Lord of the Dead and God of the Underworld
“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
ᾍδης, Hādēs, Aidoneus, Aidoneus Clymenus
Hades, ruler of the underworld, and god of the dead, is a powerful and feared god of the Greek pantheon. Since Hades ruled the Underworld, he was therefore most often associated with death and feared by men, but he was not Death itself.
His general appearance was described as a dark-haired, regal god enthroned in the underworld. Despite modern connotations of death as evil, and although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just, and his role was often focused on maintaining relative balance.
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 godwars of the Olympians versus the Titans that established the rule of Zeus. The six most powerful gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged the elder Titans for power. 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. Legend says that 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, seas, and the underworld. The perception was that 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 was banished to become the ruler of the underworld. They left the earth as open territory, a common ground with no specific ruler. In truth, Zeus and Poseidon conspired together to rule the majority of the world and banished their more level-headed and fairer counterpart to the farthest ends of the earth.
Zeus was elected leader by the rest of the gods and immediately granted his favorite gods and goddesses 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.
Zeus‘s council of the twelve major gods included: Zeus himself, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Ares, Athena, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Dionysus. Hades was not included among the twelve, an additional insult following his banishment that he did not take well.
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 guarded by the goddess 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. The three-headed beast was as ferocious as it was powerful. Any shade that tried to escape was devoured by the guardian.
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 his famous weapon, the ‘Helm of Hades’ which rendered the wearer invisible.
Seen as stern and cruel, and because of his dark and morbid personality, he was not especially liked by either the gods or the mortals. Feared and loathed as a result as 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?”
For a single path leads to the House of Hades.
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, lifeless 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, such as Elysium.
Royal Chthonian Palace – The location of Hades’ court, fearsome throne, and royal dwelling.
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. It was this artificial paradise that was overseen by Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, goddess of spring, and a singer of flowers.
Asphodeal Meadows – Although named a meadow, this dreadful place 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, deadly 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 was to suffer eternally.
Tartaros – This was the great prison more than a land, and ended up housing the worst of the world’s perpetrators, destined here to eternally endure punishments fitting their crimes. Within the deepest, most fearsome dungeons were eternally kept the Titans, overthrown by the the Brothers.
The only safe way 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 willingly 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.
But them Sky bound and cast into Tartarus, a gloomy place in Hades as far distant from earth as earth is distant from the sky.-Apollodorus, Book 1 Chapter 1
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. His daughter was Menthe, Hades’ consort.
Lethe – The river of Oblivion, she had the power to wipe the memories or lives from anyone she encountered. Her power was particularly observed in the world of dreams, and there worked with Morpheus to carry out the will of her master.
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. She protected the river that served as a boundary to Hades, and when oaths were taken while water from this river was poured from the chalice of Iris, the Olympic goddess that she was still connected, it became the gods’ most sacred vow.
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 the thrones 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 whom Hades recruited from Olympus; the Menoitês, the guards of Hades’ sable-black oxen; Askalaphos the orchardist or keeper of Hades’ orchards; and finally, Thanatos, personified as death itself and served as the minister of Hades’ court, as opposed to Hecate, who was the minister of Persephone’s.
The three goddesses of fate. They were sometimes portrayed as ministers attendant on the throne of Hades. The Moirai were three prophet-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.
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 Beatylus Stones
These were sacred objects of which there were many kinds. The stones were mined in the Underworld and powered some of the gods’ greatest technologies: seeds of angreal.
Of the beatylus stones, there was one type of stone called the omphalos, which translates to “sacred stone”, and were located around the entire planet. Indeed, many pantheons referred to the same entity, which translates to ‘naval of the world.’ From the Islamic Ka’Aba in Mecca, the Christian Garden of Eden and the Hindu god Shiva, to a Navajo mountain somewhere in the Southwestern United States and Easter Island, known to the islanders there as Rapa-nui, were all said—with some interpretative license—to mean “the navel of the world.” These stones and sacred places were believed to be conduits for communication with the gods and some myths extend the story by supposing an umbilical connection meeting there between other mirrored realms and our own.
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.
The god of dreams was Morpheus, King of Dreams and Leader of the Court of the Oneiroi. Originally Morpheus was a messenger of Zeus, and his authority over the dreamworld and place in Hades’ court was traded to him in exchange for his defecting from Olympus and pledging fidelity to Hades.
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.”
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).
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.
For even bold natures flee whenever they see Hades close.
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 and was under the care of Thanatos. 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.
Chair of Forgetfulness
A tool onto which the victim was bound, their memory wiped. Likely operated by Lethe, River of Forgetfulness.
But when Theseus arrived with Pirithous in Hades, he was beguiled; for, on the pretence that they were about to partake of good cheer, Hades bade them first be seated on the Chair of Forgetfulness, to which they grew and were held fast by coils of serpents.-Apollodorus
The Book of Remembering
Hades were famous for his meticulous record-keeping, both an account of the treasures of the underworld and the happenings of all that occurred there. These things were transcribed in series of tablets called “The Book of Remembering,” which would never fade.
You’ll see all other mortal sinners, the ones who flout the honor owed to gods or guests, or loving parents–you’ll see them get the justice they deserve. For Hades holds men mightily to a strict accounting down below the earth; he sees all things, inscribes them within the book of his remembering.
For Hades is mighty in calling men to account below the earth, and with a mind that records in tablets he surveys all things.Aeschylus
Hades was rare to fall in love, but when he did, it was consuming and intense. Moreover, of all the Olympian-derived gods and most particular among the three Brothers, he was quite faithful to his consorts. He never engaged in affairs, and unlike his brothers, never abducted or assaulted another goddess, mortal, nymph or any other being. To this end, the rumors of his affairs were twisted by Zeus to erode his reputation. It was Zeus at Demeter’s behest who spread the rumor of him having abducted Persephone, which was utterly untrue.
- Leuke – The daughter of the Titan Oceanus and granddaughter of Gaia. She was Hades’ first love and consort despite her status as a lower level water nymph. Her personality was quite intense and her brand of humor morbid. In this, Hades found someone with whom he was extremely compatible. She was the daughter of one of the Titans that the Three Brothers overthrew, and some, including Zeus, declared Hades relationship with her to verge on treason. She died young, possibly cursed or poisoned by Olympus, and some said Hades carried her to the Underworld in a desperate effort to save her. Following her demise, she was memorialized across the underworld as a leaf of the white poplar, her favorite tree.
- Menthe – Many years passed following Leuke’s death before Hades’ found his consort. By then, he had retreated exclusively to the Underworld, departing only when he was summoned to Mt. Olympus or to beseech Zeus with a grievance with one of the overworld’s subjects, but even those journeys were extremely rare. Therefore, he met Menthe in the Underworld. Like Leuke, she was a lower-level nymph known primarily as being the daughter of Cocytcus, a member of the Chthonian Court. He was faithful to Menthe for many long years before meeting Persephone, but she remained his consort during his marriage to his queen, staying with him while Persephone returned to Mt. Olympus in the summer months. In the spirit of his faithfulness, Hades shared his affection with both women without overlapping. The conflict between his Queen and his Consort escalated over time and Persephone (some say Demeter) killed her.
- Persephone – His Queen consort and wife. He truly loved Persephone, and was faithful to her while she was in the Underworld during the winter months. He gave Persephone fairly significant authority as Queen of the Underworld. She held her own court, had her own attendants, and was given authority to make decrees and judgements.
- Psyche – In the time when the Atharim began to rise against the gods, strife and erosion of their ruling authority crept into all the courts, including that of the Underworld. The tensions of the time were felt. Added to this, there was some conjecture that Hades and Persephone’s relationship was strained following the death of Menthe. A later, albeit short-lived romance with Psyche was the result.
- Melinoe – The natural daughter of his wife, Persephone with Zeus, following Hades’ adoption, she became his step-daughter and goddess of nightmares.
- Morpheus – The King of the World of Dreams, who served Hades as a messenger, herald, and spy. He was recruited by Hades in defection of his allegiance to Zeus.
- Iris – One of the only gods of Olympus with permission to visit the underworld. She communed with Styx to deliver messages to the Chthonian court. There are no particular tales to suggest she directly communicated with Hades as she likely feared him most of the three ruling brothers.
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 and cunning, 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.