Battle of the Tragic Heroes: Legends of India’s Karna, Greek’s Achilles and Ireland’s Ferdiad

Every culture had strong influences on each other and their legends. A minor example of this can be seen in something as simple as a body armor – Ancient India’s Karna’s kawach (“armour”) has been compared with that of Ancient Greek’s Achilles’ Styx-coated body and with Ancient Irish warrior Ferdiad’s horny skin that could not be pierced.

“Heaven loves men dearly not without reason”: Heaven and the Otherworld through Ancient Beliefs

The concept of the afterlife in the ancient world is more varied and somewhat more complicated. Unlike travelling to hell, which seems to be a much quicker process, a soul’s journey to heaven consists of various tests and layers before it could reach its final resting place.

The Uneventful Love Life of the Great God Pan

Pan’s nature was always one of paradox: an uncivilized god in a civilized world. His first role was that of the shepherd, the guardian between civilization and the wild. Much like the goat, which could never truly be domesticated, Pan has always retained a bit of his feral nature. He was among the most popular of the ancient Greek gods, yet his cult never had the far-reaching impact enjoyed by the cults of Dionysus, Athena, and Apollo. Pan is also famous for his unfettered sexuality, yet was rarely successful in his courting.

Vinayaki

In one of the shrines of the Thanumalayan temple in Kanyakumari district, India, is the stone sculpture of a four-armed deity sitting cross-legged in Sukhasana (“easy pose” – similar to sitting in a simple cross-legged position) holding a battle-axe, a large shell, a vase and a staff around which the deity entwines a long trunk. At first glance, one would think that this is the famous elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha except that this deity is clearly female.

Death and the Rusalka

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.

Shaman Queens

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.

Dance of the Swords

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.

Here’s to More Life, Love and Adventures to Come: The Ancient History of Birthday Celebrations

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.  

Ancient Stories of Werewolves

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.