiads are a particular kind of Nymph. Apparently Nymphs in general symbolize natural matter in general whereas Naiads are related to the matter of human bodies.

"For in consequence of containing perpetually flowing streams of water, it will not be a symbol of an intelligible hypostasis, but of a material essence. On this account also it is sacred to Nymphs, not the mountain or rural Nymphs, or others of the like kind, but to the Naiades, who are thus denominated from streams of water. For we peculiarly call the Naiades, and the powers that preside over waters, Nymphs; and this term also, is commonly applied to all souls descending into generation." (4)

The purple garments symbolize human flesh and the marble columns symbolizes human bones. Therefore the image of the Naids weaving purple garments over stone columns symbolizes souls descending into generation and acquiring body.

"For the formation of the flesh is on and about the bones, which in the bodies of animals resemble stones. Hence these instruments of weaving consist of stone, and not of any other matter. But the purple webs will evidently be the flesh which is woven from the blood". (6) According to Orphic accounts, Persephone presides over generation and is shown weaving a web peplos.

The stone bowls and urns with honey are earth symbols, related to the nymphs and Dionysios, symoblizing the generative, nutritive, and preservative powers of nature.
"Let the stony bowls, then, and the amphorae be symbols of the aquatic nymphs". He illustrates this with a rich, complex series of examples, all related to fountains, nymphs, water, and generation:
In the mysteries of Leontika, there is a ritual involving pouring honey on one's hands.
Honey preserves, honey intoxicates. It is related to divine nectar, citing the Myth of Porus in Plato's Symposium. It symbolizes desire, delight in generation. In another Orphic account, Zeus tricks Kronos with honey. Honey Platonically symbolizes Death because embodiment is the death of the soul, in contradistinction with gall which symbolizes life, because physical death signifies the liberation of the soul to eternal life.

A priestess of Demeter  was called a Bee. Persephone was titled "meltitode" - meaning  delicious like honey. Bee symbolism is linked to the moon and bull symbolism. Bees symbolizes just human souls, who have risen above their humid nature.

"For water co-operates in the work of generation. On this account the bees are said, by the poet, to deposit their honey in bowls and amphorae; the bowls being a symbol of fountains, and therefore a bowl is placed near to Mithra, instead of a fountain; but the amphorae are symbols of the vessels with which we draw water from fountains." (8)

English translation:

Latin translation: