Furies norse mythology


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The three Erinyes, called Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone are the chthonic goddesses of vengeance and retribution, known for tormenting and punishing those who commit crimes and offend the gods. They are also known as the Furies. The Erinyes are believed to be the personification of curses against those who committed crimes, but their origin vary depending on the author.

Some sources say they were the daughters of Nyxthe Greek goddess of night, while others claim they are the daughters of Gaia and the darkness. Most sources agree that the three Furies were born from the blood that fell on the earth Gaia when Kronos castrated his father, Uranus. The Erinyes are described as sinister women, who wore long black robes, were surrounded by snakes and carried weapons of torture with them, especially whips.

After living in the underworld, they ascended to earth to pursue murderers and those who sinned against the gods. According to sources, when the Erinyes were not on earth tormenting the sinful, they were in the underworld serving Hadesthe god of the underworld, and Persephonehis wife and the queen of the underworld.

In the underworld, the Erinyes has several tasks to perform. They served as cleansers of sins for the dead deemed worthy by the three judges. They also served as the ones who took the condemned to punishment to the Tartarus, where the Erinyes were both jailors and torturers. It was common for the Erinyes to step in and pursue vengeance when crimes were committed against parents, and also when people disrespected the gods. Besides family affairs, the Erinyes are known to be the protectors of beggars as well as the keepers of oaths and the punishers of those who dare to break their oaths or make them in vain.

The matricide caused the Erinyes to ascend from the underworld. The Erinyes then began tormenting Orestes, who sought help from the Oracle of Delphi. The Oracle advised Orestes to go to Athens and ask for the favor of Athena to get rid of the wicked Erinyes. Athena prepares for Orestes to be tried by a jury of Athenian citizens, with herself presiding as the judge.

Athena, however, manages to convince them to stop seeking vengeance, offering them a new role as the guardians of justice and honoring them with the name Semnai venerable ones. The Furies then transition from being the goddesses of vengeance to being the protectors of justice, commanding the veneration of the citizens of Athens from then onwards. All major sources, including Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, wrote about the Erinyes tormenting Orestes after he committed matricide. For these authors and many others, the Erinyes are always linked to the practices of the underworld, as symbols of darkness, torment, torture, and vengeance.

Several modern authors have been inspired by the Erinyes. Many modern movies, novels, and animated series feature the Erinyes. In Greek art, the Erinyes are normally depicted on pottery chasing Orestes or accompanied by Hades.

Erinyes (Furies) – Three Greek Goddesses of Vengeance

Although the Erinyes are related to suffering and darkness, their role on earth, as Athena saw it, was to deal with justice.FuriesGreek Erinyesalso called Eumenidesin Greco-Roman mythology, the chthonic goddesses of vengeance. They were probably personified curses, but possibly they were originally conceived of as ghosts of the murdered. According to the Greek poet Hesiodthey were the daughters of Gaea Earth and sprang from the blood of her mutilated spouse Uranus.

In the plays of Aeschylusthey were the daughters of Nyx ; in those of Sophoclesthey were the daughters of Darkness and of Gaea. Euripides was the first to speak of them as three in number. They lived in the underworld and ascended to earth to pursue the wicked. Being deities of the underworld, they were often identified with spirits of the fertility of the earth. Furies Article Media Additional Info. Print Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.

Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login. External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.

The purification of Orestes by Apollo, detail of a 5th-century- bce Apulian red-figure bell krater by the so-called Eumenides Painter; in the Louvre, Paris.

The story depicted on the krater is taken from the opening scene of The Eumenidesthe third play in Aeschylus's great Oresteia trilogy. Orestes, who has killed his adulterous mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover Aegisthus, has fled to the Temple of Apollo for refuge, pursued by the Furies Erinyesthe goddesses of vengeance.

Apollo puts two of the Furies to sleep while he purifies the young man with pig's blood. The female figure on the left is the ghost of Clytemnestra, vainly attempting to awaken the Furies.

Britannica Quiz. A Study of Greek and Roman Mythology. Who led the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece? Who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Ares? From fruits to winged sandals, test your knowledge in this study of Greek and Roman mythology.

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.The Erinyes were among the most fearsome spirits in the entire Greek religion. Among all the gods, monsters, and spirits, these personifications of justice were among the most terrifying.

Spirits of a particularly harsh view of justice, they represented the curses called down upon criminals. Their entire reason for being was to punish and torment those who committed particularly heinous crimes.

Under the GFreek definition of natural law, the crimes that attracted the Erinyes were varied in both their type and severity. They punished murderers, but they also punished perjurers and men who disobeyed their fathers. In English, we still refer to them today.

furies norse mythology

The Furies, stemming from their Latin name Furiae, continue to bring to mind images of torment and madness brought down on accused criminals. So what exactly were the Furies and what called them on some criminals? And, more importantly, what could be done to make them leave their victims in peace?

Another legend claimed that they were the daughters of Nyxthe primordial goddess of the night. The three Furies lived in a cave in the dark realm of Erebus, leaving only to hunt their victims. They were depicted as hideous crones, although the extent of their terrible appearance depended on the imagination of the particular author or artist. They were sometimes described with bodies as black as shadow and bloodshot eyes.

Most writers agreed that the three carried brass-studded scourges in claw-like hands. They beat their victims until they died in agony.

They were not known just for their frightening looks, though. One of their sacred animals was the screech owl, attributed to them because their screaming voices were said to drive their victims mad long before the scourges killed them.

In the earliest Greek myths, recorded from the long oral tradition that existed before the development of narrative writing, the Erinyes were much more simple personifications than they came to be remembered as.

They personified the curses that were called down upon a guilty criminal by both the law and those they had wronged. It was believed that these curses would follow the guilty until the day they died or atoned for their crimes. Homer imagined that the Erinyes rested in Erebos until a curse yelled at a criminal called them into action.

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In later writings, the Erinyes themselves became a curse. The Furies did not target all crimes, though. Some criminals were punished in other ways, while a few seemed to escape retribution altogether.

The three Furies focused on very specific crimes against both men and natural law.

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Natural lawas the Greeks defined it, were the dictates of the gods and included rules governing hospitality and familial loyalty. Thus the Erinyes punished murderers, but they also punished those who betrayed their families. Violation of the mores of hospitality could call down the Erinyes, as could the abuse of supplicants by a ruler or priest.

The Erinyes were also particularly concerned with those who violated oaths. A swore oath, particularly one in the name of a god, was a sacred vow and the breaking of it was an offense against the gods themselves. The Furies would hunt down those who broke these laws until they died, either from their own tortures or by another means. But death did not mean one was free of the fury of the Erinyes.A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "the Erinyes, that under earth take vengeance on men, whosoever hath sworn a false oath".

According to Hesiod 's Theogonywhen the Titan Cronus castrated his father, Uranusand threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes along with the Giants and the Meliae emerged from the drops of blood which fell on the earth Gaiawhile Aphrodite was born from the crests of sea foam. Virgilprobably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto or Alekto "endless anger"Megaera "jealous rage"and Tisiphone or Tilphousia "vengeful destruction"all of whom appear in the Aeneid.

Dante Alighieri followed Virgil in depicting the same three-character triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis.

Whilst the Erinyes were usually described as three maiden goddesses, the Erinys Telphousia was usually a by-name for the wrathful goddess Demeterwho was worshipped under the title of Erinys in the Arkadian town of Thelpousa. The Erinyes live in Erebus and are more ancient than any of the Olympian deities. Their task is to hear complaints brought by mortals against the insolence of the young to the aged, of children to parents, of hosts to guestsand of householders or city councils to suppliants—and to punish such crimes by hounding culprits relentlessly.

The Erinyes are crones and, depending upon authors, described as having snakes for hair, dog's heads, coal black bodies, bat's wings, and blood-shot eyes. In their hands they carry brass-studded scourges, and their victims die in torment. According to Hesiod, the Furies sprang forth from the spilled blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus. According to Aeschylus ' Oresteiathey are the daughters of Nyx ,in Virgil's version, they are daughters of Pluto and Nox. Pausanias describe a sanctuary in Athens dedicated to the Erinyes under the name Semnai:.

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Hard by [the Areopagos the murder court of Athens] is a sanctuary of the goddesses which the Athenians call the August, but Hesiod in the Theogony calls them Erinyes Furies. It was Aeschylus who first represented them with snakes in their hair.

But on the images neither of these nor of any of the under-world deities is there anything terrible. There are images of Pluto, Hermes, and Earth, by which sacrifice those who have received an acquittal on the Hill of Ares; sacrifices are also offered on other occasions by both citizens and aliens. Myth fragments dealing with the Erinyes are found among the earliest extant records of ancient Greek culture.

The Erinyes are featured prominently in the myth of Oresteswhich recurs frequently throughout many works of ancient Greek literature. Featured in ancient Greek literature, from poems to plays, the Erinyes form the Chorus and play a major role in the conclusion of Aeschylus 's dramatic trilogy the Oresteia. In the first play, AgamemnonKing Agamemnon returns home from the Trojan Warwhere he is slain by his wife, Clytemnestrawho wants vengeance for her daughter Iphigeniawho was sacrificed by Agamemnon in order to obtain favorable winds to sail to Troy.

furies norse mythology

In the second play, The Libation Bearerstheir son Orestes has reached manhood and has been commanded by Apollo 's oracle to avenge his father's murder at his mother's hand. Returning home and revealing himself to his sister ElectraOrestes pretends to be a messenger bringing the news of his own death to Clytemnestra.

He then slays his mother and her lover Aegisthus. Although Orestes' actions were what Apollo had commanded him to do, Orestes has still committed matricide, a grave sacrilege.

In Athens, Athena arranges for Orestes to be tried by a jury of Athenian citizens, with her presiding. The Erinyes appear as Orestes' accusers, while Apollo speaks in his defense.And they also possessed some sorts of strange magical powers, like Tinklebell in the story of Peter Pan or the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. The modern fairies, between the 18th and 20th century, comes from oral tradition before they were transmitted into writing. They are not divinity, ie. However, if we look at the idea of fairies, then you would find that have been around a lot longer than everyone expects.

Perhaps the earliest form of faeries can be found loosely in the mythical beings in Greek mythology, such as the nymphs, satyrs and sileni.

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The nymphs from ancient Greek myths can be considered as fairies and they existed as early as the time of Homer writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even the river gods in Greek myths can be classified as fairies. These are spirits or minor deities of nature or of the natural phenomena. And then, there are household or guardian spirits that can be found in Roman religion and mythology, such as the penates, lares and genii.

The Valkyries could also be classified as fairies. Earlier than Shakespeare, Chaucer mentioned that the land of Britain was filled with fairies before the time of King Arthur. In the Arthurian legends, the divine or fairy figures also appeared in abundance.

And then there is this Lady of the Lake. Many knights were either born from fairies or they took female fairies as their lovers. Even Merlin was only part mortal. Then you would discover that that these images of fairies are not the only kind. There were all sorts in fairy tales and folklores. Some are benign, while others are maligned and hostile to mortals. Some were seen as fair, while others were considered ugly and monstrous to look at.

They can come in all size and sizes — tall or short, fat or skinny, so there is really no clear definition of fairies may look like.However, being a forgetful person, I then miss out on the best odds, or completely forget to place the bet, which is pretty disappointing.

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The Erinyes: The Avenging Furies

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furies norse mythology

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furies norse mythology

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