Mythology Monday: Dionysus

Dionysus, Bacchus, Bacchanalia, Greek mythology, young adult greek mythology retelling, Daughters of Zeus, Persephone, Kaitlin Bevis

Dionysus (Bacchus) was the Greek god of revelry and pleasure. Depending on which painted vase you’re looking at, he was either an old man with a beard, or a pretty boy with long hair. He was the son of Zeus and a princess of Thebes named Semele (or possibly he was a son of Zeus and Demeter, Io, Dione, Arge, Persephone, Io, or Lethe, or possibly the son of Ammon and Amaltheia, but let’s go with Semele). While Semele was pregnant with Dionysus, Zeus promised her anything she asked. Hera tricked Semele into asking to see Zeus in his full glory. Zeus, bound by his promise, had to comply, and Semele burned to a crisp. Zeus managed to save Dionysus by sewing him into his thigh and carrying him to term. (The gods are SO weird!)

OR Dionysus is a son of Demeter or Persephone and Zeus and was sent to be eaten by the Titans by a jealous Hera. Zeus swooped in to save the day and found they’d already eaten everything but his heart. Athena or Rhea or Demeter managed to restore him from that by placing the heart in Zeus’s thigh until he reformed and Zeus gave birth. Because of this dying then being born thing, he’s considered a death and rebirth deity.

After giving birth, Zeus sent Dionysus to live (in some versions of the myth disguised as a girl) with Semele’s sister, Ino, and brother-in-law, Athamas (He may have lived with some nymphs prior to moving in with his aunt and uncle, or he might have lived with a daughter of  Aristaeus, and Athena named Nysa, or Hermes, or Persephone, or Rhea). Hera, enraged to discover the child still lived, drove Ino and Athamas insane. They killed their children and then themselves. In some versions of the myth, Zeus saved Athamas from madness by turning him into a ram and having him take the young Dionysus into a cave on Mount Nysa, where he was then brought up by Nymphs. I’m sure Athamas appreciated being rescued from madness after his wife and children were slaughtered by his own hands.

Dionysus grew up among one group of nymphs or another (his origin stories are vast if you can’t tell. There’s about as many different versions as there were people in ancient Greece), and possibly took lessons from Chiron. As an adult, Hera cursed him with madness and forced him to roam the country side introducing people to the wonders of wine. This trick had a profound impact on the young Dionysus, and violence and madness became his go-to punishment. King Lycurgus angered Dionysus and ended up killing his entire family and then himself with an ax (he thought they were vines). King Pentheus was torn limb from limb by his daughters and/or wife, King Proteus was flayed alive for refusing the introduction of the grape vine, a group of pirates leapt overboard convinced they were dolphins, women who didn’t acknowledge his divinity ate their young, a nymph who pursued him was (predictably) turned into a plant, and so on. This was not a guy you wanted to upset. Despite that bloody history, he was regarded as a god of peace, civilization, and law.

He was also all about partying. His bacchanalias were famous. He went everywhere, establishing towns, introducing wine, driving out and killing invading amazons. He cursed Midas with the golden touch (though it was intended to be a gift) and eventually journeyed to the Underworld and led his mother back to the realm of the living.

In some versions of the myths he could tell the future or heal mankind. He was often seen as a god of art or protector of theater.

Dionysus came about fairly late in the Pantheon, and some interpretations of the myth suggest many myths involving Demeter may have been altered to give Dionysus credit (I mean, think about it, she was the goddess of the harvest, wine should be her thing). He’s also virtually identical to Iachus and a few more minor mythological gods and figures that may have combined to create one deity. Other interpretations consider him to be another aspect of Hades because “the cult of Dionysus is also a “cult of the souls”; his maenads feed the dead through blood-offerings, and he acts as a divine communicant between the living and the dead” (thank you wikipedia).

You’ll notice Dionysus isn’t included in my books, like, at all. That’s mostly because he is such a compilation of other deities that I have included/may include in my books. His insanity is reflected in Zeus, his chthonic tendencies in Hades, his powers in Demeter. Orpheus and some not-yet-introduced characters share other characteristics. Plus, he’s technically a demigod, so if he did exist in my universe, his time would have already come and gone.

FAQ Friday: Medusa

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

Q: Where can I get the short story, Medusa?

A: A shortened version of the story, Medusa, was included in the second (current) edition of Persephone. If you have the first edition e-book, I’d check to see if you can update in the kindle settings under your account. Outside of that, you have a few options.

  1. Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to learn when Persephone goes on sale.
  2. Wait. An extended version of Medusa will be included in the Snakes and Stones Anthology. The Snakes and Stones Anthology will feature eight different retellings of the Medusa myth, including mine. It will be released this summer.
  3. Wait even longer. There’s also been some murmurings of doing an anthology of short stories with Belle Books, but that’s quite some time down the road

Mythology Monday: Aphrodite

In honor of Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’m reposting my Mythology Monday on The Goddess of Love.

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In the distance, a girl stood thigh-high in the ocean, clad in a gown of strategically placed sea foam. Although her back was to me, I could tell she was perfect. The curly ringlets of hair cascading down her flawless cream skin matched the intense orange of the sky as the sun sank in the sea.

I glanced down at my sun-kissed skin. I’d never felt self-conscious because of a tan before but gods. She made pale look really good. A movement caught my attention and I glanced up as she looked over her shoulder, aquamarine eyes meeting mine. 

“Who is that?” I motioned at the water. “And why did you send for me? What do you know about Zeus?”

“Look at her. You can’t tell what she is?” Poseidon replied.

I stared at the girl, her red hair swirling in the wind. I could tell she was a goddess, but knew he meant something more than that.

Hades narrowed his eyes and swore. “What has Zeus done?”

I gave the girl a closer look, but couldn’t see anything different.

“You are new,” Poseidon mused, looking me over curiously. “How old are you?”

“She’s Zeus’,” Hades explained, motioning toward the girl on the water.

“Yeah, I gathered that. So have you guys ever seen her before, or . . . ” I trailed off at Hades’ expression.

“No she’s really new.” Hades squinted his eyes against the setting sun.

“She appeared on the waves the day I sent for you,” Poseidon added.

“And you kept her out there? What’s wrong with you?” I demanded. I imagined spending two days in the ocean and shuddered.

“I’m not setting that thing loose in the world. If you can’t see the level of charisma she’s projecting, then I’ve severely overestimated your abilities.”

“She’s never seen another god with charisma,” Hades interjected. “There wasn’t an opportunity to teach her.”

“So she has charm.” I shrugged. “So do I, so does Zeus. What’s the problem?”

“She doesn’t just have charm.” Poseidon laughed. “That’s all she is. She’s a full deity, but from what I can tell, she came solely from Zeus, and charm is all he gave her. He gave her an obscene amount.” He went silent for a moment. “She wasn’t created here. She rose from the sea near Petra tou Romiou.”

Hades swore. I looked at him in confusion. “What does that mean?”

“It’s where Uranus fell,” Hades explained.

Poseidon nodded, looking grim. “The resting place of a fallen god is always rife with chaotic power. I think he used Uranus’ remains to help create her.”

“What would that do?” I asked.

“She has the potential to become more powerful than us,” Hades replied.

I realized what Hades meant, and my eyes widened. Uranus was Cronus’ father. Cronus and Rhea had created my mother, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Hestia, and Zeus. With gods, every generation is less powerful than the last. If Zeus had imbued her with charm and created her from Uranus’ remains, there was no telling how much chaos she could wreak.

~@~

Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) makes her first appearance in the sequel to Persephone, “Daughter of the Earth and Sky.” Unlike Persephone who really only plays a part in three major myths, Aphrodite has her hand in everything, which meant a ton of research on my part. That research led to a surprising discovery.

There are two Aphrodites! The first Aphrodite predates the Olympians. She was born after Cronus killed Uranus by severing his…. nether bits. The… foam, that rose from said nether bits became flesh and Aphrodite rose from the foam a full grown, beautiful goddess, and the furies rose from the blood in the water.

Isn’t Greek mythology just full of the loveliest imagery?

Anyway, that’s where the famous picture, “The Birth of Venus” comes from. That Aphrodite is the goddess of love of the body and soul.

The other Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus and Dione. She was also pretty, but she was only the goddess of, well… sex.

Not surprisingly, it became very difficult to tell which goddess was being referred to in the myths, and eventually they became the same goddess to the uniformed listener. I had to figure out a way to be true to both versions of the goddess. She had to be Zeus’ daughter for my story to work, but I had him create her from the “remains” of Uranus. To explain why she’s pretty much only the goddess of love when most of the other gods are in charge of something a bit more tangible, I had Zeus give her charm, and charm alone.

In my series, charm is kind of like compulsion from the Vampire Diaries. That resemblance was not intentional. My series was written well before the show aired. BUT as a kid, I devoured that book series, so it probably was at the very least subconsciously inspired by it.

And here I thought I was so original. Meh, it’s not like supernatural beings being able to control the minds of humans is all that new of a concept.

Anyway, children of Zeus possess charm, or charisma. Controlled, it acts as a sort of mind control. Uncontrolled it could start things like the Trojan War. It triggers and amplifies whatever emotion the victim has toward the deity with the charm. Most deities come from two parents, so they have some other power or responsibility to balance out the charm. Aphrodite just has charm, so it’s very powerful, and everyone she sees has a reaction to her until she learns to get it under control.

Goddess of charm, goddess of love and beauty? It works.

Aphrodite has a part in many, many more myths, and I’ll do my best to cover them in future Mythology Mondays, because her role in the series is just starting.

Sneak Peek: Venus Rising

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Enjoy a first look at a scene from Venus Rising. SPOILER WARNING for anyone who has not yet read Love and War.

“I can do this,” My numb fingers scrabbled to keep hold of the sheer cliff face. The Island of the DAMNED was a shaped like a tall, mutated teardrop, only a jagged curve sloped into the ocean. I’d edged my way around to lower ground. Unfortunately, the cliff still wasn’t low enough for me to climb given the rough shape I was in.

Between waves, I sputtered specifics, locking myself into the promise, forcing the words true. Now there was no choice in the matter. I had to survive.

Poseidon, I thought, drawing my palm against a rock jutting from the face of the island. The sharp edge pierced my spongy palm without resistance. Blood could pass through the weak shield surrounding the island as well as water. Mine was still divine enough to get Poseidon’s attention.

I hoped.

Shivers racked my body, hard enough to threaten my tenuous hold on the cliff face. Exposure, I added to my mental list of ways I could die. When the entire fricken island teleported across gods know how many time zones, it traded sunny, warm, placid water for a dark night, icy chill, and choppy waves.

“She moved the island.” I spat out the sentence with as much disgust as I could muster. “That stupid…” A litany of curse words followed, but not a single one of them made me feel better. Medea had probably killed herself doing this. And for what?

I squinted against the utter blackness, wishing for a moon, stars, or light of any kind.

Some part of me knew my thrashing could attract creatures living in the water, but that fear had to move aside for the more practical need to keep air in my lungs.

Lightning cracked across the sky, cruelly granting my wish for light in a blinding slash. Of course, Persephone was enraged. The meeting, ostensibly to establish peace with the demigods, had gone horribly wrong when Ares had been outed as an imposter. He’d gotten away, but I’d been dragged along when the island teleported.

So now, not only did the demigods have a weapons cache that could end every god in the Pantheon, they had two hostages. Me and the fricken Lord of the Underworld.

Maybe my cover isn’t blown. They didn’t know I was a goddess. Just that Ares was a god.

And I’d been living with him.

And that we’d arrived on the island at the exact same time.

Yeah, they’d be idiots not to at least suspect. And since gods were physically incapable of telling lies, all it would take to confirm their suspicion was a yes or no question.

Assuming I didn’t drown first.

Something slick brushed against my legs. What was that? I twisted in the water, limbs jerking in all directions like a tangled marionette, but the waves might as well have been made of midnight. Between the pitch-black night and the chaos the island’s teleportation churned, I couldn’t make out my own flesh beneath the waves. I lost my grip on the cliff-face and felt a wave of dizziness as my feet kicked into the endless depths.

Probably just a scared fish, I tried to convince myself. My fear of the ocean depths was mostly instinctive, bred into me by design to keep me from visiting Poseidon’s realm. Having his permission to be here should have quelled the fear. But in the dark of the night with gods knew what swimming around me, that old, instinctual fear no longer listened to reason. I was someplace foreign. Other. I didn’t belong here.

“Just keep moving,” I told myself through gritted teeth, kicking toward the cliff face.

A wave slammed into me, shoving me beneath the inky blackness. I pushed to the surface, gasping for air, but just as I inhaled, another wave slammed into me. Then another. Then another.

Halloween Mythology Part 2: Hecate

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Hecate got really popular in (comparably) recent history. She started as a chthonic deity a generation above the Olympians. She was an only child, which was rare in Greek mythology, and her parents were Perses and Asteria, relatively minor deities in mythology. She was mostly a household goddess of good fortune who for no apparent reason, Zeus was really really in awe of. She was sort of replaced by Artemis, and I say sort of, because Hecate was worshiped in a very small region, and Artemis grew in popularity throughout most of the country. Hecate may predate Artemis, but very few people were aware of her during height of that myth.

Now Artemis and Selene both had dominion over the moon like Hecate, but Hecate had a lot more power. Artemis was sort of a moon goddess, Selene more so, and Hecate had the power OF the moon over the earth, sea, and skies. She influenced the tides, earthquakes, wind storms, you name it.

In the Persephone myth, Hecate helped Demeter find her daughter, and accompanied her to the Underworld every six months as a figure of comfort. She was either a virgin goddess, or the mother to Scylla depending on the myth. She seems fond of dogs (There’s almost always one depicted with her), garlic, and cypress trees.

Hecate was skilled with herb lore, both the healing and the poisoning variety. She taught this lore to Medea, and we all know how that went. At some point Hecate got very popular with pagan cults and her whole persona changed, but that’s going way off the beaten path of Greek mythology. I think it’s fascinating how her role evolved, but there are still people who actively worship this goddess, so I will do them the courtesy of not discussing their goddess beyond the basics.

Halloween Mythology Part 1: Reapers

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I caught sight of a man making his way down the long hallway. “Who’s that?”

Cassandra followed my pointed finger and narrowed her dark eyes. “Hey you!” She jogged through the entertainment room to the hall.

I followed closely behind her, studying the man. Something was off about him. He was tall, wearing robes the same disorienting black I’d seen on Hades, but that wasn’t what stood out to me. Light seemed to bend around him, as though he was sucking it out of the room.

“Reapers aren’t allowed down here.” Cassandra frowned. “How did you get clearance?”

“From Thanatos. What about you? Do you have clearance?” he asked in a snide voice.

Cassandra bristled. “I live here.”

“Ah yes, Hades’ pet soul. I almost forgot. What about her?” He motioned to me.

“None of your business. She belongs here, you don’t. So shoo!”

“I’m Persephone.” I was determined to be polite, no matter how snide he sounded.

Cassandra sighed. “You don’t have to talk to him.”

“I’m Zachary.” He gave me an appreciative once-over. “You must be new here.”

“I am.” I made myself meet his eyes. It was hard to look at him directly; my eyes kept getting distracted by the strange bends in light around him. “Nice to meet you.” I extended my hand.

“No, Persephone, don’t!” Cassandra reached out to block the Reaper’s hand. His fingers brushed mine and I fell to my knees screaming. Fire laced through my veins. Something ripped inside of me, trying to break free.

“Shit! She’s alive?” Zachary sprang away from me, hands in the air.

“Yes, she’s alive, you idiot!” Cassandra yelled. She knelt beside me. “Hades!”

I gasped. My arms were crossed over my chest, gripping my shoulders to hold myself together. My vision swam. I doubled over, my head nearly touching the stone floor.

“What happened?” Hades appeared in front of me. He knelt beside me, a frown marring his otherwise perfect face. He touched my shoulder and I cried out. Something within me shifted and suddenly the pain was gone.

I stared up at him, breathing hard. “What—”

Hades was already on his feet, turning on the Reaper. “What are you doing here?”

“I didn’t know she was alive, I swear!”

“I didn’t ask if you knew she was alive, I asked what you’re doing here.”

“What happened?” I asked Cassandra when she offered me her hand and helped me up.

“Reapers collect souls and bring them to the Underworld,” she explained.

“Thanatos sent me. I was getting the list. I’m really sorry.” Zachary met my eyes. “I didn’t know you were alive.”

That horrible feeling had been my soul? I stared at Zachary in disbelief. He looked terrified. I followed his gaze to Hades.

“It was my fault. I shook his hand. I didn’t know that would happen.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes. “He shouldn’t be here at all, and he knows it. You should be able to walk around freely in your own palace.”

“Her own . . . ” Zachary paled. “Oh shit. I mean, I’m really really sorry. I didn’t know we have a queen.”

I opened my mouth to correct him, but Cassandra squeezed my hand.

Hades looked at Cassandra, then back at Zachary. “Go find Thanatos and bring him to me.”

Zachary stumbled away, apologizing with every step.

~@~

This week I’m focusing on Halloween appropriate Greek Myths, so it seemed like Reapers were a good place to start.  Reapers don’t (to my knowledge) have much of a place in Greek Mythology besides Thanatos, and Cronus. I take a bit about Thanatos a few weeks ago. He gets the Reaper association because he’s the god of death. Cronus gets it nod because he used a sickle to castrate his father.

There is a god of death in just about every cultures but the idea of multiple Reapers is, as far as I can tell, pretty new. Obviously shows like “Dead Like Me” or “Supernatural” have played a part, and I owe a huge debt of my depiction of Reapers to the “Soul Screamers” series by Rachel Vincent. (Amazing series, seriously everyone should read it).

In my version Reapers are just regular souls granted powers by Thanatos and Hades to go release souls from dead bodies. They don’t actually kill anyone, they just release the souls. I felt like that was an important distinction. Death is part of the natural cycle decided on by all the gods, it’s not just Hades’ evil decision, and the Reapers aren’t typically just hanging around waiting to maliciously kill someone. Their touch is a mercy.

Reapers are volunteers, but they must meet some criteria. The first being that everyone they knew in life is dead. There’s probably more to the selection process, but for now I’m keeping my options open. While Reapers don’t typically kill people they do have the ability. If they touch a human they release their soul, dead or not. They can also hurt Persephone quite a bit because she hasn’t come into her powers yet so her soul still tries to leave at their touch, it just can’t go anywhere.

The Reapers play a pivotal role in the second book of the series, but we’ll see more of them as the series progresses.

Mythology Monday: Thanatos

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I winced when Thanatos fell into step behind me. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yeah, I do.” He grinned. “It’s my job, remember?”

“Aren’t you busy, like . . . killing people?”

He shook his head. “I don’t kill people. People die, and I collect their souls. Well, I have my Reapers collect their souls. I rarely leave this realm these days.”

“So why are you making new Reapers?”

“I only make a personal appearance when someone is killed by a god. That doesn’t happen much anymore, but people will always find new ways to kill each other. Did you know that every second someone dies?”

“Forty thousand men and women every day,” I quoted, uncomfortable with the knowledge.

“Every day,” said Thanatos. “More Reapers allow for crazy things, like weekends off and reasonable hours. My Reapers are just souls, you know? They deserve the same respect as any other being. Labor laws aren’t only for the living.”

“They don’t look like souls,” I said, remembering with a shudder.

“They’re blessed. They can go out into the world and come back. Just like demigods.” He saw my worried look and added, “They’re completely under my control. I get the list from Moirae every day and divide it amongst them. They go, they come back. I’d know if anything else happened.”

“No free will?”

“Plenty of free will. No privacy. Still, it’s not hard to recruit—who wouldn’t want to visit the living world?” He studied me carefully, and I took a deep breath as homesickness filled me with longing.

“No one,” I whispered. “How can you possibly choose?”

“They have to meet a few requirements. They can’t know anyone in the living realm.” At my confused look he laughed. “That only takes a few decades. They can’t have drunk from the Lethe. Demigods get preferential treatment.” Thanatos shrugged. “Outside of that, it’s just like any job interview.”

~@~

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought this would be a good week to talk about Thanatos, the god of Death. There’s not a whole lot out there on Thanatos. He was mentioned in myths all over the place, but he didn’t really star in any of them. His mother was Nyx, goddess of night, his father was Erebus, god of darkness, and he was twin to Hypnos, god of sleep. So he has a pretty cool lineage.

Thanatos was once captured, and during his captivity no one could die. In my version of the story, Neither Thanatos, or the Reapers he controls, are supposed to kill anyone. They just release the souls from the bodies. If they don’t do it quick, the souls have to hang out in dead bodies, which is traumatizing for all involved. They *can* kill though. If they touch you and release your soul, that’s a death sentence.Thanatos doesn’t do much of the soul releasing, he’s more upper management. However when a human or being is killed by a deity, he has to respond to divine deaths.

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.

Mythology Monday: The Three Judges of the Underworld

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“Making friends already?” Hades asked. I looked at him in mute appeal, and he grinned. “Persephone, allow me to introduce you to everyone. You’ve met Moirae, I see.” At my nod he continued. “This is Charon, my ferryman; Thanatos, God of Death; his twin brother Hypnos, God of Sleep; and Aeacus, Rhadamanthus—”

“Call me Rhad,” he interjected.

“—and Minos, my judges,” Hades finished.

I nodded as each man stood in turn. I knew some of the names from Latin class but seeing them matched up with actual faces was unnerving.

“And this is my—” Hades broke off and cleared his throat. “May I present my wife, Persephone.”

I moved to stand as they had for me, but Hades put a firm hand on my shoulder, keeping me in place. They all bowed then returned to their seats. People dressed in white robes served the food. I wondered if they were the people who drank from the Lethe. 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.” He looked at Hades. “I’m going to need to recruit more Reapers to cover my shift.”

“What?” Cassandra snapped. “You have too many Reapers already! One of them nearly killed Persephone today.” She saw my eyes widen and sighed. “Fine, not nearly killed. Gods, you deities need to learn to appreciate a good exaggeration.”

“I’m well aware of what happened this afternoon.” Thanatos yawned. “And since my Reapers are banned from the living quarters, that means I have to distribute the list. If I’m also expected to act as a guard, then I’ll need more Reapers to keep things moving smoothly.”

“And last week?” Cassandra asked. “What was the reason then?”

“You guys won’t believe who I met on the ferry today,” Charon said from his side of the table.

“Who?” Minos asked.

“Okay, you guys remember that movie with the . . . ”

I didn’t get to hear the rest of his sentence because Thanatos drowned him out. “More people are dying every day. I need help.”

I shifted closer to Charon, but couldn’t hear him over Cassandra.

“Bull! You only had a handful of Reapers during the plague!”

“And maybe a tenth of the population,” he retorted.

“How many do you need?” Hades asked.

Cassandra sighed loudly and sat back in her seat. Heads shook around the table, and I caught more than a few amused grins. Cassandra seemed to be the only one who was bothered by the Reapers.

“A hundred?”

“You get fifty. And keep them out of the palace, would you?”

Thanatos grinned and took a bite of his steak. I studied him closely. He wore black robes, grim-reaper style. His dark hair was pulled back from his narrow face. His dark eyes met mine from across the table and I gulped, staring hard at the soup before me. I didn’t want Death shadowing me. I glanced at his twin brother, Hypnos. He looked just like Thanatos, only his robes, eyes, and hair were grey. Not old-people grey; more like the color of smoke.

Charon laughed. “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. Hades’ eyes glittered in amusement. He gave me a look that said see what you started? as plainly as if he had spoken.

“I’m also trying to clear my schedule to teach you about your abilities.” Hades smiled wryly. “And I’ve still got to prepare for Brumalia. You’re keeping me busy.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be any trouble.”

He chuckled. “Don’t apologize. It’s a welcome diversion.”

“Then thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, seeming pleased.

“Well, since no one else is asking,” Charon called from the end of the table, “I suppose it’s up to me. Hades, when did you get a wife?”

Everyone laughed. “You miss everything.” Cassandra snickered.

“Damn those needy souls,” Charon joked, sliding an easy grin my way, his gray eyes twinkling. “So what happened? Hades sweep you off your feet?”

“You could say that.” I glanced at Hades. I wasn’t sure what I was allowed to disclose.

“See, I had this vision—” Cassandra began.

“Always visions with you,” Thanatos groaned.

“—that Persephone was in trouble. So I calmly told Hades—”

“If by calmly you mean bursting into the throne room shrieking like a banshee,” Hades teased.

“I do not shriek,” Cassandra said indignantly.

“Yelled, then.” Rhad’s white teeth gleamed against his midnight-dark skin.

“Whatever. Anyway, Hades took off—”

“Since when did you have visions about the living?” Hypnos interrupted.

“Two living deities were involved,” Cassandra said. “These days that’s unheard of.”

“Two?” Minos asked, stroking his gray beard. “So you must be . . . ” He trailed off, looking at me speculatively.

“Goddess of Spring,” I supplied.

There were murmurs of approval from around the table.

“You’re a new one.” Hypnos sounded intrigued. “How old are you?”

Cassandra smacked him over the head. “Heathen!”

“Back to the story,” Charon said impatiently. “What was happening topside?”

Hades took over then, recounting the story dramatically. Anytime he made himself sound too heroic Cassandra put him in his place. I looked around the table with the fresh realization that this group wasn’t just a collection of souls or subjects but a trusted inner circle.

“Well, Persephone, it’s great to meet you.” Aeacus straightened his dark robes.

I nodded at him. “Thank you.”

“Don’t you worry any about any demigods,” Charon said. “Anyone who comes down here with the intent to do you harm will regret it.”

“Ah yes,” Cassandra teased. “Charon could do something really helpful, like hit them with an oar.”

“Hey! I’m the self-defense guru! Remember?”

“He could always talk them to death,” Thanatos said.

“Cassandra could shriek at them.” Hades snickered.

I laughed despite myself. For the rest of the meal, Charon grilled me about life among the living. I was surprised my voice wasn’t hoarse by the end of the meal.

~@~

In honor of Labor Day, I’d like to make a shout out to the unsung heroes of the Underworld. The people who keep it running. So today, I’m going to honor the judges of the Underworld.

Aeacus: In life, Aeacus was the son of Zeus and the demigoddess Aegina or Europa depending on the source. He may or may not have ruled over an island of ants that were turned into people (very long story) depending on the source of the myth. Aeacus ruled an island named after his mother and was by all accounts was a just and fair ruler. He even settled divine disputes.

Apollo and Poseidon asked Aeacus to help build the walls of Troy, which would later fall at the hands of his descendants. His grandkids were Achilles and Ajax. His great-great-great to an exponential degree descended was Alexander the Great. At least Alexander claimed that anyway.

Rhadamanthus is son to Zeus and Europa, brother to Minos (and by some sources Aeacus). In life he was a king, depending on the source he may have been married to Ariadne (more on her later). There was some tension between him and Minos over the rule of Crete, but no one could deny the island was governed by an excellent set of laws. Rhad was known for his unbreakable integrity.

Literature hasn’t been terribly kind to poor Rhad. Keats called him old, Yeats called him bland, and Eliot used his name as an insult. I can kind of see why. I did TONS of research on every character I pulled into Persephone. There wasn’t much to find on this guy other than he was honest.

Minos was the last of the three judges of the Underworld. He was also a child of Zeus and Europa, and a king just like this brother(s). The similarities between the siblings end there. Minos ruled Crete. Every year Minos chose nine girls and nine boys and send them to the labyrinth to be eaten by the Minotaur.

Funny story, that Minotaur. See once upon a time, Poseidon answered Minos’ prayers and sent him a beautiful white bull with the catch that he had to sacrifice it. Minor sacrificed an ugly bull instead. So Poseidon got mad. He asked Aphrodite to make Minos’ wife fall in love with the bull. Nine months later, a Minotaur was born. Horrified and embarrassed, Minos begged Daedalus to construct a labyrinth the Minotaur could never escape from.

Then he imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus so they could never reveal the secret of the labyrinth. More on them later.

Minos was known as the most ancient king to utilize a navy. He also has kind of split personalities. In half the myths he’s a just fair king, in the other half he’s feeding children to the Minotaur. There’s a timing issue as well, he ruled in two very different times depending on the source you read. Most researchers believe there may have been two Minos’, but the stories got combined much like the two Aphrodite’s.