1: Who are the Muses?
2: The Male Muses of Pop
3: The Male Muse in the Arts
4: The Muse as Nemesis
5: The Muse in Astrology
6: The Roles of the Male Muse
7: Be Your Own Muse
1: Who are the Muses?
On seven-hour flights I get some great ideas. I scramble in the overhead cabin to find a notebook, or laptop to capture these fleeting inspirations. Perhaps it is the confines of an economy-sized seat – the helplessness that kicks in once you know you are squashed into an airborne tin can which could double as a coffin – that somehow is good irrigation for the mind. But ideas come unannounced. I can even snatch them out of the recirculated air. I get to thinking of millions of people 35,000 feet below going about their tiny lives, repeating the same habitual behaviours and from that perspective, the whole kaleidoscope of life is suspended and illuminated. My mind wanders to people who have been significant in my life. They were often women who offered practical help, yet they acted as muses without even knowing. The story goes that the creative muses are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory): Calliope (Epic Poetry), Clio (History), Euterpe (Lyric Poetry), Erato (Love Poetry), Melpomene (Tragedy), Polyhymnia (Sacred Poetry), Terpsichore (Dance), Thalia (Comedy) and Urania (Astronomy) and they are all female.
This is the conventional view. But some of the greatest muses in my life have been men. This makes muses of the male variety almost invisible and I’m obliged to ask where are the twin brothers of each muse in the Greek pantheon? The only male energy around them was their teacher Apollo, and curiously, the winged horse Pegasus, who gifted Urania with song. Pegasus is often seen as a symbol of virile sexuality which is a significant male-ing of inspiration as we shall see. Francine Prose in The Lives of the Muses (2003) argues that the muses represent the ‘mystery of inspiration’ and talking about them is like uncovering ‘magician’s secrets.’ The muses join the dots between creativity and sexuality (Eros). Yet, while she acknowledges there is no biological reason why a muse cannot be a man, there is little speculation about the potential of men as muses. She mentions Denys Finch Hutton as muse to Isak Dinesen, but that is clearly not the focus of the book. The standard view is maintained that to be a muse is to be female as Lee Miller was to Man Ray, or Gala to Salvador Dali, and it is simply an ill-fitting shoe to see men in this role. This much we already know. But I want to identify where each of these nine muses had male counterparts and even explode the idea of what a muse really is. There is much more to a muse than misses the eye, and being male, I contend, certainly does not disqualify him from functioning in as fertile a way as any female muse. But I’d like to expand the whole idea of who the muses are and how they are not long dead mythic creatures, but alive and well and functioning actively in our lives.
This meditation on the muses takes a circuitous route and is of necessity an idiosyncratic view. It goes in search of the male muse, lifting the veil as it were, unearthing the dark side, by reinvesting Greek myths and psychological archetypes with fresh resonance, and even dipping into astrological lore if it sheds light. Searching for your own male muses is an exercise you might want to try. So I include a worksheet at the end for male musers and explorers. There is quite likely an abundance of evidence they are there – the more you look, the more you find. Male muses can be tracked through life for all the images, creators, inventors, poets, musicians, models, strangers on the street, that have triggered a creative process, to developing an idea of your own.
The fact is that muses come in many forms, frequently men; one option is for a muse to have a physical existence as lovers of artists inspiring them to great work. But a muse can also appear as an earth angel, people who appear out of nowhere to help you move one step along in your life, or even as a duende, an inexplicable tragic force, according to Garcia Lorca, but a muse also appears commonly in their non-physical form as flashes of inspiration. Each time we read a line by an author and it speaks to us down the ages, this connection has muse-like qualities. In the history of Art, the muses are commonly depicted as nymph-like maidens, only now we can add faun and satyr-like creatures in this new extended definition. They don’t even have to be beautiful – though if they are, they must be exceptionally so – just that they are stimulating in some way – a beautiful-ugly. Sometimes they even cross gender since the body is the envelope of the spirit. Their careful whispers in your ear, if caught by the tail, could turn into a poem, a song, a shift in perception, or even a fully realised art work. Muses are by nature fleeting, elusive, sometimes vicious, yet alluring and all-consumingly sexual, and this erotic/creative relationship with them can be like nectar, or like poison, depending. If any man in your life had this effect, then most likely he was one of your muses. The muses in the esoteric sense have been associated how the senses link to higher inspiration. Joseph Campbell said that “the muses were openers of the senses to the music of the Spheres.” But new research suggests there are up to 21 senses not just five – though this visual, auditory, kinaesthetic contact we construct our narratives of experience and artistry, although 9 is also suggested.
An entire industry has built up around the search for that elusive spark of creativity, which seems devoted to unpicking the magic of the original muses and calling and refiling and labelling them as mere brain functions- scientists love to point to the pre-frontal and occipital cortex, or the corpus callosum, and hippocampus as the originators of the creative juice. In Elisabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk (2009) she does not mention the muses, as such, but she is talking about how they operate unpredictably. In another aspect they are daimons (in the Greek sense), disembodied spirits that helped writers and poets, which could suggest that genius loci – spirit of the place – could also qualify as a kind of earthbound muse. Certain places, repositories of energy, stimulate the imagination as ask you to reignite that spirit. The muses behave capriciously, and you have to negotiate with them. The poem that comes suddenly may have to be caught by its tail and unravelled backwards.
The muses were known to be quite vicious when challenged – they had the poet Marsyas skinned to a tree for claiming he was talented- so these ladies were not exactly nice. But if thinking that it all comes from within is still a stress, we could go with the notion that we are just channeling currents of thought and that the ideas are picked out of the holographic ‘field’ which radiates around all of us. But muses appear in varieties: as earth angels, as figments of unattainable beauty embodied in people we know, or in numerous media images. The lightning flash is an apt symbol of the touch of the muse like the one made visible on the head of Aladdin Sane. Yes, there is a touch of alter ego, of split personalities, as we ourselves cannot see it as it comes unannounced.So our male muses can appear live in person: for several years, I lived in a country where protocol and paperwork created a hurdle for foreigners. I was often abruptly turned away when making important requests. I was told to join a long queue, or come back next week. I was inept at learning the secret of the country’s manners. An enlightened friend showed me the difference between being sycophantic and being charming. It was about body language and to emanate warmth of intention. This guide was a kind of muse as he inspired me to learn many other subjects. Through his help, I gradually learned how to bridge the gap between wanting and getting.The travel letters were duly signed, the transfers acknowledged and permission granted, the applications for new housing given priority consideration, plans were done and dusted. He demonstrated how it could be done with panache. He informed me about Nabakov, about Arabic grammar, about Lebanon, about Russia, about Spanish olives and delectable giggles of young ladies and what that meant. He was a kind male muse, and a real one at that.
There have been days when the presence of a male inspiration is close enough to touch, yet Robert Graves was certain they do not exist, except as figments of the White Goddess. They must be female or nothing, possibly even equated with the artists’ mistress or wife. But poet Clare Pollard believes male muses do exist and can inspire poetry and more. Based on the ideas of Laura Mulvey she speculates “ it is because the very act of viewing is ‘masculine’, and women who view men as erotic objects are ‘transvestites’ who have adopted a manly habit. There is an issue not only with men’s capacity to be muses, but with whether the very act of looking at a man feels illegitimate. Muses are love objects to be wooed, and on which fantasies are projected. If poets attempt to seduce their muses, then perhaps the female-poet/male-muse dynamic is so rare because it both ‘feminises’ the man, and makes the woman the active partner.”
So it is that female poets are visited by their male counterparts, while male poets would attract female muses. This is all very well if you are following a heterosexual default, but there is also the view that within each of us there is the polarity of both male and female, not to mention same-sex muse artist relationships. For years I’ve been spellbound by the story of Psyche and Eros found in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass because in Jung’s analysis, animus and anima are interdependent as the Taoists have long declared. There’s a flavour of male/female complementarity in all of us. Psyche, mirrored the female in the male Eros, and by having an enquiring mind pierces the veil of Eros. Usually, it is the other way around and the female is the one who is revealed or metaphorically raped. Psyche represents the masculine/feminine mind or the soul and she was sorely punished by Venus for being curious enough to unveil the splendour of the male god’s beauty. This was eventually sanctioned by her becoming immortal. Psyche was not a muse, but thinking this way about gender archetypes takes us beyond the usual parameters where the game gets really interesting and more than a bit cross-pollinated. If I had to point to moments where I could say, yes, the muse had passed over me and that communication galvanised me out of lethargy to stick pen to paper or make art work, then I’d say it has happened dozens of times. These are the alleged visitations- or ‘downloads’ of the muse. But they are not always these obvious flash points, but more like phases of continuous influence. Many times I was alone, but just as many, the muse appeared in real life as a real person upon whom I draped my dreams.When I wrote poetry, and enthusiastically started writing stories or essays, the ideas were often triggered by someone I was dating. The other person did not need to know their status as sparks; they had ‘trigger’ power; they unwittingly fuelled the creative engines, and whether either the relationship or the work turned out well or not is irrelevant. It was contact with the male muse. There was a boy at school with whom I exchanged first poems – we were each other’s muses, on equal basis which was at the time as of such incalculable value. It was soulful emotional connection, revolving around the magic of words, and not at all sexual. Another close friend in Darwen inspired in me all types of drawings and paintings for many years afterwards. He struck a deep creative chord. Then there was a Mexican actually called Angel, who travelled with me to the Mision de los Angeles, Oaxaca. He had the look of a lost lamb and gazing at him made me feel connected. Another was a Sri Lankan who showed me the landscape of Sri Lanka, including giving much of himself, revealing equivalent beauties in both.
I’m the insane lad of seventies music so my heroes at school have coloured my entire worldview. Turns out there was a prodigious number of male muses then as much as any period. These are the Orpheus type muse working through music directly on the seedbed of youthful minds. Lou Reed’s muses have often been transgender, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and his partner in the Coney Island period, Rachel. To backtrack a little into the sixties, we might think Nico, with her spectral intonations from the other side of death, was Reed’s muse, but Nico was imposed on Reed the Velvet Underground by Warhol, and Reed was ordered to let Nico sing ‘I’ll be your Mirror’ and ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties,’ yet Nico ended up in Manchester where her only muse was heroin. She had had affairs with both Jim Morrison, and Iggy Pop. So Rachel (born Tommy) was Reed’s real muse – until he decided to move on. Warhol had his entire troupe of Factory groupies, yet Joe Dallesandro retains place of honour in his early films for continually and unabashedly displaying his chiselled physique – so he qualifies as the ultimate male muse of the films of the Warhol era, even though he ‘never once gave it away’ inspiring lines in Reed’s 1972 song ‘A Walk on the Wild Side.’ Reed’s muse for his writing was the poet Delmore Schwartz from whom he got his unrelenting power to reveal contemporary life in a concisely worded lyric. Just as an aside – Bryan Ferry had his sirens on the rocks for his muses; the girls on the first few Roxy Music album covers. These fall into the box tick-marked and approved by the heterosexual male gaze, with all the attributes we have come to expect: incredibly looking Amazonian women, fierce and alluring, irresistible with their hyper-glamorous styling, except for the fact that one of them on For Your Pleasure (1973) -Lear-was possibly a man.
The stellar influence of David Bowie cannot have failed to register if the huge numbers that attended the V&A Bowie Is (2013) exhibition is anything to go by; Bowie has cemented his place as icon of popular culture. Bowie’s own muses however have also frequently been transgender: think Amanda Lear, Romy Haag and Tilda Swinton, but central to his theatrical personas, and to whom he owes a great debt is male inspiration, mime artist, Lindsay Kemp, who also was also muse to Kate Bush. The source model for Ziggy Stardust has been suggested as French rocker, Vince Taylor, and Angie Bowie claimed the Ziggy hairdo even though it was Mick Ronson’s wife who did the orange toilet brush hair. Truth is, there was no single source muse for Ziggy, but a mysterious Lady Stardust, rumoured to be his friend and rival Marc Bolan can claim to be closest. Many have cited Bowie’s debt to Bolan whether direct modelling, or homage. If you consider the lyrics of Lady Stardust (1972), you could say that Bowie’s worship spills over into such undiluted love, it takes your breath. Bowie imaginatively embodies a particular breed of yearning, an adoration for a beautiful star that reaches peak intensity in adolescence. This yearning spirit is the potion that can, if mixed alchemically in the ferment of someone’s intimate imagination, invoke the muse to manifest for real.
The power of the muse then is not to be underestimated. Bolan is as good example of a modern day male muse. Dying young lends him the ingredient of the Club 27 – Jeff Buckley, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain – of those who burn up too fast, die young, become immortal. They inspire us. If the potency of muse power is reflected in how many people copy your antics, then Bolan qualifies. Bolan had all the hallmarks of just how we like our demi-gods to be: pixie-ish beauty, eccentric behaviour, overtly sexual, but also unearthly, straight out of a painting by Richard Dadd. Bolan had it all briefly, looks, talent, unique style, a touch of arrogance and excess. Bowie himself fits the model too in his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust and to be teenage and witness Ziggy perform live in 1972-1973 is to have been blessed directly by the interstellar muse that spawned thousands of wannabes who took his cocktail of genre-blending styles- to form a tribe. The lightning flash is a symbol on the face of Aladdin Sane taken from the Tibetan vajra – lightning bolt- from the heavens- but might just as well be a badge that asserts: ‘I have been touched by the muse.‘ It also connects to Pegasus, beloved of the Muses, whose job it was to fetch thunder and lightning bolts for Zeus.
With Morrissey, who qualifies as official muse of Manchester, we encounter a strange case where, if his autobiography is anything to go by, the most important inspiration, the only person he ever truly loved was male – Jake Owen, the photographer. People could argue that his true muse was really Johnny Marr, since it is unknown how many classic songs Owen inspired , but Marr seems to have been disregarded for that esteemed role, perhaps because his place was already unassailable. Embodying the spirit of contrariness to a tee, Morrissey decimates most of the females he has encountered in his life: Siouxsie Soux is trashed outright, Julie Birchill excoriated and nailed as piece of whale blubber, Vanessa Redgrave summarily dismissed, and the only exceptions appear to be Linder, Nancy Sinatra, and Chrissie Hynde who is probably the only woman Morrissey never criticised. Morrissey, however, being an original fanatic and understanding that yearning desire embodied in Lady Stardust, channelled all of his personal icons to his fans. This is a gallery of muses, some admittedly female, such as Yootha Joyce, but mostly male include Adam Faith, Alain Delon, Alan Bates, Joe Dallesandro and unknown men who adorn the covers of the early Smiths albums. The styling filtered through a nostalgic haze became a kind of ‘male muse’ branding signature for the Smiths. The whole phenomena of Boy Band worship should be noted as another manifestation of male musery. The boy group holds special male-muse power over youthful – not just female- imaginations. If we take the theory that boy bands express the essence of the fleetingness of male youth and energy before the onslaught of adulthood. It is an example that is a replication of the Dionysian/Orpheus cults where fans lacerate their idol to death as if any more proof were needed. Lara Stone, who recently appeared in a provocative Calvin Klein commercial with Justin Bieber, wearing only underwear, recently received death threats from utterly incensed female Bieber fans, who were appalled that she had the nerve to actually touch their idol. The death threats were real. It is not an exclusively male to male thing; women can have male muses, who might drive them to madness, as Pollard has made clear.
3: The Male Muse in the Arts
One luminous muse who lives on through his words is the poet Rumi, yet he himself bowed down to the presence of the other male in his life, Shams, to whom he was devoted. Shams’ sudden disappearance from Rumi’s life directly triggered his formation as a mystical poet. There are also the firebrand muses like Rimbaud who blazed like a comet for a few brief years, enflaming the life of fellow poet Verlaine. But muses need not be firebrands, quite the opposite; the quieter, more contemplative and literary types of male muse tend to gather like dust motes hovering on bedroom desks, or forgotten libraries and book stores. When I discovered Henri Amiel’s Journal Intime, it was not long before I was able to journey to Geneva, Switzerland, where Amiel had written his thoughts which jumped off the page to connect with events in my life a century later. Only some writers do this for me – Borges, definitely, and Pessoa. It is a conversation across time and space. The tradition of male quest in stories such as Orpheus and Eurydice show how the muse was transformed from active singer to passive inspirer of others. So the dead male muses sing down the centuries. But some have particular resonance and are indiscriminate in their influence. Their ideas and attitudes sprout everywhere. Patti Smith, muse to Robert Mapplethorpe, had a male muse in the poet Arthur Rimbaud, who in his lifetime happened to be the direct muse to Verlaine, but also indirectly to Dylan Thomas. So it is to poets and painters that we turn to offer the key imagery of muses of the male variety. They are often the principle interpreters of muse behaviour which can be puzzling, yet if we look beyond the female examples, expanding the male gaze to include the homoerotic, we see that the visual arts is abundant with examples as the literary. People must have wondered about who were the real life models for Michaelangelo’s sculptured paintings, and heroic statues. Apparently there were several, but Tommaso Cavalieri was one who inspired the Victory statue. That is a monumental homage to make to the fleeting beauty of someone who rejected his advances. There can be no bed of roses with male artists and their male muses except with a few thorns. I once heard someone say about her older lover “he has a body upon which you can dream.” That struck me as exactly right. That’s the function of this kind of muse. They are an external body upon which you enter the zone, and dreams (future creations) can be wrapped so that the object of desire becomes cocooned, and that can release an endless supply of ideas. Muses are people with whom we have more imaginary conversations than most. One ingredient is their beauty, but it may be the kind of beauty that first seems ugly so the public is trained to perceive what the artist sees through their eyes, and sees them eventually as beautiful. An ugly muse does not ring as true, though they can be just as effective. Male muses are often beautiful, at least attractive, because, it is claimed, truth is beautiful. When mathematicians are judging PhD theses in Maths, one of the criteria is of course the originality of the theorem and its workings, but also high on the list is beauty. The beauty of a mathematical proof gives it that X factor which might be of the surprising kind.
The appearance of male muses have become known to us through art. Caravaggio had his penchant for street urchins turning them into Greek gods such as Narcissus, or a lascivious looking John the Baptist (1602) ; Leonardo da Vinci was rumoured to have also had his youthful assistants like Michaelangelo. Impresario, Diaghilev was inspired by the physicality and grace of ballet dancer, Nijinsky; the poet Cavafy found inspiration from strangers casting passing glances he would encounter on dusty street corners in Alexandria, whereas Christopher Isherwood was as much a muse to W.H.Auden as Auden was to Isherwood; yet later in life Auden had his lover and co-author, Chester Kalman; painters John Singer Sargent and Glynn Philpot, just to name just two English painters, had their numerous studio models, usually of lower class or an ethnic minority; and Jean Cocteau cast actor Jean Marais in the main role in Orpheus (1950) not just because Marais could act but because he filled the screen with male glamour. Poet and film maker, Pier Pao Pasolini admired Nineto Davoli, previously unknown, who was given key roles in his films, and was utterly depressed when Davoli turned straight, married, and had children. Francis Bacon allegedly first met George Dyer, a taxi driver, when Dyer tried to burgle Bacon’s flat and the artist- muse relationship flourished.Peter Orlovsky was muse to Allen Ginsberg at the time of the publication of Howl (1956). Film maker, Bidgood, positioned homeless Bobby Kendall centre stage in seminal art film Pink Narcissus (1971). David Hockney found Peter Schlesinger, seen diving into a pool in A Bigger Splash (1973) in an art class in L.A. and brought him to live in London. Derek Jarman subjected actor Leonardo Treviglio to a rain of arrows in his film Sebastiane (1976) to make him the absolute focus of desire. A similar form of male muse behaviour is also well known in the fashion photography world which takes its cues from painting: Karl Lagerfeld arranged model Baptiste Giabiconi in various startling and erotic poses, but for Dolce and Gabbana, their muse for their fragrance Light Blue, was smouldering British model, David Gandy.
All these examples are fascinating in and of themselves, each deserves more attention, but they exhibit a common theme – that a certain kind of male beauty can stimulate a prolific phase of creativity for artists. They have currency. But it does not just stop at that role. There can also be cross-fertilisation. Then there was Denis Pratt, alias Quentin Crisp, whose early days were as a life drawing model. Crisp made the stance of posing as amusing as it gets. He enjoyed being the subject of the gaze, whether male or female, electing himself as muse to others. He now occupies a distinguished space as muse to all those who became enchanted by his gnomic pronouncements. So an important aspect of the male muse in its broadest scope is the spirit that lives on after the death of inspiring subsequent artists to be productive. But while the usual polarity of the embodied muse is usually unequal, as subordinate to the artist, where the muse cannot claim ownership of the art, but is seen merely as the trigger, there are cases that flatly contradict that dynamic. Muses can be mutual and egalitarian to the point where the one cannot be distinguished from the other- they are joined at the hip: artists Gilbert and George, who have utilised this symbiotic relationship as a feature of their artistic vocabulary. Likewise, in the fashion world this twin male muse formula is replicated in the design teams of Dolce and Gabbana, Viktor and Rolf and Dsquared2.
4: The Muse as Nemesis
Several manifestations of the male muse can reveal a darker more challenging behaviour. This may have been what Lorca was hinting at in his lecture on the three types of muse,only one of which was the classical female. The other, the duende was the tragic, wild-blood earthy spirit of Flamenco. In this aspect of the muse, it can become dark to the point of precipitating death. Muse-power can become enflamed with malignant force and there is an element of psycho-pathology. There was the case of Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, who was muse turned nemesis for Oscar Wilde where it could be argued he ruined Wilde’s life. Here, we stretch the definition of muse and see it overlap into Narcissus territory; and the varying degrees of narcissistic personality disorder, from mild to malignant. This is not some age-old myth that can be conveniently dismissed as antiquated, but has a direct currency in the 21st century if you subject the people around you to the narcissist litmus test. It might be harder than you think to tell the difference between the muse and the narcissist, who is first cousin to the energy vampire, and once established in the home can begin to drain your life blood. This virulent strain of psychopathology leads to what Wilde enshrined in his only novel Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Yes, the male muse can be beautiful and seductive, but the artist sometimes has to lose his own life to that muse, especially if it unconsciously provokes trickster energy, pointing to shadow aspects of the artist’s self that have been suppressed and unable to be integrated. So, while the muse can be both supremely beautiful and inspiring, they can also render any taste of them like a bitter poison, making it ever more poignantly true that “each of us kills (or is killed by) the thing we love.” Another case is that of painter, Francis Bacon, whose muse was taxi driver, George Dyer. Their lives once intertwined became intolerable, as they were both alcoholics, and it ended in Dyer’s tragic suicide which plunged Bacon into emotional breakdown making his work even bleaker.
It might be an idea to check if the man you meet is a genuine fit for the role of true muse. For Wilde, Bosie’s effect on him may have had that cloak of inevitability that is karmic as he appeared to walk willingly to his very public disgrace. Yet Wilde is the one who lives on in our minds to tease the conventions of thought, and jettisoning us willingly into the joys of paradox. So he could claim now to be in spirit the true muse of Epigrams, and that should give him right to be enthroned as the Eleventh Muse, as poet, Sappho was said to be the tenth ‘earthly’ muse. Yet Wilde said “The Muses care so little for geography” and certainly they are no respecters of location, but he might just as well have added from bitter experience that they “care even less for your life and welfare.” It is true it could just be a metaphor, but it is unwise to underestimate the power of a metaphor to be the driving force of the psyche. So this brief inspired lightning flash that characteristically strikes when you can least do anything about it, in the middle of washing the dishes, or seven hour flight, or doing your tax return is recognisable as an experience. It comes from somewhere we are not noticing at that moment and so is intriguing, serendipitous. Gilbert also tells the story of Tom Waits who was driving along the LA freeway when he got the inspiration for a song. The timing was crap and it frustrated him so much he cried out to it, “can’t you see I’m driving?” Muses notoriously have bad timing, as well as not recognising your comfort levels. So too in my life, the muse has made both leading and cameo appearances, not just the external form, but in the multiple forms of the inner energy – that spirit of inspiration. There are countless young men in all walks of life, seen anywhere around, fleetingly, who with a casual gesture or look, without meaning or intending to, can have a galvanising effect at awkward moments. It is like plugging in to an electric current. So whether you label it ‘bad’ or ‘good’ is neither here nor there. The impact is recognition that you have been struck by the male muse. To grasp clumsily at such a muse however is to make him vanish in a nano-second. To be expectantly receptive on the other hand can, with patience, invite him to step across the threshold and fertilise dormant ideas in the brain.
5: The Muse in Astrology
Yet, the constant parade of beauty passes us all by and it is easy to feel disconnected from this source of creativity. So what is muse energy and how do we connect to it? One suggestion might be in the image of Pegasus, the winged horse in our brains. The hippocampus is shaped like a seahorse. Pegasus represents that which helps us that remember the fountain of Helicon, the true source of art. The mother of the muses was after all Mnemosyne- Memory- and the memory function is also linked to the hippocampus. Could it be that the muses are there as reminders to reconnect to our own inner source? To go even more esoteric for a moment, it it is really worth considering that aside from Psyche and Eros, the nine Muses, have asteroids named after them, and the naming of planets is never without synchronicity. These asteroids, like planets, occupy a certain angular position in relation to the Earth at the moment of your birth. This alignments are the hidden DNA of time cycles that affect our creative growth, but they can be tracked to provide insight into your particular relation to the arts. For example Terpsichore the muse of dance, features highly in the natal chart of dancer Isadora Duncan. The asteroid muses significance is linked to the nine maidens whose breath alternated in a chain to keep alive the inspiration of the cauldron of Celtic goddess Cerridwen. Also, numerologically the nine is significant as a lunar division of the year, as opposed to the solar which is 12. This means you can track which muse links to your zodiac sign. This knowledge originates from an enigmatic Renaissance drawing by Gafurius (1496). The Muses can be linked to the subtle nerve channels or nadis in the Tantric tradition, and thus when they contact you or you them, it is a form of awakened Kundalini (creative energy). There is even a correspondence of the muses to the Qaballah.
6: The Roles of the Male Muse
The muse then has diverse roles, being the stimulus of dreams, of being obliged to be beautiful, inspirational, untouchable, or to be a teacher/lover, even tormentor, but another key trait is being fickle. Other times they are coquettish and maddening, or they come solely to play tricks and bring torment. But they can play with real and unreal in way we cannot often tell whether it is a phantom or not. In Knut Hamsun’s novel Hunger (1890), the starved narrator feverishly oscillates between extreme highs and lows one of his last desperate attempts to write a play creates a Medieval muse who becomes so real to him she steps off the page into his emotional turmoil. Germaine Greer said “A muse’s job is to penetrate the male artist and bring forth a work from the womb of his mind.” In typical provocative style, Greer makes the female ‘real’ muse sound like a penis, and is right to suggest alternating yin to yang energy, lending masculine force to the role of being fertile in a creative sense, in other words turning the female into male in order to extend her metaphor. She was referring mainly to Klimt whose muse was Emily Fogel and Dali whose muse was Gala. She also says that the female gaze is largely the older woman to the younger boy, as the usual male female default polarity is upstaged by that dynamic. But I would say it is not just restricted to the boy. The muse is a much larger more complex phenomena. Interestingly, however, she says that the one model who befuddled and enraptured Lucien Freud the most, in spite of all his female models, was Leigh Bowery. If the muse is male, the sperm are the ideas that trigger more ideas, and the offspring are works of art. So if any mind is like a womb, we shift gender to suit the incoming force which is not such a difficult stretch in this day and age, except for those still stuck in the stone age of gender difference.
7: Be Your Own Muse
Then there is the accidental muse, which if you are not careful might just be to others without realising it. This can crop up as visions of yourself in younger versions of yourself. I often find in dreams and in talking to the spirits of dead people a lot of inspiration comes. Rotimi Fani Kayode took a set of photos of young men, including me and my partner, though separately, not together. I had never thought of myself as posing nude, or of being a muse to others, yet for him I was briefly. I was far too self conscious to be a natural nude model. But I have been told that many an off-the-cuff remark I have made has been reported back to me later by someone who said it was ‘life changing’ for them. I am flabbergasted at this and I’m usually embarrassed to say that I barely recall the occasion. This fits the notion that one should never take any one’s advice if it is unsolicited. But my words must have acted like a scattergun around me, ready to trigger the fertile soil of someone else’s mind. I was not consciously giving advice, but those who take it do so at their peril. So personally I find the idea of being a muse to others somewhat uncomfortable, yet all of us may be at some point an inspiration to others, quite by accident. The muse, as we now know, is not necessarily a separate or external entity. We could by a process of self reflection become a more regular muse to ourselves, finding inspiration in re-representing facets of the multiple self. Our own image can be the one to stimulate if seen from a detached experimental angle where it is positioned as someone else, external to the core. I’m not sure if this is aligned with the current obsession with the selfie, to which people ascribe to rampant narcissism. But If we dialogue with the self we can see a variety of refracted aspects that forms the constructed hologram we call the ‘self.’ These can all be portrayed in works of art should you be inclined. All the artists who ever looked in the mirror to paint themselves did this. Mapplethorpe is a good example where he subjected his own body to rigorous self analysis through photography in a series of self portraits. Anais Nin after years of struggling to be an artist’s muse in the traditional way to subjugate herself to a male artist, ended up being obliged to realise that she was in fact her own best muse. So to return to the original question whether a muse is male or female or transgender should not even matter, as it eventually leads to this inner directive which is true for both males and females. Even the queen of multifaceted female self-portraiture Cindy Sherman, made some of these personas male. These projections, male or female, are aspects of in inner parliament of ourselves that comprises the overall self. They are glimpses of our ideal or hidden shadow selves and self portraits have long been a source of inspiration for artists.
To reconnect with male muse energy, check that they are not already there in your life and you may not have noticed, validate this abundance of male energy and celebrate the creative side of men. But the issue should not rest only with gender, but rebound back to the internal, to that special relationship you have with your own higher self. About ten years ago I meandered out of the centre of New Orleans and I found myself on Terpsichore Street, quickly followed by Melpomene and Erato street. It dawned on me just how much distance the muses have travelled. They are everywhere; male, female, and trans, visible and invisible, alive or dead, manifesting in ordinary life and messy loves, just as much as in the arts or on a seven-hour flight. They are there on street corners too. But now that we know what the muses can turn up anywhere, we will spot them a whole lot more. They do not need to be external, as all you might need is a mirror, a camera, paintbrush or pen. Let the multiple encounters begin as you go after your inner muse, who according to Joseph Campbell, “comes up and talks. And those who have heard deeply the rhythms and hymns of the gods, can recite those hymns in such a way that the gods will be attracted.”
© Kieron Devlin, 2015 all rights reserved
For the How to Connect to Your Muses exercises click here.