- Uranus was the primal Greek god personifying the sky. Gaia was the primordial Earth-goddess. Uranus and Gaia were ancestors of most of the gods in the Greek pantheon.
- In traditional magical thinking, “midnight” refers to solar midnight, which is opposite solar noon. These form an axis linking the mundane world with other worlds by being the apogee of darkness and the perigee of light. Thus, traditional midnight is associated with chaos, death, the underworld, and mystery. It was seen as a moment when sacrum manifests itself and epiphanies were most likely. The epiphanies expected were those associated with darkness, so it was thought that at midnight, visitations from spirits, ghosts, demons, and devils were common.
- The eleventh labor of Hercules was the theft of apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Hercules tricked Atlas into retrieving some of the golden apples for him by offering to hold up the heavens for a little while. Upon his return, Atlas decided that he did not want to take the heavens back, and instead offered to deliver the apples himself, but Hercules tricked him again by agreeing to take his place on condition that Atlas relieve him temporarily so that Hercules could make his cloak more comfortable. Atlas agreed, but Hercules reneged and walked away, carrying the apples with him.
- The Stymphalian birds were man-eating birds with beaks of bronze and sharp metallic feathers they could launch at their victims.
- Zeus’ wife Hera held a spiteful grudge against Hercules and sent him into a blind frenzy, in which he killed all of his children and his wife. When Hercules regained his sanity, he sought out the Oracle at Delphi in the hope of making atonement. The Oracle ordered Hercules to serve Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, who sent him on a series of tasks known as the Labors of Hercules.
- “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
-Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, quoting text on the Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad-Gita.
- In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decide who will die in battle. The Valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin.
- The Banshee is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.
- Medusa was a Gorgon, a chthonic monster, and a daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. Gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. Medusa’s hair was made of snakes.
- Glooscap (also spelled Gluskabe, Glooskap, Gluskabi, Kluscap, Kloskomba, or Gluskab) is a mythical culture hero, and “transformer” of the Wabanaki peoples. He is represented as the creator in the Penobscot Indian Nation’s Creation Myth, as transcribed by Joseph Nicola in The Red Man. He was an important figure for the Abenaki in the United States and Atlantic Canada, including the Passamaquoddy and the Mi’kmaq (Micmac) tribes, both part of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Glooscap is portrayed in a creator role similar to that of the Ojibwa Nanabozho and the Cree Wisakedjak. His name, Kloskabe, means “Man that came from nothing” or literally, “Man [created] only from speech.” According to legend, after Tabaldak created humans, the dust from his hand created Glooscap, and some versions say that he also created Glooscap’s twin brother, Malsumis. Tabaldak gave Glooscap the power to create a good world. Malsumis, on the other hand, did the opposite, and still seeks evil to this day. Malsumis is the evil brother of Glooscap, who was created form the dust of the creation of man. While he and Glooscap both had the power to do good, Malsumis used his power for evil and trickery, like putting thorns on plants, or giving insects their sting. While Glooscap protects man, Malsumis uses his power to plot the end of man to this very day.
- Chaos was also personified as a primal deity in Greek mythology, as the first of the Protogenoi and the god of the air. Primal Chaos was sometimes said to be the true foundation of reality, particularly by philosophers such as Heraclitus. It was also probably what Aristotle had in mind when he developed the concept of Prima Materia in his attempt to combine Platonism with Presocraticism and Naturalism.
- Persephone, also called Kore, is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the Earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring, as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.
- Pluto was the ruler of the underworld in classical mythology. The earlier name for the god was Hades, which became more common as the name of the underworld as a place. In ancient Greek religion and myth, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife. Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos, a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because as a chthonic god Pluto ruled the deep Earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest. The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife, and are invoked together in religious inscriptions. Hades by contrast had few temples and religious practices associated with him, and is portrayed as the dark and violent abductor of Persephone.
- Pitys (English translation: “pine”) was an Oread nymph who was pursued by Pan. According to a passage in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca (ii.108) she was changed into a pine tree by the gods in order to escape him. Pitys is mentioned in Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe (ii.7 and 39) and by Lucian of Samosata (Dialogues of the Dead, 22.4). Pitys was chased by Pan as was Syrinx, who was turned into reeds to escape the satyr who then used her reeds for his panpipes. The flute-notes may have frightened the maenads running from his woodland in a “panic.”
- Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. His name originates within the Ancient Greek language, from the word paein, meaning “to pasture.” With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is also recognized as the god of fields, groves, and wooded glens; because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.
- Possibly as a result of its name, there is a local legend of the Seven Gates of Hell in Hellam Township. The first gate is located off Trout Run Road which, according to the legend, was the location of an insane asylum fire that killed most of its inhabitants. This gate is supposedly the only one visible during the day. The other six gates are said to be visible only during the night. According to the legend, if you pass through all of them, you will land in Hell. It is insisted that no one has ever made it past the fifth gate (after which all have turned back).
- One of the Twelve Labors of the hero Hercules was to fetch some of the golden apples which grow in Hera’s garden, tended by Atlas’ daughters, the Hesperides, and guarded by the dragon Ladon. Heracles went to Atlas and offered to hold up the heavens while Atlas got the apples from his daughters. Upon his return with the apples, however, Atlas attempted to trick Heracles into carrying the sky permanently by offering to deliver the apples himself, as anyone who purposely took the burden must carry it forever, or until someone else took it away. Heracles, suspecting Atlas did not intend to return, pretended to agree to Atlas’ offer, asking only that Atlas take the sky again for a few minutes so Heracles could rearrange his cloak as padding on his shoulders. When Atlas set down the apples and took the heavens upon his shoulders again, Heracles took the apples and ran away.
- In the version of the myth told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses, Phaethon ascends into heaven, the home of his suspected father. His mother Clymene had boasted that his father was the Sun-God, or Phoebus. Phaethon went to his father who swore by the river Styx to give Phaethon anything he would ask for in order to prove his divine sonship. Phaethon wanted to drive the chariot of the sun for a day. Phoebus tried to talk him out of it by telling him that not even Jupiter (the king of the gods) would dare to drive it, as the chariot was fiery hot and the horses breathed out flames. Phaethon was adamant. When the day came, the fierce horses that drew the chariot felt that it was empty because of the lack of the sun-god’s weight, and went out of control. Terrified, Phaethon dropped the reins. The horses veered from their course, scorching the Earth, burning the vegetation, bringing the blood of the Ethiopians to the surface of their skin and so turning it black, changing much of Africa into desert, drying up rivers and lakes and shrinking the sea. Earth cried out to Jupiter, who was forced to intervene by striking Phaethon with a lightning bolt. Like a falling star, Phaethon plunged blazing into the river Eridanos. Phoebus, stricken with grief at his son’s death, at first refused to resume his work of driving his chariot, but at the appeal of the other gods, including Jupiter, returned to his task.
- Virgil considered Eridanos one of the rivers of Hades in his Aeneid VI, 659. Hesiod, in the Theogony, calls it “deep-eddying Eridanos” in his list of rivers, the offspring of Tethys. Herodotus (III, 115) associated it with the river Po, because the Po was located near the end of the Amber Trail. According to Apollonius of Rhodes and Ovid, amber originated from the tears of the Heliades, encased in poplars as dryads, shed when their brother, Phaeton, died and fell from the sky, struck by Zeus’ thunderbolt, and tumbled into the Eridanos, where “to this very day the marsh exhales a heavy vapour which rises from his smouldering wound; no bird can stretch out its fragile wings to fly over that water, but in mid-flight it falls dead in the flames…”
“Along the green banks of the river Eridanos,” Cygnus mourned Phaeton—Ovid told—and was transformed into a swan.
- Sisyphus was a king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth) punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.
- Poseidon is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea.” Additionally, he is referred to as “Earth-Shaker” due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the “tamer of horses.”
- Adrasteia was a nymph who was charged by Rhea with nurturing the infant Zeus, in secret in the Dictaean cave, to protect him from his father Cronus (Krónos). She is known from inscriptions in Greece from around 400 BC as a deity who defends the righteous.
- Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, wine-making and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology.
- Bellerophon was “the greatest hero and slayer of monsters, alongside Cadmus and Perseus, before the days of Heracles,” whose greatest feat was killing the Chimera, a monster that Homer depicted with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail: “her breath came out in terrible blasts of burning flame.”
- The Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on some small islands called Sirenum scopuli. In some later, rationalized traditions, the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa, or Anthemusa, is fixed: sometimes on Cape Pelorum and at others in the islands known as the Sirenuse, near Paestum, or in Capreae. All such locations were surrounded by cliffs and rocks.
© C. Brian Orner. All Rights Reserved.