All posts tagged mythology

U is for Ulster

Published April 30, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Ulster is a province in Northern Ireland.

The Fomorians were the first to settle Ireland. They were semi-divine beings that preceded the gods, and represented chaos and nature, much like the Titans. In some accounts, they are said to have the head of a goat, but other accounts say they are very beautiful (at least some of them).

The Tuatha De Danann are a race of people who settled Ireland during the bronze age. According to Irish mythology, they were divine;  the Irish equivalent of the Olympians. They came to Ireland led by their king, Nuada Airgetlam, bring with them four magical treasures– The Sword of Light of Nuada, The Stone of Fal, The Spear of Lugh, and the Cauldron of Dagda. After being defeated by the Milesians, the Tuatha went underground into the fairy mound, or Sidhe, and later became the Dione Sidhe of Irish and Scottish mythology.

The Dagda is the “father figure” god is Irish mythology, and was a high king of Ireland after Nuada’s death. He is said to have great power, but is ugly, crude, and extremely well endowed. When the Dagda had an affair with Boand, he made the sun stand still for nine months to hide their affair. Their son, Oengus was therefore conceived, gestated, and born in one “day”.

The Morrigan is the goddess of war and strife, and sometimes appears as a crow, a wolf, or a cow. She was the granddaughter of Nuada, and appears later in the Ulster Cycle with Cu Chulainn.

"Cuchulain Slays the Hound of Culain", illustration by Stephen Reid from Eleanor Hull's The Boys' Cuchulain, 1904

Cu Chulainn is a famous hero in the Ulster Cycle, who is often compared to Achilles (he has a similar prophesy attached to him about great deeds, everlasting fame, and a short life).  He is the son of Lugh, who was half Tuatha, half Fomorian, and Deichtine, sister to the Ulster king Concobar. He got his moniker, which means Culann’s dog, by defeating Culann’s ferocious guard dog in self-defense when he was little. At the age of seventeen, he defended Ulster against queen Medb of Connacht by himself in the Cattle Raid of Cooley.




Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                                                 Sci-fi


N is for Norse

Published April 25, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

This post is about the mythology, for the historical and cultural information, check out the post about the Danes.

Befitting their culture, the Norse have one of the most gruesome creation myths that I have personally come across. They believed that in the beginning, there were two worlds, Muspelheim and Niflheim, the first of fire and the second of ice. The air of the two worlds collided eventually collided and Ymir and the cow Audhumia were created.  The gods sprang forth from the sweat of Ymir and the saliva of the cow. When the gods were strong and plentiful enough, they killed Ymir, and his blood flooded the world (another blood flood myth), killing most of the gods. They then created seven more worlds using his flesh, blood, and bones.

The nine worlds of the Norse existed on an immense tree, called Yggdrasill. A gigantic, vicious dragon is said to chew on its roots. The nine worlds, while never mentioned in one source together, are Asgard, Vanaheimer, Alfheimer, Midgard (our world), Jotunheimer, Niovellir, Muspell, Neflher, and Hel. Asgard can be reached by a rainbow bridge called Bifrost. Hel was where the dead who did not die in valor went. It was ruled over by the giantess, Hel. The heroes, and those who did die with valor went to either Valhalla or Folkvangr, both in Asgard. Valhalla was a great hall belonging to the god Odin, and Folkvrangr belonged to Freyja. Once there, the heroes prepare to help Odin when Ragnarok comes.

The Ride of the Valkyries by John Charles Dollman.

A Valkyrie is mythical woman who decided who decided who fell in battle. They would guide the fallen to the halls of Valhalla. They were also sometimes associated with ravens.

The god Loki was a trickster shapeshifter, and is the father of various Norse mythological creatures, includinf Hel, Fenrir, Jörmungandr, and Sleipnir (and horse similar to the Korean Chollima).  When he killed the god Baldr, the gods bound Loki with the entrails of his son. He is also said to play a major part in Ragnarok.

Thor battling the World Serpent by Henry Fuseli.

Jormungandr is a giant serpent that encircles Midgard (the earth). He is also known as the World Serpent. Jormungandr fought Thor twice, and is prophesied to fight him a third time during Ragnarok.

Ragnarok is a series of events that will culminate with the death of many important Norse deities, and the submersion of the world. Eventually, the world will arise renewed and will be repopulated by the surviving gods and humans.

Book recommendations for reading challeges:

Fantasy                                                                                             Sci-fi


K is for Korea

Published April 20, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Korea is considered to be one of the oldest countries in the world. Ancient Korea was split into Three kingdoms, The Silla, Goguryeo, and Bakje. In the 7th century AD, the Silla conqured the other two kingdoms, uniting Korea into one kingdom.

Moon goddess of Goguryeo

Korean mythology (much like Japanese mythology) believed that everything in nature had a spirit residing in it. People would offer tributes and sacrifices to assaude the spirits from causing harm.

The moon (Haesik) and the sun (Daesun) are brother in sister. In folklore, their mother was a poor rice cake seller who got tricked into giving all her rice cakes away by a tiger. When she had run out, the tiger became angry with her and ate her. Disguising himself as her, he went to her house, and tried to trick Haesik and Daesun to open the door so he could eat them too. Daesun prayed to the heavens for a strong rope to save them, or a rotted one if they were dammed. A strong  robe was sent down and the siblings climbed it to the heavens where Haesik became the sun, and Daesun the moon. Later, they switched places because Daesun was afraid of the dark.

The Chollima is a winged mythical horse, much like the pegasus. It is often depicted as having eight legs. In legend, the Chollima was too fast for any mortal man to catch, therefore ride.

Koreans also have their own version of a Kitsune, a Gumiho. However, in these legends, the Gumiho would transform into a beautiful girl who would seduce men so that she could eat thier livers. They are also capable of casting powerful curses and illusions. Another differentiation from the other legends is that a fox would become a Gumiho after living for a thousand years. A fox that is over a hundred years old is called a Bulyeowoo.

A Dokkaebi is a Korean goblin that is sometimes evil, but aso mischevious. They are the transformed spirits of inanimate objects, and are gruesome to look upon. Some tales say that they have a cap that will make the wearer invisible. They will usually torment bad people and reward good people.

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                      Sci-fi