Join Me for a Live-Stream on the Ancient Arts of Promoting Your Business

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What do you, a concubine and an emperor have in common? You are all passionate about something that not many people understand. This makes introducing what you do and getting people interested in what you offer more challenging. Entrepreneurship and promoting your passion is a timeless practice. Mythographer Martini Fisher will take you through the basics of finding your niche, establishing your authority and building your audience the way they have been done for thousands of years.

You will:
1. learn from the ancient courtesans about the dangers of being “ordinary” and the necessity of finding your niche.
2. learn from the first Roman Emperor Augustus about using simple visual imagery to establish your brand.
3. learn from worshipers of ancient deities about building your platform, targeting your audience and make them as passionate about your product as you do.

Moving back and forth between the modern day to the ancient times in 30 minutes, you will learn from our elders about how to establish ourselves using our passion and our existing audience.

The live stream can be accessed through Yoohcan on Friday 7 April 2017 at 15.00 CEST.

 

 

Murder by Mistletoe: The Ancient Art of Blindsiding through Norse and Persian Myths

One of those deities whose life might, in a sense, be said to be between heaven and earth was the Norse god Balder, the good and beautiful god, the son of the great god Odin, and himself the wisest, mildest and best beloved of all the immortals.

The story of his death is this: Balder dreamed something which seemed to forebode his death. He told the other gods about this and, because he was so beloved, the gods held a council and resolved to secure him from any danger. So the goddess Frigg took an oath from fire and water, iron and all metals, stones and earth, trees, sicknesses and poisons, and from all four-footed beasts, birds and creepy things that they would not hurt Balder.

When this was done Balder was deemed invulnerable; so the gods amused themselves in their downtime by setting him in their midst – some would shoot at him and others threw stones at him, because why not? But whatever they did, nothing could hurt him, so at they had a big laugh and a jolly time was had by all. But Loki, the mischief-maker, didn’t think this was fair, and he went in the guise of an old woman to Frigg, who told him that the weapons of the gods could not wound Balder, since she had made them all swear not to hurt him.

When Loki asked, “Have all things sworn to spare Balder?” Frigg answered, “East of Valhalla grows a plant called mistletoe; it seemed to me too young to swear.” So Loki went there, pulled the mistletoe and took it to the assembly of the gods. There he found the blind god Hother standing at the outside of the circle. Loki asked him, “Why do you not shoot at Balder?” Hother answered, “Because I do not see where he stands; besides I have no weapon.” Then Loki said, “Join in the fun. I will show you  where he stands and you can shoot him with this twig.” Hother took the mistletoe and threw it at Balder, as Loki directed. The mistletoe struck Balder and he fell down dead.

balder-and-nannaFor a while the gods stood speechless, then they wept bitterly. They took Balder’s body and brought it to the sea-shore. There stood Balder’s ship, Ringhorn. Balder’s body was taken and placed on the funeral pile upon his ship. When his wife Nanna saw it, her heart burst in sorrow and she died. So she was laid on the funeral pyre with her husband. Balder’s horse, too, with all its trappings, was burned, so the couple could journey on it to the underworld.

In the older Edda, the tragic tale of Balder is hinted at rather than told at length. Among the visions which the Norse Sibyl sees and describes in the weird prophecy known as the Voluspa is one of the fatal mistletoe. “I behold,” she said, “Fate looming for Balder, Woden’s son, the bloody victim. There stands the Mistletoe slender and delicate, blooming high above the ground. Out of this shoot, so slender to look on, there shall grow a harmful fateful shaft. Hod shall shoot it, but Frigga in Fen-hall shall weep over the woe of Wal-hall.”

But looking far into the future the Sibyl sees a brighter vision of a new heaven and a new earth, where the fields unsown shall yield their increase and all sorrows shall be healed; then Balder will come back to dwell in Odin’s mansions of bliss, in a hall brighter than the sun, shingled with gold, where the righteous shall live in joy for ever more.

balder-vs-hotherWriting about the end of the twelfth century, the old Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus tells the story of Balder where Balder and Hother were rival suitors for the hand of Nanna, daughter of Gewar, King of Norway.  Balder was a demigod and common steel could not wound his sacred body. The two rivals battle each other. Although Odin, Thor and the rest of the gods fought on Balder’s side, Balder was defeated and flew away. So Hother married the princess. But Balder didn’t give up and again met Hother in a field. But he fared even worse than before because Hother gave him a deadly wound with a magic sword which he had received from Miming, the Satyr of the woods; and after three days in pain, Balder died of his pain and was buried with royal honours in a barrow.

Whether he was a real or mythical, Balder was worshipped in Norway. On one of the bays of Sogne Fiord, which penetrates far into the depths of the Norwegian mountains, Balder had a great sanctuary. It was called Balder’s Grove.

statue_of_rostamWe like to think that the figure of Balder was nothing more than a myth, but it is also possible that the myth was founded on the tradition of a hero, popular and beloved in his lifetime, who long survived in the memory of the people, gathering more and more of the marvelous stories about him as he passed from generation to generation of story-tellers. So it is worth while to observe that a somewhat similar story is told of another national hero, who may well have been a real man. In his poem, The Epic of Kings, founded on Persian traditions, the poet Firdusi tells us that in the combat between Rostam and Esfandiyar, Rostam’s arrows did no harm to his adversary, “because Zerdusht had charmed his body against all dangers, so that it was like unto brass.” But Simurgh, the bird of God, showed Rostam the way to vanquish his foe.

Rostam rode after her, and they halted not till they came to the sea-shore. There she led him into a garden, where a tamarisk stood tall and strong, branches piercing to the sky. Then the bird of God asked Rostam to break a tree a branch that was long and slender, and made it into an arrow. She said, “Only through his eyes can Isfendiyar be wounded. If, therefore, thou wouldst slay him, direct this arrow to his forehead, and it shall not miss its aim.” Rostam did as he was asked to do; and when next he fought with Isfendiyar, he shot the arrow at him. The arrow pierced Isfendiyar’s eye and killed him.

 

Martini

Me and History (Part 1) – David Leonhardt: Only Storytellers Should Teach History

Some time ago,  I conducted a group interview on how to make history interesting to learn . The interview was  very well received, and I personally learned a great deal. I therefore decided to expand my questions and give these creative, thoughtful experts a room to do what they do best: think, consider and write.

The first expert is David Leonhardt, an author and blogger, sharing with me his thoughts of history, especially how it impacts his work.

Q. If I say the word “history”, what would come immediately to your mind?

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

When I hear the word “history” I think of storytelling.  In fact, that’s what the word means.  Go back a couple centuries, and nobody was using the modern truncated “story” form of the word.

I am a storyteller.  When I blog, I am almost always recounting some story, rather than just listing the steps to follow to get some task done.  So I am a big fan of history.

I recently ghostwrote a non-fiction novel.  It’s not history in the sense that most people would think of it, but it was a series of events that happened, and that is history.  I blogged about the research tools I used to bring the story to life. One of those tools is Weather Underground’s weather hindcast tool. It is aptly named “Historical Weather”.

Weather has its own history, and it has played an immensely powerful role in human history.  It has been the decisive factor in many battles.  It has been the cause of the rise and fall of agriculture-based empires.  It has served as a portent to many decision-makers.

In the book I wrote, I used weather history to set the mood.

When the weather was dim and overcast, it set a sombre tone to the story.

When clouds kept the stars out of site, it helped confirm the hopelessness the protagonist felt.

When things were looking bleak, the sunny day was…not mentioned.  No, a good storyteller doesn’t tell the whole story.  I used historical weather only when it confirmed the emotions and the mood of the human history.  I left it out when it would have spoiled the mood. Weather as a metaphor for mood.

In that same novel, I included well-known historical events as points of reference for the readers. For example, including Hurricane Katrina and the attack on the Twin Towers gave readers a sense that this story is real, that it fits into history as they know it.  There are plenty of dates in the novel, but people remember the stories better than the dates.

What people seem to dislike most about history is remembering dates. Dates are only numerical markers of a timeline of events.  They are important for comparing multiple events, what happened first, what happened last.  But all those numbers spoil a good story.

Imagine Lord of the Rings full of dates.

Imagine The Firm full of dates.

Imagine 1984 full of dates.  OK, bad example.

History teachers are too often guilty of bogging down the story with dates.  Only storytellers should teach history.  The dates should be used only as a teaching aid, not as something to memorize.

NEXT WEEK: Me and History (Part 2) – Phil Turner: I Live in Ireland, where History is All Around Me

Martini

 

(Excerpt) Life’s Unpleasant Truths Represented by Mahabharata

This is an excerpt from the newly-released ebook “Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Businesses”, currently available on Kindle. To get your copy, press here.

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Let’s be honest: we all want to do the right thing. In fact, all of us are doing our best. However, “our best” is a broad expression which is heavily influenced by our understandings, our backgrounds, our desires, our needs, our education and many other factors. In the end, “our best” may not be suitable for the world as a whole, but enough for perhaps our own country, or our own community. The cold, hard truth of it is that, although it is by no means impossible, it is very rare for a dream to “change the whole world for the better” to come true.

Mahabharata understands this, and makes no pretense of the situation being otherwise. So, instead of taking the stance of “this situation is unvirtuous and therefore should not have happened,” the attitude of the characters lean more to “This situation is unvirtuous, but it happens nonetheless. So, what are we going to do about it?”

          There are, of course, many other unpleasant truths in life symbolized in the epic. Here are some of them:

Fighting for righteousness is all very well, but if the opponent fights dirty be prepared to match them. Many of the tactics used by the Pandavas were sneaky at best. But, they tried to avoid the war, and when they could not avoid it they fought honorably. But, when their opponent started gaining the upper ground by cheating, they resorted to dishonorable methods as well. They had to – otherwise they would lose and the Kauravas would not hesitate to kill every last one of them.  There is no point in occupying the high moral ground if you lose in the process, particularly if “losing” means losing your life, your country and people you are responsible for. There is a story of Prithivraj Chahaun who defeated and captured invader Mahmud of Ghor in the 1191 first Battle of Tarain. However, he released his prisoner as that was considered morally correct. In 1192, Mahmud returned and promptly defeated, captured, and executed Prithivraj, an event which led to Muslim rule over the entire Ganges river valley. One cannot fully blame Prithivraj for letting Mahmud go. It was indeed the noble thing to do, but it cost him his life and his kingdom. Of course, it is not always the case of “kill or be killed”, but it is worth serious pondering. There are always moral conflicts and there will always be people who would mistake courtesy and kindness as signs of weakness.

War is sometimes justified. Mahatma Gandhi argued that it would be better to uphold the principle of non-violence over resorting to violence for any cause. And he was right. It is better, much nobler, and it is certainly something we should always strive to do. However, if the world was or is that noble, we would never hear news on wars or mass killings which we still hear about even to this day. On the other hand, the Mahabarata accepts the idea of a just war – where war is an option that should only be resorted to after all other solutions fail. However, once resorted to, it ought to be fought quickly to its conclusion for the sake of everyone.

There will always be dishonest people in the world, and you need to know how to handle them for your own sake as well as the people you are responsible for. Yudhisthira failed to identify and acknowledge the dishonesty of Duryodhana and lost everything he had. Turning the other cheek to something that is harmful is not righteousness – it will only lead to a bigger wrong.

Rules and customs ought to be interpreted flexibly. Mahabharata argues that that rules and customs should serve as social tools or means to enhance the quality of life and relationships. They are ‘tools’ to achieve a better life, not the ‘end result’. When rules and customs no longer serve their purpose, then we will have to think about reinterpreting them, or even discard them completely. Duty can be amended when it pursues a course of action that is inflexible or harmful. In Mahabharata, the Pandavas felt honor bound to play a game of dice to the end to appease their host, even though it resulted in the gambling away of their kingdom and their queen, as the customs frowned upon guests who refuse their host’s wishes. If following a strict sense of morality leads to actions that are immoral, then it is better to evaluate one’s notion of duty and honor.

Martini

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Now on Kindle: “Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Businesses”

Following the successful launch of the online course by the same name, “Introduction to Mahabharata: Lessons on Life and Businesses” is now available in eBook form.

We seldom look at mythology as something that has practical lessons to make our life easier. Yet, it is closer to real life than we imagine. The Five Pandava Brothers of the ancient Hindu Epic Mahabharata represents many facets of ancient and modern lives from imperfections to ideal business leaders.

Martini Fisher introduces a different way to look at the Ancient Epic Indian Literature that is Mahabharata and presents its practical lessons for the modern audience.

The Great Ancient Love Stories

In honor of Valentine’s day, let’s wear lots of pinks and look at some love stories. Truth be told I’m usually not a big fan of romantic stories, but there’s something about mythology that brings back the sense of magic of a good love story. Let’s look at some very ancient ones.

Adonis (Eshmun) and Aphrodite – Phoenician

LOVE_ADONISAPHROAdonis was born a most beautiful child. Aphrodite placed him into a coffin which she entrusted to Persephone, goddess of the Underworld. When Aphrodite returned to retrieve the coffin she discovered that Persephone had opened it and claimed the handsome child for herself. The dispute became so nasty that Zeus had to intervene. He then decided that Adonis should spend half the year on earth and half in the Underworld.

In another version of this myth Adonis was a hunter. Because Aphrodite loved Adonis, she tried to persuade him to give up the dangerous sport. Adonis refused and was killed by a wild boar. This myth actually came before the Ancient Greek version. In the sixth century the Phoenician name for this character was discovered. He was the agricultural divinity named Eshmun, which explained the 6 month alternation between the earth and the underworld.

Zal and Rudabeh- Persian

LOVEZALRUDABEHZal, son of a Feridun chief named Sam, was born with snow white hair. This curious condition aroused fear that he might be a son of a devil, and Sam was forced to abandon the boy on a mountaintop. A simurgh, a bird with magic powers, snatched up the crying baby and raised him with its own nestlings.

Upon dreaming that his son still lived, Sam prayed to be reunited. The simurgh instructed Zal that he must return to his father, but gave him a feather that would ensure Zal’s safety if he were ever in danger. Sam welcomed his son and eventually put him in charge of Zabulistan where he performed his duties well. Zal decided to visit other places including Kabul. The chief of Kabul was a descendant of Zohak, an enemy of Zal’s father Sam and the king of Persia. Zal knew that the smart thing to do would be to avoid contact with the chief, but he wanted to meet the chief’s daughter Rudabeh who was described as “fair as the moon with ringlets of dark hair that reached her feet and whose presence made men think of heaven.” Rudabeh in turn had heard of Zal, and invited Zal to her palace retreat. The two realized their great love for each other, but feared their families’ enmity.

When Zal confessed his love for Rudabeh to his father, Sam consulted astrologers, and found out that the offspring of the two lovers would become a great conqueror. He sent Zal with a letter for Rudabeh’s father asking his permission for the marriage. The king received the same sign from the astrologers and consented.  Rudabeh and Zal were married, and the two kings made peace.

When Rudabeh was ready to give birth, she became gravely ill. Zal placed the simurgh feather on the fire. The simurgh appeared and instructed that Rudabeh be drugged with wine. Her side was opened, her child drawn out, and the incision rubbed with an herb and another feather from the simurgh’s wing. The child named Rustam revealed himself immediately to be a hero and the fulfillment of the simurgh’s prophecy.

Osiris and Isis- Egyptian

LOVE_ISISOSIRISOsiris, son of Earth and Sky, was the husband-brother of Isis, goddess of the earth and moon. Set, the god of darkness, trapped Osiris in a coffin and threw him into the Nile. Grief-stricken Isis found the coffin and retrieved her husband’s body, but inspite of her attempts to hide it in Egypt, Set found it again and cut it into fourteen pieces which he scattered throughout the land. Isis searched again. When she found the parts, she rejoined the fragments, and restored the god to eternal life with the first use of the rites of embalment.

Sakuntala and Dashyanta- Indian

LOVE_SHAKUNTALASakuntala was abandoned in the forest where she survived on food brought by birds. She was discovered by the sage Kanva who raised her as his own daughter at a hermitage. One day King Dushyanta was hunting in the forest, and having caught sight of Sakuntala, fell in love. He persuaded her to marry him and gave her a ring of commitment when he departed. Unfortunately, Sakuntala, upon returning to the hermitage, mistakenly offended the irritable sage Durvasas. He cast a curse that she would be forgotten by her husband forever unless King Dushyanta spied the ring he had left with her.

Eventually it was time for Sakuntala to find her husband and she left the hermitage. When she stopped to bathe in a sacred pool, Sakuntala dropped the ring. In accordance with the curse, Dushyanta did not recognize her when she arrived at the palace and denied their marriage, although he did feel sorry for the grief-stricken girl about to give birth to a child. Sakuntala sadly withdrew from the palace only to be whisked away to a sacred grove by an apparition. There she bore a son named Bharata.

When a fisherman later found a ring inside a fish, he was taken before Dushyanta as a suspect of theft. Upon seeing the ring Dushyanta realized his vow to Sakuntala and anxiously sought her. The god Indra appeared in his chariot and carried Dushyanta to the sacred grove. There Dushyanta and Sakuntala were reunited and rejoiced in the heroic destiny of their son Bahrata.

The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl – Chinese

LOVE_COWHEARDThe heavenly Cowherd and Weaver Girl were immortal. They fell in love, but because the Weaver Girl was the daughter of the Jade Emperor himself, their love was forbidden and the Cowherd was banished to earth, but the Weaver Girl refused to be separated with him and quietly followed him.

They then married. After the couple had been married several years and had born a son and daughter, the heavenly soldiers came looking for the Weaver Girl and carried her back to the heavens by force. The Cowherd and his children, stricken with grief. The Jade emperor, who had also seen his daughter’s heartbroken face, felt sorry for the little family. He made the Cowherd and the children immortal and lord over a star to the west of the River (Milky Way). The Weaver Girl ruled over a star to the East and the two had permission to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. That is what they have always done, and on that day all magpies fly to heaven with twigs to form a bridge so that the Weaver Girl and Cowherd can cross the river.

Martini

LOVE_VALENTINE

Can We Really Trust the Rat?: 6 reasons the rat came in first in the race of the legendary Chinese Zodiacs

CHINESE ZODIAC_PAINTING

There are many versions and stories popular in different regions of China about the legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Why were there twelve animals in the zodiac calendar and where did the order come from? How did the rat get first place and the dragon come in fifth? Consensus seemed to say the rat cheated which, according to at least 3 of the following versions, he totally did! But, then again, the following versions are only six out of probably thousands, so I may be a tad unfair to the little beast.

  1. The rat forgot to wake the cat up and ditched the ox

CHINESE ZODIAC_JADEEMPERORThe Jade Emperor (The Emperor in Heaven in Chinese folklore) ordered that animals would be designated as calendar signs and the twelve that arrived first would be selected. The cat and the rat were good friends, so when they heard this news, the cat asked the rat to wake him up very early the next day so they could get in early together. The rat said yes. So the two happy little animals slept excitedly that night.

But then, in the morning, the rat was too excited to remember his promise and went straight to the gathering place. On the way, he saw the tiger, ox, horse, and other bigger animals that ran much faster. To catch up with him the rat thought of an idea. “That ox fellow is pretty quick for a big guy!” So he decided to trick the ox. The rat told the ox to let him jump onto his back so that he could sing to him and make their journey to the gathering place more pleasant. The ox agreed. Soon without knowing, the ox was walking to the signing post, forgetting the rat on his back. When they reached there, the rat jumped off and claimed first place. The ox and the rest followed.

  1. The rat forgot to sign in on behalf of the cat and got into the elephant’s trunk.

CHINESE ZODIAC_ELEPHANTIn this story, it was the Yellow Emperor who wanted to select twelve guards The rat told the cat that he’d get there early to sign up for the both of them. But then rat completely forgot., or maybe he intentionally didn’t do it for the cat. Either way, the attending animals were  requested to have a swimming race and the  elephant also participated. The rat didn’t fancy getting drowned, so he decided to hitch a ride on the big elephant. Since the elephant was too big and round, the mouse could only got into its trunk. The elephant ran away in fright, and centuries later elephants are still afraid of rats.

  1. The rat didn’t cheat, he just happened to have the correct amount of toes.

CHINESEZODIAC_RATMany famous scholars in history had their own interpretations about this. Hong Xun from the Song dynasty based his theory on the Yin and Yang Theory. Among the twelve animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig – rat, tiger, dragon, monkey and dog have five toes. Five is an odd number which is thought to be in yang side (or positive). Horse has one toe, also an odd number. Others animals have toes of even numbers which are thought to be yin, negative. Snake has no toe but its tongue has two tips in even number. Ying and yang animal signs were interlaced. The rat’s forepaws have four toes and hindpaws have five toes, with both odd and even numbers. For such a special creature among the twelve animals, he won the first place.

4. The rat was the hero who started the world.

In the Chinese mythology about the origin of world, the universe was dark and shaped like an egg before the earth and heaven were separated. It was the rat that bit a crack and let the air in. He was the hero who started the world.

  1. The 12 animals came to bid Buddha farewell.

Buddha summoned all of the animals of the earth to come before him before his departure from this earth, but only 12 animals actually came to say goodbye. To reward them,  named a year after each of them. The years were given to them in the order they had arrived.

  1. The animals arrived according to their natures.

CHINESE ZODIAC_DRAGONThe cat and the rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although they were poor swimmers, they were both quite intelligent. To get to the meeting called by the Jade Emperor, they had to cross a river to reach the meeting place. The Jade Emperor had also decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal in the order they arrived to the meeting. They decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of the ox, who agreed to carry them both across. Midway across the river, the rat pushed the cat into the water. Then as ox neared the other side of the river, the rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first. So he claimed first place.

The ox followed closely behind him and earned second place. Then came the tiger, panting, explaining to the Jade Emperor how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But he made it to the shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.

Suddenly, the rabbit arrived. He jumped from one stone to another nimbly. Halfway through, he almost lost the race, but he grabbed hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. He became the 4th animal in the Zodiac cycle. In 5th place was the dragon. He  had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore was held back. Then, on his way to the finish, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging onto a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore.

Then the horse appeared. Hidden on the horse’s hoof was the snake, whose sudden appearance gave the horse a fright, making it fall back and the snake slithered into the 6th spot, while the horse placed 7th.

Not long after that, the goat, the monkey and the rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are. The rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the goat and the monkey cleared the weeds and pulled until the raft got to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the emperor named the goat as the 8th creature, the monkey as the 9th, and the rooster the 10th.

The dog was the 11th animal. He was supposed to be the best swimmer,  but he couldn’t resist the temptation to play a little longer in the river. Just as the Jade Emperor was about to call it a day, a little pig arrived. The pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, he continued the race and was named the 12th animal of the zodiac cycle. The cat drowned and never made it in the zodiac. Centuries later, cats always chase rats, to get back at them for tricking them out of their chance of being a zodiac.

Martini

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