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Melinoe

Ag melinoe by rorozoro-d90k7vz

Names (S)
Melinoe
Rules Over
Ghosts
Title
Goddess Of Ghosts
Gender
Female
Parents
Consort
Nil
Siblings

Melinoe is the goddess of ghosts. She was the daughter of Hades and Persephone. Melaina ("The Black One") is the under-earth or chthonic aspect of the Greek Great Goddess, said to bring nightmares.

Name Meaning

Melinoë may derive from Greek mēlinos (μήλινος), "having the color of quince," from mēlon (μῆλον), "tree fruit". The fruit's yellowish-green color evoked the pallor of illness or death for the Greeks. A name derived from melas, "black," would be melan-, not melin-. Melinoe: “Soothing One,” “Gentle-Minded,” or perhaps “of the Color of Quince”

Birth

In the Orphic Mysteries, a spin off from traditional Greek Mythology, Melinoë is the daughter of Persephone, who was visited by Zeus disguised as her husband Hades. Although the wording of the hymn is unclear at this point, Zeus becomes angry upon learning of the pregnancy and rends her flesh, trying to kill the child.

There are other traditions that call her a daughter of Hades himself. Among them include the story of Melinoe's contraception upon the Island Nysion (Or Mysion) when Hades engaged in a tryst with his wife, Persephone, although no surviving scriptures detail this as unlike the Orphic Tradition, this story has been passed down orally.

Both parentages afirm that Melinoe is not only born but conceived at the mouth of either the Cocytus or the Acheron, one of the rivers of the underworld, where Hermes in his underworld aspect as psychopomp was stationed. 

Hymn

Following is the translation by Apostolos Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, of the Orphic hymn to Melinoe, presenting Melinoe as the daughter of Zeus and Persephone. Unlike the hymn below that was passed orally, this hymn was written down as part of the Orphic Mysteries: 

I call upon Melinoe, saffron-cloaked nymph of the earth,
whom revered Persephone bore by the mouth of the Kokytos river
upon the sacred bed of Kronian Zeus.
In the guise of Plouton Zeus and tricked Persephone and through wiley plots bedded her;
a two-bodied specter sprang forth from Persephone's fury.
This specter drives mortals to madness with her airy apparitions
as she appears in weird shapes and strange forms,
now plain to the eye, now shadowy, now shining in the darkness—
all this in unnerving attacks in the gloom of night.
O goddess, O queen of those below, I beseech you
to banish the soul's frenzy to the ends of the earth,
show to the initiates a kindly and holy face.

The following is a alternate adaption of the 'Hymn to Melinoe', presenting Melinoe's alternate parentage of Hades and Persephone:

I call upon saffron-veiled Melinoe,

Conceived from the Daughter of Demeter and the Son of Kronos,

Born from when blissful life and dreaded death mixt,

It was there, where flows the woeful river of Acheron, 

Zeus Katachthonios seduced Kore Karpophoroi,

So Thy limbs are partly black and partly white,

Night’s Daughter and Daughter of the light,

Thy fair spectre, now veiled in shadow,

Now shimmering silver, inspires mortal fear.

Terrestrial Queen, expel from our hearts,

The soul’s mad fears wherever found,

And with holy aspect bless this incense,

And Thy mystics, and this divine rite.

Alternate Interpretations

Melinoe is depicted in numerous different ways in modern society. Because of the Orphic's writing down their myths the most common interpretation of Melinoe is that she is the daughter of Zeus and Persephone. However many believe that she, along with Hades, Zagreus and numerous other gods, was a victim of syncretism.

There were many gods and goddesses that were similar to others and these were combined to make singular gods. For instance, nearly all the chief sky gods of the Greek city states become Zeus before the rise of the polis.

Zeus, Zeus Pater (Jupiter) and Deus all mean the same thing, then it can be inferred that Zeus is a title, much like Caesar or king. Most of Zeus’ epithets are related to the city in which he was worshiped. In the Hymn to Melinoe, Kronian means ‘son of Kronos’, which was a title also widely applied to Hades. In several places like Locri, Eleusis, Corinth and Ephyra, Plouton (Hades) and Persephone were the chief deities, the ones responsible for the fertility of the earth, for the cycle of life and death. As a Father-Mother god pairing much like Zeus and Hera, they had children to rule over other aspects of their dominion. But during the rise of the polis and the writing down of oral myth, Zeus became the chief dominant god in a fractious region united by a single pantheon ruled over by a single sky god. Chief deities of the sea became Poseidon in much the same way, and Hades was relegated from rulership over the earth with his wife to rulership over only the dead. To make the pantheon make sense and include all gods, there couldn’t be two chief deities of the living world. Those writing down the myths also surmised that Hades, as the ruler of the dead, was infertile and could not have produced children like Melinoe and Zagreus. Hades, in his aspect of Zeus Katachthonios, the king beneath the earth, lost his role as father to his children because of syncretism. Zagreus and especially Melinoe remained, and their paternity was quickly attributed to the most common source of paternity in Greek myth: Zeus Olympios.

However it is possible to read between the lines in the Orphic hymns. For example, in Zagreus’ conception, the father appears as a snake, a creature who is deeply chthonic in its mythic origins. In this way, the father is written into this myth in code, not outright, as Hades. A few lines are added to reference back to Zeus, but the deeper symbolism points to Hades. In the conception of Melinoe above, Persephone is impregnated by the shores of the Cocytus, but strangely at the same time in the bed of Zeus Kronion, which here translates to the king son of Kronos, which could also be Hades.  

The line describing how Zeus took Hades’ form to conceive Melinoe on Persephone is about as clear an indication as we can have that the original source of the myth was ret-conned to have Zeus be the father. 

Melinoe was important enough to enough people as the daughter of Hades and Persephone that the myth had to be written this way in order to say to the people that “we know you worshipped her this way, as the daughter of Hades and Persephone, but here is what actually happened. This is what everyone should believe now, but if you want to keep believing that Hades was her father, here is how you can go right on ahead and do that”.

If it is not meant to be interpreted this way, then why bother going to all the trouble of saying that Zeus had to take Hades’ form to conceive the child? Wouldn’t Melinoe’s birth have been just as equally valid if Zeus had simply done what he did with almost every other one of his bedmates and ravished Persephone unwillingly?

The answer is clearly no, and the fact that the text exists to so elaborately explain Melinoe’s conception is the signifier that her original myth was different.

Appearance

She has a pale complexion and short temper, taking after her father Hades in almost every way, except for her extreme beauty which she gets from her mother Persephone. She is said to possess a mixture of black and white hair, representing her Upperworld and Underworld heritage. When she haunts mortals, she is said to possess a half black, half white demonic appearance.

Personality

Melinoe is described as lonely and sad because all mortals fear her.

Powers

Melinoe has the powers to turn any mortal insane with her ghostly phantoms. She leads the restless and vengeful spirits of the Underworld to haunt the living during the night. This is said to be the reason why dogs howl at nothing.

Melinoe can create illusions for people who regrets someone's death.

Modern Culture

  • She appears in the story "The Sword of Hades" in Rick Riodrdan's book "The Demigod Files"


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