Atlas is the Lord of Dangerous Wisdom. He plumbs the depths of the sea. He knows the mysteries of the universe. He once owned the pillars that held Earth and Sky asunder. (It was believed that Gaia and Uranus sought to reunite and had to be kept apart lest the entire world be crushed by their embrace.)
Atlas, a powerful and primordial spirit, led the Titans in their war against Zeus. When the Titans lost, most were cast into the pit of Tartarus, but Atlas was condemned to stand at the world’s end and either carry the entire world or hold the sky up so that Uranus and Gaia, Sky and Earth, could not resume their embrace. (In some versions, Atlas is Uranus and Gaia’s son so he is essentially keeping his parents apart.)
Atlas can no longer roam or wander; he must bear this weight for eternity (unless he can get someone to replace him; he had a momentary respite from Heracles). Atlas suffers at the western edge of the Greek world; his brother, Prometheus, suffers at the eastern edge.
Atlas’ name may derive from the root verb Tlao, which means “to carry.” His consort may be Phoebe, Titan of the Sun. Atlas may be the spirit of the moon. His sons include Hesperus and Hyas. His daughters include the Hesperides, Pleiades, and Hyades. Through his daughter Maia, he is Hermes’ grandpa.
A huge, powerful man bearing Earth on his shoulders
A two-ton art deco statue of Atlas is in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, not far from a statue of Prometheus.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.