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Hecate: Goddess of Dark Arts

Born the daughter of Titans Perses and Asteria, Hecate is the goddess of the dark arts. Representing the dark terrors of the night, she roams about on moonless nights with her ghastly, howling dogs. Hecate is also the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft. Her worshippers include magicians and witches who onced sacrificed black animals to her. She is also the goddess of the crossroads where she haunts most frequently. Some say she has three heads. One of a dog, one of a snake, and another of a horse. Each head watches one of the three crossroads… or so it's sometimes said...

Hades: God of the Underworld

Born the son of Cronus and Rhea and brother to Zeus, Hades was the god of the dead and ruler of the underworld. No one, not even immortals, wanted anything to do with him. No one dared say his name in fear that they'd have to deal with this grim god. Though he was a grim and compassionless god, caring little for sacrifice and praise, Hades was not always considered evil. Being that valuable metals and crops sprang from deep below the ground, it was perceived that these came from Hades and thus he was also known as the Lord of Riches.

Hades is also the name of the world of which he rules made up of two regions: Erebus and Tartarus. Erebus is the region where the dead go after passing and Tartarus is the lowest region where the Titans were vanquished and imprisoned forever. As you can imagine, Hades was a dark, gloomy, nightmarish place. It was guarded by the three headed demonic dog, Cerberus. The underworld was said to be seperated from the world of the living by five rivers: Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, and Styx. Charon, and old, old ferryman sometimes seen as a skeletal figure, brought the souls of the dead across the rivers of death to the entrance to Hades.

Tartarus: The Under-Underworld

That old party game of limbo always asks, "how low can you go?". Well, the lowest point you can possibly reach would have to be Tartarus. How low is Tartarus you ask? Well according to the Hesiod, if you dropped an anvil from the earth down to Tartarus it would take nine days and nine nights to reach the bottom. Tartarus of course is the lowest region of the underworld....much lower than Hades or Erebus. Tartarus was one of the first entities to exist according to Hesiod's Theogony.

If you think going to Hades is a bad thing, try Tartarus. This place was a gloomy pit surrounded by a large bronze wall and within was endless night. From what I've read, the only beings to be sent to this horrible eternal prison were those who opposed the Olympians....primarily Zeus. As we know from the story of creation in the Hesiod, Zeus imprisoned the Titans in Tartarus after he and his brothers and sisters won the ten year war for control over the heavens.

Tartarus is held behind enormous bronze gates and is guarded by the Hecatoncheires, hundred handed giants.

Charon: Ferryman of the Dead

Charon was the old ferryman who brought the dead across the river Acheron to Hades. He was the son of Erebus and Nyx usually depicted as an old (sometimes skeletal) man. The way his whole deal worked goes like this. Hermes would bring the souls of the dead to Charon. Charon would then open his hand to the dead requiring the obol (a coin) that is given to all those who received a proper burial or burning. Normally this coin was placed in the mouth of the dead. Those souls who do not have the coin are made to roam around the river Cocytus for most of their afterlife and are not granted passage to Hades. The living were also allowed visiting passage to Hades if they brought to Charon golden bough.

Underworld Rivers

In Greek mythology, the underworld was seperated from the land of the living in most part by five primary rivers. They were Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe, and Styx. Each of them served their own purpose.

  • Acheron - The word Acheron itself means the "river of woe". A fitting name indeed for this river. This is the river that the old ferryman Charon ferried the dead across from the land of the living to the realm of Hades.

  • Cocytus - The word Cocytus means "river of lamentation". Those who died and were not properly buried were stuck walking about the banks of this river for most of their afterlife.

  • Phlegethon - This was the river of fire in Hades. It's said that while the fire burned, it did not consume anything within it's flames.

  • Lethe - The word Lethe means "forgetfulness". This is the river where the dead had to drink from to completely forget about their lives on Earth.

  • Styx - Probably the most famous of the five lakes. The word Styx means "hate". This is the actual river that seperates the land of the living from the realm of the dead. Many accounts say that it wraps around Hades nine times. The river was also a sacred place to both gods and men. Those who broke any oath made upon the river Styx, were made to drink from it by Zeus. By doing this, it made the drinker lose their voice for long period of time.