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Hymen

by W. Richard McNally
Hymen or Hymenaeus was the god of marriage and the marriage feast or song. He is often depicted with a marriage feast torch in his hand. This god was the son of Aphrodite by Dionysus and therefore the full brother of Priapus. His attributes are referred to in the opening sections of Homer's Iliad as well as playing a part in Virgil's Aeneid. He is a character in both As You Like It and The Tempest by Shakespeare.

In Greek mythology he plays a prominent part as a subordinate character in certain cycles, for example: "Hymen had been called to bless with his presence the nuptials of Orpheus with Eurydice; but though he attended, he brought no happy omens with him. His very torch smoked and brought tears into their eyes. In coincidence with such prognostics, Eurydice, shortly after her marriage, while wandering with the nymphs, her companions, was seen by the shepherd Aristaeus, who was struck by her beauty and made advances to her." (Bulfinch's Mythology) Thus we see how the torches were part of a casting for omens at the feast with regard to the success of the marriage. He was also the personification of the wedding hymn (humnos) which made be the word from which the god's name derives.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Hymenaues

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