GMC: Haides

UGH. I feel terrible for not getting enough writing done, for the God of the Month Club or otherwise. It’s been a really rough couple of months. I think I’m finished with Poseidon, and I hardly covered Haides but I think after a couple of more posts I’ll let that slide this time. I’m rolling Idunna over into January since I haven’t been able to do any research or writing for Her AT ALL. I’m making phone calls today to see what it would cost to get internet out at my place next month, so wish me luck on that.

What follows is mostly excerpted from the first class I ever taught, on Greek Mythology, when I was seventeen, so please excuse any mistakes because I AM TOO BUSY AND FRAZZLED RIGHT NOW.

 

Haides and Persephone

          Haides and Persephone are the King and Queen of the Underworld, named Hades after its master. When Zeus overthrew His father and defeated the Titans, rule of the world was divided up between Zeus and His brothers, the regions assigned by drawing lots. Zeus took the sky for His domain. Poseidon got the sea, and Haides was assigned the dark and gloomy Underworld. Haides is dark-haired and bearded like His brothers. He is often pictured holding the keys to Hades or with Kerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the gates to the Underworld at His side.

          Haides, or Aides, was a God that few had contact with. He was honored in funeral rites, and called upon in necromancy, the magical art of summoning spirits of the dead. He also had some part in the Mystery cults, but He was hardly widely worshiped. He had only a few temples and shrines, and most people feared to speak His name.

          In Thesprotia, which was also a cult center of Ares, was located the Oracle of the Dead. He also had a temple in Elis, which was opened only once a year. He was also worshiped at Athens in the grove of the Erinyes, the Furies. Haides was also “Master of the black-winged Oneiroi (Dreams)[1].”  Interestingly, He was a God of Wealth, as He possesses all the gold and ore and jewels hidden in the earth, as well as all the grain that was stored in underground silos.

          His Queen, Persephone, had more fame and worship in Greece and now. Persephone’s story was one that people could relate to and understand. As Bronwyn states, “Unlike the ever-queenly Hera or the constant flame of Hestia, Persephone epitomized the journey from life to death, spring to summer, and back again.[2]” The Persephone page of Neos Alexandria’s website says “Haides is a distant and frightening God, but Persephone is approachable, since there is still something about the upper world about her. She offers comfort and solace to those who have died, or lost someone, and she aids in the transition from life to death. Her Mysteries give hope of a better fate in the afterlife.[3]

          The journey into Hades and out again remains a powerful image, mirrored in some of Her worshipers’ inner journeys. Persephone knows the darkness, knows depression and despair. She understands loss. She is an ally to those who struggle with depression or have suffered great pain.

 

Of Haides it is said that He laid down the rules which are concerned with burials and funerals and the honours which are paid to the dead, no concern having been given to the dead before this time; and this is why tradition tells us that Haides is lord of the dead, since there were assigned to Him in ancient times the first offices in such matters and the concern for them. — Diodorus Siculus. Bibliotheca Historica 5.69.5

 

Orphic Hymn 18 to Pluton

To Plouton [Haides].

Plouton, magnanimous, whose realms profound

are fixed beneath the firm and solid ground,

in the Tartarean plains remote from sight,

and wrapt for ever in the depths of night.

Zeus Khthonios (of the Underworld), thy sacred ear incline,

and pleased accept these sacred rites divine.

Earth’s keys to thee, illustrious king, belong,

its secret gates unlocking, deep and strong.

‘Tis thine abundant annual fruits to bear,

for needy mortals are thy constant care.

To thee, great king, all sovereign earth assigned,

the seat of gods and basis of mankind.

Thy throne is fixed in Haides’ dismal plains,

distant, unknown to the rest, where darkness reigns;

where, destitute of breath, pale spectres dwell,

in endless, dire, inexorable hell;

and in dread Akheron (Acheron), whose depths obscure,

earth’s stable roots eternally secure.

O mighty Daimon, whose decision dread,

the future fate determines of the dead,

with Demeter’s girl [Persephone] captive, through grassy plains,

drawn in a four-yoked car with loosened reins,

rapt over the deep, impelled by love, you flew

till Eleusinia’s city rose to view:

there, in a wondrous cave obscure and deep,

the sacred maid secure from search you keep,

the cave of Atthis, whose wide gates display

an entrance to the kingdoms void of day.

Of works unseen and seen thy power alone

to be the great dispending source is known.

All-ruling, holy God, with glory bright,

thee sacred poets and their hymns delight,

propitious to thy mystics’ works incline,

rejoicing come, for holy rites are thine.”

 

 

 

Epithets of Haides

 

          Haides was rarely called by His true name, for fear of attracting His attention. He was frequently referred to as Aidoneus, “Lord”. As the God of the wealth hidden within the earth, He was called Ploutôn, from “ploutos”, the Greek word for wealth. Which later became Pluto to the Romans.

          Haides is called Anae Enerôn, “King of the Shades”, Nekrodegmôn “Receiver of the Dead”, and  Nekrodegmôn “Receiver of the Dead”. The dead are numerous, perhaps innumerable, hence His titles Polysêmantôr “Ruler of Many”, Polydegmôn “Host of Many”, and Polyxenos “Host of Many”.

          He’s also called Klymenos “the Famous One”, and Zeus Katachthonios “Underworld Zeus”,  Nekrôn Sôtêr “Saviour of the Dead”, and Euboulos, “the good counselor”.

 

 

A Geography of the Underworld

 

Homer, Odyssey 24. 12 ff
“So did these ghosts travel on together squeaking, while easeful Hermes led them down through the ways of dankness. They passed the streams of Okeanos, the White Rock, the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams, and soon they came to the field of asphodel, where the souls, the phantoms of the dead have their habitation.”

 

          According to Homer the Underworld is a shadowy place where nothing is quite real, but a soul’s existence there is like a very bad dream. Later poets describe it more and more vividly as it becomes a place where the evil are punished and the good rewarded. Of all the poets, the Roman Virgil tells of the geography of the underworld in greatest detail.

          Hermes leads the souls down the path to the underworld, to the River Styx. But before they can get to the River Styx, the souls of the dead have to pass the Gate of the Sun, where the Sun sets every night. There the ancient boatman, Kharon, ferries the souls across. Kharon only ferries those who can pay for his service. Whenever someone in Greece died, a coin was placed under their tongue so they could get into the Underworld. Burial was very serious to thing, and everyone was aware that a without a proper burial their loved ones would have to wander the earth as a restless spirit. Kerberos, the immortal three-headed dog, guards the entrance to the Underworld. Some cities buried their dead with a honey cake to appease him, in addition to the coins for Kharon.

When they are in the Underworld, the soul needs to be led through the Land of Dreams, usually by Hermes or Hekate, but sometimes by Thanatos (Death). This is the part of the Underworld where the Dream Gods live. Somewhere in the Land of Dreams is a two-doored gate – one for true dreams, one for false dreams. No soul can cross this place by themselves, they need a God to lead them safely, or they will become lost and never be found again.

There are a thousand Dream Gods. Their Chiefs are Morpheus, Ikelos, Phobetor, & Phantasos. Epiales is one of the only Dream Gods whose name we know. His domain is nightmares. Hypnos, God of Sleep, who is the brother of Death, also lives here.

          Past that is the Asphodel Fields, a neutral zone where the people wait to be judged. In this region the disembodied souls resemble shadows. In this land of shades, the inhabitants are shadows of their former selves. There is no pleasure and the mind is confused and oblivious (with the exception of Tiresias, who had been a blind prophet in life). There is no pain either. There is just Limbo, until you are taken to the Plain of Judgment.

          The souls were then brought before three judges: Rhadamanthys, Minos and Aiakos. All of them had once been mortal men, who were granted this honor after death because of the wisdom of their rulings.

          Rhadamanthys and Minos were brothers, the sons of Zeus and Europa.  Aiakos was also Zeus’s son, but by a different woman, a princess named Aigina. He was made guardian of the keys of the Hades and the judge of the men of Europe, Rhadamanthys was made lord of Elysian Fields and judge of the men of Asia, and Minos was the judge who held the final vote. Some say there was also a fourth judge, Triptolemos who presided over the souls of the Initiates of the Mysteries. The judges of the dead assigned to each soul its appropriate abode.

          Criminals and other wicked people were sent to Tartaros to be punished. The gates are of iron and the threshold of bronze, and others say that there is a threefold wall around it. Around this triple wall flows Phlegethon, the River of Fire, with clashing rocks of brimstone. The entrance, in which there is an enormous portal, has pillars of solid adamant that not even the gods could break. At the top of its tower of iron sits one of the Erinyes, Tisiphone, wearing Her bloody robe. Never sleeping day or night, She guards the entrance.

          Decent and good people were sent to the Elysian Fields. It is a happy place which has a sun and stars of its own. Those who dwell there exercise upon grassy playing-fields or engage in friendly wrestling on yellow sands; some dance and others sing or chant poems. Orpheus is here and Musaeus, who wrote songs and poems and uttered oracles. All these live in beautiful groves and make their beds on river-banks and may wander in luminous plains and green valleys. The weather in the Elysian Fields is perfect, so there is never any need for houses. Hesiod calls this place the Isle of the Blessed and locates it in Okeanos’ stream.

          Somewhere in the Underworld lies the great palace of Haides. Other than saying that it is many-gated and crowded with guests, no writer describes it. Around it are wide wastes, wan and cold.

 

 

[1]   Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragments 963 (from Demetrius, On Style)

[2]    Llewellyn, A. Bronwyn. Goddess At Home: Divine Interiors Inspired by Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, & Persephone. Rockport Publishers. 2003. Gloucester, Massachusetts. Pg 125

[3]    http://www.neosalexandria.org/perst

Advertisements
This entry was posted in God of the Month Club, Greek and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s