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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Mythology

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

At the end of 2012, I looked over what I had read the previous year and came up with a list of Literary Discoveries. Considering how much I have read this year -- novels, novellas, anthologies, short stories, essays, longer works of philosophy and history and spirituality -- continuing the tradition seemed like a good idea. And, just like the previous list, not all of these titles were published in 2013 (though most were); I just discovered them this past year.

So, in no particular order, here is my 2013 edition of Literary Discoveries.

1) I read Reza Aslan's No god But God several years ago, and found it to be a well-written introduction to and overview of the theology and history of Islam; this is the book I recommend to anyone looking for a basic primer on the subject. So, when Aslan released Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth I decided it was worth checking out, even though I have very little interest in the development of Christianity -- actually, let me amend that. I find some of the early Christian sects which were later deemed heretical to be interesting, and I've studied the fall of Classical Paganism even though it makes me angry. So, I was curious as to Aslan's conclusions about the carpenter from Nazareth. I won't spoil it for you. Suffice to say, the book was well-researched and engaging, and I highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in Middle Eastern history, the Age of Augustus, or the history and evolution of Judaism.

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So … the "God Graveyard." Yeah, it's been all over the Pagan blogosphere. I admit to being ambivalent in my reaction. Anger, annoyance, frustration, and exasperation all mingle alongside "the stupid! it burns!" 

Only after I took a really close look at some of the very fuzzy, rather crummy photos of the "graveyard" did I hit upon a response appropriate to BookMusings.* "Furrina?" I squinted at the photograph. "Who the heck is that?" I wondered -- and pulled out my battered copy of Goddesses in World Mythology by Martha Ann and Dorothy Myers Imel. I picked up Ann and Imel's book many many years ago, and it has never let me down; though the entry on Furrina** was brief, it was enough to pique my interest -- and the extensive bibliography offered plenty more venues of research.

Wikipedia may be the default resource for many people (myself included), but not everything is online. There is still a lot of information -- a LOT -- that has not been digitized. So, here are a few of my favorite, go-to print dictionaries, encyclopedias and other resources about the Gods, ancient religions, mythology, and modern Paganism/polytheism.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Amazons have long fascinated me. As a little girl, the idea of living in an all-female society (free of bullying boys) was highly appealing. I spent many summer afternoons running around my backyard or curled up on the couch, fighting minotaurs and going on grand adventures with my sister Amazons. And you can be darn sure I preferred Wonder Woman* to that silly Superman -- I mean, she was from a super secret island and worshipped the Old Goddesses! How cool was that?

That fascination remained with me as I grew up. I gravitated towards the powerful women of history (like Hatshepsut and Elizabeth I) and those women who challenged the restrictive mores of their society (Harriet Tubman and Matilda Joscelyn Gage, to name two). When I wanted to escape into a fictional world, I chose those which featured women warriors and generals and starship captains.

As a result, my personal library is filled with books about and featuring Amazons -- the Amazons of classical myth, real world women warriors and leaders, and powerful women of fantasy and science fiction.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Jamie: thanks for the note about Sikelgaita. I'll have to look her up. As for real versus fictional Amazons: I think more atten
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    It does surprise me that so much attention is devoted to fictional amazons in popular culture (Xena, Wonder Woman and various fema
  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Nice! I was a Wonder Woman fan too!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

So I recently read a blog that said if you want to pray for help for Syria, then pray to the old gods of Syria.  I think that is an interesting idea.  Who would know the people, their needs, their problems and the sources of dissension more accurately?  Who would want healing and unity more?  Send them the energy to help them heal their people.  For non-polytheistic Pagans, who the gods of the region are may seem unimportant to you but think of it in terms of context.  For hard polytheists, it would be important to know who the gods of Syria are.  For soft polytheists, it may be important to know to who they are similar.  Alternatively, ask your own divinities to relay your prayers/gifts/well-wishes to their Canaanite brethren.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Yah-Kappu_Natib_Qadish.png

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  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Our government can be very short sighted. Add to that the complications of the thousands of years of conflict in that area and it
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you for this post! I don't know which saddens me more...the situation within Syria itself, or our choice of "allies". Gotta

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

My fascination with mermaids has come and gone over the years. I never went through a unicorn phase as a little girl, but I definitely went through a mermaid phase. My interest in them faded, returned in my teens, faded again, then recently returned. Over the last year or so, I have been reading and writing and reading and writing some more about the aquatic ladies (and gentlemen).

Once I started looking, I was surprised at just how ubiquitous mermaids are -- they're everywhere! In literature, mermaids appear in every genre, aimed at every age group. There are picture books aplenty, but also mysteries, teen adventure tales, romance novels, collections of mythology and folklore, art books, you name it.

 

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  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    The Starbucks coffee logo was originally a copy of an ancient statue of a mermaid. It showed more of her body, now it is just her
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    This is great stuff! Thank you. By the way, I really enjoyed all those TIME-LIFE mythology/paranormal themed books. I read a lot
 

When we last caught up with Hēraklēs, he had just completed his second labour: to slay the Lernaean Hydra. What his next labour is, depends on the ancient writer you read. Hyginus, for example, remarks that he slew the Erymantian Boar first, while I use the commonly accepted sequence set out by Apollodorus. Speaking of Apollodorus: He has only a few words to spare for this third labour:
 
"As a third labour he [Eurystheus] ordered him to bring the Cerynitian hind alive to Mycenae. Now the hind was at Oenoe; it had golden horns and was sacred to Artemis; so wishing neither to kill nor wound it, Hercules hunted it a whole year. But when, weary with the chase, the beast took refuge on the mountain called Artemisius, and thence passed to the river Ladon, Hercules shot it just as it was about to cross the stream, and catching it put it on his shoulders and hastened through Arcadia. But Artemis with Apollo met him, and would have wrested the hind from him, and rebuked him for attempting to kill her sacred animal.Howbeit, by pleading necessity and laying the blame on Eurystheus, he appeased the anger of the goddess and carried the beast alive to Mycenae." [2.5.3]

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Great that Herakles outwits Eurystheus! Thanks again for recounting the lore in a well-written, entertaining way.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you! Personally, I like the brains-over-brawn labours the best

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I am a loss on what to write for you this week, so I leave you with a story I wrote over a year ago...The aegis is variously described as a shield, buckler or breast-plate. 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! Very nice.

Hellenic mythology is not known for being overtly subtle about its lessons, but very few are so apparently obvious about it as the myth about Niobe and her children. It is a story most of us know: Niobe, Queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalos, gave birth to fourteen children, and boasted that she was far superior to Leto, mother to Apollon and Artemis, because Leto had only given birth to two children, and she to fourteen. Rushing to their mother's defense, Apollon and Artemis struck down the children of the Queen in a rain of arrows, and when her husband, Amphion, stood by his wife, Apollon killed him too. So great was Niobe's sorrow that she turned to stone, and the weeping rock still stands at the foot of Mount Siphylus. The retribution is depicted below, on the Niobic krater. 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks once again for taking the time to share some important knowledge. Hubris is always a danger, as you've explained from the
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    pssst...in the third paragraph up from the bottom, you may want to change "fowl" to "foul."
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    *whistle* Never happened... (but thank you ;-) )

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Helios.jpg

Of all the myths, it is the myths of the sun that give me the most trouble.  The typical sun myth is that the divinity of the sun rides around the earth in some type of conveyance and then takes a different one or a different form to return to the original starting point.  This myth stems from the original belief that the sun travels around the earth.  It is the ancient’s explanation for the days and nights.  Yet we of the modern era know this is incorrect.

 

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  • Editor B
    Editor B says #
    I've come to know AP as one of those sharp-tongued people who do not suffer fools gladly. Happily, the substance of his commentary
  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus says #
    The curvature of the earth is instantly obvious to anyone who has ever traveled on the open seas. Records of such seafaring go bac
  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    I wanted to get other view points and am glad that others are finding this useful though I admit to having harder time dealing wit

We pick up this third part of the Labours series with the second labour Hēraklēs has to complete: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. The funny thing about this hydra is that no one is really sure how many heads it actually has. The generally accepted number is nine, but ten, or even a hundred are also mentioned. It's also unclear if there was only one head that was supposed to be immortal (as per Apollodorus) or if the creature itself was immortal. The sequence of events, however, is quite clear.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the blog post about sayings which can be traced back to ancient Hellas or Hellenic mythology, I make mention of Oedipus. The saying he is connected to--the Freudian Oedipus complex--introduced Oedipus and explains the saying:
 

"Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. King Laius was fortold his son would kill him and marry his mother, and so he left him to die on a mountainside. The child was found, however, and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope. Oedipus eventually heard of the prophecy about him and fled, not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents, who he believed to be his biological ones. Fate would have him end up on the same road as King Laius, and in an argument over whom would step out of the way, Oedipus killed his father. He then traveled on and eventually met and married his mother. The myth continues on, but this is the part where the figure of speech comes from."


Today, I want to go a little deeper into this myth, to a milestone in the life of Oedipus. I quite recently acquired a little vase with a depiction of Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx. It's a replica of a kylix motif. This seems like a perfect opportunity to tackle this story.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Sadly, I would have been Sphinx food.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Same, glad I'm n0t alone ;-)

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A little over a week ago, I introduced a new series for the blog: a short series about the labours of Hēraklēs. In that post, I described the life of Hēraklēs up until the point where he set out to complete the tasks. Today, I'm taking you through the first of twelve labours: Hēraklēs' challenge to slay the Nemean lion.

The Leon Nemeios (Λεον Νεμειος), or Nemean lion has been described with a large variety of parents. Selene is mentioned by Aelian and Seneca, amongst others, but one of the drakons is also possible, especially Echidna. Diodorus Siculus, in his Library of History describes the lion so: 

"This was a beast of enormous size, which could not be wounded by iron or bronze or stone and required the compulsion of the human hand for his subduing. It passed the larger part of its time between Mycenae and Nemea, in the neighbourhood of a mountain which was called Tretus from a peculiarity which it possessed; for it had a cleft at its base which extended clean through it and in which the beast was accustomed to lurk." [4.11.3]
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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Release the Kraken...er, Drakon! Great and informative post. Thanks again.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Some of the best epics are not told in a single story, so therefor, I will kick off a mini series today: the labours of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs (Ἡρακλῆς), from 'Hera' and kleos, 'glory', was born as Alkaios (Ἀλκαῖος) or Alkeidēs (Ἀλκείδης). He became on of the greatest of the divine heroes in Hellenic mythology, and was born the son of Zeus and Alkmene (Ἀλκμήνη), foster son of Amphitryon (Ἀμφιτρύων), king of Tiryns in Argolis. By Alkmene, he is the great-grandson of Perseus, and by Zeus, his half-brother. He is perhaps better known as Hercules, his Roman counterpart. In this first part, I will introduce Hēraklēs and describe his life up until the labours, and then tackle the labours one at a time in coming editions.

Hēraklēs was conceived by Zeus upon Alkmene, as He disguised Himself as her husband, returning early from war. Alkmene accepted Him in her bed gladly, as she was happy to see her husband again. When The real Amphitryon did return later that night, Alkmene realized what had happened, and told her husband. Amphitryon accepted her in his bed, regardless, and so she became pregnant with twins, one fathered by Zeus, and one by her mortal husband. In the words of Apollodorus:

"But before Amphitryon reached Thebes, Zeus came by night and prolonging the one night threefold he assumed the likeness of Amphitryon and bedded with Alcmena and related what had happened concerning the Teleboans. But when Amphitryon arrived and saw that he was not welcomed by his wife, he inquired the cause; and when she told him that he had come the night before and slept with her, he learned from Tiresias how Zeus had enjoyed her. And Alcmena bore two sons, to wit, Hercules, whom she had by Zeus and who was the elder by one night, and Iphicles, whom she had by Amphitryon." [2.4.8]
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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I really enjoyed your recounting of Herakles' labors. I have a small shrine to Him in my home. Thanks again!
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always love your writing style and you always choose the most informative topics on which to po
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you for your high praise It means a lot!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."
 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)



One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the Island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the Island.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Another great post! Thanks! If the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon had not experienced its famous mishap, and the moon shots not b

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Over the last few weeks, some of the bloggers at the Pagan Channel on Patheos have been posting short explanations as to how and why they became Pagan. I'll tackle that question, too, but in a manner more appropriate to this column: as a life-long bibliophile, books have had a huge influence on my spiritual development. The genres, target audience, and quality of those books have varied widely; the majority were not even aimed specifically at Pagans. Nonetheless, during my formative years (say, childhood through mid-adolesence), these books contributed to thoroughly corrupting me.

Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, for instance, which I first found at the public library as a child, lost track of, then rediscovered in the tiny children's section in my college library. I adore the artwork, and I love how Foster interweaves the personal histories of ordinary people with those of major personages and important events. It was this book which first made me a fan of Cleopatra, and led me to further explore women's history and the religions of the ancient world.

Everyone should have at least one copy of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm on their shelves. At least one. I need to explain why? Magic, derring do, adventure, magic, powerful women, brave princesses, magic, villains, talking animals, and so on and so forth. Grimm collections, along with Perrault, Andersen, Lang, and others, inspire awe and curiosity. They keep alive in us a vital sense of wonder and awe without which we are blind to the mysteries and beauties of the world. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's been a little while since the last constellation post, so here we are again. This time, I'm tackling a little one,  Corvus, the Latin word for 'raven' or 'crow'. It comes from the Hellenic 'korax'. It's one of three constellations linked to a myth I will only partly reveal today, as it makes much more sense to place it with the constellation Crater, which will be the next one I tackle.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Very welcome

Because it's been a while since the last constellation, I'm going to give you not one but two constellations today (also because it's much easier to describe both in one post, seeing as the mythology surrounding these two has mixed throughout the years, so I'm really just making it easier on myself).

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Ever so often, I get the feeling I really need to write about something specific; references to the topic pop up everywhere, I get asked questions about it, and the desire to write about anything else drops to an all-time low. So here we go: today's blog post is about Hestia and Dionysos, and who has the throne up on snowy Olympos.


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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! Aetius

The ancient Hellenes were very keen people, interested in all things nature, science and philosophy. They searched for answers to questions about their life, as well as the Theoi, and they theorized structurally about any discoveries they made, be it in health care, science or paleontology. Especially in the latter department, there are a few discoveries that might have shaped a large part of ancient Hellenic mythology and religion in general. Today, we'll be discussing some of those.

Giants:

Nichoria (Νιχώρια) is a site in Messenia, a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese, Greece, on a ridgetop near modern Rizomylos, at the northwestern corner of the Messenian Gulf. It was the home of an Acropolis where many--what we now call--fossils were stored. The Nichoria bone was discovered by the ancient Hellenes roughly around 1000 BC. It is the blackened and petrified thigh bone of an extinct mega mammal--likely a woolly rhinoceros, or a mammoth--that roamed southern Hellas around one million years ago. The rusty-black color of the fossil bone indicates that it was most likely collected from the lignite deposits near the ancient town of Megalopolis, some 55 kilometers (35 miles) away from Nichoria. The Megalopolis basin was known in antiquity as the 'battleground of the Giants', where the Titanomachy was believed to have taken place. The dense concentration of large fossil bones found at the basin inspired the belief that entire armies of giants were blasted by Zeus' thunderbolts, and the Nichoria bone--the distal end of a right femur, 15 cm (5-6 inches) wide, about twice the size of a regular human thigh bone--was most likely believed to have belonged to one of these giants. If the myth or the bone came first is unknown.

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