14 May 2011

Threads of life and tongue

I'm going to indulge in more speculation based on Why would Apollo play a lyre?. I notice a connection with my previous etymology for 'kithara', a relative of the lyre, which I've been reconstructing lately as Minoan *ki-zera 'kithara' (= /'kitserə/). The word must literally have meant 'three-stringed', if we extrapolate both Minoan *ki 'three' and *zera 'hair, string', the former word being cognate with Etruscan ci 'three' and the latter being an Old Egyptian loan as I mentioned before (cf. Egyptian sr). With the aforementioned etymon, *lura 'lyre', as well as the many other possible "Pelasgian" terms like συβήνη 'flute-case', it strikes me that Mycenaeans had been embracing Minoan musical tastes en masse.

So here's a further question. Do the three strings of the lyre, the instrument of Apollo himself, express a deeper solar symbolism? Could it be possible that the three strings point to the three seasons of the year, for one? This implies a connection between the notion of 'thread' and the notion of 'time'. But wait, where have I heard of this before?

A little digging triggered my taxed memory. The mythical Moirai or Greae, otherwise known as the Fates, show clearly that indeed a 'thread' is symbolic of at least a human lifespan since they are said to have "cut short" the lives of mortals at their appointed time. Further, it turns out, Diodorus Siculus directly affirms that the three strings of the lyre represented the three seasons![1] It all paints a fascinating ancient theme intertwining, strangely enough, music theory with religion.

Returning to this hypothetical *ki-zera, it's alluring to give it an added metaphorical meaning of three 'threads' or 'ages' of the year. There's another theoretical Minoan term I've suggested before on this blog, *ki-amaira 'three-faced' which would serve as the original title of the reknowned Chimera (see Paleoglot: The Chimaira chimera). Again, the three 'faces' appear to refer equally to both the three seasons and the three parts of the day interchangeably. Indeed, it is already proved that even the periods of the day are yarned into the notion of age in the famous Riddle of the Sphinx dating from classical times. These ancient notions are woven together brilliantly into an endlessly fascinating fabric.

[1] The historical library of Diodorus the Sicilian (1814), chap.I, p.23 (see link): "He first found out the harp with three strings, in resemblance of the three seasons of the year, causing three several sounds, the treble, base, and mean. The treble to represent the summer; the base, the winter; and the mean, the spring."

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