THE ERINYES were three netherworld goddesses who avenged crimes against the natural order. They were particularly concerned with homicide, unfilial conduct, crimes against the gods, and perjury. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Erinys upon the criminal. The most powerful of these was the curse of the parent upon the child—for the Erinyes were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Ouranos, when he was castrated by his son Kronos.
The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harbouring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease. The wrath of the Erinyes could only be placated with the rite ritual purification and the completion of some task assigned for atonement.
The goddesses were also servants of Haides and Persephone in the underworld where they oversaw the torture of criminals consigned to the Dungeons of the Damned.
The Erinyes were similar to if not the same as the Poinai (Retaliations), Arai (Curses), Praxidikai (Exacters of Justice) and Maniai (Madnesses).
They were depicted as ugly, winged women with hair, arms and waists entwined with poisonous serpents. They wielded whips and were clothed either in the long black robes of mourners, or the short-length skirts and boots of huntress- maidens.