Decoding the Morse: The History of 16th-Century Narcoleptic Walruses

Woodcut of the morse from Olaus Magnus’ Historiae de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (1558 edition) / archive.org Amongst the assorted curiosities described in Olaus Magnus’ 1555 tome on Nordic life was the morse — a hirsuite, fearsome walrus-like beast, that was said to snooze upon cliffs while hanging by its teeth. Natalie Lawrence explores the career of[…]

Religion and Art in Ancient Greece

Fragment of a Hellenistic relief (1st century BCE – 1st century CE) depicting the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession; from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hephaestus (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt[…]

Patron Deities and Politics among the Classic Maya

Maya mask. Stucco frieze from Placeres, Campeche. Early Classic period (c. 250 – 600 AD) / Photo by Wolfgang Sauber, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City By Dr. Joanne Baron Lecturer in Anthropology University of Pennsylvania Introduction Most modern scholars agree that religious belief played at least some role in the exercise and legitimization of[…]

Instrumental Music in Representations of Ancient Greek Cult

By Dr. Gullög C. Nordquist Professor of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History Uppsala University Introduction Music was indispensable in Greek cult: almost all kinds of musical performances, hymns and dithyrambs as well as the musical agones[1] and theatre performances, belonged to cult in one form or another. It is of course this art-music that has[…]

Ancient Religious World Views

Procession of twelve gods and goddesses. The figures from left to right are: Hestia (goddess of the hearth), with scepter; Hermes (messenger of the gods), with cap and staff; Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty), with veil; Ares (god of war), with helmet and spear; Demeter (goddess of agriculture), with scepter and wheat sheaf; Hephaestus[…]

The Story and Labors of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules overview / Wikimedia Commons One of the most popular of Greek heroes, Hercules (“Herakles”) was celebrated in stories, sculptures, paintings, and even in the geography of the ancient world. Perseus Project Classics Department Tufts University The Life and Times of Hercules Stories about the gods, called myths, were made up thousands[…]

Prodicus on the Rise of Civilization: Religion, Agriculture, and Culture Heroes

Karthea Temple ruins on the island of Keos (modern Kea) By Dr. Stavros Kouloumentas / 11.01.2016 Postdoctoral Classics Research Fellow University of Humboldt, Berlin CHS Research Bulletin 4:2 (2016) Introduction Three authors who were active in classical Athens seem to have been familiar with Prodicus’ doctrines.[1] Xenophon preserves a speech of Prodicus in which the[…]

Fragments of the Past: How to Study Old Norse Religion

Ardnamurchan boat site / Photo by Jon Haylett, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Britt-Mari Näsström Professor of Religious History University of Gothenurg, Sweden Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 17:2 (1999), 177-185 The Source Problem Ansgar made an unsuccessful attempt to Christianize the Vikings as early as in the 830s. / From Hamilton, Hugo. 1830. Teckningar ur Skandinaviens[…]

Mithraism and the Medieval Introduction of Tarot Cards

The graphic design artist who created this magnificent Tarot deck was Gioseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718) from Bologna, Italy. Etcher, painter and sculptor, and son of Agostino Mitelli, a painter of the Baroque period; best known as a fresco painter of quadratura, Gioseppe studied with several prominent Bolognese painters. He has created over 500 etched prints[…]

Ancient Minoan Religion

The peak sanctuary at Petsofas: reconstruction with a tripartite building and medium horns of consecration. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Jeremy B. Rutter Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies Sherman Fairchild Professor Emeritus in the Humanities Dartmouth College The Nature of the Evidence This consists of the following four broad classes, the last of which will[…]

Tellings and Texts: Dadupanthi Homiletics in North India

Dadupanthi Saints / Photo from University of Oxford By Dr. Monika Horstmann / 10.01.2015 Professor of Linguistics University of Heidelberg “The Example in Dadupanthi Homiletics,”[1], from Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature, and Performance in North India Introduction India is rife with preaching. There is no city, no village where there are not on generous display[…]

The Survival of Shamanism in Post-Soviet Siberia

Buryat shaman Tash Ool Buuevich Kunga consecrating an ovoo. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Olle Sundström / 01.16.2014 Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies and Theology Umeå University, Sweden Abstract In his exhaustive study of ‘shamanism’ among the Altaic peoples in Southern Siberia, the renowned Soviet ethnographer Leonid P. Potapov contends that ‘under the present conditions[…]

Goddesses in Celtic Religion: Water Goddesses

A mountain stream / Photo by Dilshad Roshan, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Noémie Beck / 12.04.2009 Professor of Irish Studies Concordia University Introduction This is devoted to goddesses linked to water, such as rivers, springs, fountains, lakes, etc. Water has always been regarded as a particular sacred element of the landscape, worshipped for its life-giving[…]

Similarity in Superstitions in Anatolian and Chinese Cultures

Anatolian nazar symbol / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Güliz Ulu / 05.24.2016 Professor of Linguistics Huazhong University of Science and Technology Abstract This article aims at exploring similarity between Anatolian and Chinese prevalent superstitions, the reasons behind them and contributing to literature concerning superstitions. In this compara-tive study, marriage, birth, and death superstitions and their[…]

Goddesses in Celtic Religion: Territorial and War Goddesses

The Morrigan is the goddess of war, battle, strife, and fertility in Celtic mythology. Most notably in Ireland, but also in other parts of Europe. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Noémie Beck / 12.04.2009 Professor of Irish Studies Concordia University Introduction Nature definitely had a sacred dimension for the Celts, who revered it in the[…]

Geomythology: Can Geologists Relate Ancient Stories of Great Floods to Real Events?

Cataclysmic natural disasters frame indelible human stories. Francis Danby, The Deluge By Dr. David R. Montgomery / 08.04.2016 Professor of Earth and Space Sciences University of Washington Modern people have long wondered about ancient stories of great floods. Do they tell of real events in the distant past, or are they myths rooted in imagination?[…]