M-P, Mythology

Happy May Day

 

Focus stacked flowerHappy May Day

May 1st is a long-standing spring festival in the Northern Hemisphere, but is also celebrated as May Day, the International Worker’s Day in many countries around the world.

Historical May Day associated celebrations include, but are not limited to:

The Celtic Beltane http://www.sacredfire.net/festivals.html

Walpurgis Night http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1388545/Walpurgis-Night

The Roman festival of Flora http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/rome/a/ludiflorales.htm

Historically and in the “big picture” just a little time ago, May 1st was considered the 1st day of summer and summer solstice was considered Midsummer. Thus most May Day festivities wove their myth and celebrations around welcoming summer.

An old lost custom of May Day was the giving of small baskets (May baskets) filled with sweets and flowers and usually left anonymously on doorsteps. What a beautiful custom. I for one, would love to open my door to a basket full of flowers.

AzaleaBulgarians celebrate Irminden (too many alternative spellings to list). They perform rituals such as jumping over fires and making a lot of noise to scare snakes. Irminden is quite focused on protecting people from snakes and lizards.

Equally enchanting is the Romanian celebration of Arminden which includes washing one’s face with morning dew and decorating with birch saplings.

The U.S. State of Hawaii has adopted May Day as Lei Day to celebrate Native Hawaiian culture. There is a lot of myth and folklore there that will be mined in future posts.

Wishing all of you a great May Day and a figurative basket of flowers on your doorstep.

Apple Blossom

Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun.” – Kahlil Gibran

~lisa

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Cryptozoology, Mythology, Rainbow Hill Meanders

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, Cryptozoology, Mythology

Bulgarian Dragons

130719 -  - medium

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

121001 -  - medium-3

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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Cryptozoology, Mythology, Rainbow Hill Meanders

Cryptozoology

Big foot and a rose Cryptozoology

This is one of the fun parts of being a fantasy writer. I’m always exploring the myths and legends around exotic creatures that may or may not exist. (Actually most parts of being a fantasy writer are fun.)

Cryptozoology is well-stated in Wikipedia as Cryptozoology is the study of rumored or mythological animals that are presumed by many to exist, but for which proof does not yet exist.”Green Dragon

It is also described in (IMHO) the best site on cryptozoology: http://www.newanimal.org/ by Jamie Hall.

Cryptozoology is the study of animals and other creatures that have not yet been accepted by science as real. In other words, it is monster-hunting. Cryptozoologists look for creatures like sea serpents and the yeti, hoping to gather enough evidence to prove that these beings exist. They also look for more commonplace animals, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker, the giant vampire bat, the inflatable hedgehog and the pygmy elephant. Creatures that are under investigation by cryptozoologists are called cryptids.”

There are many dedicated people that devote their time, and in some cases their careers, to finding these elusive animals.

Unfortunately cryptozoology is plagued by hoaxes, and pseudoscientists even though there have been cases of cryptids being discovered and handed off to the field of zoology.

Do I believe in most of these myths and monsters? Not really, but I love the ideas of them. I love their mythic symbolism and messages and I really enjoy all the “what if” moments that come from exploring them.

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I will also be the first to celebrate if any of them are found.

Cryptozoologists are not ghost hunters or devotees of the supernatural. To once again quote Jamie Hall http://www.newanimal.org/:

Cryptozoologists are a specialized branch of monster hunters. Since their ultimate goal is to discover either new species of animal or new subspecies, the science of cryptozoology is rooted in biology. The more a creature shows evidence of being supernatural, the less likely it is that cryptozoologists would be interested in it. Not many cryptozoologists investigate the strangest things like ghostly demon cats, Mothman or werewolves. Ghost hunts are left to the paranormal investigators and a few fringe cryptozoologists.”

Some of my favorites from the cryptozoological zoo that inspire me and my writing are: Dragons, Kraken (giant squids have now been found), Sasquatch and Yeti, Fairies, Living Dinosaurs, and Thunderbirds. See http://www.newanimal.org/ for a complete list of the diversity of creatures.

Another outstanding list of the creatures of cryptozoology and the facts known about the animals can be found at http://www.unmuseum.org/lostw.htm where descriptions of such animals as Nessie of Loch Ness, snakes as long as railroad cars, and their crypto alumni list reside.

The crypto alumni are large animals that have been discovered in the last century.

What are your favorite cryptids? What creatures of myth, legend, and rumor call out to you?

Favorites will move to the head of the pack for future blog posts.

Unicorn

May you all find your unicorns, fairies and friendly dragons.

~lisa

 

 

 

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Cryptozoology, Mythology, V-Z

Zulu Mythology

rainbow

In keeping with my rainbow theme, the first goddess of Zulu mythology would be Nokhubulwane (Mbaba Mwana Waresa). Besides being the goddess of rainbows, Nokhubulwane is also the creator of beer and the goddess who presides over agriculture and rain.

Unkulunkulu, the greatest one also the Ancient One, is the creator of humans. He was born in a swamp of reeds and then came to earth. He is the First Man, and is in everything that he created.
He created everything that is the inanimate to the living. He also taught the Zulu all of their skills from fire to hunting and growing food.

Unkulunku is sometimes a combined personage with Umvelinqangi (uKqili), the sky god, also god of earthquakes and thunders. Umvelingangi has been there since the beginning of time. According to Zulu myth, humans are mortal because of a very slow chameleon named Unwaba. The chameleon’s color changes from green to brown because it is mourning the sloth that lost humans their immortality.

Another prominent deity is the goddess of the rivers, Mamlambo. She is variously described as a large snake-like aquatic creature or as a half-fish, half-horse monster. She has a hypnotic gaze and glows in the dark. Mamlambo drowns her victims. She loves thunderstorms.

More fun Zulu cryptozoology includes:

Tikoloshe is described both as a dwarf-like water spirit or as a dwarf with only half a body. It fights humans and usually kills them. It is often used to scare children into behaving. If a human somehow manages to defeat it, the Tikoloshe will teach them its powers.

If one sleeps to close to the ground, a Tokeloshe will strangle them in the night. This is given as the reason most Zulus sleep on beds raised on 3 or 4 bricks at each post.

My favorite Zulu Proverb – “No sun sets without its histories.”

~lisa

Zulu cryptozoology http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Category:Zulu_mythology#ixzz34WjIIcCb
Zulu creation myth http://www.realalternativesite.com/zulu-creator-myth-belief-unkulunkulu-a-1329.html
More about Nokhubulwane, the goddess of rainbows http://www.mythicjourneys.org/bigmyth/myths/english/eng_zulu_pantheon.htm
Everything one could ever want to know about Tokoloshe http://www.vanhunks.com/tokoloshe1.html
Zulu Proverbs http://www.proverbs-and-quotes.com/zulu_proverbs.htm

 “He was kicked by a horse in the chest.” – refers to one who gossips and cannot keep a secret.

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Mythology, Y-Z

Yoruba Mythology

The Yoruba people have an amazingly rich mythology and a fantastic history that dates back to powerful city-states that flourished in the 15th century. The Yoruba were known for their mastery of the arts.

Yorubaland is in a region in Southwest Nigeria and also in adjoining Benin and Togo. Before an 1820 invasion, the Yoruba resided in powerful city-states with a very advanced culture in all the arts. Due to the slave trade, many people of African descent in the Americas trace their lineage to the Yoruba.

Now on to the Yoruba myth. (There is far too much to cover, but there are some great resources listed at the end of this post).

Itan is a collection of all Yoruba myths, songs, and histories. Itan is accepted as fact and is often used to settle disputes.

There is a strong belief in pursuing a constant quest to better one’s Iwa (moral character and behavior). Each person is responsible for making all aspects of himself better. This quest leads to transcendence and finding one’s destiny.

The belief is that each person has a destiny and each person will one day become one in spirit with Olodumare, the divine creator and source of all energy.

If becoming one with Olodumare is not one’s destiny then maybe it is to come back as a new member of the family. The Yoruba believe in reincarnation within the family.

After Olodumare, there are a multitude of deities known as Orisa (Orisha). The Orisas are both manifestations of Olodumare and are intermediaries between man and the supernatural. The Orisas have control over elements and nature.

One of the most important of the Orisa is the god Ogun. Ogun is the god of war, the hunt, contracts and iron working. The followers of Ogun would swear to tell the truth by kissing a machete sacred to Ogun.

Shango, once a king of the Yoruba, is the Sky Father and god of thunder. Shango creates thunder and lightning by casting thunder stones to down to earth. Priests search for the thunder stone which contains great powers. – This is so cool.

The Yoruba trickster god is called Eshu and he is well-respected by the other Orisas. The Yoruba think rather highly of him. Since I love almost all trickster characters I will be colleting Eshu stories to share in later posts.

The Yoruba are a large population with a strong oral tradition. All of these myths may vary from village to village by name and even by the gender of the gods.

If you experience a storm, then I wish you both a beautiful rainbow and a thunder stone as a souvenir.
~ lisa

A Must-Read – Best Site on Nigerian Mythology, complete with a great list of Orishas http://darkmythology-dark234.blogspot.com/2011/05/nigeria-mythology.html
Excellent rendition of a Yoruba Creation Myth http://www.gateway-africa.com/stories/Yoruba_Creation_Myth.html
A very good listing of Orishas http://www.fact-index.com/y/yo/yoruba_mythology.html
http://www.nairaland.com/781645/yoruba-mythology
http://africlectic.com/nigerian-mythology-the-orisha/
http://www.mythicjourneys.org/bigmyth/myths/english/eng_yoruba_pantheon.htm
http://postcolonialweb.org/nigeria/yorubarel.html
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Yoruba_People

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M-P, Mythology

June Gemstones and Pearls

In a previous post I asked why June deserved three gemstones instead of one. I found the answer.
June actually has 12 (or possibly more) birthstones.

A list of June gemstones can include pearl, moonstone, alexandrite, agate, chalcedony, emerald, chrysoprase, tiger’s eye, white sapphire, ruby, sapphire and citrine.

The number of gemstones for a month depends on how many sources you wish to count:

Modern, Mystical, Zodiac, Arabic, Hindu, Traditional, Russian, Sun/Star, Moon, Planetary, Talismanic, Italian, Roman, and Ancient Hebrew. . .

Thanks to http://www.bernardine.com/birthstone/june.htm for a comprehensive list and sources.

Obviously I’m not going to explore the culture and myth of that many gemstones in a single blog post.

Pearl on a Wheat CentToday we’ll look at Pearls.

Pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912.

There are many other gems to explore in future posts – so many bright, shiny things out there and like a dragon I wish I could add all of them to my hoard.

For example I have now fallen in love with Moonstone.

But back to Pearls.

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Pearls have been traced back to our earliest histories. Even, before written history people have adorned themselves with pearls.

Pearl myth and legend has also come down from the long-ago mists of time in a high diversity of cultures. This blog post will barely scrape the surface.

China is credited with the earliest mention in writing of pearls (a 4,000 year old historical text), but evidence of the rare pearl is found in ancient Egypt, Japan, Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, Rome and so forth.

My favorite myth stories are about rainbows. Rainbows and pearls intersect in myth both in ancient Persia and China.

Ancient Persian myths thought that pearls were born when a rainbow met the Earth. In their myth, thunder caused all irregularities in the pearls.

In China, pearls were thought to be raindrops swallowed by oysters. The Chinese associated dragons and pearls together, since they believed dragons fighting in the clouds caused pearls to drop from the sky in the form of rain.

My second favorite myth centers on what becomes of tears when they fall. In Japanese lore, pearls are the tears of creatures as diverse as mermaids, nymphs and angels.

Pearls on an antique mirror

Pearls are also cited in many religious traditions including Christianity, Islam, and Hindu.

There are the “Pearly Gates” in Christian Revelations 21:21 – “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every gate was of one pearl: and the streets of the city were pure gold, as if transparent glass.”

The Koran speaks of the pearl as a symbol of perfection and that dwellers of paradise will be adorned with them 22:23 – “God will admit those who believe and work righteous deeds, to Gardens beneath which rivers flow: they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk.”

Questions for my Islamic readers.

What is the preferred spelling Koran or Quran? Is it okay to quote the verse(s) that apply to my research or should I summarize them? I have not found any clear answers on my own. What do you think?

Hindu texts say that Krishna discovered the first pearl, which he presented to his daughter on her wedding day and since then pearls have been a part of wedding ceremonies. I have also found that India traces their pearl heritage back to the 3000 year old Rigveda.

Pearl ring on a pink heart compact

Pearls generally symbolize wisdom, wealth, luck, integrity, loyalty, purity and generosity.

I have found that, like roses, each color of pearl has a different meaning. Unlike roses, there are about as many pearl colors as there are pearls, but they have been grouped in broad categories of color.

The familiar white. White = Purity, Truth, Fertility, Innocence, Faith, Honesty, Sincerity, and Peace.

Gold = Riches, Wealth, Prosperity, Freedom, Success, Love, Wisdom
Purple = Wisdom. Artistry, Creativity, Complexity, Mystery, Motivation

I’m partial to black gems like black opals and black pearls are not an exception.

Black pearls = Mystery, Strength, Fascination, Allure, Independence, and Balance.

A black pearl also equals Rest. And for that reason alone, I need to have a black pearl.

There are a seemingly endless number of myths about the rare black pearl. See http://www.prleap.com/pr/20341/ for a good recounting of many of them.

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My favorite origin story for black pearls comes from the ancient Chinese in which black pearls are created in the brains of dragons and one had to slay a dragon to get the black pearl held in its teeth.

If a black pearl actually equals rest, I might be quite tempted to slay a dragon even though I am more inclined towards getting dragons (rather belatedly) classified as an endangered species.

~lisa

An excellent site on pearl meanings – http://www.jewelry-secrets.com/Gemstones/Pearl/Meanings-Of-Colored-Pearls/Pearl-Color-Meanings-And-Moods.html
This site has lots of pearl jewelry available for sale, but the information between the items for sale is spot on – http://www.squidoo.com/pearl-myth

There are some gorgeous pictures of pearls at
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=PEARLS&qpvt=PEARLS&FORM=IGRE

To learn about pearls, their eight shapes, natural vs. cultured and how pearls are made see one of the sites below.

American Gem Society http://www.americangemsociety.org/pearls#sthash.1v0HmY1K.dpuf
A good summary of pearl history http://www.jjkent.com/articles/pearl-history-mythology.htm
A well done Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl – mineral
This site bills itself as the world’s best information site on pearls. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it is a great site all about pearls – http://www.pearl-guide.com/pearl-history.shtml

More pearl snippets I found of interest:

The Roman General Vitellius financed a military campaign with one of his mother’s pearl earrings.

During the Dark Ages, knights would wear pearls onto the battlefield to protect them from harm.

It used to be a Hindu custom to present a completely new, undrilled pearl and pierce it during the wedding ceremony.

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