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Ploutonic Sun

March 22, 2013
Hades in his chariot

Hades in his chariot

It’s hard to associate Hades with the Sun. After all all, Hades is considered “the dark god” amidst the classical deities, and what likeness does the Underworld have with the most vital and central symbol of divinity?

Surprisingly, there are several sources that seem to associate Hades with solar power, depicting him as a chthonic light-bearer, something quite unlike the usual depictions as the greek Apophis, something that might even extend into the living world. It’s actually not something very unusual in mythology: the Sun’s vicious, destructive nature is commonly depicted in several mythologies, as as the Nergal of the Middle East and Sekhmet of Khemet. Even Apollo is depicted as a plague bearer and destroyer, representing the Sun’s fiery wrath, and most surprisingly also as a god of cemeteries and putrefaction. White, after all, was the colour of death in most cultures.

In Mythology

By himself, Hades is already surprisingly akin to the usual greek sun god. Compared to his sibilings, he is usually depicted as younger and sometimes even more naturally attractive, something at odds with his deathly domain. He rides upon a chariot of gold drawn by immortal horses, a feature that is usually reserved for solar gods – even Poseidon’s chariot is usually described differently -, and he ruled over aspects of fertility, namely rich metals and crops, as well as the Lord of the dream daimones, attributes latter given to the Sun in theurgic and hermetic thought.

Even his most famous myth seems quite solar: although Persephone is often depicted as being with Hades during the Winter, in greek thought it was the Summer instead, when droughts and death occured due to the blazing, harsh Sun, the Winter being the fertile season instead. Helios in the myth is the one deity that most favours the union between Hades and Persephone, implying some sort of sympathy, metaphorical or literal, with the Aidoneus.

Hades has also a role in purification. Just as Apollo cleanses the living and waiting soul, so does Hades cleanse the shades of the Underworld, a process usually linkened to the Underworld waterways that remove away burdens and memories. The destination of the righteous soul is the Elysian Fields, the illuminated plains of the Underworld, a domain that Hades governs over as dictated in his Orphic hymn. The Islands of the Blessed are a related paradise concept, often linkened to the Sun and Moon in theurgic writtings.

Finally, Hades is connected to Apollo in two crucial myths. One is the myth of Admetus, where Apollo is exiled from Olympos. Admetus is an epiphet of Hades, and as such the myth has been interpreted as a descent to the Underworld as means of purification. A direct manifestation is the myth of Orpheus, where the son of Apollo blatantly descends to search for his wife. Hades is won by music, and allows Orpheus to retrieve his love, something he fails at as he breaks his oath of not looking behind. This once again ties to the purificatory aspect of Hades, connected also with notions of rebirth so frequently seen in solar mythology.

Deeper Exploration

In Empedocles’ enigma, the gods Zeus, Hera, Persephone and Hades are attributed to each classical element. While the exact assignment is a mystery, Hades is considered to be assigned to Fire. His domain is the Central Fire, where the Sun goes after each sunset and remains until dawn. Hippocrates said that the soul is the immortal warmth, and Fire is often represented to depict the “higher soul”. The Underworld itself is represented as a crater, a circle around Tartarus, a form that is nothing less than the classical astrological symbol for the Sun, the circle around the dot. Other chthonic deities are also associated with illuminating fire in theurgic thought, like Hekate the Light-Bearer.

That the Sun goes to the Underworld each night in itself is suggestive of a connection; it’s not hard to see Hades as the chthonic god by night and the Sun by day. The most direct example in greek thought has to be the traditions of the Aegean Islands, where the Sun god was outrightly considered to be the King of the Underworld in the night.

The most extreme and direct claim, however, was given by Orphic theology, in which Pluto/Aidoneus is directly associated with the Sun. Here, as in Empedoclian thought, the notion of a Central Fire dictates this logic, arguing that Hades is the Sun below, shining upon the Underworld. Furthermore, in Orphic thought, we are given a perspective very similar to the egyptian Amon-Ra composite: Helios is the visible Sun, whereas Hades is the invisible one, both figuratively and literally, as Hades bears the helmet of invisibility and dwells where no mortal can see his light. The myth of Orpheus has clear

To the greeks, Hecate was often considered a representation of the three deities of the Moon: Selene in Heaven, Artemis on Earth, and Persephone in the Underworld. Likewise, it is possible to form a similar triad for the Sun: Helios in Heaven, Apollo on Earth, and Hades in the Underworld. There is, however, no direct evidence of such a triple god concept.

Conclusions

Hades, therefore, seems to have been considered a chthonic aspect of the Sun, shining on the Underworld during the night. His role, especially in the concept of a Central Fire, seem in a way to hint at heliocentrism, especially given the crater-like nature of the Underworld as it sorrounds the fires of Tartarus, remaniscent of the circle with a dot. His association with the Underworld is further comprehensible in the light of the usual death-connotations that the midday Sun usually has, and aspects of rebirth and fertility can also be observed in his myths, as usual for a solar deity.

Refs:

Biblioteca Arcana

Sun Lore of All Ages

The philosophical and mathematical commentaries of Proclus

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Admantus permalink
    March 31, 2013 3:03 pm

    You also have to remember that the greeks didn’t view the underworld and death the same way as us.

    • April 1, 2013 1:16 am

      Indeed, though their exact views were also notoriously inconsistent, ranging from full acceptance to almost neurotic denial.

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