Posted in Classics, Media and Mischief, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology, writing prompts

Myth of the Month Club: Krampus

Brom's Krampus
Brom’s Krampus

Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer who rewards good children each year on December 6. The kindly old Saint leaves the task of punishing bad children to a hell-bound counterpart known by many names across the continent — Knecht Ruprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzli, Pelznickel, Klaubauf, and Krampus. Usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue, but can also be spotted as a sinister gentleman dressed in black, or a hairy man-beast. Krampus punishes the naughty children, swatting them with switches and rusty chains before dragging them, in baskets, to a fiery place below.

 

Just when you thought stuff couldn’t get any weirder: ‘t round out the week before Winter Break, prevent the need to scrape kids off the ceiling, and harmlessly, innocently, integrate some technology skills I created this prompt:

There are a lot of strange and wonderful ways to celebrate in December around the world. Now’s it’s time for you to come up with your own! This is a group project contest for the best, new, weirdest plausible holiday!”

And they were off! They were given a list of items they might include:

  • Food served
  • Special clothes or costumes
  • Mascot or Character
  • Tradition/ritual
  • Activities

And while none came up with a variation on Festivus, we did have a “Wishing Day” and a “Squidmas.” The students worked with Power Point on-line through their Office 365 software, and had a ball. They only had one block class to consider, create, and design their presentations.  They were all winners in my book! This proved to be a great way to introduce Power Point on line, collaborative creativity, and a low-risk activity that was accessible and funny. The ones who didn’t quite get it at first were those who thought this was a simple regurgitation of researched holidays: once they saw others with their original ideas it helped to model. The truth is, as much as a teacher can model something, middle school students look to their peers to see what else is happening in a creative crunch.

 

Posted in Mighty Myth Month! (Mmmmm...that's good writing!), Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology, Poetry

Mighty Myth Month: Trees.

No, this isn’t about the 1976 Rush song.

It’s about trees.

Ratatosk
Ratatosk

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is the tree that represents all levels of above, middle, and below for mankind:

In Norse mythology, the World Tree called Yggdrasill runs like a pole through this world and the realms above and below it. Yggdrasill is a great ash tree that connects all living things and all phases of existence.

Trees represent life, growth, and perhaps greatest of all: potential. Trees symbolize strength, honor, as well as other less-attractive human qualities such as jealousy, greed, and death:

Trees—or the fruit they bore—also came to be associated with wisdom, knowledge, or hidden secrets. This meaning may have come from the symbolic connection between trees and worlds above and below human experience. The tree is a symbol of wisdom in stories about the life of Buddha, who was said to have gained spiritual enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, a type of fig.

Two sacred trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—appear in the Near Eastern story of the Garden of Eden, told in the book of Genesis of the Bible. God ordered Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, not to eat the fruit of either tree. Disobeying, they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and became aware of guilt, shame, and sin. God cast them out of the garden before they could eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, which would have made them immortal. Thereafter, they and their descendants had to live in a world that included sin and death.

A traditional Micronesian myth from the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean is similar to the biblical account of the fall from Eden. In the beginning of the world was a garden where two trees grew, guarded by an original being called Na Kaa. Men lived under one tree and gathered its fruit, while women lived apart from the men under the other tree. One day when Na Kaa was away on a trip, the men and women mingled together under one of the trees. Upon his return, Na Kaa told them that they had chosen the Tree of Death, not the Tree of Life, and from that time all people would be mortal.

See this post: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Tr-Wa/Trees-in-Mythology.html#ixzz0ceDB4F5P

Odin's Ravens: Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)
Odin's Ravens: Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)

Oops. Kind of puts a whole new spin on “poison apple.”

Grumpy, apple-throwing talking tree from the Wizard of Oz
Grumpy, apple-throwing talking tree from the Wizard of Oz

Humans need trees, and yet our relationship with them has been somewhat strained, at best. Humans who try to help the environment are lambasted as “tree-huggers.” I wonder what would happen if they actually did talk, threw apples at us, or used their switches for a humanity-spanking. What if they could walk and wage war like the mighty trees in the Lord of the Rings? It’s all the trees’ fault. They just don’t grow fast enough for the speed of humans. We needs our houses NOW. We need our teak tea trolleys NOW. We need our toothpicks NOW. (Say the NOW in the voice of Veruca Salt.) Trees measure the planet by their own standards, not man’s, and those two cultures clash. Can trees have a culture? Well, personification aside, perhaps. They are such an important part of our survival and existence on this planet, that perhaps they deserve to be revered, perhaps even worshipped. We have not done a very good job of being their caretakers, but they have not faltered in their gifts to us.

 We climb trees. We live with trees. We use their breath for our breath, and they use ours. We should never use trees for harm, or for death. In the words of the late, great Shel Silverstein:

Once there was a tree….. and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…….very much. And the tree was happy.

 http://www.shelsilverstein.com/indexSite.html

Time to plant a seed.

Posted in Media and Mischief, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology, New News

Myth-of-the-Month Club: Billy Goat G-ROUGH

scared goatIn honor of my husband’s birthday, this post is dedicated to a cryptozoological creature of the southwest/central Americas: the Chupacabra. 

It’s not that I question their existence, (though I do), or that I am skeptical (which I am), but the deeper question to me is, “Why do people in these current times, attribute acts of violence, etc. to made- up critters? Why isn’t there more of an investigation?” Because, seriously, think about it–if there really is a creature that sucks livestock’s and domesticated animals’ blood, leaving behind a wake of death and destruction, and is possibly FROM OUTER SPACE…shouldn’t we be more concerned? Shouldn’t we be doing nightly patrols, with infrared goggles and heat-seeking scanners? C’mon, people! The goats can’t protect themselves, they need our help!

Now, it’s also notable that these sorts of stories tend to pop up more in the news whenever there isn’t much else going on. When “real” news occurs, with all of its horror, pain, tragedy, and grit, the folklore stories are put on the shelf. When there’s been years of drug-related violence in Central/South America, creeping into the U.S. borders, and not to mention the on-going conficts in the Middle East, Chupacabra’s press clippings begin to shrink.

Or do they?

Well, some might make that correlation: http://www.mad.co.uk/Main/Home/Articles/a37a5b5c7f684c6795bd84d7e2aa8e05/Tabloid-sales-continue-to-topple.html

Why do you think that happens?

Huh. Guess I kind of answered my own question. It’s easier and more ‘fun’ to make up stories than to face reality; it’s much more interesting to think big, nasty chupacabres are out there chasing the livestock than to think it might be another man-made horror. Bueno, Chupa. You kept my mind off of the other nastiness, at least for awhile.

Posted in Genre Studies, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology, New News

Snake charmer.

Talk about your bad hair day.

Medusa

 Once again, some goofy mortal chick is just hanging out, being beautiful, and some god takes an interest in her, and she pays the price:

Medusa, one of the three Gorgons, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. She was the only one of the Gorgons who was subject to mortality. She is celebrated for her personal charms and the beauty of her locks. Neptune became enamoured of her, and obtained her favours in the temple of Minerva. This violation of the sanctity of the temple provoked Minerva, and she changed the beautiful locks of Medusa, which had inspired Neptune’s love of serpents. According to Apollodorus, Medusa and her sisters came into the world with snakes on their heads, instead of hair, with yellow wings and brazen hands. Their bodies were also covered with impenetrable scales, and their very looks had the power of killing or turning to stones. Perseus rendered his name immortal by his conquest of Medusa. He cut off her head, and the blood that dropped from the wound produced the innumerable serpents that infest Africa. The conqueror placed Medusa’s head on the shield of Minerva, which he had used in his expedition. The head still retained the same petrifying power as before, as it was fatally known in the court of Cepheus. . . . Some suppose that the Gorgons were a nation of women, whom Perseus conquered.

From Lempriére’s Classical Dictionary of Proper names mentioned in Ancient Authors Writ Large. Ed. J. Lempriére and F.A. Wright. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Cecilia...you're breaking my heart...
Cecilia...you're breaking my heart...

What strikes me are the explanations (in mythology) of “when good things happen to bad people.” Bad things happen because the gods and goddesses are meddling in mortal matters. The deities are not aloof, watching “off shore through heavy lenses” kinds of omnipotent beings. They are involved, they get in the mix, they cause trouble with their jealousies, infidelities, and revenge. Mortals are quite capable of causing enough problems, thank you very much. Do you think it’s fair that just because Poseidon/Neptune wanted to take a cutie out on a date that she should pay the price for forever with bad hair and stone-etching blood?

Well, I guess on a positive note, she and Poseidon did produce Pegasus, but that’s a horse of another color.

Posted in Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology

Myth-of-the-Month Club: Lady Gaga Baba Yaga

babayagaBaba Yaga. Even the name sounds retching. She is the Crone: all bone-crushing, baby-killing nastiness. That object that she’s flying around in is a mortar and pestle, which is a little bowl, made of hard, dense ceramic material or rock/granite, and a stubby club-like instrument made to grind spices and concoct potions/herbs in. Cooks still use them, I guess because grinding spices in this old-fashioned way may increase the flavor of the spice.  

Okay, this isn’t a cooking lesson, but I do think it’s interesting to note that in many stories of witches and bad grandmas, kitchen utensils are the weapons or modes of transportation of choice. Women reprsent many powerful aspects of basic human needs: they give birth, they cook food, and they guide and protect humankind. But to every yin there’s a yang, and for every story of life-giving, there’s life-taking, for every home-cooked meal, there’s a poison apple, and for every act of guidance and love, there’s a “throw you into the fire just as soon as my gingerbread cookies are done.”  Talk about mixed messages!

You know the old saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

And what is going on with the chicken-legs walking house? If you were going to bewitch a mobile home for yourself, wouldn’t you choose something other than chicken legs? Although fried chicken is delicious, and there’s a shortage of pumas in Russia. It’s those little details that make a story represent its culture, its time, and its society. Think about that: if Baba Yaga’s hut moved on tiger legs, it would be an anachronism, something out of its time and place. Sort of like seeing someone use a cell phone in a 1870s Western.

(Yes, children, there was a time when there were no cell phones: that’s the real horror story, isn’t it?)

I have only limited service out here...
I have only limited service out here...

One of my favorite fairy tale sites is: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/

The entire tale of Baba Yaga is here: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/russian/folktalesfromrussian/babayaga.html

To learn more about the illustrator, Ivan Bilibin, click here: http://www.bpib.com/illustrat/bilibin.htm

Posted in Media and Mischief, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology, New News

Myth-of-the-Month Club: No need to PANic.

Play that funky music, goat man.
Play that funky music, goat man.

Pan – the little goat-man, lover of beautiful girls, and chaser of dreams. His presence creates panic in men because of his wild nature, the forces that cannot be controlled, when we lose ourselves to crazy behavior, mob rule, or “herd” mentality. When we act like sheep, Pan is the deity to blame.

PAN was the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music. He wandered the hills and mountains of Arkadia playing his pan-pipes and chasing Nymphs. His unseen presence aroused feelings of panic in men passing through the remote, lonely places of the wilds.

Maybe that’s why over eons Pan morphed into a devil-like manifestation: from Greek mythology, he changed into something to be feared, a representation of temptation, debauchery, and evil. Mankind versus Nature has been an age-old conflict, and we all know which side Pan is on.

But perhaps Pan doesn’t deserve this reputation. Maybe he was just ‘green’ before everyone else was. He was a funky hippy dude, playing his flutes, hanging out with Mother Nature, and making organic feta cheese to sprinkle on his pita chips. Soap wasn’t his friend, per se, but animal instinct was his middle name. Pan is the free-thinker, the non-conformist, kind to animals, and not intending any harm. He has his share of heartbreak, too. Maybe if he had used a little deodorant…but there was no way to cover up that stink.

The mythos of Pan gave us other personifications of wildness, youth, and nature, not just the devil. We have the charming tale of never wanting to grow up, in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and of course, we all get a little ‘satyr but wiser’ with Phil, the trainer in Disney’s Hercules.

Hercules-Phil1

Pan is also featured in one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins’ novels. But he’s not until you get to college.  Not that anything’s bad, just some more grown-up ideas. Sometimes experience does have its benefits, young ones.

So, when you’re feeling like you need some time to kick back, listen to some music, and just chill, thank your friendly neighborhood Pan for helping you get back in touch with nature. And, don’t forget: reuse, recycle, and reduce!

Posted in Genre Studies, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology

Myth-of-the-Month Club: Gone fishin' (King of Sharks – Hawaiian)

This is a story with some bite to it: 

Copyright DC Comics
Copyright DC Comics

 

  The King of Sharks
retold by
S. E. Schlosser

One day, the King of Sharks saw a beautiful girl swimming near the shore. He immediately fell in love with the girl. Transforming himself into a handsome man, he dressed himself in the feathered cape of a chief and followed her to her village.

The villagers were thrilled by the visit of a foreign chief. They made a great luau, with feasting and games. The King of Sharks won every game, and the girl was delighted when he asked to marry with her.

The King of Sharks lived happily with his bride in a house near a waterfall. The King of Sharks, in his human form, would swim daily in the pool of water beneath the falls. Sometimes he would stay underneath the water so long that his bride would grow frightened. But the King of Sharks reassured her, telling her that he was making a place at the bottom of the pool for their son.

Before the birth of the child, the King of Sharks returned to his people. He made his wife swear that she would always keep his feathered cape about the shoulders of their son. When the child was born, his mother saw a mark upon his back which looked like the mouth of a shark. It was then she realized who her husband had been.

The child’s name was Nanave. As he grew towards manhood, Nanave would swim daily in the pool beside the house. Sometimes, his mother would gaze into the pool and see a shark swimming beneath the water.

Each morning, Nanave would stand beside the pool, the feathered cloak about his shoulders, and would ask the passing fishermen where they were going to fish that day. The fisherman always told the friendly youth where they intended to go. Then Nanave would dive into the pool and disappear for hours.

The fishermen soon noticed that they were catching fewer and fewer fish. The people of their village were growing hungry. The chief of the village called the people to the temple. “There is a bad god among us,” the chief told the people. “He prevents our fishermen from catching fish. I will use my magic to find him.” The chief laid out a bed of leaves. He instructed all the men and boys to walk among the leaves. A human’s feet would bruise the tender leaves, but the feet of a god would leave no mark.

Nanave’s mother was frightened. She knew her son was the child of a god, and he would be killed if the people discovered his identity. When it came turn for the youth to walk across the leaves, he ran fast, and slipped. A man caught at the feathered cape Nanave always wore to prevent him from being hurt. But the cape fell from the youth’s shoulders, and all the people could see the shark’s mouth upon his back.

The people chased Nanave out of the village, but he slipped away from them and dived into the pool. The people threw big rocks into the pool, filling it up. They thought they had killed Nanave. But his mother remembered that the King of Sharks had made a place for her son at the bottom of the pool, a passage that led to the ocean. Nanave had taken the form of a shark and had swum out to join his father, the King of Sharks, in the sea.

But since then, the fishermen have never told anyone where they go to fish, for fear the sharks will hear and chase the fish away.

Read the original post on the American Folklore site.

King of Sharks

Posted in Myth-of-the-Month Club, Mythology

Myth-of-the-Month Club: Kiyohime

KiyohimesmThere are many stories of love-gone-wrong. And when women especially get their hearts broken, well, brother, you had better watch out. They change. They destroy. They…get…really…upset.

Today’s legend is the Japanese story of Anchin and Kiyohime. Just a couple of crazy kids, in love, planning a life. Until Anchin becomes bored, restless, and is ready to move on, literally and figuratively, taking his love on a boat ride…Well, that’s one version. Other versions say he was just hanging out, minding his own business, and Kiyohime mistakes him for her one true love, and turns into a snake/serpent to show that she is VERY DISAPPOINTED. Unrequited love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds, and mars. (Sorry– went back to 1974 for a second).

It’s not really a very old story, relatively speaking, originating circa 928: there are other older an newer stories that connect with this one, such as Medusa (the old “turn you into stone” thing), Circe (“you’re such a pig!”) and various harpies, sirens, Scylla, and Ariel. Yes, I said Ariel. Because in the original Little Mermaid story she takes the high road and doesn’t turn into a sea serpent, murderer, or even a a shrimp boat captain, but sea foam. Sea foam. Really, Hans Christian Andersen? Foam? Ultimately she turns into some kind of spirit that seeks out good children, because for every good kid she finds, it moves her closer to heaven:

The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the ether.”

“After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven,” said she. “And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened. The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a day is added to our time of trial!”

How’s that for some guilt? Every time you were naughty, you kept the little mermaid from going to her just reward.

But, let’s return to Kiyohime. The symbolic meaning of serpents, snakes, and reptiles is huge. People have been afraid of All Things Wiggly since the beginning of time. Dragons deserve their own day in the Myth-of-the-Month club, and their belly-crawling cousins, snakes.

AnchinKiyohime

 One perspective I found interesting is that Kiyohime is not really considered an evil being, just misunderstood (isn’t that right, gals?):

Kiyohime was not a villainess, even in folklore. The concluding words of Koi no tenarai, “The Learning of Love”, from the Nagauta cycle “Kyo Kanoko Musume Dojoji” paint a sensitive picture of a woman tormented by her love, and an unfeeling rejection from one to whom she considered herself bound.

The moral of the story is, sometimes when you love someone, they don’t love you back. Try not to be so clingy.

 

I’m not sure who originally wrote this website, but there are a lot of misspellings in it. However, you’ll get the gist of the story: http://www.dojoji.com/e/anchin/anchin.html

Here’s a synopsis of the story here: http://ccdl.libraries.claremont.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/cyw&CISOPTR=311

And a longer, more detailed version here: http://everything2.com/title/Legend+of+Anchin+and+Kiyohime

One more: http://www.robynbuntin.com/dictionary.asp

Posted in Connections, Media and Mischief, Myth-of-the-Month Club, Writing, writing prompts

Myth-of-the-Month Club: Janus

Janus My fellow bloggers out there in the technosphere have taken up the challenge to write a post-a-day on their blogs for the month of January. (“I can do that!” Mrs. L thought to herself.) So what if there’s laundry to do, meals to prepare, and holiday decorations to take down? I can do this! Or can I?

And like any good resolution, which is also part of the “resolve” word family (resolution, resolve, resolute) I am going to give it my best.

But I needed a theme. I love themes. Those are the universal truths and connections among all cultures, societies, time, and beliefs that allow us not to float away, untethered, distracted, or isolated.

Don-da-da-da! (That’s supposed to be trumpets blaring):  The theme for January is the “Myth of the Month Club.” Each day I will feature a myth, legend, folktale, deity (remember? polytheism? deity? gods…goddesses…demi-gods, etc.? Come on…you remember, right?) And what better or more appropriate way to start off January with that two-faced deity himself, doesn’t know if he’s coming or going, looking back to look forward, JANUS!

Roman god of doorways, gates, and transitions, who faced forwards and backwards. The name January comes from the name of Janus. Janus statues show twin faces. – http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/religionmyth/ig/Greek-Mythology/Janus.-_Qs.htm

 

Two-faced rock.
Two-faced rock.

Janus imitates its two-faced Greek god namesake by catching light on two sides.

The brighter side of Janus is lit by the sun while light reflected off Saturn dimly illuminates the rest of the moon and reveals the non-spherical shape of this small satellite.

This image has been scaled to twice its original size. This view looks toward the leading hemisphere of the Janus (179 kilometers, or 111 miles across). North on Janus is up and rotated 22 degrees to the left.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 12, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1 million kilometers (621,000 miles) from Janus and at a Sun-Janus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 112 degrees. Image scale is 6 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel.

Janus is one of Saturn’s (the planet) satellites (moons).  Remember, Saturn is, in mythology, the old man who grunts and grumbles at Baby New Year. It is no accident that French astronomer Audouin Dollfus who discovered this tiny, two-faced moon in 1966 named it Janus.  Janus and Saturn are connected to the same myth: that time turns, we look to our past, and to our futures, all at the same time, in the present moment.

Here is another thought about Saturn:

Vouet completed the piece “Father Time Overcome by Hope, Love, and Beauty” (1627).: 

Old Man Time

(I’m not sure if time can be overcome by love, beauty, and hope. That’s what is advertised to us. If we buy wrinkle cream, we HOPE that we will still have BEAUTY and we can keep LOVE.)

In any case, Happy New Year. Like Janus, I think it’s important to honor the past, learn from mistakes, and appreciate the experiences we’ve gained, while simultaneously looking forward to the future.