Erichtonios is Athena’s serpent son. Hephaestus is generally considered to be his father. Various myths explain the circumstances of Erichtonios’ conception:
• Having married Athena, Hephaestus leads her to the bridal chamber to consummate their union. At the crucial moment, Athena vanishes. Hephaestus ejaculates on the ground from whence Erichtonios emerges.
• Hephaestus, lusting for Athena, pursues her and tries to assault her, but she escapes, leaving him to ejaculate on the ground, from whence Erichtonios emerges.
• Hephaestus rubs up against Athena and ejaculates on her leg. She wipes away the semen with some wool, from which Erichtonios emerges.
• Hephaestus and Athena secretly marry and conceive Erichtonios the old-fashioned way. Athena gives birth to him secretly, but his serpentine appearance reveals her own secret, suppressed snake identity. It is not sufficient to abandon this baby; he must be hidden along with his mother’s true identity.
Athena put Erichtonios in a round, covered basket or chest, which she gave to the three Aglaurides sisters to guard, forbidding them to look within. Of course, they peeked and then threw themselves from the Acropolis to their deaths.
The festival of Chalkeia celebrated Athena and Hephaestus’ nuptials, complete with a bridal ritual. Nine months later, the Panathenaea enacted the Mysteries of Erichtonios, his birth. As a Mystery spirit, little clear information survives about him.
The famous statue of Athene Parthenos (“Athena the Virgin”) featured a serpent behind her shield, allegedly a portrait of Erichtonios.
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.