Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.
Labour two: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra
We pick up this third part of the Labours series with the second labour Hēraklēs has to complete: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. The funny thing about this hydra is that no one is really sure how many heads it actually has. The generally accepted number is nine, but ten, or even a hundred are also mentioned. It's also unclear if there was only one head that was supposed to be immortal (as per Apollodorus) or if the creature itself was immortal. The sequence of events, however, is quite clear.
After his victory over the Nemean lion, Hēraklēs is send off to handle another sticky problem: the Lernaean Hydra, who was raised from the earth by Hera just to end the life of Hēraklēs. The Lernaean Hydra (Λερναία Ὕδρα) was the offspring of Typhon, and layered in the swampy lake of Lerna. Hyginus, in his Fabulae, describes the creature so:
"The nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. This monster was so poisonous that she killed men with her breath, and if anyone passed by when she was sleeping, he breathed her tracks and died in the greatest torment."
And so, Hēraklēs is victorious once more. On top of that, he now has poisonous arrows, which create wounds that do not heal. The crab that Apollodorus describes, by the way, ends up as the constellation Cancer.
When Hēraklēs returns to Eurystheus after completing the labour, the king scorns him for requiring assistance. He decrees that, because Hēraklēs could not have completed the labour without the help of Iolaus, the labour will not count against his total, and he will have to do an extra one to fulfill his debt. Enraged, but unable to make demands of the king, Hēraklēs agrees, and starts preparing his next labour: capturing the golden hind of Artemis.
Image source: Hēraklēs and the hydra
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