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Celtic & British Deities
|Brigid||Cernunnos||The Dagda||Epona||Fionn mac Cumhaill|
|Formorians||Green Man||Herne the Hunter||Horned & Antlered God||Lugh|
|Manannán mac Lir||The Morrigan||Rhiannon||Triple Goddess||Tuatha Dé Danann|
Germanic & Nordic Deities
|Ēostre or Ôstara||Freyja||Odin||Thor|
New World Deities
|Great Spirit||Kokopelli||Mother Nature||Santa Claus|
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The gods and goddesses, or deities of the Celts are known from a variety of sources, these include written Celtic mythology, ancient places of worship, statues, engravings, cult objects and place or personal names. The locus classicus for the Celtic gods of Gaul is the passage in Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico (The Gallic War, 52–51 BC) in which he names six of them, together with their functions. He says that Mercury was the most honoured of all the gods and many images of him were to be found. Mercury was regarded as the inventor of all the arts, the patron of travellers and of merchants, and the most powerful god in matters of commerce and gain. After him the Gauls honoured Apollo, who drove away diseases, Mars, who controlled war, Jupiter, who ruled the heavens, and Minerva, who promoted handicrafts. He adds that the Gauls regarded Dis Pater as their ancestor.
In characteristic Roman fashion, Caesar does not refer to these figures by their native names but by the names of the Roman gods with which he equated them, a procedure that greatly complicates the task of identifying his Gaulish deities with their counterparts in the insular literatures. He also presents a neat schematic equation of god and function that is quite foreign to the vernacular literary testimony. Yet, given its limitations, his brief catalog is a valuable witness. The gods named by Caesar are well-attested in the later epigraphic record of Gaul and Britain. Not infrequently, their names are coupled with native Celtic theonyms and epithets, such as Mercury Visucius, Lenus Mars, Jupiter Poeninus, or Sulis Minerva. Unsyncretised theonyms are also widespread, particularly among goddesses such as Sulevia, Sirona, Rosmerta, and Epona. In all, several hundred names containing a Celtic element are attested in Gaul. The majority occur only once, which has led some scholars to conclude that the Celtic gods and their cults were local and tribal rather than national. Supporters of this view cite Lucan's mention of a god called Teutates, which they interpret as "god of the tribe" (it is thought that teuta- meant "tribe" in Celtic). The multiplicity of deity names may also be explained otherwise – many, for example, may be simply epithets applied to major deities by widely extended cults.
Evidence from the Roman period presents a wide array of gods and goddesses who are represented by images or inscribed dedications. Certain deities were venerated widely across the Celtic world, while others were limited only to a single religion or even to a specific locality. Certain local or regional deities might have greater popularity within their spheres than supra-regional deities. For example, in east-central Gaul, the local Burgundian healing goddess Sequana was probably more influential in the minds of her local devotees than the Matres, who were worshipped all over Britain, Gaul and the Rhineland.
Among the divinities transcending tribal boundaries were the Matres, the sky-god and Epona, the horse-goddess, who was invoked by devotees living as far apart as Britain, Rome and Bulgaria. A distinctive feature of the mother-goddesses was their frequent depiction as a triad in many parts of Britain, in Gaul and on the Rhine, although it is possible to identify strong regional differences within this group. The Celtic sky-god too had variations in the way he was perceived and his cult expressed. Yet the link between the Celtic Jupiter and the solar wheel is maintained over a wide area, from Hadrian's Wall to Cologne and Nîmes.
It is sometimes possible to identify regional, tribal, or sub-tribal divinities. Specific to the Remi of northwest Gaul is a distinctive group of stone carvings depicting a triple-faced god with shared facial features and luxuriant beards. In the Iron Age, this same tribe issued coins with three faces, a motif found elsewhere is Gaul. Another tribal god was Lenus, venerated by the Treveri. He was worshipped at a number of Treveran sanctuaries, the most splendid of which was at the tribal capital of Trier itself. Yet he was also exported to other areas: Lenus has altars set up to him in Chedworth in Gloucestershire and Caerwent in Wales.
Many Celtic divinities were extremely localised, sometimes occurring in just one shrine, perhaps because the spirit concerned was a genius loci, the governing spirit of a particular place. In Gaul, over four hundred different Celtic god-names are recorded, of which at least 300 occur just once. Sequana was confined to her spring shrine near Dijon, Sulis belonged to Bath. The divine couple Ucuetis and Bergusia were worshipped solely at Alesia in Burgundy. The British god Nodens is associated above all with the great sanctuary at Lydney (though he also appears at Cockersand Moss in Cumbria). Two other British deities, Cocidius and Belatucadrus, were both Martial gods and were each worshipped in a clearly defined territories in the area of Hadrian’s Wall. There are many other gods whose names may betray origins as topographical spirits. Vosegus presided over the mountains of the Vosges, Luxovius over the spa-settlement of Luxeuil and Vasio over the town of Vaison in the Lower Rhône Valley.
One notable feature of Gaulish and Romano-Celtic sculpture is the frequent appearance of male and female deities in pairs, such as Rosmerta and ‘Mercury’, Nantosuelta and Sucellos, Sirona and Apollo Grannus, Borvo and Damona, or Mars Loucetius and Nemetona.
Notable Deity Types
A recurrent figure in Gaulish iconography is a cross-legged deity with antlers, sometimes surrounded by animals, often wearing or holding a torc. The name usually applied to him, Cernunnos, is attested only a few times, on a relief at Notre Dame de Paris (currently reading ERNUNNOS, but an early sketch shows it as having read CERNUNNOS in the 18th century), an inscription from Montagnac (αλλετ[ει]υος καρνονου αλ[ι]σο[ντ]εας, "Alleteinos [dedicated this] to Karnonos of Alisontia"), and a pair of identical inscriptions from Seinsel-Rëlent ("Deo Ceruninco"). Figured representations of this sort of deity, however, are widespread; the earliest known was found at Val Camonica in northern Italy, while the most famous is plate A of the Gundestrup Cauldron, a 1st-century-BC vessel found in Denmark. On the Gundestrup Cauldron and sometimes elsewhere, Cernunnos, or similar figure, is accompanied by a ram-headed serpent. At Reims, the figure is depicted with a cornucopia overflowing with grains or coins.
Healing deities are known from many parts of the Celtic world; they frequently have associations with thermal springs, healing wells, herbalism and light. Brighid, the triple goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft is perhaps the most well-known of the Insular Celtic deities of healing. She is associated with many healing springs and wells. A lesser-known Irish healing goddess is Airmed, also associated with a healing well and with the healing art of herbalism.
In Romano-Celtic tradition Belenus (possibly from Celtic: *belen- ‘bright’, though other etymologies have been convincingly proposed) is found chiefly in southern France and northern Italy. Apollo Grannus, though concentrated in central and eastern Gaul, also “occurs associated with medicinal waters in Brittany and far away in the Danube Basin”. Grannus's companion is frequently the goddess Sirona. Another important Celtic deity of healing is Bormo/Borvo, particularly associated with thermal springs such as Bourbonne-les-Bains and Bourbon-Lancy. Such hot springs were (and often still are) believed to have therapeutic value. Green interprets the name Borvo to mean “seething, bubbling or boiling spring water”.
Goddesses of Sacred Waters
In Ireland, there are numerous holy wells dedicated to the goddess Brighid. There are dedications to ‘Minerva’ in Britain and throughout the Celtic areas of the Continent. At Bath Minerva was identified with the goddess Sulis, whose cult there centred on the thermal springs. Other goddesses were also associated with sacred springs, such as Icovellauna among the Treveri and Coventina at Carrawburgh. Damona and Bormana also serve this function in companionship with the spring-god Borvo (see above).
A number of goddesses were deified rivers, notably Boann (of the River Boyne), Sinann (the River Shannon), Sequana (the deified Seine), Matrona (the Marne), Souconna (the deified Saône) and perhaps Belisama (the Ribble). While the most well-known deity of the sea is the god Manannán, possible early Irish sea goddesses include Fand, her sister Lí Ban, and the mother-goddess of the Fomorians, Domnu.
Goddesses of Horses
The horse, an instrument of Indo-European expansion, plays a part in all the mythologies of the various Celtic cultures. The cult of the Gaulish horse goddess Epona was widespread. Adopted by the Roman cavalry, it spread throughout much of Europe, even to Rome itself. She seems to be the embodiment of "horse power" or horsemanship, which was likely perceived as a power vital for the success and protection of the tribe. She has insular analogues in the Welsh Rhiannon and in the Irish Édaín Echraidhe (echraidhe, "horse riding") and Macha, who outran the fastest steeds.
The Welsh horse goddess Rhiannon is best known from The Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh tales, in which she makes her first appearance on a pale, mysterious steed and meets King Pwyll, whom she later marries. She was accused of killing and devouring her infant son, and in punishment she was forced to act as a horse and to carry visitors to the royal court. According to another story, she was made to wear the collars of asses about her neck in the manner of a beast. The Irish horse goddess Macha, perhaps a threefold goddess herself, is associated with battle and sovereignty. Though a goddess in her own right, she is also considered to be part of the triple goddess of battle and slaughter, the Morrígan. Other faces of the Morrígan were Badhbh Catha and Nemain.
Mother goddesses are a recurrent feature in Celtic religions. The epigraphic record reveals many dedications to the Matres or Matronae, which are particularly prolific around Cologne in the Rhineland. Iconographically, Celtic mothers may appear singly or, quite often, triply; they usually hold fruit or cornucopiae or paterae; they may also be full-breasted (or many-breasted) figures nursing infants.
Welsh and Irish tradition preserve a number of mother figures such as the Welsh Dôn, Rhiannon (‘great queen’) and Modron (from Matrona, ‘great mother’), and the Irish Danu, Boand, Macha and Ernmas. However, all of these goddesses fulfill many roles in the mythology and symbolism of the Celts, and cannot be limited only to motherhood. In many of their tales, their having children is only mentioned in passing, and is not a central facet of their identity. "Mother" Goddesses may also be Goddesses of warfare and slaughter, or of healing and smithcraft.
Mother goddesses were at times symbols of sovereignty, creativity, birth, fertility, sexual union and nurturing. At other times they could be seen as punishers and destroyers: their offspring may be helpful or dangerous to the community, and the circumstances of their birth may lead to curses, geasa or hardship, such as in the case of Macha's curse of the Ulstermen or Rhiannon's possible devouring of her child and subsequent punishment.
Cult of Lugh
According to Caesar the god most honoured by the Gauls was ‘Mercury’, and this is confirmed by numerous images and inscriptions. Mercury's name is often coupled with Celtic epithets, particularly in eastern and central Gaul; the commonest such names include Visucius, Cissonius, and Gebrinius. Another name, Lugus, is inferred from the recurrent place-name Lugdunon ('the fort of Lugus') from which the modern Lyon, Laon, and Loudun in France and Leiden in The Netherlands derive their names; a similar element can be found in Carlisle (formerly Castra Luguvallium), Legnica in Poland and the county Louth in Ireland, derived from the Irish "Lú", itself coming from "Lugh". The Irish and Welsh cognates of Lugus are Lugh and Lleu, respectively, and certain traditions concerning these figures mesh neatly with those of the Gaulish god. Caesar's description of the latter as "the inventor of all the arts" might almost have been a paraphrase of Lugh's conventional epithet samildánach ("possessed of many talents"), while Lleu is addressed as "master of the twenty crafts" in the Mabinogi. An episode in the Irish tale of the Battle of Magh Tuireadh is a dramatic exposition of Lugh's claim to be master of all the arts and crafts. Inscriptions in Spain and Switzerland, one of them from a guild of shoemakers, are dedicated to Lugoves, widely interpreted as a plural of Lugus perhaps referring to the god conceived in triple form.
The Gaulish Mercury often seems to function as a god of sovereignty. Gaulish depictions of Mercury sometimes show him bearded and/or with wings or horns emerging directly from his head, rather than from a winged hat. Both these characteristics are unusual for the classical god. More conventionally, the Gaulish Mercury is usually shown accompanied by a ram and/or a rooster, and carrying a caduceus; his depiction at times is very classical. Lugh is said to have instituted the festival of Lughnasadh, celebrated on 1 August, in commemoration of his foster-mother Tailtiu. In Gaulish monuments and inscriptions, Mercury is very often accompanied by Rosmerta, whom Miranda Green interprets to be a goddess of fertility and prosperity. Green also notices that the Celtic Mercury frequently accompanies the Deae Matres (see below).
Cult of Taranis
The Gaulish Jupiter is often depicted with a thunderbolt in one hand and a distinctive wheel in the other. Scholars frequently identify this wheel/sky god with Taranis, who is mentioned by Lucan. The name Taranis may be cognate with those of Taran, a minor figure in Welsh mythology, and Turenn, the father of the 'three gods of Dana' in Irish mythology.
Cult of Toutatis
Teutates, also spelled Toutatis (Celtic: "god of the tribe"), was one of three Celtic gods mentioned by the Roman poet Lucan in the 1st century, the other two being Esus ("lord") and Taranis ("thunderer"). According to later commentators, victims sacrificed to Teutates were killed by being plunged headfirst into a vat filled with an unspecified liquid. Present-day scholars frequently speak of ‘the toutates’ as plural, referring respectively to the patrons of the several tribes. Of two later commentators on Lucan's text, one identifies Teutates with Mercury, the other with Mars. He is also known from dedications in Britain, where his name was written Toutatis. Paul-Marie Duval, who considers the Gaulish Mars a syncretism with the Celtic toutates, notes that:
Gods with Hammers
Sucellos, the 'good striker' is usually portrayed as a middle-aged bearded man, with a long-handled hammer, or perhaps a beer barrel suspended from a pole. His companion, Nantosuelta, is sometimes depicted alongside him. When together, they are accompanied by symbols associated with prosperity and domesticity. This figure is often identified with Silvanus, worshipped in southern Gaul under similar attributes; Dis Pater, from whom, according to Caesar, all the Gauls believed themselves to be descended; and the Irish Dagda, the 'good god', who possessed a caldron that was never empty and a huge club.
Gods of Strength and Eloquence
A club-wielding god identified as Ogmios is readily observed in Gaulish iconography. In Gaul, he was identified with the Roman Hercules. He was portrayed as an old man with swarthy skin and armed with a bow and club. He was also a god of eloquence, and in that aspect he was represented as drawing along a company of men whose ears were chained to his tongue.
Ogmios' Irish equivalent was Ogma, who was impressively portrayed as a swarthy man whose battle ardour was so great that he had to be controlled by chains held by other warriors until the right moment. Ogham script, an Irish writing system dating from the 4th century AD, was said to have been invented by him.
The Divine Bull
Another prominent zoomorphic deity type is the divine bull. Tarvos Trigaranus ("bull with three cranes") is pictured on reliefs from the cathedral at Trier, Germany, and at Notre-Dame de Paris. In Irish literature, the Donn Cuailnge ("Brown Bull of Cooley") plays a central role in the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge ("The Cattle-Raid of Cooley").
The Ram-Headed Snake
A distinctive ram-headed snake accompanies Gaulish gods in a number of representations, including the horned god from the Gundestrup cauldron, Mercury, and Mars.
This table shows some of the Celtic and Romano-Celtic gods and goddesses mentioned above, in Romanized form as well as ancient Gaulish, British or Iberian names as well as those of the Tuatha Dé Danann and characters from the Mabinogion. They are arranged so as to suggest some linguistic or functional associations among the ancient gods and literary figures; needless to say, all such associations are subject to continual scholarly revision and disagreement. In particular, it has been noted by scholars such as Sjoestedt that it is inappropriate to try to fit Insular Celtic deities into a Roman format as such attempts seriously distort the Insular deities.
Aphrodite (Latin: Venus) is the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. According to Greek poet Hesiod, she was born when Cronus cut off Ouranos' genitals and threw them into the sea, and from the aphros (sea foam) arose Aphrodite. Because of her beauty other gods feared that jealousy would interrupt the peace among them and lead to war, and so Zeus married her to Hephaestus, who was not viewed as a threat. Her unhappiness in marriage caused her to frequently seek out the companionship of her lover Ares. Aphrodite also became instrumental in the Eros and Psyche legend, and later was both Adonis' lover and his surrogate mother. Aphrodite is also known as Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) after the two places, Cythera and Cyprus, which claim her birth. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. Myrtles, doves, sparrows, and swans are sacred to her. The Greeks identified the Ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor with Aphrodite.
Aphrodite has numerous equivalents: Inanna (Sumerian counterpart), Astarte (Phoenician), Astghik (Armenian), Turan (Etruscan), and Venus (Roman). She has parallels with Indo-European dawn goddesses such as Ushas or Aurora. The Hellenes were well aware that her origins lay in the East: according to Pausanias, the first to establish her cult were the Assyrians, after the Assyrians the Paphians of Cyprus and the Phoenicians who live at Ascalon in Palestine; the Phoenicians taught her worship to the people of Cythera. It was said Aphrodite could make any man fall in love with her at his first sight of her. Aphrodite also has many other names, such as Acidalia, Cytherea, Pandemos and Cerigo. These names were used in specific areas of Greece. When the Greek cities combined, these lesser names were abandoned and a single name, Aphrodite, was adopted. Each goddess represented a slightly different religion but with overall similarities.
Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Pandemos
By the late 5th century BC, philosophers might separate Aphrodite into two separate goddesses, not individuated in cult: Aphrodite Ourania, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Ouranos, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk," born from Zeus and Dione. Among the neo-Platonists and eventually their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania figures as the celestial Aphrodite, representing the love of body and soul, while Aphrodite Pandemos is associated with mere physical love. The representation of Aphrodite Ouranos, with a foot resting on a tortoise, was read later as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love; the image is credited to Phidias, in a chryselephantine sculpture made for Elis, of which we have only a passing remark by Pausanias.
Thus, according to the character Pausanias in Plato's Symposium, Aphrodite is two goddesses, one older the other younger. The older, Urania, is the "heavenly" daughter of Ouranos, and inspires homosexual male (and more specifically, ephebic) love/eros; the younger is named Pandemos, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and all love for women comes from her. Pandemos is the common Aphrodite. The speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite).
"Foam-arisen" Aphrodite was born of the sea foam near Paphos, Cyprus after Cronus cut off Ouranos' genitals and threw them behind him into the sea, while the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood. Hesiod's Theogony described that the genitals "were carried over the sea a long time, and white foam arose from the immortal flesh; with it a girl grew" to become Aphrodite. Aphrodite floated in on a scallop shell. When she arose, she was hailed as "Cyprian," and is referred to as such often, especially in the poetic works of Sappho. This myth of a fully mature Venus (the Roman name for Aphrodite), Venus Anadyomene ("Venus Rising From the Sea") was one of the iconic representations of Aphrodite, made famous in a much-admired painting by Apelles, now lost, but described in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder. Thus Aphrodite is of an older generation than Zeus. Iliad (Book V) expresses another version of her origin, by which she was considered a daughter of Dione, who was the original oracular goddess ("Dione" being simply "the goddess, the feminine form of Δíος, "Dios," the genitive of Zeus) at Dodona. Aphrodite herself was sometimes referred to as "Dione." Once the worship of Zeus had usurped the oak-grove oracle at Dodona, some poets made him out to be the father of Aphrodite.
In Homer, Aphrodite, venturing into battle to protect her son, Aeneas, is wounded by Diomedes and returns to her mother, to sink down at her knee and be comforted. "Dione" seems to be an equivalent of Rhea, the Earth Mother, whom Homer has relocated to Olympus, and refers to a hypothesized original Proto-Indo-European pantheon, with the chief male god (Di-) represented by the sky and thunder, and the chief female god (feminine form of Di-) represented as the earth or fertile soil. Aphrodite's chief center of worship remained at Paphos, on the south-western coast of Cyprus, where the goddess of desire had been worshipped from the early Iron Age as Ishtar and Ashtaroth. It was said that, as Kythereia, she first tentatively came ashore at Cythera, a stopping place for trade and culture between Crete and the Peloponesus. Thus perhaps we have hints of the track of Aphrodite's original cult from the Levant to mainland Greece. In other tales, Aphrodite was a daughter of Thalassa and Zeus.
Aphrodite had no childhood: in every image and each reference she is born adult, nubile, and infinitely desirable. Aphrodite, in many of the late anecdotal myths involving her, is characterized as vain, ill-tempered and easily offended. Though she is one of the few gods of the Greek Pantheon to be actually married, she is frequently unfaithful to her husband. Hephaestus is one of the most even-tempered of the Hellenic deities; in the narrative embedded in the Odyssey Aphrodite seems to prefer Ares, the volatile god of war. She is one of a few characters who played a major part in the original cause of the Trojan War itself: not only did she offer Helen of Sparta to Paris, but the abduction was accomplished when Paris, seeing Helen for the first time, was inflamed with desire to have her—which is Aphrodite's realm.
Due to her immense beauty, Zeus was frightened that she would be the cause of violence between the other gods. He married her off to Hephaestus, the dour, humorless god of smithing. In another version of this story, Hera, Hephaestus' mother, had cast him off Olympus; deeming him ugly and deformed. His revenge was to trap her in a magic throne, and then to demand Aphrodite's hand in return for Hera's release. Hephaestus was overjoyed at being married to the goddess of beauty and forged her beautiful jewelry, including the cestus, a girdle that made her even more irresistible to men. Her unhappiness with her marriage caused Aphrodite to seek out companionship from others, most frequently Ares, but also Adonis.
The epithet Aphrodite Acidalia was occasionally added to her name, after the spring she used to bathe in, located in Boeotia (Virgil I, 720). She was also called Kypris or Cytherea after her birth-places in Cyprus and Cythera, respectively, both centers of her cult. She was associated with Hesperia and frequently accompanied by the Oreads, nymphs of the mountains. Her festival, Aphrodisia, was celebrated across Greece but particularly in Athens and Corinth. At the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of Acrocorinth (before the Roman destruction of the city in 146 BC) intercourse with her priestesses was considered a method of worshiping Aphrodite. This temple was not rebuilt when the city was reestablished under Roman rule in 44 BC, but it is likely that the fertility rituals continued in the main city near the agora. Aphrodite was associated with, and often depicted with, the sea, dolphins, doves, swans, pomegranates, apples, myrtle, rose trees, lime trees, clams, scallop shells, and pearls.
Cult of Aphrodite
One aspect of the cult of Aphrodite and her precedents that Thomas Bulfinch's much-reprinted The Age of Fable; or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855 etc.) elided was the practice of ritual prostitution in her shrines and temples. The euphemism in Greek is hierodule, "sacred servant." The practice was an inherent part of the rituals owed to Aphrodite's Near Eastern forebears, Sumerian Inanna and Akkadian Ishtar, whose temple priestesses were the "women of Ishtar," ishtaritum. The practice has been documented in Babylon, Syria and Palestine, in Phoenician cities and the Tyrian colony Carthage, and for Hellenic Aphrodite in Cyprus, the center of her cult, Cythera, Corinth and in Sicily. Aphrodite is everywhere the patroness of the hetaira and courtesan. In Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor, hierodules served in the temple of Artemis. The practice however is not attested in Athens and can be considered a foreign import.
Aphrodite and Psyche
Aphrodite figures as a secondary character in the Tale of Eros and Psyche, which first appeared as a digressive story told by an old woman in Lucius Apuleius' novel, The Golden Ass, written in the second century A.D.. In it Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of a mortal woman named Psyche. She asked Eros to use his golden arrows to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest man on earth. Eros agreed, but then fell in love with Psyche on his own, by accidentally pricking himself with a golden arrow.
Meanwhile, Psyche's parents were anxious that their daughter remained unmarried. They consulted an oracle who told them she was destined for no mortal lover, but a creature that lived on top of a particular mountain, that even the gods themselves feared. Eros had arranged for the oracle to say this. Psyche was resigned to her fate and climbed to the top of the mountain. She told the townsfolk that followed her to leave and let her face her fate on her own. There, Zephyrus, the west wind, gently floated her downwards. She entered a cave on the appointed mountain, surprised to find it full of jewelry and finery. Eros visited her every night in the cave and they made passionate love; he demanded only that she never light any lamps because he did not want her to know who he was (having wings made him distinctive). Her two sisters, jealous of Psyche, convinced her that her husband was a monster, and she should strike him with a dagger. So one night she lit a lamp, but recognizing Eros instantly, she dropped her dagger. Oil spilled from the lamp onto his shoulder, awaking him, and he fled, saying "Love cannot live where there is no trust!"
When Psyche told her two jealous elder sisters what had happened, they rejoiced secretly and each separately walked to the top of the mountain and did as Psyche described her entry to the cave, hoping Eros would pick them instead. Eros was still heart broken and did not pick them and they fell to their deaths at the base of the mountain.
Psyche searched for her love across much of Greece, finally stumbling into a temple to Demeter, where the floor was covered with piles of mixed grains. She started sorting the grains into organized piles and, when she finished, Demeter spoke to her, telling her that the best way to find Eros was to find his mother, Aphrodite, and earn her blessing. Psyche found a temple to Aphrodite and entered it. Aphrodite assigned her a similar task to Demeter's temple, but gave her an impossible deadline to finish it by. Eros intervened, for he still loved her, and caused some ants to organize the grains for her. Aphrodite was outraged at her success and told her to go to a field where deadly golden sheep grazed and get some golden wool. Psyche went to the field and saw the sheep but was stopped by a river-god, whose river she had to cross to enter the field. He told her the sheep were mean and vicious and would kill her, but if she waited until noontime, the sheep would go into the shade on the other side of the field and sleep; she could pick the wool that stuck to the branches and bark of the trees. Psyche did so and Aphrodite was even more outraged at her survival and success.
Finally, Aphrodite claimed that the stress of caring for her son, depressed and ill as a result of Psyche's unfaithfulness, had caused her to lose some of her beauty. Psyche was to go to Hades and ask Persephone, the queen of the underworld, for a bit of her beauty in a black box that Aphrodite gave to Psyche. Psyche walked to a tower, deciding that the quickest way to the underworld would be to die. A voice stopped her at the last moment and told her a route that would allow her to enter and return still living, as well as telling her how to pass the three-headed dog Cerberus, Charon and the other dangers of the route. She was to not lend a hand to anyone in need. She baked two barley cakes for Cerberus, and took two coins for Charon. She pacified Cerberus with the barley cake and paid Charon to take her to Hades. On the way there, she saw hands reaching out of the water. A voice told her to toss a barley cake to them. She refused. Once there, Persephone said she would be glad to do Aphrodite a favor. She once more paid Charon, and gave the other barley cake to Cerberus.
Psyche left the underworld and decided to open the box and take a little bit of the beauty for herself, thinking that if she did so Eros would surely love her. Inside was a "Stygian sleep" which overtook her. Eros, who had forgiven her, flew to her body and wiped the sleep from her eyes, then begged Zeus and Aphrodite for their consent to his wedding of Psyche. They agreed and Zeus made her immortal. Aphrodite danced at the wedding of Eros and Psyche, and their subsequent child was named Pleasure, or (in the Roman mythology) Voluptas.
Aphrodite was Adonis' lover and a surrogate mother to him. Cinyras, the King of Cyprus, had an intoxicatingly beautiful daughter named Myrrha. When Myrrha's mother commits Hubris against Aphrodite by claiming her daughter is more beautiful than the famed goddess, Myrrha is punished with a never ending lust for her own father. Cinyras is repulsed by this, but Myrrha disguises herself as a prostitute, and secretly sleeps with her father at night. Eventually, Myrrha becomes pregnant and is discovered by Cinyras. In a rage, he chases her out of the house with a knife. Myrrha flees from him, praying to the gods for mercy as she runs. The gods hear her plea, and change her into a Myrrh tree so her father cannot kill her. Eventually, Cinyras takes his own life in an attempt to restore the family's honor. Myrrha gives birth to a baby boy named Adonis. Aphrodite happens by the Myrrh tree and, seeing him, takes pity on the infant. She places Adonis in a box, and takes him down to Hades so that Persephone can care for him. Adonis grows into a strikingly handsome young man, and Aphrodite eventually returns for him. Persephone, however, is loath to give him up, and wishes Adonis would stay with her in the underworld. The two goddesses begin such a quarrel that Zeus is forced to intercede. He decrees that Adonis will spend a third of the year with Aphrodite, a third of the year with Persephone, and a third of the year with whomever he wishes. Adonis, of course, chooses Aphrodite.
Adonis begins his year on the earth with Aphrodite. One of his greatest passions is hunting, and although Aphrodite is not naturally a hunter, she takes up the sport just so she can be with Adonis. They spend every waking hour with one another, and Aphrodite is enraptured with him. However, her anxiety begins to grow over her neglected duties, and she is forced to leave him for a short time. Before she leaves, she gives Adonis one warning: do not attack an animal who shows no fear. Adonis agrees to her advice, but, secretly doubting her skills as a huntress, quickly forgets her warning. Not long after Aphrodite leaves, Adonis comes across an enormous wild boar, much larger than any he has ever seen. It is suggested that the boar is the god Ares, one of Aphrodite's lovers made jealous through her constant doting on Adonis. Although boars are dangerous and will charge a hunter if provoked, Adonis disregards Aphrodite's warning and pursues the giant creature. Soon, however, Adonis is the one being pursued; he is no match for the giant boar. In the attack, Adonis is castrated by the boar, and dies from a loss of blood. Aphrodite rushes back to his side, but she is too late to save him and can only mourn over his body. Wherever Adonis' blood falls, Aphrodite causes anemones to grow in his memory. She vows that on the anniversary of his death, every year there will be a festival held in his honor.
On his death, Adonis goes back to the underworld, and Persephone is delighted to see him again. Eventually, Aphrodite realizes that he is there, and rushes back to retrieve him. Again, she and Persephone bicker over who is allowed to keep Adonis until Zeus intervenes. This time, he says that Adonis must spend six months with Aphrodite and six months with Persephone, the way it should have been in the first place. Adonis, as a dying god archetype, represents the cycle of vegetation. His birth is like the birth of new plants; his maturation like the ripening of the plant. Once the crop is harvested, it dies—like Adonis returning to the underworld. The new seeds are then placed again in the ground, where they grow into new life, like Adonis returning to the earth to be with Aphrodite.
The Judgement of Paris
The gods and goddesses as well as various mortals were invited to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (the eventual parents of Achilles). Only the goddess Eris (Discord) was not invited, but she arrived with a golden apple inscribed with the word kallistēi ("to the fairest one") which she threw among the goddesses. Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena all claimed to be the fairest, and thus the rightful owner of the apple. The goddesses chose to place the matter before Zeus, who, not wanting to favor one of the goddesses, put the choice into the hands of Paris. Hera tried to bribe Paris with Asia Minor, while Athena offered wisdom, fame and glory in battle, but Aphrodite whispered to Paris that if he were to choose her as the fairest he would have the most beautiful mortal woman in the world as a wife, and he accordingly chose her. This woman was Helen. The other goddesses were enraged by this and through Helen's abduction by Paris they brought about the Trojan War.
Pygmalion and Galatea
Pygmalion was a sculptor who had never found a woman worthy of his love. Aphrodite took pity on him and decided to show him the wonders of love. One day, Pygmalion was inspired by a dream of Aphrodite to make a woman out of ivory resembling her image, and he called her Galatea. He fell in love with the statue and decided he could not live without her. He prayed to Aphrodite, who carried out the final phase of her plan and brought the exquisite sculpture to life. Pygmalion loved Galatea and they were soon married. Another version of this myth tells that the women of the village in which Pygmalion lived grew angry that he had not married. They all asked Aphrodite to force him to marry. Aphrodite accepted and went that very night to Pygmalion, and asked him to pick a woman to marry. She told him that if he did not pick one, she would do so for him. Not wanting to be married, he begged her for more time, asking that he be allowed to make a sculpture of Aphrodite before he had to choose his bride. Flattered, she accepted.
Pygmalion spent a lot of time making small clay sculptures of the Goddess, claiming it was needed so he could pick the right pose. As he started making the actual sculpture he was shocked to discover he actually wanted to finish, even though he knew he would have to marry someone when he finished. The reason he wanted to finish it was that he had fallen in love with the sculpture. The more he worked on it, the more it changed, until it no longer resembled Aphrodite at all. At the very moment Pygmalion stepped away from the finished sculpture Aphrodite appeared and told him to choose his bride. Pygmalion chose the statue. Aphrodite told him that could not be, and asked him again to choose a bride. Pygmalion put his arms around the statue, and asked Aphrodite to turn him into a statue so he could be with her. Aphrodite took pity on him and brought the statue to life instead.
In one version of the story of Hippolytus, she was the catalyst for his death. He scorned the worship of Aphrodite for Artemis and, in revenge, Aphrodite caused his stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him, knowing Hippolytus would reject her. In the most popular version of the story, as told in the play Hippolytus by Euripides, Phaedra seeks revenge against Hippolytus by killing herself and, in her suicide note, telling Theseus, her husband and Hippolytus' father, that Hippolytus had raped her. Hippolytus was oath-bound not to mention Phaedra's love for him and nobly refused to defend himself despite the consequences. Theseus then cursed his son, a curse that Poseidon was bound to fulfill and so Hippolytus was laid low by a bull from the sea that caused his chariot-team to panic and wreck his vehicle. This is, interestingly enough not quite how Aphrodite envisaged his death in the play, as in the prologue she says she expects Hippolytus to submit to lust with Phaedra and for Theseus to catch the pair in the act. Hippolytus forgives his father before he dies and Artemis reveals the truth to Theseus before vowing to kill the one Aphrodite loves (Adonis) for revenge. Glaucus of Corinth angered Aphrodite and she made her horses angry during the funeral games of King Pelias. They tore him apart. His ghost supposedly frightened horses during the Isthmian Games.
Aphrodite and Foreign Goddesses
The Ancient Greeks and Romans often equated their deities with foreign ones. Aphrodite was equated by the Greeks to Egyptian Hathor, Assyrian Mylitta, Canaanite/Phoenician Astarte, Arabian Alilat, and Roman Venus.
In Irish mythology, Brigit or Brighid ("exalted one") was the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the wife of Bres of the Fomorians, with whom she had a son, Ruadán. She had two sisters, also named Brighid, and is considered a classic Celtic Triple Goddess.
She is identified in Lebor Gabála Érenn as a daughter of the Dagda and a poet. The same passage mentions that she has two oxen, Fe and Men, that graze on a plain named after them, Femen. She also possessed the "king of boars", Torc Triath, and Cirb, king of wethers (sheep), from whom Mag Cirb is named. As the daughter of Dagda, she is also the half sister of Cermait, Aengus, Midir and Bodb Derg.
In Cath Maige Tuireadh, Bríg (sic) invents keening while mourning for her son Ruadán, after he is slain while fighting for the Fomorians. She is credited in the same passage with inventing a whistle used for night travel.
In her English translation of Irish myth, Lady Augusta Gregory (Gods and Fighting Men, 1904), describes Brigit as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshiped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. And the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow." Brighid was associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally-occurring "eternal flames" is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. Other examples include the Roman goddess Vesta, and other hearth-goddesses, such as Hestia. Her sacred flame at Kildare was said by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die, and/or to have had their "lower leg" wither.
Brighid was also connected to holy wells, at Kildare and many other sites in the Celtic lands. Well dressing, the tying of clooties to the trees next to healing wells, and other methods of petitioning or honoring Brighid still take place in some of the Celtic lands and the diaspora. As one of the most popular goddesses worshipped by the Celtic peoples, including the druids, many of her stories and symbology survive in the persona of Saint Brigid. She is the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians. A number of these associations are attested in Cormac's Glossary. Her British and continental counterpart Brigantia seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena (Encyclopedia Britannica: Celtic Religion), goddesses with very similar functions and apparently embodying the same concept of 'elevated state', whether physical or psychological.
Maman Brigitte, one of the Lwa of Haitian Voodoo, may be a form of Brigid. It is likely that the concept came to the New World through the Irish who were kidnapped, enslaved and forced to labor in the Caribbean alongside the enslaved Africans. Because of the intermarriage and cultural blending between the Irish and Africans, it is possible that Haitian Voodo is partially influenced by survivals of Celtic polytheism. Maman Brigitte is worshipped as the Lady of the Cemetery; her colors are purple, violet and black. She is the wife of Baron Samedi, and characterised as a hard working, hard cursing woman who can swear a blue streak and enjoys a special drink made of rum laced with 21 hot peppers. People suspected of faking a possession by her may be asked to drink her special rum or rub hot peppers on their genitals, which she occasionally does. Those who are not truly possessed are soon identified.
On February 1 or February 2, Brigid is celebrated at the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, when she brings the first stirrings of spring to the land. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and some Anglicans mark the day as the Feast of Saint Brigid; the festival is also known as Candlemas and Purification of the Virgin - and also as Imbolc by many.
Other Names and Etymology
Old Irish Brigit came to be spelled Brighid by the modern Irish period. Since the spelling reform of 1948, this has been spelled Bríd . The earlier form gave rise to the Anglicization Bridget, now commonly seen as Brigid.
Cernunnos (also Cernenus and Cern) is a pagan Celtic god whose representations were widespread in the ancient Celtic lands of western Europe. As a horned god, Cernunnos is associated with horned male animals, especially stags and the ram-horned snake; this and other attributes associate him with produce and fertility. Cernunnos is also associated mainly as the God of the Underworld. Everything that we know about this deity comes from two inscriptions from France, one from Germany.
Archaeological sources such as inscriptions and depictions from Gaul and Northern Italy (Gallia Cisalpina) have been used to define Cernunnos. The first artifact found to identify Cernunnos was the "Pillar of the Boatmen" (Pilier des nautes), a monument now displayed in the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris. It was constructed by Gaulish sailors in the early first century CE, from the inscription (CIL XIII number 03026) probably in the year 14, on the accession of the emperor Tiberius. It was found in 1710 in the foundations of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on the site of Lutetia, the civitas capital of the Celtic Parisii tribe. It depicts Cernunnos and other Celtic deities alongside Roman divinities such as Jupiter, Vulcan, Castor, and Pollux, a combination suggestive of a Gallo-Roman religion.
On the Parisii inscription [_]ernunnos, the first letter of the name has been scraped off at some point, but can safely be restituted to "Cernunnos" because of the depiction of an antlers in the image below the name and that in Gaulish, carnon or cernon means "antler" or "horn". Additional evidence is given by two identical inscriptions on metal plaques from Steinsel-Rëlent in Luxembourg, in the territory of the Celtic Treveri tribe. These inscriptions (AE 1987, 0772) read Deo Ceruninco, "to the God Cerunincos". Lastly, a Gaulish inscription (RIG 1, number G-224) written in Greek letters from Montagnac (Hérault, Languedoc-Roussilion, France) reads αλλετ[ει]υος καρνονου αλ[ι]σο[ντ]εας thus giving the name "Carnonos".
Several images without inscriptions are thought to represent Cernunnos. The earliest known probable depiction of Cernunnos was found at Val Camonica in Italy, dating from the 4th century BC, while the best known depiction is on the Gundestrup cauldron found on Jutland, dating to the 1st century BC. The Cauldron was likely to have been stolen by the Germanic Cimbri tribe or another tribe that inhabited Jutland as it originated from south east Europe.
Cern means "horn" or "bumb, boss" in Old Irish and is etymologically related to similar words carn in Welsh and Breton, and is the probable derivation of "Kernow" (Cornwall), meaning horn'[of land]'. These are thought by some linguists to derive from a Proto-Indo-European root *krno- which also gave the Latin cornu and Germanic *hurnaz (from which English "horn") (Nussbaum 1986) (Porkorny 1959 pp.574-576). The same Gaulish root is found in the names of tribes such as the Carnutes, Carni, and Carnonacae and in the name of the Gaulish war trumpet, the carnyx. The Proto-Celtic form of this theonym is reconstructed as either *Cerno-on-os or *Carno-on-os, both meaning "great horned one". (The augmentative -on- is frequently, but not exclusively, found in theonyms, for example: Map-on-os, Ep-on-a, Matr-on-ae, Sir-on-a.)
The depictions of Cernunnos are strikingly consistent throughout the Celtic world. His most distinctive attribute are his stag's horns, and he is usually portrayed as a mature man with long hair and a beard. He wears a torc, an ornate neck-ring used by the Celts to denote nobility. He often carries other torcs in his hands or hanging from his horns, as well as a purse filled with coins. He is usually portrayed seated and cross-legged, in a position which some have interpreted as meditative or shamanic, although it may only reflect the fact that the Celts squatted on the ground when hunting.
Cernunnos is nearly always portrayed with animals, in particular the stag. He is also frequently associated with a unique beast that seems to belong primarily to him: a serpent with the horns of a ram. This creature may have been a deity in its own right. He is associated with other beasts less frequently, including bulls (at Rheims), dogs, and rats. Because of his frequent association with creatures, scholars often describe Cernunnos as the "Lord of the Animals" or the "Lord of Wild Things", and Miranda Green describes him as a "peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness". Because of his association with stags (a particularly hunted beast) he is also described as the "Lord of the Hunt". Interestingly, the Pilier des nautes links him with sailors and with commerce, suggesting that he was also associated with material wealth as does the coin pouch from the Cernunnos of Rheims (Marne, Champagne, France)—in antiquity, Durocortorum, the civitas capital of the Remi tribe—and the stag vomiting coins from Niedercorn-Turbelslach (Luxembourg) in the lands of the Treveri. The god may have symbolised the fecundity of the stag-inhabited forest.
In Wicca and derived forms of Neopaganism a Horned God is revered, a divinity which syncretises a number of horned or antlered gods from various cultures, including Cernunnos. The Horned God reflects the seasons of the year in an annual cycle of life, death and rebirth. In the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca, the Horned God is sometimes specifically referred to as Cernunnos, or sometimes also as Kernunno.
Modern Druidry, which derives from Celtic culture, honors Cernunnos in his ancient Celto-European form as the guardian of the forests, the defender of the animal tuatha (tribes), the source of the deep forest wisdom, and the masculine half of creative energy. His restorative work in the cycle of the year is particularly celebrated at Beltaine, and is often paired with one or another of the female deities in her maiden aspect. Druids may call upon him in reference to vital, non-violent masculine divinity.
The Dagda (sometimes written with no definitive article; Proto-Celtic: *Dagodeiwos; Old Irish: dag dia; Irish: dea-Dia; all meaning "good god") is an important god of Irish mythology. The Dagda is a father-figure (he is also known as Eochaid Ollathair, or "All-father Haughey") and a protector of the tribe. In some texts his father is Elatha, in others his mother is Ethlinn.
Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club and associated with a cauldron. The club was supposed to be able to kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. The cauldron was known as the Undry and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied. He also possessed Daurdabla, also known as "the Four Angled Music", a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees.
The Dagda was a High King of the Tuatha Dé Danann after his predecessor Nuada was injured in battle. The Tuatha Dé Danann are the race of supernatural beings who conquered the Fomorians, who inhabited Ireland previously, prior to the coming of the Milesians. His lover was Boann and his daughter was Breg. Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Mórrígan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle. Despite his great power and prestige, the Dagda is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground.
The Dagda had an affair with Boann, wife of Nechtan. In order to hide their affair, Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day. He, along with Boann, helped Aengus search for his love. Whilst Aengus was away the Dagda shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Under the guidance of Lugh Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange). Aengus was instructed to ask his father if he could live in the Brú for a day and a night, and the Dagda agreed. But Irish has no indefinite article, so "a day and a night" is the same as "day and night", which covers all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Brú permanently. In "The Wooing of Étaín", on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Brú na Bóinne, with the Dagda's connivance.
The Dagda was also the father of Bodb Dearg, Cermait, Midir, Aine, and Brigit. He was the brother or father of Oghma, who is probably related to the Gaulish god Ogmios; Ogmios, depicted as an old man with a club, is one of the closest Gaulish parallels to the Dagda. Another Gaulish god who may be related to the Dagda is Sucellus, the striker, depicted with a hammer and cup. He is credited with a seventy or eighty-year reign (depending on source) over the Tuatha Dé Danann, before dying at the Brú na Bóinne, finally succumbing to a wound inflicted by Cethlenn during the second battle of Magh Tuiredh.
The name Dagda may ultimately be derived from the Proto-Indo-European *Dhagho-deiwos "shining divinity", the first element being cognate with the English word "day", and possibly a byword for a deification of a notion such as "splendour". This etymology would tie in well with Dagda's mythic association with the sun and the earth, with kingship and excellence in general. *Dhago-deiwos would have been inherited into Proto-Celtic as *Dago-deiwos, thereby punning with the Proto-Celtic word *dago-s "good".
Diana was the goddess of the hunt, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and also of the moon in Roman mythology. In literature she was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis, though in cult beliefs she was Italic, not Greek, in origin. Diana was worshiped in ancient Roman religion and is currently revered in Roman Neopaganism and Stregheria. Dianic Wicca, a largely feminist form of the practice, is named for her. Diana was known to be the virgin goddess and looked after virgins and women. Along with her main attributes, Diana was an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. According to mythology, Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god.
Diana (pronounced with long 'i' and a') is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later 'divus', 'dius', as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky. It is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus (god), dies (day, daylight).
The image of Diana is complex and shows various archaic features. According to Dumezil it presents the character of a uranic god of a peculiar nature, referred to in history of religions as 'frame god'. Such gods, while keeping the original features of uranic gods, i.e. transcendent heavenly power and abstention from direct rule on worldly matters, did not face the fate of other uranic gods in Indoeuropean religions of becoming dei otiosi, as they did preserve a peculiar sort of influence over the world and mankind. The uranic character of Diana is well reflected in her connexion to light, inaccessibility, virginity, dwelling on high mountains and in sacred woods. Diana is thus the representation of the heavenly world (dium) in its character of sovereignty, supremacy, impassibility, indifference towards secular matters as the fate of men and states, while at the same time ensuring the succession of kings and the preservation of mankind through the protection of childbirth.
These functions are apparent in the traditional institutions and cults related to the goddess. 1) The institution of the rex Nemorensis, Diana's sacerdos in the Arician wood, who held its position til somebody else challenged and killed him in a duel, after breaking a branch from a certain tree of the wood. This ever totally open succession reveals the character and mission of the goddess as a guarantee of the continuity of the kingly status through successive generations. The same meaning implying her function of bestower of regality is testified by the story related by Livy of the prediction of empire to the land of origin of the person who would offer her a particularly beautiful cow. 2) Diana was also worshipped by women who sought pregnancy or asked for an easy delivery. This kind of worship is testified by archeological finds of votive statuettes in her sanctuary in the nemus Aricinum as well as by ancient sources, e.g. Ovid.
According to Dumezil the function of frame god is to be traced in an Indian epic hero who is the image of Vedic god Dyaus: having renounced the world, i.e. the role of father and king, he has attained the condititon of an immortal being, although he keeps the duty of ensuring that in his dynasty there are always children and one king for each generation. The Scandinavian god Heimdallr performs an analogous function: he is born first and will die last. He too gives origin to kingship and the first king, bestowing on him regal prerogatives. Diana is a female god but has exactly the same functions, preserving mankind through childbirth and king succession. Dumezil's interpretation appears to ignore deliberately James G. Frazer's, who connects Diana in her regal function with male god Janus as a divine couple, whereas his description of the type of the frame god would fit his own interpretation of Italic god Janus equally well. Frazer, however, gives a very different interpretation of the couple Diana-Janus: he identifies it with the supreme heavenly couple Juppiter-Juno and connects these figures to the religious Indoeuropean complex tieing regality to the cult of trees, particularly oaks. In this interpretative line the institution of the Rex Nemorensis and his ritual should be related to the theme of the dying god and the kings of May.
Diana was initially just the hunting goddess, associated with wild animals and woodlands. She also later became a moon goddess, supplanting Luna. She also became the goddess of childbirth and ruled over the countryside. Diana was worshipped at a festival on August 13, when King Servius Tullius, himself born a slave, dedicated her shrine on the Aventine Hill in the mid-sixth century BC. Being placed on the Aventine, and thus outside the pomerium, meant that Diana's cult essentially remained a 'foreign' one, like that of Bacchus; she was never officially 'transferred' to Rome as Juno was after the sack of Veii. It seems that her cult originated in Aricia, where her priest, the Rex Nemorensis remained. There the simple open-air fane was held in common by the Latin tribes, which Rome aspired to weld into a league and direct. Diana of the wood was soon thoroughly Hellenized, "a process which culminated with the appearance of Diana beside Apollo in the first lectisternium at Rome". Diana was regarded with great reverence by lower-class citizens and slaves; slaves could receive asylum in her temples. This fact is of difficult interpretation. Wissowa proposed the explanation that it might be because the first slaves of the Romans must have been Latins of the neighbouring tribes.
Though some Roman patrons ordered marble replicas of the specifically Anatolian "Diana" of Ephesus, where the Temple of Artemis stood, Diana was usually depicted for educated Romans in her Greek guise. If she is accompanied by a deer, as in the Diana of Versailles (illustration, above right) this is because Diana was the patroness of hunting. The deer may also offer a covert reference to the myth of Acteon (or Actaeon), who saw her bathing naked. Diana transformed Acteon into a stag and set his own hunting dogs to kill him. Worship of Diana is mentioned in the Bible. In Acts of the Apostles, Ephesian metal smiths who felt threatened by Saint Paul’s preaching of Christianity, jealously rioted in her defense, shouting “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28, New English Bible).
Diana was an ancient goddess common to all Latin tribes. Therefore many sanctuaries were dedicated to her in the lands inhabited by Latins. The first one is supposed to have beeen near Alba before the town was destroyed by the Romans. The Arician wood sanctuary near the lake of Nemi was Latin confederal as testified by the dedicatory epigraph quoted by Cato.
She had a shrine in Rome on the Aventine hill, according to tradition dedicated by king Servius Tullius. Its location is remarkable as the Aventine is situated outside the pomerium, ie original territory of the city, in order to comply with the tradition that Diana was a goddess common to all Latins and not exclusively of the Romans.
Other sanctuaries we know about are listed here: Colle di Corne near Tusculum where she is referred to with the archaic Latin name of deva Cornisca and where existed a collegium of worshippers; The Algidus Mount, also near Tusculum; At Lavinium; At Tivoli, where she is referred to as Diana Opifera Nemorensis; A sacred wood mentioned by Livy ad computum Anagninum(near Anagni); On Mount Tifata, near Capua in Campania.
Diana's cult has been related in Early Modern Europe to the cult of Nicevenn (aka Dame Habond, Perchta, Herodiana, etc.). She was related to myths of a female Wild Hunt, close to the Benandantis' struggles against evil witches.
In Italy the old religion of Stregheria embraced goddess Diana as Queen of the Witches; witches being the wise women healers of the time. Goddess Diana created the world of her own being having in herself the seeds of all creation yet to come. It is said that out of herself she divided into the darkness and the light, keeping for herself the darkness of creation and creating her brother Apollo, the light. Goddess Diana loved and ruled with her brother Apollo, the god of the Sun. (Charles G. Leland, Aradia: The Gospel of Witches)
Since the Renaissance the mythic Diana has often been expressed in the visual and dramatic arts, including the opera L'arbore di Diana. In the sixteenth century, Diana's image figured prominently at the Château de Fontainebleau, in deference to Diane de Poitiers, mistress of two French kings. At Versailles she was incorporated into the Olympian iconography with which Louis XIV, the Apollo-like "Sun King" liked to surround himself.
There are also references to her in common literature. In Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, many references are made to Diana. Rosaline, a beautiful woman who has sworn to chastity, is said to have "Dian's wit". Later on in the play, Romeo says, "It is the East, and Juliet is the sun. Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon." He is saying that Juliet is better than Diana and Rosaline for not swearing chastity. Diana is also a character in the 1876 Leo Delibe ballet 'Sylvia'. The plot deals with Sylvia, one of Diana's nymphs and sworn to chastity and Diana's assault on Sylvia's affections for the shepherd Amyntas.
In Jean Cocteau's 1946 film La Belle et la Bête it is Diana's power which has transformed and imprisoned the beast.
Diana is also used by Shakespeare in the famous play As You Like It to describe how Rosaline feels about marriage. Dian(a) is used again by Shakespeare in his play about racial identity Othello to describe Desdemona's face metaphorically after he believes she is having an affair with Cassio.
There is also a reference to Diana in Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing where Hero is said to seem like 'Dian in her orb', in terms of her chastity.
The Goddess is also referenced indirectly in Shakespeare's player A Midsummer Night's Dream. The character Hippolyta states "And then the moon, like to a silver bow new bent in Heaven". She refers to Diana, Goddesse of the moon, who is often depicted with a silver hunting bow. In the same play the character Hermia is told by the Duke Theseus that she must either wed the character Demetrius "Or on Diana's alter to protest for aye austerity and sinle life". He refers to her becoming a nun, with the Goddesse Diana having connotations of chastity.
In The Merchant of Venice Portia states "I will die as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my father's will". (I.ii)
Both the Romanian word for "fairy", Zână and the Leonese word for "water nymph", xana, seem to come from the name of Diana.
In Beaux Arts
Beaux Arts architecture and garden design (late 19th and early 20th centuries) used classic references in a modernized form. Two of the most popular of the period were of Pomona (goddess of orchards) as a metaphor for Agriculture, and Diana, representing Commerce, which is a perpetual hunt for advantage and profits.
In Parma at the convent of San Paolo, Antonio Allegri da Correggio painted the camera of the Abbess Giovanna Piacenza's apartment. He was commissioned in 1519 to paint the ceiling and mantel of the fireplace. On the mantel he painted an image of Diana riding in a chariot pulled possibly by a stag.
In Gallo-Roman religion, Epona was a protector of horses, donkeys, and mules. She was particularly a goddess of fertility, as shown by her attributes of a patera, cornucopia, and the presence of foals in some sculptures (Reinach, 1895). And H. Hubert suggested that the goddess and her horses were leaders of the soul in the after-life ride, with parallels in Rhiannon of the Mabinogion. Unusually for a Celtic deity, most of whom were associated with specific localities, the worship of Epona, "the sole Celtic divinity ultimately worshipped in Rome itself", was widespread in the Roman Empire between the first and third centuries CE.
Etymology of the Name
Although only known from Roman contexts, the name Epona, 'Great Mare' is from the Gaulish language; it is derived from the inferred proto-Celtic *ekwos 'horse' — which gives rise to modern Welsh ebol 'foal' — together with the augmentative suffix -on frequently, though not exclusively, found in theonyms (for example Sirona, Matrona, 'Divine ?Star', 'Divine Mother'), and the usual Gaulish feminine singular -a. In an episode preserved in a remark of Pausanias, an archaic Demeter too had also been a Great Mare, who was mounted by Poseidon in the form of a stallion and foaled Arion and the Daughter who was unnamed outside the Arcadian mysteries. Demeter was venerated as a mare in Lycosoura in Arcadia into historical times.
Evidence for Epona
Fernand Benoit found the earliest attestations of a cult of Epona in the Danubian provinces and asserted that she had been introduced in the limes of Gaul by horsemen from the east. This suggestion has not been generally taken up. Although the name is in origin Gaulish, dedicatory inscriptions to Epona are in Latin or, rarely, Greek. They were made not only by Celts, but also by Germans, Romans and other inhabitants of the Roman Empire. An inscription to Epona from Mainz, Germany, identifies the dedicant as Syrian. A long Latin inscription of the first century BCE, engraved in a lead sheet and accompanying the sacrifice of a filly and the votive gift of a cauldron, was found in 1887 at Rom, Deux-Sèvres, the Roman Rauranum. The inscription offers to the goddess an archaic profusion of epithets for a goddess, Eponina 'dear little Epona': she is Atanta, horse-goddess Potia 'powerful Mistress' (compare Greek Potnia), Dibonia (Latin, the 'good goddess')", Catona 'of battle', noble and good Vovesia.
Her feast day in the Roman calendar was December 18 as shown by a rustic calendar from Guidizzolo, Italy, although this may have been only a local celebration. She was incorporated into the Imperial cult by being invoked on behalf of the Emperor, as Epona Augusta or Epona Regina.
The supposed autonomy of Celtic civilisation in Gaul suffered a further setback with Fernand Benoit's study of the funereal symbolism of the horseman with the serpent-tailed ("anguiforme") daemon, which he established as a theme of victory over death, and Epona; both he found to be late manifestations of Mediterranean-influenced symbolism, which had reached Gaul through contacts with Etruria and Magna Graecia. Benoit compared the rider with most of the riders imaged around the Mediterranean shores.
Perceptions of native Celtic goddesses had changed under Roman hegemony: only the names remained the same. As Gaul was Romanized under the early Empire, Epona’s sovereign role evolved into a protector of cavalry. The cult of Epona was spread over much of the Roman Empire by the auxiliary cavalry, alae, especially the Imperial Horse Guard or equites singulares augustii recruited from Gaul, Lower Germany, and Pannonia. A series of their dedications to Epona and other Celtic, Roman and German deities was found in Rome, at the Lateran. As Epane she is attested in Cantabria, northern Spain, on Mount Bernorio, Palencia.
A bizarre euhemeristic account of the birth of Epona that does not reflect Celtic beliefs can be found in Plutarch's life of Solon: Giambattista Della Porta's edition of Magia naturalis (1589), a potpourri of the sensible and questionable, remarks, in the context of unseemly man-beast coupling, Plutarch's Life of Solon, in which he "reports out of Agesilaus, his third book of Italian matters, that Fulvius Stella loathing the company of a woman, coupled himself with a mare, of whom he begot a very beautiful maiden-child, and she was called by a fit name, Epona..."
Sculptures of Epona fall into five types, as distinguished by Benoit: riding, standing or seated before a horse, standing or seated between two horses, a tamer of horses in the manner of potnia theron and the symbolic mare and foal. In the Equestrian type, common in Gaul, she is depicted sitting side-saddle on a horse or (rarely) lying on one; in the Imperial type (more common outside Gaul) she sits on a throne flanked by two or more horses or foals. In distant Dacia, she is represented on a stela (now at the Szépmüvézeti Museum, Budapest) in the format of Cybele, seated frontally on a throne with her hands on the necks of her paired animals: her horses are substitutions for Cybele's lions.
Epona is mentioned in The Golden Ass by Apuleius, where an aedicular niche with her image on a pillar in a stable has been garlanded with freshly-picked roses. In his Satires, the Roman poet Juvenal also links the worship and iconography of Epona to the area of a stable. Small images of Epona have been found in Roman sites of stables and barns over a wide territory.
The probable date of ca. 1400 BCE ascribed to the giant chalk horse carved into the hillside turf at Uffington, in southern England, is too early to be directly associated with Epona a millennium and more later, but clearly represents a Bronze Age totem of some kind. The English traditional hobby-horse riders parading on May Day at Padstow, Cornwall and Minehead, Somerset, which survived to the mid-twentieth century, even though Morris dances had been forgotten, may have deep roots in the veneration of Epona, as may the English aversion to eating horsemeat. At Padstow formerly, at the end of the festivities the hobby-horse was ritually submerged in the sea.
The Welsh goddess Rhiannon rides a white horse and has many attributes of Epona. A south Welsh folk ritual call Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is still undertaken in December - an apparent survival of the veneration of the goddess. The pantomime horse is thought to be a related survival.
Fionn mac Cumhaill (earlier Finn or Find mac Cumail or mac Umaill, later Anglicised to Finn McCool) was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology, occurring also in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. The stories of Fionn and his followers, the Fianna, form the Fenian cycle or Fiannaidheacht, much of it supposedly narrated by Fionn's son, the poet Oisín.
Fionn or Finn is actually a nickname meaning "fair" (in reference to hair colour), "white", or "bright". His childhood name was Deimne, and several legends tell how he gained the nickname when his hair turned prematurely white. The name "Fionn" is related to the Welsh name Gwyn, as in the mythological figure Gwyn ap Nudd, and to the continental Celtic deity Vindos.
The 19th century Irish revolutionary organization known as the Fenian Brotherhood took its name from these legends. The Scottish name Fingal comes from a retelling of these legends in epic form by the eighteenth century poet James Macpherson.
Most of Fionn's early adventures are recounted in the narrative The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn. He was the son of Cumhall, leader of the Fianna, and Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat who lived on the hill of Almu in County Kildare. Cumhall abducted Muirne after her father refused him her hand, so Tadg appealed to the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who outlawed him. The Battle of Cnucha was fought between Conn and Cumhall, and Cumhall was killed by Goll mac Morna, who took over leadership of the Fianna.
Muirne was already pregnant, so her father rejected her and ordered his people to burn her, but Conn would not allow it and put her under the protection of Fiacal mac Conchinn, whose wife, Bodhmall the druidess, was Cumhall's sister. In Fiacal's house she gave birth to a son, who she called Deimne.
Muirne left the boy in the care of Bodhmall and a warrior woman, Liath Luachra, who brought him up in secret in the forest of Sliabh Bladma, teaching him the arts of war and hunting. As he grew older he entered the service, incognito, of a number of local kings, but when they recognised him as Cumhal's son they told him to leave, fearing they would be unable to protect him from his enemies.
The young Fionn met the leprechaun-like druid and poet Finn Eces, or Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finneces had spent seven years trying to catch the salmon of knowledge, which lived in a pool on the Boyne: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually he caught it, and told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Fionn burned his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, swallowing a piece of the salmon's skin. This imbued him with the salmon's wisdom. He then knew how to gain revenge against Goll, and in subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by sucking his thumb.
The salmon's place in this tale displays the esteem in which this particular family of fish is held in many different mythologies. The particular species thought to be referenced in this tale, is the Salmonidae midlandus variant. This species held a special place of esteem in traditional Irish stories due to its strength, its appearance, (significantly more scales than other species, and therefore a more striking range of colours), and its relative scarcity. The story of Fionn and the salmon of knowledge bears a strong resemblance to the Welsh tale of Gwion Bach, indicating a possible common source for both stories.
Every year for twenty-three years at Samhain, the fire-breathing fairy Aillen would lull the men of Tara to sleep with his music before burning the palace to the ground, and the Fianna, led by Goll mac Morna, were powerless to prevent it. Fionn arrived at Tara, armed with his father's crane-skin bag of magical weapons. He kept himself awake with the point of his own spear, and then killed Aillen with it. After that his heritage was recognised and he was given command of the Fianna: Goll willingly stepped aside, and became a loyal follower of Fionn, although in many stories their alliance is uneasy and feuds occur. Fionn demanded compensation for his father's death from Tadg, threatening war or single combat against him if he refused. Tadg offered him his home, the hill of Alan, as compensation, which Fionn accepted.
Fionn met his most famous wife, Sadbh, when he was out hunting. She had been turned into a deer by a druid, Fear Doirich. Fionn's hounds, Bran and Sceolan, who were once human themselves, recognised she was human, and Fionn spared her. She transformed back into a beautiful woman, she and Fionn married and she was soon pregnant. However Fear Doirich (literally meaning Dark Man) returned and turned her back into a deer, and she vanished. Seven years later Fionn was reunited with their son, Oisín, who went on to be one of the greatest of the Fianna.
In The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, one of the most famous stories of the cycle, the High King Cormac mac Airt promises the now aging Fionn his daughter Gráinne as his bride, but Gráinne falls instead for one of the Fianna, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, and the pair runs away together with Fionn in pursuit. The lovers are aided by Diarmuid's foster-father, the god Aengus. Eventually Fionn makes his peace with the couple. Years later, however, Fionn invites Diarmuid on a boar hunt, and Diarmuid is badly gored by their quarry. Water drunk from Fionn's hands has the power of healing, but when Fionn gathers water he deliberately lets it run through his fingers before he gets back to Diarmuid. His grandson Oscar threatens him if does not bring water for Diarmuid, but when Fionn finally returns it is too late; Diarmuid has died.
Accounts of Fionn's death vary; according to the most popular, he is not dead at all, rather, he sleeps in a cave below Dublin, to awake and defend Ireland in the hour of her greatest need. A tale of the 10th or 11th century says that Mongán (died circa 625), son of Fiachnae mac Báetáin but also said to be the son of Manannán mac Lir, was Fionn reborn.
Many geographical features in Ireland are attributed to Fionn. Legend has it he built the Giant's Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet; he also once scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a rival, but it missed and landed in the Irish Sea — the clump became the Isle of Man and the pebble became Rockall, the void became Lough Neagh. Fingal's Cave in Scotland is also named after him, and shares the feature of hexagonal basalt columns with the nearby Giant's Causeway in Ireland.
In Newfoundland, and some parts of Nova Scotia, "Fingal's Rising" is spoken of in a distinct nationalistic sense. Made popular in songs and bars alike, to speak of "Fingle," as his name is pronounced in English versus "Fion MaCool" in Newfoundland Irish, is sometimes used as in lieu of Newfoundland or its culture.
In Manx folklore, Fionn is a giant known as Finn MacCooill. One story says that he came to live in the Isle of Man, whereupon a Manx buggane came to fight against the famous Irish giant. Wanting to avoid a fight, Finn hid in the cradle while his wife entertained the buggane, pretending her husband was the baby and trying to scare off their visitor. She gave the buggane a griddle-cake with the iron griddle hidden in it, which he could not eat, and told him that her husband always ate such cakes. Then she gave a second cake to Finn, who easily ate it. Seeing that even the 'baby' was so strong, the buggane thought better of his fight and slunk off. However, later the two did meet and had a great battle at Kirk Christ Rushen. Finn's feet carved out the Channel between the Calf of Man and Kitterland, and the other channel between Kitterland and the Isle of Man. The buggane's feet at Port Erin made the opening for the port there. At last the buggane got the upper hand and the injured Finn had to flee. Finn could walk on the sea, but the buggane could not. Unable to follow, the buggane tore out a tooth and flung it after Finn, where it struck him and fell into the sea to become the Chicken's Rock. Finn turned and shouted a curse on the rock, which is why it is such a hazard to sailors.
In 1761 James Macpherson announced the discovery of an epic written by Ossian (Oisín) in the Scottish Gaelic language on the subject of "Fingal" (Fionnghall meaning "white stranger": it is suggested that Macpherson rendered the name as Fingal through a misapprehension of the name which in old Gaelic would appear as Finn). In December 1761 he published Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books, together with Several Other Poems composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal, translated from the Gaelic Language. His cycle of poems had widespread influence on such writers as Goethe and the young Walter Scott, but there was controversy from the outset about Macpherson's claims to have translated the works from ancient sources. The authenticity of the poems is now generally doubted, though they may have been based on fragments of Gaelic legend, and to some extent the controversy has overshadowed their considerable literary merit and influence on Romanticism.
A story of the battle between Fionn MacCumhail, who in this tale is claimed to have resided in the valley of Glencoe, in Scotland, and a Viking host led by Earragan makes an appearance in the book Glencoe: The Story of the Massacre, Secker & Warburg, 1966 by John Prebble. The story tells of the approach of forty Viking galleys up the narrows by Ballachulish into Loch Leven, and the ensuing battle between the Norsemen and the Feinn of the valley of Glencoe, in which Earragan is slain by Goll MacMorna.
Fionn mac Cumhaill features heavily in modern Irish literature. Most notably he makes several appearances in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and some have posited that the title, taken from the street ballad "Finnegan's Wake", may also be a blend of "Finn again is awake," referring to his eventual awakening to defend Ireland.
Fionn also appears as a character in Flann O'Brien's comic novel, At Swim-Two-Birds, in passages that parody the style of Irish myths. Morgan Llywelyn's book Finn MacCool tells of Fionn's rise to leader of the Fianna and the love stories that ensue in his life. That character is celebrated in "The Legend of Finn MacCumhail", a song by the Boston-based band Dropkick Murphys featured on their album Sing Loud Sing Proud!:
Contemporary Scottish poet Marie Marshall has written a semi-serious ballad in parody of 19c neo-medievalism "How Finn McCool became Lord of Tara". It deals with how Finn saved the noble house of Tara from the evil spell of Allan-of-the-Harp, an elf-king with a hatred of human prosperity. A sample passage runs thus:
In the Media
The song The Giant by the Canadian singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, features Fionn mac Cumhaill as 'the giant' Fingal. Fionn mac Cumhaill was featured as a protagonist and ally in the first published adventure for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, The Dark Druid. The adventure features Fionn and his battle with the druid Fer Doirich in the modern age and posits that the witches Willow and Tara are the reincarnations of his foster mothers Bodhmall and Liath respectively. He is also featured as a character in filmmaker Matthew Barney's film Cremaster 3 (2002).
Finn McCool's is the name of the Westhampton Beach, New York, restaurant that was the subject of the November 14, 2007, episode of the American reality television series Kitchen Nightmares. Dropkick Murphys play a song titled The Legend of Finn Maccumhail. "The youth of Finn MacCool" is a song featuring on Doomsword's Resound the Horn which retells of the story of how Finn spared the deer that turned out to be Sadbh. On the same album the song "Onward into battle" is dedicated to Finn and the Fianna. Finn MacCool appears in the fiction novel The Drawing of the Dark by author Tim Powers. In the novel he is buried in Vienna, Austria with a cistern of beer directly above his grave. His essence gives the oldest of the beer supernatural powers.
In Irish mythology, the Fomorians, Fomors, or Fomori (Irish Fomóiri, Fomóraig) were a semi-divine race who inhabited Ireland in ancient times. They may have once been believed to be the beings who preceded the gods, similar to the Greek Titans. It has been suggested that they represent the gods of chaos and wild nature, as opposed to the Tuatha Dé Danann who represent the gods of human civilization. Alternatively, they may represent the gods of a proposed pre-Goidelic population of Ireland.
The word fomóire is believed to derive from Old Irish fo muire (Modern Irish faoi muire), "under the sea". This, combined with their association with glass towers in the western ocean, suggests a connection with icebergs. However the mór element may derive from a word meaning "terror", whose Anglo-Saxon cognate "maere" survives in English "nightmare", but not in "morbid" which instead comes from the latin, all from the Proto-IndoEuropean word *mor : "to rub, pound, wear away". However, Mac Bain holds that there are phonetic inconsistencies with both these theories that would prevent derivation of the long ó in the morpheme "-mór" from "muire, mora" ("sea") or from "mor, mar" (terror, death). His educated opinion leaves the conclusions of Zimmer fomóiri > fo-mór "sub-magnus" (giants, small? giants, nearly? giants, huge people?).
They are sometimes said to have had the body of a man and the head of a goat, according to an 11th century text in Lebor na hUidre (the Book of the Dun Cow), or to have had one eye, one arm and one leg, but some, for example Elatha, the father of Bres, were very beautiful. Bres himself carries the epithet "the Beautiful."
In Irish Mythology
The followers of Partholon were said to be the first to invade Ireland after the flood, but the Fomorians were already there: Seathrún Céitinn reports a tradition that the Fomorians, led by Cíocal, had arrived two hundred years earlier and lived on fish and fowl until Partholon came, bringing the plough and oxen. It is possible that this is a memory of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers giving way to Neolithic farmers. Partholon defeated Cíocal in the Battle of Magh Ithe, but all his people later died of plague.
Then came Nemed and his followers. Ireland is said to have been empty for thirty years following the death of Partholon's people, but Nemed and his followers encountered the Fomorians when they arrived. At this point Céitinn reports another tradition that the Fomorians were seafarers from Africa, descended from Noah's son Ham. Nemed defeated them in several battles, killing their leaders Gann (1) and Sengann (1) (note that there were two Fir Bolg kings of the same name), but two new Fomorian leaders arose: Conand son of Faebar, who lived in Conand's Tower on Tory Island, County Donegal, and Morc son of Dela (note that the first generation of the Fir Bolg were also said to be sons of Dela).
After Nemed's death, Conand and Morc enslaved his people and demanded a heavy tribute: two thirds of their children, grain and cattle. Nemed's son Fergus Lethderg gathered an army of sixty thousand, rose up against them and destroyed Conand's Tower, but Morc attacked them with a huge fleet, and there was great slaughter on both sides. The sea rose over them and drowned most of the survivors: only thirty of Nemed's people escaped in a single ship, scattering to the other parts of the world. The next invasion was by the Fir Bolg, who did not encounter the Fomorians.
Next, the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are usually supposed to have been the gods of the Goidelic Irish, defeated the Fir Bolg in the first Battle of Magh Tuiredh and took possession of Ireland. As their king, Nuada, had lost an arm in the battle and was no longer physically whole, their first king in Ireland was the half-Fomorian Bres. He was the result of a union between Ériu of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorian prince Elatha, who had come to her one night by sea on a silver boat. Both Elatha and Bres are described as very beautiful. However Bres turned out to be a bad king who forced the Tuatha Dé to work as slaves and pay tribute to the Fomorians. He lost authority when he was satirized for neglecting his kingly duties of hospitality. Nuada was restored to the kingship after his arm was replaced with a working one of silver, but the Tuatha Dé's oppression by the Fomorians continued.
Bres fled to his father, Elatha, and asked for his help to restore him to the kingship. Elatha refused, on the grounds that he should not seek to gain by foul means what he couldn't keep by fair. Bres instead turned to Balor, a more warlike Fomorian chief living on Tory Island, and raised an army.
The Tuatha Dé also prepared for war, under another half-Fomorian leader, Lug. His father was Cian of the Tuatha Dé, and his mother was Balor's daughter Ethniu. This is presented as a dynastic marriage in early texts, but folklore preserves a more elaborate story, reminiscent the story of Zeus and Cronus from Greek mythology. Balor, who had been given a prophecy that he would be killed by his own grandson, locked Ethniu in a glass tower to keep her away from men. But when he stole Cian's magical cow, Cian got his revenge by gaining entry to the tower, with the help of a druidess called Biróg, and seducing her. She gave birth to triplets, which Balor ordered drowned. Two of the babies either died or turned into the first seals, but Biróg saved one, Lug, and gave him to Manannan and Tailtiu to foster. As an adult Lug gained entry to Nuada's court through his mastery of every art, and was given command over the army.
The Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh was fought between the Fomorians under Balor and the Tuatha Dé under Lug. Balor killed Nuada with his terrible, poisonous eye that killed all it looked upon. Lug faced his grandfather, but as he was opening his eye Lug shot a sling-stone that drove his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After Balor's death the Fomorians were defeated and driven into the sea.
The Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians are closely related. Neit, a war god, is an ancestor of both. In later times any settled pirates or seaborne raiders were labeled Fomorians and the original meaning of the word was forgotten.
List of Fomorians
Gaia "land" or "earth", from the Ancient Greek Gaea or Gea is the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth, the Greek version of "Mother Nature". Gaia is a primordial deity in the Ancient Greek pantheon and considered a Mother Goddess or Great Goddess. Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra Mater or Tellus. Romans, unlike Greeks, did not consistently distinguish an Earth goddess (Tellus) from a grain goddess (Ceres).
In Greek Mythology
Hesiod's Theogony (116ff) tells how, after Chaos, arose broad-breasted Gaia the everlasting foundation of the gods of Olympus. She brought forth Uranus, the starry sky, her equal, to cover her, the hills, and the fruitless deep of the Sea, Pontus, "without sweet union of love," out of her own self through parthenogenesis. But afterwards, as Hesiod tells it,
Hesiod mentions Gaia's farther offspring conceived with Uranus: first the giant one-eyed Cyclopes: Brontes ("thunderer"), Sterodes ("lightning") and the "bright" Arges: "Strength and might and craft were in their works." Then he adds the three terrible hundred-handed sons of Earth and Heaven, the Hecatonchires: Cottus, Briareos and Gyges, each with fifty heads.
Uranus hid the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes in Tartarus so that they would not see the light, rejoicing in this evil doing. This caused pain to Gaia (Tartarus was her bowels) so she created grey flint (or adamantine) and shaped a great flint sickle, gathering together Cronos and his brothers to ask them to obey her. Only Cronos, the youngest, had the daring to take the flint sickle she made, and castrate his father as he approached Gaia to have intercourse with her. And from the drops of blood and semen, Gaia brought forth still more progeny, the strong Erinyes and the armoured Gigantes and the ash-tree Nymphs called the Meliae. From the testicles of Uranus in the sea came forth Aphrodite. After Uranus's castration, Gaia gave birth to Echidna and Typhon by Tartarus. By Pontus, Gaia birthed the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia. Aergia, a goddess of sloth and laziness, is the daughter of Aether and Gaia. Zeus hid Elara, one of his lovers, from Hera by hiding her under the earth. His son by Elara, the giant Tityas, is therefore sometimes said to be a son of Gaia, the earth goddess, and Elara. Gaia also made Aristaeus immortal.
Gaia is believed by some sources to be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi. She passed her powers on to, depending on the source, Poseidon, Apollo or Themis. Apollo is the best-known as the oracle power behind Delphi, long established by the time of Homer, having killed Gaia's child Python there and usurped the chthonic power. Hera punished Apollo for this by sending him to King Admetus as a shepherd for nine years.
Oaths sworn in the name of Gaia, in ancient Greece, were considered the most binding of all. In classical art Gaia was represented in one of two ways. In Athenian vase painting she was shown as a matronly woman only half risen from the earth, often in the act of handing the baby Erichthonius (a future king of Athens) to Athena to foster (see example below). Later in mosaic representations she appears as a woman reclining upon the earth surrounded by a host of Carpi, infant gods of the fruits of the earth (see example below under Interpretations).
Gaia is the goddess personifying Earth and these are her offspring as related in various myths. Some are related consistently, some are mentioned only in minor variants of myths, and others are related in variants that are considered to reflect a confusion of the subject or association.
Etymologically Gaia is a compound word of two elements. Ge, meaning "Earth", is found in many neologisms, such as Geography (Ge/graphos = writing about Earth) and Geology (Ge/logos = words about the Earth). *Ge is a pre-Greek substrate word that some relate to the Sumerian Ki, also meaning Earth. Aia is a derivative of an Indo-European stem meaning "Grandmother". The full etymology of Gaia would, therefore, appear to have been "Grandmother Earth". Some sources claim that Gaia as the Mother Earth is a later form of a pre-Indo-European Great Mother who had been venerated in Neolithic times, but this point is controversial in the academic community. Belief in a nurturing Earth Mother is often a feature of modern Neopagan "Goddess" worship, which is typically linked by practitioners of this religion to the Neolithic goddess theory. For more information, see the article Goddess.
The goddesses Demeter the "mother," Persephone the "daughter" and Hecate the "crone," as understood by the Greeks, have been interpreted to be three aspects of a former Great Goddess, who could be identified as Rhea or as Gaia herself. Such tripartite goddesses are also a part of Celtic mythology and may stem from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. In Anatolia (modern Turkey), Rhea was known as Cybele, a goddess derived from Mesopotamian Kubau, Hurrian Kebat or Kepa. The Greeks never forgot that the Mountain Mother's ancient home was Crete, where a figure some identified with Gaia had been worshipped as Potnia Theron (the "Mistress of the Animals") or simply Potnia ("Mistress"), an appellation that could be applied in later Greek texts to Demeter, Artemis or Athena. In Rome the imported Phrygian goddess Cybele was venerated as Magna Mater, the "Great Mother" or as Mater Nostri, "Our Mother" and identified with Roman Ceres, the grain goddess who was an approximate counterpart of Greek Demeter, but with differing aspects and venerated with a different cult. Her worship was brought to Rome following an Augury of the Cumaean Sibyl that Rome could not defeat Hannibal the Carthaginian until the worship of Cybele came to Rome. As a result she was a favoured divinity of Roman legionaries, and her worship spread from Roman military encampments and military colonies.
In Other Cultures
The idea that the fertile earth itself is female, nurturing mankind, was not limited to the Greco-Roman world. These traditions themselves were greatly influenced by earlier cultures in the ancient Middle East. The Sumerian mythology concept of Tiamat is similar to the phrase The Deeps in Genesis 1. The title "The mother of life" was later given to the Akkadian Goddess Kubau, and hence to Hurrian Hepa, emerging as Hebrew Eve (Heva) and Phygian Kubala (Cybele). In Norse mythology the earth is personified as Jörð, Hlöðyn, and Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn. The Irish Celts worshipped Danu, whilst the Welsh Celts worshipped Dôn. Hints of their names occur throughout Europe, such as the Don river, the Danube River, the Dnestr and Dnepr, suggest that they stemmed from an ancient Proto-Indo-European goddess. In Lithuanian mythology Gaia - Žemė is daughter of Sun and Moon. Also she is wife of Dangus (Varuna). In Pacific cultures, the Earth Mother was known under as many names and with as many attributes as cultures who revered her for example Māori whose creation myth included Papatuanuku, partner to Ranginui - the Sky Father. In South America in the Andes a cult of the Pachamama still survives (in regions of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile). The name comes from Pacha (Quechua for change, epoch) and Mama (mother). While ancient Mexican cultures referred to Mother Earth as Tonantzin Tlalli that means "Revered Mother Earth".
In Hinduism, the Mother of all creation is called "Gayatri". Gayatri is the name of one of the most important Vedic hymns consisting of twenty-four syllables. One of the sacred texts says, "The Gayatri is Brahma, Gayatri is Vishnu, Gayatri is Shiva, the Gayatri is Vedas" Gayatri later came to be personified as a Goddess. She is shown as having five heads and is usually seated within a lotus. The four heads of Gayatri represent the four Vedas and the fifth one represents almighty God. In her ten hands, she holds all the symbols of Lord Vishnu. She is another consort of Lord Brahma. Phra Mae Thorani is recognized as the Goddess of the earth in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Only in Egyptian Mythology is the reverse true - Geb is the Earth Father while Nut is the Sky Mother.
Carl Gustav Jung suggested that the archetypal mother was a part of the collective unconscious of all humans, and various Jungian students have argued that such mother imagery underpins many mythologies, and precedes the image of the paternal "father", in such religious systems. Such speculations help explain the universality of such mother goddess imagery around the world. The Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines have been sometimes explained as depictions of an Earth Goddess similar to Gaia. In Native American Indian storytelling, "The Earth Goddess" is one of several Creator-based titles and names given to the Spider Grandmother.
Many Neopagans actively worship Gaia. Beliefs regarding Gaia vary, ranging from the common Wiccan belief that Gaia is the Earth (or in some cases the spiritual embodiment of the earth, or the Goddess of the Earth), to the broader Neopagan belief that Gaia is the goddess of all creation, a Mother Goddess from which all other gods spring. Gaia is sometimes thought to embody the planets and the Earth, and sometimes thought to embody the entire universe. Worship of Gaia is varied, ranging from prostration to Druidic ritual. Unlike Zeus, a roving nomad god of the open sky, Gaia was manifest in enclosed spaces: the house, the courtyard, the womb, the cave. Her sacred animals are the serpent, the lunar bull, the pig, and bees. In her hand the narcotic poppy may be transmuted to a pomegranate.
In Modern Ecological Theory
The mythological name was revived in 1979 by James Lovelock, in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth; his Gaia hypothesis was supported by Lynn Margulis. The hypothesis proposes that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shapes the Earth's biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions. Further books by Lovelock and others popularized the Gaia Hypothesis, which was widely embraced and passed into common usage as part of the heightened awareness of environmental concerns of the 1990s.
The Great Spirit, also called Wakan Tanka among the Sioux, The Creator, or The Great Maker in English and Gitchi Manitou in Algonquian, is a conception of a supreme being prevalent among some Native American and First Nations cultures. According to Lakotah activist Russell Means a better translation of Wakan Tanka is The Great Mystery. The Great Spirit or Great Mystery is generally believed to be personal, close to the people, and immanent in the fabric of the material world. Lakotah prayers refer to Him as Grandfather; however, not all Nations assign gender, or only one gender, to the Great Mystery. Chief Dan Evehema, a spiritual leader of the Hopi Nation, described the Great Spirit as follows:
"Old Man" is how the Great Mystery is "known" by the Blackfoot people. Old Man personally created all things and personally instructed the Blackfoot people on how to attain spiritual wisdom in daily life: OldManAndTheBeginningoftheWorld-Blackfoot. Old Man is NOT an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic god like Jesus, nor a panentheistic deity as in Brahmanism or Judaism out of which the whole fabric of existence is derived. Rather, Old Man is simply acknowledged to exist in the sense of the Aristotelian "prime mover" ("prime mover" idiom provided for the benefit of European audiences) and the traditional teachings are attributed to "him" as a source. There are specific tales regarding Old Man doing this or that or saying this or that but rather than being enshrined in a ritualistic, symbolic, or codified religion, these teachings are more used to guide individuals and communities on a moment-by-moment basis. It is not a set of laws or code of living as much as a cultural lifestyle which focusses on the daily needs of the individual and the nation rather than any "universal" speculation.
"Ababinili" is how the Great Mystery is "known" by the Chickasaw people. Ababinili personally created all things and personally instructed the Chickasaw people on "how to live long and healthy lives:" Ababinili_And_The_Humans-Chickasaw. In Chickasaw tradition Ababinili has extensive talks with various parts of "his" creation regarding the relation of mankind to Creation and how Creation and mankind each ought to behave in each case.
"Spider Woman" is the creative agency among the Hopi who personally created the four "colors" of mankind. "She" attributes to the Sun the power of Creation of all things and origin of all spiritual wisdom and in this way the Sun becomes the living manifestation for the Hopi of the Great Mystery which is personally "known" as Sotuknang: TheCreationofMankind-Hopi. This may sound similar to Constantine's adaptation of Jesus as the physical embodiment of the Pagan Sol Invictus in Christianity but it would be a mistake of similarity of APPEARANCE only. In ALL other regards it is a wholly independent concept which acknowledges real-life physical interdependence and relationships between the real physical Sun and all things in the web of Creation as opposed to allegorical symbolism prevalent in the MidEastern or African national (ethnic, not political) religions. In Hopi tradition, life is defined as a process of change and prevailing and persistent human concepts across time are known as distinct "worlds." This concept of life as a process of change is so prevalent that a person is acknowledged as a new identity each day and there is no such thing as a static personal identity upon which to create such static speculative religious concepts as an eternal Heaven or Hell as a "final destination." The spiritual teachings to the Hopi attributed to Sotuknang are functionally equivalent to those of the Great Mystery as "known" by all other Turtle Island nations in that they specifically guide the individual and the nation as opposed to creating the speculative religious framework for universalism, conquest and domination enshrined in a ritualistic faith or dogmatic religion.
A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical). "The Green Man" is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.
The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.
Types of Green Man
The term "Green Man" was coined by Lady Raglan, in her 1939 article "The Green Man in Church Architecture" in The Folklore Journal. The figure is also often erroneously referred to as Jack in the green. Usually referred to in works on architecture as foliate heads or foliate masks, carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative. The simplest depict a man's face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. Often leaves or leafy shoots are shown growing from his open mouth and sometimes even from the nose and eyes as well. In the most abstract examples, the carving at first glance appears to be merely stylised foliage, with the facial element only becoming apparent on closer examination. The face is almost always male; green women are rare. Green cats, lions and demons are also found. On gravestones and other memorials, human skulls are sometimes shown sprouting grape vines or other vegetation, presumably as a symbol of resurrection (as at Shebbear, Devon, England). The Green Man appears in many forms; the three most common types have been categorized as:
Green Men in Churches
Superficially the Green Man would appear to be pagan, perhaps a fertility figure or a nature spirit, similar to the woodwose (the wild man of the woods), and yet he frequently appears, carved in wood or stone, in churches, chapels, abbeys and cathedrals, where examples can be found dating from the 11th century through to the 20th century. To the modern observer the earlier (Romanesque and medieval) carvings often have an unnervingly eerie or numinous quality. This is sometimes said to indicate the vitality of the Green Man, who was able to survive as a symbol of pre-Christian traditions despite, and at the same time complementary to, the influence of Christianity. Rather than alienate their new converts, early Christian missionaries would often adopt and adapt local gods, sometimes turning them into obscure saints.
Later Variations on the Green Man Theme
From the Renaissance onwards, elaborate variations on the Green Man theme, often with animal heads rather than human faces, appear in many media other than carvings (including manuscripts, metalwork, bookplates, and stained glass). They seem to have been used for purely decorative effect rather than reflecting any deeply-held belief. A Swiss engraver, Numa Guyot created a bookplate depicting a Green Man in exquisite detail. It was completed circa 1887. In Britain, the image of the Green Man enjoyed a revival in the 19th century, becoming popular with architects during the Gothic revival and the "Arts and Crafts" era, when it appeared as a decorative motif in and on many buildings, both religious and secular. American architects took up the motif around the same time. The Green Man travelled with the Europeans as they colonized the world. Many variations can be found in Victorian-style Neo gothic architecture. He was very popular amongst Australian stonemasons and can be found on many secular and sacred buildings.
The Green Man image has made a significant resurgence in modern times, with artists from around the world interweaving Green Man imagery into various modes of work. Among some of the artists discussed in Green Man Resurrected (a Master's degree thesis by Phyllis Araneo, available online) are English artist Paul Sivell, who created the Whitefield Green Man, a wood carving worked into a dead section of a living oak tree; David Eveleigh, an English garden designer who created the Penpont Green Man Millennium Maze, located in Powys, Wales (the largest depiction of a Green Man image in the world); and M.J. Anderson, a US based sculptor who created the marble sculpture titled Green Man as Original Coastal Aboriginal Man of All Time from Whence the Bush and All of Nature Sprouts from his Fingers.
Other artists mentioned by Araneo include Ghana-born Jane Brideson, Australian artist Marjorie Bussey, American artist Monica Richards (also known as a singer and composer), and English fantasy artist Peter Pracownik, whose Green Man artwork has been created in several media, including full-body tattoos. These artists and others have continued the path and tradition of the ancient Green Man imagery into modern times, a creation which Araneo calls “an instinctive expression of our relationship with nature.” The modern images have often shown a marked divergence from the face-only images of traditional Green Men, and sometimes reveal a feminine nature, though this is still rare. American artist Rob Juszak, for example, has taken the theme of the Green Man representing Earth’s spiritual protector and turned it into a vision of the Green Man cradling the entire planet; artist Dorothy “Bunny” Bowen, also American, created a kimono silk painting, titled Greenwoman, as an expression of the feminine aspect of the Green Man legend.
Parallels have been drawn between the Green Man and various deities. Many see the Green Man as being connected to many gods such as Osiris, Odin and even the Christian Jesus, as well as later folkloric and literary characters such as the Green Knight, John Barleycorn, the Holly King and Tammuz of the Mesopotamians who is thought by some to symbolize the triumph of Green Life over Winter and Death. In Thomas Nashe's masque Summer's Last Will and Testament (1592, printed 1600), the character commenting upon the action remarks, after the exit of "Satyrs and wood-Nymphs", "The rest of the green men have reasonable voices…". Mythical figures such as Woden, Cernunnos, Sylvanus, Derg Corra, Green George, Jack in the green, John Barleycorn, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and the Green Knight all partake of the Green Man's nature; it has also been suggested that the story of Robin Hood was born of the Green Man mythology. A more modern embodiment is found in Peter Pan, who enters the civilized world from a nether land, clothed in green leaves. Even Father Christmas, who was often shown wreathed in ivy in early depictions, has been suggested as a similar woodland spirit.
The Green Knight of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight serves as both monster and mentor to Sir Gawain, belonging to a pre-Christian world which seems antagonistic to, but is in the end harmonious with, the Christian one. In the Germanic nations such as Germany, Iceland and England, depictions of the Green Man could have been inspired by deities such as Freyr or Woden, as both have many attributes of the later Green Men from throughout Europe. Etymological research by the University of Wales into the meaning of the names of Celtic gods and goddesses shows that one Celtic deity, Viridios, has a name meaning "Green Man" in both the Celtic languages and Latin.
In Wicca, the Green Man has often been used as a representation of the Horned God, a loose appropriation of ancient pagan gods such as the Celtic Cernunnos and the Greek Pan.
Green Men Outside Europe
In his A Little Book of The Green Man, as well as his website, Mike Harding gives examples of similar figures in Borneo, Nepal, and India: the earliest is a foliate head from an 8th century Jain temple in Rajasthan. He also notes that heads from Lebanon and Iraq can be dated to the 2nd century and that there are early Romanesque foliate heads in 11th century Templar churches in Jerusalem. He tentatively suggests that the symbol may have originated in Asia Minor and been brought to Europe by travelling stonecarvers. Tom Cheetham, an authority on Islamic mysticism, identifies Khidr of esoteric Sufism with the Green Man. In his book about the work of Henry Corbin and others concerning the 12th-century Muslim saint Ibn Arabi, he develops the idea of the Green Man/Khidr as the principle mediating between the imaginary realm and the physical world. On a similar theme, author on spirituality and architecture William Anderson writes:
In one of his roles the ancient Egyptian God Osiris is regarded as a corn-deity and is commonly depicted with a green face representing vegetation, rebirth and resurrection. Containers of soil in the shape of Osiris planted with seed ("Osiris Beds") are found in some New Kingdom tombs. The sprouting corn implied the resurrection of the deceased. Other gods depicted green are (in Tibet) Amogha-siddhi and (in Mexico) Tlaloc. In Sanskrit the Green Man is cognate with the gana Kirtimukha or "Face Of Glory" which is related to a lila of Shiva and Rahu. The Face of Glory is often seen in Vajrayana Buddhist Thanka art and iconography where it is often incorporated as a cloudform simulacrum; and depicted crowning the 'Wheel of Becoming' or the Bhavachakra.
Although not a Celtic goddess, Hecate (Greek: "far-shooting") Hekate (Hekátê, Hekátē), or Hekat was a popular chthonian goddess attested early in Mycenaean Greece and in Thrace, but possibly originating among the Carians of Anatolia, the region where most theophoric names invoking Hecate, such as Hecataeus or Hecatomnus, progenitor of Mausollus, are attested, and where Hecate remained a Great Goddess into historical times, at her unrivalled cult site in Lagina. While many researchers favor the idea that she has Anatolian origins, it has been argued that "Hecate must have been a Greek goddess." The monuments to Hecate in Phrygia and Caria are numerous but of late date. The earliest inscription is found in late archaic Miletus, close to Caria, where Hecate is a protector of entrances.
Regarding the nature of her cult, it has been remarked, "she is more at home on the fringes than in the centre of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition." She has been associated with childbirth, nurturing the young, gates and walls, doorways, crossroads, magic, lunar lore, torches and dogs. William Berg observes, "Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens." But he cautions, "The Laginetan goddess may have had a more infernal character than scholars have been willing to assume." In Ptolemaic Alexandria and elsewhere during the Hellenistic period, she appears as a three-faced goddess associated with ghosts, witchcraft, and curses. Today she is claimed as a goddess of witches and in the context of Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism. Some neo-pagans refer to her as a "crone goddess"; although this characterization appears to conflict with her original virginal status in ancient Greece, both virgin and crone are often cast in myth as dangerous female beings because of their exclusion or freedom from the reproductive cycle. She closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia.
The earliest Greek depictions of Hecate are single faced, not triplicate. Lewis Richard Farnell states:
The earliest known monument is a small terracotta found in Athens, with a dedication to Hecate, in writing of the style of the sixth century. The goddess is seated on a throne with a chaplet bound round her head; she is altogether without attributes and character, and the only value of this work, which is evidently of quite a general type and gets a special reference and name merely from the inscription, is that it proves the single shape to be her earlier from, and her recognition at Athens to be earlier than the Persian invasion.
The second-century traveller Pausanias stated that Hecate was first depicted in triplicate by the sculptor Alkamenes in the Greek Classical period of the late fifth century. Greek anthropomorphic conventions of art resisted representing her with three faces: a votive sculpture from Attica of the third century BCE (illustration, left), shows three single images against a column; round the column of Hecate dance the Charites. Some classical portrayals show her as a triplicate goddess holding a torch, a key, and a serpent. Others continue to depict her in singular form.
In Egyptian-inspired Greek esoteric writings connected with Hermes Trismegistus, and in magical papyri of Late Antiquity she is described as having three heads: one dog, one serpent, and one horse. In other representations her animal heads include those of a cow and a boar. Hecate's triplicity is elsewhere expressed in a more Hellenic fashion in the vast frieze of the great Pergamon Altar, now in Berlin, wherein she is shown with three bodies, taking part in the battle with the Titans. In the Argolid, near the shrine of the Dioscuri, Pausanias saw the temple of Hecate opposite the sanctuary of Eileithyia; He reported the image to be the work of Scopas, stating further, "This one is of stone, while the bronze images opposite, also of Hecate, were made respectively by Polycleitus and his brother Naucydes, son of Mothon." (Description of Greece ii.22.7)
A fourth century BCE marble relief from Crannon in Thessaly was dedicated by a race-horse owner. It shows Hecate, with a hound beside her, placing a wreath on the head of a mare. She is commonly attended by a dog or dogs, and the most common form of offering was to leave meat at a crossroads. Sometimes dogs themselves were sacrificed to her. This is sometimes offered as an indication of her non-Hellenic origin, as dogs very rarely played this role in genuine Greek ritual.
In Argonautica, a third century BCE Alexandrian epic based on early materials, Jason placates Hecate in a ritual prescribed by Medea, her priestess: bathed at midnight in a stream of flowing water, and dressed in dark robes, Jason is to dig a pit and offer a libation of honey and blood from the throat of a sheep, which was set on a pyre by the pit and wholly consumed as a holocaust, then retreat from the site without looking back (Argonautica, iii). All these elements betoken the rites owed to a chthonic deity.
Hecate has been characterized as a pre-Olympian chthonic goddess. She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod's Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. The place of origin of her cult is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular cult followings in Thrace. Her most important sanctuary was Lagina, a theocratic city-state in which the goddess was served by eunuchs. Lagina, where the famous temple of Hecate drew great festal assemblies every year, lay close to the originally Macedonian colony of Stratonikeia, where she was the city's patroness. In Thrace she played a role similar to that of lesser-Hermes, namely a governess of liminal regions (particularly gates) and the wilderness, bearing little resemblance to the night-walking crone she became. Additionally, this led to her role of aiding women in childbirth and the raising of young men. Hesiod records that she was among the offspring of Gaia and Uranus, the Earth and Sky. In Theogony he ascribed great powers to Hecate:
According to Hesiod, she held sway over many things:
Hesiod emphasizes that Hecate was an only child, the daughter of Perses and Asteria, a star-goddess who was the sister of Leto (the mother of Artemis and Apollo). Grandmother of the three cousins was Phoebe the ancient Titaness who personified the moon. His inclusion and praise of Hecate in Theogony has been troublesome for scholars, in that he seems to hold her in high regard, while the testimony of other writers, and surviving evidence, suggests that this was probably somewhat exceptional. It is theorized that Hesiod’s original village had a substantial Hecate following and that his inclusion of her in the Theogony was a way of adding to her prestige by spreading word of her among his readers.
If Hecate's cult spread from Anatolia into Greece, it is possible it presented a conflict, as her role was already filled by other more prominent deities in the Greek pantheon, above all by Artemis and Selene. This line of reasoning lies behind the widely accepted hypothesis that she was a foreign deity who was incorporated into the Greek pantheon. Other than in the Theogony, the Greek sources do not offer a consistent story of her parentage, or of her relations in the Greek pantheon: sometimes Hecate is related as a Titaness, and a mighty helper and protector of humans. Her continued presence was explained by asserting that, because she was the only Titan who aided Zeus in the battle of gods and Titans, she was not banished into the underworld realms after their defeat by the Olympians.
One surviving group of stories suggests how Hecate might have come to be incorporated into the Greek pantheon without affecting the privileged position of Artemis. Here, Hecate is a mortal priestess often associated with Iphigeneia. She scorns and insults Artemis, who in retribution eventually brings about the mortal's suicide. Artemis then adorns the dead body with jewelry and commands the spirit to rise and become her Hecate, who subsequently performs a role similar to Nemesis as an avenging spirit, but solely for injured women. Such myths in which a native deity 'sponsors' or ‘creates’ a foreign one were widespread in ancient cultures as a way of integrating foreign cults. If this interpretation is correct, as Hecate’s cult grew, she was inserted into the later myth of the birth of Zeus as one of the midwives that hid the child, while Cronus consumed the deceiving rock handed to him by Gaia. There was an area sacred to Hecate in the precincts of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, where the priests, megabyzi, officiated.
Hecate also came to be associated with ghosts, infernal spirits, the dead and sorcery. Like the totems of Hermes—herms placed at borders as a ward against danger—images of Hecate (like Artemis and Diana, often referred to as a "liminal" goddess) were also placed at the gates of cities, and eventually domestic doorways. Over time, the association with keeping out evil spirits could have led to the belief that if offended, Hecate could also allow the evil spirits in. According to one view, this accounts for invocations to Hecate as the supreme governess of the borders between the normal world and the spirit world, and hence as one with mastery over spirits of the dead. Whatever the reasons, Hecate’s power certainly came to be closely associated with sorcery. One interesting passage exists suggesting that the word "jinx" might have originated in a cult object associated with Hecate. "The Byzantine polymath Michael Psellus speaks of a bullroarer, consisting of a golden sphere, decorated throughout with symbols and whirled on an oxhide thong. He adds that such an instrument is called a iunx (hence "jinx"), but as for the significance says only that it is ineffable and that the ritual is sacred to Hecate."
Hecate is one of the most important figures in the so-called Chaldaean Oracles (2nd-3rd century CE), where she is associated in fragment 194 with a strophalos (usually translated as a spinning top, or wheel, used in magic) "Labour thou around the Strophalos of Hecate." This appears to refer to a variant of the device mentioned by Psellus. Variations in interpretations of Hecate's role or roles can be traced in fifth-century Athens. In two fragments of Aeschylus she appears as a great goddess. In Sophocles and Euripides she is characterized as the mistress of witchcraft and the Keres.
In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hecate is called the "tender-hearted", a euphemism perhaps intended to emphasize her concern with the disappearance of Persephone, when she addressed Demeter with sweet words at a time when the goddess was distressed. She later became Persephone's minister and close companion in the Underworld. But Hecate was never fully incorporated among the Olympian deities.
The modern understanding of Hecate has been strongly influenced by syncretic Hellenistic interpretations. Many of the attributes she was assigned in this period appear to have an older basis. For example, in the magical papyri of Ptolemaic Egypt, she is called the 'she-dog' or 'bitch', and her presence is signified by the barking of dogs. In late imagery she also has two ghostly dogs as servants by her side. However, her association with dogs predates the conquests of Alexander the Great and the emergence of the Hellenistic world. When Philip II laid siege to Byzantium she had already been associated with dogs for some time; the light in the sky and the barking of dogs that warned the citizens of a night time attack, saving the city, were attributed to Hecate Lampadephoros (the tale is preserved in the Suda). In gratitude the Byzantines erected a statue in her honor. As with many ancient virgin goddesses she remained unmarried and had no regular consort, though in some traditions she is indicated as the mother of Scylla.
Other Names and Epithets
Goddess of the Crossroads
Cult images and altars of Hecate in her triplicate or trimorphic form were placed at crossroads (though they also appeared before private homes and in front of city gates). In this form she came to be known as the goddess Trivia "the three ways" in Roman mythology. In what appears to be a 7th Century indication of the survival of cult practices of this general sort, Saint Eligius, in his Sermo warns the sick among his recently converted flock in Flanders against putting "devilish charms at springs or trees or crossroads", and, according to Saint Ouen would urge them "No Christian should make or render any devotion to the deities of the trivium, where three roads meet...
Dogs were closely associated with Hecate in the Classical world. "In art and in literature Hecate is constantly represented as dog-shaped or as accompanied by a dog. Her approach was heralded by the howling of a dog. The dog was Hecate's regular sacrificial animal, and was often eaten in solemn sacrament." The sacrifice of dogs to Hecate is attested for Thrace, Samothrace, Colophon, and Athens.
It has been claimed that her association with dogs is "suggestive of her connection with birth, for the dog was sacred to Eileithyia, Genetyllis, and other birth goddesses. Although in later times Hecate's dog came to be thought of as a manifestation of restless souls or demons who accompanied her, its docile appearance and its accompaniment of a Hecate who looks completely friendly in many pieces of ancient art suggests that its original signification was positive and thus likelier to have arisen from the dog's connection with birth than the dog's demonic associations."
Athenaeus (writing in the 1st or 2nd century BCE, and drawing on the etymological speculation of Apollodorus) notes that the red mullet is sacred to Hecate, "on account of the resemblance of their names; for that the goddess is trimorphos, of a triple form." The Greek word for mullet was trigle and later trigla. He goes on to quote a fragment of verse "O mistress Hecate, Trioditis / With three forms and three faces / Propitiated with mullets". In relation to Greek concepts of pollution, Parker observes, "The fish that was most commonly banned was the red mullet (trigle), which fits neatly into the pattern. It 'delighted in polluted things,' and 'would eat the corpse of a fish or a man'. Blood-coloured itself, it was sacred to the blood-eating goddess Hecate. It seems a symbolic summation of all the negative characteristics of the creatures of the deep." At Athens, it is said there stood a statue of Hecate Triglathena, to whome the red mullet was offered in sacrifice.
The frog, significantly a creature that can cross between two elements, also is sacred to Hecate. In her three-headed representations, discussed above, Hecate often has one or more animal heads, including cow, dog, boar, serpent and horse.
Hecate was closely associated with plant lore and the concoction of medicines and poisons. In particular she was thought to give instruction in these closely related arts. Apollonius of Rhodes, in the Argonautica mentions that Medea was taught by Hecate, "I have mentioned to you before a certain young girl whom Hecate, daughter of Perses, has taught to work in drugs."
The goddess is described as wearing oak in fragments of Sophocles' lost play The Root Diggers (or The Root Cutters), and an ancient commentary on Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica (3.1214) describes her as having a head surrounded by serpents, twining through branches of oak. The yew in particular was sacred to Hecate.
Hecate was said to favor offerings of garlic, which was closely associated with her cult. She is also sometimes associated with cypress, a tree symbolic of death and the underworld, and hence sacred to a number of chthonic deities.
A number of other plants (often poisonous, medicinal and/or psychoactive) are associated with Hecate. These include aconite (also called hecateis), belladonna, dittany, and mandrake. It has been suggested that the use of dogs for digging up mandrake is further corroboration of the association of this plant with Hecate; indeed, since at least as early as the first century CE, there are a number of attestations to the apparently widespread practice of using dogs to dig up plants associated with magic.
Hecate was associated with borders, city walls, doorways, crossroads and, by extension, with realms outside or beyond the world of the living. She appears to have been particularly associated with being 'between' and hence is frequently characterized as a "liminal" goddess. "Hecate mediated between regimes – Olympian and Titan - but also between mortal and divine spheres." This liminal role is reflected in a number of her cult titles: Apotropaia (that turns away/protects); Enodia (on the way); Propulaia/Propylaia (before the gate); Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads); Klêidouchos (holding the keys), etc.
This function would appear to have some relationship with the iconographic association of Hecate with keys, and might also relate to her appearance with two torches, which when positioned on either side of a gate or door illuminated the immediate area and allowed visitors to be identified. "In Byzantium small temples in her honor were placed close to the gates of the city. Hecate's importance to Byzantium was above all as a deity of protection. When Philip of Macedon was about to attack the city, according to the legend she alerted the townspeople with her ever present torches, and with her pack of dogs, which served as her constant companions." This suggests that Hecate's close association with dogs derived in part from the use of watchdogs, who, particularly at night, raised an alarm when intruders approached. Watchdogs were used extensively by Greeks and Romans.
Like Hecate, "[t]he dog is a creature of the threshold, the guardian of doors and portals, and so it is appropriately associated with the frontier between life and death, and with demons and ghosts which move across the frontier. The yawning gates of Hades were guarded by the monstrous watchdog Cerberus, whose function was to prevent the living from entering the underworld, and the dead from leaving it."
Hecate was worshipped by both the Greeks and the Romans who had their own festivals dedicated to her. According to Ruickbie (2004:19) the Greeks observed two days sacred to Hecate, one on the 13th of August and one on the 30th of November, whilst the Romans observed the 29th of every month as her sacred day.
Survival in Pre-Modern Folklore
Hecate has survived in folklore as a 'hag' figure associated with witchcraft. Strmiska notes that Hecate, conflated with the figure of Diana, appears in late antiquity and in the early medieval period as part of an "emerging legend complex" associated with gatherings of women, the moon, and witchcraft that eventually became established "in the area of Northern Italy, southern Germany, and the western Balkans." This theory of the Roman origins of many European folk traditions related to Diana or Hecate was explicitly advanced at least as early as 1807 and is reflected in numerous etymological claims by lexicographers from the 17th to the 19th century, deriving "hag" and/or "hex" from Hecate by way of haegtesse (Anglo-Saxon) and hagazussa (Old High German). Such derivations are today proposed only by a minority since being refuted by Grimm, who was skeptical of theories proposing non-Germanic origins for German folklore traditions.
Whatever the precise nature of Hecate's transition into folklore in late Antiquity, she is now firmly established as a figure in Neopaganism, which draws heavily on folkloric traditions associating Hecate with 'The Wild Hunt', hedges and 'hedge-riding', and other themes that parallel, but are not explicitly attested in, Classical sources.
The figure of Hecate can often be associated with the figure of Isis in Egyptian myth, mainly due to her role as sorceress. Both were symbols of liminal points. Lucius Apuleius (c. 123 - c. 170 CE) in his work "The Golden Ass" associates Hecate with Isis:
Some historians ultimately compare her to the Virgin Mary. She is also comparable to Hel of Nordic myth in her underworld function. Before she became associated with Greek mythology, she had many similarities with Artemis (wilderness, and watching over wedding ceremonies) and Hera (child rearing and the protection of young men or heroes, and watching over wedding ceremonies).
In English folklore, Herne the Hunter is an equestrian ghost associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire. His appearance is notable in the fact that he has antlers upon his head. The first literary mention of Herne is in William Shakespeare's play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, though he has appeared in various other books, TV series and other media since. There are several theories attempting to place the origins of Herne as predating any evidence for him by connecting his appearance to pagan deities; one theory proposes that he is based upon the Anglo-Saxon god Woden, whilst another proposes than he is based upon the Celtic god Cernunnos.
Herne is said to have been a huntsman in the employ of King Richard II (reigned 1377-1399) in and around Windsor Forest. He saved the King's life when he was attacked by a cornered white hart, but was mortally wounded himself in the process. A local wizard brought him back to health using his magical powers, which entailed tying the dead animal's antlers on Herne's head. In return, however, Herne had to give up his hunting skills. The other king's huntsmen framed him as a thief. As a result he lost the favour of the king. He was found the next day, hanging dead from a lone oak tree. That same oak tree is in the Home Park at Windsor Castle.
The earliest written account of Herne comes from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1597:
This records several aspects of Herne's ghost which is said to have haunted Windsor Forest (covering all of East Berkshire and parts of south Buckinghamshire, northeast Hampshire and northwest Surrey) and specifically the Great Park ever since his death. Further details have entered local folklore from reported sightings , such as those in the 1920s. He appears antlered, sometimes beneath the tree on which he was hanged, known as "Herne's Oak", but more often riding his horse, accompanied by other wild huntsmen and the captured souls of those he has encountered on his journey. He is thus a phantom of ill omen, particularly for the country and, specifically, the Royal Family. He has a phosphorescent glow and is accompanied by demon hounds, a horned owl and other creatures of the forest.
The supposed location of Herne's Oak was, for many years, a matter of local speculation and controversy. Some Ordnance Survey maps show Herne's Oak a little to the north of Frogmore House in the Home Park (adjoining Windsor Great Park). This is generally believed to be the correct site from which the oak of Shakespeare's time was felled in 1796. Queen Victoria, unfortunately, had a replacement planted on a different site. This new tree fell in a gale in 1863 when carved mementoes were made from the timber, including a cabinet for the Queen. The bungle was, however, corrected by her son, King Edward VII, who planted the current Herne's Oak in 1906.
Various theories have been proposed to account for the origin of the character, none of which have been proved conclusive, and the source for many of the tales told of Herne remain unknown.
In his 1929 book The History of the Devil - The Horned God of the West Herne R. Lowe suggests that "Herne" could be the Old English version or pronunciation of the Celtic deity Cernunnos - considering that -os is usually dropped over time, plus, following the Grimms Law rules, the C becomes H (possibly from Indo-European 'horn'). Herne is a very localized figure not found outside Berkshire and the regions of the surrounding counties into which Windsor Forest once spread. Conversely, evidence of belief in Cernunnos has been recovered only in the region near Paris and not in Britain at all.
In the Dark Ages, Windsor Forest was settled by heathen Angles who worshipped their own pantheon of gods, including Woden, who was depicted as horned, rode across the night sky with his own Wild Hunt and hanged himself on an ash tree in order to learn the runic alphabet. The name Herne is not unlikely to be derived from the name Herian a name used for Woden as leader of the slain (Old Norse "Einherjar") and of the Wild Hunt. Another Wild Hunt-associated folkloric figure, King Herla, started as the Old English Herla cyning, a figure that is usually said to be Woden, but was later re-imagined as a Brythonic king, has a name that has also been connected to Herian and thus also possibly to Herne. It is possible that the name Herne may originate from the Old English hyrne or herne, the Old English for 'horn' or 'corner'.
Another view is that Herne is connected to one Richard Horne, a yeoman during the reign of Henry VIII who was caught poaching in the wood.
The Horned (or Antlered) God is one of the two primary deities found in neopagan religions. He is often given various names and epithets, and represents the male part of the religions' duotheistic theological system, the other part being the female Triple Goddess.
The term 'Horned God' itself predates Wicca, and is a 20th century syncretic term for a horned or antlered anthropomorphic god with pseudohistorical origins, who, according to Margaret Murray's 1921 The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, was the deity worshipped by a pan-European witchcraft-based cult, and was demonised into the form of the Devil by the Mediaeval Church. Horned and antlered figures appear in various religions and cultures, both ancient and modern, however the suggestion made by Murray that many or all of these represent a single pancultural deity is widely denied by contemporary historians. The Horned God has been analysed in several psychological theories, and it has also become a recurrent theme in fantasy literature since the 20th Century.
Horned God of Wicca
In the neopagan religion of Wicca, the god is seen as the masculine side of divinity, being both equal and opposite to the Goddess. The Wiccan god himself can be represented in many forms, including as the Sun god, the Sacrificed god and the Vegetation god. However it is the Horned god who is both the oldest aspect of the God to be followed by Wiccans, and the most popular.
The pioneers of Wicca, and related forms of neopagan witchcraft, such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente and Robert Cochrane, all claimed that their religion was a continuation of the pagan religion of the Witch-Cult. Historians who had purported the Witch-Cult's existence, such as Jules Michelet and Margaret Murray, For Wiccans, the Horned God is "the personification of the life force energy in animals and the wild" and is associated with the wilderness, virility and the hunt. Doreen Valiente writes that the Horned God also carries the souls of the dead to the underworld.
Neopagans generally tend to polarise the universe into male and female energies, however in most groups the symbolism of the Horned God is less developed than that of the Goddess. In Wicca the cycle of the seasons is imagined to follow the relationship between the Horned God and the Goddess. The Horned God impregnates the Goddess and then dies during the autumn and winter months and is then reborn by the Goddess in spring. The different relationships throughout the year are sometimes distinguished by splitting the god into aspects, the Oak King and the Holly King. The relationships between the Goddess and the Horned God are mirrored by Wiccans in seasonal rituals. For example, the Horned God dies on October 31, which Wiccans call Samhain, the ritual of which is focused on death. He is then reborn on Winter Solstice, December 21.
In 1959's The Meaning of Witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca says that The Horned God as an Under-god, a mediator between an unknowable supreme deity and the people. Whilst the Horned God is the most common depiction of masculine divinity in Wicca, he is not the only representation. Other examples include the Green Man and the Sun God. The similarities between images of the devil and the Horned God may encourage some to wrongly believe that the object of worship by Neopagans is satan.
Names of the Horned God
The Horned God is given different names and epithets by different Wiccan groups and traditions. Epithets for the Horned God include The Lord and the Old One. Doreen Valiente, a former High Priestess of the Gardnerian tradition, claimed that Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood coven referred to the god as Cernunnos, or Kernunno, which is a Gallo-Celtic meaning "the Horned One".
Stewart Farrar, a High Priest of the Alexandrian tradition referred to the Horned God as Karnayna, which he believed was a corruption of the word Cernunnos. In Cochrane's Craft, which was founded by Robert Cochrane, the Horned God was often referred to by a Biblical name, Tubal Cain, who was, according to mythology, the first blacksmith. In this tradition, the God is also referred to as Bran, a Welsh mythological figure, Wayland, the smith in Germanic mythology, and Herne, a horned figure from English folklore.
Influences from Literature
The popular image of the Greek god Pan was removed from its classical context in the writings of the Romantics of the 18th century and connected with their ideals of a pastoral England. This, along with the general public's increasing lack of familiarity of Greek mythology at the time led to the figure of Pan becoming generalised as a 'horned god', and applying connotations to the character, such as benevolence that were not evident in the original Greek myths.
Georg Luck states that the Horned God may have appeared in late antiquity, stemming from the merging of Cernunnos, a horned god of the Celts, with the Greco-Roman Pan/Faunus, a combination of gods which he posits created a new deity, around which the remaining pagans, those refusing to convert to Christianity, rallied. This deity probably provided the prototype for later Christian conceptions of the devil, and worshippers of the Horned God were cast by the Church as witches.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
In 1908's The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, in Chapter 7, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Ratty and Mole meet a mystical horned being, powerful, fearsome and kind.
Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture. He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music.
Among the Hopi, Kokopelli carries unborn children on his back and distributes them to women (for this reason, young girls often fear him). He often takes part in rituals relating to marriage, and Kokopelli himself is sometimes depicted with a consort, a woman called Kokopelmana by the Hopi. It is said that Kokopelli can be seen on the full and waning moon, much like the "rabbit on the moon."
Kokopelli also presides over the reproduction of game animals, and for this reason, he is often depicted with animal companions such as rams and deer. Other common creatures associated with him include sun-bathing animals such as snakes, or water-loving animals like lizards and insects. Because of this, some scholars believe that Kokopelli's flute is actually a blowgun (or started out as one). Alternatively, the "flute" may actually be a pipe for smoking tobacco in a sacred ceremony, or some other device entirely. It is actually very likely that the flute is a change to make Kokopelli "easier" on the public, as well as to perhaps allow for use in business.
In his domain over agriculture, Kokopelli's fluteplaying chases away the Winter and brings about Spring. Many tribes, such as the Zuni, also associate Kokopelli with the rains. He frequently appears with Paiyatamu, another flautist, in depictions of maize-grinding ceremonies. Some tribes say he carries seeds and babies on his back.
In recent years, the emasculated version of Kokopelli has been adopted as a broader symbol of the Southwestern United States as a whole. His image adorns countless items such as T-shirts, ball caps, and keychains. A bicycle trail between Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, is now known as the Kokopelli Trail.
Origins and Development
Kokopelli may have originally been a representation of ancient Aztec traders, known as pochtecas, who traveled to this region from northern Mesoamerica. These traders brought their goods in sacks slung across their backs and this sack may have evolved into Kokopelli's familiar hump (in fact, many tribes make Kokopelli a trader in this way. These men also used flutes to announce themselves as friendly as they approached a settlement. This origin is still in doubt, however, since the first known images of Kokopelli predate the major era of Aztec-Anasazi trade by several hundred years.
Another theory is that Kokopelli is actually an anthropomorphic insect. Many of the earliest depictions of Kokopelli make him very insect-like in appearance. The name "Kokopelli" may be a combination of "Koko", another Hopi and Zuni deity, and "pelli", the Hopi and Zuni word for the desert robber fly, an insect with a prominent proboscis and a rounded back, which is also noted for its zealous sexual proclivities. A more recent etymology is that Kokopelli means literally "kachina hump". Because the Hopi were the tribe from whom the Spanish explorers first learned of the god, their name is the one most commonly used.
Kokopelli is one of the most easily recognized figures found in the petroglyphs and pictographs of the Southwest. The earliest known petroglyph of the figure dates to about A.D. 1000. Kokopelli was one of several kachina dolls sold to tourists. The Spanish missionaries in the area convinced the Hopi craftsmen to omit the phallus from their representations of the figure. As with most kachina dolls, the Hopi Kokopelli was often represented by a human dancer. These dancers apparently had great fun with missionaries and tourists by making obscene and sexual gestures that the foreigners did not understand.
A similar humpbacked figure is found in artifacts of the Mississippian culture of the U.S. southeast. Between approximately 1200 to 1400 AD, water vessels were crafted in the shape of a humpbacked woman. These forms may represent a cultural heroine or founding ancestor, and may also reflect concepts related to the life-giving blessings of water and fertility.
Lugh (modern Irish Lú, earlier Lug) is an Irish deity represented in mythological texts as a hero and High King of the distant past. He is known by the epithets Lámhfhada ("long arm" or "long hand"), for his skill with a spear or sling, Ildanach ("skilled in many arts"), Samh-ildánach ("Equally skilled in many arts"), Lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker" or perhaps "sword-shouter") and Macnia ("boy hero"), and by the matronymic mac Ethlenn or mac Ethnenn ("son of Ethliu or Ethniu"). He is a reflex of the pan-Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes "Lugh Strong Hand".
Lugh in Irish Tradition
Lugh's father is Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother is Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. In Cath Maige Tuired their union is a dynastic marriage following an alliance between the Tuatha Dé and the Fomorians. In the Lebor Gabála Érenn Cian gives the boy to Tailtiu, queen of the Fir Bolg, in fosterage.
A folktale told to John O'Donovan by Shane O'Dugan of Tory Island in 1835 recounts the birth of a grandson of Balor who grows up to kill his grandfather. The grandson is unnamed, his father is called Mac Cinnfhaelaidh and the manner of his killing of Balor is different, but it has been taken as a version of the birth of Lugh, and was adapted as such by Lady Gregory. In this tale, Balor hears a druid's prophecy that he will be killed by his own grandson. To prevent this he imprisons his only daughter in the Tór Mór (great tower) of Tory Island, cared for by twelve women, who are to prevent her ever meeting or even learning of the existence of men. On the mainland, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh owns a magic cow who gives such abundant milk that everyone, including Balor, wants to possess her. While the cow is in the care of Mac Cinnfhaelaidh's brother Mac Samthainn, Balor appears in the form of a little red-haired boy and tricks him into giving him the cow. Looking for revenge, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh calls on a leanan sídhe (fairy woman) called Biróg, who transports him by magic to the top of Balor's tower, where he seduces Eithne. In time she gives birth to triplets, which Balor gathers up in a sheet and sends to be drowned in a whirlpool. The messenger drowns two of the babies, but unwittingly drops one child into the harbour, where he is rescued by Biróg. She takes him to his father, who gives him to his brother, Gavida the smith, in fosterage.
There may be further triplism associated with his birth. His father in the folktale is one of a triad of brothers, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh, Gavida and Mac Samthainn, and his father in the medieval texts, Cian, is often mentioned together with his brothers Cú and Cethen. Two characters called Lugaid, a popular medieval Irish name thought to derive from Lugh, have three fathers: Lugaid Riab nDerg (Lugaid of the Red Stripes) was the son of the three Findemna or fair triplets, and Lugaid mac Con Roí was also known as mac Trí Con, "son of three hounds". In Ireland's other great "sequestered maiden" story, the tragedy of Deirdre, the king's intended is carried off by three brothers, who are hunters with hounds. The canine imagery continues with Cian's brother Cú ("hound"), another Lugaid, Lugaid mac Con (son of a hound), and Lugh's son Cúchulainn ("Culann's Hound").
Lugh Joins the Tuatha Dé Danann
As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé, and he begins making preparations for war.
The Sons of Tuireann
When the sons of Tuireann, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba, kill his father, Cian (who was in the form of a pig at the time), Lugh sets them a series of seemingly impossible quests as recompense. They achieve them all, but are fatally wounded in completing the last one. Despite Tuireann's pleas, Lugh denies them the use of one of the items they have retrieved, a magic pigskin which heals all wounds. They die of their wounds, and Tuireann dies of grief over their bodies.
The Battle of Magh Tuireadh
Using the magic artifacts the sons of Tuireann have gathered, Lugh leads the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians. Nuada is killed in the battle by Balor. Lugh faces Balor, who opens his terrible, poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon, but Lugh shoots a sling-stone that drives his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After the victory Lugh finds Bres, the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé, alone and unprotected on the battlefield, and Bres begs for his life. If he is spared, he promises, he will ensure that the cows of Ireland always give milk. The Tuatha Dé refuse the offer. He then promises four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé say one harvest a year suits them. But Lugh spares his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé how and when to plough, sow and reap. It is widely held by scholars that the battle between Lugh and Balor reflects a common Indo-European motif, the battle between the youthful hero and his tyrant grandfather.
Later Life and Death
Lugh instituted a harvest fair during the festival of Lughnasadh in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, held on 1 August at the town that bears her name (now Teltown, County Meath). He likewise instituted Lughnasadh fairs in the areas of Carman and Naas in honour of Carman and Nás, the eponymous tutelary goddess of these two regions. Horse races and displays of martial arts were important activities at all three fairs. However, Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh's triumph over the spirits of the Other World who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. It survived long into Christian times and is still celebrated under a variety of names. Lúnasa is now the Irish name for the month of August.
According to a poem of the dindsenchas, Lugh was responsible for the death of Bres. He made 300 wooden cows, and filled them with a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then "milked" into pails and offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him. Lugh is said to have invented the board game fidchell. He had a dog called Failinis.
He had several wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain. Buí lived and was buried at Knowth. Nás was buried at Naas, County Kildare, which is named after her. Lug had a son, Ibic, by Nás. His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. One of his wives, unnamed, had an affair with Cermait, son of the Dagda. Lugh killed him in revenge, but Cermait's sons, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, killed Lugh in return, drowning him in Loch Lugborta. He had ruled for forty years.
Lugh in Other Cycles and Traditions
Lugh’s sling rod was the rainbow and the Milky Way was called "Lugh's Chain". He also had a magic spear (named Brionac), which, unlike the rod-sling, he had no need to wield since it was alive and thirsted so for blood that only by steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds could it be kept at rest. When battle was near, it was drawn out; then it roared and struggled against its thongs, fire flashed from it, and it tore through the ranks of the enemy once slipped from the leash, never tired of slaying.
Another of his possessions was a magic hound which an ancient poem, one attributed to the Fenian hero, Caoilte, calls,
Lugh's Name and Nature
Lugh's name was formerly interpreted as deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *leuk-, "flashing light", and he is often surrounded by solar imagery, so from Victorian times he has often been considered a sun god, similar to the Greco-Roman Apollo. He appears in folklore as a trickster, and in County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lugh and Balor, so he is sometimes considered a storm god: Alexei Kondratiev notes his epithet lonnbeimnech ("fierce striker") and concludes that "if his name has any relation to 'light' it more properly means 'lightning-flash' (as in Breton luc'h and Cornish lughes)". However, Breton and Cornish are Brythonic languages in which Proto-Celtic *k did undergo systematic sound changes into -gh- and -ch-. This change did not occur in Irish, so it is unlikely that Lugh derives from the root *leuk-, nor is it related to any other Proto-Indo-European root connoting luminosity.
Lugh's mastery of all arts has led many to link him with the un-named Gaulish god Julius Caesar identifies with Mercury, whom he describes as the "inventor of all the arts". Caesar describes the Gaulish Mercury as the most revered deity in Gaul, overseeing journeys and business transactions. Juliette Wood interprets Lugh's name as deriving from the Celtic root *lugios, "oath", and the Irish word lugh connotes ideas of "blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath", which strengthens the identification with Mercury, who was, among other attributes, a god of contracts.
The Morrígan ("terror" or "phantom queen") or Mórrígan ("great queen") (also known as Morrígu, Morríghan, Mor-Ríoghain, sometimes given in the plural as Morrígna) is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.
She is associated with sovereignty, prophecy, war, and death on the battlefield. She sometimes appears in the form of a crow, flying above the warriors, and in the Ulster cycle she also takes the form of an eel, a wolf, and a cow. She is generally considered a war deity comparable with the Germanic Valkyries, although her association with cattle also suggests a role connected with fertility, wealth, and the land. She is often interpreted as a triple goddess, although membership of the triad varies: the most common combination is the Morrígan, the Badb, and Macha, but sometimes includes Nemain, Fea, Anann, and others.
There is some disagreement over the meaning of the Morrígan's name. It can be straightforwardly interpreted as "great queen" (Old Irish mór, great; rígan, queen, deriving from a hypothetical Proto-Celtic *Māra Rīganī-s. However it often lacks the diacritic over the o in the texts. Alternatively, mor (without diacritic) may derive from an Indo-European root connoting terror or monstrousness, cognate with the Old English maere (which survives in the modern English word "nightmare") and the Scandinavian mara. This can be reconstructed in Proto-Celtic as *Moro-rīganī-s. Current scholarship mostly holds to Morrígan, often translated as "Phantom Queen" being the older, more accurate form.
Glosses and Glossaries
The earliest sources for the Morrígan are glosses in Latin manuscripts, and glossaries (collections of glosses). In a 9th century manuscript containing the Latin Vulgate translation of the Book of Isaiah, the word Lamia is used to translate the Hebrew Lilith. A gloss explains this as "a monster in female form, that is, a morrígan". Cormac's Glossary (also 9th century), and a gloss in the later manuscript H.3.18, both explain the plural word gudemain ("spectres") with the plural form morrígna. The 8th century O'Mulconry's Glossary says that Macha is one of the three morrígna. It therefore appears that at this time the name Morrígan was seen as referring to a class of beings rather than an individual.
The Morrígan's earliest narrative appearances, in which she is depicted as an individual, are in stories of the Ulster Cycle, where she has an ambiguous relationship with the hero Cúchulainn. In Táin Bó Regamna (The Cattle Raid of Regamain), Cúchulainn encounters the Morrígan as she drives a heifer from his territory. He challenges and insults her, not realising who she is. By this he earns her enmity. She makes a series of threats, and foretells a coming battle in which he will be killed. She tells him, enigmatically, "I guard your death".
In the Táin Bó Cuailnge queen Medb of Connacht launches an invasion of Ulster to steal the bull Donn Cuailnge; the Morrígan, glossed as equivalent to Alecto of the Greek Furies, appears to the bull in the form of a crow and warns him to flee. Cúchulainn defends Ulster by fighting a series of single combats at fords against Medb's champions. In between combats the Morrígan appears to him as a young woman and offers him her love, and her aid in the battle, but he spurns her. In response she intervenes in his next combat, first in the form of an eel who trips him, then as a wolf who stampedes cattle across the ford, and finally as a red heifer leading the stampede, just as she had threatened in their previous encounter. However Cúchulainn wounds her in each form and defeats his opponent despite her interference. Later she appears to him as an old woman bearing the same three wounds that her animal forms sustained, milking a cow. She gives Cúchulainn three drinks of milk. He blesses her with each drink, and her wounds are healed. As the armies gather for the final battle, she prophesies the bloodshed to come.
In one version of Cúchulainn's death-tale, as the hero rides to meet his enemies, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag washing his bloody armour in a ford, an omen of his death. Later in the story, mortally wounded, Cúchulainn ties himself to a standing stone with his own entrails so he can die upright, and it is only when a crow lands on his shoulder that his enemies believe he is dead.
The Morrígan also appears in texts of the Mythological Cycle. In the 12th century pseudohistorical compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn she is listed among the Tuatha Dé Danann as one of the daughters of Ernmas, granddaughter of Nuada. The first three daughters of Ernmas are given as Ériu, Banba, and Fódla. Their names are synonyms for Ireland, and they were married to Mac Cuill, Mac Cécht, and Mac Gréine, the last three Tuatha Dé Danann kings of Ireland. Associated with the land and kingship, they probably represent a triple goddess of sovereignty. Next come Ernmas's other three daughters: the Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan. A quatrain describes the three as wealthy, "springs of craftiness" and "sources of bitter fighting". The Morrígan's name is said to be Anann, and she had three sons, Glon, Gaim, and Coscar. According to Geoffrey Keating's 17th century History of Ireland, Ériu, Banba, and Fódla worshipped the Badb, Macha, and the Morrígan respectively, suggesting that the two triads of goddesses may be seen as equivalent.
The Morrígan also appears in Cath Maige Tuireadh (The Battle of Mag Tuired). On Samhain she keeps a tryst with the Dagda before the battle against the Fomorians. When he meets her she is washing herself, standing with one foot on either side of the river Unius. In some sources she is believed to have created the river. After they have sex, the Morrígan promises to summon the magicians of Ireland to cast spells on behalf of the Tuatha Dé, and to destroy Indech, the Fomorian king, taking from him "the blood of his heart and the kidneys of his valour". Later, we are told, she would bring two handfuls of his blood and deposit them in the same river (however, we are also told later in the text that Indech was killed by Ogma).
As battle is about to be joined, the Tuatha Dé leader, Lug, asks each what power they bring to the battle. The Morrígan's reply is difficult to interpret, but involves pursuing, destroying and subduing. When she comes to the battlefield she chants a poem, and immediately the battle breaks and the Fomorians are driven into the sea. After the battle she chants another poem celebrating the victory and prophesying the end of the world. In another story she lures away the bull of a woman called Odras, who follows her to the otherworld via the cave of Cruachan. When she falls asleep, the Morrígan turns her into a pool of water.
Nature and Functions
The Morrígan is often considered a triple goddess, but her supposed triple nature is ambiguous and inconsistent. Sometimes she appears as one of three sisters, the daughters of Ernmas: the Morrígan, the Badb and Macha. Sometimes the trinity consists of the Badb, Macha and Nemain, collectively known as the Morrígan, or in the plural as the Morrígna. Occasionally Fea or Anu also appear in various combinations. However the Morrígan also frequently appears alone, and her name is sometimes used interchangeably with the Badb, with no third "aspect" mentioned.
The Morrígan is usually interpreted as a "war goddess": W. M. Hennessey's "The Ancient Irish Goddess of War," written in 1870, was influential in establishing this interpretation. Her role often involves premonitions of a particular warrior's violent death, suggesting a link with the Banshee of later folklore. This connection is further noted by Patricia Lysaght: "In certain areas of Ireland this supernatural being is, in addition to the name banshee, also called the badhb".
It has also been suggested that she was closely tied to Irish männerbund groups (described as "bands of youthful warrior-hunters, living on the borders of civilized society and indulging in lawless activities for a time before inheriting property and taking their places as members of settled, landed communities") and that these groups may have been in some way dedicated to her. If true, her worship may have resembled that of Perchta groups in Germanic areas.
However, Máire Herbert has argued that "war per se is not a primary aspect of the role of the goddess", and that her association with cattle suggests her role was connected to the earth, fertility and sovereignty; she suggests that her association with war is a result of a confusion between her and the Badb, who she argues was originally a separate figure. She can be interpreted as providing political or military aid, or protection to the king - acting as a goddess of sovereignty, not necessarily a war goddess.
There is a burnt mound site in County Tipperary known as Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna ("cooking pit of the Mórrígan"). The fulachta sites are found in wild areas, and usually associated with outsiders such as the Fianna and the above-mentioned männerbund groups, as well as with the hunting of deer. The cooking connection also suggests to some a connection with the three mythical hags who cook the meal of dogflesh that brings the hero Cúchulainn to his doom. The Dá Chich na Morrigna ("two breasts of the Mórrígan"), a pair of hills in County Meath, suggest to some a role as a tutelary goddess, comparable to Danu or Anu, who has her own hills in County Kerry. Other goddesses known to have similar hills are Áine and Grian of County Limerick who, in addition to a tutelary function, also have solar attributes.
There have been attempts by some modern authors of fiction to link the Arthurian character Morgan le Fay with the Morrígan. Morgan first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin) in the 12th century. However, while the creators of the literary character of Morgan may have been somewhat inspired by the much older tales of the goddess, the relationship ends there. Scholars such as Rosalind Clark hold that the names are unrelated, the Welsh "Morgan" (Wales being the source of Arthurian legend) being derived from root words associated with the sea, while the Irish "Morrígan" has its roots either in a word for "terror" or a word for "greatness".
Mother Nature (sometimes known as Mother Earth) is a common personification of nature that focuses on the life-giving and nurturing features of nature by embodying it in the form of the mother. Images of women representing mother earth, and mother nature, are timeless. In prehistoric times, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertility, fecundity, and agricultural bounty. Priestesses held dominion over aspects of Incan, Algonquin, Assyrian, Babylonian, Slavonic, Roman, Greek, Indian, and Iroquoian religions in the millennia prior to the inception of patriarchal religions.
Western Tradition History
The word nature comes from the Latin word, natura, meaning birth or character. In English its first recorded use, in the sense of the entirety of the phenomena of the world, was very late in history in 1662; however natura, and the personification of Mother Nature, was widely popular in the Middle Ages and can be traced to Ancient Greece in origin; though Earth or Eorthe in the Old English period may have been personified as a goddess. Likewise the Norse also had a goddess called Jord Earth. The pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece had invented nature when they abstracted the entirety of phenomena of the world into a single name and spoken of as a single object: physis. Later Greek thinkers such as Aristotle were not as entirely inclusive, excluding the stars and moon, the "supernatural", from nature. Thus from this Aristotelian view—nature existing inside a larger framework and not inclusive of everything—nature became a personified deity, and it is from this we have the origins of a mythological goddess nature. Later medieval Christian thinkers did not see nature as inclusive of everything, but thought that she was created by God, her place lay on earth, below the heavens and moon. Nature lay somewhere in the middle, with agents above her (angels) and below her (demons and hell). For the medieval mind she was only a personification, not a goddess. The modern concept of nature, all inclusive of all phenomenon, has returned to its original pre-Socratic roots, no longer a personification or deity except in a rhetorical sense, a bow to her illustrious traditions.
Specifically in Greek mythology, the myth of Demeter and Persephone tells the story of a mother who discovers that her daughter has been abducted by Hades, who drags Persephone into the underworld with him. Demeter, goddess of the harvest, whose name originally meant 'earth mother', wreaked revenge upon the earth by refusing to provide any crops, so that the "entire human race [would] have perished of cruel, biting hunger if Zeus had not been concerned" (Larousse 152). She would not permit the earth to bear fruit until she saw her daughter again, and so Hades was forced by Zeus to allow Persephone to live with her mother, but while Persephone had lived in the Underworld, she had been forced to eat seeds of the pomegranate, the food of the dead. When Hermes came to take Persephone back to her mother Hades argued that she had tasted the fruit of the dead, therefore, must remain with him and be queen of the underworld. Zeus made a deal with Hades, for every seed that Persephone ate she would have to stay for a month in the Underworld with Hades; the other months she would remain with her mother. She had eaten six pomegranate seeds and had to spend six months with Hades - six months that represent fall and winter. However, the price humankind pays, according to the myth, is that when autumn winds arrive, and the earth hardens and becomes covered in snow and frost, Demeter is without her daughter, and allows no fecundity or growth; in contrast, the spring and summer months are those of rejoicing, flowers in bloom, and the beginning of months of warmth and fertility.
In this Greek myth, Demeter, the earth mother, has the power to deny humankind fruits of the harvest. A mother so powerful and so vengeful is an ambivalent figure in myth and history. The metaphor of mother nature continues to permeate the imagination of painters and writers, whose perceptions shape their audiences' images of, and beliefs about, mother, nature and women in general..
Indigenous Peoples of the Americas
Algonquin legend says that "beneath the clouds lives the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and human" (Larousse 428). She is also known as Nokomis, the Grandmother.
In Inca mythology, Mama Pacha or Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting. Pachamama is usually translated as "Mother Earth" but a more literal translation would be "Mother Universe" (in Aymara and Quechua mama = mother / pacha = world, space-time or the universe). Pachamama and her husband, Inti are the most benevolent deities and are worshiped in parts of the Andean mountain ranges, also known as Tawantinsuyu (stretching from present day Ecuador to Chile and Argentina).
In the Mabinogion of Welsh mythology Rhiannon is the horse goddess reminiscent of Epona from Gaulish religion. Rhiannon was a daughter of Hefeydd the Old. She was married to Pwyll, and later, Manawydan.
Story of Rhiannon
Pwyll first met Rhiannon when she appeared as a beautiful woman dressed in gold and riding a white horse. Pwyll sent his horsemen after her, but she was too fast. In fact, she was riding no faster than Pwyll and his knights; her horse's swiftness was a mirage she created for Pwyll's and her benefit. After three days, he finally chased her himself. When he spoke, asking her to stop, Rhiannon told him she would rather marry him than the man she was being forced upon, Gwawl. She made a tryst with Pwyll and after a year from that day, he won her from Gwawl by following Rhiannon's advice to trick Gwawl into climbing into a magic bag that Rhiannon had given to Pwyll, striking an agreement to free him in exchange for Rhiannon.
Rhiannon gave birth to a son after three years of their rule; however, on the night of the birth, the child disappeared while in the care of six of Rhiannon's ladies-in-waiting. They feared that they would be put to death, and to avoid any blame, smeared blood from a puppy on the sleeping Rhiannon, and lay its bones around her bed. Pwyll's counselors imposed a penance on Rhiannon for her crime, to remain in the court of Arberth for seven years, and to sit every day near a horse-block outside the gate telling her story to all that passed. In addition, she was to carry any willing guest to the court on her back.
The child appeared outside a stable of Teyrnon, whose mares had just given birth but the foals had disappeared. Teyrnon had been watching his stables when he saw a mysterious beast coming to take the foal; Teyrnon stopped the beast by cutting off its arm at the elbow, and found the child outside the stable. He and his wife adopted him. The child grew to adulthood in only seven years and was given the foal which had led Teyrnon to the stable. Teyrnon realized who the child was and returned him to Pwyll and Rhiannon, who named him Pryderi (care).
Pryderi married Cigfa and became Prince of Dyfed after his father died. He then invited Manawydan (his stepfather) to live with him in Dyfed. Soon, Dyfed turned into a barren wasteland and only Rhiannon, Pryderi, Cigfa and Manawydan survived. Manawydan and Pryderi, while out hunting, saw a white boar which they followed. Pryderi and his mother, Rhiannon, touched a golden bowl that the boar led them to and became enchanted. Manawydan and Cigfa were unable to help them until they captured a mouse which was actually the wife of Llwyd, Rhiannon's enemy (seeking revenge for her treatment of Gwawl), and the spell was lifted.
"What does the name Rhiannon mean?" and "Who was Rhiannon?" are two distinct questions. Unfortunately, many websites devoted to babies’ names seem to confuse the two issues: Rhiannon was not a nymph and was not a witch; and the name certainly does not mean ‘nymph’ or ‘witch’, as proven below. The name appears to be derived from the Proto-Celtic root *rīganī meaning "queen" in combination with the augmentive suffix -on. The Romano-British form of this name, if it had existed at that stage, would likely have been *Rīgantonā. This is supported by a number of academic authors.
According to Professor Proinsias Mac Cana of University College Dublin and Visiting Professor of Celtic Studies at Harvard University Rhiannon derives ‘from *Rīgantonā Divine Queen’. Dr Anne Ross gives Rhiannon’s derivation as, "Welsh Riannon from Rigantona, great queen". Professor Miranda Green of the University of Wales gives two meanings, combining the above derivations: "Her name may derive from that of a pagan goddess Rigantona ('Great – or Sacred – Queen')". In answer to the question, "Who was Rhiannon?", Proinsias Mac Cana states: "[Rhiannon] reincarnates the goddess of sovereignty who, in taking to her a spouse, thereby ordained him legitimate king of the territory which she personified". According to Professor Green, "Rhiannon conforms to two archetypes of myth ... a gracious, bountiful queen-goddess.:
In Celtic mythology, Manannán mac Lir is the god of the sea. He is often seen as a psychopomp, and considered to have strong connections to the Otherworld islands of the dead, as well as to weather and the mists between the worlds. He is usually counted as one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, although most scholars consider him to be of an older race of deities. He features, under slightly varying names, across early Irish, Scots, Welsh, and Manx myth.
In Mythology and Folklore
Manannán appears in many Celtic myths and tales, although he only plays a prominent role in some of them. In the tale "His Three Calls to Cormac", Manannán tempts the Irish King Cormac mac Airt with treasure in exchange for his family. Cormac is led into the Otherworld and taught a harsh lesson by Manannán, but in the end his wife and children are restored to him. Also, Manannán rewards him with a magic cup which breaks if three lies are spoken over it and is made whole again if three truths are spoken. The tale "Manannan at Play" features the god as a clown and beggar who turns out to be a harper. Manannán, here in his trickster guise, plays a number of pranks, some of which resulting in serious trouble; by the end of the tale, he compensated for the pranks that got him in trouble.
In the Ulster Cycle tale, Serglige Con Culainn ("The Sickbed of Cúchulainn") Manannán's wife, Fand, has an ill-fated affair with the Irish warrior Cúchulainn. When Fand sees that Cúchulainn's jealous wife, Emer is worthy of him (and accompanied by a troop of armed women), she decides to return to Manannán, who then shakes his magical cloak of mists between Fand and Cúchulainn so that they may never meet again. In the Voyage of Bran, Manannán prophesied to Bran that a great warrior would be descended from him. The 8th-century saga Compert Mongáin recounts the deeds of a legendary son, Mongán mac Fiachnai, fathered by Manannán on the wife of Fiachnae mac Báetáin.
Manannán has strong ties to the Isle of Man, where he is referenced in a traditional ballad as having been the nation's first ruler. On Midsummer, the Manx people offer bundles of reeds, meadow grasses and yellow flowers to Manannán in a ritual "paying of the rent", accompanied with prayers for his aid and protection in and fishing. He is also believed to have been a magician who could make an illusory fleet from sedge or pea shells in order to discourage would-be invaders.
According to the Book of Fermoy, a Manuscript of the 14th to the 15th century, "he was a pagan, a lawgiver among the Tuatha Dé Danann, and a necromancer possessed of power to envelope himself and others in a mist, so that they could not be seen by their enemies." It was by this method that he was said to protect the Isle of Man from discovery.
Manannán was associated with a "cauldron of regeneration". This is seen in the tale of Cormac mac Airt, among other tales. Here, he appeared at Cormac's ramparts in the guise of a warrior who told him he came from a land where old age, sickness, death, decay, and falsehood were unknown (the Otherworld was also known as the "Land of Youth" or the "Land of the Living").
As guardian of the Blessed Isles as well as Mag Mell he also has strong associations with Emhain Abhlach, the Isle of Apple Trees, where the magical silver apple branch is found. To the Celts, the Blessed Isles that lie beyond the sea are the gateways to the Otherworlds, where the soul journeys to after death. Manannán is the guardian of these gateways between the worlds. He is the Ferryman, who comes to transport the souls of the dead through the veils.
Mannanán's powerful role in the cycle of life and death is also expressed in his possession of magic swine whose flesh provides food for feasting by the gods, and then regenerates each day, like that of Odin's boar Sæhrímnir in Scandinavian myth.
As his name suggests, Manannán's father is the sea-god Lir, whose role he seems to take over. According to Táin Bó Cúailnge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley), his wife is the beautiful goddess, Fand ("Pearl of Beauty" or "A Tear" - later remembered as a "Fairy Queen", though earlier mentions point to her also being a sea deity). Other sources say his wife was the goddess Áine, though she is at other times said to be his daughter. Manannán had a daughter, whose name was Niamh of the Golden Hair. It is also probable that another daughter was Cliodna, but sources treat this differently. Either way, she is a young woman from Manannán's lands, whose surname is "of the Fair Hair". Mongán mac Fiachnai is a late addition to the mac Lir family tree. The historical Mongán was a son of Fiachnae mac Báetáin, born towards the end of the 6th century. According to legend Fiachnae, who was at war in Scotland, came home with a victory because of a bargain made with Manannán (either by him, or by his wife) to let Manannán have a child by his wife. This child, Mongán, was supposedly taken to the Otherworld when he was very young, to be raised there by Manannán. The Compert Mongáin tells the tale.
Despite not being the biological father of many children, Manannán is often seen in the traditional role of foster father, raising a number of foster children including Lugh of the great hand and the children of Deirdre.
Manannán had many magical items. He gave Cormac mac Airt his magic goblet of truth; he had a ship that did not need sails named "Wave Sweeper"; he owned a cloak of mists that granted him invisibility, a flaming helmet, and a sword named Fragarach ("Answerer" or "Retaliator") that could never miss its target. He also owned a horse called "Enbarr of the Flowing Mane" which could travel over water as easily as land. In some sources he is described as driving his chariot over the sea as if over land, and through fields of purple flowers.
Manx legends also tells of four items that he gave to Lugh as parting gifts, when the boy went to aid the people of Dana against the Fomorians. These were: "Manannan's coat, wearing which he could not be wounded, and also his breastplate, which no weapon could pierce. His helmet had two precious stones set in front and one behind, which flashed as he moved. And Manannan girt him for the fight with his own deadly sword, called the Answerer, from the wound of which no man ever recovered, and those who were opposed to it in battle were so terrified that their strength left them." Lugh also took Enbarr of the Flowing Mane, and was joined by Manannan's own sons and Fairy Cavalcade. When he looked back on leaving, Lugh saw "his foster-father's noble figure standing on the beach. Manannan was wrapped in his magic cloak of colours, changing like the sun from blue-green to silver, and again to the purple of evening. He waved his hand to Lugh, and cried: 'Victory and blessing with thee!' So Lugh, glorious in his youth and strength, left his Island home."
Other Names and Etymology
The Irish name, Manannán, derives from an earlier name for the Isle of Man. The patronymic mac Lir may have been metaphorical and meant 'son of the sea' (ler is Manx for 'sea' and lear is Irish for 'sea'). On the Isle of Man itself, Manannán is known as Mannan beg mac y Leir/"little Manannan son of the sea" (beg is Manx for "small"). In the Irish manuscript, The Yellow Book of Lecan, there are said to be "four Manannans". The name given for the "first Manannan" is:
Manannán's Welsh equivalent is Manawydan fab Llyr.
The modern portrayal of Santa Claus frequently depicts him listening to the Christmas wishes of young children. Santa Claus, or Santa, is a figure in the culture of North America, The United Kingdom, Ireland,Australia, New Zealand and more who reflects an amalgamation of the Dutch Sinterklaas, the English Father Christmas, and Christmas gift-bringers in other traditions. Santa Claus is said to bring gifts to the homes of good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, December 24. Santa Claus in this contemporary understanding echoes aspects of hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of gift-giver Saint Nicholas, the man from whom the name of Santa Claus derives and in whose honor Santa Claus may be referred to as Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick.
Santa Claus is generally depicted as a plump, jolly, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots (images of him rarely have a beard with no moustache). This image became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast. This image has been maintained and reinforced through song, radio, television, children's books and films. The North American depiction of Santa Claus as it developed in the 19th and 20th century in turn influenced the modern perceptions of Father Christmas, Sinterklaas and Saint Nicholas in European culture.
According to a tradition which can be traced to the 1820s, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and nine (originally eight) flying reindeer. Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the 1934 song "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("naughty" or "nice") and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the good boys and girls in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Sinterklaas. He was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian with dowries so that they would not have to become prostitutes. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity. In Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. In 1087, the Italian city of Bari, wanting to enter the profitable pilgrimage industry of the times, mounted an expedition to locate the tomb of the Christian Saint and procure his remains. The reliquary of St. Nicholas was desecrated by Italian sailors and the spoils, including his relics, taken to Bari where they are kept to this day. A basilica was constructed the same year to store the loot and the area became a pilgrimage site for the devout, thus justifying the economic cost of the expedition. Saint Nicholas was later claimed as a patron saint of many diverse groups, from archers, sailors, and children to pawnbrokers. He is also the patron saint of both Amsterdam and Moscow.
Influence of Germanic Paganism and Folklore
Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization. Since many of these elements are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus.
Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry, some of which describe his appearance or functions. These include Síðgrani, Síðskeggr, Langbarðr, (all meaning "long beard") and Jólnir ("Yule figure").
According to some traditions, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would then reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir's food with gifts or candy. This practice still survives in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands and became associated with Saint Nicholas since Christianization. In other countries it has been replaced by the hanging of stockings at the chimney in homes.
Originating from pre-Christian Alpine traditions and influenced by later Christianization, the Krampus is represented as a Companion of Saint Nicholas. Traditionally, some young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December and particularly on the evening of December 5 and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells.
In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicolas, ("Sinterklaas", often called "De Goede Sint" — "The Good Saint") is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch ("Black Peter") or "Père Fouettard" in French. His feast on December 6 came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. However, in the Netherlands the Dutch celebrate on the evening of December 5, with a celebration called "pakjesavond". In the Reformation in 16th-17th century Europe, many Protestants and others changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, and the date for giving gifts changed from December 6 to Christmas Eve.
Tradition holds that Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) and his aides arrive each year by steam boat from Spain in mid November carrying a book that contains notes on all children that indicate whether the child has been good or naughty during the year and gifts, chocolate letters and spice nuts to be handed to the well-behaved children. During the subsequent three weeks, Saint Nicholas is believed to ride a white-grey horse over the rooftops at night, delivering gifts through the chimney to the well-behaved children, while the naughty children risk being caught by Saint Nicholas' aides that carry jute bags and willow canes for that purpose.
In contrast to Santa Claus, Sinterklaas is an elderly, stately and serious man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape or chasuble over a traditional white bishop's alb and sometimes red stola, dons a red mitre, and holds a gold-coloured crosier, a long ceremonial shepherd's staff with a fancy curled top. He carries a big book that tells whether each individual child has been good or naughty in the past year. He traditionally rides a white gray. In Netherlands and Belgium the character of Santa Claus, is known as de Kerstman in Dutch ("the Christmas man") and Père Noël ("Father Christmas") in French. Although for kids Sinterklaas is the predominant gift-giver in the Netherlands in December (36% of the population only give presents on Sinterklaas day), Christmas is used by another fifth of the Dutch population to give presents. (21% give presents on Christmas only). Some 26% of the Dutch population give presents on both days. In Belgium, presents are given to children only, but to almost all of them, on Sinterklaas day. On Christmas Day, everybody receives presents, but often without Santa Claus' help.
In the 1840s, an elf in Nordic folklore called "Tomte" or "Nisse" started to deliver the Christmas presents in Denmark. The Tomte was portrayed as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat. This new version of the age-old folkloric creature was obviously inspired by the Santa Claus traditions that were now spreading to Scandinavia. By the end of the 19th century this tradition had also spread to Norway and Sweden, replacing the Yule Goat. The same thing happened in Finland, but there the more human figure retained the Yule Goat name. But even though the tradition of the Yule Goat as a bringer of presents is now all but extinct, a straw goat is still a common Christmas decoration in all of Scandinavia.
Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, and pictures of him survive from that era, portraying him as a jolly well-nourished bearded man dressed in a long, green, fur-lined robe. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, and was reflected as the "Ghost of Christmas Present", in Charles Dickens's festive classic A Christmas Carol, a great genial man in a green coat lined with fur who takes Scrooge through the bustling streets of London on the current Christmas morning, sprinkling the essence of Christmas onto the happy populace.
Pre-modern representations of the gift-giver from church history and folklore, notably St Nicholas and Sinterklaas, merged with the British character Father Christmas to create the character known to Britons and Americans as Santa Claus. In the British colonies of North America and later the United States, British and Dutch versions of the gift-giver merged further. For example, in Washington Irving's History of New York, (1809), Sinterklaas was Americanized into "Santa Claus" (a name first used in the American press in 1773) but lost his bishop's apparel, and was at first pictured as a thick-bellied Dutch sailor with a pipe in a green winter coat. Irving's book was a lampoon of the Dutch culture of New York, and much of this portrait is his joking invention.
In 1821, the book A New-year's present, to the little ones from five to twelve is published in New York. It contains Old Santeclaus, an anonymous poem describing an old man on a reindeer sleigh, bringing presents to children. Some modern ideas of Santa Claus seemingly became canon after the publication of the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (better known today as "The Night Before Christmas") in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823 anonymously; the poem was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. Many of his modern attributes are established in this poem, such as riding in a sleigh that lands on the roof, entering through the chimney, and having a bag full of toys. St. Nick is described as being "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf" with "a little round belly", that "shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly", in spite of which the "miniature sleigh" and "tiny reindeer" still indicate that he is physically diminutive. The reindeer were also named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem (Dunder and Blixem came from the old Dutch words for thunder and lightning, which were later changed to the more German sounding Donner and Blitzen).
As years pass, Santa Claus evolves in popular culture into a large, heavyset person. One of the first artists to define Santa Claus's modern image was Thomas Nast, an American cartoonist of the 19th century. In 1863, a picture of Santa illustrated by Nast appeared in Harper's Weekly.
The story that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole may also have been a Nast creation. His Christmas image in the Harper’s issue dated December 29, 1866 was a collage of engravings titled Santa Claus and His Works, which included the caption "Santa Claussville, N.P." A color collection of Nast's pictures, published in 1869, had a poem also titled "Santa Claus and His Works" by George P. Webster, who wrote that Santa Claus’s home was "near the North Pole, in the ice and snow". The tale had become well known by the 1870s. A boy from Colorado writing to the children's magazine The Nursery in late 1874 said, "If we didn't live so very far from the North Pole, I should ask Santa Claus to bring me a donkey."
The idea of a wife for Santa Claus may have been the creation of American authors, beginning in the mid-1800s. In 1889, the poet Katherine Lee Bates popularized Mrs. Claus in the poem "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride". "Is There a Santa Claus?" was the title of an editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897 edition of the New York Sun. The editorial, which included the famous reply Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, has become an indelible part of popular Christmas lore in the United States and Canada.
L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a 1902 children's book, further popularized Santa Claus. Much of Santa Claus's mythos was not set in stone at the time, leaving Baum to give his "Neclaus" (Necile's Little One) a wide variety of immortal support, a home in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho, and ten reindeer—who could not fly, but leapt in enormous, flight-like bounds. Claus's immortality was earned, much like his title ("Santa"), decided by a vote of those naturally immortal. This work also established Claus's motives: a happy childhood among immortals. When Ak, Master Woodsman of the World, exposes him to the misery and poverty of children in the outside world, Santa strives to find a way to bring joy into the lives of all children, and eventually invents toys as a principal means.
Images of Santa Claus were further popularized through Haddon Sundblom's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company's Christmas advertising in the 1930s. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was invented by The Coca-Cola Company or that Santa wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the Coca-Cola brand. Historically, Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image of Santa Claus in its advertising – White Rock Beverages had already used a red and white Santa to sell mineral water in 1915 and then in advertisements for its ginger ale in 1923. In fact, Santa Claus had already appeared in red and white on the cover of Puck magazine at the start of the century.
The image of Santa Claus as a benevolent character became reinforced with its association with charity and philanthropy, particularly by organizations such as the Salvation Army. Volunteers dressed as Santa Claus typically became part of fundraising drives to aid needy families at Christmas time. In some images from the early 20th century, Santa was depicted as personally making his toys by hand in a small workshop like a craftsman. Eventually, the idea emerged that he had numerous elves responsible for making the toys, but the toys were still handmade by each individual elf working in the traditional manner. The 1956 popular song by George Melachrino, "Mrs. Santa Claus", and the 1963 children's book How Mrs. Santa Claus Saved Christmas, by Phyllis McGinley, helped standardize and establish the character and role of Mrs. Claus in the popular imagination. Seabury Quinn's 1948 novel Roads draws from historical legends to tell the story of Santa and the origins of Christmas. Other modern additions to the "story" of Santa include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the 9th and lead reindeer immortalized in a Gene Autry song, written by a Montgomery Ward copywriter.
The tradition of Santa Claus entering dwellings through the chimney may reach back to the tale of Saint Nicholas tossing coins through a window, and, in a later version of the tale, tossing coins down a chimney when he finds the window locked. In Dutch artist Jan Steen's painting, The Feast of Saint Nicholas, adults and toddlers are glancing up a chimney with amazement on their faces while other children play with their toys. The hearth was held sacred in primitive belief as a source of beneficence, and popular belief had elves and fairies bringing gifts to the house through this portal. Santa's entrance into homes on Christmas Eve via the chimney was made part of American tradition through Moore's A Visit from Saint Nicholas where the author described him as an elf.
In popular culture
By the end of the 20th century, the reality of mass mechanized production became more fully accepted by the Western public. That shift was reflected in the modern depiction of Santa's residence—now often humorously portrayed as a fully mechanized production and distribution facility, equipped with the latest manufacturing technology, and overseen by the elves with Santa and Mrs. Claus as executives and/or managers. An excerpt from a 2004 article, from a supply chain managers' trade magazine, aptly illustrates this depiction:
Many television commercials, comic strips and other media depict this as a sort of humorous business, with Santa's elves acting as a sometimes mischievously disgruntled workforce, cracking jokes and pulling pranks on their boss. For instance, a Bloom County story from December 15, 1981 through December 24, 1981 has Santa rejecting the demands of PETCO (Professional Elves Toy-Making and Craft Organization) for higher wages, a hot tub in the locker room, and "short broads," with the elves then going on strike. President Reagan steps in, fires all of Santa's helpers, and replaces them with out-of-work air traffic controllers (an obvious reference to the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike). In Kyrgyzstan, a mountain peak was named after Santa Claus, after a Swedish company had suggested the location be a more efficient starting place for present-delivering journeys all over the world, than Lapland. In the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, a Santa Claus Festival was held on December 30, 2007, with government officials attending. 2008 was officially declared the Year of Santa Claus in the country. The events are seen as moves to boost tourism in Kyrgyzstan, which is predominantly Muslim. The Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of Santa Clauses is held by Derry City, Northern Ireland. On September 9, 2007. A total of 12,965 people dressed up as Santa or Santa's helper brought down the previous record of 3,921, which was set during the Santa Dash event in Liverpool City Centre in 2005. A gathering of Santas in 2009 in Bucharest, Romania attempted top the world record, but failed with only 3,939 Santas.
Traditions and Rituals
The North American traditions associated with Santa Claus are derived from a number of Christmas traditions from various countries. Some rituals (such as visiting a department store Santa) occur in the weeks and days before Christmas while others, such as preparing snacks for Santa, are specific to Christmas Eve. Some rituals, such as setting out stockings to be filled with gifts, are age-old traditions while others, such as NORAD's tracking of Santa's sleigh through the night skies on Christmas Eve, are modern inventions.
Parades, Department Stores, and Shopping Malls
Santa Claus appears in the weeks before Christmas in department stores or shopping malls, or at parties. The practice of this has been credited to James Edgar, as he started doing this in 1890 in his Brockton, Massachusetts department store. He is played by an actor, usually helped by other actors (often mall employees) dressed as elves or other creatures of folklore associated with Santa. Santa's function is either to promote the store's image by distributing small gifts to children, or to provide a seasonal experience to children by listening to their wishlist while having them sit on his knee (a practice now under review by some organizations in Britain, and Switzerland). Sometimes a photograph of the child and Santa are taken. Having a Santa set up to take pictures with children is a ritual that dates back at least to 1918.
The area set up for this purpose is festively decorated, usually with a large throne, and is called variously "Santa's Grotto", "Santa's Workshop" or a similar term. In the United States, the most notable of these is the Santa at the flagship Macy's store in New York City - he arrives at the store by sleigh in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the last float, and his court takes over a large portion of one floor in the store. The Macy's Santa Claus is often said to be the real Santa. Essayist David Sedaris is known for the satirical SantaLand Diaries he kept while working as an elf in the Macy's display, which were turned into a famous radio segment and later published. Quite often the Santa, if and when he is detected to be fake, explains that he is not the real Santa and is helping him at this time of year. Most young children seem to understand this, as the real Santa is extremely busy around Christmas. At family parties, Santa is sometimes impersonated by the male head of the household or other adult male family member.
There are schools offering instruction on how to act as Santa Claus. For example, children's television producer Jonathan Meath studied at the International School of Santa Claus and earned the degree Master of Santa Claus in 2006. It blossomed into a second career for him, and after appearing in parades and malls, he appeared on the cover of the American monthly Boston Magazine as Santa. There are associations with members who portray Santa; for example, Mr. Meath is a board member of the international organization called Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas.
Letter Writing to Santa
Writing letters to Santa Claus has been a Christmas tradition for children for many years. These letters normally contain a wishlist of toys and assertions of good behavior. Some social scientists have found that boys and girls write different types of letters. Girls generally write longer but more polite lists and express the nature of Christmas more in their letters than in letters written by boys. Girls also more often request gifts for other people. Many postal services allow children to send letters to Santa Claus. These letters may be answered by postal workers and/or outside volunteers. Writing letters to Santa Claus has the educational benefits of promoting literacy, computer literacy, and e-mail literacy. A letter to Santa is often a child's first experience of correspondence. Written and sent with the help of a parent or teacher, children learn about the structure of a letter, salutations, and the use of an address and postcode.
According to the Universal Postal Union (UPU)'s 2007 study and survey of national postal operations, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has the oldest Santa letter answering effort by a national postal system. The USPS Santa letter answering effort started in 1912 and since 1940 has been called "Operation Santa" to ensure that letters to Santa are adopted by charitable organizations, major corporations, local businesses and individuals in order to make children's holiday dreams come true from coast to coast. Those seeking a North Pole holiday postmark through the USPS, are told to send their letter from Santa or a holiday greeting card by December 10 to: North Pole Holiday Postmark, Postmaster, 4141 Postmark Dr, Anchorage, AK 99530-9998. In 2006, according to the UPU's 2007 study and survey of national postal operations, France's Postal Service received the most letters for Santa Claus or "Père Noël" with 1,220,000 letters received from 126 countries. France's Postal Service in 2007 specially recruited someone to answer the enormous volume of mail that was coming from Russia for Santa Claus. Other interesting Santa letter processing information, according to the UPU's 2007 study and survey of national postal operations, are:
Canada Post has a special postal code for letters to Santa Claus, and since 1982 over 13,000 Canadian postal workers have volunteered to write responses. His address is: Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H 0H0. (This postal code, in which zeroes are used for the letter "O" is consistent with the alternating letter-number format of all Canadian postal codes.) Sometimes children's charities answer letters in poor communities, or from children's hospitals, and give them presents they would not otherwise receive. In 2009, 1,000 workers answered 1.1 million letters and 39,500 e-mail on-line request forms from children in 30 different languages, including Braille.
In Britain it was traditional for some to burn the Christmas letters on the fire so that they would be magically transported by the wind to the North Pole. However this has been found to be less efficient than the use of the normal postal service, and this tradition is dying out in modern times, especially with few homes having open fires in their homes. Recently the national postal service Royal Mail has extended its delivery service to include Santa Claus' address, and allocated it a postcode. In 2010 the full address is: Santa Claus, Reindeer Land, SAN TA1.
In 2010, the Brazilian National Post Service, "Correios" formed partnerships with public schools and social institutions to encourage children to write letters and make use of postcodes and stamps. In 2009, the Brazilian National Post Service, "Correios" answered almost two million children's letters, and spread some seasonal cheer by donating 414,000 Christmas gifts to some of Brazil's neediest citizens.
Through the years, the Finnish Santa Claus (Joulupukki or "Yule Goat") has received over eight million letters. He receives over 600,000 letters every year from over 198 different countries with Togo being the most recent country added to the list. Children from Great Britain, Poland and Japan are the busiest writers. The Finnish Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi, however the Santa Claus Main Post Office is situated in Rovaniemi near the Arctic circle. His address is: Santa Claus' Main Post Office, Santa's Workshop Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle. The post office welcomes 300,000 visitor a year, with 70,000 visitors in December alone. Children can also receive a letter from Santa through a variety of private agencies and organizations, and on occasion public and private cooperative ventures. An example of a public and private cooperative venture is the opportunity for expatriate and local children and parents to receive postmarked mail and greeting cards from Santa during December in the Finnish Embassy in Beijing, People's Republic of China, Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, and the People's Republic of China Postal System's Beijing International Post Office. Parents can order a personalized "Santa letter" to be sent to their child, often with a North Pole postmark. The "Santa Letter" market generally relies on the internet as a medium for ordering such letters rather than retail stores.
Santa Tracking, Santa Websites and E-mail to and from Santa
Over the years there have been a number of websites created by various organizations that have purported to track Santa Claus. Some, such as NORAD Tracks Santa, the Airservices Australia Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Update Project, and the MSNBC and Bing Maps Platform Tracks Santa Project have endured. Others, such as the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's Tracks Santa Project, the Santa Retro Radar – Lehigh Valley Project, and the NASA Tracks Santa Project, have fallen by the wayside.
In 1955, a Sears Roebuck store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, gave children a number to call a "Santa hotline". The number was mistyped and children called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) on Christmas Eve instead. The Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, received the first call for Santa and responded by telling children that there were signs on the radar that Santa was indeed heading south from the North Pole. A tradition began which continued under the name NORAD Tracks Santa when in 1958 Canada and the United States jointly created the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). This tracking can now be done via the Internet and NORAD's website.
In the past, many local television stations in the United States and Canada likewise "tracked Santa Claus" in their own metropolitan areas through the stations' meteorologists. In December 2000, the Weather Channel built upon these local efforts to provide a national Christmas Eve "Santa tracking" effort, called "SantaWatch" in cooperation with NASA, the International Space Station, and Silicon Valley-based new multimedia firm Dreamtime Holdings. In the 21st century, most local television stations in the United States and Canada rely upon outside established "Santa tracking" efforts, such as NORAD Tracks Santa.
Many other websites are available year-round that are devoted to Santa Claus and purport to keep tabs on his activities in his workshop. Many of these websites also include e-mail addresses which allow children to send e-mail to Santa Claus. Most of these websites use volunteer living people as "elves" to answer e-mail sent to Santa. Some websites, such as Santa's page on Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces, however have used or still use "bots" to compose and send e-mail replies, with occasional unfortunate results. In addition to providing holiday-themed enetrtainment, "Santa tracking" websites inspire children around the world to think about how space technology and exploration play an increasingly important role in daily life, teach them about geography. and encourage them to take an interest in science.
Christmas Eve Rituals
In the United States and Canada, children traditionally leave Santa a glass of milk and a plate of cookies; in Britain and Australia, he is sometimes given sherry and mince pies instead. In Sweden, children leave rice porridge. In Ireland it is popular to give him Guinness or milk, along with Christmas pudding or mince pies. In Hungary, St. Nicolaus (Mikulás) comes on the night of December 5 and the children get their gifts the next morning. They get sweets in a bag if they were good, and a golden colored birch switch if not. On Christmas Eve "Little Jesus" comes and gives gifts for everyone. In Slovenia, Saint Nicholas (Miklavž) also brings small gifts for good children on the eve of December 6. Božiček (Christmas Man) brings gifts on the eve of December 25, and Dedek Mraz (Grandfather Frost) brings gifts in the evening of December 31 to be opened on New Years Day.
British, Australian, Irish, Canadian and American children also leave a carrot for Santa's reindeer, and were traditionally told that if they are not good all year round, that they will receive a lump of coal in their stockings, although this practice is now considered archaic. Children following the Dutch custom for sinterklaas will "put out their shoe" — that is, leave hay and a carrot for his horse in a shoe before going to bed—sometimes weeks before the sinterklaas avond. The next morning they will find the hay and carrot replaced by a gift; often, this is a marzipan figurine. Naughty children were once told that they would be left a roe (a bundle of sticks) instead of sweets, but this practice has been discontinued.
Other Christmas Eve Santa Claus rituals in the United States include reading Clement Clark Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas or other tale about Santa Claus, watching a Santa or Christmas-related animated program on television (such as the aforementioned Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town and similar specials, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, among many others), and the singing of Santa Claus songs such as "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Here Comes Santa Claus", and "Up on the Housetop". Last minute rituals for children before going to bed include aligning stockings at the mantelpiece or other place where Santa cannot fail to see them, peeking up the chimney (in homes with a fireplace), glancing out a window and scanning the heavens for Santa's sleigh, and (in homes without a fireplace) unlocking an exterior door so Santa can easily enter the house. Tags on gifts for children are sometimes signed by their parents "From Santa Claus" before the gifts are laid beneath the tree.
Despite Santa Claus's mixed Christian roots, he has become a secular representation of Christmas. As such, some Protestants dislike the secular focus on Santa Claus and the materialist focus that gift giving brings to the holiday. Such a condemnation of Christmas is not a 20th century phenomenon, but originated among some Protestant groups of the 16th century and was prevalent among the Puritans of 17th century England and colonial America who banned the holiday as either pagan or Roman Catholic. Christmas was made legal with the Restoration but the Puritan opposition to the holiday persisted in New England for almost two centuries.
Following the Restoration of the monarchy and with Puritans out of power in England, the ban on Christmas was satirized in works such as Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas; Together with his Clearing by the Jury (1686). Rev. Paul Nedergaard, a clergyman in Copenhagen, Denmark, attracted controversy in 1958 when he declared Santa to be a "pagan goblin" after Santa's image was used on fund-raising materials for a Danish welfare organization. One prominent religious group that refuses to celebrate Santa Claus, or Christmas itself, for similar reasons is the Jehovah's Witnesses. A number of denominations of Christians have varying concerns about Santa Claus, which range from acceptance to denouncement. Some Christians prefer the holiday focus on the actual birth of Jesus, believing that Christmas stemmed from pagan festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia and Germanic Yule that were subsumed within ancient Christianity. An even smaller subset of Reformed Christians actually prefer the secularized version of the holiday for the same reasons, believing that to relegate Christ's birth to Christmas is wrong.
Symbol of Commercialism
In his book Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, writer Jeremy Seal describes how the commercialization of the Santa Claus figure began in the 19th century. "In the 1820s he began to acquire the recognizable trappings: reindeer, sleigh, bells," said Seal in an interview. "They are simply the actual bearings in the world from which he emerged. At that time, sleighs were how you got about Manhattan." Writing in Mothering, writer Carol Jean-Swanson makes similar points, noting that the original figure of St. Nicholas gave only to those who were needy and that today Santa Claus seems to be more about conspicuous consumption:
In the Czech Republic, a group of advertising professionals started a website against Santa Claus, a relatively recent phenomenon in that country. "Czech Christmases are intimate and magical. All that Santa stuff seems to me like cheap show business," said David König of the Creative Copywriters Club, pointing out that it is primarily an American and British tradition. "I'm not against Santa himself. I'm against Santa in my country only." In the Czech tradition, presents are delivered by Ježíšek, which translates as Baby Jesus.
In the United Kingdom, Santa, or Father Christmas; was historically depicted wearing a green cloak. More recently, that has been changed to the more commonly known red suit. One school in the seaside town of Brighton banned the use of a red suit erroneously believing it was only indicative of the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. School spokesman Sarah James said: "The red-suited Santa was created as a marketing tool by Coca-Cola, it is a symbol of commercialism." In reality, the red-suited Santa was created by Thomas Nast.
Controversy About Deceiving Children
Woolley posits that it is perhaps "kinship with the adult world" that causes children not to be angry that they were lied to for so long. The criticism about this deception is not that it is a simple lie, but a complicated series of very large lies. The objections to the lie are that it is unethical for parents to lie to children without good cause, and that it discourages healthy skepticism in children. With no greater good at the heart of the lie, it is charged that it is more about the parents than it is about the children. Writer Austin Cline posed the question: "Is it not possible that kids would find at least as much pleasure in knowing that parents are responsible for Christmas, not a supernatural stranger?" Others, however, see no harm in the belief in Santa Claus. Psychologist Tamar Murachver said that because it is a cultural, not parental, lie, it does not undermine parental trust. The New Zealand Skeptics also see no harm in parents telling their children that Santa is real. Spokesperson Vicki Hyde said, "It would be a hard-hearted parent indeed who frowned upon the innocent joys of our children's cultural heritage. We save our bah humbugs for the things that exploit the vulnerable." It can also be advocated that, although Santa Claus isn't real, the Christmas spirit is real. Dr. John Condry of Cornell University interviewed more than 500 children for a study of the issue and found that not a single child was angry at his or her parents for telling them Santa Claus was real. According to Dr. Condry, "The most common response to finding out the truth was that they felt older and more mature. They now knew something that the younger kids did not". The other side of the debate concludes with another referenced quote of: "There are three stages of a man's life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus" (author unknown). A further advantage of the Santa Claus deception is that it has provided a useful model for explaining that other beliefs in the supernatural might be equally false; one should not blindly accept any belief.
Santa Claus's home traditionally includes a residence and a workshop where he creates - often with the aid of elves or other supernatural beings - the gifts he delivers to good children at Christmas. Some stories and legends include a village, inhabited by his helpers, surrounding his home and shop. In North American tradition (in the United States and Canada), Santa lives on the North Pole, which according to Canada Post lies within Canadian jurisdiction in postal code H0H 0H0 (a reference to "ho ho ho", Santa's notable saying, although postal codes starting with H are usually reserved for the island of Montreal in Québec). On December 23, 2008, Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus. "The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete," Kenney said in an official statement.
There is also a city named North Pole in Alaska where a tourist attraction known as the "Santa Claus House" has been established. The US postal service uses the city's zip code of 99705 as their advertised postal code for Santa Claus. A Wendy's in North Pole, AK has also claimed to have a "sleigh fly through". Each Nordic country claims Santa's residence to be within their territory. Norway claims he lives in Drøbak. In Denmark, he is said to live in Greenland (near Uummannaq). In Sweden, the town of Mora has a theme park named Tomteland. The national postal terminal in Tomteboda in Stockholm receives children's letters for Santa. In Finland, Korvatunturi in has long been known as Santa's home, and two theme parks, Santa Claus Village and Santa Park are located near Rovaniemi.
Thor (Old Norse: Þōrr, Þunarr; Icelandic: Þór Old English: Þunor, Þūr; Old Saxon: Þunær; Frisian: Tonger, Old Dutch: Donar; Old High German: Donar; Proto-Germanic: *Thunaraz) is the red-haired and bearded god of thunder in Germanic mythology and Germanic paganism, and its subsets: Norse paganism, Anglo-Saxon paganism and Continental Germanic paganism.
Most surviving stories relating to Germanic mythology either mention Thor or focus on Thor's exploits. Thor was a much revered god of the ancient Germanic peoples from at least the earliest surviving written accounts of the indigenous Germanic tribes to over a thousand years later in the late Viking Age.
Thor was appealed to for protection on numerous objects found from various Germanic tribes. Miniature replicas of Mjöllnir, the weapon of Thor, became a defiant symbol of Norse paganism during the Christianization of Scandinavia.
Proto-Germanic *thunaraz, "thunder" gave rise to Old Norse Þorr, German Donner, Dutch donder as well as Old English Þunor whence Modern English thunder with epenthetic d. Swedish tordön and Danish and Norwegian torden have the suffix -dön/-den originally meaning "rumble" or "din." The Scandinavian languages also have the word dunder, borrowed from Middle Low German. Both the God and "thunder" are related to the Celtic taranis (modern Irish tarann), the term for thunder as well as the name of the God Taranis.
In the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, Thor is the son of Odin and the giantess Jörd (Jord, the Earth). His wife is called Sif, and little is known of her except that she has golden hair, which was cut off by Loki. With his mistress, the giantess Járnsaxa, Thor had two sons, Móði and Magni. With Sif he had his daughter Thrud.
The euhemeristic prologue of the Prose Edda also indicates he has a son by Sif named Lóriði, along with an additional 17 generations of descendants, but the prologue was meant to give a plausible explanation on how the Aesir came to be worshipped even though they were more like giants than gods. Thor also has a stepson called Ullr who is a son of Sif. Skáldskaparmál mentions a figure named Hlóra who was Thor's foster mother, corresponding to Lora or Glora from Snorri Sturluson's prologue, although no additional information concerning her is provided in the book but there is an urban myth of the foster mother how Thor once raped her.
Thor owns a short-handled hammer, Mjöllnir, which, when thrown at a target, returns magically to its owner. His Mjöllnir also has the power to throw lightning bolts. To wield Mjöllnir, Thor wears the belt Megingjord, which boosts the wearer's strength and a pair of special iron gloves, Járngreipr, to lift the hammer. Mjöllnir is also his main weapon when fighting giants. The uniquely shaped symbol subsequently became a very popular ornament during the Viking Age and has since become an iconic symbol of Germanic paganism.
Thor travels in a chariot drawn by goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, sometimes with his servant and messenger Þjálfi and Þjálfi's sister Röskva. The skaldic poem Haustlöng relates that the earth was scorched and the mountains cracked as Thor traveled in his wagon. According to the Prose Edda, when Thor is hungry he can roast the goats for a meal. When he wants to continue his travels, Thor only needs to bless the remains of the goats with his hammer Mjöllnir, and they will be instantly restored to full health to resume their duties, assuming that the bones have not been broken.
Bilskirnir, in the kingdom Þrúðheimr or Þrúðvangr, is the hall of Thor in Norse mythology. Here he lives with his wife Sif and their children. According to Grímnismál, the hall is the greatest of buildings and contains 540 rooms, located in Asgard, as are all the dwellings of the gods, in the kingdom of Þrúðheimr (or Þrúðvangar according to Gylfaginning and Ynglinga saga).
According to one myth in the Þórsdrápa and the Prose Edda, Loki was flying as a hawk one day and was captured by Geirröd. Geirröd, who hated Thor, demanded that Loki bring his enemy to Geirröd's dwelling without his magic belt and hammer. Loki agreed to lead Thor to the trap. On the way there they stopped at the home of the giantess Grid. She waited until Loki left the room, then told Thor what was happening, and gave him her iron gloves and magical belt and staff. In the Prose Edda's version of the story, as Thor approached Geirrod's home one of his two daughters, Gjálp and Greip, straddled a river and caused it to flood; Thor was saved by clinging to a rowan tree. At Geirrod's home, the daughters again tried to kill him using a chair that shot towards the ceiling, but by bracing himself with the staff he broke their backs and killed them. Thor then killed Geirröd by throwing a lump of molten iron at him through a pillar, and all other frost giants he could find.
According to Alvíssmál, Alviss, a dwarf, claimed that Thrud had been promised to him in marriage. Thor devised a plan to stop Alviss from marrying his daughter: he told Alviss that, because of his small height, he had to prove his wisdom. Alviss agreed, and Thor made the tests last until after the sun had risen — all dwarves turned to stone when exposed to sunlight, so Alviss was petrified.
On one of his expeditions to Giantland, Thor was tricked in several ways by the magic of a giant king, Útgarða-Loki. First, as he, Loki, Þjálfi, and Röskva were on their way to his castle, they spent a night in a strangely-shaped hall that turned out to be the glove of a huge giant who gave his name as Skrymir. Skrymir suggested pooling their provisions, but after he bedded down for the night, they discovered he had tied the bag so tightly that they could not open it. Enraged, Thor hit him on the head three times with Mjöllnir, but he awoke saying he had felt acorns falling on his head. After parting from Skrymir they came to the castle, where Útgarða-Loki tricked them several times in contests. He tricked Thor by racing Thought itself against Thor's fast servant, Þjálfi (nothing being faster than thought). Then Loki was challenged by to an eating contest with Logi, one of his servants. Loki lost. The servant even ate up the trough containing the food. The servant was an illusion of "Wild-Fire," no living thing being able to equal the consumption rate of fire. Útgarða-Loki also called Thor weak when he only lifted the paw of a cat, the cat being an illusion of the Midgard Serpent. Thor was challenged to a drinking contest, and could not empty a horn which was filled not with mead but was connected to the ocean. This action started tidal changes. And finally, Thor wrestled an old woman, Elli, who was Old Age, something no one can beat, to one knee. The next morning Thor and his companions left humiliated, but Útgarða-Loki went out with them and once they were away from the castle, revealed the trickery he had used - starting when he had appeared to them in disguise calling himself Skrymir and had tied the bag with wire and placed a hill between himself and Thor. He showed the god the three deep indentations in it from the hammer-blows and said that he had been truly afraid at their performance and would never again risk coming near Thor.
Another noted story involving Thor, told in Þrymskviða and the Prose Edda, was the time when Þrymr, King of the Giants, stole his hammer, Mjöllnir. Thor went to Loki, hoping to find the culprit responsible for the theft, then Loki and Thor went to Freyja for counsel. Freyja gave Loki the Feather-robe so that he could travel to the land of the giants, to speak to their king. The king admitted to stealing the hammer, and would not give it back unless Freyja gave him her hand in marriage. Freyja angrily refused, so the gods decided to think of a way to trick the King. Heimdall suggested dressing up Thor in a bridal gown, so that he could take Freyja's place. Thor at first refused to humiliate himself in such a way, but Loki insisted that he do so or the Giants would attack and defeat Asgard since he did not have his hammer to defend it. So Thor, disguised as a bride in one of Freyja's gowns and a veil and accompanied by Loki as his attendant, rode to the wedding feast. The king noted that his bride ate and drank significantly more than he would expect. Loki explained that she had gone without food for eight days and nights in her eagerness to marry him. He then asked why his bride's eyes gleamed like fire, and Loki responded similarly, that she had not slept for eight days and nights in her excitement. Then the giant commanded that the hammer be brought to his wife and placed in her lap to bless her. Once it was in Thor's possession, he threw off his disguise and killed all the giants in the room. The giants were careful not to try the same trick again.
In a story told in Hymiskviða and the Prose Edda, Thor went fishing for the Midgard Serpent with the giant Hymir as his reluctant companion, killing his best ox to use its head for bait, rowing his boat out far beyond where the giant considered safe, then once he had hooked the gigantic monster, hauling so hard on the line to bring its head within range of a killing blow that both his feet went through the bottom of the boat and he was bracing himself against the sea-bottom. Hymir, terrified, cut the line and Thor knocked him overboard head-first and waded ashore with the boat.
According to Völuspá and the Prose Edda, Thor will face Jörmungandr again at Ragnarök (doom of the gods and end of the cosmos). The two mortal enemies will be locked in combat and though Thor will slay the great serpent, he will only be able to take nine steps before falling dead from the venom.
The two largest sources of information regarding Thor are the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier oral tradition, and the Prose Edda, written by in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Both are from Iceland, although some of the poems were composed in Norway.
Thor is also mentioned in numerous sagas, which made use of skaldic poetry and oral traditions.
Old Saxon Baptismal Vow
Thor, as Donar, is mentioned in an Old Saxon Baptismal vow in Vatican Codex pal. 577 along with Woden and Saxnot. The 8th or 9th century vow, intended for Christianizing pagans, is recorded as:
Which translates to:
In the 12th century, Saxo Grammaticus, in the service of Archbishop Absalon in Denmark, presented in his Latin language work Gesta Danorum euhemerized accounts of Thor and Odin as cunning sorcerers that, Saxo states, had fooled the people of Norway, Sweden and Denmark into their recognition as gods:
Thor was a very popular deity to the Germanic people and a number of surviving depictions of not only him but also his exploits have survived many years of natural and intentional destruction.
Dating from the 7th century, the Nordendorf fibula, an (Alamannic) fibula found in Nordendorf near Augsburg (Bavaria) bears an Elder Futhark inscription mentioning Donar, the Western Germanic tribes' name for Thor.
Emblematic Mjöllnir Replicas
Widely popular in Scandinavia, Mjöllnir replicas were used in Blóts and other sacral ceremonies, such as weddings. Many of these replicas were also found in graves and tended to be furnished with a loop, allowing them to be worn. They were most widely discovered in areas with a strong Christian influence including southern Norway, south-eastern Sweden, and Denmark. By the late 10th century, increased uniformity in Mjöllnir's design over previous centuries suggest it functioned as a popular accessory worn in defiance of the Christian cross.
A seated bronze statue of Thor (about 6.4 cm) known as the Eyarland statue from about AD 1000 was recovered at a farm near Akureyri, Iceland and is a featured display at the National Museum of Iceland. Thor is holding Mjöllnir, sculpted in the typically Icelandic cross-like shape. It has been suggested that the statue is related to a scene from Þrymskviða where Thor recovers his hammer while seated by grasping it with both hands during the wedding ceremony.
Rune and Image Stones
Most runestones were raised during the 11th century and so they coincided with the Christianization of Scandinavia. There are approximately six runic inscriptions that appear to refer to him and five of them do so in invocations to consecrate the stones. Three of the inscriptions are found in Sweden (the Rök Runestone, Sö 140 and the Velanda Runestone) and three in Denmark (Dr 110, Dr 220 and the Glavendrup stone). There are also runestones upon which has been interpreted as hammers of Thor are carved.
Thor's struggle with the Midgard Serpent as recorded in Hymiskviða can be found depicted on a number of image stones and runestones located in England, Denmark and Sweden respectively. In the English village of Gosforth, Cumbria, the remains of a 10th century stone depicting Thor and Hymir fishing can be found alongside numerous other Norse carvings.
In Denmark, a church in the small Northern Jutlandic town of Hørdum houses the remains of the Hørdum stone which depicts Thor and Hymir's fishing trip for the Midgard Serpent. Thor is wearing the distinct pointed helmet he is portrayed with in other found depictions and has caught the Midgard serpent while Hymir sits before him.
Sweden has two stones depicting this legend. Created sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, the bottom left corner of the Ardre VIII stone in Gotland has often been interpreted as depicting not only the fishing trip but also references to the slaughter of the ox prior to using it as bait, potentially as part of an earlier version of the tale. The Altuna Runestone in Uppland depicts Thor fishing for the Midgard serpent. Though lacking Hymir, it notably displays Thor's foot breaching the floor of the boat during the intense struggle.
The charm is intended for use against a specific ailment, described as "blood-vessel pus." MacLeod and Mees (2006) note that while Thor is not revered in surviving sources for his medical abilities, he was well attested as harboring enmity towards giants and as a protector of mankind. MacLeod and Mees compare the charm to the 11th century Kvinneby amulet (where Thor is also called upon to provide protection), the formula structure of the Sigtuna amulet, and a then-recently discovered rib bone featuring a runic inscription also from Sigtuna, Sweden.
The Kvinneby amulet is an amulet that includes a runic inscription from around A.D. 1000. There are competing theories about the exact wording of the inscription but all agree that Thor is invoked to protect with his hammer. According to Rundata, this inscription reads:
The amulet was found in the mid-1950s in the soil of the village Södra Kvinneby in Öland, Sweden. The amulet is a square copper object measuring approximately 5 cm on each side. Near one edge there is a small hole, presumably used for hanging it around the neck.
Skog Church Tapestry
A part of the Swedish 12th century Skog Church Tapestry depicts three figures. They are most often interpreted as the Scandinavian saint-kings Olaf, Eric and Canute, but has also been suggested to allude to Odin, Thor and Freyr. The figures coincide with 11th century descriptions of statue arrangements recorded by Adam of Bremen at the Temple at Uppsala and written accounts of the gods during the late Viking Age. The tapestry is originally from Hälsingland, Sweden but is now housed at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.
Places Associated with Thor
Thor's Oak was an ancient tree sacred to the Germanic tribe of the Chatti, ancestors of the Hessians, and one of the most important sacred sites of the pagan Germanic peoples. Its felling in A.D. 723 marked the beginning of the Christianization of the non-Frankish tribes of northern Germany.
The tree stood at a location near the village of Geismar, today part of the town of Fritzlar in northern Hessen, and was the main point of veneration of the Germanic deity Thor (known among the West Germanic tribes as Donar) by the Chatti and most other Germanic tribes.
Temple at Uppsala
Between 1072 and 1076, Adam of Bremen recorded in his Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum that a statue of Thor existed in the Temple at Uppsala. Adam relates that:
Statue at Hundorp
A temple with a great statue of Thor was standing at Hundorp in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. The statue was destroyed by Saint Olaf in 1015.
Thor gave his name to the Old English day Þunresdæg, meaning the day of Þunor, known in Modern English as Thursday. Þunor is also the source of the modern word thunder. The Germans borrowed the idea of a seven day week from the Romans - and they translated dies Jovis ("the day of Jupiter") to "the day of Thor".
"Thor's Day" is Þórsdagr in Old Norse, Doresdak [ðorestak] in Northern Sami, Torsdag in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Southern Sami,Hósdagur in Faroese, except for Suðuroy, where it's called Tórsdagur, Thursday in English, Donnerstag in German (meaning "Thunder's Day"), Donderdag in Dutch (meaning Thunder day) and Torstai in Finnish.
The day was considered such an important day of the week that as late as the seventh century Saint Eligius reproached his congregation in Flanders for continuing their native practice of recognizing Thursday as a holy day after their Christianization. As late as the nineteenth century in Scandinavia the Thursday night was considered to be the best time for performing magic rituals.
Many writers identified Thor with Jupiter. The comparison can be borne: both are the god of thunder and lightening, both are the most powerful sons of the King of the Gods of their panthaeons, both have twin children by a goddess, and were at some time considered the most powerful of the gods. The oak tree was sacred to both gods and they had mysterious powers. Thor is to kill Jörmungandr and Jupiter, the dragon Typhon. Tacitus identified Thor with the Greco-Roman hero-god Hercules because of his force, aspect, weapon and his role as protector of the world, slaying many monsters. They also fight Giants and are the key to the protection of the Gods Hercules being the scion of Olympus said to stand guard at the gates of Olympus for oncoming threats to the gods. This parallel is seen in media such as television, comics and many more. The Legendary Journeys of Hercules, Hercules (1998 TV Series), and Hercules (Marvel Comics) and Thor (Marvel Comics). In several stories they even battle each other, usually ending in draws.
Parallels with varying degrees of closeness can be found in other northern mythologies, such as Taranis (Celtic), Perkunas (Baltic), Dorq/Torq (Armenian) and Perun (Slavic), connected either to thunder, to oaks or to both. Additionally parallel either to Thor or Tyr are Finno-Ugric gods Torum, Thurms, Tere etc. - see Tharapita.
Portrayal in Modern Popular Culture
Thor, under the German form of his name, "Donner" (literally, "thunder"), appears in Richard Wagner's opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. This has led to many portrayals based on Wagner's interpretation, although some are closer to pre-Wagner models. Since Wagner's time, Thor has appeared, either as himself or as the namesake of characters, in comic books, on television, in literature and in song lyrics.
The Triple Goddess is one of the two primary deities found in the neopagan religion of Wicca. She comprises three separate goddesses united; a Maiden Goddess, a Mother Goddess and a Crone Goddess, each of which symbolises a separate stage in the female life and lunar cycles. She represents the feminine part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the other part being the male Horned God, although in the tradition of Dianic Wicca only the female deity is worshipped.
According to historian Ronald Hutton, the concept of the Triple Goddess with Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects and lunar symbology was Robert Graves' contribution to modern pagan witchcraft. Many witches and other neo-pagans believe in the "Triple Goddess" of maiden, mother, and crone that originated with the first neo-pagans in mid-twentieth-century England. In their view, sexuality, pregnancy, breastfeeding—and other female reproductive processes—are ways that women may embody the Goddess, making the physical body sacred.
Many neo-Pagans and Wiccans believe that women can identify with the deity in ways unachievable by patriarchal religions by echoing the normative model of the female life-cycle which is represented by the Triple Goddess. This model is also seen to encompass a personification of all the characteristics and potential of every woman who has ever existed. Other beliefs held by worshippers, such as D. J. Conway include that reconnection with the Great Goddess is vital to the health of humankind "on all levels" and that the Goddess stood for unity, cooperation, and participation with all creation, while in contrast male gods represent dissociation, separation and dominion of nature. These views have been criticised by some neopagans and scholars as re-affirming gender stereotypes and symbolically being unable to adequately face humanities current ethical and environmental situation.
Most neopagans assert that the worship of the Triple Goddess dates to pre-Christian Europe and possibly goes as far back as the Paleolithic period. Consequently, many believe that their religion is a surviving remnant of ancient beliefs. They believe the Triple Goddess is an archetypal figure which appears though various different cultures at throughout human history, and that many individual goddesses can be interpreted as Triple Goddesses. This multiplicity of identity has led to neopagans adopting the images and names of culturally divergent deities for ritual purposes.
Drawing Down the Moon
One of the graver rituals of Wicca, "Drawing down the Moon", involves the high priestess either going into a reverie and speaking as the Goddess, or recites dramatic prose (different branches of Wicca have different rationales and methodologies). Slightly different rituals are performed at the different phases of the moon. The priestess is assumed to be functioning as a prophetess of the Goddess or her corporeal form. Mel D. Faber explains this in psychological terms of attempting to re-unite with the protective mother fantasy of the psyche.
Robert Graves popularized the term Triple Goddess in his The White Goddess (1948). Graves wrote about an archetypal goddess triad which he referenced to several European mythologies, and his theories are popular with many neopagans due to the similar Victorian-synthesis approach to myth and history. The theme of the goddess trinity can also be found in the works of Jane Ellen Harrison, who initially formulated and published the idea in (1912), which was to later inform the origins of Wicca and influence Graves.
The White Goddess has been seen as a poetic work where Graves gives his notion of mans subjection to women in love an 'anthropological grandure' and further mythologises all women in general (and several of Graves lovers in specific) into a three-faced moon goddess model. However, Graves' intention was that the work should be read as an authentic work of history that rather than a personal poetic vision. Graves' value as a poet aside, elements of Graves' scholarship such as poor philology, use of inadequate texts (for example, the 'pseudo-Celtic' Canu Taliesin from the 19th century which he believed to represent an ancient document), and use of out-dated archeology have been criticised. Scholars, particularly archeologists, historians and folklorists generally do not receive the work favourably. Graves was disappointed that his work was "loudly ignored" by the majority of Celtic scholars, however it was accepted as history by many non-scholarly readers and, according to Hutton, The White Goddess remains a major source of confusion about the ancient Celts and influences many un-scholarly views of Celtic paganism. While Graves made the association between Goddesses and the moon appear 'natural' , it was not so to the Celts or other ancient peoples. Some neopagans have been bemused and upset by the thorough debunking that the 'Triple Goddess' has received in recent years from such scholars whilst others have appreciated its poetic insight but never accepted it as a work of historical veracity.
Graves continued to be inspired by his Triple Goddess concept, and it found its way into many of his subsequent works. In his novel Watch the North Wind Rise (1949) Graves extrapolated his theory further into a future world where the present Monotheistic religions are discarded and the Triple Goddess rules supreme (one of the Goddess' manifestations is called "Mari", asserting that the Mary of Christianity is a disguised form of the same Goddess). In the anthology The Greek Myths (1955) Graves systematically applied his convictions enshrined in The White Goddess to Greek mythology, exposing a large number of readers to his Goddess mysteries. Some classicists and scholars in comparative mythology have called the work a compendium of misinterpretations.
The Tuatha Dé Danann ("peoples of the goddess Danu") are a race of people in Irish mythology. In the invasions tradition which begins with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, they are the fifth group to settle Ireland, conquering the island from the Fir Bolg.
They are thought to derive from the pre-Christian gods of Ireland. When the surviving stories were written, Ireland had been Christian for centuries, and the Tuatha Dé were represented as mortal kings and heroes of the distant past, but there are many clues to their former divine status. A poem in the Book of Leinster lists many of the Tuatha Dé, but ends "Although [the author] enumerates them, he does not worship them." Goibniu, Creidhne and Luchta are referred to as Trí Dé Dána ("three gods of craftsmanship"), and the Dagda's name is interpreted in medieval texts as "the good god." Even after they are displaced as the rulers of Ireland, characters such as Lugh, the Morrígan, Aengus and Manannan appear in stories set centuries later, showing all the signs of immortality. They also have many parallels across the Celtic world: Nuada is cognate with the British god Nodens; Lugh is a reflex of the pan-Celtic deity Lugus; Tuireann is related to the Gaulish Taranis; Ogma to Ogmios; the Badb to Catubodua.
The translation of Tuatha Dé Danann as "peoples of the goddess Danu" is necessarily imprecise. Old Irish tuath (plural tuatha) means "people, tribe, nation"; and dé is the genitive case of día, "god, goddess, supernatural being, object of worship" (they are often referred to simply as the Tuatha Dé, a phrase also used to refer to the Israelites in early Irish Christian texts). Danann is also a genitive, for which the nominative case is not attested.
It has been reconstructed as Danu, which by analogy with Anu is taken to be a female name. The name of the river Danube is believed to be Celtic in origin, and Celtic river deities are usually female; and Hindu mythology has a water-goddess called Danu, who may be an Indo-European parallel. However, this reconstruction is not universally accepted. It is also written Donann and Domnann, which may link them with the Fir Domnann ("men of the Domnainn"), a people associated with the Fir Bolg in myth, who are historically attested in Connacht and may be related to the British Dumnonii.
The Danaan Greeks of Homer's Iliad are not known to be connected to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The spelling "Danaan" is a Latinate anglicisation of the Greek Δαναοί (Danaoi) and its similarity to "Danann" is most likely coincidental.
The Tuatha Dé Danann were descended from Nemed, leader of a previous wave of inhabitants of Ireland. They came from four northern cities, Falias, Gorias, Murias and Finias, where they acquired their occult skills and attributes. They arrived in Ireland, on or about May 1 (the date of the festival of Beltaine), on dark clouds, although later versions rationalise this by saying they burned their ships to prevent retreat, and the "clouds" were the smoke produced.
Led by their king, Nuada, they fought the First Battle of Magh Tuiredh (Moytura), on the west coast, in which they defeated and displaced the native Fir Bolg, who then inhabited Ireland. In the battle, Nuada lost an arm to their champion, Sreng. Since he was no longer perfect, he could not continue as king and was replaced by the half-Fomorian Bres, who turned out to be a tyrant. The physician Dian Cecht replaced Nuada's arm with a working silver one and he was reinstated as king. However, Dian Cecht's son Miach was dissatisfied with the replacement so he recited the spell, "ault fri halt dí 7 féith fri féth" (joint to joint of it and sinew to sinew), which caused flesh to grow over the silver prosthesis over the course of nine days and nights.However, in a fit of jealous rage Dian Cecht slew his own son. Because of Nuada's restoration as leader, Bres complained to his family and his father, Balor, king of the Fomorians.
The Tuatha Dé Danann then fought the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh against the Fomorians. Nuada was killed by the Fomorian king Balor's poisonous eye, but Balor was killed himself by Lugh, the champion of the Tuatha Dé, who took over as king.
A third battle was fought against a subsequent wave of invaders, the Milesians, from the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula (present day Galicia and Northern Portugal), descendants of Míl Espáine (who are thought to represent the Goidelic Celts). The Milesians encountered three goddesses of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Ériu, Banba and Fodla, who asked that the island be named after them; Ériu is the origin of the modern name Éire, and Banba and Fodla are still sometimes used as poetic names for Ireland.
Their three husbands, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, who were kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann at that time, asked for a truce of three days, during which the Milesians would lie at anchor nine waves' distance from the shore. The Milesians complied, but the Tuatha Dé Danann created a magical storm in an attempt to drive them away. The Milesian poet Amergin calmed the sea with his verse, before his people landed and defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann at Tailtiu. When Amergin was called upon to divide the land between the Tuatha Dé Danann and his own people, he cleverly allotted the portion above ground to the Milesians and the portion underground to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Tuatha Dé Danann were led underground into the Sidhe mounds by The Dagda.
The Tuatha Dé Danann fought against the witch Carman and her three sons. They are said to have brought chariots and druidry to Ireland.
The Four Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann brought four magical treasures with them to Ireland, one apiece from their Four Cities:
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