If you're taking requests, can you please do a myth about one of the primordial Greek gods, like Nyx?
absolutely can, although maybe not Nyx, as she’s not often the central
character in the surviving myths we have, which honestly does not do justice to
her role as namesake of my favourite makeup brand. Instead, I have written about the
births of Kronos and Zeus, because Nyx makes a fleeting appearance and also
most of the gods are primordial (primordial douchebags, am I right? I’m totally right.)
If you don’t
fancy reading about nubile oiled men, the importance of good table manners, and
the origins of Wolverine from X-Men, feel free to skip by pressing J on your
keyboard. Extra context and literary stuff under the cut, as always!
And the Father of the Year Award Goes to Absolutely No-one
Before the world came to be, there was something. We’ll call it Chaos, because that’s what it was called, but it wasn’t like, chaos chaos, like when you’re running late for work and the toaster starts ballsing up and then suddenly the cat’s puking into your shoes and your mother’s phoning to tell you that your father is actually your uncle. It was more of a chasm, like a kind of tangible nothingness, made up of the elements of everything which would later become actual stuff, like the sea and the sky and sprouts, which actually sounds kind of rad, except there was no-one there to appreciate just how poetic it all was.
Except one day, something just kind of happens, and suddenly there’s someone there, and her name is Gaea, and she is the Earth. Like, literally. She is what we would now recognise as a planet. Which is fine. Real women have curves, etc.
Now, at this point, Gaea is just kind of hanging around by herself, when along comes Tartarus, who is the primordial divine personification of a realm of eternal torture and pain and is probably really shit at parties, and Gaea decides that Tartarus isn’t really the ideal best friend. She really can’t imagine having slumber parties with Tartarus and braiding each other’s hair over all the haunting wails of the dead. She’s kind of happy to have company, but being stuck with Tartarus is sort of like when you turn up late to a party and have to hang around by yourself for a while until some white guy with dreads shows up and starts talking about capitalism; it’s slightly better than loneliness, but not much, and also it makes you want to drink more.
So, one day she’s like “it’s kind of lonely here in the middle of nowhere with only a torturous realm for company, this is like living in Wales and frankly I won’t stand for it,” and then bam, she’s not alone anymore, because the void has spat out a new companion and this exceptionally hot dude is standing there, and he’s butt-naked and all toned and curved and probably oiled, because this myth is from Ancient Greece, and Gaea is like “holy buttocks, who in Chaos are you?” and the beautiful man just sighs wearily and says “I’m Eros, and I’m literally here for the sole purpose of making people want to do unspeakable things to one another.” Gaea pseudo-frowns and she’s like “what kind of unspeakable things, because if you mean relentless murder and ceaseless slaughter, then honestly, I think that’s just in my blood, I’m an Ancient Greek deity,” and Eros is like “have you ever wanted to just lie someone down and cover them in chocolate sauce?” and Gaea metaphorically wrinkles her proverbial nose and she’s like “no, that sounds unsanitary and also I’m a planet,” and then Eros clicks his fingers and says “how about now?” and Gaea does this weird little shiver thing, probably dislodging mountains and causing tectonic plates to collide like bodies on a dancefloor, and she’s like “do that again,” and Eros takes a few steps back and he’s all “no offence, but I’m the only other guy here, and I’m really more of a peanut butter guy myself.”
Then Gaea is like “as fantastic as those few moments of delight were, what’s the actual point? Like, why is it so important that people get the urge to do unspeakable things to each other up against barnyard doors? I mean, we were both just sort of born out of the ether with no need for body parts rubbing and touching in any pleasing way whatsoever, so why can’t things just carry on like that? What’s the need for the horizontal tango?” and Eros just shrugs and waves his sculpted arms a bit and says “plot holes, no pun intended.”
After a while, other things start to appear, like night (Nyx) and day (Hemera) and the realm of eternal, unflinching darkness, known as Erebos, and eventually Gaea just gets tired of having all these things floating around her like One Direction fans outside an arena, and so she does the only thing she can do, seeing as privacy screens haven’t been invented yet, and she gives birth to the sky and uses it as a makeshift veil. The sky’s name is Uranus, and, as it turns out, he’s virile as hell, because pretty soon he’s impregnated Gaea, and she gives birth to Oceanus, who is the divine personification of the sea, which means he’s totally wet and basically hates conflict, and then she gives birth to Kronos. Like his brother Oceanus, he’s a Titan, which means that he is part of the race of elder gods, along with their older siblings, including Thea, Rhea, Hyperion and Iapetos, among others, because condoms haven’t been invented yet, and let’s be honest, Uranus is totally the kind of guy who’d pretend that he couldn’t use them for reasons of girth.
Then, because this family isn’t fucked up enough already, Gaea gives birth to three giant monsters, the Hecatoncheires, who all have a hundred hands and fifty heads and can also control storms, which makes me wonder why they cast Halle Berry in X-Men and not just a hideous CGI conglomerate, and then she (Gaea, not Halle Berry) gives birth to three more monsters, each with one eye, called the Cyclopes. When Uranus sees his six new beautiful children, he’s all “wow, those came out of you? They must take after your side of the family,” and Gaea says “technically, you ARE my side of the family, sonsband,” and Uranus is like “shit, yeah, this is probably why incest is frowned upon, isn’t it? Anyway, I think you should just put them all back, to be honest,” and Gaea is like “what do you mean ‘put them all back’?” and Uranus is like “well, you know, back up the ol’ pipe,” and Gaea is like “say ‘pipe’ one more time and I’ll shove something up yours,” nobly resisting the urge to make a pun on his name, but Uranus is like “sorry, can’t hear you, I’m too busy shoving these gigantic monster children back into your womb,” and he’s not even lying.
Obviously, this causes Gaea some Problems™, and so she decides that maybe it’s time to get rid of Uranus. When he’s asleep, probably dreaming about changing his name by deed poll, she gathers together all of her children – the ones who aren’t currently rolling around in her uterus, anyway – and she’s all “look, I’m going to level with you here. Your father is a dick. I could do so much better. I deserve Ryan Gosling, not some dude who thinks it’s OK to use my birth canal as a storage locker. I need your help, kids,” and then she takes out this absolutely massive sickle, and she says “this sickle is made of adamant, which is a radical new element that I made for this specific purpose. It’s stronger than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson after a meal of spinach, and without meaning to blow my own trumpet, it really is the goddamn poodle’s privates. Like, if I were to create my own super powered mutant soldier, I’d probably coat his bones with this shit and maybe make him some awesome claws of the same stuff, because this? This stuff is nearly unbreakable. It’s totally fit for purpose,” and then her kids are like “by ‘purpose’, do you mean that you want us to use that sickle on our father?” and Gaea nods sagely and she’s like “I want you to use it all over him,” and her kids confer with one another, drawing some diagrams and making detailed notes, and then they turn back to her and say in unison “nope.”
Except they don’t say it completely in unison, because Kronos, the youngest of her Titan children, pipes up like “I know what needs to be done, grandma-mother,” and Gaea says “do you?” and Kronos nods and says “I do. I know exactly what you want me to do, 100%. I understand your plan completely. I volunteer,” and Gaea places her hand firmly on Kronos’ shoulder and grins and she’s like “grandson-son, let us put our shared plan into action,” and Kronos takes the sickle and he’s like “you can count on me, grandma-mother, I won’t let you down,” and Gaea probably just groans a bit because she’s still full of monster children.
Later that night, Uranus comes over to Gaea for a night of nocturnal naughtiness, and he’s about to cock his leg in a jaunty and arousing manner and be like “let us kiss with tongues, mother-wife,” when he hears this battle cry from behind him, and before he can turn around to see what the fuck is going on, Kronos has leapt on him with this massive sickle, and then Kronos raises the sickle above his big Titan head and brings it down in a swooping arc, right on Uranus’ dick. Like, that’s it. He just cuts it clean off, severing it right at the base, then throws it over his shoulder like salt in the Devil’s face, and Uranus just starts sobbing and says “for a Titan, that really wasn’t tight at all. I knew that having kids would be difficult, but this just absolutely takes the proverbial biscuit,” and he leaves, because there’s not a lot else he can do, really.
When he’s gone, Gaea turns to Kronos and she’s just like “you cut his dick off?” and Kronos nods proudly and says “our plan has come to fruition, mother,” and Gaea rolls her eyes and she’s like “I was thinking more along the lines of ruthless patricide, but I guess your idea also worked,” and Kronos wrinkles his nose and he’s all “what kind of monster would kill their own father? Balls or no balls, I still need the old guy to teach me how to throw a ball, y’know,” and Gaea just rolls her eyes and she’s about to make some remark about how a good father probably wouldn’t shove his kids back inside their mother, when Uranus’ testicles, which have landed in the sea, start to foam, and from the dick foam this beautiful woman emerges, and she’s like “I need two things. Firstly, I need a bath, because honestly, natural childbirth has absolutely nothing on what just happened to me, and secondly, I need a dry martini and a nubile young man,” and Gaea is all “literally who the fuck are you?” and the woman is like “I’m Aphrodite, and I really want to just reiterate that I’m covered in dick foam, so can we keep this conversation as brief as possible, like three seconds max” and Kronos is like “go to Cyprus, there are baths there beyond your wildest dreams,” and Aphrodite goes to Cyprus and presumably bathes in bleach for about three years.
Meanwhile, Uranus, hiding away in shame and anger, mutters under his breath something very sinister, something along the lines of “I hereby prophesy that the end of the Titans shall fall very soon, as they are overthrown by their own treacherous children and punished for their sins, signed Uranus xoxo.”
A whole bunch of time passes, and honestly, what happens next is incredibly complicated and involves more birth scenes than a director’s cut of Alien, but in a nutshell, a whole bunch of gods book a hotel room with each other, producing generations of gods, nymphs and other creatures. Kronos himself marries Rhea, his sister, and the two of them have a whole bunch of children, including Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Poseidon and Hades. Now, you’d think that Kronos, having seen the effect that bad parenting can have on a marriage and indeed a penis, might be a better father to his own kids than Uranus had been to him. You would be wrong. In fact, Kronos takes fatherhood to new lows. Having heard Uranus’ prophecy that he is fated to be overthrown by his own son, Kronos takes a leaf out of his father’s book and decides that the best place for his children is inside their parent. However, unlike Uranus, Kronos doesn’t put them back inside their mother; presumably remembering how THAT had turned out, he puts them inside himself instead, and swallows them whole, barely even tasting them. Honestly, I’m not sure why he didn’t chew them first, but whatever. He doesn’t.
After her brother-husband has eaten five of her children, Rhea begins to get a bit fed up (and honestly, why it took five attempts for her to get sick of this shit, I also have no idea; clearly, neither of them are Parent of the Year). So, when she becomes pregnant for the sixth time, she finds her mother-mother-in-law, Gaea, and she’s like “look, I know that Kronos was always your favourite son because of the time he helped you chop off dad’s dick, but now Kronos is BEING a dick, and I need your help,” and Gaea is like “Kronos stopped being my favourite child the moment he copied his dad and internalised his children. If only he could have taken after his mother more, and been awesome and totally opposed to infanticide. Well, I’ll tell you what; that son you’re carrying is going to save you from a life of matrimonial fatigue, but you have to do a couple of things first,” and Rhea says “just tell me what to do,” and Gaea is like “you have to run away, give birth in a magic cave, and pretend that your son is a rock,” and Rhea just sighs and she’s like “honestly, my kids are probably better inside Kronos’ digestive tract and away from this family unit,” but she does what Gaea asks.
So, when Rhea has given birth to her son – whom she names Zeus, which is a name you may be familiar with – she finds a huge rock and swaddles it, dressing it in a fetching babygro with the motif ‘DADDY’S LITTLE FLESH CHILD, MUMMY’S LITTLE NOT-A-GEODE’ and hands it to Kronos. Kronos takes one look at the rock and says “this baby has my eyes, darling,” and then promptly swallows it whole, completely falling for the trick, believing that he’s swallowed his fifth child. Rhea, presumably wondering if Kronos and the rock have more in common than she first thought, goes off to raise her baby in secret.
After a while, yet more time passes and Zeus grows up into an absolutely strapping young god, all bearded and muscled and, most importantly, not swilling around inside Kronos’ bowels, and Gaea is like “OK, grandson. The prophecy says that you will overthrow your father, so the first thing to do is to make him throw up,” and Zeus is like “why would I do that? When dad overthrew HIS dad, he got to use a phenomenal sickle, and I just get to use a bit of bad ham?” and Gaea says “firstly, you’re right, that sickle was fucking sick, and secondly, your father never chewed his food, and you have a few siblings who are probably very grateful for that, although honestly they’d be a tad less grateful if they’d ever had to sit opposite him at dinner, rather than inside him,” and so Zeus goes off to find Kronos.
When he finds him, he slips him an emetic herb, and Kronos immediately throws up his children, all covered in stomach slime but still alive and fully grown. Zeus is like “hey siblings, I’m Zeus, and honestly, I will never fully comprehend what you have been through, but I hope we can bond over this experience anyway,” and Hades is like “I think there’s a bit of partially digested carrot in my hair,” and Hera says “no, that’s just stomach lining, but you do have something unspeakable on your shoulder,” and Demeter says “thanks for saving us, Zeus, but dad looks super pissed that you just made him throw up his children,” and Kronos mutters “and that great bit of roast ham that I had for lunch.”
Zeus just shrugs and he’s like “well, there’s this prophecy which says that dad’s going to look defeat right in the face very soon and I’m going to be the one who puts it there, so honestly, I’m going to just let him have this one. I’d probably be angry too, if someone gave me a prophecy which told me that my child would overthrow me and I subsequently internalised that child for my own protection and suzerainty, only to have the child break free from my body somehow. Boy, that would really blow.“
Glaring at his family, just about managing to speak through his anger, Kronos snarls “you know what this means, son?” and Zeus sets his jaw into a rigid line, pushes his shoulders back so that his biceps look particularly rugged in his favourite white tank top, and then he digs into the pocket of his skinny black jeans and pops a tooth-pick into his mouth, chewing it with a pensive look on his face, and after a few tense seconds have passed, during which Kronos is just clenching his fists and trembling with unspent fury, Zeus says “yes, dad. This means war.”
My other retellings can be found here; my mythology blog is here; and my Mythology Mondays Facebook page is here. Thrilling.
How should I spell the olympian gods' names in ancient Greek? Btw i love ur blog :-)
There are a huge number of Gods, Titans, and other figures to name, so let me suffice by putting together a list of the ‘major’ Gods, Titans, and Heroes, and referring you to Wikipedia and/or theoi.com for the rest. Thank you for your kind words!
HYPERION [haɪˈpɪərɪən] was the titan of light, one of the sons of Ouranos and Gaia, and the father of the lights of heaven - Eos the Dawn, Helios the Sun, and Selene the Moon. His wife was Theia, lady of the aither - the shining blue of the sky. Hyperion was one of the four Titan brothers who conspired with Kronos in the castration of their father Ouranos. When Sky descended to lie with Earth, Hyperion, Krios, Koios and Iapetos - posted at the four corners of the world- seized hold of their father and held him fast while Kronos castrated him with a sickle. In this myth these four Titanes personify the great pillars which appear in Near-Eastern cosmogonies holding heaven and earth apart, or else the entire cosmos aloft. As the father of the sun and dawn, Hyperion was no doubt regarded as the Titan of the pillar of the east.
Do you know anything about worshiping Nyx in the modern world?
In the category, ‘questions I got ages ago and am only now getting to’… Nyx (Νυξ) is the deep Night, born from Khaos (Χαος) and the sister-wife of Aither (Αιθηρ, ‘Light’). In Hellenic mythology, Nyx draws a veil of darkness between the shining atmosphere of the aither and the lower air of earth (aer) at set times in the day, bringing night to man. In the morning, Her daughter Hêmera (Ἡμερα, ‘Day’) removes this veil, and exposes the Earth once more to Light. As Hesiod writes in the Theogony:
“[At the ends of the earth, where lie the roots of earth, sea, Tartaros :] There stands the awful home of murky Nyx wrapped in dark clouds. In front of it [Atlas] the son of Iapetos stands immovably upholding the wide heaven upon his head and unwearying hands, where Nyx and Hemera draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze: and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door. And the house never holds them both within; but always one is without the house passing over the earth, while the other stays at home and waits until the time for her journeying come; and the one holds all-seeing light (phaos) for them on earth.” 
Nyx and Hêmera continually work to both create and dissolve darkness on Earth; Selene (the Goddess of the Moon) moves with Nyx, and Helios (God of the Sun) with Hêmera, as heralded by Eos. In this recap, it is quite obvious we are yet missing a speciffic time of the day: dusk, or the evening. This was in the domain of the Nymphs, in this case the Hesperides (Ἑσπεριδες), who—depending of source—are either the daughters of Nyx or Atlas. Diodorus Siculus, in the 1st Century BC., wrote in his ‘Library of History’:
“Now Hesperos (Evening) begat a daughter named Hesperis (Evening), who he gave in marriage to his brother [Atlas] and after whom the land was given the name Hesperitis; and Atlas begat by her seven daughters, who were named after their father Atlantides, and after their mother Hesperides.” [4. 26. 2] Yet, older sources agree that the Hesperides (amongst others like Hypnos and Tartaros) were born from Nyx; Hesiod, for example:
“And Nyx (Night) bare hateful Moros (Doom) and black Ker (Violent Death) and Thanatos (Death), and she bare Hypnos (Sleep) and the tribe of Oneiroi (Dreams). And again the goddess murky Nyx, though she lay with none, bare Momos (Blame) and painful Oizys (Misery), and the Hesperides who guard the rich, golden apples and the trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Okeanos.”
In ancient Hellas, Nyx was only rarely the focus of cult worship. Pausanias mentions She had an oracle on the acropolis at Megara, but that is about it. More often, Nyx was worshipped in other major cults, alongside the main deity: there was a statue called ‘Nyx’ in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Spartans had a cult of Sleep and Death, conceived of as twins, with Nyx being worshipped as Their mother, etc.
As for modern worship; I have talked before of how I feel all worship is pretty much the same in Hellenismos. The major difference between reconstructive religions and modern ones—especially Pagan ones—is the way worship is conducted. Individual worship of Gods as well as patronage is perfectly acceptable in modern religions, but in Recon religions and the ancient Traditions they were based upon, worship tends to be of the pantheon, not so much the one God or Goddess. What goes for one Olympic God, tends to go for the others as well.
There are five steps to proper, Hellenistic, ritual: procession, purification, prayers and hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, usually followed by a feast and/or theatre and sporting events. We can apply this to modern worship quite easily: procession (no matter how short), purification with lustral water (named khernips), a hymn, song or modern poem which praises and draws the Theos in question, a sacrifice of some kind—be it incenses, (mixed) wine, meat or anything else—along with barley seeds tossed on the altar or into the altar fire, prayers or words of thanks, and—in communal rituals—plays, games, or (sports)-competitions. Within communal celebrations, the sacrifice can be some of the (raw) ingredients used to prepare the communal meal that will follow.
Hellenismos is not glamorous; in general, you do the same thing over and over again with minor variations. That is what I love about it. It’s simple, clear, and repetitive. As for Nyx, in the Orphic Hymn to Her, torches are prescribed as an offering, and Gods of the night tended to be worshipped at that time as well. Not always, naturally, but the dark night is Her domain. Bring her sacrifices of wine and try to include Her children and husband in your worship as well. Good luck!
“Iapetos may have been the Titan god who presided over the mortal life-span who assigned mortal creatures their finite lot… Iapetos, as one of the more destructive Titanes, is described by Homer seated beside Kronos (all-devouring time) in the depths of the Tartarean pit.”