An Introduction to Hephaistos (Hephaestus)

Hephaistos is god of smiths, craftsmen and inventors, particularly metalworkers.

Myths and Stories
Hephaistos’ first myth is that of his birth to Hera; he may or may not be the son of Zeus as well (if he is not, he is then Hera’s alone). In any case, he was born lame, and Hera rejected him, throwing him out of Olympos to the earth, where he was raised by Thetis.

Another story tells of Hephaistos’ revenge against Hera. He makes for her a beautiful throne and presents it to her. Pleased with the gift, she sits in it–and is immediately stuck. Eventually, of course, Hephaistos frees his mother from this trap, having been convinced to do so by Dionysos following a bout of drinking.

He also takes part in the story of Athena’s birth, acting as the “midwife” who frees her from Zeus’ head by a blow with an axe. In one of Hephaistos’ tales, he is married to Aphrodite. This story appears only in the Odyssey; in the Iliad, Hephaistos has an entirely different spouse, the Grace Aglaia or Charis.

Names and Epithets

Hephaistos Polytechnes (Hephaistos of the Many Arts). Refers to Hephaistos’ mastery of and patronage of many different crafts.

Hephaistos Khalkeus (Hephaistos the Smith). Refers to Hephaistos as a smith, and god of smiths.

Festivals and Worship

Although in many parts of Greece Hephaistos was less important than some other gods, in Athens Hephaistos was well honored (due at least in part to his fatherhood of Athens’ first king, Erichthonios) and is celebrated at several festivals, including the following:

Hephaesteia, of which little is known, not even the date; it is known to have included a nighttime torch race.

Khalkeia, a festival of craftsmen (especially bronze-workers) for Athena and Hephaistos.

Attributes and Symbols

Hephaistos is frequently depicted in art with hammer and tongs, and any of the blacksmith’s tools are appropriate for him. He is also often recognizable because is is shown as lame, a common attribute for mythical smiths.

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