Myth's and Legends

Myths, legends, urban legends, fiction, fact

King Arthur

January 25th, 2014
16th century painting of King Arthur on the Round Table, believed to bear the face of Henry VIII who commissioned the re-painting. photo taken by David Spender

16th century painting of King Arthur on the Round Table, believed to bear the face of Henry VIII who commissioned the re-painting.
photo taken by David Spender

History is a good place for the start of legends. Figures that have a basis in fact take on a romantic quality; their deeds end up greater than they were, their battles epic, their merits, and their flaws all exaggerated to proportions greater then “normal” humans. These legends create heroes from these historical figures and create stories that often last much longer than the actual deeds that these legendary figures supposedly performed. It then becomes much more difficult to separate the legend from any real historical fact, and it becomes a scholarly debate over the reality of those kinds of stories. Every region in the world has these legendary figures, and many of them were not formed thousands of years ago, but fit into time even when there was well-established documentation and history. One of the most famous of these historical/legendary figures comes from England, in the form of King Arthur.

King Arthur’s history and story supposedly begins in the 5th and 6th centuries. What little folklore and tales outside the popular fiction and legends that exist seem to indicate he was a leader of the island, and defended it against an invasion of the Saxons. Outside of those initial stories, very little historically is known about that time and the person that inspired later tales involving wizards, knights, supernatural creatures, and a sword destined to be the sign of the king of Britain. The Arthurian Legend has replaced the historical account, and now you cannot discuss the history of King Arthur without involving the legend, two authors pieced most of which together during the 12th Century.

The first and primary creator behind the King Arthur legend was an author named Geoffrey of Monmouth. In 1138 he produced a Latin work called the Historia Regum Britanniae; translated roughly as Historical Kings of Britain. It is this work that first detailed King Arthur’s life and included such other legendary figures as Merlin, Uther Pendragon, Guinevere, Sir Bedivere, Sir Gawain, and Sir Kay. There is some debate over how much of Geoffrey’s work is utter fiction, and how much of it is based off historical Welsh stories and legends.

According to Geoffrey’s work King Arthur ruled over all of Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul after he defeated the Saxons. These Welsh and Breton stories briefly mention Arthur as a figure, though the ones that do detail him describe him as a protector of the isle from threats, both within and without. These same stories claim he fought more often against supernatural threats then merely human ones. These stories seem to create many of the mythos surrounding the supernatural aspects of the Arthurian legend. Modern historians consider Geoffrey’s work pure fiction as even during known battles of the period, where there is some record for the participation of the historical figure, there is no indication he led the battles, or existed in any kind of royal position. This did not prevent the immense popularity of Geoffrey’s work though, and there are over 200 translations and reprinting of his original Historia Regum Britanniae.

Though Geoffrey’s work became the basis for most Arthurian legend, many more stories came out of the region at the time using Geoffrey’s work at the core. The attitude between the types of stories is quite divergent though, as in many of the French stories, King Arthur becomes an ineffective ruler and cuckold to his obviously French wife. He becomes almost a pale imitation of the King Arthur in Geoffrey’s work, who portrayed him as a boisterous leader who joined his knights in both war and in feasting. The writer Chrétien de Troyes, from France himself added the Lancelot character and the search for the Holy Grail at the center of the knight’s quests. His writing spawned a whole series of stories using Arthur’s Kingdom as a backdrop, but where King Arthur was merely a secondary character in the drama and romance for the other characters.

The historical existence of King Arthur, in many ways is not a valid question when you look at the Arthurian Legend. There is a person who lived during that era, he participated in battles with the Saxons, and contributed enough that he eventually deserved mention in Welsh and Breton folklore and stories. The more interesting, and more valid exploration, is the effect that Arthurian Legend has over modern culture and society. This romance tale, this story of heroism, leadership, and vanity that eventually destroys a kingdom has become a template, a modern era storyteller’s model and a cultural influence that cannot really be measured.

The Norse Pantheon

January 2nd, 2014
Norse_Gods

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The monotheistic belief system is a relatively new creation, historically speaking. In the past, mult-god pantheons more commonly formed in different cultures throughout the world. These pantheons often contain the world creation myths and often use gods to represent the various processes of nature, the world around them, and often even different aspects of human personality traits and failures. Each of these different mythos has their own flavor, usually based on regional difference, and these differences are what make them attractive to modern day mythmakers and the popular media. The Norse pantheon, in particular has received a large amount of attention due to their inclusion in the Thor movie series, and their highlighting in Marvel comics as well. This northern born pantheon shows many of the aspects of the Germanic culture and climate, reflecting the much colder, harsher and more violent history of the region.

Much of the history of the Norse Pantheon comes from old Scandinavian epics, poems and stories conveyed with a strong oral tradition. The people from that region used poetry in their historic stories, called skaldic poetry, the people who told them called, of course, skalds. In the 13th and 14th century a collector named Snorri Sturluson did his best and collected as many of the stories and poems into two collections, called the Prose Edda, and the Poetic Edda. Despite the exposure to Christianity during this time, these poems and stories claimed that the deities in Norse Mythology were actual mystical beings that lived alongside humans over the course of history. Collections of Sagas and archaeological artifacts collected over the year covered in runes, the language and the ‘magic’ of the region contained many of the stories about the pantheon.

The core of Norse Mythology revolves around the belief in nine realms, or worlds, all connected through the branches of the massive world tree, Yggdrasil. The use of the world tree allows beings from the realms to cross over, and so humans, gods, giants, elves, dwarves and other creatures known as jotnar end up interacting, becoming enemies, lovers, friends and family. Most commonly interacting are the realms of the gods, the humans, and the giants; Asgard, Midgard and Jotunheimr, though the other realms host various other residents, including the dead. In Norse mythology though, eventually there will be a war, Ragnarok, during which the gods and their enemies will come together for one more great conflict. During this conflict the nine worlds and Yggdrasil will burn and be reborn into new worlds, with a man and a woman left to spread once again.

The Norse pantheon, like most multi-deity beliefs, contains a rather complicated family tree, which complicates this case complicated by the lack of full storytelling for the origin for many of the Norse gods. The primary pantheon starts with Ymir, the primordial being that generates the world, and then continues down to the primary pantheon, led by Odin and his consort Frigg. As the god of knowledge, and king in Asguard, it is his family and relations that often feature in Norse stories. Modern movies certainly have brought to the fore the relation between Thor and Loki in their often troubled relationship as both brothers, but enemies as Loki wants to vent his jealousy and become Odin’s true son. With Freyr, Baldur, Heimdallr, Fenrir, and many others filling the various natural roles in the Norse Pantheon, there are stories of conflicts and wars across all of the Norse’s nine realms throughout history that modern storytellers can draw on for future tales.

Legend of Saint Nicholas

December 1st, 2013

We love to explore legends, because legends are stories of our history mixed with fantastic events and historical anecdotes, combined into one thread that we can tell repeatedly as entertainment on lonely nights. When you look into these legends, it’s easy to unravel some of the threads creating them, and find some of the historic truth in the origins of the story. Even some of the most famous legends are mashups of various histories and figures from the past. Our favorites, such as Santa Claus, the gift-giving figure come from a grain of truth, and combine with some real historical figures, such as the Greek figure, Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas is a real historic figure, born during the 4th century; Nicholas is a Greek Bishop that served in Myra in the country of Lycia, which is now modern day Turkey. Due to the many miracles associated with his life, he is also sometimes called Nicholas the Wonderworker in historical stories and texts. When both of his parents died in an epidemic, Nicholas’s uncle also named Nicholas whom was a Bishop, raised him and continued his religious education, though historical anecdotes seem to indicate that Nicholas was always a deeply religious individual. In particular, he always observed both Wednesday and Friday fasts as part of his beliefs. Nicholas lived a very full life for the age, as his recorded death occurred at the natural age of 73, advanced for that time, especially given the number of miracles and good deeds attributed to the Saint.

In addition to the miracles that led to his veneration as a Saint, there are several regular good deeds simply part of Saint Nicholas’s life. One of the simpler good deeds was his supposed habit of putting coins in the shoes of those in need, especially when they were left out for him when he could give the gift without being seen. In fact, this wish to give gifts anonymously also led to one of the more famous stories about his act of giving. A poor father with three daughters had no method to pay dowry for his family, which would lead to his daughters forced into a life of prostitution when he died and could no provide for them. Supposedly, Saint Nicholas provided three bags of gold to the father, so he could afford dowry. In one variation of the story, the gifts happened over three nights, and on third night in order to avoid getting caught Nicholas dropped the bag into the chimney, where they fell into one girl’s drying stocking, perhaps lending a bit to the habit of stockings in front of the fireplace during Christmas.

Saint Nicholas is patron saint of many things, sailors, fishing, sailing, but he is most famous as a saint known for his gift-giving nature and his need to be anonymous when giving to those in most need. Despite this wish for anonymity, it became the part of his life he is now most famous for. Generosity, history, story, the three components that turn someone like Saint Nicholas from a generous figure, to the legendary one he is today.

History of Robin Hood

November 10th, 2013
robin hood statue

Photo of by [Duncan] – Statue by James Woodford

The majority of us have this depiction of Robin Hood as an archer wearing green, roaming around Sherwood Forest, stealing from the rich to give to the poor in a time when England was ruled under the firm hand of King John. But, how do we know if these tales are true? How has this image been passed through time and how has it been changed and warped? Are the Hollywood movies a true reflection of what actually happened? Was Robin Hood actually in existence and if so, was that his true name?

It is very likely that the presence of the forest, namely Sherwood Forest, was likely to be the main focus of Robin’s activities, for it was where the Noble’s had the most of their cultivated land and where royalty hunted and rode their horses. As such, forest laws were firm and harsh and therefore unpopular with society, making it the perfect breeding ground for outlaws.

This is of course, not proven and we can only really go back as far as 1377 to find the very first written evidence of Robin Hood in ‘Piers Plowman’, a famous poem that contains a passing reference to Robin. There are a few other literacy references dated around the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries that make reference to Robin Hood, Robyn Hode and Robin Hoode, none of which suggest that ‘Robin’ was in existence around the rule of King John.

So, who exactly was ‘Robin Hood’? There is evidence from 1262 of a certain William Robehod’s chattels being seized by the prior of Sandleford due to being a fugitive. If you cross-reference this with evidence existing back to Berkshire in 1261 which mentions a criminal gang being outlawed, one member being William son of Robert Le Fevere , whose chattels were seized py the prior of Sandleford, you can see common ground. It is thought that William Robehod and William Le Fevere were the same person and a clerk had changed his name during transcription to Robin Hood, knowing of the famous outlaw and his crimes. However, again, this is judgement based on the line of history passing through time without other differences occuring along the way. There are many cases of outlaws deliberately taking on the names of ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Little John’ during the 13th and 14th centuries and it is thought that Friar Tuck was actually a man by the name of Robert Stafford who lived in Sussex in the early 15th century, some 300 years after the first mention of ‘Robin Hood’.

Piecing historical evidence together, it is possible to form a story that does make even more sense. A Scottish historian maintains that Robin Hood existed in 1193 right at the time of King John’s attempted coup against Richard the Lionheart. There is evidence in the roll of the Exchequer in 1225 stating that the chattels were seized of a fugitive, namely Robert Hod who had the nickname of ‘Hobbehod’. This is the first and only evidence of someone bearing the name similar to Robin Hood and being an outlaw. Later, in 1702, an epitaph recorded that a grave belonging to a Robin Hood lay at Kirklees (where Robin is thought to have been killed as the legend tells us), dated 1247.

This fits in as a natural date line through history and as the legend is that we currently know it, however the not-knowing of the true legend that is Robin Hood adds to the mystery behind him and almost makes it more of a compelling legend than if the evidence was clear.

Dragons

October 23rd, 2013

dragon

Dragon…even the word conjures a very specific variety of images, doesn’t it? Every culture has some kind mythology about these creatures, from the European image of the great, hulking winged flying creature, to the lithe, magical creatures with whiskers and beards of Asia, all the way to the great flying serpent dragons of South America.

Somehow, the concept of huge lizard-like creatures insinuated into every global culture in one form or another, linked back as far as recorded history. Even today we have a giant lizard species labelled ‘dragon’, the Komodo Dragon, and from these Komodo roots we may have the root of Dragon mythology? What other huge lizard walked the earth, left behind giant bones claws and teeth of stone, and captures scientists’ curiosity? What if, we were not the first to find the remains of the dinosaurs, and if these remains are available all over the world, is this where the Dragon myth originates?

Scientists first started recording the remains into distinct dinosaur groups in the early 1800s. The word dinosaur did not exist yet, but scientists knew that they had evidence of a separate species, one apparently disconnected from any other known species. Very quickly, additional remains surfaced, once archaeologists and palaeontologists determined they found species of lizards and mammals that resembled nothing like any species of animal in current biological trees.

These findings were not the first finding of remains that may have been dinosaur bones though. In 1676, Reverend Plot in England found a huge femur, presumably from a large species of dinosaur, though at the time, they called it the leg-bone of a giant. In China, stories from over 2000 years in the past written by Chiang Qu, a historian in the fourth century, and responsible for the oldest history of the region reference individuals finding ‘dragon bones’ in Wucheng, Sichuan China.

The Far East is not the only region with heavy dragon myths, potentially related to dinosaurs. One only has to look to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon for more recent references to the mythical dragons. Saint George appeared and fought the dragon, killed it, and converted the local population for Christianity. In some legends and tales, Saint George even took the skull of the dragon as a trophy. For witnesses to see a huge, dragon-shaped skull, in an area known for dinosaur fossils, is not a long stretch to see a blur of science and legend, where a knight possibly killed a large alligator or crocodile, and found the skull as evidence of his deeds.

Similar myths appear all over, quite often in areas where scientists discover large caches of dinosaur bones. Often these bones do not even require significant excavation to get to them, many early cases of dinosaur fossil discovery occur because the bones end up exposed by weather conditions, right at the highest layers of earth. Many of these fossils formed winged shapes, huge animal shapes, and dwarfed anyone that may have found them. Is it any wonder that many myths formed around these massive lizards and fit into the minds of those that found them as ‘dragons’?

Egyptian Gods

October 13th, 2013
egyptian gods

Photo by isawnyu

The combination of the major Egyptian Gods and Goddesses is known as the Pantheon. Here we take a look at the major Gods and Goddesses in turn:

Ra

God/Goddess of:             Sun

Appearance:                      Head of Falcon and Sun Disk

Summary:                           Ra was thought to die every single day. At night, Ra would sail on his boat, the ‘Barque of Millions of Years’ to the Underworld leaving the moon to light the sky in his absence. On his voyage, Ra would travel through 12 doors, symbolizing each hour throughout the night with the following dawn indicating his rebirth.

 

Bastet

God/Goddess of:             Cats

Appearance:                      Cat or head of cat

Summary:                           Daughter of Ra, Bastet protected her father every night on his journey to the Underworld, fighting off the snake Apep. The Ancient Egyptians had great respect for cats since they hunted mice and rats, stopping them from eating the grain and rice.

 

Isis

God/Goddess of:             Magic

Appearance:                      Throne on head, holding a baby, with a Sun Disk

Summary:                           Isis tricked Ra into giving her his secret name and assumed his power in doing so. She was the mother of Horus, who is thought to be the baby she holds and who she aided in defeating his enemy, Seth, by tricking him. Isis was married to Osiris.

 

Osiris

God/Goddess of:             Dead

Appearance:                      Holding a Crook and a Flail, wearing white mummy wrappings

Summary:                           Osiris was the husband of Isis and father of Horus and boasts green skin to symbolize vegetation. His flail would be used for farming and he taught the Egyptians all about how to farm and the benefits of it. Osiris’s brother, Seth created a wooden box which only Seth could fit in. Once inside, Seth sealed the lid and threw it in to the Nile, killing Osiris.

 

Seth

God/Goddess of:             Desert, Storm and Violence

Appearance:                      Animal head with curved and pointed snout

Summary:                           The exact animal head is unknown although it closely resembles that of an Aardvark. Seth carries a scepter which is in the same shape as Seth himself with other Gods carrying the same scepter. Seth tricked his brother, Osiris and killed him by throwing him into the Nile. Fearful that Osiris’s wife Iris would resurrect her husband, Seth cut up Osiris’s body into many pieces and scattered them up and down the Nile.

 

Horus

God/Goddess of:             Sky

Appearance:                      Man with head of a Hawk

Summary:                           Horus was more commonly known as the protector of the ruler of Egypt and also the son of Osiris and Iris. His Uncle, Seth, killed his dad, Osiris, forcing Horus to struggle against Seth for the throne of Egypt. During battle, Horus lost an eye, which was later to become a symbol of protection across Egypt.

 

Anubis

God/Goddess of:             Embalming and the Dead

Appearance:                      Man with head of a Jackal

Summary:                           The thought is that Anubis watched over the dead since Jackals were commonly found in cemeteries. After Seth killed Osiris, Anubis aided in the mummification, which was thought to preserve Egyptians. Other priests who were involved in mummification wore a mask of Anubis. Egyptian belief was that upon death, you travelled to the Hall of the Dead where Anubis would weigh your heart against the feather of Ma ’at, who was the Goddess of Justice.

 

Ma ’at

God/Goddess of:             Justice

Appearance:                      Ostrich feather in hair

Summary:                           Married to Thoth and along with her husband, Thoth, Ma ‘at aided in the process known as the Weighing of the Heart which was carried out upon death. If your heart was lighter than the feather of Ma ‘at, you were to live forever. If it were heavier, then Ammit the Destroyer, a demon, would eat your heart.

 

Thoth

God/Goddess of:             Wisdom

Appearance:                      Man with head of an Ibis

Summary:                           An Ibis is a bird which has a bill shaped like a pen which it dips in the mud to hunt for small fish, as if it was dipping in ink and hence the reference to wisdom. The ancient Egyptians believed that it was Thoth who gave them hieroglyphics and that there was a ‘Book of Thoth’ containing two spells. If the first spell was read out loud, the reader would be able to summon the fish in the sea and to be able to understand every beast and bird. If you read the second spell, then you would have the power to bring the dead back to life.

 

Amun

God/Goddess of:             Creation

Appearance:                      Man wearing crown with Ostrich feathers

Summary:                           Amun was arguably the most important and powerful Egyptian God, being the creator of all things. It is thought that Amun combined with Ra to become Amun-Ra

 

Nut

God/Goddess of:             Sky

Appearance:                      Blue with gold stars

Summary:                           Nut was Geb’s lover, however married to Ra, and was mother of Osiris and Seth. Nut’s body despicts the sky, arching over Geb lying down on the floor. During the day, Nut and Geb were separated only to come together again at nighttime, causing the darkness.

 

Geb

God/Goddess of:             Earth

Appearance:                      Man in the color of plants and Nile mud

Summary:                           Geb lies below his lover Nut’s body, symbolizing the earth below the sky. Married to Nut and father to their children, Osiris, Isis, Nepthys and Seth, Geb made Horus the ruler of the living when Seth and Horus struggle for power of the throne. The belief of the Ancient Egyptians was that Geb’s laughter was the cause of earthquakes.

 

Hathor

God/Goddess of:             Love

Appearance:                      Woman with Cow horns and Sun Disk on head

Summary:                           Hathor looked after all women and was also the Goddess of music and dancing. The sun symbolizes life, however the belief was that the desert sun could kill you. This links to Hathor’s darker side as the Goddess called Sekhmet, the Eye of Ra, who was the destructive Sun Goddess.

 

Sekhmet

God/Goddess of:             Sun

Appearance:                      Woman with Lion’s head

Summary:                           Ra would send down Sekhmet, Hathor’s darker side, to earth to punish mankind. She would kill men and drink their blood instead of punishing them which worried Ra. He died some beer red to look like blood, which Sekhmet drank when she was bloodthirsty and fell asleep drunk. When she awoke, Ra convinced her to stop killing mankind but only to punish them as he originally intended.

Legend of the Holy Grail

October 6th, 2013
holy grail

img design by AlicePopkorn

There are many stories surrounding the Holy Grail as to its origins, what it is and where it might have been laid to rest. Many movies have depicted differing views: Monty Python obviously putting an intensely funny spin on it, Indiana Jones an action adventure slant and more recently Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code apparently depicting a more philosophical and interesting approach.

Let’s move away from the movies and get some facts in. One of the most common ideas is that the Holy Grail originated during the Arthurian times as a unique dish, bowl or a cup-like object. Depending on which religious path you followed, you would likely end up at a different source back in history – the Christians amongst us would profess that the Holy Grail was a cup used at The Last Supper, whereas non-religious folk would move down the road of it originating from Arthur’s times. The truth is, there are no hard and fast facts, since we are heavily reliant on historian’s views and the teachings and learnings of tales some, potentially, 800 years ago or more. In time, these stories bend and shift as and when a common ground is found that makes sense. This new, slightly molded story is passed further on through time.

Studies have shown, though, that there are potentially two main sources of the legend: “Perceval le Gallois” written by Chretien de Troyes sometime near the 12th century and “Joseph d’Arimathie” by Robert de Boron in the late 12th century. De Boron’s tale is of Joseph of Arimathea using a chalice at the Last Supper to collect Christ’s blood from when he was on the cross. He is subsequently exiled and forms a group known as Grail Keepers, which includes Perceval, known to be one of King Arthur’s Knights. Formerly, Chretien’s account was and still is the most influential of all tales and it is reassuring that after all of these centuries, there is still a common link in the Holy Grail myth, that being Perceval.

Greek Gods

September 16th, 2013
greek gods

img by trindade.joao

Most of popular, or common mythology these days is not..well, ours. Most of it comes from other cultures, other places, and often times, even different eras. It seems like our best stories and our best myths come from our past, and grow from there. In modern storytelling, it seems common to call on gods from pantheons long dead, perhaps because the characters and stories involved with ancient deities are more flush, and more detailed then many of the pantheons of today. One of the most well known, and often, well-used pantheons is the ancient Greek pantheon. You can’t turn around these days without hitting a movie, or book, or game that doesn’t feature these, admittedly flawed, gods from the Mediterranean. Of course, when you have a rogues gallery of the main deities from this pantheon, you often don’t have to look farther for your inspiration, all you have to do is take a look at the antics of these supernatural creatures and the stories seem to write themselves.

The head of the Greek pantheon, Zeus, is in himself the inspiration for all forms of stories. As the god of the sky, storms, lightning, and the youngest of the gods begat by the original Titans, Zeus often has more of a temper then any human, and a libido that is nearly as large. Zeus famously slew his father Cronos, and set the other original gods free from his stomach, after Cronos attempted to prevent his prophesized death at the hands of one of his children. Zeus presided over the Greek pantheon, but had a famous interest in the mortal realm, specifically mortal women. In some of his more famous exploits, he used his powers to change shape and appeared as a rain of gold, a goose, and several other beasts and animals in order to seduce the target of his affections. From Zeus came many of the demi-gods in Greek mythology through his exploits.

Being married to the adulterous head of the pantheon could make any woman succumb to her jealousy, and Hera, Zeus’s wife, and presumed queen of the pantheon often did so as a way to punish Zeus’s lovers. Her signified and was the patron deity of wives and marriage, and also represented fidelity, due to her inability to stray from Zeus, despite his flaws. This did not mean she was a particularly nice patron deity though, as indicated when she tried to kill Zeus’ illegitimate son Heracles by sending a pair of serpents to kill the young demi-god in his sleep. He managed to kill the two serpents though, thwarting her vengeance. She also proved to be a judgmental mother, because when she gave birth to Hephaestus she decided he was too ugly to live, and threw him from mount Olympus. He survived, and managed to repay her cruelty in kind later.

Despite his rather…violent ejection from the mountain of the gods, Hephaestus managed to survive, though he ended up crippled and deformed. He secluded himself in his forge, and became the gods’ blacksmith and crafter, where his clubfoot and hideous visage would upset no-one. Throughout the history of the Greek pantheon, Hephaestus created several items built to be both useful, but cursed for their owners. He managed his revenge on Hera as well, when he presented her with a magnificent throne, presumably to show his worth. When Hera took the seat, she became trapped and unable to move until Hephaestus returned to Olympus. It took the combined efforts of Bacchus, god of wine, getting him drunk, and the promise of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty as his wife before he relented and allowed Hera free. Despite Aphrodite’s common infidelity, Hephaestus remained remarkably loyal, though some of the mythos claims the two never consummated their marriage.

Aphrodite is one of the gods in the pantheon that did not originally come as Cronos’s child. Some myths consider Aphrodite the oldest goddess in the pantheon; the myths describe her springing from sea-foam after the Titan Cronos castrated his father, Uranus. In some stories, the blood from his castrated member gives birth to the goddess, in others it is the semen dripping from the dismembered manhood. Aphrodite was legendarily beautiful, and legendarily as licentious as Zeus. She took as many lovers as she could, especially from the beautiful boys she could find, though most often with Ares, god of war. She also, according to legend, the initiator of the Trojan War, when she made Helen of Troy fall in love with the mortal Paris after he rewarded her in a contest. When Paris abducted Helen, it initiated one of the most legendary wars in history.

Ares, one of Aphrodite’s consistent lovers, and god of war, came from Zeus’s union with another divine being, so that Ares was one of the younger gods of the pantheon. As god of aggressive war, attacking, and destroying his enemies, Ares was one of the more…despised gods of the Greek Pantheon. He also seemed the butt of many stories and jokes, becuse despite his scheming, he is routinely defeated in legends by other gods, goddesses, demi-gods, and even a few mere mortals. Some of his most famous conflicts come during the Trojan war, when Aphrodite seduced him into supporting the Trojans. Athena, seeing this, supported Ares’ enemy and guided a spear-thrust that nearly killed the god, forcing him to retreat from the battle in disgrace.

There are many other gods in the Greek pantheon, from Zeus’s brother, great Poseidon, ruler of the oceans, to Hades, god of the underworld, and keeper of all damned and rewarded souls. This great pantheon provides the anchor and the core of many of our stories, because unlike many modern religions, the gods were not infallible. They were the embodiment of all the traits, good and ill of the Greeks themselves, just with the power to manipulate the world around them in a way impossible by common man. There is no wonder that all of these figures became the focus of our stories and myths, they give each of us an idea of how we might exist, given the power and abilities of something so much more then ourselves.

UFO at Roswell New Mexico

August 24th, 2013

There are hundreds of reported incidents of unknown lights in the sky, unidentified formations of flying craft, shapes, and unknown signals passing through US airspace. There are recorded incidents stretching back hundreds of years, before we started flying commonly as a species, and even before we could photograph, or get other records of these unknown objects. Even with these hundreds of incidents, until 1947 there were few occasions where anyone could physically get close to any of these objects, until the crash in 1947 outside Roswell, New Mexico, a relatively small town outside a military base. The town had no idea the significance of the incident outside.

In 1947, around July 8th, William Brazel found a field of debris approximately 30 miles north of town. He collected various pieces, but had no idea what might have left the wreckage. Brazel reported the find to the local Sherriff, Wilcox, after hearing reports of some kind of ‘flying disc’. Wilcox in turn then reported the finding to the local Air Force base, inquiring whether they had a weather balloon, or military balloon undergoing testing in the area. Little did he know that this simple report would set off a firestorm of activity as the Air Force and the FBI descended on the town, and on the site of the wreckage. On July 8th the Air Force issued the following press release:

“The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.”

At the surface, this apparently ended the investigation into the crash. The military collected the crash debris, took them away, and there were no further reports or speculation into the incident, until 1978, when investigation began again.

Stanton T. Friedman, nuclear physicist interviewed Jesse Marcel, the only person that accompanied the wreckage during the entire time it transitioned into military custody. Marcel claimed that the wreckage seemed like it was from ‘nothing of this world’ and also claimed that he witnessed bodies accompanying the wreckage that were apparently not human in origin. This interview caused a massive stir in the scientific and conspiracy circles, and many news agencies and other groups petitioned the Air Force for additional information regarding the crash, most notably through the freedom of information act.

On the surface, the military complied with the investigation requests, and launched their own study into the Roswell crash, after congressional prodding. At this time additional witnesses stepped forward, claiming they were intimidated, approached, and threatened if they testified into the Roswell, or even other UFO incidents across the country. Most eye-witness testimonies ended up discounted, or the witnesses discredited while this investigation continued. Eventually, the Air Force did write up their conclusions and released a report in 1995. The public explanation is that the residents of Roswell came across the wreckage of an experimental balloon experiment at the time, codenamed Project Mogul. Two years later the military claimed the ‘alien bodies’ were dummies used in high altitude impact experiments that could be used in projects like Project Mogul.

Despite the official miliatry explanation, they never did fully discount the accounts that the recovered materials seemed ‘unearthly’ in origin. Later, as additional investigation discovered accounts and reports such as ‘Project Bluebook’, the Air Force’s own investigations into UFOs and potential Extraterrestrial Contact surfaced, there still has been no completely satisfactory account of the crash at Roswell. The military’s own accounts seem to be contradictory, and with none of the witnesses recanting their statements, even after decades, it seems like the Roswell crash will never be fully accepted as a military experiment, especially when there are so many reasons the Military could and would cover up any information that they deem too sensitive for the rest of us.

Ogopogo, the Lake Monster

August 12th, 2013

You see a humped shape traveling through the water, a long wake following behind. You think you see a serpentine head coming up from the water, or maybe fins and a long tail. Maybe you even see it disappear back into deep, murky, dark waters. You probably thought about Nessie, the Loch Ness monster, right? That’s certainly the most famous lake monster out there, but it’s not the only one, in fact, there is a lake monster with credible sightings decades before Nessie. You have to travel into British Columbia, Canada, to find it though, because then you’d go looking for Ogopogo, the Lake Monster.

Ogopogo resides in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, and though Nessie has sightings that span decades, First Nation Native Americans reported spotting the huge water serpent dating back into the 19th century. Sightings describe Ogopogo as a long, snake-like creature, potentially as long as forty to fifty feet long. Some crypto zoologists have tentatively classified Ogopogo as possibly a type of whale, related to prehistoric types that grew to that size and had several humps that could rise above the water while the creature takes a breath. Like many mystery creatures like Nessie, Ogopogo’s shape is another point of debate. Specialists have not managed to debunk the many pictures, videos and credible witness accounts that are on record about Ogopogo, unlike Nessie.

There are many sightings of Ogopogo on record, the first, and one of the most famous occurred in 1926. On September 16th, at Okagogan’s Mission Beach, some 30 cars worth of spectators all report seeing a long, sinuous creature emerge from the water, and then return underneath the water. The stories reported by the witnesses all concur on the general points of the sighting, making it one of the larger, and first major sightings of the famed lake monster. After that initial sighting, reports continued every few years, usually with multiple witnesses and dependable accounts. Another spotting occurred on July 2nd, 1947, again with multiple witnesses all out boating on the lake. In this case, the boaters reported something at least 30 feet long with several humps or loops that appeared above the water before they disappeared. In one instance, a boat reported in 1959 that they witnessed the animal following them about 250 feet behind their boat for several minutes before it disappeared again. Sightings occur again and again, even as recently as 2011, when a spectator caught unconfirmed video of Ogopogo on their camera phone. Witnesses and experts will not confirm the validity of that video, but it does not discount the possibility.

The waters of our planet contain over 90% of the biodiversity in our environment. We still have not explored more than a small fraction of that area, which means that there are still creatures out there that can and will hide from us, even right under our culture’s collective nose. The native people have stories about Ogopogo going back as long, if not longer, and then a century and we still have yet to disprove the mystery of any creature living in this lake. If Ogopogo does live in Okanagon lake, or that is just a name for potentially an unidentified species we have yet to discover, it show how little we can really know about the world we live alongside.