Antonin Dvorak’s opera Rusalka, based on Slavic folklore, was first performed in Prague on March 31, 1901, and went on to become one of the most successful Czech operas. The opera’s Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (“Song to the Moon”) is frequently performed in concert and has been recorded separately to this day.
in all of Greek Mythology, no siblings seem to hold a worse grudge against one another than the two war deities. The Ancient Greek society, in turn, did not hesitate to pit them against one another in their belief, their stories and their worships.
Mesopotamia was in turmoil during the third millennium BCE. The conquest of Sargon the Great resulted in the formation of the world’s first great empire. Akkad grew to be one of the world’s largest cities, and northern and southern Mesopotamia were united for the first time in history. Enheduanna, Sargo of Akkad’s daughter, is a fascinating character in this historical setting.
The word ‘shaman’ conjures up images of medicine men smoking peace pipes, dancing in a trance to drumming around a fire or African sangomas, adorned with leopard skin, throwing dollose bones and shells to divine and drinking beer from calabash. This is far removed from the concept of sophisticated, regal shaman queens of the East in China, Japan and Korea who used their talent and connection with the ‘Otherworld’ to the benefit of their kingdoms and populace. Later this feminine healing power was suppressed and persecuted by religious men, who regarded it as a threat to their faith.
Courtly love was sensual love for an unattainable, idealised lady, but it was essentially pure, which prohibited physical consummation – imagine all of the angst, desire, and jealousy that could incite passion if there was no physical release. That was the theory, at least.
Fredegund (545 – 597 CE), the queen consort of Chilperic I – the Merovingian Frankish king of Soissons, has a reputation of being one of the most bloodthirsty and sadistic women in history. Accounts by Gregory, the Bishop of Tours (539 – 594 CE), depict her as a murderous lady who achieved power through her husband and used it to keep his kingdom in a state of war for more than forty years. She was also known as an early exponent of dirty warfare who relied heavily on poison and other covert operations
In the late 20th century, the concept of a link between appearance and “immoral” behaviour fully emerged, rendering the saying “never judge a book by its cover” pointless. This time, rather than mythical kings, it was minority groups that were frequently targeted.
Sword dancing has found its place in many different cultures. In Asia, the sword dance is often used for plot descriptions and characterization in Chinese opera. In Pakistan and Nepal, military dances are still commonly performed for weddings and other occasions. In India, the Paika Akhada (“warrior school”) previously used to train Odisha warriors, is performed in the streets during festivals. Sword dances are also performed all over Europe, particularly in areas corresponding to the boundaries of what used to be the Holy Roman Empire.
One of the most famous Roman antiquity inscriptions comes from Vindolanda, a fort along Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain. This is Claudia Severa’s so-called “birthday letter,” which she wrote to her friend Sulpicia Lepidina around 100 CE. Severa dictated to a scribe on a small wooden tablet the invitation to her friend for a birthday celebration on September 11th, as well as well wishes in her own handwriting.
The werewolf is a staple of supernatural fiction these days, and one could be forgiven for thinking that this snarling creature was created during the Medieval and Early Modern periods as a result of superstitions around witchcraft and black magic. But the werewolf is much older than that.
About 48 million years ago, an owl swooped down to catch its prey in broad daylight – we know this because in 2018 Dickinson Museum Researchers found the exquisitely preserved remains of the owl. Its skull shares a telltale characteristic with modern-day hawks which also hunt by day. As they have evidently existed since the ancient times, the owl has been regarded with fascination, awe and fear throughout history. They feature prominently in the myths and legends of a variety of cultures.
Apples have a prominent place in world mythology, often associated with paradise, magic, knowledge and sensual experience. Legendary magician Merlin were said to carry a silver bough from an apple tree which allowed him to cross into the other worlds and to return to the land of the living. It’s no accident, then, that the apple tree is closely associated with knowledge, truth and enlightenment. The association between apples and knowledge continues In the Christian tradition as Eve offers Adam an apple – a forbidden fruit which grew on the tree of knowledge. Images after images were painted of this scene and the “forbidden fruit” became immortalized in arts as an apple.