Weekly Deity: Zephyrus


Zephyrus and Khloris

Zephyrus, also known as Zephyr, is the Greek god of the west wind.  He is often considered a kind god and was a favorite of the ancient sailors when they needed a favorable wind.

Attributes

Zephyrus is usually shown with wings of some kind, ranging from the big feathered angel-type wings to butterfly or insect-like wings.  He is shown as a younger but mature male, generally in the nude, and beardless.  Later artists gave him a beard and age, but in ancient Grecian pottery he was shown as beardless and young.  Sometimes the winds are collectively shown as horses kept in the stables of Aeolus, the storm god.  That is the depiction of them given in the Odyssey when they were loaned to Odysseus.

Mythology

One of the Anemoi, or the wind gods, Zephyrus was the brother of Boreas (north wind), Notus (south wind), and Eurus (east wind).  According to Hesiod, the parents of the Anemoi were Eos, goddess of dawn, and Astraeus (a Titan god of dusk).

Zephyrus was said to live in a cave in Thrace (most of the winds lived in caves of some kind).  He is said to have multiple wives at different times.  In one story he is the husband of his sister Iris, the goddess of the rainbow.  But in another he is said to have abducted his sister Chloris, to whom he apparently gave the gift of the domain of flowers.  By Chloris he fathered the beautiful Carpus, a god of fruit and spring.  In keeping with the common belief that horses are the children of the earth (or sometimes the ocean) and the wind, Zephyrus was believed to be the father of Balius and Xanthus, the swift and beautiful horses of Achilles.

There are two myths that Zephyrus features in, but they aren’t his personal myths.  He’s a side character instead of the main character.  Zephyrus doesn’t have myths of his own.  The one myth is that of Cupid and Psyche.  Zephyrus helps the couple by carrying Psyche to Cupid’s castle while she slept.  The second myth is that of Apollo and Hyacinthus.  The story goes that Zephyrus fell in love with a young man named Hyacinthus, as did Apollo.  Apollo won the young man, and one day while the pair were outside throwing around a discus, Apollo threw the discus.  Hyacinthus ran to catch it, but Zephyrus, in his jealousy, blew a puff of wind and knocked the discus off course.  The discus hit Hyacinthus in the head and killed him, much to Apollo and Zephyrus’ dismay.  Apollo created the hyacinth flower from Hyacinthus’ blood (a strange tribute, but hey, he now has a pretty flower to be remembered by for all eternity).

Light Side

Zephyrus is mostly a kind god.  He blows the western wind, which is warm and gentle, and is considered the harbinger of spring.  Other than a fit of jealousy and abducting one of his wives (which was fairly common in the ancient world and is probably from the custom of symbolically stealing the bride-to-be away from her own home–it just sounds really bad to us but was accepted by the ancient societies), Zephyrus doesn’t do a great deal of harm, nor does he act out in a harmful way.  His light side is that he’s helpful, he’s warm, and he is kind in nature, plus he aids in the growth and rebirth of spring–as such he is in a way a progenitor or fertility god, because he aids in the return of fertility to the earth.

Dark Side

Zephyrus acts very human in how he handles his jealousy of Apollo and Hyacinthus’ relationship.  From the myth, it seems that Zephyrus only intended to disrupt the game with the discus, but he was the inadvertent cause of the death of his love.  Although Zephyrus’ despair at causing his death isn’t shown in the myth, it can be assumed that he felt bad about it since it looks like the incident was an accident in the first place.  Therefore it seems that his dark side is merely the flaw of being too human, of being susceptible to human emotions and actions that he can’t quite help.

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One response to “Weekly Deity: Zephyrus

  1. Pingback: Weekly Deity: Iris « A Witchy Life

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