Mnemosyne or Mnemósine (Greek: Μνημοσύνη, transl.: Mnēmosýnē), was a titanid who personified memory in Greek mythology. The word "mnemonic" is derived from the ancient Greek word μνημονικός (mnēmonikos), which means "memory or related to memory" and is related to Mnemósine ("remembrance"). Both words are derived from μνήμη (mnēmē), "remembrance, memory".
Mnemosyne was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. Mnemosyne united with her nephew Zeus, who introduced himself to her in the guise of a shepherd. They stayed together for nine consecutive nights in the Pieria mountains and after a year, Mnemosyne gave birth to the nine muses, who were born in a multiple birth:
Diodorus Siculo wrote that it was she who discovered the power of memory and that she named many of the objects and concepts used to make mortals understand each other while conversing.
Mnemósine was also the name of a river in Hades, opposite Lethe, according to a series of Greek funerary inscriptions from the 4th century BC written in Dactyl hexameters.
The souls of the dead drank from Lete so that they would not remember their previous lives when they reincarnated. In Orphism, initiates were encouraged to drink from the river Mnemosyne, the river of memory, when they died, which would prevent transmigration of the soul.
According to Pausanias, in Lebadeia in Boeotia there was the cave of Trophonius, which was one of the entrances to the underworld and where to enter it was first necessary to drink from two fountains.
The first, named Lete (forgetfulness), made one forget past things, while the other, named Mnemosyne, allowed one to remember what one would have seen in the afterlife . A similar procedure is described in the myth of Er at the end of Plato's Republic.
Although not one of the most popular deities, Mnemosyne was the object of some minor worship in Ancient Greece. Statues of her are mentioned in the shrines of other gods, and she was often depicted alongside her daughters, the muses. She was also worshipped in Lebadeia in Beotia, on Mount Helicon in Beotia, and in the cult of Asclepius.
There was a statue of Mnemosyne in the shrine of Dionysus in Athens, next to the statues of the muses, Zeus and Apollo, and also a statue with her daughters, the muses, in the temple of Athena Alea.
Cult of Asclepius
Mnemosyne was one of the deities worshipped in the cult of Asclepius that formed in ancient Greece around the 5th century BC. Asclepius, a Greek hero and god of medicine, was said to be able to cure disease, and the cult incorporated a plethora of other Greek heroes and gods into its healing process.
The exact order of offerings and prayers varied depending on the location, and the supplicant usually made an offering to Mnemosyne.
After making an offering to Asclepius himself, in some locations, a final prayer was said to Mnemosyne as the supplicant moved to the holiest part of the Asclepeion to incubate. The hope was that a prayer to Mnemosyne would help the supplicant remember any visions he had while sleeping there.