Whoosh! Issue 31 - April 1999

IAXS project #231
By Nusi Dekker
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
Edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!
3485 words

Greek Goddesses in the Xenaverse (01)
The Goddesses in Xena's World (02)
     The Fates (03-08)
     An Obsession with Hestia (09-15)
     Wrath of the Furies (16-17)
     Athena (18-19)
Gabrielle's Interaction With the Goddesses (20-21)
     Demeter: Some Goddesses Get No Respect (22)
     Aphrodite: A Love-Hate Relationship (23-27)
     Hecate: At the Crossroads of Life (28-31)
     Mnemosyne (32-33)
Appearances of Other Goddesses (34-40)
Conclusion (41)

Depictions of Goddesses in Xena: Warrior Princess

Greek Goddesses in the Xenaverse

[1] Have the Greek goddesses, those objects of faith that they grew up with, influenced Xena or Gabrielle? These denizens of Mount Olympus, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, and Artemis, or even the older deities such as Gaia and Hecate, what is their place in the evolving lives of Xena and Gabrielle?

The Goddesses in Xena's World

[2] We know that Xena has often interacted with the male gods, and the god Ares, once her mentor and ally (and perhaps even her father), is now her adversary. She has forged a friendship with Hades and has performed services for him at his will [DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109)) and MORTAL BELOVED (16/116)], and he has acted as her advocate [INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207)]. Xena's interaction with the female gods, however, is more abstract, as some of them (notably Hestia) have not revealed themselves in human form.

The Fates

Three Fates, No Waiting

The Fates as depicted in REMEMBER NOTHING.

[3] Children of Zeus and the titan Themis (goddess of justice), the three Fates may have been the most influential of the goddesses in Xena's life. After all, the sarcophagus of Xena's brother Lyceus lies within their temple [REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202)].

[4] Greek mythology states that it was the Fates who handed out the measure of good and evil that each person would have at birth. Clotho spun the thread of life, while Lachesis, the Disposer of Lots, assigned destiny, and Atropos wielded the scissors to cut the thread of life. It was said that she could not be swayed from cutting the thread if she decided it was a person's time to die.

[5] Xena apparently worshiped the Fates up to the beginning of the second season, when she visited her brother's tomb in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202). There, she lit candles to the Fates. Later, the Fates made themselves known to her after she saved their temple, and they granted her a view into the life that she would have led had she not taken up the sword. They also reversed a killing she had done, which was very significant, since the gods were not known to grant those kinds of favors to ordinary mortals. That, however, would be the last time Xena set foot in that temple. This may have been a reason why the Fates were so harsh to Xena at the end of Season Three.

[6] In the beginning of Season Three, Xena went home to Amphipolis, but she did not visit her brother or the Fates. In A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209), Xena impersonated the Fates in order to change the miserly ways of the Scrooge-like King Silvus.

[7] At the end of Season Three, Xena's adversary, Ares, induced the Fates to do his bidding, which was to cut the Xena's life thread if she killed Hope. Here, they did not remember what Xena did for them two years previously, but then, their act of compassion toward her as a human was anomalous. The gods looked out for each other first, and entertained each other and themselves by manipulating humans.

[8] The Fates showed that they could care less whether Xena lived or died, or what the consequences where (Gabrielle's apparent death for Xena's life). Xena's knowledge of this was most likely the reason she ceased worshiping them.

An Obsession with Hestia

Pwaise Hestia!

Hestian Virgins in A COMEDY OF EROS.

[9] For a relatively obscure goddess, many references have been made to Hestia. She had been featured prominently in three episodes: ALTARED STATES (19/119), A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222), and WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP (55/309); and mentioned in HERE SHE COMES... MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211).

[10] One of the twelve Olympian gods, and one of the six siblings born to the Titans Cronus and Rhea (the others being Zeus, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Poseidon), Hestia never "married". This fact is probably the reason she was considered a "virgin" goddess. She was the goddess of family harmony, and of hearth and home. In every village in ancient Greece, a portion of the family meal was set aside as an offering to Hestia, and one hearth-fire was kept constantly burning, day and night, to promote family peace. Later, as the Roman influence flooded Greece and the surrounding territories, they also took over the Greek gods and renamed most of them. They renamed Hestia, Vesta, and assigned virgin priestesses to keep the sacred hearth going. The Greeks adopted the idea of using the priestesses and also gave them the obligation of tending the sacred fires, but the Greeks refused to use the Roman name.

[11] Hestia was first mentioned in ALTARED STATES (19/119), in a story about a family torn apart by greed in the name of the One God. (The episode was based on the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac). The temple of Hestia was depicted as in ruins, with the hearth-fire put out long ago. Yet Zora, the family matriarch, secretly prayed at the temple, beseeching Hestia for help to save her son and reunite her family. Xena appeared during Zora's appeal for help and essentially took the place of Hestia, offering to intervene and help save Zora's family. This particular episode seems to occur at a time and place where the Greek gods were no longer the focus of worship.

[12] Hestia was next featured in A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222). Xena came to a village to save the priestesses of the local Hestian temple from being captured and sold as slaves by the warlord Draco. Xena defended the temple of Hestia, but only to save the innocent priestesses, and she would have done the same had they not been in the employ of Hestia. So, in this episode, the goddess was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of Xena's fight for the greater good.

[13] The goddess is briefly mentioned in a comedic scene in HERE SHE COMES... MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211), as part of Salmoneus' introduction of the contestant played by Xena. The reason why Salmoneus would connect Xena to Hestia escapes this author, unless Salmoneus meant the remark in a sarcastic way, in an effort to make Miss Amphipolis as un-Xena-like as possible, thereby protecting her disguise.

[14] In WARRIOR...PRIESTESS...TRAMP (55/309), one of Xena's multitude of doubles, Leah, was the head virgin priestess of Hestia. Since Leah was in trouble, about to have her temple and religion taken away by the ambitious Balius, Xena came to the rescue of this innocent and righteous woman, saving the cult of Hestia yet again.

[15] Xena gets no reward for her continuing protection of the cult of Hestia. She seems not to worship Hestia herself, and she has not changed her lifestyle to suit the "family values" dogma of the Hestian religion. All the people Xena has helped seem to graciously accept the unorthodox family ways of Xena and Gabrielle, and there, perhaps, is the message that these episodes were trying to convey. Furthermore, Hestia has never appeared in human form, despite the number of times the goddess has been alluded to on Xena.

Wrath Of The Furies

[16] The Furies, also called Erinnyes, are the goddesses of conscience. When the mad Titan Cronus mutilated the Sky by castrating him with a sickle, the blood that dripped to Earth gave birth to the three Furies: Allecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera. The Furies would punish wrongdoers by driving them insane with guilt and remorse. They would cause a person to hear voices in his head without relent so that he could not sleep.

[17] In the episode THE FURIES (47/301), these goddesses were manipulated by Ares to punish Xena with both persecution and madness, because Xena's mother had killed her father and Xena had not avenged the death of her father. Xena turned the tables by convincing the Furies that Ares was her father, thus releasing her from the obligation of avenging her father and ending her madness. This episode gave the viewer insight into Xena's dysfunctional family history. It also showed that the gods could also be guilty of misjudgment and mistakes.


[18] Other Greek goddesses do not seem to have much impact on Xena. Athena, goddess of wisdom and war (but who is not "warlike"), would have been a great mentor for Xena. She has helped the goddess Athena at various times, once by saving a platoon of the Athenian army from the Horde [THE PRICE (44/220)] and once by delaying an attack by the Persian army on the city of Athens, thus saving Athena's city [ONE AGAINST AN ARMY (59/313)]. However, she fought against Athena and the Greeks in the Trojan war, but her sole focus in that campaign was to save her friend Helen of Troy [BEWARE GREEKS BEARING GIFTS (12/112)].

[19] As the seasons of Xena: Warrior Princess progress, Xena has come to believe in the power of her own self, that she must not depend on the gods to dictate her destiny, and that she alone must bear the ultimate responsibility for her actions.

Gabrielle's Interaction With the Goddesses

[20] Gabrielle seems to have developed more relationships with various goddesses than Xena, but her experiences have also caused her to become more jaded towards the Olympian goddesses. She has observed and studied their all-too-human attributes.

[21] She has also seen the births of the neo-goddesses, Callisto, Velasca, and Hope. Born into a farm family, she would probably have been raised to respect and worship the gods associated with the harvests, Demeter and Dionysus (Bacchus).

Demeter: Some Goddesses Get No Respect

[22] Perhaps because Gabrielle has chosen to follow Xena, a self-proclaimed atheist, she too has rejected her farm girl upbringing. This made her utterly uncaring of the cult of Demeter in A FISTFUL OF DINARS (14/114). In this episode, she participated in the desecration of a sacred temple of Demeter, and, as an accomplice, she watched her partner, the assassin Thersites, completely destroy the statue of the deity and steal a large (obviously very valuable, since the temple had guards) ruby from the dismembered head. This was quite uncharacteristic for Gabrielle, who did not care about the people of that valley, people who obviously worshiped Demeter. Gabrielle was only interested in following Xena's plans.

Aphrodite: A Love-Hate Relationship

Back off, babe!  I saw it first!

Gabrielle attempts to outwit Aphrodite.

[23] As of the writing of this essay, Aphrodite has appeared in human form in four episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216), THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... (56/310), FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318), and IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412). All of these episodes have curiously featured Joxer, but they also contained a subplot about the developing sisters-like relationship between Aphrodite and Gabrielle.

[24] The goddess of love's origins or parentage are not mentioned in XWP, but she does have her temples, which she also had in ancient Greece. (The most magnificent Grecian temple to Aphrodite was at the top of the Acrocorinth and housed over 100 "priestesses" of Aphrodite who served the men of Corinth). Gabrielle started off on the wrong foot with Aphrodite by foiling the love goddess' attempt to break a couple apart using an unwitting Joxer in FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216). The bard then orchestrated the desecration of Aphrodite's temple in order to get her attention, and eventually she talked Aphrodite into changing her attitude toward the couple.

[25] In THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER... (56/310), Aphrodite is angry at Xena, blaming her when a "street gang" tags her temple walls with graffiti. She decides to enchant Gabrielle's scroll at the suggestion of her "brother" Ares. The spell backfires, and both Aphrodite and Ares lose their powers as a result of Gabrielle's sudden bad writing skills. Gabrielle gets to observe Aphrodite as a human with many faults, and she begins to feel compassion for the goddess. She sees that even Aphrodite can make mistakes, and the gods are not any better than she is, in spite of their powers.

[26] In FINS, FEMMES AND GEMS (64/318), Aphrodite puts spells on the unsuspecting Gabrielle, Xena, and Joxer to stop them from interfering with her self-interests. Because of her selfishness, Aphrodite does not think about the dire consequences of her desire to move the North Star to a different place in the sky. Xena and Gabrielle are able to thwart Aphrodite's efforts in spite of the spells, and they are able to gain valuable insights into their own relationship because of the spells. Aphrodite ends up helping the friends and drawing them closer together. Gabrielle, especially, is able to communicate a solvable problem that would not have come up but for the spells.

[27] The latest installment of the Xena-Gabrielle-Joxer-Aphrodite saga, IF THE SHOE FITS (80/412), shows Gabrielle seeking out Aphrodite. She breaks a few of the goddess' vases in an interesting outdoor temple in order to get Aphrodite's attention, and then she proceeds to have a very sisterly, heart-to-heart talk about Aphrodite's relationship with a little runaway girl. Aphrodite actually listens to Gabrielle and acts on her advice. This looks like the beginning of a friendship between the two, though neither of them, especially Aphrodite, would ever admit it ("Me? Care about a mortal? As if!")

Hecate: At the Crossroads Of Life

Before garage sales

A roadside statue in A DAY IN THE LIFE.

[28] In A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215), Gabrielle is seen leaving a gift of flowers at the base of a goddess' statue. Nowhere in the episode is there a mention of who this goddess is, but obviously, she holds some importance for Gabrielle. From various clues left throughout the episode, the goddess depicted is most likely Hecate.

[29] Hecate was an independent goddess, older than the Olympian gods, but respected by Zeus. She was the goddess of magic, the occult, and the paranormal (ghosts and spirits). The people of Greece were, in ancient times, highly superstitious, so this goddess was widely worshiped by those who wanted to keep the witches and spooks at bay. Believers placed statues of Hecate at crossroads, which were considered magical sites.

[30] The statue appears prominently three times in A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215), twice at obvious crossroads. The first time is when Gabrielle lays down her offering, probably to ask the goddess for protection on their journey. Xena and Gabrielle are lost and cannot decide which fork in the road to take until Hower appears to lead them to his village. The second appearance of the statue is at another crossroads (in an area which is less forested), where Gabrielle has made a sign for the giant, directing him down the wrong road. Here, Xena and Gabrielle use the goddess to their own advantage.

[31] The third time, the statue is surrounded by foliage in a dense forest. Xena and Gabrielle have chosen a clearing right in front of the statue to place their bedrolls for the night. Based on where the statue was placed before, the clearing is most likely a crossroads, the only flat area cleared of underbrush. The choice of this particular sleeping area may be a metaphor for Xena and Gabrielle's life together at that point, that they were at a crossroads of life, and this episode prophesied a new direction for them (which became evident as the third season unfolded).


But I ordered espresso

Gabrielle seeks amnesia in FORGET ME NOT.

[32] Mnemosyne, featured in FORGET ME NOT (63/317) as the goddess of memory, was one of the older generation of Greek gods, a Titan. She was born of Mother Earth (Gaia). In the episode, Gabrielle, with the help of Xena, seeks the advice of Mnemosyne. The goddess herself does not appear but apparently communicates through a priestess of the temple. Gabrielle wants a quick fix: she wants the goddess to rid her of the painful memories and guilt that she carries. She finds, however, that all of her memories, even her good ones, will be taken away from her forever in the "quick fix" scenario. Here, the strength of Gabrielle's will shows through as she resists the efforts of the god Ares to separate her from her beloved Xena through mind manipulation, and she is able to make clear decisions concerning her future with Xena even as she relives her most painful moments.

[33] As the saga of Xena and Gabrielle progresses, Gabrielle has come to accept that the Greek gods and goddesses are just people like herself, albeit with superpowers and the non-human gift of immortality. Perhaps this is why she is on her current quest to find more perfect beings elsewhere. Too bad it will take her awhile to realize that no one is perfect, not even a god.

Appearances Of Other Goddesses

[34] The statue of Themis, the goddess of justice, appeared in THE EXECUTION (41/217) to the side of the judge in the trial chamber. The statue is easily identifiable by the blindfold. The real statues of Themis, however, always depicted her with her eyes closed rather than being blindfolded. The symbolism of the latter was that she did not represent blind justice, but rather the idea of not seeing innuendo and only focusing on the facts at hand.

[35] Celesta, goddess of death and the sister of Hades, did not appear in Greek mythology. The actual god of death was Thanatos, not a sibling of Hades at all. In mythology, Sisyphus chained Thanatos for one day, and no one died. Zeus later freed Thanatos. Nonetheless, Celesta was featured in DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109) as the goddess chained by Sisyphus, and Xena eventually freed her as a favor to Hades.

[36] A very Egyptian-like statue of Artemis appeared on one of her temples in A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214). Artemis was evidently was worshiped by the Amazons. In actual Greek mythology, the Amazons were said to be the daughters of Ares, but Artemis was their patron goddess. The neo-goddess Velasca destroyed the statue and temple because, in her twisted way, she believed that Artemis had betrayed the Amazons by allowing Gabrielle rather than herself to become Amazon queen.

[37] A bust of the Pallas Athena (which looks suspiciously like the bust of Gabrielle in BLIND FAITH [42/218]) appears in Cecrops' ship in LOST MARINER (45/221).

[38] The statue of Pax ("peace"), which is prominently featured in VANISHING ACT (66/320), is not a goddess connected with Greek mythology, so it must have been a local goddess. To Xena and Gabrielle, it is simply a stolen item to be returned to its rightful owners.

[39] Hera, the patron goddess of the family and married women, does not appear in the Xenaverse except in the episode PROMETHEUS (08/108). Here she only appears because of the presence of her enemy, Hercules, who is a product of the misconduct of her husband, Zeus.

Automatically gets you the pink caddy from Mary Kay

Theia the Titan.

[40] The Titan Theia appears in the episode THE TITANS (07/107) as one of three Titans (the others being Hyperion and Creius) freed and then reimprisoned by Gabrielle. In Greek mythology, Theia was married to Hyperion, and they produced three children together: Helios (the sun god), Eos (dawn), and Selene (representing the dark side of the moon).


[41] To Xena and Gabrielle, the goddesses seem to be nothing more than people like themselves, albeit with a few supernatural powers. If not worshiped, they are treated with respect, which sets our duo apart from the rest of the Greek populace of their time (except for the very few who have met the gods in person, and know what they are really like). Have the goddesses changed the lives of Xena and Gabrielle? All we know is that the gods' interventions have brought Xena and Gabrielle closer together in their understanding of each other.


Souli, Sofia, Greek Mythology (English translation by Philip Ramp), Ed. Michalis Toubis, S.A., Athens (1995).

Hamilton, Edith, Mythology, Penguin Books, New York (1940).


Nusi Dekker Nusi Dekker
A native Californian, I live in the Bay Area and work at UCSF Medical Center where I manage an oral pathology research lab. I run experiments on human biopsy tissue (mostly cancers), and I am the primary or co-author of over 30 research papers. I was an art major before I switched to cell biology, but I still love ancient art and mythology. I have never in my life done any fan thing until Xena!

Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) and THE PRICE (44/220)
Favorite line: Xena: "You are a part of my heart" ULYSSES (43/219)
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: KING OF ASSASSINS (54/308), KEY TO THE KINGDOM (78/410), and FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)

Return to Top Return to Index