Hades is best known as the Greek God of the Underworld. Even today, people in English-speaking countries often use the name “Hades” as a synonym for the afterlife. This is apparent in euphemisms, like the expression to “send someone to Hades.”
This isn’t this deity’s only brush with euphemistic language, either. In ancient Greek society, Hades was seldom referred to by name — he was often given epithets like, “The Wealthy One” or the “Zeus of the Underworld” by those seeking to avoid speaking his actual name out loud.
Hades is a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, making him Zeus’ older brother. Cronus knew that he would die by the hand of one of his children one day, so he always consumed his infant children as soon as they were born.
After giving birth to Zeus, Rhea decided that enough was enough — she tricked her husband into eating a stone, and secreted the baby away.
Zeus later forced his father to release his brothers and sisters from his stomach. He then led the gods in battle against the Titans.
Once Zeus and his allies won, the gods drew lots to see which realms of existence they would rule over. Zeus drew the heavens, and Hades drew the Underworld.
Though he’s a very important figure, Hades is primarily known for one legend in particular: The abduction of Persephone. This is a controversial story with many interpretations.
The basic outline of the story is that Hades wishes to marry Kore, the daughter of Demeter. Zeus grants him this, but knows that Demeter would never agree. So, Zeus allows Hades to kidnap Kore and take her to the Underworld.
Demeter pines for Kore and searches all over for her. As she does, all of the lush greenery fades and withers, and the air grows cold. When Demeter discovers that Kore is in the Underworld, she attempts to retrieve her.
Unfortunately for Demeter, Kore has eaten some pomegranate arils while she was with Hades. Having consumed the food of the dead, Kore is no longer able to return entirely to the world of the living.
Instead, she must stay in the Underworld one month for each seed she consumed. When Kore, now renamed Persephone, is with Demeter, the land rejoices and the weather is warm.
When she returns to her husband, Demeter is heartbroken and the land grows cold again. This is why we have the seasons.
Interestingly, despite being a fearsome figure, Hades is almost never portrayed in a negative light. He is chiefly associated with balance — the winter to Demeter’s summer, the soil to Zeus’ thunderbolts, death to life, and darkness to light.
While he’s described as a stern, unyielding figure, he’s never shown being truly evil. Some retellings of Persephone’s story describe her abduction as a rape, but this is controversial.
Scholarly interpretations of the story point out that this appears to be an illustration of ancient marital rites. The rape, in this case, is the act of stealing Persephone from Demeter.
Hades is also portrayed as carefully guarding the souls of the dead. He is very firm when it comes to keeping dead souls in the Underworld, and was known to be angered by anyone trying to steal them away.
According to Socrates, Hades can also be a magical and possibly even charming figure — he claimed that nobody ever left the Underworld because Hades was capable of making anyone fall to his enchantments.
Hades has many different epithets due to the belief that to say his name was to attract his attention. He was called Plouton (“the wealthy one”), Polydegmon (“receiver of many”), Clymenus (“well-known”), and far too many others to list here.
These epithets gave humans a way to refer to Hades without running the risk of being taken off to the Underworld.
Symbols & Associations
Hades is associated with the afterlife, skulls, dogs, snakes, black animals, iron, all gems and metals of the earth, and the color black.
His symbols include a weapon called a bident, which is essentially a two-pointed spear. This is in contrast to Poseidon’s trident, which has three points, and Zeus’ thunderbolts, which have one.
He’s also represented by Cerberus, his three-headed dog, and his helmet. He’s also sometimes shown with a cornucopia in hand, to demonstrate his dominion over all of the riches under the earth.
Hades has all of the powers of his deific siblings, like the ability to transform himself or others.
He’s also described as being able to enchant people to keep them from straying from the Underworld and become invisible using his helmet.
Good offerings to Hades include:
- Pomegranate fruits or juice.
- Peppermint leaves or tea.
- Black coffee.
- Dark chocolate.
- Aged cheese.
- Rich meats.
- Fresh bread.
Signs Hades is Calling You
You may feel that Hades is calling you if you dream about him. He can show up in many forms, but usually appears as a forbidding, aloof figure.
He may have any one of his symbols with him to help you identify him, but you can also use divination or journeying techniques to help you determine whether or not it was Hades you saw.
Hades may also call to you by urging you to work with people with depression, the dead or dying, or even animals like dogs or horses.
You may feel drawn to become a hospice worker, mortician, death doula, or just desire to volunteer your time keeping cemeteries neat and bringing offerings of flowers to untended graves.
Crystals Associated with Hades
Since crystals come from the ground, Hades is associated with all of them as “The Wealthy One” who has dominion over all of the riches under the earth.
He is particularly connected to iron and its ores (like hematite), and black stones such as jet, obsidian, or onyx.
Herbs Associated with Hades
Hades is connected to various herbs. These include:
- Mint. Hades fell in love with a nymph named Minthe, who was transformed into mint by either a jealous Persephone, or an enraged Demeter.
- Pomegranate. Hades fed Persephone pomegranate arils to keep her in the Underworld.
- Asphodel. These flowers were planted on graves and believed to cover the Great Meadow where the souls of ordinary people dwelled.
- Elm. Elm trees are associated with the Underworld.
Working with Hades
Hades is not an easy spirit to work with. The ancient peoples who were most connected to him treated him with the utmost respect and fear — they avoided even saying his name, because to attract his attention meant danger.
Some modern practitioners treat deities more casually, akin to spiritual friends rather than powerful, deific entities. While this may work for some gods, it certainly isn’t advisable for all of them.
This means that working with Hades means approaching him with respect. Invite him if you wish, but don’t demand things of him. You can start by reading his myths and stories to develop a fuller picture of who he is and what he does.
Next, you may wish to dedicate an altar space to him. This can be indoors or out, and as simple or elaborate as you desire.
If you place it outdoors, consider planting some mint (preferably in containers — mint can be a very aggressive plant) or asphodel.
Decorate the area with crystals associated with Hades, or statues or images of him. Include items like offering bowls, incense burners, or whatever other tools your practice dictates.
Remember to keep this area neat and tidy — don’t allow it to become dusty or cluttered. Visit it often to meditate and make offerings.
You can also work with Hades through action. Bring flowers to neglected graves. Visit nursing homes to spend time with the elderly or very ill. Volunteer to work with shelter dogs. Do what you can to respect and appease the dead and bring comfort to the dying.
Hades is a stern god, but he isn’t a cruel one. He’s portrayed as being very fair and equitable.
If you feel drawn to work with him, show him all of the respect and honor that he is due.