Saturday, September 3, 2011

Enigmundia: Underworld Elements -- Sleep, Dream, Fantasy, and Nightmares

As part of some research I did for a short story, I happened upon some interesting stuff that got me thinking.

First was a small collection of Gods and Daemons that belong in the Underworld but do not deal directly with some variant of death or hell: Hypnos, Morpheus, Phantasos, and Phobetor.

Gods of Demos Oneiroi

Fantastic depiction of Neil Gaiman's Morpheus
that evokes that feeling of a daemon. Art is by
Scott Hepburn and appears here.
Hypnos is the God of Sleep, and is usually portrayed as father or brother to the other three gods. My take would be to make him a distant parent, as his realm and purview seems to dwarf theirs. However, the argument for brother could be made with Hypnos as the eldest if you follow the parthenogenesis argument for the creation of these gods -- the only three named Oneiroi of supposed thousands. In fact, this latter argument seems to echo the origins of the kami from Japanese myth. Hypnos is sometimes portrayed as being asleep, with the Oneiroi in attendance around him. This is interesting, as it would seem that he would be more powerful asleep than awake. And if there is such a thing as sleepwalking in the real world, you'd better believe that the God of Sleep can do some serious sleepfighting.

By the way, does anyone remember the Brotherhood of Sleep from the movie The Prince of Darkness?

Morpheus, outside of H.P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands, tends to get better publicity these days due to Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book series (an excellent read for most of the storylines and one-shot stories). He is the God of Dreams, and is, like his brothers, sometimes described as a black-winged daemon -- which is not a demon, but a winged representative or herald (or messenger?) of the gods. Morpheus is also apparently the leader of the named trio and excels at creating dream imagery involving humanity.

Phobetor is a lesser known brother who is the God of Nightmares, and excels at creating and portraying imagery dealing with living things (birds, beasts, serpents and monsters).

Phantasos is another lesser known brother who is the God of Fantastic Dreams, and excels at creating and portraying imagery of inanimate objects (earth, rock, water, wood, and -- it is assumed -- other things crafted by humans).

The Oneiroi reside in Demos Oneiroi, which is considered part of the Underworld, the realm of Hades. So somewhere amongst the various rivers (Acheron, Cocytus, Phelegethon, Lethe, and Styx), someplace away from both Tartarus and Elysium, you can find the realm of slumber and dreams.

I'm thinking it would be placed near the river Lethe, which probably feeds into the very different pool of Lethe. In fact, perhaps both the pool of Lethe (forgetfulness) and the pool of Mnemosyne (memory) can be found in their realm.

Magical Item: Dreamcoins

Dreamcoins are a pair of coins made from a mysterious black metal that is always warm to the touch. Rumor has it that it was mined from in the depths of Tartarus and cooled in the burning waters of the River Phlegethon.

When placed on one's eyes prior to falling asleep, a person will find himself at the edge of a river with the ferryman Charon approaching. If paid with the dreamcoins, the dreamer will be ferried to Demos Oneiroi to enjoy an audience with Morpheus, Phobetor, and/or Phantasos. They will answer three questions with dreams of reality, nightmare, and fantasy and will ask favors in exchange.

If the supplicant is particularly favored, he will receive a ring carved from the horns of one of Phobetor's dream beasts. It will allow parley with chimerical creatures of the waking world.

If the supplicant is particularly reviled, he will receive a cursed ring of ivory from one of Phobetor's dream beasts. It will attract the wrath of chimerical creatures in the waking world.

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