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Ascalaphus was the custodian of the orchard of Hades. He told the other gods that Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds in the Underworld. Because she had tasted food in the underworld, Persephone was obliged to return to the Underworld and spend four months (in later versions six months) there every year.
Demeter was so angry because of this that she buried Ascalaphus beneath a heavy rock in the Underworld. When Heracles went to the underworld, he rolled the stone away and released him from his prison but then Demeter transformed Ascalaphus into an owl. According to another myth Persephone herself changed him into an owl by sprinkling him with water of the river Phlegethon. Ovid mentions: "So he became the vilest bird; a messenger of grief; the lazy owl; sad omen to mankind." As an owl, he became the familiar bird of Hades, god of the underworld.
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