We’ve officially started!
Day Five of the A-to-Z Challenge in April 2017. Let’s do this.
This year there’s no linky list or form to fill out to sign up. It might be too late to join at this point (unless you were double posting), but you can always cheer/comment on participants (and find awesome bloggers) at the A-to-Z’s official blog.
Now I should warn, that I didn’t stick to the common sense rule of writing short, pithy posts. Mine are long and bloated, but I’m having fun with it. And if you wanna skim, that’s absolutely cool with me!
Leave a comment down below with your blog so I can visit. I’m thrilled to be making new friends. 🙂
As part of my Greek mythic figures, places, and things theme, my “E” post brings us to the Elysian Fields, sometimes called the Isles of the Blessed, but more known as the Greek mythological version of mortal paradise. And, no, it isn’t up on Mount Olympus hanging with the Olympian gods. (If that’s your idea of heaven…)
No, it’s down in the Underworld.
Wait, no, is that right?
The thing is no one could decide where these fields of paradise were: Homer wrote that the Elysian fields were located in the Oceanus River. Others claimed the Isles of the Blessed were somewhere in the Western Ocean. The West was a coordinate, in a lot of cultures, seen as being associated with death and the dwelling of the departed. What with the sun setting that way and all, understandable why such an assumption could be made (not that it has validity).
So whether it’s the Underworld or elsewhere, the purpose of the Elysian Fields was at least agreed upon. It was a place for blessed/good mortal souls to R.I.P. forevermore.
Initially the Elysian Fields were believed to be the resting place for heroes favored by the gods. They were made immortal there. That changed to include any mortal the gods deemed blessed, and they were conferred with immortality. It’s a redundant point, isn’t it? I’m dead anyways. How’s immortality going to help me? Can I die twice?
Before I continue you, I’ll throw up a map. I came across this from the informative website, Tales Beyond Belief:
Now we have a visual, let’s move on.
Elysium or the Elysian Fields?
What’s the difference between Elysium and the Elysian Fields (sometimes also called the Elysian Plain)?
No difference. They were the same. The word Elysium and Elysian derive from a Greek noun, perhaps a formation from the verb eleuthô which meant “to relieve, unburden, release”, presumably from mortal pain and hindrances.
But if we had to look at these two as separate places, Elysium could be seen as the broader plane, which both the Elysian Fields and the “Palace & City of Hades” rested, and the two areas were divided by the river Lethe.
Now in some sources, the Elysian Fields/Isles of the Blessed was definitely reserved for the Greek heroes of legends, but when reincarnation became popular, a normal, non-hero soul could gain access to the Elysian Fields if the “soul which had won passage three times to the netherworld Elysium would, with their fourth death, be transferred to the Islands of the Blessed to dwell with the heroes of myth for all eternity” (source).
House of Hades:
The “Palace & City of Hades” on the map was also known as the House of Hades. It, too, was a wonderful place to be, with its inhabitants being the righteous souls of those who observed Mysteries in their life. Only some gods, Persephone and Dionysus included, could give souls the access to the House of Hades through their Mysteries.
The journey of the soul:
So how does a good soul journey from their mortal death to immortal afterlife?
First Hermes, the Olympian messenger god, gathered all souls bringing them to Charon, the ferryman of the River Styx.
All souls, good and evil, traveled by the River Styx caging in all of the Underworld. Charon expected a tip: one coin to be placed in the deceased’s mouth by their living loved ones.
I imagine you’ll want to pay Charon. Not sure what happens if you don’t have that coin buried with you… I can’t imagine it’s going to be pleasant.
Charon brought all souls before the Judges of the Dead, Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus. They were, in some versions, half-mortal sons of the god Zeus who gained their new stations after their death. In life, they were just and good, and supposed purveyors of law and order on Earth.
The judges’ roles were telling. Rhadamanthus was the judge of all souls of Asia, and Aeacus judged the souls of Europe. Minos being the tie-breaker vote. There was also a fourth judge, Triptolemos, for the souls of the Mysteries.
Asia and Europe, huh?
What about the other continents?
It does make sense though. It’s possible most of the Greek civilization interacted with Asia, more than, say, Africa. And perhaps they might not have seen African souls as deserving of their Underworld.
But, hey, one source mentioned this interesting information.
Once the souls faced judgment, the good ones were forced to drink from the river Lethe. Lethe was also a goddess of forgetfulness. So her waters naturally made the blessed souls forget their lives, therefore their cares in their mortal existence. Now they could truly start their new “immortal” lives in Elysium.
Like really, that’s it. The end of life as we know it. Unless you’ve won yourself reincarnation.
I wonder how they pass time in Elysium?
My sources to help with this post were:
Resourceful sites! Be sure to check them out!