Euripides was not only critical towards religions and ancient legends, he was also considered to be the biggest social critic of all the ancient Greek tragedians. He introduced strong female characters and intelligent slaves, as well as satirizing many of the heroes of Greek mythology.
The Cinderella story is a tale of serendipity and love – both of which are universal themes. These themes are perhaps the reason why the story seems to transcend time itself and became one of the world’s go-to princess tales, recognized all over the world albeit under different names. While there are many variants of the story, they commonly feature a young woman in unjust and oppressive circumstances whose fortune are remarkably and unexpectedly changed with the assistance of divine elements such as magical animals and fairy godmothers (or godfathers).
We would often see her images and, perhaps just as often, forget her name. In paintings, she is a beautiful tragic figure, looking up helplessly towards a Roman soldier standing over her. However, in 16th century Europe, there was no other ancient name that fuels an artist’s imagination like “Lucretia”.
In mythology, the fox usually has a positive connotation. In early Mesopotamian mythology, the fox is one of the sacred animals and a messenger of the goddess Ninhursag. Then in Asia, the fox became cynical.
Although the subject of strong women in history is always fascinating, it is a widely recognized but often forgotten fact that the greatness of a queen could not have occurred without the positive support of the male population, just as the king’s power could be maintained only because women also supported them. No power would survive for long against the apathy or opposition of half of the population. Therefore, although sons, brothers and grandsons were the only ones with an officially recognized right to inherit power, the ancient East also knew many female leaders who were successful rulers of kingdoms. In fact, Islamic history is riddled with crises that threatened to destroy a number of dynasties had it not been for the intervention of women.
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.
The Matrikas have existed from as early as the Indus Valley civilization (3300–1700 BCE). The Rigveda (c. 1700–1100 BCE) merely refers to them a group of seven mothers who control the preparation of soma (the drink of the gods).
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.
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.
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.