SOPHIA OF WISDOM III - HADES & PERSPHONE
THE LIBRARY OF SOPHIA OF WISDOM III
THE SOPHIA OF ALL SOPHIA OF WISDOMS
OCTOBER 29, 2006
Hades ("unseen") means both the ancient Greek abode
of the dead and the god of that underworld. The word originally referred to just the god; haidou, its genitive, was short
for "the house of Hades", and eventually the nominative, too, came to designate the abode of the dead.
A related Hebrew
word, She'Ol, for the abode of the dead also meant literally "unseen."
The corresponding Roman god was Pluto, Dis
Pater or Orcus; the corresponding Etruscan god was Aita. "Hades" is sometimes employed by Christians as a classicizing euphemism
for Hell, which otherwise has few of the attributes of Hades.
In Greek mythology, Hades (the "unseen"), the god of
the underworld, was a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He had three older sisters, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera, as well as
two younger brothers, Poseidon and Zeus: together they accounted for half of the Olympian gods.
Upon reaching adulthood
Zeus managed to force his father to disgorge his siblings. After their release the six younger gods, along with allies they
managed to gather, challenged their parents and uncles for power in Titanomachy, a divine war. The war lasted for ten years
and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory Hades and his two younger brothers, Poseidon and Zeus,
drew lots for realms to rule.
Zeus got the sky, Poseidon got the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen
realm to which the dead go upon leaving the world.
Metaphorically, each one received one object: Zeus, a thunder spear;
Poseidon, a trident; and Hades, a helmet that gave invisibility to its carrier.
Hades obtained his eventual consort,
Persephone, through trickery, a story that connected the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon.Hades ruled
the dead, assisted by demons over whom he had complete authority.
He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain
and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal his prey from him.
Heracles, the only other living persons who ventured to the Underworld were all heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the
Sibyl), Orpheus, and Theseus. None of them was especially pleased with what they witnessed in the realm of the dead. In particular,
the Trojan War hero Achilles, whom Odysseus met in Hades (although some believe that Achilles dwells in the Isles of the Blest)
Hades was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reticent to
swear oaths in his name. To many, simply to say the word "Hades" was frightening. So, a euphemism was pressed into use.
precious minerals come from under the earth (i.e., the "underworld" ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of
these as well, and was referred to as (Plouton, related to the word for "wealth"), hence the Roman name Pluto.
explained referring to Hades as "the rich one" with these words: "the gloomy Hades enriches himself with our sighs and our
tears." In addition, he was called Clymenus ("notorious"), Eubuleus ("well-guessing"), and Polydegmon ("who receives many").Although
he was an Olympian, he spent most of the time in his dark realm. Formidable in battle, he proved his ferocity in the famous
Titanomachy, the battle of the Olympians versus the Titans, which established the rule of Zeus.
Because of his dark
and morbid personality he was not especially liked by either the gods nor the mortals. His character is described as "fierce
and inexorable", and of all the gods he was by far most hated by mortals. He was not, however, an evil god, for although he
was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and therefore most often associated with death
and was feared by men, but he was not Death itself - the actual embodiment of Death was Thanatos.
When the Greeks
prayed to Hades, they banged their hands on the ground to be sure he would hear them. Black animals, such as sheep, were sacrificed
to him, and it is believed that at one time even human sacrifices were offered. The blood from sacrifices to Hades dripped
into a pit so it could reach him. The person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face. Every hundred years festivals
were held in his honor, called the Secular Games.
Hades' weapon was a two-pronged fork, which he used to shatter anything
that was in his way or not to his liking, much as Poseidon did with his trident. This ensign of his power was a staff with
which he drove the shades of the dead into the lower world.His identifying possessions included a famed helmet, given to him
by the Cyclopes, which made anyone who wore it invisible.
Hades was known to sometimes loan his helmet of invisibility
to both gods and men (such as Perseus). His dark chariot, drawn by four coal-black horses, always made for a fearsome and
impressive sight. His other ordinary attributes were the Narcissus and Cypress plants, the Key of Hades and Cerberus, the
many-headed dog. He sat on an ebony throne.
Hades is rarely represented in classical arts,
save in depictions
of the Rape of Persephone.
The consort of Hades, and the archaic queen of the Underworld in her own
right, before the Hellene Olympians were established, was Persephone, represented by the Greeks as daughter of Zeus and Demeter.
Persephone did not submit to Hades willingly, but was abducted by him while picking flowers with her friends. Hades loved
Persphone so deeply that he did not free her from the underworld.
Persephone's mother missed her and without her daughter
by her side she cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine. Hades tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate
seeds, which meant that she would be unable to leave the underworld even with the help of Zeus. Persephone knew of her mother's
depression and asked Hades to return her to the land of the living, on the condition that she would stay with him for six
months a year, one for every seed she consumed. Every year Hades fights his way back to the land of the living with Persephone
in his chariot. In the months that Persephone is gone there is always famine (winter).
Orpheus and Eurydice
showed mercy only once: Because the music of Orpheus was so hauntingly sad, he allowed Orpheus to bring his wife, Eurydice,
back to the land of the living as long as she walked behind him and he never tried to look at her face until they got to the
surface. Orpheus agreed but, yielding to the temptation to glance backwards, failed and lost Eurydice again, to be reunited
with her only after his death.
Leuce and Mintho
Like his brother Zeus and other ancient gods, Hades was not
the most faithful of husbands. He pursued and loved the nymph Mintho and to punish him for this, his jealous wife Persephone
turned Mintho into the plant called mint. Likewise, the nymph Leuce, who was also ravished by him, was metamorphosed by Hades
into a white poplar tree after her death.
Theseus and Pirithous
Hades imprisoned Theseus and Pirithous, who
had pledged to marry daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen and together they kidnapped her and decided to hold onto her until
she was old enough to marry. Pirithous chose Persephone. They left Helen with Theseus' mother, Aethra and travelled to the
underworld. Hades pretended to offer them hospitality and set a feast; as soon as the pair sat down, snakes coiled around
their feet and held them there. Theseus was eventually rescued by Heracles.
Heracles' final labor
was to capture Cerberus. First, Heracles went to Eleusis to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. He did this to absolve
himself of guilt for killing the centaurs and to learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive. He found the entrance to
the underworld at Tanaerum. Athena and Hermes helped him through and back from Hades. Heracles asked Hades for permission
to take Cerberus. Hades agreed as long as Heracles didn't harm him, though in some versions, Heracles shot Hades with an arrow.
When Heracles dragged the dog out of Hades, he passed through the cavern Acherusia.
Hades in Neopaganism
neopagans today, particularly Hellenistic neopagans in the United States, have what many would consider new-age views of Hades.
Hades, the afterlife, is seen as a place of Limbo, containing domains for those who are good, but not good enough for entry
into Elysium (in many ways heaven) and domains for those who are evil, but not evil to be cast into Tartarus (in many ways
Many neopagans believe that the domain of Hades is where all souls go to be judged by the deity Hades, who
is thought to hold the Book of Life which records all mortal deeds, good or ill. The god Hades is thought to be unconcerned
with any form of worship and sacrifice, and totally devoid of compassion or emotion for mortals. Modern neopagans sometimes
believe that the deity Hades consults Themis and Hyperion when deciding a mortal's fate.
Should a mortal be observed
by Hyperion to be evil, but unworthy of eternal torture, the souls are cast into the lower bowels of hades, to a drab and
unpleasant existence in which they may or may not be issued punishment. Should a mortal be observed by Hyperion to be virtuous,
but not worthy of entry into Elysium, Hades allows the mortal to wander free in the upper levels of Hades, believed to be
much like life on Earth. Themis, after the observations are made, consults Hades, who passes Judgment.
Whether a soul
is allowed entry to Elysium or cast into Tartarus is believed by many Pagans to depend on whether Hyperion's observations
of one's earthly ills and virtues carries disproportionate weight. For example, some believe that a set of scales (carried
by Themis) will tilt with each observation, and how far the scales are from being balanced determines whether or not one is
rewarded or punished, and the subsequent severity of punishment or greatness of one's reward.
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