Drachma from Bruttium (Locri or Croton). On the obverse, Hera Lacinia; on the reverse, Zeus with his scepter and an eagle bearing a garland. Between 214/13 and 211/10 BCE. Photo credit: cgb.fr/Wikimedia Commons.
Are there any reasons to pray or not to pray to Hades? Thank you! Xoxo
Because Hades is associated with death and necromancy in antiquity, and because there were few temples dedicated to him, there are some Hellenic polytheists who believe it is best to never, or only rarely, worship him. Some prefer never to even speak his name, and use a title like God of Wealth, an epithet (Receiver of the Dead, or Host of Many), or collectively refer to the Daimones Katakhthonioi (Underworld Gods). Those are the only reasons I can think of not to speak of or to pray to him.
Not all polytheists share this reluctance. We know that, as the husband of Persephone, he was honored as a loyal and generous spouse on the pinaxes found at Locri in Calabria, Italy, and on the the votive relief of Lysimachides discovered inside the Ploutonion at Eleusis. The inhabitants of Aidone in Sicily obviously did not fear to speak his name (“Aidone” is the same word as “Hades”), and Hades was included in the cult activity to Demeter and Persphone in nearby Morgantina. In Caria, Hades and Persephone were revered as gods of healing. The Romans worshiped Hades as Dis Pater, the “wealthy father”, and once a year celebrated a festival in his honor, along with Proserpina (the Roman name for Persephone), which included three days of sacrifices and games.
Pinax of Persephone and Hades from Locri
The main reason to pray to Hades is simply because he is one of the Theoi and deserves worship.
One could ask his help in finding or being a good husband, for help in being a good public official, help in the acquisition or management of wealth, to ask him to show kindness and mercy to someone who has died, or as a prelude before speaking to someone who has died. There are people who practice necromancy who honor him as their patron. In short, if you feel there is a reason to worship Hades, you should do so!
do you know any common symbols for Persephone that aren't pomegranates?
Yes! Stalks of grain, torches, chickens, balls, small chests, kalathos (chest for flowers or wool), phiale (libartion bowl), and flowers. Also, sometimes mirrors and the sceptre. She is usually depicted with jewels as well.
The stalk of grain was a panhellenic symbol of Persephone. All of her symbols are associated to fertility and/or funerary aspects.
Here a Locri pinake showing Persephone and Hades enthroned. She has a chicken and stalk of grain, while Hades holds a phiale and a blooming twig (maybe an asphodel). (source)
Here Persephone depiction from a vase painting, she is at the underworld palace holding her torch. (source)
And another Locri pinake, where we see a mirror, a pomegranate and a chest. (source)
(Information main source: Theoi.com, and “Persephone and Aphrodite at Locri: A model for personality definitions in Greek religion” by Christiane sourvinou-Inwood).
An ancient sculpted marble block that was found from Villa Ludovisi (Rome) and hence the name. It dates back to middle 5th century BCE and comes from a temple at Locri. The relief depicts the birth of Aphrodite.
At Locri, perhaps uniquely, Persephone was the protector of marriage, a role usually assumed by Hera; in the iconography of votive plaques at Locri, her abduction and marriage to Hades served as an emblem of the marital state
Pinax showing Persephone opening the so-called liknon mystikon, used in mystery rites. Artist unknown; 5th cent. BCE. From the shrine of Persephone at Locri in southern Italy (Epizephyrian Locri); now in the Museo Nazionale Archeologico, Reggio Di Calabria. Photo credit: AlMare/Wikimedia Commons.
I’ve been reading a lot about Hellenic polytheism and it just kinda seems right to me? I feel really connected to Persephone and Aphrodite. Does you have any information or tips for me?
Welcome, Anon! I can offer more specific assistance about Persephone than about Aphrodite. I recommend the pages for Aphrodite at Theoi.com (here) and at Hellenion’s Temenos site (here).
I have a lot of information and opinions about Persephone, though, so get something to drink, and make yourself comfortable!
The worship of Persephone, also known as Kore (”the maiden”) is a hot issue in modern religion, and how one worships Her depends on whether one sees Her primarily as a maiden who became a willing bride, or as a victim of rape who wrested queenship and other honors from her attacker. I hold the former view, which I believe is based on solid scholarship, and I must disclose that this is also informed by my leanings towards the Roman view of the gods, which endorses Proserpina as a goddess of marriage and Plouto as an ideal husband. Although I disagree with there those who insist on the interpretation of Persephone as a victim, I realize that they believe their reasons are valid, and I respect their right to worship Her as they see fit.
I suggest you consult the sources, and decide for yourself, because the perspective from which you choose to worship Her is going to affect how and whether you worship Hades.
There is also controversy among polytheists about whether Persephone has children, with whom and in what circumstances they were conceived. Some people view her marriage to Hades as childless, some believe they had children, either together, or with other partners: Melinoe, the goddess of ghosts and nightmares, Makaria, goddess of a blessed death, and Zagreus, who grew up to become Dionysus.
You can search my Persephone tags for a range of information (I have eleven pages of posts and reblogs about her!). Other tumblr users with a scholarly perspective on Persephone include coloricioso, a-gnosis, and kata-cthonia,
Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition
Walter Burkert, “The Maiden’s Tragedy” pp. 69-79 in Creation of the Sacred (read at Google Books here)
Helene P. Foley, The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (review here) (excerpt here)
Karl Kerényi, Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter
Mary R. Lefkowitz, “Seduction and Rape in Greek Myth” in Consent and Coersiont o Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies edited by Angeliki E. Laiou (read at Google Books here)
George E. Mylonas, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries
John H. Oakley , Rebecca H. Sinos, The Wedding in Ancient Athens (review here) (Google Books here)
Ann Suter, The Narcissus and the Pomegranate: An Archaeology of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (information here)
Art and artifacts are also important in understanding Persephone’s myth and cult. Look for information about the Votive Relief of Lysimachides, and the Locri Pinakes, I suggest visiting the many online museum image collections and viewing the pottery and statues of Persephone that were created in antiquity.
The ancient Greeks worshiped Persephone, along with Demeter and Hades, at the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries, held in the early Spring over six days. and the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, a week-long festival held in the early Autumn. See the Hellenion calendar for the dates, which vary each year. In addition, Persephone may have been honored at the Anthestheria, the Athenian Festival of Flowers, although the festival itself was dedicated to Dionysus.
The ancient Romans honored Persephone and Hades as Proserpina and Dis Pater at the Taurian Games, which may have been Etruscan in origin. The games occurred at irregular intervals, but were held between the Ides of May and the Kalends of June.
Some modern Hellenic polytheists worship Persephone with either Demeter or Hades, or both, at Hecate’s Deipnon, the last day of each lunar month. Hellenion, a U.S. Hellenic polytheist organization, encourages a libation to be poured to Demeter and Kore on the second Saturday of September. Persephone is honored, along with Hades and other deities, during the Heliogenna festival on the night of the Winter Solstice.
Most Hellenic reconstructionists refer to the chthonic deities by their epithets, rather than their names. (This information is from: http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.nl/2015/02/epithets-and-safety.html) Epithets can be found under the individual deity listings at theoi.com. I consider myself more of a revivalist than a reconstructionist, so I use their names in prayer and worship.
It is usual to mix the wine offered to the Hellenic deities with water, but straight wine is offered to the chthonic deities, possibly because food and drink offered to them is not supposed to be shared by humans. Libations made to chthonic deities are spilled on the ground, rather than poured. The technique is to place the vessel on the earth, and gently turn it over until all the liquid spills out. Offerings made to the chthonic deities are to be placed in a small hole and buried, when possible. Some apartment-dwellers keep a large pot of soil for this, and refresh it when needed.
Hymns, poems, and ideas for worshiping Persephone can be found at Hellenion’s Temenos site (here).
May your path be blessed!
Readers who follow Aphrodite and/or Persephone are invited to offer suggestions to help this Anon get started!
Added this drawing I made to the shrine. Demeter enthroned and Persephone by her side holding her torch. And in the background Hades and Persephone. When I get time I will make one of Hades and Persephone enthroned together like the pinax from Locri; we need more positive imagery of they together.
Hey its me again. Want to pick your brains, now that I have gotten my fangirling a bit in control. It was interesting reading your take on Ovid. How do you see the Orphic theogony? He wrote a lot about Persephone and Demeter, but made Zeus the father of Zagreus/Dionysus (and others). I personally like to think its Zeus Cthonius=Hades, and that that detail was lost in translation at some point. Also,its too creepy for me to imagine a father-daughter pair. I'm very curious what you think about it.
I agree. Outside of the Protogenoi, and that lineage is debatable, there aren’t any other parent-child pairings in Greek myth that aren’t founded on the tragedy and downfall of mortal kings. While brother-sister pairings are common, parent-child pairings for all other mythological characters are taboo. There exists no other in mythology.
Here is what the translation of Melinoe’s hymn from the Orphic tradition says, as translated by Apostolos Athanassakis:
“I call upon Melinoe, saffron cloaked nymph of the earth, whom revered Persephone bore by the mouth of the Kokytos river upon the sacred bed of Kronian Zeus. In the guise of Plouton Zeus tricked Persephone and through wily plots bedded her.”
So the text says plainly, in the Orphic tradition, that Melinoe is Zeus’ child.
Remember that all of these myths are a result of something called syncretism. The Greek pantheon didn’t come about over night fully formed. There were many gods and goddesses that were similar to others and these were combined to make singular gods. For instance, nearly all the chief sky gods of the Greek city states become Zeus before the rise of the polis.
If we think about it this way, and remember that Zeus, Zeus Pater (Jupiter) and Deus all mean the same thing, then it can be inferred that Zeus is a title, much like Caesar or king. Most of Zeus’ epithets are related to the city in which he was worshiped. In the passage above, Kronian means ‘son of Kronos’, which was a title also widely applied to Hades.
The passage above quite possibly came about like this:
In several places like Locri, Eleusis, Corinth and Ephyra, Plouton (Hades) and Persephone were the chief deities, the ones responsible for the fertility of the earth, for the cycle of life and death. As a Father-Mother god pairing much like Zeus and Hera, they had children to rule over other aspects of their dominion.
But during the rise of the polis and the writing down of oral myth, Zeus became the chief dominant god in a fractious region united by a single pantheon ruled over by a single sky god. Chief deities of the sea became Poseidon in much the same way, and Hades was relegated from rulership over the earth with his wife to rulership over only the dead. To make the pantheon make sense and include all gods, there couldn’t be two chief deities of the living world. Those writing down the myths also surmised that Hades, as the ruler of the dead, was infertile and could not have produced children like Melinoe and Zagreus.
Hades, in his aspect of Zeus Katachthonios, the king beneath the earth, lost his role as father to his children because of syncretism.
Zagreus and especially Melinoe remained, and their paternity was quickly attributed to the most common source of paternity in Greek myth: Zeus Olympios.
But I personally think that it is possible to read between the lines in the Orphic hymns. For example, in Zagreus’ conception, the father appears as a snake, a creature who is deeply chthonic in its mythic origins. In this way, I think that the father is written into this myth in code, not outright, as Hades. A few lines are added to reference back to Zeus, but the deeper symbolism points to Hades.
In the conception of Melinoe above, Persephone bears her by the shores of the Cocytus, but strangely at the same time in the bed of Zeus Kronion, which here translates to the king son of Kronos, which could also be Hades. The line describing how Zeus took Hades’ form to conceive Melinoe on Persephone is about as clear an indication as we can have that the original source of the myth was ret-conned to have Zeus be the father.
Melinoe was important enough to enough people as the daughter of Hades and Persephone that the myth had to be written this way in order to say to the people that “we know you worshipped her this way, as the daughter of Hades and Persephone, but here is what actually happened. This is what everyone should believe now, but if you want to keep believing that Hades was her father, here is how you can go right on ahead and do that”.
If it is not meant to be interpreted this way, then why bother going to all the trouble of saying that Zeus had to take Hades’ form to conceive the child? Wouldn’t Melinoe’s birth have been just as equally valid if Zeus had simply done what he did with almost every other one of his bedmates and ravished Persephone unwillingly?
The answer is clearly no, and the fact that the text exists to so elaborately explain Melinoe’s conception is the signifier that her original myth was different.
So to conclude, I do agree with you. The text says otherwise, but if you read into it contextually, then the true meaning becomes clear: the “forms” that Zeus takes in myth are too chthonic in origin or are simply Hades himself. Because of this, the language could be interpreted as code for the original father of Melinoe and Zagreus, which would be Zeus Katachthonios. Hades. Plouton.
A pinax, Greek for ‘board’, refers to a votive tablet of painted marble, terracotta, bronze or wood that would be deposited in the sanctuary of a particular god or goddess as a memorial or votive offering. Often, they are decorated with scenes of ritual, offering or adoration, usually involving the god or goddess to whom they are dedicated.
The huge list (copied from another post of mine plus some edit).
Hymn to Demeter
Hesiod - Theogony
Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book V) and Fasti (Book IV)
The Odyssey (Book 10 and 11)
Claudian - Rape* of Persephone (means *abduction).
Euripides’ Helen and Eumenides.
Aristophanes’ Frogs and Thesmophoriazusae.
HARD, Robin: The Routlege Handbook of Greek Mythology: is a book on general mythology but it has chapters for Hades, Demeter and Persephone and I find it super useful as good myth introduction.
FOLEY, Helene; The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: it’s a great book for learning about the Hymn to Demeter, is not hard to read and I think is also available for Scribd suscription if you wanna read online.
CLAY, Politics of Olympus: just one chapter of this book is about the Hymn to Demeter, but is a nice one if you want to complement the previous one.
WRIGHT, Dudley; The Eleusinian Mysteries & Rites: a very short and easy to read book about Eleusis cult.
DETIENNE, Marcel; Gardens of Adonis: good for understand myth and greek religious rites connection, and Persephone relation to Thesmophoria and the myth of Mint.
SUTER, Ann; The Narcissus and the Pomegranate: this is a feminist scholar that defends Persephone and Hades relationship. Personally I found it a bit difficult to read, but might be easier for English native speakers -I’m not one.
KERENYI, Karl; Eleusis: Archetypical Image of Mother and Daughter: this is another nice book that focuses on Persehone’s myth and Eleusis cult.
Redfield, James; The Locrian Maidens: this is one of my favs, it studies the cult of Persephone in Locri (South Italy) and other aspects of the myth.
Rehm, Rush; Marriage to Death: if you want to learn on the connections between marriage and death in Ancient Greece, it has a chapter on Persephone I think.
LEFKOWITZ, Mary R.; Women in Greek Myth:this book is very interesting and the analysis of the myth is focused on having perspectives where women have more agency .
STEIN, Charles; Persephone Unveiled: this is more “spiritual” book that studies the myth and thinks of how to apply in personal life.
TZANETOU, Angeliki; Finding Persephone: a book about women’s ritual
CAMPBELL, Joseph; Goddesses: speaks of many goddesses, but has nice chapters on Persephone and Demeter.
FRAZER, Sir James George; Golden Bough: also has nice chapters on Persephone and Demeter. I think it’s free on Kindle.
*GRAHAM, M. Marjorie; Archetypal Myth of Demeter & Persephone:A Story for Mother & Daughter Celebrations: this is a very short book, with some illustrations, pretty much inspired in the ideas of “pre-patriarchal” Persephone. It has a story by Charlene Spretnak where Persephone descends to the underworld on her own to take care of the souls <3
*BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINA; Queen of the Sacred Way: this is nice because is an anthology of Persephone related works: poems, short stories, etc.
I also have a list of papers, most available on JSTOR, I’ll post the list later or tomorrow :D
Hi, there! I love your story "Receiver of Many" and I do like HadesxPersephone; so I want to ask you a question. Since I've read your post regarding the "Why I don't ship Hades and Persepone", I would like to know this, what are the negatives to you in the pairing? As in, what would you critique the characters, the story, and the overall message within the pairing between Hades and Persephone?
All right. I think that a complex question deserves a complex answer, so I decided to break this down into three sections. Issues I have with the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, issues I have with Metamorphoses by Ovid, and issues I have with modern interpretations…
Various headless female staues, perhaps deities (two of them are from the classical and hellenistic period respectively). At the front there is also the small poros statue of Harpokrates- the greek version of the Egyptian god Horus. And at the very back the draped figure is male. Found in Achinos.
Marble statue of an Aphrodite of the “Frejus” type, copy of the roman Imperial period from an original of the late Classical period. Found in East Locris.
Marble statuette of Dionysos, copy of the 2nd century A.D from an original of 4th century B.C, found in Stylida (Ancient Phalara)
About the immortality of the soul and her journeys, and not only… “They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one’s life in the utmost holiness.“For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these She restores in the ninth year to the upper Sun again; from them arise” “glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time are they called holy heroes amongst mankind.” (Pind. Fr. 133 Bergk). Seeing then that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no wonder that she should be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue and other things.” Plat. Meno 81b
[Pinax of Persephone and Hades on the throne. Found in the holy shrine of Persephone at Locri- now in the Museo Nazionale Archeologico at Reggio Calabria]
When I have read about the Eleusinian Mysteries, it is sometimes said that the initiates maybe witnessed a ritual involving the birth of a Divine Child. The main source for this seems to be the church father Hippolytus, who claimed that at the high point of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the hierophant shouted “Lady Brimo has given birth to a son, Brimos”. Most modern scholars assume that the child is Ploutos (“wealth”), whom Hesiod tells us was Demeter’s son by Iasion and whom, according to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Demeter and Persephone send to the doorsteps of those who have been initiated into their mysteries. But in Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets by Fritz Graf and Sarah Iles Johnston, another identity of the mother and child is suggested.
It should be noted, though, that Hippolytus is not a so very reliable source. According to the authors, he has taken his information from a Gnostic tract that in turn focuses on an older pagan commentary on a hymn to Attis. So the phrace “Lady Brimo has given birth to a son, Brimos” may not come from the Eleusinian Mysteries at all, in spite of what Hippolytus said.
Hippolytus understands “Brimo” and “Brimos” to be synonyms for “strong” and therefore explains the passage as meaning “a strong mother has given birth to a strong child”. But when “brim-” words mean “strong”, the connotation is always of overwhelming, and sometimes terrifying, strength. It is not something that we would naturally associate with a pleasant god like Ploutos, whom a peaceful, placated Demeter offers to initiates as a reward. Graf and Johnston mean that Dionysos is a more likely candidate (one of his epithets was Bromios, “noisy”, “roaring”)
But who is Brimo? According to the authors, it’s a name that enters Greek literature rather late and is sometimes used to refer to Hekate, other times to Demeter, but most often to Persephone. If we assume that “Brimos” refers to Dionysos and “Brimo” to Persephone, then we have “Lady Persephone has given birth to a son, Dionysos” - a reference to the Orphic myth of how Persephone was impregnated by Zeus and gave birth to Zagreus/Dionysos.
However, Graf and Johnston suggest that this Orphic myth and cult was created in the early fifth or late sixth century BCE, inspired by the much older mystery cult at Eleusis (since no trace of the myth, or mention of any relationship between Dionysos and Persephone, can be found before that). So if this pronouncement really comes from an Eleusinian context (in the way that Hippolytus transmits it), and refers to Persephone and Dionysos, it must have been added later.
Image: fragments of a pinax from the sanctuary of Persephone in Locri, 5th century BCE. A female figure (maybe Persephone) opens a basket containing a child. Original image belongs to Dan Diffendale and can be seen here. I cropped it a bit to make the child easier to see.