Gods or goddesses that are associated with the night are called night deities. Night deities are commonly found in polytheistic religions.
Polytheism is the belief in more than one God contradicting to monotheism which is the belief in only one God.
Sometimes these Gods and Goddess are also more highly respected or worshiped as they possess more power or are the original creators.
Taoism, Shenism, or Chinese folk religion, Japanese Shinto, Santera, most Traditional African religions, and numerous neopagan faiths are examples of notable polytheistic religions practiced today.
Here we will be discussing the Gods and Goddesses that are specifically associated with the night.
Night Gods and Goddesses
In polytheism, different gods and goddesses may be representations of natural elements or ancestral principles. They might be considered as autonomous or as facets or emanations of a creator god or transcendental absolute principle that manifests immanently in nature (monistic theologies).
Before the emergence and expansion of the universalist Abrahamic religions of Christianity and Islam (which compel monotheism), polytheism was the most common type of religion.
Some Hindus consider themselves to be pantheists, while others consider themselves to be polytheists, hence Hinduism cannot be classified solely as either pantheistic or polytheistic.
Most polythiestic religions have their own Gods and Goddesses classifed as night deities. We will discuss the three Greek night deities.
There are some night deities that are more common than others such as Hades, God of the underworld and Artemis, goddess of the hunt – strongly associated with the moon.
However the three discussed will be the Goddess Nyx, God Erebus and Hypnos.
Nyx the Greek Goddess of Night
Nyx is shown as a shadowy figure that stood at the beginning of creation. She mothered the deity of sleep (Hypnos) and the deity of death (Thanatos) with Erebus the God of darkness.
Nyx is not commonly represented in surviving mythology but she is seen as a figure of such power and beauty that Zeus himself fears her.
One of the more common of Nyx’s children is the ferryman of Hades, Charon. Nyx has a more important role in many fragments of Orpheus’s poems. She is the primordial principle from which all creation comes, rather than Chaos.
Nyx lives in an adyton, a cave where she dispenses oracles. Cronus, who was imprisoned within – asleep and drunk on honey – dreamt and prophesied.
Nyx’s chanting from inside the cave is what moves the entire universe according to her chanting rhythm. Although she has some statues made of her, there is no known temple dedicated to Nyx.
There are said to be a few cult practices of her. Nyx was often workshiped in the background of other cults. In the Temple of Artemis there was a statue called “Night”.
In 2006 the International Astronomy Union renamed one of Pluto’s moons after Nyx.
Erebus Primeval Deity Of Darkness
According to Hesiod’s Theogony, he is one of the first five beings created by Chaos. The first five of the Greek pantheon also included Hero, Zeus and Aphrodite.
Erebus is mentioned to have fathered several other deities with Nyx, including Hypnos which will be the next deity discussed.
Erebus is also the name used to indicate a region of the Underworld where people who died would immediately travel to after death, this region was also called Tartarus.
Erebus’ name meant “place of darkness between Earth and Hades”. Erebus was credited with finishing the Underworld after the other Gods and Goddesses finished creating Earth. The Underworld was a place where the spirits of the dead were taken care of.
It could be visited by heroes such as Hercules but was invisible to the living. Erebus finished creating the Underworld by filling the empty voids with his dark mist. Nyx used her dark mist to bring night to Earth.
“Veil of Night” is what Greek poets called this darkness Nyx brought to the Earth. Nyx and Erebus’s daughter, Hemera, was created to burn off the dark mists and bring about dawn.
Erebus is commonly confused with Hades but Hades inherited the third realm when the world divided into three kingdoms with his two brothers, Zeus and Poseidon.
Hades was also God of the Earth, the fertile fields, mining and metals (silver and gold); he additionally presided over funerals. Erebus and Hades differ in the fact that Erebus was more often referred to as a spirit but Hades possessed a physical form and more human characteristics.
Hypnos God of Sleep
Hypnos is one of the sons of Erebus and Nyx. His twin brother is Thanatos, God of Death. Both siblings in the the Underworld, Hypnos lived in a big cave where night and day meet.
His wife, Pasithea is the Goddess of hallucination and relaxation.
Pasithea was promised to him by Hera, she was the youngest of the Charities. No light and sound would ever enter his sleeping grounds.
It was filled with poppies and other soporific plants. He is known to be a calm and gentle God, he helps humans to maintain their health through sleep.
Because he is in control of human’s sleep he therefore owns half of humans’ lives. Hypnos’ powers would provide the river with the power of forgetfulness which makes humans forget all of their worries and let them have a peaceful and restful sleep.
Hypnos was perceived as a handsome man with wings growing from either the temple of his head or his shoulders. According to the stories, with the help of Hera, Hypnos helped the Danaans win the Trojan War by using his powers to trick Zeus.
This led to Hypnos having to flee, under the wrath of Zeus, Hypnos hid with his mother Nyx. Nyx’s powers prevented Zeus from expelling his wrath onto Hypnos.
The second time, Hera asks Hypnos to put Zeus to sleep again, this time she promises him the hand of Pasithea. Although he is much more wary of going against Zeus he eventually agress and puts Zeus to sleep for a while.
With Zeus being asleep during the Trojan war Poseidon was able to aid the Achaeans in their fight, something which Zeus had forbidden.
Overall, this article discussed three night deities prevalent in Greek mythology and the Greek belief system. Although there are many other neight deities represented in the Greek stories these three were interesting to discuss because they aren’t as well known but they are a pig part of the Greek history.
Nyx, the Goddess of night, someone so powerful even Zeus himself feared to confront her. Her husband Erebus, the God of the darkness who was one of the 5 primeval beings created in a void – him specifically being created by Chaos.
Erebus also has credit for actually creating the underworld, whereas Hades is the ruler, Erebus actually finished the region himself using his darkness.
It is interesting to see how Nyx and Erebus worked together to create the “night veil”, Nyx used his darkness to create what we call nighttime on Earth.
Lastly, their gentle and kind son Hypnos who is the God of sleep. Who watches of humans to make sure they forget their worries and have a restful sleep.