Kate Belew Kate Belew
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At the gates of the Underworld, as the guardian of the River Styx, Cerberus, the three-headed dog, stands guard, awaiting the arrival of those now a thread in the fabric of the afterlife. Born from the monsters Echidna and Typhon, he is known as the Hound of Hades. His main goal? To prevent the souls of the Underworld from escaping. 

Though descriptions vary, in many depictions, he is three-headed and has a snake for a tail. Often he has the body and the claws of a fearsome lion. With his three sets of eyes, Cerberus can gaze in all directions at the crossroads.  Though sometimes, he has up to one hundred heads, and is covered in writhing serpents. This is a nod to his lineage and parents, who were part-snake and had many heads. 

One myth in particular has stood the test of time: his interaction with the hero Heracles. As part of the hero’s Twelve Labors, Heracles was sent to capture Cerberus and bring him back to the human world. The retellings differ. In one story, he is gifted in chains by the Goddess Persephone, and in other myths, he is won in a fight with Hades. But no matter the version, Heracles returns from The Underworld, Cerberus in tow. 

Some stories say that when faced with the light of day, he spewed a “poison foam” that would become the poisonous and potent Witching Herb Aconite. However, he manages to return to The Underworld. In some versions, the hero returns the monster after parading him throughout Greece. Still, in another, Cerberus manages to escape and descends to his home amongst the roots and the ancestors. 

Though often feared, Monsters are sacred. They teach lessons and act as guides through myths, so when he appears, what is the message? 

Messages from Cerberus 

Embrace what society has deemed “monstrous.” What does the word monster mean to you? When he appears from the shadows of Hades, the Underworld, he might suggest that you also explore the darkness. Perhaps by working with your shadow or integrating all the parts of yourself, you may find new layers in your own story and myths when you embrace what you might have once considered ugly or monstrous. 

Practice guardianship. Cerberus asks you what you protect and why. You may tend to the land through gardening, attend city council meetings to advocate for those in your community, or volunteer at the local animal shelter. Whatever you feel called to protect, take a moment to honor. Being a guardian is a sacred role. Step into this seriously. 

Honor The Underworld. As the Guardian of the Underworld and the Hound of Hades, he is inextricably linked with myths of The Underworld. When he appears, perhaps The Underworld is archetypally calling to you. Read Underworld Myths, discover the figures who live there in the old stories, and see what medicine these tales hold.

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