Chthonic

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The Remorse of Orestes, where he is surrounded by the Erinyes, who were identified as chthonic beings, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862 Orestes Pursued by the Furies by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1862) - Google Art Project.jpg
The Remorse of Orestes , where he is surrounded by the Erinyes, who were identified as chthonic beings, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

Chthonic ( /ˈθɒnɪk/ , UK also /ˈkθɒn-/ ; from Ancient Greek : χθόνιος, romanized: khthónios [kʰtʰónios] , "in, under, or beneath the earth", from χθώνkhthōn "earth") [1] literally means "subterranean", but the word in English describes deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in Ancient Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to that which is under the earth, [2] rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does), or the land as territory (as khoraχώρα does). [3]

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Chthonic cults

Triptolemus standing between Demeter and Kore, relief from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens NAMA Triade eleusinienne.jpg
Triptolemus standing between Demeter and Kore, relief from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Chthonic, a form of khthonie and khthonios, has a precise meaning in Greek; it refers primarily to the manner and method of offering sacrifices to a specific deity or deities, generally referred to as chthonic or chthonian deities. These include, but are perhaps not strictly limited to, Persephone and Hades in classical mythology.

Nocturnal ritual sacrifice was a common practice in many chthonic cults. When the sacrifice was a living creature, the animal was placed in a bothros (βόθρος, "pit") or megaron (μέγαρον, "sunken chamber"). [4] In some Greek chthonic cults, the animal was sacrificed on a raised bomos (βωμός, "altar"). Offerings were usually burned whole or buried rather than being cooked and shared among the worshippers. [5]

In his book The Mycenaean World, linguist and classicist John Chadwick argues that many chthonic deities may be remnants of the native Pre-Hellenic religion and that many of the Olympian deities may come from the Proto-Greeks who overran the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula in the late third millennium BC. He does, however, note that this may be somewhat of an overgeneralization and that the origins of chthonic and Olympian deities are probably much more complex. [6] The German classicist Walter Burkert explicitly rejects the notion of chthonic deities as pre-Greek and the Olympian deities as Indo-European in his book Greek Religion. [7] He comments, "It is the chthonic choai which are related to Indo-European, whereas the Olympian sacrifice has connections with Semitic tradition." [8]

Distinction from Olympian cults

Cult type versus function

The myths associating the underworld chthonic deities and fertility were not exclusive. Myths about the later Olympian deities also described an association with the fertility and prosperity of Earth, such as Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, who both watched over aspects of the fertility of the land, but Demeter had a typically Olympian cult while Persephone had a chthonic one, possibly due to her association with Hades, by whom she had been captured. [9] [10]

Ambiguities in assignment

The categories Olympian and chthonic were not, however, completely separate. Some Olympian deities, such as Hermes and Zeus, also received chthonic sacrifices and tithes in certain locations. [11] The deified heroes Heracles and Asclepius might be worshipped as gods or chthonic heroes, depending on the site and the time of origin of the myth.

Moreover, a few deities are not easily classifiable under these terms. Hecate, for instance, was typically offered puppies at crossroads  a practice neither typical of an Olympian sacrifice nor of a chthonic sacrifice to Persephone or the heroes but because of her underworld roles, Hecate is generally classed as chthonic.

References in psychology and anthropology

In analytical psychology, the term chthonic has often been used to describe the spirit of nature within, the unconscious earthly impulses of the Self, that is one's material depths, not necessarily with negative connotations. [12] See also anima and animus or shadow.

The term chthonic also has connotations with regard to gender in cultural anthropology; del Valle's Gendered Anthropology describes the existence of "male and female deities at every level... men associated with the above, the sky, and women associated with the below, with the earth, water of the underground, and the chthonic deities". [13] This was by no means universal; in Ancient Egypt the main deity of the earth was the male god Geb, his female consort was Nut, otherwise known as the sky. [14] Greek mythology likewise has female deities associated with the sky, such as Dike, goddess of justice, who sits on the right side of Zeus as his advisor, and Eos, goddess of dawn and Hades (a male) as god of the underworld.[ citation needed ]

References in structural geology

The term allochthon in structural geology is used to describe a large block of rock that has been moved from its original site of formation, usually by low angle thrust faulting. From the Greek "allo", meaning other, and "chthon", designating the process of the land mass being moved under the earth and connecting two horizontally stacked décollements and thus "under the earth". [15]

Related Research Articles

Demeter Greek goddess of the harvest, grains, and agriculture

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito (Σιτώ), "she of the Grain", as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros, "Law-Bringer", as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

Hades Greek god of the underworld in Greek mythology

Hades, in the ancient Greek religion and myth, is the god of the dead and the king of the underworld, with which his name became synonymous. Hades was the eldest son of Cronus and Rhea, although the last son regurgitated by his father. He and his brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, defeated their father's generation of gods, the Titans, and claimed rulership over the cosmos. Hades received the underworld, Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the sea, with the solid earth, long the province of Gaia, available to all three concurrently. Hades was often portrayed with his three-headed guard dog Cerberus.

Hecate or Hekate is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding a pair of torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery. She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod's Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace.

Poseidon Ancient Greek god of the sea, earthquakes and horses

Poseidon was one of the Twelve Olympians in ancient Greek religion and myth, god of the sea, storms, earthquakes and horses. In pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, he was venerated as a chief deity at Pylos and Thebes. His Roman equivalent is Neptune.

Persephone daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Persephone, also called Kore, is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable, majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. She becomes the queen of the underworld through her abduction by and subsequent marriage to Hades, the god of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis, and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.

Zeus Ruler of the gods in Greek mythology

Zeus is the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who rules as king of the gods of Mount Olympus. His name is cognate with the first element of his Roman equivalent Jupiter. His mythologies and powers are similar, though not identical, to those of Indo-European deities such as Jupiter, Perkūnas, Perun, Indra and Thor.

Hestia Greek goddess

In Ancient Greek religion, Hestia is the virgin goddess of the hearth, the right ordering of domesticity, the family, the home, and the state. In Greek mythology, she is the daughter and firstborn child of Kronos and Rhea.

Eleusinian Mysteries ceremonies in ancient Greece

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiations held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. They are the "most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece". Their basis was an old agrarian cult, and there is some evidence that they were derived from the religious practices of the Mycenean period. The mysteries represented the myth of the abduction of Persephone from her mother Demeter by the king of the underworld Hades, in a cycle with three phases: the descent (loss), the search, and the ascent, with the main theme being the ascent (άνοδος) of Persephone and the reunion with her mother. It was a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spread to Rome. Similar religious rites appear in the agricultural societies of Near East and in Minoan Crete.

Semele Mother of Dionysus in Greek mythology

Semele, in Greek mythology, was the youngest daughter of the Phoenician hero Cadmus and Harmonia, and the mother of Dionysus by Zeus in one of his many origin myths.

Dīs Pater deity

Dīs Pater was a Roman god of the underworld. Dis was originally associated with fertile agricultural land and mineral wealth, and since those minerals came from underground, he was later equated with the chthonic deities Pluto (Hades) and Orcus.

Ancient Greek religion religion in ancient Greece

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Twelve Olympians the major deities of the Greek pantheon

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the twelve Olympians are the major deities of the Greek pantheon, commonly considered to be Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Hermes, and either Hestia or Dionysus. They were called Olympians because, according to tradition, they resided on Mount Olympus.

Olympians (Marvel Comics) Fictional comic book species

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Greek underworld location in Greek mythology

In mythology, the Greek underworld is an otherworld where souls go after death. The original Greek idea of afterlife is that, at the moment of death, the soul is separated from the corpse, taking on the shape of the former person, and is transported to the entrance of the underworld. The underworld itself—sometimes known as Hades, after its patron god—is described as being either at the outer bounds of the ocean or beneath the depths or ends of the earth. It is considered the dark counterpart to the brightness of Mount Olympus with the kingdom of the dead corresponding to the kingdom of the gods. Hades is a realm invisible to the living, made solely for the dead.

Melinoë is a chthonic nymph or goddess invoked in one of the Orphic Hymns and represented as a bringer of nightmares and madness. The name also appears on a metal tablet in association with Persephone. The hymns are of uncertain date but were probably composed in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. In the hymn, Melinoë has characteristics that seem similar to Hecate and the Erinyes, and the name is sometimes thought to be an epithet of Hecate. The terms in which Melinoë is described are typical of moon goddesses in Greek poetry.

In Greek mythology, Despoina was the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon and sister of Arion. She was the goddess of mysteries of Arcadian cults who was worshipped under the title Despoina, alongside her mother Demeter, one of the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Her real name could not be revealed to anyone except those initiated to her mysteries. Writing during the second century A.D., Pausanias spoke of Demeter as having two daughters; Kore being born first, before Despoina was born, with Zeus being the father of Kore and Poseidon as the father of Despoina. Pausanias made it clear that Kore is Persephone, although he did not reveal Despoina's proper name.

An Earth goddess is a deification of the Earth. Earth goddesses are often associated with the "chthonic" deities of the underworld.

Mythic Warriors is an animated television series, which featured retellings of popular Greek myths that were altered so as to be appropriate for younger audiences, produced by Nelvana and Marathon Media. Two seasons of episodes were produced in 1998 and 1999; then aired as reruns until 2000, when CBS' abolition of its children's programming resulted in its cancellation. The series was based on the book series Myth Men Guardians of the Legend written in 1996 and 1997 by Laura Geringer and illustrated by Peter Bollinger.

References

Citations

  1. Chthonios, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus.
  2. Kearns, Emily (2011). Finkelberg, Margalit (ed.). "Chthonic deities". The Homer encyclopedia. Wiley. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  3. Elden, Stuart (9 September 2013). The birth of territory. University of Chicago Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN   9780226041285.
  4. Dillon 2002, p. 114.
  5. "The sacrifice for gods of the dead and for heroes was called enagisma, in contradistinction to thysia, which was the portion especially of the celestial deities. It was offered on altars of a peculiar shape: they were lower than the ordinary altar bomos, and their name was ischara, 'hearth'. Through them the blood of the victims, and also libations, were to flow into the sacrificial trench. Therefore they were funnel-shaped and open at the bottom. For this kind of sacrifice did not lead up to a joyous feast in which the gods and men took part. The victim was held over the trench with its head down, not, as for the celestial gods, with its neck bent back and the head uplifted; and it was burned entirely." (Source The Heroes of the Greeks, C. Kerenyi pub. Thames & Hudson 1978).
  6. Chadwick 1976, p. 85.
  7. Burkert 1985, pp. 18–19.
  8. Burkert 1985, p. 19.
  9. "Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece - The British Museum". www.ancientgreece.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  10. "DEMETER - Greek Goddess of Grain & Agriculture". Theoi Greek Mythology. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  11. "Which cities had chthonic Zeus cults?". mythology.stackexchange.com. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
  12. Jung, C. G. (2012-02-01). Man and His Symbols. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN   9780307800558.
  13. Teresa del Valle, Gendered Anthropology, Routledge, 1993, ISBN   0-415-06127-X, p. 108.
  14. Geraldine Pinch, "Handbook of Egyptian Mythology"' ABC-CLIO, ISBN   1-57607-242-8, p. 135.
  15. DiPietro, Joseph A. (December 21, 2012). Landscape Evolution in the United States: An Introduction to the Geography, Geology, and Natural History. Newnes. p. 343. ISBN   9780123978066 . Retrieved 10 February 2016.

Bibliography