Welcome back to another Folklore & Mythology Thursday post. We’re already at week 20, which means that we will be looking at figures and elements starting with the letter ‘s’ this week. We’ll be looking at Semele, the Stymphalian birds, Scylla, Spider Woman, the Sangreal, Searbhan, Skoll, Svarazic, Saoshyant, Shachar and Shalim, the Sa-Dag, and the San Qing Daozu.
Be sure to check out the various links at the end of the post as well for some more folklore and myth goodness.
Semele, daughter of Cadmus, was a priestess with whom the god Zeus fell in love. “Disguising himself as a mortal man, Zeus becomes her lover and the couple conceive a child” (Rosen, 2008:321). Zeus’s wife, Hera, vows revenge when she finds out about the affair and transforms herself into an old crone (see Rosen, 2008:321). “Hera persuades the girl to reveal her lover’s name … [and] demand that Zeus come to her in his full magnificence (Rosen, 2008:321). Zeus agrees, but his lightning and thunder burns Semele and kills her. “…Zeus rescue’s Semele’s unborn son Dionysos – Greek god of wine and ecstasy – and sews the baby into his thigh until he is ready to be born” (Rosen, 2008:321).
The Stymphalian birds
“The Stymphalian birds are a flock of giant man-eating creatures with brass claws and sharp metallic feathers that they can shoot at their victims” (Rosen, 2008:329). These birds are pets of Ares (god of war) and inhabit the land around Mount Stymphalia “where they destroy crops and fruit trees” (Rosen, 2008:329). During his labours, Hercules shoots them with poisoned arrows.
Once a sea Nymph, Scylla is a monster “with six necks and six heads, each with gaping jaws and three rows of needle-sharp teeth. Below the waist, her body is made of growling dogs and a fish tail” (Rosen, 2008:335). Scylla was turned into this monster by the enchantress Circe because she was “jealous of the love the sea god Glaucus felt for the nymph (see also Rosen, 2008:335).
“A widespread myth among Native Americans of the western United States is that – depicted in modern images as a spider with the face of an elderly grandmother – weaves existence together like the strands of a great web” (Rosen, 2008:378). In this myth Spider Woman not only spins a web that create the four directions, but also makes people from molding them from different colours of clay. “Then she divided them into clans and gave each its totem animal” (Rosen, 2008:378).
The Sangreal, or Holy Grail (as many know it) is “the holy vessel of Arthurian mythology during the Middle Ages. It was said to be the cup that Christ [Jesus] drank out of at the Last Supper” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:168). Guarded by the angelic grail maidens, the sangreal was believed to contain the blood that flowed from the spear with which Christ was stabbed during the crucifixion (see also Cotterell & Storm, 2007:168). According to later myths, Galahad was the only knight worthy of the vision of the grail (see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:168).
See also Cotterell & Storm (2007:168) for more details and myths surrounding the sangreal.
In Irish mythology Searbhan is one of the Fomorii warriors – on of ancient sea gods (see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:169). “This one-eyed, one-armed and one-legged fighter guarded a magic tree, which no one dared approach” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:169).
Searbhan is slain by Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (see Cotterell & Storm [2007:169] for more information surrounding his death).
In Norse and Germanic mythology, Skoll is a wolf that pursues the sun on her path across the sky. During Ragnarok, Skoll would at last catch the sun and swallow it. “Just before this happened, though, the sun would give birth to a daughter…” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:228).
Svarazic (sometimes Svarozic or Svarogich) is the Slavic fire god, “especially of the fire that was used to dry grain” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:229).
He is the son of Svaroz/Svarog and the brother of Dazhbog, which was covered in week 4.
“The fire god was depicted wearing a helmet and carrying a sword, and on his breast was a black bison’s head. Human sacrifices were made to Svarazic, including… the German bishop of Mecklenburg [1066 A.D.]. In some traditions Svarazic was identified with the flame of lightning” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:229).
Saoshyant is the “final saviour in Iranian mythology” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:315). Cotterell & Storm (2007:315) notes that his “appearance will signal the arrival of the last days and the coming of Frashkart, the ‘Final Reneweal’ and it “is sometimes said” that he would be born of a virgin (see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:315). See also Cotterell & Storm (2007:315) for more information.
Shachar and Shalim/Sahar and Salem
(Also Shar and Shalim) “Dawn” and “dusk” “were the offspring of El, the supreme god of the Phoenician pantheon” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:317).
“In ancient texts discovered at Ras Shamra in Syria, on the site of the city of Ugarit, the deities are described as having been conceived when El stretched out his hands like waves to the sea, making his own two wives fruitful” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:317).
The Sa-Dag “are the supernatural ‘Lords of the Soil’ of the indigenous Bon religion of Tibet” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:400). Cotterell & Storm (2007:400) also notes that the Sa-Dag “were assimilated into the Buddhist pantheon as protectors of the religion and are propitiated before any building work of farming is carried out”.
The San Qing Daozu
Known sometimes as the “Three Pure Ones”, the San Qing Daozu “are the supreme deities of the orthodox Daoist pantheon…” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:471). See also Cotterell & Storm (2007:471).
Sources and Other Websites
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Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.
Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.