Great Greek Myths. S1:E3: Hades

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September 20, 2023- by Steven E. Greer

Hades is the brother of Zeus and was assigned to be the god of the underworld, or what we know as hell. The concept of a good place after death, heaven, was not prominent with the Greeks.

The Styx is the name of the river in the underworld that the newly dead face. Crowds of newly deceased, called Shadows, are on the banks of the river. Charon is the old man who ferries the Shadows across the river to the gates of Hades.

Shadows must pay in a coin to get across. That is why people above ground bury their dead with a coin under the tongue.

A dog with three heads, Cerberus, protects the gates of Hades. He devours anyone trying to leave.

People fear Hades and no one mentioned his name. They refer to him by various nicknames.

In the underworld, there are three levels were dead people can go.

  • Asphodel Meadows are where most people go. It is a neutral place.
  • Tartarus is the deepest and worst place for the criminals who defied Zeus.
  • The Elysian Fields is paradise, where a few people go. That is what we now think of as heaven. So, not all things in the underworld were hellish.

Hades is rich with minerals and jewels underground, but above ground, no one worships him and there are no monuments. He has a few worshipers who meet at night and sacrifice black animals.

Hades does not know what is going on above ground other than when people who curse. He hears them.

He sometimes ventures above ground. One time, when he was in his chariot around Mount Aetna, he saw Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Hades visited Zeus on Olympus to ask for her hand. Zeus was vague, and Hades took that as permission to take her. The ground opened up and Persephone went into the underworld with Hades.

Demeter, her mother, was looking for her. Hecate, variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, protection from witchcraft, the Moon, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, graves, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery, helps her. Hecate takes Demeter to see Helios, god of the sun. He tells her that Hades took Persephone.

Zeus would not command Hades to giver her back. So, Demeter left Olympus in protest, causing crops to fail and famine. There was no more wheat. People died.

Zeus sent Hermes to see Hades. They agreed that Persephone had to stay with Hades because she violated the law and ate fruit from the underworld.

Demeter continued to stay away from Olympus and people continue to starve.

Finally, Rhea, the mother of Demeter and Zeus, negotiated. Persephone would spend the winter underground in Hades and the rest of the time above ground, thus creating the seasons.

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