Chthonic in ancient Greek means “of the earth”, as opposed to the heavenly deities who lived in Olympus. These deities could be deities of the fertile earth, like agricultural deities, or else of the underworld. Heroes and the spirits of the dead were also considered chthonic.1
Tag Archives: oracle
Dione and the Oracle at Dodona
The oracle at Dodona was the oldest in Greece, with only Delphi rivaling it in prestige. There was a main temple, probably dedicated to Zeus and Dione, with several smaller temples around the site. (At least one, near the theatre, had dedications to Aphrodite, Dione’s daughter by Zeus, according to local myth.)
Dione: the Divine
Dione, whose name means Divine or Goddess, is mainly known as Aphrodite’s mother, but she had her own cult, centred around the oracle at Dodona. She was probably a Mycenean goddess, but her origin is somewhat mysterious.
The Avenging Furies
The Erinyes, to give them their Greek name, were avengers, who punished murders and other serious crimes, especially crimes against the family. Blood, both in the sense of blood spilled and kinship, was their concern.
The Melissae: bees and the goddess
A tablet in Linear B from Knossos reads:
To all the gods, honey
To the mistress of the labyrinth, honey.
The civilization at Knossos, on the island of Crete, preceded that of the Greeks. While it is hard to say exactly how much of the later Greek culture reflects that of the Cretans, both considered honey a gift worthy of the gods.
White Ravens and Apollo
Two stories about Apollo, one well-known and one obscure, focus on white ravens. Odin sent out ravens to learn what was going on in the world, but Apollo’s white ravens also brought messages to humans, as servants of the god of oracles. The one occasion when a raven brought him news ended very badly indeed. Continue reading
Koios: famous for being obscure
I have a tag I use from time to time: “obscure deities”. The Titan Koios (or Coeus) was famous for being obscure. In the Metamorphoses, the ill-fated Niobe says of him and his daughter Leto:
Now, ask what the reason is for my pride, and then dare to prefer Latona to me, that Titaness, daughter of Coeus, whoever he is. Latona, whom the wide earth once refused even a little piece of ground to give birth on.
(Latona is the Roman name for Leto.) Even in her great access of hubris, the only thing Niobe could say of Coeus/Koios was that no one knew who he was. A quick look at online guides to Greek myth shows that Koios is by no means famous now, but there seems to be a desire to fill out his dossier.
The Greek god Apollo is the most rational, artistic and fastidious of the Olympians. So why is an animal noted for its ravening nature part of his cult?
Pluto: Hidden Riches
Although most of us think of Pluto as the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Hades, it is one of the Greek god’s titles, usually given as Pluton, Wealthy. This referred both to the earth’s fertility and the mineral riches that could be mined from it.
Theia, Phoebe, Helia
The family of the sun-god Helios features many minor goddesses of sun and light. Helios is the main god of the sun; his name, and his resemblance to many Indo-European sun-gods and goddesses puts that out of doubt, but it is interesting how solar females cluster around him.
Some of these goddesses may well have had their own solar cults long ago, but it’s impossible to verify now. Two of them were his mother and aunt, the other was his daughter. (Helios’s lineage also includes the witches Circe and Medea, as well as Hecate, a grand-daughter in some versions of her family tree.)