Iris (rainbow) In Greek mythology, goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods; daughter of the sea deities Thaumas and Electra. Homer’s Iliad (books 3, 5, 8) makes her the messenger of Zeus, though in much later mythology she appears as an aide to Hera, wife of Zeus. One of her functions was to cut the thread of life that detained the soul in the body when it was dying. Iris appears in Hesiod’s Theogony, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (book 1 et seq.), and Vergil’s Aeneid (book 4). In English poetry she is cited in Milton’s Paradise Lost (book 2.244) to describe the vestment of the archangel Michael with its airy color, like the rainbow. In Greek art she is portrayed as a young woman with wings carrying a messenger’s wand, also used by Hermes. There are two statues of Iris among the Elgin Marbles. Iris survives as the English word for the colored portion of the eye, as well as the name of a family of flowers, including the gladiolus and crocus, which in Christian symbolism is often substituted for the lily in paintings portraying the Virgin Mary.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante


Wondrous One; Wind Swift-Footed



Iris, a rainbow goddess, is an Angelos—a messenger. She serves the Olympian deities by flying or running over a rainbow bridge carrying messages between realms. Iris can travel to any realm. She traverses various realms of spirits, as well as realms of the dead and living. She serves as a psychopomp, guiding female souls to Hades. In addition to serving as messenger, she is a spirit of justice. Iris is the sister of the Harpies and Hera’s devoted servant.


Iris is the rainbow; she also manifests as a beautiful golden-winged young woman.


It was once traditional to plant iris flowers over women’s graves or mark theirheadstones with images of Iris, or her namesake flower.


Pitcher; caduceus (staff entwined by two serpents)



See Also:

  • Harpies
  • Hera
  • Hermes
  • Psychopomp
  • Styx


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.