Mythology Monday: Hephaestus

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Ares knocked again, lacing it with enough power to shake the building. “I know you’re in there!”

“Go away!” A gruff voice shouted back.

“Aw, hell.” Ares clenched his fist and flames sprang up from his flesh. He touched his hand to the glass, and it shattered.

“That’s—” I started.

“Awesome?” Ares interrupted, flashing me a grin.

“Not how glass reacts to fire.” I finished, staring at the pellets of glass covering the sidewalk.

Ares frowned at me and started to say something, but was cut off when a huge hulking shape burst from the arcade screaming obscenities and tackled him.

Ares lit up like a match, flames encasing his body like the top of a baked Alaska. The man punching the daylights out of Ares was undaunted by the fire.

“Knock it off!” I pulled at the big guy’s shoulder. Fire licked my arm and I yelped, surprised by the unexpected pain. The man, Hephaestus, I realized, spun around at my touch and raised his hand as if he were going to hit me, then froze.

I shifted uncomfortably under his intense stare.

“Yeah, she’s pretty. Now get off me.” Ares pushed at the bigger man until he relented. “You okay?”

He grabbed my hand, which was taking its sweet time healing. A pulse of power passed through me, speeding up the process, but I hardly noticed.

Hephaestus stood, towering above me, but that wasn’t what made me step back in fear.

Half of his face was an unrecognizable web of scar tissue. It looked melted. Skin hung in odd places. His empty eye socket drooped toward his nose. Like one of those Photoshop tricks where you click the mouse, and an image swirls into a grotesque parody of its former self.

“What happened to you?” I gasped. Gods could heal from anything, so what could possibly disfigure a deity? I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his face. It rippled, like a current of electricity was passing under his skin.

“I took my weapons back.”

I shuddered as images of the long metal stakes bombarded my mind. Once upon a time, he’d created a weapon that could kill gods with a scratch, but they’d all been melted down centuries ago.

“I’ve told you a hundred thousand times,” he continued, glowering at Ares, “I don’t make them anymore. Bringing her along to charm me into it is just low.”

~@~

Hephaestus was perhaps one of the most interesting gods in Greek mythology. He was a god who was either disabled or somehow deformed (the myths vary), which is what people focus on, but Hephaestus was also an incredibly powerful artist. Like Athena, Hephaestus gave skill to mortal artists and was believed to have taught men the arts alongside the goddess of wisdom, which would account for all the temples and festivals they had in common. Both were also believed to have healing powers. He also made almost every magical weapon and tool every featured in Greek mythology: Hermes’ sandals, Poseidon’s trident, Aphrodite’s girdle, every throne on Olympus, Chariots, Pandora, the very fire Prometheus stole, and almost every other item imbued with magical power. He also created Automatons and other robot like machines that sound like something you’d see in that creepy movie “9.” The location of his forge varied by myth. It was either in Olympus, in Poseidon’s realm, in volcanoes, or Underworld adjacent.

He is either the son of Zeus and Hera, or Hera’s alone as revenge for Athena. He was cast out of Olympus for either having a deformed foot, or for protecting Hera from Zeus’ advances. He was raised by Thetis, the mother of Achilles, or the citizens of Lemnos, who taught him their craft, or both (he returned after being cast out by Hera and was cast out by Zeus.) The spot where he fell in Lemnos was believed to cure madness, the bites of snakes, and hemorrhage. Priests of Hephaestus knew how to cure wounds inflicted by snakes. On Lemnos, Hephaestus hooked up with a sea nymph named Cabeiro, and the two had two children who became metal workings gods called the Cabeiri. Sometimes his foot is messed up in the fall from Olympus (he fell for over a day), sometimes since birth, sometimes by arsenic, and sometimes not at all.

Hephaestus got his revenge for being cast out by sending Hera a beautifully crafted throne that would not let her get up once she sat down. When the Olympians begged his help to release their mother, Hephaestus simply said he had no mother. Eventually, Dionysus got him drunk enough to relent and he released Hera so long as his banishment was revoked and he could marry Aphrodite (or possibly Zeus gave Aphrodite to him to stop the other gods from fighting over her). Although according to Homer he married the youngest Grace and Aphrodite’s personal messenger, Aglaea. Other accounts say he married Aglaea after his divorce to Aphrodite and they had several children together (the youngest set of Graces): Eucleia (“Good Repute”), Eupheme (“Acclaim”), Euthenia (“Prosperity”), and Philophrosyne (“Welcome”).

Aphrodite and Hepheastus had, by all accounts, a loveless marriage that resulted in no children. Aphrodite was always off cheating with Ares (she gets a bad wrap for this, but she and Ares were involved long before Hephaestus blackmailed Zeus/Hera). Once Hephaestus set a trap and caught the two in a net mid-sex, then put the net on display for all the gods to come have a look at the cheating couple and afterwards, (might have) divorced her.

Hephaestus was by no means faithful himself. Once Athena visited Hephaestus’ forge to ask for weapons and he tried to force himself on her, but she teleported out from beneath him before she could come to any harm and his sperm impregnated the earth (Gaia) with Erichthonius. Athena ended up raising the kid (kind of, but that’s another myth) and he later went on to rule Athens.

Hepheastus also (might have) hooked up with a nymph in Sicily (Aetna) and (depending on the myth) produced a set of twins who became associated with two geysers that led to the Underworld. And he was a known consort of Anticleia and had one son by her named Periphetes. Periphetes was lame in one leg and had one eye like a cyclops. He beat travelers on the road from Athens to Troezen to death with a club for kicks until Theseus killed him.

Hepheastus also had a handful of mortal children, kings, heroes and Argonauts mostly, by different women, and his Roman equivalent Vulcan also had two more sons, a fire breathing cannibal named Calcus (killed by Hercules) and a blind founder of Praeneste, Caeculus.

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