headed Dog in Greek Mythology
Did you know?The first poisonous plants sprang up from the saliva of Cerberus and were used by the Thessalian witches to make a potion that enabled levitation.
1. The Creature: Etymology and Origin
The Greek pantheon is stuffed with all sorts of imaginary creatures beasts and monsters alike. These are basically composite beings bearing bodies, heads, tails and wings of different animals at the same pandora gold jewelry time which is why they seem to have characteristic traits of all the animals they are composed of. The idea behind the presentation of such creatures is to encompass all the good (or bad) qualities of the animals they are made of and thus to set before the people, an example of a perfect being. Cerberus is one such creature that occupied a prominent place in the mythology of the ancient Greeks.
Cerberus is the name of the three headed hound of Hades, the Greek God of Death. In the Greek mythical tradition, Cerberus is the guardian of the gates of the underworld, the realm of Hades. His job is to prevent the living from entering the land of the dead and to prevent the dead from escaping the boundaries of the underworld. He is stationed on that bank of the Styx river which adjoins the underworld. Styx river, according to the Greek legends is a supposed boundary between the earth and the underworld. Its waters have miraculous powers that make a person bathing in it, immortal. Therefore, the river also needs to be guarded, a task with which Cerberus is also assigned.
The Creature: sterling silver pandora beads Etymology and Origin
The term 'Cerberus' is a latinized version of Greek 'Kerberos' which possibly refers to 'devil of the pit'. The name, in some form, also resembles the name of one of Lord Yama's (God of Death in Indian mythology) dog, 'Sabala', who is associated with the final judgment of the souls that enter his realm.
Interestingly enough, the Homeric literature refers to a dog who guards Hades' entrance but refers to him simply as 'a dog' and not 'Cerberus, the three headed dog'. He also states that he was a son of Typhon and Echidna. Typhon was a winged giant bearing a tail of a snake who could control and command the storms. He was the son of Gaia, mother earth of the Greek myths. Echidna, on the other hand, is a half woman half serpent monster in the Greek tradition, who had supposedly mothered all the monsters appearing in the mythology. Some of the later sources describe Cerberus as having three canine heads, a dog's body, a mane made of snakes and a dragon's tail. This kind of composition makes the creature appear extremely monstrous and fierce. But this kind of representation fits perfectly owing to the kind of tasks that the creature is assigned with. Legend says that Cerberus was so dreadful to behold that anyone who tried to look at him with a bare eye, was turned instantly to stone.
As mentioned above, Cerberus is the hound of Hades with three heads. He is Hades' most loyal companion and servant. Some classical sources state that these heads represent three phases of human life, viz. infancy, youth and old age. Another theory says that the three heads of the hell hound symbolize pandora beads for cheap the past, the present and the future. It has been mentioned that Cerberus fed on raw meat of the humans and so he ate all those mortals who dared to cross the Styx in order to enter the realm of Hades. In a way, Cerberus stands for the sharp line of distinction between the world of the mortals and the world of the dead. The myth of Cerberus attempts to highlight the fact that life and death are two distinct concepts which can never overlap with one another. If any such effort is made by any individual, he may have to face grievous consequences for the same. This also applies to the dead and their souls that reside in the underworld.
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Cerberus appears in numerous myths of the ancient Greeks, most of which put across a point that it was possible either to lull, subdue or capture the creature, as was proven by many at a number of times. However, one cannot ignore the deadly and fierce aspect of the creature due to which he was stationed where he was.
King Eurystheus had arrested and imprisoned Heracles for killing his own children after he was forced into a state of insanity by Hera, the wife of Zeus. In order to be released, he was assigned with a set of twelve labors that he had to perform according to the rules which were set. His twelfth and final labor was to capture Cerberus and to parade him openly in the Mycenaean capital and then to take the creature to the king. The only condition put forth by Eurystheus and Hades what that Heracles had to capture the creature unarmed which the demi god managed to do. Cerberus was then paraded on the streets of the Mycenaean capital and then taken to the king as decided. But the king was so terrified on seeing the hell hound that he asked Heracles to take it back to Hades with immediate effect.
Persephone, the daughter of Demeter was abducted by Hades and was forcibly made to marry him. So, Demeter decided to enter the underworld in order to look for her daughter and take her back. But, as usual, she met Cerberus standing guard at the gates of Hades in light of which Demeter could never possibly enter his territory. So, it became necessary to get rid of Cerberus in order to proceed with her quest for Persephone. In an attempt to enter the underworld unnoticed, she threw some drugged sweet cakes before Cerberus which he ate and immediately fell unconscious. Demeter, then slipped past the beast.
There are some other tales as well that tell us that Cerberus could be subdued and lulled by playing melodious music to him. These legends show that Cerberus, no matter how formidable he seemed, could be hushed and captured, though with great efforts.
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Cerberus appears numerous times in the popular literature, including prose and poetry alike. Apart from the classical Greek and Roman literary sources, we find references to Cerberus in medieval and modern writings as well.
The first canto of Dante's Divine Comedy is known as Inferno. It is an allegory speaking of Dante's journey through Hell which is represented by nine circles of suffering located underneath the earth. Cerberus appears when Dante enters the third circle of Gluttony, where the creature is depicted as a watchdog guarding the Gluttons and making them undergo their share of sufferings. Gluttony stands for capitalization of all the food and wealth and depriving the needy of the same. It is considered as one of the deadliest sins and thus punishable even after death.
Shakespeare's Love's Labor Lost refers to the twelfth labor of Hercules and says that Hercules was given a club by an imp with the help of which he succeeded in capturing and taming Cerberus, the three headed canine that guarded Hades' dominions.
John Milton, in his poem Paradise Lost jewelry seattle mentions 'Cerberean' hounds residing in the underworld. He says that the barks and cries of these hounds are deafening and unstoppable.
Fever 103 is a poem by the renowned American poet Sylvia Plath which describes the misery of a woman having high fever and her wish to break the bonds of life and embrace death. Plath equates the misery with Hell and says that just as Cerberus, who guards the entrance to Hell cannot lick anything clean because the place where he resides is as it is very impure and unclean, even she cannot get rid of her pain and release herself from fever. Rowling has, as one of its characters, a three headed dog called Fluffy. Fluffy is a huge hound that belongs to Rubeus Hagrid, the Gamekeeper and the Keeper of Keys and Grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry is a student. Fluffy is in charge of guarding the room wherein the philosopher's stone is hidden. However, Hagrid tells Harry and his friends that Fuffy, however vicious he seemed, could be pacified and put to sleep by the sound of a flute, after which one could get into the room unnoticed. Fluffy resembles Cerberus in numerous respects.
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In the classical art, Cerberus makes an appearance in almost everything that has to do with Hades or his realm. Thus, we have Cerberus depicted in statues, vase paintings and sarcophagi which are based on themes relating to Hades.
The creature has been depicted as a ferocious canine either having a mane comprising serpents or a serpent tail. However, the number of heads is not always certain. Often he is portrayed as a three headed dog, but there are instances where he has only two heads.
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