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.
Despite the misogyny in the ancient world, discussions and debates about gender equality has also started (or, at least, made famous) by an unlikely source: male philosophers.
Not much was known of the young Antinous before he attracted the attention of the ruler of the Roman world at its height. He was born in Bithynia, the northwest corner of the country that we now call Turkey, in the year 111 CE. He was very likely not from a wealthy family. However, because of his mysterious bond with Roman Emperor Hadrian, by the end of his short life Antinous was a house-hold name all over the Roman Empire.
if the gorgeousness of the Greek goddess of love has been established as scholarly facts, what else can be said about her? Looking at classical arts alone, Aphrodite seems to have no distinctive attributes other than her beauty, however, she was much more than just beautiful.
Sixteenth century Theologian Martin Luther has referred to Melusine unfavorably several times as a succubus and nineteenth century composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a concert overture titled “The Fair Melusina”. These days, images of Melusine are still seen in the Vendée region of Poitou, western France, where one can drink Melusine-brand beer and eat Melusine-style baguettes. In Vouvant, paintings of her and her sons decorate the “Tour Melusine,” the ruins of a Lusignan castle guarding the banks of the River Mère, where visitors of the tower can lunch at the Cafe Melusine nearby. The image of Melusine is so famous and enduring that, perhaps without knowing her by name, we still recognize her image today as the logo for Starbucks Coffee.
The last of the four regions of the Underworld is the Fields of Mourning, which are reserved for the souls of those who died of a broken heart. Those souls “wander in paths unseen, or in the gloom of dark myrtle grove: not even in death have they forgot their griefs of long ago” (Aeneid, Book 6, line 426). Some of the most famous inhabitants of the Fields of Mourning are Dido, Phaedra, Procris and Laodamia.
These women are the apsaras, beautiful dancing women in the court of Indra, king of the gods, in the celestial palace in Hindu mythology. They are the heavenly charmers who fascinated heroes and allured sages from their devotions as well as the “rewards” in heaven given to heroes who fall in battle. The apsaras have the power to change their forms and give good luck to whom they favor.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus (423–457) tells us that when little girls played games in forth-century Syria, they played monks and demons. One of the girls, dressed in rags, would reduce her little friends into giggles by exorcising them. This glimpse into a Syrian childhood scene points to the prestige of the monk figure and may serve as a preview to what must appear in this modern age as a somewhat strange theme in the setting of Christian hagiography—the woman monks of the deserts. Women who disguised themselves as monks and lived as hermits, or as members of the male monastic communities is a recurring theme in the first and oldest layers of Byzantine history.
Kinryuzan Sensoji Temple, located in Asakusa, Tokyo is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. Dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion, the temple is one of the most widely visited spiritual sites in the world with over 30 million annual visitors. Kinryuzan means the ‘Golden Dragon Mountain’. Legend has it that the Sensoji Temple was founded in 628 AD after two fishermen fished a gold statuette of Kannon from the Sumida River. Although the understandably confused fishermen tried to put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Therefore, the Sensoji temple was built nearby for the goddess represented by the statue found by the fishermen.
Iranian mythology has no recorded evidence that the image of the serpent was ever associated with the practice of medicine or pharmacy. Instead, it was the mythical bird, Simurgh.
In India, Nepal and throughout Southeast Asia, Buddha is commonly depicted as tall, slender and serene. However, we are also familiar with the image of the “Laughing Buddha” – a short, well-fed, jolly man whose belly one can rub for good luck. This figure is popular in China and those areas to which Chinese cultural influence spread. Artwork of him from past to present shows him laughing gleefully – a stark contrast with the legendary Buddha.