Ancient Greek and Roman world gave us many individuals who were celebrities in their day and whose careers provide us with what we recognize today as different aspects of the modern celebrity culture such as endorsements, groupies and 15 minutes of fame – albeit without the terminology. The price of fame in the ancient world is also surprisingly, and in some cases chillingly, similar with what we see today.
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.
One afternoon in the 1960s, the people of Magelang in Java, Indonesia, gathered on the edge of the main road which connects Magelang and Yogyakarta and sounded anything they could find which could make a loud noise. After some time, the wind blew from the south. This southern wind, according to the local legend, was a Lampor. A Lampor refers to trips to several regions in Java which are carried out by the soldiers of Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythical Queen of the Southern Seas, led by her commander Nyi Blorong.
The story of Adam or Eve is by no means universal. According to the Iroquois, Huron and Navajo people, the first human being was, in fact, a woman. Nevertheless, the role of the woman in many legends are the most intriguing as, varied as they are in the way in which they were created and in their circumstances, the first woman share many similar characteristics across cultures – they are beautiful, they change the course of the world through their mere existence and they provide us with glimpses of personalities that women around the world still inherit to this day.
Virgil, in his Aeneid, describes Deiphobe, better known as the Sibyl of Cumae, as coming from “a hundred perforations in the rock, a hundred mouths from which the many utterances rush”. But she was not the only Sibyl. There were others. Many of these women rubbed shoulders with the greatest warriors and leaders of their ages, shaping the future instead of merely foretelling it.
Historians often write them off as mad women. The name Maenad evenliterally translates as the “raving ones”. But these women are much more than that. They are sacred worshippers and holy priestesses to the god of wine, madness and frenzy – Dionysus.
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.
So now we know that, at least in Macbeth, the witches are scary women. Great. The three scary women feature everywhere in history. Why are we so afraid of them?
We often hear something being dismissed as “just a myth” to imply that it is not true. In fact, “myth” and “truth” are often seen as opposites. If it is not analysed, written down in reports … Continue reading The Comfort of Mystery: In Defense of Mythology
A beautiful girl, Psyche, is born after two older sisters. People throughout the land worship her beauty so deeply that they forget about Venus, who is supposed to be the most beautiful being ever. Jealous, Venus plots to ruin Psyche. She instructs her son, Cupid, to pierce the girl with an arrow and make her fall in love with the most hideous man alive. But when Cupid sees Psyche, he shoots himself with the arrow instead.
Clown-like characters have been around for thousands of years. Jesters date back at least as far as ancient Egypt. Tracing back the figure of the Jester leads us to the … Continue reading The Trickster, the Jester, the Clown: The Brief Mythology and Ancient History of the Harbingers of Laughter and Fear
At the dark of the moon, an ancient goddess walked through the roads of ancient Greece, accompanied by sacred dogs and bearing a blazing torch. Occasionally she stopped to gather … Continue reading The Horse, the Snake and the Dog: The Three Heads of the Real Queen of the Night