In the much celebrated Orphic Hymn to Hekate we come across
a succession of adjectives and names used to describe Her. One of those is
Phileremon, which is translated as Lover of Solitude.
So far as I can tell this is one of the only surviving
examples of this epithet.
There is in Rhodes a hilltop that overlooks the town of
Ialyssos, which is known as Phileremos, but that name only dates back to the
Byzantine era. Today there stands a Christian basilica dedicated to Mary of
Phileremos. The site has been important to various orders of Christian knights.
The monastery that once stood there was destroyed by the Turks.
But before all of that, it was the Acropolis for the town
below, and there stood the sanctuary of Athena Polias. It seems that, in spite
of Hekate’s worship in Rhodes, this location was not significant to Her cultus.
Archaeology suggests that the area was occupied into the Bronze Age, however,
and the results of digs there haven’t been published.
Mary has many names that include the title of Phileremos,
but all of them relate back to the site in Rhodes, and none of them carry the
same connotations as it does with Hekate.
When I contemplate Hekate Phileremon, what I see in my
mind’s eye are long walks in the woods at night, standing vigil in graveyards
to protect the rest of those within. I see the peace and fear that comes with
being truly alone. Solitude can be a double-edged blade. It can free us from
the expectations of others, and it can become a prison that prevents us from
success. Solitude can teach us about ourselves, but it can also stunt growth as
there are many fewer challenges from the outside world.
And solitude can find
us in the strangest places. We can be utterly alone in bustling crowds, or even
surrounded by friends and family.
There is much of life that is touched by this, and making
peace with it, becoming a lover of solitude can be healthy.
I am reminded of a TED talk in which the speaker (and I
don’t remember who it was or what the overarching topic was) lamented the fact
that we are too connected with each other today, with all the technology
surrounding us. They said that there are things that we can learn about
ourselves only by being alone with our thoughts. And I think that’s true.
Perhaps coming to terms with solitude is a step towards that
sacred injunction to Know Thyself, and Hekate Phileremon can guide us through
EDIT: The TED Talk is Sherry Turkle’s “Connected, but
EDIT: A collegue pointed out that Phileremon also appears in the Spell to Selene in the PGM IV. 2785-2890, something I had overlooked.
“The Orphic Hymn to Hekate,” The Modern Hellenist (blog): https://themodernhellenist.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/orphic-hymn-to-hekate/
Sherry Turkle, “Connected, but Alone?” TED, 2012. https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en
Cline, Eric H. ed. The Oxford Handbook of
the Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford, 2012.
Hicks, Edward Lee and Gustav Hirschfeld. The
Collection of Ancient Greek Inscriptions in the British Museum, Vol. 2.
British Museum, 1883.
Petsa-Tzounakou, Vassilia. Art and
History of Rhodes: Lindos, Kamiros, Ialyssos, Embonas, Casa Editrice
Price, Theodora Hadzisteliou. Kourotrophos:
Cults and Representations of the Greek Nursing Deities, Brill, 1978.
Santoro, Nicholas J. Mary in Our Life:
Atlas of the Names and Titles of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Their Place in
Marian Devotion, iUniverse, 2011.
Pearce, Charles Sprague, “Solitude,” oil on canvas, c. 1889.
Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APearce_Solitude.jpg
“Mary of Phileremos,” Eastern Orthodox Icon, 11th
or 12th c. CE copy of a Byzantine Icon (now lost.) via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muttergottes_vom_Berg_Philermos.jpg