The Muse, Calliope is the oldest of the Muses and according to the Theogony of Hesiod was foremost of the muses. Holding this preeminence, suggested her creative gifts were many with specific association with music and song and is often depicted playing the harp in early art work. In many mythological tales, Calliope is the mother of the Bard and player of the lyre, Orpheus. Calliope’s gifts of eloquence and music moved through her child Orpheus, considered to be the greatest musician and poet of Greek mythology having the ability to stir the emotions of God and man, alike into passive acquiescence.
Drive ten kilometres outside our dorpie this time of year and you will find yourself flanked by South Africa’s staple crop: mealies. More commonly known as maize or corn in the US and UK, mealies (pronounced me-lee’s) are the cornerstone of the South African diet and are most commonly eaten in the form of mielie-pap; a dish similar to American grits or Italian polenta. But mealies are more than that, they represent nourishment and abundance and are of importance to Xhosa culture where it’s used to make Umqombothi; a thick, sour beer that is used in cultural ceremonies and as offerings to the ancestors.
So with our approach to Lughnasadh here in the Southern Hemisphere, it is only fitting to explore the themes of blessings and thanksgiving by journeying across the South African landscape in search of the humble mealie.