According to the famous Roman poet Ovid, the Oneirois are the personification of dreams. And the god of dreams is also called the Sons of Somnus, wherein Somnus (Latin name for Hypnos) is the personification of sleep. Also, he lived in the underworld and had 1000 sons.
Ovid also adds that there are three major Oneirois named in his popular 15-book Greek mythological narrative “Metamorphoses”:
Morpheus, Phantasos, and the Phobetor.
There’s more on this in the article, as we’ll be exploring him in detail later. For starters, however, He is the Greek god of sleep.
Phantasos depicts fantasy and has the ability to imitate or mimic any non-living or inanimate object.
Phobetor is the frightener, the Greek god of nightmares who scares people in their dreams by showing up in the form of a bird, monster, beast, or a huge serpent.
We’ll find out more about the Greek god of dreams and sleep, Morpheus, in this article. So, let’s dive in.
Who is Morpheus?
This Greek god of dreams and sleep is known to appear in dreams of human beings or earthlings mimicking any human form. According to Ovid, he is believed to be the best representation of an ideal man with the perfect speech, gait, features, clothing, etc.
Although Morpheus can primarily appear in dreams as any human form he wants, it’s believed that his original form was that of a demon with wings.
What does Morpheus Look Like: The Appearance of Morpheus
All Oneirois are believed to be blessed with wings, including Morpheus. As mentioned earlier, Morpheus is a winged demon in his primary form.
Some legends say that Thanatos, the god of death and the uncle of Morpheus is said to have given all Oneirois, wings on their back. While some legends believe that Oneirois were naturally winged or born as winged gods.
Surprisingly, Morpheus had a wingless father. Yes, Hypnos didn’t have wings which is why it was the responsibility of his son, Morpheus, to carry Hypnos and save him from Zeus.
Morpheus, unlike Phobetor, gave good dreams to mortals with magical or surreal qualities. And he also used his wings to help people who needed him in their dreams.
The Origin of Parentage of Morpheus
There are two well-known legends describing the ancient lineage of Morpheus.
One legend has it that Morpheus was a son of Hypnos, seen as both god and devil, the god of sleep, and Pasithea, the deity of all the states of consciousness such as rest, meditation, hallucinations, and relaxation.
Pasithea is said to be the daughter of Zeus and Eurynome. And signified relaxation or meditation. Zeus is the god of the sky, the ultimate savior of all humans and gods. And Eurynome, the third wife of Zeus, is the titan goddess of beauty, grace, and water meadows or pastures.
She is represented by the statue of a mermaid and is even worshipped in Greek religion at the confluence of rivers Neda and Lymax in the classical Peloponnesus peninsula of Ancient Greece.
However, as per the Homer of Illiad, it’s also believed that Pasithea’s original parents are Hera (Mother ) and Dionysus (Father).
Apart from being the goddess of family, marriage, and women, Hera is also Cronus’s daughter (Cronus was the leader of all Titans). And she also doubled as Zeus’s sister as well as his wife. She is also believed to be the supreme queen of the Olympian gods (The Queen of Olympus). Hera is a deity that has absolute authority and control over women, children, family welfare in general as well as marriage and childbirth.
The father of Morpheus, according to this account, Dionysus is the long-haired god of wine, pleasure, and festivities.
The other legend believes that Morpheus is the daughter of Nyx, the personification or deity of night, and Erebus, the personification of darkness. The union of Nyx and Erebus created the “bright upper atmosphere” called the Aether and Hemera, which means the “Day.”
Nyx, however, continued giving birth to more children independently. According to this legend, Hypnos and Morpheus are brothers.
Morpheus – the savior: How did Morpheus Save Ceyx and Alcyone?
Let’s talk about the best appearance of Morpheus that reunited Ceyx and Alcyone.
According to Greek Mythology, in the tale of Ceyx and Alcyone, Ceyx was the King of Trachis, and Alcyone was his beloved wife. They lived together blissfully and contended with their happy married life.
However, one fateful day Ceyx died a tragic and unfortunate death at the sea when a bad storm struck and devastated his ship. This earth-shattering incident made it really hard for Alcyone to embrace his death as the dead body or the dead remains were never found. So, she decided not to give up and prayed day in and day out, until the end, for Ceyx to return back home safely.
Hera witnessed the dedication and love of Alcyone for Ceyx. Impressed by her perseverance and commitment toward her husband, Hera took pity on Alcyone. This is when Morpheus enters the scene to be the ultimate savior.
Morpheus is sent to Alcyone in her dreams as an apparition of her husband, Ceyx, with the sole motive of telling her about her husband’s fate or unexpected death at sea. Upon learning her husband’s fate and knowing how he would die, Alcyone sacrifices her life by jumping into the sea.
Out of deep sympathy and compassion, the gods ensure that Alcyone and her dead husband, Ceyx, are reconnected and reunited with each other. Therefore, the gods transform the couple into seabirds leading to their delightful union in the end.
So, Morpheus’s divine messaging to Alcyone eventually led to a happy ending and facilitated the sweet reunion of Alcyone and Ceyx.
Here’s a snippet from Ovid’s Metamorphoses that is a testimony to the above story (Reference – Metamorphoses by Ovid)
Where does Morpheus live?
Morpheus, along with his family, lives in the Land of Dreams called the Underworld, which is strictly and heavily protected by two monsters.
There exist two gates for the Oneirois, for them to pass through and touch the mortal world. One gate was fashioned of horn through which all godly, prophetic dreams traveled to enter the mortal dimension.
The other gate, however, was one fashioned of ivory. Ivory stands for deception in Greek mythology. So, all the superficial dreams, that is, dreams with no real meaning or significance, traversed through this gate. These dreams weren’t god-sent or were free of the will of gods.
Morpheus represents dreams about the future and is known to sleep in a cave entirely filled with poppy seeds.
Morpheus and the Other Oneirois
Oneirois are dark-winged spirits and are also called the personification of dreams. They are even known as Daimones (pronounced as “Dai-monees”) in Ancient Greece. These Oneirois lived in the realm of eternal darkness that existed beyond the horizon or the rising sun.
This realm is called the Erebus, which had the ability to simultaneously exist as both place and person.
Morpheus and his two well-known brothers, Phantasos and Phobetor, with their incredible abilities, could come together in order to create a perfect manifestation of the real world.
Significance of Morpheus in Modern Medicine
Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner, a German Pharmacist, discovered Morphine in 1804. This drug derives its name from Morpheus.
Morphine is a painkiller of the opiate family made from the poppy plant. It directly acts on or affects the central nervous system of the body. The hypnotic properties of Morphine are therefore synonymous with Morpheus.
Verdict: Why is Morpheus Superior to all Oneirois?
As the name suggests, to morph means to change or alter. Morpheus could take any desired human form. He is believed to be responsible for forming and giving shape to the dreams of the mortals.
Morpheus is said to be the ultimate and true divine messenger of the gods, appointed specially to convey spiritual messages from heaven to sleeping human beings in the mortal world. He is even believed to be the key messenger of King Agamemnon, as mentioned in the Illiad.
His distinctive ability to impact and affect the dreams of great Kings and gods made him superior to them all. Therefore, Morpheus is rightly considered the cardinal leader of his brothers or the Oneirois.
PS: The popular phrase “sleeping in the arms of Morpheus” has a direct connection with Morpheus’s unique capability to shape dreams. It signifies that you’re enjoying an uninterrupted, deep sleep where you’re happily dreaming about the upcoming events unfolding in your future.