goddess of the rainbow and divine messenger of the gods
After a dark storm has passed through, maybe on a summer afternoon, the clouds begin to part and the sun begins to shine through, bringing an end to the fury of the pelting rain...it is at that moment that one can witness the Greek goddess of the Rainbow, IRIS, at work.
Iris was the keeper of the rainbow in Greek mythology, and a messenger of the Olympian gods. Kind of like a female version of Hermes!
She is able to change form and when delivering messages to mortals she assumes the appearance of a mortal known to those who receive the message. Kind of lessens the shock of meeting a goddess in the flesh!
She was often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. For the coastal-dwelling Greeks, the rainbow's arc was most often seen spanning the distance between cloud and sea, and so the goddess was believed to replenish the rain-clouds with water from the sea. She restored calm and balance to the forces of nature after a storm.
She is a beautiful young woman described as wearing a multi-hued gown; the rainbow itself, had gold wings attached to her shoulders and winged sandals on her feet.
She is also seen holding a caduceus, a special staff that showed her as an official messenger of the gods.
She had another job when she wasn't off bringing her technicolor brilliance into the world after a rain shower: she was also the cup-bearer for the gods when they gathered to party on Mount Olympus! Almost like being the "bartender" of the gods!
When Zeus needed his beverage topped off, Iris sprung into action, filling his (or any other thirsty gods' or goddess') cup with fresh nectar, the preferred drink of the carousing deities!
Iris also indirectly makes sure that the gods stay honest (mostly!) One of her other tasks is to deliver the sacred water of Styx, the river that separates the land of the living from the underworld, to the gods when necessary.
When anyone in the family of gods gets to arguing (like all good families do), or when anyone among the Olympians is suspected of lying, Zeus sends Iris to the river Styx in the Underworld to bring back a golden jugful of the water, or "oath of the gods."
Zeus caused oaths to be sworn by the water of Styx. If any of the gods or goddesses drinks water from the river Styx and is untrue in what they say, he or she will immediately fall to the ground and lie breathless for a year.
(Imagine holding your breath for a year?) They would be forbidden to taste ambrosia and nectar (the food and drink of the gods) and would be out cold, spiritless and voiceless. After spending one year in this sickness, the punishment continues; he or she is cut off for NINE years from the gods' meetings, parties and feasts and cannot return until the tenth year. Zeus doesn't mess around.
So, safe to say, its pretty serious stuff...and Iris was the one to go and fetch the Styx-water that could make it happen if it was needed. Maybe not a glorious job, but an important one to keep peace in the family.
Iris is the daughter of Thaumas (a son of the Poseidon) and the air nymph Elektra (Electra). Her less attractive sisters were the Harpies, Ocypete and Aello. Iris was married to Zephyrus, the West Wind, but had no children herself.
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