Ichor

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This article is about the mythological term. For the modern meaning, see Bile.

In Greek mythology, Ichor (/ˈkər/ or /ˈɪkər/; Ancient Greek: ἰχώρ)[1] is the ethereal golden fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals.

In classical myth[edit]

Ichor originates in Greek mythology, where it is the ethereal fluid that is the Greek gods' blood, sometimes said to retain the qualities of the immortal's food and drink, ambrosia or nectar.[2] It was considered to be golden in color, as well as lethally toxic to mortals. Great demigods and heroes occasionally attacked gods and released ichor, but gods rarely did so to each other in Homeric myth.

Iliad V. 364–382[2]

    Blood follow'd, but immortal; ichor pure,
    Such as the blest inhabitants of heav'n
    May bleed, nectareous; for the Gods eat not
    Man's food, nor slake as he with sable wine
    Their thirst, thence bloodless and from death exempt. †

†   We are not to understand that the poet ascribes the immortality of the Gods to their abstinence from the drink and food of man, for most animals partake of neither, but the expression is elliptic and requires to be supplied thus—They drink not wine but nectar, eat not the food of mortals, but ambrosia; thence it is that they are bloodless and from death exempt.

W. Cowper, The Iliad of Homer, Schol. per Vill

In Ancient Crete, tradition told of Talos, a giant man of bronze portrayed with wings. When Cretan mythology was appropriated by the Greeks, they imagined him more like the Colossus of Rhodes. He possessed a single vein running with ichor that was stoppered by a nail in his back. Talos guarded Europa on Crete and threw boulders at intruders until the Argonauts came after the acquisition of the Golden Fleece and the sorceress Medea took out the nail, releasing the ichor and killing him.

In pathology, "ichor" is an antiquated term for a watery discharge from a wound or ulcer with an unpleasant or fetid (offensive) smell.[3] The Greek Christian writer Clement of Alexandria used "ichor" in this sense in a polemic against the pagan Greek gods.[citation needed]

In fiction[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft often used "ichor" in his descriptions of other-worldly creatures, most prominently in his nightmarish detail of the remains of Wilbur Whateley, in The Dunwich Horror. Author Ursula K. Le Guin, in From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, calls the term "the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate."[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Of uncertain etymology; R. S. P. Beekes has suggested that is a foreign word (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 607–8).
  2. ^ a b Homer, (trans. William Cowper) (1802). Johnson, John, ed. The Iliad of Homer, Translated into English Blank Verse. Volume 1. Iliad V. 364–382 (p. 153). 
  3. ^ ichor - definition of ichor by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Ursula K. Le Guin, From Elfland to Poughkeepsie, p 80 The Language of the Night ISBN 0-425-05205-2

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of ichor at Wiktionary