Aphrodite - The Goddess of Love
Aphrodite is the goddess of love, desire and beauty. In addition to her natural gifts she has a magical girdle that compels anyone she wishes to desire her. There are two accounts of her birth. One says she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The other goes back to when Cronus castrated Uranus and tossed his severed genitals into the sea. Aphrodite then arose from the sea foam on a giant scallop and walked to shore in Cyprus. She is the wife of Hephaestus. The myrtle is her tree. The dove, the swan, and the sparrow her birds.
Apollo - Son of Zues
Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto. His twin sister is Artemis . He is the god of music, playing a golden lyre. The Archer, far shooting with a silver bow. The god of healing who taught man medicine. The god of light. The god of truth, who can not speak a lie. One of Apollo's more important daily tasks is to harness his chariot with four horses an drive the Sun across the sky. He is famous for his oracle at Delphi. People traveled to it from all over the Greek world to divine the future. His tree was the laurel. The crow his bird. The dolphin his animal.
Ares - God of War
Ares is the son of Zeus and Hera. He was disliked by both parents. He is the god of war. He is considered murderous and bloodstained but, also a coward. When caught in an act of adultery with Aphrodite her husband Hephaestus is able publicly ridicule him. His bird is the vulture. His animal is the dog.
Artemis - The Virgin Goddess of the Moon, Daughter of Zues
Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto. Her twin brother is Apollo . She is the lady of the wild things. She is the huntsman of the gods. She is the protector of the young. Like Apollo she hunts with silver arrows. She became associated with the moon. She is a virgin goddess, and the goddess of chastity. She also presides over childbirth, which may seem odd for a virgin, but goes back to causing Leto no pain when she was born. She became associated with Hecate. The cypress is her tree. All wild animals are scared to her, especially the deer.
Asclepius - God of Healing
His symbol is a snake. His parents were Apollo and Coronis. His birth was accompanied by scandal. While carrying him Coronis slept with Ischys. This was considered an insult. The act was reported to Apollo by a crow. Apollo turned all crows, until then white, to black to mark that they were untrustworthy. Apollo then felt compelled to slay Coronis with his arrows. He rescued Asclepius from her funeral pyre. Asclepius was raised by Chiron. Chiron taught him healing which he went on to perfect. Athena gave him two vials of Gorgon's blood. Blood from the right side of the Gorgon revived life. Blood from the left killed. Asclepius started using the blood to raise dead mortals. For this overstepping of bounds Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt. Apollo could not take revenge on Zeus himself. So he killed the Cyclopes that forged the thunderbolt.
Athena - Goddess of Wisdom
Athena is the daughter of Zeus. She sprang full grown in armor from his forehead, thus has no mother. She is fierce and brave in battle but, only fights to protect the state and home from outside enemies. She is the goddess of the city, handicrafts, and agriculture. She invented the bridle, which permitted man to tame horses, the trumpet, the flute, the pot, the rake, the plow, the yoke, the ship, and the chariot. She is the embodiment of wisdom, reason, and purity. She was Zeus's favorite child and was allowed to use his weapons including his thunderbolt. Her favorite city is Athens. Her tree is the olive. The owl is her bird. She is a virgin goddess. .
Cheiron - The Centaur
The son of Philyra and Kronos, noted to be of high moral and intellectual abilities, Cheiron was the powerful master of many arts and sciences. His death was a tragic loss to mortals and immortals alike. He was the tutor of Jason, Herakles and other heros.
When Herakles was pursuing the Erymanthian Boar, he took hospitality from the centaur Pholos. When the other centaurs gathered around, a fight ensued and Herakles injured Cheiron. To escape the pain of Herakles’ Hydra-poisoned arrow, Cheiron surrendered his immortality and died. The needless death of his teacher and friend was another sad burden that Herakles’ had to bear.
Circe - The Dread Goddess
Circe or (Kirke) is the daughter of Helios (The Sun) and Perseis (the daughter of Okeanos).
On her island... in her palace... Circe waits for lost sailors to come wandering to her door as supplicants. Normally, a traveler is treated as a special guest but with Circe, travelers are drugged and then served as dinner.
Odysseus and his desperate crew went ashore on the island of Aiaia hoping to find food and water. Odysseus sent twenty three men to explore the island but only one returned. As the men walked from the beach they could hear sweet singing from Circe’s home in a forest glen. Wild lions and wolves (drugged by Circe) came, wagging their tails, to greet the strangers. They were charmed by her beauty and drank the potions she offered as refreshment. As Circe’s vile drugs took effect, the once valiant men began to change shape and were soon fully transformed into swine. Circe herded them into pens and threw pig food on the ground before them.
The sole survivor, Eurylochos, ran back to Odysseus and urged that they set sail immediately. He told the story of the evil goddess and how they would all be turned into swine if they dared to stay on that dangerous island (his warnings unfortunately took on the aire of cowardice... Odysseus almost killed him for it). Odysseus was not afraid. He would not leave his men as swine and he would not risk any of the other men in a fight with Circe. Odysseus went to Circe’s palace alone.
Along the trail, Odysseus met Hermes in the guise of a young man. Hermes told Odysseus that he could entrap Circe and free his companions if he obeyed the gods orders. Hermes reached down and pulled a plant called ’moly’ from the ground and explained that mere mortals found it difficult to dig-up but he, as a god, could do all things. Odysseus took the ’good medicine’ and went boldly into Circe’s house. She welcomed him as another victim and gave him her vile potions but the ’good medicine’ gave Odysseus protection. When Circe thought the drugs had taken effect, she struck Odysseus with her wand. The wand was supposed to complete the transformation process but Odysseus drew his sword and sprang upon her. The astonished Circe surrendered instantly. She released the twenty two pig-men and ceremoniously anointed them with another one of her potions. The men were restored to their original forms but they were taller and more handsome than before they had been enswined.
To show her good faith, Circe opened her doors to the dispirited sailors and gave them every comfort she could offer. After the entire crew had been rested and nourished, Circe told Odysseus that his journey would now take him to the House of Hades. He must consult with the soul of Teiresias the Theban to find out how he may finally appease Poseidon and return to his home.
After seeing the soul of Teiresias the Theban, Odysseus returned to Aiaia. Circe bid him a final goodbye and told him how to safely sail past the island of the Sirens, the six headed Skylla and the monster Charybdis.
Dawn or Eos - The Goddess of the Dawn
The beautiful goddess of the dawn... In the Homeric Hymn to Helios, we are told that Hyperion married his sister, Eryphaesa, and begot tireless Helios (the Sun), rosy Eos (the Dawn) and fair tressed Selene (the Moon). In the Hymn to Aphrodite, Aphrodite falls in love with a beautiful mortal, Anchises, soon to be the father of Aineias. Aphrodite tells the story of Eos and her abducted lover Tithonos. When Eos went to Zeus to request immortality for her mortal lover, Zeus nodded and made it so... however, Eos did not ask for perpetual youth for Tithonos. As the years passed, he aged and, finally, lost all strength in his limbs. Eos, with love and pity, put him in a private room and shut the shining doors. We can only assume that he is still there.
In Theogony, of Hesiod (line 372), Theia is listed as the mother of Eos, Helios, and Selene. She and Hyperion were Titans of the same generation as Kronos, and like Kronos, were the children of Gaia (or Ge) and Ouranos. Eos, with the Titan Astraios, was mother to the Winds: Zephyros (the west wind), Boreas (the north wind) and Notos (the south wind). She also bore Eosphoros, the dawn star, and a host of other shining stars.
With Tithonos she bore Memnon, the ancestor of Agamemnon. (Theogony 984). The son of Kephalos and Eos was Phaethon, who was so lovely that Aphrodite stole him away and kept him as her temple-keeper.
Demeter - Goddess of the Harvest
Demeter is the fair haired earth goddess who blesses all phases of the harvest. She walks the furrowed fields dressed in green and displays her moods with feast and famine. Demeter is the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. She is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. It is Demeter that makes the crops grow each year. The first loaf of bread from the harvest is sacrificed to her. Demeter is intimately associated with the seasons. Her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. In her anger at her daughter's loss Demeter laid a curse on the world that caused plants to wither and die, the land became desolate. Zeus became alarmed and sought Persephone's return. However, because she had eaten while in the underworld Hades had a claim on her. Therefore, it was decreed that Persephone would spend four months each year in the underworld. During these months Demeter grieves her daughters absence, and withdraws her gifts from the world, creating winter. Her return brought the spring. Demeter is also known for founding the Eleusinian Mysteries. These were huge festivals held every five years. They were important events for many centuries. Yet, little is known of them as those attending were sworn to secrecy. The central tenant seems to have been that just as grain returns every spring after its harvest and wintery death, so too the human soul could be reborn after the death of the body.
Demeter and the Abduction of Persephone:
The story of the adduction of Persephone is best told in the Hymn to Demeter. The story begins in the middle, i.e., Persephone is kidnapped as part of a secret agreement between Zeus and Hades. Although Demeter is one of the six Olympians and brother to Zeus and Hades, she was not told of the fate of her beloved daughter until it was (almost) too late.
While at play with the beautiful daughters of Okeanos, Persephone was picking flowers... but these weren’t earthly flowers... these flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for "a girl with a flower’s beauty". The flowers were there to guide Persephone to The Trap. A beautiful, divine trap... the trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower the earth opened at her feet. Hades roared forth in his golden chariot and seized her before the alarm could be raised.
No mortal on the earth heard Persephone’s pleas for help before she vanished into The Underworld. Of the immortals, only two heard the faint cries of the abducted girl: Hekate and Helios.
Demeter began searching in vain for her daughter. Her sorrow was so great that she denied herself all food, drink, and comfort for nine days. When Dawn arrived on the tenth day, Hekate came to Demeter and told her that she had heard a voice but had not seen the abduction of poor Persephone. The two goddesses went to Helios because he sees all mortal and immortal actions. Helios, indeed knew the plot and the players. He told Demeter that the blame was that of Zeus, Zeus and Hades. He further advised her to accept the situation because Hades was Lord of Many and "not an unseemly bridegroom". Demeter did not like his advice and choose a long, brooding path to regain her precious daughter.
In a strange act of revenge, Demeter, disguised as a mature woman, became the servant and nanny for the infant son of Keleos, and his wife Metaneira. The boy, Demophoon, was raised to be noble and pure but Demeter was surely ’stealing’ the boys affection and loyalty away from his parents (just as her daughter had been stolen from her). But before Demeter (still in disguise) could make Demophoon immortal, Metaneira recognized Demeter for the goddess she was and stopped the ceremony.
Keleos, and the other nobles were glad to oblige when Demeter demanded that a temple be built in her honor. After it was completed, she retreated into the temple and her brooding took on a deadly turn. The following year, no seed sprouted. No barley grew in the plowed fields. The mortals were doomed to famine and eventual destruction if Demeter did not lift her curse.
Zeus sent Iris to dissuade Demeter from her destructive course but Demeter was unmoved. In turn, all the immortals came to Demeter’s temple and begged the blond goddess to change her mind and give life back to the earth. She refused them all.
Zeus now sent Hermes to the underworld to speak with Hades and Persephone. Hermes explained the situation and suggested, with gentle words, that Persephone be returned to her mother. Hades was filled with compassion but he was also intent on keeping his bride. He offered Persephone a honey-sweet pomegranate seed as she departed. By tasting the seed she became eternally bound to Hades and The Underworld.
Demeter was joyous when she saw her darling Persephone again but her joy was tempered with the fact that Hades had tricked the innocent Persephone and she must eventually return to him.
Now, in an effort to save the earth and appease his sister, Zeus sent Rhea, mother of the Olympians, and offered Demeter honors if she would only return to Olympos and lift the curse that was killing the earth. Zeus promised that Persephone could spend two thirds of the year with her mother but the remaining third of the year would be spent with her husband, Hades.
Demeter was moved by her mother’s plea. The earth began to swiftly recover it’s vitality and became fertile again. Demeter and Persephone ascended to Olympos and it is said that those on earth whom they gladly love are thrice blessed. It’s interesting to note that the year was divided onto thirds, just as the three brothers, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, divided creation into thirds after the overthrow of Kronos.
When Persephone is with Hades the earth is wracked by the sorrow of her mother. But, when Persephone returns from The Underworld to walk the earth again, Demeter pours forth the blessings of Spring to welcome her beloved daughter home.
Her age old feud with her brother, Poseidon, might serve to explain why the edge of the sea is barren of crops. The origin of this feud is vague.
Dione is one of the more mysterious Greek goddesses. Some believe that she is the personification of a more ancient Mother Goddess (Goddess of the Oak, from Asia Minor) and that the Greeks simply adopted her into their pantheon.
If that’s not vague enough, Dione is also said to be the feminine name of Zeus. When Aphrodite greets Dione as ‘mother’ we can only guess at what that actually means.
Dionysus - God of Wine
Dionysus is the god of the vine. He invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes. He has a dual nature. On the one hand bringing joy and divine ecstasy. On the other brutal, unthinking, rage. Thus reflecting both sides of wines nature. If he chooses Dionysus can drive a man mad. No normal fetters can hold him or his followers. Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele. He is the only god to have a mortal parent. Zeus came to Semele in the night, invisible, felt only as a divine presence. Semele was pleased to be a lover of a god, even though she did not know which one. Word soon got around and Hera quickly assumed who was responsible. Hera went to Semele in disguise and convinced her she should see her lover as he really was. When Zeus next came to her she made him promise to grant her one wish. She went so far as to make him swear on the River Styx that he would grant her request. Zeus was madly in love and agreed. She then asked him to show her his true form. Zeus, was unhappy, and knew what would happen but, having sworn he had no choice. He appeared in his true form and Semele was instantly burnt to a crisp by the sight of his glory. Zeus did manage to rescue Dionysus and stitched him into his thigh to hold him until he was ready to be born. His birth from Zeus alone conferred immortality upon him. Dionysus problems with Hera were not yet over. She was still jealous and arranged for the Titans to kill him. The Titans ripped him into to pieces. However, Rhea brought him back to life. After this Zeus arranged for his protection and turned him over the mountain nymphs to be raised.
Dionysus wandered the world actively encouraging his cult. He was accompanied by the Maenads, wild women, flush with wine, shoulders draped with a fawn skin, carrying rods tipped with pine cones. While other gods had temples the followers of Dionysus worshipped him in the woods. Here they might go into mad states where they would rip apart and eat raw any animal they came upon. Dionysus is also one of the very few that was able to bring a dead person out of the underworld. Even though he had never seen Semele he was concerned for her. Eventually he journeyed into the underworld to find her. He faced down Thanatos and brought her back to Mount Olympus. Dionysus became one of the most important gods in everyday life. He became associated with several key concepts. One was rebirth after death. Here his dismemberment by the Titans and return to life is symbolically echoed in tending vines, where the vines must be pruned back sharply, and then become dormant in winter for them to bear fruit. The other is the idea that under the influence of wine, one could feel possessed by a greater power. Unlike the other gods Dionysus was not only outside his believers but, also within them. At these times a man might be greater then himself and do works he otherwise could not. The festival for Dionysus is in the spring when the leaves begin to reappear on the vine. It became one of the most important events of the year. It's focus became the theater. Most of the great Greek plays were initially written to be performed at the feast of Dionysus. All who took part writers, actors, spectators were regarded as scared servants of Dionysus during the festival.
Erida - The Goddess Hate
The wearisome goddess, Erida, or Hate, can best be invoked by reading the opening lines of Book 11 of The Iliad. After Dawn sheds her gentle light on mortals and immortals alike, Zeus sends Hate to the encampment of the Achaians. She stands on the centermost of the beached vessels and SCREAMS!!! The hearts of the soldiers are hardened as they awaken. They no longer remember their fathers or their wives and children. They rise from their beds with Hate ringing in their ears. In their hearts, they long for the sweetness of battle. Only blood will dispel the sanguine thrust of Hate.
Hate entered into the battle, small at first, but as she strode forward, she grew and grew, until her head reached the heavens. She cast down bitterness and vile hatred on both armies as she moved through the fighting. Sister and companion of the brutal war god, Ares, her wrath is unyielding.
Eris - Goddess of Discord
Sister of Ares, daughter of Zeus and Hera, the hand of Eris can be seen in every quarrel, feud and disagreement. Her eternal and unforgiving rage was the cause of fear and respect on Olympus, though despised by the Olympians they dared not confront her.
She rode into battle with her brother and companion, Aries, but she was more generally known for the less deadly forms of conflict; political strife, personal contention, rivalry and wrangling.
Eros - Archer of Love
In Theogony (116), Eros is listed as one of the primal gods of the generation after Khaos, the originator. He is the most handsome of the immortals and can break the will of the wisest god or the strongest mortal when scratched by one of his arrows.
With arrows of gold and lead, he would wound the hearts of mortals and Olympians alike. The golden arrows inspired love and the lead arrows caused distaste. In Theogony (120), it’s said emphatically that ’Eros is love’. The negative aspect, with the lead arrows, was added at a later date.
Eurynome - Mother of Graces
Eurynome, is one of the many daughters of Ocean. She and Zeus mated to produce the beautiful and love dispelling Graces: Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia (Theogony 908).
When Hephestis, the lame son of Hera, was thrown from Olympos, Eurynome and Thetis rescued him and, for nine years, hid him from the other immortals. After that he returned to Olympos to claim his rightful inheritance as a god. The noble smith of the gods has never forgotten the motherly kindness shown to him by Eurynome and Thetis.
The Goddess of Necessity, Themis, brought forth three lovely daughters, known as The Fates. All living things must eventually submit to these divine daughters of Zeus and Themis. Their names are: Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
Life is woven by Clotho, measured by Lachesis and finally, in a very literal sense, the thread of life is cut by Atropos. They laugh at our feeble attempts to cheat them because they always prevail.
Hekate - Goddess of Magic
Hekate (Hecate) was a goddess of magic in Greek mythology. While her association with the dark mysteries of the Underworld places this goddess in the chthonian category (the word chthonian refers to the earth or Underworld), it is important to note that Hekate was also involved with several Olympian deities. She had affinities with Demeter and Artemis, and even Zeus, the ruler of Olympus, admired this chthonian goddess. Hekate was also associated with crossroads in mythology and legend, for it was believed that these areas were important in magical rituals.
Hades - God of the Underworld
Hades is the brother of Zeus. After the overthrow of their Father Cronus he drew lots with Zeus and Poseidon, another brother, for shares of the world. He had the worst draw and was made lord of the underworld, ruling over the dead. He is a greedy god who is greatly concerned with increasing his subjects. Those whose calling increase the number of dead are seen favorably. The Erinyes are welcomed guests. He is exceedingly disinclined to allow any of his subjects leave. He is also the god of wealth, due to the precious metals mined from the earth. He has a helmet that makes him invisible. He rarely leaves the underworld. He is unpitying and terrible, but not capricious. His wife is Persephone whom Hades abducted. He is the King of the dead but, death itself is another god, Thanatos.
Helios - The Sun
Helios was the Sun god in Greek mythology. As the god of the Sun, Helios was thought to ride a chariot drawn by horses through the sky, bringing light to the earth. The journey of the Sun, naturally, began in the East and ended in the West, at which point Helios completed his daily rounds and floated back to his Eastern palace in a golden bowl. Details of this compelling description of Helios's role as Sun god appear in myth, literature, poetry, and art.
According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Helios was the son of two Titans - Theia and Hyperion. In Hesiod's Theogony, therefore, Helios was also the brother of Eos (the goddess of Dawn) and Selene (the goddess of the Moon). It is interesting to note that the Dawn goddess Eos began the procession of morning, followed closely by her brother Helios.
Hephaestus - God of the Smith
Hephaestus is the son of Zeus and Hera. Sometimes it is said that Hera alone produced him and that he has no father. He is the only god to be physically ugly. He is also lame. Accounts as to how he became lame vary. Some say that Hera, upset by having an ugly child, flung him from Mount Olympus into the sea, breaking his legs. Others that he took Hera's side in an argument with Zeus and Zeus flung him off Mount Olympus. He is the god of fire and the forge. He is the smith and armorer of the gods. He uses a volcano as his forge. He is the patron god of both smiths and weavers. He is kind and peace loving. His wife is Aphrodite. Sometimes his wife is identified as Aglaia.
Hera - The Most Beautiful Goddess
One of the six Olympians, the daughter of Kronos and Rheia, Hera is the beautiful and powerful wife of Zeus.
She is the most beautiful of the immortals, even more beautiful than Aphrodite. Her beauty is renewed each spring as she magically washes away the ware and worry of her immortal lifestyle. Her name appears in many stories and she is often regarded as petty and unforgiving.
The story of Zeus and Io is the sad story of infidelity and revenge. Zeus changed his beautiful lover, Io, into a black and white heifer to hide her from Hera. Hera saw through the ruse and sent Argos Panoptes (all seeing) to keep watch on Io and keep Zeus away. Hermes, doing the will of Zeus, killed Argos and thus received the name Argeiphontes (the murderer of Argos). Hera would not be deterred from her vengeance. She sent a gad fly to torment and constantly prod the poor cow-woman so that she might never rest or find comfort. Finally, Io was driven to the ends of the earth (i.e. Egypt) where she found peace. The eyes of Argos can still be seen in the tail of the peacock.
Hermes - Messanger of the Gods
The wing shod messenger of the Olympians, Hermes was the beloved son of Zeus and Maia (Maia was the daughter of Atlas). As friend to the mortals, he introduced weights and measures (as well as dice); he also escorts the dead to Hades. He is the giver of good luck and has a hand in all secret dealings and stratagems. He is, of course, sacred to all heralds. He taught mortals all arts... also, his domain included roads, traffic and markets. In ancient times, a bust of Hermes was placed atop pillars to mark boundaries.
When the nymph Kalypso had kept Odysseus too long on her island, Hermes was sent by Zeus (The Odyssey, 5.29) to announce his clear purpose... ’Odysseus must be sent home, or at least, towards home’ When Hermes told Kalypso (ibid., 5.121) she shuddered and reminded him of the other gods and goddesses that had shared their beds with mortals, some did it for noble reasons and others for selfish reasons, but regardless, Zeus and the other immortals had permitted their indulgences. In spite of her protests she sent Odysseus on his way.
Hermes appears later in the same epic (ibid., 10.140)... when Odysseus and a few of his shipmates escaped death at the hands of the giants, the Laistrygones. Odysseus sailed for open water but ended up on Circe’s island. Odysseus sent out a scouting party and only one man returned. The survivor reported that all the other sailors had been turned into pigs with human faces by the dread goddess Circe. Odysseus was determined to save his companions from this cruel fate. As he was walking through the lonely forest to Circe’s palace Hermes met him on the path and disguised as a young man, the Messenger of the Gods warned Odysseus about the wiles of Circe and gave him the antidote to Circe’s drugs and told him how to subdue her and free his en-swined companions (ibid., 10.289)
Hestia - Goddess of the Home and Hearth
Hestia is the eldest sister of Zeus but she chose to spend her time, not on Olympus, but on earth with the mortals. She has never wed but she protects orphans and missing children. She is the goddess of humble domestic joy. She is also one of only three who are immune to the spells of Aphrodite, the other two are Athene and Artemis.
In the Homeric Hymns, Hestia is said to tend the dwelling of Apollo at Pytho. Also, she is linked with Hermes in the Hymns. She and Hermes were kind to the poor mortals, and, in gratitude, her worshipers would sing:
"There could be no feast of plenty if the first and last libations of sweet wine were not poured in honor of Hestia."
There are three Hours: Eunomia (Harmony), Dyke (Justice) and Eirene (Peace).
The Hours assist the Olympians by organizing the Seasons and adding balance to Nature.
Their personal relations to the other immortals is only partially revealed, but in The Iliad, we see them personally attending Hera and her horses. They open the sky and Hera zooms from her home on Olympos to (Mount) Ida (Iliad 5.749) to distract Zeus from the battle for Troy.
The Hours guard Olympos with a dark veil and open and close the gates of the sky for the other immortals as they travel to and from their domains. Their charge is the vast sky and Olympous.
Hypnos - The God of Sleep
Hypnos enters the sleep of mortals and, at the bidding of the Olympians, gives them dreams of foolishness or inspiration, depending on the individual and their divine protectors or enemies.
Hypnos is husband to Aglia, one of the Graces, because he did a very dangerous favor for Hera. During the Trojan War, Hera wanted to distract Zeus from the battle so she could assist the Achaians, who seemed to be losing the war. She wanted Hypnos to cast a spell of sleep on Zeus but he refused. At first Hera offered Hypnos a golden throne crafted by her son Hephaistos but she was forced to raise the ante when Hypnos reminded her of the only time he had dared cast sleep on Zeus. Long before the Trojan War, Hera was angry at Herakles and she had persuaded Hypnos to make Zeus sleep while she tormented the hero. When Zeus awoke, he was in a rage. He searched for Hypnos and finally found him hiding in the arms of his mother, Night. Zeus swallowed his anger and warned Hypnos not to try it again, otherwise Hypnos went unpunished.
In preparation for this new deception, Hypnos made Hera swear oaths of her sincerity. He agreed to help her deceive Zeus for the hand of one of the Graces, Aglia (or Pasithea). He turned himself into a bird and, before Zeus could see him, hid in the tops of the trees on (Mount) Ida. He stayed hidden until Hera had seduced Zeus. When the father of gods and men was dulled by pleasure and sleep, Hypnos flew to Poseidon and urged him to increase his efforts in helping the Achaians because Zeus was asleep and unaware of the Earth Shaker’s meddling. Poseidon strode through the ranks of soldiers and urged them on. Finally, his bellowing and screeching roused Zeus from his slumber but, in that short time, the Achaians had turned the battle back on the Trojans. Hera’s trick had worked. Zeus never found out that Hypnos had betrayed him (again).
Io - The Hiefer Maiden
The story of Io is one of the most touching dramas in Greek Mythology. This story goes back to the early days on Olympus. Zeus was new to the throne of eternity and his treatment of Io was nothing less than pernicious.
Io was the beautiful daughter of Inachus of Argos. She began having strange dreams with voices and visions telling her to leave her bed and go into a field where Zeus could ’see’ her. She told her father of the dreams and he sought advice of the oracles at Pytho and Dodona but they could offer no help. Finally, he sent an embassy to Loxias. For the oracles of Loxias, the meaning was crystal clear. They advised Inachus to disown his daughter, cast her into the streets and drive her from his country. If this was not done, the oracles warned, Zeus would eradicate Inachus and his people without mercy. With heavy heart, Inachus obeyed the oracles and forced his young daughter, Io, from his house.
Hera had not missed the drama unfolding in Argos. She was angered by Zeus’ (attempted) infidelity so she punished Zeus by punishing Io. As Io fled in tears from her father’s house, she began to change. Horns popped out on her head and, as she ran, she completely transformed into a black and white heifer. A gad-fly began to sting and pester her, forcing her to run farther and farther from her home and happiness.
Hera wanted to be sure that her husband, Zeus, could not be alone with his new infatuation so she set the herdsman, Argos to follow the heifer-girl. Argos was called Argos Panoptes, meaning ’all seeing’ because he had one hundred eyes placed all over his body. Io was terrified of Argos and she fled from him as much as she did from the sting of the ever present gad-fly.
Zeus was inflamed. With Argos on guard he couldn’t secretly meet with the lovely Io. He instructed his son, Hermes, to kill Argos. To this day, Hermes is often called Argeiphontes, ’the slayer of Argos’. He lulled the herdsman to sleep with sweet music and then beheaded the sleeping watchman before he could defend himself. Io was now free of the all seeing Argos.
The punishment was not over yet. The gad-fly was still goading the heifer-girl to the ends of the earth. As Io fled through the Caucasus mountains she saw Prometheus bound to the stony crag. Prometheus was a Titan who had angered Zeus with his reckless affection for the lowly mortals who populated the earth below Olympus. Prometheus was chained, spread-eagle to the pitiless rockface by the plan of Zeus and by the hand of Hepheistos. Prometheus had been left to suffer in solitude and misery until Zeus’ fury subsided.
Io’s conversation with Prometheus (in Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus) is quite moving. She told him of her sorrowful past, how she can never sleep in the same place two nights in succession because of the insistent gad-fly. She begged the Titan for his prediction of her future. The name ’Prometheus’ means ’forethought’. She wanted to know: when will her suffering end? Even in his tortured condition, Prometheus tried to spare her feelings. She asked why he would not be forthright. He replied that he was afraid that if he told her the depth and duration of her suffering, the knowledge might break her spirit. She wanted to hear it all, no matter how dismal her future may be, she wanted to hear it all.
Prometheus told her of her long, lonely road. He advised her on which way to travel and where she might find help along the way. He told her to be strong because she would eventually be freed from the curse of Hera. Her journey would end in Egypt. He told her that she would be restored to her original beauty and have a glorious son named Epaphos. Prometheus also foresaw the ironic fact that one of her descendants would, after thirteen generations, come back to that lonely mountain and cut the bonds that made him famous.
The predictions of Prometheus came true. Io’s flight took her East towards Asia, South to the land of the Amazons and, after years of tortuous wandering, she came to Egypt. When the hand of Zeus reached out and touched Io, Hera’s curse was lifted. Io was restored to her youthful beauty and was allowed to live out her mortal life in peace.
Kronos - Lord of the Titans
A fearful god and jealous of his inevitable passing, Kronos was a Titan, the son of Uranus and Gaia, husband and brother of Rheia.
Kronos killed his father Uranus and tried, unsuccessfully, to kill his children. Rheia had five children and Kronos swallowed them whole as quickly as they were born. When her sixth child, Zeus, was born, Rheia tricked Kronos and gave him a stone instead of the baby. Kronos didn’t find out about the deception until it was too late. Zeus ambushed Kronos and kicked him so hard he vomited forth the other, swallowed, gods, fully grown: Hades, Hestia, Demeter, Hera and Poseidon.
Zeus was made leader by his grateful siblings and each took a portion of creation as their dominion. A war was declared against the Titans and those who would not yield to the authority of Zeus were utterly destroyed. The Titans who fought alongside Zeus and the other Olympians were allowed to keep their rank and power in the new order. The river Styx and her children were the first to come to Zeus’ side. Thereafter, Styx was given a place of honor (and dread) among the immortals as The Oath River.
Zeus exiled Kronos to Tartaros but later he allowed his broken and defeated father to join the Heroes in a paradise at the end of the world.
Leto - Daughter of the Titans
The beautiful daughter of the Titans, Koios and Phoibe, Leto was one of the many consorts of Zeus and proudly bore him two children: Apollo and Artemis.
Leto traveled far and wide to find the suitable birthplace for her children. The various islands and provinces were reluctant to be the home of Leto’s twins because Hera was angry at Zeus for his indiscretion.
Leto finally came to the rocky island of Delos and knew that this would be the birthplace of her glorious children. Delos made Leto swear a great oath on the river Styx that her new children would not abandon their birthplace. Leto swore and the twins were soon to be born. (Hymn to Apollon).
Leto was in labor for nine days and nights with Rheia, Dione, Themis, Ichnaian and Aphrodite attending. The children were glorious. Apollo took up the bow and lyre, Artemis became the clamorous protector of all wild and innocent things.
It’s mentioned in The Iliad that Leto was insulted by a woman, Niobe, who had once been her friend. Niobe likened herself to Leto and bragged that she had twelve children, and Leto only had two. To avenge the insult against their mother, Apollo killed Niobe’s six sons and Artemis, with silver arrows, killed her six daughters (The Iliad, 24.607).
The punishment to an immortal for disabusing Leto was eternal torture. When Odysseus was in the Underworld, he saw Tityos, the once glorious son of Earth (Ge), being mauled by vultures because he had once tried to manhandle Leto as she traveled in Panopeus (The Odyssey, 11.575).
Morpheus - God of Dreams
Embodies the images of man in dreams.
Nike - The Goddess of Retribution
Nyx - The Goddess of Night
The goddess Nyx was the personification of Night in Greek mythology. One of the best sources for information about this goddess comes from the Theogony of Hesiod. A great many references are made to Nyx in this poem that describes the birth of the Greek gods and goddesses. And the explanation for this is simple - Nyx played an important role in myth as one of the first divine beings to come into existence.
Hesiod states that Night was the daughter of Chaos, which makes her one of the first creatures ever to emerge from the void. This means that Nyx was the sister to some of the oldest deities in Greek myth, including Erebus (Darkness), Gaia (the Earth), and Tartarus (the Underworld). From these primeval powers came the rest of the Greek gods and goddesses. And Nyx was responsible for bearing her share of divine children.
Nyx gave birth to a number of offspring. Some of these children of Night were Eris (Discord or Strife), the Fates, Hypnos (Sleep), Nemesis (Retribution), and Thanatos (Death). While these beings were born from the goddess alone, without a father, Nyx also had children by the god Erebus. To Erebus the goddess bore Aether (Air) and Hemera (Day).
Pan - The Goat God
Pan is the son of Hermes. He is the god of goatherds and shepherds. He is mostly human in appearance but, with goat horns and goat feet. He is an excellent musician and plays the pipes. He is merry and playful frequently seen dancing with woodland nymphs. He is at home in any wild place but, is favorite is Arcady, where he was born. He is always in pursuit of one of the nymphs but, always rejected because he is ugly. His name is the basis for the word "panic". There are two differing explanations for this. The first is that he was present when Zeus defeated the Titans and claimed that it has his yelling that caused the Titans to flee. However, this seems at odds with his being Hermes son. The second is that he created the noises in the woods at night the scared travelers.
Persephone - The Wife of Hades
The beautiful daughter of Demeter and Zeus, Persephone is the focus of the story resulting in the division of the seasons, giving us the sweetness of Spring and the bitterness of Winter. Hades did not woo the beautiful Persephone, he abducted her and took her to his underground kingdom. After much protest, Persephone came to love the cold blooded king of the underworld but her mother, Demeter, was consumed with rage and sorrow. She demonstrated her anger by punishing the earth’s inhabitants, gentle and fierce with bitter cold and blustering winds. Unless Persephone was returned of to her mother’s side, the earth would perish.
Herakles came to the rescue. He entered the kingdom of Hades and negotiated a compromise between the (usually cold and selfish) Hades and the (usually loving and caring) Demeter. All agreed that Persephone would to spend part of the year with her husband, Hades, and part of the year with her mother, Demeter.
When Persephone is with Hades the earth is wracked by the sorrow of her mother. But, when Persephone returns from the underworld to walk the earth again, Demeter pours forth the blessings of Spring to welcome her beloved daughter home.
Poseidon - God of the Sea
Poseidon is the brother of Zeus. After the overthrow of their Father Cronus he drew lots with Zeus and Hades, another brother, for shares of the world. His prize was to become lord of the sea. He was widely worshiped by seamen. He married Amphitrite, a granddaughter of the Titan Oceanus. At one point he desired Demeter. To put him off Demeter asked him to make the most beautiful animal that the world had ever seen. So to impress her Poseidon created the first horse. In some accounts his first attempts were unsuccessful and created a variety of other animals in his quest. By the time the horse was created his passion for Demeter had cooled. His weapon is a trident, which can shake the earth, and shatter any object. He is second only to Zeus in power amongst the gods. He has a difficult quarrelsome personality. He was greedy. He had a series of disputes with other gods when he tried to take over their cities.
Prometheus - The Rebel God
Prometheus was a not a fool, but why else would he rebel against Zeus? He tried to trick Zeus (who knows all and sees all) with a false sacrifice. How foolish can you get? Prometheus also stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the primitive mortals on the earth. Zeus did not punish Prometheus alone, he punished the entire world for the effrontery of this rebel god.
Prometheus was the son of Iapetos and Klymene. His name means ’Forethought’.
Prometheus was a god long before Zeus took the Throne of Eternity. He fought for Zeus against the devising Kronos, but Prometheus never had true respect for Zeus. He feared that the new Olympians had no compassion for each other or the mortals on the earth below. To show his disdain, Prometheus prepared two sacrifices and, in an attempt to belittle father Zeus, he made one sacrifice of fat and bones and the other of the finest meat. The trick was, Prometheus had wrapped the fat in such a way that it looked to be the most sincere tribute of the two. Zeus saw through the trick and magnanimously controlled his anger. He warned Prometheus but did not punish him.
Zeus had many plans for the reshaping of creation. After the fall of Kronos and his confinement in Tartaros, Zeus took no interest in the mortal race of men on the bountiful earth, he intended for them to live as primitives until they died off. Zeus said that knowledge and divine gifts would only bring misery to the mortals and he insisted that Prometheus not interfere with his plans.
Dispite Zeus’ warning, Prometheus took pity on the primitive mortals and again, he deceived Zeus. Prometheus gave the mortals all sorts of gifts: brickwork, woodworking, telling the seasons by the stars, numbers, the alphabet (for remembering things), yoked oxen, carriages, saddles, ships and sails. He also gave other gifts: healing drugs, seercraft, signs in the sky, the mining of precious metals, animal sacrifice and all art.
To compound his crime, Prometheus had stolen fire from Zeus and given it to the mortals in their dark caves. The gift of divine fire unleashed a flood of inventiveness, productivity and, most of all, respect for the immortal gods in the rapidly developing mortals. Within no time (by immortal standards), culture, art, and literacy permeated the land around Olympus. When Zeus realized the deception that Prometheus had fostered, he was furious. He had Hepheistos shackle Prometheus to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus mountains. There Prometheus would hang until the fury of Zeus subsided.
Each day, Prometheus would be tormented by Zeus’ eagle as it tore at his immortal flesh and tried to devour his liver. Each night, as the frost bit it’s way into his sleep, the torn flesh would mend so the eagle could begin anew at the first touch of Dawn.
Zeus’ anger did not stop there. He intended to give the mortals one more gift and undo all the good Prometheus had done. He fashioned a hateful thing in the shape of a young girl and called her Pandora. Her name means, ’giver of all’ or ’all endowed’. Her body was made by Hepheistos, he gave her form and voice. Athene gave her dexterity and inventiveness. Aphrodite put a spell of enchantment around her head and Hermes put pettiness in her tiny brain. She was ready for the world.
Zeus gave Pandora to Ephemetheus (brother of Prometheus). Ephemetheus knew better than to trust Zeus and he had been warned by Prometheus never to accept gifts from the Olympians, especially Zeus. One look at Pandora and Ephemetheus was rendered helpless. He could not resist her, he accepted her willingly. When the gift was ’opened’, evil and despair entered into this world. Mistrust and disease spread over the wide earth. After Pandora was emptied of her curse, Hope was left inside. Unreasonable, groundless Hope that makes the curse of life into a blessing.
And so, Prometheus was destined to suffer at the hands of his own kind. Gods punishing gods. To him, the saddest part of his punishment was the implication that the gods (Zeus in particular) had lost their right to rule because they had lost touch with their hearts.
As Prometheus was hanging, shackled to the rockface, he spoke to Ocean and the river’s daughters. They were all shocked at Zeus’ excesses but Prometheus warned them not to speak out against Zeus, it would do no good. Zeus would soon fall from his throne and they had but to wait for that inevitable moment.
When Io, also being punished at Zeus’ will, came upon Prometheus and the daughters of Ocean, she wanted to know her future. Prometheus, even in his tortured condition, tried to spare the feelings of the poor girl. She had been transformed into a black and white heifer and was cursed to wander, prodded by an evil gad-fly. Her future was only slightly better than his, she was lucky because she was mortal and would die and be rid of her earthly torment. He, on the other hand, was immortal. His torment would last forever.
The journey of Io was crucial to the release of Prometheus from his bonds. After her wandering journey to Egypt, Io was returned to her human form and had a glorious son named Epaphos. Thirteen generation later, Herakles climbed the mountain, killed the eagle and freed Prometheus from his shackles.
Rheia - Mother of the Olympians
Rheia was the wife of devious Kronos and mother to the Olympians: Zeus, Hestia, Hades, Poseidon, Hera and Demeter. Without her help, Zeus would never have come to power. As Kronos was about to slay his father, Uranus, he was warned that his own son would someday depose him. In fear and greed, Kronos swallowed his first children as they were born, but Rheia tricked Kronos and when the sixth child, Zeus, was born, she substituted a stone for the infant and Kronos swallowed it down, unknowing that his father’s prophecy was coming to fruition. Zeus was hidden by Rheia and raised in secret until he was old enough to fulfill his destiny. One day he ambushed Kronos while out hunting. Zeus kicked Kronos in the stomach so hard the aged god vomited up the stone and the five divine, undigested gods and goddesses.
Kronos was punished and sent to the Underworld. Rheia was rewarded for her kindness and held in high regard by all the Olympians.
Thanatos - The God of Death
Without consort, Night, the destructive, brought forth a horde of villainous immortals. Thanatos was one of that wretched lot.
Night’s offspring are described as: horrible, painful, cruel, brooding, mocking and malignant.(Theogony, 212). (The one exception is ’loving Affection’ who is placed between Deception and Old Age.)
Thanatos might be poetically called the brother of Sleep and the son of Night but no matter how you describe him, he is a creature of bone chilling darkness. From on high, Helios never casts his light on Death (Theogony, 760).
Sleep goes kindly among the mortals but, his brother, Death has a heart made of pitiless iron. When he takes hold of you, the world of light ceases to be.
The Winds are Immortals who have chosen the air as their bodies. In the oldest myths there are only four Winds: Boreas (North), Eurus (East), Notus (South) and Zephyros (West). Later, the Classical Greeks embellished the stories and added four new entities to represent The Winds: Boreas, Kaikias, Apeliotes, Euros, Notos, Lips, Zephyros and Skiron. See Horologion of Andronicus and ’The Tower of the Winds’.
Zues - The Olympian
Zeus overthrew his Father Cronus. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades. Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord of the sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt which he hurls at those who displease him. He is married to Hera but, is famous for his many affairs. He is also known to punish those that lie or break oaths.
Book of Shadows © 2001, Dana (Huntress of the Dark)