God of the Underworld Pantheon: Ancient Greek - ᾍδης, Hādēs, Aidoneus Parents: Kronos and Rhea Siblings: Zeus, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera, Demeter Wife: Persephone Reincarnation: Nikolai Brandon, Ascendancy
“We are three brothers born by Rhea to Kronos, Zeus, and I, and the third is Hades, lord of the dead men. All was divided among us three ways, each given his domain. I when the lots were shaken drew the grey sea to live in forever; Hades drew the lot of the mists and the darkness, and Zeus was allotted the wide sky.”– Poseidon, Homer’s Iliad
Hades, ruler of the underworld, and god of the dead, is a powerful and feared god of the Greek pantheon. Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. His general appearance was described a dark-bearded, regal god enthroned in the underworld. Hades was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was often maintaining relative balance. He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and was therefore most often associated with death and feared by men, but he was not Death itself.
Lowering is his brow, yet such as wears the aspect of his brothers and his high race; his countenance is that of Jove, but Jove the thunderer; chief part of that realm’s grimness is its own lord, whose aspect whate’er is dreaded dreads.
He is called The Pitiless One, Ruler of the House of Wailing.
War of the titans
Formidable in battle, Hades proved his ferocity in the famous Titanomachy, the war of the Olympians versus the Titans that established the rule of Zeus. Upon reaching adulthood, Zeus managed to force their father, Kronos, to disgorge the siblings he had devoured. After their release, six gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged the elder Titans for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades received weapons from the three Cyclopes to help in their war: Zeus, the thunderbolt, Hades, the Helm of Darkness, and Poseidon, the trident. The night before the first battle, Hades put on his helmet and, being invisible, slipped over to the Titans’ camp and destroyed their weapons. Many more battles were to follow. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods and the imprisonment of the Titans.
Division of the world
In Greek mythology the world was divided into three parts following the victory against the Titans: heaven, water, and the underworld. The three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades agreed to draw lots to decide who ruled over each division. Zeus drew the sky, Poseidon seized the sea, and Hades became the ruler of the underworld. They left the earth as open territory, a common ground with no specific ruler.
Zeus was elected leader by the rest of the gods and immediately granted each god and goddess a domain of control. Additionally, he was made protector and judge of the gods. He acted as a king would, with all of existence as part of his realm. Through the creation of laws and the establishment of oaths, Zeus established order and punishment.
As Lord of the underworld, Hades was responsible for the care and protection of the souls of the dead. Today, the word Hades refers to the underworld itself as well as the god. The dead themselves existed in hades as shades and shadows, much like the shadow of living people. Every shade was forced to cross the River Styx in order to enter the underworld. The crossing required the ferryman Charon to take each shade across at the price of his own choosing. Hades also placed his guard dog Cerebrus on the opposite side of the River Styx. The three-headed beast was as ferocious as it was powerful. Any shade that tried to escape was devoured by the guardian.
The setting allowed man to learn how to lead better lives while alive. To descend to hades was a punishment of sorts. More literally, Hades made sure that the punishments prescribed by other gods were indeed carried out, acts usually undertaken by the Furies. Hades was also responsible for teaching mankind the rules and respect for the treatment of the departed. Under his rule, numerous funeral ceremonies and proper burial rites were created and enforced.
Hades was an incredibly private god and purposefully stayed out of touch with events on earth. He did not like visitors, and if anyone came to the underworld, they were not likely to leave. To move about unseen, he wore the ‘Cap of Hades’ which rendered the wearer invisible.
Council of the gods
Zeus, Hades and Poseidon were not alone as the gods of the Greeks. Zeus established a council that was composed of the twelve major gods. These members were called Olympians because they lived on Mount Olympus, the mountain home obscured by the clouds. The council includes: Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Ares, Athena, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Dionysus. Hades was not included among the twelve.
Because of his dark and morbid personality, he was not especially liked by either the gods or the mortals. Feared and loathed, Hades embodied the inexorable finality of death:
“Why do we loathe Hades more than any god, if not because he is so adamantine and unyielding?”
The rhetorical question is Agamemnon’s (Iliad, ix). He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and pitiless, he was still just.
He was called Lord, King, and Ruler of his realm. While it was very clear that the Olympians were ruled by the almighty Zeus, and earth and all its domain guarded by the Council of Twelve, Hades and the members of his court, called Chthonians, were clearly excluded. On one hand, he was expected to defer to Zeus when necessary, however on the other, Hades rarely had need.
What was known was that within his borders, Hades had complete authority. His subjects were strictly forbidden to leave his domain, and should anyone try to depart, cheat or steal them away, he would become quite enraged. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cheat or cross him personally, as Sisyphus and Pirithous found out to their sorrow.
The underworld was known as a far distant territory located on the farthest edges of the Earth. Only one landmass could fit such a description: Antarctica. A desolate, cold, unforgiving place where the average man would die quickly, the Underworld was fearsome to imagine. Yet by the grace of channeling, habitable places were formed, known as Elysium.
Palace – The location of Hades’ court and fearsome throne.
Elysian Fields – This was the most lovely and therefore, most artificial land of the underworld fit for only the greatest, most noble denizens in the realm. The fields were filled with eternal sunlight and meadows filled with flowers.
Asphodeal Meadows – This meadow was filled with ash, and was dim and dreary. It was not as uninhabitable as the Fields of Mourning but it was far from paradise of Elysium.
Fields of Mourning – This land was a dark, dreary place lit by a dim, distant sun. The geography was barren and uninhabitable except to be sustained by the power of Hades himself. Most who are banished to the underworld from the kingdoms of Zeus and Poseidon were placed here. To exist here is to suffer eternally.
Tartaros – See below: Tartaros. This land was more a prison than a land, and ended up housing the worst of the world’s perpetrators, destined here to eternally endure punishments fitting their crimes.
The only way safely in and out of the Underworld was through channeling, but to guard the secrets of its wealth and artificial places of paradise, none were permitted to leave. The Ter’angreal, Styx, guarded by Charon, was one such way to travel.
Besides Heracles, the only other living people who ventured to the Underworld were all heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the Sibyl), Orpheus, Theseus with Pirithous, and, in a late romance, Psyche. None of them were pleased with what they witnessed in the realm of the dead. In particular, the Greek war hero Achilles, whom Odysseus conjured with a blood libation, said:
"O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying. I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on, than be a king over all the perished dead."
Perhaps the most fearsome location within all of the underworld was the great prison, Tartaros. The underworld, located at the farthest edges of the known world, was a fitting place to house the conquered generation of gods overthrown by the Olympians. Located within the underworld, responsibility of Tartaros fell under Hades’ domain. It was described as a great pit of the earth, enshrined by walls of bronze and guarded by the Hundred Hands, soldiers and guards known as the Hekatoncheires.
These guardians, also called warders, were violent as the storms and hurricanes of the earth. They were originally imprisoned for their violence and barbaric ways, but in exchange for their freedom, they struck a deal with Zeus to become the new wardens of the prison of Tartaros and were held in check only by the will of Hades himself. Their brothers were the Cyclopes, and in return for freeing their kin, they presented Zeus, Poseidon and Hades with the weapons with which the Olympians went on to use against the Titans: the thunderbolt, trident, and helm of invisibility.
Hades was enthroned in Erebos surrounded by a court consisting of the three Judges of the Dead, the Erinyes (Vengeance Demons), the Moirai (Fates), the Keres (Death-Demons) and Thanatos (Death), as well as the personified underworld Rivers. Together, they made up the Royal Chthonian Court.
Styx, Cocytus, Acheron, Lethe and Pyriphlegethon; these gods and godesses are personified as rivers of the underworld, members of Hades court responsible for carrying out specific tasks on behalf of their master, each given according to their individual strengths:
Acheron – Described as a river of pain whose brackish stream guarded the borders of the underworld. To cross into the underworld, Acheron had to be met, placated, and carried across by the ferries of Charon. A river of the same name led the later Greeks to believe the entrance to the underworld was far to the west.
Cocytus – Described as a dirge, wailing, or lamentation, this river was described as filled with a deep, black ooze and spiked with reeds. Where it crossed the streams of other rivers men were said to meet terrible end. Its course flowed in a circle and at its end fell into a high waterfall near Tartaros. Cocytus the god was in command of this fearsome moat which alone it defended as efficiently as any army.
Lethe – See: Lethe
Pyiphelegthon – This god was the son of Cocytus and a channeler. He was another defensive soldier of Hades known to create enormous and uncrossable rivers of fire.
Styx – She was of the generation of the Titans overthrown by the uprising of the Titanomachy. So corrosive and hateful was this goddess, she was personified as hate itself. It was said she was married to the Titan Pallas, but the wife of this god may or may not be one in the same as his spouse. She betrayed her own generation of Titans in the end, and with her children defected to Zeus. Eventually she was sent to dwell with Hades in the realm of the underworld, perhaps as protection from those she betrayed.
See also: Furia. The Erinyes/Furies were the jailers of the Dungeons of the Damned in Hades, and the goddesses who avenged the ghosts of the dead. They attended throne of Hades and Persephone. Women always, these creatures have abilities to track those who have committed fell crimes, and today, are called the Furia.
The Daimones of the underworld were minor positions in Hades’ court. They include Charon, the ferryman; the Oneiroi or Dream Daimones which carried messages from the underworld to other lands, a group led by Morpheus; the Menoitês, the guards of Hades’ sable-black oxen; Askalaphos the orchardist or keeper of Hades’ orchards; and finally, Thanatos, personified as death itself, he was the minister of Hades’ court, as opposed to Hecate, who was the minister of Persephone.
The three goddesses of fate. They were sometimes portrayed as ministers attendant on the throne of Hades. The Moirai were three sister-goddesses of fate who personified the inescapable destiny of man whose individual lives were depicted as single threads in an overall web of destiny. They included Klotho, Lakhesis, and Atropos. Their powers were outside the control of the gods and as such did not take orders from neither Zeus nor Hades.
The three Judges of the Dead, Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aiakos sat beside the throne of Hades. Aiakos was the guardian of the keys of the Hades and the judge of the men of Europe, Rhadamanthys was lord of Elysion and judge of the men of Asia, and Minos was the judge of the final vote. Some say there was a fourth judge Triptolemos who presided over the souls of the Initiates of the Mysteries. The mortal lives of the three netherworld Judges is not detailed here.
Soldiers of Hades
Called the Kako-daimones, these soldiers and assassins were loyal to Hades and one of the few groups allowed to leave the underworld.
Wealth of the earth
All wealth of the earth was attributed as having come from the underworld, and as such, was also a gift from Hades. To reflect his generosity, Hades was once attributed to having the surname, Plouton. Along these lines, Hades was venerated as a stern ruler but loving husband to Persephone rather than a bloodthirsty animus of the damned and dark, violent abductor. In the centuries following the end of the godwars and the mythologies of the Greeks and Romans splintered, so also did the truth of Hades’ identity likewise splinter.
In the First Age, the current incarnation of Hades is most skilled with channeling the elements of the underground. He can sense, work, and manipulate oil, precious metals, and rocks of the world with ease – talents which the Pattern dictated as necessary for his rise to power.
The helm of Hades rendered the wearer invisible, but Hades’ name itself translates to the word invisible.
By all appearances, Hades traveled in billows in darkness, appearing or disappearing with morbid fascination. In reality, when Hades created gateways, he shrouded the portals in fogs of black cloud to hide his comings and goings.
Hades was the master of a group of Daimones called the Oneiroi. They were members of his court and obedient to his will. This elect group consisted of those trained to travel, communicate, and manipulate the world of Dreams. Hades was likewise a competent walker of the World of Dreams, but not a master of it.
Helm of invisibility
Also called the Helm of Darkness, this object was more clandestine than weapon. It enables the user to become invisible to others and otherwise undetectable to other channelers. Hades was known to sometimes loan his helmet of invisibility to both gods and men (such as Athena and Perseus).
This object was truly a formidable weapon. Hades did not often seek war, but when he joined battle, it was while brandishing this three-forked spear at his side and with it, his hands dealt death worse than any plague. The ornamented tip of his scepter may have been misunderstood at times as a bident.
Urging on his steeds, his terrible steeds, and brandishing aloft his royal sceptre in his strong right arm, he hurled it to the bottom of the pool. The smitten earth opened a way to Hell and down the deep abyss the chariot plunged.”
Chariot of Hades
This dark chariot was drawn by four coal-black horses, and always made for a fearsome and impressive sight. It was upon this chariot that Hades journeyed from his realm to that of the Greeks to capture Persephone.
Throne of Hades
The throne was a seat made of ebony, and positioned center-most in the court of Hades within the palace of the Underworld. It was said even the haughtiest man bent knee before both the throne and he who sat upon it.
Hounds of Hades
Cerberos was described as a three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and a lion’s claws. Some say he had fifty heads, though this number might have included the heads of his serpentine mane. This gigantic hound guarded the gates of Hades’ court. He was posted to prevent ghosts of the dead from leaving the underworld. The hounds of Hades were ferociously loyal to their masters, keenly intelligent, and incredibly strong. They feed the mythologies of the hellhound.
And before them halls of Hades and Persephone a dreaded hound (deinos kunos) Cerberus, on watch, who has no pity, but a vile stratagem: as people go in he fawns on all, with actions of his tail and both ears, but he will not let them go back out, but lies in wait for them and eats them up, when he catches any going back through the gates.’
Unlike the previous items attributed to Hades, these tablets were curses to be used against him, wielded by the Atharim. They are Greek Magical Papyri or stone tablets written with instructions which today would be described as spells and invocations. There were five known to be written in Latin, and an unknown number were written in Doric Greek. Many have been on archaeological excavations of tombs dedicated to Pasianax, the Lord of All – another title attributed to Hades.
Persephone – Queen consort
Lethe – River of oblivion and member of his court
Atropos – Goddess of Fate and member of his court
Melinoe – Step-daughter and goddess of nightmares
Minthe – Hades’ consort when he fell in love with Persephone. She remained his consort during his marriage to his queen, staying with him while Persephone returned to Mt. Olympus in the summer months. Their conflict escalated over time and Persephone (some say Demeter) killed her.
Leuke – Hades’ first consort and lower level nymph goddess
Deeds of the soul
The First Age: Currently reincarnated as Nikolai Brandon. His life is used by the Wheel to weave a Pattern such that his rise in authority brings widespread destruction. In an encounter with an Ijiraq, he was identified as Aidoneus Clymenus, Lord of Shades.
The Fifth Age: Born as Hades, the student of the great Titan Kronos.
The Sixth Age: By virtue of great power, Hades died as one of the last remaining Olympians of the Age.
The Seventh Age: Born at the end of the Age, Nikolai Brandon. He is always the first channeler to be reborn.