No one truly knows what happens after a person dies, this is one area science cannot investigate or solve. It is a cycle of life. It happens to humans, animals and flora yet why do we dread it? The not knowing is what drives most fears and death is an unknown entity. I believe there is more to this corporeal state and once we shed this mortal coil, we move onto another plane of life. Or perhaps we come back in another lifetime to complete unfinished business. I quite like this idea. Still have plenty to do. What I love about Greek Mythology is the storytellers’ attempt to explain what they couldn’t understand and Hades epitomised this desire to finding out what happens.
The etymology of the word ‘Hades’ is twofold: it refers to a place and the god. It literally means ‘unseen’ which ties in with the element of not knowing what happens after we pass on. Hades was the eldest son of the Titans Kronos and Rhea, and along with his siblings devoured by their father.
Following the war with the Titans, which the Olympian Gods won, Hades and his younger brothers, Zeus and Poseidon drew lots for realms to rule. Each received an object, a symbol of their dominion: Zeus, a thunderbolt or spear according to some myths; Poseidon, the trident; and Hades, a helmet that made the wearer invisible. The same helmet Perseos wore to escape the Gorgones after killing Medousa.
As Hades ruled the dead, he forbade any to leave and if anyone attempted to breakout or someone tried to steal one of the dead back, he threatened them. Heroes Herakles, Odysseus, Aeneas and Theseus were the only ones who entered the underworld and managed to escape. One of my favourite myths regarding bringing someone back from the dead is about Orpheos who endeavoured to rescue his wife. She was bitten by a snake and in his grief sang sad odes which touched the hearts of the gods. They offered a way for him to save Eurydice. With his music he hoped to appeal to the softer nature of Hades and Persephone. They agreed with one stipulation: he walked in front of her and never looked back until he reached the surface. Unfortunately, he did look back and Eurydice was dragged back to the land of the dead.
Another enduring myth was when Hades raped or kidnapped, depending on the storyteller, Persephone. Her mother Demeter roamed the earth searching for her daughter and during this time the land suffered.
Hades, the place, included the Elysian Fields and Tartaros. The Elysian Fields was the final resting place of the souls who were virtuous and was beautiful with an idyllic life; Tartaros on the other hand was reserved for those who did terrible deeds. Condemned for eternity where the punishment fit the crime. In the case of Ixion, who was the first human to kill another. He pushed his father-in-law into a pit of burning coals so he didn’t have to pay something like a dowry for his bride. He spent eternity tied to a flaming wheel.
Charon, the ferryman, aided the deceased as he took them across the river Acheron. Each body would have a coin to pay for the crossing. On the other side protecting Hade’s world was Cerberus, the three-head dog. Much like the Ancient Egyptian myth of the dead, the souls were judged by brothers Minos, Rhadamanthys and Aeacus. Here they may be sent to the Fields of Asphodel if neither worthy nor evil to wander for eternity, or sent to Tartaros or to Elysium.
Hades wasn’t popular amongst the gods and the people reluctant to swear an oath in his name for fear of retribution. I do feel sorry for Hades, for he was reviled for what he epitomised.
For more information on Hades go to Greek-Gods.info
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