Erinyes (Furies) In Greek mythology, three female goddesses, later Demonized in Christianity, who punish wrongdoers to death, sometimes causing them to commit suicide. Erinyes means “roused to anger.” The Erinyes are Alecto, Megara, and Tisiphone, and they were born from the Blood of the castrated god Uranus. They are ugly, winged women with hair, arms, and waists entwined with poisonous SerpentS. They carry whips and are clothed in the long black robes of mourners or the short skirts and boots of huntress-maidens. The Erinyes particularly punish those who kill their mothers. They serve in the court of Hades and scourge the shades of sinners. When they play their lyres, mortals wither. They cause insanity and mind-ruining derangement, especially for murderers. They also cause disease, illness, and hunger. The Erinyes can be placated by rituals of atonement

The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.
Erinyes The Strong Ones; The Angry Ones; The Night Born Sisters; The Kindly Ones


The Furies; the Eumenides; Errinys


Greece When Kronos castrated Uranus, drops of blood fell onto Gaia and she conceived the Erinyes, infernal spirits of justice, vengeance, and righteousness. There are three Erinyes: • Alecto: “Never Ending” • Megaera: “Envious Anger” • Tisiphone: “Face of Retaliation” The Erinyes are not interested in legal codes; they are spirits of primeval natural law and severelypunish those who flout these laws. They are scary spirits. Among the crimes they punish are homicides, perjury, crimes against deities, and murder against one’s own blood kin. When the Erinyes are not busy on Earth, they serve Hades and Persephone, supervising (and inflicting) punishment in Hades’ dungeons. They may also serve Ananke. They call Hades their home. Other versions of their ancestry suggest that the Erinyes are the daughters of Nyx or Eurynome. Disciples of Orpheus claimed that the Erinyes were the children of Hades and Persephone. The Erinyes may appear on their own volition in response to crime, but they may also be invoked to provide justice. Victims may call down the curse of the Erinyes against those who have harmed them. The Erinyes are particularly involved in family feuds, especially when one family member kills another. It may have been considered safer to allow the Erinyes to prosecute these crimes rather than extend blood feuds. The Erinyes are particularly defenders of motherhood and Mother Right, the matriarchal concept that emphasizes the sacredness of mothers (as opposed to the authority of fathers). They appear when mothers are insulted, abused, or murdered. They will defend the rights of other family members, too (fathers, eldest brothers), but Mom is their priority. They pursue those who flout blood kinship. Their most famous myth is the story of Orestes, son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. Clytemnestra murdered Agamemnon in revenge for his sacrificing their daughter, Iphigenia. Apollo ordered Orestes to avenge his father by killing his murderer, even if it was his mother. When Orestes fulfilled the command, the Erinyes attacked. This eventually led to a dispute between deities as to which was most crucial: avenging your father or not killing your mother. Apollo and Zeus led the former argument; the Erinyes insisted on the latter. The Erinyes would have been victorious in this dispute between the old primeval order and what mythologist Karl Kerenyi calls “the whole new theocracy founded by Father Zeus” until Athena cast the deciding vote for Zeus. Athena renamed the Erinyes, calling them the Eumenides, “the Kindly Ones.” This allegedly marks a transformation in their nature, although many believe it to be merely a euphemism, the equivalent of hopefully addressing a snarling dog as “good doggy.” The Erinyes star in “The Kindly Ones,” part of author Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic book series. The Erinyes are invoked when you seek justice and revenge. They afflict their victims with insanity and madness, their wrath placated only with correct ritual cleansing (hence the need for Medea to receive cleansing rites from Circe following the murder of her brother). They may also set acts of penance, which must be accomplished.


The Erinyes bark: that’s the telltale sign of their approach. You’ll hear their barking before you see or smell them. The Erinyes are spirits out of a horror movie. They are not alluringly beautiful spirits. Their bodies and breath smell bad. They have venomous serpents for hair. Blood and some kind of venomous moisture exudes from their rheumy eyes. They may have wings like a bat or large bird. The Erinyes may wear black mourner’s robes or dress in the short skirt of a hunting maiden (like Artemis). They may appear dancing a circle-dance. Tisiphone is described as wearing a bloodstained sheet. She is the guardian of the gates of Tartarus.


Frequent subjects of artwork, generally they are portrayed as far more attractive than their descriptions.


Whips with brass-studded thongs; torches


Dogs, snakes


  • Alastor;
  • Ananke
  • Apollo
  • Athena
  • Circe
  • Eurynome
  • Gaia
  • Gorgons
  • Hades
  • Iphigenia Keres
  • Kronos
  • Medea
  • Nyx
  • Orpheus
  • Persephone
  • Zeus


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.