Mythology Mondays: Hades

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 two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

When people refer to Hades, they often, mistakenly, refer to a place (“It’s hot as Hades in here.”) instead of the character, Hades, ruler of the Underworld and the giver of wealth from the earth. This is common because first century Jews and early Christians, translating Hebrew into Greek, translated the word “Sheol” into “Hades.”

If you are in my generation, you might think of this version of Hades:

"Note to me: Maim you after my meeting."
“Note to me: Maim you after my meeting.”

Most Greek, and later Roman, depictions of Hades showed him as a serious, dark-bearded man, seated on a throne and bearing a scepter topped by a bird. To the Romans, he was Pluto. In both cultures, he was the ruler and advocate of the dead and the giver of riches from the earth. In some art, he was depicted with an overflowing cornucopia.

Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.
Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.

Hades was one of the six children of Kronos and Rhea. Kronos, fearing the prophecy which stated that one of his offspring would defeat him and usurp his power did the only logical thing. He ate his children as soon as they were born. Rhea contrived to save Zeus from her husband (one has to wonder why, after he ate the first kid, she continued to bear him five more). Zeus later defeated Kronos and cut open his father to set his siblings free. The children of Kronos and Rhea included: three daughters – Hestia, Demeter, and Hera (who would later become Zeus’ wife) and three sons – Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.

The three brothers drew lots to divide the earth. Zeus received the land, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the darkness or shades of the earth. He was sometimes referred to as the King of Shades or the infernal Zeus. Hades set up shop in the underworld and guarded the gates to his kingdom with ferocity. He was cursed by mortal men who would slap the ground and curse his name for his power over death. When men offered sacrifices to Hades, they slaughtered black sheep and turned their faces away from the offering.

After spending some time alone in the dreariness of his domain, Hades decided he needed some companionship of the feminine variety. He asked his brother, Zeus, for one of his daughters and Zeus offered Persephone, daughter of Demeter. In case you have not been following: Persephone was Hades’ niece begot through a liaison between his two siblings. Zeus, knowing Demeter would never approve of the match, gave Hades the right to kidnap Persephone and take her forcibly as his wife.

Hades stole Persephone as she innocently played in a field of flowers and took her down into the Underworld in a chariot pulled by black, immortal horses. Demeter, distraught, brought an endless winter to the earth as she searched and mourned for her daughter. Eventually, Hades allows Persephone to leave and visit her mother, but tricks her into eating a pomegranate seed first which compelled her to return to him after a set time had passed. Thus, the Greeks thought the winter was brought by Demeter while her daughter was away and the spring came each season when Persephone was allowed to come to the surface and visit her mother.

Hades, the God of the Dead, was unable to bear children himself. His wife, bore two children fathered by Zeus (her father, uncle, brother-in-law).

In Turning Creek, there is no Hades character. There are, as far as we know as this point, no Remnants of the original six gods and goddesses. Hades is occasionally referred to in conversations between the Remnants of Turning Creek.