Chapter 4

Mimesis in Lyric: Sappho’s Aphrodite and the Changing Woman of the Apache

We turn to a striking example of the equation between a ritual “this” and a mythical “that,” as postulated in Aristotle’s formulation of mimesis. This example of dramatic re-enactment, taken from a culture that is definitely unrelated to the Greek, is explicitly a case of initiation—a concept that we have seen only implicitly in the semantics of the epithet for the Homeric nightingale, poludeukḗs ‘patterning in many different ways’. As a re-enactment that serves the explicit social purpose of initiation, this example gives us a valuable point of comparison with examples of ancient Greek dramatic re-enactment, as brought to life in performance.
To make sure that the comparison about to be made serves its intended purpose of allowing us to see the ancient Greek evidence in a new light, it is important to stress that ancient Greek dramatic re-enactment could in fact take place not only in theater, not only in choral performance, but even in monody, the conventions of which are replete with stylized choral roles. [1] Such monody could be performed not only at public “recitals” but also at symposia. [2] An outstanding case in point is the ostensibly monodic poetry of Sappho, whose songs “presuppose or represent an interaction, offstage, as it were, with a choral aggregate.” [3]
Our example is a Navajo ritual of girls’ initiation into puberty called the kinaaldá, customarily performed by and in honor of a young female member of the community on the occasions of her first and second menstruation. Much has been written about the Navajo kinaaldá ritual, and it is difficult to do justice to its rich complexities. For my present purposes, the most telling summary of the Navajo evidence is to be found in a book of cross-cultural {87|88} studies concerning the general topic of female initiation. [4] There are related rituals in other societies of the same Athapascan language family to which the Navajo belong, notably in Apache societies, where the term for girls’ puberty ritual is nahihes. [5]
The focal point of the Navajo myth and ritual is the goddess Changing Woman, also known as White Shell Woman, who is to become the mother of the Divine Twins. More literally, her name means “the woman who is transformed time and again” (p. 25). The Apache analogue is likewise known as Changing Woman, or White Painted Woman (p. 135). In the case of the Navajo kinaaldá ritual, most of the proceedings take place in the family hogan (the Navajo word for a type of earth-covered edifice) of the girl to be initiated. On the final night of the kinaaldá, the ritual program features the performance of what are called the hogan songs, claimed to be originally composed for the kinaaldá of Changing Woman herself (pp. 18–19). There are two kinds of hogan songs, corresponding to the girl’s first and second menstruations: the Chief Hogan Songs and the Talking God Hogan Songs (p. 22). According to Navajo myth, the power of these same hogan songs enabled the prototypical figures First Man and First Woman to sing the prototypical hogan into existence (p. 18). In the here and now of the ritual, these hogan songs are thought to have the power of re-enacting the prototypical event. The words of the singer’s songs, by identifying the family hogan with the first hogan, claim to rebuild and thus renew the identified edifice, as the words themselves say explicitly (p. 18).
Thus the localization of the Navajo family hogan becomes sacred space, where the distinctions between the details of myth and the details of ritual can merge in the minds of those who participate in the ritual (p. 19). In one particular recording of these hogan songs, we can observe the continual repetition of a phrase that can be translated: “I fully understand it” (p. 19). [6] This {88|89} phrase frames such declarations as “Now with my doorway, now with my door curtain, the house has come into being, it is said” and “Now long life, now everlasting beauty, were brought into the interior, it is said” (p. 19). Within the sacred space of this interior, the young girl to be initiated becomes identified with the goddess Changing Woman (p. 119n35). In the corresponding Apache ritual, the family of the girl initiand, before the actual puberty ritual takes place, conventionally refers to the daughter as “she who is going to become White Painted Woman” (p. 135). Since the feasting is open to all, the initiand can be conventionally designated by the people at large as “she through whom we will have a big time” (p. 135).
In the course of the Navajo ritual, the young girl initiand has the authority to confer the blessings of prosperity and fertility upon the participants in the ritual, “thus imparting some of the powers of growth with which she abounds at this moment of her life” (p. 20); in the Apache ritual as well, “during those four days the celebrant was considered to have power” (p. 135). [7] After the blessings in the Navajo ritual, the initiand leaves the hogan and runs a race with other young people who are participants in her initiation, and it is ritually prescribed that she must take the lead in the race (p. 50). We may compare the authoritative status of the chorus-leader or khorēgós in Alcman’s Partheneion (which apparently refers to some sort of ritualized race). [8]
In the Navajo ritual, the prescribed course of the race to be run by the girl initiand is clockwise, heading eastward from the hogan toward the sun, returning westward to the hogan (p. 20). It has been observed that “the race is, in effect, her pursuit of the {89|90} sun” (p. 20). In the myth of Changing Woman, which is correlated with the race of the girl initiand, the goddess actually mates with the Sun (p. 29). [9] At the moment of intercourse, the Sun takes on the form of a handsome youth (p. 120n55). We may compare a theme that is prevalent in the poetics of Sappho, where the female speaker declares her érōs āelíō ‘lust for the sun’ (Sappho F 58.25–26 V), which parallels a story in Lesbian mythology about the pursuit of a handsome youth Phaon by all the women of Lesbos, headed by Aphrodite herself; the mythical pursuit by Aphrodite corresponds to a poeticized pursuit of Phaon by the principal female speaker featured in Sappho’s poetics—let us call her Sappho. [10] Phaon’s name (Pháōn) means ‘shining’, parallel to the name Phaethon (Phaéthōn), derived from the participle ‘shining’, attested as the ornamental epithet of Helios the sun-god. [11]
The positioning of the participants in the Navajo ritual is regulated so that the kinaaldá girl and the chief singer, who leads the ritual events of the evening, are situated next to each other, in the West of the hogan; in the middle of the hogan is a mound of earth and a vessel of water; in the North and South are the women and men respectively (pp. 21–23). In the East is the doorway, where the first rays of the sun will enter at dawn, “just as Sun came to Changing Woman through her hogan’s eastern door at the beginning of time” (p. 22). In this setting, the singing of the hogan songs begins. In this context, we may compare the variety of possibilities in choral positioning as implied in the wording of Alcman’s Partheneion; in that particular song, of course, the main divine referent is a Dawn Goddess (Orthria at line 61, Aōtis at line 87). [12] Such a conceptualization cannot exactly apply to Changing Woman, but there are nevertheless clear parallels, as we may infer from the following description: “Changing Woman’s chief concern is fertility of all kinds—the {90|91} ebb and flow of birth, death, and rebirth—and in this respect she is similar to the sun, who is also much concerned with the bestowing of new life and with the rhythms of plants and seasons” (p. 30). In the corresponding Apache ritual, the symbols painted on the Puberty Dress of White Painted Woman include the crescent moon, morning star, rainbows, and sunbeams (p. 136). [13]
In the Talking God type of hogan songs in Navajo ritual, the goddess is conventionally described as moving towards the ritually decorated family hogan and then signaling her arrival. As she arrives, the references to the goddess shift from the third to the first person, so that the goddess herself, represented in the words of the singer, now speaks as an “I.” A phrase continually repeated in Talking God Hogan Song 25 goes like this: “With my sacred power, I am travelling” (p. 23). Towards the end of this song, this repeated phrase frames, on either side, the following declaration: “Now with long life, now with everlasting beauty, I live” (p. 23). This image of a traveling goddess whose climactic epiphany in the here and now signals a shift from third to first person is comparable to the celebrated inaugural song of the Alexandrian edition of songs attributed to Sappho (F 1 V), where Aphrodite shifts from second-person addressee to first person speaker (in a stretch starting at line 18 and lasting through line 24). [14]
In the whole Navajo ritual, the chief purpose “is the identification of the girl initiand with Changing Woman” (p. 24). This identification is explicit in the following Twelve Word Song (p. 24):
I am here; I am White Shell Woman, I am here.
Now on the top of Gobernador Knob [a local mountain], I am here.
In the center of my white shell hogan I am here.
Right on the white shell spread I am here.
Right on the fabric spread I am here.
Right at the end of the rainbow I am here. {91|92}
We may note the immediacy of this epiphany, comparable with the epiphany of Aphrodite in Song 1 of Sappho (F 1 V). Even more important, it seems that the “I” here stands for a composite of the girl initiand and Changing Woman herself, though the actual performer is the chief singer.
In the corresponding Apache girls’ initiation ritual, there are similar distributions in roles, though we can expect many variations in the hierarchy of participants in the ritual. In our survey of the Navajo ritual, we noted in particular the role of the chief singer. In the corresponding Apache ritual, there is likewise a chief singer, but in this instance let us shift our attention to a ritual figure who functions as a correlate of the chief singer. She is an attendant, an older and more experienced woman whose task it is to take charge of the girl initiand during the period of the ritual. It has been observed that “some attendants could claim supernatural experience with [White Painted Woman] herself,” so that the girl’s attendant is placed “more in the role of priestess than true shaman” (p. 136). We may compare Pausanias’ description of the Leukippides, historical analogues to the main choral figures of Alcman’s Partheneion, as hiéreiai ‘priestesses’ (3.16.1). [15] In the Apache girls’ initiation ritual, once the attendant is matched with the initiand, the woman and the girl are expected, from that point on, to address each other as mother and daughter respectively for the rest of their lives (p. 136). This relationship seems comparable to the dramatized interactions of heroines and nurses in Greek tragedy, especially the case of Phaedra and her nurse in Euripides’ Hippolytus; just as the attendant in the Apache ritual is well versed in women’s lore, so also is the nurse in Greek tragedy. [16] Despite the importance of the attendant, the overall ritual itself is directed by the chief singer. We are told that “the most sought after singers were old men who, by community observation, had presided over ceremonies that produced a high percentage of healthy, strong, good-natured, industrious women” (p. 136).
Besides the attendant and the chief singer, there is a third key participant in the Apache girls’ puberty ritual. This is the shaman {92|93} or diyin, whom the girl’s family has to select and who has the power, through supernatural beings called the ganhs, to select and prepare dancers for the ritual (p. 136). The diyin is asked to miss the puberty ritual himself, since “the one who dressed and painted the ganhs had to stay in a little camp well removed from the festivity” (p. 136). This phase of the ritual complex is pervaded by a deeply felt sense of danger, in that the dancers are to re-enact the powerful ganhs (p. 136), and the diyin is well paid for his troubles in recruiting and training them (p. 136).
On the day that the Apache girls’ puberty ritual begins, before dawn, the girl initiand is entrusted to the attendant, who washes her hair; as the sun rises, the initiand faces the East as the attendant prays while adorning her and dressing her in her ritual costume. “From this instant she was a woman, and for the next four days she was [White Painted Woman] and had to be addressed so” (p. 137). As for the ritual edifice to be built for the occasion, there is a great deal of variation from tribe to tribe. A key feature is an alignment with the four directions and a runway to the East. The chief singer is in charge of the Dwelling Songs, which accompany the building of the ritual edifice (p. 138). In response to the mention of the key supernatural figures in the singing, the attendant utters the same ululation with which White Painted Woman had once upon a time greeted the deaths of the monsters that threatened the universal order (p. 138). In fact the attendant is known as She Who Makes the Cry (p. 138). Later, as the crowd gathers, the attendant pushes White Painted Woman out of the East entrance to run clockwise around a basket of offerings placed outside, with other women and men who want good fortune trotting after the girl initiand (p. 139). Meanwhile, the diyin is getting the dancers ready. Morris Opler has collected the ganhmaking songs that are performed at this part of the ritual, including the following: [17]
In the middle of the Holy Mountain,
In the middle of its body, stands a hut,
Brush-built, for the Black Mountain Spirit.
White lightning flashes in these moccasins; [18] {93|94}
White lightning streaks in angular path;
I am the lightning flashing and streaking!
This headdress lives; the noise of its pendants
Sounds and is heard!
My song shall encircle these dancers.
I have highlighted the last line in order to draw attention to its remarkable metaphor concerning the relationship of song and dance. To ponder the image of song as encircling and thereby containing dance is a fitting way to bring to a close our consideration of this extended example of re-enactment as initiation.
It is in this light that we may re-examine an ancient Greek example of re-enactment as genuine initiation. The passage in question is the prophecy spoken by the goddess Artemis as a consolation to the dying virgin hero Hippolytus in lines 1423–1430 of Euripides’ Hippolytus. [19] These verses describe, briefly but explicitly, a ritual of female initiation, pictured as seasonally recurring in the past, in the present, and for all time to come in the city of Trozen, where the local girls customarily cut their hair and sing songs of lament for the death of Hippolytus as a formal sign of their coming of age. The myth of the hero’s death and of Phaedra’s unrequited love for him (1430) is described as a sad love-song, ‘a troubled thought that happens with songmaking’ (mousopoiós ... mérimna, 1428–1429). [20]
We may note in passing, for purposes of further comparison, the observation of Vladimir Propp about love-songs in Russian folk traditions: “the songs are about unhappy love more often than about happy love.” [21] He goes on to note that traditional Russian women’s songs at weddings, including the bride’s songs, include instances of formal lamentation; [22] in fact, “the wailing of the bride is one of the richest and artistically complete forms of ancient peasant poetry.” [23] Given that weddings are elaborate rites {94|95} of passage in Russian folk traditions and that “many wedding songs were never performed outside the wedding ritual,” [24] we stand to gain a wealth of comparative insights from detailed descriptions of women’s songmaking in the context of weddings, especially in view of Propp’s conclusion that traditional Russian wedding songs “are so closely related to love and family lyrics that they cannot be studied outside the framework of women’s folk lyrics in general.” [25] Of special interest for the study of archaic Greek choral traditions is the Russian tradition of the ritual unplaiting of the maiden’s braid as a preparation for the wedding, where the unplaiting is accompanied by songmaking, and where the bride’s girl-friends sing in the name of the bride. [26]
With specific reference to the ancient Greek girls’ initiation ritual described in lines 1423–1430 of Euripides’ Hippolytus, one commentator has noted that “the Athenian audience felt strongly the continuity of legendary past and present,” and that “there is an evident emotional satisfaction in the feeling that the events and persons one has been witnessing live on in effect or name into the life of the present day.” [27] We may note with special interest the commentator’s use of the word “emotional” here because it captures the subjective level of páthos in Aristotle’s reading of tragedy: on this level, páthos can be translated as emotion. [28]
Still, it remains to ask how the choral lyric of real-life girls who are experiencing initiation by lamenting for Hippolytus and the unrequited love of Phaedra in the real-life community of Trozen translates into the “emotional satisfaction” of the Athenian audience of State Theater. I propose that the song of initiation performed on a seasonally recurring basis by the girls’ chorus in Trozen is dramatically replayed, or, better, preplayed, as the songs performed by the chorus of young men in Athenian State Theater {95|96} who are re-enacting a chorus of young women in Trozen as they sing and dance the choral lyrics of Euripides’ Hippolytus. With reference to the second choral lyric, where the chorus emotionally identifies with Phaedra’s most intimate thoughts in an exquisitely poeticized escapist reverie while she is killing herself offstage (732–775), one critic has noted the “intersubjectivity” of the chorus and the hero. [29] This perceptive line of thought can be extended: in the sacred space of Athenian State Theater, the páthos or primal ordeal of a hero like Hippolytus or Phaedra becomes identified with the páthos or emotion of the audience as well, all through the intersubjectivity of choral performance.
It has been remarked that, when the maidens of Trozen mourn for Hippolytus, they mourn for themselves. [30] So too the audience of the drâma that is Athenian State Theater experiences the páthos of the hero through the páthos of re-enactment in choral song and dance. [31]
The mentality of re-enactment requires the idea of an archetype, not just the latest model in a series of previous models. In diegesis or ‘narration’ this principle may be latent, though it can be argued that even diegesis is subsumed by mimesis: if the role or even the identity of the narrator, the one who performs diegesis, is left unspecified in a narration, then its frame of mimesis is merely hidden from view. [32] As for mimesis pure and simple, on the other hand, the principle is overt: mimesis is predicated on such archetypes as gods or heroes, as we have already noted in the case of Alcman’s Partheneion.
We may try to sidestep the central idea of mimesis by telling ourselves that the pronoun “I” used by the one who re-enacts a given god or hero is at that moment merely an “actor,” no matter who the speaker may be—a member of a chorus, or a chorus-leader, or even the one whom we identify as the composer. But I must insist that this kind of “acting” in the context of {96|97} archaic Greek poetry is not a matter of pretending: it is rather a merger of the performer’s identity with an identity patterned on an archetype—a merger repeated every time the ritual occasion recurs.
According to this argument, then, mimesis in the older sense of the word requires that the speaker’s identity merge with that of his role as speaker, just as the identities of those who are spoken to and spoken about must merge with their respective roles. If the merger is successful, then the model has not been merely copied, that is, imitated. It has been remodeled, that is, re-enacted. What is remodeled can continue to be a model. What is merely copied cannot. The paradox here is that a model implies no change, whereas whatever is remodeled does indeed imply change. That is to say, an explicit idea of unchangeability through time subsumes an implicit idea of change in the here-and-now of the occasion of performance.
The premier metaphor for this paradox of re-enactment is repetition, as ideally expressed by adverbs or preverbs meaning ‘again’, such as Greek dēûte in Song 1 of Sappho: [33]
          ποικιλόθρον' ἀθανάτἈφρόδιτα,
          παῖ Δίος δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
          μή μ' ἄσαισι μηδ' ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
          πότνια, θῦμον,
5        ἀλλὰ τυίδ' ἔλθ', αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
          τὰς ἔμας αὔδας ἀίοισα πήλοι
          ἔκλυες, πάτρος δὲ δόμον λίποισα
          χρύσιον ἦλθες
          ἄρμ' ὐπασδεύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ' ἆγον
10      ὤκεες στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
          πύκνα δίννεντες πτέρ' ἀπ' ὠράνωἴθε-
          ρος διὰ μέσσω·
          αἶψα δ' ἐξίκοντο· σὺ δ', ὦ μάκαιρα,
          μειδιαίσαισ' ἀθανάτωι προσώπωι
15      ἤρε' ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
          δηὖτε κάλημμι {97|98}
          κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
          μαινόλαι θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
          βαῖσ᾿ [34] ἄγην ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ', ὦ
20      Ψάπφ', ἀδικήει;
          καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
          αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ', ἀλλὰ δώσει,
          αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει
          κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.
25      ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον
          ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
          θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον· σὺ δ᾿ αὔτα
          σύμμαχος ἔσσο

          You with varied pattern-woven flowers, [35] immortal Aphrodite,
          child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I implore you,
          do not devastate with aches and sorrows,
          Mistress, my heart!
5        But come here, if ever at any other time 5
          hearing my voice from afar,
          you heeded me, and leaving the palace of your father,
          golden, you came,
          having harnessed the chariot; and you were carried along by beautiful
10      swift sparrows over the dark earth
          swirling with their dense plumage from the sky through the
          midst of the aether,
          and straightaway they arrived. But you, O holy one,
          smiling with your immortal looks,
          kept asking what is it once again this time [dēûte] that has happened to me and
15      for what reason
          once again this time [dēûte] do I invoke you, {98|99}
          and what is it that I want more than anything to happen
          to my frenzied spirit? “Whom am I once again this time [dēûte] to persuade,
          setting out to bring her to your love? Who is doing you,
20      Sappho, wrong?
          For if she is fleeing now, soon she will give chase.
          If she is not taking gifts, soon she will be giving them.
          If she does not love, soon she will love
          against her will.”
25      Come to me even now, and free me from harsh
          anxieties, and however many things
          my spirit yearns to get done, you do for me. You
          become my ally in war.
As the song begins, its female speaker invokes Aphrodite, the archetype of love, in the form of a prayer. [36] The goddess is then described as flying down from Olympus, but the action takes place not in a third-person diegesis but still in the second person, so that the potential diegesis is subsumed by the syntax of prayer. Then, as the goddess arrives all the way from her distant celestial realm, she is quoted by the speaker as speaking directly in the first person to this speaker, who is now suddenly shifted into the second person (lines 18–24). Aphrodite’s first question is: what is wrong with you this time (line 15)? And she is addressing a woman whom she calls Sappho (line 20). So we see that the speaker who had started speaking at the beginning of the song was Sappho. But now, from the standpoint of performance, the speaker Sappho is speaking in the first person of Aphrodite (lines 18–24): she is in effect re-enacting the goddess. We have earlier noted a comparable shift to the first person in the songs of the Changing Woman rituals. Moreover, at the end of Sappho’s prayer, she asks to be the goddess’s equal partner, a súmmakhos ‘fellow warrior’ in the warfare of love. The active télessai in place of the expected passive telésthēn at line 26 suggests that the controlling plan is meant to be the mind of Sappho, as if she were equivalent to Aphrodite herself. [37] {99|100}
The re-enactment of Aphrodite as the archetype of love is made manifest by the adverb dēûte (δηὖτε) ‘again, once again this time’, which refers to the onset of love in the speaker’s heart. It is reinforced by the repetition of this adverb denoting repetition—three times at that. And there is further reinforcement in the triple repetition of ótti / k’ṓtti ‘what?’. Yet, in this paradox of repetition, the more you hear “again” or “one more time,” the more changes you see. It is all an archetypal re-enactment for the archetypal goddess of love, but for the humans who re-enact love it becomes a vast variety of different experiences by different people in different situations. This paradox of repetition brings to mind the words of Kierkegaard: “The dialectic of repetition is easy, for that which is repeated has been—otherwise it could not be repeated—but the very fact that it has been makes the repetition into something new.” [38]
The variety of erotic situations suggested by dēûte (δηὖτε), and highlighted by the instances of amor versus at lines 21 to 24, can also be illustrated by the strikingly plentiful set of examples that we find in the relatively few surviving fragments of Anacreon: at PMG 358 golden-haired Eros throws at me dēûte (δηὖτε) a purple ball; at 376, ἀρθεὶς δηὖτε ἀπὸ Λευκάδος πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι ‘lifting off dēûte from the white rock I dive down into the gray eddies below, intoxicated with eros’; at 394b, Alexis is wooing dēûte (δηὖτε); at 400, one is fleeing Eros dēûte (δηὖτε); at 413, eros smites me dēûte (δηὖτε) with a great pelékus ‘double-axe’ like a khalkeús ‘coppersmith’, and it washes me in a wintry torrent; at 428, I love dēûte (δηὖτε) and I do not love / And I am mad and I am not mad. Surveying these and other instances of dēûte (δηὖτε) in Greek love lyric, Anne Carson remarks about the constituents δή ‘now’ and αὖτε ‘again’: “The particle marks a lively perception in the present moment: ‘Look at that now!’ The adverb aute peers past the present moment to a pattern of repeated actions stretching behind it: ‘Not for the first time!’ places you in time and emphasizes that placement: now. Aute intercepts ‘now’ and binds it into a history of ‘thens.” [39] {100|101}
We could go on with other illustrations, but the point has already been made. Every time I say to myself, “here I go again,” I am repeating the pattern of Aphrodite, but each time it is a different experience for me. No wonder Aphrodite is invoked as poikilóthronos in the first word of Song 1 of Sappho. This epithet, if indeed it is derived from thróna ‘pattern-woven flowers’ rather than from thrónos ‘throne’, can be translated ‘with varied pattern-woven flowers’. [40] For those who re-enact her, the goddess of love is as limitlessly varied as the limitless varieties of flowers that are pattern-woven on her exterior.
Let us compare the experiences of those initiated in the Changing Woman ritual. Keith Basso, one of the most conscientious collectors of Apache traditions, has recorded the conventional Apache understanding that “Changing Woman’s power grants longevity.” [41] The reason, as he explains, is that “Changing Woman, unlike other mythological figures, has ‘never died.’” [42] It is understood that, “although she grows old, she is always able to recapture her youth.” [43] Two different accounts were related to Basso by Apache informants, and here is one of them:
When Changing Woman gets to be a certain old age, she goes walking toward the east. After a while she sees herself in the distance looking like a young girl walking toward her. They both walk until they come together and after that there is only one. She is like a young girl again. [44]
The old identity is here pictured as finding the young identity. Also, the other way around, the young finds the old. They find each other, young and old, old and young, through an everlasting repetition of the Changing Woman ritual. Each repetition of the Changing Woman ritual, old as it is, brings newness, youth, change. I repeat in this context the words of Kierkegaard: “The dialectic of repetition is easy, for that which is repeated has been {101|102}—otherwise it could not be repeated—but the very fact that it has been makes the repetition into something new.” [45]
The idea of a meeting between old and new as the core of the Apache Changing Woman ritual may be compared to the story in Lesbian mythology, already noted, about the pursuit of a handsome youth Phaon by all the women of Lesbos, headed by Aphrodite herself, where the mythical pursuit by Aphrodite corresponds to a poeticized pursuit of Phaon by the principal female speaker in Sappho’s songs. Phaon’s name (Pháōn), as we have seen, means ‘shining’, that is, ‘shining like the sun’. Here we may turn to another story taken from the Lesbian myths about this Phaon (the testimonia are collected in Sappho F 211 V). [46] He is an old man who generously ferries an old woman across a strait, only to discover that the old woman is none other than the goddess Aphrodite in disguise. After Aphrodite crosses over the strait, the old woman changes back into a beautiful young goddess, who then confers beauty and youth on Phaon as well (again, Sappho F 211 V).
I once argued “that the figure of Sappho identifies herself with this figure of an old woman.” [47] That is, Sappho identifies herself with the goddess Aphrodite not only explicitly in compositions like Song 1 but also implicitly by virtue of her poeticized declaration that she loves Phaon: after all, Aphrodite too loved Phaon. In the Lesbian myths about Phaon, I saw an opportunity for Sappho the author to find a precedent, in that she could love Phaon just as Aphrodite had once loved him. Today I would stress not so much Sappho’s own authorial identification as the role of the main female speaker in Sappho’s songmaking tradition, the performing prima donna who is re-enacting not only Sappho but also Aphrodite herself by declaring her own love for Phaon. In the performance of Sappho’s songs, the prima donna who sings can become for the moment the archetypal Aphrodite through the intermediacy of Sappho, much as the initiand in the Changing Woman ritual is Changing Woman through the intermediacy of the chief singer, so long as the ritual lasts. And we {102|103} may add: much as a Greek bride is called a númphē, which can also mean a goddess, but which means ‘bride’ while the wedding lasts. [48]
To repeat the words of T. S. Eliot (The Dry Salvages, 1941), “you are the music / While the music lasts.” [49] While the music of Sappho lasts, Aphrodite is present, and whoever performs the music is Sappho, is the music of Aphrodite. The performers may keep changing from one person to the next as each new time of performance comes round, but it is the old model of Aphrodite that gets repeated, over and over. Each new performer is recomposed in performance, according to the old model. But the old model is in turn renewed by each new performer. Each performance is a meeting of old and new.
This theme of the old finding the new, the new finding the old, as we see it played out in the exotic Lesbian myths about the old ferryman Phaon and his discovery of the eternally young Aphrodite, can lead us back finally to the semantics of an everyday word like French trouver, ‘to find’, derived from “Vulgar Latin” *tropāre, derived in turn from the school usage of Greek trópos ‘modulation’ in the ultimate sense of ‘continuity through variation’. It is this sense that we have found in the earliest attested Greek traditions, in the word trōpôsa (τρωπῶσα) in Odyssey xix (521), describing the nightingale at springtime as she keeps changing around or literally turning the sound of her beautiful song. [50] An everyday notion of find has led back to an ancient songmaking metaphor that paradoxically told of reaching a goal of novelty by maintaining, in a vast variety of ways, a genuine sense of continuity. {103|}


[ back ] 1. PH 370–371.
[ back ] 2. PH 107, 340–342, 368, 371, 375, 409, 435–437.
[ back ] 3. PH 371.
[ back ] 4. Lincoln 1981 ch. 3: “Kinaaldá: Becoming the Goddess,” pp. 17–33. Unless otherwise indicated, page-numbers in the text proper concerning Navajo rituals refer to Lincoln’s work.
[ back ] 5. For an introduction to the Apache nahihes, see Haley 1981. Unless otherwise indicated, page-numbers in the text proper concerning Apache rituals refer to Haley’s work.
[ back ] 6. We may compare the element of assensiō ‘assent’ in the mental process of induction as analyzed in ch. 2.
[ back ] 7. The etymology of authority is pertinent to my choice of this word in denoting the initiand’s power: Latin auctor, the founding form of auctoritas, is attested in the sense of ‘he who makes things grow/flourish’ (cf. Virgil Georgics 1.27; from augēre, conveying the idea of vegetal fertility) and ‘he who is first to speak with authority’ (cf. Cicero in Pisonem 35 and the comments of Ernout / Meillet DELL 57).
[ back ] 8. On the correlation of female athletic events, especially footraces, with female choral participation, see Calame 1977 I 335–350 and II 125–131 (with reference to what seems to be a prescribed footrace between Hagesikhora and Agido in Alcman’s Partheneion); also PH 367 and Clay 1991:60–62 In the previous note, we noted the semantics of authority as applied to the power of a girl initiand within the sacred space of a ritual. We may also note the semantics of authorship implied by the usage of the word khorēgós ‘chorus-leader’; cf. PH 339–381, where it is argued that the chorus is the ultimate mimesis of authority in early Greek society, and that the very concept of authorship is ultimately defined by choral authority.
[ back ] 9. The Divine Twins whom Changing Woman mothers are both connected with this event, though the sun fathers only one of the Twins, the Monster Slayer, while the other, Born for Water, is in different versions fathered by different elements: see Lincoln 1981:29–30. The concept of Born for Water is comparable to the Indo-Iranian concept of Apām Napāt, on which god see GM 99–102.
[ back ] 10. For an extensive discussion of this theme in Sappho’s poetics, see GM 261.
[ back ] 11. GM 235, 255.
[ back ] 12. Cf. Clay 1991:54–58, who argues that Orthria and Aōtis are epithets of Artemis.
[ back ] 13. For more on the puberty ritual of the Apache, see Golston 1996.
[ back ] 14. The full text of Song 1 of Sappho is provided later on in this chapter, with further discussion.
[ back ] 15. PH 346.
[ back ] 16. Karydas 1998 studies the influence of the tradition of women’s choral poetics on the figure of the nurse in Greek tragedy.
[ back ] 17. Opler 1941:108.
[ back ] 18. For comparative perspectives on the semantics connecting flashes of fire or light with dancing, see BA 331–332.
[ back ] 19. The following discussion of Euripides’ Hippolytus recapitulates N 1995:51–52.
[ back ] 20. In Bacchylides 19.11, the same noun mérimna, which I translate here as ‘a troubled thought’, refers to the thought-processes of the poet himself as he is pictured composing his song.
[ back ] 21. See Propp 1961 [1975:13].
[ back ] 22. Propp 1961 [1975:17–23].
[ back ] 23. Propp 1961 [1975:19–20]. We may also note in general the important performative distinction, which affects the process of composition / recomposition in Russian folk lyric, between singing that is combined and singing that is not combined with dance (Propp p. 14); also important, for purposes of comparison with archaic Greek choral traditions, is the traditional presupposition in certain forms of songanddance that one girl in a given performance will be selected, through the performance, as better in beauty or skill than the other girls, so that the song becomes in effect her praise-song by virtue of formally making an admission or acknowledgment of her poeticized superiority (p. 15).
[ back ] 24. Propp 1961 [1975:18].
[ back ] 25. Propp 1961 [1975:18].
[ back ] 26. Propp 1961 [1975:23].
[ back ] 27. Barrett 1964:412.
[ back ] 28. Further discussion in N 1994/5:50–52.
[ back ] 29. Zeitlin 1985:195n41 and 199n72. {She refers in the first note to the work of Ruth Padel. She refers at p. 190n4 to the identification of Artemis with Phaedra in the context of bride and bridegroom rituals.She refers in the first note to the work of Ruth Padel. She refers at p. 190n4 to the identification of Artemis with Phaedra in the context of bride and bridegroom rituals.}
[ back ] 30. Zeitlin 1985:96. {She refers also to Reckford 1972:421. Fauth 1959 has something to say on the ritual. The work of Nicole Loraux is also surely relevant.She refers also to Reckford 1972:421. Fauth 1959 has something to say on the ritual. The work of Nicole Loraux is also surely relevant.}
[ back ] 31. PH 387–388.
[ back ] 32. Cf. HQ 137: “Homeric poetry makes no overt reference to its own social context, the occasions of its own potential performability.” Following Martin 1989, the argument continues (HQ 137): “still, if Homeric narrative itself gives us ‘texts’ within its own ‘text’, with appropriate contexts to which these ‘texts’ refer, then the outer context, out there in the ‘real world’, is at least indirectly recoverable.”
[ back ] 33. The discussion that follows is expanded in N 1994, with reference to Horace Odes 4.1 and 4.2.
[ back ] 34. See Petropoulos 1993:51, who adduces evidence from the diction of magical formulae to support the restoration first proposed Parca 1982:47–48; I agree with Petropoulos that the wording in Sappho 1.18–19 is based on the language of love spells, not on “Homeric allusion,” as Parca pp. 49–50 claims. Translation: ‘whom am I, this time once again, to persuade, setting out to bring her to your love?’
[ back ] 35. The imagery of weaving, as conveyed by my translation of poikilóthronos, will be explained in the discussion that follows.
[ back ] 36. Travis 1990 has written a perceptive study of the poetics of prayer in Song 1 of Sappho.
[ back ] 37. On the poetic contrast between active télessai and passive telésthēn in Sappho’s poetics, see GM 259–260.
[ back ] 38. Kierkegaard 1983 (=1843) 149.
[ back ] 39. Carson 1986:118–119. {Carson here relies on the criteria of Denniston.Carson here relies on the criteria of Denniston.}
[ back ] 40. Putnam 1960/1, with further bibliography. A decisive passage is Iliad XXII 441, where thróna poikíla (θρόνα ποικίλ᾿) refers to ‘varied flower patterns’ woven into the fabric. On the magical properties of the thróna, see Petropoulos 1993:53.
[ back ] 41. Basso 1966:151.
[ back ] 42. Basso 1966:151.
[ back ] 43. Basso 1966:151.
[ back ] 44. Basso 1966:151.
[ back ] 45. Kierkegaard 1843 [1983]:149.
[ back ] 46. GM 262.
[ back ] 47. GM 262.
[ back ] 48. I am building here on the argumentation presented in ch. 3 above.
[ back ] 49. Eliot 1941 [1963]:199.
[ back ] 50. Antisthenes (F 51 ed. Caizzi) connects the epithet of the nightingale, trōpôsa in Odyssey xix 521, with the epithet of Odysseus, polútropos ‘of many turns’ in Odyssey i 1, reasoning that the hero deserves this epithet in part because he is skillful with words. We may compare also the poetic implications atropíē in Theognis 218, as analyzed in PH 425.