The Hydra’s Venom as a cooking Weapon, Medicine and Love Potion.
PseudoApollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 157 :
“In fear lest Herakles desire Iole more than herself [Deianeira], and in her belief that the blood of Nessos [who was slain by Herakles with an arrow poisoned with Hydra’s blood] was truly a lovepotion, she doused the robe with it. Herakles put it on and started the sacrifice, but soon the robe grew warm as the Hydra’s venom began to cook his flesh. He caught up Likhas by the foot and hurled him into the Euboian sea, then tore off the robe, which stuck to his body so that he ripped off his flesh along with hit.”
PseudoApollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 80 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“He [Herakles] cut up the Hydra’s body and dipped his arrows in its venom.”
Alcman, Fragment 815 Geryoneis (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (Greek lyric C7th B.C.) :
“[Herakles arrow] (Bringing) the end that is hateful (death), having (doom) on its head, befouled with blood and with . . [lacuna] gall, the anguish of the dapplenecked Hydra, destroyer of men [Herakles used an arrow poisoned with the blood and gall of the Hydra]; and Geryon drooped his neck to one side”
Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 1390 ff (trans. Rieu) (Greek epic C3rd B.C.) :
“The snake [the Drakon of the Hesperides], struck down by Herakles, lay by the trunk of the apple tree. Only the tip of his tail was still twitching; from the head down, his dark spine showed not a sign of life. His blood had been poisoned by arrows steeped in the gall of the Lernaean Hydra, and flies perished in the festering wounds.”
Strabo, Geography 8. 3. 19 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“It [the Anigros River of Elis] emits an offensive odor for a distance of twenty stadia, and makes the fish unfit to eat. In the mythical accounts, however, this is attributed by some writers to the fact that certain of the Kentauroi here washed off the poison they got from the Hydra [after their battle with Herakles] . . . The bathing water from here cures leprosy, elephantiasis, and scabies.”
PseudoHyginus, Fabulae 30 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Under Minerva’s [Athene’s] instructions he [Herakles] killed her [Hydra], disembowelled her, and dipped his arrows in her gall; and so whatever later he hit with his arrows did not escape death, and later he himself perished in Phrygia from the same cause.”
PseudoHyginus, Fabulae 34 :
“[Herakles] pierced Nessus with his arrows. As he died, Nessus, knowing how poisonous the arrows were, since they had been dipped in the gall of the Lernaean Hydra, drew out some of his blood and gave it to Dejanira, telling her it was a love charm. If she wanted her husband not to desert her, she should have his garments smeared with this blood. Dejanira, believing him, kept it carefully preserved.”
Ovid, Metamorphoses 9. 129 & 158 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“An arrow flew [from the bow of Herakles] and pierced the fleeing centaur’s [Nessos’] back: out from his breast the barbed point stuck. He wrenched the shaft away, and blood from both wounds spurted, blood that bore Lernaei’s [Hydra’s] poison. Nessus caught it up. `I’ll not die unavenged’, he thought and gave his shirt soaked in warm gore to Deianira, a talisman, he said, to kindle love.’ . . . [Deianeira, the wife of Herakles, heard rumours that her husband was about to marry Iole] She chose to send the shirt imbued with Nessus’ blood to fortify her husband’s failing love. Not knowing what she gave, she entrusted her sorrow to Lichas (ignorant no less) and charged him with soft words to take it to her lord. And Hercules receiving the gift and on his shoulders wore, in ignorance, Echidna Lernaea’s [Hydra’s] poisoned gore. The flame was lit; he offered words of prayer and incense, pouring on the marble altar wine from the bowl. That deadly force grew warm. Freed by the flame, it seeped and stole along, spreading through all the limbs of Hercules. While he still could, that hero‘s heart of his stifled his groans, but when the agony triumphed beyond endurance, he threw down the altar, and his cries of anguish filled the glades of Oeta. Desperately he tried to tear the fatal shirt away; each tear tore his skin too, and, loathsome to relate, either it stuck, defeating his attempts to free it from his flesh, or else laid bare his lacerated muscles and huge bones. Why, as the poison burned, his very blood bubbled and hissed as when a white hot blade is quenched in icy water. Never an end! The flames licked inwards, greedy for his guts; dark perspiration streamed from every pore; his scorching sinews crackled; the blind rot melted his marrow . . . In wounded agony he roamed the heights of Oeta [and died escaping pain in the flames of his funeral pyre].”
Ovid, Heroides 9. 115 ff (trans. Showerman) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“The darts [of Herakles] blackened with the venom of Lerna.”
Seneca, Hercules Furens 44 (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
“Why, he [Herakles] bears as weapons what he once fought and overcame; he goes armed by lion [i.e. the skin of the Nemeian lion] and by Hydra [i.e. his arrows dipped in its venom].”
Athena teaches alchemists that the Hydra’s venom, or the flowing substance extracted from the insoluble salts, is our Mercurius, medicine as well as death weapon. The Mercurius/Spirit of Life/Secret Fire can give the life and the death. This is the alchemical meaning of the expression “Love Potion”.
The Hydra as Guardian of the Hades.
Virgil, Aeneid 6. 287 ff (trans. Fair clough) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) : “Many monstrous forms besides of various beasts are stalled at the doors [of Haides], Centauri and double shaped Scyllae, and the hundredfold Briareus, and the beast of Lerna, hissing horribly, and the Chimaera armed with flame, Gorgones and Harpyiae, and the shape of the three-bodied shade [Geryon].”
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 3. 224 (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) : “[The Titan] Coeus in the lowest pit [of Tartaros] burst the adamantine bonds and trailing Jove’s [Zeus’[ fettering chains . . . conceives a hope of scaling heaven, yet though he repass the rivers and the gloom the hound of the Furiai [Kerberos] and the sprawling Hydra’s crest [the two guardians of Haides] repel him.”
Statius, Silvae 2. 1. 228 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) : “Neither the ferryman [Kharon] nor the comrade [the Hydra] of the cruel beast [Kerberos] bars the way [to the Underworld] to innocent souls.”
Statius, Silvae 5. 3. 260 ff : “But do ye, O monarchs of the dead and thou, Ennean Juno [Persephone], if ye approve my prayer [provide a peaceful journey for the soul of my dead father] . . . let the warder of the gate [Kerberos] make no fierce barking, let distant vales conceal the Centauri and Hydra’s multitude and Scylla’s monstrous horde [other monsters appointed guardians of Haides after their deaths].”
In fact are not only the deadly properties of Mercurius to make it suitable to be the guardian of Hades, but moreover the regenerative properties.
The Pitiful Setting among Constellations.
PseudoHyginus, Astronomica 2. 23 : “The Crab is said to have been put among the stars by the favor of Juno [Hera], because, when Hercules had stood firm against the Lernaean Hydra, it had snapped at his foot from the swamp. Hercules, enraged at this, had killed it, and Juno [Hera] put it among the constellations.”
The largest constellation (the Water Snake or Sea Monster) is said to represent the beast slain by Hercules. Its few bright stars are close to the celestial equator. The crab constellation is in the nearby. And we will see in other articles as these two constellations do have a role in death/ resurrection practices.
First labor of Hercules: The Nemean Lion.
All the ancient authors fragments are taken from theoi. com;