The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Kali

goddess_kali_by_piyal_kundu1

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Kali

 

O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy wisdom,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy mercy,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy fullness,
And of Thy guidance in face of every strait.
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy holiness,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy shielding,
O Goddess Kali, give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace in the knot of my death.
Oh give me of Thy surrounding,
And of Thy peace at the hour of my death!

 

Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is a Hindu goddess. Kali is one of the ten Mahavidyas, a list which combines Sakta and Buddhist goddesses.
Kali’s earliest appearance is that of a destroyer of evil forces. She is the goddess of one of the four subcategories of the Kulamārga, a category of tantric Saivism. Over time, she has been worshipped by devotional movements and tantric sects variously as the Divine Mother, Mother of the Universe, Adi Shakti, or Adi Parashakti. Shakta Hindu and Tantric sects additionally worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also seen as divine protector and the one who bestows moksha, or liberation. Kali is often portrayed standing or dancing on her consort, the Hindu god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her. Kali is worshipped by Hindus throughout India.
Kālī is the feminine form of kālam (“black, dark coloured”). Kālī also shares the meaning of “time” or “the fullness of time” with the masculine noun “kāla”—and by extension, time as “changing aspect of nature that bring things to life or death.” Other names include Kālarātri (“the black night”), and Kālikā (“the black one”).

 

The homonymous kāla, “appointed time,” which depending on context can mean “death,” is distinct from kāla “black,” but became associated through popular etymology. The association is seen in a passage from the Mahābhārata, depicting a female figure who carries away the spirits of slain warriors and animals. She is called kālarātri (which Thomas Coburn, a historian of Sanskrit Goddess literature, translates as “night of death”) and also kālī (which, as Coburn notes, can be read here either as a proper name or as a description “the black one”). Kālī is also the feminine form of Kāla, an epithet of Shiva, and thus the consort of Shiva.

 

Origins
Hugh Urban notes that although the word Kālī appears as early as the Atharva Veda, the first use of it as a proper name is in the Kathaka Grhya Sutra (19.7). Kali appears in the Mundaka Upanishad (section 1, chapter 2, verse 4) not explicitly as a goddess, but as the black tongue of the seven flickering tongues of Agni, the Hindu god of fire.

 

According to David Kinsley, Kāli is first mentioned in Hindu tradition as a distinct goddess around 600 CE, and these texts “usually place her on the periphery of Hindu society or on the battlefield.” She is often regarded as the Shakti of Shiva, and is closely associated with him in various Puranas.

 

Her most well known appearance on the battlefield is in the sixth century Devi Mahatmyam. The deity of the first chapter of Devi Mahatmyam is Mahakali, who appears from the body of sleeping Vishnu as goddess Yoga Nidra to wake him up in order to protect Brahma and the World from two demons Madhu and Kaitabha. When Vishnu woke up he started a war against the two demons. After a long battle with lord Vishnu when the two demons were undefeated Mahakali took the form of Mahamaya to enchant the two asuras. When Madhu and Kaitabha were enchanted by Mahakali, Vishnu killed them.

 

In later chapters the story of two demons can be found who were destroyed by Kali. Chanda and Munda attack the goddess Durga. Durga responds with such anger that her face turns dark and Kali appears out of her forehead. Kali’s appearance is black, gaunt with sunken eyes, and wearing a tiger skin and a garland of human heads. She immediately defeats the two demons. Later in the same battle, the demon Raktabija is undefeated because of his ability to reproduce himself from every drop of his blood that reaches the ground. Countless Raktabija clones appear on the battlefield. Kali eventually defeats him by sucking his blood before it can reach the ground, and eating the numerous clones. Kinsley writes that Kali represents “Durga’s personified wrath, her embodied fury.”

 

Other origin stories involve Parvati and Shiva. Parvati is typically portrayed as a benign and friendly goddess. The Linga Purana describes Shiva asking Parvati to defeat the demon Daruka, who received a boon that would only allow a female to kill him. Parvati merges with Shiva’s body, reappearing as Kali to defeat Daruka and his armies. Her bloodlust gets out of control, only calming when Shiva intervenes. The Vamana Purana has a different version of Kali’s relationship with Parvati. When Shiva addresses Parvati as Kali, “the black one,” she is greatly offended. Parvati performs austerities to lose her dark complexion and becomes Gauri, the golden one. Her dark sheath becomes Kausiki, who while enraged, creates Kali. Regarding the relationship between Kali, Parvati, and Shiva, Kinsley writes that:

 

In relation to Siva, she [Kali] appears to play the opposite role from that of Parvati. Parvati calms Siva, counterbalancing his antisocial or destructive tendencies; she brings him within the sphere of domesticity and with her soft glances urges him to moderate the destructive aspects of his tandava dance. Kali is Shiva’s “other wife,” as it were, provoking him and encouraging him in his mad, antisocial, disruptive habits. It is never Kali who tames Siva, but Siva who must calm Kali.

 

Legends
Kāli appears in the Sauptika Parvan of the Mahabharata (10.8.64). She is called Kālarātri (literally, “black night”) and appears to the Pandava soldiers in dreams, until finally she appears amidst the fighting during an attack by Drona’s son Ashwatthama.

 

Another story involving Kali is her escapade with a band of thieves. The thieves wanted to make a human sacrifice to Kali, and unwisely chose a saintly Brahmin monk as their victim. The radiance of the young monk was so much that it burned the image of Kali, who took living form and killed the entire band of thieves, decapitating them and drinking their blood.

 

Slayer of Raktabija

A painting made in Nepal depicting the Goddess Ambika Leading the Eight Matrikas in Battle Against the Demon Raktabija, Folio from a Devi Mahatmya – (top row, from the left) the Matrikas – Narasimhi, Vaishnavi, Kumari, Maheshvari, Brahmi. (bottom row, from left) Varahi, Aindri, Chamunda or Kali (drinking the demon’s blood), Ambika. on the right, demons arising from Raktabiīa’s blood
In Kāli’s most famous legend, Durga and her assistants, the Matrikas, wound the demon Raktabija, in various ways and with a variety of weapons in an attempt to destroy him. They soon find that they have worsened the situation for with every drop of blood that is dripped from Raktabija he reproduces a clone of himself. The battlefield becomes increasingly filled with his duplicates. Durga summons Kāli to combat the demons. The Devi Mahatmyam describes:

 

Out of the surface of her (Durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff ), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas.

 

Kali consumes Raktabija and his duplicates, and dances on the corpses of the slain. In the Devi Mahatmya version of this story, Kali is also described as a Matrika and as a Shakti or power of Devi. She is given the epithet Cāṃuṇḍā (Chamunda), i.e. the slayer of the demons Chanda and Munda. Chamunda is very often identified with Kali and is very much like her in appearance and habit.

 

Iconography and forms
Kali is portrayed mostly in two forms: the popular four-armed form and the ten-armed Mahakali form. In both of her forms, she is described as being black in colour but is most often depicted as blue in popular Indian art. Her eyes are described as red with intoxication, and in absolute rage, her hair is shown disheveled, small fangs sometimes protrude out of her mouth, and her tongue is lolling. She is often shown naked or just wearing a skirt made of human arms and a garland of human heads. She is also accompanied by serpents and a jackal while standing on the calm and prostrate Shiva, usually right foot forward to symbolize the more popular Dakshinamarga or right-handed path, as opposed to the more infamous and transgressive Vamamarga or left-handed path.

 

In the ten-armed form of Mahakali she is depicted as shining like a blue stone. She has ten faces, ten feet, and three eyes for each head. She has ornaments decked on all her limbs. There is no association with Shiva.

 

The Kalika Purana describes Kali as possessing a soothing dark complexion, as perfectly beautiful, riding a lion, four-armed, holding a sword and blue lotuses, her hair unrestrained, body firm and youthful.

 

In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. And because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. When the Bengali saint Ramakrishna once asked a devotee why one would prefer to worship Mother over him, this devotee rhetorically replied, “Maharaj, when they are in trouble your devotees come running to you. But, where do you run when you are in trouble?”

 

Popular form
Classic depictions of Kali share several features, as follows:

 

Kali’s most common four armed iconographic image shows each hand carrying variously a sword, a trishul (trident), a severed head, and a bowl or skull-cup (kapala) catching the blood of the severed head.

 

Two of these hands (usually the left) are holding a sword and a severed head. The sword signifies divine knowledge and the human head signifies human ego which must be slain by divine knowledge in order to attain moksha. The other two hands (usually the right) are in the abhaya (fearlessness) and varada (blessing) mudras, which means her initiated devotees (or anyone worshipping her with a true heart) will be saved as she will guide them here and in the hereafter.

 

She has a garland consisting of human heads, variously enumerated at 108 (an auspicious number in Hinduism and the number of countable beads on a japa mala or rosary for repetition of mantras) or 51, which represents Varnamala or the Garland of letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, Devanagari. Hindus believe Sanskrit is a language of dynamism, and each of these letters represents a form of energy, or a form of Kali. Therefore, she is generally seen as the mother of language, and all mantras.

 

She is often depicted naked which symbolizes her being beyond the covering of Maya since she is pure (nirguna) being-consciousness-bliss and far above prakriti. She is shown as very dark as she is brahman in its supreme unmanifest state. She has no permanent qualities—she will continue to exist even when the universe ends. It is therefore believed that the concepts of color, light, good, bad do not apply to her.

 

Mahakali
Mahakali (Sanskrit: Mahākālī, Devanagari), literally translated as “Great Kali,” is sometimes considered as a greater form of Kali, identified with the Ultimate reality of Brahman. It can also be used as an honorific of the Goddess Kali, signifying her greatness by the prefix “Mahā-“. Mahakali, in Sanskrit, is etymologically the feminized variant of Mahakala or Great Time (which is interpreted also as Death), an epithet of the God Shiva in Hinduism. Mahakali is the presiding Goddess of the first episode of the Devi Mahatmya. Here she is depicted as Devi in her universal form as Shakti. Here Devi serves as the agent who allows the cosmic order to be restored.

 

Kali is depicted in the Mahakali form as having ten heads, ten arms, and ten legs. Each of her ten hands is carrying a various implement which vary in different accounts, but each of these represent the power of one of the Devas or Hindu Gods and are often the identifying weapon or ritual item of a given Deva. The implication is that Mahakali subsumes and is responsible for the powers that these deities possess and this is in line with the interpretation that Mahakali is identical with Brahman. While not displaying ten heads, an “ekamukhi” or one headed image may be displayed with ten arms, signifying the same concept: the powers of the various Gods come only through Her grace.

 

Daksinakali
Daksinakali, also spelled Dakshinakali, is the most popular form of Kali in Bengal. She is the benevolent mother, who protects her devotees and children from mishaps and misfortunes. There are various versions for the origin of the name Dakshinakali. Dakshina refers to the gift given to a priest before performing a ritual or to one’s guru. Such gifts are traditionally given with the right hand. Daksinakali’s two right hands are usually depicted in gestures of blessing and giving of boons. One version of the origin of her name comes from the story of Yama, lord of death, who lives in the south (daksina). When Yama heard Kali’s name, he fled in terror, and so those who worship Kali are said to be able to overcome death itself.

 

Daksinakali is typically shown with her right foot on Shiva’s chest—while depictions showing Kali with her left foot on Shiva’s chest depict the even more fearsome Vamakali (Vamakali is typically shown with her right foot on Shiva’s chest). Vamakali is usually worshipped by non-householders. The pose shows the conclusion of an episode in which Kali was rampaging out of control after destroying many demons. Shiva, fearing that Kali would not stop until she destroyed the world, could only think of one way to pacify her. He lay down on the battlefield so that she would have to step on him. Seeing her consort under her foot, Kali realized that she had gone too far, and calmed down. In some interpretations of the story, Shiva was attempting to receive Kali’s grace by receiving her foot on his chest.

 

There are many different interpretations of the pose held by Dakshinakali, including those of the 18th and 19th century bhakti poet-devotees such as Ramprasad Sen. Most have to do with battle imagery and tantric metaphysics. The most popular however is a devotional view. According to Rachel Fell McDermott, the poets portrayed Siva as “the devotee who falls at [Kali’s] feet in devotion, or in surrender of his ego, or in hopes of gaining moksha by her touch. In fact, Siva is said to have become so enchanted by Kali that he performed austerities to win her, and having received the treasure of her feet, held them against his heart in reverence.

 

The growing popularity of worship of a more benign form of Kali, as Daksinakali, is often attributed to Krishnananda Agamavagisha. He was a noted Bengali leader of the 17th century, author of a Tantra encyclopedia called Tantrasara. According to hearsay – Kali appeared to him in a dream and told him to popularize her in a particular form that would appear to him the following day. The next morning he observed a young woman making cow dung patties. While placing a patty on a wall, she stood in the alidha pose, with her right foot forward. When she saw Krishnananda watching her, she was embarrassed and put her tongue between her teeth. Krishnananada took his previous worship of Kali out of the cremation grounds and into a more domestic setting. Krishnananda Agamavagisha was also the guru of the Kali devotee and poet Ramprasad Sen.

 

Smashana Kali
According to Mahakala Samhita,Smashana Kali is two armed and black in complexion,She stands on a corpse and holds a wine cup and a piece of rotten flesh in Her hands,and this is the terrible form of the Mother. She is worshiped by tantrics, the followers of Tantra, who believe that one’s spiritual discipline practised in a smashan (cremation ground) brings success quickly. A well known Shamshan Kali can be found in Barabelun, located in Bardhaman District of West Bengal. Known as “Boro-Ma” or the Big Mother, this Kali is estimated to be over 550 years old. The 24 foot high idol is worshipped and revered by the masses.

 

Other forms
Other forms of Kali popularly worshipped in Bengal include Raksha Kali (form of Kali worshipped for protection against epidemics and drought), Bhadra Kali, Chamunda Kali and Guhya Kali

 

Symbolism
There are many different interpretations of the symbolic meanings of Kali’s depiction, depending on a Tantric or devotional approach, and on whether one views her image symbolically, allegorically, or mystically.

 

Physical form

In Bengal and Orissa, Kali’s extended tongue is widely seen as expressing embarrassment over the realization that her foot is on her husband’s chest.
There are many varied depictions of the different forms of Kali. The most common shows her with four arms and hands, showing aspects of creation and destruction. The two right hands are often held out in blessing, one in a mudra saying “fear not” (abhayamudra), the other conferring boons. Her left hands hold a severed head and blood-covered sword. The sword severs the bondage of ignorance and ego, represented by the severed head. One interpretation of Kali’s tongue is that the red tongue symbolizes the rajasic nature being conquered by the white (symbolizing sattvic) nature of the teeth. Her blackness represents that she is nirguna, beyond all qualities of nature, and transcendent.

 

The most widespread interpretation of Kali’s extended tongue involve her embarrassment over the sudden realization that she has stepped on her husband’s chest. Kali’s sudden “modesty and shame” over that act is the prevalent interpretation among Oriya Hindus.The biting of the tongue conveys the emotion of lajja or modesty, an expression that is widely accepted as the emotion being expressed by Kali. In Bengal also, Kali’s protruding tongue is “widely accepted… as a sign of speechless embarrassment: a gesture very common among Bengalis.”

 

The twin earrings of Kali is said to be corpse of young dead boys. This is because Kali likes devotees who have child-like qualities in them. The forehead of Kali is as luminous as the full moon and it eternally gives out ambrosia.

 

Kali is often shown standing with her right foot on Shiva’s chest. This represents an episode where Kali was out of control on the battlefield, such that she was about to destroy the entire universe. Shiva pacified her by laying down under her foot, both to receive her blessing, but also to pacify and calm her. Shiva is sometimes shown with a blissful smile on his face. She is typically shown with a garland of severed heads, often numbering fifty. This can symbolize the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and therefore as the primordial sound of Aum from which all creation proceeds. The severed arms which make up her skirt represent her devotee’s karma that she has taken on.

 

Mother Nature
The name Kali means Kala or force of time. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, there was only darkness and everything was created from the darkness. The Dark appearance of Kali represents the darkness from which everything was born. Her complexion is deep blue, like the sky and ocean water as blue. As she is also the goddess of Preservation, Kali is worshiped as the preserver of nature. Kali is standing calm on Shiva, her appearance represents the preservation of mother nature. Her free, long and black hair represents nature’s freedom from civilization. Under the third eye of kali, the signs of both sun, moon and fire are visible which represent the driving forces of nature. Kali is not always thought of as a Dark Goddess. Despite Kali’s origins in battle, She evolved to a full-fledged symbol of Mother Nature in Her creative, nurturing and devouring aspects. She is referred to as a great and loving primordial Mother Goddess in the Hindu tantric tradition. In this aspect, as Mother Goddess, She is referred to as Kali Ma, meaning Kali Mother, and millions of Hindus revere Her as such.

 

Shiva in Kali iconography

A Kangra painting of Kali stands on Shiva, who assumes the position of a corpse atop a blazing funeral pyre. Dogs and scavenger birds surround Kali.
There are several interpretations of the symbolism behind the commonly represented image of Kali standing on Shiva’s supine form. A common one is that Shiva symbolizes purusha, the universal unchanging aspect of reality, or pure consciousness. Kali represents Prakriti, nature or matter, sometimes seen as having a feminine quality. The merging of these two qualities represent ultimate reality.

 

A tantric interpretation sees Shiva as consciousness and Kali as power or energy. Consciousness and energy are dependent upon each other, since Shiva depends on Shakti, or energy, in order to fulfill his role in creation, preservation, and destruction. In this view, without Shakti, Shiva is a corpse — unable to act.

 

Worship
Tantra

Kali Yantra
Goddesses play an important role in the study and practice of Tantra Yoga, and are affirmed to be as central to discerning the nature of reality as are the male deities. Although Parvati is often said to be the recipient and student of Shiva’s wisdom in the form of Tantras, it is Kali who seems to dominate much of the Tantric iconography, texts, and rituals. In many sources Kāli is praised as the highest reality or greatest of all deities. The Nirvana-tantra says the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva all arise from her like bubbles in the sea, ceaselessly arising and passing away, leaving their original source unchanged. The Niruttara-tantra and the Picchila-tantra declare all of Kāli’s mantras to be the greatest and the Yogini-tantra, Kamakhya-tantra and the Niruttara-tantra all proclaim Kāli vidyas (manifestations of Mahadevi, or “divinity itself”). They declare her to be an essence of her own form (svarupa) of the Mahadevi.

 

In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Kāli is one of the epithets for the primordial sakti, and in one passage Shiva praises her:

 

At the dissolution of things, it is Kāla [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahākāla [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahākāla Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kālika. Because Thou devourest Kāla, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.

 

The figure of Kāli conveys death, destruction, and the consuming aspects of reality. As such, she is also a “forbidden thing”, or even death itself. In the Pancatattva ritual, the sadhaka boldly seeks to confront Kali, and thereby assimilates and transforms her into a vehicle of salvation. This is clear in the work of the Karpuradi-stotra,[48] a short praise of Kāli describing the Pancatattva ritual unto her, performed on cremation grounds. (Samahana-sadhana)

 

He, O Mahākāli who in the cremation-ground, naked, and with dishevelled hair, intently meditates upon Thee and recites Thy mantra, and with each recitation makes offering to Thee of a thousand Akanda flowers with seed, becomes without any effort a Lord of the earth. Oh Kāli, whoever on Tuesday at midnight, having uttered Thy mantra, makes offering even but once with devotion to Thee of a hair of his Shakti [his energy/female companion] in the cremation-ground, becomes a great poet, a Lord of the earth, and ever goes mounted upon an elephant.

 

The Karpuradi-stotra, dated to approximately 10th century ACE, clearly indicates that Kāli is more than a terrible, vicious, slayer of demons who serves Durga or Shiva. Here, she is identified as the supreme mother of the universe, associated with the five elements. In union with Lord Shiva, she creates and destroys worlds. Her appearance also takes a different turn, befitting her role as ruler of the world and object of meditation. In contrast to her terrible aspects, she takes on hints of a more benign dimension. She is described as young and beautiful, has a gentle smile, and makes gestures with her two right hands to dispel any fear and offer boons. The more positive features exposed offer the distillation of divine wrath into a goddess of salvation, who rids the sadhaka of fear. Here, Kali appears as a symbol of triumph over death.

 

Bengali tradition

Kali Puja festival in Kolkata.
Kali is also a central figure in late medieval Bengali devotional literature, with such devotees as Ramprasad Sen (1718–75). With the exception of being associated with Parvati as Shiva’s consort, Kāli is rarely pictured in Hindu legends and iconography as a motherly figure until Bengali devotions beginning in the early eighteenth century. Even in Bengāli tradition her appearance and habits change little, if at all.

 

The Tantric approach to Kāli is to display courage by confronting her on cremation grounds in the dead of night, despite her terrible appearance. In contrast, the Bengali devotee appropriates Kāli’s teachings adopting the attitude of a child, coming to love her unreservedly. In both cases, the goal of the devotee is to become reconciled with death and to learn acceptance of the way that things are. These themes are well addressed in Rāmprasād’s work. Rāmprasād comments in many of his other songs that Kāli is indifferent to his wellbeing, causes him to suffer, brings his worldly desires to nothing and his worldly goods to ruin. He also states that she does not behave like a mother should and that she ignores his pleas:

 

Can mercy be found in the heart of her who was born of the stone? [a reference to Kali as the daughter of Himalaya]
Were she not merciless, would she kick the breast of her lord?
Men call you merciful, but there is no trace of mercy in you, Mother.
You have cut off the heads of the children of others, and these you wear as a garland around your neck.
It matters not how much I call you “Mother, Mother.” You hear me, but you will not listen.

 

To be a child of Kāli, Rāmprasād asserts, is to be denied of earthly delights and pleasures. Kāli is said to refrain from giving that which is expected. To the devotee, it is perhaps her very refusal to do so that enables her devotees to reflect on dimensions of themselves and of reality that go beyond the material world.

 

A significant portion of Bengali devotional music features Kāli as its central theme and is known as Shyama Sangeet (“Music of the Night”). Mostly sung by male vocalists, today even women have taken to this form of music. One of the finest singers of Shyāma Sāngeet is Pannalal Bhattacharya.

 

Kāli is especially venerated in the festival of Kali Puja in eastern India—celebrated when the new moon day of Ashwin month coincides with the festival of Diwali. The practice of animal sacrifice is common during Kali Puja in Bengal, Orissa, and Assam, though it is rare outside of those areas. The Hindu temples where this takes place involves the ritual slaying of goats, chickens and sometimes male Water buffalos. Throughout India, the practice is becoming less common.The rituals in eastern India temples where animals are killed are generally led by Brahmin priests. A number of Tantric Puranas specify the ritual for how the animal should be killed. A Brahmin priest will recite a mantra in the ear of animal to be sacrificed, in order to free the animal from the cycle of life and death. Groups such as People for Animals continue to protest animal sacrifice based on court rulings forbidding the practice in some locations.

 

Tantric Buddhism
Tantric Kali cults such as the Kaula and Krama had a strong influence on Tantric Buddhism, as can be seen in fierce looking yoginis and dakinis such as Vajrayogini and “Krodikali”.

 

In Tibet, Krodikali (alt. Krodhakali, Kālikā, Krodheśvarī, Krishna Krodhini) is known as Tröma Nagmo (Tib. ཁྲོ་མ་ནག་མོ་, Wyl. khro ma nag mo, Eng. ‘The Black Wrathful Lady’). She features as a key deity in the practice tradition of Chöd founded by Machig Labdron and is seen as a fierce form of Vajrayogini. Other similar fierce deities include the dark blue Ugra Tara and the lion-faced Simhamukha.

 

Worship in the Western world
An academic study of western Kali enthusiasts noted that, “as shown in the histories of all cross-cultural religious transplants, Kali devotionalism in the West must take on its own indigenous forms if it is to adapt to its new environment.” Rachel Fell McDermott, Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Columbia University and author of several books on Kali, has noted the evolving views in the West regarding Kali and her worship. In 1998 she pointed out that:

 

A variety of writers and thinkers have found Kali an exciting figure for reflection and exploration, notably feminists and participants in New Age spirituality who are attracted to goddess worship. [For them], Kali is a symbol of wholeness and healing, associated especially with repressed female power and sexuality. [However, such interpretations often exhibit] confusion and misrepresentation, stemming from a lack of knowledge of Hindu history among these authors, [who only rarely] draw upon materials written by scholars of the Hindu religious tradition… It is hard to import the worship of a goddess from another culture: religious associations and connotations have to be learned, imagined or intuited when the deep symbolic meanings embedded in the native culture are not available.

 

By 2003 McDermott amended her previous view by writing that:

…cross-cultural borrowing is appropriate and a natural by-product of religious globalization—although such borrowing ought to be done responsibly and self-consciously. If some Kali enthusiasts, therefore, careen ahead, reveling in a goddess of power and sex, many others, particularly since the early 1990s, have decided to reconsider their theological trajectories. These, whether of South Asian descent or not, are endeavoring to rein in what they perceive as excesses of feminist and New Age interpretations of the Goddess by choosing to be informed by, moved by, an Indian view of her character.

 

A form of Kali worship might have been transmitted to the west already in Medieval times by the wandering Romani people. Some authors have drawn parallels between Kali worship and the ceremonies of the annual pilgrimage in honor of Saint Sarah, also known as Sara-la-Kali (“Sara the Black”, Romani: Sara e Kali), held at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a place of pilgrimage for Roma in the Camargue, in southern France. Ronald Lee (2001) states:

 

If we compare the ceremonies with those performed in France at the shrine of Sainte Sara (called Sara e Kali in Romani), we become aware that the worship of Kali/Durga/Sara has been transferred to a Christian figure… in France, to a non-existent “sainte” called Sara, who is actually part of the Kali/Durga/Sara worship among certain groups in India.

 

Give us, O Kali, the needs of the body,
Give us, O Kali, the needs of the soul;
Give us, O Kali, the healing balsam of the body,
Give us, O Kali, the healing balsam of the soul.
Give us, O Kali, the joy of forgiveness,
Wash Thou from us the pain of jealousy,
Cleanse Thou from us the stain of karma.
That reincarnation may cease
And we may live forever in your summerland.
O great Goddess, Who art on the throne,
Weigh mine heart on your scales,
Give to us, O Kali, strong love,
And that beautiful crown of the Queen;
Give us, O Kali, the home of salvation
Within the beauteous gates of Thy kingdom.
Give us hospitality in the brightness of peace.

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Reference
Wikipedia

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The Study of Pagan Gods and Goddesses- Lugh, Master of Skills

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Lugh

Master of Skills

Similar to the Roman god Mercury, Lugh was known as a god of both skill and the distribution of talent. There are countless inscriptions and statues dedicated to Lugh, and Julius Caesar himself commented on this god’s importance to the Celtic people. Although he was not a war god in the same sense as the Roman Mars, Lugh was considered a warrior because to the Celts, skill on the battlefield was a highly valued ability.

In Ireland, which was never invaded by Roman troops, Lugh is called sam ildanach, meaning he was skilled in many arts simultaneously.

Lugh Enters the Hall of Tara
In one famous legend, Lugh arrives at Tara, the hall of the high kings of Ireland. The guard at the door tells him that only one person will be admitted with a particular skill–one blacksmith, one wheelwright, one bard, etc. Lugh enumerates all the great things he can do, and each time the guard says, “Sorry, we’ve already got someone here who can do that.” Finally Lugh asks, “Ah, but do you have anyone here who can do them ALL?” At last, Lugh was allowed entrance to Tara.

The Book of Invasions
Much of the early history of Ireland is recorded in the Book of Invasions, which recounts the many times Ireland was conquered by foreign enemies. According to this chronicle, Lugh was the grandson of one of the Fomorians, a monstrous race that were the enemy of the Tuatha De Danann.

Lugh’s grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, had been told he would be murdered by a grandson, so he imprisoned his only daughter in a cave. One of the Tuatha seduced her, and she gave birth to triplets. Balor drowned two of them, but Lugh survived and was raised by a smith. He later led the Tuatha in battle, and indeed killed Balor.

Roman Influence
Julius Caesar believed that most cultures worshipped the same gods and simply called them by different names. In his Gallic War essays, he enumerates the popular deities of the Gauls and refers to them by what he saw as a corresponding Roman name. Thus, references made to Mercury actually are attributed to a god Caesar also calls Lugus, who was Lugh. This god’s cult was centered in Lugundum, which later became Lyon, France. His festival on August 1 was selected as the day of the Feast of Augustus, by Caesar’s successor, Octavian Augustus Caesar, and it was the most important holiday in all of Gaul.

Weapons and War
Although not specifically a war god, Lugh was known as a skilled warrior. His weapons included a mighty magic spear, which was so bloodthirsty that it often tried to fight without its owner. According to Irish myth, in battle, the spear flashed fire and tore through the enemy ranks unchecked. In parts of Ireland, when a thunderstorm rolls in, the locals say that Lugh and Balor are sparring–thus giving Lugh one more role, as a god of storms.

The Many Aspects of Lugh
According to Peter Beresford Ellis, the Celts held smithcraft in high regard. War was a way of life, and smiths were considered to have magical gifts.

After all, they were able to master the element of Fire, and mold the metals of the earth using their strength and skill. Yet in Caesar’s writings, there are no references to a Celtic equivalent of Vulcan, the Roman smith god.

In early Irish mythology, the smith is called Goibhniu, and is accompanied by two brothers to create a triple god-form. The three craftsmen make weaponry and carry out repairs on Lugh’s behalf as the entire host of the Tuatha De Danann prepares for war. In a later Irish tradition, the smith god is seen as a master mason or a great builder. In some legends, Goibhniu is Lugh’s uncle who saves him from Balor and the monstrous Formorians.

One God, Many Names
The Celts had many gods and goddesses, due in part to the fact that each tribe had its own patron deities, and within a region there might be gods associated with particular locations or landmarks.

For example, a god who watched over a particular river or mountain might only be recognized by the tribes who lived in that area. Lugh was fairly versatile, and was honored nearly universally by the Celts. The Gaulish Lugos is connected to the Irish Lugh, who in turn is connected to the Welsh Llew Llaw Gyffes.

Celebrating the Harvest of Grain
The Book of Invasions tells us that Lugh came to be associated with grain in Celtic mythology after he held an harvest fair in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. This day became August 1, and that date ties in with the first grain harvest in agricultural societies in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, in Irish Gaelic, the word for August is lunasa. Lugh is honored with corn, grains, bread, and other symbols of the harvest. This holiday was called Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NA-sah). Later, in Christian England the date was called Lammas, after the Saxon phrase hlaf maesse, or “loaf mass.”

An Ancient God for Modern Times
For many Pagans and Wiccans, Lugh is honored as the champion of artistry and skills. Many artisans, musicians, bards, and crafters invoke Lugh when they need assistance with creativity. Today Lugh is still honored at the time of harvest, not only as a god of grain but also as a god of late summer storms.

Even today, in Ireland many people celebrate Lughnasadh with dancing, song, and bonfires. The Catholic church also has set this date aside for a ritual blessing of farmers’ fields.

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Lugh

Birth
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. In the Dindsenchas Lugh, the foster-son of Tailtiu, is described as the “son of the Dumb Champion”.

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. Lebor Gabála Érenn 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”).[18] A fourth Lugaid was Lugaid Loígde, a legendary King of Tara and ancestor of (or inspiration for) Lugaid Mac Con.

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 and is appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé Danann 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 Danann, and he begins making preparations for war.

The sons of Tuireann
Tuireann and Cian, Lugh’s father, are old enemies, and one day his sons, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba spot Cian in the distance and decide to kill him. They find him hiding in the form of a pig, but Cian tricked the brothers into allowing him to transform back to a man before they killed him, giving Lugh the legal right to claim compensation for a father rather than just a pig. When they try to bury him, the ground spits his body back twice before keeping him down, and eventually confesses that it is a grave to Lugh. Lugh holds a feast and invites the brothers, and during it he asks them what they would demand as compensation for the murder of their father. They reply that death is the only just demand, and Lugh agrees. He accuses them of the murder of his father, Cian, and sets them a series of seemingly impossible quests. The brothers go on an adventure and achieve them all except the last one, which will surely kill them. Despite Tuireann’s pleas, Lugh demands that they proceed and, when they are all fatally wounded, he 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 Danann, 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 Danann refuse the offer. He then promises four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé Danann say one harvest a year suits them. But Lugh spares his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé Danann how and when to plough, sow and reap.

Later life and death
Lugh instituted an event similar to the Olympic games called the Assembly of Talti which finished on Lughnasadh (1 August) in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, 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 Otherworld 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 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. Lugh had a son, Ibic, by Nás. His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. By the mortal Deichtine, he had another son, the hero Cú Chulainn.

One of his wives, Buach, 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. Cermait was later revived by his father the Dagda, who used the smooth or healing end of his staff to bring Cermait back to life.
In other cycles and traditions
In the Ulster Cycle he fathered Cúchulainn with the mortal maiden Deichtine. When Cúchulainn lay wounded after a gruelling series of combats during the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley), Lugh appeared and healed his wounds over a period of three days.
In Baile in Scáil (The Phantom’s Trance), a story of the Historical Cycle, Lugh appeared in a vision to Conn of the Hundred Battles. Enthroned on a daïs, he directed a beautiful woman called the Sovereignty of Ireland to serve Conn a portion of meat and a cup of red ale, ritually confirming his right to rule and the dynasty that would follow him.
In the Fenian Cycle the dwarf harper Cnú Deireóil claimed to be Lugh’s son.
The Luigne, a people who inhabited Counties Meath and Sligo, claimed descent from him.
Ainle is listed as the son of Lug Longhand and is killed by Curnan the Blacklegged in the Rennes Dinsenchas. Ainle, whose name means “champion” is described as being renowned and glorious, but in the same poetic verse is also described as being a weakling with no grip in battle.
In the Dindsenchas, Luat the son of Scal Balb (another name of Cian) is mentioned as the husband of Bairend.
Possessions
Lug possessed a number of magical items, retrieved by the sons of Tuirill Piccreo in Middle Irish redactions of the Lebor Gabála. Not all the items are listed here. The late narrative Fate of the Children of Tuireann not only gives a list of items gathered for Lugh, but also endows him with such gifts from the sea god Manannán as the sword Fragarach, the horse Enbarr (Aonbarr), the boat Scuabtuinne / Sguaba Tuinne (“Wave-Sweeper”), his armour and helmet.

Lugh’s Spear
The lore around Lugh’s Spear is traced as follows:

Four Treasures Spear of Lugh
Lugh’s spear (sleg), according to the text of The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was said to be impossible to overcome, taken to Ireland from Gorias (or Findias).

Gae Assail
Lugh obtained the Spear of Assal (Irish: Gae Assail) as fine (éric) imposed on the children of Tuirill Piccreo (or Biccreo), according to the short account in Lebor Gabála Érenn (Poem LXV, 319), which adds that the incantation “Ibar (Yew)” made the cast always hit its mark, and “Athibar (Re-Yew)” caused the spear to return.

Areadbhar
In a full narrative version called [A]oidhe Chloinne Tuireann (The Fate of the Children of Tuireann), from copies no earlier than the 18th century, Lugh demands the spear named Ar-éadbair or Areadbhair (Early Modern Irish: Aꞃéadḃaiꞃ) which belonged to Pisear, king of Persia, that its tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting, a property similar to the Lúin of Celtchar. This spear is also called “Slaughterer” in translation.

Finest Yew of the Wood
There is yet another name that Lugh’s spear goes by: “A [yew] tree, the finest of the wood” (Early Modern Irish: eó bo háille d’ḟíoḋḃaiḃ),[34]:204-5 occurring in an inserted verse within The Fate of the Children of Tuireann. “The famous yew of the wood” (ibar alai fhidbaidha) is also the name that Lugh’s spear is given in a tract which alleges that it, the Lúin of Celtchar and the spear Crimall that blinded Cormac Mac Airt were one and the same weapon (tract in TCD MS 1336 (olim H 3. 17), col. 723, discussed in the Lúin page).

Sling-stone
Lugh used the “sling-stone” (cloich tabaill) to slay his grandfather, Balor the Strong-Smiter in the Battle of Magh Tuired according to the brief accounts in the Lebor Gabála Érenn. The narrative Cath Maige Tured, preserved in a unique 16th century copy, words it slightly different saying that Lugh used the sling-stone (here liic talma § 133, i.e. lía “stone” of the ‘tailm “sling”) to destroy the evil eye of Balor of the Piercing Eye (Bolur Birugderc).

Tathlum
A certain poem recorded by O’Curry in English translation says that the missile fired by Lugh was a tathlum (táthluib “(slingstone made of) cement”).

Nature Myth Items
Lugh’s projectile weapon, whether a dart or missile, was envisioned by symbolic of lightning-weapon. Lugh’s sling rod, named “Lugh’s Chain”, was the rainbow and the Milky Way. Unlike the rod-sling, Lugh had no need to wield the spear himself. 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.

Fragarach
Lugh is also seen girt with the Freagarthach (better known as Fragarach), the sword of Manannán, in the assembly of the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Fate of the Children of Tuireann.

Lugh’s horse(s) and magic boat
Lugh had a horse named Aenbharr which could fare over both land and sea. Like much of his equipment, it was furnished to him by the sea god Manannán mac Lir. When the Children of Tuireann asked to borrow this horse, Lugh begrudged them, saying it would not be proper to make a loan of a loan. Consequently, Lugh was unable to refuse their request to use Lugh’s currach (coracle) or boat, the “Wave-Sweeper” (Irish: Sguaba Tuinne).

In the Lebor Gabála, Gainne and Rea were the names of the pair of horses belonging to the king of the isle of Sicily [on the (Tyrrhene sea)], which Lug demanded as éric from the sons of Tuirill Briccreo.

Failinis
Failinis was the name of the whelp of the King of Ioruaidhe that Lugh demanded as éiric (a forfeit) in the Oidhead Chloinne Tuireann. This concurs with the name of the hound mentioned in an “Ossianic Ballad”, sometimes referred to by its opening line “Dám Thrír Táncatair Ille (They came here as a band of three)”. In the ballad the hound is called Ṡalinnis (Shalinnis) or Failinis (in the Lismore text), and belonged to a threesome from Iruaide whom the Fianna encounter. It is described as “the ancient grayhound… that had been with Lugh of the Mantles, / Given him by the sons of Tuireann Bicreann;…”

That hound of mightiest deeds,
Which was irresistible in hardness of combat,
Was better than wealth ever known,
A ball of fire every night.
Other virtues had that beautiful hound
(Better this property than any other property),
Mead or wine would grow of it,
Should it bathe in spring water.
O’Curry’s excerpt ends here, but the subsequent verse runs “The three full-fledged heroes are called Sél, Donait and Domhnán. The dog of the fairest figure, Failinis was brought to Finn”. These threesome also appear in Acallamh na Sénorach though in that work the wonder-dog is called Fer Mac.

Name and nature

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Lugh’s name has been 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 though historically he is only ever equated with Mercury.[citation needed] 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-.

Lugh’s mastery of all arts has led many to link him with the unnamed 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.

It is also worth noting that parallels exist between the Irish Lugh, British Lleu, Gaulish Lugus, German Wotan, the English Woden, and Norse Odin. Odin was worshipped by the Norse as a god of war among other things, including poetry and the arts. Odin may have replaced Tyr as god of war among north Germanic peoples. As such, it may be that Lugh was also worshipped as a god of war by the Irish. On that note it is worth noting that the ultimate Irish warrior hero Cu Chulainn is cited as the son of Lugh.

Locations named after Lugh
The County of Louth in Ireland is named after the village of Louth, which in turn is named after the God Lugh. Historically, the place name has had various spellings; “Lugmad”, “Lughmhaigh”, and “Lughmhadh”. Lú is the modern simplified spelling.

 

Reference
Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo 
Wikipedia

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Hades, Lord of the Underworld

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 Hades

Lord of the Underworld

The Greeks called him the Unseen One, the Wealthy One, Pluoton, and Dis. But few considered the god Hades lightly enough to call him by his name. While he is not the god of death (that’s the implacable Thanatos), Hades welcomed any new subjects to his kingdom, the Underworld, which also takes his name. The ancient Greeks thought it best not to invite his attention.

 

The Birth of Hades
Hades was the son of the titan Cronos and brother to the Olympian gods Zeus and Poseidon.

 

Cronos, fearful of a son who would overthrow him as he vanquished his own father Ouranos, swallowed each of his children as they were born. Like his brother Poseidon, he grew up in the bowels of Cronos, until the day when Zeus tricked the titan into vomiting up his siblings. Emerging victorious after the ensuing battle, Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades drew lots to divide up the world they had gained. Hades drew the dark, melancholy Underworld, and ruled there surrounded by the shades of the dead, various monsters, and the glittering wealth of the earth.

 

Life in the Underworld
For the Greek god Hades, the inevitability of death ensures a vast kingdom. Eager for souls to cross the river Styx and join fief, Hades is also the god of proper burial. (This would include souls left with money to pay the boatman Charon for the crossing to Hades.) As such, Hades complained about Apollo’s son, the healer Asclepius, because he restored people to life, thereby reducing Hades’ dominions, and he inflicted the city of Thebes with plague probably because they weren’t burying the slain correctly.

 

Myths of Hades
The fearsome god of the dead figures in few tales (it was best not to talk about him too much). But Hesiod relates the most famous story of the Greek god, which is about how he stole his queen Persephone.

 

The daughter of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, Persephone caught the eye of the Wealthy One on one of his infrequent trips to the surface world.

 

He abducted her in his chariot, driving her far below the earth and keeping her in secret. As her mother mourned, the world of humans withered: Fields grew barren, trees toppled and shriveled. When Demeter found out that the kidnapping was Zeus’ idea, she complained loudly to her brother, who urged Hades to free the maiden. But before she rejoined the world of light, Persephone partook of a few pomegranate seeds.

 

Having eaten the food of the dead, she was compelled to return to the Underworld. The deal made with Hades allowed Persephone to spend one-third (later myths say one-half) of the year with her mother, and the rest in the company of her shades. Thus, to the ancient Greeks, was the cycle of seasons and the yearly birth and death of crops.

 

Hades Fact Sheet
Occupation: God, Lord of the Dead

 

Family of Hades: Hades was a son of the Titans Cronos and Rhea. His brothers are Zeus and Poseidon. Hestia, Hera, and Demeter are Hades’ sisters.

 

Children of Hades: These include the Erinyes (the Furies), Zagreus (Dionysus), and Makaria (goddess of a blessed death)

 

Other Names: Haides, Aides, Aidoneus, Zeus Katachthonios (Zeus under the earth). The Romans also knew him as Orcus.

 

Attributes: Hades is depicted as a dark-bearded man with a crown, scepter, and key.

 

Cerberus, a three-headed dog, is often in his company. He owns a helmet of invisibility and a chariot.

 

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Hades
God of the Underworld

The origin of Hades’ name is uncertain, but has generally been seen as meaning “The Unseen One” since antiquity. An extensive section of Plato’s dialogue Cratylus is devoted to the etymology of the god’s name, in which Socrates is arguing for a folk etymology not from “unseen” but from “his knowledge (eidenai) of all noble things”. Modern linguists have proposed the Proto-Greek form *Awides (“unseen”). The earliest attested form is Aḯdēs (Ἀΐδης), which lacks the proposed digamma. West argues instead for an original meaning of “the one who presides over meeting up” from the universality of death.

 

In Homeric and Ionic Greek, he was known as Áïdēs. Other poetic variations of the name include Aïdōneús (Ἀϊδωνεύς) and the inflected forms Áïdos (Ἄϊδος, gen.), Áïdi (Ἄϊδι, dat.), and Áïda (Ἄϊδα, acc.), whose reconstructed nominative case *Áïs (*Ἄϊς) is, however, not attested.The name as it came to be known in classical times was Háidēs (Ἅιδης). Later the iota became silent, then a subscript marking (Άͅδης), and finally omitted entirely (Άδης).

 

Hades, Hierapolis
Perhaps from fear of pronouncing his name, around the 5th century BC, the Greeks started referring to Hades as Pluto (Πλούτων, Ploútōn), with a root meaning “wealthy”, considering that from the abode below (i.e., the soil) come riches (e.g., fertile crops, metals and so on).Plouton became the Roman god who both rules the underworld and distributed riches from below. This deity was a mixture of the Greek god Hades and the Eleusinian icon Ploutos, and from this he also received a priestess, which was not previously practiced in Greece. More elaborate names of the same genre were Ploutodótēs (Πλουτοδότης) or Ploutodotḗr (Πλουτοδοτήρ) meaning “giver of wealth”.

 

Epithets of Hades include Agesander (Ἀγήσανδρος) and Agesilaos (Ἀγεσίλαος),[12] both from ágō (ἄγω, “lead”, “carry” or “fetch”) and anḗr (ἀνήρ, “man”) or laos (λαός, “men” or “people”), describing Hades as the god who carries away all. Nicander uses the form Hegesilaus (Ἡγεσίλαος). He was also referred to as Zeus Katachthonios (Ζευς καταχθονιος), meaning “the Zeus of the Underworld”, by those avoiding his actual name, as he had complete control over the Underworld.

 

Greek god of the underworld

Greek underworld
In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the underworld, was a son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. He had three sisters, Demeter, Hestia, and Hera, as well as two brothers, Zeus, the youngest of the three, and Poseidon. Upon reaching adulthood, Zeus managed to force his father to disgorge his siblings. After their release, the six younger gods, along with allies they managed to gather, challenged the elder gods for power in the Titanomachy, a divine war. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory, according to a single famous passage in the Iliad (xv.187–93), Hades and his two brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots for realms to rule. Zeus received the sky, Poseidon received the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen realm to which the souls of the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth. Some myths suggest that Hades was dissatisfied with his turnout, but had no choice and moved to his new realm.

 

Hades obtained his wife and queen, Persephone, through abduction at the behest of Zeus. This myth is the most important one Hades takes part in; it also connected the Eleusinian Mysteries with the Olympian pantheon, particularly as represented in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which is the oldest story of the abduction, most likely dating back to the beginning of the 6th Century BC. Helios told the grieving Demeter that Hades was not unworthy as a consort for Persephone:

 

Aidoneus, the Ruler of Many, is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also, for honor, he has that third share which he received when division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of those among whom he dwells.

— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Despite modern connotations of death as evil, Hades was actually more altruistically inclined in mythology. Hades was often portrayed as passive rather than evil; his role was often maintaining relative balance. That said, he was also depicted as cold and stern, and he held all of his subjects equally accountable to his laws. Any other individual aspects of his personality are not given, as Greeks refrained from giving him much thought to avoid attracting his attention.
Hades ruled the dead, assisted by others over whom he had complete authority. The House of Hades was described as full of “guests,” though he rarely left the Underworld. He cared little about what happened in the Upperworld, as his primary attention was ensuring none of his subjects ever left.
He strictly forbade his subjects to leave his domain and would become quite enraged when anyone tried to leave, or if someone tried to steal the souls from his realm. His wrath was equally terrible for anyone who tried to cheat death or otherwise crossed him, as Sisyphus and Pirithous found out to their sorrow. While usually indifferent to his subjects, Hades was very focused on the punishment of these two people; particularly Pirithous, as he entered the underworld in an attempt to steal Persephone for himself, and consequently was forced onto the “Chair of Forgetfulness”. Another myth is about the Roman god Asclepius who was originally a demigod, fathered by Apollo and birthed by Coronis, a Thessalian princess. During his lifetime, he became a famous and talented physician, who eventually was able to bring the dead back to life. Feeling cheated, Plouton persuaded Zeus to kill him with a thunderbolt. After his death, he was brought to Olympus where he became a god.Hades was only depicted outside of the Underworld once in myth, and even that is believed to have been an instance where he had just left the gates of the Underworld, which was when Heracles shot him with an arrow as Hades was attempting to defend the city of Plyus.After he was shot, however, he traveled to Olympus to heal. Besides Heracles, the only other living people who ventured to the Underworld were also heroes: Odysseus, Aeneas (accompanied by the Sibyl), Orpheus, who Hades showed uncharacteristic mercy towards at Persephone’s persuasion, who was moved by Orpheus’ music, Theseus with Pirithous, and, in a late romance, Psyche. None of them were pleased with what they witnessed in the realm of the dead. In particular, the Greek war hero Achilles, whom Odysseus conjured with a blood libation, said:

 

O shining Odysseus, never try to console me for dying.
I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
than be a king over all the perished dead.

— Achilles’ soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.488-491 (Lattimore translation)

 

Cult
Hades, as the god of the dead, was a fearsome figure to those still living; in no hurry to meet him, they were reluctant to swear oaths in his name, and averted their faces when sacrificing to him. Since to many, simply to say the word “Hades” was frightening, euphemisms were pressed into use. Since precious minerals come from under the earth (i.e., the “underworld” ruled by Hades), he was considered to have control of these as well, and was referred to as Πλούτων (Plouton, related to the word for “wealth”), Latinized as Pluto. Sophocles explained the notion of referring to Hades as “the rich one” with these words: “the gloomy Hades enriches himself with our sighs and our tears.” In addition, he was called Clymenus (“notorious”), Polydegmon (“who receives many”), and perhaps Eubuleus (“good counsel” or “well-intentioned”), all of them euphemisms for a name that was unsafe to pronounce, which evolved into epithets.

 

He spent most of the time in his dark realm. Formidable in battle, he proved his ferocity in the famous Titanomachy, the battle of the Olympians versus the Titans, which established the rule of Zeus.

 

Feared and loathed, Hades embodied the inexorable finality of death: “Why do we loathe Hades more than any god, if not because he is so adamantine and unyielding?” The rhetorical question is Agamemnon’s. He was not, however, an evil god, for although he was stern, cruel, and unpitying, he was still just. Hades ruled the Underworld and was therefore most often associated with death and feared by men, but he was not Death itself — the actual embodiment of Death was Thanatos, although Euripides’ play “Alkestis” states fairly clearly that Thanatos and Hades were one and the same deity, and gives an interesting description of him as dark-cloaked and winged; moreover, Hades was also referred to as “Hesperos Theos” (“God of Death and Darkness”)

 

When the Greeks propitiated Hades, they banged their hands on the ground to be sure he would hear them.[33] Black animals, such as sheep, were sacrificed to him, and the very vehemence of the rejection of human sacrifice expressed in myth suggests an unspoken memory of some distant past.[citation needed] The blood from all chthonic sacrifices including those to propitiate Hades dripped into a pit or cleft in the ground. The person who offered the sacrifice had to avert his face.

 

One ancient source says that he possessed the Cap of invisibility. His chariot, drawn by four black horses, made for a fearsome and impressive sight. His other ordinary attributes were the narcissus and cypress plants, the Key of Hades and Cerberus, the three-headed dog.In certain portraits, snakes also appeared to be attributed to Hades as he was occasionally portrayed to be either holding them or accompanied by them. This is believed to hold significance as in certain classical sources Hades ravished Kore in the guise of a snake, who went on to give birth to Zagreus-Dionysus. While bearing the name ‘Zeus’, Zeus Olympios, the great king of the gods, noticeably differs from the Zeus Meilichios, a decidedly Chthonian character, often portrayed as a snake, and as seen beforehand, they cannot be different manifestations of the same god, in fact whenever ‘another Zeus’ is mentioned, this always refers to Hades. Zeus Meilichios and Zeus Eubouleus are often referred to being alternate names for Hades.

 

The philosopher Heraclitus, unifying opposites, declared that Hades and Dionysus, the very essence of indestructible life (zoë), are the same god. Among other evidence Kerényi notes that the grieving goddess Demeter refused to drink wine, which is the gift of Dionysus, after Persephone’s abduction, because of this association, and suggests that Hades may in fact have been a “cover name” for the underworld Dionysus. He suggests that this dual identity may have been familiar to those who came into contact with the Mysteries. One of the epithets of Dionysus was “Chthonios”, meaning “the subterranean”. The role of unifying Hades, Zeus and Dionysus as a single tripartite god was used to represent the birth, death and resurrection of a deity and to unify the ‘shining’ realm of Zeus and the dark underworld realm of Hades

 

Artistic representations
Hades was depicted so infrequently in artwork, as well as mythology, because the Greeks were so afraid of him. His artistic representations, which are generally found in Archaic pottery, are not even concretely thought of as the deity; however at this point in time it is heavily believed that the figures illustrated are indeed Hades. He was later presented in the classical arts in the depictions of the Rape of Persephone. Within these illustrations, Hades was often young, yet he was also shown as varying ages in other works.Due to this lack of depictions, there weren’t very strict guidelines when representing the deity.On pottery, he has a dark beard and is presented as a stately figure on an “ebony throne.” His attributes in art include a scepter, cornucopia, rooster, and a key, which both represented his control over the underworld and acted as a reminder that the gates of the Underworld were always locked so that souls could not leave. Even if the doors were open, Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Underworld, ensured that while all souls were allowed to enter into The Underworld freely, none could ever escape. The dog is often portrayed next to the god as a means of easy identification, since no other deity relates to it so directly. Sometimes, artists painted Hades as looking away from the other gods, as he was disliked by them as well as humans.

 

As Plouton, he was regarded in a more positive light. He holds a cornucopia, representing the gifts he bestows upon people as well as fertility, which he becomes connected to.

 

Persephone

Persephone and Hades: tondo of an Attic red-figured kylix, ca. 440–430 BC
The consort of Hades was Persephone, represented by the Greeks as the beautiful daughter of Demeter.

 

Persephone did not submit to Hades willingly, but was abducted by him while picking flowers in the fields of Nysa. In protest of his act, Demeter cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine; though, one by one, the gods came to request she lift it, lest mankind perish, she asserted that the earth would remain barren until she saw her daughter again. Finally, Zeus intervened; via Hermes, he requested that Hades return Persephone. Hades complied,

 

But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter.— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

 

Demeter questioned Persephone on her return to light and air:

…but if you have tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other deathless gods.

— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

 

This bound her to Hades and the Underworld, much to the dismay of Demeter. It is not clear whether Persephone was accomplice to the ploy. Zeus proposed a compromise, to which all parties agreed: of the year, Persephone would spend one third with her husband.

 

It is during this time that winter casts on the earth “an aspect of sadness and mourning.”

 

Theseus and Pirithous
Theseus and Pirithous pledged to kidnap and marry daughters of Zeus. Theseus chose Helen and together they kidnapped her and decided to hold onto her until she was old enough to marry. Pirithous chose Persephone. They left Helen with Theseus’ mother, Aethra, and traveled to the Underworld. Hades knew of their plan to capture his wife, so he pretended to offer them hospitality and set a feast; as soon as the pair sat down, snakes coiled around their feet and held them there. Theseus was eventually rescued by Heracles but Pirithous remain

ed trapped as punishment for daring to seek the wife of a god for his own.

 

Heracles
Hades abducting Persephone, fresco in the small Macedonian royal tomb at Vergina, Macedonia, Greece, c. 340 BC
Heracles’ final labour was to capture Cerberus. First, Heracles went to Eleusis to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. He did this to absolve himself of guilt for killing the centaurs and to learn how to enter and exit the underworld alive. He found the entrance to the underworld at Taenarum. Athena and Hermes helped him through and back from Hades. Heracles asked Hades for permission to take Cerberus. Hades agreed as long as Heracles didn’t harm Cerberus. When Heracles dragged the dog out of Hades, he passed through the cavern Acherusia.

 

Minthe
The nymph Minthe, associated with the river Cocytus, loved by Hades, was turned into the mint plant, by a jealous Persephone.

 

Realm of Hades
In older Greek myths, the realm of Hades is the misty and gloomy abode of the dead (also called Erebus) where all mortals go when they die. Very few mortals could leave Hades once they entered. The exceptions, Heracles and Theseus, are heroic. Even Odysseus in his Nekyia (Odyssey, xi) calls up the spirits of the departed, rather than descend to them. Later Greek philosophy introduced the idea that all mortals are judged after death and are either rewarded or cursed.

 

There were several sections of the realm of Hades, including Elysium, the Asphodel Meadows, and Tartarus. Greek mythographers were not perfectly consistent about the geography of the afterlife. A contrasting myth of the afterlife concerns the Garden of the Hesperides, often identified with the Isles of the Blessed, where the blessed heroes may dwell.

 

In Roman mythology, the entrance to the Underworld located at Avernus, a crater near Cumae, was the route Aeneas used to descend to the realm of the dead. By synecdoche, “Avernus” could be substituted for the underworld as a whole. The di inferi were a collective of underworld divinities.

 

For Hellenes, the deceased entered the underworld by crossing the Styx, ferried across by Charon kair’-on), who charged an obolus, a small coin for passage placed in the mouth of the deceased by pious relatives. Paupers and the friendless gathered for a hundred years on the near shore according to Book VI of Vergil’s Aeneid. Greeks offered propitiatory libations to prevent the deceased from returning to the upper world to “haunt” those who had not given them a proper burial. The far side of the river was guarded by Cerberus, the three-headed dog defeated by Heracles (Roman Hercules). Passing beyond Cerberus, the shades of the departed entered the land of the dead to be judged.

 

The five rivers of the realm of Hades, and their symbolic meanings, are Acheron (the river of sorrow, or woe), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (oblivion), and Styx (hate), the river upon which even the gods swore and in which Achilles was dipped to render him invincible. The Styx forms the boundary between the upper and lower worlds. See also Eridanos.

 

The first region of Hades comprises the Fields of Asphodel, described in Odyssey xi, where the shades of heroes wander despondently among lesser spirits, who twitter around them like bats. Only libations of blood offered to them in the world of the living can reawaken in them for a time the sensations of humanity.

 

Beyond lay Erebus, which could be taken for a euphonym of Hades, whose own name was dread. There were two pools, that of Lethe, where the common souls flocked to erase all memory, and the pool of Mnemosyne (“memory”), where the initiates of the Mysteries drank instead. In the forecourt of the palace of Hades and Persephone sit the three judges of the Underworld: Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus. There at the trivium sacred to Hecate, where three roads meet, souls are judged, returned to the Fields of Asphodel if they are neither virtuous nor evil, sent by the road to Tartarus if they are impious or evil, or sent to Elysium (Islands of the Blessed) with the “blameless” heroes.

 

In the Sibylline oracles, a curious hodgepodge of Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian elements, Hades again appears as the abode of the dead, and by way of folk etymology, it even derives Hades from the name Adam (the first man), saying it is because he was the first to enter there. Owing to its appearance in the New Testament of the Bible, Hades also has a distinct meaning in Christianity.

 

Sources:
N.S. Gill Published On ThoughtCo

Ancient sources for Hades include Apollodorus, Cicero, Hesiod, Homer, Hyginus, Ovid, Pausanias, Statius, and Strabo.
Wikipedia

Study of Pagan Gods and Goddesses: Mars, Roman God of War

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Mars, Roman God of War

Mars is the Roman god of war, and scholars say he was one of the most commonly worshiped deities in ancient Rome. Because of the nature of Roman society, nearly every healthy patrician male had some connection to the military, so it is logical that Mars was highly revered throughout the Empire.

Early History and Worship

In early incarnations, Mars was a fertility god, and a protector of cattle. As time went on, his role as an earth god expanded to include death and the underworld, and finally battle and war.

He is known as the father of twins Romulus and Remus, by the Vestal virgin Rhea Silvia. As the father of the men who later founded the city, Roman citizens often referred to themselves as “sons of Mars.”

Before going into battle, Roman soldiers often gathered at the temple of Mars Ultor (the avenger) on the Forum Augustus. The military also had a special training center dedicated to Mars, called the Campus Martius, where soldiers drilled and studied. Great horseraces were held at the Campus Martius, and after it was over, one of the horses of the winning team was sacrificed in Mars’ honor. The head was removed, and became a coveted prize among the spectators.

Festivals and Celebrations

The month of March is named in his honor, and several festivals each year were dedicated to Mars. Each year the Feriae Marti was held, beginning on the Kalends of March and continuing until the 24th. Dancing priests, called the Salii, performed elaborate rituals over and over again, and a sacred fast took place for the last nine days.

The dance of the Salii was complex, and involved a lot of jumping, spinning and chanting. On March 25, the celebration of Mars ended and the fast was broken at the celebration of the Hilaria, in which all the priests partook in an elaborate feast.

During the Suovetaurilia, held every five years, bulls, pigs and sheep were sacrificed in Mars’ honor.

This was part of an elaborate fertility ritual, designed to bring prosperity to the harvest. Cato the Elder wrote that as the sacrifice was made, the following invocation was called out:

“Father Mars, I pray and beseech thee
that thou be gracious and merciful to me,
my house, and my household;
to which intent I have bidden this suovetaurilia
to be led around my land, my ground, my farm;
that thou keep away, ward off, and remove sickness, seen and unseen,
barrenness and destruction, ruin and unseasonable influence;
and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards,
and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue,
preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, and
give good health and strength to me, my house, and my household.
To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm,
my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, as I have said,
deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims;
Father Mars, to the same intent deign to accept
the offering of these suckling offering.”

Mars the Warrior

As a warrior god, Mars is typically depicted in full battle gear, including a helmet, spear and shield. He is represented by the wolf, and is sometimes accompanied by two spirits known as Timor and Fuga, who personify fear and flight, as his enemies flee before him on the battlefield.

Early Roman writers associated Mars with not only warrior prowess, but virility and power. Because of this, he sometimes is tied to the planting season and agricultural bounty. It is possible that Cato’s invocation above connects the more wild and frenzied aspects of Mars with the need to tame, control and defend the agricultural environment.

In Greek legend, Mars is known as Ares, but was never as popular with the Greeks as he was with the Romans.

The third month of the calendar year, March, was named for Mars, and important ceremonies and festivals, especially those related to military campaigns, were held this month in his honor. Mark Cartwright of Ancient History Encyclopedia says, “These rites may also have been connected to agriculture but the nature of Mars’ role in this area of Roman life is disputed by scholars.”

______________________________

Mars

Roman God of War – Mars

Religion was an important part of daily life in Rome. It helped Romans make sense of good and bad things that happened. If terrible things like natural disasters or battle losses occurred, Romans believed it was evidence that the Gods were unhappy with the people of Rome. When good things like a battle victory or a good harvest happened, Romans believed it was evidence of help or approval from the Gods. To keep the Gods happy, Romans often participated in animal sacrifices of lambs, pigs or bulls. At one time, even prisoners of war were offered as human sacrifices, but this practice was discontinued. Romans also held festivals and built temples to celebrate the Gods.

Romans worshiped a pantheon, also thought of as a council, of 12 major gods. These 12 major gods were called the Dii Consentes. This group included six gods and six goddesses. The gods included: JUPITER, Neptune, Mars, Apollo, Vulcan and Mercury. The goddesses were Juno, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Vesta and Ceres. Jupiter ruled over the Pantheon.

In fact, the famous Pantheon in Rome was dedicated to the ROMAN GODS. The exact purpose of the building is unknown. Though it has been used as a church, historians are unsure of whether ancient Romans actually worshiped there. The Pantheon was built by the consul Agrippa between 27 B.C. and 25 B.C.

In Roman religion, Mars was a very important god. His role was second only to Jupiter, the leader of the pantheon. Mars was the son of the God Jupiter and the Goddess Juno. His father, Jupiter, was the God of the sky and thunder. Jupiter was considered the chief, or central, guardian of Rome and was often considered to be witness to solemn oaths such as those undertaken by government officials or soldiers. His mother, Juno, was the protector of Roman women and was the patron Goddess of Rome. Both his mother and father were renowned for strength and protection. Mars himself was the god of war and was, himself, seen as protector of the Roman Army. He was thought to be difficult, argumentative and unpopular among the gods, but was revered by men; especially soldiers. It was even reported that Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were the founders of Rome.

Mars was known as the Roman god of war. He was said to love the violence and conflict. His persona represented military power and the noise and blood of battle. Since he was the father of Romulus and Remus it was believed he would come to the aid of Rome during times of conflict or war. He was the patron God of soldiers and was worshiped prior to battle. Soldiers in the Roman Army prayed to Mars before battle, asking that he might fight on their side. Soldiers hoped that their prayers would appeal to Mars and that he would protect them in battle and lead them to victory. They believed that ultimately it was Mars who decided who would win any battle. All aspects of war in Rome were associated with the God Mars. This did not only apply to military campaigns of conquest. Mars was said to protect cities from invading armies and help soldiers crush rebellion as well.

As the God of War, Mars had many symbols associated with him. The most recognizable was The Ancile. The Ancile was his sacred shield. Legend has it that this shield fell from heaven during the rule of Pompilius. It was said that if the shield remained in the city, Rome would be safe. Priests were commissioned to protect the shield and eleven copies were made, reportedly to confuse would-be thieves. The group of 12 ancilla were used in rituals. Mars was often depicted clothed on bronze armor. He carried a spear that was often depicted as covered in blood.

Other symbols surrounding the God of War included a burning torch, a vulture, dog, woodpecker, eagle and owl. Mars was a strong god and rode a chariot drawn by fire-breathing horses. The names of his horses were Aithon, Phlogios, Konabos and Phobos. Aithon means red fire, Phlogios means flame, Konabos means tumult – which is a loud confusing noise – and Phobos means fear.

Mars was celebrated twice a year in March and October. The old Roman calendar began with mensis Martius. This translates to Mars’ Month. This is what the month of March is named for. The Salii – the priests who protected and carried the ancilia – celebrated the new year on the first day of March by dressing and dancing in battle armor. This was said to be when Mars was born. Also in March, the twelve Salii carried the ancilia around the city in a parade with war trumpets, stopping at different sacred locations along the way.

Festivities complete with trumpets, dancing, feasts and sacrifices continued throughout the month of March. On the 23rd, The Tubilustrium festival was held in Mars’ honor in the Atrium Sutorium. This date was chosen because it coincided with the start of the military campaign season. This group of festivals and celebrations were called the Feriae Marti.

In February and March, horse races were held at the Campus Martius outside the walls of Rome in honor of Mars. These races were said to have been started by Romulus. In October, Mars’ parents Jupiter and Juno were celebrated. On the Ides – or 14th – of October, one of the winning horses from the races was sacrificed in honor of Mars for his continued protection.

As a nation of conquest and war, Gods such as Mars were important to Rome. It was believed that he kept enemies of the state at bay and protected the divine right of the state’s rule. At different times in history, he meant different things to the people. He was a military deity as Rome conquered its neighbors and a protector in times of peace.

Eventually, Mars became not just the protector of Rome, but the guardian and avenger of Emperor Caesar himself.

Reference
Patti Wigington, ThoughtCo.com

– Greek Gods & Goddesses, February 22, 2017  Mars: https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Nephthys, Egyptian Goddess

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Nephthys

Nephthys was one of the original five gods of ancient Egypt born of the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. She was the fourth born after Osiris, Isis, and Set and was the older sister of Horus (usually referred to as Horus the Elder). As one of the earliest goddesses of Egypt, she was a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis, a tribunal of nine deities of immense power. Her cult centers were Heliopolis, Senu, Hebet, Per-met, Re-nefert, and Het-sekem. Contrary to some scholars’ assertions that she was never widely worshipped in Egypt, temples to Nephthys were quite common and she was considered an extremely important goddess from the Predynastic Period (c.6000-c. 3150 BCE) through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before it became a province of Rome.

 

NAME & SYMBOLS
‘Nephthys’ is the Latin version of her Egyptian name `Nebthwt’ (also given as Nebet-het and Nebt-het) which translates as “Lady of the Temple Enclosure” or “Mistress of the House” and she is routinely pictured with the heiroglyph for ‘house’ on her crown. The ‘house’ is neither an earthly home nor temple but linked to the heavens as she was related to air and ether. The ‘enclosure’ may refer to the courtyard outside a temple as she was represented by the pylons outside of temples in her role as a protective goddess; just as the pylons and wall protected the inner temple, Nephthys protected the souls of the people. She was associated with death and decay from an early period and was regularly invoked during funeral services. Professional mourners at Egyptian funerals were known as “Hawks of Nephthys” and she is one of the four goddesses (along with Isis, Selket, and Neith) whose images were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun as guardians of his canopic vessels. Historian Margaret Bunson notes:

 

Nephthys was associated with the mortuary cult in every era and was part of the ancient worship of Min [a god of fertility and reproduction]. The desert regions were dedicated to her and she was thought to be skilled in magic (188).

 

Her magical skills were similar to those of Isis and some scholars see her as Isis’ mirror image, Nephthys’ darkness balancing Isis’ light, and they are frequently pictured together as twin sisters. In the city of Heliopolis Nephthys and Isis were represented by two virgin priestesses at festivals who would recite the famous Lamentations of Isis and Nepthys at the Osiris’ festival. The Lamentations is a long narrative poem recreating the moment Isis and Nephthys worked together to revive the god Osiris and bring him back to life. Although originally spoken only at religious services, the Lamentations came to be included in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and was recited at funeral services.

 

Nephthys became the wife of Set and is best known for the part she played in the Osiris myth where, disguised as Isis, she seduced Osiris and provided Set with justification for the murder of his brother. She is later depicted in the myth as both betraying and then helping Isis in her efforts to restore her husband to life. She is a goddess of the dead who, like her granddaughter Qebhet, provides assistance to the souls of the deceased. She was so helpful to those in the afterlife that one of her titles was “Friend of the Dead” and she was also thought to bring news of the deceased back to their relatives on earth and comfort them in their time of mourning.

 

Her symbols are the hawk and the temple and the sycamore tree, one of the more popular trees depicted in inscriptions from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. She is the mother of the death god Anubis and was associated with the setting sun, twilight, and darkness. Prayers were offered to Nephthys at twilight for protection and also to aid her as she struggled with her husband Set to defend the Boat of Ra (the sun god) from the serprent Apophis as it made its journey through the realms of night.

 

MYTHOLOGICAL ORIGINS
According to the most popular version of the Egyptian creation myth, there was once only swirling chaotic waters and darkness in the universe until, one day, a mound (known as the ben-ben) rose from the seas with the god Atum (also known as Ra) standing upon it. Atum gazed out on the eternal nothingness and recognized he was lonely, and so mated with his own shadow to give birth to Shu (god of the air) and Tefnut (goddess of moisture). These two deities then left their father alone on the primordial mound and went off to create the world.

 

Atum, alone on the hill in the midst of chaos, longed for his children and worried over their safety, and so he removed his eye and sent it out in search of them. Shu and Tefnut returned with the eye, having failed to create the world, and Atum was so happy to see them, he began to cry. As his tears fell on the fertile earth of the ben-ben, men and women sprang up.

 

These new fragile beings had nowhere to live, however, and so Shu and Tefnut mated and gave birth to Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky). These two quickly fell in love and became inseparable; a situation Atum found intolerable as they were brother and sister. He pushed Nut high above Geb and fastened her there so the two lovers would be able to see each other but never touch again. Nut, however, was already pregnant by Geb and soon gave birth to five children: Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys, and Horus. Atum gave to these five gods the task of maintaining the world and set his first born, Osiris, to rule over all the living things of the earth.

 

THE OSIRIS MYTH
At this point in the story the famous Osiris Myth begins when Set becomes jealous of Osiris’ power and success. Osiris married his beautiful sister Isis and the royal couple taught the humans of the world culture and art, instructed them in religion, and gave them the gifts of agriculture. To the Egyptians, their country was essentially the world and this world, under the reign of Osiris and Isis, was a paradise. Men and women were equal in all things and there was an abundance of food.

 

Osiris

Horus the Elder, in this story, is never mentioned but the roles of Set and Nephthys, who are, seem fairly insignificant at first until Nephthys emerges to play a pivotal role. She changed her form to take on the shape and scent of Isis and seduced Osiris, who thought he was sleeping with his wife. In some versions of the story she drugs his wine or gives him too much while, in others, he simply comes to her bed thinking she is Isis. Osiris leaves afterwards but drops a flower he wore in his hair on the floor and this is later found by Set who recognizes it as his brother’s.

 

Set was already resentful of his older brother but now, believing Osiris had seduced his wife, he planned to murder him. He created an ornate chest to Osiris’ exact measurements and then threw a party where he offered the box as a gift to whichever of his guests could best fit in it. Osiris, of course, fit perfectly and, when he lay down in the casket, Set slammed the cover on, fastened it, and threw it into the Nile. He then assumed the throne with Nephthys as his consort. She gave birth a short time later to a son, the god Anubis, whom she abandoned and who was raised by Isis.

 

Isis, meanwhile, went in search of her husband and found the casket with his body inside lodged in a tree in Byblos. The king and queen of the city had seen the tree down by the shore and were attracted by its beauty (which was the essence of Osiris permeating the tree) and its sweet scent (the aroma of Osiris) and had it cut down and brought to their court to serve as a central pillar. Isis, disguised as an older woman, was invited to the court after she befriended the queen’s handmaidens down by the shore and soon became nursemaid to the young princes. In an effort to make the youngest son immortal, she held him in a mystical fire each night to burn away his mortal part and, one night, the queen caught her and was horrified. Isis threw off her disguise, revealing herself, and the king and queen begged her for mercy, offering her anything to spare them. She asked for the pillar in the court; and they gave it to her.

 

All this time, the world was suffering under the rule of Set. The land was barren and the desert winds blew. Equality in the land was forgotten as people fought for each other for survival. Isis returned to the wasteland with Osiris and hid his body in the marshes of the Nile Delta and then asked Nephthys to stand guard to protect him from Set. While Isis went off to find herbs to revive her husband, Set was out searching for the body and found Nephthys. He managed to get from her where Isis had hidden Osiris and hacked the body to pieces, throwing them across the land and into the river. When Isis returned, Nephthys tearfully told her the story and offered to help in any way she could.

 

Isis and Nephthys found all the parts of Osiris and put him back together except for his penis, which had been eaten by a fish. Osiris revived but, because he was not whole, could not return to the land as king; he would instead descend to the underworld where he would rule over the dead as their just and merciful judge. Before he left, however, Isis transformed herself into a kite (a falcon) and flew around his body, drawing his seed into her own and becoming pregnant with a son, Horus. When Horus was born, she hid him in the marshes of the Delta as she had his father’s body and Nephthys, this time, kept her secret.

 

THE CONTENDINGS OF HORUS & SET
When Horus grew to manhood he challenged Set for the kingdom. The best known version of this contest is known as The Contendings of Horus and Set from a manuscript of the Twentieth Dynasty (1190-1077 BCE). The story tells of the legal battle before the Ennead of Heliopolis, a tribunal of nine gods, to decide who was the rightful king of Egypt. These gods were Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Isis and Nephthys, Set, and Osiris. Horus and Set both present their cases and then must prove themselves in a series of contests and battles which are all won by Horus.

 

Horus

The majority of the nine gods ruled that Horus was the rightful king but Atum, the sun god, was not convinced and the decision had to be unanimous, barring Set’s opinion. Atum believed that Horus was too young and had led too sheltered a life to effectively rule while Set had the necessary experience if not the most gentle manner. Even though Horus won every contest against his uncle, Atum would not be moved. This trial went on for over 80 years while the people of Egypt suffered under Set’s chaotic reign until Isis intervened, showed the other gods – and Set – how wickedly he had behaved, and won the ruling in favor of her son. In another, perhaps older, version of the story it is the goddess Neith who settles the dispute in favor of Horus and grants the desert lands to Set along with two foreign goddesses (Anat and Astarte) as consolation. Horus assumed the throne of his father and ruled with Isis and Nephthys as his counselors. Set was driven from the land to the arid frontier deserts and Nephthys remained as a protector of the female head of the household, Isis in this case, but later any mature married woman.

 

THE LAMENTATIONS OF ISIS & NEPHTHYS
This myth was important to the ancient Egyptians on many levels. It illustrated core values of harmony, order, divine intervention in human affairs, the importance of gratitude, trust, and how, in the character of Set, even the gods could succumb to temptation but, no matter what, harmony and order would be restored. The death and ressurection of Osiris provided a divine template for the passage of all human beings who were thought to be travelers on an eternal journey through life and on into the afterlife. The Cult of Osiris became extremely popular and part of his religious service included the recitation of the liturgy known as The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys.

 

The most complete version of this verse comes from the Berlin Papyrus 3008 dating to the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This papyrus was part of a copy of The Book of the Dead owned by a woman named Tentruty (also given as Teret) and is written in hieratic script (the cursive, everyday, script of the Egyptians) in five columns. The poem is written as an exchange between Isis and Nephthys as they call Osiris’ soul back to his body. The two goddesses entreat the soul to return, to live again among them, and invoke Horus, Osiris’ son, as his protector in life who will provide him with “bread, beer, oxen, and fowl” and whose sons will guard his body and protect his soul. In the end, Osiris returns to life as the poem ends with the line, “Lo! He Comes!”

 

Following the verse, the scribe has left very careful instructions on how the Lamentations is to be presented at the festivals:

 

Now, when this is recited the place is to be completely secluded, not seen and not heard by anyone except the chief lector-priest and the setem-priest. One shall bring two women with beautiful bodies. They shall be made to sit on the ground at the main portal of the Hall of Appearings. On their arms shall be written the names of Isis and Nephthys. Jars of faience filled with water shall be placed in their right hands, offering loaves made in Memphis in their left hands, and their faces shall be bowed. To be done in the third hour of the day, also in the eighth hour of the day. You shall not be slack in reciting this book in the hour of the festival. It is finished.

 

The two virgins would recite the Lamentations to invite Osiris to participate in the festival and, once he arrived, the celebration could begin. Osiris was considered the first king of Egypt who had given the people their culture and who, through his death and resurrection, showed them the way to eternal life. In death, everyone was linked to Osiris who was the first to have died and been reborn. His festivals, therefore, were of great importance and Nephthys regularly featured as one of the most important elements of the celebration: one of the two who called the god to join the living.

 

She describes herself as the “beloved sister” of Osiris in the Lamentations and says, “I am with you, your bodyguard, for all eternity.” When the Lamentations became included in The Book of the Dead (c. 1550-1070 BCE), the poem was recited at funerals and Nephthys would then have been speaking to the soul of the deceased. It was in this capacity that she came to be regarded as the “Friend of the Dead” who walked with the soul and helped them in the afterlife as their “bodyguard for all eternity” and made her such an important deity to the people.

 

NEPHTHYS & THE BARGE OF RA
Long before the Osiris myth became popular, Nepthys was already a very significant goddess, however. In texts of the period of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – c. 2181 BCE) she is referenced with Set as the two gods who protect the barge of the sun god Ra (Atum) as it passes through the night sky. The evil serpent Apophis tried every night to murder the sun god but Nephthys and Set fought the creature off so the sun could rise the next morning. Set was later transformed from a protector god to the villain of the Osiris myth but Nephthys’ role remained the same: a protector and sustainer of life. Even though the focus on who was protected changed, the basic elements of her character remained the same. The scholar Geraldine Pinch has observed that, “Nephthys never enjoyed the high status of her sister, Isis” (171) and, while it may be true that worship of Nephthys never was on par with that of Isis, her status was consistently quite impressive throughout Egypt’s history.

 

In the Predynastic Period of Egypt, Nephthys was one of the most important deities owing to her part in this myth. If Apophis succeeded in murdering Ra, the sun would not rise and so it was vital that the barge be protected. In the Coffin Texts Set and the snake-god Mehen protect the barge; Mehen by coiling himself around Ra and Set by fending off Apophis. Mehen was later replaced by Nephthys but Apophis was considered so powerful, and the threat to Ra so dire, that other deities often appear on the barge to drive the enemy of the sun away such as Isis, Bastet, Selket, Neith, and Sekhmet who were collectively known, with Nephthys, as the Eyes of Ra in this capacity.

 

The myth of the nightly threat to Ra is most clearly told in a manuscript dating from the Ramessid Period (1292-1069 BCE) but archaeological evidence suggests the story is much older. By the time of the Ramessid Period the myth had evolved into a ritual known as Overthrowing Apophis in which a priest would recite a list of Apophis’ secret names (thereby gaining power over him) and the people would sing hymns celebrating his destruction. Even though the gods destroyed the great serpent every night, he returned to try to murder Ra again the next. The hymns were sung to encourage the gods in their eternal struggle. Participants in the ritual would then make serpents out of wax, spit on them, and destroy them in fire. The ritual was performed regularly after a number of cloudy days when it seemed as though Apophis was succeeding in preventing the dawn and especially during a solar eclipse.

 

POPULARITY & WORSHIP OF NEPHTHYS
Prior to the addition of the other goddesses, however, it was Nephthys and Set who kept the sun on course and she was duly honored for this. Temples to Nephthys were located in every region of Egypt long before she became associated with the dead and only grew more numerous afterwards. As with any Egyptian deity, her temple was attended by priests and priestesses who cared for her statue and observed her holy days and festivals. The public was barred from entering the inner sanctuary of the temple where her statue resided but were welcomed in the outer courtyards where the clergy tended to their needs and collected their donations and sacrifices.

 

By the time of Ramesses II (1279 – 1213 BCE) Nephthys was so popular she was given her own temple at the popular religious center of Sepermeru in the holy precinct where Set’s temple was located. Nephthys was so popular at this time that she is mentioned in texts without allusion to Isis or Set. Her temple in the town of Punodjem was apparently so popular that the head priest and vizier Pra’emhab complained of his workload and her temple at Herakleopolis, near Sepermeru, became the site of the Heb-Sed festival celebrating the rejuvenation of the king. The basalt statue of Nephthys currently housed at the Louvre in Paris comes from this temple.

 

Although Nephthys is frequently depicted as a mirror to her twin sister Isis, she had a life and status all her own which was just as worthy of veneration. Once she became associated with the afterlife and the care of the dead the linen which was used to mummify the deceased was known as “tresses of Nephthys” and it was thought that she, along with Selket, helped to breathe life back into the soul and help them on their eternal journey. Nephthys came to represent the promise of a helper at one’s side in the afterlife who would look after and protect the soul and who assured the living that death was nothing to be feared. The realm of the afterlife was only a new land one traveled to and old friends, like Nephthys, would be waiting to offer their protection and guidance in death as they had throughout life.

_________________

Nephthys

Nephthys was an ancient goddess, who was referenced in texts dating back to the Old Kingdom. She was a member of the Ennead of Heliopolis as the daughter of Geb and Nut and the sister of Osiris, Isis and Horus and the sister and wife of Set. When the Ennead and Ogdoad merged, Nephthys was given a place on Ra’s boat so that she could accompany him on his journey through the underworld.

 

Nephthys is the Greek pronunciation of her name. To the Ancient Egyptians she was Nebthwt (Nebhhwt or Nebthet) meaning “the Mistress of the House”. The word “hwt” (“house”) may refer to the sky (as in Hwt-hor, the “House of Horus” – the name of Hathor), but it also refers to either the royal family or Egypt as a whole. The latter makes a great deal of sense as she was described as the head of the household of the gods and was thought to extend her protection to the head female of every household. She was sometimes associated with Ptah-Tanen in representing Lower Egypt, while Khnum and Isis represented Upper Egypt.

 

It seems that she was originally conceived of as the female counterpart of Set. He represented the desert, while she represented the air. Set was infertile (like the desert that he represented) and was frequently described as either bisexual or gay and so Nephthys was often considered to be barren. As a goddess of the air, she could take the form of a bird, and because she was barren she was associated with the vulture – a bird which the Egyptians believed did not bear children. The Egyptians thought that all vultures were female (because there is very little difference in the appearance of a male vulture), and that they were spontaneously created from the air. While the care shown by a mother vulture for her child was highly respected, the Egyptians also recognised that vultures fed on carrion and associated them with death and decay. As a result, Nephthys became a goddess of death and mourning.

 

Nephthys
Professional mourners were known as the “Hawks of Nephthys”, in recognition of her role as a goddess of mourning. It was also believed that she protected Hapi in his role as of the Four sons of Horus (who guarded the organs stored in the four canopic jars). Hapi protected the lungs, and as a goddes of the air Nephthys was his guardian. She was also one of the four goddesses who guarded the shrine buried with the Pharaoh. She appears with Isis, Selkit (Serqet) and Neith on the gilded shrine of Tutankhamun, but was often depicted with Isis, Bast and Hathor in this role. Yet, she was also said to be the source of both rain and the Nile river (associating her with Anuket) and was thought to protect women in childbirth (with the assistance of her sister, Isis). Thus she was closely associated with both death and life.

 

Although she was technically infertile, later myths claimed that she was the mother of Anubis by either Osiris or Set (depending on the myth). This came about because Anubis’ position as the god of the dead was usurped by Osiris when the theologies of the Ennead and the Ogdoad merged. According to one myth Nephthys disguised herself as Isis to get the attention of her neglectful husband Set, but instead seduced Osiris (who apparently did not realise that it was Nephthys). An alternative myth made it clear that Nephthys intended to seduce Osiris from the beginning and drugged his wine to make her task easier, while a less common myth held that she did trick her husband into a brief daliance in order to concieve Anubis. It is suggested that this tale also explained the flowering of a plant in a normally barren area because Set apparently discovered the adultery when he found a flower left by his brother Osiris.

 

Isis and Nephthys were very close despite Nephthys’ alleged infidelity with Osiris (the husband of Isis) and her marriage to Set (the murderer of Osiris). Nephthys protected the body of Osiris and supported Isis as she tried to resurrect him. The goddesses are so similar in appearance that only their headdresses can distinguish them and they always appear together in funerary scenes. Together Isis and Nephthys could be said to represent day and night, life and death, growth and decay. In Heliopolis, Isis and Nephthys were represented by two virginal priestesses who shaved off all of their body hair and were ritually pure.

 

Nephthys was usually depicted as a woman with the hieroglyphs of her name (a basket on top of the glyph representing the plan of an estate) on her head. She could also be depicted as a mourning woman, and her hair was compared to the strips of cloth used in mummification. She also occasionally appears as a hawk, a kite or a winged goddess in her role as a protector of the dead. Her major centers of worships were Heliopolis (Iunu, in the 13th Nome of Lower Egypt), Senu, Hebet, (Behbit), Per-mert, Re-nefert, Het-sekhem, Het-Khas, Ta-kehset, and Diospolites.

 

Reference
Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History 

J Hill, Ancient Egypt Online 

THe Studay of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Rhiannon

Rhiannon

Horse Goddess of Wales

In Welsh mythology, Rhiannon is a horse goddess depicted in the Mabinogion. She is similar in many aspects to the Gaulish Epona, and later evolved into a goddess of sovereignty who protected the king from treachery.

Rhiannon in the Mabinogion
Rhiannon was married to Pwyll, the Lord of Dyfed. When Pwyll first saw her, she appeared as a golden goddess upon a magnificent white horse. Rhiannon managed to outrun Pwyll for three days, and then allowed him to catch up, at which point she told him she’d be happy to marry him, because it would keep her from marrying Gwawl, who had tricked her into an engagement.

Rhiannon and Pwyll conspired together to fool Gwawl in return, and thus Pwyll won her as his bride. Most of the conspiring was likely Rhiannon’s, as Pwyll didn’t appear to be the cleverest of men. In the Mabinogion, Rhiannon says of her husband, “Never was there a man who made feebler use of his wits.”

A few years after marrying Pwyll, Rhiannon gave birth to their son, but the infant disappeared one night while under the care of his nursemaids. Frightened that they would be charged for a crime, the nursemaids killed a puppy and smeared its blood on the face of their sleeping queen. When she awoke, Rhiannon was accused of killing and eating her son. As penance, Rhiannon was made to sit outside the castle walls, and tell passersby what she had done. Pwyll, however, stood by her, and many years later the infant was returned to his parents by a lord who had rescued him from a monster and raised him as his own son.

Author Miranda Jane Green draws comparisons to this story and that of the archetypical “wronged wife,” accused of a horrible crime.

Rhiannon and the Horse
The goddess’ name, Rhiannon, derives from a Proto-Celtic root which means “great queen,” and by taking a man as her spouse, she grants him sovereignty as king of the land.

In addition, Rhiannon possesses a set of magical birds, who can soothe the living into a deep slumber, or wake the dead from their eternal sleep.

Her story features prominently in the Fleetwood Mac hit song, although songwriter Stevie Nicks says she didn’t know it at the time. Later, Nicks said she “was struck by the story’s emotional resonance with that of her song: the goddess, or possibly witch, given her ability with spells, was impossible to catch by horse and was also closely identified with birds — especially significant since the song claims she “takes to the sky like a bird in flight,” “rules her life like a fine skylark,” and is ultimately “taken by the wind.”

Primarily, though, Rhiannon is associated with the horse, which appears prominently in much of Welsh and Irish mythology. Many parts of the Celtic world — Gaul in particular — used horses in warfare, and so it is no surprise that these animals turn up in the myths and legends or Ireland and Wales. Scholars have learned that horse racing was a popular sport, especially at fairs and gatherings, and for centuries Ireland has been known as the center of horse breeding and training.

Judith Shaw, at Feminism and Religion, says, “Rhiannon, reminding us of our own divinity, helps us to identify with our sovereign wholeness.

She enables us to cast out the role of victim from our lives forever. Her presence calls us to practice patience and forgiveness. She lights our way to the ability to transcend injustice and maintain compassion for our accusers.”

Symbols and items that are sacred to Rhiannon in modern Pagan practice include horses and horseshoes, the moon, birds, and the wind itself.

An Iowa Pagan named Callista says, “I raise horses, and have worked with them since I was a child. I first encountered Rhiannon when I was a teenager, and I keep an altar to her near my stables. It’s got horsey things on it, like a horseshoe, a horse figurine, and even braids from the manes of horses I’ve lost over the years. I make an offering to her before horse shows, and I invoke her when one of my mares is about to give birth.

She seems to like offerings of sweetgrass and hay, milk, and even music – I sometimes sit by my altar and play my guitar, just singing a prayer to her, and the results are always good. I know she’s watching over me and my horses.”

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Rhiannon

Rhiannon is a major figure in the Mabinogi, the medieval Welsh story collection. She appears mainly in the First Branch of the Mabinogi, and again in the Third Branch. She is a strong minded Otherworld woman, who chooses Pwyll, prince of Dyfed (west Wales), as her consort, in preference to another man to whom she has already been betrothed. She is intelligent, politically strategic, and famed for her wealth and generosity. With Pwyll she has a son, the hero Pryderi, who later inherits the lordship of Dyfed. She endures tragedy when her newborn child is abducted, and she is accused of infanticide. As a widow she marries Manawydan of the British royal family, and has further adventures involving enchantments.

Like some other figures of British/Welsh literary tradition, Rhiannon may be a reflex of an earlier Celtic deity. Her name appears to derive from the reconstructed Brittonic form *Rīgantonā, a derivative of *rīgan- “queen”. In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is strongly associated with horses, and so is her son Pryderi. She is often considered to be related to the Gaulish horse goddess Epona. She and her son are often depicted as mare and foal. Like Epona, she sometimes sits on her horse in a calm, static way. While this connection with Epona is generally accepted among scholars of the Mabinogi and Celtic studies, Ronald Hutton, a general historian, is skeptical.

Rhiannon’s story
Y Mabinogi: First Branch
Rhiannon first appears at Gorsedd Arberth an ancestral mound near one of the chief courts of Dyfed. Pwyll, the prince of Dyfed, has accepted the challenge of the mound’s magical tradition to show a marvel or deal out blows. Rhiannon appears to him and his court as the promised marvel. She is a beautiful woman arrayed in gold silk brocade, riding a shining white horse. Pwyll sends his best horsemen after her two days running, but she always remains ahead of them, though her horse never does more than amble. On the third day he finally follows her himself and does no better, until he finally appeals to her to stop for him.

Rhiannon characteristically rebukes him for not considering this course before, then explains she has sought him out to marry him, in preference to her current betrothed, Gwawl ap Clud. Pwyll gladly agrees, but at their wedding feast at her father’s court, an unknown man requests Pwyll grant a request; which he does without asking what it is. The man is Gwawl, and he requests Rhiannon.

Rhiannon rebukes Pwyll a second time for his stupid words, but provides the means and the plan to salvage the situation. She holds a second wedding feast for Gwawl, where she deploys Pwyll’s men outside in the orchard. She instructs Pwyll to enter the hall dressed as a beggar and humbly request Gwawl fill a certain ‘small bag’ with food. But she has enchanted the ‘small bag’ so it cannot ever be filled by normal means. Gwawl is persuaded to step in it to control its magic, which means Pwyll can trap him in it. Pwyll’s men rush in and surround the hall, then beat and kick Gwawl as the Badger-in-the-Bag game. To save his life Gwawl is forced to relinquish Rhiannon completely, and also his revenge. Rhiannon marries Pwyll, then journeys to Dyfed as its queen.

After a happy two years Pwyll comes under pressure from his nobles, to provide an heir. He refuses to set Rhiannon aside as barren, and in the third year their son is born. However, on the night of his birth, the newborn disappears while in the care of Rhiannon’s six sleepy maids. Terrified of being put to death, the women kill a puppy and smear its blood on Rhiannon’s sleeping face. In the morning they accuse her of infanticide and cannibalism. Rhiannon takes counsel with her own advisers, and offers to undergo a penance. Pwyll is again urged to set her aside, but refuses, and sets her penance instead. She must sit every day by the gate of the castle at the horse block, to tell her story to travelers. She must also offer to carry them on her back as a beast of burden, though few accept this. However, as the end of the story shows, Pwyll maintains her state as his queen, as she still sits at his side in the hall at feasting time.

The newborn child is discovered by Teyrnon, the lord of Gwent-Is-Coed (South-Eastern Wales). He is a horse lord whose fine mare foals every May Eve, but the foals go missing each year. He takes the mare into his house and sits vigil with her. After her foal is born he sees a monstrous claw trying to take the newborn foal through the window, so he slashes at the monster with his sword. Rushing outside he finds the monster gone, and a human baby left by the door. He and his wife claim the boy as their own naming him Gwri Wallt Euryn (Gwri of the Golden Hair), for “all the hair on his head was as yellow as gold”. The child grows at a superhuman pace with a great affinity for horses. Teyrnon who once served Pwyll as a courtier, recognises the boy’s resemblance to his father. As an honourable man he returns the boy to the Dyfed royal house.

Reunited with Rhiannon the child is formally named in the traditional way via his mother’s first direct words to him Pryderi a wordplay on “delivered” and “worry”, “care”, or “loss”. In due course Pwyll dies, and Pryderi rules Dyfed, marrying Cigfa of Gloucester, and amalgamating the seven cantrefs of Morgannwg to his kingdom.

Y Mabinogi: Third Branch
Pryderi returns from the disastrous Irish wars as one of the only Seven Survivors. Manawydan is another Survivor, and his good comrade and friend. They perform their duty of burying the dead king of Britain’s head in London (Bran the Blessed) to protect Britain from invasion. But in their long time away, the kingship of Britain has been usurped by Manawydan’s nephew Caswallon.

Manawydan declines to make more war to reclaim his rights. Pryderi recompenses him generously by giving him the use of the land of Dyfed, though he retains the sovereignty. Pryderi also arranges a marriage between the widowed Rhiannon and Manawydan, who take to each other with affection and respect. Pryderi is careful to pay homage for Dyfed to the usurper Caswallon to avert his hostility.

Manawydan now becomes the lead character in the Third Branch, and it is commonly named after him. With Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa, he sits on the Gorsedd Arberth as Pwyll had once done. But this time disaster ensues. Thunder and magical mist descend on the land leaving it empty of all domesticated animals and all humans apart from the four protagonists.

After a period of living by hunting the four travel to borderland regions (now in England) and make a living at skilled crafts. In three different cities they build successful businesses making saddles, shields, then shoes. But vicious competition puts their lives at risk. Rather than fight as Pryderi wishes, Manawydan opts to quietly move on. Returning to Dyfed, Manawydan and Pryderi go hunting and follow a magical white boar, to a newly built tower. Against Manawydan’s advice, Pryderi enters it to fetch his hounds. He is trapped by a beautiful golden bowl. Manawydan returns to Rhiannon who rebukes him sharply for failing to even try to rescue his good friend. But her attempt to rescue her son suffers the same fate as he did. In a “blanket of mist”, Rhiannon, Pryderi and the tower vanish.

Manawydan eventually redeems himself by achieving restitution for Rhiannon, Pryderi, and the land of Dyfed. This involves a quasi-comical set of magical negotiations about a pregnant mouse. The magician Llwyd ap Cilcoed is forced to release both land and family from his enchantments, and never attack Dyfed again. His motive is revealed as vengeance for his friend Gwawl, Rhiannon’s rejected suitor. All ends happily with the family reunited, and Dyfed restored.

Interpretation as a goddess

Rhiannon is often associated with Epona
When Rhiannon first appears she is a mysterious figure arriving as part of the Otherworld tradition of Gorsedd Arberth. Her paradoxical style of riding slowly, yet unreachably, is strange and magical, though the paradox also occurs in mediaeval love poetry as an erotic metaphor. Rhiannon produces her “small bag” which is also a magical paradox for it cannot be filled by any ordinary means. When undergoing her penance, Rhiannon demonstrates the powers of a giantess, or the strength of a horse, by carrying travellers on her back.

Rhiannon is connected to three mystical birds. The Birds of Rhiannon (Adar Rhiannon) appear in the Second Branch, in the Triads of Britain, and in Culhwch ac Olwen. In the latter, the giant Ysbaddaden demands them as part of the bride price of his daughter. They are described as “they that wake the dead and lull the living to sleep.” This possibly suggests Rhiannon is based on an earlier goddess of Celtic polytheism.

W.J. Gruffydd’s book Rhiannon (1953) was an attempt to reconstruct the original story. It is mainly focused on the relationship between the males in the story, and rearranges the story elements too liberally for other scholars’ preference, though his research is otherwise detailed and helpful. Patrick Ford suggests that the Third Branch “preserves the detritus of a myth wherein the Sea God mated with the Horse Goddess.” He suggests “the mythic significance may well have been understood in a general way by an eleventh century audience.” Similar euhemerisms of pre-Christian deities can be found in other medieval Celtic literature, when Christian scribes and redactors reworked older deities as more acceptable giants, heroes or saints. In the Táin Bó Cúailnge, Macha and The Morrígan similarly appear as larger-than-life figures, yet never described as goddesses.

Proinsias Mac Cana’s position is that “[Rhiannon] reincarnates the goddess of sovereignty who, in taking to her a spouse, thereby ordained him legitimate king of the territory which she personified.” Miranda Jane Green draws in the international folklore motif of the calumniated wife, saying “Rhiannon conforms to two archetypes of myth … a gracious, bountiful queen-goddess; and … the ‘wronged wife’, falsely accused of killing her son.”

Modern interpretations
Rhiannon appears in many retellings and performances of the Mabinogi (Mabinogion) today. There is also a vigorous culture of modern fantasy novels.

An example of a modern Rhiannon inspiration is the Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”. Stevie Nicks was inspired to create the song after reading Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural, a novel by Mary Bartlet Leader. There is mention of the Welsh legend in the novel, but the Rhiannon in the novel bears little resemblance to her original Welsh namesake. Nevertheless, despite having little accurate knowledge of the original Rhiannon, Nicks’ song does not conflict with the canon, and quickly became a musical legend.

In artworks, Rhiannon has inspired some entrancing images. A notable example is Alan Lee 1987, and 2001, who illustrated two major translations of the Mabinogi, and his pictures have attracted their own following.

Rhiannon is included in various Celtic neopaganism traditions since the 1970s, with varying degrees of accuracy in respect to the original literary sources.

In the fantasy world of Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, there is a “University of Rhiannon”, where Magic is taught.

 

 

Reference

Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo
Wikipedia 

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Isis, Mother Goddess

Isis, Mother Goddess

 

Isis (called “Aset” by the Egyptians), a daughter of Nut and Geb, is known in Ancient Egyptian mythology as a goddess of magic. Wife and sister of Osiris, Isis was originally considered a funerary goddess. After her resurrection via magic of Osiris, who had been killed by his brother Set, Isis was considered “more powerful than a thousand soldiers” and “the clever-tongued one whose speech never fails.” She is sometimes invoked as an assistant in magical rituals in some traditions of contemporary Paganism.

Her worship is also a focus of some Kemetic reconstructionist groups.

The Love of Isis and Osiris
Isis and her brother, Osiris, were recognized as husband and wife. Isis loved Osiris, but their brother Set (or Seth) was jealous of Osiris, and planned to kill him. Set tricked Osiris and murdered him, and Isis was highly distraught. She found Osiris’ body within a great tree, which was used by the Pharaoh in his palace. She brought Osiris back to life, and the two of them concieved Horus.

Depiction of Isis in Art and Literature
Because Isis’ name means, literally, “throne” in the Ancient Egyptian language, she is usually represented with a throne as a depiction of her power. She is often shown holding a lotus as well. After Isis was assimilated with Hathor, she was sometimes depicted with the twin horns of a cow on her head, with a solar disc between them.

Beyond Egypt’s Borders
Isis was at the center of a cult that spread far beyond Egypt’s boundaries.

The Romans were aware of the cult’s existence, but it was frowned upon by many of the ruling class. The emporer Augustus (Octavian) decreed that worship of Isis was forbidden as part of his attempt to return Rome to Roman gods. For some Roman worshipers, Isis was absorbed into the cult of Cybele, which held bloody rites in honor of their mother goddess.

The cult of Isis moved as far afield as ancient Greece, and was known as a mystery tradition among the Hellenes until it was banned by Christianity around the sixth century c.e.

Goddess of Fertility, Rebirth, and Magic
In addition to being the fertile wife of Osiris, Isis is honored for her role as the mother of Horus, one of Egypt’s most powerful gods. She was also the divine mother of every pharaoh of Egypt, and ultimately of Egypt itself. She assimilated with Hathor, another goddess of fertility, and is often depicted nursing her son Horus. There is a wide belief that this image served as inspiration for the classic Christian portrait of the Madonna and Child.

After Ra created all things, Isis tricked him by creating a serpent which ambushed Ra on his daily journey across the heavens. The serpent bit Ra, who was powerless to undo the poison. Isis announced that she could heal Ra from the poison and destroy the serpent, but would only do so if Ra revealed his True Name as payment. By learning his True Name, Isis was able to gain power over Ra.

After Set murdered and dismembered Osiris, Isis used her magic and power to bring her husband back to life. The realms of life and death are often associated with both Isis and her faithful sister Nephthys, who are depicted together on coffins and funerary texts.

They are usually shown in their human form, with the addition of the wings that they used to shelter and protect Osiris.

Isis for a Modern Age
A number of contemporary Pagan traditions have adopted Isis as their patron Goddess and she is often found at the heart of Dianic Wiccan groups and other female-centered covens. Although modern Wiccan worship does not follow the same structure as the ancient Egyptian ceremonies that were once used to honor Isis, today’s Isiac covens incorporate Egyptian lore and mythology into a Wiccan framework, bringing the knowledge and worship of Isis into a contemporary setting.

The Order of the Golden Dawn, founded by William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, recognized Isis as a powerful triple goddess. Later, she was passed down to modern Wicca when it was founded by Gerald Gardner.

Kemetic Wicca is a variation of Gardnerian Wicca that follows an Egyptian pantheon. Some Kemetic groups focus on the trinity of Isis, Orsiris and Horus and utilize prayers and spells found the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.

In addition to these widely recognized traditions, there are countless eclectic Wiccan groups throughout the world that have selected Isis as their deity. Because of the strength and power displayed by Isis, spiritual paths that honor her are popular among many Pagans who are seeking alternatives to traditional patriarchal religious structures. Worship of Isis has seen a resurgence as part of the “Goddess-oriented” spirituality that has become a notable part of the New Age movement.

 

A Prayer to Isis

Mighty mother, daughter of the Nile,
we rejoice as you join us with the rays of the sun.
Sacred sister, mother of magic,
we honor you, Lover of Osiris,
she who is mother of the universe itself.

 

Isis, who was and is and shall ever be
daughter of the earth and sky,
I honor you and sing your praises.
Glorious goddess of magic and light,
I open my heart to your mysteries.

___________________________

Isis

The Goddess of Fertility

 

Isis was the ancient Egyptian goddess of marriage, fertility, motherhood, magic and medicine. Many myths and legends exist about Isis in Egypt and Egyptian literature uses several names and titles for this goddess. Worship of Isis, her temples and her cult spread through Egypt and parts of Europe.

Names, Titles & Roles
Isis is the “Goddess with Ten Thousand Names”
Although this statement is an exaggeration, she does have many names Some of these are Aset, Aust, Eenohebis, Eset, Esu, Hesat, Iahu, Unt, Urethekau, and Werethekau. Isis was also associated with the other Egyptian goddesses, Sekhmet and Hathor. The Greeks worshiped Isis and they associated her with their goddesses; Persephone, Tethys and Athena.

Isis is also known under many different titles, such as:

The Divine One
The Queen of all Gods
Queen of Heaven
The Maker of Sunrise
Mother of God
Isis’ most important roles were:

Her positions as the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
Isis’ role as a fertility goddess was also important and caused many women to worship her.
Her position as a goddess of magic: people would look to her and her cult for spells to solve problems. It is told that she managed to trick Ra into revealing his secret name to her and in doing so, Isis obtained many magical powers.

In some of her other roles, Isis had names associated with each role:

Khut: giver of light at the beginning of a new year
Usert: goddess of the earth
Thenenet: goddess of the Tuat (the underworld)
Satis: the Nile flood’s power
Ankhet: providing fertility from the waters and embracer of the land
Kekhet: goddess of the fields and the cultivated areas
Renenet: goddess of the harvest
Tcheft: goddess of the food offered to the gods by humans
Ament: lady of the underworld who restored the bodies of the dead so they could live with Osiris in his kingdom.

How Was Isis Honored?
Isis had a cult that spread throughout Egypt and parts of Europe. People worshiped Isis as the ideal, fertile mother. Women worshiped in her cult and, at times, were her primary worshipers. Another way Egyptians honored Isis was through the images and statues placed in her temples. She was part of a triad of deities along with Osiris and Horus.

Isis is often shown nursing Horus or the pharaoh. Some aspects of her as a mother might have influenced early Christian ideas about the Virgin Mary. People believed her priests could cure illness and they celebrated festivals for her and her four siblings. These took place on five successive days at the end of the year.

Temples
Two of the primary temples dedicated to Isis (in Egypt), were at Behbeit el-Hagar and Philae. Behbeit el Hagar’s construction began during the Late Period and it was in use through the Ptolemaic Period. The builders of this temple were the kings of the Thirtieth Dynasty, who worshiped Isis with devotion. Behbeit el Hagar served as a match to Isis’ temple at Philae, in Upper Egypt.

Construction of the temple on the island of Philae began during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. But it was not a prominent temple until the Greco-Roman period. Scholars moved Isis’ temple at Philae during the 1960s to save it from flooding after the building of the Aswan Dam. This temple is intact because people did not remove its stones to construct other buildings.

Family Tree
Father: Geb, god of the earth
Mother: Nut, god of the sky
Brother/Husband: Osiris, god of the dead and resurrection
Brother: Set, god of evil and darkness
Sister: Nepthys, goddess of darkness, decay and death
Brother/Son: Horus, sky god, god of kingship
Nephew/Son: Anubis, god of embalming. Anubis was the son of Nepthys by either Osiris or Set. His mother abandoned him as a baby but Isis found him and raised him as her son.
Nephew/Son: Mesthi, guarded the liver of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the South
Nephew/Son: Hapi, guarded the lungs of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the North
Nephew/Son: Qeph-Sennuf, guarded the intestines of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the West
Nephew/Son: Tuamutef, guarded the stomach of the dead in a Canopic jar, guardian of the East

Symbols
Several symbols are associated with Isis:

Sept: a star that marked the beginning of a new year and the start of the Niles’s flooding.
Thet: the buckle or knot of Isis. The thet might represent a stylized uterus with its ligatures and a vagina. It was usually made of a red substance and represents blood and life.
Sacred Animals: cow, scorpion and snake.
Sacred Birds: dove, hawk, swallow and vulture.

Depictions
Depictions of Isis show her as a goddess and a human woman. As a goddess, she wears the vulture headdress. This resembled a bird laying on its stomach on top of Isis’ head, with its head over her forehead and wings hanging down on each side of her head. Isis wears a jeweled collar and a floor-length gown. She holds a papyrus scepter and an ankh in her hands and is often portrayed with long wings.

Sometimes Isis wears a crown instead of the headdress. One crown has horns surrounding a sun disc. Another crown has the horns of a ram, under the double crown, to associate Isis with Osiris. The depictions showing Isis as a human woman show her wearing plainer clothes but her headdress has an uraeus symbol.

Birth of Horus and Scorpion Myth
One of the most important legends told about Isis concerns the birth of Horus and the scorpion myth. This story begins with Set sealing Osiris in a coffin and throwing it into the Nile. This devastated Isis, so she searched for him and found the coffin inside a cedar column in another land. She brought Osiris back to Egypt and mourned him. Set found the coffin, removed Osiris’ body and tore it into fourteen pieces.

Isis wept as she searched for the pieces and Nepthys heard her. Nepthys helped Isis find thirteen of the pieces but a Nile creature ate the final piece. Thoth taught Isis a spell that allowed her to reassemble Osiris and she used wax to replace the missing piece. The spell also restored Osiris to life for one night, he and Isis had intercourse and she conceived Horus.

The next morning, Osiris went to the Tuat. Set imprisoned Isis but Thoth helped her escape. Isis traveled surrounded by her seven scorpion goddesses; Tefen, Befen, Mestet, Mestetef, Petet, Thetet and Maatet. They traveled until they came to a village near a papyrus swamp. Isis knocked on the door of a rich woman, seeking aid, but the woman sent her away. Then she came to the home of a peasant woman who took Isis into her home.

The seven scorpion goddesses were angry so Tefen returned to the rich woman’s house, stung her son and set the house on fire. Isis heard the woman’s grief and restored her son’s life. She gave birth to Horus in a papyrus bed and hid him from Set. One day, Set sent a scorpion to sting Horus but Isis was able to save him.

Taking Ra’s Power
Another legend tells how Isis took Ra’s power for Horus. Ra was an old man and spittle trailed from his mouth. Isis took some spittle and mixed it with earth to create a serpent which bit Ra. She promised to heal Ra in exchange for his secret name, which she could use to control him. Ra told her his name then Isis healed him, forced him to abdicated and made Horus king of the gods.

Important Facts
Isis was the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus.
In her role as an excellent mother, ancient women revered her.
Isis tricked Ra and took his position for Horus.
Her cult spread throughout the Roman and Greek Empires.
Isis tried hard to find Osiris and restore him to life regardless of obstacles.

———————–

Reference

Patti Wigington
Ancient Egypt Online 

 

 

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Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses – Bast

Bast

(Bastet Bast)

Bast (known as “Bastet” in later times to emphasise that the “t” was to be pronounced) was one of the most popular goddesses of ancient Egypt. She is generally thought of as a cat goddess. However, she originally had the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and it was not until the New Kingdom that she became exclusively associated with the domesticated cat. However, even then she remained true to her origins and retained her war-like aspect. She personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat as well as the fierce power of a lioness. She was also worshiped all over Lower Egypt, but her cult was centred on her temple at Bubastis in the eighteenth nome of Lower Egypt (which is now in ruins). Bubastis was the capital of ancient Egypt for a time during the Late Period, and a number of pharaohs included the goddess in their throne names.

Her name could be translated as “Devouring Lady”. However, the phonetic elements “bas” are written with an oil jar (the “t” is the feminine ending) which is not used when writing the word “devour”. The oil jar gives an association with perfume which is strengthened by the fact that she was thought to be the mother of Nefertum (who was a god of perfume). Thus her name implies that she is sweet and precious, but that under the surface lay the heart of a predator. Bast was depicted as a cat, or as a woman with the head of a cat, a sand cat or a lion. She is often shown holding the ankh (representing the breath of life) or the papyrus wand (representing Lower Egypt). She occasionally bears a was-scepter (signifying strength) and is often accompanied by a litter of kittens.

Cats were sacred to Bast, and to harm one was considered to be a crime against her and so very unlucky. Her priests kept sacred cats in her temple, which were considered to be incarnations of the goddess. When they died they were mummified and could be presented to the goddess as an offering. The ancient Egyptians placed great value on cats because they protected the crops and slowed the spread of disease by killing vermin. As a result, Bast was seen as a protective goddess. Evidence from tomb paintings suggests that the Egyptians hunted with their cats (who were apparently trained to retrieve prey) and also kept them as loved pets. Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that Bast was so popular. During the Old Kingdom she was considered to be the daughter of Atum in Heliopolis (because of her association with Tefnut), however, she was generally thought to be the daughter of Ra (or later Amun). She (like Sekhmet) was also the wife of Ptah and mother of Nefertum and the lion-god Maahes (Mihos) (who may have been an aspect of Nefertum).

As the daughter of Ra she was one of the goddesses known as the “Eye of Ra”, a fierce protector who almost destroyed mankind but was tricked with blood-coloured beer which put her to sleep and gave her a hangover, stopping the carnage. As a result, she is linked to the other goddesses who were known as the “eye of Ra”, most notably Sekhmet, Hathor, Tefnut, Nut, Wadjet and Mut. Her link with Sekhmet was the closest. Not only did both goddesses take the form of a lioness, they were both considered to be the spouse of Ptah and the mother of Nefertum and during the feast of Hathor (celebrating man’s deliverance from the wrathful “Eye of Ra”) an image of Sekhmet represented Upper Egypt while an image of Bast represented Lower Egypt.

She was very closely linked to Hathor. She was often depicted holding a sistrum (the sacred rattle of Hathor) and Denderah (the home of the cult centre of Hathor in the sixth nome of Upper Egypt) was sometimes known as the “Southern Bubastis”. This association was clearly ancient as the two appear together in the valley temple of Khafre at Giza. Hathor represents Upper Egypt and Bast represents Lower Egypt. One of her epithets was “lady of Asheru”. Asheru was the name of the sacred lake in the temple of Mut at Karnak, and Bast was given the epithet because of her connection with Mut, who occasionally took the form of a cat or a lion. Within Mut’s temple there are a number of depictions of the pharaoh celebrating a ritual race in the company of Bast. In this temple Bast is given the epithet “Sekhet-neter” – the “Divine Field” (Egypt).

She was also associated with the lion-headed goddess Pakhet of Speos Artemidos (cave of Artemis) near Beni Hassan. The cave was given the name because Bast (and her aspect Pakhet) was identified by the Greeks with Artemis, the hunter. However, the two goddesses were not that similar as Artemis was celibate while Bast was associated with fun and sexuality. However, the connection with Tefnut and Bast’s potentially warlike aspect probably contributed to this apparently strange connection. After all, even the smallest house cat is a skilled hunter. The Greeks thought that Bast should have a twin brother, as Artemis had her brother Apollo. They linked Apollo with Heru-sa-Aset (Horus son of Isis), so Bast’s name was tinkered with to mean “soul of Isis” (ba-Aset) changing her into a form of this popular goddess. They also decided that Bast was a moon goddess, although she was originally considered to be the daughter of Ra and the “Eye of Ra”.

______________________________

Bast

(Bastet Bast)

 

Bastet is the Egyptian goddess of the home, domesticity, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. She protected the home from evil spirits and disease, especially diseases associated with women and children. As with many Egyptian deities, she also played a role in the afterlife as a guide and helper to the dead although this was not one of her primary duties. She was the daughter of the sun god Ra and is associated with the concept of the Eye of Ra (the all-seeing eye) and the Distant Goddess (a female deity who leaves Ra and returns to bring transfromation).

MEANING OF BASTET’S NAME

Her name was originally B’sst which became Ubaste, then Bast, then Bastet; the meaning of this name is not known or, at least, not universally agreed upon. Geraldine Pinch claims that “her name probably means She of the Ointment Jar” as she was associated with protection and protective ointments. The Greeks associated her closely with their goddess Artemis and believed that, as Artemis had a twin brother (Apollo) so should Bast. They associated Apollo with Horus, the son of Isis (Heru-sa-Aset) and so called the goddess known as Bast ba’Aset (Soul of Isis) which would be the literal translation of her name with the addition of the second ‘T’ to denote the feminine (Aset being among the Egyptian names for Isis).

Bastet, however, was also sometimes linked with the god of perfume and sweet smells, Nefertum, who was thought to be her son and this further links the meaning of her name to the ointment jar. The most obvious understanding would be that, originally, the name meant something like She of the Ointment Jar (Ubaste) and the Greeks changed the meaning to Soul of Isis as they associated her with the most popular goddess in Egypt. Even so, scholars have come to no agreement on the meaning of her name.

Associations

Bastet was extremely popular throughout Egypt with both men and women from the 2nd Dynasty (c. 2890 – c. 2670 BCE) onward with her cult centered at the city of Bubastis from at least the 5th century BCE. She was first represented as a woman with the head of a lioness and closely associated with the goddess Sekhmet but, as that deity’s iconography depicted her as increasingly aggressive, Bastet’s images softened over time to present more of a daily companion and helper than her earlier forms as savage avenger. Scholar Geraldine Pinch writes:

From the Pyramid Texts onward, Bastet has a double aspect of nurturing mother and terrifying avenger. It is the demonic aspect that mainly features in the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead and in medical spells. The “slaughterers of Bastet” were said to inflict plague and other disasters on humanity. One spell advises pretending to be the ‘son of Bastet’ in order to avoid catching the plague .

Although she was greatly venerated, she was equally feared as two of her titles demonstrate: The Lady of Dread and The Lady of Slaughter. She is associated with both Mau, the divine cat who is an aspect of Ra, and with Mafdet, goddess of justice and the first feline deity in Egyptian history. Both Bastet and Sekhment took their early forms as feline defenders of the innocent, avengers of the wronged, from Mafdet. This association was carried on in depictions of Bastet’s son Maahes, protector of the innocent, who is shown as a lion-headed man carrying a long knife or as a lion.

In Bastet’s association with Mau, she is sometimes seen destroying the enemy of Ra, Apophis, by slicing off his head with a knife in her paw; an image Mau is best known by. In time, as Bastet became more of a familial companion, she lost all trace of her lionine form, and was regularly depicted as a house cat or a woman with the head of a cat often holding a sistrum. She is sometimes rendered in art with a litter of kittens at her feet but her most popular depiction is of a sitting cat gazing ahead.

 

Role in Religion & Iconography

Bastet appears early in the 3rd millenium BCE in her form as an avenging lioness in Lower Egypt. By the time of the Pyramid Texts (c. 2400-2300 BCE) she was associated with the king of Egypt as his nursemaid in youth and protector as he grew. In the later Coffin Texts (c. 2134-2040 BCE) she retains this role but is also seen as a protector of the dead. The scholar Richard H. Wilkinson comments on this:

In her earliest known form, as depicted on stone vessels of the 2nd dynasty, Bastet was represented as a woman with the maneless head of a lioness. The iconography of the goddess changed, however, perhaps as her nature began to be viewed as milder than that of other lioness deities .

Her cult center at Bubastis in Lower Egypt became one of the richest and most luxuriant cities in Egypt as people from all over the country traveled there to pay their respects to the goddess and have the bodies of their dead cats interred in the city. Her iconography borrowed from the earlier goddess Mafdet and also from Hathor, a goddess associated with Sekhmet who was also closely linked to Bastet. The appearance of the sistrum in Bastet’s hand in some statues is a clear link to Hathor who is traditionally seen carrying the instrument. Hathor is another goddess who underwent a dramatic change from bloodthirsty destroyer to gentle friend of humanity as she was originally the lioness deity Sekhmet whom Ra sent to earth to destroy humans for their sins. In Bastet’s case, although she became more mild, she was no less dangerous to those who broke the law or abused others.

The Tale of Setna & Taboubu

The Tale of Setna and Taboubu (part of the work known as First Setna or Setna I) is the middle section of a work of Egyptian literature composed in the Roman Period of Egypt’s history and currently held by the Cairo Museum in Egypt. The main character of the Setna tales is Prince Setna Khaemwas who is based on the actual prince and High Priest of Ptah Khaemweset (c. 1281 – c.1225 BCE) the son of Ramesses II. Khaemweset, known as the “First Egyptologist”, was famous for his restoration and preservation efforts of ancient Egyptian monuments and, by the time of the Ptolemaic Period, was greatly revered as a sage and magician. Although the story may be interpreted in many different ways, Geraldine Pinch argues that this section of the tale can most clearly be understood as an illustration of how Bastet punishes transgressors.

In this story young Prince Setna steals a book from a tomb, even after the inhabitants of the tomb beg him not to. Shortly afterwards he is in Memphis, near the Temple of Ptah, when he sees a beautiful woman accompanied by her servants and lusts after her. He asks about her and learns her name is Taboubu, daughter of a priest of Bastet. He has never seen any woman more beautiful in his life and sends her a note asking her to come to his bed for ten gold pieces but she returns a counter-offer telling him to meet her at the Temple of Bastet in Saqqara where she lives and he will then have all he desires.

Setna travels to her villa where he is eager to get to the business at hand but Taboubu has some stipulations. First, she tells him, he must sign over all his property and possessions to her. He is so consumed with lust that he agrees to this and moves to embrace her. She holds him off, however, and tells him that his children must be sent for and must also sign the documents agreeing to this so that there will be no problems with the legal transference. Setna agrees to this also and sends for his children. While they are signing the papers Taboubu disappears into another room and returns wearing a linen dress so sheer that he can see “every part of her body through it” and his desire for her grows almost uncontrollable. With the documents signed he again moves toward her but, no, she has a third demand: his children must be killed so that they will not try to renege on the agreement and embroil her in a long, drawn-out court battle. Setna instantly agrees to this; his children are murdered and their bodies thrown into the street. Setna then pulls off his clothes, takes Taboubu, and leads her quickly to the bedroom. As he is embracing her she suddenly screams and vanishes – as does the room and villa around them – and Setna is standing naked in the street with his penis thrust into a clay pot.

The pharaoh comes by at this time and Prince Setna is completely humiliated. Pharaoh informs him that his children still live and that everything he has experienced has been an illusion. Setna then understands he has been punished for his transgression in the tomb and quickly returns the book. He further makes restitution to the inhabitants of the tomb by traveling to another city and retrieving mummies buried there who were part of the tomb inhabitant’s family so they can all be reunited in one place.

Although scholars disagree on who Taboubu represents, her close association with Bastet as the daughter of one of the goddesses’ priests makes this deity a very likely candidate. The predatory nature of Taboubu, once she has Setna where she wants him, is reminiscent of the cat toying with the mouse. Geraldine Pinch concludes that Taboubu is a “manifestation of Bastet herself, playing her traditional role of punisher of humans who have offended the gods”. In this story Bastet takes on the form of a beautiful woman to punish a wrong-doer who had violated a tomb but the story would also have been cautionary to men who viewed women only as sexual objects in that they could never know whether they were actually in the presence of a goddess and what might happen should they offend her.

 

Worship of Bastet

The goddess was worshipped primarily at Bubastis but held a tutelary position at Saqqara and elsewhere. Wilkinson writes:

The goddess’s popularity grew over time and in the Late Period and Graeco-Roman times she enjoyed great status. The main cult centre of this deity was the city of Bubastis – Tell Basta – in the eastern Delta, and although only the outlines of the temple of Bastet now remain, Herodotus visited the site in the 5th century BC and praised it for its magnificence. The festival of Bastet was also described by Herodotus who claimed it was the most elaborate of all the religious festivals of Egypt with large crowds participating in unrrestrained dancing, drinking, and revelry.

Herodotus is the primary source for information on the cult of Bastet and, unfortunately, does not go into great detail on the particulars of her worship. It seems both men and women served as her clergy and, as with the other Egyptian deities, her temple at Bubastis was the focal point of the city providing services ranging from medical attention to counseling to food distribution. Herodotus describes this temple:

Save for the entrance, it stands on an island; two separate channels approach it from the Nile, and after coming up to the entry of the temple, they run round it on opposite sides; each of them a hundred feet wide, and overshadowed by trees. The temple is in the midst of the city, the whole circuit of which commands a view down into it; for the city’s level has been raised, but that of the temple has been left as it was from the first, so that it can be seen into from without. A stone wall, carven with figures, runs round it; within is a grove of very tall trees growing round a great shrine, wherein is the image of the goddess; the temple is a square, each side measuring a furlong. A road, paved with stone, of about three furlongs’ length leads to the entrance, running eastward through the market place, towards the temple of Hermes; this road is about 400 feet wide, and bordered by trees reaching to heaven. (Histories, II.138).

The people of Egypt came annually to the great festival of Bastet at Bubastis which was one of the most lavish and popular events of the year. Geraldine Pinch, citing Herodotus, claims, “women were freed from all constraints during the annual festival at Bubastis. They celebrated the festival of the goddess by drinking, dancing, making music, and displaying their genitals”. This “raising of the skirts” by the women, described by Herodotus, had as much to do with freedom from social constraints as it did with the fertility associated with the goddess. As with many of the other festivals throughout Egypt, Bastet’s celebration was a time to cast aside inhibitions much in the way modern revelers do in Europe during Carnivale or in the United States at Mardi Gras. Herodotus presents a vivid picture of the people traveling to Bubastis for the festival:

When the people are on their way to Bubastis, they go by river, a great number in every boat, men and women together. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As they travel by river to Bubastis, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; then some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and lift their skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside any riverside town. But when they have reached Bubastis, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year besides. It is customary for men and women (but not children) to assemble there to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say (Histories, Book II.60).

Although Herodotus claims that this festival outstripped all others in magnificence and excess, in reality there were many festivals celebrating many gods which could claim the same. The popularity of this goddess, however, made her celebration of particular significance. In the passage above, Herodotus makes note of how the women in the boats mocked those on shore and this would have been done to encourage them to leave off their daily tasks and join the celebration of the great goddess. Bastet, in fact, was second only to Isis in popularity and, once she traveled through Greece to Rome, was equally popular among the Romans and the subjects of their later empire.
Bastet’s Enduring Popularity

The popularity of Bastet grew from her role as protector of women and the household. As noted, she was as popular among men as women in that every man had a mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, or daughter who benefited from the care Bastet provided. Further, women in Egypt were held in high regard and had almost equal rights which almost guaranteed a goddess who protected women and presided over women’s secrets an especially high standing. Cats were also greatly prized in Egypt as they kept homes free of vermin (and so controlled diseases), protected the crops from unwanted animals, and provided their owners with fairly maintenance-free company. One of the most important aspects of Bastet’s festival was the delivery of mummified cats to her temple. When the temple was excavated in 1887 and 1889 CE over 300,000 mummified cats were found. Wilkinson, commenting on her universal popularity, writes:

Amulets of cats and litters of kittens were popular New Year gifts, and the name of Bastet was often inscribed on small ceremonial `New Year flasks’, probably to evoke the goddess as a bestower of fertility and because Bastet, like other lioness goddesses, was viewed as a protective deity able to counter the darker forces associated with the `Demon Days’ at the end of the Egyptian year.

Bastet was so popular that, in 525 BCE, when Cambyses II of Persia invaded Egypt, he made use of the goddess to force the Egyptian’s surrender. Knowing of their great love for animals, and cats especially, he had his soldiers paint the image of Bastet on their shields and then arranged all the animals that could be found and drove them before the army toward the pivotal city of Pelusium. The Egyptians refused to fight for fear of harming the animals and offending Bastet and so surrendered. The historian Polyaenus (2nd century CE) writes how, after his victory, Cambyses II hurled cats from a bag into the Egyptian’s faces in scorn that they would surrender their city for animals. The Egyptians were undeterred in their veneration of the cat and their worship of Bastet, however. Her status as one of the most popular and potent deities continued throughout the remainder of Egypt’s history and on into the era of the Roman Empire until, like the other gods, she was eclipsed by the rise of Christianity.

 

Reference:

Ancient Egypt Online 
Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia

The Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses for April 2nd – Anubis

Anubis

 

Anubis is one of the most iconic gods of ancient Egypt. Anubis is the Greek version of his name, the ancient Egyptians knew him as Anpu (or Inpu). Anubis was an extremely ancient deity whose name appears in the oldest mastabas of the Old Kingdom and the Pyramid Texts as a guardian and protector of the dead. He was originally a god of the underworld, but became associated specifically with the embalming process and funeral rites. His name is from the same root as the word for a royal child, “inpu”. However, it is also closely related to the word “inp” which means “to decay”, and one versions of his name (Inp or Anp) more closely resembles that word. As a result it is possible that his name changed slightly once he was adopted as the son of the King, Osiris. He was known as “Imy-ut” (“He Who is In the Place of Embalming”), “nub-tA-djser” (“lord of the scared land”).

He was initially related to the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, as the god of the underworld. In the Pyramid Texts of Unas, Anubis is associated with the Eye of Horus who acted as a guide to the dead and helped them find Osiris. In other myths Anubis and Wepwawet (Upuaut) led the deceased to the halls of Ma´at where they would be judged. Anubis watched over the whole process and ensured that the weighing of the heart was conducted correctly. He then led the innocent on to a heavenly existence and abandoned the guilty to Ammit.

The ancient Egyptians believed that the preservation of the body and the use of sweet-smelling herbs and plants would help the deceased because Anubis would sniff the mummy and only let the pure move on to paradise. According to early myths, Anubis took on and defeated the nine bows (the collective name for the traditional enemies of Egypt) gaining a further epithet “Jackal ruler of the bows”.

 

The growing power of the Ennead of Heliopolis resulted in the merging of the two religious systems. However, Osiris was the King of the Underworld in the Ennead and he was more popular (and powerful) than Anubis. So Anubis was relegated to a god of mummification. To save face it was stated that Anubis had voluntarily given up his position when Osiris died as a mark of respect. Some myths even stated that Anubis was the son of Osiris and Nephthys (who was herself associated with the funeral rites). Anubis was still closely involved in the weighing of the heart, but was more a guardian than a ruler.

He became the patron of lost souls, including orphans, and the patron of the funeral rites. In this respect he overlapped with (and eventually absorbed) the Jackal God Wepwawet of Upper Egypt.

 

During the Ptolemaic Period Anubis became associated with the Greek god Hermes as the composite god Hermanubis. Hermes was messenger of the gods, while Anubis was principally guide of the dead. Hermanubis was some times given attributes of Harpokrates. He was worshipped in Rome until the second century and was popular with Rennaisance alchemists and philosophers.

Priests wore Anubis masks during mummification. However, it is not clear whether the Anubis mask was a later development influenced by the Osirian myth or whether this practice was commonplace in the earlier periods too. Anubis was also closely associated with the imiut fetish used during the embalming ritual. Anubis was credited with a high level of anatomical knowledge as a result of embalming, and so he was the patron of anaesthesiology and his priests were apparently skilled herbal healers.

 

Tombs in the Valley of the Kings were often sealed with an image of Anubis subduing the “nine bows” (enemies of Egypt) as “Jackal Ruler of the Bows” and it was thought that the god would protect the burial physically and spiritually. One of his epithets, “tpy-djuf” (“he who is on his mountain”) refers to him guarding the necropolis and keeping watch from the hill above the Theban necropolis. He was also given the epithet “khentyamentiu” (“foremost of the westerners” i.e. the dead) because he guarded the entrance to the Underworld.

 

He was originally thought to be the son of Ra and Hesat, Ra’s wife (who was identified with Hathor), but later myths held that he was the child of Osiris and Nephthys, or Set and Nephthys. He was sometimes described as the son of Bast because of her link to the perfumed oils used in embalming. His wife, Anput (his female aspect) was only really referred to in association with the seventeenth nome of Upper Egypt. It is thought that they were the parents of Kebechet, the goddess of the purification.

Dogs and jackals often patrolled the edges of the desert, near the cemeteries where the dead were buried, and it is thought that the first tombs were constructed to protect the dead from them. Anubis was usually thought of as a jackal (sAb), but may equally have been a wild dog (iwiw) He was usually depicted as a man with the head of a jackal and alert ears, often wearing a red ribbon, and wielding a flail. He was sometimes depicted as a jackal (such as in the beautiful examples from the tomb of Tutankhamun) but only rarely appears as a man (one example is in the cenotaph temple of Rameses II at Abydos).

His fur was generally black (not the brown associated with real jackals) because black was associated with fertility, and was closely linked to rebirth in the afterlife. In the catacombs of Alexandria he was depicted wearing Roman dress and the sun disk flanked by two cobras.

Anubis was worshipped throughout Egypt, but the center of his cult was in Hardai (Cynopolis) in the the seventeenth nome of Upper Egypt. To the east of Saqqara there was a place known as Anubeion, where a shrine and a cemetery of mummified dogs and jackals was discovered. He was also worshipped at cult centers in Abt (the the eighth nome of Upper Egypt) and Saut (Asyut, in the thirteenth nome of Upper Egypt).

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Anubis

Anubis (/əˈnuːbɪs/ or /əˈnjuːbɪs/;[1] Ancient Greek: Ἄνουβις, Egyptian: jnpw, Coptic: ⲁⲛⲟⲩⲡ Anoup) is the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists identified the sacred animal of Anubis as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf.

Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC) he was replaced by Osiris in his role as lord of the underworld. One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead. Despite being one of the most ancient and “one of the most frequently depicted and mentioned gods” in the Egyptian pantheon, Anubis played almost no role in Egyptian myths.

Anubis was depicted in black, a color that symbolized both rebirth and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. Anubis is associated with Wepwawet (also called Upuaut), another Egyptian god portrayed with a dog’s head or in canine form, but with grey or white fur. Historians assume that the two figures were eventually combined. Anubis’ female counterpart is Anput. His daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.

Name
“Anubis” is a Greek rendering of this god’s Egyptian name. In the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 BC – c. 2181 BC), the standard way of writing his name in hieroglyphs was composed of the sound signs jnpw followed by a jackal over a ḥtp sign:
A new form with the “jackal” on a tall stand appeared in the late Old Kingdom and became common thereafter:
Anubis’ name jnpw was possibly pronounced [a.ˈna.pʰa], based on Coptic Anoup and the Akkadian transcription in the name “Reanapa” that appears in Amarna letter EA 315. However, this transcription may also be interpreted as rˁ-nfr, a name similar to that of Prince Ranefer of the Fourth Dynasty.

History
In Egypt’s Early Dynastic period (c. 3100 – c. 2686 BC), Anubis was portrayed in full animal form, with a “jackal” head and body. A “jackal” god, probably Anubis, is depicted in stone inscriptions from the reigns of Hor-Aha, Djer, and other pharaohs of the First Dynasty. Since Predynastic Egypt, when the dead were buried in shallow graves, “jackals” had been strongly associated with cemeteries because they were scavengers which uncovered human bodies and ate their flesh. In the spirit of “fighting like with like,” a “jackal” was chosen to protect the dead, because “a common problem (and cause of concern) must have been the digging up of bodies, shortly after burial, by jackals and other wild dogs which lived on the margins of the cultivation.”

The oldest known textual mention of Anubis is in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 – c. 2181 BC), where he is associated with the burial of the pharaoh.

In the Old Kingdom, Anubis was the most important god of the dead. He was replaced in that role by Osiris during the Middle Kingdom (2000–1700 BC). In the Roman era, which started in 30 BC, tomb paintings depict him holding the hand of deceased persons to guide them to Osiris.

The parentage of Anubis varied between myths, times and sources. In early mythology, he was portrayed as a son of Ra. In the Coffin Texts, which were written in the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181–2055 BC), Anubis is the son of either the cow goddess Hesat or the cat-headed Bastet. Another tradition depicted him as the son of his father Ra and mother Nephthys. The Greek Plutarch (c. 40–120 AD) stated that Anubis was the illegitimate son of Nephthys and Osiris, but that he was adopted by Osiris’s wife Isis:

For when Isis found out that Osiris loved her sister and had relations with her in mistaking her sister for herself, and when she saw a proof of it in the form of a garland of clover that he had left to Nephthys – she was looking for a baby, because Nephthys abandoned it at once after it had been born for fear of Seth; and when Isis found the baby helped by the dogs which with great difficulties lead her there, she raised him and he became her guard and ally by the name of Anubis.

George Hart sees this story as an “attempt to incorporate the independent deity Anubis into the Osirian pantheon.” An Egyptian papyrus from the Roman period (30–380 AD) simply called Anubis the “son of Isis.”

In the Ptolemaic period (350–30 BC), when Egypt became a Hellenistic kingdom ruled by Greek pharaohs, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The two gods were considered similar because they both guided souls to the afterlife. The center of this cult was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/ Cynopolis, a place whose Greek name means “city of dogs.” In Book XI of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, there is evidence that the worship of this god was continued in Rome through at least the 2nd century. Indeed, Hermanubis also appears in the alchemical and hermetical literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Although the Greeks and Romans typically scorned Egypt’s animal-headed gods as bizarre and primitive (Anubis was mockingly called “Barker” by the Greeks), Anubis was sometimes associated with Sirius in the heavens and Cerberus and Hades in the underworld. In his dialogues, Plato often has Socrates utter oaths “by the dog” (kai me ton kuna), “by the dog of Egypt”, and “by the dog, the god of the Egyptians”, both for emphasis and to appeal to Anubis as an arbiter of truth in the underworld.

Roles
Protector of tombs
In contrast to real wolves, Anubis was a protector of graves and cemeteries. Several epithets attached to his name in Egyptian texts and inscriptions referred to that role. Khenty-imentiu, which means “foremost of the westerners” and later became the name of a different wolf god, alluded to his protecting function because the dead were usually buried on the west bank of the Nile. He took other names in connection with his funerary role, such as tpy-ḏw.f “He who is upon his mountain” (i.e. keeping guard over tombs from above) and nb-t3-ḏsr “Lord of the sacred land”, which designates him as a god of the desert necropolis.

The Jumilhac papyrus recounts another tale where Anubis protected the body of Osiris from Set. Set attempted to attack the body of Osiris by transforming himself into a leopard. Anubis stopped and subdued Set, however, and he branded Set’s skin with a hot iron rod. Anubis then flayed Set and wore his skin as a warning against evil-doers who would desecrate the tombs of the dead. Priests who attended to the dead wore leopard skin in order to commemorate Anubis’ victory over Set. The legend of Anubis branding the hide of Set in leopard form was used to explain how the leopard got its spots.

Most ancient tombs had prayers to Anubis carved on them.

Embalmer
As jmy-wt “He who is in the place of embalming”, Anubis was associated with mummification. He was also called ḫnty zḥ-nṯr “He who presides over the god’s booth”, in which “booth” could refer either to the place where embalming was carried out or the pharaoh’s burial chamber.

In the Osiris myth, Anubis helped Isis to embalm Osiris. Indeed, when the Osiris myth emerged, it was said that after Osiris had been killed by Set, Osiris’s organs were given to Anubis as a gift. With this connection, Anubis became the patron god of embalmers; during the rites of mummification, illustrations from the Book of the Dead often show a wolf-mask-wearing priest supporting the upright mummy.

Guide of souls
By the late pharaonic era (664–332 BC), Anubis was often depicted as guiding individuals across the threshold from the world of the living to the afterlife. Though a similar role was sometimes performed by the cow-headed Hathor, Anubis was more commonly chosen to fulfill that function. Greek writers from the Roman period of Egyptian history designated that role as that of “psychopomp”, a Greek term meaning “guide of souls” that they used to refer to their own god Hermes, who also played that role in Greek religion. Funerary art from that period represents Anubis guiding either men or women dressed in Greek clothes into the presence of Osiris, who by then had long replaced Anubis as ruler of the underworld.

Weighing of the heart

One of the roles of Anubis was as the “Guardian of the Scales.” The critical scene depicting the weighing of the heart, in the Book of the Dead, shows Anubis performing a measurement that determined whether the person was worthy of entering the realm of the dead (the underworld, known as Duat). By weighing the heart of a deceased person against Ma’at (or “truth”), who was often represented as an ostrich feather, Anubis dictated the fate of souls. Souls heavier than a feather would be devoured by Ammit, and souls lighter than a feather would ascend to a heavenly existence.

Bibliography

Main Source: Ancient Egypt Online
Goodenough, Simon (1997) Egyptian Mythology
Grajetzki, W (2003) Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt
Ikram, Salima (1997) Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt
Pinch, Geraldine (2002) Handbook Egyptian Mythology
Redford Donald B (2002) Ancient Gods Speak
Watterson, Barbara (1996) Gods of Ancient Egypt
Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003) The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt
Wikipedia

Dictionary of Gods

Dictionary of Gods

 

Adonis (Greek)
A youth who was loved by both Aphrodite and Persephone. He was killed by a wild boar while hunting. His name, from the Phoenecian adon, meant “lord”. Adonis was born from a myrrh tree. He is related to the seasonal vegetation myth and the Babylonian dying God, Tammuz.
Apollon, Apollo (Greco-Roman)
God of the sun, medicine, and prophecy. His symbols were the lyre, the bow, and the laurel. Apollo is the Latin spelling of the God’s name. Apollon is the transliteration of the Greek spelling of his name.
His epithet, Phoebus, means, “bright” or “shining”. In Rome, he displaced any deities with solar connections. During the Roman empire, his Greek shrine in the city of Phocis, at Delphi, was consulted by many people, including eminent Romans. The epithet, Pythian Apollo, referred to his oracular spirit speaking through his priestess at Delphi, the Phoebad, or Pythia. Apollo had numerous other oracular shrines in Greece and Rome.
Another of his titles was Smintheios or Smintheus, meaning “mouse” or “of the mice.”
Apulu (Etruscan)
A God depicted as a handsome youth, and was often pictured with the Goddess Artini. His name indicates he was the Etruscan counterpart of the Greek Apollo.

 

Bacchus (Roman)
The God of wine and ecstatic rites. His rites, known as the Bacchanal, were viewed by some staunch Romans as unbridled debauchery, and the nocturnal worship was repressed by a decree by the Roman Senate in 186 bce. Eventually it was accepted as a respectable mystery religion.
Bacchantes were women dedicated to his worship. They dressed in animal skins and roamed the fields and mountains filled with the God’s divine ecstasy.
Bonus Eventus (Roman)
A rural God in charge of the “Good Event” of the harvest. Later, he became of God of luck or success.

 

Deus Fidius (Sabine)
Guardian of hospitality.
di parentes, divi parentes (Roman)
“Di” is the plural of the Latin word deus meaning “god,” and literally means “gods.” The di parentes were the Roman spirits of dead family members and ancestors. From the name, they may have been venerated as collectively deified ancestors. The di parentes were honored during the Parentalia, February 13-21. On February 13, a Vestal Virgin performed the opening public rites for the collective Roman di parentes at the “tomb of the Vestal Tarpeia.” The rest of the festival was for domestic and familial rites. Romans were expected to give offerings to the deceased at the family tombs. Apparently, the Parentalia was related to an Etruscan festival of the dead. on the last night of the Parentalia at the Feralia the paterfamilias addressed the malevolent, destructive aspects of the spirits. It was after the Parentalia on February 22, the Caristia that the family held a banquet to honor the lar familiaris. The di parentes do not seem to be quite the same thing as the manes, the lares, or the lemurs. However, sometimes the terms seemed to be used interchangeably. (It is possible that this entry more correctly belongs on the ABC of Aradia webpage.)
Dis (Roman)
God of the underworld. He was sometimes referred to as Dis Pater, Father Dis; however, Dis Pater was the name the Romans later gave to the Celtic God, Cernunnos.

 

Fauns (Roman)
Male spirits of wild nature frequently depicted with horns and hooves–like goats. They are covered with body hair.
Faunus (Roman)
A rural God, partly human in form. He was the patron of animal husbandry, herding, hunting, and a guardian of the secrets of nature. He was also worshipped as a prophetic God. The Luperci, meaning “wolf warder,” were his priests. Clad only in goat skins, the Luperci ran around the Palentine Hill in Rome at the festival of Lupercalia held on February 14 or 15. It was a fertility rite, but also intended to protect domestic animals and new offspring from wolves. Any women who desired to conceive that year allowed the Luperci to strike their palms with goatskin thongs called februum. Faunus was later identified with the Greek Pan, God of flocks and pastures.
Februus (Etruscan Italian)
God of purification, Februus was possibly related to Dis, the God of the underworld. He may also be connected with Febris, a Roman Goddess of malaria and fever.
four winds (Roman)
The Venti are the four Gods personifying the four winds in Roman mythology. They are: Aquilo/Aquilon or Septentrio (North wind); Vulturnus (East wind); Auster (South wind); Favonius (West wind). The Venti are equivalent to the Greek: Boreas (North wind); Eurus (East wind); Notus (South wind); Zephyrus (West wind).

 

Janus (Italian)
Consort of Jana. The God who presided over gates, doors, and passages. He may have originally been worshipped as a sun God, especially since Jana, his wife, was identified with the moon Goddess, Diana. As a God of beginnings, Janus did preside over daybreak in his aspect as a solar God. Janus was often depicted as two-faced, so that he could look both forward and back. In ceremonial prayers, he was often invoked as “Father” and mentioned first before the other Gods.
Jove Pater, Jupiter (Roman)
The patriarchal “Father of the Gods” and supreme God of the Roman pantheon. Jove was originally a weather-God. He was also viewed as a beneficent and fair God of justice. He absorbed some of the mythology of the randy Greek Zeus.

 

Liber, Liber Pater (Roman)
A God of fecundity, he presided over fields. He was worshipped with the Goddess Ceres, and with the Goddess of wine, Libera. His festival was the Liberalia, celebrated on March 17. He was often identified with Bacchus.
Lucetius (Roman)
A Latin title meaning, “light-bearer,” used for Gods in their solar aspect. Jove was, for example, known as Jupiter Lucetius.

 

Mars, Murs, Marmar, Marmor, Marspiter (Roman)
The parthenogenic son of Juno. The God of war originally had agricultural attributes. His earliest function was a protector of agriculture and cattle. The wolf, horse, and woodpecker were sacred to him, as were the oak, laurel, dogwood, fig tree, and beans. He was called Mars Gardivius from gandiri, meaning, “to grow, to become big.” Marspiter meant Mars Pater, or Father Mars, just as Jupiter meant Jove Pater, Father Jove.
His protective nature eventually extended to protecting the people of Rome as a warrior. In the end, his warrior function supplanted his agricultural function. He was worshiped in a triad with the Gods, Jove and Quirinus. In the Classical era, his priests, the Salli, carried the sacred shields, the ancilia. Like his son, Romulus, he was worshiped under the title, Quirinus.
Mithras (Persian Roman)
Mithras was the God of heavenly light, the God of truth. Mithras was another foreign God transported to cosmopolitan, polytheistic, multi-cultural Rome.
Originally he was Mitra or Mithra, sort of a defender or personification of the sanctity of contracts and treaties. He was absorbed into monotheistic Zoroastrianism and became identified as an aspect of the Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, who was the supreme deity and the God of Truth, Justice, and Light.
By the time the cult of Mithras reached Rome, it had become an intricate mystery religion and absorbed many foreign elements, including a strong strain of astrology. Only men could be votaries in the Roman cult. Mithras became a patron God of merchants due to his association with contracts. Possibly also because of Mithras’ association with contracts, and thus for a tour of duty for a soldier, Mithraism became a favorite cult among the Roman troops, who spread it all over the Roman empire.
In Mithraeums, the God was often depicted slaying a bull, which originally may have been a reference to an astronomical/astrological event: moving from the Age of Taurus (the bull) into the Age of Aries (the ram). (An astronomical/astrological Age is determined by which zodiac sign the sun rises in on the vernal equinox.) In any case, the image of the bull represents the life force and the earth is made fertile by its death.
In Rome, the Mithraic priests, were known as Patres Sacrorum, “Fathers of the Sacred Mysteries.” The worship of Mithras was valued not only for its mystery, but its ethical system. One of the Roman titles of Mithras was Areimanios. The sacred Haoma beverage and cakes were offered to him.
The Roman cult of Mithras was not truly as monotheistic as Zoroastrianism. Votaries were expected to live an exemplary life and to give worship to Mithras first. Nevertheless, family deities, household Gods, local divinities, etc., could be worshipped second.
Mutunus, Mutinus-Tutinus, Tutinus-Mutinus (Etruscan)
An ancient phallic God whose cult blended with the Roman cult of Priapus. His name, Mutunus, was derived from muto, the verile male member.

 

Neptunus, Neptune (Roman)
Orginally a water-God, who also protected against drought. For his festival on June 23, huts of branches would be built apparently as a protection against the summer sun. Later, he was God of the sea. He created the horse and thus white waves crashing on the shore were said to be white horses. His consort was Salacia. His Etruscan name was Neptuns.

 

Pan (Greek)
An ancient horned God of fertility. Primarily, he was the protector of flocks and herdsmen. Pan was a God of all of nature and the wilderness. Hunters were said to appeal to him to bring them game animals. He was pictured with the lower parts of a goat and the torso, arms, and head of a man, though crowned with horns. Pan was a lusty, merry God, who dwelt in Arcadia and delighted in sporting with the nymphs.
Penates, Dii Penates (Roman)
Spirits that protected the food storehouses of the home. They were honored on the hearth along with the Goddess, Vesta. The Penates were said to enjoy, along with other offerings to them, the aroma of roast meat (nidore).
Phoebus (Roman)
Phoebus was a Latin spelling of a title for Apollo. In the 5th century bce, he was adopted by the Romans as a God of medicine, music, prophecy, and the sun, and said to be the son of Latona and Jove. The Romans hoped his influence would help the people avert a plague. His title means the “Bright One” and the healing rays of the sun symbolized his power as a healing God.
Plutus, Pluton, Plutos (Greco-Italian)
An Italian aspect of the Greek Pluto, tacturn lord over the innumerable dead in the Lower World, which was awarded to him by Zeus, his brother.
As an Italian underworld deity, Plutus was associated with the Roman Dis. Nevertheless while Roman altars to Dis were rare, Plutus was apparently somewhat more revered, particularly in Sicily, where the “Damatres,” Ceres and Proserpine were widely worshipped.
Plutus was also a god of agricultural abundance. The name, Pluton, meant “Giver of Wealth.” Plutus meant “Wealth.” He has been interpreted to be a god of wealth from both above the earth soil, crops, and under the earth, gold and precious stones. Interestingly, Plutus or Pluton was likewise said to be a son of Ceres or her Greek counterpart, Demeter. This son of the grain goddess was raised by the Roman Goddess Pax, meaning “peace.”
In Rome, Plutus or Plutos was confused with Orcus, who carried the dead to the underworld. For example, a series of funerary frescoes depicted a woman, the Vibia, carried off by Plutos and brought before the judgment of the underworld deities. Three Fata Divina, “faeries of destiny,” appeared at the dead woman’s tribunal. A final fresco showed Vibia among the blessed dead at a banquet.
Priapus, Mutunus, Fecundus (Greco-Roman)
A phallic God. He presided over procreation and fertility. In particular, Priapus was associated with gardens and bees. As a guardian deity, Priapus often carried a pruning knife, but the Priapus of Verona carried a basket full of phalluses. Statues of the God were usually carved of wood and painted red. His image was placed in orchards, gardens, and entranceways for protection.
Pythian Apollo (Greek)
An epithet of Apollo, relating to his temple at Delphi.

 

Romulus (Roman)
Twin brother of Remus and son of Mars and Silva. He and his brother were suckled and raised by the she-wolf, Lupa. Romulus was credited as the founder of Rome. He accidentally slew his brother Remus in a quarrel. According to legend, he became the first king of Rome. Romulus was worshipped under the name of Quirinus after his death.
There was an alternate versions describing the birth of Romulus and Remus cited by Plutarch. Written in the Etruscan language, Promethea’s history of Italy stated that a mystical phallus had appeared in the chimney of the king of Albe. The king ordered his daughter to couple with this phallus. His daughter, however, sent her servant-girl in her stead. The servant bore twin sons, later known as Romulus and Remus, who were abandoned in the forest and suckled by a wolf.

 

Sator (Roman)
A deity that presided over sowing.
Saturn, Saturnus (Roman)
An agricultural God, depicted with a sythe. The celebration of his festival, the Saturnalia, December 17-23, involved feasting and much merriment, including decorating with evergreens and gift-giving. During the Saturnalia, slaves were allowed great liberties in honor of Saturn’s Golden Age, and the pater familius or male head of the household served his slaves meals at the family table.
Simply due to Saturnalia’s proximity on the calendar to the Mithraic festival of the Natilus Sol Invictus, “Birthday of the Invincible Sun,” December 25, seemed to link the two holidays in the mind of the general Roman populace. Both holidays were linked to the winter solstice.
It is a telling fact that the people of Rome became the first to officially celebrate the nativity of Christ in 337 c.e. on the very same date as the Mithraic festival, and that the new celebration incorporated several aspects of the Saturnalia as well.
Semo Sancus (Latin)
God of oaths.
Sentinus (Roman)
The God who presided over the intellectual stimulation of children.
Smintheios(Greek)
See Apollon, Apollo. See Smintheus.
Smintheus (Greek Latin spelling)
Robert Graves, in 1955, 1969 (p. 56) wrote: “One component in Apollo’s godhead seems to have been an oracular mouse–Apollo Smintheus (‘mouse Apollo’) is among his earliest titles…” Indeed, white mice were sacred to Apollo and supposedly they whispered secrets gathered from the earth in his ear.
Smintheus is a surname of Apollo, which is derived by some from sminthos, a mouse. Others claim the name is dervied from the town of Sminthe in Troas The mouse was regarded by the ancients as inspired by the vapours arising from the earth, and as the symbol of prophetic power. On some coins, Apollo was represented carrying a mouse in his hands. In the temple of Apollo at Chryse, there was a statue of the God by Scopas, with a mouse under its foot. Temples of Apollo Sminthens and festivals (Smintheia) existed in several parts of Greece.
Somnus (Roman)
God of sleep and oblivion, he was black, covered with golden stars. He is associated with poppies and wears them on his head as a crown.
Sterculinus, Stercutius, Sterculus, Stercutus (Roman)
Sterculinus was an archaic God presiding over manure spreading. He was at one time honored by farmers. Manure was an important source of fertilizer for crops in early Italy.
Summanus, Summano (Roman, Etruscan)
In Roman mythology, Summanus was the God of nocturnal thunder. Originally he was Summano, an Etruscan thunder-sky God. A most ancient deity, he particularly presided over the night sky.
Sylvanus, Silvanus (Roman)
A rural God, guardian of woods, forests, and fields. He was also known as Callirus, meaning “Woodland King.” His name is the origin of the word, “sylvan.”

 

Tinia, Tin, Tina (Etruscan)
The supreme God of the Etruscan pantheon. He was the male deity of a divine triad, along with the Goddesses, Uni and Menrva, represented in art. Tinia was often depicted as holding three thunderbolts. Tinia may have been the same deity as Voltumna. It was at Voltumna’s sanctuary near the lake of Bolsena that apparently the tribes of Etrusca convened to choose a king.

 

Usil (Etruscan)
The deified sun.

 

Venti (Roman)
See four winds (Roman)
Vejovis, Vedius, Vediovis (Italian)
A very early name meaning “Little Jove” or “Little Dius.” An epithet or aspect of Jove when he was depicted without thunder. As Vedius or Vediovis, “Little Dius,” he may be linked to the Indo-Vedic-Hindu, Diaus or Dyaus, as sky deity known as Dyaus-Pitar (“sky-father”), who is related to Jove Pater.
Vertumus, Vortumnus (Roman)
Probably of Etruscan origin, he was variously regarded as God of changes: of the changing season, of the manifold productions of the vegetable world, etc. Vertumus, for whom “the first grape turns blue on its bunch and the ear of corn [grain] swells with milky juice,” (Propertius in Elgies) was honored on August 13 in his temple on the Aventine. His name may have given the Romans their Latin word, vertere, “to change.” He changed himself into a handsome youth in order to persuade the Goddess Pomona to marry him. He was associated with Sylvanus.
Virbius (Roman)
A mysterious woodland God, worshipped at Nemi with Egeria and Diana. Some scholars speculate, he was a primitive God associated with childbirth, as Egeria and Diana were both invoked as midwives at Nemi. Other sources identify Virbius with the sun. It was unlawful to touch his image. Late mythology claimed Diana brought Virbius to Nemi to hide him from the wrath of Neptune. Virbius was said to have married Egeria, however, it is likely he was originally consort to the Italian Diana. His priest was the Flamen Virbialis.

 

Xudam (Etruscan)
A god identified with the Roman Mercury.

 

The list in my “Dictionary of Gods” is even smaller than my “Goddess Dictionary,” a fact which betrays my Wiccan inclinations. Often when we, Wiccans, try to give equal time to the Gods, we still end up emphasizing the Goddesses. Nevertheless, I have included these Gods because they provide background relevant to my “Dianic Mythology.”

Sources

Raymond Buckland, The Witch Book, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wiccan and Neo-paganism, 2002.

Alain Danielou, The Phallus, Sacred Symbol of Male Creative Power, English translation, 1995.

Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1935.

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, Vols. 1 & 2, 1948.

Judika Illes, The Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods and Goddesses, 2009.

New Larouss Encyclopedia of Mythology, 1959, 1968.

Carole Potter, Knock On Wood and Other Superstitions, 1983.

Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire, 1992, 1996.

Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome, 1998.

Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Courter, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 2002.

Harry E. Wedeck and Wade Baskin, Dictionary of Pagan Religions, 1971.