Meliae


In Greek mythology, the Meliae or Meliai were nymphs of the ash tree, whose name they shared. They appeared from the drops of blood spilled when Cronus castrated Uranus, according to Hesiod, Theogony 187. From the same blood sprang the Erinyes, suggesting that the ash-tree nymphs represented the Fates in milder guise (Graves 6.4). From the Meliae sprang the race of mankind of the Age of Bronze (Hesiod, Works and Days 106; Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.164).2

The Meliae belong to a class of sisterhoods whose nature is to appear collectively and who are invoked in the plural, though genealogical myths, especially in Hesiod, give them individual names, such as Melia, "but these are quite clearly secondary and carry no great weight" (Burkert 1985 III.3.2). The Melia thus singled out is one of these daughters of Oceanus. By her brother the river-god Inachus, she became the mother of Io, Phoroneus and Aegialeus or Phegeus. In other stories, she was the mother of Amycus by Poseidon, as the Olympian representative of Oceanus.

Many species of Fraxinus, the ash trees, exude a sugary substance, which the ancient Greeks called méli, "honey". The species of ash in the mountains of Greece is Fraxinus ornus, Manna-ash. The Meliae were nurses of the infant Zeus in the Cretan cave of Dicte, according to Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus. They fed him honey.

Of "manna", the ash-tree sugar, the standard 19th-century US pharmacopeia,The Dispensatory of the United States of America (14th edition, Philadelphia, 1878) said:

"It is owing to the presence of true sugar and dextrin that manna is capable of fermenting...Manna, when long kept, acquires a deeper color, softens, and ultimately deliquesces into a liquid which on the addition of yeast, undergoes the vinous fermentation."

Fermented honey preceded wine as an entheogen in the Aegean world.

References

  • Ruck, Carl A.P. and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth 1994, p. 140.

Links

Darl J. Dumont, "The Ash Tree In Indo-European Culture" from Mankind Quarterly 32.4 (Summer 1992), pp 323-336.

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