L is for Lethe
I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.
If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.
A river goddess and river in Greek mythology, one of the five rivers in the Underworld.
Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII
“All these, when centuries ten times told
The wheel of destiny have rolled,
The voice divine from far and wide
Calls up to Lethe’s river side,
That earthward they may pass once more,
Remembering not the things before,
And with a blind propension yearn
To fleshly bodies to return:”
The Stories of the Months and Days By Reginald C. Couzens 
Lethe (Forgetfulness), which had the power of making all those who drank of its waters forget the past.
Two Orations of the Emperor Julian translated by Thomas Taylor 
She fail’d precipitate, till Lethe’s shore,
Involv’d in night, unhappily she touch’d,
And lost all knowledge of her pristine state:
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
LETHE (Lêthê), the personification of oblivion, is called by Hesiod (Theog. 227) a daughter of Eris. A river in the lower world likewise bore the name of Lethe.
- The Waters of Lethe
- The Five Rivers of the Underworld and Their Uses in Greek Mythology
- Lethe (Oblivion or Forgetfulness)
Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel
Lethe is the personified spirit, or minor goddess, of forgetfulness and oblivion. She is connected to the underworld river Lethe. According to Virgil, the shades of the dead were required to drink from it to forget their mortal lives, especially if they sought reincarnation. The river Lethe lies between Hades and Elysium. Lethe is one of the five rivers of the Underworld.
Lethe’s powerful waters treat all memories the same: painful or cherished, they get erased.
According to the ancient Roman poet Ovid, this river flows through the cave of Hypnos, god of sleep, and the murmuring of the water induces drowsiness.
Lethe only had a mother: Eris, whose name means “strife”. She has a boatload of siblings with names ranging from Limos (“Starvation”) to Dysnomia (“Anarchy”).
There were ancient Greek cults, though, that believed that one should rather drink from Mnemosyne – the pool of memory – to retain one’s memories to be a better person in the next life. According to this cult, Lethe was located beneath a cypress tree, while Mnemosyne was located beneath a poplar tree. There’s even an Orphic inscription dating from around the second century BC warning people to avoid the river Lethe.
Though not connected to many myths, this river goddess has a mighty grip on the hopes and fears of mortals since the beginning of time.
Lethe in Modern Culture
Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan
The River Lethe is the river of forgetfulness and is one of several rivers in the Underworld. A mere drop from the river can make someone begin to forget their whole identity. Spirits who wish to be reborn bathe in it to completely forget who their former selves are, allowing them to be reincarnated into another life.
Percy Jackson, Thalia Grace, and Nico di Angelo cross it and when the Titan Iapetus and Percy are fighting, Percy tosses himself and Iapetus into the river. Iapetus forgets all about who he is (Percy isn’t affected because of his innate ability to stay dry underwater), and later Percy tells him he is on the same side Percy is on and that his name is Bob.
Usually it’s easy for Percy to stay dry, but he states that this was different. As he held up the river for his friends, he could feel the river resisting him, wanting to erase their memories. In the end, everyone got out but Percy, who was getting weak from holding the river up. The river fell down on him, but he did have time for one last thought: dry.Learn more here
Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series
“Forget”―Willow activating the Lethe’s Bramble[src]
Lethe’s Bramble was a type of magical flower used for augmenting spells of forgetting and mind control.
Lethe’s Bramble was a key ingredient of the Memory purge spell, which Willow Rosenberg performed twice with unsuccessful results. First, she made Tara Maclay forget an argument between the two of them about Willow’s excessive magic use; however, Tara managed to recollect her lost memory when she found the Lethe’s Bramble Willow had used, further disintegrating their relationship. Willow then attempted to make Tara forget about her meddling again along with Buffy Summers to make her forget about her time in heaven. However, Willow accidentally left a bag of Lethe’s Bramble in the fireplace where she performed the spell, causing it to burn and make the whole Scooby Gang, including Willow herself, lose their long term memory as they were in close vicinity to a crystal used for the spell.Learn more here.
Lethe in My Writing
Origin of the Fae: Lethe
Lethe is the goddess of forgetfulness. She is also sometimes a river. She can take a human form to mingle with other gods and with humans. A few drops from her is enough to make a couple of hours’ memory disappear. Quenching your thirst on the water of the river Lethe can give you a clean slate – if you so dare. She is sometimes blamed for everything from forgetting where one had put one’s keys to dementia. She’s not very sociable because of these accusations, instead favouring the company of her fellow infernal rivers.
Check her out in action:
Origin of Irascible Immortals (Origin of the Fae #7)
What do you think of Lethe? Where did you hear about Lethe for the first time? Any folklore about Lethe you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.
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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.