Winter Deities

photo of mountain with ice covered with black and gray cloud
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I’ve been doing some research into winter deities, partly for The Spirits of Yule, but partly because I’m fascinated by the topic. I’ve read a lot of books on the history of Christmas, the most recent being Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders, but there’s so much more to the season than just that holiday.

There’s darkness in winter, a sense of foreboding as the land goes to sleep. Chill air nips at the fingers and toes, and wind howls through leafless branches. It’s hard to think about a long, cold night full of anxiety and wondering in a world of electric lights and central heating, and while nature may take a break, modern life doesn’t allow it. With the advent of working/schooling from home capabilities, there aren’t really even snow days anymore. I find that sad, and there’s a part of me that wishes for a time when the end of the day meant the end of the day.

That aside, the entire season still holds great fascination for me as the spirits of the dead walk and creatures of darkness lay claim to the land. It’s a great time for horror stories and contemplation, and just a quick dip into the lore of the season is enough to cause shivers.

I’m not far enough along in the research to have too much to share, but I hope to have some soon.

black and white cold fog forest
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Until then, here is a short list of beings said to be associated with the winter months.

Amaratasu (Japanese): sun goddess who hid in a cave after a fight with her brother, bringing darkness to the world.

Father Winter: a personification of the season of winter. This being comes from a number of cultures.

The Wild Huntsman: leader of the Wild Hunt, sometimes called Herne the Hunter but goes by other names. The Hunt flies through the night and devours all in its path. Germanic and Celtic

Saturn: (Roman) God of agriculture. His festival, the Saturnalia, was held in December. It was a time of feasting and drinking where roles were often reversed.

Wah Kah Nee (Chinook): a being said to be able to walk barefoot through winter and communicate with its spirits

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For Those Who Like the Mythology

IMG_20160131_181120_975I’ve done a couple of posts about Aradia and the mythology behind the goddess, though it’s been a while. With Aradia’s Secret coming out this week, I thought it would be a good time to list a few links for those who enjoy studying mythology as much as I do.

These are only a few sources, just something to get your feet wet. There are other sources, though not all of them agree on Aradia’s parentage or even if she was actually worshipped.

Best wishes!

http://www.lissadobbs.com

The Internet Sacred Text Archive: I love this site! They’ve got just about any religious and mythological text you could imagine available to read for free. There are also a number of other texts, particularly those written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I can spend hours just playing around here.

Aradia’s Birth from Heaven

Ancient Origins

 

Dream Gods Woes

img_20150505_200403We spend almost a third of our lives asleep, and while we sleep we dream. We get images of things from our waking lives, and we also see images that seem to come from somewhere else altogether. Some dreams are pleasant, restful experiences, while others are nightmares that leave us stumped as to their origin. This has been the case for humanity throughout all of recorded history. Even as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, people have recorded their dreams and tried to glean meaning from these nocturnal visions.

One of my current works in progress deals with a dream god, but I’ve had some difficulty deciding how to represent the god. While there are lots of different night deities, there are actually few that specifically represent dreams. I found this extremely odd simply because so much importance is placed on dreams and their meaning throughout history and mythology.

Most of us have heard of the Sandman. This mythological creature puts sand in the eyes, particularly of children, to help them fall asleep at night. (http://www.sleepdex.org/legends.htm). However, this benevolent creature did not begin as a benign friend of children. In the original folklore, he’s a gruesome character that will punish those who don’t fall asleep right away with nightmares and other horrid punishments. There is even one tale of him taking the eyes of naughty children to the moon to feed his own offspring. (https://vanwinkles.com/the-twisted-history-of-the-sandman).

The Sandman is said to have originated as a transmutation of the Greek god Morpheus. More than any other culture, the Greeks had dream and sleep gods, and Morpheus was the dream messenger of the gods. It was his responsibility to provide glimpses into a person’s future and to shape their dreams to reveal truths. Morpheus was chosen for this task because he was the most able to transform himself into any human and mimic their traits more exactly than the other Oneiroi. (http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/morpheus-the-god-of-dreams/)

There are many mentions of prophets and wise men interpreting dreams, and there are tons of tales of gods who created while asleep – Vishnu being one of them – but these weren’t really what I was looking for in the research. What I finally settled on for my own work was to name the dream god Yukamalu and have him as an amalgamation of other dream gods. In Grevared, the gods battled for dominance when the universe exploded, and only the strongest survived. Those who were mostly destroyed combined into single deities, so Yukamalu came into being as a deity with multiple traits. Now I just have to figure out just what those traits are and whether he’s going to be a benevolent god or a more malevolent one.

 

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

Golem

Golem JuiceMention the word ‘golem’ and most folks think of the creepy little critter in The Lord of the Rings, but the mythological creature is actually, to me at least, much more terrifying to consider.

The most famous golem in mythology is the Golem of Prague. This creature was created by Rabbi Loeb around 1580 when the Jews were threatened.  This site provides one version of the ritual that brought the creatures to life, but I know there are others.  There are also several versions of the story, and some alternate stories can be found here.

A number of years ago, we won’t say how many, I was doing research into the golem and came across one of the rituals.  I wish I could remember where I found it, but it basically stated that the golem had to be created out of soil that had never known human touch.  There was a period of purification that came before the creation, and the incantation for the ritual took about thirty hours.  If even one mistake was made in the incantation, then it had to be begun again, which could extend the time needed to create the golem.  Now, this isn’t something I’d have the time to undertake, no matter how nice it would be to have a creature that obeyed commands.

Golems do not have the ability to think for themselves.  All they can do is follow the commands of their creators.  This being the case, the creator has to be extremely specific with instructions, for the golem won’t infer from anything said.  It will follow instructions literally.

The book Sefer Yezirah supposedly contains the instructions for creating the golem, but the instructions have to be interpreted, and each Rabbi who has decided to make a golem has interpreted it differently.

Golems are said to be great creatures for manual labor and defense.  However, over time they become unstable and will rampage and possibly harm others.  For this reason, it is important that golems only remain active for a short period of time for a specific purpose before being deactivated.

 

 

 

 

http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/golem.html

The Trimurti

Coming SoonI’ve been working on a YA story about three girls, and I’d been having some issues determining just what weapons they would carry.  I finally decided on using the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, just to give a different feel to this story.

At this point, I have one series that’s used mostly Greek mythology, the ‘story that never ends’ uses Irish mythology, and the shorter stories that I’ve been working on to sort of introduce the characters use folklore and legend as much as mythology.

I’m hoping that “Wolf in the Shadow” will be available by the end of June, and I’m hoping to have another one ready by the end of August.  I’m hoping to release the one about the girls in maybe September or November, it just depends, and the third Ethan book will be out in October.  So, I’ve got my work cut out for me.  But, on to the Trimurti.

The idea of the Trimurti states that Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer.  It seems that the idea of the Trimurti is that there is one Supreme and the others are manifestations of this deity, with each form having a different function.  In some instances, Vishnu is viewed as the Supreme with Brahma and Shiva being aspects of Him.  In other cases, the Supreme is Shiva.

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva is not the oldest Trimurti.  In older texts, Surya replaces Brahma, or this God is seen as an Absolute over the others.

The idea of the trimurti isn’t present in the Rig Veda.  In this text, the primary god mentioned is Indra, who was a warrior who brought the world into being.  Another god mentioned is Agni, who is the god of the sacred fire and is responsible for taking offerings to the gods.  There is the idea of a triple-aspected deity, but not the specific trimurti most of us are familiar with.  This doesn’t occur until the Puranas.  In the later works Brahma replaces Indra, and Shiva is associated with Agni.  Vishnu, however, seems to remain the same regardless of the time period.

Other texts look at other aspects of the gods, and these texts can be found at Internet Sacred Text Archive.  I highly recommend the epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) to anyone interested in these topics.

Best wishes.

 

 

 

Werewolves

SpookyI’ve been working on a short story for the past few weeks that deals with some of my main adult Shadow Walkers about twenty or so years before the ‘story that never ends’ (I actually plan to finish mapping out what will now be book one tomorrow).  I got the idea from one of the scenes in what will become book three (when I get there) and decided to investigate what led up to that scene.  Believe me, I had no idea where this was going when I started, and I surely didn’t intend for it to end up with werewolves as part of the problem.  But it did.  So I’ve been brushing up on some of my werewolf lore.

The most popular book on werewolves is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves, and in it he goes through a good deal of mythology somewhat based on the idea of the werewolf.  There’s a lot of other stuff in there that deals with cannibals and serial killers and whatnot, but the actual werewolf stuff is pretty interesting.  He talks about different cultures that used animal skins as part of their wardrobes in battle, etc.

However, none of that was really helping me, so I looked into some of the skinwalker legends in Native American lore.  These, too, are fascinating in the idea that someone can, through ritual, gain the ability to transform into another person or animal.  According to the legends, the person (considered evil) must make a ritual kill in order to gain the power.  However, in more modern sighting stories, the skinwalker’s behavior is more puckish – chasing cars, knocking on windows, etc.

The idea of shapeshifting into another form could go as far back as the cave painting known as ‘the Sorcerer’.  This painting shows both human and animal features, so some scholars have suggested that his position is indicative of the process of transformation.  It’s always looked to me like he was in the middle of a ritual dance of some sort.

Another story that most of us have heard at some point goes back to Ancient Greece.  Here we have the first instance of the transformation of a human into a wolf (though Zeus himself didn’t seem too picky about what form he took).  King Lycaon supposedly cooked up one of his sons and served him for dinner when Zeus was a guest.  Needless to say, Zeus wasn’t too thrilled with this and turned Lycaon into a wolf as punishment.  Most of what I’ve read points to this as the first story about werewolves and the origin of the legend.

Werewolf legends abound in just about every culture in the world, and wolves were not the only animal men transformed into.  I find the concept interesting and often wonder about its origin.  At what point did mankind get the idea of shifting into an animal shape?  And, perhaps more importantly, if ancient people truly possessed this ability, why can’t we do it today?

Best Wishes!

Chronos, Cronus, and Saturn

SickleSince I finally managed to get The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III: A Walker is Born out, and am just about ready to release Cronus Attacks, I was refreshing my memory on some of the mythology so I could move forward with writing the third book of The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III.  We call it ‘refreshing the memory’ for a reason, usually because it’s something we used to know but have since forgotten.  This was definitely true in my case.

When we mention Cronus, most of us (okay, maybe just me) think of the Titan who castrated his father and took over control of the cosmos.  He was the ruler of the Golden Age, Titan of the harvest, and was associated with the Roman god Saturn, from whom we get the Saturnalia that became Christmas.  All good stuff.  Well, maybe not the castrating his father and eating his children part, but the Golden Age sounds pretty good.

Cronus was told by Gaia and Uranus that he, too, would be overthrown by his son, so he devoured them all until his wife, Rhea, gave him a stone to eat instead of their youngest child, Zeus.  Zeus was hidden until adulthood (pick a myth as to where he was), then he rose up against his father and took over.  After a lengthy war (hey, we’ve all seen Clash of the Titans.) Cronus and the other Titans were confined to Tartarus.   In some of the myths, Cronus was later released and given rule over Elysium, while others state things weren’t quite that confrontational to start with.  Cronus was often shown with a harpe, a scythe, or a sickle because of his association with agriculture.

Now, the part I had forgotten was that Cronus (Kronus/Kronos) is not the same as Chronos. Chronos is the god of time in Greek mythology.  This is the god with the serpent shape, three heads (snake, bull, lion), and wings.  (In Aztec mythology, the god Quetzcoalt is also shown as a winged serpent.  These also exist in Egyptian mythology, but they’re on the same side of the world.)  He personified the idea of time as a never-ending cycle that embodied death and rebirth, ends and beginnings.  (Time was later seen more as destructive and devouring.)  He was pictured as an old, bald man, and he is the icon we know as Father Time.

Here’s the thing.  These two were mixed up even back in ancient Greece.  Apparently, they couldn’t keep their gods straight, either.  So, what we have is a god of agriculture and time who ate his children and was banished to Tartarus.  This figure is the one that made it into Roman mythology as the god Saturn.  So, Saturn is actually an amalgamation of two other gods who were combined by their own people in their own time.

These combinations lead us to the imagery we have today of the old Father Time (we can probably toss death in, too) figure with a scythe or sickle and an hourglass or a wheel of fate who comes through and devours all things.  It from this that we get riddles such as the one Gollum gave to Bilbo about Time.

There are, of course, plenty of references in the ancient writings, and these writings are well worth the read, even if they are a touch archaic.

Best wishes!

Love in the Afternoon

The SeaOkay, I’ll admit that I’m in a bit of a weird mood today.  Don’t know why.  It may be the six hours it took to get a file Kindle ready.  Who knows?

Anyway, I was thinking about my children’s series, which should be live on Amazon by tomorrow, and realized I had talked a bit about Gaia and Cronus, but I hadn’t mentioned Aphrodite yet.  Those three gods are the ones mentioned in the first two books, so I thought a little knowledge of them was in order, even if they didn’t really qualify as characters.

Aphrodite, for all she’s shown as a vain and shallow bitch in modern fiction, is actually one of the more interesting of the goddesses, at least to me.  She actually has two origin stories, and these have been both combined and separated in different sources depending on current scholarship and the needs of the author using her as a character.

In Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite was created when Uranus was castrated by Cronus.  The primordial god’s genitals fell into the ocean, and the foam created by this caused Aphrodite to come into being.  She floated around on a scallop shell before being escorted to shore by Zephyrs.  Her place of landing has been listed as a number of different places, Cythera and Cyprus being two of them.  There is actually a rock in Cyprus today that is said to be her birthplace, and this version of her birth is most well-known through Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus.

This first version of Aphrodite is called Aphrodite Urania and is considered to be the more heavenly version of love, as differentiated from lust.  She is the queen of heaven, the mother who has control over all aspects of earth, a lunar goddess, and has some associations with other goddesses of the time, like Ishtar, Hathor, and Astarte.

The other version of Aphrodite is a bit more mundane.  Homer, in The Iliad, lists Aphrodite as the daughter of Zeus and Dione.  This is the Aphrodite of the common people, the goddess of sensual, sexual love and pleasure.  Her temples were filled with sacred prostitutes, and sex was one of the methods of worship.  It was this Aphrodite who was married to Hephaestus and had multiple affairs and children.  This is the goddess who was vain and, sometimes, vicious.  She was the instigator of the Trojan War and the lover of both Ares and Adonis.  In the case of her affairs with Ares, this could be a hold over from her association with other goddesses, such as Ishtar, who were both the goddesses of love and war.  In this guise, she is called Aphrodite Pandemos.

Aphrodite in either form has a number of symbols.  These include the dolphin, sea shells, and the sea, because of her birth.  She is also associated with mirrors, sparrows, bees, and goats (the goats are primarily associated with Pandemos).  Roses, the flowers of love, are also connected to Aphrodite.

Aphrodite has always been one of my favorites among the Greek gods, and not because of her association with love.  I actually find Urania far more interesting even though there is less written about her.  I think it’s the association with the sea and her birth from its waters.  Would this myth be telling us that real, heavenly love comes from the depths of ourselves (the sea is associated with the unconscious) and is created through our dreams and aspirations (Uranus is the sky)?  Who knows.  I just like to consider things.

(This time I put the links for further reading in the text.)

 

Best wishes!

Greek Mythology, Round Two

ClockWhen I was growing up, we watched Rudolph’s Shiny New Year every year.  In this cartoon Rudolph has to locate the new year so the old one can retire.  The old year is pictured as an old man with a long, white beard, the traditional representation of Father Time.  I mention this because Father Time is an icon most of us have seen at some time or another.

In Greek mythology, Cronus is one of the gods associated with time.  There are a number of myths about him and his actions, including several that contradict each other, but one consistency is his association with time.

Cronus was a Titan, one of the children of Gaia.  He was her youngest and the only one willing to stand up to his father Uranus.  It was Cronus who took his mother’s sickle, or harpe (depending on which myth you read), and castrated Uranus.  He then rose to power over the gods.

The reign of Cronus was during the Golden Age of humanity, according to Hesiod’s Works and Days.  This was a time of great peace and prosperity, a time when all things grew.  Animals were said to have spoken like humans, and there was harmony in all things.  (Kind of makes me wonder why someone would want to screw it up.)

Cronus’s wife was Rhea, and the two of them were the parents of the Olympians.  Gaia and Uranus prophesied that Cronus would be overthrown by one of his children, so he ate each of them as he/she was born.  All except Zeus, who was hidden by his mother.

Cronus’s children rose up and overthrew him, and Cronus and the other Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus.  According to the myths, Tartarus was as far beneath the earth as the earth was beneath heaven (an anvil falling would take nine days to reach it.).  The realm was ringed in bronze and and night, and the sky was the roots of the earth.  Cronus was imprisoned in chains, while his children ruled the earth and sky above.

Cronus was eventually released from Tartarus and made ruler over the Isles of the Blessed, where the righteous went after death.

Cronus is associtated with time, and the  myths of his life represent the passage of time and how it devours all things in its path.  There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to all things, and they pattern simply repeats itself with each new thing.  This is true whether its our lives, from birth to death, or the different phases of our lives.  Even a specific project follows the same pattern, and even a mighty mountain must eventually succumb to the ravages of time.

This is just a brief glimpse of Cronus.  For those who want to read more, there are a few links listed below.

 

Best wishes!

Cronus

Works and Days – Hesiod

Cronus – Encyclopedia MythicaCronus – Encyclopedia Mythica

Cratylus – Plato