Mythology (Richard McLaughlin)

Glossary of Mythological Terms

Myths of the Ancient Near East

Myths of Scandinavia

Myths of the Celts

Myths of India

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Ritualism [Sir James Frazier (The Golden Bough)]:

  • All humans began in one place and spread throughout the world, carrying the culture (gods, stories) with them.
  • If two separate peoples have the same gods and/or stories, there must have been contact in which the more sophisticated group gave the ideas to the more primitive group.

Parallelism [Karl Jung (diametrically opposed to ritualism)]:

  • Mythology/religion evolved out of the popularity of evolutionary thought.
  • Human beings react similarly to similar stimuli because they are human -- they are genetically patterned to react that way.
  • The passing on of acquired traits: after a long time of reacting a certain way, humans pass on (draw from the collective unconscious) the reaction because they are human. Therefore, gods and stories develop because the reactivity is a part of the collective unconscious.

Ritualist School (Frazier):

    to understand a mythological story you must understand the ritual behind it

Structuralist School:

    must know the entire body of mythology to properly understand individual myths

Psychological School (Freud):

    psychoanalyze gods and other mythological characters

Diffusionist School:

  • humanity began in one place and dispersed itself and its stories throughout the world
  • if two totally disparate cultures have the same motifs or gods, they must have been in contact at some point

Parallelist School (Carl Jung):

    different groups have the same gods and motifs just because they are human -- ideas are passed on genetically through the collective unconscious

There is usually a top echelon of named gods with specific roles and characteristics as well as an army of unnamed gods. Each of the top gods ordinarily has an epithet.

Myths of the Ancient Near East

Myths of Scandinavia

Myths of the Celts

Myths of India

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Myths of the Ancient Near East

The Ancient Near East consists of the geographical area from the Indus Valley to the Mediterranean, plus Egypt and Greece. These are the myths of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Egyptians, Hebrews, Persians, Christians, and Greeks.

I. Persian Plateau (Persia)

II. Mesopotamia (surrounded by Tigris & Euphrates Rivers)

III. The Levant (Strip of land on eastern coast of the Mediterranean)

IV. Anatolia (North of the Levant, modern-day Turkey)

V. Iberia (Modern-day Spain)

Afro-Asiatic language family: Hamitic (North Africa) and Semitic (Hebrews, Arabs, etc.)

Indo-European language family: a postulated language (none found, no words known, no origin known). The Persians, for example, were an Indo-European people.

c. 5000 B.C. A semitic civilization existed in Mesopotamia: the Akkadians. They were a highly civilized people.

c. 4000 B.C. Sumerians conquered southern Mesopotamia and Akkadia.

1800 B.C. King Hammurabi does away with the Sumerians. Builds Hammurabi City which becomes Babylon, capital of Mesopotamia (or Babylonia).

The Canaanites were inhabiting the Levant (Canaan) by 2000 B.C.

c. 1300 B.C. the Assyrians conquered (northern) Mesopotamia and eventually everything.

c. 600 B.C. the (Neo-) Babylonians rebel and defeat Assyria, taking over the world.

500 B.C. Neo-Babylonia falls to the Persians

c. 350 B.C. Alexander the Great spreads Hellenism. The Great Ancient Near East lasts until Alexander the Great and is finished by the start of the Roman Empire.

Myths of Sumer

The Sumerians

The Gods of Sumer

Ninurta Saves the World from Draught

Ninhursag's Garden

Enki's Palace Temple

The Wooing of Inanna or The Courting of Inanna

Inanna's Descent to the Underworld

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The Sumerians

The Sumerian language may be a sister language to an Indo-European language. The Sumerians came up through the Persian Gulf. No one knows where they came from. They were "light-haired" (i.e., their hair was not jet black like everyone else in the region), "light-eyed" (i.e., not black-brown), "light-skinned" (i.e., olive) [They were, in other words, not an Aryan people.], hairy, short, and squatty. They invented the wheel, writing (c. 3400 B.C. they invented a stylus to write in cuneiform -- wedge-writing). All cultures of the ancient Near East used cuneiform. The Sumerians came from a mountainous countryside. They created ziggurats (step-pyramids) and used them to worship on. They made illustrated books for their myths and legends. They carved cylinder seals out of stone to roll imprints on wet clay. Sumerian priests shaved their entire bodies bald. Other men had huge beards and long wavy hair, thick eyebrows, and enormous eyes (as depicted in the artwork of the time). The eyes of statues were made of shell for the white and lapis lazuli for the iris [Possible explanation: Conquerors never want to merge with the conquered so they accentuate the differences between them in often exaggerated detail.]. The Akkadians were heavily influenced by the Sumerians -> Babylonians worshipped similar gods.

Gods of Sumer: (Babylonian equivalents noted in parentheses)

Nammu, the great primeval chaotic ocean/goddess/mother figure. Archetype: Pre-Creation Chaos

From Nammu, came a mountian of dry land: Anki, the "Cosmic Mountain," represented by the ziggurat. From the Cosmic Mountain came Enlil, (Lord of the Wind) God of Air, son of Anki who is both male ("An" the sky) and female ("Ki" the earth). ("An" is "Anu" in Babylonian myth). Ki -> Ninhursag (another name for Ki).

An ("Anu") is the sky god, thought of as being a god, but as the sky he is a solid dome made of lapis lazuli. Since he emerged from chaos, An represents the principle of order. He becomes king of the gods. (Typically the high priest representing a god is also the king of that god's city. If two cities fought, it was believed that the two gods of those cities were also fighting each other.) "An" is a word which represents kingship -- order through unquestioned obedience to An and his high priest. An is thought of as a busy older man, king of the universe.

As for Ki, Enlil returns home one day and rapes her (his mother). This union yields all living things on earth. Ki is then called the "Mother of All Living Things." An and Ki are parents of the gods.

Enlil is the god of air. By separating An and Ki (through the rape of his mother), he holds them apart forever (a common archetype). He is a very powerful god and the second in command. He is characteristically unpredictable like the wind. He is a god of wisdom. He gave humanity a gift: a pickaxe. This is the symbol for agriculture (taught by Enlil). The pick side symbolizes (phallic) the rape of the virgin soil, thus the rape of Ki. Enlil eventually evolves into a god who seems to slowly replace An as king of the gods because An has become too busy with keeping the universe in balance. People begin eventually to pray to Enlil.

Enki, ("Ea") "Lord of the Soil", God of Water. He is a trickster, a prankster, a liar. He loves to win. He is totally unpredictable. He is very clever. He has an advantage: he is the only god who knows magic in addition to his deified powers. This allows him to win virtually every time. But no one ever goes to him first. He is usually the third god approached. He gives to humanity the knowledge of writing (cuneiform). Written and spoken language are both closely associated with magic. Enki's tricks always catch up with him. His magic doesn't keep him out of trouble. Enki lives in the Abzu (the Abyss -- the bottom of the Euphrates). Enki is also associated with law. Trials were often performed as trials by ordeal. The accused would be thrown into the Euphrates to let Enki decide his innocence or guilt. If Enki kept him (drowning), he was guilty and considered justly punished. If Enki threw him back (survival), he must be innocent. Many men were acquitted this way. Later on, they began tying people up first before sugjecting them to this trial. Enki has a thunderbird, called Imdugud. Imdugud is considered to be the South Wind. It carries the rain on its back. It has the body of a bird and the head of a lion (to explain the roar of thunder). Enki is a patron god of artisans. (The only real raw material that existed for the Sumerians was clay. Water is needed to work with the soil and make clay. This is why Enki was known as the Lord of the Soil. The words En and Ki literally mean "Lord of the Soil.") Enki is represented with rays coming off him directed downward, symbolizing water, with fish swimming in the rays.

En = "Lord of"

Nin = "Lady of" (usually; it is sometimes a masculine name as well)

Nanna ("Sin") is the God of the Moon. Nanna is an extremely powerful god who came from An and Ki. The moon is often portrayed as feminine, but Nanna is male. He taught the seasonal planting and harvesting, the lunar month (calendar), tides, astrology (also including astronomy).

The Children of Nanna

Utu ("Shamash"), the God of the Sun (a reversal of the common archetype in which the sun is considered the superior figure). The word "shamash" means "sun." (A "shamash" candle lights the menorah.) Utu is the Judge of the Gods. He is immensely wise and inescapable (because the sun is always watching). He is tremendously powerful. (Shamash is depicted giving Hammurabi the Code of Law). He is depicted as an ordinary Sumerian man, with rays coming off him, and holding either a comb (to separate the truth from the lie) or a saw (to cut through to the truth).

Kur, the Underworld. "Kur" can mean three things:

  • "the Underworld"
  • "the land of the dead personified"
  • "a river of dead stagnant water that flows through the Underworld"

Nergal, God of the Underworld. A very powerful but not very popular god. (Death and the gods related to it are not usually considered to be evil, but they are not popular.) Nergal abducts a consort from the living world (because no one likes him enough to come willingly). Her name is Ereshkigal. She becomes queen of the Underworld and pushes Nergal out of the picture. No one can come from outside the Underworld and force her in any way (a typical archetype). She is not an evil goddess; she is just unpopular. Ereshkigal cannot be fooled. She has a gatekeeper (a position of tremendous honor) called Neti. Along one side of Ereshkigal's throne room sit seven judges called the Anunaki. They are called the "Seven Judges of the Underworld." When lightning seems to come up from the ground, it is said that the Anunaki are raising their torches.

Ninurta, Lord of the Plow. He is the Storm God, "Lord of the South Wind." He is thought of like Imdugud. He is also a God of War, but atypically he PREVENTS war, like a peace officer. He is the son of An and Ki and is very dear to his mother. He is the patron god of farmers and herdsmen. His herds are the clouds.

Inanna, daughter of Nanna. She is also called (in Babylonian) "Ishtar." She is the goddess of fertility (in humans), of lust, and of love. She is the goddess of hate, war, and slaughter. Love between a man and a woman was considered to be a form of insanity (passion). This kind of love leads to irrational behavior. Passion is a driving emotion which cannot be overcome. To be struck by this goddess meant complete insanity. Therefore, one shouldn't make any serious decisions in this state of mind (e.g., marriage). There was therefore ample provision for divorce in Sumerian society, because it was understodd that the insanity would eventually pass. Inanna shoots barbed arrows. If one of the spouses does not wish to be divorced, it was justifiable to effect the divorce "Italian Style" (murder); this was considered a crime of passion. The passionate insanity of love was considered an acceptable defense for murder. Hate is equally passionate and powerful (e.g., Euripides's "Medea": "Love is diseased."). The worst thing that can happen to a man is to be noticed by Inanna who will immediately want to have an affair with him, after which she will kill him. If he refuses her, she will kill him anyway. She is irresistibly beautiful and totally self-centered. She always holds a grudge and never forgives. Men were always positive that women were scheming to get them and that they used magical charms to do it. (In Celtic folklore, women were said to have "cast a glamour" meaning that a woman's beauty is an illusion.) [One of the three major revolutions of civilization was the medieval advent of courtly love, when the woman became an object of adoration.]

Dumuzi is the God of Fertility in Animals. Dumuzi is brash, impetuous, and he never stops talking. He is very egocentric. He eventually marries Inanna.

Enkimdu is the God of Fertility in Vegetation. Enkimdu is rather shy, modest, unassuming.

There are demons in these early cultures.

Asag, demon of draught.

Myths of Sumer

Ninurta Saves the World from Draught

The world was in the grips of a terrible draught. Ninurta resolves to go find Asag, face him in battle, and destroy him. He knows Asag wis hiding in Kur. Ninurta sets out to find him. Suddenly, he comes face to face with him and then turns and flees in terror. Later, Ninurta returns to face Asag in battle (this differentiates bravery and courage) and kills him. Kur reacts in horror. The Underworld water floods to the surface of the earth -- dead stagnant water that would kill everything. Ninurta is worried because he knows it's his fault. He begins to throw boulders into the fault out of which the water springs forth. He manages to build a mountain which stops the waters. The mountain is called Hursag. Ki, Ninurta's mother, sees his accomplishment and is terribly proud. As a reward, she comes down to give him her blessing. He is flattered. To return her favor, he bestows upon her an honorary name, Ninhursag, the Lady of the Mountain.

Ninhursag's Garden

Ninhursag is kind of a loner, although most gods tend to be noisy and boisterous. At one point the heat was becoming unbearable, so Ninhursag decides to plant a garden, intending to make a place she could go to for solitude and shelter from the heat. She goes to a very barren plain called Edinu. She asks Utu to help her. She asks that, as he goes through the Underworld during the night, he should break open the ground and let fresh water come forth. He does this. She plants eight plants, nurturing and tending to them. Eventually there is a huge garden which is very cool and moist.

One day, An summons her to visit. She is worried that wild animals will come and destroy her garden. But Enki comes by with his prime minister Isimud. Ninhursag asks them to guard her garden in her absence, and they agree. She leaves. Later, Enki begins to get hungry. Isimud says that he should eat the fruit of the garden, but Enki declines. Isimud encourages him further. Eventually, Enki eats the entire garden -- down to the ground. Everything is gone. They leave.

When Ninhursag returns, she's furious. She utters eight curses (for the eight plants), each striking a different part of the body of the culprit. Enki begins to die. His magic can't cure him. The gods are unable to help him. He realizes that he must confess. The gods bring him to Ninhursag and she forgives him (gods don't hold grudges). She has to create eight minor goddesses to cure each of the curses. [Pun is a very popular literary device throughout history - each of the 8 goddesses has a name which is a pun: Ninti, is the Lady of Life (who gives life) while her name also means Lady of the Rib (the part of Enki which she cures). Christian parallels: Examine the name of the garden. Edinu -> Eden. The taboo of eating the fruit of the garden which results in punishment. Eve is referred to as the "mother of living things." Parallel of the rib.]

Archetype: The Curing of the Curse

Enki's Palace Temple

Enki lives in the Abzu. At one point, he feels that he should have a palace temple (city) for himself. He builds Eridu in the depths of the Abzu. It floats to the surface and he attaches it to the shore. Then he begins to worry because he hasn't gotten An's permission and blessing. He travels to An's city, Uruk ("Erech"). He has a great feast with much wine and beer. Enki asks An if he might build a city and if An would bless it. An grants permission and gives Enki the Seven Tablets of Law or Civilization as a blessing. Enki takes them back to his city, making his city the most important city in Mesopotamia.

Later, Inanna, who shares Uruk with An, decides that she should have the greatest city and resolves to wrest the power away from Enki. She takes her prime minister Ninshubur and they sail down the Euphrates. When they arrive at Eridu, they surprise Enki. He asks them why they've come. Inanna expresses concern for him. Enki, foolishly, is flattered. He lays out a great feast in her honor. Enki drinks a lot and then says that if there is anything he can do for Inanna, she need only ask. Inanna asks to "borrow" the Seven Tablets, to which Enki agrees. She and Ninshubur take them and leave immediately. As Enki sobers, he realizes he has been duped and sends Isimud after Inanna in another boat. He catches them and asks for the tablets back. They refuse. He conjures up monsters, but the two are oblivious. They arrive in Uruk and keep the tablets.

Eridu and Uruk are real cities of the ancient world < 3,000 B.C. Eridu was the greatest. Power shifted to Uruk at some point. These stories are a political allegory to explain this transfer of power.

The Wooing of Inanna or The Courting of Inanna

Dumuzi and Enkimdu were courting Inanna. The courtships lead to a debate. Utu, Inanna's brother, favors Dumuzi for Inanna because of his brashness. But Inanna favors Enkimdu because of his certain controllability. Dumuzi leaps up and begins boasting of his greatness. He is very persuasive and charismatic. His attempts are so convincing that Enkimdu then gets up and says, "You know, he's the one you should marry," and he leaves. Inanna takes Dumuzi to be her consort. Dumuzi later assumes Enkimdu's role as well, placing the control of all fertility between Dumuzi and Inanna.

Archetype: Enmity Between the Farmer and the Herdsman

Inanna's Descent to the Underworld

Inanna is ruling in Uruk. One day, she decides she ought to be ruling over a much greater realm. She decides to go to the Underworld and take it from Ereshkigal and add it to her realm. She has an idea. She dresses herself up in all of her greatest finery. She is unbelievably beautiful. She plans to stun everyone into submission. Ninshubur is worried about this plot. Inanna tells Ninshubur that if she does not return in 3 days, he should get help and rescue her.

Inanna goes to Ereshkigal's gate, pounding imperiously. The gate slowly opens and Neti is there, looking a little confused. He sees Inanna and asks what she wants. She is caught off guard. Remembering her success in Eridu, she doesn't expect to be challenged. She says that she is very concerned for Ereshkigal. Neti is not deceived. He says, "Wait here, I'll ask my mistress," and closes the gate in her face. He reports to Ereshkigal, who is not pleased but decides to give Inanna a chance to tell the truth. Inanna is brought in "in the usual way." Neti opens the gate, and Inanna enters. Neti removes her tiara saying it is the law. She goes through 6 more gates and finally enters the throne room completely naked. Ereshkigal asks why she has come. Inanna holds to her lie. Ereshkigal becomes very angry. She nods to the Anunaki and they turn the eyes of death upon Inanna, turning her into a corpse. A servant comes and takes her body and hangs it up on a meathook on the wall.

Meanwhile, Ninshubur is frantic. He goes to An for help. An says that he would like to help but he cannot command Ereshkigal. Ninshubur goes to Enlil, who says the same thing. He then goes to Enki, who says he'll think of something. He comes up with a fascinating plot:

First, Enki creates two sexless beings out of the dirt from under his fingernails. He gives them instructions and sends them on their way. They go to the Underworld, carrying with them the Water of Life. Neti opens the gate and asks what they want. They say they are ambassadors of Enki with a message for Ereshkigal. He brings them in. Ereshkigal tells Neti to give them whatever they want and then bring them before her. They bathe, eat, and rest, then go to Ereshkigal. They say that she must release Inanna. She asks why. They say if she does not, they will hold her to the Universal Laws (a prominent archetype). One of the laws is the Law of the Host and Guest -- the guest must arrive home as safely as they arrived at the host's door. Another law: Anyone who eats and/or drinks in the Underworld may never leave (a worldwide archetype). Ereshkigal can not obey both laws unless she releases Inanna which she ends up doing. The sexless beings sprinkle the Water of Life on Inanna's body and she comes to life.

Ereshkigal is not happy. She wants more than the two sexless beings, which are meaningless and expendable. She makes a demand: Inanna is to choose a real being to come down and take her place. She agrees. Ereshkigal sends two creatures with Inanna (they are sometimes called the Hounds of Hell -- they have long claws & fingers to drag their victims to the Underworld). They arrive in Uruk and Ninshubur come out to greet them. His robes are torn, his face tearstreaked. He is overjoyed to see Inanna. The Hounds want to take him, but Inanna refuses. Dumuzi comes out wearing his finest robes, assumedly in honor of Inanna's return. She says she is pleased to see how anxious he has been for her return. Dumuzi replies, "Oh, were you gone?" She gives him to the Hounds of Hell. The world turns brown because the God of Animal & Vegetable Fertility is gone. The gods get together and agree that they must get Dumuzi back. They plead with Ereshkigal, but she has fallen in love with him and doesn't want to give him up. She makes a deal to give him back every other six months, thus explaining the portion of the year when the world is fertile.

Archetype: The Dying God Theme

Myths of Babylon

The Babylonian Creation Story

Adapa and Anu

Gilgamesh in the Land of the Living

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The Babylonians further developed the concept of the demon called the utukku. Sumerian equivalents are shown in parentheses.

The Utukku

Edimmu. A being that comes into existence when someone who has died isn't given the proper funeral feast. He harangues the person who was supposed to give the funeral feast -> ("haunt"). The only way to appease him is to carry out the funeral feast properly.

Shedu. Everyone has a guardian shedu. A pair guard each temple doorway. They are invisible, 35 feet tall with the body of a bull, the head of a man, and gigantic wings. The plural of shedu is shedubim (like "cherubim").

Arallu. They spread crime, disease, war, and family disunity. They will even attack the gods -- especially Sin (Nanna), the moon god. They ambush him, stuff him in a sack and he has to fight his way out (a lunar eclipse). They are all male, so they can't reproduce. They are immortal. Originally, they issued from the bile of Ea (Enki), from the stagnant water under the Kur. They have the body of a man, the head of a lion, lion's paws, huge wings, and small goat horns. The Assyrian name is Pazuzu. He does possess bodies (i.e., demonic possession) and must be exorcised. He is considered very powerful. (Modern film reference: "Exorcist II: The Heretic")

The Babylonian Creation Story

Apsu and Tiamat were in the beginning and nothing else. Apsu, the male proto-god, is the fresh water (Apsu, the inanimate = Abzu). Tiamat, Apsu's consort, is the great chaotic primeval ocean and the dragon, great maternal mother goddess. They give birth to the pantheon of gods and to Muumuu, who is mist, water vapor, fog (a very weak proto-god). Muumuu hangs around the Apsu all the time as a counselor.

There's nothing for them to do because there is nothing, so the gods party all the time, making so much noise that Tiamat and Apsu cannot sleep. Apsu becomes irritated and wants to kill all the gods. Muumuu encourages him. He goes to Tiamat and tells her what he wants to do. She says, "These are my children. I'm not going to help you kill them. You're just going to have to do it yourself." Apsu sends word to the other gods that he is going to kill them. They are terrified and decide that Anu (An), the oldest and greatest, must go forth. He takes one look at Apsu and flees. Enlil is next. It is then Ea's turn. He brings a large coil of rope with him. The moment he catches sight of Apsu, he throws the rope around him and ties him up tight and kills him. He then kills Muumuu. Ea then becomes the god of all fresh waters.

Tiamat is furious. She decides to go and kill them herself. First, she creates an army of demons. One, Kingu, is larger than the rest. He is her new consort. She sends word to the gods. Now they are truly terrified. No one will face her. Ea's son Marduk steps up, a vigorous young warrior, and says he will go face Tiamat. They all burst out laughing in derision. His idea is that if each of the gods gives him all their power, he will be strong enough to face Tiamat. They consent. They bestow their powers on him (without losing them).

Marduk goes out in a storm chariot pulled by storm horses. He has a bow and arrow (lightning bolts), a huge net, and two giant sacks tied at the mouth. In one are the four directional winds. In the other sack are the seven evil winds. Tiamat sees him coming. She laughs and opens her mouth to devour him. He opens the sack with the seven evil winds, which rush straight into her mouth and blow her up like a balloon. He throws the net over her and releases the other sack. Each of the four directional winds takes a corner of the net so she can't float away. Then he shoots arrows down her throat into her heart and kills her. He kills Kingu and the rest of the demons easily.

Out of Tiamat's carcass, Marduk slits her in half lengthwise and creates the universe (a common archetype). Her skull is the solid dome of the sky. Her blood is the ocean. Her bones are stones and her hair vegetation. He wants someone to look after the universe for him. He notices a small pool of Kingu's blood from which he creates human beings. He goes back to the gods who complement him and ask for their powers back. He decides to keep the powers and be their king. They all consent. Marduk has 50 names.

The Enuma Elish ("When above . . .") is a poem found on seven tablets.

Allegories: a way to tame the waters; political -- each of the various semitic states had an army. After some time, all the city-states yielded their power to Hammurabi, King of Babylon, who then conquered Sumeria and then refused to surrender their autonomy. (Marduk = God of Babylon)

Adapa and Anu

Adapa is the prime minister of Ea, who favors him so much that he has taught him all of his secrets. One day, Adapa is fishing in a boat on the Euphrates. He has just hooked the biggest fish he's ever seen when a sudden squall capsizes his boat. He loses the fish and utters a curse, breaking the wing of the South Wind. When Anu hears of this, he wants to meet him. Adapa is terrified and prays to Ea for guidance. Ea tells him what to do and then says, "But remember, you mustn't accept any food or drink from Anu because it is the Food of Death." Adapa tears his robe and spreads ashes over himself and then goes to Anu, clearly in mourning. There he meets Tammuz (Dumuzi) and Ningizsida, a god of fertility,who died. He is a snake with a human head.

When Adapa arrives, he is questioned. They ask why he is mourning. He says it is because two of the great gods have died. They are flattered and put in a good word for him with Anu. Anu then questions him, and then offers him food and drink. Adapa refuses. Anu is surprised and sends away the food and then laughs saying that he has just refused the Food of Immortality. He gives him a new robe. The robe is to remind everyone that priests get special treatment. The robe is symbolic of the expectation placed on the recipient of the robe. Archetype: The Lying Messenger

In Assyria, King Ashurbanipal (Ashur was the main god; the land was cald Ashuria.) lived in Nineveh. He was a great patron of the arts but was also one of the cruelest of the Assyrian kings. He wanted to build a library so he sent men out to gather literature. The Rescension, or the Nineveh Rescension, refers to the translation and editing of this literature. All the myths come from this, as does the story of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk. It is a story written on twelve tablets called "Gilgamesh in the Land of the Living," an epic. The story consists of Sumerian episodes put together by a Babylonian editor. This, not Homer, is the first epic. It was found in Nineveh in four different languages: Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite (from Anatolia). It was completely written in poetry.

Gilgamesh in the Land of the Living

Gilgamesh was two thirds god and one third man (i.e., two of his parents were gods and one was human). He was notorious for being a cruel tyrant because of his superiority. He took anything he wanted.

At one point, the people are desperate so they go over Gilgamesh's head, praying directly to the gods for help. The gods hear them. One of the goddesses takes some earth and creates Enkidu, a wild man. He is stronger than a lion, faster than a gazelle, and friends with the animals. He has long hair and beard. He is naked and eats only grass. He drinks only water from the ditches or milk from female animals. A notice comes to the city elders that this wild man keeps rescuing the wild animals they have captured. The elders perceive Enkidu to be the answer to their prayers. They set out to capture him and bring him back. They select a temple prostitute. She meets a hunter and sets out after Enkidu. The hunter says, "There he is. Bare yourself to him and seduce him." So she opens her robe and they have a wild sexual union for seven days and seven nights. Enkidu then goes to run with the animals but finds himself "strangely weak." He is contaminated by the civilized and the animals reject him. He has no choice but to join civilization. The prostitute and the hunter cut and curl his hair. They wash him and anoint him with oil. They put a robe on him. (Both the anointment and the robe symbolize selection for a task.) They give him bread and beer (both synthetic). They go to Uruk.

Enkidu and Gilgamesh grapple (wrestle). Enkidu goes down on one knee. He has lost. But Gilgamesh takes him to be his comrade because he has finally found a peer. They become lifelong comrades. Enkidu considers himself a lesser person, so he always goes before Gilgamesh. They decide to travel to the Cedar Forest (Lebanon) which is guarded by a giant, called Humbaba (in Assyrian, Huwawa). Gilgamesh is presented with a beautiful bronze axe and sword by the elders. The Cedar Forest was placed there by Enlil, now head of the gods, and Humbaba was made to guard the forest. Enkidu pushes the gate of the forest with his hand and immediately his right side becomes paralyzed. They meet Humbaba, have a great fight, and win. Humbaba pleads for his life. Gilgamesh agrees to spare him. But Enkidu insists they kill him so Gilgamesh decapitates him with his great axe. They return to Uruk, exalting in their victory.

Gilgamesh looks incredibly god-like. He is so magnificent that Inanna notices him and becomes interested. She appears before him and suggests a liaison. He refuses, remembering Dumuzi's fate. Enkidu laughs. Inanna goes stomping back to Enlil and demands that he kill them both. Because they just killed his giant, he allows Inanna to send the Great Bull of Heaven after them. He comes charging out of heaven killing one hundred men with his first snort, two hundred with his second, etc. The people see him coming. Gilgamesh is pleased about the impending fight. Enkidu takes no weapon but stands in front of Gilgamesh. The second the bull gets to him he leaps up and does a handspring off the bull's back. The bull turns to see what has happened and Gilgamesh plunges his sword into the bull's breast (the Minoans of Crete did this same kind of bull jumping as a sport). Gilgamesh takes the prime cut (the right rear thigh) of the bull to place it on Enlil's altar, thinking Enlil is angry about Humbaba's death. Just then Inanna appears. Seeing Enkidu holding the meat, she says she accepts his offering. So Enkidu either throws the cut onto her altar with a sneer or throws the bull's genitals onto her altar (depending on the telling). She is furious. She goes to Enlil demanding their death. Enlil declines. Inanna says Enkidu at least must die. And Enlil can't think of a reason why not. So Enkidu falls ill and dies in three days. Gilgamesh mourns. He begins contemplating that if Enkidu was his equal and he died -- could he die as well? This worries him considerably. So he promises the spirirt of Enkidu that he will wear a lion skin on his back, until it falls off him, in Enkidu's honor. He also promises to travel to the Land of the Living where the immortal man and his wife live. The immortal man is Ziusiudra in Sumerian and Utnapishtim in Babylonian.

Everywhere Gilgamesh goes, people ask him for his story. He eventually meets a barmaid and he asks her where the ferry to the Land of the Living is. She tells him. But the ferryman Urshanabi isn't there. Gilgamesh finds some stones in the boat and smashes the stones on the ground in anger. But Urshanabi then appears and says that these stones would have powered the boat. So they have to cut saplings to pull themselves across. Once across, first thing, Utnapishtim fires Urshanabi in anger. Gilgamesh tells Utnapishtim that he wants to live forever. Utnapishtim says he couldn't even stay awake for seven days let alone live forever. Gilgamesh says, "I can, too." So he sits down and immediately sleeps for seven days (Utnapishtim's wife places a fresh loaf of bread beside him each day, marking the time.) So Gilgamesh agrees that he cannot live forever.

But Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh where to find the herb of eternal youth, a plant with thorns and beautiful flower at the bottom of the sea. So Gilgamesh ties large rocks to the bottoms of his feet, sinks to the bottom, gets the herb, and then cuts the ropes and floats back up (the origins of deep sea diving). Urshanabi and Gilgamesh travel together. They get to a cool pool of water. Gilgamesh puts down the herb of eternal youth so he can bathe. A snake comes out of the water, swallows the herb, and goes back into the water, thus explaining why snakes become young again and again. Gilgamesh has learned humility. He becomes the greatest king ever known.

Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the story of how he became immortal. It parallels the story of Noah's ark.

Myths of Canaan

The Canaanites

The Gods of Canaan

Baal Defeats Yamm

Baal's Palace

Baal Challenges Mot

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The Canaanites

c. 3000 - 2000 B.C. People moved into the Levant (the eastern end of the Mediterranean boundaried by mountains). They were the Canaanites. They were the best merchants of the ancient world. Clothing at this time was always very drab. People used vegetable dyes which are not very vivid. The Canaanites developed a dye that was vivid and colorfast from the murex shell/animal which made a very vivid maroon color that wouldn't fade. One drop of the dye could be extracted from each murex. Only the wealthy could afford this luxury -- only nobility. In Greece, all the young nobles wanted it (Royal Purple). The Greeks went to the Canaanites and called them the Phoenicians (Phoenix -> Purple). They were great navigators, sailors, mariners -- the greatest in the world. They were not a bellicose people. They were merchants. But they had pretty good land, several cities (Tyre, Sidon, Byblos -- port cities).

c. 1250 - 1200 B.C. Other people began moving: Aramaans, Hebrews, the Philistines (Philistine is now Palestine). The Canaanites colonized. They discovered the Atlantic Ocean. They colonized most of the Mediterranean except for the Aegean. They traded with the Azores (halfway across the Atlantic). They may have had tin mines in Cornwall. They found Carthage and settled it c. 800 B.C., controlling all of the Mediterranean. They circumnavigated Africa in 500 B.C. They were the first great sharp traders. They invented their own form of writing. (1) syllabary (like kanji - Japanese characer text) (2) the first alphabet with 22 letters and no vowels -- the basis for virtually every alphabet in the modern world. The Greeks added vowels.

Gods of Canaan

El, king of the gods (El means "God" - the plural is Elohim), a fertility god, represented by a bull or by a man wearing a helmet with bull horns. An elderly man with a mustache and goatee. He lives on a place called Har Mo'ed (the apostrophe represents a glottal stop, it used to be represented by "h" in English), "the mount of assembly", or "the mount of the North." The Hebrews called this "the place of the last battle" or Armageddon.

Dagon, fertility god, rain/water god, grain god. He is portayed with a sheaf of grain for hair and the body of a fish from the waist down (a merman). He doesn't appear in Canaanite mythology because he was adopted by the Philistines (in Biblical history, Samson destroyed the Temple of Dagon). Dagon is probably El's brother. His son holds a position which is traditionally that of the king's nephew.

Baal (son of Dagon) is a young, impetuous fertility god. He is portrayed as a man with bull horns on his helmet or as a calf -- sometimes a golden calf. He is also a storm god. His major epithet is "He Who Mounts the Clouds." The clouds are called "the heavenly herd of cows." He is often the butt of jokes. "Baal" = "lord." He is called "Lord Prince" or "Baal Zebul" (-> Beelzebub, Hebrew for "Lord of the Insects" -> "Lord of the Flies").

Kothar, artisan of the gods, smith of the gods (a widespread archetype). He can make anything.

Yamm (also Lotan), the great primeval chaotic ocean. He is male, a very old dragon with seven heads (like the Greeks' Hydra). A dragon with many heads as god of the ocean, with seven heads especially -- this image is perhaps inspired by the giant octopus.

Mot moves freely from the upper world to the Underworld. When in the upper world, he is sterility and usually lives in the desert. In the Underworld he is death. He is not a very popular god, but he is not evil.

Shapash (from Shamash), goddess of the sun. Epithet: "the Torch of the Gods."

Asherah, Anat, Ashtoreth (Archetype: The Triple Goddess):

Asherah is the consort of El and is called "Mother of the 70 Gods" (i.e., all of them). She is El's best friend and loving consort AND his bitterest enemy. She is the goddess of love and hate, the mother goddess. She is shown as standing between two goats up on their hind legs. She holds a sheaf of grain in each hand, feeding them (they are sometimes gazelles). She is eventually shown as the Tree of Life, with goats eating of her fruit.

Anat is Baal's consort and sister. Her real interest is destroying things. She is the goddess of war and slaughter. She is depicted with a sword in each hand with a big smile on her face. Human arms, heads, and legs are flying through the air all around her.

Ashtoreth is unbelievably beautiful (like Inanna). She is not anyone's consort. She is the goddess of love. She likes being single. She is associated with the moon and with the oceans. The crescent moon is her symbol -- she wears it in her hair. The Greeks referred to her as Astarte, a moon goddess. All three are inspired by Inanna/Ishtar. The Greeks had Hera (As[hera]h), Athena (from Anat), Aphrodite (from Ashtoreth). The Egyptians made Isis from Asherah and Hathor from Anat/Ashtoreth.

I. Baal Defeats Yamm

The world has just been created. No one is yet ruling. Two gods want to: Baal and Yamm. They go to El to ask for his judgment and wisdom. El chooses Yamm to be the first King of Earth. Yamm builds himself a palace and has a wonderful time. Eventually, he begins to get very arrogant. He sends messengers to Har Mo'ed to tell the gods he demands tribute. The gods are uneasy; Baal is furious. Ashtoreth says she can solve the problem.

She dresses up in her greatest finery and goes to talk Yamm out of his foolishness. She struts back and forth on the shore in front of the ocean to lure Yamm out. He doesn't come. She begins to undress (a strip tease) until eventually he comes out. He dispatches his messengers immediately saying he demands tribute AND Ashtoreth as his consort. Baal leaps up and drives the messengers out of Har Mo'ed, kicking their backsides as they go, saying he will destroy Yamm. The other gods praise his courage, given Yamm's greater size and strength. Baal worries. He goes to Kothar and asks him for weapons that will make him equal to Yamm. Kothar makes two weapons (axes or hammers) which, when thrown, will go straight to their mark and then return to Baal's hand (thunderbolts). He goes to Earth armed and stands on the seashore screaming insults until Yamm is furious and comes slithering up out of the ocean. Baal throws the first hammer, hits Yamm between the eyes, and knocks him out cold. Baal goes up to Yamm to kill him. Anat appears and says it will give him no glory to kill an unconscious victim. So Baal kicks him back into the ocean, throws a net over him, and stakes the net down to the ocean floor. Now Baal becomes King of Earth.

II. Baal's Palace

Now Baal wants his own palace but is afraid to build without the consent of El and afraid to ask. So he asks Anat if she will go with him and intercede on his behalf. She agrees but suggests that they solicit Asherah's help as well. Baal leads a donkey, which Asherah rides, with Anat walking behind. They arrive at Har Mo'ed and talk to El. El doesn't mind at all but says he will not build the palace for Baal. Baal says of course . . . and asks Kothar to build it for him. Kothar begins building and says he ought to put a window in the turret, but Baal refuses. Kothar reluctantly leaves out the window. Eventually the palace is finished. All the gods ask why there isn't a window. Baal fears that Yamm will sneak in through the window and kill him. So he thinks to do the same to Yamm. He kills Yamm, and then asks Kothar to put the window in after all. It is from that window that Baal hurls his lightning bolts.

III. Baal Challenges Mot

Baal begins to become arrogant and sends a message to Mot in the Underworld that he's going to come down and take over. Mot is furious and says he will devour him. Baal insists. Mot says, "Okay, come down and visit, we'll sit down and have a bite to eat . . ." Baal is gullible enough to go. After a meal and drink, he is stuck in the Underworld (see common archetypes). The fertility of the earth ends for six years. In the seventh year, Anat feels the lack of a consort and wants to bring back Baal. She asks Shapash to find his body when she travels through the Underworld and to bring it back. Shapash does this. Anat is unable to bring him back to life. She mourns. One day she encounters Mot and asks him to bring Baal back to life. Mot says, "No way." She seizes Mot. With a blade, she cleaves him; with a shovel, she winnows him; with fire she parches him; with a stone, she grinds him; and then she scatters him in the field. Baal comes back to life. This is symbolic of the harvest as well as the sowing and fertilization of the ground. Seven years later, Mot pulls himself together and battles with Baal. This cycle reverses on itself every seven years.

Baal vs.Yamm - young god borrows weapons, imprisons the great primeval chaotic ocean and then kills it (Marduk vs.Tiamat, Enki vs.Apsu, etc. -- archetype)

Baal builds a palace -> parallel to Enki's palace

Baal and Mot -> Inanna's Descent to the Underworld (Archetype: The Dying God Theme). A seven year cycle because the Canaanites had little arable land -- enough but very little. They could only plant year-round to accomodate their available agriculture. Every seventh year they would leave the ground fallow (the year of rest they called "sabbath"). They stored food for the year of famine. Sometimes, though, Mot would win the battle, and the year of sabbath did not replenish the land sufficiently. Crops would be poor and this made the next year of sabbath more difficult to prepare for. Their years were measured in centuries. 7x7=49+1=50 The extra 1 is an extra year lying fallow. This year was spent in festivals and was called "Jubilee." If Mot won the battle on the seventh cycle, they would have two years of famine. Then they would have to look elsewhere for food, most likely in Egypt, because a bad year in Canaan usually meant a bad year in all of the Near East. This led to the Biblical story of Joseph's journey to Egypt and the seven years of famine, etc. In the year of Jubilee, Canaanites would greet each other by asking "'Yit Zebul?" which would be followed by the response "'Yi Zebul!" which translates: "Does the prince live? Yes, the prince lives!" Children born in the year of Jubilee were named appropriately. Queen Jezebel of Tyre was born in Jubilee. Her father Ethzebel must have been as well.

Myths of Egypt

The Egyptians

Gods of Egypt

Death and the Underworld

Set Betrays Osiris

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The Egyptians

Dynastic = historic

Pre-dynastic = prehistoric (before 3200 B.C.).

Egypt, the Upside-Down Country. Upper Egypt is dry. Lower Egypt is a fertile delta. The two kingdoms, Upper and Lower Egypt, feuded. Lower Egypt was more advanced than Upper Egypt because of Mediterranean connections. Lower Egyptians created writing systems, papyrus, etc.

Hieroglyphics = sacred carvings.

Hieratic = the legal writing system.

Demotic = the writing of the people (shorthand).

Most of our knowledge of Egypt comes from the occupation of the Greeks (i.e., Ptolemaic Dynasty). Alexander the Great and Ptolemy built Alexandria, which became the most cosmopolitan city of its time. People spoke and wrote Greek. There were 32 dynasties, listed by the Greeks.

Pharaohs: 18th Dynasty - 1300 B.C. Amenhotep III, enamored of Amon, the ram-headed god. Amenhotep III built a huge city with statues of Amon called Karnak. Amenhotep IV destroyed the city because he hated Amon. He loved Ra, the sun god, and changed his name to Akhenaten ("Servant of the Sun"). He built a city for Ra in which he forbade the worship of other gods. He failed in his attempts to form a monotheism, but he tried. He was very unpopular. He was ugly. His wife was Nefertiti, the most beautiful queen in Egyptian history. Akhenaten's nephew came to the throne after his death. His advisors instructed him to restore all the gods and he did so. He became very popular but died at the age of 19. His name was Tutenkhamen.

Egyptians liked sex. They were not uncomfortable with it. They practiced incest. The eldest son and daughter of the pharaoh married and became the next pharaoh and queen. Understandably, dynasties died out very quickly to infertility and feeblemindedness. But incest was only practiced in the dynastic house (this was also true of the Spanish court). There were many fine Egyptian poets, almost all women of high birth, who wrote beautiful erotic love poetry. Hatshepsut was the only female pharaoh.

Egypt was invaded and occupied only twice. Once, c. 1700 B.C., the Hyksos moved in and occupied Egypt. They built a fortified area in Goshen. There were Hyksos pharaohs for 125 years. In 850 B.C. the people of Kush occupied Egypt, giving rise to the Kushite pharaohs, a magnificent black African kingdom. In 770 B.C., the Assyrians attempted to wrest Egypt from the Kushites and failed. Assyrians and Egyptians together eventually defeated the Kushites. When Egypt was conquered by Rome, it ceases to be Egypt any longer. Egypt was conquered by the Muslims in 600 A.D.

Gods of Egypt

Nun, the great primeval chaotic ocean, a goddess. From that ocean came a mound of dry land, a hill.

Ra, Atum, Amon, depending on where you hear about it -- ultimately all three merge into one god anyway. The Sun God. Ra, the sun god, is the first divine pharaoh. He creates Shu and Tefnut. (See Ra)

Ptah, a god, is in one city considered to be the god who created Nun. When gods create other gods, they masturbate, thereby creating the next god.

Shu, god of air, god of wisdom. In his headdress he wears a Ma'at feather, the feather of truth and wisdom. Shu was the second divine pharaoh. A cartouche appears beside the image of a person in Egyptian artwork or hieroglyphics to identify him or her. The Ma'at feather appears in Shu's name. Shu and Tefnut give birth to Geb and Nut.

Geb is the earth (male), and Nut is the sky (female). This is a reversal of the archetype. Geb becomes the third divine pharaoh. Geb is usually shown with a green upper and a brown lower body, symbolizing vegetation and soil. Nut is portrayed a as beautiful woman, or as a cow, or as a woman with a cow's head. She has a flower vase on her head (even when she is a cow) which also appears in her name cartouche.

Nut is inordinately gorgeous, and Ra is very attracted to her. Ra has aged and retired. He is a crotchety, whimsical, egocentric old man. Nut is true to her brother/husband and rejects Ra. Ra is furious. He sends his son Shu to separate Geb and Nut who splits them apart and holds them apart forever (a familiar archetype with roles shifted). Ra, in his anger, decrees that they may never have a child during any month of the year. Geb and Nut pray to an ancient god (Thoth) who decides to help them. He gambles with the moon and wins four intercalary days (days not on the calendar). Geb and Nut have four children, one on each day. Thoth becomes the god of the moon. Nut is shown stretched from horizon to horizon with stars on her belly and a vase on her head. Geb is shown lying beneath her, an arm and knee (representing mountains) reaching for her. Shu holds Nut up.

[Note: Most gods are shown ithnaphallic (with erect penis), and it was the Egyptians who invented circumcision.]

Geb and Nut's children are Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

Set comes from a god of Upper Egypt. He becomes considered a god of sterility. He is only shown with an animal head on a human body. Archaeologists have called the animal "the Typhonian animal" because they couldn't recognize the animal. It could be an okapi or an aardvark (earth pig). Set is a scheming unpopular character. His face has been chipped away and replaced in bas-reliefs.

Nephthys is the goddess of mist, vapor, and fog. She is barren. One night she sneaks over to Osiris and seduces him in the dark. She has a son, Anubis, the jackal-headed god. He was abandoned at birth to be raised by Isis. He becomes the inventor of embalming and funeral ritual, the god of funerals. He dwells in the Underworld. In Egypt, bodies were eviscerated. The internal organs were placed in clay canopic jars whose lids were sealed with wax or paraffin. The jar of the heart and lungs bore the head of Anubis.

Osiris is the fertility god (primarily of vegetation). He becomes pharaoh after Geb. When he was born, a voice spoke in the universe proclaiming him universal lord. As he grew up, his wisdom and sincerity were so clear that his epithets were "The Good One" and "True of Voice." When he becomes pharaoh, he institutes great changes. He outlawed cannibalism. He taught how to worship the gods by building temples and therefore towns and cities. He taught law (considered the father of civilization) and agriculture (primarily grain), and how to make bread and beer.

Osiris decides to go out and conquer the world with gentleness (i.e., civilize). He leaves Isis on the throne to go out and achieve his goal. When he returns, he is murdered by his brother Set. Isis brings him back to life and feels he should retire to the Underworld and become king there. Osiris is almost always shown in a winding shroud with just his hands showing holding a shepherd's crook and a flail. Both are symbols of kingship. Osiris is green.

Isis is very beautiful. She bears the maternal aspect of a goddess who is beautiful and loving but also dangerous to cross. She can also be shown as a cow. She has a throne on her head. She taught women how to grind grain, spin flax, and how to weave cloth. She taught men medicine. She is the goddess of healing. After she brings Osiris back to life, they have a son Horus. She wanted for her husband and son the powers of Ra. She knew that each day Ra went for a long stroll. She waits by his path, picks up some of the mud made by Ra's drool and makes a poisonous snake. The next day, she places the snake in the same place. It bites him and slithers away and he begins to die. He is unable to cure himself (because he doesn't know the source of the curse). The gods go to Isis. She talks privately with Ra and tells him he must tell her his true name. He does and she cures him. She now has his power. (Archetypes: (1) The Curing of the Curse (2) The True Name)

Hathor, goddess of love, beauty, the arts. She is a terrifying warrior. A combination -- Isis and Hathor are two goddesses of the triple goddess. Hathor is patron goddess of single women, goddess of female graces (art, music, literature). She can also be shown as a cow. She has cow horns with a sistrum between them. She is very beautiful but can be unbelievably destructive.

Ra became fed up with human beings so he sent Hathor to destroy humankind. So she came to Earth and began slaughtering. She went into a blood frenzy (battle hysteria). Ra changes his mind, but to stop her, he must destroy her or knock her out. She is shown with a sword in each hand (Anat), a smile on her face, and body parts flying about her. Ra plots her course and sees that she will eventually come to a gigantic field with a high wall surrounding it. So Ra fills the field with beer and turns the beer red. When she gets there, she thinks it is blood and drinks it all and passes out cold. When she awakens, the blood lust is gone -- replaced by a horrible headache.

Ra - Before rising and just at setting, he is called Atum ("to be complete" or "to not exist"). As he is rising, he becomes Kheper ("scarab" - a dung beetle which laid its egg and encased it in its own feces and then rolled it along in front of itself to protect it. In reality, the beetle gathered food and rolled it back to its nest.) representing the principle of rebirth - new life encased in refuse. At this point, Ra is either shown as a scarab or as a man whose head is a scarab. Kheper also means the concept of coming into existence or rebirth. They liked to show this because they could show the solar disk of the sun being pushed by the scarab. Once the sun is fully past rising, he becomes Ra. Ra rides in the Man Jet Boat. He is, at this point, either a falcon or a man with a falcon's head. He sits in the boat, at the stern, with the solar disk in the boat in front of him. At the very front of the boat are Shu and Thoth. They are sailing across the celestial Nile River - the heavenly Nile (the Milky Way). There is a deadly peril in the form of a gigantic dragon/serpent called Apep. He hates the gods and waits for them in ambush. They are great warriors and Apep is seldom successful in ambushing them. But once in a while there is a battle with crashing weapons. We see the sparks and hear the crashes and a lot of the river's water splashes and falls on us (a rainstorm). Once in a very great while, Apep surprises them completely and devours them, but they battle until they get out again (an eclipse). Then Ra becomes Atum again because he is complete and he sets. He goes to a new boat and his name changes after setting to Auf ("meat" or "corpse"). As he sails through the Underworld, he has to pass twelve deadly perils (one per hour). One time very early in the universe, Ra wept and his tears fell to the ground and humans were created (in Egyptian, "tear" and "human" are the same word). One time Ra had an enormously powerful weapon: his right eye, the deadliest weapon in the universe (Archetype: The Evil Eye). The eye has a will of its own. One day it was out and it didn't come back when it was supposed to. Ra created a new one to put in its place. The eye then came back and was furious. Ra placed it in the center of his forehead, a place of great honor. The eye goes on to be identified as the Uraeus (the cobra on the front of a king's crown, representing the pharaoh). All pharaohs are thought to be descended from Ra. Ra is always shown with the solar disk on his head.

Thoth is a very ancient god, dating back to the pre-dynastic period. The animals that represent him are the dog-headed ape (less common) or a human with the head of a dog-headed ape (baboon) or the ibis (more common) or as a man with an ibis's head, in which case he is shown wearing a necklace and headdress with the ibis's head in the headdress. This god was used to replace the face of Set. Thoth is a very wise and benevolent god. He is Osiris's counselor and that of the next pharaoh. Then Thoth becomes the last divine pharaoh. He is the god of magic and therefore the god of writing ("The Lord of the Holy Words"). He invented and taught hieroglyphics. When he retired from kingship, he became "The Heavenly Scribe," a very important position -- the recorder of all history. In heaven, he is the Arbiter of the Gods, a referee for minor squabbles. He is the Spokesman of the Gods and therefore the Ambassador as well.

Horus comes from a god of Lower Egypt. He is very often shown as a 7-8 year old Egyptian prince. A prince would have his head shaved except for a single sidelock. If he is shown as an adult, like Ra, he is shown as a falcon or as a falcon-headed man. Horus, later in life, got control of the Eye of Ra and it began to be called the Eye of Horus. Some images depict Horus and Set working together even before the merging of the two kingdoms.

Death and the Underworld

In the Underworld, the soul or sprit is represented as a small bird with a human head. The person's soul enters and immediately encounters Anubis, who is holding a balance scale. The heart is placed on one of the pans of the balance and the Ma'at feather is placed on the other pan. If they balance, the person has been good and is sent on to meet Osiris. Thoth records these proceedings. The spirit appears before Osiris on his throne with Isis behind him on his right and Nephthys behind him on his left. Osiris then relegates the soul to its proper place in the Underworld. If the heart does not balance with the feather, the soul is sent to a waiting creature in the ground, "The Devourer of Souls" (it has the hindquarters of a hippopotamus, the forequarters of a leopard, and the head of a crocodile), who then eats the heart. Sitting at the back of a huge hall on thrones are all of the gods (a reflection of the Anunaki).

Set Betrays Osiris

Osiris is returning to Egypt after conquering the world by gentleness. Once he gets back, he immediately gets an invitation to come to a great dinner festival, alone, by Set. He feels he must accept. As he is sitting there waiting for dinner, Set's men bring in a long beautifully carved box and they begin laughing and climbing into it and jumping back out again. Whoever fits it perfectly gets to keep it. Osiris is invited to try. He climbs in, and Set slams it shut, nails it closed, and throws it into the Nile where Osiris drowns. But the box drifts out into the Mediterranean. It drifts across and lands on the shore of Byblos of Canaan. It comes to rest at the foot of a straggly tree. The tree grows like crazy, encloses the box, and grows very tall. The king of the city is building a palace so he sends men out to fell the tree. The moment the axe bites into it, a smell fills the air -- the sweetest smell ever. Isis hears about this and figures out what happened. She goes to Byblos and asks the king if they can cut the tree open because Osiris is inside. The king agrees. She takes Osiris back to Egypt. (This is an explanation for the existence of the cedars of Canaan.) She wants to bring Osiris back to life but must first return to the throne and tend to business. She decides to hide the body deep in the swamps of the Nile Delta to protect it from Set. Set sneaks into the delta, finds the body, chops it into fourteen pieces, and scatters them all over the world. Isis discovers what has happened. She patiently goes out and gathers all the pieces, finding the last one on the shore of China. [Alternate: Isis finds thirteen of the fourteen pieces. The piece not found was the phallus. It was not found because "it had fallen into the brackish water of the Nile Delta and was devoured by crabs." The crabs were then made so bitter that they could not be eaten, even today.] She brings him to life, and from that union comes Horus.

Isis worries about Horus as he grows up because of the threat of Set and his desire to take the throne. Isis hides Horus in the swamps of the Nile Delta. Set immediately comes slithering in as a poisonous snake, bites Horus, and leaves. So Horus begins to die. Isis is unable to cure him because she doesn't know the source of the curse. Isis prays to Ra who is passing over head at that moment. Ra stops the sun for two hours, during which time he and Shu and Thoth come to Earth and the four of them stand around Horus and focus their powers and cure him (breaking the archetype). Horus safely grows up because Set doesn't know he is still alive. (In Biblical history, Joshua prays to God to stop the sun so that he can continue battle.) Horus becomes ready to claim the throne, but Set wants it, too. They battle one another in different forms of animals to no avail. Isis won't relinquish the throne until this is settled.

The feud between Horus and Set was much too big for Thoth to resolve. So a tribunal was called. Ra presides. Set and Horus stand up one at a time and argue back and forth. The gods agree with whomever most recently spoke, or Ra inhibits the decisionmaking with his senility. The trial continues for eighty years. At one point, Isis is ejected because she is so vociferously on her son's side. She turns herself into a beautiful young woman, slips into the trial, and sits beside Set. She begins to weep heavily. Set asks her why she is weeping. She tells him and everyone hears what she says. She says that she and her husband have a flock of sheep, intended to be left to their son. But her husband's brother treacherously murdered her husband to steal the flock from her son. Set exclaims that this is horrible. "Your son deserves your flock. Your husband's brother should be punished." Isis immediately turns into a swallow, flies into the rafters, and screams out, "You have condemned yourself!" The gods agree. Set disagrees. Ra disagrees (because it wasn't his idea). And the trial has made no progress. The only way to resolve this is to call the only god who isn't there - "He Who Is True of Voice," Osiris who is in the Underworld. He comes and stands before them and tells them he has thought it over carefully and that Horus is best suited to the throne. The gods agree. But Ra says the decision is invalid because Osiris is Horus's father. Osiris steps up a second time and says that they can reach any conclusion they want, but that he has at his disposal savage-faced messengers who can drag down to the Underworld the heart of anyone Osiris commands. Horus becomes Pharaoh. Set is chained in the desert where he must be the god of sterility, where he must provide the wind which drives the Man Jet Boat. Thoth becomes Horus's counselor. Thoth eventually becomes the last pharaoh.


The Children of Israel

"The One True God"

The Creation Story

Adam's First Wife

Cain and Abel

The Flood

Samson,the Nazarite

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c. 1700 B.C. Through the Levant travel a series of groups of people who are land pirates (mostly Canaanites, some Hittites, etc.) called by the Egyptians the Hyksos ("Shepherd Kings"), who conquered Egypt and ruled for 150 years.

c. 1550 B.C. The Egyptians ousted them and forced them back eastward. It took 50-100 years to clear them all out. They returned to their nomadic existence. They were primarily goatherders, tribally divided. Among the Hyksos are a group of twelve tribes who consider themselves to be related by blood. Each tribe is named for its ancestors: twelve brothers, the sons of Israel (Jacob). They called themselves the Children of Israel.

The Children of Israel

They were called Habiru ('displaced people') which became 'Hebrew.' They wandered in the northern Arabian Desert for 50-100 years. While there, they knew the only way they could be safe was to emphasize their blood-related kinship. Each tribe was ruled by the oldest grandfather in the tribe who was the ruler and high priest (a patriarchy). This was known ast the Time of the Patriarchs. There was much tribal disunity. The elders of the tribes figured out a clever way to bring the tribes together. They took a Canaanite god from their past, an ancient god named Yaw, who might have been a fertility god, and developed Yhwh. They were not permitted to pronounce his name aloud. They used instead the name Tetragrammaton, "The Four-Letter Thing." Because they couldn't speak his name, they called him Elohim, or "Gods" (Canaanite), the Hebrew word for "lord," Adonai, and they used vowels to make Yahowah, which in English became Jehovah. This is wrong. The correct translation is Yahweh.

Having wandered in the wilderness for a long time, once they developed this god figure, the first thing he did was to demand a temple. Because they were nomads, they built it out of a tent, a portable temple, the tabernacle. In the inner chamber ("The Holy of Holies," also called from the Latin, "The Inner Sanctum") was kept the Ark of the Covenant. Only priests could enter the Holy of Holies on pain of death. Yahweh spoke to the priests through the Ark of the Covenant which was built to his specifications. In the Ark were kept the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Children of Israel used the Ark as their secret weapon in battle. But they lost it in battle to the Philistines. The Philistines' punishment was an affliction of hemorrhoids. Their goldsmiths had to make gold hemorrhoids to cure them. After some time, the Hebrews decided to settle in Canaan. Yahweh directs them to it as the Promised Land. The Hebrews put villages "to the edge of the sword," killing every living thing, in order to occupy land they wanted. They moved into Canaan. They wanted to oust the Philistines (from present day Palestine), but the Philistines were bigger and fought with iron weapons.

1250 B.C. There was a southern group made up of one huge tribe called Judah and one small trive called Benjamin. The other ten tribes settled in the north and were simply called Israel. They didn't like each other. Once they get into Canaan, they decide they like a lot of the Canaanite gods, so they worship them until about 800 B.C. And they no longer needed patriarchs. Each local area was ruled by a judge. In general, they were ruled by prophets who warned them constantly about the Philistines and the Canaanites.

1100 B.C. Samuel the Prophet was ruling. People came to him and demanded tha they be ruled by a king. He chooses Saul because he is a very tall (VERY tall), strong man. Samuel anoints him king. He was a warrior, a simple man. He tried his best to be king. He tried to unify the tribes. Samuel generally gave much direction to Saul. One day Samuel said Yahweh commanded that he put a village to the edge of the sword. But Saul was trying to make a deal with a Philistine leader. Samuel comes and hacks the Philistine to bits with a sword and says the kingship is withdrawn. Samuel annoints David to be the next king. David was not related to Saul. Samuel had, by selecting David, cut off Saul's line. Saul becomes a manic-depressive. The Hebrews brought David before him to play music for him. They became friends. Saul gives David a daughter for a wife. One day, Saul throws a spear at David. He misses, but David leaves and goes into exile as a cutthroat and a robber, hiring himself and his followers out to a Philistine king.

At this point, Samuel is dead. Saul is going to battle with the Philistines. Saul tells one of his generals he wants to speak to a witch. He goes to the Witch of Endor and asks to speak to the ghost of Samuel. She does call him up, although she is terrified of Saul. Samuel's ghost appears and rails at Saul, telling him he will lose. The next day, he loses. He commits suicide. His son Jonathan is killed as well. David becomes king.

David is a true charismatic. People just WANT to follow him. David moves the capital of the nation to Jerusalem and builds an extra quarter called Zion. He begins to rule. He sees a woman called Bathsheba and invites her over. She becomes pregnant. She's married to a Hittite mercenary in David's army named Uriah. He is captain of 100 men. David sends for Uriah. He rewards him and says spend the night with your wife, hoping that they will sleep together and cover the shame of the pregnancy. But Uriah instead sleeps on David's doorstep. So David writes a letter to the general of the army. Uriah is to deliver it. He is honored. The letter says to place Uriah at the hottest point in the battle and just leave him there. He is killed. David marries Bathsheba. The baby she carries dies in a very short time. This is perceived to be their punishment. Later, Bathsheba becomes pregnant again and gives birth to Solomon. Things begin to go awry in the land. A prophet Nathan comes to court. Nathan says he is pleading a suit for another man who owned a single female ewe. His neighbor owned a whole flock of sheep. One day, his neighbor rose up and murdered this man just to steal the ewe. David rises up and asks where the man is and exclaims that he won't get away with such a deed. Nathan replies, "Thou art the man." David repents. He is from that point on a great king. David is doomed never to have a happy life. All of his children grow up to be rotten and rebellious. On his deathbed, he makes Solomon his co-ruler because Solomon is not in line for the throne. David dies. Solomon has both of the brothers who lay claim to the throne as well as a supporting general murdered. Solomon is king.

Solomon was very wise and very wealthy -- the wealthiest king in the history of the Hebrews. He built the Temple of Solomon. He taxed his people to death. He put them into forced labor all to build his temple. The Queen of Sheba came to visit him . . . and from that union came a son Menelek. He founded a new dynasty called the Lion of Judah.

The story of the baby which Solomon suggests should be cut in half to appease the two women who lay claim to him is a political allegory for Solomon's willingness to divide up Israel. The Song of Solomon and Proverbs were written long after his death. He had 300 wives and 600 concubines. He was not the best of kings. By the time of his death, the unification work was undone. He did not choose a successor. His death marks the end of the Golden Age of Israel (Saul, David, Solomon). This age is limited to the reign of David for the Hebrews.

700 B.C. Assyrians are in control. Israel's leaders and families were replaced by foreigners. Thus the "ten years of the lost tribes." Judah believed all of Israel was done away with.

600 - 500 B.C. Babylonian Captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took all the people from Jerusalem to Babylon to build (700 - 615 B.C.). They were freed when the Persians defeated Babylon. Eventually, they went back to Jerusalem after having been heavily influenced by the Babylonians and the Persians.

c. 1500 B.C. The Maccabees, led by Judas Macabee ("The Hammer"), revolted and regained Jewish independence then lost it to the Romans. The victory is celebrated at Chanukah. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans 70-72 A.D. The Hebrews dispersed throughout the world in what is called the Diaspora.

In the beginning . . .

Yahweh was jealous, vengeful, mean, nasty, easily duped (not exceptionally bright) -- he bore all the faults of humans. He was the strongest of all the gods, signifying only that the Hebrews recognized "all the gods." The Tower of Babel was a tower being built to reach the gods. The gods realized the people were going to succeed, so the gods struck them with many languages, causing disunity. Language divided groups spread throughout the world. Then all the gods spread throughout the world and chose the groups they wanted to take. Yahweh, the strongest of all, CHOSE the Hebrews. Thus they are called the "Chosen People." When the Hebrews came to Babylon, they saw the ruins of a great ziggurat. The Babylonians called it Bab' El, "The Gate of God." They were referring to Marduk. The Hebrews altered this meaning. There was a contest, at one point, between Yahweh and Baal (Elisha and the Priests of Baal). The Two Altars.

Yahweh is a mean god. Anyone who breaks the law is finished. A village was put to the sword. One man kept a small bag of gold. His punishment: he dies, his immediate family dies, all his relatives and all their descendants are cursed forever. Yahweh hardens Pharaoh's heart to NOT let the Hebrews go and then punishes him by killing the first born of all the Egyptian families. He is not omnipotent, not omniscient, not smart. Satan tricked God twice (with Job). Yahweh is very primitive, slow-witted.

The Hebrews may have developed monotheism from Akhenaten (or vice versa). The Hebrews practiced temple prostitution.

When the Hebrews returned from Babylon, they brought back ideas quickly absorbed by the Hebrew people. For instance, second and third level gods were introduced. After Yahweh, a top echelon of named gods, and then, millions of unnamed gods were added. They called those the Watchers (like guardian angels).

c. 800 B.C. The Books of the Hebrews. Edited in 500 B.C. after the return from Babylon. c. 300 B.C. They created a canon called the Torah. Shortly thereafter, the Jewish ghetto in Alexandria could no longer speak or read in Hebrew. Alexandrians spoke Greek. The Greek translation of the holy scriptures is called the Septuagint (translated by 70 scholars, yielding a Greek translation of the Torah in 70 B.C.). Later, a new Torah was written, throwing out 14 books of scripture. The original Torah, from which the Septuagint was translated, is no more. From the Septuagint come the Old Testament of all Christian Catholic Bibles. In 1611, King James translated from the Torah, resulting in the Protestant Bible plus the Apocrypha. All the books that did not get into the Torah are called the Pseudepigraphia, "The False Books." Included among these is, for instance, the Book of Enoch. The Midrash, a written documentation of oral tradition, was written by the Hebrew priests and rabbis circa the Middle Ages.

Talmud. Explanations and precedents. In 1946, a shepherd found the Dead Sea Scrolls at Kumran. They are now being translated. They are the oldest extant books we know of, circa 100 B.C.

The Watchers. There is no English translation. We call them "messengers" instead. Messengers and Great Messengers. In Greek, these are the Angelloi and the Archangelloi. These were gods.

The Hebrews loved lists and labels. A list of the four most commonly encountered of the lower gods is as follows (none of these four existed before the Babylonian Captivity):

Michael. (Micha 'El) "He Who Is Like 'El' (God)." The leader of Yahweh's armies. He is known as the Prince of Peace. He stands on Yahweh's right. (There were no armchair generals and there were no left-handed people. The sword was carried in the right hand. The best warrior defends the vulnerable right side.) He is the scribe of the gods and a special champion of Israel. He is a very important figure. He did not exist before the return from Babylon.

Gabriel. (Gabri 'El) "The Strength of El." He stands on Yahweh's left. He is the next in power. He is a great judge made of fire (derived from Shamash). The Announcer. He did not exist before the Babylonian Captivity.

Raphael. (Rapha 'El) "The Healing Power of El." The god of healing and and medicine and the physical well-being of humans, their spiritual and physical welfare. He presides over the souls of humans. He appears in the Apocrypha.

Uriel. (Uri 'El) "The Fire of El." Described as a divine emanation, divine radiance. He resides in the Underworld. He is also knwon as Nasargiel, which probably doesn't mean anything but is rather a Hebrewization of Nergal of the Babylonians. He is a psychopomp, a leader of souls. He leads spirits to the Underworld, and can also lead souls from the Underworld to the place of judgment.

Sammael. (Samma 'El) "The Poison of El." God of death. He has a thousand eyes. You cannot escape him. He was sent to destroy the Egyptian firstborn at the first Passover, when the Hebrews were told to spread fresh lamb's blood over the doorway to protect their own children. The feast of Passover is actually a much more ancient Canaanite feast, the reason for which the Hebrews couldn't remember.

Rahab. "The Arrogant One." God of the ocean.

Among the lower echelon of gods were the Cherubim, looking like the Shedu, found on the top of the Ark of the Covenant. They hold up Yahweh's throne.

The Seraphim are fiery serpents (actually made of fire) with six pairs of wings. Their role is to fly around the throne of Yahweh singing "Holy Holy Holy."


Demons are usually unpleasant. In three ways, they are like humans: (1) They take nourishment , (2) they propagate, and (3) they die. In three ways, they are like gods: (1) They know the future, (2) they can pass through solid objects unhindered, and (3) they can fly. They can be invisible. They can change size. They inhabit places humans avoid. They like to spread familial disunity and unhappiness. They steal things so people will accuse each other. But deoms have no power over anything which has been measured, counted, packaged, or sealed.


The 1st Creation Story. In the beginning, there was the great primeval chaotic ocean and the spirit of Yahweh. The first thing he created was light (with the sound of his voice). There were six days of creation. He created man in his own image. The seventh day was the Sabbath (from Canaanites), and so he rested.

Chapter 2 begins the 2nd Creation Story. All there is is desert. A flood comes up and waters the land. The first thing Yahweh does is create man. He creates the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yahweh comes looking for Adam. Adam and Eve were hiding because they were ashamed of their nakedness. Yahweh asks, "Who told you you were naked?" When the serpent is discovered to be the culprit, snakes are cursed to crawl on their bellies. Enmity is established between man and snakes. Women will experience pain in childbirth and be subject to their husbands. Eve is the "Mother of All Living Things" (see the Sumerian Ki/Ninhursag). Yahweh says, "Man has become like us," and he sends man from the Garden of Eden to keep him from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever (Archetype: The Lying Messenger).

The 4th Creation Story appears in Job Chapter 38. It is architectural and poetic.

The 3rd Creation Story (there are references to it throughout the Old Testament) surrounds the character called Leviathan. Job 38:8 ". . .who shut in the sea with doors . . . imprisoned the pride of the ocean." Psalm 74:13 "Thou didst divide the sea by Thy might, break the heads of the dragons, crushed the head of Leviathan." (The ocean is a many-headed dragon.) Job 26 ". . . power stilled the sea, by understanding smote Rahab . . .his hand pierced the fleeing serpent." Isaiah 27 "Yahweh will punish Leviathan, the fleeing serpent . . .will slay the dragon." Job 41 Yahweh says, "Leviathan, the sea monster associated with chaos. Man cannot conquer Leviathan. He is king over all the sons of pride." Rahab is just a name for Leviathan. Yahweh imprisoned him and one day will go back and kill him. Leviathan comes from Lotan. In Hebrew, the word for "ocean" is Tehom, the plural is Tehomet (from Tiamat). The word was once a proper noun. Parallels: Ninurta imprisons Kur, Ea kills Apsu, Marduk kills Tiamat, Baal kills Lotan, and Yahweh defeats Leviathan.

Adam's First Wife

Adamah ("the second layer of soil," "the red clay" [The clay looked like flesh, like blood. For Hebrews, life is in the blood.]). Sammael says to Yahweh, he's having difficulty getting a consort. He asks Yahweh to create one out of the same red clay. Yahweh creates Lilith. But she didn't like Sammael much either. She liked Adam, so she went to be his consort. In almost no time, she began to become uppity. She thought they should be equal. She demanded the occasional upper position in sex. Adam refused. She left him. She went off and began having 100 children a day on her own (demons). They are called Lilim. Adam complains to Yahweh, so Yahweh creates three minor gods and sends them to bring Lilith back. She refuses. So they begin to kill 100 of her children a day. She is furious. At one point, Lilith sneaked in and seduced Adam and gave birth to Shedim, another group of demons. (Yahweh made Eve of the red clay, too. She and Adam didn't get along so Yahweh destroyed her and made another one. Yahweh made and destroyed 6 Eves before making the 7th Eve from Adam's rib. She was Adam's 8th wife.) Lilith goes on to become two separate characters:

(1) Lilith, also called the "Desert Night Monster" or the "Hairy Night Monster." She's still angry about the death of her children. She loves to find women in childbirth, murder the woman, and devour the infant. (This story used to be used to explain disposing of children who were born physically imperfect.) This can be avoided by wearing a medallion around your neck with the name of Yahweh on it.

(2) A very beautiful woman called Lamia who visits men in their dreams, seduces them, and drains the life out of them. (The Romans borrowed this idea in the form of a male, Incubus, and a female, Succubus.) Lamia can be recognized because she has eyes on her breasts.

Cain and Abel

Abel is accepted, and Cain is not. This demonstrates the archetypal preference of herding over farming. The actual murder is an allegory. Cain murders Abel out in the field. This is a fertility sacrifice. Yahweh curses Cain: the ground will no longer yield to him and he must wander. Yahweh protects Cain from murder by promising vengeance sevenfold on the murderer.

Cain is an eponymous ancestor of the people called Kenites. "Cain" = "smith." The Mark of Cain lies in an interesting place. Law in this time had to be law of vengeance as a deterrent, but it only worked if everyone recognized you came from a strong tribe. The mark had to be on the hands or face to be visible. The Kenites would tattoo a simple mark -- two concentric circles or a circle with two perpendicular transecting lines in the center -- using a piece of copper or soft metal which can be tapped with a hammer, on their foreheads. This led to the Greek story of the Cyclops.

Seth is the ancestor of the same people (although it seems different in the listing). Then Enos and Lamech. In the second list, there are ten patriarchs (Adam -> Noah). This shows the Hebrews getting in line with the Sumerian and Babylonian tradition of King Lists (10 kings before the flood). In all three lists, all kings live abnormally long lives and the seventh king is especially favored. Enoch was seventh on the Hebrew list. He was taken alive into heaven. Lamech is a blind old man who murders Cain and his grandson in a fit of peak.

The Flood

Genesis 6 (Read the Book of Enoch). At this time, humans became wild and bored and decadent, and Yahweh became angry. So he sent a deputation of gods led by Azazel to earth to straighten them out. They saw what men were doing -- gambling, chasing beautiful women, fighting, drinking. They decided to chase women, too. These unions gave birth to demons called Nephilim. They taught humans how to make weapons and wage war and the art of make-up and charms (to women). The Nephilim began eating humans and then each other (cannibalistic giants). This is what caused Yahweh to decide to destroy the world and everyone in it. He sent a great flood. Noah and his family all survived. Azazel was chained in the desert where he became a desert monster -- a sterility god (Set). Ever after, Azazel and his followers are called the Fallen Gods, the Fallen Angels. Every year near autumn, Hebrews would take two goats with a medallion bearing the name of Yahweh and of Azazel on each. The goat of Yahweh was sacrificed to Yahweh. The goat of Azazel was ritualistically blamed for all the sins of the Hebrews. They then drove it out into the desert to be killed by Azazel ("scapegoat"). This was done on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur.

Flood Story # 1
(Babylonian form)

Flood Story #2
(Sumerian - more scholarly)

Genesis 6:8 Noah found favor. Genesis 6:9 Noah was righteous.
Genesis 7:6 Noah was 600 years old. Genesis 7:11 2/17 600 years.
Genesis 6:19 Two of every animal Genesis 7:2 seven pair of every clean animal, one pair of every unclean animal

Yahweh says he will never again destroy mankind. Hamm, father of Canaan, saw Noah's nakedness. Canaan was cursed. Noah had a reputation for being a drunk. Shem, Hamm, and Japheth were his sons. Hamm's son Canaan is 12 years old. Noah fully intended to have another son who could be the ancestor of all the servants of his three sons. Canaan didn't like the idea because he didn't want to share the world with more people. He knew of Noah's problem with alcohol. He waited for him to be passed out naked, and he castrated him so that Noah awakens and realizes what has happened. This is all a political allegory which justifies the violent takeover of Canaan. (Later, this was used as a justification for taking African slaves.) Noah could no longer be a patriarch because he was physically maimed.

The Hebrews also borrowed from the Persians. They borrowed a philosophy called dualism, a belief that there is only good and evil in the universe and that they are constantly at odds. On each side, there is a great god and the two are approximately equal in power. c. 500 B.C. The Hebrews began to tailor their religion around this idea. There was a huge gap of time during which no one is apparently leading the forces of evil. There was no god powerful enough to challenge Yahweh. So bit by bit for the next two centuries, they developed an intriguing complex. They began with the name of a role -> the satan, which means "an adversary." The job of the satan was to be the Devil's Advocate. This could be any god filling this position. His job is to tempt or frighten, to test, to see if people are being true to Yahweh. The role eventually evolved into a being, Satan. They built into this character traits from other gods.

From Sammael, Satan takes on the role of the unpopular god who inhabits the Underworld and is associated with hell. He smells of sulfur (brimstone).

From Leviathan, Satan has tremendous strength, eagerness to do battle with Yahweh. He is a disgusting kind of creature, consumed by arrogance.

From Azazel, Satan disobeys Yahweh. He is a sterility figure. The Army of Fallen Angels is his. He is THE Fallen Angel. The goat sacrificed to Azazel gives Satan that association ("capricious" = "goat-like"). The horns, cloven hooves, tail, goatee.

By 200 B.C., Satan has become a great character. He is a very late figure in the progression of this religion. Christians used a reference in Isaiah: "How you are fallen, O Lucifer, Child of the Dawn." Saint Jerome said that must be it. Lucifer must have been an archangel, etc., etc. However, Isaiah 14 speaks to King Nebuchadnezzar, who caused the Babylonian Captivity. He had fallen insane. "Child of the Dawn" (Lucifer = morning star = Venus [Latin]) is merely a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's amazing rise and fall from greatness. The Christian story of Lucifer has no bibilical foundation.

Samson, the Nazarite

As a young man, Samson kills a lion with his bare hands. He is a great Hebrew judge except that he loves Philistine women. Eventually, he ends up with a Philistine temple prostitute named Delilah. He is incredibly big, unbelievably strong, and really stupid. Four times, Delilah asked him the secret of his strength and betrayed him. Eventually he gives in to her and reveals the secret of his strength: his long hair which is never to be cut. She betrays him again. The Philistines cut his hair as he sleeps and seize him, easily overpowering the weakened man. He ends up replacing an ox on a grinding mill, blind and feeble. But during his captivity, his hair begins to grow back. He is taken to the Temple of Dagon, where with his renewed strength, he pushes the pillars out and kills everyone, including himself. "Samson" comes from "Shamash." He has a parallel in Greek mythology, Heracles (Hercules). Heracels kills a lion whose skin cannot be pierced. He strangles it, skins it, and wears the skin for the rest of his life. He is done in because of a woman. He builds a funeral pyre, climbs up on it, and destroys himself. Samson comes from Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Myths of Persia

The Persians

The Creation Story


The Universe as Zarathustra Saw It

The After Life

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The Persians (An Indo-European Nation)

There were Aryans in the Indus Valley. Some went to India, some to Persia. Persians call themselves Aryans. They were called "Persian" by the Greeks. Their religion changed circa 600 B.C. Before this, the gods were Aryan, i.e., Indo-European. Persia was very insular. They moved in and took the world away from Babylon in 500 B.C. On the Persian plateau, there were many petty kingdoms which combined into an empire c. 600 B.C. In about 100 years, they took over the world.

The Creation Story

In the beginning, Earth was a flat plain under a solid dome with 178 stars and a sun and moon fixed to the dome. The land was surrounded by the cosmic ocean. Outside the dome were two vague amorphous deities: the "Benevolent One" Ahura Mazda, and the "Malevolent One" Angra Mainyu, both of whom were male.

One day, Angra Mainyu decided to mess things up. He broke through the dome, went down into the ocean, and came back up through the earth, forming a volcanic mountain. He continued to do this until the earth was covered with mountains and valleys. The jarring vibration broke all the stars and the sun and moon loose and they began to slide westward. At the horizon, they broke out of the dome, went around to the other side and came back in. Each made a separate hole, leaving 180 holes on each side (as in angular degrees).

Ahura Mazda decides to be creative because things are now in motion. This is the beginning of life. He plants two trees: the Tree of Seeds (the source of all the other trees in the universe) and the Tree of White Haoma. Haoma is a sacred drink (like the Indian "Soma") which gave the gods immortality and all manner of inspiration. It is considered either very alcoholic or very narcotic. No one is sure. It is pressed from a plant. It is a milky white fluid that turns yellow while fermenting. Another name for it is Amrita, which is the same as Ambrosia, the food of the Greek gods. It is a vital drink for the gods. Angra Mainyu is against the Haoma. He sends a great lizard of the ocean to chew on the roots of the Tree of White Haoma. Ahura Mazda sends 13 fish to swin in around the roots and keep the lizard at bay. Eventually the lizard will prevail, but the fish help to delay this. The Tree of Seeds brings forth all other trees. All life begins.

Haoma is also personified as a god (very vague) but only to justify its worship.

Vayu, the God of the Wind. "He Who Goes Forward and He Who Goes Backward." A very powerful early god. He is neutral until Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu give sacrifices to him. Then Vayu allies himself with Ahura Mazda.

Anahita, the Great Goddess of Human Fertility. The source of the cosmic ocean. She purifies the male seed and the mother's womb and the mother's milk. A very popular goddess worshipped by temple prostitution. (As a conscription, all young women had to serve as temple prostitutes. But they were buried alive if they were caught having sex outside the temple before marriage.)

Tishtrya, the God of Plant and Animal Fertility. Also a storm god. He brings the rain. In oppostion to Tishtrya is Apaosha, the God of Draught. The first time they fought, Tishtrya was a great white stallion with gold trappings and Apaosha was a black stallion with all black trappings. They fought very hard and Apaosha was winning. Tishtrya complained to Ahura Mazda that the reason he was losing was that mankind was not giving him the proper rituals. So Ahura Mazda himself performed a ritual giving Tishtrya the strength to win. And humanity learned by this example never to forget to perform the rituals to Tishtrya. A complement to Tishtrya is a figure called Rapithwin, the Lord of the Noonday Heat. This is the heat that is necessary for the plants to grow. In the winter, Rapithwin retreats to the Underworld and keeps the subterranean waters warm so the roots of the plants won't freeze.

Atar. People will say the Persians were fire worshippers. They did have fire temples devoted to a sacred flame. But they were not worshipping fire itself. Ahura Mazda has by this time become the sun god. The Persians really idolize him. He is most powerful. They thought the sun was made of fire, and that fire on Earth was sent from the sun, arriving via lightning bolts. That means that fire on earth is simply an extension of Ahura Mazda himself. Thus the use of fire in their worship rituals. But they called earthbound fire Atar, a deity, like a surrogat Ahura Mazda. To make their sacred flame, they would gather a huge stack of cut wood to be blessed by a priest outside the temple. They would bring some wood in and ignite it. To make it sacred, they poured clarified goat butter on it. Then it would be sacred and eternal. If a priest let it go out, he would be buried alive. Their attitude toward fire was different. Our view is that fire is a purifying agent. But if something fell into the flame, the Persians considered the flame to be contaminated and it had to be extinguished.


628 B.C. Zarathustra is born. 551 B.C. He dies.

He was an enormounsly important prophet. The Persians were astrologers. The Greeks called him Zoroaster (Zodiac Star). But he was not an astrologer. Before he was born, his birth was announced to his mother. He was born with a Favr (an aura -- believed to be a special link with the gods). Zarathustra then smiled, indicating that even at birth, he was aware. In his early teens, he withdrew from the world and disappeared. He was working on his version of true religion. At age 30, he reappeared. Angra Mainyu tried to tempt him and frighten him out of teaching his new religion. Zarathustra resisted and began teaching. (Note the parallels in this story to the stories of Christ and Buddha.) For ten years, no one would listen to Zarathustra. Finally he converted a king, and the kingdom followed. But the king's counselors were jealous and slandered Zarathustra, landing him in prison. He talked a lot with Ahura Mazda and wrote what became the core of the Persian canon the Avesta. He was later released and became a leader. At 77, he was worshiping in a fire temple when robbers broke in and he was killed.

The Universe as Zarathustra Saw It

Ahura Mazda is most powerful. He created Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu. They have free choice of the principles they embrace. Spenta Mainyu chose Asha (good) and Angra Mainyu chose Druj (evil), thus the advent of dualism. We are all products of dualism. This ideology has prevaded the entire Western World. There are also Righteousness and Wickedness, Order and Chaos, Truth and The Lie (Persians are in the Truth category -- everyone else is part of The Lie). Each side has an army. Spenta Mainyu has the Ahuras. Angra Mainyu has the Daevas. Ahura Mazda is on the side of Spenta Mainyu. They eventually merge into a single god Ormazd. Angra Mainyu becomes Ahriman.

There are also a number of "archangels" in several categories:

(1) Amesha Spenta, "The Blessed Beloved Ones." There are six of them. Each has two characteristics: something in nature and some human virtue.

(2) Yazata. There are 40 of them. They are all standard gods. The most famous is Mithras whose cult spread throughout the world. He was a god of oaths and vows and contracts, all of which were sealed by swearing to Mithras. He is shown grabbing a bull's head and thrusting a sword into it. His name comes to mean "contract" as a common noun.

The After Life

When a man dies, the spirit waits for three days on Earth. On each of the three nights, it contemplates: (1) the things he said, (2) the things he thought, and (3) the things he did. The spirit then travels to Chinvat, "The Bridge of the Requiter" ("requite" = "to give back in kind") where one is going to get one's comeuppances. If you were middle of the road, you would go to Hamstagen, total oblivion. If you were really good, you would be met by a beautiful young girl who would take you by the hand and lead you across the Chinvat. The young woman represents the conscience, which is hardly used in the life of one who is good. That is why she is young. If you have been evil, you are met by a disgustingly ugly old hag who signals to a couple of ogres who take clubs and drive you onto the bridge, which is now like a sword blade turned on edge. You cut yourself up and fall right off into a vat of molten metal. You end up in the House of the Lie, a place of eternal torment, depending on what you did. If you were good, you go to the House of Song, an eternal paradise. Followers of Zarathustra thought this was too harsh. Even when he was an old man, they were beginning to change this: On a day called Frashkart, "The Rehabilitation of the Universe," a person called Saoshyant, "He Who Saves," will save everyone. They hoped it would be Zarathustra, but after he died, it developed so that it would just be a descendant of Zarathustra and they would know by the stars. Frashkart meant that the Saoshyant would reunite the souls to the bodies. They would all pass through the molten metal, only it would not hurt and they would be cleansed to go on to the House of Song. Ahriman and his followers would either be annihilated or sent to the House of the Lie.


Yeshuah -> Jesus Christ

The Immaculate Conception

The Crucifixion

The Passover Plot




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Christianity borrowed heaven, hell, and limbo (the afterlife destination for anyone never exposed to Christianity) from the Persians. Christians added Purgatory. "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" comes from the passage through molten metal (see "The After Life" in Myths of Persia). Virtually all the tenets of Christianity come from this culture.

Yeshuah - "Yahweh is Salvation" -> Joshua. The New Testament was all written in Greek. Yeshuah was translated as "Jesus." Yeshuah was born in Nazareth. His " last name" was Messiah or "the Annointed One." In Geeek, this was translated to Christos. He was a real man. Our only sources of information are the four gospels ("gospel" = the good message) which should be in the order Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, rather than that with which we are familiar. John is the inspirational one. Mark was not written earlier than 72 A.D., and was based on an earilier written work in oral tradition. Matthew and Luke were written circa 80-85 A.D. Both were based on Mark and the "Q Document" (of unknown origin). John was written circa 90-110 A.D. None of these men were disciples. In addition, we have a pseudepigraphic text for the New Testament which is referred to as the "Lost Books of the Bible." The Christian canon was not set until c. 400 A.D. by Saint Jerome, with these other books left out. The authors of the gospels had quite a challenge in writing the biography of a man dead now forty or fifty years. Only Mark saw Yeshuah alive. Yeshuah never said anything about his background. Matthew and Luke tried to write full biographies. Luke is known as the man who gave us Christmas. Mark started in Yeshuah's adult life. Matthew and Luke are called mythographers. They had to make the beginning up, so they first set out to fulfuill all the prophecies from Isaiah, etc. We have to try to figure out what might have actually happened.

The predicted appearance of the Messiah led to the appearance of many Messiahs. Yeshuah was born in the reign of Herod (20 B.C. - 4 B.C.) When Gregory was setting up the calendar, he missed one olympiad. It is believed he was actually born in 20 B.C. because he was called "rabbi" which was a title only used on men over 50. He was descended from the house of Jesse (as was David). The genealogies in Matthew and Luke are not the same but both trace Yeshuah back to Jesse.

The Immaculate Conception

The "Immaculate Conception" actually refers to the conception of Mary and not that of Yeshuah. Her mother's name was Anna. Her father was Joachim. Anna became pregnant without Joachim. Christians believed that sin passed through the father. ("Divine Conception" is almost always the coupling of a male god and a human woman. Usually the god takes the form of a bird.) Anna gives birth to Miriam (whose name becomes Mary much later). She was a very bizarre young lady. No man wanted her. In the village of Nazareth, all the single men were called out. Joseph's walking staff suddenly sprouted leaves and a dove perched on top of it. He was selected to betrothe himself to Mary. Joseph knew that if people saw Mary pregnant, they would stone her. (In 1852, the Pope declared Mary a permanent virgin.)

When the readers of the Septuagint saw that the Messiah would be born to an Almah (a young woman old enough to give birth), they could only translate this into "virgin," as there is no equivalent word. From that, the writers of Matthew and Luke thought that, in order to fulfill prophecy, Mary had to be a virgin. Luke 2, A Roman census is to be taken. (1) But Romans would not allow men to leave their home to be counted. (2) No Roman census was taken at this time. One of the reasons Yeshuah was not accepted by the Jews is that he was a Nazarene, i.e., not a Jew born in Bethlehem. We have no idea what time of year it was. Until 400 A.D., Christmas was celebrated in May. So they went to Bethlehem and there was no room at the inn -- why? To symbolize a simple, humble beginning. His birth was signalled by the stars. (In the pseudepigraphia, it is said that this stellar message was in accordance with the prophecy of Zarathustra.) In the story of Abraham, at his birth a star moved from the East and stood over the place of his birth. Zarathustra, Buddha, Noah, Moses, etc. -- all were born with an aura. This set the precedent for Jesus. The magi arrived (Persian astrologers) "according to the prophecy of Zarathustra," bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh (symbolizing earthly kingship, spritual kingship, and early death). By the Middle Ages, the three magi have names and physical descriptions. Kaspar is a tall, slim elderly man (70-80 years old). Melchior is younger, shorter, more robust (40-50 years old). Balthazar is taller and black (40-50 years old). The crêche is the nativity scene. The magi go to Herod and tell him of the birth of the child which they have read in the stars. Herod sends soldiers into Bethlehem to slaughter every male under the age of 2. (Classically, it is called the Slaughter of the Innocents. This is historically innacurate. It is an archetype.)

An angel sends Mary and Joseph to Egypt to escape the purge, (called the "Flight to Egypt") which fulfills an Old Testament prophecy: "Out of Egypt I have called my son . . ." But this text is really referring to the Exodus. Jesus's other appearance before adulthood is at the temple (analogy to Buddha). It is not just his wisdom that astounds the priests, but the fact that he knows EVERYTHING. Mark 6:3 discusses Jesus's brothers and sisters. There are 18 lost years before Yeshuah appears and begins teaching. Yeshuah is not very nice to his mother. Some believe he had to have been married as a young man in the occupation of a carpenter (rather than a prophet). John 2 (when Jesus turns the water into wine) may be a recounting of Jesus's wedding. Who is being married? Customarily, the groom provided the food and drink. It does not make much sense that Mary would have come to Jesus to tell him that the wine had run out if he was merely a guest at the wedding. Perhaps he was married to Mary Magdalene. There is no evidence that she was ever a prostitute. Yeshuah was very well-versed in the teachings of the Essene.

When Yeshuah begins his work, he is baptized by John the Baptist. Yeshuah goes into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted (like Zarathustra and Buddha). Yeshuah was a first-class charismatic (and very appealing to the poor). He never claims to be the Messiah. Only his followers do. There is scientific evidence of the validity of "faith healing" or what is medically referred to as "hysterical reversal." In Luke 8, the hemorrhaging woman looks to be healed by touching the garment of Jesus. "Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me." The resurrection of Lazarus is part of the "Wandering Jew" archetype, a synthesis of Cain, Lazarus, and Cartophilus (a Greek Jew standing on the Street of Sorrows where the cross was carried -- Yeshuah looks at him and says, "You shall wait here until I return."). As in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for example.

Yeshuah was a very bright man. Much of what is told is fascinating because of the eyewitness detail. The priests were threatened by Yeshuah. They would try to trap him verbally, test him publicly with dilemmas. He spoke in parables because it was safer to avoid arrest. He used to squat down and doodle in the dirt before answering the dilemmas.

The Crucifixion

Yeshuah comes into Jerusalem on a white donkey. Palm fronds are laid in his path. He has The Last Supper, followed by The Arrest (The Betrayal by Judas Iscariot). He is taken to the Sanhedron and found guilty of heresy. He is turned over to the Romans, and Pontius Pilate finds him guiltless. But to appease the mobs of people and the Jewish leaders, he has Jesus scourged and then crucified. He washes his hands. Jesus is crucified at 9 A.M. on Friday. While he is on the cross, he is offered vinegar and gall on a sponge to ease the pain. At 3 P.M. he dies. Joseph of Arimathea takes his body to his own tomb. Three days pass. The Harrowing of Hell. He returns on Sunday and stays for 40 days, after which he ascends (The Ascension).

In the Passover Plot by Schonfield, it is hypothesized that James, his brother, may have taken his place on the cross, and that Yeshuah fled to Japan. The book is the result of much research. Yeshuah was constantly doing things without the disciples' knowledge. Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot were his inner circle. But a lot of plans were in motion. The entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) was all prearranged. Yehsuah arranged for Judas to turn him in. A reference is made to this at the Last Supper. As he prays at the Mount of Olives, Yeshuah says, "Take this cup from me." Judas's kiss on the cheek was unnecessary because Yeshuah was easily identifiable. He was condemned by the Sanhedron without saying a word. We know that Pontius Pilate was a vicious sadistic animal who crucified every chance he got. Crucifixion was a form of humiliation on a main traveled road. The victims were hung completely naked, their feet less than 18 inches off the ground. The public was encouraged to taunt and hurt the victims. They were tied to the cross. Nails were driven through the hands and feet occasionally. Crucifixion was mainly death by asphyxiation caused by the victim's inability to properly breathe when suspended in that position. Yeshuah's brother James was a physician. Between Judas and James, this was set up. The narcotic in the sponge made him appear dead. Passover begins at sunset on the day of the crucifixion. Hebrew law does not allow crucifixion on any holy day. He appears to die. Jospeh of Arimathea goes to Pilate asking for "the body of my master," Pilate says, "You can have the corpse." A spear is thrust in the side of the body by a Roman guard to make certain that he is dead. They could not have foreseen the scourging and the spear in the side. Yeshuah could not have foreseen this. The sightings after his death. Mary Magdalene, his constant companion for several years, goes to see Yeshuah's body. She sees a gardener who tells her the body is gone. She thinks the gardener is Yeshuah? Two disciples are walking to Emmaus and see a man who asks why they are so glum. They think the guy must have been Yeshuah. Even in the Upper Room, Yeshuah appears. Doubting Thomas questions him. Schonfield feels the whole thing was a plan to take the heat off him for a while.

When he dies, the temple curtain is rent in twain, signifying the opening of the sanctuary. In the pseudepigraphia, the murder of Zechariah (John the Baptist's father) led to the same thing. Judas Iscariot dies two different ways according to the New Testament. No real information is available.

All of this is in the Persian tradition referred to earlier.

Yeshuah is looked upon as the sacrificial lamb. In Hebrew, "Pascha" is the word for Passover. Yeshuah is the Pascal lamb whose blood turns away the Angel of Death (Sammael). In the Eastern Orthodox Church, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the priests say to the congregation, "Is Christ risen?" to which the congregation responds, "Yes, he is risen!" This parallels the ritual greeting of worshipers of Baal. In the Book of Mark, the Ascension is discussed. This discussion was not part of the original text. It was added later. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the Vernal Equinox. This date is linked with fertility ritual and not with the actual date of Christ's resurrection.


In Mediterranean, or more specifically Roman, tradition, the Winter Solstice marked the beginning of an 8-day celebration called Saturnalia. This celebration was dedicated to Saturn, the god of fertility, and was meant to bring back fertility after the harsh winter. Masters and slaves would change places for the 8-day period and they would exchange gifts. Another significant day fell during this period. It was the birthday of Mithras, and it fell on December 25. It is also called the Birth of Sol Invictus, the "Incomparable Sun" (Natalis Sol Invictus). Mithras, the sun, had been getting weaker since Summer Solstice. The Winter Solstice on December 21 symbolized rebirth and new strength. Symbols of rebirth and fertility were widely used. Evergreen trees were placed in every house and also in the public square. A sunburst was placed on the top of the tree to represent Sol himself. All-colored trinkets were hung on the tree to symbolize forthcoming blooms.

In Northern Europe, Scandinavian and Celtic traditions intermingled. The Scandinavians were worshiping their sun god Frey, a golden beam with a solid gold boar (sunburst). Their view was that Frey was receding from the earth. On Mother Night (the longest night of the year) he began to turn around, taking 12 days. Theirs was a celebration of his impending return. The sun was thought of as a huge wheel rolling across the sky. Jul Tide (pronounced "yule tide") means "Season of the Wheel." This was the 12 day celebration. A huge feast was had. The golden boar was the symbol of Frey, so a roast pig or boar was served with an apple in the boar's mouth served whole. Many early English carols reference the boar's head. Many inns bear the symbol in their name or decor because it is a symbol of celebration and good will. In Scandinavia, of course, it was VERY cold at this time of the year. The towns would bring in a "Jul" log. They chose oak (which was sacred to Thor) to be the yule log. The whole trunk and roots would be uprooted and set in the center of the town to burn for 12 days straight. Eventually this tradition was cut back to 12 hours because of the shortage of wood. Today, at the end of the 12 hour period, they put out the fire and keep one small piece of the wood and store it away with the Christmas decorations. Next year they ignite the new log with the small piece to link last year's good fortune to the next. Outside, the druids had their own form of worship. They gathered around the sacred ash tree (like the World Tree in Scandinavian mythology) to worship Frey. They hung a golden (painted) apple on the tree to represent the sun and flowers, and they lit candles. The tree became a very popular celebration symbol.

Yeshua was probably born in May. December 25 was the date set in 400 A.D. to coincide with the Birth of Mithras to overlay previous pagan practice with Christian ideals. By the Middle Ages, a common decoration was called the "paradise tree" which was hung ordinary apples (i.e., Eden) and a Star of Bethlehem on top. In Germany, especially, the tree was very treasured. In the mid-1500's, Martin Luther was going out to cut a tree down and he saw stars through the branches and put candles on the tree emulate this. In Germany, the Christmas tree was put up only for a day, so the tree was very wet -- not the same fire hazard it is today to place candles on the branches.

In America, c. 1810, everyone has the trees. In England, c. 1900, Prince Albert wanted a reminder of Germany and instituted the tradition there as well.

The Holly & the Ivy

The holly and the ivy represent the male and the female. Both are plants not damaged by winter and therefore considered hearty and brave. Ivy is female, it clings to things. Holly grows up through the snow and is male because of the phallic spines on the leaves. Druids used little golden sicles to cut mistletoe off trees, a symbol of friendship although it is actually a parasite. If two foes met for battle and discovered they were standing under a tree with mistletoe on it, they would not fight that day. Later it was used in homes for a kiss on the cheek. You are supposed to take one berry off for each kiss.

Mexican people used Poinsettias for a starburst symbol. In the 1800's, the plants were brought in by Dr. Joel Poinset (ambassador to Mexico).

Saint Nicholas

Nicholas was a real man (maybe), but a saint for sure. He was born in 270 A.D. on the southwest coast of Anatolia (Asia Minor). Orphaned at the age of 9, he was taken in by a good family. Aware of his good fortune, he was very generous. He would always help and give to the poor. In the village lived a nobleman with his three daughters. At some point, the nobleman went broke. He could not allow anyone to find out. The town would be devastated. All three daughters were marriageable but they had no dowry. He asked the servants to leave secretly. They had to cook and clean. They had to hang clothing inside the house to dry. Nicholas, at the age of 16 or 17, found out what had befallen the nobleman. He worked hard for a whole year and took the money and made it into a solid gold ball. He went to the nobleman's house, threw the gold ball in the window and ran away. The ball landed in one of the stockings which had been hung up to dry inside the house. So now the oldest daughter could get married. After two more years, Nicholas did it again. The final time, the nobleman went outside to see who was doing this. Nicholas had saved them. Nicholas left and traveled to Myra (south coast of Anatolia, further east). There was a storm on the sea while he was on the ship. He calmed the storm. In Myra, the Bishop died and the priests could not decide who would replace him. One had a vision. Yahweh told him that tomorrow morning, the first person to walk into the church would be the next bishop. Of course it was Nicholas. Nicholas felt unworthy but the priests insisted. He reigned as bishop for nearly 60 years. While he was bishop, three young boys went on a trip and didn't return. The parents went to Nicholas for help. Nicholas went off to find them. They had stopped at an inn with some money. The innkeeper had murdered them, chopped them into pieces and put them in a pickling barrel to hide them. Nicholas brought them back to life whole. Thus his title as the Patron Saint of Children. He died December 6, 323 A.D. -> Saint Nicholas Day.

The story of the golden balls became symbolic of getting help from others -> golden balls were displayed outside of pawn shops. 1000 A.D. Nicholas became the Patron Saint of Russia. 1100 A.D. he became the Patron Saint of the Norman French, too. He became more popular than any other saint. By 1400, over 500 sings had been written about him. Because of his generosity, Norman French nuns began giving to the poor on Saint Nicholas Day (or Eve). This tradition spread through Europe. The Church used the Alms box. They would open it and distribute from it to the poor on what was called "Boxing Day." Employers set up boxes for the same thing which would be given to employees. In Germany, "Christ Bundles" was the name used for gifts given at this time. Annual parades included a Chirst child distributing gifts to children. In Holland, a very economically ingenious country, the Dutch encouraged children to put money all year into a yule box. At the end of the year, the money was used to help pay for the roast pig. This evolved into the modern usage of piggy banks. Saint Nicholas rides in the German parade, tall and slim in a red bishop's robe. An amalgam of Odin's Wild Ride, Nicholas' long white beard, Father Christmas with red robe and red hood (Père Noel) began to emerge. The Dutch preferred Nicholas and brought him to America when they came. He had become by that time an elf called Sinte(r) Klaas -> Santa Claus. He always wore a fur-lined coat, smoked a pipe, and would ride in a sled pulled by reindeer. When Germans came over, they contributed the name Krist Kindle (Christ Child) -> Kris Kringle.

The Santa Claus figure grew in this country. In Europe, Father Christmas is his counterpart. As soon as gifts began being given in the same of St. Nick, parents began bribing their children with it. If you were bad, a little bad guy would bring you either coal or a bundle of switches to be used all year long. The dark associate of Father Christmas does not apply to Santa Claus. Washington Irving in the "Knickerbocker Tales" discusses the elf Santa Claus who puts presents in stockings just like St. Nick. Circa 1820, the first breakthrough: Clement Clark Moore wrote a poem for his daughters called "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The real name is "A Visit from Saint Nicholas." He introduced many new elements, i.e., eight named reindeer, etc. Donner is supposed to be Donder (Thunder). But the Santa image was still an elf with eight tiny reindeer. During the Civil War, "Harper's Weekly" had in its employ Thomas Nast (considered by many to be the greatest political cartoonist ever), who was commissioned to draw a series of Santa Claus cartoons. After the Civil War, Nast went on to draw Santa Claus. The publishing company (McLaughlin Brothers Printing Company) experimented with the color of the leather of Santa's dress. They rested finally on red. In the early 20th Century, many famous illustrators painted Santa Claus. But in 1931, the final change took place. A large company hired Haddon Sundblom (a Scandinavian) to illustrate Santa Claus. He was delighted, but before his work was complete, his model died. A friend suggested he use himself as model. For 25 years, he fashioned Santa after his own face. The company was Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola Santa Claus with black belt and boots is now virtually an unchangeable icon of the Christmas tradition.

In 1941, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was invented by a man working for a radio station. He wrote a poem and eventually met up with a songweriter who wrote the music. Gene Autry made the first recording of the song.

Advent started in the 9th Century, The countdown is started on the Sunday nearest to Saint Andrews Day (November 30).

Halloween (Hallow E'en) Hallowed Evening/All Hallows Evening.

In ancient times, the new day was believed to have begun at sunset. The celebration of the festival of the dead goes back to prehistoric times. It was a celebration to commemorate the dead. The time of year was selected because the harvest is over, the earth is now dying. The dead get to come back to the earth from sunset to sunrise. They tended not to be in a very good mood. Graveyards were decorated to put the spirits in a better mood. Colored leaves, shocks of wheat or grain, dead flowers were all used. Homes were set up with food and drink for the dead. In Babylonia, this was done once a month. Indo-Europeans enjoyed this celebration the most. They were a wild bunch, boisterous and exuberant. The quintessential Indo-Europeans were the Celts. They divided the year into four quarters, marked by four major days:

November 1 - Samhain (pronounces SOW-en), the Day of the Dead, New Year's Day. (The celebration was only for the dead of this past year who are awaiting going to the Underworld.) If the dead could take over someone else's body, they could avoid going to the Underworld. Those who were believed to have already been taken over were sacrificed to protect the others. Only the evil dead tried to do this. To avoid the evil ones: (1) The Celts would put out the hearth fire (a fire which otherwise burned all year round) -- all but one live coal which was carried to a hillside where a bonfire was laid out and ready to be lit. Then all the villagers would toss their coals in. The bonfire was meant to frighten the spirits away. (2) The people of the town dressed up as corpses to frighten the evil spirits. Good spirits were going to come hom, so homes were decorated. Meals were prepared. People dressed as spirits of the dead would wander through the village and ask for food and drink in exchange for a performance. These wanderers were called mummers. This practice slowly devolved to teenagers instead of adult. It was then used as a method of getting revenge. In the 20th Century, smaller children began participating. Ghouls = eaters of human flesh (corpses). Necrophygy = the eating of the dead. The church objected to pagan rituals so they overlaid the festival with Christian principles. In 600 A.D., Pope Gregory I set November 1 to be All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day, to commemorate all saints and martyrs known or unknown. c. 900 A.D., November 2 was made All Souls Day to commemorate all the dead.

The church began to campaign against Halloween because it was one of the witches' sabbaths. Witchcraft is a very ancient and honored profession with both male and female practitioners. Witches use magic, not the miraculous power of a god. Egyptians and Sumerians had gods who knew magic. But witches knew magic better than priests. c. 1000 B.C., Hebrews outlawed witchcraft. They knew witches could call up spirits of the dead. c. 300 B.C., witches became associated with Satan. On the Witches' Sabbath, witches' covens would meet and perform fertility rituals. They built a bonfire, danced around it, had orgies, performed "sympathetic magic" for fertility [Christians perverted this event in the telling, saying they danced around naked and covered with oil from the fat of murdered infants, helping to invoke Satan.] Halloween is the one time of the year when Satan can be called up to ask questions about love. He appears as a huge goat and each of the witches kisses his behind. Then he has sex with every single witch, male or female. They then all participate in Witches' Brew (a kind of porridge made of dead babies, animal heads, insects, urine, excrement). The common idea of a witch's appearance comes from the puritan dress of elderly women. The broom is really a besom, a broom made of twigs used to clean cottages. It is really a phallic symbol (riding the broom). The witch needs a helper, a "familiar" ( a spirit occupying the body of a small animal, e.g., black cats, ravens, owls).

Irish wakes are a direct descendant of this celebration of the dead. Long ago, there was a man named Jack -- a very mean and nasty but clever man. One Halloween, he invoked Satan and somehow tricked him into getting into a tree. He then carved a cross into the tree so Satan couldn't leave. He then got him to promise certain things before allowing him to get down out of the tree. Jack died, and Saint Peter sent him down to hell. Satan appeared and denied him entrance, and laid a curse on him to wander the earth forever to lead traveler's astray to their deaths. Satan hollowed out a turnip and lit an ember in it so travelers would follow his lantern. The various derivatives of the story are Jack o' Lantern, Will o' the Wisp, Foxfire, Fairyfire, Fool's Fire (which comes from the Roman Ignis Fatuus, "the fire of fools"). Nobody traveled at night, which meant you went to an inn as soon as you saw it was getting dark. Any sign of light would be an easy lure. (This possibly came from instances of swamp fire caused by methane gas or static electricity, like Saint Elmo's Fire or Ball Lightning.)

The colors black and orange represent death and the harvest.

Myths of Scandinavia

The Scandinavians

The Creation Story

The World Tree

Gods of Scandinavia

Loki and His Children

Treasures of the Gods

Idun's Apples

The Theft of Kvassir

Sleipnir (Odin's Mount)

Aegir's Kettle

The Theft (and Recovery) of Mjollnir

Thor Faces Geirrod

The City of Utgard-Loki

The Children of Odin

The Children of Thor

Those Who Died a Straw Death

Those Who Died Valiantly


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The Scandinavians (an Indo-European people)

What we know today as Scandinavia was called Jutland. It was first populated in 10,000 B.C. (meso/neo-lithic period). It was primitive until 3000 B.C. with the beginning of agriculture. We don't know how it developed. It was a tenable pursuit at that time. 1500 B.C. Indo-Europeans came in and eclipsed the population there because they had metal weapons (copper mostly, some bronze). Indo-European (a language family) is a postulated language (none found, no words known, no origin known). In the 19th Century, someone recognized Indian and European similarities in certain words, investigated this, and discovered that the languages of India, Persia, and most of Europe all had cognates that were the same or slightly varied. It was eventually figured out that a mother tongue possibly began somewhere around the southern steppes of Russia, possibly as faras Bulgaria. It spread in two directions, East and West. The West is called the Centum Branch (100 Latin languages). The East is called the Shatum Branch (100 Sanskrit languages). These are the two major divisions. The Centum side is vast and varied. This may explain the parallels between Celtic, Scandinavian, and Indian, mythologies.


  • Scandinavian/Germanic
  • Celtic
  • Romance
  • Slavic


  • Finnish
  • Estonian
  • Magyar: (a difficult language, 17 case endings for each noun not counting gender and number) began very far north, the peoples spread across Northern Russia, Manchuria, China, and Mongolia. They were stopped by the Holy Roman Empire in the Hungarian Basin where they stayed.

Basque: the maverick language of Europe. No origin is known. Not very many speakers eacept in the Pyrenees and in Idaho. The Basques have been in the Pyrenees as long as we know. They speak Basque, French, and Spanish.

The Scandinavians (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic) used to be Norse (Swedish/Norwesgian), Jutlanders (or Jutes [next to Denmark]), and from Denmark itself. What originally was the same language family with dialectic differences evolved into separate languages. The Jutes moved into Britain and settled into southeast Kent. Jutland is the buffer between Denmark and Germany.

The Scandinavians were not Vikings -- Norse, maybe. They are best known as Vikings, but a Viking is a Scandinavian pirate -- a mariner who sails to the unknown, but basically a pirate. Circa the 8th Century, they expanded like crazy. They wanted to colonize, loot, trade, make war, obtain more land. They were a very wild bunch. They could sail anywhere. Their boats were designed so that 14 inches of water was sufficient depth for them to sail. They sailed and plundered on every major river in Europe. They went to Iceland. Erik the Red thought of calling Greenland "Iceland" and Iceland "Greenland," despite their respective characteristics. Those who went to Iceland, stayed isolated. So today, old Norse text can still be read by Icelanders. Thus our knowledge of their mythology. Circa 790, they hit Britain and began to maraud. They made their way all through France because of the rivers. In 920, Charles the Bold (King of France) gave a large segment of land to the "Northmen." It became known as Northmansland, or Normandy. William the Conqueror was of Scandinavian descent, but the people of Normandy spoke French. The Red People, the Rus, populated Russia (those who went east). Most of Russia was populated by Scandinavians. They went to Ireland and founded the Town of the Black Pool, Dubhlinn, which became Dublin. Although, Dublin was founded by Norsemen, Northern Irish was spoken there until the 1200's. The Norse sailed north around Scotland to get to Ireland. Some settled in northern Scotland. Some went on to Ireland. They were driven out and fled to the Western Scottish Isles. Many Scots are not purely Celtic -- the northern and western clans especially. There was a great deal of intermarriage. Primary Scandinavian stock (Nordic stock) was tall with light hair, light eyes, and light skin. Survival of the fittest and selective breeding yielded a large, strong people -- a very powerful people.

The Move into Scandinavia

The first Scandinavians (Indo-Europeans) came in 1500 B.C. In 500 B.C., iron weaponry developed, and a severe climatic shift took place, destroying agriculture and herding. Food became short. Circa 100 B.C., they came in contact with the Romans and learned to value gold, money, ceramics for cookware and other uses, cloth, fine linen. They didn\'t have much to trade but fur (from wolves and bears) and slaves (Scandinavians didn't use them, but the Romans did). The Vikings plundered because of the values the Romans taught them. They were called Vikings in the late 700's A.D.

The first official raid was in 789 in Portland Bill, England. The mayor of the town sent a representative to the Vikings to negotiate. The representative was beheaded. Vikings traveled 30-40 men per boat. They were never in a good mood. They traveled across ivy waters in terrible weather. They had to row. Even their horses were mean.

The second major raid was an Abbey at the Scottish border on the eastern coast of England. There are carvings of Vikings coming with both hands raised, one with an axe and one with a sword. They were big, powerful, dirty, angry men -- with axes. If met by armed knights, their axes could remove a horse's head in one blow. They hacked people to bits. They weren't afraid. They were never sent into battle -- they were always led. The chief led them at the forefront (not the divine right of kings system). Men would kill the leader in a heartbeat. They chose the best fighters to surround the leader. They chose nearly psychotic men to be the armed guard. These men would go out alone and kill a bear and wear the skin. Before battle, the armed guard would drink lots of mead (a liqueur like Drambuie or Irish Mist). But they drank to the point where they got to be mean drunks, not falling-down drunk. They whipped themselves into a battle frenzy. They were known as the Bear Shirts or the Bear Skirts -> Berserk. They were called Berserkers. There were only a handful of these men per Viking army.

Battle Frenzy

It is a worldwide phenomenon that various kinds of people do various things to themselves to become invincible in battle. The Hashashin (the origin of the word "assassin") in the East smoked hashish before killing a man even though they would die. The Celts decoratedthemselves like wild men and went into battle naked. In Indo-China, warrior took opium to numb themselves and wrapped wet bamboo around their testicles. When it dried, it shrank, causing them great pain. This practice is what is known as "running amok." In battle, these men would behave in a crazed and fearless fashion, making them all the more dangerous. That's why the .45 was invented in 1910. A successful weapon could not just wound; it had to knock the enemy down. The Berserkers are responsible for a large part of the Viking reputation. They terrified the people of Europe. One reason for their fierceness and cruelty is that Scandinavian religion was very pessimistic. They had virtually nothing to live for. The best fate possible was to die heroically. The worst fate was what was called a Straw Death, or "to die on the straw bed," i.e., to die in one's sleep. This attitude is similar to that of the Old American West: "A cowboys gotta die with his boots on." Much of the attitudes of Britain and Northern Europe comes from this. They used understatement a lot. The British still love to use it. In an Olde English poem called "The Battle of Mauldin," in describing a king's bitter defeat, it says, ". . . and that king had very little cause to rejoice." If captured, they might not die bravely. They died sneering at their captors. They had to prove their hatred. Another use of understatement appears in one of the sagas: "Those new broad-plated boar spears are very popular these days."

They lived a hard life, but had a strong sense of humor, and a strong sense of pathos and love. They loved to laugh more than anything. This explains the presence of humor in Scandinavian mythology.


  • j = /y/ (as in "fjord")
  • ei = /i/
  • vowels are the same as in the rest of Europe

These stories are primarily from Iceland.

Myths of Scandinavia
The Creation Story

In the beginning, Muspelheim is in the South. Niflheim is in the North. In between is the great spring Hvergelmir. Hvergelmir is located in Ginungagap, a chasm between Muspelheim and Niflheim. Ginungagap means "gap of gaps." Niflheim is nothing but ice. Muspelheim is nothing but fire. Hvergelmir is a huge boiling spring of water slowly melting the ice of Niflheim. Surtri is a proto-god in Muspelheim. Surtri is the name of fire deified. Niflheim is the largest area (Archetype: Most creation stories begin with a body of chaotic water -- in Scandinavia the water is frozen.). The action of the ice melting creates a giant called Ymir. [Note: Male giants are pretty much inherently evil in Scandinavian myth.] Ymir emerges from the ice and is hungry. A second creature also emerges: Audhumla, a cow, which provides Ymir with milk. Audhumla licks the ice for salt, and as she licks she revelas more beings. From Ymir come more creatures as well. From his legs (loins), a race of giants is created. Man and woman are created from his armpit. Audhumla uncovers the head of a proto-god (basically a god who comes before the ones we want to talk about -- a god who precedes the pantheon of gods in the mythology). He is called Buri which means "He Who Is Born." He comes out of the ice and takes a giantess for a wife. Audhumla then finds Borr (whose name means the same thing as Buri). He, too, takes a giantess for a wife. They give birth to some gods -- the first three.

Borr fathers Odin, Vili, and Ve. Odin goes on to become king of the gods. Odin, Vili, and Ve recognize that Ymir is evil and begin a war against him and the giants. They kill Ymir, and his blood pours out and floods everything. It drowns the humand and all of the giants except one couple: Bergelmir and his wife escape in a boat. Later, the races of giants give the gods much trouble because of this escape. When the blood subsides, Odin, Vili, and Ve roll the body into Ginungagap and cut it up and create the universe. (This adheres to the archetype: Gods create the universe from the dead body of some huge being. The archetype appears in Babylonian myth, Chinese, African, etc.) His skull becomes the sky. His bones become rocks. His flesh becomes the earth. His blood becomes the oceans, lakes, etc. His hair becomes vegetation. Odin, Vili, and Ve find maggots in the corpse. From the maggots they create elves and dwarves. There are light elves and dark elves. Dark elves are sometimes seen as being the same as dwarves. The skull of Ymir has to be held up by the sky. They use four dark elves for this job: Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Oestri -- the four directions. Odin, Vili, and Ve take a walk along the lakeshore. At some point, they stop, and from two trees, they create man and woman to tend the earth: Ask (the ash tree = male) and Embla (the elm or elder tree = woman).

Odin (Wodin in German) - Wednesday

Thor, the Storm God - Thursday

Tyr, the God of Battle (Tiu in German) - Tuesday

Frey, the Sun God, & Freya, Frey's twin sister - Friday

Saturi, the Great Trickster (Loki) - Saturday

The World Tree

The World Tree, Yggdrasil (an ash tree), is the Universe. It has three roots. Each of the roots reaches into a different land. The three lands are Niflheim (home of the dead -- straw deaths only), Jotunheim (home of the Frost Giants -- Jotuns are the enemies of the gods), and Asgard (home of the gods). The Aesir are the gods.["Heim" = home. "Gard" = place (e.g., garden).]

Beneath each of the tree roots is a well. The well of the root of Jotunheim is Jot, or the Well of the Wyrds. It is home to the three Wyrd Sisters. ["Wyrd" = fate, doom] The sisters are also called the Norns. One spins the string of fate, one weaves it, and one cuts it. One faces the past, one the present, and the other the future. The well of Asgard, is Mimir's Well. Mimir is the god who guards the well of knowledge of the future. He won't let anyone drink from it. The well of Niflheim is the spring of Hvergelmir. The only way into Asgard is to go across a bridge called Bifrost (the rainbow). The Aesir don't want Frost Giants in their city. So there is a gate at the end of the bridge made of Ymir's eyebrows. Somewhere near the middle of the tree is the land where the humans live. This land is called Midgard (Middle Earth). Alfheim is the home of the elves. Svartalfheim is the home of the dark elves ["svart" as in "swarthy"]. They are thought to live underground.

In the branches and eating the leaves are various deer. Perched up on a branch is an eagle which can look out over the universe and see everything going on. On the eagle's forehead sits a hawk who reports news to Odin. Wrapped around the roots is a serpent called Nidhug who gnaws at the roots. If he gnaws through and the tree topples, everything will collapse and be destroyed. Running up and down Yggdrasil is a squirrel called Ratatosk, a mischief maker who talks to the eagle and talks to him through the snake, lying to both and telling each what terrible things the other says about him. His name means "rat tooth." The deer are not malevolent, but they could hurt the tree. In Scandinavia, certain animals are looked on with and without favor. The bear is respected. Snakes are despised. Birds of prey are especially popular. Wolves have a checkered career -- mostly evil. Squirrels are looked on with humor. The characters are almost always male.

The Gods of Scandinavia

Vili and Ve pretty much disappear. But Odin never disappears. He becomes the king of the gods, a just war god. Only in German and Roman myth do war gods actively urge their people into war and delight in it. Odin is too wise to urge people into war. People are terrified of him. He is looked on with superstitious awe. The battle cry is almost always to Odin.

There is a set of races among deified entities. There were once two different races of gods, but they then merged and lived in peace. (For example, Hera and Zeus both are storm gods and sky gods -- marriage of the matriarchy and the patriarchy.) The Aesir (who live in Asgard) are war gods. The Vanir (who live in Vanaheim) are fertility and agricultural gods -- more peaceful. The two races go to war. Eventually, they decide to call a truce. Usually, some strong symbolism of the truce is needed. Each set of gods lined up and spat into a cauldron, creating Kvassir, the potion of poetic inspiration. (Also, when personified Kvassir is the God of Ultimate Wisdom.) The dwarves steal it at one point. They decide to exchange live-in hostages (emissaries) to guarantee a peaceful existence. The Aesir send Honir, who is tall, handsome, and strong, and Mimir, who is short, unattractive, and smart, to Vanaheim. The Vanir are pleased with Honir who is sensible and gives good solutions to problems. The Vanir go to him for advice. Mimir is called away at one point, and Honir is unable to help them. They are outraged when they realize that Mimir is the brain behind the mouth. When Mimir returns, they decapitate him in anger and send his head back to Odin in Asgard. Odin liked Mimir and by magic brings the head back to life. He places the head next to the well of future knowledge and wisdom. Mimir thus becomes the guardian of the well.

Odin is wild, furious, angry, almost mad with a wild kind of unleashed fury. The All Father, the Val Father (God or Father of the Valiant Dead). He knew he was king of the gods and must rule wisely and with foreknowledge. He first went to Mimir to ask for a drink from the well so he would have foreknowledge. Mimir refused at first. He finally relented but for a heavy price: one of Odin's eyes. So Odin took out a dagger and pried an eye out and threw it into the well. Thus, Odin knows the long-range future. His right eye is missing and he doesn't wear a patch over the socket. Odin also knew that he needed ultimate wisdom. So he took a spear and stabbed himself and hung himself on a tree for nine days as a corpse. At the end of that time, he turned himself back into a god again and had attained the wisdom which he sought. (A possible manifestation of the crucifixion of Christ? The enlightenment also parallels Buddha.) The tree is called the Hanging Tree or the Gallows Tree. From this event comes the phrase "riding the Gallows Tree" which refers to hanging -- sometimes as a sacrifice to Odin. These are the two forms of self-sacrifice Odin had to go through in order to rule well. Annually, toward mid-winter (December), Odin goes out on a hunt with friends (other gods) and dogs. He makes a tremendous amount of noise as he rides across the sky. This is called the Wild Hunt or the Wild Ride. If you see it, you will die. It is good luck to hear it, but a human is never to look upon it. Odin is a vigorous man with a long, grey beard (50-60 years old). He is powerful, with armor and a long cloak. When on Earth, he wears a floppy hat which covers his missing eye. He is a sky god, so the cloak is blue or black. He carries a spear, called the Invincible Spear. He has, as does each god, his own hall with a throne only for him. From there, he can see almost everything, yet he has information brought back to him constantly by the eagle and hawk who sit high in the branches of the World Tree and by two ravens who perch either on his shoulder or on the back of his throne. The ravens are Thought and Memory. At his feet sit two wolves or dogs. They do not have names. Both wolves and ravens are associated with warfare and death. No mild beings are associated with Odin. He is a fearsome battle god.


Heimdall is a god chosen for his talents to be the guard at the gate on Bifrost bridge. He stands at the gate and is brilliant in white armor (steel armor highly polished like a mirror). His teeth are gold. He has a great sword. He is a fierce warrior and very handsome. His talents are that he can see 200 miles in complete darkness and that he can hear the grass growing. Three gods vied for the position, but Heimdall's talents secured it for him. Once a giant made a deal with an air spirit who was to sneak into Asgard to listen to the Gods' plans and tell the giant. Air spirits are invisible. The air spirit succeeded and was listening in to Odin and the Gods. Heimdall came in and said, "I have to resign because I have somehow sensed that something got past me and I di not stop it." So Odin magically freezes the air spirit, who is thus nabbed. They force an oath from the air spirit never to come again. And Heimdall is persuaded to stay at his post. Heimdall carries a sword and the Gjallar horn. When a god comes to the gate, he blows the horm softly. If anyone tries to overwhelm him, he will blast it and get help immediately.

Tyr is the bravest of all the Gods. He is the God of Battle. Once he was King of the Gods, but he was later relegated to a secondary position. He is a very powerful warrior. Anytime something REALLY dangerous has to be done and all the Gods are afraid, Tyr does it.

Loki is the Trickster of the Gods. He doesn't get along with Heimdall. Originally, he was the God of Fire. He has fiery red hair and is extremely funny and witty. He would do anything to make people laugh. He is half giant but has been approved by Odin. Eventually, his pranks devolved into practical jokes with a streak of viciousness. He devolved further into a trickster, a figure found in many cultures . The trickster amuses himself at the expense of others. His jokes often backfire. He is arrogant, funny, but not usually popular. For example, the American Indian Trickster is the coyote (as in Wile E. Coyote). He steals and is always caught and has to make restitution. Odin or Thor can always make Loki tell the truth. He has several wives and children. Loki is always aiming at the destruction of the Gods. Heimdall aims to protect the Gods.

Donder (also Donar) is the God of Thunder, who becomes Thor, the Storm God. He is the most colorful of the Gods. He almost always travels with Loki. Loki is a shape-shifter, as is Odin. Thor is a size-shifter. He is terribly heavy and hot, and he cannot cross the Bifrost bridge. He must wade through the North Sea and come around the long way. He is a storm god, so he has fiery red hair and a bright red bristling beard (lightning). He has a red nose -- he is an enormous drinker (lightning). His eyes are always bloodshot (same reason). His voice is low, gruff and loud (thunder). he rides in a chariot pulled by two goats (rams), one of which travels with a limp. Hung on his chariot are pots and pans which, make the noise of thunder. The serious limp suggests the jagged path of lightning. Thor always has (1) a belt, which is heavy, powerful, and wide -- the tighter he pulls it the stronger he gets, and (2) a steel gauntlet (battle glove -- leather with steel plates sewn on) which is used with his (3) hammer called Mjollnir, "The Destroyer." The hammer is a lightning bolt -- Thor's Hammer. Thos ir not a mental wizard. He is not a deep thinker, not a contemplator. His philosophy is blast with the hammer and then ask what's going on. He has a terrible temper (flash storms). He is a man of action, the strongest of the Gods. But he is also gentle at times (like a rainstorm). Loki is unpredictable as fire would be. Thor is married to Sif, a beautiful goddess with LONG, gold-blond hair. She is not very active, but gorgeous. Another feature of Thor's Hammer is that when he turns it around and taps with the other end, it can bring the dead to life. Whatever he hits is killed. He is the Gods' chief protection against the Giants. Everyone is afraid of Thor's wrath. He is unstoppable.

Frey, God of the Sun (solar deity). Frey and Freya are twins, brother and sister. They are Vanir. Frey is also the god of warm spring and summer showers. He is put in charge of Alfheim (home of the light elves) because of his characteristics. The elves obey him. Frey has a sword. He shines brilliant gold. So does his sword, which will fight by itself and magically defeat any enemy when he draws it. Not only does his gold color represent the sun, it also represents the golden grain which grows because of the sun's rays. Since he is the God of the Sun, at a certain time of the year he is called Jul. The sun is though of as a wheel in the sky. "Jul" means wheel. The wheel would roll away and return beginning on Midwinter's Day. This is called Yuletide -- the season of the wheel. It is a month of rejoicing. The Scandinavians would take wheels of dry wood to hill tops, set them alight with fire, and then roll them down into ponds. This took place at Winter's Solstice.

Frey was Vanir and therefore a foreigner in Asgard. One day, he even went to sit on Odin's throne because he didn't know any better. Frey looked far north and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was the daughter of a giant. Her name was Gerda. Frey wanted to marry her but was too shy to ask, so he sat around and moped instead. Finally, his assistant Skyrnir came to him to find out what was bothering him. Skyrnir said, "I'll go in your place and woo her, but it will cost you your magic sword." Frey consented, blinded by love. Skyrnir took Frey's image (i.e., he looked like him) to court Gerda who wasn't interested. Finally he said, "If you don't consent, your body will have no more heat. Your body will wither and dry up and you will be an ugly old woman at whom no one will look." So she agreed. She said she'd be there in nine days. The two were married. The sword was lost. Gerda = Erda which means "earth." The metaphor represents the sun wooing the earth with warmth followed by nine months of winter.

Freya, the twin sister of Frey. She is considered the Goddess of Love. She is strikingly gorgeous. Ans she is made even more beautiful when she wears her Brising necklace which was made by dwarves out of the twinkling of the stars. This is how she got it: The dwarves made it and went to her and showed it to her. She is very egocentric (archetypal trait of love goddesses) and wants it very badly. The three ugly dwarves demand that she has to have sex with all three of these ugly dwarves. She says, "What?! -- All right." And she does it. (Having seduced every male god in Asgard and Vanaheim, Loki accuses her of leaping like a nannygoat from bed to bed.) Freya is also the Goddess of War, because love and hate were seen as basically the same emotion just redirected. After a battle, she comes down and leads the Valkyries (beautiful women flying through the air on horses), and they take the spirits back to Valhalla and splits them with Odin. Freya and come and go from the Underworld without any problem. For a while she was married to Odur (a traveler), but he left her and never returned. She was devastated and wept copiously. Some say she still weeps and the tears fall to Earth where they land they sometimes turn stones soft or turn them to gold. If her tears land in the sea, they turn stones to amber. She has the falcon cloak (or "cape" or "garb"). It is made of falcon feathers. The cloak enables the wearer to fly. She rides in a chariot drawn by cats (an interesting symbol). ALL the Frost Giants lust after her.

Frigga is a goddess closely associated with Frey and Freya. No one is sure after which of the three "Friday" is named. Frigga and Freya may be alteregos. Frigga is the Goddess of Cloudy Skies (not of Vanir but Aesir). She is always wearing either a black robe or a white robe. Sometimes Odin is displayed in a black robe. Sometimes the robe has stars on it. This could be associated with the current concept of a wizard's robe. The robe is the night sky because Odin is a storm god. Frigga is Odin's wife. She is Queen of the Gods. She has knowledge of the future but WILL NOT tell. She is very beautiful, but she is not thought of the same way as Freya. She has a maternal and wifely kind of beauty. Freya is the Goddess of War and Love. Frigga does love beautiful jewelry and clothing. She wears in her tiara plumes of heron, symbolizing silence (this suggests her refusal to reveal the future). She wears a ring of keys at her belt (like a jailer) symbolizing her role as housewife (a standard Scandinavian symbol). Females ran the household in complete dominance -- Frigga is the patron goddess of housewives and mothers. Because of this, she is almost always alone, as wives tended to be. She sits at a spinning wheel, spinning alone for long hours in the Hall of Mists. (In the night sky, what we know as the Belt of Orion, is known to the Sacndinavians as "Frigga's Spinning Wheel.") It is not a terribly joyful life. And yet she has her own large hall to which the spirits of certain people go when they die. It is the hall which houses the spirits of true lovers, and they are never parted. Frigga has other names: Jörd /yerd/ = Earth; Bertha or Ertha. She does control some aspects of fertility. Another of her names is Eastra /ay ahs' tra/ = spring (origin of our word "Easter").

Three gods came from Vanir: Frey, Freya, and their father Njord. He bore his children on his sister, and the Aesir did not like that very much. It makes the Vanir look more primitive, thus making the Aesir superior. Njord is associated with the ocean and shores. He is the God of Offshore Waters and the Winds. His palace is on the seashore. (Most temples to him are also on the seashore.) Njord is the patron god of fishermen and commerce/merchants. Under Njord's control are ALL ships entering and leaving port, thus all trade belongs to him. In addition, he is the God of Summer because climates are most temperate near the seashore. He is portrayed as a handsome young man wearing a short green tunic and a crown of seashells and seaweed. The Scandinavians prayed to Njord to stop storms and for a good harvest. Njord eventually marries Skadi. She is the Goddess of Scandinavian Weather.

Idun, Goddess of Eternal Youth. She has a large basket of apples known as Idun's Apples or the Apples of Immortality. Annually, the Gods eat from her basket to stay young. Her basket is eternally full.

Bragi, the poet and musician of the Gods (the Aesir)

Aegir is considered a proto-god, but he is also the God of the Sea -- an ancient god who is God of the Sea. He dwells in the sea and is old. He makes great storms and tempests and hurricanes in the ocean as he pleases. He takes great pleasure in sinking shiips. He sees sailors as intruders. His major epithet is "The Concealer." He hides ships forever. The ocean is called "Aegir's Brewing Vat." Like the sea gods of other cultures, he has sway over whatever goes on in the ocean.

Ran is Aegir's wife and sister. Her names means "robber." She is not quite as "nice" as Aegir. She likes to entice mariners and then snares them with her net. She then slowly draws them down to the bottom of the sea and drowns them, robbing their families. When someone dies at sea, Ran is considered a Goddess of Death (at sea). She has a weakness: she LOVES gold. Many mariners in a storm would throw gold overboard to appease her. She is called "Mother of the Nine Waves" (which are thought of as daughters). It was popular to believe that waves came in groups of nine. Nine is thought to be a magic number in many cultures.

Nicors (or Nixies) lived in the sea also. They were mermen. Some people believe "Nicor" is the source of "Old Nick," who is Satan. Mermaids are called Undines. They sit on the rocks and sing when sailors steer closer to rocks, causing them to crash (similar to the Sirens of the Greek), and everyone would drown. They are not really evil. But they are not benevolent. They were just irresistible when they sang. Lorelei is a German derivative, but there is only one and she is only on the Rhine. Sailors were notoriously non-swimmers, so crashes meant doom for them.

Vali - He is sort of a personification of the returning sun, an archer god (representative of the sun's long rays)

Vidar the Silent - the God of Resurrection and Renewal (like spring)

Balder and Hoder are twin brother gods, the sons of Odin and Frigga

Loki and His Children

Loki had a wife named Angur-Boda ("Anger-Bode," an omen of evil), a giantess. Loki and Angur-Boda decide to have children. The first child is male. They name him Fenrir. He is a wolf pup who grows unbelievably quickly and gets to be very large (Fenris wolf). He is able to speak. The Gods are afraid of him because of his size. Tyr is the only god brave enough to feed him. Thor isn't around. The Gods call a council. They decide to use godly wiles to trick him. They go to Fenrir, oohing and aahing about how strong he is. They say, "I'll bet if we tied you up with this incredibly thick rope you couldn't break it." Fenrir replies, "I could." So the Gods say, "Let's try it." Fenrir is suspicious but he gives in. He breaks the ropes. The Gods bring a chain. The same thing happens. He breaks every link. Odin turns to Loki and says, "You brought him in -- you get him out." Loki knows that Odin is serious. [Often a trickster is the third in a set -- he resolves the problem in a third try.] Loki goes to the dark elves (or dwarves) to make a magic cord for him. He brings it back. This silken fine slim magic cord is made of the roots of a mountain, the teeth of a chicken, the sound of a cat walking, the beard of a woman, the unfulfilled desires of a bear (none of these items exist). Fenrir suspects it is a trick when the Gods bring this next cord to him. He will let them tie him only if one of them will put his right hand in the wolf's mouth. Tyr volunteers. Fenrir is unable to escape. He bites off Tyr's sword hand. Odin throws him, bound, into Niflheim. Tyr does not get his hand back. (The wrist is known as the "wolf's joint.")

Loki and Angur-Boda try again. They give birth to Jormungand. He is a big snake who grows at the same unbelievable rate as Fenrir. He has a foul disposition. He knows about Fenrir's plight. He is horribly venomous and mad all the time. Just in time, Thor comes home to Asgard. He takes one look at Jormungand, loses his temper, grabs him, and throws him out of Asgard. Jormungand lands in the cosmic ocean. He is still growling. He completely surrounds the universe. He is biting his tail. He is called the World Serpent. He never forgave Thor. The two are forever in enmity (as are Loki and Heimdall and Odin and Fenrir).

Loki and Angur-Boda try again. They have a normal daughter called Hel (or Hela). She grows into a beautiful woman. But only half of her. She is split vertically. The one half is a beautiful woman, the other is a dead putrefying corpse. She is not an evil being, but she is not really popular. She resents her unpopularity and chooses to leave Asgard. She goes to Niflheim and becomes Queen of the Land of the Dead (only those who died a straw death), whence comes our term "Hell." She has complete power in the Underworld. This is a standard archetype in all cultures.

Treasures of the Gods

One morning, Sif and Thor wake up. Thor is aghast. Sif's hair has been chopped off and is gone. He is furious and hunts Loki down and drags him into the court of Odin in the presence of all the Gods. Loki promises to replace Sif's hair and make it better than before if he is freed. Odin adds that he must also give something extra for himself and Frey. So Loki makes the promise and goes off to the dwarves. He has a friend there named Dvalin who is a master smith. Dvalin agrees to help. So a few days go by and Loki returns with gifts for the Gods. He has spun gold finer and softer than Sif's hair had been and far more beautiful. For Odin, he brings the Invincible Spear Gungnir. For Frey, he brings Skidbladnir, a boat which will fold up and fit into Frey's pouch but when opened can get large enough to carry all the Gods. It can travel over water, earth, or sky. The boat represents a cloud. Loki becomes very arrogant about how grand the treasures are. A dwarf nearby named Brock hears Loki bragging and is very irritated. So he challenges Loki that his cousin Sindri can make even better treasures. Loki, in his arrogance and stupidity, wagers his head that Sindri cannot. Sindri is furious with Brock. They go to Sindri's forge. Brock, working on the bellows, MUST NOT miss a beat if the magic is to work. Loki is beginning to worry. He turns himself into a gadfly and sneaks into the forge to see what's going on. Loki stings Brock and it really hurts and blood flows but he knows it will ruin the magic if he hesitates. Sindri withdraws a ring called Draupnir which is to be for Odin. (Rings and arm bracelets were very popular with the Scandinavians. The leader in battle was called the "ring giver" because he would distribute the booty.) It was a solid gold ring from which, on every ninth day, eight more rings would drop off it. (Compare to the ring Wagner used in his opera and the one Tolkien used in his stories.) Sindri and Brock go back to work on Frey's gift. Loki stings Brock's cheek but fails to interrupt him. Sindri draws out of the forge Gullin-Bursti, a large living wild boar made of solid gold. (The name means "Golden Bristle." It represents the rays of the sun and sheafs of golden grain. It also represents the sun itself.) And now to make something for Thor. Loki desperately stings Brock above his eye. Blood flows into his eye and he pauses to wipe it away. The product from the forge is flawed. It is Mjollnir the Hammer. It is a large mallet with a small handle because of Brock's pause. The Gods are pleased and Mjollnir is judged to be far superior to Sif's hair, so Loki loses but he disappears. Thor goes after him. Thor finds him and drags him back kicking and screaming. Brock wants that head. This marks the ONLY time Thor ever has a good idea: Thor says he can take the head but he can't damage the neck because that wasn't part of the bargain (as in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice": "A pound of flesh, but not one drop of blood."). So Brock takes a big needle and a thong and sews up Loki's lips. And it takes a long time and much suffering for Loki to get the thong out again. [Note: Mjollnir. The Scandinavians wore an upside down gold hammer around their necks. Christians copied this tradition with the crucifix. The hammer represented strength and protection, etc.]

Freya's Brising Necklace

Idun's Apples

One day, Odin, Loki, and Honir are out traveling somewhere (Loki usually travels with Thor; Honir is not usually an active god). They didn't bring food, and so they have to forage. They make camp. They find a herd of oxen. They select one and slaughter it and put it on a spit over the fire. They wait till it's done and take it off the fire to find that it's still raw. They put it back on the fire and wait again. Once again, it's still raw. They realize it must be magic. They look around. They are sitting near a large tree. An eagle is sitting in the tree. He has particularly bright eyes (which indicates that he is a shape shifter). The eagle comes down and talks to them. He says, "Yes, I am responsible, and if I wish, it will never cook. It will only cook if I can have as much as I want." The gods are so hungry that they agree. So the eagle allows the ox to cook quite quickly. The eagle begins bolting down the meat. It is most provoking. Loki grabs a big stick and pokes at the eagle's underbelly. The stick sticks to the eagle and Loki's hands won't come off the stick. The eagle, angry, takes off and Loki dangles, terrified, at the end of the stick. He flies so high that Loki can barely see the earth. The eagle threatens to release Loki if he doesn't agree to ANYTHING. Loki agrees. The eagle is really a Frost Giant named Thjassi. He really wants Idun's apples. He makes Loki swear to bring them to him. The eagle returns Loki and leaves knowing that Loki must keep his word. Loki goes home and doesn't tell anyone what has happened. One day, he goes to Idun and says he has found something as great as her apples. He asks her to come and see. Idun is never separated from her apples. She goes with Loki out of Asgard. The eagle takes Idun and her apples away. Loki returns to Asgard. Within a day, all the Gods begin to age rapidly. They search frantically for Idun and her apples but cannot find her. Someone remembers seeing Idun and Loki leaving Asgard. Loki must go and bring Idun and her apples back. Thjassi owns a cloak of eagle feathers which turns him into an eagle. Loki borrows Freya's cloak of falcon feathers and does the same. He flies away. He gets to Thjassi's home. Thjassi is out for the moment but is due back shortly. Loki begins changing Idun's shape. First, he turns Idun into a little grain and puts her out in the fields with all the grain. Thjassi has great power and he knows and goes to find her. Loki turns Idun into a small nut and grasps her in one talon and the apples in the other and flies away. Thjassi sees them leave and grabs his robe of eagle feathers and goes after them. Larger birds are faster, but smaller birds are quicker. The eagle gains on the falcon. Loki sees Thjassi. Heimdall is watching from the gate and alerts the gods. He sees the eagle chasing the falcon. The Gods come up with a plan. Everyone grabs firewood. They throw it in the courtyard. They don't light it until Loki enters Asgard. Thjassi flies straight into the bonfire and is instantly destroyed. The Gods become young again with the help of Idun's apples.

One day in Asgard, a giantess named Skadi came to the gate. She is the daughter of the dead Thjassi. She is allowed in. She says she is furious that the Gods have murdered her father. They feel badly. So they offer her a husband from the Gods -- a kind of potluck husband. She must wear a blindfold and must choose her husband by his feet. So she sees a handsome pair of feet and chooses Njord. She is disappointed, but they get married. She wants to live in her father's home which is far to the north and very cold. Njord refuses. They go to his palace and live there for three months. Skadi hates it. So they go to her palace. Njord lives there for nine months, but they finally break up. This explains the three months of summer and the nine months of winter in Scandinavia. [At one point, Skadi had just wanted vengeance. The Gods say if they can make her laugh, she must forgive them. But no one can make her laugh. Then Loki succeeds. He takes a goat and leashes himself by the testicles to the goat's neck. The goat jumps around. She laughs. Her whole name is Skadi Naja -> Scandinavia. She is the Goddess of Scandinavian Weather.

When there was no great wall around Asgard, the city was vulnerable to attack from the outside. Snorri is a giant who is an architect. He has a black stallion named Svadilfari. He offers to build a wall. What he wants in return is Freya. The Gods don't like it, and Freya isn't around to decide one way or another. Loki says, "We'll just set a time limit too short for him to meet." The time limit is one year. Snorri agrees furiously. Freya says she won't marry him anyway. Svadilfari is unbelievably capable of carrying huge quantities of brick and mortar very quickly. The giant and the stallion work together. After a few months, the wall looks to be almost done. When three days are left, the Gods know Snorri is going to make it. Freya still refuses. Loki is responsible to set things aright. When there is one day left, Loki changes himself into a beautiful mare with red hair. Svadilfari falls in love and chases after her. Snorri is panic-stricken. He knows he cannot finish without his horse. The sun sets and he fails. The Gods say, Sorry, no marriage. Snorri reveals that he is a giant and Thor kills him. [Or they knew all along and Thor kills him anyway.] Loki doesn't come back for a long time. He then returns leading a young colt and gives it (his son) to Odin. The colt runs very quickly because it has eight legs. It is named Sleipnir. It becomes Odin's mount. There is a famous riddle: "What is it that goes like the wind, has ten legs, and three eyes?" The answer: "Odin riding Sleipnir." Sleipnir is VERY fast. [A scholar once theorized that Odin is a kind of God of Death. When one dies, the corpse is carried on a bier with four men bearing it. Odin represents the corpse riding the bier with eight legs.]

The Theft of Kvassir

The Vanir and the Aesir decide to call a truce, thus they make kvassir. The kvassir was stolen by two dwarves. They add honey to it and divide it into three smaller cauldrons. They want to hide it. They put the cauldrons in a cave guarded by Gunnlod, a daughter of the giant Suttung. She is in the cave and they seal the cave entrance. Odin is angry. He decides it's time for him to do something himself. He comes to Earth disguised as a human being: a stranger named Bollverk ("doer of evil," "worker of evil"). Suttung's cousin lives near the cave. The cousin has many men (nine of them) working for him because it is harvest time. Bollverk wanders along the road and stops and watches them at work. They are all complaining because their scythes are so dull (scythes were made of iron and became dull very quickly). Bollverk starts talking to them. He says he has a stone which will sharpen their scythes and make them razor sharp. He sharpens them. Now they all want the stone. Bollverk says okay and throws the stone up in the air, catch as catch can. Grasping for the stone, they all lop off each other's heads. Suttung is now left with no workers. They have been done in by their own greed. Bollverk says, "All your men are dead -- let me do the work." He harvests everything very quickly. He gets Suttung to show him where the kvassir cave is. So they go to the cave, and Suttung owes Bollverk a great debt. Bollverk makes Suttung begin boring into the rock until he gets through. Odin plans to slither through as a snake. Odin doesn't trust Suttung. He tells him to blow in the hole to see if it's all the way through. Odin knows the hole is incomplete. He drills all the way through. Odin is too fast. He gets in as a snake and then turns himself into a very charming handsome young fellow and meets Gunnlod, who is fairly attractive. For three days, they become "quite close." Having seduced her for three days straight, he says he is thirsty and needs a drink. With the honey, the kvassir has become a fermented drink, like mead. Gunnlod tells Odin he can drink whatever he can hold. He drains all three vats and slips back out. He turns into an eagle and carries the kvassir back to Asgard in his mouth. Suttung sees him go. He grabs his cloak of eagle feathers. It's bonfire time again. Suttung falls for it and is destroyed. Odin spits the kvassir back out. As he flew, a few drops fell. Those who drank of it became hack poets -- poetasters. Those who drank of the real poetic inspiration became great poets. Nine months later, Gunnlod gives birth to Bragi, the poet and musician of the Gods (in Asgard). He has one disadvantage: that he grows old. He is portrayed as an old man with white hair and a white beard and a gold harp. He marries Idun. Bragi has a fascinating ritual at yuletide. Whole families would gather together and the men would begin the ritual. The eldest man would start with a schooner of mead and make the sign of the hammer (like the cross) with his hand. He would then tell of what great deeds if valor he had planned for the coming year. He would then drink the entire schooner of mead (called a Bragaful after Bragi). This would go all the way around the table, each man trying to top the others. This is the origin of the term "to brag." They kept going around the table until everyone passed out.

Aegir's Kettle

One day, Aegir invites the Gods to a feast. They are pleased. But he says he doesn't have a big enough cauldron to brew beer for their feast. There is a giant called Hymir who owns an extremely famous fabulous kettle (The Kettle of Hymir) which is one mile deep. Thor and Tyr set out to get it. They go to Hymir's house. He's not at home. But his wife is there. She worries for them when they tell her their intent. She has them hide under some overturned kettles off to one side. Hymir comes in saying, "I smell Gods." She calms him down (as in Jack and the Beanstalk) and introduces Thor and Tyr. Hymir is a little drunk by this time, so he is able to play host. He has a prize herd of oxen -- big ones. He kills three for a feast. Thor eats two of them. Hymir is dismayed. He says they can borrow his vat but he wants Thor to accompany him fishing the next day. Hymir gives Thor no bait. He says, "Get your own." Thor picks the biggest prize ox in the herd and lops off its head for bait. Hymir is both irritated and frightened. Hymir makes Thor carry the boat down to the water and makes him row. Hymir catches a few whales. Thor keeps rowing. Hymir becomes really frightened. He doesn't know where he is. Thor finally stops and throws his line out and gets a bite. It is something really strong because it pulls back. Thor tightens his belt and keeps pulling. He breaks his feet through the bottom of the boat, but he just makes himself bigger and stands upright in the water. Out of the water, Thor pulls Jormungand, the World Snake. They are both REALLY mad. Thor grabs his hammer. But Hymir is afraid and cuts the line. Thor picks up the boat and dumps Hymir into the water. Thor wades back to shore. Hymir has to swim hundreds of miles back. He says they can take the kettle but first he picks up a stone goblet and says, "You have to throw this down and break it." Thor throws the goblet down and breaks a hole in the floor and breaks a stone pillar, but the goblet will not break. Hymir's wife tells Thor that the only thing harder than the goblet is Hymir's forehead. So Thor succeeds in shattering the goblet. Thor picks up the kettle, turns it over and wears it as a hat to carry it home. Thor and Tyr turn to see Hymir coming at them with all his giant friends. Thor is pleased. He takes out Mjollnir and kills them all. So Aegir can now keep the kettle.

The Theft (and Recovery) of Mjollnir

One morning, Thor wakes up to find that Mjollnir has been stolen and Loki is not responsible. Thrym, the Frost Giant, has the hammer. A message is brought to Asgard from Thrym saying he wants Freya in exchange for the hammer. Freya refuses, even though the Gods think it's a good idea. The Gods turn to Loki who comes up with an idea (some stories say Heimdall created the idea). They send a message back in acceptance. A few weeks go by and finally the wedding caravan arrives at Thrym's home. Loki is in charge. Freya is there, and she is beautiful. Thrym's whole family is there. Thrym's sisters are grotesquely ugly. [Note: Only ugly giantesses are evil.] His friends are all evil as well. The feast is ready. Wonderful food is brought out. Thrym is disconcerted because Freya eats eight salmon and three oxen all by herself. Thrym worries. Loki says she's been so excited she hasn't eaten in a while. Thrym wants to sneak a peak under the veil and he notices that her eyes are very red. Loki says she hasn't slept from all the excitement. Thrym puts the hammer in front of "Freya" who reaches out with his big brawny fist and destroys everyone because of course it is really Thor. And Thor and Loki went home and had a lot of fun that day.

Thor Faces Geirrod

One day, Loki is bored in Asgard. He wants to have fun going to see the giants. He asks Freya if he may borrow her robe of falcon feathers. He flies to the home of a giant named Geirrod, who has two ugly daughters Gjalp and Greip. Loki comes to rest on a branch outside the window where Geirrod can see him. Geirrod sends out one of his men to nab the hawk. Loki teases the giant, causing him to chase him up a wall to make him fall but his foot gets caught and he can't get away. The giant catches him and takes him inside. Geirrod sees that his eyes are bright red and full of many colors. He knows that he is a god. He squeezes him to force him to tell who he is. Loki refuses. Geirrod puts him in a cage and starves him for three months. He then chokes him until he tells him who he is. Geirrod says he won't free Loki unless he brings back Thor without Mjollnir, the glove, or his belt of strength. Loki goes back (and eats for several days). He lures Thor out for a short walk, telling him he doesn't need the hammer, glove, or belt. He says, "Geirrod's daughters aren't so bad. Let's meet them -- Geirrod is a friendly host." So Thor agrees. It is some distance. So they stop at the house of Grid the giantess. She is the former wife of Odin. She welcomes them. After Loki goes to sleep, Grid stirs Thor and tells him he can't visit Geirrod unarmed. He takes Grid's own belt, iron gloves, and an unbreakable staff. Loki is concerned about Thor's new weapons. They come to a torrential river of water and menstrual blood. They must cross. They are wading across, Loki's arms around Thor's neck. Because of the current, they are swept away several times. Thor finally angrily grabs hold of a tree. He wades up stream. He sees Gjalp damming part of the river up with her body to increase the current and bleeding into it. Thor heaves a boulder at her. He breaks several bones. So she goes off maimed. They finally get to Geirrod's home. He isn't there. A servant greets them. He takes them outside to an odd shed-like house with dirty straw for beds. These are their quarters. Thor is angry but silent. Thor sits down on a bench. Loki leaves to relieve himself. Thor feels like he is still in the river. He realizes he and the bench are rising toward the ceiling at a rapid rate. He grabs the staff, pushing it against the ceiling, sending him down to the floor, and crushing Gjalp and Greip who were hiding under the bench. Thor and Loki enter the house to complain. Geirrod is furious and ready to kill. He has a pair of tongs in his hand. He grabs a white hot bolt and throws it at Thor, thinking he doesn't have his gauntlet. But with Grid's iron gloves, he catches it and throws it back with all his strength. Geirrod steps behind a solid iron pillar. The bolt goes all the way through the pillar, through Geirrod, through the wall behind him, and is embedded in the mountain out back. Some stories say they go home but first send for Thor's weapons and go wandering through Jotunheim, et cetera. Thus the famous story:

The City of Utgard-Loki

In Thor's chariot drawn by two rams/goats (Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher), they come to a farm owned by humans, and they decide to stop and rest. The farmer, a widower, has a son Thjalfi and a daughter Roskva. The farmer is flattered that they wish to stay with him, but he is poor. He only has a little gruel. Thor refuses it in sympathy. He takes one of his goats and blasts it on the head with his hammer, skins it, and roasts it on a spit. But he says they mustn't break any bones. Thor and Loki are both voracious eaters. The humans are hungry. Thjalfi unwittingly breaks a bone to suck the marrow out. They retire for the night. The next morning, Thor takes the goat skin, puts all the bones back in, and touches it with the end of his hammer. The goat comes back to life but with a bad limp because of the broken bone. Thor is furious. The farmer is terrified. He begs forgiveness and promises Thjalfi and Roskva into servitude. Thjalfi becomes a valet and Roskva becomes the maidservant of Sif, Thor's wife. Roskva is sent back to Asgard in the chariot. So now, Loki, Thor, and Thjalfi (who is a very fast runner) continue together on foot. Night begins to fall and there is no place to stay. They come to a clearing in the woods. There is an odd building. It is huge but there is no wall on the front face. They enter. They travel down endlessly long halls. They turn back four times. Finally, they find a short hallway with nothing at the end. So they stop there to rest for the night. They begin to hear a muffled roar outside, so loud that it hurts their heads. Thor sits up and waits, poised with the hammer. Dawn breaks. They realize they have been sleeping in a giant glove. And the giant is lying right there snoring, thus explaining the roar. Thor hits him with the hammer. The giant wakes up. He begins to talk. His name is Skrymir. He asks who they are. When he finds out, his face falls in disappointment at Thor's size. But he says, "My king would like to meet you, and my people would love to see you." So they decide to go and see his king. Skrymir is out of sight immediately because of the size of his strides. They catch up with him hours later. He offers them food from his pouch which is tied. Loki and Thjalfi can't untie or break the cord. Neither can Thor. Skrymir leaves again. They must follow. Skrymir is asleep by the time they catch up. Thor climbs a hill and blasts him on the head. Skrymir stirs and says, "Did a leaf just fall on my head?" Thor smashes him again in his sleep. Skrymir thinks it was a bird. Thor tightens his belt and blasts Skrymir as hard as he can. This time Skrymir thinks it was an acorn. They get to the city Utgard-Loki (which is also the name of the king). ["Utgard" means "outland"] The king comes to the gate. He is disappointed by Thor but welcomes them in for a feast. They go to the feasting hall and are just about to eat when the king stops them and says that they play games first to whet the appetite. He asks if they would like to run a race. Thjalfi will race against Hugi. They will run 25 yards to a post and come back. In a flash, Thjalfi gets there first, goes around the post, and finds that Hugi is already back. It is a humiliating defeat. Thor DOES NOT like to lose. The king says he has heard Loki is a voracious eater. He challenges him to an eating contest with Logi. They set up a trough filled with roast meat. They start at opposite ends and eat their way inward. They meet at the exact center. It is a tie. Thor doesn't like it. Utgard-Loki says that Logi also ate the bones and the trough itself so he wins. Thor is angry. Utgard-Loki challenges Thor to a drinking contest. He must drain a horn in one draught to prove his manhood. Thor takes an incredibly long drink, but he has just barely lowered the level of the liquid. Utgard-Loki challenges his strength. Thor says he will wrestle anyone. Utgard-Loki brings in a little old lady so that Thor won't be crushed. Her name is Ulli. They lock. Thor is straining with all his might, and Ulli is just standing there. Thor goes down on one knee. He has lost. Utgard-Loki says, "Look, here's an old cat. Can you lift it off the ground?" Thor can only manage to lift one paw off the ground. Thor is a furious frustrated loser. Utgard-Loki says he is worried about them and sends them away. The king closes the gate part way and then tells them that he is Utgard-Loki the master magician, master of illusion. He had said he was Skrymir to protect himself. The cords on the food pouch were steel bands. He did not sleep at all. He put mountains beside his head to protect himself from the blows of Mjollnir. The mountains are now valleys. "I was hoping to lose you but you followed." So he rigged the contests. Hugi was thought personified. No one is faster. But even so, Thjalfi got to the post first. Logi was fire personified, and yet Loki kept up. It is amazing. The drinking horn was attached at the other end to the sea. Thor's drinking created neap tide. Ulli was old age itself personified. No one can hold out against it, but Thor held out for a long time. The cat was Jormungand. Thor almost picked him up, which is terrifying because the Universe would have been torn apart. The city disappears before Thor can smash it with his hammer. This demonstrates that nothing can defeat Thor but magic. [Logi is an alterego of Loki, God of Fire. Utgard-Loki is another persona of Loki, who would play such tricks.]

The Children of Odin

There is a giant named Billing and his daughter Rinda. Many suitors came for Rinda. She is not pleased with any of them. Billing knows that he will soon be invaded by a nearby hostile army. Odin sees how beautiful Rinda is and becomes the leader of Billing's army. He leads them to a resounding victory. Odin decides then to woo Rinda. How can she refuse? But she rejects him, too. Odin has a real eye for beautiful women, no matter what kind, and never fails -- until now. Odin returns as a jewelry maker. He makes magnificent jewelry for Rinda, and she still refuses him. He returns as a handsome young man. She refuses a third time. He takes out his rune staff and reads a spell. She is in a trance. Odin leaves. Billing is devastated. Odin shows up as an old woman who says she knows what to do. She ties Rinda to a chair. After Odin rapes her, a child is born. The child is called Vali. He is sort of a personification of the returning sun (Jul). He is an archer god (representative of the sun's long rays). It only took him one day to reach manhood. Vali may be the source of the image of a cupid with bow and arrow -> "Valentine."

Another of Odin's sons was born to Grid. He is Vidar the Silent. He is the God of Resurrection and Renewal (like spring). He is silent because he represents the Primeval Forest. He is a very strong eternal force of nature either way. He is tall and handsome and armored. On his right foot is a THICK leather shoe made up of scraps of leather. [Scandinavians throw all scraps away for Vidar's shoe.]

Balder and Hoder are twin brother gods, the sons of Odin and Frigga. Balder is the most glorious and beautiful of all the Gods. He is very even-tempered, compassionate, and pleasant. Hoder is short, dark, almost ugly, and blind. The two brothers possibly represent day and night. Balder has a nightmare which depresses him badly. He prophesies his own death. He sees himself dead in the near future. Odin knows the truth already and says nothing. Frigga also knows but refuses to accept it. She goes throughout the universe and extracts promises from everyone and everything not to harm Balder. And when she returns, she tells the Gods, who are skeptical at first. But in trying, they see that rocks REFUSE to hit him, as do arrows and spears. Nothing can harm him. Frigga still can't watch the "fun" without being disturbed. She goes to rest in her hall and an old, old woman visits her. Frigga cheers up the seemingly sad stranger with the story of how she is protecting her son. The woman questions her, "Everything?" But there was one thing that was too insignificant for Frigga to bother with: mistletoe. The old woman leaves and goes around the corner where she turns back into Loki the Trickster. Loki slips out to the edge of the Gods having their fun with Balder. He sits beside Hoder and asks why he isn't joining in. Loki picks up some mistletoe and magically turns it into a hardened dart (a short javelin). He offers it to the blind Hoder to throw. Hoder hesitates, but Loki says he will guide his throw. Hoder throws, piercing Balder straight through the heart. Balder falls down dead. Loki slips away. The Gods see Hoder as a murderer. Hoder doesn't even know what has happened. When he finds out, he too is stunned. The Gods realize that Loki is guilty. Some of them set out to find him. Frigga is heart-broken. She should have known better because she can see the future. She begs anyone for help, refusing to give up. A god named Hermod offers to help by taking Sleipnir to the Underworld and requesting that Hela release Balder. It takes him nine days and nights at top speed to get there. Hela says if they can get EVERYONE to shed a tear for him, she will release Balder. The Gods go throughout all the nine worlds -- everyone is weeping. But in Jotunheim, a giantess named Thokk refuses to weep. Later they realize that Thokk was Loki. They put the corpse on Balder's ship. Odin puts Draupnir on Balder's chest. He leans down and whispers something to the corpse. No one can hear. The ship, loaded with gold, is too heavy to push out to sea. They send for a giantess renowned for her strength to push the ship. She arrives, riding in on a wild-eyed timberwolf with a bridle of poisonous snakes. Hyrokkin is her name. Odin sets four berserkers in charge of the wolf and snakes. Hyrokkin goes and gives the ship a heavy kick. The ship rolls out so fast it sets the roller logs on fire. Thor arrives and almost bashes her head in, but the Gods stop him. The ship burns and Balder is lost to them. Thor and Kvassir (personified spit) and several others go out to find Loki, who is hiding in a fisherman's cottage near a river, idly weaving a fishing net. He hears them coming. He burns the net and turns himself into a fish (a salmon) in the river. Kvassir, God of Ultimate Wisdom, sees the ashes of the net and immediately discerns the situation. The Gods immediately set to work making another net. When they are finished, Thor stands on one side of the river, and all the other Gods stand on the other side. The salmon swims under the net. They sew rocks to the bottom of the net to drag the river. Loki jumps over the net. Now the Gods split up -- some on each side of the river with Thor wading behind the net. He is miffed. Loki panics. He swims with all his speed and leaps up but Thor catches him by the tail. (From that time forward, the salmon has had a crimped tail.) Loki doesn't bother pleading for mercy. They must give him a kind of eternal punishment. They must tie him in one place forever but the bonds must be magical. Loki's other wife Sygin has two sons Narvi and Vali. The Gods turn Vali into a wild wolf who immediately attacks and rips apart Narvi. They use Narvi's intestines to make bonds to tie up Loki. They take him into a cave and tie him to a rock. He cannot move. Skadi comes along. Loke made her laugh and she hates him for it. Her vengeance is to bring in a gigantic venomous serpent. The Gods place it on a ledge directly above his face. The poison constantly drips on to his face (causing a burning, searing pain). They leave him like that. Sygin decides to help him. She sits beside him with a bowl in her hands over his face to keep the poison from hurting him. But of course the bowl fills up once in a while. At those times, his pain is so horrible that his entire body shakes and quivers (earthquakes).

The Children of Thor

Magni and Modi are the sons of Thor and Jarnsaxa, a giantess. [A "sax(a)" is a heavy knife or short sword, hand axe. "Jarn" = "iron."] Magni is the personification of strength. Modi is the personification of courage. In one story, Thor has just killed a giant. He has a stone embedded in his forehead. The giant's leg falls on top of Thor, who is injured and can't lift it. Magni, when only three hours old, lifts the leg when none of the Gods could.

Those Who Died a Straw Death

Niflheim. The entrance to Niflheim is far away. One god, riding the eight-legged horse, took nine days and nights at top speed, through rocky and icy terrain, to get there. The corpse must be left with hell shoes to make the journey. After a long trek, the spirit comes to the Gjoll River, which is spanned by the Gjollar Bridge. It is the same name as Heinmdall's horn. The bridge is huge and high and made of crystal, hung by a single hair. The spirit must cross the bridge carefully to reach a toll gate attended by Modgud, a very ugly skeleton woman. The spirit must pay a toll, thus the corpse must be left with hell money. The spirit must then go through the Ironwood Forest. The trees are made of iron and have no leaves. They are very thick, and they scratch the passers badly. Then comes the Hellgate, beside which is the Gnipa Cave, hiding in which is Garm, a giant ferocious wild dog who hates Odin (and Odin hates him back). The only way to pass is to throw him hell cakes (which must also be left with the corpse) and slip past. Then the spirit can hear the spring Hvergelmir bubbling. Then the spirit can enter Hela's hall, which is named Misery. Your eternal fate is decided by what kind of life you have led. The innocents go into a state of negative bliss or oblivion. Those not innocent are banished to walk along Nastrond, a strand of rotting corpses, out into the water. At the end, they must keep going. They must wade through streams of ice cold snake venom. [Snakes were hated culturally . The imagery of the cold venom is similar to a very hot jalapeno from the freezer -- ice cold but fiery hot.] They they make their way through a long cave crawling with poisonous snakes. They reach the end of the cave and water gushes through and washes the corpse/spirit down to Hvergelmir (a spring of boiling water). All the flesh is boiled off the bones. Nidhug stops gnawing the roots of the World Tree to gnaw the bones. Various people are accused at the annual Thing or Althing, They are placed before the Althing. The tribunal would declare them an outlaw or not. An outlaw became fair game. You can take back what he owes, but you have to do it yourself, similar to the Old West.

Those Who Died Valiantly

Those who meet their death on the battlefield are taken by Freya and her Valkyries up to Asgard. Some are taken to Valhalla, a huge hall. Those dead who stay in Valhalla are the Einheriar. There are more there each year. They are waiting. And while they are waiting, they get up each morning and go boar hunting carrying long spears. [Like the Greeks, the Scandinavians had a strong passion for boar hunting. The boar is good for food. But the full size male is a very dangerous animal.] Someone beats the bushes till the boar comes out, and he is MAD. The Einheriar stand in a circle around the boar. Each man hopes he will be chosen by the boar to be attacked. As the boar charges, the chosen one drops down on his left knee and holds his spear out. The boar runs into the spear. The boar, impaled, runs along the spear until it is able to gouge the thigh of its attacker. Then the chosen man kills the boar with his sword. The Greeks loved it. The Scandinavians put a cross bar on the end of the spear to simplify matters. They take the boar back to Valhalla for a grand feast with much mead. Every morning, the boar is alive again -- the same one -- and they hunt it again. Valhalla's door is large enough for 800 abreast to march through.


A day is going to come for the Fimbul winter (winter of winters) when brothers will be fighting brothers, parents will abandon their children, children will turn on their parents. There will be three winters with no summer. At the end of the winter it will be Ragnarok (German name Gotterdämmerung -- "the Twilight of the Gods," see Wagnerian opera). On Ragnarok, many things will happen. Nidhug will gnaw through the roots of Yggdrasil at which time Jormungand will arise from out of the ocean and Fenrir will burst his bonds. Then Loki will be broken free and will lead the Frost Giants and all their dead souls into open combat against the Gods (like Satan in Christian mythology). They will have to cross a river on a raft Nagilfari which must be completed before Ragnarok. The raft is made from the fingernails of corpses (Scandinavians always cut the nails of the dead). Hela has to release everyone. Garm breaks out of the Gnipa cave. All of this is accompanied by a great noise and commotion. Heimdall sees what is happening, blows a long blast on the Gjallar horn. All the Gods know what is happening and arm themselves. There is a tremendous number of horrid beings to face but the Gods are in high spirits. They are joined by the Einheriar who awaited this day for all time. Loki leads the baddies across the river, headed toward a plan called Vigrid. There they meet in the battle of Ragnarok, a meeting of all the foes. Garm comes charging out of nowhere. Tyr faces Garm and the battle is long. They kill each other (because Tyr has no right hand). Loki comes charging up to face Heimdall. A long battle ensues, ending in the death of both. Even Surtri from Muspelheim appears and fights agains the Gods. Only Frey can equal him in brilliance. They meet in battle. Frey doesn't have his sword; he is killed. Surtri lives. Odin spies Fenrir coming. Odin has Gungnir, but Fenrir attacks him from his blind side and kills him. But Vidar, Odin's son, jumps forward (the silent one with his thick shoe) and steps on Fenrir's lower jaw, grabs the upper jaw and rips the wolf in half. Thor can't wait to get at Jormungand, who is likewise full of fury. Thor blasts him with a blow that completely crushes his head, killing him instantly. But his mouth is full of poison which pours over Thor. Thor staggers back nine steps and falls down dead. Then Surtri gathers his fire demons and they pour fire forth and destroy most of the universe. It is the end of the world. Nobody wins. There is a ray of hope: Mimir the Wise takes two human beings and hides them in the folds of the trunk of Yggdrasil asleep. Lif (male) and Lifthrasir (female). They live through the battle. In English, their names are translated "Life" and "Lifethirster." They sleep for years. The earth begins to turn green again. They wake. They come forth to begin repopulation. And they see that some gods are now reappearing. Honir, Thor's sons Magni and Modi (strength and courage), Odin's sons Vidar and Vali (second generation -- more peaceable), and Hoder and Balder (Balder is the symbol of peace now ushered in -- the natural leader). They find some chess pieces in the grass and they sit and play chess. And life will be peaceful forever.

Myths of the Celts

The Celts

Mythological Waves of Celts Coming to Ireland

Myths of the Celts

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The Celts (an Indo-European people)

The Greeks said the Celts called themselves KELTOI, thus our pronunciation. "Gaelic," "Gaul," "Gallic" are all of the same word "Celt"/"Celtic." They appear very early in Indo-European history. They settled around the source of the Danube River circa 1000 B.C. and spread throughout Europe. They were not a homogeneous group. They were wild men. They didn't get along with anyone or with each other. They were a loose confederation -- almost. They just knew each other and fought outsiders more than they did each other. They were very heavily influenced by the Scythians, who in the old world of Europe were premier goldworkers. This rubbed off on the Celts. They wore big sweeping mustaches. The Celts learned horsemanship from the Scythians who were quite good. The Scythians wore pants/trousers. The Celts learned to weave wool in a tartan pattern from the Scythians. The Celts learned of the spoked wheel (which was good for chariot speed) from the Scythians. The Celts also learned to make iron tires for their wheels. The Celts began to spread through Europe. They frightened the Romans.

Circa 900 B.C., the Celts were moving into Gaul. After two or three centuries, they moved across the Pyrenees into Iberia. Those who moved there stayed a while and mixed with the Phoenicians in South Iberia (Canaanites). There was a cultural mingling. The Celts learned to sail from the Phoenicians who were brilliant mariners. From this contact, they sailed from the South Iberian Peninsula out to the Atlantic to Brittania (the present day United Kingdom). Some believe the Phoenicians, bringing the Celts, found the way to the New World. A Celtic form of writing in the Canaanite language was found in the Americas. (America's "Stonehenge" in New Hampshire and various other places in the Northeast.)

Circa 400 B.C., the Celts invaded Italy. They had been trading with the Etruscans for years. Circa 390 B.C., they sacked Rome and several other cities. They only pulled out after the Romans paid a huge ransom in gold. [A Celtic chieftain weighed out the gold in scales. A sword was added after a complaint: "Woe to the vanquished."]

Circa 350 B.C., the Celts in Europe moved in a different direction. They sacked the shrine at Delphi and moved into Anatoly (Anatolia/Turkey) and established a colony which became the city of Galatia. As the Celts moved south and the Mediterraneans moved north, they mixed. Thus the coloration of northern and southern Italians, northern and southern Spaniards, and northern and southern Frenchmen. We think of the Celts as primarily moving into the British Isles.

Many of the Celts went into battle naked (wild men). [The Druids (magicians and priests) believed the naked body to be sacred.] They loved fighting and drinking and partying. They wore their hair long. In battle, they mixed mud, lime, and water into their hair. They pulled it out to stick out in points in battle. They all roared as loud as they could to go into battle. They used iron weapons (40-inch swords, spears, shortswords). The Celts didn't cross the English Channel. They went around the North Atlantic coast.

The first wave were the Q-Celts, known as Goidelic (Q). They were made up of three sets: (1) Irish, (2) Manx, and (3) Scots, which were made up of the Scotiae and the Picts.

Q-Celts (Goidelic)

  • Irish
  • Manx
  • Scots
    • Scotiae
    • Picts

The Picts were very war-like. They used blue joad dye on their clothing. In the summer, they went into battle naked with their bodies painted blue. The Scotiae were less irrespressible. We don't know when these people came in. The Picts are very mysterious. They gave everyone trouble. They were absorbed circa 800 A.D. The Mc/Mac prefix comes from the Q-Celts. It means "Son of." Ireland's "O" prefix (i.e., O'Brien, O'Connell) means "Grandson of." Goidelic = Gaelic. The Manx were on the Isle of Mann.

P-Celts: Brythonic (P) = British -> (1) Britons (2) Cymric (Welsh) [Wales = Cambria] (3) Cornish (from Cornwall). The Gauls are of the P-Celts. They share the same language group.

P-Celts (Brythonic)

  • Britons
  • Cymric
  • Cornish

Q uses "Mac" for "son of"; P uses "Map" or "Ap" for "son of." Thus the phonetic category = name. In Latin, "horse" = "equus." In Greek, "horse" = "hippos." -> P's and Q's.

The tribes did not get along like a nation. They were comparable to street gangs. Before the Romans, these existed in Britain. The Romans were the first to come (under Julius Caesar) to Britain as non-Celts. The Romans battled and won and made the main isle of Britain in 55 B.C. their major military settlement until 410 A.D. They left because they were called back to deal with a new barbarian threat to Rome. The Romans didn't venture much out of Britain. The Britons had trouble with the Picts when the Romans departed. They had been taken care of by the Romans and were not able to fight. They sent for mercenary armies from Germany -> Angles, Saxons, Jutes. These overcame the Picts, driving them back north again. The Britons paid them, but the mercenaries decided not to leave. This led to war, circa 490 A.D., which lasted for 40 years. Circa 530 or 540 A.D., the Germans drove out the Britons and took over their land. The Jutes went to the southeastern tip. The Angles and Saxons (tribal German armies) blended into one group: the Anglo-Saxons. The region becomes known as Angle-Land which became "England." Those Britons who had been driven out fled south to a peninsula in the north of France: Brittany. They become the Bretons. At this point in England, the Angles and Saxons can't get north in to Scotland because the Celts are too strong. The Romans built Hadrian's Wall to keep the Picts and the Scotiae out. The wall was then used by the Anglo-Saxons to divide. There is a place in Wales called Welsh Mardes - "No Man's Land," pretty much. They did get into Cornwall, though.

Circa 800 A.D., the Vikings appear and wreak havoc everywhere. The Celts of Ireland are heavily infiltrated. This is also true in north and west Scotland. Circa 1100, many Irish went to Alba (now Scotland) and mingled with the Scotiae and the Scandinavians, who absorbed or destroyed the Picts, yielding the Scots. Highland Scots are more Scandinavian. Lowland Scots are more Anglo-Saxon.

In Ireland, there is already a mixture of people who loved battle. The Scots and the Irish are sort of insular. The Welsh were unable to do that and lost their war-like aspect. Great Britain is very heterogeneous. Many Celts of Britain call themselves Cymric brothers and dislike the Anglo-Saxon English. Circa 1600+, James I (a Scot) took the throne of England and allowed many Scots to move to Ireland with land grants. He did it to spread the Protestant faith. They ended up in northern Ireland. This is the origin of Protestant Northern Ireland.

Circa 1700, huge numbers of Scots moved to America. They were called Scotch-Irish. Finally, the Scots and the English came to peaceful terms after the Uprising of '45 (1745). By 1800, there was no more warfare between the Scots and the English. The English won and forbade the Scots to wear tartans. Not till 1810 could the Scots wear kilts again. Ireland does not and never has liked England. The Irish want Northern Ireland back. They lived under miserable conditions for 200 years AND there's nothing to do ("idle hands . . ."). The English never got along with the Celts, but then the Celts never got along with the Celts either. In Scotland, however, because the people are less wild and more intellectual, the Gods of Ireland, Wales, and Gaul are virtually the same, so they predate the arrival of the Celts in Great Britain.

Irish pronunciation:

CH - aspirated (like German)

LL - lateral /L/ aspirated with tongue tip at alveolar ridge -- valmost /CL/ with aspiration at sides of tongue.

BD - /V/

BH - /V/

DH - /TH/ (not aspirated)


  • "Conchobar" = kuh - nuh - "CH"or' = "Connor"
  • "Cuchulainn" = kuh - "CH"ul' - en
  • "Culaigne" = koo' - lee = "Cooley"

The Myths of the Celts

The First Sorrow of Storytelling: The Children of Lyr

The Second Sorrow of Storytelling: The Murder of Cian

The Final Confrontation between the Tuatha de Danann and the Fomors

The Ulster Cycle

Bricriu's Feast

The Third Sorrow of Storytelling: Dierdre and the Sons of Uisnach

The Story of Macha the Triple Goddess

The Cattle Raid of Culaigne

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Sir Tristram and His Beloved Iseult and King Mark

Robin Hood

Fomors lived on and around Ireland. They were giants mostly. They represent the powerful but dark forces of nature. Heavy dark storms, etc. They are often represented as being deformed and/or ugly. They fight virtually every wave of new settlers. Oddly, occasionally a VERY handsome man emerges. For instance, Bres, who is so unbelievably beautiful, he becomes the measuring standard for beauty, although he is still mean inside. At one point, a tower of glass is built on an island by the Fomors, from which they rule Ireland. The two Fomors who built the tower are Mork and Conan. The Fomors often use dark magic. Irish magic is usually druidic, primarily illusion. This is the origin of the phrase "casting a glamour," which means an illusion. In the Celtic language, phrasing usually places adjectives after nouns. In English, only a Celtic word illustrates this: galore, as in, "There were people galore." Another such word is slew, as in "a slew of things." This word is used in Celtic as in "army of faeries" = "slew of faeries."


Mythological Waves of Celts Coming to Ireland

The first settlers after the flood were the Partholons (named after Partholon, a leader who came from Greece with twenty-four males and twenty-four females on May 1st). Circa 2600 B.C., they met and battled the Fomors. They won. In 300 years, their numbers increased to 5,000. On May 1st, 300 years after their arrival, all of the Partholons were stricken by the same disease and died on the plain of their arrival. They brought: basic ideas of law and ritual, working of gold, the first domesticated cattle, cattle breeding/raising, the first cauldron (of course because they could make porridge [milk with pork, beef, two whole goats, lots of fat, and oatmeal -- salt to taste]). They washed down this porridge with beer, which was one of their developments.

Next came the Nemeds, led by Nemed. They came from Scythia. They had to defeat the Fomors four times. A lot of Nemeds died (including Nemed) of the same epidemic as the Partholons because they were weak. The Fomors could do new things. Two Fomor kings (Mork and Conan) built a Glass Tower on Tory Island. They exacted a tribute annually from the Nemeds: two-thirds of their grain, two-thirds of their milk, and two thirds of their children. This tribute was collected on the first of November every year. Finally, only thirty Nemeds were left. They left the island, but not together. Fifteen went south to "Greece." Fifteen went to "the North of the World," i.e., Alba.

The next wave of settlers was more important. They were the Fir Bolgs and Fir Gailioin. They were like the people of Belgium and the people of Gaul. These are the southern group of Nemeds who left and are now returning. They take over. But later the northern group returns as well. They are the Tuatha De Danann. They had learned magic and poetry. They said they either came from the north of from the sky. When they arrived, it rained fire and blood for three days and a heavy fog covered everything so they could land. This was druidic work -- illusion. They understood the druidic glamour. They brought with them four treasures: 1) Nuada's Sword (Nuada was their king; none could escape his sword.), 2) Lugh's Spear (The spear would tear through the ranks of the enemy and wipe them out.), 3) The Dagda's Cauldron (from which none ever left hungry), 4) The Stone of Fal (a stone which would cry out when touched by the lawful king -- see Excalibur stone and the Stone of Scone of the Scots which sat beneath the throne when the king was crowned).

The Tuatha's landed and met the Fir Bolgs on a huge plain called Magh Tuiredh /moi - tyü' - ruh/. Nuada, king of the Tuatha De Danann, and Eochaid, king of the Fir Bolgs, send out envoys to meet and discuss the details of the battle. The Fir Bolgs, carrying short heavy spears, are shorter, heavier, and darker. The Tuatha De Danann are concerned by these weapons. The Fir Bolgs are scared by the long slender spears of the Tuatha De Danann. They agree to a short 105 day truce while each side makes weapons to match those of the opponent. The battle is individual between heroes -- not mélées. Eochaid is called. In this battle, Nuada loses his right hand at the wrist. The Tuatha De Danann are winning. When only 300 Fir Bolgs are left, a truce is called on the condition that the Fir Bolgs must move to one corner of the island. They move to what we call Connacht (also Connaught) in the northwestern corner of Ireland. This area takes up one fifth of the land. At this time, there were five parts to Ireland. The Modern Irish (Dark or Black Irish) are considered to be descended from the Fir Bolgs. The Northwest is Connacht. The Northeast is Ulster. The Center East is Meath. The Southeast is Munster. The Southwest is Leinster. Meath has since disappeared. Ireland is now in four quarters. The Fir Bolgs were confined to Connacht. The Tuatha De Danann becaome the gods of Ireland.

The Tuatha De Danann (TDD) manage to keep peace with the Fomors. Eventually, Nuada must step down because the king is required to be perfect, and he has lost his hand. This is a dilemma. The Fomors suggest Bres (the beautiful one), who is king of the Fomors and a sort of subjugate king of the TDD. Ultimately, Bres is removed from the throne. This leads to imminent war. The Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh. The TDD win. Now the Milesians, led by Mil, appear on May 1st from the "Underworld" (possibly Spain). A magic battle ensues. The TDD are defeated. The Milesians are the ancestors of the rest of the Irish. In one version of the telling, several boatloads of the TDD sail west to Tir Nan Og ("Land of the Young"). Another version says they go to a large island named after one of their leaders, Breasail (Breasail's Land = "big island" = Brazil). The rest of them go underground, living in barrows (tumulus, burial mound) with an entrance stone as shown at right. They were called Sidhe /shee/. The Men of Sidhe: Fir Sidhe, and the Women of Sidhe: Bean Sidhe, which evolved into our word "banshee." Later, they shrank and became known as Leprechauns.

Domnu. The people known as the Children of Domnu are the Fomors. She was a great and powerful earth goddess. Balor is the epitome of the evil Fomor. His father was a druid but not good because Fomors were inherently evil beings. When Balor was a boy, his father had druids over to dabble in magic. Balor, curious, crept up to the window to spy on them. The window was open partly. Unhappily, some of the smoke blew into Balor's eye. He screamed in pain, but his eye had become affected and anyone he looked at with that eye died instantly (Archetype:"The Evil Eye"). He grew to be an enormous giant. He could hardly move around on his own. The Fomors knew he was the ultimate weapon. They would go into battle and face the seated Balor in front of the enemy. But they had to have a crane with a hook to open his eyelid because the eye was always kept shut. Archetypally, this is fairly widespread. Ra, in Egypt, had such an eye. Shiva, in India, has a third eye in the forehead, which is the ultimate weaspon of the universe. The Fomors represented the dark side of nature as well as storms (so the eye represents lightning). The TDD are called the Children of Danu becuase they are the children of the earth goddess Danu. Her husband is Bile /bee' lay/ or Beli, depending on whether his name is being spoken in Gaelic or Irish. Bile is a war god and the god of death. Danu is sometimes also known as Don or Anu. She is the goddess of earthly fruitfulness (hills are called the "breasts of Danu") and fertility -- prosperity, abundance, and fertility. But Danu and Domnu are somehow connected ultimately. In Gaul, Danu is called Donau. In Slavic languages, there is a river called Dunai. We call it Danube. Dann is a river of Russia. Much of Eastern Europe reflects Danu's following. Western cultures are almost always matriarchally religious. Bile is considered the father of the Milesians. This implies the same goddess is the goddess of the Fomors, the TDD, and the Milesians -- three different waves of civilization unknowingly worshipping the same deity.

Nuada (Nudd, Lludd -- British or Welsh). Nuada Argetlam. There is a gate in England called Lludd Gate. Lludd's Town became London. "Argetlam" originates as follows: "lam" = "limb", "Arget" = "silver", "argetlam" means "silver hand" or "silver limb." Nuada's missing hand is replaced by a silver one so finely wrought that it is actually usable as a real hand. It is all articulated, but it is silver and beautifully carved with arabesques. Nuada is a god of war, a very grim aspect. His followers often sacrificed to him -- occasionally humans -- sometimes for success in battle or fertility. In "The Wicker Man," a modern version of Celts sacrificing someone to gain fertility for their fields appears. This was commonplace. Nuada is killed in the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh. But first, he has several wives. 1) Fea, "hateful one," 2) Nemon, "venomous" or "frenzy" [She is a goddess who, with a terrifying cry, sends panic through armies. The Celts loved battle frenzy.], 3) Babh, "Fury" and "raven" [the Celts call a raven the hoddy crow -- a carrion eater after battle], 4) Macha, "battle" [difficult to distinguish from wife #5], 5) Morrigu, the most important of the wives. She is "the great or phantom queen." She carries spears in both hands and is a deadly fighter. She can be helpful in battle or a wicked and destructive force. She goes on the mainland to become Morgana of the Brits. She then becomes Morgan Lafey (the Fairy of Arthur).

The Dagda. "The Good God." God of fertility, abundance, earth. A kind of comic god. Pot-bellied, all grey, considered very ugly. He wears horsehide boots with the hairy side out (anti-cultural). He wears a brown, low-necked tunic (like a smock) baring his backside and genitals. He wears a cloak with a hood which comes just below his shoulders. He has an air of the Otherworld (often called Faerie /fay'-er-ee/.) The Dagda's Cauldron is called The Undry (never dry or empty). This magical abundance is an association with the Otherworld. The Dagda has a reputation for his ability to control weather and crops. He has a harp made of oak. He plays and calls new seasons into existence (this is very important to the Celts). He has a club, which is too heavy to carry. It would require eight men to carry it, so there's a wheel built into the end to drag it around. It leaves a track like a boundary mark. In Celtic society, one would be killed for moving a boundary stone -- this is very important to them. The heavy end of the club can kill anything. The light end can bring life back. (See Mjollnir.) The Dagda is lord over life and death.

He has a wife Boanne -> Boann. Once there was a well in Ireland over which grew nine hazel trees. Hazelnuts were believed to impart wisdom. The nuts would fall into the water. Salmon would eat them and become magical (the Salmon of Knowledge and Wisdom). So eating salmon was taboo. Boann had to know whether there was any truth to the belief. She approached the well (even that was taboo) and the water reacted. It burst out of the well, forming a river called Boyne.

Brigit (pronounced like "breeched") is the daughter of the Dagda. She is the goddess of fire and the hearth, poetry, patroness of arts and crafts. This is part of the Triple Goddess Archetype. The phenomenon appears as 1) goddess of many things and people split her into three separate goddesses with similar names and the same characteristics, or 2) three separate goddesses are combined into one who gets the name of the most important goddess and the characteristics of all three. Brigit is number two, "the exalted one." She came from a goddess of healing, a goddess of poetry and learning, and a goddess of arts and crafts. When Christianity came to Ireland, she became Saint Brigid, who became Saint Bridget. She was supposedly born at sunrise and the house appeared to be on fire. When she took her vows, a veil of fire rose from her head. Fire was so sacred, for centuries they had a perpetual flame that burned for her.

Ogma is the son of the Dagda and Boann. Romans called him Hercules. He is immensely strong and carries a huge club like his father. He has two epithets: 1) "The Honeymouthed" because he is the god of eloquence and is clearly highly prized by the Irish who, like all those of the British Isles, treasure language. He is bald, old, grey-skinned and wrinkled from the sun. He is immensely strong but friendly, thus his second epithet 2) "The Sunnyfaced." He is shown as leading a band of five or six people, each of whom is attached to him by a thin gold chain which leads from his tongue to their ears. He invented a form of writing called Ogham writing. It consists of a series of lines across a transverse line as shown to the right (graphic pending). It was easy to carve in stones. Ogma is a god of literature. His wife is Etain. Tuiren and Cairpre are their sons. Cairpre becomes the bard of the TDD.

Angus Mac Oc is the son of the Dagda and Boann. "Oc" is sometimes spelled "Og." His name means "Son of the Young One" or "Son of the Youthful One." He is a kind of Eros, god of love and beauty. He has a golden harp. He sings and whispers beautiful things to young lovers. His kisses and whispers are seen as birds hovering above. The Celts say, "Angus Mac Oc is passing." He is also a very willful trickster. The Dagda and Boann caused the sun to stand still for nine months so that Angus Mac Oc was conceived and born on the same day.

Mider is another son of the Dagda and Boann. He is an Underworld-ish god. The Isle of Mann is associated with the Underworld. Mider is victimized by other gods. He is often the butt of the joke.

Bobh the Red replaces Nuada and Bres. He becomes the last king of the TDD. He is identified with southern Ireland, Munster and Leinster.

Diancecht /jun-keCHt'/ is the Druid of the TDD. He is a magician primarily. He is sort of holy but priests are unnecessary. He can cure, cast glamours, give life sometimes. He is the main healer of the gods. He is very wise. Morrigu gives birth to a child, a son. It is unbelievably horrible-looking -- as ugly as they come. Diancecht said horrible things will come from this. Destruction, danger. The child must be destroyed. Morrigu protests but the gods agree with Diancecht. Diancecht kills it with a sword. He cuts open the child's heart, where he finds three poisonous snakes. He kills them. But the bodies could cause great havoc. So he burns the bodies then throws the ashes into the nearest river, killing everything in the river. The river begins to boil and becomes incredibly turbulent. It is named Barrow, which means "to boil." It is called the River Barrow (the word order is Celtic and necessary).

Lyr (Llyr) = "the sea" Lyr is god of the sea. He has twenty-seven sons and at least three wives. We know nothing of the first. Lyr is widowed. He then marries Aebh /eef/, the granddaughter of the Dagda. Aebh has four children (three sons and one daughter) with Lyr. She dies. Lyr marries Aeife /eef'-uh/. She appears to be a loving wife and mother. But she becomes jealous. So she casts a REAL spell. She turns the children into swans. They will be swans for "three sets of three hundred years." She repents somewhat but doesn't tell Lyr. Lyr searches for his children. He comes to the lake where the swans are swimming and they tell him what has happened. Lyr cannot break the spell. He goes to Bobh the Red, the father of Aebh. Bobh is furious. He can't help Lyr, but he can exact vengeance. He turns Aeife into the one thing she fears most: a shrieking demon. At the end of the three sets of three hundred years, the children are turned back into human beings, but because they are nine hundred years old, they fall dead immediately and disintegrate. This is the first of the Three Sorrows of Storytelling. It is called the Story of the Children of Lyr. This is the source, indirectly, of Shakespeare's "King Lear." CAER LLYR, the Romans called LLYR CASTRA ("Llyr Camp"), the English called it "Leicester."

Manannan Mac Lir, son of Lyr. Patron god of sailors. God of the headlands, of the headwaters, and god of merchants. He has a sword called "The Retaliator" which never fails to kill. He has a helmet with two magic jewels that (like the helmet) shine like the sun. He has a cloak of invisibility. He has a horse called "Shining Mane" which can go anywhere, and a boat "Wavesweeper" which can sail anywhere with or without water (like Frey, who was the son of Njord, a similar god). He keeps pigs. They magically renew themselves when eaten once a year because they bestow eternal youth at the Feast of Age. (See the feast of the Einheriar at Valhalla.) Manhannan Mac Lir rides a chariot. The waves are his horses. But storms are referred to as the tresses of his wife. He is associated wit the Otherworld (Faerie) because when the TDD split, he led a party westward to the Island of the Abhilach /ah'-vee-laCH/ ["Island of Apples"] (Isle of Avalon = Catalina), or the Isle of Mann (named after Manannan Mac Lir).

Goibhniu /goyv'-nyu/ is the smith of the TDD. He makes tools and weapons. Any of his weapons will find its mark and anyone wounded by one will survive (under ordinary circumstances). He is also a healer. He is invoked to cure wounds. He can heal or cure any WOUND. He is also a builder. Goibhniu the Architect (an epithet) has the Feast of Goibhniu -- an Otherworld Feast. Anyone who eats it will be exempt from disease and old age. It makes the gods virtually immortal.

Lugh Lamfadha. Lugh means "light," like the Latin "lux." Lam means "limb," "arm," or "hand." Fadha means "far" or "farther." His name is translated Lugh of the Long Hand, "the Far Shooter," because of a sling he uses. He is usually dressed in green. He is a kind of sun god. He is young, handsome and athletic. His great grandfather is Diancecht the Druid. He is the maternal great grandson of Balor, the Fomor with the evil eye. He is a kind of solar deity. His sling is called Lugh's Chain. It is a reference to the Milky Way. The Celts were very fear-inspiring in battle. They took the dead and hung their heads on doors and the like as trophies. They also killed the enemy, took heads, removed the brains, and pushed a rock into the center of the brain and let it dry and harden (like a snowball with a rock inside). In warfare, when fighting the same enemy, they would sling the brains back at their enemies. This was a form of psychological warfare. Lugh also has a spear (one of the four treasures). The spear is analogous to Gungnir, but it is alive. It kills the enemy on its own. However, it was so bloodthirsty that the head had to be kept in a potion made from puppies at all times. Immediately upon taking it out, Lugh had to have a firm grip on it. When let go, it would burst into flame and tear through the ranks, killing everyone. (It is a lightning bolt.) Lugh had a hound. (The Irish love cattle, hounds, and fine horses.) It was a warrior hound -- also magic. When it went into a lake or pond or pool, the water would become mead. Lugh was master of ALL the arts. [Archetype: Young god who has combined powers of all the gods and is capable of killing some huge monster (like the Babylonian Marduk).]

The final confrontation between the TDD and the Fomors. It starts at a place where Nuada has his silver hand attached to his wrist. The TDD need a new king. The TDD asked Bres to be king. he had taken a TDD wife, Brigit. Bres must give a huge number of hostages and promise abdication to the TDD to insure everyone's well-being and just rule. Bres begins putting on pressure. He taxes them. He tricks them out of all the milk their cattle produce. He forces them into labor for him. The Dagda builds castles. Ogma carries lumbers and firewood daily. They begin losing strength because Bres is stingy with their food. Diancecht's two children (a son Miach and a daughter Airmid) have learned their father's art. They go to Nuada's castle. They find out where Nuada's hand is buried and dig it up. They take it into the castle. His silver hand had begun to fester around his wrist. He was going to die. They magically healed him and gave his hand back to him. Diancecht is furious because he is jealous of their power. So he calls them to him. Miach approached. Diancecht took a sword and struck him over the head, laying open the flesh. Miach healed himself. Diancecht struck him again. This time he was cut to the bone, but he healed himself yet again. Next he was cut to the brain, and again he healed himself. The fourth blow cut his brain in two. Miach died. Diancecht does not punish Airmid.

Cairpre, the bard, visited Bres. The Celts really honor singers and poets. Minstrels wandered from manor house to manor house to entertain. Cairpre is put in the smallest of Bres's rooms and sent table scraps to eat. He is insulted. He wrote a singing satire that caused boils to break out all over Bres's once-beautiful face. He is not perfect anymore. He must step down from the throne. Bres is furious. He goes back to the Fomors and demands war against the TDD.

The capital city of the TDD is Tara.

Lugh comes to visit at Nuada's castle. Nuada will be king again. Lugh offers his assistance. [When Airmid and Miach come to Nuada's gate, the porter at first won't let them in unless they prove their powers. Miach grabs a cat, takes an eye and places it int the porter's empty socket and magically makes it his own. The porter allows them in. But the porter now suffers the following: 1) all day long the one eye tries to sleep, and 2) all night long it keeps popping open and looking for mice. There is a similar comic interlude in Shakespeare's "Macbeth."] Everyone is skeptical that Lugh can help. He shows he can do anything as well as or better than the other gods. At Nuada's insistence, Lugh teaches them much of what he knows in preparation for war against the Fomors. Seven years go by. The Fomors arrive ready to attack. But the TDD aren't quite ready. They send the Dagda over to the Fomors' camp to stall for time as a visitor. The Fomors offer a bowl of porridge to him. He accepts. They've dug a giant pit in the ground and filled it with porridge. It would be rude for the Dagda not to finish all of it. So the Dagda took a ladle-like spoon and began eating. He ended up scraping the dirt out of the bottom of the bowl and eating it too. But he took his time. This works out well for the TDD.

Diancecht -> his son Cian -> his son Lugh. Ogma -> Tuirenn -> Brian, Iochar, Iocharba.

Before the battle begins, the Second Sorrow of Storytelling occurs. Cian, father of Lugh, was carrying on a feud with the sons of Tuirenn for years. Cian is out gathering men to fight for the TDD. He sees Brian, Iochar, and Iocharba in the distance. He knows this means trouble. There is a blood feud between them. He sees several pigs in the field. He turns himself into a pig to avoid trouble. But the three brothers have already seen him. They know. Brian turns Iochar and Iocharba into dogs to root Cian out and corral him off to one side. Brian turns Iochar and Iocharba back into men and they spear Cian while he is still a pig. He asks for quarter and they refuse. So he begs them at least to allow him to become a man again. They agree. Then he demands they release him on pain of blood fine (family vendetta, his son is Lugh), but they figure if they kill him now, no one will know that they have killed him anyway. But he says their weapons will tell. They put them down. They pick up stones and stone him to death and bury him in his own depth. The earth throws him back up six times and only keeps him down the seventh time because of the horror of his murder. Lugh begins to worry and goes out looking. He passes that field and the stones cry out about the murder of his father and who did it. He realizes the cruel murder that has taken place. He returns to Tara and calls everyone together and demands the blood fine. They must pay him whatever he says or he will kill them. The three brothers are very frightened. He tells them he wants three apples, a pigskin, a spear, seven pigs, a cooking spit, three shouts on a hill, et cetera. They accept his demands. He then tells them the rest of his demands. The apples are to be the golden apples of Hesperides (Hercules once went after them as well). Each of these things is magical and virtually impossible to get. They finally get the apples. The pigskin will cure anyone. The spear turns water into wine. The pigs will return once eaten. Eventually they have gotten every item except the three shouts on a hill. Lugh refused to let them off. The hill is in Alba owned by a king who has made it a taboo for any noise to be made. The entire Scottish army comes after them. All three are mortally wounded. They return but they are dying. Lugh releases them of the blood fine. They ask if he will use the magic pig skin to cure them. He says, "My father asked for mercy and you gave him none. You shall get none." And they die. This is the Second Sorrow of Storytelling and explains the popularity of the name Brian.

Now the battle ensues, champion against champion. Every day the Fomors are confused because they see TDD who have been wounded or even killed reappear on the battlefield each day. They send Ruadan, son of Bres and Brigit, to sneak into the TDD camp. He finds Goibhniu repairing broken weapons magically overnight. Ruadan sneaks up behind Goibhniu, takes a spear, and runs him through. Goibhniu pulls out the spear, wheels around and mortally wounds Ruadan, who staggers back to his camp and dies. Bres and Brigit are so devastated that they begin mourning. They invent the high pitched screaming wail known as keening. Goibhniu goes to Diancecht. He and Airmid are dipping people into a magic spring which instantly heals. The Fomors sneak over and fill up the pool with rocks. The battle breaks down into a melee. Pitched open battle. Everyone except Lugh. He is so valuable that they keep him back behind the lines with bodyguards. Ogma has great strength. But the Fomors have Balor. Nuada is killed, as is his wife Macha. Lugh can't stand it. He goes out to face Balor. The eye is closed but they begin cranking the lid up. But they forgot about Lugh's sling. Lugh lets a stone fly that goes straight through the eye and out the back of Balor's head, killing nine other Fomors. The Fomors are heavily defeated, driven back under the sea. Bres is spared because he must teach them the rules of planting and harvesting. So he and Brigit are brought back with the TDD. Then the Milesians appear and they are driven underground to become gods.

May 1st: Beltaine ("lord of life and death")

Eastra (Frigga), the Scandinavian goddess of fertility is similar to Beltaine. "Dying God Theme" - the God of Fertility dies and goes to the Underworld every autumn, causing the autumn characteristics. He is then reborn in the spring. Eastra gives out eggs, decorated brightly to represent spring. She sends out rabbits, which are famously avid reproducers, as helpers. (The Maypole, another celebration ritual of the rebirth, is a phallic symbol.) Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 20 or 21).]

August 1: Lughnasadh (Harvest Festival or Festival of Lugh) November 1: the beginning of the Celtic year Samhain [sä' wen] "Mourning of the End of Summer and for the Dead" February 1: Imbolg (Midwinter's Festival)

The Ulster Cycle [Ulster is the northeast quarter of Ireland]

The champions of Ulster are enormously famous. There are three cycles: Tuatha is the first. Ulster is the second.

Conchobar (Connor) - King of Ulster (Conchobar Mac Nessa)

Cathbad - the Chief Druid, ancestor to a number of great heroes

Bricriu of the Bitter Tongue - a troublemaker

Aillel/Medh - King/Queen of Connacht (the northwest quarter). Medh is tall and powerfully beautiful with long thick blonde hair.

Conall the Victorious - a hero

Laegaire the Battlewinner - a hero

Sencha - a great poet and a great judge

Fergus Mac Rogh - has the strength of 700 men, tall as a giant. He eats 7 hogs, 7 deer, 7 cows, and drinks 7 vats of mead at each meal. He has a magic sword called Caladholg. The sword is as long as the rainbow is high (symb.).

All these characters are Milesians. But Curoi Mac Daire, the King of Muenster, is descended from the TDD. He has a castle which spins around every night so no one can find the door. It is thought to be a tomb. The axe represents a thunderbolt (standard storm deity). After the age of seven, Curoi was never in Ireland long enough to eat a meal or fight a battle.

The Queen of the Kingdom was once Ness. Her first husband died. She marries his brother Fergus Mac Rogh. She will marry him ONLY if her young son Conchobar is allowed to reign as king for one year. Fergus agrees. Conchobar rules brilliantly. The people want him to carry on his reign. Fergus surrenders the throne to Conchobar. He would rather eat than fight. Conchobar recognizes that he must invite and retain the greatest warriors in order to make Ulster great. Knights flock to him (Arthurian).

Aillel and Medh in Connacht are a periodic source of trouble.

A wedding is planned between Dechtire (woman) and Sualtam (great warrior chieftain). They have the wedding feast (before the wedding). Dechtire reaches for her cup of wine, not seeing that a mayfly has fallen in to it. She drinks it. She becomes pregnant. She takes a nap and dreams of Lugh, who tells her he was the mayfly (Archetype: Divine/Immaculate Conception). Dechtire goes out with her 50 handmaidens and they are all turned into swans. They fly away. The wedding is postponed. Nine months later, while out hunting, Conchobar and a hunting party see a flock of birds and follow it. They get to a cottage where a very handsome tall young man dressed in green and with a slighjtly green tint to him comes out and welcomes them to camp. They are awakened by the cry of a newborn baby. The green man reveals himself as Lugh. He explains that Dechtire has a son called Setanta.

Sencha proclaims that the child will be a great hero. Everyone is amazed. The child is legally adopted by Sualtam but is actually adopted by everyone. They teach him to be the hero he will be. He is very big, very strong. He loves to play athletic games with other boys -- the Boys' Army: boys around the age of 12 were trained to be heroes. Setanta is only 7.

Conchobar is invited to a feast by Culann the Smith. As Conchobar and his retinue travel, they pass a field where boys are playing hurley (the Boys' Army vs. Setanta). It's illegal -- they are playing in secret. Conchobar is impressed. He invites Setanta to come to the feast. Setanta is honored but he wants to win first. He offers to meet them at the feast. There is a gigantic dog outside of Culann's house. It's a famous dog. Culann chains the dog and invites his guests in asking, "Is this all of you?" They reply, "Yes." He releases the dog and bars the door. The dog is as strong as 100 men. Setanta arrives with his stick and ball. The dog attacks him. He grabs the ball, throws it down the dog's throat, grabs it by the hind legs, raises it over his head and thrashes its head to the ground, killing it instantly. Culann is heartbroken. Setanta says, "Give me the pup from this dog and I will train it for two years." All that time, he acts as the guard dog for Culann and takes the name which means "Dog of Culann" -- Cuchulinn, the hound of Culann, is the greatest hero Ulster ever knew.

He grows to be a very handsome young man who has the magic sevens. Seven fingers on each hand, seven toes on each foot, and seven pupils in each eye. His hair is dark at the roots, red in the middle, and blonde at the ends. But when he goes into battle, the battle frenzy changes him. He turns completely around inside his skin so his feet are facing the rear. He hair stands straight out on end and sparks fly out of every strand. From the top of his head shoots a pillar of black blood as tall as a mast. Fire spurts out of his open mouth. One eye protrudes and the other recedes. And the Heroes Moon appears on his forehead (a protruding vein).

Cuchulinn must find himself a wife. He wants Emer, the daughter of Forgall, for she is the most beautiful. But Forgall is wary. He swears loudly that his daughter will never marry but to one trained by the Amazon Skathack (a woman warrior and witch). So Cuchulinn vows to go be trained and to then marry Emer. Skathach lives on an island east of Alba -- thought to be the Isle of Skye. The two other heroes Laegaire and Conall accompany him. But they lose heart quickly and return. Cuchulinn continues on. He must cross the Plain of Ill Luck, a muddy plain where, as your feet get stuck, razor sharp grass grows up to pierce them. Lugh appears (Cuchulinn's father) and gives him a wheel of stone and instructs him to roll it in front of him so that he may cross. He then goes through the Perilous Glen, filled with devouring animals. No sweat. He then finds himself facing the Bridge of Leaps which throws you off as you try to cross it. He resorts to using his Hero's Salmon's Leap. He leaps as the bridge tries to throw him and lands safely on the other side. Skathach agrees to teach him the secrets of being a great warrior. He studies for a year and a day. At which time she gives him a weapon: Gae Bolg, a spear made from the bones of sea monsters. It has many forked points and is deadly. Skathach goes into battle with Aiofe, another woman warrior. Cuchulinn decides to face Aiofe on her island in Skathach's place. Skathach has fallen in love with him and doesn't want him to go. She drugs him -- enough for a day and a night. The effect only lasts for an hour. He goes and defeats Aiofe. And from that union comes a son. He says to Skathach before he leaves that if she has a son he places a Geis(e) [GAYSH, plural GAYSH-uh] on the baby. A Geis is a taboo placed on a person that they may not EVER break. His son must never tell anyone his name and must never turn down a battle. The son is Connlach.

Cuchulinn returns to Ulster, kills Forgall, and takes Emer as a wife. [At one time, Emer discovers her husband with a mistress and she says, "The new is always sweet, and the familiar is always stale." Cuchulinn realzes the wisdom in this, etc.]

Bricriu's Feast

Bricriu builds himself a palace so that he can invite all of Ulster's men to a feast. It takes a year to build. Everyone knows he's up to trouble. They agree to come only if he will stay in another room. Before they go, Bricriu takes aside the three heroes one at a time and tells each: "When you get to the feast, traditionally the champion's portion is given out first. And because you're the greatest, of course I'll give it to you." The three argue at the feast. Sencha must intervene and settle the matter. Bricriu goes to the wives of the heroes and says to each of them, one at a time: "The first wife who comes back through the door of the hall will be the wife of the champion." As they're entering, the three wives act as if nothing is afoot. Eventually, they grab their skirts up and run. Emer is falling behind, so Chuchulinn lifts the wall so that she can enter first. When he drops the wall, it sinks a foot into the ground, setting the house at a tilt. They then go through a series of tests. Aillel and Medh are asked to judge. Cuchulinn wins every test hands down. But the other two heroes refuse to accept it. Three cups are brought in. A bronze cup for Conall, a silver cup for Laegaire, and a golden one for Cuchulinn. They still refuse to accept it. A stranger appears. A very brutish-looking fellow carrying a HUGE axe. He says he's there to join in the games. The game he suggests is this: "You can take my axe and lop my head off, but then you have to let me do the same to you." Conall does it. Laegaire, too. The stranger's body picks up its head and says, "I'll be back tomorrow for my turn." Only Cuchulinn is brave enough to face him. Curoi Mac Daire reveals himself. Cuchulinn has won the contest [Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- the Beheading Game].

The Third Sorrow of Storytelling (Dierdre and the Sons of Uisnach)

When Dierdre was born, Cathbad the Druid predicted she would be the most beautiful woman and that she would marry a foreign king, but that she would bring ruin to Ireland. Conchobar said if she would be so beautiful, he would marry her, and because he isn't foreign, would thus break the prophecy. Her nurse Lavarcham helped keep ker isolated as she grew up to be VERY beautiful. In midwinter, she looks out a window and sees a hired hand who's just killed a calf for dinner. There is blood on the snow. Ravens come down. She says, "I want a man with those three colors. Hair as black as the raven, skin as white as the snow, and lips as red as blood." This is not Conchobar. Lavarcham knows of such a man: Naoise [na EE see], eldest son of Uisnach. The other sons are Ardan and Ainle. She falls in love with Naoise on first sight and he with her. So they flee to Alba. But local kings keep falling in love with Dierdre, so they have to keep moving. Dierdre, Naoise, Ardan, and Ainle sit around a lot and play chess. Conchobar makes a plan. He goes to the heroes (Cuchulinn, Laegaire, and Conall) and asks what they would do if their king broke his word. Their answer was, "Wreak havoc -- king or no king." Conchobar goes to Fergus, his uncle and poses the same question. Fergus responds, "I would stay loyal -- he is the king." So Conchobar tells Fergus that he would like him to bring Dierdre, Naoise, Ardan, and Ainle back because he has forgiven all. Fergus believes him. Conchobar asks Fergus' oath that he will let nothing interfere with his getting them back. Fergus takes his two sons Ilann and Buinne [Ilann the Fair and Buinne the Ruthless Red] with him to Alba. He invites the four back. Dierdre is sure Conchobar is lying. But Fergus says that Conchobar gave his word. The four accede, Dierdre protesting. They sail back. Just after landing, they go through a kingdom and meet a prince who stops them. The prince had gotten a secret letter from Conchobar. He invites Fergus to stay for dinner. Fergus is under a geis that he may NEVER refuse to eat, but he has given an oath to Conchobar that he will bring Dierdre, Naoise, Ardan, and Ainle back directly. So he sends his two sons. Dierdre is suspicious. But they go. All the knights stay in Conchobar's castle. He also has a longhouse called the Red Branch House. They know if he puts them in the Red Branch House, there will be trouble for them. Conchobar sends for Lavarcham, who says that Dierdre is no longer beautiful but actually ugly. A man named Trendhorn says, "Let me go and see. I'll tell you if she's still beautiful." Trendhorn has a grudge against Naoise and his brothers. They won't let him in. He climbs up on the roof (while they're playing chess). He finds a skylight. Naoise sees him and throws a chess piece, knocking out one of Trendhorn's eyes. He says to Conchobar, "I got a glimpse of Dierdre, and it was worth losing my eye." Conchobar wants her. His formidable knights would never think of helping him in this. So he hires mercenaries. They attack in waves. Buinne comes out and is hacking them to bits. The king bribes Buinne, who sells out for a parcel of land (a very sad event). The moment Buinne sells out, that parcel of land becomes sterile. Ilann is mortified and lives in shame forever. Angry, killing right and left, Conchobar's son Fiancha goes into battle and takes Conchobar's magic shield which will scream anytime the bearer is in danger. Ilann engages Fiancha in battle. Ilann is clearly winning. Conall the Victorious hears the king's shield screaming and assumes the king is in danger. He draws his sword and kills Ilann, realizing too late who it is. He wheels around and decapitates Fiancha on the spot. But Ilann is gone. Conchobar recognizes his defeat. He calls Cathbad and asks him to cast a glamour to get Dierdre, Naoise, Ardan, and Ainle out. But he's a good man. Conchobar must give his word he will not harm the four before Cathbad accedes. Everyone inside thinks a flood hit and they make their way out swimming under water. The mercenaries grab them and tie them up. And Conchobar orders their execution. No one will perform the task. Not even the mercenaries. Finally Trendhorn (a Norwegian) volunteers because he hates them so much. Each wants to be the first to die. Trendhorn lines them up and, with one blow, decapitates them all. Conchobar takes Dierdre to be his wife. She refuses to speak to him or touch him. But the prophecy came true anyway. And Conchobar is ready to give her up. She's in a chariot one day and she leaps out and bashes her head against a rock and dies. Fergus, furious, leaves and goes to Connacht. Dierdre is recognized as the saddest woman who ever lived. She did nothing to deserve her misery. Dierdre = "sadness."

The Story of Macha the Triple Goddess

Macha comes to a farmer because she loves him. They marry on the condition that he must never tell anyone who she is. They're very happy until he goes into the town (feudal castle) of Conchobar. They are having horse races and chariot races. Everyone is crowing about how great the winner is. The farmer boasts that his wife could beat the winner -- in fact she could beat the horses. Conchobar sends for Macha, who is just about to give birth. She must prove herself or they will kill her husband. She's angry. She steps in front of a chariot, grabs the traces, and wins. She then falls by the road and gives birth. She is furious. She places a curse on everyone that anytime they are in peril, they will be weaker than she in birth. Then she disappears. This is the curse of Macha (they pass out for four and a half days or something).

Cattle Raid of Culaigne

Mebh and Aillel are boasting about what they each own (as king and queen of Connacht). Everything is even except that Aillel owns a prized magic white bull. Mebh (the witch queen) does NOT like it. She knows that, in an area of Ulster called Culaigne, a fellow owns a prized brown bull. She sends a deputation over to borrow the bull for a year. The owner is perfectly amenable and even feeds the messengers. The messengers are drinking and boasting that, even if he hadn't agreed, they would have taken the bull. At this, the fellow refuses. Mebh marches in war against Ulster. Everyone immediately passes out except Cuchulinn -- he is the son of a god. He employs guerilla tactics against the oncoming army, keeping them away. Every stone he throws kills someone. Every day, Mebh sends out heroes to be defeated by Cuchulinn. They make a deal that they may march only when he is not fighting. Fergus meets Cuchulinn. They agree to make it look as if he has won -- they take turns. Macha is attracted to him. He turns her down cold. He has so many wounds that he has to put twigs under his clothes to keep them off his skin. Lugh comes and puts him to sleep for 24 hours and cures him. The Boys' Army (exempt from the curse) comes out to face Mebh's army for the full 24 hours until every one of them is dead. Cuchulinn's stepfather Sualtam had been away. He returns, takes Cuchulinn's horse and races back to Ulster to try to rouse everyone. The horse is called the Grey of Macha, a big powerful mare. He gets to the castle, reigns the horse in, and it stops INSTANTLY, causing him to decapitate himself with his shield. The head rolls in screaming, "Wake up!" The bull is eventually taken, but the white bull and the brown bull kill one another in the corral.

Cuchulinn meets a young man who is doing battle with and defeating all the local warriors. He won't say who he is. Cuchulinn challenges the warrior to battle. The young man has a geis on him, forcing him to accept the challenge. Cuchulinn thinks he's in danger. He ducks down and, with the Gaebolg spear, comes up under his challenger's shield and skewers him. "I am Cuchulinn," he says. "Who are you?" The challenger replies, "I am Connlach, your son." Cuchulinn had placed him under the very geis -- never tell your name, never turn down a battle.

Mebh gathers together huge armies planning to attack Ulster. Especially families in enmity with Cuchulinn. (The Curse of Macha was broken in the Cattle Raid.) Cuchulinn sees omens of all sorts. He is lured out to a large plain where he sees three old hags who offer him food. He cannot refuse. He eats. Only then they tell him that he has eaten roast hound. But he is under a geis never to do that. His left side becomes paralyzed. As he is riding back, he sees a woman washing laundry which becomes redder and redder. This is a bad omen of his own blood. He takes a cup of wine and sips, only to find that it is blood. He sees the Grey of Macha weeping -- the tears are blood. He takes three spears. Cathbad says they will kill three kings. He has a charioteer who has bright red hair, white skin, freckles, and blue eyes. He is the greatest chariotee in the land. They go to battle Mebh's army. They come to some druids who are with Mebh's army, who challenge him to stop and threaten him. Cuchulinn takes a spear and kills one of them. The second grabs the spear, throws it back, and kills Cuchulinn's charioteer (the "king" of all charioteers). The second spear kills the second druid. The last druid throws it back, killing the Grey of Macha (the "king" of all horses). The horse races off into the army, killing 50 men with each hoof and 100 with its teeth before it dies. Cuchulinn throws the thrid spear and kills the third druid who, before he dies, throws the spear back, mortally wounding Cuchulinn (the "king" of all warriors). Cuchulinn goes into a battle frenzy. He backs up to a large stone, and using his belt to keep from falling over, he wraps himself against the stone and raises his arm with his sword and waits and dies. Lugaid (a scoundrel) from Mebh's army sees the hero's light go out. He goes up to cut off his head, but he jars the body and the arm falls and lops off his hand. In a fury, he cuts Cuchulinn's head off with his left hand. Conall had made a pact with Cuchulinn to avenge his death. Conall hunts down Lugaid that day and kills him so he can't boast of taking Cuchulinn's head.

Years later, on Easter Sunday, Conchobar hears what happened to Christ and he swings his arms around and his heart bursts and he dies.

Extensions from the Ulster Cycle:

Caladholg (Fergus's sword) -> Romans take over British

"Caliburnus" -> Ex Calibur

Dagda's Cauldron "Undry" -> The Holy Grail

Isle of Avlach -> Avalon (Otherworld)

Cuchulinn -> Sir Gawain

Lugh Lamfadha -> Lancelot du Lac

Diancecht -> Cathbad -> Merlin

Succat (father was Roman living in Britain, right outside the Welsh border)

Succat grew up in Wales, the son of a Roman. When he was 16, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, sold as a slave. He worked for six years as a shepherd and a swineherd. one night he had a dream/vision that he was going to return home, that a ship was ready, and where to go. He walked 200 miles and found a ship all rigged and ready to go. He sailed home. Later (in his mid-twenties), he went to Gaul. He studied Christianity, and changed his name to Patrick (400's A.D.). He became a priest, then a bishop. The Church sent him to Ireland, but he knew to go already because he had gotten a letter from an angel named Victor, saying that Ireland needed him. There was great opposition from the druids, etc. He never left Ireland again. 461 493 A.D. He spent 32 years in Ireland. He drove all the snakes from Ireland. When he came, there were no Christians; when he died, there were no more pagans. He once made a fire out of ice and snow. He built 385 churches with schools (it is more likely that he converted Druidic colleges). He died on March 17th. The green is an association with spring and the green of Ireland. Shamrocks represent the Trinity. Clay pipes associate him with the common folk and leprechauns. He is considered the great saint of Ireland, although he was Roman and Welsh.

St. Brendan

St. Brigit

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

The REAL Arthur: England was invaded and conquered by Rome in 55 B.C. It was occupied until 410 A.D. The Romans settled into Britain, took wives, had children, etc. Roman names were used by the soldiers, still fond of their heritage. The Romans were called back in 410 to defend the Empire. They left Britain undefended. Then came the Picts. The Britons were helpless. They sent to Germany and asked the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (all Germanic tribes) to bring troops in to suppress the Picts. These tribes succeeded in staving off the Picts. But then they wouldn't leave. A new war broke out between the Britons and these Germanic tribes. From 480-500 A.D., there was a 20-year lull. Peace was made. But the Britons stood back warily. In 520, war broke out again. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes won a decisive victory, driving out many Britons to Brittany (France). The Jutes settled in Kent (in the southeast). The Angles and Saxons absorbed and were absorbed by the remaining Britons. In the late 500's, some form of history (in Welsh) called the "Annals of British History" was written. Battles and wars were discussed. A name was mentioned: Arcturus (Latin). He was called a Dux Bellorum (battle leader, general). Arcturus was a young Roman who had learned Roman military tactics and stayed in Britain. He supplied the genius to fight the Germans in between eight and twelve different battles, all of which he won. A battle in 500 A.D. resulted in a decisive defeat against the Germans. The Battle of Camlann (520 A.D.), Arcturus and Medraut fell. The Germans won. There were many unanswered questions. This is the progeny of the story of Arthur and Mordred as enemies in the Battle of Camelot. Various little references to Arthur became common. A monk claimed to have found the grave of Arthur. ("Here lies Arthur, the one time king and the future king" -- the Once and Future King). He supposedly dug him up. The bones were taken to a cathedral in Glastonbury. Someone said they found a stone with a pawprint (made by Arthur's magic dog). Around this time, stories began.

Arthur and Mordred are linked. Guinevere, Arthur's queen. 1136 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote "Historia Regum Britoniae" -- History of the Kings of Britain. Ambrosius -- king over Merlin. Merlin magically set up Stonehenge. It purports to be the history of the kings of Britain, but it is really pure Geoffrey of Monmouth. He takes tremendous license.

The irony is that Arthur would not have stood for England -- he fought for the Britons against the Angles.

Poems were written. Then in France, the Arthurian cycle caught on (because all they had was Charlemagne). c. 1160, the Round Table and the Knights have been fabricated. And much has been written. In France, at this time, (12th century) much that had been brewing is coming to a head. Chivalry and courtly love suddenly fluorished (had been prepared for). Their minstrels were primarily Bretons. Minstrels catered to the woman of the house because she decided their pay. Guinevere takes a lover outside of her home because this man is so passionately crazy about her that its worthwhile. (Courtly love = illicit) The Church (in a grand coup) came out with a law saying it is a sin to enjoy sex with your spouse (it should pe purely for propagation) -- this seemed to promulgate the efficacy of adultery. Women began to get into this. Marriages were arranged as business ventures. Some very powerful French women trained men to be grand COURTLY lovers. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Marie of Champagne opened this school, hired textwriters, etc.

In Rome, Ovid was a writer who wrote much humor. Manual (i.e., book of instruction)-writing was taken very seriously. So Ovid wrote -- as a joke -- a manual called "The Art of Love." Because love was considered to be unimportant and inconsequential. Eleanor and Marie took this satire to be holy word. They hired a man to update this to "The Art of Courtly Love": Chrétien de Troyes (Christian of Troy), a writer of French romances (poetic novels). He was the best. c. 1160, recognized the value of the influx of material on Arthur from England. Used heroes and characters in his romances. He was a great writer. So influential that Eleanor and Marie commissioned him to write a romance in keeping with courtly love -> "The Knight of the Cart." One day, when Arthur is at home with his court, a strange knight challenges any knight to a joust. If he wins, he can have anything he wants -- and what he wants is Guinevere. Sir Gawayne wasn' there. Arthur was wary. Sir Chay, his boyhood friend, demands as a return of favor to be allowed to joust. Chay loses (handily), so the knight rides off with Guinevere. Sir Gawayne returns and is furious. He is the greatest knight of the realm. He resolves to bring Guinevere back. A junior knight begs to go along. Gawayne agrees. The junior gallops off at top speed. He rides his horse to death. Gawayne gives him a pack horse. This guy ADORES Guinevere. They come to a brook to water their horses. The junior knight finds Guinevere's comb in the grass. He clasps it to his breast and passes out. Gawayne can't believe it. He comes to, sees a long golden hair on the comb, and passes out again. They come to a village. A dwarf says he'll tell them where to find Guinevere only if they'll ride through the town in his cart (a humiliating thing -> execution). They reach a raging river. The bridge is a huge sword turned on edge. Gawayne will ford the river but he is swept away temporarily. The junior knight makes it across the sword bridge. Finally, he is in the courtyard "fighting" the abductor but he sees Guinevere and can't take his eyes off her. She says to her lady-in-waiting that he'll be killed. She advises her to tell him. Yes, but who is he? Sir Lancelot. She advises him. He turns around to fight and watch her at the same time. (Chrétien quits here in disgust with the mush -- completed by another author). The satire became taken seriously. Lancelot du Lac becomes a famous character.

Courtly love = an illicit affair between a noble, courteous, gentile bachelor knight and a married lady. It is never consummated (on paper). It should be at a distance. The man is slave to a cold-hearted woman who loves him in secret.

Ulrich, a German knight in love with his neighbor's wife, courted her openly. He serenaded her, sent love messages -- for two years. Then he went on horseback across Europe for several months dressed as Aphrodite. He made everyone say that the object of his affection was the most beautiful woman -- even though they hadn't seen her. So he jousted. And when all was said and done, he had broken 300 lances. Upon his return, her husband died. They married, and within six months he was courting another.

In France, other writers used "The Knight of the Cart" as a springboard. There was a problem. Sir Gawayne was great. Lancelot was a nobody. They had to do a little balancing act to turn Lancelot into the greatest knight. Suppress one; embellish the other. This took several centuries. But in France, Lancelot became number one. In England, Lancelot was ignored. Gawayne was not dedicated to any one woman. He had many affairs, because courtly love had not yet caught on. Once Gawayne fell in love and married. His wife died after two years. He is the hero in England.

In 1460, a man is placed in jail for rape for a while (Sir Thomas Malory). In jail (across from a library), he reads French stories of Arthur. So he opted for the French tale when he wrote Le Morte d'Arthur. He felt there was no way to explain the fall of Camelot without corruption in the court. Thus, the consummated love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere. This established the new bent for the story of Arthur. Malory only codified -- he invented virtually nothing.

Arthur. As a king, he is patterned after Conchobar of Ulster. He gathers the greatest knights of the realm to come to his court (Camlann -> Camelot). The idea of the round table came circa 1140, between Geoffrey Monmouth and Chrétien. Traditionally, the greatest knight sits at the right of the king. Roundness does away with this dilemma. They are all the greatest knights. Lancelot and Galahad never existed before the poetic romance. Arthur had the image of the Virgin Mary on his shield or back plate of armor in the last battle he won. (The Story of Dierdre and the Sons of Uisnach inspired the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot tale.) It was once said, "Guinevere was a very beautiful lady who had a bad habit of being run off with." It was an arranged marriage. It was the greatest blow for Arthur to discover that his best friend was the one with his wife -- it was really Lancelot he cared about. (In the English version, Guinevere runs off with Mordred and takes over the kingdom.) Arthur is killed as he is killing. He is killing Mordred, and Mordred is killing him back. He behaved as badly as Conchobar when he found out about Guinevere. Sir Gawayne is the most colorful character. He is not shackled by marriage. He defeats every single person he challenges without exception. (Based on Cuchulinn -- also unfaithful -- through the Welsh). Gawayne is believed to be a kind of solar deity. His strength increases until noon and then wanes. (He falls in love with a woman named Lunette, or "Little Moon".) He is the nephew of Arthur (always the favorite over sons). He is big, light-haired, light-eyed, powerful, handsome. But he has faults. He is a very popular character. He starred in Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight -> "Evil to Him Who Evil Think" (later assumed by the real Knights of the Garter). Sir Gawayne eventually split into his four brothers. Gawayne rides the only horse with a name, Gringolet. Gringolet is a dappled grey horse with red ears, associated with Faerie (from the Grey of Macha).

Lailoken (Scottish cycle of stories), madman who lived in the forest Cairmarthen on the border of Scotland. "Bad man of the forest." He is a sorceror magician. The Britons had to move south because of the Angles. They took these stories with them. The Welsh liked the stories. In and around Wales, they interpreted Cairmarthen as The Mound (Caer) of Myrddin -> assumed this to be his name. Influence of Cathbad and Diancecht, assumed he was the magician of that cycle. When that cycle became a part of Arthurian legend, this was thought to be the name of the court wizard. Geoffrey of Monmouth turned Myrddin into a magician under Ambrosius and eventually under Arthur himself. He set up Stonehenge, etc. Arthur's story moved to France and then back to Britain. The British expanded it even more. The cycle is known as "The Matter of Britain" (Matter of Rome -- Ancient Rome, Matter of France -- Charlemagne). Changed Myrddin to Myrlin because of the auditory similarity to the French "merd."

Lailoken is not associated with the court. In his 60s or 70s, he fell in love with a 14 year-old girl called Nimue -- an entrancing girl. She becomes his beloved on the condition that he teach her everything he knows. He taught her for several years. At the end of the time, she used his magic against him. She lured him sexually into a cave and then sealed him into it so he could never escape. (Tennyson calls her "Vivian.") [Sir Gawayne is out riding and hears Merlin's voice. Gawayne tells what has happened.] With Arthur, Morgan Lafey is a close relation (Lafey = the Fairy) of Arthur's. A sister, sister-in-law, or cousin. She has much power. She wants to bring ruin to Arthur's Camelot. Comes from the Welsh Morgana (of battle and of good and bad fortune), who comes from Morrigu. Morgan is behind the beheading game for Sir Gawayne. It is rumored that Morgan put Nimue up to the whole plot with Merlin. Morgan becomes attached in this cycle to Mordred (Medraut -> Mordred/Modred), who fell at the Battle of Camlann. This legend becomes inherently evil. A bastard nephew of Arthur's father.

crestfallen - joust origins standard bend - right to left / on shield bend dexter - \ (bend sinister) = illegitimacy

Illegitimacy is why Mordred is always angry and evil. He is also a very powerful warrior. When he and Arthur meet, they kill each other. Mordred is always the dark figure. He is plotting constantly. He represents the powers of darkness in all the stories.

Sir Kay (first in Geoffrey Monmouth's history) a boyhood acquaintance of Arthur, who was brought up by Kay's father. He is Arthur's companion knight. An excellent foil -> he loses all the time. He needs to be saved or accounted for. Human weakness is necessary for the stories. Too superficial.

Sir Bedevere (the Butler), which comes from "bottler" or wine steward. Ever-faithful servant to Arthur. Bedevere is there as Arthur dies. He requires that he take Excalibur to the lake and throw it in. Arthur asks what he saw. Bedevere said nothing. Arthur knew he lied. A second time, Bedevere said a monster came. Once again, Arthur knew he was lying. On the third time, Bedevere told Arthur that a hand came out of the water and drew the sword under. Finally, Arthur knew that Bedevere had done as he had asked.

Instead of dying, a boat from the lake with beautiful maidens, takes him and they sail away to Faerie -- an island. The Isle of Glass/Avalon. Arthur and all his knights are sleeping in a cave on Avalon and will come to Britain's rescue if needed.

Lancelot du Lac - son of King Bann of Benwick. imported from France. He is the epitome of the great knight, and was made so in France. He catches Guinevere's eye. They ruin their courtly love affair by having a physical consummation -- for quite some time. He is a knight errant, i.e., he wanders aimlessly in search of adventure. Lancelot decided to be errant for a while. He stays with a friendly king who has a beautiful daughter who falls in love with him. The king casts a spell, causing Lancelot to forget Guinevere and fall in love with Elaine. Lancelot marries Elaine. Their union produces a son. After two years, Lancelot snaps out of the spell and is furious with the king. He leaves Elaine and his son. Elaine commits suicide. Her father raises the son, who goes to Camelot and is knighted: Sir Galahad, who is seated to Arthur's left (Siege Perilous). This seat is deadly. Only one who is totally pure could sit there. Galahad succeeded in surviving the test. He is PURE. Too pure. He is the youngest of the knights. Tennyson's Idylls of the King includes a poem about Galahad: "My good sword carves the casks of men, my tough lance thrusteth sure. My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure." He is always a blond, beardless youth. Celibate. He isn't very much fun. He does get to do one thing...

Sir (Drustan -> Tristan ->) Tristram and his beloved Iseult (Isolde) and King Mark

Final story: King Mark of Cornwall, castle Tintagel at the southwest corner of Britain. Tintagel on small peninsula. His nephew was Tristan. Loyal knight. Greatest in his area. Mark wanted a bride. Heard about Princess Iseult in Ireland. Wanted Tristan to go and fetch her for him. Mark wasn't sure she'd care for him. Sent a nurse with a love potion which would cause her to fall in love with the first person she sees. Tristant and Iseult accidentally drank it together and instantly fell in love, (in the original story, they fell in love on their own), making them blameless. She still has to marry Mark, who is very jealous. Convinced they are carrying on an affair, which they are not. His jealousy drives them together. The affair was consummated (more than once). Iseult says she will undergo trial by ordeal to prove her innocence (a red hot iron will or will not burn). Tristan disguises himself as a pilgrim in priestly robes. She trips, he catches her. She swears she hasn't been in any one's arms but his -- except the pilgrim who has just saved me. She isn't burned. But Mark exiles Tristan. Once Mark is out hunting and he stops and finds the two of them lying beside each other with Tristan's razor sharp sword lying between them. Mark is mollified for a while. Ultimately, Mark arranges to have Tristan assassinated. Tristan marries. Iseult of the White Hands. Tristan is fatally wounded by the assasin but knows Iseult can cure him. He asks to send for her. Stipulation: if she is going to come and cure me, put up the white sails. If she refuses, make the sails black. His wife is jealous. She lies and tells him the sails are black. He rolls over and dies. Iseult arrives and lies down beside him and dies. Similar to the story of Theseus and Aegeus.

(Peredur, Perceval, Perlesvaus) -> Sir Percival (Gawayne, Percival, and Tristan were originally the most important of the knights -> later Lancelot and Galahad) Percival was the son of a woman with a husband and two sons, all three were killed while she was pregnant with Percival. She raised Percival without a word about knighthood. She kept him as a country bumpkin. One day, he was out in the field and five armed knights came and asked for a drink of water. Once he saw them, he knew it was his calling. He told his mother that he had to become a knight. She was against it, but he was adamant. His mother said to be sure to worship and keep holy. At one point, Percival comes to a pavilion tent thinking it's a temple. He goes in and sees a beautiful woman sleeping. He kisses her and leaves. Her husband suspects something's amiss and beats her mercilessly. But Percival goes on his way. He is almost laughed out of the court (when he left, his mom fainted, but he went on undeterred).

A red knight has been charging up and down outside of Camelot. Percival defeats him easily takes his armor. Some people in the court take pity and teach him what he needs to know.

Older man/knight, sort of fatherly, takes him under his wing. He says: "If you want to do well, keep silent. Don't ask questions. You'll learn more." He came to an old man fishing. The man invites him home for dinner. The old man is there, king and lord of the castle. But he has a problem. He has been pierced through both legs with a spear (called the Fisher King). Percival doesn't say anything. People come through carrying things: 1) a lance with one drop of blood on the end of it, 2) a candelabra, 3) a jeweled compote dish, called a GRAIL with a single wafer in it (holy -> called a "host"), 4) a carving plate. The fisher is in immense pain; his old wounds are still bleeding. Percival goes to sleep. He wakes up and the place is magically deserted -- unlived in for a long time. He goes on his way. He has a few adventures. He gets back to Arthur's court and is knighted (he has defeated over 60 opponents by this time). A woman comes in and rails at him for not bothering to ask about the Fisher King. There was an old man and another man in another room: the Fisher King's father. His simply asking would have healed them both. Another woman comes in and says the reason he didn't know any better because he had been cruel to his mother who had died. Result: the knights realize they should go and try to find the Fisher King. But he has learned pity and humility. He becomes a GREAT knight. This evolves into the legend of the Holy Grail. Later, the knights are portrayed not seeking the Fisher King but the Grail itself. It was supposed to have been used by Christ and the Last Supper then given to Joseph of Arimathea who caught the blood of Christ in the grail and then went to England, which is of course why it's there. All the knights but one fail in this quest. (Galahad gets to see it -- Gawayne and Percival are said to have seen it in a vision). Lancelot never got to see it because he did NASTY things.

Around 1910, Jessie Weston (a female scholar) used to point out that the lance and the grail were male and female phallic symbols. Could be distantly related to the Dagda's Cauldron -> Bran's magic drinking horn (horn in Latin is "cornu"; the host is the body of Christ "cors/corse" -> mistranslated?).

The Quest for the Holy Grail becomes a Christian core to the Arthurian legends. It doesn't really fit very well. The Siege Perilous is a spin off on the Stone of Fal.

King Arthur's weapon having a name is odd. But he also has a spear called Ron (exactly like Lugh's spear). Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon (= "son of the dragon"). Because Arthur is said to have been taken to the Isle of Glass, many believe this to be Glastonbury which has a hill called the Glastonbury Tor, which often appeared as an island because of marshes at the foot.

The Legend of Robin Hood

In English literature -> allegory -- extended metaphor. E.g., Piers Plowman c. 1377 written in alliteration, has a line: "I ken not perfectly my paternoster" -- First mention of Robin Hood -- in contrast to the Paternoster. Well-known even by then. c. 1400 "The Geste of Robin Hood."

Robyn Hode

Robyn and his men are already in the forest. They stop a knight and ask if he has money. He has £200. He owes £400 to the Abbott of Saint Mary's, who will take his home and his sister. Robyn lends him the additional £200. The Abbott is shocked and dismayed that the knight has come up with the sum. Then a monk of Saint Mary's is stopped in the forest. Robyn asks if he has money. The monk says no. Robyn says, "Oh, then you can go -- but let's search anyway." They find £800 and take it because he had said it wasn't his.

Little John wins an archery contest. They capture the Sheriff of Nottingham. They let him go on his promise that he won't persecute them. he breaks his word. He devises a trap of an archery contest for Robyn. They find refuge at the home of the first knight Sir Richard of the Lee (lea -> meadow). The Sheriff catches Richard. Robyn rescues him, and then kills the Sheriff. Twenty-two years later, Robyn goes to visit his cousin the princess at a convent. She has a secret lover who hates Robyn Hode and points out that he looks like he's not feeling well. She can fix him up. She bleeds him to death. There is no Maid Marian. At the end of the story, he shoots an arrow to mark his grave. They fought with bows and swords; no quarter staffs, no lances. Only Edward, Our Comely King is mentioned. No Richard. No John. No mention of his being a Saxon or fighting the Normans. They were not social rebels in any way. Robyn was not a knight, earl, or noble -- he was a yeoman (of the working class/a foot soldier). There was no robbing of the rich to give to the poor. Robyn gives advice: There are only two kinds of people to rob -- bishops and archbishops.

Robin Hood, Adam Bell, Clim of Clough, William of Cloudsley. Referred to in the 1400s (he had been around before). The Forest of Inglewood, living off the King's deer. The Sheriff is after them constantly. They are very good at outwitting him and the law. They have a battle. Wil is captured and taken to town. A gallows is erected for him. A small peasant boy runs to tell Adam and Clim. They manage to disguise themselves, trick their way into town, and shoot the sheriff, rescue Wil and get back to the Forest. Band, the forest, illegal life, bow and arrow, disguise, sheriff, rescue -> Robin Hood. Other stories were similar. Outlaws in the forests. All masters of disguise. Skilled with weapons. To lure an aristocrat into the woods, capture and release. Demand to know how much money he has. If the person lies, they steal the money. Always yeomen. Traditionally, Robin Hood was in Nottinghamshire in Sherwood Forest. According to early stories, however, Robin Hood was more in Barnsdale (north of Nottingham -- southwest Yorkshire). Story of the forest arose because of a feud with the Sheriff.

c. 1330 or 1220, believed to be origin (too late for Richard and John). Very near Barnsdale c. 1400-50 figure known as Robert Hode ("Robin" = French and English nickname for Robert). Surname "Robynhode" appears in the same region. Legends always founded in fact but become exaggerated.


Indus Valley (origin of "Indo" part of Indo-European language). c. 2000-1000 B.C. Europeans came into the Indus Valley. They began to migrate, some to future Persia; the rest to future Hindu India. They spoke Sanskrit. Northern India (fairer because of European ancestry) leads to interesting parallels to Hindu and Celtic stories.

1) Vedic - earlier gods, pre-"occupational" shared by the Persians and Indians. They had two major gods. 2) a. Dyaus - male, sky god, called Dyaus Pitar = "God, the Father" patriarchal -> Jupiter Dyaus <-> Zeus b. Prithivi a) bull, b) cow (representation - fertility) a) "vigorous god" (virile), b) "heroic female" Beneath these:

Varuna, epithet "The All-Encompassing One." The night sky. An ANCIENT god. He had originally created the universe using 1) his creative will and 2) the sun. Eventually he branches out. He has 1,000 eyes (stars) or a single powerful one (the sun). He represents cosmic order and therefore law. Varuna is omniscient but just (if severe). He carried a rope with him to bind sinners and sometimes represents the crimes of a person -- strength of the rope commensurate with the number of sins. After centuries, Varuna became part of a triad. Varuna = guardian of night. Mitra(s) = guardian of the day. Aryaman = ? [(no idea) but the same name in Persia means malevolent god of evil].

Indians changed their gods periodically. This triad was replaced eventually by another. The second triad is called "The Great Triad of the Vedic Gods": Agni, Surya, Indra

Agni - god of fire. The name appears via Roman in "ignite", etc. Said to be the youngest of the three gods. Personifies 1) sun, 2) lightning, 3) sacrificial fire. Three kinds of fire. Indians and Persians believe sacrifical fire arrived here by lightning of the sun, so earthbound fire is an extension of the sun itself. During sacrifices to him, worshippers can put meat and clarified butter into the flame. He purifies it to eat. In Persia, clarified butter -- but NOTHING else - must be put on the fire to make it sacred. Anything else would constitute contamination. Whoever contaminates the sacred flame is buried alive. In India, the fire will purify anything. Agni carries a bow and arrow (representing lightning). He has red skin on his arms and legs, golden hair (3 legs, 7 arms, 2 faces, 7 tongues). He rides in a bright shining chariot with banners of black smoke. The two faces suggest two forms of fire and being able to move in two directions. He is a very friendly god. Spoken to in personal terms (like a friend) in ritual. He really liked Soma (a muscle-relaxantdrug -- a drink, pale amber fluid, sacred -- personified into a god).

Surya - very divine. Sun god. Has golden hair, golden skin. Rides in a chariot drawn by seven red mares or a seven-headed red mare. "The Eye of Varuna" (epithet), also "The Eye of Mitras." Source of great stability, security and permanence. Called "The Measurer," set boundaries. Looked upon in a mystical way. "Stimulated the mind of man" to creativity, deep pensive though, etc.

Indra - comical character (similar to Thor). A rival of Varuna for a long time. [When the Indo-Europeans came into India, they wanted to stay segregate from the locals -- used a class system -> caste system: Brahmin, Kshatriya (warriors, nobles). Varuna was the patron god of the Brahmin, and Indra of the Kshatriya. Thus the power feud.] Indra has golden skin, red beard (warrior god). Throne in a storm cloud. Golden chariot with tawny horses (palominos). Wears the sky as his helmet. Four weapons: 1) a common spear and Chakra - metal ring, razor sharp on the outside, blunt on the inside, works like a discus, Ankus (elephant goad - see figure) six or seven feet long and razor sharp, Vajra - represents a lightning bolt (three pronged on either end). Indra is very warlike. He is generous to his followers (a necessary adjunct to warrior leaders). The clouds are his cattle. He guards them (and the cattle of humans, as well). Indra loves Soma and women beyond anything in the universe -- anytime and in vast excess quantities. He can't just take a drink of Soma. He must become falling down drunk (representing earthquakes) and will have liaisons with ANY woman. He is comparable to Thor. Indra is the son of Dyaus and Prithivi (the whole triad is/are). At birth, Indra drinks Soma to ready himself for battle. He always does this. As an adult god, he kills his father Dyaus for his inheritance, which is Soma. He does not want to wait. He takes the Soma and becomes powerful and separates his father from his mother with his hands (separation of the sky from the earth -- archetypal). He must go out and face the demon of drought Vritra who causes drought because he is a great dragon of the waters. He imprisons the waters, pens them up. Indra must win to release the water. This takes place every year at the end of summer.

(1) Asura(s) - thought of in contrast to (2) Deva(s) (good benevolent gods mentioned above). Asuras are mostly demons, etc. In the Persian, the opposite is true.

Danava(s) - unpleasant and malevolent beings (Vritra is one of them). But the word means "children of Danu." Aditra(s) - more neutral (Varuna is one).

(3) Rakshasa(s) - demons, mostly deformed, many ghouls, misanthropes (ghoul - breaks open new grave and cannibalizes -> an eater of the dead)

Tvashtri - artisan of the Vedic gods. Created Indra's weapons starting with the Vajra. Also contains concepts of creativity and abundance. He gives fertility to humanity. Has the bowl of Soma that Indra steals in order to fight Vritra. Soma - a vague god who has the characteristics of the drink. He is said to be a moon god (because of his color). He is a source of physical strength, inspiration, immortality. Artisan of the gods, had the bowl of the source of immortality for the gods (like Goivniu). Occasionally, Soma is thought of as a food (called Amrita) instead of a drink (-> ambrosia/nectar). He is also the source of military inspiration (like mead). When drunk by humans in the underworld, it gives them immortality.

Dushan - wonder-working god who feeds and invigorates, source of food, carries a spear or awl, rides in a chariot drawn by goats. He has no teeth. He only eats porridge.

Brahmanic Gods: Headed by the Trimurti (three-headed): Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

Brahma is the creator.
Vishnu is the preserver.
Shiva is the destroyer.

Shiva - comes from a pre-Indic pair of gods: Rudra and Agni. Rudra, the red god (before Persia and India split) of storms, lightning, cattle, and medicine. Lives in the mountains. Shiva usually wears a breech cloth, body smeared with ashes (mountain hermit, ascetic). He has a third eye with a crescent around it in the middle of his forehead. His headdress is made of venomous serpents. His hair is a tangled mess (third eye sometimes shown in his hair). He wears a necklace of human skulls. Sometimes shown with five faces. Four arms. The third eye represents a lightning bolt, the most powerful weapon of the gods. [Note: most of the gods have four or more arms.] He is also the god of dance. He is often shown dancing on the back of a demon. One couldn't show motion with statues. Multiple arms created the illusion of motion. Shiva has a white face (ashen), tiger skin over his shoulder in cold areas of the country. he has a blue throat. He hangs out in graveyards or battlefields or in the highest mountains of the Himalayas. He inherits the fertility aspect ("Lord of the Beasts") from Rudra. He is a demonslayer. Distributor of the seven holy rivers that flow out from the Ganges. He is often shown in art with a river splitting on his head.

Brahma and Vishnu one day meet and realize they've met beside a huge stone column, the top of which they can't see nor can they see the bottom. They've never seen it before. One goes up. one goes down to see where it goes. They both get exhausted and can't find the ends. They are both mystified. Then it disappears and Shiva shows up. They tell him and he listens then laughs. He demonstrates somehow that the column was in fact his erect phallus.

Shiva has some consorts. Primarily Devi. [Note: Hindus believe in reincarnation, but lovers will be lovers eternally.] Devi - originally a kind of earth mother goddess, but later she becomes solely identified with Shiva. -> Durga - name taken from a demon she slew, created solely to kill demons, fierce beautiful woman with ten arms, riding a tiger. Kali - also kills demons, called black earth mother, has black skin and tusks, fangs, a third eye, and blood smeared all over her face from demon-killing, a necklace of alternating snakes and skulls. her tongue hangs to the ground.

Brahma, the Creator God. He has red skin, four arms, four heads (he had five, but lost one), rides a white goose. He once created a consort for himself. She was very beautiful. He fell in love with her instantly. His steady gaze embarrassed her. As she tried to move away in different directions, new heads popped up, leaving him with five heads altogether. Shiva appears and lops off the fifth, leaving four.

Avatar, Samsara, Kharma
Hindus believe in Samsara = "incarnation." The appearance in the flesh is the avatar, and the actual role is Kharma. It is not a pleasant thing to come back. Life was difficult. But a person must keep coming back and work off the wrongs he has committed. The next form under human is the cow (which is why they do not kill cows in India). Kharma is the debt owed. Once it is paid off, you can pass into oblivion.

Vishnu - Vishnu's skin is blue. He has four hands and rides a huge white bird with a human face called Garuda. Gods and demons are constantly waging war. Vishnu must assure the demons don't get the upper hand and offset the balance of the universe. He has had nine avatars and has one still coming.

1st avatar: Manu was fishing. Vishnu showed up as a fish (source of the word "man") who is caught by Manu. The fish says, "If you'll spare me, I'll help you." So Manu spares the fish. He puts him in a fish bowl. The fish grew and grew. It said to Manu, "There is a huge flood coming. You're going to have to build a giant boat. Manu does as the fish says. Once the boat is in danger of crashing and a huge fish with golden scales and a golden horn appears. Manu lashes the boat to the horn and humanity is saved. The fish reveals himself as Vishnu.

At one time, the gods began to lose vigor and strength, and the Asuras began to gain mastery. Vishnu tells the gods to work together with the Asuras. They take a giant mountain and turn it over and place it in the cosmic ocean. They take the hugest snake and wrap it round the mountain once. They hold the ends of the snake and turn the mountain back and forth which churns the ocean. But the mountain begins to bore into the earth. Vishnu (2nd avatar) takes the form of a turtle, dives down and acts as a pivot to protect the earth. From the foam of the ocean came Amrita to keep the gods young. The snake opens its mouth and a gigantic amount of poison comes out and is about to fall on the earth and destroy all life. Shiva catches all the poison in his mouth and takes it out to the universe and spews it out. Strong poison -- turned his throat blue. (4th avatar) Lion-man, a man with a lion's head and claws. (5th avatar) A demon named Bali performs austerities for centuries until he's so strong he takes over the universe. He becomes a tyrant. One day in Bali's court a dwarf appears who pleases Bali with humor and the like. The dwarf says he would like as a favor to own a place of his own. Bali asks how much. The dwarf says only as much as I can cover in three steps. Bali grants the wish. The dwarf is Vishnu. He grows so huge that in one step he covers the whole universe and says to Bali, "Where shall I go now?" Bali is contrite in his loss. He becomes ruler of the Underworld (there is a similar story in Polynesian myth). (3rd avatar) a boar. (6th & 7th avatars) The Kshatriya class had become too strong and were taking over. A being called Parasurama (= Rama with the axe) appears and begins wiping out the warrior class. He gets a blood frenzy up and is unstoppable. Ramachandra appears (often called Rama). This is also Vishnu. And he stopped Parasurama. Two separate incarnations at the same time. Parasurama leaves.

Sita - Rama's beloved. (The couple is very famous in Indian lore.) In a long poem, Sita was abducted by a demon Ravana, King of Lanka (Sri Lanka). Rama goes after her, blah blah blah. (8th avatar) Krishna ("Dark One") When he was born, a demon knew he would present danger, but only knew the name of his family clan. He sent soldiers to kill all the infant sons (archetype: The Slaughter of the Innocents). They miss him, of course. They always do. Krishna escapes. He is a boy with blue skin. He grows up. As a teenager, he has a series of very amorous adventures. He loves to go out in the fields and have a nice time with girls herding cows (Krishna with the Cow Girls). He used to "dance" with these young ladies. He once encountered thirteen of them. They all wanted to "dance." So he cloned himself into twelve others and they all "danced" in a circle. He grows up and goes after the demon who tried to kill him. At the gate, a mad elephant attacks him and he clubs it to death and then goes in and does the same to the demon. He then marries his lover (equivalent of the Sita figure). At one point, two gigantic clans prepare to go to war against each other. One is led by Arjuna (Krishna was Arjuna's cousin). The night before the first battle, Arjuna looks into the valley of the armies and feels sad of the death that will occur. His chariot-driver talks to him about whether he should go to battle (the charioteer is Krishna). The Mahabhárata is a poem which describes the entire war. The conversation between Krishna and Arjuna is the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna sends Arjuna into war and they win. One day, Krishna is out in the woods sitting beneath a tree and an archer shoots an arrow not seeing Krishna. The arrow misses his mark and hits Krishna in the heel and wounds him fatally (his one vulnerable spot). Krishna forgives the archer, then dies and becomes Vishnu again.

The Story of the 9th Avatar: Buddha - recent story. An obvious attempt to subordinate Buddha to the Hindu gods. However the real 9th avatar is to come. In the age of shallowness and materialism and brother cheating brother, son killing father, Vishnu will be Kalki [(1) a great white stallion, (2) Vishnu riding a white stallion].

Brahma - one day = 4,320 million years. At the beginning of each cosmic day, Vishnu lies asleep on the back of a thousand-headed cobra, floating in the cosmic ocean. Immediately, a lotus grows from Vishnu's navel. From the lotus, Brahma is born. Brahma creates the world and governs it. And at the end of the day, Vishnu falls asleep and reabsorbs the entire universe back into his body. 360 of those days form one year of Brahma. Vishnu will live 100 of those years. Right now, Vishnu is 51. After the 100 years, Vishnu and Brahma will merge with the Imperial Absolute - a life force. But a new Vishnu will appear and it will start all over again.

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Glossary of Mythological Terms

allegories - the use of symbolic or fictional figures to express truths or generalizations about human existence and/or actual events in history

archetype - characters, situations or events commonly representative of throughout history and cultures, e.g., nagging mother-in-law, boastful but cowardly soldier, the eternal triangle/love triangle, a young god destroying the huge enemy of the other gods, poetic justice.

Some common archetypes:

  • The air personified separates the earth from the sky.
  • The sky is male and the earth is female.
  • The sum is superior to the moon in power.
  • The Evil Eye - an all-powerful weapon, the bearer of the eye need only look upon his victim to inflict instantaneous death.
  • The Curing of the Curse - (1) the victim can only be cured if the source of the curse is known, (2) the victim can only be cured by the person who lays the curse.
  • The True Name (a very widespread archetype) - Everything in the universe has a true name which is the essence of that thing. The name gives power over the entity. Godparents give a child a true name. The name by which a person is actually called is the "eke name" or "also name" -> "nickname".
  • Pre-Creation Chaos - The first major archetype: In the beginning there is nothing but ocean or chaotic water or ice.
  • Enmity Between the Farmer and the Herdsman
    • Bitter feud between herdsman and farmer and the obvious favoritism for the herdsman.
  • Universal Laws, for example:
    • Anyone who eats and/or drinks in the Underworld may never leave
    • The Law of the Host and Guest - the guest must arrive home as safely as they arrived at the host's door [Macbeth's murder of Duncan, a guest, was much more heinous than if he'd murdered a stranger]
  • The Dying God Theme - Any fertility god is born in the spring, lives half the year, then dies and goes to the Underworld until it is spring again. The Greeks had three separate versions of this story. Persephone, Adonis & Aphrodite, and Dionysus (festivals in recognition of his death and rebirth -> drama for the festivals. Dramas for the spring were comedy, and those for the autumn were tragedy.)
  • The Triple Goddess -
    • three different goddesses combined into one who takes the name of one and the powers of all three
    • a single goddess split into three variant forms of the original goddess's name with similar or identical powers
  • The universe is created from the dead carcass of a great primeval being.
  • The Lying Messenger/The Perverted Message - The theme is our loss of a chance at immortality. Typically the messenger is sent to tell humans how to get immortality for himself. The messenger is almost always a snake. It parallels the Garden of Eden story.
  • The Slaughter of the Innocents - all the young children of a given age and description are murdered to prevent the rise to power of a prophesied leader.

canon - official sacred book of a culture (e.g., the Bible, the Koran, etc.)

courtly love - an illicit affair between a noble, courteous, gentile bachelor knight and a married lady. It is never consummated (on paper). It should be at a distance. The man is slave to a cold hearted woman who loves him in secret.

demon - a being halfway between the gods and humans, sometimes minor gods

demi-god - offspring of the gods

dualism - a belief that there is only good and evil in the universe and that they are constantly at odds

epithet - a label given to a god or person which reflects certain chracteristics

eponymous ancestor - an ancestor created/invented to explain the existence of something current

folklore - usually about people or animals -- always in a state of flux (authors are anonymous)

god - An immortal? with supernatural powers? Their powers are always connected to their aspects. They are associated with nature. All have some virtues and weaknesses as humans do but they are greatly exaggerated and limited to several specifics.

Law of Parsimony (stinginess): When faced with two or more possible interpretations, you must select the one which makes the least amount of assumption.

legend - exaggeration of a story of some REAL person; myth - primarily deals with the gods

myth - a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people, or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. (What you believe is religion; what he believes is myth.)

mythology - Humans interacting with gods, stories dealing with such interaction. A series of illustrations for religious doctrine -- explanations of natural phenomena which could not otherwise be explained (mythology and folklore)

pantheon - the body of gods (for a culture) demon - halfway between humans and gods (elves, dwarves, etc.)

proto-god - any god which came before the gods which make up the pantheon

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