When I first took my magickal name, I didn’t want to explain it to anyone. Iris is special to me, and one of the forgotten goddesses, it seems, and I wanted to keep her face to myself. But the more I began to research this rainbow that stepped into my life, the more I began to speak up.
Iris is a Greek goddess, and is seen in both the Iliad and the Aeneid, among other texts, as a servant of the gods and goddesses. She is especially connected to Hera and to Zeus, having delivered messages for them to the humans on Earth. Traveling down the rainbow to the mundane world, she delivered messages that the gods and goddesses needed to share. She is a shapeshifter, often delivering the messages in a form that could be easily recognized by the recipient of the message.
What was most striking to me in my research was the idea that Iris was one of the few goddesses and gods who is able to travel to the underworld and back again at her own free will. As a result, there is some connection to Hecate, though it is not completely clear what this might be.
Daughter of Elektra and Thaumas, and sister of the Harpies – Aello, Celaeno and Ocypete – Iris is also referred to as the virgin goddess and the goddess of sea and sky. Iris is said to have been married to Zephyros (the West-Wind), and to have given birth to Pothos, or Passion.
Iris is also an important part of the Gods and Goddesses work and integrity, helping to deliver water in her pitcher from the Styx when it was time for the Gods and Goddesses to swear their solemn oaths.
“And seldom does the daughter of Thaumas, fleet-footed Iris, come her [Styx's] way with a message across the sea’s wide ridges, those times when dispute and quarrelling start among the immortals, and some one of those who have their homes on Olympos is lying, and Zeus sends Iris to carry the many-storied water [of the Styx] that the gods swear their great oath on, thence, in a golden pitcher.” – Hesiod, Theogony 780 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.).
Pictured with golden wings, a herald’s staff, and a golden pitcher, Iris is also the Goddess who led the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields and thus the custom of planting irises on the graves of women began.
Iris has been a well-kept secret or the Goddess that seemingly ‘only’ ran errands. But the messages she carried changed the world around her.
As a writer myself, it seems that my devotion to Iris is one that serves to remind me that messages need to be carried from the Goddesses and Gods down into the world in many forms. And sometimes, you need to travel to the darkest places to find and speak sacred words.
The Goddess Pages: A Divine Guide to Finding Love & Happiness – Laurie Sue Brockway
The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines – Patricia Monaghan