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Sunday, 8 April 2012

Greek Goddesses in Classical Mythology

 Andromeda was the perfect mortal damsel in distress. She was the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopia. Cassiopia pissed off the Nereids by saying that Andromeda was more beautiful than they. Poseidon sent a sea monster down that started devouring everything it could. To end the destruction, they decided to sacrifice Andromeda, and chained her to a rock for the monster to eat. Luckily, Perseus (young hero) swooped down to kill the monster and save the girl at just the right moment. He fell in love with her, of course, and wanted to marry her but her parents' disapproved.  So he pulled out the head of Medusa and turned them to stone. Then they got married and had six sons and a daughter. When she died, Andromeda was hung in the sky as a constellation.


 Antigone's story (or rather the short version) is told in the Myth Pages, but since that version isn't finished yet, I'll write a short version here as well. Antigone was the mortal daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta and the sister of Ismene. She was strong in every way imaginable. She openly defied her evil uncle King Creon to bury her brother, Polydices, saying that an immoral law should not be followed. Creon sentenced her to be buried alive. Antigone hung herself soon after she was locked into the cave just before Haemon came to save her.


 Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. Oh, and the patron of prostitutes. The myth of her birth has a couple of versions. The most well known today has her springing from the blood of Uranus after Cronus castrated him, and floating on the sea to Greece,  She was married to Hephaestus, the Smith God, but she slept with Ares. Her "no work" policy may make her seem like a ditz, but this lady had power in plenty.


Ariadne was born the mortal daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae of Crete. When Theseus came to slay the Minotaur, Ariadne helped him by giving him a magic ball of yarn. The two fell in love, but before they could make it back to Athens (from whence Theseus came) She was accidentally marooned on an island. Dionysus found her and the two were married (Ariadne and Dionysus).


 Artemis was the Goddess of the Hunt. She had 50 hounds and 50 Dreiads (wood nymphs) and a quiver full of painless silver arrows. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto as well as being last of the three maiden goddesses (in addition to Hestia and Athena). Artemis didn't carry the moon across the sky, but being a moon goddess was definitely part of her identity. Stunningly beautiful, she swore never to marry.  She was the Protector of Young Women as well as a midwife. She was incredibly cool for a lot of reasons, but my favorite is that her worship ranged from very dark (human sacrifice) to personal (virgins dedicated her their lingerie on the night they married) to just fun (women dressing up like a bear and dancing).


Abandoned her  father, raised to be a huntress by a bear, swore never to marry, fights Calydonian Boar, ends up losing a race and marrying Hippomenes. Incredible role model, awesome story, unbelievable woman.


Athena was the Patron Goddess of Athens, the Goddess of Wisdom, and the Goddess of Weaving. She was the Goddess of lots of other things, too, but I'm not gonna list 'em. She was a warrior - which is why she's so often shown with a spear and a shield with Medusa's head on it and armor) and another of the three virgin goddesses (in addition to Hestia and Artemis). Her father was Zeus. Technically her mother was Metis (Goddess of Prudence), but it is generally accepted that she had no mother. Athena's got a leading role in a whole bunch of great myths including the Odyssey .  


Daughter of the Titan Atlas, she lived on the island Ogygia. . Odysseus (of the Odyssey, yes, that's  was washed ashore. Calypso fell in love with this shipwrecked hunk o' burnin' love, and offered him eternal life to stay with her (which he refused, good for him - he had a wife, Penelope). They were lovers, though against his will. After seven years, Athena complained for Odysseus to Zeus, and Hermes was sent to Calypso to order her to set him free. She did so reluctantly, helping him make a small boat to get free of the island.


Charybdis was once a nymph, the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia. And she flooded lands for her father's underwater kingdom until Zeus turned her into a monster and had her suck in and out water three times an day. She lived in a cave on the Sicilian side of the Strait of Messina, opposite the monster Scylla, the two of them forming a dangerous threat to passing ships. She probably explained a whirlpool. Odysseus managed to avoid Charybdis in The Odyssey. This is great: Charybdis literally means "sucker down".

 The Charites

The Charites (or the Graces) were three happy Goddesses of Beauty. They were named: •Aglaia, Splendor
•Euphrosyne, Mirth
•Thalia, Good Cheer
They were the first ones to welcome Aphrodite when she was blown to shore by the East Wind. The three of them rode in a chariot pulled by white geese. Their name in Greek would have been the Charites. They were the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome (see below). Originally (as in pre-classical mythology), they were goddesses of fertility and nature and were much more closely associated with the underworld and the Eleusinian mysteries.


 According to Edith Hamilton, the Chimaera, killed by Bellerophon, was female. So she fits right in here. That picture on the right is one person's idea of what a Chimaera looked like - e! It was one of Echidna's offspring, and was killed when Bellerophon (on his flying horse Pegasus) thrust a lead spear down one of her three throats. She breathed fire (cuz she was cool like that) and melted the spear. But the lead dripped into her belly and killed her.

Chimaera means "She-Goat". The background of this page has Chimaeras on it.  CirceCirce was an evil, or just cruelly quirky, sorceress. She was very powerful and turned all of Odysseus' men into swine (they barely escaped). She also had the power to purify and cleanse the Argonauts of the murder of Apsyrtus. Her name means "Falcon" and that seems pretty appropriate for her character. Circe was the daughter of Helios (the Sun) and Perse, and was the aunt of Medea.


Clytemnestra was the mortal daughter of Leda and Tyndareus, sister of Helen, Castor, and Polydeuces. She married Agamemnon, and had four children (Chrysothemis, Electra, Iphigenia, and Orestes). She never forgave Agamemnon for sacrificing Iphigenia to free the Greek ships so they could go to the Trojan War, and while Agamemnon was gone, she plotted with her lover, Aegisthus, to kill Agamemnon. When Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra killed him and Cassandra. Later in life, with Electra's encouragement, her son Orestes killed Clytemnestra to avenge Agamemnon's death.


Danae was the mortal daughter of Acrisius (king of Argos) who was locked in a bronze room. Her dad locked her there because an oracle said her son would kill Acrisius, and Acrisius wasn't too thrilled with the idea. But no lock stops Zeus, and so Perseus was born. When Acrisius heard, he threw the two into a casket and set them into the sea (so that if they died he couldn't be accused of murder, it would be Poseidon's fault). But they didn't die, and Danae went on to live happily ever after (eventually) and Perseus became a great hero. That picture on the right is of two men putting Danae, grasping her son all the while, into the casket that will soon be set on the sea. It is a John Waterhouse painting in black and white.


 She ran away from Apollo as fast as her legs would carry her, but to little avail. As Apollo closed on her she called out to her father, a river god, to help her. The old god did the only thing he knew how to do, and transformed her. Just as Apollo grabbed her, Daphne's skin turned to bark underneath his fingertips and she grew leaves and foliage. She was transformed into a laurel tree.

Apollo, not one to give up so easily, stroked the tree for a while and then cut off some of her branches and wove them into a crown. If I had been Daphne though, I think I would have found this practice quite painful. At any rate, he proclaimed the laurel as his sacred tree (despite the fact that she despised him). That is where it ends.


Demeter was another daughter of Rhea and Cronus. She was the Goddess of the Harvest or the Goddess of the Fields. Centuries ago Greeks used to break bread in the name of Demeter as well as drink wine to Dionysus.  Demeter was the mother of Persephone and that was one mother-daughter team you shouldn't try to mess around with. When Hades did, Demeter threw the earth into an eternal winter and let nothing grow until someone helped her find her child. Together, Demeter and Persephone were central to the Eleusian Mysteries. (Later, ideas and myths about Demeter were co-opted into the Roman Ceres and maybe even the Magna Mater.


The Draiads were the Nymphs of the Forest, or wood nymphs. Draiads were immortal, unlike other types, like the Hamadraiads, who lived in oak trees and would die when the tree they lived in died. They were the hunting companions of Artemis.


Echo is probably the most famous of all the nymphs. Her name and her voice live on to this day. She was the nymph who had a fling with Zeus and lost her voice when she tried to protect her lover from Hera's vengeance. Then she fell in love with Narcissus.

The Erinnyes

The Erinnyes - in English, the Furies - were some seriously fearsome creatures. They were conceived when Uranus' spilled blood hit Gaia's body, and were therefore older than any of the Olympian Gods. These Erinnyes are crones with snakes for hair, dogs' heads, coal-black bodies, bats' wings, and bloodshot eyes. In their hands they carry brass-studded scourges and their victims die in torment." It isn't a great idea to mention their names in conversation, so instead you should call them the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones. There are three:•Tisiphone, the Avenger
•Megara, the Jealous
•Alecto, the Unresting
Their purpose was to torment sinners, which they did on Earth as well is in Tartarus. The sight of one could cause insanity, and they often drove offenders to suicide. Originally they punished only offenders of patricide, matricide, or breakers of oaths, but after a while they punished any sins. They lived in Erebus (Darkness) but traveled the Earth constantly in search of transgressors.


Eurydice was the Dryad wife of the musician Orpheus. The couple was very much in love and very happy until this dude named Aristaeus fell in love with her too. She was running away from him and stepped on a viper and died. Orpheus wasn't too happy, so he went to the Underworld, and with his beautiful singing, got Persephone and Hades to let Eurydice come back with him. The only thing he had to do was not look back at her until they were out of the Underworld and into the sunshine again. But he couldn't do it and sneaked a peak. As he did he saw Eurydice slide back to world of shades led by Hermes. He tried again, but found he couldn't get back into the Underworld.

 The Fates

The Fates, also called the Moerae or the Parcae, determined when life begins, when it ends, and what happens in between. They were made up of three women:.

Clotho, who appeared as a maiden and spun the thread of life. Her name meant The Spinner.

Appeared as a matron and measured the thread of life. She was the Caster of lots.

Atropos who cut the thread of life, and appeared as a crone.

 Her name meant, Unbending Though the smallest of the three, she is the most terrible. They were the daughters of Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (or of Zeus and Themis). Some say that Zeus could intervene in their decisions and that they could be manipulated, but in most myths they were eternal and more powerful than any of the Gods. Another story says they are the parthenogenesis daughters of Ananke. In Delphi, they only worshipped Clotho and Atropos.


Gaea is Mother Earth. She is from whom everything comes, but she is not quite a divinity, because she is Earth. She bore the Titans as well as monsters like the hundred armed men, and some of the Cyclopes - others were sons of Poseidon. She was the daughter of Chaos. She was the first and the last, and wanted all of her children, no matter what. She was primarily spoken of as a Mother of other Gods, rather than having her own myths. Still, she's a major player in the myths of the sucession of the King of Kings.

 The Gorgons

There were three Gorgons, they were all sisters. Two of them were immortal, but Medusa wasn't. (She ended up getting her head chopped off and having an immortal flying horse jump out of her body). The three were the daughters of Phorcys (the Sea God) and Ceto (a daughter of Pontus and Gaia). Their names were:•Medusa, her name means Ruler
•Stheno, her name means Forceful
•Euryale, and her name means Far-Roaming
 All three sisters were unbelievably beautiful and turned to stone anyone stupid enough to look at them. In their beauty, they were covered in golden scales with hissing and writhing snakes for hair. Their sisters, the Graiae guarded their home from beyond the sea. ! By the way, in Classical Mythology they are depicted as ugly. The reason for this is that Medusa slept with Poseidon in Athena's temple and Athena was so outraged she cursed all three sisters to their hideousness.

The Graeae

The Graeae, or the three Gray Sisters, were beautiful. They were described as "fair-faced and swan-like" but they had gray hair from the day they were born and they shared one eye and one tooth, but they lost even that when Perseus stole their eye and later threw it in a lake. Despite being so easily taken advantage of, they were very wise. Their names were:•Deino or Dread (or Terrible)
•Enyo or Horror (or War-like)
•Pemphredo or Alarm (or Wasp)
They were probably goddesses worshipped by the swan cults (swans were not just a symbol of beauty, but also of cunning and other darker meanings).
 The HarpiesThe Harpies were birds with women's upper bodies. Following tradition, there were three of them, they were:•Aello or Aellopus, meaning Whirlwind or Storm foot.

•Ocypete, meaning Swift Wing
•Thyella or Celaeno (though the last is sometimes excluded)
They were the daughters of the Nereid Electra and Thaumas, the son of Pontus and Gaia and they live in a cave in Crete. That made them sisters to Iris! These three sisters were always ravenously hungry. They were often called the Dogs of Zeus (Hades?). The name Harpy means "Snatcher." They were the ones that threw an entire country (Ethiopia I believe, no seriously!) into famine! The Harpies were regarded as storm winds (in the Odyssey), but were the Goddess Athena in her vengeful form before that.


Helen of Troy, or the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships, was the stunningly beautiful mortal and the  daughter of Zeus and Leda. She came out of the same egg as her mortal sister Clytemnestra (she also had two famous brothers, Castor and Polydeuces), but Helen was the immortal sister. Helen was abducted by Theseus when she was still a child, so Theseus left Helen with his mom (Aethra) but she was rescued by her brothers. Later Helen married Menelaus (brother of Agamemnon, her sister Clytemnestra's husband) and bore him a daughter named Hermione. But then Paris came along (review the story of the Golden Apple in the Myth Pages) and abducted her and started the Trojan War (which of course they blamed on Helen, not Paris or Aphrodite). After the Trojan War ended, Helen and Menelaus were reunited and lived happily ever after.


Hera is most well known for being the wife of Zeus and the Queen of the Gods. She was also the youngest daughter of Rhea and Cronus. Her bird is the peacock, and in almost every myth she is portrayed as being maliciously jealous. But it must also be remembered that she was the Protector of Marriage. It is believed by some scholars that she earned her bad reputation by being combined with a similar Phoenecian goddess. This scholar, however, thinks that the role of the shrewish wife was one has been pretty institutionalized in patriarchal cultures. Construct a culture so that women's only access to legitimate power is through a faithful relationship to a powerful husband, and you'll get a culture full of women who guard their only assets fiercely.


Hestia was the eldest of the 12 Olympian Gods and the eldest daughter of Rhea & Cronus. When she began her role as a Goddess, she had a throne of her own in Olympus, but when Dionysus grew into Godhood, she willingly gave up her throne to him, choosing the hearth as an alternative. She is the Goddess of Hearth and Home she is also one of the Three Virgin Goddesses. Her symbol was kept in every house, and whenever a child was born the parents had to carry the child around the symbol before he or she could be accepted in the family.


Iolo  was the beautiful mortal princess of Argos who had the misfortune of being loved by Zeus before  Hera appeared. Zeus, trying to save his and Io's skin, turned Io into a white cow. But Hera wasn't stupid and knew exactly what her wayward husband had done and asked Zeus for the cow. She had her hundred-eyed servant Argus guard Io. Zeus sent Hermes after Io, and the Messager God bored poor Argus to death (literally) and got Io away. Then Hera sent a gadfly after Io who chased her (still in cow form) until she got to Egypt, where Zeus returned her to human form. She is also known as the Egyptian Goddess Isis or Hathor (different versions).


For someone in so many myths you'd think there'd be more about her! She was the daughter of the Titans Phoebe and Coeus, that makes her a sister of Asteria (the mother of Hecate - see above). She was the mother of the twins Artemis and Apollo. She was a Moon Goddess (not a big surprise, considering her parents and siblings.


Although she was mortally born as the Princess of Colchis, she was the niece of Circe, and therefore a powerful sorceress. She had serious power, but ended up turning evil when she was scorned by her lover, Jason. She ended up becoming a dragon.

 The Muses

The Muses were nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. They played and sang all of the time and entertained the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus. They also inspired creativity in everyone. The Muses were:•Erato, the Muse of Lyrics
•Euterpe, the Muse of Music
•Thalia, the Muse of Comedy
•Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy
•Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance and Choral Song
•Urania, the Muse of Astronomy
•Clio, the Muse of Historical and Heroic Poetry, her name meant "Proclaimer"
•Polyhymnia, the Muse of Hymns
•Calliope, the Muse of Epics
The last Muse, Calliope, had a child with the King of Thrace. The child's name was Orpheus.


The Naiades were the nymphs of freshwater streams rivers and lakes, but were not limited to these water courses. Many Naiades could be found prancing around with Artemis, who chose 20 Naiades from Amnisus for companions. They were the daughters of rivergods. They had extremely long lifetimes, but they were not considered immortal, and were believed to have sat in on the Gods discussions on Olympus. There were 5 types of Naiades:•Pegaiai, the Nymphs of Springs
•Krinaia, the Nymphs of Fountains
•Potameides, the Nymphs of Rivers and Streams
•Limnades or Limnatides, the Nymphs of Lakes
•Eleionomai, the Nymphs of Marshes
Naiades had a tendency to fall in love and marry humans. Hylas was one such case.  NausicaäThe mortal daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians and his consort, Arete. When Odysseus shipwrecked on Alcinous' island, Scheria, he was found by Nausicaä. She received him with elegance and great hospitality and brought him to her father's palace. She is one of the most charming figures in the Odyssey.


Niobe was the mortal Queen of Thebes, but she wasn't very smart and she was very very proud of her children, so one day she made the mistake of going around and telling everyone that she had 14 kids and  was better than Leto. After all, Leto only had two. Which happened to be Artemis and Apollo. Artemis and Apollo, when they heard, were enraged and flew down to the home of Niobe and Amphion (her husband). Apollo killed all of the seven sons, and Artemis killed all seven daughters save Chloris. Anyway, Niobe was inconsolable, and she fled to Mt. Siplyon where she sobbed and sobbed. Eventually the Gods turned her into a stone (out of annoyance or pity) but she continued to cry.


There were 3000 Oceanids, and they were all the Nymphs of the Ocean. Their mother was the Titaness Tethys and their father the Titan Oceanus.


Pandora is a mortal  woman who was made by all of the Gods, and given a box that she was instructed not to open. But, the Gods also installed curiosity in the poor girl, and once she was placed on Earth, what could she do but open the box. All at once a myriad of undesirables  flew out and started plaguing mankind. Luckily she closed the box in time to keep Hope in there, who would have perished against such odds. After the great flood brought by Zeus,


Pasiphae was the mortal daughter of Perse and Helius and the wife of King Minos (therefore, she was Queen of Crete). Minos insulted Poseidon this one time, and Poseidon made Pasiphae fall in love with a bull. So Pasiphae, in love with this bull, got this great inventor/builder named Daedalus to build her a wooden cow she could crawl inside, and through it, mate with the bull. Through this, she became the mother of the monster the Minotaur. She was also the mother of Glaucus, Andogeus, Phaedra, and Ariadne by her husband, Minos.


Penelope was the mortal wife of Odysseus, and a good wife at that. You should already know about her because EVERYONE should know the Odyssey, but I guess it's okay if you don't. One story about her is that while Odysseus was away (yes, he was being kept away by Calypso and some other gods) everyone thought Odysseus was dead, and were trying to get Penelope to remarry. Well now, she didn't think Odysseus was dead, but she wasn't certain. What she WAS certain of, was that she didn't want to remarry. So, to fool everyone, she said she would marry when she finished making a funeral shroud for her aging father-in-law (Laertes). But she tricked everyone because she would weave it all day, and then unravel her weaving all night. When Odysseus was an old man and was unwittingly killed by his stepson, Telegonus, Penelope married Telegonus.


Persephone was special. She was the daughter of Demeter, and called Kore which simply means Maiden. As such, she was the Goddess of Spring. One day, as she was out picking flowers, Hades, the God of the Underworld, abducted her, raped her, and made her Queen of the Underworld. In that role she has often been described as a cold and unhappy goddess. Some have described her as the Light link between the Underworld and Earth as opposed to Hecate. Demeter fought hard to get her daughter back and eventually rescued her from the Underworld, but Persephone must always return to the underworld every year. It involves pomegranate seeds.


Psyche means Soul, and she was its personification in a lovely story. She was the wife of Eros (God of Love, son of Aphrodite) and their myth is about how Love and the Soul came together.  More or less the story goes that her family offended Aphrodite, and they left Psyche on a mountain as a sacrifice for a monster in penance. Monster ended up being super hunky Eros, but she wasn't allowed to know. When she finds out, and he finds out that she finds out, the challenges begin and Psyche has to win Eros back from his mama by completing a series of errands (read: impossibly difficult tasks) for her. She does and they all live happily ever after.


She was originally an Mother Goddess, and an Earth Goddess. But when Zeus and the Olympians cult came along and Rhea became the Goddess who was the Mother of the Olympians. She was part of the Titan cult, wife and sister to Cronos. She saved her kids from being eaten, and it was because of her cunning that Zeus and his siblings came to power. She was also called Cybele. She was a very important Goddess around Mesopotamia.

ScyllaScylla grew up a beautiful maiden nymph, the daughter of Phorcus and Ceto. One day while she walked along the water's edge a man turned sea-god, Glaucus, spotted her. He lusted after her, but, in she did not return that love. A jealous Circe, who was in love with Glaucus herself, changed Scylla into a monster with. She was human to the waist, but below that were biting snapping dogs. She had become a monster.

She sat on the Italian side of the straits of Messina gobbling up anything that came within her reach. In The Odyssey, Odysseus manages to avoid Charybdis, but loses six men to Scylla. Scylla probably explained a partially submerged rock that ships foundered on. There is also a human named Scylla, in case you came here by mistake. Scylla means "She who rends".


Selene was the Goddess of the Moon. She was the daughter of the two Titans Hyperion and Themis (see below). She married mortal Endymion (a shepherd who ended up sleeping forever) and had 50 daughters (I don't know what happened to them). She is a part of the Triple Goddess.


Semele was a Princess. One day Zeus came to her and the two made love. She became pregnant with a son, Dionysus, but jealous Hera ended up getting rid of her before she could have the baby. Zeus saved it and sewed it into his leg from which it was born. She was killed when she made Zeus swear (because of Hera) to show himself in all of his glory. He could not break his oath, so he did, and she was burned to a crisp.


Their name means those who bind, and it is very appropriate. The Sirens were beautiful half fish half woman creatures who sang so beautifully that any man who heard them was compelled to jump off of his ship (they lived on rocks in the sea) and swim to them. Unfortunately most of the sailors died in the rough water and those who didn't perished of hunger because they never moved from the Sirens. There were originally two of them, then three, and then more as writers just liked to add to them. They are most famous for their participation in the Odyssey. In this story, Parthenope, Ligeia and Leucosia sang to the Argonauts who were only saved by Odysseus filling their ears with wax and Orpheus playing VERY loudly. Odysseus tied himself to the mast of the ship so he could not get away.

The Sphinx
 She was the riddler who was part woman part lion. She killed anyone who couldn't answer her riddles, but wouldn't let anyone through the gates she stood in front of unless they could (answer her riddle that is). When Oedipus finally did, Sphinx stopped terrorizing Thebes and went away. She was a daughter of Echidna. Sphinx means "Throttler." You can read more about her in the story of Oedipus.


She was a Naiad. Her name meant literally Hateful. This may have been because her river was the one that all of the dead must pass. Her river was the most holy and sacred, and to swear on it was the most holy oath a God could make.  SyrinxSyrinx was a beautiful Arcadian river nymph who had the misfortune to be pursued by the ugly god Pan.. She fled to her little river in terror of being ravaged and called loudly to the Gods to help her.
 They heard her and in their mercy turned her into a reed (which is what the name Syrinx means) among the many other reeds on the bank. Pan was very disappointed, but cut off many of the reeds and formed the "Panpipes" or the shepherd's flute. Pan goes around playing it everywhere, and who knows if one of those reeds was Syrinx or not. This story is hardly original, but it's something you should still know it. It follows the same formula as the myth of Daphne.


Thetis was the chief Nereid for a long time, and it was she who found the baby Hephaestos and nursed him back to health after he was thrown from Olympus. Zeus wanted her for his lover, but she rejected him. Then, the Goddess Themis prophesied that she would bear a son mightier than his father. She did, and ended up becoming wife to Peleus, and mother of Achilles. As his mother, she tried to make him invincible. There are two versions of what she did, and why she missed his heel.

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