The koala is a major draw for Australian zoos and wildlife parks. They are featured heavily in Australia-related advertisements, cartoons, and soft toys. If one were to name the animal most closely associated with Australia, it is very likely that the koala or the kangaroo would be mentioned. Personality-wise, the koalas’ most enduring quality is probably their laid-back nature. They generally look as happy and comfortable being in the arms of humans as they are climbing trees and eating eucalyptus leaves.
Although they have the power to change their shape at will and appear as animals, monsters, or beautiful women, sculptures and literatures generally depict the Rakshasas with a terrifying appearance – fearful side tusks, ugly eyes, curling brows and carrying a variety of horrible weapon. But, as with everything else in life, not all Rakshasas are ugly.
Nyai Roro Kidul is a well-known figure in Javanese mythology who is still venerated by the Javanese today as the spirit queen of the Indian Ocean. Living in her palace on the bottom of the ocean off the south coast of Central Java, she rules the ocean, the spirits, nymphs, and other beings from the underworld.
As fire is “divine” and heavily associated with creation (creation of food, creation of warmth and so on), a lot of ancient myths imply that fire was meant for the gods, not mankind, to control. Therefore, the giving of fire or, more often, the theft of fire for the benefit of humanity who were not meant to hold such power, is a theme that recurs in many world mythologies.
Stories of Hanuman’s heroic deeds have been passed down through generations for thousands of years. us monkey was born in East Asia through the first Chinese novel Hsi-Yu Chi (“Journey to the West”). The story is based on a Buddhist monk who journeyed to India in search of Buddhist sutras from 602-664 CE. Protecting him on his journey, according to the book, are four companions also led by a divine monkey, Sun Wu Kong.
Apart from being a shrine to the Lord Buddha, Borobudur is also a temple for Buddhist pilgrimage. A pilgrim’s journey begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the temple. The pilgrim then ascends to the top of the monument through the three realms in the Buddhist cosmology. Those three realms are Kamadhatu (“the world of desire”), Rupadhatu (“the world of forms”) and Arupadhatu (“the world of formlessness”). However, to experience this journey, the pilgrim will first walk through the gate of the temple adorned with a terrifying head which gives the illusion of the gate looking like the open mouth of the giant. The giant head represents Kala (“time”).
Most European giants are represented as being evil and cruel. The term “giant” and the reputation for cruelty derives from the Gigantes of Greek mythology, who were savage creatures with men’s bodies and serpentine legs.
According to Hesiod, they were children of Gaia and Uranus, born from the blood of Uranus after he had been castrated by his son Cronus. In a war between the Gigantes and the gods of Olympus, called the Gigantomachy, the gods prevailed and the giants were slain or restrained.
In English djinns are called genies, a name that came indirectly from the same ancient Semitic root “GNN” (meaning concealment or invisibility) as the Arabic word “djinn”. From this root the Romans got “genius”, referring to a guardian spirit of a person or place. In PreIslamic Arabia the djinns were often worshipped much as the Romans worshipped their “household” gods – they were considered to be the protective and helpful gods of a person, family, household or location – the “genius” of a person or place.
Dragons or large serpent-like creatures are so common in mythology and folklore that we should suspect that there are some grains of truth behind them that we have lost sight of – something more than just imagination and fairy stories. Modern dragon lore is mainly fantasy – few of the people who write about them have ever encountered even one little dragon. Apart from occasional tales of sea serpents no reliable reports of dragon sightings have reached Euroamerica in the past eight hundred years, but early in the seventeenth century some European naturalists were still writing about them as if they were common knowledge.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,” as Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” He was right. The things that go on in people’s minds are very real and can influence worldly events. In fact, it often seems that they are the only things that can influence the world. After the Great Enlightenment, humanity’s perception of “reality” permanently shifted, never to be the same again. We started to place high values in progress, rationality, science, logic and belief. Our whole modern world is built on them – but there were immense costs involved too.
The general appearances of ancient Chinese deities lead us to think of them as sober imperial bureaucrats. Mostly, they look like middle aged men dressed in official-looking robes, spending their time reading formal petitions and responding by giving stern orders to their underlings – rather like the more artistic version of our modern politicians. Although several of the most popular deities are female, gender immediately raises problems for the bureaucratic image of some important deities as governing elites tend to favor a religious practice that reflected themselves (male, old, humourless etc). Women, as well as men who are viewed to be rebels or misfits, tends to be excluded from the sites and definitions of power. But a group of joyful misfits changed all that.
Ancient cultures around the world saw the sea as a dangerous place, filled with beings who preyed upon people – especially men. The legatus of Gaul once wrote to Emperor Augustus claiming that he found a considerable number of nereids dead upon the sea-shore. Although most retelling of the Odyssey depict the sirens as little more than dangerous women leading men to their deaths, there have also been some studies that provide more depth.