Weekly Deity: Morpheus


Morpheus was the god of dreams in Greece.  He also went by the name Oneiros, and he was an attendant of Hypnos, his brother and the god of sleep.  Although technically Morpheus is classified as a daemon (a benevolent supernatural being between a mortal and a god, such as lesser divinities or heroes) many consider him to be among the ranks of the divine.

Attributes

Morpheus is supposed to have the true form of a winged daemon.  This means that he is not supposed to have the same form necessarily as one of the gods, but is somehow different.  However, Morpheus can take any human form and appear in dreams.  Often he is depicted as a young human male with wings, sometimes in shadows, sometimes not.

Mythology

He is the son of the primordial goddess of night, Nyx, though Hesiod and Cicero claim Morpheus to either have no father or to be the son of the god Erebus.  His siblings include Icelus and Phantasos, and with those two gods Morpheus is the oldest of this trio, called the Oneiroi (“dreams”).  Morpheus is also brother to Thanatos (“death”), Hypnos (“sleep”), and Geras (“old age”).  Ovid has a different account of Morpheus’ lineage, however, and instead says that Morpheus and the Oneiroi are the sons of Hypnos, and that Oneiroi are not three brothers but an uncountable host of spirits.

Morpheus and the other dream gods were associated with the underworld, their dwelling being near or in that land, possibly near the abode of Night and her other children.  The home of Morpheus and the Oneiroi had two gates: one gate of ivory let pass the false dreams, while the other gate of polished horn let through the truthful or prophetic dreams.  There was also an elm tree in Morpheus’ domain, from which the Oneiroi hung the dreams they fashioned in the appearance of winged phantom-shapes.

His job is to shape dreams and send them to mortals, or give shape to the beings that inhabit dreams.  Morpheus had a special responsibility to the dreams of kings and heroes, since their dreams tended to have a more profound impact on the world.  This is why he alone is referred to as the god of dreams, and takes precedence over the other Oneiroi–Phantasos sends the tricky and unreal dreams, while another dream god Phobetor made the nightmares and frightening dreams.

Light and Dark Sides

Morpheus could only be considered Dark because his home is in the Underworld.  There is nothing to suggest that Morpheus is a Dark god otherwise–he does not inflict harm, or send dreams that are evil in nature, nor does he seem to interact with humans in any negative fashion.  Morpheus seems to bring the kind of dreams everyone likes–good, perhaps restful, and perhaps even peaceful.  I could also see him sending healing dreams, the kind that heal the psyche and the soul of emotional or mental wounds.  He is a Light god, at least in terms of his work–we don’t truly get a sense of his personality at all.

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