The Underworld, quick and dirty

Here’s whatcha need to know:Persephone, by Hein Lass

  • The Underworld is where people’s souls go when they die. All people, good and bad. It is, unsurprisingly, located under the world we inhabit
  • It is not Hell and people aren’t generally punished (with a few exceptions)
  • It is shady and dark and covered in boring flowers called Asphodel except for the Elysian Fields which are bright and sunny, but only really special people get to go there (like Achilles and Helen)
  • It is ruled by Hades, and is sometimes confusing referred to simply with his name (or more often the genitive form of his name in ancient Greek) and he has a big scary three-headed dog
  • It’s also ruled by Persephone, who got stuck there by eating a pomegranate, but neither she nor Hades judges you, they have three other guys for that.
  • Once you die you get coins put in your mouth to pay the Ferryman who’ll take you to the Underworld; he will not take you back.
  • Once you get there, if you’re normal, you drink the Kool-Aid the River Lethe and forget your life, which may be a blessing; also you may get back some memory if someone (like Odysseus) digs a trench and gives you some blood
  • Going there and getting out is a good way to know you’re a hero

This is a little different if you’re into Orphism in which case the Underworld is just a place to go and get reincarnated until you’ve wiped sin from your soul (the sin of the Titans, from whose ashes humans are born in the Orphic tradition, eating the murdered Dionysus).

It is a fascinating place and the center of lots of chthonic power, but you alread know about that from reading Dark Earthy Death Goddesses and How To Pronounce “chthonic”.

[EDIT] Check out an awesome post about the mythic descent to the Underworld and its gender ramifications over at Gorgon Resurfaces.


4 responses to “The Underworld, quick and dirty”

  1. Little known fact about Hades I picked up reading the Percy Jackson series with my son: Cerebus loves red rubber balls. Play a little fetch with him and he will let you right through.

  2. I really liked the Harry Potter version of Cerberus Fluffy. Now I think of Orpheus and Harry Potter in the same thought – in that particular book, the parallel even works a while!

  3. Looking back, I misspelled Cerberus. I am ashamed. I’m certain there is a special place in Hades for English teachers who can’t spell.

    I have a Cerberus/Fluffy action figure on my desk at school – a gift from a brown-nosing student. I love those types.

  4. Ailia,

    Thanks so much for deeming my Female Hero post “awesome!” 🙂

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