Hephaistos’ MDT – Day 8: Regional Variations

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Today, I will discuss some regional variations of Hephaistos.

I have not really found that much information on regional variations, his worship seems to have been rather universal across the Hellenic world. However, there are some cult centres of his.

First, there is Lemnos, the place where according to the myth he landed after being thrown of Olympos either by Hera as a babe, or by Zeus as a youngling. It is here that he grew up in the first version, his legs already crooked, and learning the crafts by himself while in the care of Thetis and Eurynome. Others place his infancy and growing up near the banks of the Okeanos river, however, which makes sense as his foster mothers were Okeanides, daughters of Okeanos. According to the other tradition, it was during his second fall that Hephaistos got his crooked legs, upon impact. He was received by the Sintians, a people living on Lemnos, who taught him the art of metalworking. Since the etymology of his name is unclear, and likely pre-Hellenic in origin, these Sintians might be a remembrance of such a pre-Hellenic people. It is also important to point out the discovery of Lemnian, a language or dialect related to Etruscan, pointing to a possible Aegean origin for the Etruscans. Etruscan and Lemnian are not Indo-European, and the only other cognate we know of is the Rhaetian language of northern Italy and the Alps. On Lemnos, his consort is the Nymph Kabeiro, by whom he fathered the Kabeiroi and Kabeirides.

Anyways, it seems likely the image we have of Hephaistos throughout the Hellenic world is mostly influenced by the traditions deriving from Lemnos. However, another major cult centre existed on Sicily, centring around Mt. Etna where Hephaistos is said to have a workshop and forge, tended to by the Kyklopes. Interestingly, the pre-Hellenic population known as the Sikeloi worshipped the God Adranos (Αδρανός) as God of Mt. Etna, who is also a God connected to fire and smithing. The Hellenes likely identified Hephaistos with him, and Adranos became an epithet of Hephaistos, as did the geographic epithet Aitnaios. Adranos is the one originally fathering the Palikoi by Thaleia, something later attributed to Hephaistos as the two became identified together. The worship of Adranos extended across Sicily and its different peoples. Likely the image of Hephaistos in Sicily and perhaps also Southern Italy would have been more heavily influenced by Adranos. The temple of Adranos/Hephaistos near Mt. Etna featured guard dogs who would welcome any and all, yet would bite those soiled by crime and chase away those who committed debauchery without proper purifications.

Finally, I will point you, the reader, once more to the myth of Erikhthonios and the very important role that Hephaistos played in Athens as the father of a line of Kings. He was worshipped as Khalkeus (Bronze-smith) during the Khalkeia festival that he shared with Athena. It is fitting that Hephaistos, as a God of Crafts, would be so strongly worshipped in Athens, which exists under the patronage of Athena, who is also connected with the arts and crafts amongst many other things. Plato in his Kritias even goes so far as to say that when the Gods partitioned the Earth amongst themselves, Athena and Hephaistos both obtained Athens as a common portion. Hephaistos temple in Athens, sometimes wrongly named Theseion, is one of the best preserved Doric style temples. The Erekhtheion on the Akropolis also featured an altar to Hephaistos.

This is about all I could find.


One comment on “Hephaistos’ MDT – Day 8: Regional Variations

  1. One thing is that Vulcan the Roman God most similar to Hephaistos also has His Forge at Mount Etna. I wonder how much of the Sicilian veneration of Hephaistos influenced Roman ideas of Vulcan (Volcanus).


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