Hades

This information comes from http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/religion/hades.htm

Hades was the god of the dead, who ruled the place where dead people went after they died. He is a rather shadowy figure in more ways than one, spooky, and the Greeks preferred not to talk about him too much. Generally people who had good intentions did notsacrifice to Hades either. When they did, instead of burning the fat and thebones so the smoke would go up to the sky, instead they poured blood into pits or ditches dug into the ground (as in the part of Homer‘s Odyssey where Odysseus visits the Underworld).
Hades was thought of as the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, and therefore also the brother of Demeter and Hera.

Like Poseidon, Hades does not appear in very many Greek myths. The best-known of the myths he is in are those of Persephone andOrpheus.
People sacrificed to Hades when they wanted something bad to happen, like if they were trying to get revenge on an enemy.

The Greeks did not like to talk about what happened to you after you died, and so we don’t know as much about what they thought as we might like. Probably they did not think about it as much as later people like the Christians and theBuddhists did, or at least not in the same ways.

Most Greeks believed that everybody had a spirit, which lived on after your body died, and they thought of this spirit as being rather like our ghosts, sort of transparent and floaty, but looking like the living person otherwise.

They thought that you had to do certain ceremonies when somebody died, in order to let their spirit go to the land of the dead. If you did not do these ceremonies, their spirit would continue to hang around the land of the living, haunting you and making a nuisance of itself. The most important thing was that dead people had to be buried. (see the story of Antigone, for instance).

After your body had been buried, so you were under the ground, you could cross an underground river, the river Styx (pronounced STICKS), to get to the land of the dead. Often dead people were buried with a small coin or two to pay the ferryman, Charon (KA-ron) who took you across the river Styx.

Then when you got to the land of the dead, it was basically like any place underground: dark, damp, and chilly, with nothing much to do, and lots of ghost-spirits floating around, bored and depressed, sounding like thousands of bats. You just stayed there forever. There was no promise of a better place for good people, or a worse place for bad people. Hades was king there, and sometimes Persephone was the queen.

When Odysseus visited the land of the dead and saw the spirit of Achillesthere, he asked him what it was like, being dead, and Achilles said that he would rather be a landless field hand, and alive, than be the king of the dead.

This description is about the same as what other ancient people thought around the same time. The Zoroastrians and the Jews had similar ideas. Gradually people got more interested in the afterlife, and by the time of Jesus everyone – not just Christians – was beginning to think about a different afterlife for good and bad people.

 

To find out more about Hades and the underworld, check out these books from Amazon.com or from your local library:

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