Pinax of Persephone and Hades on the throne. F...
Pinax of Persephone and Hades on the throne. Found in the holy shrine of Persephone at Locri in the district Mannella, photo by AlMare via Wikipedia

Hades is the ancient Greek lord of the underworld. Also known as Pluton from the 5th-century BCE. Like the Hebraic sheol, the abode of Hades is an afterlife place of gloom and restlessness but not as terrible as the Christian idea of hell, which is more closely akin to Tartarus, a place even deeper and more dreadful than Hades.

The celebrated mythographer Karl Kerényi suggests that Hades had a dual identity of life (as vitality) and death (as afterlife) and that this paradox was apparently known to those initiated into the Greek mystery cults.

The philosopher Heraclitus, unifying opposites, declared that Hades and Dionysus, the very essence of indestructible life zoë, are the same god. Amongst other evidence Karl Kerenyi notes that the grieving goddess Demeter refused to drink wine, which is the gift of Dionysus, after Persephone’s abduction, because of this association, and suggests that Hades may in fact have been a ‘cover name’ for the underworld Dionysus. Furthermore he suggests that this dual identity may have been familiar to those who came into contact with the Mysteries (Kerenyi 1976, p. 240). One of the epithets of Dionysus was “Chthonios”, meaning “the subterranean” (Kerenyi 1976, p. 83).¹

Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to ...
Leighton depicts Hermes helping Persephone to return to her mother Demeter after Zeus forced Hades to return Persepone via Wikipedia

This kind of Jungian “union of opposites” thinking has become popular among some New Age, Zen and NeoTaoist groups today. The polar opposites of life and death, love and hate, good and evil, and so on, are said to more correctly be “complementaries.” And an awareness of their essential interconnectedness apparently leads to greater self knowledge.

Opposed to this view, each in their own way, are the orthodox versions of the “religions of the book,” as they are often called—namely Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. These three world religions share the belief that God is completely good and that evil is a personal rejection of that goodness. As such, the religions of the book don’t advocate some kind of mixing of good and evil as a pathway toward ultimate truth and goodness.

These three religions do differ, however, on the details concerning goodness and how to obtain it in this world and the next.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hades

Related Posts » Blessed Isles, Demeter, Eleusinian Mysteries, Eurydice, Hercules, Hermes, Orpheus, Persephone, Poseidon, Sibyl


  1. You have the definition of Hades correct, but the “Hell” of the new testament is “Geenna”, also known as Hell, The Lake of Fire and the Second Death. This is the final destination for those who reject Christ and are cast into it after the great white throne judgment. The location of the lake of fire is never revealed. It is definitely not within the earth being that Hades and Tartarus are cast into it at the end of the millennium. This is the place that was mentioned by Jesus that was created for Satan and his angels.


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