The Orphic Hymns form a collection of 87 poems, each one dedicated to a specific deity. They were used in the rituals of a group practicing a mystery religion, most probably in Asia Minor. Those initiated in the Orphic Mysteries claimed Orpheus as their founder — he was the most famous legendary musician of Greece and was considered the son of the Muse Kalliope. His followers were active from the 6th century BCE on.

The dating of the hymns is a controversial subject. Some scholars think they were composed in the late Hellenistic era (3rd — 2nd c. BCE), while others place them in Roman times, in the 1st — 3rd century CE. However, it seems quite likely that the content of these verses is based on much older material.

Orphic Hymn to Nature

(Translated by Harita Meenee from the ancient Greek text.)

Nature, mother goddess of all,
ingenious mother, crone!
Creatress of many, sovereign
ruler, all-taming, always untamed.
Celestial, all-shining, almighty one,
+ * honored and supreme in every way,
imperishable, primordial, first-born.

Praised by people, seasoned and wild,
nocturnal, light-bringer, dancing
with whirling noiseless feet.
Pure, law-giver of the gods,
unending and the end,
shared by all, yet
alone untouched.

Self-fathered, fatherless,
desired and sublime
full of lovely flowers, delightful one.
Friendly and knowing,
weaving, mixed with many things.
Leader, ruler bringing life,
maiden who nurtures all.

Self-sufficient, lady of justice!
You of many names
the Kharites obey.
Protectress of the air,
of land and sea,
bitter to the wicked,
to the obedient sweet.

All-wise, all-giving, care-taker, queen of all,
growth-bringer, fertile, ripener of fruit.
Father and mother of all,
nurturer and nurse,
giver of swift births.
Force of the seasons,
fruitful one and blessed!

Giver of all arts, creator, many things
you shape, setting all in motion,
eternal, + goddess of the sea.
Prudent and skilled,
in everlasting swirl whirling the swift
flow, ever-flowing, moving
in cycles, shape shifting.

Seated on a fine throne,
honored, you alone
decide, being far above those
who scepters hold.
Loud thundering,
fearless and strong,
force that tames all.

Destiny and fate, fiery breath,
eternal life, immortal providence;
all + is in you, + since
you alone create.
Goddess, to you I pray:
bring + in rich + seasons, peace,
growth to all and health.

*The symbol + indicates that the manuscript is worn out at this point, hence the words cannot be read clearly and their interpretation is uncertain.

Below is the ancient Greek text of the Orphic Hymn to Nature.

’Ορφικὸς Ὕμνος Φύσεως

Ὦ Φύσι, παμμήτειρα θεά, πολυμήχανε μῆτερ,
οὐρανία, πρέσβειρα, πολύκτιτε δαῖμον, ἄνασσα,
πανδαμάτωρ, ἀδάμαστε, κυβερνήτειρα, παναυγής,
παντοκράτειρα, + τιτιμενέα πανυπέρτατε πᾶσιν
ἄφθιτε, πρωτογένεια, παλαίφατε, κυδιάνειρα,
ἐννυχία, πολύπειρε, σελασφόρε, δεινοκάθεκτε,
ἄψοφον ἀστραγάλοισι ποδῶν ἴχνος εἱλίσσουσα,
ἁγνή, κοσμήτειρα θεῶν ἀτελής τε τελευτή,
κοινὴ μὲν πάντεσσιν, ἀκοινώνητε δὲ μούνη,
αὐτοπάτωρ, ἀπάτωρ, ἐρατή, + πολύγηθε, μεγίστη,
εὐάνθεια, πλοκή, φιλία, πολύμικτε, δαῆμον,
ἡγεμόνη, κράντειρα, φερέσβιε, παντρόφε κούρη,
αὐτάρκεια, δίκη, Xαρίτων πολυώνυμε πειθώ,
αἰθερία, χθονία καὶ εἰναλία μεδέουσα,
πικρὰ μὲν φαύλοισι, γλυκεῖα δὲ πειθομένοισι,
πάνσοφε, πανδώτειρα, κομίστρια, παμβασίλεια,
αὐξιτρόφος, πίειρα πεπαινομένων τε λύτειρα.
πάντων μὲν σὺ πατήρ, μήτηρ τροφὸς ἠδὲ τιθηνός,
ὠκυλόχεια, μάκαιρα, πολύσπορος, ὡριὰς ὁρμή,
παντοτεχνές, πλάστειρα, πολύκτιτε, + ποντία δαῖμον,
ἀιδία, κινησιφόρε, πολύπειρε, περίφρων,
ἀενάωι στροφάλιγγι θοόν ῥύμα δινεύουσα,
πάνρυτε, κυκλοτερής, ἀλλοτριομορφοδίαιτε,
εὔθρονε, τιμήεσσα, μόνη τὸ κριθὲν τελέουσα,
σκηπτούχων ἐφύπερθε βαρυβρεμέτειρα κρατίστη,
ἄτρομε, πανδαμάτειρα, πεπρωμένη, αἶσα, πυρίπνους,
ἀίδιος ζωὴ ἠδ’ ἀθανάτη τε πρόνοια·
πάντα + σοι εἰσὶ τὰ πάντα· + σὺ γὰρ μούνη τάδε τεύχεις.
ἀλλά, θεά, λίτομαί σε + σὺν εὐόλβοισιν + ἐν ὥραις
εἰρήνην ὑγίειαν ἄγειν, αὔξησιν ἁπάντων.