October 26, 2020
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Zeus’ Place in Greek Mythology

zeus-grecZeus (Ancient Greek: Ζεύς, Zeús) is the “Father of Gods and men” (πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, patḕr andrōn te theōn te) (Hesiod, Theogony 542 and other sources.) who rules the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father rules the family according to the ancient Greek religion.  Zeus is the Greek continuation of *Di̯ēus, the name of the Proto-Indo-European god of the daytime sky, also called *Dyeus ph2tēr (“Sky Father”).  Zeus is the only deity in the Olympic pantheon whose name has such a transparent Indo-European etymology. [7]  He is the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. The god is known under this name in the Rigveda (Vedic Sanskrit Dyaus/Dyaus Pita), Latin (compare Jupiter, from Iuppiter, deriving from the Proto-Indo-European vocative *dyeu-ph2tēr), deriving from the root *dyeu– (“to shine”, and in its many derivatives, “sky, heaven, god”).  So, in other words, Zeus is etymologically cognate with and, under Hellenic influence, became particularly closely identified with Roman Jupiter. Genealogically, Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. Cronus sired several children by Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon, but swallowed them all as soon as they were born, since he had learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son. When Zeus was about to be born, Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would get his retribution for his acts against Uranus and his own children. Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete, handing Cronus a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he promptly swallowed. [8] Rhea hid Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete.  The_Chariot_of_Zeus_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_14994

After reaching manhood, Zeus forced Cronus to disgorge first the stone (which was set down at Pytho under the glens of Parnassus to be a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos) then his siblings in reverse order of swallowing. In some versions, Metis gave Cronus an emetic to force him to disgorge the babies, or Zeus cut Cronus’ stomach open. Then Zeus released the brothers of Cronus, the Gigantes, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, from their dungeon in Tartarus, killing their guard, Campe.  As a token of their appreciation, the Cyclopes gave him thunder and the thunderbolt, or lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaia. Together, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, along with the Gigantes, Hecatonchires and Cyclopes overthrew Cronus and the other Titans, in the combat called the Titanomachy. The defeated Titans were then cast into a shadowy underworld region known as Tartarus.  Zeus was brother and consort of Hera.  In most traditions he is married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort is Dione [10]: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. [9]  By Hera, Zeus sired Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus, though some accounts say that Hera produced these offspring alone. Some also include Eileithyia and Eris as their daughters. The conquests of Zeus among nymphs and the mythic mortal progenitors of Hellenic dynasties are famous.  He is known for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus. [10]

Zeus’ Magical Tools, Object and Sacred Animals

The Hawk, the Thunderbird and the Eagle

hawk-symbolismThe largest of all the hawks, the eagle is widely considered as “the King of Birds.” Everywhere in the world at almost every moment of history in hundred of different culture he is the deputy of the highest heavenly godhead and of the fire of heaven, the Sun, at which it alone dares stare without burning his eyes.  There is no written or pictorial image of him in the whole history of the world where he does not figure as the companion, the messenger or the representation of the highest gods and the greatest heroes. From the time of cradle civilization, the greatness of the eagle has inspired comparaison to the sun, and to supernal deities of lightning and storm, eartly rulers and imperial nations.  The eagle is the attribute of Zeus, Jupiter and even Christ.  He is the emblem of Ceasars and of Napoleon, while on North American prairie as well as in Siberia, Japan, China and Africa, shamans, priests and seers in common with Kings and great commanders have borrowed the attributes of the eagle in order to share its power.  The eagle is the primitive and collective symbol of the father and of all father-figures. [8]  The eagle also represent the higher spiritual states and hence of angels as Biblical tradition so often bears witness.  Pindar says that the King of Birds roosts on Zeus’ sceptre and makes his will known to mankind.  Before setting out to beg Achilles for the body of Hector, Priam poured a libation to Zeus.  He prayed the god “to send a bird of omen, even the swift messenger that is to thy self the dearest of birds and is mightiest in strength […]  And he appeared to them on the right, darting across the city.  And at sight of him they waxed glad, and the hearts in the breasts of all were cheered.” [14]  On the other hand an eagle flying from the left would have been considered as an evil omen.  In Persian tradition the eagle was a bird of augury but, just as in Ireland, it was often confounded with other birds of prey and especially with the falcon.  By the period of the Medes and the Persian it has come to symbolize victory.  According to Xenophon, when the armies of Cyrus (560-529 BC) came to the aid of Cyaxares, King of Media, in his war with the Assyrians, an eagle flew over the Persian troops and this was taken as a favourable omen. [15]  Even Aeschylus describes how the Greek defeat of the Persians was predicted to Atossa in a dream of an eagle chasing a flacon. [16]  Herodotus recounts that just as Darius and the seven Persian nobles were hesitating as to whether to march on the palace of the userper, Gaumata, they saw seven pairs of falcons chasing two pairs of vultures and tearing the feathers from them.  This they took as an oman favourable to the success of their enterprise and thet set out to attck the palace. [17]  North Borneo treated the hawk as a god, but it was technically the messenger of the people’s Supreme God. [16a] There were rituals that involved the hawk when the natives wished to make decisions about certain events, such as journeys from home, major agricultural work, and war [16b].  The mythical “thunderbird” is another creature can be invoked here as symbolically important because it reunites the symboism of the hawk with the symbolism of the thunder and the thunderbolt which are both major attributes of Zeus.  The thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples’ history and culture. It is considered a supernatural bird of power and strength. It is especially important, and frequently depicted, in the art, songs and oral histories of many Pacific Northwest Coast cultures, and is found in various forms among the peoples of the American Southwest, Great Lakes, and Great Plains. The thunderbird’s name comes from the common belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind. Across many North American indigenous cultures, the thunderbird carries many of the same characteristics. It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. Clouds are pulled together by its wingbeats, the sound of thunder made by its wings clapping, sheet lightning the light flashing from its eyes when it blinks, and individual lightning bolts made by the glowing snakes that it carries around with it. In masks, it is depicted as multi-colored, with two curling horns, and, often, teeth within its beak.

The Thunderbolt

4825169-modern-lightning-logoThunder is usually considered as the voice of the sky gods.   As such, Zeus is usually depicted as holding a thunderbolt in his hand. Virgil describes the Cyclops forging a thunderbolt for Jupiter from iron. [10a] Thunderbolts display the almighty power of the greatest of the gods. [10b]  From the remoted past thunderbolts are regarded as the implements and weapons of the sky gods in all  mythologies. Generally speaking they symbolizes the dual powers of creation and destruction possessed in Hinduism by Shiva and Vishnu and in the Vedic religion by Indra, in whom, like Zeus and Jupiter, both properties were united.  It is also said that any spot the sky gods has struck with lightning is consecrate. [10c]  The thunderbolt also symbolizes the sacred union of the fecunding sky god and the and the receptive earth; it is an attribute of all smith gods such as Hephaistos, Vulcan and Thor.  As a symbol the thunderbolt doubtlessly is of Mesopotamian origin. There are different forms, the first consisting of a bident with two undulated points. This form is of Babylonian origin and is the attribute of the war-god Adad. Derived from this form of thunderbolt is the Sword of Ali, also called the Sword of Islam or Dhu ‘l Fakr. The second form is a trident. This is probably of Hellenistic origin. In its most known form it is the attribute of the sea-god Poseidon / Neptune. This form has evoluated in Europe to the fleur de lys. Also derived from the trident is the trisula, (= three points) the trident of the hindu destroyer-god Shiva. The third form is a double trident. This form is of Assyrian origin. It is the prototype of the hellenistic thunderbolt in the west and the vajra or dorje in the east. The fourth form is the four-fold trident or Dorje Gyatum. This form is evoluated in Tibet from the double trident.

berlin-pergamon-museum-thunFurthermore, Neolithic “thunder-stones”, Parashu-Rama’s stones axe and Thor’s hammer are all symbols of the thunderbolt which strikes and cleaves the Earth. However, the axe or hammer of these gods does not only destroy, but also creates and fecundates Thunderbolts procreate and destroy at one and the same time; they are both life and death.  This is the significance of the two-bladed axe and the two tips of the Hindu thunderbolt, the vajra.  Generally speaking, thunderbolts are symbols of celestial activity and of the transforming influence of Heaven upon Earth. [10d]  They are, in addition, associated with rain, which stands for the beneficial aspect of this activity.  The I Ching associates thunder with fear and with the moderation and balance which it creates.  The thunderbolts was an attribute of the Vedic god Indra which was adopted by several Tibethan deities.  As the symbol of male principle and of the Method (in contrast with the bell), the thunderbolt is restricted to priests and magicians as a weapon against the demons amd vices. [10e] It was the symbol of the infinite, righteous and beneficient power of the godhead. Vajra (the Hindu thunderbolt) not onlt mean “thunderbolt” but also “diamond,” lightning often originating in legend from diamonds or, as in the case in Cambodia, a gem.

Vajra: The thunderbolt, the favourite weapon of Indra.

Vajra: The thunderbolt, the favourite weapon of Indra.

zeus-thunderboltA well known legend involving the use of Zeus’s thunderbolt involves Salmoneus, which was one of the seven sons of King Aiolos of Thessaly who led a group of colonists to the Peloponesse and established the kingdom of Salmonia in the region later known as Pylos or western Messenia. Salmoneus was an arrogant and impious man who commanded his people worship him as the god Zeus. He impersonated the divinity by driving around in a chariot dragging bronze kettles to make thunder, and casting torches in the air for lightning. Zeus was angered and struck Salmoneus dead with a thunderbolt and laid waste to his city.  In heraldry the conventional representation of the thunderbolt, the attribute of Jupiter, is a sheaf of barbed lange and arrows, but it may sometimes be depicted as a dart, trident or similar implements. [10f]

The Cults of Zeus

cult-of-zeusThe major center where all Greeks converged to pay honor to their chief god was Olympia. Their quadrennial festival featured the famous Games. There was also an altar to Zeus made not of stone, but of ash, from the accumulated remains of many centuries’ worth of animals sacrificed there. Outside of the major inter-polis sanctuaries, there were no modes of worshipping Zeus precisely shared across the Greek world. Most of the titles listed below, for instance, could be found at any number of Greek temples from Asia Minor to Sicily. Certain modes of ritual were held in common as well: sacrificing a white animal over a raised altar, for instance. With one exception, Greeks were unanimous in recognizing the birthplace of Zeus as Crete. Minoan culture contributed many essentials of ancient Greek religion: “by a hundred channels the old civilization emptied itself into the new”, Will Durant observed, [11] and Cretan Zeus retained his youthful Minoan features.  The local child of the Great Mother, “a small and inferior deity who took the roles of son and consort,” [12] whose Minoan name the Greeks Hellenized as Velchanos, was in time assumed as an epithet by Zeus, as transpired at many other sites, and he came to be venerated in Crete as Zeus Velchanos (“boy-Zeus”) often simply the Kouros.[13]

zeus-throneroom2In Crete, Zeus was worshipped at a number of caves at Knossos, Ida and Palaikastro. In the Hellenistic period a small sanctuary dedicated to Zeus Velchanos was founded at the Hagia Triada site of a long-ruined Minoan palace. Broadly contemporary coins from Phaistos show the form under which he was worshiped: a youth sits among the branches of a tree, with a cockerel on his knees. [14] On other Cretan coins Velchanos is represented as an eagle and in association with a goddess celebrating a mystic marriage. [15]  The stories of Minos and Epimenides suggest that these caves were once used for incubatory divination by kings and priests. The dramatic setting of Plato’s Laws is along the pilgrimage-route to one such site, emphasizing archaic Cretan knowledge. On Crete, Zeus was represented in art as a long-haired youth rather than a mature adult, and hymned as ho megas kouros “the great youth”  The epithet Zeus Lykaios (“wolf-Zeus”) is assumed by Zeus only in connection with the archaic festival of the Lykaia on the slopes of Mount Lykaion (“Wolf Mountain”), the tallest peak in rustic Arcadia; Zeus had only a formal connection [16] with the rituals and myths of this primitive rite of passage with an ancient threat of cannibalism and the possibility of a werewolf transformation for the ephebes who were the participants.  Near the ancient ash-heap where the sacrifices took place [17] was a forbidden precinct in which, according to Pausanias, “no shadows were ever cast.” [18]  According to Plato, a particular clan would gather on the mountain to make a sacrifice every nine years to Zeus Lykaios, and a single morsel of human entrails would be intermingled with the animal’s. [19] Whoever ate the human flesh was said to turn into a wolf, and could only regain human form if he did not eat again of human flesh until the next nine-year cycle had ended. There were games associated with the Lykaia, removed in the fourth century to the first urbanization of Arcadia, Megalopolis; there the major temple was dedicated to Zeus Lykaios. [20]


The Oracles of Zeus

The Oracle at Dodona

oracle-delphiAlthough most oracle sites were usually dedicated to Apollo, the heroes, or various goddesses like Themis, a few oracular sites were dedicated to Zeus. The cult of Zeus at Dodona in Epirus, where there is evidence of religious activity from the second millennium BC onward, centered on a sacred oak. When the Odyssey was composed (circa 750 BC), divination was done there by barefoot priests called Selloi, who lay on the ground and observed the rustling of the leaves and branches. [21] By the time Herodotus wrote about Dodona, female priestesses called peleiades (“doves”) had replaced the male priests.  Zeus’ consort at Dodona was not Hera, but the goddess Dione — whose name is a feminine form of “Zeus”. Her status as a titaness suggests to some that she may have been a more powerful pre-Hellenic deity, and perhaps the original occupant of the oracle.

The Oracle at Siwa

Poster_OracleDelphiThe oracle of Ammon at the Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert of Egypt did not lie within the bounds of the Greek world before Alexander’s day, but it already loomed large in the Greek mind during the archaic era: Herodotus mentions consultations with Zeus Ammon in his account of the Persian War. Zeus Ammon was especially favored at Sparta, where a temple to him existed by the time of the Peloponnesian War. [22] After Alexander made a trek into the desert to consult the oracle at Siwa, the figure arose in the Hellenistic imagination of a Libyan Sibyl.

Tree of Life Attributions

Its Greek equivalent is Zeus or Iacchus according to Crowley’s Classification [1].  It is also common knowledge that Zeus is identified in the Roman theogony as Jupiter – the greatest of the Olympian Gods and men. [2] The reason for this attribution, Crowley tells us, is because “Zeus is the supreme Unity, not to be confused with the Zeus who is the son of Chronos.” [3] To clarify what he means by that Crowley give an example of the aspect of Zeus he is refering to stating that “Iacchus is the supreme unity in man reached by ecstasy, when everything else has been winnowed away by the winnowing fan.” [4] So from there we can infer that the aspect of Zeus he is refering to is Zeus as the supreme deity that “winnowed away” all the other gods. As Walter Burkert points out in his book, Greek Religion, “Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence.” [5] For the Greeks, he was the King of the Gods, who oversaw the universe. In Polytheistic systems there is a tendency for one divinity, usually male, to achieve pre-eminence as “King of the Gods.” This tendency is obviously paralleled with the growth of hierarchical systems of political power among men in which a monarch eventually comes to assume ultimate authority for human affairs.  As Pausanias observed, “That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men”. [6] So what we have here is a bunch of other lesser gods who come to serve in some sort of “Divine Council” or pantheon, usually linked by family ties from union of a single husband or wife, or else from an androgynous divinity who is responsible for the creation.  In Hesiod’s Theogony Zeus personally assigns the various gods their roles. In the Homeric Hymns he is referred to as the chieftain of the gods. In Neoplatonism, Zeus’ relation to the gods familiar from mythology is taught as the Demiurge or Divine Mind. Specifically within Plotinus’ work the Enneadand the Platonic Theology of Proclus. In Fourth Tractate ‘Problems of the Soul’ The Demiurge is identified as Zeus.10.”When under the name of Zeus we are considering the Demiurge we must leave out all notions of stage and progress, and recognize one unchanging and timeless life.”

The Greek deity correespondence for Chesed is Posseidon according to Crowley’s quabalistic writtings. (Aleister Crowley, 777, p. 4)  According to Israel Regardie Zeus is also a correspondence.  The aspect of him that we are talking about here is this mythical image of Zeus “armed with thunder and lightning, the shaking of whose aegis produces storm and tempest.” (Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 47)


[1] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, p. 8. To understand what he mean by that we have to understand that in Greek mythology, Iacchus (also Iacchos, Iakchos) (Greek: Ἴακχος) is an epithet of Dionysus,particularly associated with the Mysteries at Eleusis, where he was considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter.  Iacchus was the torch bearer of the procession from Eleusis, sometimes regarded as the herald of the ‘divine child’ of the Goddess, born in the underworld, and sometimes as the child itself. Iacchus was called “the light-bringing star of our nocturnal rite,” giving him possible associations with Sirius and Sothis.
[2] Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 40.
[3] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, p. 84.
[4] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, p. 84.
[5] Homer, Iliad, book 1.503; 533
[6] Pausanias, 2. 24.2.
[7] Burkert (1985). Greek Religion. p. 321.
[8] “Greek and Roman Mythology”, Mythology: Myths, Legends, & Fantasy, Sweet Water Press, 2003, p. 21.
[9] There are two major conflicting stories for Aphrodite’s origins: Hesiod (Theogony) claims that she was “born” from the foam of the sea after Cronos castrated Uranus, thus making her Uranus’ daughter; but Homer (Iliad, book V) has Aphrodite as daughter of Zeus and Dione. According to Plato (Symposium 180e), the two were entirely separate entities: Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos. Dione (Ancient Greek: Διώνη, Diṓnē) was an ancient Greek goddess, an oracular Titaness primarily known from Book V of Homer’s Iliad, where she tends to the wounds suffered by her daughter Aphrodite. One source describes her as an ancient wife of Zeus.
[10] Hamilton, Edith (1942). Mythology (1998 ed.). New York: Back Bay Books. p. 467.
[10a] Virgil, Aeneid 8:424-32.
[10b] Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 1003.
[10c] Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religions, translated by Rosemary Sheed, London and New York 1958, p. 53-54.
[10d] Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 1004.
[10e] Tondriau, Julien, Objets Tibétains de Culte et de Magie, Brussels, 1964, p. 2.
[10f] Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 1003.
[11] Durant, The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization Part II, New York: Simon & Schuster) 1939: p.23.
[12] Rodney Castleden, Minoans: Life in Bronze-Age Crete, “The Minoan belief-system” (Routledge) 1990: p.125.
[13] A kouros (Ancient Greek κοῦρος, plural kouroi) is the modern term given to to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures which first appear in the Archaic period in Greece,and represent naked male youths. In Ancient Greek kouros means youth, boy, especially of noble rank.
[14] Pointed out by Bernard Clive Dietrich, The Origins of Greek Religion (de Gruyter) 1973:15.
[15] A.B. Cook, Zeus Cambridge University Press, 1914, I, figs 397, 398.
[16] >In the founding myth of Lycaon’s banquet for the gods that included the flesh of a human sacrifice, perhaps one of his sons, Nyctimus or ArcasZeus overturned the table and struck the house of Lyceus with a thunderbolt; his patronage at the Lykaia can have been little more than a formula.
[17] Modern archaeologists have found no trace of human remains among the sacrificial detritus, Walter Burkert, “Lykaia and Lykaion”, Homo Necans, tr. by Peter Bing (University of California) 1983, p. 90.
[18] Pausanias 8.38.
[19] Plato, Republic 565d-e
[20] Megalopoli (Greek: Μεγαλόπολη) is a town in the southwestern part of the regional unit of Arcadia, southern Greece. It is located in the same site as ancient Megalopolis. When it was founded in 371 BC, it was the first large urbanization in rustic Arcadia. Its theater had a capacity of 20,000 visitors, making it one of the largest ancient Greek theaters.
[21] Homer, Odyssey 14.326-7.
[22] Pausanias 3.18.


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