Aether, sometimes also spelled Aither, was a primordial god of light. He was also the god of the sky, which the ancient Greeks considered to be “blue ether” that represented heaven. Aether’s mists were able to fill the space between the transparent mists on the ground and the solid dome that made up the sky. Air on the earth was governed by the primordial goddess Chaos, but all of the air above this was Aether’s domain.
Nyx, the goddess of night, was the mother of Aether. The ancient Greeks believed that the sky was a dome that encased the entirety of the Earth. At night, Nyx was drawing her veil across this dome to obscure the light. This also blocked Aether’s domain from the reach of the ancient Greeks.
In the morning, Hemera would disperse the mists of the night to reveal Aether’s blue ether again. Hemera was both Aether’s sister and his wife. In the ancient Greek tradition, day and night were separate from the sun and the moon. Gods of the sun were regarded differently from gods of the day.
As a primordial god, Aether wasn’t depicted as a humanoid personification of an element. Instead, Aether was considered to literally be that element. This means that all of the air between the sky and Earth’s air was considered to literally be Aether.
Aether was one of three primordial air gods. He represented all of the air at the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere. The air directly below him, dispersed over the Earth, was the domain of Chaos. The final air was governed by Erebos, and it was considered to be the mists that existed in the underworld.
Aether was thought to envelop the moon, sun, stars, clouds, and peaks of the mountains. All of these areas were Aether’s domain, while other parts of the Earth fell to Chaos.
Aether did have a female counterpart, referred to as Aethra or Aithre in ancient Greek myths. She was considered to be the mother of the moon and sun as well as the Titaness who governed clear skies.
Different sources have different myths regarding Aether’s parentage. In some, he’s considered to be the son of Nyx and Erebos. In others, he’s considered to be the son of Erebos alone and have no mother. Still other myths contend that he’s the son of Chaos alone, and that Aether is a part of her essence. Finally, some myths believe that Khronos was the father of Aether as well as all the other primordial gods.
Aether’s most notable offspring were Thalassa, the primordial ocean goddess, and Gaia, the mother of the earth. They were a result of his coupling with wife and sister Hemera.
Aether is one of the very first gods of the Ancient Greek Mythology. These first gods are called “primordial gods,” because these first deities came from an empty space. This nothingness or void is called Chaos in Greek. Later, from Chaos, several deities were born, including the parents of Aether: the darkness and the night, the god Erebus and the goddess Nyx. According to mythology, Aether also has a sister, called Hemera, who rules the time of the earthly days and light. Her name is still being honored and used today in the Greek language: the word “Imera” in Greek means “day”.
Aether is the god of the upper air, the purest, finest air that the gods’ breathe. Ancient Greeks believed that there are three different types of air to breathe, each used by different beings: one, the lowest type of air was breathed by all underworldly creatures, one was breathed by all regular humans, and another, the third and the highest air was breathed by all the gods and goddesses. This breath of gods, or the upper air, is the realm of Aether, which he is the ruler of, according to the mythological story.
In Ancient Greek mythology, Aether was working hard every day with his sister, Hemera. First, Hemera created light every morning after removing the darkness. Then, in this light, Aether was able to shine down on humans to make them feel their gods’ and goddesses’ presence.
Aether also served as a protector, to separate humans and earthly beings from Tartarus, the god of the lowest and deepest parts of Hades, the Underworld. With his presence, he was able to keep both this darkness and the lord of it away from mortals and their world. Aether also had powers to control the sun, the moon, the stars, and the clouds, as well.
Aether and Hemera were not only brother and sister, but husband and wife in the mythological story, as well. Some stories don’t mention whether they’ve had children, but other myths talk about their sons and daughters: one of them is Thalassa, the goddess of the sea, others are the rain cloud nymphs or the Nephelae.
These first, ancient, primordial gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology are not very well-known today. They became the father and mother figures of other, newer, more famous deities, and eventually, most stories stopped mentioning them altogether, replacing their mythology with other figures.
Aether and the other primordial gods were loved and honored by ancient humankind, but there is no current knowledge or proof that there ever were any temples dedicated to their service or rituals done in their honor.
Yet, Aether has not been forgotten. Throughout the Middle Ages, scientists believed that a fifth element called “aether” exists, which has gotten its name from the god Aether. The knowledge and understanding that they had of four known elements, -the earth, the air, the fire, and the water,- did not explain all their findings of the Universe, and they thought that there is a mystical, fifth force that holds everything together and fills the space between all things that exist.
While the existence of this mystical fifth element has never been found by scientists, we still use Aether’s name in common language, when referring to the upper regions of the sky, beyond the clouds, and beyond the regions where humans can breathe. Another word that keeps the god Aether’s memory alive in English is “ethereal,” which is used when describing something that is extremely fine, delicate, light, and airy, and almost too perfect for this physical, human world we live in.
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