Mythical Grimoire: The Lernaean Hydra

hydra cover ag

Written by Algoth’s Grove

“The many headed serpent of Lerna, the Lernaean Hydra, the personification of the continuous battle of life without knowledge of the self.”

The Lernaean Hydra, or simply The Hydra is a well-known creature found in Greek mythology. We find in the Greek texts that The Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Typhon, The Hydra’s father was an inconceivably large giant with hissing snake legs, snake arms, glowing red eyes and a fire breathing jaw. Typhons wife, The Hydra’s mother was allegedly one of the offspring of Gaia, she was half woman, half snake.

The Hydra had many half siblings, although these siblings were only due to accounts of both Typhon and Echidna’s offspring, and never mentioned as siblings in the texts except for that of her sister, Kerebos. Some of these include, the goatlike Chimera, Hesperides (The dragon who protected the golden apples), Cerberus and Orthus (The infernal hounds who protected the entrance to the underworld), the Sphinx, the Nemean Lion, and the Gorgons which includes Medusa.

The Hydra had more heads that could be counted. A snake-like serpent monster with a dog-like body. Many of the accounts claim that The Hydra resided in the Argolid, in the lake of Lerna. It is interesting to note that archeologically this site has been dated to be older than the Mycenean City of Argos which dates back to 1100BC.

The Hydra is made famous as one of the 12 labors of Herakles (commonly known as Hercules). Herakles was ordered to defeat and destroy The Hydra by his step mother, Hera. Herakles consulted with Athena and she advised him to lure the creature from the swamp with arrows of fire. When he did this, it is written that The Hydra curled itself around the ankles of Herakles and a great crab-like creature came to assist The Hydra by biting Herakles in the foot. Herakles managed to destroy the crab by crushing its shell and Hera placed the crab as one of the constellations in the sky.

Herakles then beat The Hydra with his club, but each time a head was destroyed, another two would take its place. Herakles was overwhelmed and called out to his nephew, who was also mentioned as his lover, Lolaos. Together, Herakles and Lolaos defeated and destroyed The Hydra by chopping off the central immortal head whilst cauterizing the wound so nothing could grow in its place. Herakles is said to have buried this immortal head under a large rock. The blood of The Hydra was used by Herakles on the end of his arrows to destroy the Centaur Nessus. Hera allegedly never accepted this labor of Herakles because he had the help of Lolaos in defeating The Hydra.

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