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For other uses, see Chthon (disambiguation).
See also: Life-death-rebirth deities

Chthonic (from Greek χθόνιος-pertaining to the earth; earthy) designates, or pertains to, gods or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion.

Greek khthon is one of several words for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as gaia or ge does) or the land as territory (as khora does). It evokes at once abundance and the grave.

Greek deities
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Aquatic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Chthonic deities
Hades and Persephone,
Gaia, Demeter, Hecate,
Iacchus, Trophonius,
Triptolemus, Erinyes
Heroes and the Dead

Its pronunciation is somewhat awkward for English speakers—for this reason, many American dictionaries recommend that the initial "ch" should be silent. However, most other dictionaries, such as the OED, state that the first two letters should be pronounced [k]. Note though that the pronunciation of the Greek word "χθόνιος" is [çθonikos].<ref>See Modern Greek phonology.</ref>


[edit] Chthonic and Olympian

While terms like "Earth deity" have rather sweeping implications in English, the words khthonie and khthonios had a more precise and technical meaning in Greek, referring primarily to the manner of offering sacrifices to the god in question.

Some chthonic cults practiced ritual sacrifice. When the sacrifice was a living creature, the animal was placed in a bothros "pit" or megaron "sunken chamber". In some Greek chthonic cults, the animal was sacrificed on a raised bomos "altar". Offerings were usually burned whole or buried rather than being cooked and shared among the worshippers. Not all Chthonic cults were Greek, nor did all cults practice ritual sacrifice, some performed sacrifices in effigy or burnt vegetal offerings.

[edit] References in popular culture

Horror author Brian Lumley applied the term "Chthonian" for a fictional species in his contributions to H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.

[edit] Cult type versus function

While chthonic gods and goddesses had a general association with fertility, they did not have a monopoly on it, nor were Olympian gods wholly unconcerned from the earth's prosperity. Thus Demeter and Persephone both watched over aspects of the fertility of land, yet Demeter had a typically Olympian cult while Persephone had a chthonic one.

Even more confusingly, Demeter was worshipped alongside Persephone with identical rites, and yet was occasionally classified as an "Olympian" in poetry and myth.

[edit] In between

The categories Olympian and Chthonic were not, however, hard and fast. Some Olympian gods, like Hermes and Zeus, also received chthonic sacrifices and tithes in certain locations. The deified heroes Heracles and Asclepius might be worshipped as gods or chthonic heroes, depending on the site.

Moreover, a few deities are not easily classifiable under these terms. Hecate, for instance, was typically offered puppies at crossroads — not an Olympian sacrifice, to be sure, but not a typical offering to Persephone or the heroes, either. But because of her underworld functions, Hecate is generally classed as chthonic.

[edit] References

<references />ast:Dioses ctónicos bg:Хтонични божества es:Ctónico fr:Divinités grecques chtoniennes he:אלים כתוניים pl:Bóstwa chtoniczne pt:Ctónico ru:Хтонические божества sv:Ktoniska gudar zh:崇尼克


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