Myths of Spring — Part 2

Today is the day — the first of two — in which the Earth’s equator passes directly through the center of the sun, causing the day to be balanced in both light and darkness.  This phenomenon is called the Equinox — more specifically, the Spring Equinox.  Days like today were rife with superstitions and myths and legends and everything in between.  However, today we will be looking at another couple of myths from around the world  that talk about the change of seasons.  Last time we took a look at both Chinese and Greek mythology — at the kidnapping of Persephone and at the candle dragon himself.  But now?  Now we will see what the Canaanites believed as well as the Norse in regards to the change of seasons.

springAccording to Canaanite beliefs, the changing of the seasons happened after Baal — the god of storms — defeated the god of the sea to become king of the gods.  Baal thought himself to be above all, and so he ordered that Mot, the god of the dead, was to not set foot anywhere on the earth except for the desert.  Mot, forced to wander the desert, turns around and invites Baal to the Netherworld for a “visit.”  Baal is, in turn, forced to go in order to save face as the new ruler of the gods, however when he gets there, Mot tricks him into eating the food of the dead: mud.  Thus, Baal is trapped in the underworld and the world dries up into an eternal summer — crops do not grow, the land becomes scorched, and the heat causes the waters to dry.  While Baal is away, Baal’s wife — Anat — prays for her husband’s release.  The gods refuse to help her, so she herself descends to the Netherworld to plead with Mot directly. Mot of course refuses, and thus an infuriated Anat battles the god of the dead and defeats him, wounding him so badly he cannot stop her from taking Baal away.  Rains were restored, but because Baal ate the food of the dead, he is required to spend a part of every year in the Netherworld, and at summer’s end he can come back and heal the world once more.

sprin3Our second myth today is a funny one, since many versions of this myth exist and they all contradict each other.  The beginning is usually the same: either Frigga (Baldur’s mother), Odin (Baldur’s father), and Baldur himself begin to suffer from nightmares about Baldur’s death.  Frigga goes around and has every living and non-living thing swear that no harm will come to Baldur — with the exception of mistletoe.  The other gods make a game of throwing things at Baldur and watching them bounce off harmlessly until Loki convinces a blind Hodr (in some versions of this myth, he is Baldur’s brother) to throw a spear that Loki guides.  This spear is made of mistletoe, and when it pierces Baldur’s chest, he drops down dead.

spring2This is where the myth changes.  In some versions, both Hodr and Baldur die — Hodr being killed for murdering his brother.  In these pre-Christian versions, Frigga begs Hel to release them and they are allowed out — separately — for half of the year only.  Hodr, because he is blind, is associated with darkness and explains the winter seasons while Baldur was described as a god of light and therefore was the other half of the year — summer and spring.  Other post-Christian versions of this myth tie Baldur to Christ in that he will only rise once more after Ragnarök, returning from the land of the dead.  However, these post-Christian versions also depict Baldur as being passive as objects are thrown at him while pre-Christian versions show him as being battle-ready at all times.

These myths from both Canaanite and Norse mythos are both examples not only of spring/seasonal myths, but also show how myths have changed over time.  From Baldur’s myth which has so many versions including his rebirth, to the myth of Baal which has many versions as well — including one where every seven years the two fight, the winner deciding if there will be a good season or a drought.  The truth is, there were many myths, legends, fables and stories, some of which do in fact explain away the changing of the seasons.  But let us remember today that with the start of spring, there is a god walking out from the land of the dead somewhere.  And whether they be Persephone, Baldur, Baal, or some other god/goddess, let us rejoice with the return of all things green and celebrate.

 

For more reading on spring myths (sources):
http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/alvismal/11baldr.pdf
https://norse-mythology.org/tales/the-death-of-baldur/
https://historylists.org/other/baldur-god-of-norse-mythology.html
http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/3351/Exploring_The_Canaanite_Pantheon_Baal

Workshop Registration Open

lrrhamandadiazRegistration is open for the second Spring section of Intersections: Science Fiction, Fairy Tales and Myth. This generative workshop will be held from the first week in April (1-7) through the third week of May (13-19). No workshop during the week of May 6-12 due to StokerCon. The themes for this section include “Bluebeard” & DNA Databanks; “Thumbelina” & Microbes and Mites; and “Little Red Riding Hood” & The Natural History of the Color Red. There are a couple of open seats in the Monday session (2-4:30 pm MST) and a possible opening in the Tuesday session (12:30-3 pm MST). I will consider opening an additional session on Wednesday (1-3:30 or 2-4:30 pm MST) depending on interest. The Thursday evening session is FULL.
 
Note: This fairy tale art is by Amanda Diaz Photography. Her work is gorgeous and, best of all, she offers photography workshops. You can see more of her work on her website.

Myths of Spring — Part 1

With spring just around the corner, a lot of our ancestors would celebrate the change in weather and the return of green by telling stories and gathering for f estivals.  Of course, today we are fully aware of the rotation of the Earth around the sun and on its axis, giving to us the scientific explanations for the change of seasons.  But what did they think back then?  How did our ancient predecessors explain these changes?  What were these stories?  Instead of looking at all of them, we will be taking a look at a few over these next two weeks, leading right up to the Spring equinox.  So today?  Let’s take a look at the myths of Hades and Persephone and Zhu Long, the Candle Dragon.

LMG100045When talking about the changes in season, the Greeks looked to the gods and their troubles which affected the mortal world.  The story of Hades and Persephone explains these changes as Demeter’s mood swings — Demeter being the mother of Persephone, the Goddess of Spring.  A quick look at this myth has Hades kidnapping Persephone, and Demeter — the Goddess of the Harvest and Agriculture — begging Zeus to give her her daughter back as she fails in her duties.  Persephone of course eats three pomegranate seeds before Zeus can interfere, which forces him to decide that for half of a year she is to be with her mother while the other half she is forced to return to Hades.  During the times Persephone is gone, Demeter becomes inconsolable, neglecting her duties and letting the world around her wither and die.  However, when Persephone is returned, Demeter jumps back into action, revitalizing the land.

spring 2Following in the same fashion, the Chinese myth of Zhu Long the Candle Dragon explains not only one, but all the seasons, as well as the changes in night and day.  You see, Zhu Long — or Zhu Yin — was a huge, scaly, red dragon that was shaped like a serpent and had a human head. According to myth, one of his eyes represented the sun while the other the moon, and when they were open it was daytime, while at night his eyes were closed.  In his mouth he holds a candle that lights the gate of heaven, and his breath is what changes the seasons.  You see, when Zhu Long exhales he casts winter across the land, but when he inhales he brings summer.

These are but two of many myths that discuss the change of seasons.  So whether you believe that a God kidnapped a Goddess or a giant, serpentine dragon is inhaling to bring about the summer, just know that the days will be getting longer and longer until we find ourselves enjoying the Spring Equinox once more and welcoming back Hades’ Dread Empress, Persephone herself.

 

For more reading on these two myths (sources):
https://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/myth-of-hades-and-persephone/
https://www.theworldofchinese.com/2015/06/the-legend-of-the-candle-dragon/
http://www.ancientpages.com/2016/01/15/legend-of-the-candle-dragon-that-could-lighten-the-darkest-gate-of-heaven/

Fairy Tale Friday – Puss In Boots

puss in boots 2We often see retellings of popular fairy tales, from Snow White to Sleeping Beauty.  But what about the others — the lesser known tales?  We’ve seen a few movies and books tackle them, often casting them as side characters such as Pinocchio and Rumpelstiltskin.  Today, however, we will be taking a look at a more obscure tale, one that many Shrek fans would be vaguely familiar with.  His name?  Puss In Boots.

Puss In Boots, or “The Booted Cat,” is about a millers youngest son who inherits a talking cat.  The cat, through trickery, gains power and wealth for his master throughout the story until they are both ultimately set.  You see — long story short — after the cat asks for boots and receives them, he sets out and catches a rabbit, presenting it to the king as a gift from his master.  After several months of doing this, the cat learns that this king is going out for a drive with his daughter.  The cat persuades his master to then enter the river, getting him to remove his clothes which are discarded by the cat.  The king stops to investigate, only to have the cat tell  him that his master is a Marquis who has been robbed.  The king takes him in and his daughter falls in love with him immediately.puss in boots

If this wasn’t enough trickery for you, the cat goes ahead and begins telling the people along the road to announce to the king that the land belongs to said Marquis — the penniless, youngest son of a miller.  He then continues on to a castle where a shapeshifting ogre lives, though the cat ends up devouring him after the ogre transforms into a mouse.  So when the king arrives, they tell him that the estate belongs to the Marquis which impresses the king, convincing him to give his daughter to the miller’s youngest son in marriage, and the cat lives happily ever after.

I know, this one’s a bit odd.  But this is also a very brief summary of the Italian tale that has captured our imaginations for centuries.  For the full story, feel free to head over to SurLaLune Fairytales and give it a read — let us know what you think of this lesser known tale down below.

As an added bonus, bust out your pens and dust off your keyboards, for we have some exciting news for you.  TimelessTales Magazine is having an open submission call right now through March 4th for Puss In Boots poetry!  So be sure to submit yours before the deadline!

TimelessTales Magazine

Currently looking for Puss In Boots poetry.  “For poems, you may technically send us multiple pieces up to 1,500 words total, but please be considerate of our editor and only send your best and most polished work.” Currently they are open to all forms or retellings though they will note accept eroticism.

Word Count: Up to 1,500 Words
Deadline: March 4th, 2019
Payment: $20