Amabie: A Disease-Fighting Mermaid of Japanese Lore

The world has become enchanted with a three-legged mermaid called Amabie, said to help fight plague. Last spring, in western Tokyo, my research assistant Payton Letko came upon an unusual treat in a small bakery: pastries in the shape of the Japanese folklore creature Amabie, a three-legged sea creature with scales and long flowing hair,[…]

A Brief History of Mermaid Mythology

Mermaids are not real, but they are meaningful to people around the world. Introduction Mermaids – underwater creatures that are half fish and half human – do not exist except in people’s imaginations. Scientists who study the ocean for the United States have investigated their possible existence and say no evidence of mermaids has ever[…]

The Unicorn Myth in Ancient and Medieval Folklore

Accounts describe the unicorn as ferocious, swift, and impossible to capture, with a magical horn capable of healing numerous ailments. By Hillary Smith Introduction The unicorn, a mythical creature popularized in European folklore, has captivated the human imagination for over 2,000 years. For most of that time, well into the Middle Ages, people also believed them[…]

Ethical Didaxis and the Role of Poetry in the Lying Tales of Odysseus

Indirect communication is a central feature of the lying tales Odysseus tells. In book 13 of the Odyssey, Odysseus finds himself abandoned by his Phaeacian escort in a land which he does not recognize and with no certain way to protect the gifts he has obtained from King Alcinous. Soon met by Athena disguised as[…]

Kratos: Brutal Tyrant of Ancient Greek Mythology

Kratos is characterized as brutal and merciless, advocating for the use of unnecessary violence. Introduction In Greek mythology, Kratos (or Cratos) is the divine personification of strength. He is the son of Pallas and Styx. Kratos and his siblings Nike (“Victory”), Bia (“Force”), and Zelus (“Zeal”) are all essentially personifications of a trait.[5] Kratos is[…]

Sisyphus: Deceitful Trickster God of Ancient Greek Mythology

As a punishment for his trickery, Hades made King Sisyphus roll a huge boulder endlessly up a steep hill. Introduction In Greek mythology Sisyphus, or Sisyphos, was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill[…]

Azazel: The Evil Fallen Angel of Ancient and Medieval Hebrew Apocalypticism

The Book of Enoch brings Azazel as a fallen angel onto Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons of old, as a rebellious “Watcher”. Overview Azazel is, according to the Book of Enoch, a fallen Angel. In the Bible, the name Azazel appears in association with the scapegoat rite; the name represents a desolate place where[…]

Ahriman: The ‘Devil’ of Ancient and Medieval Zoroastrianism

Ahriman was the “Evil spirit, … whose religion is evil [and] who ever ridiculed and mocked the wicked in hell.” Overview Angra Mainyuis the Avestan-language name of Zoroastrianism’s hypostasis of the “destructive spirit/mentality” and the main adversary in Zoroastrianism either of the Spenta Mainyu, the “holy/creative spirits/mentality”, or directly of Ahura Mazda, the highest deity[…]

Loki, Villainous Trickster God of Medieval Norse Mythology

Loki is referred to in 13th-century Scandinavian poems and folklore. Introduction Loki is a god in Norse mythology. Loki is in some sources the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By[…]

Classical Archaeology and Ancient Greek Mythology

Despite the scientific rigor of archaeology today, archaeological exploration is still an art and an adventure of the human mind. Introduction to Classical Archaeology Classical Archaeology is the study of past societies in the Mediterranean region on the basis of surviving material evidence. What this means, for all practical purposes, is that classical archaeologists –[…]

An Historical Overview of Ancient Greek Mythology

Greek myths were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition by Minoan and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BCE. Introduction Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and[…]

Magna Mater: The Cult of Cybele in Ancient Rome

Originally, the Cybelean cult was brought to Rome during the time of the Second Punic War (218 -201 BCE). Introduction History verifies the importance of religion not only on a society’s development but also on its survival; in this respect the Romans were no different than other ancient civilizations. During the formative years of the[…]

The Cult of Athena in Ancient Greece

In Athens, the cult of Athena Polias was the most important religious faction. Much like the Vestal Virgins of Rome, the priestesses of Greek religion enjoyed a great many perks that other Greek women did not. In exchange for the commitment to their religious and civic responsibilities, they were often paid, given property, and most[…]

Ancient Greek Sanctuaries as Artistic Hubs

Greek sanctuaries were perennially lively venues, each with their idiosyncratic myths and rites. Introduction For the ancient Greeks, religion was inextricably tied to everyday life. Gods and many other supernatural beings could manifest anywhere, at any time, and often in unexpected forms. Yet even within such a boundless concept of religion, there were locations deemed[…]

Fratricide: The Mythology of Romulus and Remus and the Founding of Ancient Rome

There is no evidence concerning the historicity of the Romulus and Remus mythology. Introduction The Romulus and Remus legend is perhaps one of the most famous myths in all Roman mythology and one of the best-known myths of all time. The story of the twins is the foundation-myth of Ancient Rome and it was central[…]

The François Vase: Story Book of Ancient Greek Mythology

The neat labels of Greek text that accompany and identify many of the characters on the vase still help us understand its imagery today. Introduction 270 figures run, fight, and dance across the surface of the François Vase. While the decoration seems dense and busy to our modern eyes, an ancient viewer would have known[…]

Meet an Ushabti, an Ancient Egyptian Statuette Made for the Afterlife

What we know about this figure discovered in Neferibresaneith’s tomb. What’s an Ushtabi? Ushabtis are figurines that were designed to be placed in someone’s tomb. Ushabtis look like human figures that have been mummified, usually with their arms crossed over their chest. Some, like the Getty’s ushabti, were very carefully made, with detailed features, while[…]

Exploring ‘End Times’ Armageddon Mythology across Faiths

The term is often used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario. Introduction According to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late Latin: Armagedōn,[3] from Hebrew: הר מגידו‎ Har Megiddo) is the prophesied location of a gathering[…]

Medieval Christian Saints and Magical Charms as Protection from Animals

Saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. St Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1225) is traditionally known as the patron saint of animals and the natural environment. During the Middle Ages, however, other saints were sometimes associated with protecting animals, particularly in magical texts or ‘charms’. One such charm is found[…]

Sex with Demons: A Belief That Runs Deep in Christian and Jewish Traditions

The earliest account of demon sex in Jewish and Christian traditions comes from the Book of Genesis. Introduction Houston physician and pastor Stella Immanuel – described as “spectacular” by Donald Trump for her promotion of unsubstantiated claims about anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 – has some other, very unconventional views. As well[…]

Exploring Abrahamic Mythology since the Ancient World

In its broadest academic sense, the word “myth” simply means a traditional story. However, many restrict the term to sacred stories. Introduction Abrahamic mythology is the body of myths associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The term encompasses a broad variety of legends and stories, especially those considered sacred narratives. Mythological themes and elements occur[…]

Myth and Epic in the Ancient World

Exploring believed what and the effect literal belief in myths had on given social orders. Introduction Anthropologists and literary critics tend to read even sacred ancient literature in the manner of Homer’s and Virgil’s epics, that is, as fiction with historical elements. They don’t, however, always follow up with the implications of that. Mesopotamian myths[…]

The Sun-Cult in Ancient Egypt

The name of the new god in ordinary everyday parlance was pa Aton, “the Aton.” By Dr. Aylward M. BlackmanLate Special LecturerUniversity of Manchester It has often been maintained that the Aton-cult instituted by Oklmaton (Amenophis IV.) displays non-Egyptian features and is in a large measure the product of foreign influences. I hope, however, clearly[…]

Gods and Religious Practices in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek religious practice was essentially conservative in nature and was based on time-honored observances By Colette Hemingway, Independent Scholar and Seán Hemingway, Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art The ancient Greeks worshipped many gods, each with a distinct personality and domain. Greek myths explained the origins of the gods[…]

Eridu Genesis: The Sumerian, and Oldest, Flood Story in Ancient Texts

It would appear in later works such as the Atrahasis, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and – most famously – the story of Noah and his ark. Introduction The Sumerian Flood Story (also known as the Eridu Genesis, Sumerian Creation Myth, Sumerian Deluge Myth) is the oldest Mesopotamian text relating the tale of the Great Flood[…]

The Five Gifts of Hathor: Ancient Egyptian Goddess of Fertility and Motherhood

Hathor was a multifaceted goddess, appealed to for a wide variety of needs, who provided many of the best aspects of life to humanity. Introduction The central cultural value of ancient Egypt was ma’at – harmony and balance – which maintained the order of the universe and the lives of the people. Keeping balance in one’s[…]

Tiamat: Ancient Mesopotamian Mother Goddess

The author of Enuma Elish drew on the earlier Sumerian goddesses, Nammu and Inanna, to create the goddess of chaos. Introduction Tiamat is the Mesopotamian goddess associated with primordial chaos and the salt sea best known from the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish. In all versions of the myth, following the original, Tiamat always symbolizes the[…]