Asclepius, Ancient Greek God of Medicine

By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Asclepius was the ancient Greek god of medicine and he was also credited with powers of prophecy. The god had several sanctuaries across Greece; the most famous was at Epidaurus which became an important centre of healing in both ancient Greek and Roman times and was the site of athletic, dramatic,[…]

Maenads: The ‘Raving Ones’ of the Ancient Greek Bacchanalia

These women were mythologized as the “mad women” who were nurses of Dionysus in Nysa. Introduction In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus and the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god’s retinue. Their name literally translates as “raving ones”. Maenads were known as Bassarids, Bacchae, or Bacchantes in Roman mythology[…]

Hippolyte and the Amazons of Ancient Greece

In mythology, the Amazons were daughters of Ares, the god of war. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of warlike women noted for their riding skills, courage, and pride, who lived at the outer limits of the known world, sometimes specifically mentioned as the city of Themiskyra on the[…]

Roman Household Spirits: Manes, Panes, and Lares

The gods were thought to have a vested interest in the health and success of the Roman state. Introduction To the ancient Romans, everything was imbued with a divine spirit (numen, plural: numina) which gave it life. Even supposedly inanimate objects like rocks and trees possessed a numen, a belief which no doubt grew out[…]

The Priestess Pythia at the Ancient Delphic Oracle

The role of priestess at Delphi was enormously influential. She was consulted on everything from warfare to love to public policy. Introduction In a time and place that offered few career opportunities for women, the job of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi stands out. Her position was at the centre of one of the[…]

The Devil Does His Mischief: The Huguenot World of Demonology during the Scientific Age

Huguenots were not only believers in science, but also remained firmly committed to their belief in God and his providence.[1] At the request of the famed scientist Robert Boyle, the French divine, Pierre du Moulin, translated an account of a demon that had plagued a Huguenot family in Burgundy, France in 1612. Moulin’s 1658 translation[…]

Ghosts in Ancient China

Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. They were almost certainly part of a very old oral tradition before  writing  developed during the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE) and they continue to be popular in China today. Ghosts were taken very[…]

Religion in Ancient Greece

The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece. Introduction Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or “cults” in the[…]

Twelve Ancient and Medieval Menacing and Protective Mythological Figures

These figures, whatever other purposes they served, were expressions of the fears and hopes of the people. Introduction The term mythology comes from the Greek words mythos (“story of the people”) and logos (“word”) and so is defined as the spoken (later written) story of a culture. Modern scholars have divided myths into different types[…]

The Heroic Cult of Agamemnon in Ancient Greece

Agamemnon received heroic worship from the establishment of the sanctuary at Amyklai along with his consort Kassandra, known locally as Alexandra. The Atrid Agamemnon received cult in two Peloponnesian towns, Mycenae and Amyklai, both of which claimed to have his grave. The conflicting reports about the location of his grave correspond to early variations in the literary[…]

A’Aru: The Ancient Egyptian ‘Field of Reeds’ Afterlife Paradise

One lived on in the presence of the gods, doing as one had done on earth, with everyone the soul had ever loved. Introduction A’Aru (The Field of Reeds) was the Egyptian afterlife, an idealized vision of one’s life on earth (also known as Sekhet-A’Aru and translated as The Field of Rushes). Everything thought to have been lost at death was returned[…]

The Graces in Ancient Greek Mythology

They were considered the youthful bestowers of beauty in all its forms. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Graces (alsoCharites, sing. Charis) were goddesses from Greek mythology who personified charm, grace, and beauty.  Hesiod  describes  three Graces, and this is their most common grouping in literature and art, but their number varies depending on the source. Associated with  Aphrodite and spring flowers especially, they were[…]

How to Worship Artemis and Get Something in Return in Ancient Greece

What the epigraphic and archaeological evidence have shown. For centuries, worshippers of Artemis flocked to the ancient city of Ephesos in present-day Turkey for an annual nativity rite. Young men known as Kouretes hiked to the summit of Mount Solmissos, beating their spears on their shields, diverting the attention of the Greek goddess Hera from[…]

Strangers in the Sacred Grove: The Changing Meanings of Okinawan ‘Utaki’

The changing significance of sacred groves (utaki) from medieval to contemporary Okinawa. Abstract This article discusses the changing significance of sacred groves (utaki) in contemporary Okinawa. Until recently, utaki were the domain of female ritual practitioners (kaminchu or noro), and men were not allowed to set foot in them. In many places, such taboos have faded away, if not[…]

Religious Developments in Ancient India

Hinduism stood for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India. Introduction For well over 1,000 years, sacred stories and heroic epics have made up the mythology of Hinduism. Nothing in these complex yet colourful legends is fixed and firm. Pulsing with creation, destruction, love, and war, it shifts and changes. Most myths occur in several different[…]

The Initiation of Religions in Ancient India

The Upanishads are the philosophical account deemed to be the earliest source of Hindu religion. Introduction The religious practices of the early Indo-Aryans, known as the Vedic  religion (1500 BCE to 500 BCE) were written down and later redacted into the Samhitas, four canonical collections of hymns or mantras, called the Veda, in archaic Sanskrit. The Late Vedic age[…]

The Origins and Growth of Yazidism since the Ancient World

For thousands of years, Yazidism incorporated elements of Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam. By Seth EislundStudentCarleton College Introduction Yazidism is a syncretic, monotheistic religion practiced by the Yazidis, an ethnoreligious group which resides primarily in northern Iraq, northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. Yazidism is considered by its adherents to be the oldest religion in[…]

Jewish Cosmology in its Ancient Near Eastern Context

Considering the spread of Judaism from the viewpoint of other cultures in the Ancient Near East. Introduction The cosmology of the Hebrew Bible is basic not only to Judaism but also to Christianity, and its central features are accordingly well known to all of us. Our familiarity with the subject has a drawback, however. It necessarily makes us[…]

Global Monotheism: The Contribution of the Israelite Prophets

Examining the transitions from “selective polytheism” to henotheism and subsequently, from henotheism to global monotheism. Introduction In his recent book, The Post-American World (2008), Fareed Zakaria explains that after the end of the Cold War there was a brief “American interlude,” when the United States enjoyed a uni-polar status of unrivaled dominance, but that this phase has[…]

From Ancient Rome to Hollywood: Witches as Figures of Fun

How Romans overcame their fear of witches by finding them funny. Introduction For centuries, when people thought of witches, they were evil or possessed by evil demons: think of the Salem witch trials or the 16th and 17th-century woodcuts depicting sinister women conjuring demons or flying on broomsticks. These were the sort of women who morphed in[…]

Divine Reverie: Revelation, Dream Interpretation, and Teeth in Antiquity

You might say the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was a dreamer, but he wasn’t the only one. You might say the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was a dreamer, but he wasn’t the only one. The ancient tabloid known as the Historia Augusta records that not long after coming to Rome, a young Severus made the mistake of[…]

The Bacchanalia: A Greek Dionysian Mystery Cult in Ancient Rome

The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus based on various ecstatic elements of the Greek Dionysia. Introduction The Bacchanalia seem to have been popular and well-organised throughout the central and southern Italian peninsula. They were almost certainly associated with Rome’s native cult of Liber, and probably arrived in Rome itself around 200 BC. However, like[…]

The Religion of the Ancient Canaanites

Canaanite religion was polytheistic, and in some cases monolatristic. Introduction Canaanite religion refers to the group of ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era. Beliefs Deities A great number of deities in a four tier hierarchy headed[…]

‘The Marduk Prophecy’: A Traveling Statue in Ancient Assyria

The author would have constructed the narrative to place the events in the past in order to allow for a ‘prophetic vision’. Introduction The Marduk Prophecy is an Assyrian document dating to between 713-612 BCE found in a building known as The House of the Exorcist adjacent to a temple in the city of Ashur. It relates the travels of the statue of[…]

Where Be Monsters? The Daedalus Sea Serpent and the War for Credibility

Just what was it that the crew of the HMS Daedalus saw? By Matthew Willis On 6 August 1848, Midshipman Sartoris of the Royal Navy corvette HMS Daedalus alerted the officers on the ship’s quarterdeck to an unusual sight. The captain, first lieutenant, and sailing master were all present to see the approach of a large creature[…]

Warriors of the Rainbow: The Birth of an Environmental Mythology

How did Greenpeace develop this affinity with Native Americans? The German branch of Greenpeace announced itself to the world in June 1981 when two activists climbed a smokestack in Hamburg and festooned it with a banner which read: Erst wenn der letzte Baum gefällt, der letzte Fluss vergiftet und der letzte Fisch gefangen ist, werdet[…]

The Most Popular Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China

There were over 200 gods and goddesses worshipped throughout ancient China, but if one were to count every deity or spirit, the number would be over 1,000. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction There were over 200 gods and goddesses worshipped throughout ancient China, but if one were to count every deity or spirit, the number would be[…]

A Psychological Perspective on the Source and Function of Religion

Exploring the dominant influence of religious notions in people’s worldview, providing meaning and powerfully influencing their cognitions, emotions and behaviour. By Dr. Karen van der MerweSchool of Psychosocial Behavioural SciencesNorth West University South Africa Abstract This article explored psychological perspectives on the following: the reasons for humans’ religiousness, the influence of religion on people’s perspective[…]

Ritual and Religion in Cultural Anthropology

Not all religions follow the same practices but there are some similarities between most, if not all, religions. Introduction Religion changes across the globe. Different parts of the world have different beliefs and rules that maintain their religion. Not all religions follow the same practices but there are some similarities between most, if not all,[…]