Pyreday 1 — Hercules

Charles Cowling



In an act of solidarity with the movement to restore open-air cremation to Britain, spearheaded by the Natural Death Centre, we survey some inspirational historic examples. 


When Hercules was trying to take his bride Deianeira home, he had to cross the Evenus River. Nessus, a centaur, served as ferryman. First he rowed Hercules across and then, as he started to row Deianeira across, he tried to rape her. Hercules, justly enraged, drew one of his poisoned arrows and shot the centaur. Before he died, the centaur persuaded Deinaeira to take some of his blood to use as a love potion should Hercules ever cause her to worry.

In time, Deianeira became suspicious of Hercules’ interest in another woman, named Iole, so she smeared some of the carefully-saved centaur blood on a tunic and gave it to Hercules, trusting that it would act as a love potion and return him to her.

Unfortunately, the centaur had lied. The blood contained not a love potion, but a powerful poison from the poison with which Hercules had tipped his arrows. It had come from the Lernaean hydra.

When Hercules put on the tunic, it burned. He was in such excruciating pain that he wanted to die and had a funeral pyre built for himself. He then mounted it and had it lit. He died and went to the gods where he was reconciled with his tormenter, the queen of the gods, Hera. She allowed him to marry her daughter Hebe and live among the gods thereafter. [Source]


Ed’s note: Do not try this at home, not with so little wood.  The pyre manager should be fully clothed at all times. 

0 0 votes
Article Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

Perhaps it’s for knocking him senseless so he can’t change his mind and climb off?

9 years ago

Whilst I agree it’s advisable if outdoors, being fully clothed as a fire starter is not technically a necessary part of the art…the chief requirement of the practised pyre manager, as demonstrated by the diagram, is to have a stout poker to hand.