September 15, 2008


Persephone and Hades in the underworld, courtesy of wikipedia.

If this is your first visit to Goat Rope, the current theme is the Odyssey of Homer and what it has to say to us today. There are also links and comments about current events. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts. Right now we're about to visit the land of the dead.

According to Greek myths, Zeus divided up dominion over the cosmos with his two divine brothers. He got the sky, Poseidon got the sea, and Hades got the underworld, or land of the dead--not exactly prime real estate.

Hades was also known as Pluto, a word associated with wealth as in plutocracy. That was probably because valuable minerals were buried under the earth and because he was kind of greedy for souls; once you go there, you're probably not getting out. Over time, Hades became the name of the place.

Hades doesn't show up in a whole lot of myths, but the best known one is of his abduction of the beautiful Persephone or Kore (meaning "young girl"), daughter of the earth and grain goddess Demeter. When her daughter was taken, Demeter was so bereaved that she wouldn't allow the crops to grow, thus threatening the whole order of things. Eventually a deal was worked out whereby Persephone divided her time between the underworld (the winter) and Olympus (spring and summer).

There's a whole lot more to the story. One good primary source is the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.

The whole story of Hades, Persephone and Demeter gave rise to one of the earliest and most long-lived mystery cults of antiquity, the Eleusinian Mysteries, which endured for well over 1000 years in the ancient world before being suppressed by imperial Christianity late in the 4th century.

Those initiated were sworn to secrecy about the ritual, an oath that they pretty much kept over all those years. Scholars are still debating the secrets of the cult, but they included a procession, sacrifice, fasting, drinking a special brew, and being shown some sacred symbols. It was believed that being initiated among other things improved one's lot after death.

In general, though, the underworld was a place you didn't particularly want to visit if you could help it, although a few heroes did and got out again. More on them tomorrow.

SPEAKING OF HADES, the US financial system may be going there.

HUNGRY COUNTRY. Here's more from AARP's coverage of hunger in America today.

HUNGRY STATE. This item from yesterday's Charleston WV Gazette-Mail looks not just at the demand for food from charities but its quality.

THEM BELLY FULL BUT WE HUNGRY to quote the immortal Bob Marley. This item looks at CEO pay and other corporate skullduggery.

DINOSAURS. Were they fitter than the competition or just lucky?


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