Mythology Mondays: The River Styx

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in July.

Who else wants to totally rock this shirt?
Who else wants to totally rock this shirt?

I am not going to talk about Styx, the 1970s band, who are on tour this summer, and whose songs seem to be composed entirely of earworms. “Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeeeee.”

I am going to talk about the River Styx, the river you only see in Greek Mythology if you are dead and your loved ones remembered to put a coin in your mouth or on your eyes for the ferryman’s fee.

The river was named after the goddess Styx, who personified hatred and was an ally of Zeus in the Titan wars. Styx had many children who served under Zeus. She lived in a grotto above the river bearing her name in the underworld.

When a god or goddess took an oath, Iris would fly to the underworld and retrieve a cup of water from the river. The vow was made “By the River Styx” as the oath giver poured out the water from the cup. This vow was seen as binding.

The River Styx separated the world of the dead from the world of the living. When a soul made its way down to the river, it was transported into the underworld by Charon, the ferryman.

The Styx was not the only river of the underworld, but it is the most famous. In Dante’s Inferno, it is the river of the fifth circle of hell. This circle was reserved for people guilty of wrath, anger, and sulliness.

See the souls over whom anger prevailed. In the warm bath of the sun they were hateful, down here in the black sludge of the river Styx do they wish they had never been born.” — Dante’s Inferno, by Virgil

In Turning Creek, Petra is fond of the exclamations “Styx and fire.” Both Petra and Marina are known to say “hells” and “Styx.” All of these sayings reflect Virgil’s version of the underworld with its many levels.

The Remnants, like the real Greek myths, make binding vows “By the River Styx” though they do not dump out water from the river when they do so.