“When, under Hades’ semblance, Zeus divine deceived with guileful arts dark Persephone. Hence, partly black thy limbs and partly white, from Hades dark, from Zeus ethereal bright. Thy coloured members, men by night inspire when seen in spectred forms, with terrors dire; now darkly visible, involved in night, perspicuous now they meet the fearful sight.”

Orphic Hymn

The Dark Daughter of Spring

The goddess of nightmares

A chthonic goddess, Melinoë is a sort of unrecognized princess of the underworld. She was the daughter of Persephone and Zeus when the king of the gods disguised himself as Hades and laid with Persephone. When Hades learned of the pregnancy and betrayal by his brother for violating his wife, rage turned him against the unborn child. When Melinoë was born, however, she had the immaculate beauty of her mother, and Hades’ heart was softened. He raised her as his own, and with this upbringing, myth says Melinoë’s body was half black and half white, reflecting the good and evil of her parentage.

Many inhabitants of the underworld were masters of the dream. Melinoë was as well. Her father Hades taught her its ways, although she came to it naturally where he was learned. She was always closer to her adopted father than her true-blooded mother, the goddess of spring, Persephone. She never met her blood-father, although the truth of her parentage is widely known within the circles of the court. The resulting rejection is perhaps part of her morbid personality.

The World of Dreams

As goddess of nightmares and ghosts, she sought those black storms in the dream world, sought them and bent them to her will, crafting horror stories the human dreamer could never imagine themselves. Sometimes, that person would wake insane, and whether Melinoë did it on purpose is unknown. Hades was strict however, demanding that she leave nightmares alone or be banned from the world of dreams forever. But even he could not contain the fullness of her abilities, and despite what love she held for her adopted father, she defied his wishes as she battled the light and dark within her.

She drives mortals to madness with her airy phantoms,
As she appears in weird shapes and forms,
Now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness,
And all this in hostile encounters in the gloom of night.

A magical bronze tablet was able to placate Melinoë, able to thwart her manipulation of nightmares or even drive her out of one. It is triangular in shape, with a hole in the center, presumably for suspending it over a surface.

Current incarnation

… but she goes by Mara. She is quietly insane in her present life, being separated from the supporting relationships that the Goddess of Nightmares previously depended upon.

The most common English name for her preferred name is of course “nightmare,” stemming from the Anglo-Saxon “mara,” which translates to “crusher.” The fiendish mara looks like a small elf or imp, much like the chest squatter from Henry Fuseli’s famed painting. Other species of nightmare, however, take on wilder forms.

Friends and companions

Melinoë had few friends in the waking world. Her vibrant and efficacious mother was constantly flustered by her daughter’s reclusive and morbid nature, traits she took more after Hades. As a result, she rarely associated herself with the Royal Chthonian Court, preferring the companionship of nightmares and the lesser Court of the Oneroi instead. Of its members, she was particularly close to Lethe, goddess of oblivion, whom she loved like a sister. The king of the court of the Oneroi was he was someone she feared as he had the power to destroy her nightmares if they grew beyond her control, creatures she loved and nurtured. Despite shirking the commands of King Morpheus, her father, Hades was always able to placate her where none others could.