Tuesday 2 July 2013

Occult London: Goddess Hygia and the Nine Muses

This Art Deco frieze of the nine Muses of Greek mythology stands above the door of the Princess Royal Nurses' Home in Guilford St, Bloomsbury, London.

The Muses: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia and Urania, are often shown with their half-sister Athena, goddess of poetry, art and wisdom, according to Fleur Shearman, an expert on the goddess in art, who gave a talk on the subject at the Fellowship of Isis London Gathering.  However, in this frieze the Muses are shown with Hygia, the goddess of health and cleanliness who was the daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius. You can see a close-up of Hygia in the photo to the right. She seems an appropriate goddess to adorn the door of a nurses' home - I guess the Muses show how much nurses need to be multi-talented.

The frieze was pointed out to me while I was on a guided walk called The Thin Veil of London, exploring the  London of visionary horror writer Arthur Machen. I'll be posting a detailed write-up of the walk later in the week, but I thought I'd start with this frieze, because it turned out one of my fellow walkers was an expert on the Muses and had written an academic paper on the subject. I really hope to read that too some time!

If you are passing through Bloomsbury - perhaps on your way to a PF London open ritual at Conway Hall, in Red Lion Square - do take a detour to Guilford Street, WC1N 1EP, and have a look at Hygia and the Muses. You can find a map showing the exact location of the Princess Royal Nurses Home here

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