On Grace: A Brief Meditation on the Charites

The Charites are oft-ignored, unappreciated Deities. When I mention in conversation that I am a devotee of that triad, I usually get a blank-faced “who?” in response. Even among my fellow Hellenics, there are few who are familiar with the Charites and even fewer who honor them.

So, crash course. The Charites (or Kharites, not “Charities”) are the Greek Goddesses of grace, beauty, refinement, adornment, civilized conversation, festivals and festivities, dance, song, diplomacy — well, basically all the finer, kinder things in life. The Charites are not rowdy, rough and tumble arguments between the fans of competing football teams; rather, they are good friends gathered around good food, sharing laughter and stories. The Charites are not generals sitting around a map plotting strategy, but overworked diplomats sitting around a table, struggling to reach an equitable solution. The Charites are not the unrestrained hedonism of Burning Man, but a grandmother and granddaughter quietly sharing a pot of hot tea and chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.

It is a pity and a tragedy that these Goddesses are so deeply (deliberately?) ignored in our society. Do people see their interest in polite conversation and decorous behavior as somehow … snobbish? Are they being dismissed as “lesser than” Muses? As “mere” attendants of Aphrodite?

I don’t really know. I don’t know or understand why others are so dismissive of Goddesses to who I am whole-heartedly devoted. In the Charites — Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Thaleia — I find compassion and kindness, attentive listeners, witty conversation, the give and take of true debate, and a sincere appreciation for creativity and the beauty which human imagination and hard work can bring into the world. For me, the Charites are a quiet joy, a warm welcome. They have taught me much: how to listen when I am tired, how to engage when I want only to withdraw, to see possibilities when I only want to see obstacles. Most importantly, though, they have taught me to cherish: a quiet morning on the front porch, a secretive smile exchanged with my husband, a conversation with a favorite aunt late into the night.

The Charites are Goddesses whose gifts are sorely needed in the world, perhaps more so today than when they were honored by the Greeks so long ago. Welcome them into your life.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of EHS.]

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