Echidna

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A modern illustration (author unknown)


Echidna was called the "Mother of All Monsters" and described by Hesiod as a female monster spawned in a cave, who mothered with her mate Typhon every major monster in the Greek mythos.



Nature

Etymology

Echidna from Greek ekhis means "she viper"


Description

She was depicted with the face and torso of a beautiful woman, sometimes wings in archaic vase-paintings, and always with the body of a serpent (see also Lamia). She is also sometimes described as having two serpent's tails. Karl Kerenyi noted an archaic vase-painting with a pair of echidnas performing sacred rites in a vineyard, while on the opposite side of the vessel, goats were attacking the vines (Kerenyi 1951, p 51f). Echidna as protector of the vineyard perhaps.

the goddess fierce Echidna who is half a nymph with glancing eyes and fair cheeks, and half again a huge snake, great and awful, with speckled skin, eating raw flesh beneath the secret parts of the holy earth. And there she has a cave deep down under a hollow rock far from the deathless gods and mortal men. There, then, did the gods appoint her a glorious house to dwell in: and she keeps guard in Arima beneath the earth, grim Echidna, a nymph who dies not nor grows old all her days. (Theogony, 295-305)


Family

Usually considered offspring of Tartarus and Gaia, or of Ceto and Phorcys (according to Hesiod) or of Chrysaor and the naiad Callirhoe, or Peiras and Styx (according to Pausanias, who did not know who Peiras was aside from her father)


Echidna and Typhon's offspring

The offspring of Typhon and Echidna were:

  1. Nemean Lion
  2. Cerberus
  3. Orthrus
  4. Ladon
  5. Chimera
  6. Sphinx
  7. Lernaean Hydra
  8. Aethon
  9. Teumessian fox

Some sources also include the Gorgons and the Graeae as her children.

According to Herodotus (III.108), Hercules had three children by her:

  1. Agathyrsus
  2. Gelonus
  3. Scylla
Appolon facing Echidna

Places

The site of her cave, Arima, Homer calls "the couch of Typhoeus (Iliad, II.783). When she and her mate attacked the Olympians, Zeus beat them back and punished Typhon by sealing him under Mount Etna. However, Zeus allowed Echidna and her children to live as a challenge to future heroes. She was an immortal and ageless nymph to Hesiod (Theogony above), but was killed where she slept by Argus Panopes, the hundred-eyed giant.


History/Beliefs

Art / Fiction

Echidna in popular culture

  • Echidna was a recurring character in the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as she is played by Bridget Hoffman. This version of her is shown as a multi-tentacled reptilian creature.
  • In the Gargoyles (TV series)|Gargoyles episode "The New Olympians", a snake woman named Ekidna is presumed to be Echidna's descendant.
  • In Disney's Hercules, Echidna also appeared as the mother of monsters.
  • Echidna appears as a boss monster in Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls.
  • In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, Echidna appears as the Great Queen of the gods and the wife of the chief god Pas.
  • In Tecmo's recent Rygar: The Legendary Adventure, Echidna appears as a titan who was formerly Cleopatra.
  • In Atlus's Shin Megami Tensei series, Echidna occasionally shows up as a demon.
  • In Rick Riordan's the Lightning Thief, Echidna sets her son the Chimaera upon the main character in the Gateway Arch.
  • Echidne of the Snakes [1] is a fairly popular liberalism|liberal feminist blog, whose pseudonym, Echidne, has adopted the persona of a part-human snake goddess.
  • Echidna is the name of one of the gates of Radiata City in the role-playing game Radiata Stories.
  • Echidna, is the name of a boss in Devil May Cry 4, possessing the body of a giant snake, blossoming into a woman.

In the television show Supernatural, the evil villian is called "The Mother of All Monsters."

References—related sources and media

Sources