Lesser Deities and Nature-Spirits

Authored by: Robin Hard

The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

Print publication date:  June  2008
Online publication date:  October  2003

Print ISBN: 9780415186360
eBook ISBN: 9780203446331
Adobe ISBN: 9781134664061


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Before we pass on from divine to heroic mythology, there are various lesser divinities who remain to be considered. From among the children who were fathered by Zeus on goddesses other than Hera (see pp. 76ff), three gracious groups of sister-deities, the Muses, Charites (Graces) and Horai (Seasons), have yet to be discussed. Ranking somewhere between deities such as these and the mortal race were the countless nature-spirits who haunted the waters, countryside and wilderness. Of most importance in everyday belief were the female spirits, the nymphs, familiar presences who were very popular in rural cult; their main male equivalents, the Satyrs and Seilenoi, belonged more to the world of art and literature, as mythical attendants of Dionysos. These male nature-spirits had animal features and ill-controlled appetites, as did the rustic god Pan, who originated in Arcadia as a god of shepherds and herdsmen, and figures in characteristic myths as a frustrated lover. The Phrygian myth of Attis and Kybele strikes a more exotic note in so far as it finds a place in the corpus of Greek mythology. We will conclude by examining various minor gods and daimones who are not included in Hesiod’s genealogies, ranging from the Kouretes and Korybantes to the lustful Priapos and the wedding-god Hymenaios.

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