Chthonic: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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

Chthonic (from Greek χθόνιοςchthonios, "in, under, or beneath the earth", from χθώνchthōn "earth"[1]; pertaining to the Earth; earthy; subterranean) designates, or pertains to, deities 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 (χώρα) does). It evokes at once abundance and the grave.

The pronunciation is somewhat awkward for English speakers. Most dictionaries, such as the OED, state that the first two letters should be pronounced as [k], /ˈkθɒnɪk/; others, such as the AHD, record these letters as silent, /ˈθɒnɪk/. Note that the modern pronunciation of the Greek word "χθόνιος" is [xθonios], although the Classical Greek pronunciation would have been something similar to [kʰtʰonios].[2]


Chthonic and Olympian

While terms such as "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 deity in question.

Some chthonic cults practised ritual sacrifice, which often happened at night time. 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 usually were burned whole or buried rather than being cooked and shared among the worshippers.[3]

Not all Chthonic cults were Greek, nor did all cults practice ritual sacrifice; some performed sacrifices in effigy or burnt vegetable offerings.

Cult type versus function

While chthonic deities had a general association with fertility, they did not have a monopoly on it, nor were the later Olympian deities wholly unconcerned for 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 occasionally was classified as an "Olympian" in late poetry and myth. The absorption of some earlier cults into the newer pantheon versus those that resisted being absorbed is suggested as providing the later myths that seem confusing however.

In between

The categories Olympian and chthonic weren't, however, completely separate. Some Olympian deities, such as 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 and the time of origin of the myth.

Moreover, a few deities aren't easily classifiable under these terms. Hecate, for instance, was typically offered puppies at crossroads — not an Olympian type of sacrifice, to be sure, but not a typical offering to Persephone nor the heroes, either. Because of her underworld roles, Hecate is generally classed as chthonic.

References in psychology and anthropology

In analytical psychology, the term chthonic was often used to describe the spirit of nature within, the unconscious earthly impulses of the Self, one's material depths, but not necessarily with negative connotations. See anima and animus or shadow. In Man and His Symbols Carl G. Jung explains:

"Envy, lust, sensuality, deceit, and all known vices are the negative, 'dark' aspect of the unconscious, which can manifest itself in two ways. In the positive sense, it appears as a 'spirit of nature', creatively animating Man, things, and the world. It is the 'chthonic spirit' that has been mentioned so often in this chapter. In the negative sense, the unconscious (that same spirit) manifests itself as a spirit of evil, as a drive to destroy."[4]

Gender has a specific meaning in cultural anthropology. Teresa del Valle in her book Gendered Anthropology explains "there are male and female deities at every level. We generally find men associated with the above, the sky and women associated with the below, with the earth, water of the underground, and the chthonic deities."[5]

References in media

In the Cthulhu Mythos, the Chthonians are a race of huge tentacled wormlike creatures who live underground. Lovecraft biographer L. Sprague deCamp speculated that the place name "Miskatonic" was a play on "chthonic".

In Activision's Battlezone, the Cthonians were an advanced race of people who lived on Earth before humans. They populated many if not all planets in this solar system. There is also evidence in the expansion pack The Red Odyssey to suggest they spread far across the universe. Their physical form has neither been shown nor suggested throughout the entire series. Sequel Battlezone 2 makes further references to the Cthonians, and the BZ2CP expansion pack Forgotten Enemies reveals the Hadean (Hades) faction of the Cthonians, whilst the Olympians remain unshown. CP2 may provide further answers. In the Battlezone series, however, the C is pronounced as S rather than K except in sporadic instances in the first game.

In ID Software's 1996 first-person shooter Quake, Chthon is a boss enemy at the end of the game's first episode, Dimension of the Doomed. He appears in the form of a demonic entity which rises out of a pit of lava. Being immune to conventional weaponry, the boss character must be killed through the use of surreptitiously placed switches, which activate an electric current, killing the monster.

In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000, Cthonia was the home planet of the Primarch Horus and his legion, the Luna Wolves.

A unique item in the game Diablo II and its expansion is a set of chain boots named "Treads of Cthon" (sic).

In Northern Lights, the universe which Lyra inhabits has a Chthonic Railway system as a parallel to the London Underground.

In Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel Invisible Man, the exclusive New York City building where the "Brotherhood" (a pseudo-Communist group that employs the protagonist) often meets, is named The Chthonian.

In A.W. Hill's 2006 novel, The Last Days of Madame Rey, the geologist Niall Mathonwy teaches a night-school course in Chthonic Mythologies of the Pacific Northwest, and the protagonist Stephan Raszer ultimately journeys to a subterranean world populated by remnants of the Lemurian race.

In Mythics Dark Age of Camelot MMO, Cthonic Knights are huge, dark demonic entity-like knights residing in a large dungeon known as Darkness Falls.

In the book series "Song of the Tears" by Ian Irvine, the Chthonic flame is an artifact of immense, limitless power, a fire which burns ice rather than a carbon source, providing power from which the wielder can draw directly, contrasting to other power sources in the series (mainly 'The Field') the use of which demands that the mancer must use an expertly formed crystal to use as a medium.

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series has the Chtonians as the guardians and rule keepers of the Universe.

Chthonic is also a symphonic black metal band.

In the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game, there are several cards named "Chthonian" (for example "Chthonian Emperor Dragon"). In the Japanese version of the game, "Chthonian" is translated as "Hell". In the corresponding anime Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, one of the main antagonists, Chazz Princeton, uses these cards.

In the TV series Blade: The Series, the main character fights to destroy a powerful association of vampires known as the House of Chthon.

In the ficitional Marvel Comics Universe, Chthon is a demonic Elder God.

See also


  1. ^ Chthonios, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus.
  2. ^ See Modern Greek phonology.
  3. ^ "The sacrifice for gods of the dead and for heroes was called enagisma, in contradistinction to thysia, which was the portion especially of the celestial deities. It was offered on altars of a peculiar shape: they were lower than the ordinary altar bomos, and their name was ischara, 'hearth'. Through them the blood of the victims, and also libations, were to flow into the sacrificial trench. Therefore they were funnel-shaped and open at the bottom. For this kind of sacrifice did not lead up to a joyous feast in which the gods and men took part. The victim was held over the trench with its head down, not, as for the celestial gods, with its neck bent back and the head uplifted; and it was burned entirely." (Source The Heroes of the Greeks, C. Kerenyi pub. Thames & Hudson 1978). The 'gods of the dead' are, of course, Chthonic deities.
  4. ^ C.G. Jung, "Man and his Symbols", ISBN 0-385-05221-9, p. 267.
  5. ^ Teresa del Valle, "Gendered Anthropology", Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-415-06127-X, p. 108.

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address