Mythology Monday: Chthonic Deities

Chthonic deities, Underworld, Greek mythology, Retellings, Daughters of Zeus, young adult greek mythology retelling, Hades, Persephone ,Thanatos , The Judges , Cerberus, Charon, Cronus , Erinyes , Hecate , Hermes , Hypnos , Moirai ,Nyx ,  Acheron , Arae,  Ascalaphus , Kakodaimones ,Empusa ,Epiales , Erebus ,  Keres , Lamia , Lethe , Leuce , Melinoe , Minthe , Mormolyceia (Mormos) , Oneiroi , Styx , Tartarus ,Daira, Eurynomus, Gorgyra, Lampades, Cocytus, Macaria, Menoetes, Phlegethon, Trophonius,

Orpheus spoke up. “Last time I saw you, you didn’t even know you were a goddess. How did you end up down here? You don’t look like you belong with the chthonic group. No offense,” he said to Hades.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but her parents are Olympian,” Hades replied.

“Chthonic? Olympian? What are you guys talking about?”

“Chthonic deities are gods associated with the Underworld. We tend to have darker features.” Hades motioned to his black hair. “Olympians were associated with Olympus, and were various shades of blond. The primordials tended to represent their element to the extreme, and the Titans were . . . well, titanic in size.”

I blinked. Gods were classified by appearance? I supposed it wasn’t relevant anymore with so few of us left, but the whole system seemed strange to me. None of that mattered, though, because Orpheus remembered the last time he saw me! I was sure my face was bright red. Hades sighed, no doubt bored by the whole conversation.

~@~

Chthonic deities were gods associated with the Underworld. Below are links to descriptions of the more important Chthonic Deities.

Hades | Persephone | Thanatos |  The Judges Cerberus |Charon | Cronus | Erinyes | Hecate | Hermes | Hypnos | Moirai | Nyx |  Acheron | AraeAscalaphusKakodaimones |   |Empusa |Epiales | Erebus |  Keres | Lamia | Lethe | Leuce | MelinoeMinthe Mormolyceia (Mormos) | Oneiroi | Styx | Tartarus 

And this is a list of the Chthonic deities too minor to get their own blog.

Daira (Knowing One or Teacher), was a daughter of Oceanus, sister to Styx, and a key figure in the Eleusinian mysteries. While Demeter was searching for Persephone, she visited a town called Eleusis, and drank water from a particular well. Daira was the Naiad attached to that well. She was also the mother of the king, Eleusis, by Hermes.

Daira initiated members into the mystery cult that worshipped Demeter, Persephone, and Hekate. Persephone and Hekate both sometimes borrowed Daira’s name in invocations.

Eurynomus (Wide Ruling), played an important role in keeping the Underworld clean by stripping the corpses of their skin. This underworld spirit was often depicted with blue-black skin and rode around on a vulture.

Gorgyra (Underwater Drain), may have been another name for the River Styx or in her other form, Gorgyra Orphne, Nyx. She and Acheron were the parents of Ascalaphus.

Lampades were torch bearing nymphs of the Underworld, and gifts from Zeus to Hekate because of her loyalty in the Titanomachy. The light from their torches had the power to drive people to insanity, so naturally they accompanied Hekate on all her nighttime hauntings and revels.

Cocytus was both a river (of tears) and a goddess (of sorrow) in the Underworld.

Macaria (not to be confused with the daughter of Hercules) was the goddess of blessed death. She is a daughter of Hades (no mother is ever mentioned, but the man was fairly monogamous). She might have been a kinder counterpart to Thanatos or she might have led the souls to the isle of the blessed, or she might not have been a goddess at all and might have just been an expression (go in peace). Very, very minor goddess.

Menoetes (Doomed Might) was a spirit who herded cattle in the Underworld. While Hercules was in the Underworld for his 12th labor, the two wrestled, and Menoetes lost. Fortunately, Persephone was there to save him.

Phlegethon (flaming) was one of the five rivers located in the Underworld and/or the god of the river of fire located in the Underworld. The river was made of fire and, in my universe, acted as the division between the Asphodel fields and Tartarus. I’ve heard a myth that says that he and Styx were in love. As rivers, they flowed into one another.

Trophonius (Nourisher of the Mind) was the demigod son of Apollo and Erginos. He and his brother Agamedes built the temple to Apollo at Delphi. As a reward, both brothers were told to do anything they wanted for six days, and on the seventh day, their greatest wish would be granted. Both brothers were found dead on the seventh day (possibly for stealing treasure) in a cave near Lebadeia in Boiotia. Trophonius is considered to be the cave spirit for what became a sacred site.

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Chthonic Deities. If you enjoyed the Persephone series, follow up with the Aphrodite trilogy. Love and War is on sale today for .99 cents. 

Way Back Wednesday: The Ferryman

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Charon didn’t have an active role in a lot of myths, but he makes appearances all over the place. That didn’t stop in ancient days. The ferryman is an archetype. A neutral character who serves to transport the protagonist from one place to another and give off a generally creepy vibe.  You’d be surprised where Charon popped up in recent history.

The Clash of the Titans

Charon appears in the original clash of the titans as a skeleton. It was a creepy moment and not one I saw fit to rewrite with my own version of Charon.

The Amber Spyglass

Another creepy ferryman, in a heart wrenching moment, he unwillingly ferries Lyra and Will across the river to the land of the dead.

Peter Pan

In a play on words, the fairies typically act as ferrymen for children who “fall out of their prams” or get lost. The children are taken to Neverland, a wonderful land that sounds a lot like a child’s paradise. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines here. Peter later acts as a ferryman to children who died, traveling with them for part of the way so they wouldn’t be frightened.

Have you seen any examples of ferrymen that stuck with you in books or movies? Comment below.

Mythology Monday: Charon

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 Dinner chatter began on the far side of the table, seeming to revolve around Charon recounting his day on the ferry. I stared down at the white tablecloth, trying to remember which of the silver utensils I needed to use for the first course. A silver plate was placed before me with a fried pink oyster mushroom served with grapefruit. It was topped with an orange nasturtium blossom. “So . . . ” I turned to Moirae, who glared daggers at me, and quickly turned back to Hades. “Uh, what did you do today?”

He looked surprised by the question. “It’s barely been an hour since I last saw you.”

“It’s called small talk,” I snapped. “You should try it some time.”

He sighed. “Fine. I spoke with Hestia about your history lessons, arranged for you to begin self-defense lessons with Charon—”

“What?” Charon piped up from his end of the table. “When did that happen?”

“Just now,” Hades said around a bite of chicken. “I’m multitasking.”

“Why does she need to learn self-defense?” Aeacus asked. I

popped the flower into my mouth, savoring the spicy flavor. I wondered how they’d known I was a vegan. Everyone had something different on their plates. Maybe it was just a cool Underworld trick, like the rooms decorating themselves.

“You’re going to have Charon teach her?” asked Thanatos. “He won’t be able to shut up long enough to teach her a single move. I’m way better at self-defense.”

“Not everyone can kill someone just by touching them,” Hypnos pointed out.

“You’ll be busy guarding Persephone any time she leaves the palace.” He looked at me. “You’re perfectly safe in all but the public areas of the palace. Only certain souls can enter the living quarters. Just stay out of the public sections, the ballroom, the front lobby, the banquet hall, and the court room, unless either myself, Cassandra, or Thanatos are with you.”

“Hah!” Thanatos laughed at Charon. “You may be the self-defense guru, or whatever, but I’m the one people want around if there’s any real trouble.”

 Charon snorted. “Give us a week, Thanatos. Persephone will be able to kick your bony ass across the Styx.”

The table erupted into cacophony. Everyone was talking over everyone else, adding wagers and jesting with each other. Lethians deftly ducked between the dueling deities, serving the main course. A plate of corn-filled phyllo tulips and eggplant topped with tomato sauce was put in front of me and I took a nervous bite.

“You’re on!” Thanatos replied. He gave me a devilish grin. “One week, Persephone.”

“That’s okay,” I squeaked. I didn’t want to go hand to hand against Death. No one heard me.

 ~@~

Charon is the ferryman of the Underworld. He takes the newly departed from the entrance of the Underworld across the River Styx. In most versions of his myth he charges a coin (usually an obelisk, and some myths say two) for the passage. This was the reasoning behind putting coins on the eyes of the dead. People didn’t want their loved ones stranded in the Underworld. My version of Charon charges no such fee, and he’s also much more friendly than his mythological counterpart.

He’s yet another child of Nyx and Erabus, so I guess he’s Thanatos’ and Hypnos’ half-brother. His name means “keen gaze” which may refer to that fixed, unmoving gaze that corpse have (you’re welcome for the creepy imagery of the day). There’s not a lot of active mythology about Charon. He’s present in a ton of artwork and is mentioned in most epics or heroic quests, but other than taking people back and forth he doesn’t have a very active roll.

He’s supposed to be ugly and unkept, with a long, straggly, greasy beard. My Charon is cleaner, but I suppose hand rowing a ferry full of people back and forth over a misty, swampy river multiple times a day could take a toll on your appearance.