Posts Tagged 'Mythology'

Metaphors for mammograms

At first I thought maybe mammograms were a bit like Scylla and Charybdis. But then I remembered the story of the Argonauts and the Symplegades (or crashing rocks, as I think of them). Visual here. Another picture of the Symplegades with Ephemus here. Not a bad experience; better than some medical tests to be honest. In my opinion, it’s preferable to allowing obvious cancer signs go unnoticed.  It’s also preferable to just wondering if one’s OK. YMMV. (Also preferable to a stick in your eye… etc etc. And I realize, not a very Christmas-themed post.)

Mermaid Scales

While walking through work’s monotone halls, I was intrigued to see the glint of something shiny and colorful on the gray tiles. It was a flat teal disk, about the size of a pinhead, lying on the floor. A little further off, there was another and another.

Maybe a mermaid had lost some scales when trying to get to the coffeemaker, the ladies room, and the cafeteria.

I know it was probably an unseen female coworker, but I’d like to think it was a teal- and purple-scaled mermaid, making the grey halls of the corporate world more colorful.

Below the Reflections

A lot of the mythology I’ve been reading has themes of reflections — faerie world as a reflection of modern life, the jealousies of the gods reflecting those of the people who live below Mount Olympus, the reflections or waves on water hiding the world beneath the depths.

If you’re interested in water + mythology, you might want to check out the Celtic myths. Here are a few that I really enjoyed in Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis:

  • “Princess of the Fomorri” — with boats coming up out of the ocean, away from their docks under the sea, a princess who needs a drink from a specific chalice, and a smart, intelligent healer, this Scottish tale has me looking at the deepy darks and shadows in a good way.
  • “Gilaspick Qualtrough” — has a sailor who tells tall tales experiencing an unbelievable adventure and casting his nets for a bell. This Manx tale includes the ocean god, a beautiful princess, and some amusing comedic scenes.
  • “The Ben-Varrey” — involves a fisherman, a mermaid, an evil Druid, and a cat with a fiddle and a jigging mouse and cockroach. Again, this one is from the Isle of Man and is a lighthearted tale with dark deeds mixed in.
  • “The Destruction of Ker-Ys” — which is a dark, dark tale from Brittany. Destruction, fire, flood, poisoning, and a tale of multiple revenge. This one is complicated by the presence of lots of false-faces and a bishop vs. a Druidess.

It makes a great deal of sense that the coastline areas (and smaller islands) of the British Isles would have lots of tales that about the changeableness of water. It’s a life-giving force, and yet it can take things away so quickly. Even wells have a changeable nature.

In a way, we all deal with the reflections of the real world all the time, not pondering the deeper realities. It isn’t healthy to look beneath the shadows of the waves all the time — it’s hard for us to breathe down there. But, sometimes, it’s useful to reflect on where we are, search what has changed in our goals, and try to push at the water a little to redirect our course. [Note: the Gardener has requested help securing portions of the garden against high winds. To everyone else who might be affected by Hanna or the other storms playing pinball with the East Coast (and Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc), please stay safe.]

The Deep Is Dark

Beneath here, ornamental carp lurk... but, what else?

Beneath here, ornamental carp lurk... but, what else?

I’ve been reading Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis. From stories of skulls, coins, and swords thrown into the Thames by the ancient Celtic people to the actual myths referred to in the title — from the Isle of Man [“Island of the Ocean God”] and Cornwall [“An Lys-an-Qwyrs”] — there is a mythological darkness to water.

The darkness is present, even when it’s a myth that has been combined with Christianity, probably by the Christian priests and scribes who wrote them down. I wish I had the time to go and study how Christianity gets explained into the picture within some of these myths/legends. The “Island of the Ocean God” talks of how a descendant of the gods became a Christian saint; it feels creepily like there was something that didn’t fit with the original story (conversion to Christianity) and someone decided to make it the pearl of the story. This is a great story for the darkness of water, with the old gods relegated to an undersea city.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s an interesting group of stories to read, after all the children’s stories about pookas and selkies. Celtic legends are totally not benign and mundane if they haven’t been bowdlerized further for children. Either that, or as a child I didn’t understand the darkness and shadow that give the stories nuance and menace. I appreciate the introduction by Ellis, where he explains which stories he tried to remove the Christian gloss put on by the scribes.

On a day filled with light and buzzing cicadas, I’m thinking about the tree shadows on the lawn and how they connect with the darkness of deep water. This is a thick book, and I won’t be done with it soon. It’s the perfect thing to read when shirking yard work and lazing in a hammock, in a mythological world where mosquitoes and black fly don’t exist.

Air and Water

Water, rain, waves (and the wind that blows them) are fertile motifs in mythology (and often fertility myths, as well).

John Lindow notes that waves are the 9 daughters of Aegir and Ran in his book, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs (2002). This book also discusses water and fire as devouring the cosmos during Ragnarok.

I’m intrigued by the presence of water’s duality throughout mythology, and time’s cyclical nature in Norse myths. The Midgard serpent is banished to the edges of the ocean, and yet… it’s still there, waiting. After Ragnarok, there is a second, green earth with new Gods. (Today, Aegir’s name has been borrowed to describe a tidal wave or bore on the River Trent. I’ve been very intrigued by images on Flickr, such as this one:

In Egyptian [Mythology], a book by James George Scott (1918), the author claims the Nile rose with the tears of Isis that she wept after being violated by her son, Osiris. A prayer reprinted in this book, mentions that the Nile is created in the sky for all other nations, but it comes from the Underworld for Egypt. The Nile is depicted as obese and having a fisherman’s girdle around his waist in one of the book’s illustrations. Again, there’s a cyclical nature to the ebb and rise of the Nile.

Just as there is a cycle to weather, of course, and knitting (going round and round on socks, these days). Even though we look at ancient texts and images through the comfortable lens of “myth,” I think we still create our own mythologies today, as we create patterns out of what we see.

Perseids and Camping

One August, I visited my friends up in New England. It was the sort of area where you could actually camp in their backyard (my friends lived on the outskirts of a really small town). It was a 2 week 5-sibling (from 2 families) gabfest, filled with trips to swimming ponds, long walks to the next town for ice cream, etc. We got to walk to the little town library and take out books (The Five Children and It by E Nesbit was a disappointment after the absolute magic of The Enchanted Castle), wrote ridiculous plays that we would actually read aloud, howling with laughter, and woke up early enough to see the mist rise off the grass.

One night, we were woken by my friends’ Mom at around 1 AM. Scratchy blankets were thrown over shoulders, and we stumbled barefoot onto the wet grass and looked upwards.

I looked and saw the stars falling from the sky, going in different directions. After a while, we all blinked sleepily at each other and went back into the tent to sleeping bags. The next morning, waking in the glow of the yellow tent walls, it was hard to believe what we had seen the night before

Every time I see a meteor shower, it takes my breath away. Last night/this morning, I stood on the porch to see a few stray meteors palely fall. The city lights are too strong here, and the cloud cover that was filtering away interfered too. But even so, I still got a tiny taste of the awe that thousands before me have felt. BTW: look up Perseids, and you’ll see that it refers to both the placement of the meteors (association with the constellation of Perseus) and in Greek mythology/history, it refers to the descendants of Perseus.

Perseus is associated in my head with Andromeda and sea monsters, thanks to a mythology project in 6th grade. So, the Perseids do have a connection with the Project Spectrum element, water, in a way.

Images of Andromeda and Perseus from Leighton (1891) found here:

Images of Andromeda and Perseus from antiquity found here (as well as a more modern view from “Clash of the Titans”):

(I did see “Clash of the Titans” when it was in the theaters. It has not held up well with time’s changes, even though it had Maggie Smith and Laurence Olivier. But I do remember the excitement of going to see it.)

Knitting stuff: I’ll be knitting a purple, cotton, Rusted Root for this element. The leaves might look a little bit like seaweed, but I doubt it. I might have enough yarn and gumption to actually make the puffed sleeves a little longer. I have to adjust the front and shoulders so it doesn’t choke the front of the neck. Since this is the first time I’m working a sweater from the top down, I’m kind of in the midst of math right now.

“E” Is for “Eggs” and Mythological Musings

This morning’s thought started with Leda and the Swan, mythology to do with water… and how one could make an argument that eggs resonate with Project Spectrum’s element of water.

Castor, Pollux and Helen were all born to Leda after the Swan (Zeus) incident. I’ve read that Pollux and Helen were either in the egg, with Castor being the mortal twin from Leda’s union with her husband, or Castor and Pollux were in the egg. It’s all fluid and strange, like mythology, eggs, and water. The myth ranges into the kidnapping of Helen, later on, and the siege of Troy.

A quote about Castor and Pollux:

During the voyage a storm arose, and Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian gods, and played on his harp, whereupon the storm ceased and stars appeared on the heads of the brothers. From this incident, Castor and Pollux came afterwards to be considered the patron deities of seamen and voyagers, and the lambent flames, which in certain states of the atmosphere play round the sails and masts of vessels, were called by their names.

— Bullfinch. Mythology Age of Fable Stories of Gods and Heroes. Found online at:

There’s the connection with water I seemed to remember from reading Bullfinch years ago.

I’m rereading some classic texts in translation, some Greek and some Roman. I’m having difficulty keeping the events in the Odyssey separate from the Aeneid. The first one is attributed to Homer and talks about Odysseus’ travels to return home. The second one is by Virgil and describes Aeneas’ voyage to found a new home.

Both are told in flashback style, heavy on the justifications of escaping from danger through the will of the Gods, with much rattling of swords. Both have a heck of a lot of water to them, from Neptune calming the waves for Aeneas (see a sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum of Neptune and Triton here) to Poseidon favoring the Greeks in the Odyssey. There is a cast of thousands in both books, including the Gods (Roman or Greek versions). Throughout both books, there are discussions of how to avoid ocean hazards (Scylla or Charybdis). Aeneas has the tragic Dido, and Odysseus has the tragic Calypso. The Romans call Odysseus by the name Ulysses (which would be why I had to read a translation of the Odyssey that James Joyce might have had on hand when I studied Joyce’s novel, Ulysses).

In some ways, it’s almost as though the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid were hatched from the same egg at different times. Reading them has a fluid effect, as though one needs a timeline to figure out where Aeneas was when Odysseus (or Ulysses) was doing X or Y. Or perhaps a picture book to show which God, Goddess, or water nymph is alternating between angry/offended and protective/loving and sad/suicidal. The fluidity of characters taking on other peoples’ guises reminds me of water. There are a great deal of poems and novels I’ve had to read based on these three epics… there’s an inundation of data out on the Web, on my bookshelves, etc. If I were writing a novel, I’d totally follow Neil Gaiman’s lead and pick a different mythology as inspiration.

I think as a chaser, I want to find Native American stories of origins and storms. So, between art, poetry, and music, which mythologies or sagas are resonating with you?

Flickr Photos