Chthonic (UK /ˈkθɒnɪk/, US /ˈθɒnɪk/ from Greek χθόνιος khthonios [kʰtʰónios], “in, under, or beneath the earth”, from χθών khthōn “earth”)2)Chthonios, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus. literally means “subterranean”. The translation of meaning discusses deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for “earth”;[not verified in body] it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does), or the land as territory (as khora(χώρα) does).[not verified in body] It evokes, simultaneously, abundance and the grave.
Chthonic and Olympian
Chthonic, which is a form of khthonie and khthonios, has a precise technical meaning in Greek, referring primarily to the manner and method of offering sacrifices to specific deity(ies).
Some chthonic cults practised ritual sacrifice, which often happened at night. When the sacrifice was a living creature, the animal was placed in a bothros (βόθρος, “pit”) or megaron (μέγαρον, “sunken chamber”). In some Greek chthonic cults, the animal was sacrificed on a raised bomos (βωμός, “altar“). Offerings usually were burned whole or buried rather than being cooked and shared among the worshippers.3)“The sacrifice for gods of the dead and for heroes was called enagisma, in contradistinction to thysia, which was the portion especially of the celestial deities. It was offered on altars of a peculiar shape: they were lower than the ordinary altar bomos, and their name was ischara, ‘hearth’. Through them the blood of the victims, and also libations, were to flow into the sacrificial trench. Therefore they were funnel-shaped and open at the bottom. For this kind of sacrifice did not lead up to a joyous feast in which the gods and men took part. The victim was held over the trench with its head down, not, as for the celestial gods, with its neck bent back and the head uplifted; and it was burned entirely.” (Source The Heroes of the Greeks, C. Kerenyi pub. Thames & Hudson 1978).
Cult type versus function
The myths associating the underworld chthonic deities and fertility were not exclusive. Myths about the later Olympian deities also described an association with the fertility and the prosperity of Earth. Thus Demeter and Persephone both watched over aspects of the fertility of land, yet Demeter had a typically Olympian cult while Persephone had a chthonic one.
Also, Demeter was worshiped alongside Persephone with identical rites, and yet occasionally was classified as an “Olympian” in late poetry and myth. The absorption of some earlier cults into the newer pantheon versus those that resisted being absorbed is suggested as providing the later myths.
Ambiguities in assignment
The categories Olympian and chthonic were not, however, completely separate. Some Olympian deities, such as Hermes and Zeus, also received chthonic sacrifices and tithes in certain locations. The deified heroes Heracles and Asclepius might be worshipped as gods or chthonic heroes, depending on the site and the time of origin of the myth.
Moreover, a few deities are not easily classifiable under these terms. Hecate, for instance, was typically offered puppies at crossroads—a practice neither typical of an Olympian sacrifice nor of a chthonic sacrifice to Persephone or the heroes. Because of her underworld roles, Hecate is generally classed as chthonic.
References in psychology and anthropology
In analytical psychology, the term chthonic was often used to describe the spirit of nature within; the unconscious earthly impulses of the Self, that is one’s material depths, however not necessarily with negative connotations, see also anima and animus or shadow.
As well, the chthonic has connotations with regard to gender, in cultural anthropology; del Valle’s Gendered Anthropology describes there being “male and female deities at every level… men associated with the above, the sky, and women associated with the below, with the earth, water of the underground, and the chthonic deities.”4)Teresa del Valle, Gendered Anthropology, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-415-06127-X, p. 108 This was by no means universal; in Ancient Egypt the main deity of the earth was the male god Geb, his female consort was Nut, otherwise known as the sky.5)Geraldine Pinch, “Handbook of Egyptian Mythology”‘ ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-57607-242-8, p. 135. Greek mythology likewise has female deities associated with the sky, such as Dike, goddess of justice who sits on the right side of Zeus as his advisor, and Eos, goddess of dawn—and Hades as god of the underworld.
1.0 Chthonic law
2.0 Earth mother
5.0 Sky father
CHTHONIC DEITIES6)sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Greek_mythological_figures
1.0 AMPHIARAUS (Ἀμφιάραος), a hero of the war of the Seven Against Thebes who became an oracular spirit of the Underworld after his death
2.0 ANGELOS (Ἄγγελος), a daughter of Zeus and Hera who became an underworld goddess
3.0 ASKALAPHOS (Ἀσκάλαφος), the son of Acheron and Orphne who tended the Underworld orchards before being transformed into a screech owl by Demeter
4.0 CERBERUS (Κέρβερος), the three-headed hound who guarded the gates of Hades
5.0 CHARON (Χάρων), ferryman of Hades
6.0 EMPUSA (Ἔμπουσα), a monstrous underworld spirit or spirits with flaming hair, the leg of a goat and a leg of bronze. They are also servants of Hecate.
7.0 EREBOS (Ἔρεβος), the primeval god of darkness, his mists encircled the underworld and filled the hollows of the earth
8.0 The Erinyes (Ἐρινύες), the Furies, goddesses of retribution, known as “The Kindly Ones”
8.1 ALECTO (Ἀληκτώ), the unceasing one
8.2 TISIPHONE (Τισιφόνη), avenger of murder
8.3 MEGAERA (Μέγαιρα), the jealous one
9.0 HECATE (Ἑκάτη), goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts, and necromancy
10.0 Judges of the Dead
10.1 AIAKOS (Αἰακός), former mortal king of Aegina, guardian of the keys of Hades and judge of the men of Europe
10.2 MINOS (Μίνως), former mortal king of Crete and judge of the final vote
10.3 RHADAMANTHYS (Ῥαδάμανθυς), former mortal lawmaker and judge of the men of Asia
11.0 KEUTHONYMOS (Κευθόνυμος), an Underworld spirit and father of Menoetes
12.0 CRONUS (Κρόνος), deposed king of the Titans; after his release from Tartarus he was appointed king of the Island of the Blessed
13.0 LAMIA (Λάμια), a vampiric Underworld spirit or spirits in the train of Hecate
14.0 Lampades (Λαμπάδες), torch-bearing Underworld nymphs
14.1 GORGYRA (Γοργύρα)
14.2 ORPHNE (Ορφνη), a Lampad nymph of Hades, mother of Askalaphos
16.0 MELINOE (Μελινόη), daughter of Persephone and Zeus who presided over the propitiations offered to the ghosts of the dead
17.0 MENOETES (Μενοίτης), an Underworld spirit who herded the cattle of Hades
18.0 MORMO (Μορμώ), a fearsome Underworld spirit or spirits in the train of Hecate
19.0 NYX (Νύξ), the primeval goddess of night
20.0 HADES (¨Αδης) God of underworld and all things beneath the earth
21.0 PERSEPHONE (Περσεφόνη), queen of the underworld, wife of Hades and goddess of spring growth
22.0 Rivers of the Underworld
22.1 ACHERON (Αχέρων), the river of pain
22.2 KOKYTOS (Kωκυτός), the river of wailing
22.3 LETHE (Λήθη), the river of forgetfulness
22.4 PHLEGETHON (Φλεγέθων), the river of fire
22.5 STYX (Στύξ), the river of oaths
23.0 TARTARUS (Τάρταρος), the primeval god of the dark, stormy pit of Hades
24. THANATOS (Θάνατος), spirit of death and minister of Hades
References [ + ]
|2.||↑||Chthonios, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, at Perseus.|
|3.||↑||“The sacrifice for gods of the dead and for heroes was called enagisma, in contradistinction to thysia, which was the portion especially of the celestial deities. It was offered on altars of a peculiar shape: they were lower than the ordinary altar bomos, and their name was ischara, ‘hearth’. Through them the blood of the victims, and also libations, were to flow into the sacrificial trench. Therefore they were funnel-shaped and open at the bottom. For this kind of sacrifice did not lead up to a joyous feast in which the gods and men took part. The victim was held over the trench with its head down, not, as for the celestial gods, with its neck bent back and the head uplifted; and it was burned entirely.” (Source The Heroes of the Greeks, C. Kerenyi pub. Thames & Hudson 1978).|
|4.||↑||Teresa del Valle, Gendered Anthropology, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-415-06127-X, p. 108|
|5.||↑||Geraldine Pinch, “Handbook of Egyptian Mythology”‘ ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-57607-242-8, p. 135.|