Hydra (water creature) In Greek mythology, a huge serpent with 7, 9, or 50 heads (accounts vary) in Lake Lerna in Argolis; offspring of Typhon and Echidna. If one head was chopped off, another two would grow in its place. Heracles’ second labor was to kill the monster. With the aid of Iolaus he accomplished the feat. The venom of Hydra was poisonous. Arrows dipped in the venom killed Cheiron, Nessus, and Philoctetes. Eventually the poison was used on a garment that killed Heracles. Hesiod’s Theogony, Vergil’s Aeneid (book 6), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 9) all cite the myth.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Hydra was the daughter of Echidna and Typhon and Hera’s beloved foster child. She lived at the sevenfold source of the River Amymone and haunts the neighboring swamps of Lerna. It was Hydra’s job to guard the gates to Hades accessed through the waters of Lerna.
Hydra has the torso of a canine with nine or more heads resembling snakes. One head is immortal. Her blood is poison. Heracles’ second labor was to kill Hydra. It’s unclear exactly why Hydra was a target, but Hera, perceiving her as vulnerable, had posted a crab to guard the gate guardian.
When Heracles knocked off one of Hydra’s heads with his club, two more appeared in its place. The crab attempted to save Hydra by attacking Heracles’ foot but Heracles stomped on it, crushing the crab. Heracles needed help to destroy Hydra: he had his assistant—his nephew, Iolaus—burn the necks of each head as Heracles lopped them off. The immortal head was buried far from her body. Heracles dipped his arrows in Hydra’s poison blood so that any wounds they caused would be fatal.
Hera placed the crab in the sky as the constellation Cancer. Hydra was placed in the sky as a constellation, too. With her body in the sky and her immortal head secretly hidden in Earth, she survives. Her guardian powers can still be accessed.
The Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation is envisioned riding a seven-headed beast. Although the number of heads doesn’t exactly correspond, Hydra became associated with the Whore and hence the Anti-Christ and the Apocalypse.
Spirit ally: Hydra may be venerated alongside Hera.
Once upon a time, lambs intended for Hydra were cast into the waters of Lerna by those seeking to pass through the gates to Hades. Don’t bother replicating the sacrifice: the gates at Lerna were not considered metaphoric. There was an actual, literal opening to the Underworld. The sacred lake was drained and has vanished, as has the portal. However, images of lambs offered on an altar may suffice to contact, propitiate, and reward her.
Amymone; Echidna; Hades; Hera; Heracles
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.
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