A-D, Cryptozoology, Mythology

Bulgarian Dragons

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Do you know anyone with wings under their armpits? Do you know any old crones or beautiful young women who are always followed by inclement weather?

  • If so you probably know the offspring of a Zmey or you may be rubbing elbows with a Lamia in human form.

All Bulgarian dragons are successful shape-shifters.

 The Zmeys are especially known for falling in love with and seducing humans. Which means they’ve spent a lot of time in human form.

Flower, Fuji X20

Zmeys are usually male and associated mostly with fire. There are records of a few Zmeyitsas (female) protector dragons and some accounts of the Zmey having an affinity for both fire and water. Most villages in Bulgaria have their own Zmey as protector. The Zmey battle the elements for the safety of crops and village. Mostly they battle against the Lamia, the female water dragons.

Another form of the Zmey is described as part snake, part bird and part human. No one can give an exact description because they can become invisible at will. Their battles with the Lamia often cause thunderstorms and lightning.

It is said if you eat the heart of a Zmey you can partake of their power. Considering how dangerous these dragons are, well, I think most sane people would give that a second thought.

Bulgarian female dragons, the Lamia (Lamya) & Khala (Hala) are powerful water creatures with little love for mankind and his settlements. The Lamia can stop the flow of water in a well or stream, or dry up lakes and cause drought. She can also create storms and pummel the fields with hail.

If your Zmey isn’t strong enough to defeat her then a sacrifice to her might ease her temper. I have not found any documentation yet that the Lamia has the power of invisibility like her male counterpart, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Lamias have been described in many different ways in many different regions. They all seem to be quite individualistic.

Various Lamia descriptions include:

  • 3 to 9 heads (Sometimes dog heads)
  • Long tail of a snake
  • Enormous
  • A large enough mouth to swallow a man whole
  • Sharp teeth
  • Yellow scales
  • Sharp-nailed legs (quadrupeds)
  • Wings
  • Snake-like
  • And of course the ability to shape-shift

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Zmey and Lamia, male and female, fire and water, locked in endless battle. I imagine that little dragons must come from somewhere so the conflict might be a little over-hyped.

Personally. I think powerful female figures can be intimidating in some cultures. In a more enlightened time perhaps there are reformed Lamia wandering among us and equally liberated Zmey who are no longer constrained by the notions of the past.

There is far more Bulgarian myth than I can share in one month. The richness of the tales and culture are staggering and well-worth exploring. I hope to return to this subject in the fall.

I leave you with another Bulgarian saying

 “Work like you’re going to live for 100 years, but live like you’ll die tomorrow.”

 ~ lisa

 Riddle Answers:

As small as walnuts, they sit in a low place, but they reach to the sky.

The eyes

What is the sweetest and the bitterest thing in the world?

The tongue

A world without people Cities without houses Forests without trees And seas without water.

A map

 I cannot emphasize enough that this is the spot to go for the best overall accounting of Bulgarian Mythology. http://www.spellintime.fsnet.co.uk/Folklore_Section_Background.htm

Bulgaria Superstitions and Folklore http://www.bestcountryreports.com/Soci_Bulgaria_Superstitions_Folklore.php

Bulgarian creation myth http://www.spellintime.fsnet.co.uk/Folklore_Section_Background.htm

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A-D, Writers Anonymous, Writers Conventions

Writers Anonymous II

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Wow! What a great conference. Pacific Northwest Writers Conference http://www.pnwa.org/

Information overload, terrific people and NONE of us want to be ANONYMOUS.

Some of the fun, besides fantastic speakers and great panels, was writers watching writers. We are often odd creatures. I thought this conference would be a tremendous opportunity to start a project called “A Field Guide to Writers: How to Spot and Identify the Elusive Writers among Us”.Notebook and daytimers

I found out my observation skills are not skilled enough. Without squinting at the fine print of a name tag, I couldn’t tell what genre a writer wrote. I couldn’t even discern which ones were the agents and editors. At least not until the panel where they introduced themselves.

Guess the field guide will have to wait.

I attended a panel by Kiffer Brown. Her scary statistics included such facts as there will be two million books published this year in the English language alone. Fortunately her talk allayed the rising fear in the audience as she told us all the ways out of the anonymous ocean. Visit her information packed “Chanticleer Book Reviews” site. Thank you, Kiffer.

What I learned above all else is that writing and writers have come full circle.

We started as storytellers connecting people and place. First around campfires and now we have moved to the “Interverse”.

IMG_2494Forgive my hubris, but we are once again storytellers. We are the twist of the unexpected that makes you laugh, the sigh of inner discovery that connects your soul to you or another, the information, the help, the dreams, the reality. We are and always will be there for you.

Each one of us to each one of you. Gladly.

Forget anonymity. It’s overrated. Reach out to us. Tell us what you need and one of us, one of the millions of us, will make sure you get it.

~lisa

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A-D

Hail Caesar

Redwood National Park
 This Month’s name is a tribute to Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of Rome.
 More on the life of Augustus Caesar

August is a very quiet month unless you’re in Edinburgh, Scotland. In Edinburgh, the crowds increase dramatically for the Edinburgh Arts Festival and the simultaneous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I highly recommend both. This world has many great places and events to visit and I would include the Edinburgh Festival on that list.
 http://www.eif.co.uk/
 http://www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk/planning-for-edinburgh-festivals-2014
 https://www.edfringe.com/

Two other major events that start this week are the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (which is held the first full week in August in Sturgis, South Dakota, USA. http://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com/

Redwood National Park

It is also the start of International Tree Climbing Days (August 1-5). There is even an international tree climbing competition (August 2, 2014 – August 3, 2014) held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
 http://www.itcc-isa.com/ competition

I’ve loved climbing trees since I was little. I’m not ready for a competition but was delighted to discover there is a tree-climbing association: Tree Climbers International.
 http://treeclimbing.com/
 http://treeclimbing.com/index.php/forum/index

I don’t know anything about motorcycles, but I’m very strong on tree facts. If anyone wants to teach me about motorcycles, I’m always excited to learn new things.

This month I’ll also be learning about peridot and sardonyx, the birthstones of August. The August flowers are gladiolus and poppy.

In summer, the song sings itself.” – William Carlos Williams

~lisa

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A-D

July Awareness Lists

It’s the second of the month and that means we look at what the Awareness Months, Weeks and Days are.

Fireworks and more Fireworks

First there is Independence Day. In America we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July. However independence is a popular theme for the month of July.  The following countries all celebrate their Independence Days this month: Keti Koti in Surinam, Belarus, Phillipines, Algeria, Venezuela, Argentina, South Sudan, Bahamas, Revolution Day in Egypt, Maldives, and Vanuatu (Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanuatu )

Water Lily at Marymoor Park

I did not find very many health awareness months. Let me know if I have left any out.
Hemochromatosis Screening, International Group B strep, Eye Injury Prevention, International Women with Alopecia, Juvenile Arthritis, National Cleft & Craniofacial
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Education & Awareness Week is July 18-25.
World Hepatitis Day is on the 28th of July

Foods are a big thing, especially during National Grilling Month (also National Picnic Month) and not surprisingly the foods on the menu each have their own “awareness” month. I’m not quite sure why food needs us to be aware of it, but here is a list of foods we celebrate this month:

Blueberries, Lasagna, Baked Beans, Horseradish, Hot dog, Ice Cream, Pickle, Garlic, Nectarine, Berries, California Wild King Salmon, Chicken Wings, Chocolate, and Caviar.

National Wheelchair Beautification Day http://www.caremedicalsource.com/blog/celebrate-national-wheelchair-beautification-month/ This is a cool thing.
National Pet Fire Safety Day http://www.akc.org/press_center/article.cfm?article_id=3907

On this day in 1962, the Civil Rights Act was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.

Flitch Day also known as bringing home the bacon. http://marriage.about.com/od/customstraditions/qt/flitchday.htm “As far back as 1104 in Dunmow Priory, England, monks offered a side of bacon (flitch) to any married couple proving a year and a day after their wedding that they had lived in harmony and fidelity for the past year and had not wished they were single again.”

Now for what I consider the more unusual.

World UFO Day http://www.worldufoday.com/
Pandemonium Day http://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/pandemonium-day/
“Chaos, madness and unexpected surprises abound on Pandemonium Day, when nothing can be predicted and everything can go wrong. Embrace the pandemonium, and do something crazy!”
International Cherry Pit Spitting Day http://holidayscentral.com/calendar/july/international-cherry-pit-spitting-day “July 7th is International Cherry Pit Spitting Day. If you think you can break the world record, you will have to spit your pit farther than 100 feet 4 inches.”
International Town Criers Day http://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/town-crier-day/ – “Town Crier Day celebrates the historical role of the town crier by encouraging people to take up the role of the town crier in their town or city.”
Shark Awareness Day http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-scuba-ocean-news/official_shark_awareness_day/ I find this unusual because if you’re swimming in shark-infested waters, it seems to me that you should be aware of them at all times. Oh wait. This day is dedicated to shark appreciation and conservation.

These days will get their own posts: Moon Day (Space Exploration Day), Ratcatcher’s Day, 4th of July, Embrace Your Geekness Day, Nelson Mandela International Day, Uncommon Instruments Awareness Day

A few significant birthdays: Thurgood Marshall, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Foster (the songwriter that gave us over 200 songs including Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, Swanee River and so forth), Josiah Wedgwood, Henry David Thoreau, Woody Guthrie, Rembrandt, Joshua Reynolds, Edgar Degas, Ernest Hemingway, Alexandre Dumas, and George Bernard Shaw.

Health Resources
Hemochromatosis www.hemochromatosis.org
International Group B strep http://www.drum.amedd.army.mil/news/2010/0710/Strep_Awareness.htm
Eye Injury Prevention http://www.foh.dhhs.gov/Public/NYCU/eyeinjury.asp
International Women with Alopecia http://blog.puravidabracelets.com/2013/07/23/july-is-international-alopecia-in-women-month/
Juvenile Arthritis http://www.curearthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis-awareness-month/
National Cleft & Craniofacial http://www.nccapm.org/
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) http://www.sleepassociation.org/index.php?p=rlsawarenessweek
World Hepatitis Day http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/WorldHepDay.htm

Food – just because it’s one of my favorites: Blueberries www.blueberry.org
I always support library days and it is Read an Almanac Month: www.libraryhq.com/calendar.html

General Lists of July Days
For a list of daily observances in July go to: http://www.butlerwebs.com/holidays/july.htm
http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/diversityeventcalendars/a/nat-month-july.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commemorative_months#July
http://www.buzzfeed.com/samimain/july-is-national-month-5pfv
You can find a complete listing of famous people born in July at: http://www.saidwhat.co.uk/quotes/month/7

~lisa

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A-D

Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer typically are in the months of July and August in the Northern Hemisphere (January and February in the Southern Hemisphere)

Arna

The term “dog days” comes from ancient Rome and even more ancient Greece. The name coincides with the rising of Sirius. Sirius is the brightest and most visible star in the night sky and is part of the constellation of Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius, the dog star, is one of the companions of Orion in Greek myth and in also in the constellation of Orion. The other companion of Orion is Canis Minor.

“Summer has set in with its usual severity.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Like Coleridge, the ancient Greeks were not fans of hot July. They attributed the hotness and woes of summer to the Dog Star, Sirius. The ancient Romans also believed that the star caused dogs to pant more and that it made all more susceptible to disease.

In other mythologies Sirius is also seen as a wolf, a coyote, a white horse, and I digress…

Back to the Western concept of the dog days of summer which means it’s July already.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” – Julius Caesar
July was named after the ancient Roman Julius Caesar. I suggest William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for summer reading or a jaunt to summer theater.

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“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar

July’s birthstone is the ruby and the flowers are Water Lily and Larkspur. More on those in a later post.

 “The glowing Ruby should adorn
Those who in warm July are born,
Then will they be exempt and free
From love’s doubt and anxiety.”

“Live in each season as it passes: breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.” – Henry David Thoreau

~ lisa

Great site on the month of July. http://projectbritain.com/year/july.htm
July Trivia http://voices.yahoo.com/trivial-facts-july-6231792.html
Ten July Facts http://www.ten-facts.com/interesting_facts_about_july.html#.U3bULnQU_b0
How to see Sirius, the Dog Star http://earthsky.org/brightest-stars/sirius-the-brightest-star
Julius Caesar Biography – http://www.biography.com/people/julius-caesar-9192504#synopsis&awesm=~oIlfu0GBzbmZuj

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” – Sam Keen

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A-D, Mythology

Ashanti Mythology

Today I will look at the mythology of the Ashanti tribe of Ghana.

Ring with two pearls

As I mentioned before the Anansi stories are traced back to the Ashanti. If you want to know more about Anansi see the blog post Anansi of June 12th.

The animist side of the ancient Ashanti religion is a belief that all trees and animals have souls.

The supernatural side of the same tradition believes in witches and monsters.

The Ashanti also practice ancestor worship known as Nsamanfo.

Spirits receive their power from the supreme god Nyame and are usually a part of nature such as trees, streams, ocean sprites etc.

Nyame “the one who knows and sees everything” is the Supreme Being in the Ashanti pantheon.

Nyame is not only omniscient, but is also an omnipotent sky god. Despite his omnipotence he suffered some misuse in human hands and he now remains aloof and lets the lower gods assist humans on earth.

Nyame is married to an earth goddess by the name of Asase Ya. She is a goddess of earth and fertility. They have two children: Bia and Anansi. The eldest son, Bia, is overshadowed by his younger brother Anansi.

Anansi the spider and trickster god is well-known around the world. Does anyone have information on what Bia does in the Ashanti pantheon?

I will come back to the Ashanti in future posts.

~lisa

A brief history of the Ashanti people http://buzzghana.com/ashanti/
Another historical resource http://www.lotusmasks.com/category/ashanti-tribe-ghana.html
http://www.thefullwiki.org/Ashanti_mythology
An overview of all the tribes of Ghana and religion from traditional to present day http://easytrackghana.com/cultural-overview-ghana_tribes-rastas-religions.php

Besides the Ashanti majority, Ghana is also home to tribes such as Ewe, Fante, Ga, and Dagomba. I am ambitious enough to think that perhaps someday I will be able to cover and do justice to the mythologies of all the tribes

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A-D, Mythology

Anansi

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Anansi is perhaps the best known mythological figure out of Africa. He is a spider trickster god who can appear in any form he wishes, but most often his alternate form is that of a man.

His origins are said to be in the Ashanti tribe of West Africa in what is now Ghana, but he has become a common figure of folklore anywhere connected to where the slave trade went.

If you now hear a rapidly beating heart, and shallow breathing that is simply me trying to get through my Arachnophobia.

I’m not alone for it is one of the most common phobias, but knowing I’m one of a crowd doesn’t make it any easier.

Arachnophobia is an irrational and persistent fear of spiders, or in my case pictures of spiders, or mention of spiders or…

As I was saying Anansi is the most well-known figure of African folktales and myths. I cannot skip him.

Unfortunately, most cultures seem to have spider myths so I will be repeating this exercise in the future with Aunt Nancy, Spider Woman, Anasazi, Arachne, Nareau, Neith, Tsuchigumo, and Jorōgumo.

There are also giant fictional spiders such as Shelob (Tolkien) and Aragog (Rowling) and a number of these creatures in other popular stories such as Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web and the spider from Little Miss Muffet.

Attentive Bengal Sorry, there will be spider pictures in this post.

Back to Anansi.

In this post I’m only writing about the Ashanti Anansi. The stories of the Ashanti oral tradition are known as Anansesem or “Spider Tales”.

Once there were no stories in the world. Anansi’s father the Sky-God Nyame had them all of them. When Anansi asked for them, he was set the task of capturing 4 dangerous and elusive creatures (python, leopard, hornet, and dwarf).

Anansi tricked all of four and brought them to the Nyame. Nyame rewarded him by making him the god of all stories. Since then all stories have been dubbed “Spider Tales”.

Anansi is also known for trying to keep all of the wisdom of the world sealed in a pot, but he worried it was not safe enough so he tried to take it up a tree. He was not having much success and his son made fun of him and told Anansi how to actually get his hoard of wisdom up the tree.

Anansi dropped the pot and it shattered and spilt the wisdom into a stream and the stream took it to the sea. From the sea, the wisdom spread all around the world, so that there is now a little of it in everyone. I like that sentiment – “a little bit of wisdom in everyone”.

While he is an unpredictable trickster, Anansi is also responsible for creating the sun, the stars and the moon, as well as teaching mankind the techniques of agriculture.

The best one paragraph description of Anansi I have found is from Myths Encyclopedia – “West Africans originally considered Anansi to be the creator of the world. He often acted as a go-between for humans in their dealings with the sky god Nyame, and he supposedly persuaded Nyame to give both rain and the night to people. In most stories, however, Anansi is a crafty and cunning trickster who makes life more enjoyable for himself (or more difficult for others) by fooling humans, other animals, and even the gods themselves, often using his cleverness and knowledge of his victims’ ways of thinking to trick them and achieve his purpose.”http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Am-Ar/Anansi.html

One of my all-time favorite sources for Anansi and his tales (and you know it’s good if I can appreciate reading about a spider) http://www.angelfire.com/planet/mythguide/anansi.html

So next time you hear a good story remember to thank Anansi.
~lisa

A thorough look at Anansi http://www.digplanet.com/wiki/Anansi
African Cultural Center folktales http://www.africanculturalcenter.org/5_4_3folktales.html
A great set of Anansi stories for kids http://anansistories.com/index.html

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the Spider to the Fly.

A random fact to keep everyone with arachnophobia up at night: There are nearly 40,000 species of spiders worldwide.

“The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web.” – Edwin Way Teale

Kuri Headshot

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