Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Cult of the Hero

The cult of the hero was a unique feature of Greek religion. The mortal hero was the chthonian counterpart of the immortal gods. By the end of the eighth century [B.C.E.], the grave of an outstanding warrior would occupy a place of honor in most of the poleis. A constant reminder of the superior race of mortals who had lived in the heroic age, the hero was revered as a demigod. Now that he was dead, he lived a shadowy life in the depths of the earth, but his spirit was still an active presence in the community; the qualities that had made him so exceptional lived on. But his death had filled the hero with rage, and an unpredictable, disturbing aura emanated from his grave, which people passed in reverent silence. Unlike the gods, who lived on the heights of Mount Olympus, the mortal hero was close at hand. The rites at his tomb were designed to appease his anger and enlist his help. Worshipers visited his shrine without garlands, unkempt, with hair unbound, yet each polis was proud of its hero, who symbolized its special qualities. His grave was often placed next to the temple of the patronal deity, as its dark, chthonian complement.

Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation, p. 105