Who was Pasithea?
Pasithea, pronounced “pa-si-they-uh,” was a minor goddess in Greek mythology and was one of younger members of the Charites.
Does her name mean anything?
While her initial Greek name is Πασιθεα, gaining an exact translation is a little hazy. We know that her name breaks down into two major elements, “pasis” and “thea,” but any notion of what their exact intention is when put together involves a bit more guessing than absolute certainty.
Pasis can mean “all,” “possessed” or “acquired.”
Thea has an even greater degree of variation; it can mean “contemplation,” “divine,” “goddess,” “seeing” or “sight.
Now that you know the parts, you can see why historians and mythologists are a little fuzzy on what Pasithea was about. The notion that she was “acquired sight” is presented as evidence that she was a source of hallucinations. It is known that Pasithea’s name is also found in the world of botany; there is a specific plant called Pasithea that may have been known for causing hallucinations.
The other prominent interpretation of her name is that it means “acquired goddess” and this meaning has evidence in the story of how she became wed to Hypnos. It is also worth mentioning that her connection to Hypnos may have also meant that Pasithea was associated with rest and relaxation; indeed, some interpret her divine portfolio to extend to rest, meditation, hallucination and other states of altered consciousness.
What is a Kharis?
The Kharites, anglicized as the “Charites” or the “Graces,” were a group of goddesses, with an inconsistent population number, that oversaw concepts like beauty, charm, creativity, fertility goodwill, and nature. Even the names of these beings are subject to some interpretation. While most accounts claim that there are only three of these beings, the full roster of their names and influences can be found here.
Aglaea, whose name means “shining.”
Euphrosyne, whose name means “joy.”
Thalia, whose name means “blooming.”
Damia, whose name means “Earth mother.
Auxo or Auxesia, whose name means “spring growth.”
Cleta, whose name means “renowned.
Phaenna, whose name means “bright.”
Hegemone, whose name means “leader.”
Peitho, whose name means “persuasion.
Paregoros, whose name means “consolation.
Pasithea, who influenced relaxation.
Charis, whose name means “grace.” Yes, some accounts have this group of goddesses include a member whose name was applied to the entire group.
Kale, whose name means “beauty.”
Antheia, whose name means “blossoms.”
Eudaimonia, whose name means “happiness.”
Euthymia, whose name means “good mood.”
Eutchia, whose name means “good luck.
Paidia, whose name means “play,” like recess not theatre.
Pandaisia, whose name means banquet.
Pannychis, whose name means “night festivities.”
Taken as a whole, it soon becomes obvious that the Kharites, or Graces, were synonymous with the nice parts of living, be it having fun, prospering or an easing of tension and negative emotions. You would not want to insult the Kharites and, given what they contributed to humanity, it would be even weirder to meet someone who would ever think to do so. Their primary role in the Greek world manifested whenever someone would hold a party; the Kharites were tasked with bringing in the festive atmosphere and keeping it going with good cheer and dance.
The Kharites were adopted into the mythology of Ancient Rome and underwent a name change to the “Gratiae.” Despite being an entirely different name, this name also means “Graces” when translated into English.
Did Pasithea have any brothers or sisters?
While Pasithea had no brothers, her sisters were the Kharites, regardless of what they called themselves. Notably, Pasithea is widely regarded as one of the younger Kharites though there is one outlying account, penned by a Roman, that positions her as the eldest of her siblings.
Who were her Pasithea’s parents?
As a Kharis, most accounts claim Pasithea to be the daughter of Zeus and Eurynome. While Zeus barely needs an introduction due to his importance to the Greek pantheon, Eurynome was a mermaid-like daughter of the ocean who served as Zeus’ third consort. Only one account, by the poet Nonnus, gives an alternate geneology to this specific Kharis; in Nonnus’ telling, Pasithea is claimed to be the daughter of Hera and Dionysus. Given Pasithea’s connections to altering the minds of people and tweaking their perceptions, there is some logic in claiming that she was a daughter of Dionysus; while Dionysus is known as the god of wine, he was also affiliated with madness and the altered awareness that came from consuming wine.
Did she ever marry?
In time, Hera would serve her duty as the goddess of marriage in regard to Pasithea by consenting to a union with Hypnos, the god of sleep. Given the context of this discussion, Hera discusses marrying Pasithea off to Hypnos like a mother who is eager to marry off her daughter rather than playing any sort of objective matchmaker. It is for this reason alone that Nonnus’ interpretation of Pasithea’s heritage could possibly make any sort of sense.
It should also be mentioned that Pasithea’s marriage to Hypnos made her a step-sibling of Thanatos, the god of death.
In which stories does Pasithea have a role?
Pasithea’s name shows up in several texts, usually in the context of explaining the Kharites as a group and naming them off. The one story that Pasithea has any role as an individual, albeit a passive one, would be in the 14th book of Homer’s “Iliad.”
Hera’s Deal for the God of Sleep
Hera meets with Hypnos on the island of Lemnos, a small island in the northern region of the Aegean Sea. Hera expresses her urgent need of Hypnos’ abilities by clutching his hand, calling his name and saying that she will be forever indebted to him if he only agrees to her plan. Hera asks Hypnos to put Zeus to sleep soon after Hera joins him in bed but Hypnos is initially reluctant, stating that he would only try and put the King of the Gods to sleep if Zeus directly asked him to do so. Hera questions why Hypnos would be so worried and brings up prior instances of Zeus’ rage involving Heracles and siding with the Trojans to draw a distinction in Hypnos’ mind.
Hera then makes her offer to Hypnos to drive the point home; “Do this one thing for me and I will marry off Pasithea, the youngest of the Kharites, to you.” Hypnos is swayed by Hera’s arguments and the of offer of a wife and Hera then asks Hypnos to swear his agreement to the terms. Verifying this contract entailed Hera clutching earth in one hand and a handful of water from Aegean in the other, while swearing upon the Styx’s waters. Hera then agreed to this ritual and invoked the name of every Titan to ensured that all of them would know that the pact had been made; Pasithea would become Hypnos’ wife in exchange for honoring Hera’s request of placing the mighty Zeus under magical sleep.
Is there more than one Pasithea?
There are actually two other Pasitheas in the texts we have concerning Greek mythology. Amusingly, both of them have watery connections that make more sense as being daughters of Eurynome, the overwhelming consensus of who even this Pasithea was born from.
Pasithea the Nereid
This Pasithea is one of the 50 Nereids. Nereids are the water nymph children of Nereus, known as the shapeshifting “Old Man of the Sea,” and Doris, an Oceanid much like Eurynome.
Pasithea the Naiad
Although Nereid and naiad sound alike and even have similar connections, there is some distinction. This Pasithia, sometimes spelled as Prixthea, was a naiad, a water spirit known only to inhabit local bodies of water like rivers, springs and waterfalls. This Pasithea was married off to the autochthonous Erichthonius, the fourth king of Athens. This union is notable for being a blending of surf and turf; Pasithea was a being of water and Erichthonius was literally born of the earth (autochthonous means “born of the soil”) yet regarded as a son of Hephaestus. It is through this union that Pandion I was born. Prince Pandion would later succeed his father as the king of Athens and also wind up marrying a naiad by the name of Zeuxippe.
Of the three entitites known as Pasithea, only this one was known to both marry and have had any children.
Pasiphae the Lookalike
While this particular name is completely separate from Pasithea, its closeness to Pasithea’s name means that it deserves at least a brief mention and explanation. Pasiphae was the mortal child of the sun god Helios and Perse, an Oceanid. She was also the sister to the witch Circe and would eventually marry King Minos of Crete. It is during her time as the queen of Crete that Pasiphae should would give birth to several children, the most notable of which would be Asterius the Minotaur whom was born out of wedlock. To clarify, Pasithea is pronounced “pa-sih-they-uh,” while Pasiphae should be pronounced “pa-sih-fay-eh.”
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