"To Plouton. Plouton, magnanimous, whose realms profound are fixed beneath the firm and solid ground, in the Tartarean plains remote from sight, and wrapt forever in the depths of night...."
(Orphic Hymn 18 To Pluto)
Hades, a.k.a Aidoneus, Pluto, (Roman: Dis Pater, Orcus),[Pronounced in English as,"A-e-do-knee-us", "Hay-deez" and "Ploo-toe", Pronounced in Greek as "A-e-dawn-yes", "Eh-thees" and "Ploo-tawn"] was the god of the dead, funeral rites, and the Underworld in Greek mythology.
The name Hades means "unseen, invisible, hidden". There is some confusion as to Hade's other name, Pluto. Many people are confused in thinking that the name Pluto is Roman in origin. It is not. The Greeks also used the name Pluto (wealth), as a name for Hades as they had already equated the god Plutus, the son of Demeter, with Hades. This was mainly out of the belief that as god of the Underworld, Hades owned all gold, silver, and precious stones which lay under the earth. In fact, Hades palace was believed to be made of gold and precious stones.
As far as appearances go, Hades is almost universally described as dark featured, stern and somber-looking. He is normally portrayed as a mature man in his 30s-40s and sitting on his throne with his queen, Persephone, by his side. Upon his head he wears a crown, or his magical "helmet of darkness" that makes him invisible, and in his hand he holds a bird-tipped scepter or bident. In his other hand, Hades may hold a key. When Hades appears standing he is usually shown holding the chains of his three-headed watchdog, Cerberus, who sits at his feet. Hades loves his beloved pet Cerberus whose job is to make sure that the shades of the dead never escape his kingdom.
Hades is the fourth child and eldest son of the Titans, Cronus and Rhea. When the Olympians overthrew their father, Zeus devised a method of drawing up the world for himself and his two brothers, Hades and Poseidon, by casting lots. Zeus won the heavens, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the Underworld. The earth was considered to be neutral ground. Though Hades is technically an Olympian, he rarely ventures beyond his kingdom. Hades is not considered one of the 12 Olympians. Hades had few temples and most people did not worship him. The exception would be initiates of the Mystery Religions, especially the cult of the Eleusian Mysteries and the Orphic Mysteries.
A very common mistake people make is to equate Hades with the Christian Devil and to believe that Hades was thus a personification of evil. Hades was not viewed as evil and he harbored no hatred or ill will toward humanity. This said, Hades was disliked by both humans and gods. It can be said that by nature he was a regular "party-pooper", being far to serious and extremely strict and stern.
Another common mistake people make is to believe that Hades was the actual god of death. He was not. The god who personified death was Thanatos, a son of Nyx, the goddess of night. Instead, Hades operated as "Zeus of the Underworld", meaning that just as Zeus reigned supreme over the land of the living, so Hades ruled supreme over the after life.
For the ancient Greeks, death was not something to look forward to. The popular belief was that this life was all there was. At death, one's breath (psyche, what we call "soul") left the body and then was escorted by the god Hermes to the Underworld via any number of caves that were said to be an entrance to Hades' ream. Hades' realm was properly called "The House of Hades". With time this was shortened to just "Hades". Thus, the word Hades means both the god and the place where people go to when they die.
Once in Hades one had to pay the ferryman of the dead, Charon, a coin for him to take one across the river Styx. The dead were buried with a coin in their mouths to be used as payment to Charon. If the family of the decedent were poor and could not afford such, then it was believed that the unfortunate dead had to wander the shores of the river for a hundred years before they were allowed to cross.
Once across, the decedent reached the gates of Hades, where Cerberus was chained. Cerberus freely allowed the shades of the dead to enter unmolested. However, any shade who attempted to escape once inside the gate was devoured by Cerberus and met oblivion. Inside the gate the dead were judged. Those who were the enemies of the gods were sent to Tartarus, the Greek version of hell. Their punishments were tailor-suited for their crimes. Those who were the beloved of the gods, their lovers, offspring, heroes, etc., went to Elysium, a.k.a. The Elysian Fields, the Greek version of "heaven" or paradise. However, the overwhelming majority of people were sentenced to The Asphodel Plain, the Greek version of Purgatory, where the dead wandered in perpetual twilight with no punishment nor reward. The decedent was then bid to drink from the waters of Lethe (forgetfulness), before being taken to their final destination. Once in the Asphodel Plain the decedent lost all memory of their former lives, possessed no true consciousness, and was said to only eat dirt and filth. This elaborate scenario was understood as a metaphor for the grave. As a result of this complex belief, the majority of people held superstitious views of Hades and held fears of dying. It was very commonly believed that one shouldn't use the proper name of the god or else risk invoking him and him responding by inviting you to his kingdom before your proper time! Thus euphemisms were generally used when discussing Hades.
Hades features very rarely in myth. His most famous presence in Greek mythology was his abduction of Persephone (See Demeter). Like with his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, Hades could not be faithful. Though he didn't take as many mistresses as his brothers, he cheated on his beautiful wife, no less.
One of Hades' mistresses was the nymph, Minthe. When Persephone found out about the affair she transformed Minthe into a plant, the herb named mint. Before taking Persephone as his wife, Hades loved the nymph, Leuce. Upon her death Hades transformed her into a white poplar tree and then transplanted it in his kingdom.
Due to Hades being the god of the dead, it was generally assumed that he was sterile. However, different versions of myths were invented by which he was the father of the Erinyes (Furies), Zagreus (Dionysus), Milenoe (goddess of nightmares and ghosts, probably identical to Hecate), and Macaria (goddess of blessed death)
In myth, various heroes and demigods ventured into Hades in order to retrieve the shade of a particular dead person or to complete a specified task. Sometimes things worked out. Sometimes not. It was generally believed that once a shade ate of the food of the dead in the Underworld that they could never return to the land of the living. However, there were exceptions.
Traveling to the Underworld was exceptionally dangerous for the living. A person who was neither a hero nor a demigod, and who foolishly believed they could enter Hades' kingdom and then return to the land of the living, usually found himself or herself being devoured by Cerberus. If they managed to escape the hound of Hades then they may not escape Hades' wrath, such as with the foolish Pirithous who entered the Underworld with the hope of abducting Persephone. When Pirithous sat upon a rock to rest Hades cursed him, causing him to be stuck fast and preventing him from standing up. There he sits for all eternity.
Parents: The Titans Cronus and Rhea
Offspring: The Erinyes, Zagreus, Melinoe, Macaria
Sacred Epithets/Aspects: Adamastos (untamed), Agelastus (melancholy), Agetes (one who conducts), Anax (lord), Chlotonius (infernal), Chlymenus (renowned), Euclius (famous), Eubulius (consoler), Necrodegmon (reciever of the dead), Necron Soter (savior of the dead), Niger Deus (black god), Ophius (blind god), Polydegmon (reciever of many), Polysemantor (ruler of many), Stygius (of the river Styx), Chthonius (of the earth),
Sacred Color: Black
Sacred Symbols: Crown, Bird-Tipped Scepter, Bident, Cerberus, Key, Helmet of Darkness, Throne, Gold Chariot Pulled By 4 Black Horses, Cornucopia
Sacred Incense: Frankincense, Aromatic Herbs (His Sacred Plants)
Sacred Offerings: Libations of Water, Wine, Honey, Milk, or Oil, poured into a Pit in the Earth
Sacrificial Animals: Black Animals, Especially Black Bulls and Sheep
Sacred Plant: White Poplar, Cypress, Mint, Asphodel, Narcissus (Daffodil)
Sacred Bird: Screech Owl
Sacred Animal: Black Ram
Note: The word Pluto is used when referring to Hades as the god of wealth. The word Plutus is used when referring to the son of Demeter, the god of wealth.
Note: In some versions of the myth, Minthe is transformed into the mint plant by Persphone out of jealousy and before she can actually have sex with Hades. In other versions of the myth, Minthe foolishly claims to be better than Persephone and that Hades will divorce Persephone and make her his wife. Demeter hears her and then tramples her to death with her feet, upon which her body transforms into the mint plant.
Note: In some versions of the myth, Milenoe is said to be the daughter of Zeus and Persephone, with Zeus tricking Persephone into having sex with him by appearing to her in the shape of her husband, Hades. According to some, Milenoe was said to be either a palish green in color or else half-black and half -white, representing both her heavenly (Olympian) and earthly (Chthonic) origin. Milenoe is most likely another name for the goddess Hecate.