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- Lugh, Master of Skills

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Lugh

Master of Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lugh

Birth
Lugh’s father is Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and his mother is Ethniu, daughter of Balor, of the Fomorians. In Cath Maige Tuired their union is a dynastic marriage following an alliance between the Tuatha Dé and the Fomorians. In the Lebor Gabála Érenn Cian gives the boy to Tailtiu, queen of the Fir Bolg, in fosterage. In the Dindsenchas Lugh, the foster-son of Tailtiu, is described as the “son of the Dumb Champion”.

A folktale told to John O’Donovan by Shane O’Dugan of Tory Island in 1835 recounts the birth of a grandson of Balor who grows up to kill his grandfather. The grandson is unnamed, his father is called Mac Cinnfhaelaidh and the manner of his killing of Balor is different, but it has been taken as a version of the birth of Lugh, and was adapted as such by Lady Gregory. In this tale, Balor hears a druid’s prophecy that he will be killed by his own grandson. To prevent this he imprisons his only daughter in the Tór Mór (great tower) of Tory Island, cared for by twelve women, who are to prevent her ever meeting or even learning of the existence of men. On the mainland, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh owns a magic cow who gives such abundant milk that everyone, including Balor, wants to possess her. While the cow is in the care of Mac Cinnfhaelaidh’s brother Mac Samthainn, Balor appears in the form of a little red-haired boy and tricks him into giving him the cow. Looking for revenge, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh calls on a leanan sídhe (fairy woman) called Biróg, who transports him by magic to the top of Balor’s tower, where he seduces Eithne. In time she gives birth to triplets, which Balor gathers up in a sheet and sends to be drowned in a whirlpool. The messenger drowns two of the babies, but unwittingly drops one child into the harbour, where he is rescued by Biróg. She takes him to his father, who gives him to his brother, Gavida the smith, in fosterage.

There may be further triplism associated with his birth. His father in the folktale is one of a triad of brothers, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh, Gavida and Mac Samthainn, and his father in the medieval texts, Cian, is often mentioned together with his brothers Cú and Cethen. Lebor Gabála Érenn Two characters called Lugaid, a popular medieval Irish name thought to derive from Lugh, have three fathers: Lugaid Riab nDerg (Lugaid of the Red Stripes) was the son of the three Findemna or fair triplets, and Lugaid mac Con Roí was also known as mac Trí Con, “son of three hounds”. In Ireland’s other great “sequestered maiden” story, the tragedy of Deirdre, the king’s intended is carried off by three brothers, who are hunters with hounds. The canine imagery continues with Cian’s brother Cú (“hound”), another Lugaid, Lugaid Mac Con (son of a hound), and Lugh’s son Cúchulainn (“Culann’s Hound”).[18] A fourth Lugaid was Lugaid Loígde, a legendary King of Tara and ancestor of (or inspiration for) Lugaid Mac Con.

Lugh joins the Tuatha Dé Danann
As a young man Lugh travels to Tara to join the court of king Nuada of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The doorkeeper will not let him in unless he has a skill with which to serve the king. He offers his services as a wright, a smith, a champion, a swordsman, a harpist, a hero, a poet and historian, a sorcerer, and a craftsman, but each time is rejected as the Tuatha Dé Danann already have someone with that skill. But when Lugh asks if they have anyone with all those skills simultaneously, the doorkeeper has to admit defeat, and Lugh joins the court and is appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland. He wins a flagstone-throwing contest against Ogma, the champion, and entertains the court with his harp. The Tuatha Dé Danann are at that time oppressed by the Fomorians, and Lugh is amazed how meekly they accept this. Nuada wonders if this young man could lead them to freedom. Lugh is given command over the Tuatha Dé Danann, and he begins making preparations for war.

The sons of Tuireann
Tuireann and Cian, Lugh’s father, are old enemies, and one day his sons, Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba spot Cian in the distance and decide to kill him. They find him hiding in the form of a pig, but Cian tricked the brothers into allowing him to transform back to a man before they killed him, giving Lugh the legal right to claim compensation for a father rather than just a pig. When they try to bury him, the ground spits his body back twice before keeping him down, and eventually confesses that it is a grave to Lugh. Lugh holds a feast and invites the brothers, and during it he asks them what they would demand as compensation for the murder of their father. They reply that death is the only just demand, and Lugh agrees. He accuses them of the murder of his father, Cian, and sets them a series of seemingly impossible quests. The brothers go on an adventure and achieve them all except the last one, which will surely kill them. Despite Tuireann’s pleas, Lugh demands that they proceed and, when they are all fatally wounded, he denies them the use of one of the items they have retrieved, a magic pigskin which heals all wounds. They die of their wounds and Tuireann dies of grief over their bodies.

The Battle of Magh Tuireadh
Using the magic artifacts the sons of Tuireann have gathered, Lugh leads the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh against the Fomorians. Nuada is killed in the battle by Balor. Lugh faces Balor, who opens his terrible, poisonous eye that kills all it looks upon, but Lugh shoots a sling-stone that drives his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After the victory Lugh finds Bres, the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, alone and unprotected on the battlefield, and Bres begs for his life. If he is spared, he promises, he will ensure that the cows of Ireland always give milk. The Tuatha Dé Danann refuse the offer. He then promises four harvests a year, but the Tuatha Dé Danann say one harvest a year suits them. But Lugh spares his life on the condition that he teach the Tuatha Dé Danann how and when to plough, sow and reap.

Later life and death
Lugh instituted an event similar to the Olympic games called the Assembly of Talti which finished on Lughnasadh (1 August) in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, at the town that bears her name (now Teltown, County Meath). He likewise instituted Lughnasadh fairs in the areas of Carman and Naas in honour of Carman and Nás, the eponymous tutelary goddess of these two regions. Horse races and displays of martial arts were important activities at all three fairs. However, Lughnasadh itself is a celebration of Lugh’s triumph over the spirits of the Otherworld who had tried to keep the harvest for themselves. It survived long into Christian times and is still celebrated under a variety of names. Lúnasa is now the Irish name for the month of August.

According to a poem of the dindsenchas, Lugh was responsible for the death of Bres. He made 300 wooden cows, and filled them with a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then “milked” into pails and offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him.

Lugh is said to have invented the board game fidchell.

He had several wives, including Buí and Nás, daughters of Ruadri, king of Britain. Buí lived and was buried at Knowth. Nás was buried at Naas, County Kildare, which is named after her. Lugh had a son, Ibic, by Nás. His daughter or sister was Ebliu, who married Fintan. By the mortal Deichtine, he had another son, the hero Cú Chulainn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Myth Items
Lugh’s projectile weapon, whether a dart or missile, was envisioned by symbolic of lightning-weapon. Lugh’s sling rod, named “Lugh’s Chain”, was the rainbow and the Milky Way. Unlike the rod-sling, Lugh had no need to wield the spear himself. It was alive and thirsted so for blood that only by steeping its head in a sleeping-draught of pounded fresh poppy seeds could it be kept at rest. When battle was near, it was drawn out; then it roared and struggled against its thongs, fire flashed from it, and it tore through the ranks of the enemy once slipped from the leash, never tired of slaying.

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

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

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

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

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

Name and nature

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Lugh’s name has been interpreted as deriving from the Proto-Indo-European root *leuk-, “flashing light”, and he is often surrounded by solar imagery, so from Victorian times he has often been considered a sun god, similar to the Greco-Roman Apollo though historically he is only ever equated with Mercury.[citation needed] He appears in folklore as a trickster, and in County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lugh and Balor, so he is sometimes considered a storm god: Alexei Kondratiev notes his epithet lonnbeimnech (“fierce striker”) and concludes that “if his name has any relation to ‘light’ it more properly means ‘lightning-flash’ (as in Breton luc’h and Cornish lughes)”. However, Breton and Cornish are Brythonic languages in which Proto-Celtic *k did undergo systematic sound changes into -gh- and -ch-.

Lugh’s mastery of all arts has led many to link him with the unnamed Gaulish god Julius Caesar identifies with Mercury, whom he describes as the “inventor of all the arts”. Caesar describes the Gaulish Mercury as the most revered deity in Gaul, overseeing journeys and business transactions. Juliette Wood interprets Lugh’s name as deriving from the Celtic root *lugios, “oath”, and the Irish word lugh connotes ideas of “blasphemy, cussing, lies, bond, joint, binding oath”, which strengthens the identification with Mercury, who was, among other attributes, a god of contracts.

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

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

 

Reference
Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo 
Wikipedia

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

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 Hades

Lord of the Underworld

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hades Fact Sheet
Occupation: God, Lord of the Dead

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Hades
God of the Underworld

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Greek god of the underworld

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

 

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

 

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

— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Persephone

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

 

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

 

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

 

Demeter questioned Persephone on her return to light and air:

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

— Homeric Hymn to Demeter

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sources:
N.S. Gill Published On ThoughtCo

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

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

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Mars, Roman God of War

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

Early History and Worship

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

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

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

Festivals and Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

Mars the Warrior

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

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

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

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

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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 for April 2nd – Anubis

Anubis

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Anubis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Most ancient tombs had prayers to Anubis carved on them.

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

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

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

Weighing of the heart

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

Bibliography

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

Dictionary of Gods

Dictionary of Gods

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Usil (Etruscan)
The deified sun.

 

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

 

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

 

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

Sources

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

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

Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, 1935.

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

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

New Larouss Encyclopedia of Mythology, 1959, 1968.

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

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

Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome, 1998.

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

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

Deities of the Spring Equinox

OSTARA

Deities of the Spring Equinox

Spring is a time of great celebration in many cultures. It’s the time of year when the planting begins, people begin to once more enjoy the fresh air, and we can reconnect with the earth again after the long, cold winter. A number of different gods and goddesses from different pantheons are connected with the themes of Spring and Ostara. Here’s a look at some of the many deities associated with spring, rebirth, and new life each year.

Asase Yaa (Ashanti)
This earth goddess prepares to bring forth new life in the spring, and the Ashanti people of Ghana honor her at the festival of Durbar, alongside her husband Nyame, the sky god who brings rain to the fields. As a fertility goddess, she is often associated with the planting of early crops during the rainy season. In some parts of Africa, she is honored during an annual (or often bi-annual) festival called the Awuru Odo. This is a large gathering of extended family and kinship groups, and a great deal of food and feasting seems to be involved.

In some Ghanaian folktales, Asase Yaa appears as the mother of Anansi, the trickster god, whose legends followed many West Africans to the New World during the centuries of the slave trade.

Interestingly, there do not appear to be any formalized temples to Asase Yaa – instead, she is honored in the fields where the crops grown, and in the homes where she is celebrated as a goddess of fertility and the womb. Farmers may opt to ask her permission before they begin working the soil. Even though she is associated with the hard labor of tilling the fields and planting seeds, her followers take a day off on Thursday, which is her sacred day.

Cybele (Roman)
This mother goddess of Rome was at the center of a rather bloody Phrygian cult, in which eunuch priests performed mysterious rites in her honor. Her lover was Attis (he was also her grandson, but that’s another story), and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. In some areas, there is still an annual three-day celebration of Attis’ rebirth and Cybele’s power.

Like Attis, it is said that Cybele’s followers would work themselves into orgiastic frenzies and then ritually castrate themselves. After this, these priests donned women’s clothing, and assumed female identities. They became known as the Gallai. In some regions, female priestesses led Cybele’s dedicants in rituals involving ecstatic music, drumming and dancing. Under the leadership of Augustus Caesar, Cybele became extremely popular. Augustus erected a giant temple in her honor on the Palatine Hill, and the statue of Cybele that is in the temple bears the face of Augustus’ wife, Livia.

Today, many people still honor Cybele, although not in quite the same context as she once was. Groups like the Maetreum of Cybele honor her as a mother goddess and protector of women.

Eostre (Western Germanic)
Little is known about the worship of this Teutonic spring goddess, but she is mentioned by the Venerable Bede, who said that Eostre’s following had died out by the time he compiled his writings in the eighth century. Jacob Grimm referred to her by the High German equivalent, Ostara, in his 1835 manuscript, Deutsche Mythologie.

According to the stories, she is a goddess associated with flowers and springtime, and her name gives us the word “Easter,” as well as the name of Ostara itself. However, if you start to dig around for information on Eostre, you’ll find that much of it is the same. In fact, nearly all of it is Wiccan and Pagan authors who describe Eostre in a similar fashion. Very little is available on an academic level.

Interestingly, Eostre doesn’t appear anywhere in Germanic mythology, and despite assertions that she might be a Norse deity, she doesn’t show up in the poetic or prose Eddas either. However, she could certainly have belonged to some tribal group in the Germanic areas, and her stories may have just been passed along through oral tradition.

So, did Eostre exist or not? No one knows. Some scholars dispute it, others point to etymological evidence to say that she did in fact have a festival honoring her. Read more here: Eostre – Spring Goddess or NeoPagan Fancy?

Freya (Norse)
This fertility goddess abandons the earth during the cold months, but returns in the spring to restore nature’s beauty. She wears a magnificent necklace called Brisingamen, which represents the fire of the sun. Freyja was similar to Frigg, the chief goddess of the Aesir, which was the Norse race of sky deities. Both were connected with childrearing, and could take on the aspect of a bird. Freyja owned a magical cloak of hawk’s feathers, which allowed her to transform at will. This cloak is given to Frigg in some of the Eddas.

As the wife of Odin, the All Father, Freyja was often called upon for assistance in marriage or childbirth, as well as to aid women struggling with infertility.

Osiris (Egyptian)
Osiris is known as the king of Egyptian gods. This lover of Isis dies and is reborn in a resurrection story. The resurrection theme is popular among spring deities, and is also found in the stories of Adonis, Mithras and Attis as well.

Born the son of Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky), Osiris was the twin brother of Isis and became the first pharoah. He taught mankind the secrets of farming and agriculture, and according to Egyptian myth and legend, brought civilization itself to the world. Ultimately, the reign of Osiris was brought about by his death at the hands of his brother Set (or Seth).

The death of Osiris is a major event in Egyptian legend.

Saraswati (Hindu)
This Hindu goddess of the arts, wisdom and learning has her own festival each spring in India, called Saraswati Puja. She is honored with prayers and music, and is usually depicted holding lotus blossoms and the sacred Vedas.

 

Author

Patti Wigington
Published on ThoughtCo.com

Pagan Study of the Gods & Goddesses, Today, Adonis

Adonis

Adonis

Adonis is a seasonal life/death/rebirth God associated with Tammuz, Atunis, Baldr, Osiris, Attis and Jesus. The name means “Lord”

His feast day is the Adonia and was celebrated in what is now August. Young women mourn him on this day and plant seeds of quick blooming, short lived flowers in his honor.

Conception and Birth
King Theias (or Cinyras) of Syria (or Smyrna) had a daughter named Myrrha (or Smyrna if you prefer). She was quite lovely and he bragged that she was lovelier even than Aphrodite. Aphrodite decided that a man who was so enamored by a girl’s beauty, certainly deserved her love, and caused poor Myrrha to fall madly in love with her own father.

Of course, she was horrified at the thought that she should be feeling this way about her father and did her very best to ignore her feelings. But this only made things worse. She swooned at his smile and shuddered at his touch. She woke sweating in the night from dreams of him and then sobbed at the shame of it. She became depressed, spoke little and ate less. Her nurse, who had served her since birth could tell that something was wrong and pressed the girl until she finally revealed her horrible secret.

At first her nurse urged her to continue to suppress her feelings and tried to treat her with sleeping droughts and appetite stimulants and by diverting her attention with entertaining games, outings and stories. She even attempted to arouse her interest in other men, but to no avail. Myrrha was pining, and she was wasting away. Her nurse was certain she would die if something wasn’t done soon.

On a certain evening, when Myrrha’s mother had gone to celebrate the festival of Demeter, the nurse noticed the King was quite drunk. She led him to bed, and then led Myrrha to his side. Myrrha lay by her father in the darkness and they knew a night of passion like none known since. He was enamored, and begged to know who she was, but she would not tell him and promised to return only when it was quite dark. He agreed, and she returned night after night under cover of darkness.

One night, after they had made love she fell asleep. He lit a lamp and held it up and was horrified to see his own daughter laying naked beside him! He bellowed his rage and went for his sword, determined to kill her, but she fled outside and Aphrodite, took pity on her and turned her into a tree before he could reach her. Myrrha’s pain was so great, having lost her father’s love and her lover and having given in to shameful temptation that even as a tree, the girl wept sweet smelling resin that came to be known as Myrrh.

Sometime later, a boar came by and rubbed its tusks on the tree, causing it to split and the young Adonis emerged. Fearful that his father/grandfather would certainly kill him if he discovered him, Aphrodite scooped him up and took him to the underworld and asked its Queen, Persephone, to look after him.

Adonis grew in beauty and strength and both Goddesses fell in love with him. When Aphrodite wanted him back, Persephone refused and she kept him as her own lover in the Underworld.

Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, settled the argument, giving each Goddess his custody for one third of the year, and granting him a third of the year to himself. He chose, however, to stay with Aphrodite during that third.

Death
Aphrodite warned Adonis to stay by her side, but the boy loved to hunt and inevitably, he went out into the forest alone one day. Discovering his absence, Aphrodite rushed to his side, but too late. He lay dying having been gored in the groin by a boar. She arrived in time to catch his last breath. She sprinkled him with nectar, and red anemones sprang up where his blood stained the ground. For the first time, Aphrodite wished she wasn’t mortal, and cried out her lament to the skies that she could join Adonis in the underworld, but she knew it could not be.

Reference

Witchipedia

Adonis

Greek mythology

Adonis, in Greek mythology, a youth of remarkable beauty, the favourite of the goddess Aphrodite (identified with Venus by the Romans). Traditionally, he was the product of the incestuous love Smyrna (Myrrha) entertained for her own father, the Syrian king Theias. Charmed by his beauty, Aphrodite put the newborn infant Adonis in a box and handed him over to the care of Persephone, the queen of the underworld, who afterward refused to give him up. An appeal was made to Zeus, the king of the gods, who decided that Adonis should spend a third of the year with Persephone and a third with Aphrodite, the remaining third being at his own disposal. A better-known story, hinted at in Euripides’ Hippolytus, is that Artemis avenged her favourite, Hippolytus, by causing the death of Adonis, who, being a hunter, ventured into her domain and was killed by a wild boar. Aphrodite pleaded for his life with Zeus, who allowed Adonis to spend half of each year with her and half in the underworld.

The central idea of the myth is that of the death and resurrection of Adonis, which represent the decay of nature every winter and its revival in spring. He is thus viewed by modern scholars as having originated as an ancient spirit of vegetation. Annual festivals called Adonia were held at Byblos and elsewhere to commemorate Adonis for the purpose of promoting the growth of vegetation and the falling of rain. The name Adonis is believed to be of Phoenician origin (from ʾadōn, “lord”), Adonis himself being identified with the Babylonian god Tammuz. Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis (1593) is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book X.

Written By:

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Adonis

A tale as old as time

 

The myth of Adonis, a tale as old as time, is a legendary love story that combines tragedy and death on the one hand, and the joy of coming back to life on the other. The story of the impossibly handsome Adonis and his lover the goddess Aphrodite originally dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Near East. It was popular among the Canaanites, and very well-known to the people of Mesopotamia and Egypt as well, though referred to by different names in each civilization. It is the legend of the god of beauty who faced death when he was young, but came back to life for the sake of his beloved Aphrodite. The myth has been a source of great inspiration for many poets, artists and historians alike, leading to its widespread use as a major theme in literary and intellectual productions.

From The Canaanite Adon To The Greek Adonis

The god Adon was considered one of the most important Canaanite gods: he was the god of beauty, fertility and permanent renewal. The name itself, “Adon”, means “The Lord” in Canaanite. In Greek mythology and the Hellenic world generally, he was called Adonis, and became known by that name among those nations. Other adaptations of Adon in various civilizations include the Canaanite god Baal who was worshiped in Ugarit, and Tammuz or Dumuzi (meaning July) as he was known to the Babylonians. In Egypt, he was Osiris, the god of resurrection.

In addition to the god Adonis, the myth involves his everlasting mistress Astarte, the goddess of love and beauty. She was known as Aphrodite to the Greeks, and Venus to the Romans. Their stories were so intertwined that Adonis’ myth would be incomplete without mentioning Astarte and the legendary love story that brought them together.

When Aphrodite saw Adonis she was so amazed by his beauty that she decided to hide him from the rest of the goddesses.

The role that Cyprus played in transferring the myth of Adonis and Astarte from the Canaanite regions to the Greeks – and from the latter to the Romans – is a very significant one. However, perhaps due to the lack of Mesopotamian and Canaanite sources written about this legend (and often the ambiguity of such sources), the late Greek writings are the main references for this tale of eternal love. Hence, the myth is most popularly known as that of Adonis and Aphrodite, rather than Adon and Astarte.

Adonis in Greek Mythology

Based on the different Greek sources (such as Bion of Smyrna) and the other Roman references (like Ovid’s Metamorphoses) a general consensus on the story of Adonis and Aphrodite is as follows:

A great king called Cinyras (in some sources known as Theias, the king of Assyria) had a daughter named Myrrha, who was very beautiful. The king used to boast about his daughter being more beautiful than Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. When Aphrodite heard of this, she became angry and decided to retaliate. She used her son Eros, the god of desire and attraction, to make Myrrha fall in love with her father, and even deceived him into committing incest. When Cinyras discovered the trick, he swore to kill Myrrha, who in turn escaped from her father after realizing she was pregnant. Myrrha was ashamed and regretful of her heinous act, and pleaded to the gods to protect her. They answered her prayers by turning her into a Myrrh tree.

Nine months later, the Myrrh tree split off, and Adonis was born; he had inherited the beauty of his mother. When Aphrodite saw the boy, she was so amazed by his beauty that she decided to hide him from the rest of the goddesses, and entrusted him to Persephone, goddess of the underworld. Persephone began looking after the boy, and when he grew older and became more and more attractive, she fell in love with him.

A conflict then rose between Aphrodite and Persephone, who refused to give Adonis back to Aphrodite. Zeus, the king of the gods, intervened and ruled that Adonis to spend four months of the year with Persephone in Hades, the Underworld, then four months with Aphrodite, and the remaining four months however he wished. Because Adonis was so taken with the charm of Aphrodite, he devoted his free four months to her as well.

Adonis was well-known for his hunting skills, and in one of the hunting journeys in the Afqa Forest (near Byblos), Adonis was attacked by a wild boar and began bleeding in the hands of Aphrodite, who poured her magical nectar on his wounds. Although Adonis died, the blood blended with the nectar and flowed onto the soil where a flower sprouted from the ground, its scent the same as Aphrodite’s nectar, and its color that of Adonis’ blood – the Anemone flower. The blood reached the river and colored the water red, and the river became known as the “Adonis River” (currently known as Nahr Ibrahim or River Abraham), which is located in the Lebanese village of Afqa.

Worship of Adonis

Byblos was one of the main places in the ancient world that used to observe the rituals of Adonis, and actually brought back the practice of these ceremonies and rites well into the early centuries of Christianity. The writings of Lucian of Samosata in the second century CE played a major role in shedding light on the rituals that were widely practiced by the people of Byblos. His book On The Syrian Goddess (De Dea Syria) recounts his visit to the village Afqa, where he explains what he encountered.

According to Lucian, the people of Byblos believed the wild boar incident that befell Adonis happened in their country. To commemorate this event, they would smite themselves each year, mourn, and celebrate religious rituals and orgies while a great mourning prevailed over the entire country. When their beating and bewailing stopped, they would celebrate the funeral of Adonis, as if he had died, and then the next day announce that he had returned to life and was sent to heaven.

Another one of the Byblos region’s marvels is the river that runs from Mount Lebanon and flows into the sea. The River Adonis is said to lose its color every year and take on a bloody red hue, pouring into the sea and dyeing a large part of the beach red – a sign to the people of Byblos to start their time of mourning. It is believed that at this time of year, Adonis was wounded in Lebanon, and his blood went to the riverbed. One of the reasons given by Lucian – as told to him by one of Byblos’ wise men – explaining why the river turns red at this time of the year is the strong wind blowing soil into the river. The soil of Lebanon (and of this region particularly) is known for its red color, which, when mixed with the river water, turns it purple.

The Immortal Myth

The popularity of the story of Adonis and his mistress Aphrodite led to a revival of its rituals in many other Phoenician cities as well. It also spread across to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, but with minor differences in adaptation, depending on the characteristics and features of each civilization. The essence of the legend, however, remains intact across all adaptations: a god of beauty and youth and his relationship with the goddess of love, along with the young god’s death and return to life being a metaphor of nature’s annual rebirth.

The myth of Adonis is closely related to the concept of vegetation and agricultural civilizations, such as Mesopotamia or the Canaanite areas (as the story originated in the Near East). The winter was a season of gloom and sadness for the inhabitants of these areas, whereas the spring and summer brought them the joy of new life. This myth is commonly believed to be an expression of its people’s thinking, reflections, and psychological perceptions.

Remnants of Adonis worship are still present in this day and age among some nations of the Levant, Mesopotamia, and even Persia/Iran, where it is manifested as part of spring folklore celebrations, like the Feast of Nauroz.

 

References:

APA Style

Azar, E. N. (2016, February 21). Adonis. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Adonis/
Chicago Style

Azar, Elias N. “Adonis.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 21, 2016. https://www.ancient.eu/Adonis/.
MLA Style

Azar, Elias N. “Adonis.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 21 Feb 2016. Web. 16 Mar 2018.
License
Written by Elias N. Azar, published on 21 February 2016 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.

La Fin

The Pagan Study of the Gods & Goddesses for March 14th – Ares

Ares

Ares

Greek God of War

Ares is the god of war, one of the Twelve OLYMPIAN GODS and the son of ZEUS and HERA. In literature Ares represents the violent and physical untamed aspect of war, which is in contrast to ATHENA who represents military strategy and generalship as the goddess of intelligence.

Although Ares embodied the physical aggression necessary for success in war, the Greeks were ambivalent toward him because he was a dangerous, overwhelming force that was insatiable in battle.

He is well known as the lover of APHRODITE, who was married to HEPHAESTUS, and though Ares plays a limited role in literature, when he does appear in myths it is typically facing humiliation. For example, one famous story of Ares and Aphrodite exposes them to ridicule by the gods when her husband Hephaestus trapped them both naked in a bed using a clever device he made.

The ROMAN COUNTERPART to Ares was MARS, who was known as a FATHER TO THE ROMAN PEOPLE. Because of this, he was a less aggressive and physical form, revealing a more calm and understanding demeanour.

Facts about Ares
Ares was most notably referred to as the God of War; he represented the unpleasant aspects of battle.
He was the son of Zeus and Hera, both of whom hated him (according to Homer).
Ares was most often characterized as a coward in spite of his connection to war; he responded to even the slightest injury with outrage.
According to some sources, Ares was described as Aphrodite’s lover and was held in contempt by her husband, Hephaestus. The affair between them was not a secret among the Olympians.
Ares was never very popular—either with men or the other immortals. As a result, his worship in Greece was not substantial or widespread.
He came from Thrace, home of a fierce people in the northeast of Greece.
His bird was the vulture.
The Amazons, warrior women, were his daughters. Their mother was a peace-loving nymph named Harmony.
Otus and Ephialtes, twin giants, imprisoned Ares for a lunar year by binding him with chains of brass; he was eventually rescued by Hermes.
Ares always took the side of Aphrodite in the Trojan War. He fought for Hector (a Trojan) until a Greek warrior pierced him with a spear that was guided by Athena. He then departed the battlefield in order to complain to Zeus about Athena’s violence.
Harmonia, Goddess of Harmony, was the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
Eros (more commonly known as Cupid) was also the child of Ares and Aphrodite.
Tereus, a son of Ares, was known to have inherited his father’s abhorrent qualities.
Ares was the biological father of at least three of Hercules’ enemies: Cycnus, Lycaon, and Diomedes.
Ares had a sister named Eris, who was the Goddess of Discord.
Hebe, another sister of his, was the Goddess of Youth.
Ares rarely figures into mythology stories, but when he does, he usually suffers some form of humiliation.
Ares was associated with two other war deities: Enyalius and Enyo.
Ares had many offspring, which is characteristic of nearly all of the notable Greek gods. He conceived more mortal children than divine children.
In art, Ares is generally depicted wearing a spear and a helmet.

 – Greek Gods & Goddesses, September 19, 2014

Ares

Ares was the god of war, and son of Zeus and Hera. He represented the raw violence and untamed acts that occured in wartime, in contrast to Athena, who was a symbol of tactical strategy and military planning.

What side of the Trojan War was Ares on?

He was disliked by both his parents. Whenever Ares appeared in a myth, he was depicted as a violent personality, who faced humiliation through his defeats more than once. In the Iliad, it is mentioned that Zeus hated him more than anyone else; Ares was also on the losing side of the Trojan War, favouring the Trojans.

He was the lover of his sister, Aphrodite, who was married to Hephaestus. When the latter found out about the affair, he devised a plan and managed to humiliate both of them. The union of Ares and Aphrodite resulted in the birth of eight children, including Eros, god of love.

Ares temples

There were few temples attributed to Ares in Ancient Greece. Sacrifices would usually be made to him when an army would march to war; Spartans would make sacrifices to Enyalius, another lesser god and son of Ares and Enyo. However, the name was also used as a byname for Ares.

Who were Ares companions?

When Ares went to war, he was followed by his companions, Deimos (terror) and Phobos (fear), who were the product of his union with Aphrodite. Eris, goddess of discord and sister of Deimos and Phobos, often accompanied them in war.

Reference

Greek Mythology

Ares

 

Ares was the Greek god of war and perhaps the most unpopular of all the Olympian gods because of his quick temper, aggressiveness, and unquenchable thirst for conflict. He famously seduced Aphrodite, unsuccessfully fought with Hercules, and enraged Poseidon by killing his son Halirrhothios. One of the more human Olympian gods, he was a popular subject in Greek art and even more so in Roman times when he took on a much more serious aspect as Mars, the Roman god of war.

FAMILY RELATIONS
Son of Zeus and Hera, Ares’ sisters were Hebe and Eileithyia. Despite being a god, the Greeks considered him from Thrace, perhaps in an attempt to associate him with what they thought of as foreign and war-loving peoples, wholly different from themselves. Ares had various children with different partners, several of whom were unfortunate enough to come up against Hercules when he performed his celebrated twelve labours. Ares’ daughter Hippolyta, the Amazon queen, lost her girdle to Hercules; his son Eurytion lost his cattle; and Diomedes had his horses stolen by the Greek hero. The courageous but warlike Amazons were also thought to be descendants of Ares.

Ares was noted for his beauty and courage, qualities which no doubt helped him win the affections of Aphrodite (even though she was married to Hephaistos) with whom he had a daughter, Harmonia, and the god of love and desire Eros. Hephaistos managed to entrap the lovers in an ingenious bed, and the tale is told in some detail in Book 8 of Homer’s Odyssey. Once caught, the punishment for Ares’ indiscretion was temporary banishment from Mount Olympus.

Described by Hesiod in his Theogony as ‘shield-piercing Ares’ and ‘city-sacking Ares,’ the god represented the more brutal and bloody side of battle, which was in contrast to Athena who represented the more strategic elements of warfare. In stories from Greek mythology, Ares was usually to be found in the company of his other children with Aphrodite, Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Terror), with his sister Eris (Strife), and with his charioteer Ennyo.

BATTLE WITH HERCULES
The most popular myth involving Ares was his fight with Hercules. Ares’ son Kyknos was infamous for waylaying pilgrims on their way to the oracle at Delphi, and so earned the displeasure of Apollo, who sent Hercules to deal with him. Hercules killed Kyknos, and a furious Ares engaged the hero in a fight. However, Hercules was protected from harm by Athena and even managed to wound Ares. Another myth and ignominious episode for Ares was his capture by the twin Giants Ephialtes and Otus when they stormed Mount Olympus. They imprisoned the god in a bronze jar (or cauldron) for one year and he was only freed through the intervention of Hermes.

THE TROJAN WAR
In Homer’s version of the Trojan War in the Iliad, Ares supports the Trojans, sometimes even leading them in battle along with Hector. The Iliad shows Ares in a less than positive light, and he is described as ‘hateful Ares,’ ‘the man-killer,’ ‘the war-glutton,’ and the ‘curse of men.’ Homer’s picture of Ares, like the above mythological tales, often demonstrates his weakness in comparison to the other gods. Ares is roundly beaten by Athena who, supporting the Achaeans, knocks him out with a large rock. He also comes off worse against the Achaean hero Diomedes who even manages to injure the god with his spear, albeit with the help of Athena. Homer describes the scream of the wounded Ares as like the shouts of 10,000 men. Fleeing back to Olympus, Zeus ignores the complaints of Ares but instructs Paieon to heal his wound.

ATHENS & CULT
Ares again upset the harmony of Olympus when he was accused of killing Poseidon’s son Halirrhothios near a stream below the Athenian acropolis. A special court was convened – the Areopagos – on a hill near the stream, to hear the case. Ares was acquitted as it was disclosed Halirrhothios had raped Ares’ daughter Alcippe. Thereafter in Athens, the Areopagus became the place of trial for cases involving murder and impiety.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the city’s strong militaristic culture, Ares was greatly esteemed in Sparta. Ares was not commonly worshipped but there were cult sites with temples dedicated to the god on Crete (he is mentioned in Linear B tablets from Knossos) and at Argos, Athens, Erythrae, Geronthrae, Megalopolis, Tegea, Therapne, and Troezon. He also had a cult in Thrace and was popular among the Colchians on the Black Sea.

REPRESENTATION IN ART
In ancient Greek Archaic and Classical art, Ares is most often depicted wearing full armour and helmet and carrying a shield and spear. In this respect, he may appear indistinguishable from any other armed warrior. Sometimes he is shown riding his chariot pulled by fire-breathing horses. The myth of Ares’ battle with Hercules was a popular subject for Attic vases in the 6th century BCE.

In later times, the Roman god Mars was given many of the attributes of Ares, although, as was typical of the Roman view of the gods, with less human qualities. In Roman mythology, Mars was also the father of Romulus and Remus (through the rape of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia), the legendary founders of Rome, and, therefore, the city achieved a sacred status. Like Athena for Athens, Mars was also the patron god of the Roman capital and the month martius (March) was named after him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Cartwright
Mark’s special interests include ancient ceramics, architecture, and mythology. He loves visiting and reading about historic sites and transforming that experience into free articles accessible to all.

Ancient History

BALDER ODINSEN (Norse)

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

How Balder, the good and beautiful god, was done to death by a stroke of the mistletoe

A deity whose life might in a sense be said to be neither in heaven nor on earth but between the two, was the Norse Balder, the good and beautiful god, the son of the great god Odin, and himself the wisest, mildest, best beloved of all the immortals. The story of his death, as it is told in the younger or prose “Edda”, runs thus. Once on a time Balder dreamed heavy dreams which seemed to forebode his death.

Thereupon the gods held a council and resolved to make him secure against every danger. So the goddess Frigg took an oath from fire and water, iron and all metals, stones and earth, from trees, sicknesses and poisons, and from all four-footed beasts, birds, and creeping things, that they would not hurt Balder. When this was done Balder was deemed invulnerable; so the gods amused themselves by setting him in their midst, while some shot at him, others hewed at him, and others threw stones at him. But whatever they did, nothing could hurt him; and at this they were all glad. Only Loki, the mischief-maker, was displeased, and he went in the guise of an old woman to Frigg, who told him that the weapons of the gods could not wound Balder, since she had made them all swear not to hurt him. Then Loki asked, “Have all things sworn to spare Balder?” She answered, “East of Walhalla grows a plant called mistletoe; it seemed to me too young to swear.” So Loki went and pulled the mistletoe and took it to the assembly of the gods. There he found the blind god Hother standing at the outside of the circle. Loki asked him, “Why do you not shoot at Balder?” Hother answered, “Because I do not see where he stands; besides I have no weapon.” Then said Loki, “Do like the rest and shew Balder honour, as they all do. I will shew you where he stands, and do you shoot at him with this twig.” Hother took the mistletoe and threw it at Balder, as Loki directed him….Read More