Hades Day 1

30 Days of Devotion
Day 1: A Basic Introduction

Hades_JaceWallace
Artwork by Jace Wallace

Hades, according to ancient Greek mythology, is the ruler of the Underworld and Lord of the Dead. Being chthonic, or underground, he is also the god of all the riches that come from beneath the earth: precious stones and minerals, as well as rich and fertile soil. He and his Olympic brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, divide among themselves the three realms of the skies, oceans and the Underworld.

Hades is most commonly depicted as a dark-bearded, curly-haired, regal god in the prime of masculine adulthood. In ancient art he appears as either Aidoneus, enthroned in the Underworld, holding a bird-tipped scepter or bident, or as Plouton (Pluton), the giver of wealth, generously providing fertile bounty from a cornucopia. The Romans called him Dis, Dis Pater or Pluto, the Latin form of his Greek title Plouton, “the Lord of Riches.”

The word “Hades” is also sometimes used as a name for the Underworld itself, which is correct if one is referring to the realm of the god Hades; however, this place name does not refer to the Christian notion of hell, and should not be used as such. The Greek word that comes closest to depicting the Christian concept of hell as a place of eternal damnation and punishment is kólasis – literally, “punishment”. Mistakes in translating Greek to Old English in the 1600s have conflated these meanings over the years.

[Update: In my initial post, I forgot to also mention the profound role of Dante Alighieri’s 14th century epic “Inferno”, which melded depictions of a Christian hell with gods, place names, and stories of the Underworld. Dante’s work was so vivid and successful that it continues to influence popular culture to this day.]

You may also encounter this god by the name Aidoneus (Aïdôneus), which is a lengthened, and perhaps more formal, version of Hades (Aïdês). He has many more epithets and titles, which we will explore in depth in a later article.

Prayer to Hades
(P.S.V.L.)

Sing Muses, of He who is unsung–
Homer did not offer Him praise,
nor did Orpheus, singer of Ploutos and Thanatos–
fair King of the Underworld, tender of hearth
where shades gather: Hades of the bident.

His realm has veins of precious jewels,
Zeus’ lightning frozen amidst skies of rock;
animals as plentiful as Poseidon’s oceans in His home–
spiders, worms, burrowing rodents, industrious
ants with queens amidst mounds like Persephone.

Zeus allowed the daughter of Demeter to be taken
by Hades, who put by the fragrant caresses of Minthe,
Leuke’s gentle embrace–flavorful herb and white-limbed tree
echo their love of wolf-capped Aidoneus;
Makaria and Melinoe guide dead to their rewards.

Hades’ realm borders Elysium and Isles of the Blessed,
as far above Tartaros as the surface of Gaia is above Hades.
Praise to the King in chthonic darkness, light of shadows
just ruler of the dead, moving living fire within Earth
whose shining light keeps every shade from fading.

Resources:

Hades on Theoi: https://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Haides.html
(accessed August 23, 2019)

Christian Views on Hades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_Hades
(accessed August 23, 2019)