Wise Counsel

Metis, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, is an ancient goddess of wisdom and cleverness. Metis gave Kronos the emetic potion that caused him to vomit him up the children he had swallowed.

Metis married Zeus. She is his first or second wife, depending on whether one counts Dione. Prophesies foretold that Metis was destined to bear incredibly brilliant, wise children. You would think most fathers would be happy about this, but not Zeus.

• Metis’ first child, Athena, was destined to equal her father in wisdom and courage.

• Her second child was destined to conquer his father, just like Zeus and Kronos had conquered theirs.

Zeus determined that there would be no second child. He outfoxed Metis. When she was pregnant with Athena, he played a shape-shifting game with her. She took various different forms, and when she became a tiny fly, he swallowed her. The implication is that he killed and consumed her, somehow managing to rescue daughter Athena, who later emerged full-grown in full battle gear from Zeus’ head.

Another theory suggests that Metis exists within Zeus: he is able to draw on her wisdom, with or without her permission. Alternatively, Athena—who was born full-grown—is Metis. Athena’s insistence on virginity and chastity is her way of staying safe: Zeus will never permit the birth of the second child. (Erichtonios, the child she must keep secret, may be that child.)

• Metis may originally derive from North Africa, possibly related to Ma’at.

• Metis, Athena, and Medusa may form a trinity of closely related spirits.


Metis is a skilled shape-shifter, a talent that led to her undoing.



See Also:

Athena; Dione; Erich tonios; Kronos; Ma’at; Medusa; Oceanus; 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.

Metis (counsel) In Greek mythology, a Titaness, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys; first wife of Zeus, according to Hesiod’s Theogony (886 ff). When Zeus was told by Heaven and Earth that his wife was to bear a child who would overthrow him, he swallowed Metis through trickery. Athena was born fully armed from Zeus’s head, which was split open by Hephaestus’s ax, or by Prometheus. In Greek religion Metis was a personification of counsel, prudence, and insight.


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