Study of Pagan Gods and Goddesses: Loki

Study of Pagan Gods and Goddesses: Loki

In Norse mythology, Loki is known as a trickster. He is described in the Prose Edda as a “contriver of fraud.” It’s important to remember that “trickster” does not mean someone who plays fun jokes and pranks–Loki’s trickery is all about mischief and mayhem.

Origins and History
Although he doesn’t appear often in the Eddas, Loki is generally described as a member of the family of Odin.

There is little archaeological reference to Loki (pronounced LOW-key), but in the small village of Kirkby Stephen, England, there is a tenth-century stone with a carving on it.

It is believed that the bound, horned figure carved upon the stone is in fact Loki, who was likely brought to England by Saxon settlers in the area. Also, near Snaptun, Denmark, there is a stone from around the same time as the Kirkby Stephen stone; the carving on this one is identified as Loki as well, due to scarring on the lips. In a story in which he tries to get the better of the dwarf Brokkr, Loki is disfigured and earns the nickname Scar-lip.

Appearance
Although some Norse deities are often associated with symbols–such as Odin and his ravens, or Thor and his mighty hammer–Loki does not appear to have a particular item assigned to him by the Norse eddas or sagas. While there has been some speculation that he may be associated with particular runes, there is no scholarly or academic evidence to support this. Furthermore, this is an illogical argument in the context of Norse culture; keep in mind that stories and legends were passed down orally, from one generation to the next, and not written down.

Runes were used for divination, but not for written storytelling.

As to his physical appearance, Loki was a shapeshifter and could appear any way he liked. In the Gylfaginning, which is one of the Prose eddas, he is described as being “pleasing and handsome,” but there are no details as to what those words describe.

Early carvings portray him with horns on his head, but those may be a representation of one of the shapes he adopts, rather than his regular form.

Mythology
A shapeshifter who could appear as any animal, or as a person of either sex, Loki was constantly meddling in the affairs of others, mostly for his own amusement. Disguised as a woman, Loki fools Frigga into telling him about the weakness of her son Baldr. Just for fun, Loki tricks Baldr’s blind twin, Hod, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe. At one point, Loki spent eight years disguised as a milkmaid, and got stuck milking cows because his disguise was so convincing.

Loki is typically described as the husband of the goddess Sigyn, but he seems to have procreated with just about anyone and anything that struck his fancy. Because he could take male or female form, at one point Loki turned himself into a mare and mated with a mighty stallion, so he actually was the mother of Odin’s magical eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

Loki is known for bringing about chaos and discord, but by challenging the gods, he also brings about change. Without Loki’s influence, the gods may become complacent, so Loki does actually serve a worthwhile purpose, much as Coyote does in the Native American tales, or Anansi the spider in West African lore.

Despite his divine or demi-god status, there’s little evidence to show that Loki had a following of worshipers of his own; in other words, his job was mostly to make trouble for other gods, men, and the rest of the world.

For an excellent dissertation looking at Loki in his many forms, read Shawn Christopher Krause-Loner’s paper Scar-lip, Sky-walker, and Mischief-Monger: The Norse God Loki as Trickster. Krause-Loner says,

“[H]is ability to change shape, both sex and species, makes him an ambiguous, in-between figure. He is the only Norse deity who is depicted as having the gift of flight, either by utilizing an artifact or simply through his own ability. Loki’s kenning, Sky-Walker, speaks to his mediating position, neither bound to the ground nor of the heavens.”

Honoring Loki Today

If you’ve spent any time reading Norse mythology, you know that Loki is a bit of an outcast, slightly manic, will do sneaky things for his own amusement, and doesn’t seem to have much respect for boundaries. If you invite Loki into your life, there’s a possibility you won’t be getting rid of him until he’s good and ready to leave.

 

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LOKI

 

Loki (pronounced “LOAK-ee;” Old Norse Loki, the meaning of which will be discussed below) is the wily trickster god of Norse mythology.

While treated as a nominal member of the gods, Loki occupies a highly ambivalent and ultimately unique position among the gods, giants, and the other kinds of spiritual beings that populate the pre-Christian Norse religion.

His familial relations attest to this. His father is the giant Farbauti (Old Norse Fárbauti, “Cruel Striker”[1]). His mother is Laufey (the meaning of which is unknown) or Nal (Nál, “Needle”[2]). Laufey/Nal could be a goddess, a giantess, or something else entirely – the surviving sources are silent on this point. Loki is the father, by the giantess Angrboda (Angrboða, “Anguish-Boding”), of Hel, the goddess of the underworld; Jormungand, the great serpent who slays Thor during Ragnarok; and Fenrir, the wolf who bites off one of the hands of Tyr and who kills Odin during Ragnarok – hardly a reputable brood, to say the least. As we’ll see below, Loki demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the well-being of his fellow gods, a trait which could be discerned, in vague outline, merely by considering these offspring of his.

With his proper wife Sigyn (“Friend of Victory”[3]), he also has a son named Nari or Narfi, whose name might mean “Corpse.”[4]

Loki often runs afoul not only of societal expectations, but also of what we might call “the laws of nature.” In addition to the progeny listed above, Loki is also the mother – yes, the mother – of Sleipnir, Odin’s shamanic horse, whom Loki gave birth to after shapeshifting into a mare and courting the stallion Svadilfari, as is recounted in the tale of The Fortification of Asgard.

In the tales, Loki is portrayed as a scheming coward who cares only for shallow pleasures and self-preservation. He’s by turns playful, malicious, and helpful, but he’s always irreverent and nihilistic.

For example, in the tale of The Kidnapping of Idun, Loki, by his recklessness, ends up in the hands of a furious giant, Thiazi, who threatens to kill Loki unless he brings him the goddess Idun. Loki complies in order to save his life, and then finds himself in the awkward position of having the gods threaten him with death unless he rescues Idun. He agrees to this request for the same base motive, shifting his shape into that of a falcon and carrying the goddess back to Asgard in his talons. Thiazi pursues him desperately in the form of an eagle, but, having almost caught up with Loki as he nears his destination, the gods light a fire around the perimeter of their fortress. The flames catch Thiazi and burn him to death, while Idun and Loki reach the halls of the gods safely. Loki ultimately comes to the aid of the gods, but only to rectify a calamity for which he himself is responsible. This theme is repeated in numerous tales, such as in The Creation of Thor’s Hammer and the aforementioned The Fortification of Asgard.

After Thiazi’s death, the giant’s daughter, Skadi, arrives in Asgard demanding restitution for the slaying of her father. One of her demands is that the gods make her laugh, something which only Loki is able to do. To accomplish this, he ties one end of a rope to the beard of a goat and the other end to his testicles. Both he and the goat squawk and squeal as one pulls one way and the other pulls the other way. Eventually he falls over in Skadi’s lap, and the giantess can’t help but laugh at such an absurd spectacle. Here, Loki once again comes to the aid of the gods, but simply by being silly and outlandish, not by accomplishing any feat that a Viking Age Scandinavian would have found to be particularly honorable.

Loki alternately helps both the gods and the giants, depending on which course of action is most pleasurable and advantageous to him at the time. During Ragnarok, when the gods and giants engage in their ultimate struggle and the cosmos is destroyed, Loki joins the battle on the side of the giants. According to one Old Norse poem, he even captains the ship Naglfar, “Nail Ship,” which brings many of the giants to their battle with the gods.[5] When the battle for the world is fought, he and the god Heimdall mortally wound each other.

Loki is perhaps best known for his malevolent role in The Death of Baldur. After the death of the beloved god Baldur is prophesied, Baldur’s mother, Frigg, secures a promise from every living thing to not harm her son. Well, almost everything – no such oath is obtained from the mistletoe, which the gods think too small and safe a thing to harm Baldur. Upon discovering this omission, Loki carves a mistletoe spear, places it in the hands of the blind god Hod, and instructs him to throw it at Baldur. Hod, not knowing the origin of the weapon, complies, and Baldur is impaled and dies. The god Hermod rides Sleipnir to the underworld and implores Hel to release Baldur, pointing out how beloved he is by all living things. Hel retorts that if this is so, then it shouldn’t be difficult to compel every being in the world to weep for Baldur, and, should this happen, the dead god would be released from the grave. Every living thing does indeed cry for Baldur’s return, with one sole exception: a frost-hearted giantess named Tokk (Þökk, “Thanks”), who is almost certainly Loki in disguise. So Baldur must remain with Hel.

For his many crimes against them, the gods eventually forge a chain from the entrails of Loki’s son Narfi and tie him down to three rocks inside a cave. A venomous serpent sits above him, dripping poison onto him. Loki’s apparently very faithful and loving wife, Sigyn, sits at his side with a bowl to catch the venom. But when the bowl becomes full, of course, she has to leave her husband’s side to pour it out. When this happens, the drops of venom that fall onto him cause him to writhe in agony, and these convulsions create earthquakes. And in this state he lies until breaking free at Ragnarok.

A fascinating variant of the tale of Loki’s being bound comes to us from the medieval Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. In his History of the Danes, Thor, on one of his many journeys to Jotunheim, the homeland of the giants, finds a giant named Útgarðaloki (“Loki of the Utgard“). Útgarðaloki is bound in exactly the same manner as that in which Loki is bound in the tale mentioned above, which comes from Icelandic sources.[6][7] It seems that even the pagan Scandinavians themselves held conflicting views on whether Loki was a god, a giant, or something else entirely.

For the centuries that Norse mythology has been a subject of scholarly study, scholars have been unable to explain the meaning of Loki’s name in any convincing way. Most have simply thrown their hands up and declared the meaning of his name to be unknown and probably unknowable. Recently, however, the philologist Eldar Heide may have solved this puzzle. In his research into Nordic folklore from periods more recent than the Viking Age, Heide noticed that Loki often appears in contexts that liken him to a knot on a thread. In fact, in later Icelandic usage, the common noun loki even means “knot” or “tangle.” Spiders are sometimes referred to as loki in a metaphorical sense, as their webs are compared to the fish nets (which are made from a series of knots and loops) that Loki crafts in certain surviving Viking Age myths. From all of this, the most straightforward meaning of Loki’s name would seem to be “Knot” or “Tangle.”[8][9]

This proposed meaning of Loki’s name powerfully resonates with his role in Norse mythology in two ways. First, it points to his role as a maker of nets, both literal fish nets and metaphorical “nets” in the form of his cunning schemes that trap the gods in perilous situations. Second, it could indicate his being the “knot” in the otherwise straight thread of the gods and their world, the fatal flaw that ultimately brings about their demise.

Even though Loki is in some sense a god, no traces of any kind of worship of Loki have survived in the historical record.[10] Is this any wonder, given that his character is virtually the antithesis of traditional Norse values of honor, loyalty, and the like – and that he is ultimately a traitor to the divinities the Norse held in such reverence?

 

References:

Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo.com

Second Part of this article can be found on Daniel McCoy’s website, Norse Mythology for Smart People

[1] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 127.
[2] Heide, Eldar. 2009. More Inroads to Pre-Christian Notions, After All? The Potential of Late Evidence. In Á austrvega: Saga and East Scandinavia: Preprint Papers of the 14th International Saga Conference. Edited by Agneta Ney et al. p. 363.
[3] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 284.
[4] Ibid. p. 228.
[5] The Poetic Edda. Völuspá, stanza 51.
[6] Saxo Grammaticus. 1905. The History of the Danes. Book VIII.
[7] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 138.
[8] Heide, Eldar. 2009. More Inroads to Pre-Christian Notions, After All? The Potential of Late Evidence. In Á austrvega: Saga and East Scandinavia: Preprint Papers of the 14th International Saga Conference. Edited by Agneta Ney et al. p. 363.
[9] Heide, Eldar. 2012. p. 90-91. Loki, the Vätte, and the Ash Lad: A Study Combining Old Scandinavian and Medieval Material. In Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 7.
[10] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 195.

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The Study of Pagan Gods and Goddesses: Eris

Eris

(Greek)

A goddess of chaos, Eris is often present in times of discord and strife. She loves to start trouble, just for her own sense of amusement, and perhaps one of the best known examples of this was a little dustup called the Trojan War.

 

It all started with the wedding of Thetis and Pelias, who would eventually have a son named Achilles. All of the gods of Olympus were invited, including Hera, Aphrodite and Athena – but Eris’ name got left off the guest list, because everyone knew how much she enjoyed causing a ruckus. Eris, the original wedding crasher, showed up anyway, and decided to have a little fun. She tossed a golden apple – the Apple of Discord – into the crowd, and said it was for the most beautiful of the goddesses. Naturally, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera had to bicker over who was the rightful owner of the apple.

 

Zeus, trying to be helpful, chose a young man named Paris, a prince of the city of Troy, to select a winner. Aphrodite offered Paris a bribe he couldn’t resist – Helen, the lovely young wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris selected Aphrodite to receive the apple, and thus guaranteed that his hometown would be demolished by the end of the war.

 

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Eris

Eris is the Greek goddess of strife and discord. Her name is the equivalent of Latin Discordia, which means “discord”. Eris’ Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Latin counterpart is Concordia. Homer equated her with the war-goddess Enyo, whose Roman counterpart is Bellona. The dwarf planet Eris is named after the goddess

 

Eris is of uncertain etymology; connections with the verb ὀρίνειν orinein, “to raise, stir, excite,” and the proper name Ἐρινύες Erinyes have been suggested. R. S. P. Beekes rejects these derivations and suggested a Pre-Greek origin.

 

Characteristics in Greek mythology

El Juicio de Paris by Enrique Simonet, 1904

Golden apple of discord by Jakob Jordaens, 1633

Das Urteil des Paris by Anton Raphael Mengs, c. 1757

In Hesiod’s Works and Days 11–24, two different goddesses named Eris are distinguished:

 

So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due.

 

But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night (Nyx), and the son of Cronus who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.

 

In Hesiod’s Theogony (226–232), Strife, the daughter of Night, is less kindly spoken of as she brings forth other personifications as her children:

And hateful Eris bore painful Ponos (“Hardship”),
Lethe (“Forgetfulness”) and Limos (“Starvation”) and the tearful Algea (“Pains”),
Hysminai (“Battles”), Makhai (“Wars”), Phonoi (“Murders”), and Androktasiai (“Manslaughters”);
Neikea (“Quarrels”), Pseudea (“Lies”), Logoi (“Stories”), Amphillogiai (“Disputes”)
Dysnomia (“Anarchy”) and Ate (“Ruin”), near one another,
and Horkos (“Oath”), who most afflicts men on earth,
Then willing swears a false oath.

 

The other Strife is presumably she who appears in Homer’s Iliad Book IV; equated with Enyo as sister of Ares and so presumably daughter of Zeus and Hera:

 

Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier. She also has a son whom she named Strife.

 

Enyo is mentioned in Book 5, and Zeus sends Strife to rouse the Achaeans in Book 11, of the same work.

 

The most famous tale of Eris recounts her initiating the Trojan War by causing the Judgement of Paris. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations.

 

She therefore (as mentioned at the Kypria according to Proclus as part of a plan hatched by Zeus and Themis) tossed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden apple inscribed Ancient Greek: τῇ καλλίστῃ, translit. tē(i) kallistē(i) – “For the most beautiful one”, or “To the Fairest One” – provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select the fairest by Zeus. The goddesses stripped naked to try to win Paris’ decision, and also attempted to bribe him. Hera offered political power; Athena promised infinite wisdom; and Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. While Greek culture placed a greater emphasis on prowess and power, Paris chose to award the apple to Aphrodite, thereby dooming his city, which was destroyed in the war that ensued.

 

In Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, 2.356, when Typhon prepares to battle with Zeus:

 

Eris (“Strife”) was Typhon’s escort in the melée, Nike (“Victory”) led Zeus to battle.

 

Another story of Eris includes Hera, and the love of Polytekhnos and Aedon. They claimed to love each other more than Hera and Zeus were in love. This angered Hera, so she sent Eris to rack discord upon them. Polytekhnos was finishing off a chariot board, and Aedon a web she had been weaving. Eris said to them, “Whosoever finishes thine task last shall have to present the other with a female servant!” Aedon won. But Polytekhnos was not happy by his defeat, so he came to Khelidon, Aedon’s sister, and raped her. He then disguised her as a slave, presenting her to Aedon. When Aedon discovered this was indeed her sister, she chopped up Polytekhnos’ son and fed him to Polytekhnos. The gods were not pleased, so they turned them all into birds.

 

Cultural influences

Discordianism
Eris has been adopted as the patron deity of the modern Discordian religion, which was begun in the late 1950s by Gregory Hill and Kerry Wendell Thornley under the pen names of “Malaclypse the Younger” and “Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst”. The Discordian version of Eris is considerably lighter in comparison to the rather malevolent Graeco-Roman original, wherein she is depicted as a positive (albeit mischievous) force of chaotic creation.

 

A quote from the Principia Discordia, the first holy book of Discordianism, attempts to clear up the matter:

 

One day Mal-2 consulted his Pineal Gland and asked Eris if She really created all of those terrible things. She told him that She had always liked the Old Greeks, but that they cannot be trusted with historic matters. “They were,” She added, “victims of indigestion, you know.”

 

Suffice it to say that Eris is not hateful or malicious. But she is mischievous, and does get a little bitchy at times.

 

The story of Eris being snubbed and indirectly starting the Trojan War is recorded in the Principia, and is referred to as the Original Snub. The Principia Discordia states that her parents may be as described in Greek legend, or that she may be the daughter of Void. She is the Goddess of Disorder and Being, whereas her sister Aneris (called the equivalent of Harmonia by the Mythics of Harmonia) is the goddess of Order and Non-Being. Their brother is Spirituality.

 

Discordian Eris is looked upon as a foil to the preoccupation of western philosophy in attempting find order in the chaos of reality, in prescribing order to be synonymous with truth. Discordian Eris teaches us that the only truth is chaos, and that order and disorder are simply temporary filters applied to the lenses we view the chaos through. This is known as the Aneristic Illusion.

 

In this telling, Eris becomes something of a patron saint of chaotic creation:

 

I am chaos. I am the substance from which your artists and scientists build rhythms. I am the spirit with which your children and clowns laugh in happy anarchy. I am chaos. I am alive, and I tell you that you are free.

 

The concept of Eris as developed by the Principia Discordia is used and expanded upon in the science fiction work The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (in which characters from Principia Discordia appear). In this work, Eris is a major character.

 

Other
The classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty is partly inspired by Eris’ role in the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Like Eris, a malevolent fairy curses a princess after not being invited to the princess’ christening.

 

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Reference

Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo.com 
Wikipedia 

Study of Pagan Gods & Goddesses: Tawaret

Tawaret

Tawaret is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, maternity and childbirth as well as the patron of women and children. She is traditionally believed to be the wife of the demon god Apep. She is often seen as represented by some of the most ferocious yet respected animals in Egypt – she has the head and body of a pregnant hippopotamus, the back of the crocodile and the arms and legs of a lioness. She is seen as a hippopotamus with one arm resting (a symbol of protection) and the other carrying the ankh (the symbol of life) or the ivory knife used to drive away evil spirits. Her name, may also be spelled as Tuat, Taueret, Taurt, Ta-weret, Tawaret, Tuart, and Taueret, and in Greek, Thoeris and Toeri, translates into “she who is great”.

 

Originally, she was viewed as a maleficent and dangerous deity. Like Bes, she was a considered as a ferocious demon with nurturing and protective qualities. She resides in the northern sky abode of her husband, Apep, thus she is known as the Nebetakhet or the “Mistress of the Horizon” – a group of stars of Ursa Minor and Draco that serves as guardians of the northern sky. In some legend, Apep could only come out during the night, so Tawaret was considered the evil that dwelt during the day.

 

However, during the Old Kingdom, her role significantly changed from an aggressive force into a protective deity. Like the hippopotamus that represent her, she is protective of her young thus becoming the patron of childbirth. She became the mother goddess who becomes the wet nurse of the pharaoh. Eventually, her nurturing role extended to all households as she helps both the rich and the poor alike.

 

During childbirth, she is believed to be the deity who wards off evil spirits who intends to harm the baby and the mother. She also became of assistance in matters of pregnancy and sexuality thus forming a link between her and Hathor. In this aspect, she may be seen as a woman wearing her headdress bearing the Sa for protection. Expectant mother often brought with them amulets depicting the goddess to protect them. Her depiction are often motifs to birth beds. She was also associated with magic wands and knives, often made of hippopotamus ivory, which were used to fend off evil especially during labor. Facience vases likened to her shape are used to serve milk in order to add extra potency to the drink.

 

Her fertility duties focused on the inundation in the area of Gebel el-Silsila. In the Book of the Dead, she is mentioned as the guardian of the mountain paths in the West that led to the Underworld. She also assisted souls into passing safely into the dangerous and frightening land of Osiris especially to the recently deceased.

 

Her area in the northern sky and her hippopotamus appearance linked her to Set. She is believed to be a concubine of Set who is loyal to Horus. In one of the myths, she helped Isis protect her young child from the attacks of Set by trapping him in the northern sky.

 

She was also related to Sobek probably because of her crocodile features. In this form, she has a small crocodile on her back. Sometimes, she is the wife of another demon god, Bes, who is linked to childbirth.

 

She was also known by two other names: Ipet meaning harem and Reret meaning the sow. Her cult achieved significant importance until the Ptolemaic era and Late Period especially in the area of Karnak.

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Taweret

Goddess Demoness of Birth

Rebirth and the Northern Sky

Taweret (Taueret, Taurt, Toeris, Ipy, Ipet, Apet, Opet, Reret) – The Great Female – was the ancient Egyptian goddess of maternity and childbirth, protector of women and children. Like Bes, she was both a fierce demonic fighter as well as a popular deity who guarded the mother and her newborn child.

 

She was depicted as a combination of a crocodile, a pregnant hippopotamus standing on her hind legs with large breasts and a lion. Unlike the composite demoness Ammut, her head and body were that of the hippo, her paws were that of the lion, and her back was the back of a crocodile. All of these animals were man killers, and as such she was a demoness.

 

All three animals were regarded as fierce creatures who would kill to protect their young.

 

It was in her role of a protector that she was seen as a goddess. As the mother hippo is protective of her young, Taweret was believed to be protective of Egyptian children. She was often shown holding the sa hieroglyph of protection or the ankh hieroglyph of life. She was thought to assist women in labour and scare off demons that might harm the mother or child.

 

… because hippos are denizens of the fertile Nile mud, Egyptians also saw them as symbols of rebirth and rejuvenation. The birth-related aspect of the hippo’s powers also appears in the complicated shape of the goddess Taweret, who protects women in childbirth.

 

She was also a goddess relating to fertility. She was goddess of harvests as well as a goddess who helped with female sexuality and pregnancy. In this capacity, she was linked with the goddess Hathor. As a fertility goddess, she was closely associated with the inundation of the Nile especially at Jabal al-Silsila.

 

Amulets of Taweret were popular, used by the expectant mother because of Taweret’s protective powers. These were even found at Akhetaten – Akenaten had no power to stop his people from needing the protection of this goddess (or of Bes), despite his attempts to replace the gods and goddesses of Egypt with the Aten. Her picture was also found on women’s cosmetic tools, headrests, jewelry. There were even vessels in the shape of the goddess, with a hole in one of her nipples for pouring. It was thought that she would assign magical protection, when accompanied with a spell, to the milk poured through these vessels.

 

Another way that Taweret was thought to scare away evil that could hurt a mother and child was through the use of magic. She was associated with the magic ‘wand’ or ‘knife’ that the Egyptians used because she was a hippopotamus goddess:

Childbirth and early infancy were felt to be particularly threatening to both mother and baby. Magic played the primary role in countering these threats; various evil spirits needed to be warned off, and deities invoked to protect the vulnerable. These magic knives, also known as apotropaic (that is, acting to ward off evil) wands, were one of the devices used. They are usually made of hippopotamus ivory, thus enlisting the support of that fearsome beast against evil.

 

The depictions on this knife encompass a range of protective images. They include a grotesque dwarf, probably known as Aha at this date, but later the more famous Bes, and Taweret … both of whom are associated with childbirth.

 

Taweret was a household deity, rather than a specific deity of the pharaoh, and she enjoyed huge popularity with the every day Egyptian. She wore a low, cylindrical headdress surmounted by two plumes or sometimes she wore the horns and solar disk of Hathor. Although her popularity was strongest in later periods, she first appeared in the Old Kingdom as the mother of the pharaoh, offering to suckle him with her divine milk. In later times, the pharaoh Hatshepsut depicted the goddess attending to her birth along side other deities of childbirth. During Egyptian history, she was called by three names – Ipet (‘harem’), Taweret (‘great one’) and Reret (‘the sow’). Of the three, the cult of Taweret assimilated the other two versions of this goddess, despite the Temple of Ipet (often translated to be ‘Harem’ rather than the name of the goddess) at Karnak.

 

In Egyptian astronomy, Taweret was linked to the northern sky. In this role she was known as Nebetakhet, the Mistress of the Horizon – the ceiling painting of the constellations in the tomb of Seti I showed her in this capacity. She was thought to keep the northern sky – a place of darkness, cold, mist, and rain to the Egyptians – free of evil. She was shown to represent the never-setting circumpolar stars of Ursa Minor and Draco. The seven stars lined down her back are the stars of the Little Dipper. She was believed to be a guardian of the north, stopping all who were unworthy before they could pass her by.

 

In all of the ancient Egyptian astronomical diagrams there is one figure which is always larger than all the rest, and most frequently found at the center of what appears to be a horizontal parade of figures. This figure is Taweret “The Great One”, a goddess depicted as a pregnant hippopotamus standing upright. It is no mystery that this figure represents a northern constellation associated, at least in part, with our modern constellation of Draco the dragon.

 

In the Book of the Dead Taweret, the ‘Lady of Magical Protection’, was seen as a goddess who guided the dead into the afterlife. As with her double nature of protector and guardian, she was also a guard to the mountains of the west where the deceased entered the land of the dead. Many of the deities relating to birth also appear in the underworld to help with the rebirth of the souls into their life after death.

 

She was thought to be the wife of a few gods, mostly because of her physical characteristics. She was linked to the god Sobek, because of his crocodile form. Occasionally Taweret was depicted with a crocodile on her back, and this was seen as Taweret with her consort Sobek. Bes, because the Egyptians thought they worked together when birthing of a child, was thought to be her husband in earlier times.

 

At Thebes, she was also thought to be the mother of Osiris, and so linked to the sky goddess Nut. Another part of this theology was that it was Amen, who became the supreme god rather than Ra, who was the father of Osiris. It was believed that Amen came to Taweret (called Ipet at this particular time) and joined with her to ensure the renewal of the cycle of life. Ipet herself had become linked with the original wife of Amen, Amaunet (invisibility). It was at Karnak that she was believed to have given birth to Osiris. In later times, Ipet was assimilated by Mut who took her place as the wife of Amen and mother goddess.

 

Plutarch described Taweret as a concubine of Set who had changed her ways to become a follower of Horus. In this form, she was linked to the goddess Isis. It was thought that the goddess kept Set’s powers of evil fettered by a chain. This is probably because she was a hippo goddess while Set was sometimes seen as a male hippo. The male hippopotamus was seen by the Egyptians as a very destructive creature, yet the female hippopotamus came to symbolise protection. This is probably why Set was, in later times, regarded as evil while Taweret was thought to be a helpful goddess, deity of motherhood and protector of women and children.

 

 

Reference

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses 
Caroline Seawright, Published on Tour Egypt

 

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

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

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. The specific problem is: Lots of unsourced material, possibly original research and synthesis Please help improve this article if you can. (February 2014)

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.”

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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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