“Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire “. (1.6-7)John Milton, Paradise Lost.
This is a quote from the 1600’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, by John Milton. In these first lines, Milton is not only stating the theme for his very long poem, but he is also asking for heavenly guidance and inspiration. This was the first invocation of the Muse by Milton in this poem, however, he continues on to ask for guidance a few more times. The most interesting thing is that Milton was blind when he wrote this epic poem. Paradise Lost was recited by Milton and recorded by his daughters. It consists of ten books and over ten thousand lines of verse, and did I say he was blind?
The poetic tradition of invoking the muse has a long history in which the muse is synonymous with the creative voice. Invoking a muse was common practice by many famous poets. Homer began his two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, with an invocation to the muse. Dante had at least six invocations to the Muse, Muses, or God in his famous poem, The Divine Comedy. Chaucer called upon the muse in three of his poems. Plato also saw poetic inspiration as a sort of instability but a necessary evil for creating lasting works of literary art. Ever since the beginning of storytelling, writers have invoked “the muse” to help them tell the stories in their minds and as modern-day writers, poets, creators this helping hand is available to all of us. Although writing poetry has changed dramatically over the years, one thing that has remained crucial to people is the belief in themselves and the ability to choose one’s own influences.
So what happened to all the muses?
Did they abandon us?
Absolutely not. The muse is an energy and a force that is still available to all of us.
“The gift, then, of the Muses, or one of their gifts, is the power of true speech.”E.R. Dodds
We all have a muse. My muse is different than yours. We can decide how we see it or if we see it, at all.
I know that I have felt a deep connection to my muse during painting, writing, and meditation and that my muse is a force that connects me to this vast, limitless universal well of creative inspiration. I often wake up from hours of creative work and look at my painting, poem, or writing and wonder how it happened. This deep level of consciousness is there and available for all of us to tap into. I think that it’s our job to learn how to tap into our muse and be open enough within ourselves to receive Her or His guidance.
Rather than waiting around for an idea to show up or for my muse to appear and drop off some really good inspiration, I have discovered a variety of ways to connect with Her that work better, such as the ones that I am about to share with you.
How to Meet Your Muse
First and foremost – we need to bring forth a conscious invitation and hold a firm belief in Her existence.
- FOSTER YOUR BELIEF – The most important step towards finding and invoking your Muse lay in the act of opening yourself up to a belief in the mystic elements of something that you can not see. Your trust in what you can not touch is what ignites the spark of your Muse to come out and play. Your Muse relationship is one that that takes time to foster and grow. She has been with you your whole life, waiting and available, however, she needs to get to know you too. The best part about a Muse is that you are the one that gets to decide what She is and isn’t, however, if you don’t believe in her existence, she will never step out of the shadow. You need to Believe.
- CREATE A DAILY RITUAL. A daily ritual can include meditation, a prayer, a blessing, lighting of a candle, or playing of a song that signifies to the universe that you are calling in your Muse. Set aside 15 minutes before you write, paint, create to ground yourself, center your being, and create a connection with your muse. Its like a warm-up before going to the gym. It includes emptying your old thoughts and clearing out your old stories so that Her thoughts can come.
- FIND A SYMBOL. Some item that associates you with Her. A feather, a candle, a piece of jewelry, a crystal, an ocean stone, a seashell. Take your time to find the perfect item. Follow your heart, pick what you are drawn to. and something that resonates. Keep the item close with you whenever you travel, walk, meditate, work on your projects, or sleep. Set the item out in front of you during the invocation.
- FIND A SENSUAL LOCATION – Pick a physical location where you can sense her energy. A place where all of your senses are alive and awake. Practice the Wake Up Your Senses exercise. The sensory place where you connect with your Muse needs to feel inspirational and personal. For me, my sensory place is the forest. I get energy and guidance when I am surrounded by the trees more than from anywhere else on earth. The second spot that I find my Muse is when I am near the ocean. It’s important to spend time in your special place of connection. Bring your symbol and have it next to you. This is a sacred space. When you are in this spot, smell the air, familiarize yourself with it. Write down your thoughts here. This is where you want to return to in your mind when you are calling in your Muse at home. Surround yourself with these scents in your daily life and this will encourage her to come out and play more often.
- LISTEN TO MUSIC. Traditionally, the poets’ associated music with the invocation of the muse as sound shifts energy and opens our minds. It’s a welcoming mat and an invitation for your Muse. Do you like Bach or Rap? Only you know the answer to what makes your heart sing. Whatever calms your nerves and makes you smile, play this. In my experience, my muse meets me in the forest. I don’t listen to any music in the forest, I prefer the sounds of nature. This is a personal choice and it is yours to make.
- CREATE AN ALTAR. Create a place in your home that is either hidden or in plain sight. It can be a table, a corner, a drawer. This is your own sacred place for honoring your connection with your Muse and your connection with yourself. Set it up and change it up often. This space will keep your muse awake, engaged and excited. Fill it with new pieces that you find interesting and appealing. A candle, stones, feathers, sage, statues, treasures. Anything that you are drawn to. Explore Pinterest for altar ideas, there are many books written on altars and worshiping. I recommend doing some exploring and have fun here.
- DO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT– If you’re having trouble connecting, it’s perfectly normal. It takes time. It’s also a sign that you need to further ground yourself. Try to take a different path, walk a new way home, choose a different routine, find a different and new symbol or location to sit in. Meditate, have a nap, ask her a question to answer when you go to sleep. Muses like new things, new sparks, new ways. Try something new and She will appear.
- HONOUR HER CALLINGS. When your muse speaks, listen. Take note and use her inspiration. Last night before I went to bed, I invoked my Muse. I created a ritual where I place a special stone on my bedside table and I consciously invite her to answer my thoughts or questions as I fall to sleep. At 3 am she woke me up out of a dead sleep and said the words, “Oh Heavenly Muse,” over and over again. Her message to me was this. We all have the ability to invoke and connect with our Muse. Writing this piece is my way of sharing her message and honoring her visit last night.
Where do you find your Muse? In the forest? By the Ocean? In your bedroom? I would love to hear all about it.
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Milton, John. Paradise Lost, From Books 1-4. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt et al. 10th ed, vo1. 1, W.W. Norton, 2019.