The Charities

The Charities or Kharities are the ancient Greek Goddesses of charm, beauty, creativity, and fertility, but more specifically, they seem to be the Goddesses of pleasant things that result from peaceful gatherings of people, especially festivities.

Who and how many they were and where they came from varied by region and time period, but they are most commonly said to number three. They attended Aphrodite, Eros, Hermes, Apollo, Dionysus and/or Hera as they represent the virtue of finding joy in service to others. But some also married and had separate lives apart from these offices. They were also known to spend time in the company of The Horae and The Muses.

The Charities are usually identified as daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, an Oceanid nymph as attested by Hesiod. However, their parentage has also been given as Dionysus and Aphrodite and Helios and Aegle (Antimachus). Others who agree that their father was Zeus may argue that their mother was Hera, Harmonia, Lethe, Eurydome, Eurymedousa or Euanthe.

The trio of Charities are usually identified as three sisters: Thalia (Cheer), Algaea (Splendor) and Euphrosyne (Mirth), as attested by Hesiod and Onomacritus. However, the Spartans omitted Thalia from the trio and replaced her with Cleta (Renown). Pausanias claimed that the Lacedaemonians honored just two and identified them as Cleta(Renown) and Phaenna (Bright). Likewise he reports the Athenians recognized two of old: Auxo (Growth) and Hegemone (Leadership) but that Peitho (Persuasion) was more recently added to the mix. Nonnus named the three Pasithea (hallucination), Peitho (persuasion) and Aglaea (splendor). Sostratus names them Pasithea (hallucination), Cale (beauty), and Euphrosyne (mirth).

A vase painting shows five and they are identified as Antheia (Flowers), Eudaimonia (Happiness), Paidia (Play), Pandaisia (Banquet) and Pannychis (Night Festivities)

Homer mentions several graces on their own, including Kharis (Grace) who was a lover of Hephaestus (though Hesiod names her Aglaea) and Pasithea (Hallucination) who was the wife of Hypnos. Several writers refer to the “younger Graces” implying that there have been multiple generations.

In art, the Charities are often represented as three young, nude women, dancing together or embracing joyfully. Their nudity represents their purity and innocence. They bring joy with no thought to personal gain and they have no envy for others who also bring delight. They are just happy to see you smile.

That being said, the Charities are perhaps unique among the immortals in that they are not known for their sexual exploits with mortals or other divinities. They are pure, guileless, without any lascivious thought. Although there is the tale that says that they quarreled with Aphrodite over who was the most beautiful and made poor Teiresias act the judge. Was this before, after, or an alternative explanation for his blindness? I am not sure.

Eteocles, King of Orchomenus in Boeotia, Greece in the valley of the Cephissus river, which is sacred to the Charities, is said to be the first to worship and sacrifice to the Charities and also the first to identify them in triplicate. (according to Pausanias). Strabo states that Eteocles founded the temple of the Charities and notes that he was rich in wealth and power, and speculates that this is either the result of his worship of the Charities or the cause of it. Their festival, the Charisia or Charitêsia was held here and also in Paros.

The Charities are the Goddesses of selfless service, but not the sort that that results in onerous sacrifice. They are found in service that brings joy to both the giver and the receiver. Artists of all sorts can find patronage among these pleasant ladies, including florists, gardeners, chefs, fashion designers and tailors, jewelers, tattoo artists, athletes and performers who thrill their audiences… If you love doing what you do and it brings joy to others, you have the blessings of the Charities.

The Graces also rule over social discourse and etiquette. Aristotle pointed out that the sanctuary of the Charities was in a very obvious spot so that it would be often seen and remind people to return favors.

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