Mythology Monday: Ascalaphus

Ascalaphus, bad omen, screech owl, mythology, greek mythology, from the young adult greek mythology retelling The Daughters of Zeus series by Kaitlin Bevis. Persephone, a modern day persephone retelling

Time passed in a blur of color and light. People laughed and danced around us, the spinning arcs of the skirts making me dizzy.

“I can’t dance another step.” I giggled, clinging to Hades so I wouldn’t trip and fall.

“Let’s get some air.” Hades led me out of the ballroom. The party was scattered all across the Underworld, but we found privacy in the grove of trees. The trees stretched into the sky, their branches arching and spilling over, sheltering us from view of any of the other souls wandering the Underworld.

“You’re trying to stop me from making a scene.” I stepped away from him into the center of the clearing. I spun around, holding my arms out. “Whoa.” I stopped mid-spin, waiting for the clearing to do the same.

“You should probably eat something.” Hades caught my hand. “Think of something, anything at all.”

I imagined pomegranate seeds and a plastic baggy full of them appeared in my free hand. I put six seeds in my mouth. An owl hooted in the distance.

Hades laughed. “You’re going to need more than that. What’s your favorite type of bread?”

“I’m a goddess. Do I have to worry about hangovers?”

“Your metabolism will change when you come into your powers. As far as alcohol is concerned, right now you’re a human.” He suppressed a grin. “Ambrosia gets even gods drunk, so you’re in trouble.”


I had a lot of fun peppering my books with Easter eggs for people as obsessed with Greek mythology as I am. The owl hooting in the distance in the scene above was a reference to the god Ascalaphus.

Ascalaphus (not to be confused with the Argonaut by the same name)  was a minor deity/spirit that kept the orchard in the Underworld. He saw Persephone eat the fateful pomegranate seeds and informed Hades and Zeus. Because of those seeds, she was forced to return to the Underworld every year.

Demeter did not take that news well. But she couldn’t lash out at Zeus or Hades to the degree that she’d like to, so she shot the messenger. She buried Ascalaphus under a rock, but that pesky demigod Hercules freed him. Since keeping him trapped didn’t seem to be working, she turned him into a screech owl. Ever since, screech owls have been associated with the Underworld. Spotting one is a bad omen.

There is a version of the myth that credits Persephone with his transformation, which while out of character at the time, wouldn’t be for long as she became known as The Iron Queen.