Folklore and Myth Thursday: Week 15 – O

Welcome to the first Folklore and Myth Thursday of 2017! This week I will be looking at some figures and elements beginning with the letter ‘O’. These include: Okuninushi, the Oni, Ot, Otshirvani, otter, and omphalos.


We start this week off with Japanese Shinto mythology. In this mythology Okuninushi is the god of medicine and magic (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:465). “His name means ‘Great Land Master’, and he ruled the earth after its creation until Amaterasu [the sun goddess] sent her grandson Ninigi to take his place. As god of medicine, he is credited with having therapeutic methods of healing” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:465).
After many adventures including his 80 brothers, the beautiful princess Yakami, Susano-Wo and Susero-Hime, Okuninushi married Suseri-Hime and became the ruler of the Izumo province (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:465). For more details about Okuninushi and his adventures, see Cotterell & Storm (2007:465) or follow this “Okuninushi” link.

Ōkuninushi Bronze Statue.jpg
By Flow in edgewiseFlow in edgewise撮影, CC BY 3.0, Link

The Oni

Staying in Japan, we now move on to the Oni – giant horned demons (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466). “They are said to have come to Japan from China with the arrival of Buddhism, and Buddhist priests perform annual rites in order to expel them.” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466). Cotterell & Storm (2007:466) notes that the Oni can have a variety of colours and have three fingers, toes and sometimes three eyes. “The oni of hell have the heads of oxen or horses; they hunt down sinners and take them away in their chariot of fire to Emmo-o, the ruler of the underworld” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).
Oni are usually cruel and lecherous, and some are held responsible for illness and disease (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466). “[Others] are said to have once been mortal women whose jealousy or grief transformed them into demons” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).


Ot is “the fire queen of the Mongols” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466) and was said to have been “born at the beginning of the world, when the earth and sky separated” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466). She is believed to be identical with Umai – “the mother goddess of the Turkic people of Siberia” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).
“Her blessing is invoked at weddings and her radiance is said to penetrate throughout all the realms” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).


In Siberian mythology, Otshirvani is a god of light, “sent by the supreme god to fight Losy, a monstrous serpent who killed all mortal beings by covering the world with poison” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).
“Otshirvani took the form of an enormous bird and, seizing Losy in his claws, threw him against the world mountain, killing him” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466).


The otter is a lunar animal (Tresidder, 2004:362) “linked with fertility and cult initiations in both Africa and North America. The Chinese associated the friendly and playful otter with a high sexual drive, and there are folk tales of otters disguising themselves as women to seduce men.” (Tresidder, 2004:362).
A person shape-shifted into otter form and killed also plays a significant role in one of the myths surrounding the Norse god Loki. I this myth the curse of the dwarf Anvari – a curse which passes to Otter’s father, Hreidmar, is told of. See also (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:466) or follow this “Andvari’s Curse” link.


“A sacred zone or object symbolizing the cosmic novel or centre of creation – a focus of spiritual and physical forces and a link between the underworld, the earth and the heavens” (Tresidder, 2004:356).
Tresidder (2004:356) notes: “The original omphalosat Deplhi in Greece – a white standing-stone with a tracery of carving – was sacred to Apollo and may originally have been a focus of Earth Mother worship and divination”.
“Omphalos symbols ranged from stones of phallic shape or ovoids with serpentine carving symbolizing generative forces to sacred trees or mountains. The holes in sacred Chinese jade bi discs may have somewhat similar significance” (Tresidder, 2004:356).

Omphalos museum.jpg
By ЮкатанOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sources and more

Read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Check out The Folklore Podcast – Yule! Fairies! Slenderman! Awesomeness! And more!

Also be sure to stop by Ronel’s blog for her folklore and fiction posts!


Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Folklore and Myth Thursday – Week 14 – N

Welcome back to my folklore and myth Thursday posts! This week I’m focusing on the letter “n” and will be looking at Nammu, Nanna, Namorodo, Nehalennia, The Nihonshoki, and Nun.


Nammu is a Sumerian goddess who embodies the primeval ocean (Tresidder, 2004:335). She is “the first deity and origin of all things” (Tresidder, 2004:335), giving birth to the “earth goddess Ki and the sky god An, who in turn coupled to produce the great gods of Sumer, including Enlil and Enki” (Tresidder, 2004:335).


Another Sumerian god is Nanna (the Akkadian Sin [see Tresidder, 2004:335]), who is the greatest of the “trinity of astral deities” (Tresidder, 2004:336), who include Inanna and Utu. “He was revered as the god who measured time and, because he shone in the night, also as the enemy of dark forces and wrongdoers” (Tresidder, 2004:336). Nanna is also renowned for his wisdom (see also Tresidder, 2004:336).


Moving on to Australian Aboriginal mythology, we find the grisly Namorodo – a “race of trickster beings” (Tresidder, 2004:335) who are described as “[f]rightening figures with long claws” (Tresidder, 2004:335), their bodies only consisting of bones and skin held together by sinews (Tresidder, 2004:335). Tresidder (2004:335) further notes that: “[the] creatures move at night, flying through the air with a swishing sound. They may kill anyone they hear with one of their claws: particularly the injured and the ill”. Should you be so unfortunate as to be killed by one of these Namorodos, your spirit may be captured by the Namorodo and you will be unable to join the clan’s totemic ancestors, but would rather turn into a “hostile being that wanders through the bush” (see Tresidder, 2004:335). According to Tresidder (2004:335), the Namorodo have also been linked with sorcery and shooting stars. (See also Ngandjala-Ngandjala in Tresidder [2004:340].)


Heading to Europe now, we find Nehalennia, an “ancient sea goddess of the coastal Netherlands” (Tresidder, 2004:337). Her cult (though it is unclear whether she is a Celtic or Germanic goddess) flourished in the 3rd century AD, with worshippers from all over the western Roman Empire (see Tresidder, 2004:337). She was worshipped at two sanctuaries – “ one on the island of Walcheren an one (now submerged) at Colijnsplaat” (Tresidder, 2004:337).

The Nihonshoki

In the Far East we find that the Chronicle of Japan, or Nihonshoki, is a work that was compiled by scholars and completed in 720 AD (Tresidder, 2004:341). “The Nihonshoki is an important source of Japanese myth, but less reliable than the Kojiki, which was composed at about the same time” (Tresidder, 2004:341). Tresidder (2004:341) notes that it is written in Chinese script and is heavily influenced by Chinese and Korean mythical and historical traditions and dynastic chronicles.

Nihonshoki tanaka version.jpg
By Unknown, Public Domain, Link


We conclude this week’s post with a visit to Egypt. Nun is the name of the “dark primeval waters of chaos which existed before the first gods, in one Egyptian account of creation” (Tresidder, 2004:344). Tresidder (2004:344) also notes: [the] chaotic energy within the waters of the Nun held the potential of all life forms [and] the spirit of the creator, but the creator had no place in which to become embodied”. Time and creation only began, according to this account, when a mound of land rose from the Nun and the creator could become embodied on this mound in the form of a bird (see Tresidder, 2004:345). In some accounts (see Tresidder, 2004:345) it is also told that a lotus flower bloomed to reveal the creator. “The primeval waters of chaos were also embodied as a god, Nun, and a goddess, Naunet. They formed part of the eight primal divinities referred to as the Ogdoad” (Tresidder, 2004:345).

Sources and more:

Read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Check out The Folklore Podcast – Yule! Fairies! Slenderman! Awesomeness! And more!

Also be sure to stop by Ronel’s blog for her folklore and fiction posts!


Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Folklore & Myth Thursday – Week 13 – M

Welcome to another Folklore and Myth Thusday post! In this thirteenth post I’ll focus on some folkloric and mythological elements that begin with the letter ‘m’. If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, or would like to find some more resources, you’ll find some links at the end of the post.

This week I’ll focus on Mahakala, Mahisha, Mami Wata and Miengu, Mael Dúin, Minia, and Mokosh.


Last week I had a look at Palden Lhamo. Like Palden Lhamo, Mahakala is also one of the Dharmapalas. Mahakala is “[blue-black] in color, with six arms” (Rosen, 2008:354) and is “a wrathful manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion” (Rosen, 2008:354).

“Mahakala’s complexion – the color of the night sky – symbolizes the spaciousness of enlightened mind” (Rosen, 2008:354). His six arms symbolizes the mastery of the six perfect activities – generosity, patience, morality, enthusiasm, concentration, and wisdom (Rosen, 2008:354). Mahakala’s three eyes represents knowledge of the past, present, and future, while the tiger skin he wears symbolizes purification of desire and the snake he carries symbolizes the purification of anger (see Rosen, 2008:354).

Mahakala Bernakchen.jpg
By Klaus Schaarschmidt – Diamondway Picture Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


“Mahisha is the buffalo-headed demon defeated by the Hindu warrior goddess Durga” (Rosen, 2008:78). Rosen tells that “Mahisha was threatening the cosmic order, stomping across the three worlds, polluting the Earth and sea” (Rosen, 2008:78). Durga then came into being to fight Mahisha, but he sent her a marriage proposal (Rosen, 2008:78); to which Durga replied: “I shall marry only he that defeats me in battle” (Rosen, 2008:78).

“An epic conflict began. Mountains shook and oceans trembled as Mahisha attacked. Armed with Shiva’s trident and Vishnu’s discus, the goddess battled back” (Rosen, 2008:78).

Mahisha changes first into a lion and then an elephant, but each time durga defeats it (see Rosen, 2008:78). At last Durga “plunged the trident into his heart (Rosen, 2008:78).

“Her victory is celebrated in Bengal each year during the festival of Durgapuja” (Rosen, 2008:78).

Durga Mahisasuramardini.JPG
By Unknown – picture of the “Guler School”,, Public Domain, Link

Mami Wata and Miengu

Mami Wata and the Miengu (singular Jengu) are “female water spirits honored in Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of North and South America” (Rosen, 2008:134).

“In the oldest versions of her mythology, Mami Wata is a Mermaid with the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a fish or reptile. When she appears as a human woman, she is elegant and exceptionally beautiful, with brilliant eyes, a lighter than normal complexion, attractive clothes in the latest fashion, and abundance of shiny jewelry, and excessively long hair that she is fond of brushing back with a golden comb” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Rosen (2008:134) also notes that she is often accompanied by a large snake (which is “a symbol of psychic power and divinity in many African cultures” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Legends about Mami Wata tell of how she “may kidnap swimmers and take them to her underwater realm, releasing them when they promise fidelity to her cult” (Rosen, 2008:134). She “is also believed to gift her followers with material wealth and spiritual accomplishments” (Rosen, 2008:134).

For more about Mami Wata, see Rosen, 2008:134.

The Miengu are also mermaid-like creatures which inhabit rivers and the sea and are honored in Cameroon (Rosen, 2008:134). “Believed to be beneficient, they carry messenges between the people who honor them and the world of the spirits” (Rosen, 2008:134). The Miengu may further “cure illnesses and bless their devotees with good luck, protection from epidemics, victory in competitions, and fair weather” (Rosen, 2008:134).

Mael Dúin

Mael Dúin is an Irish hero who “sailed away to kill the man who had slain his father (Tresidder, 2004:299). However, he takes more men than a druid advised and his ship gets blown off course. “They [encounter] many fabulous lands and monsters, including ants the size of foals … vanishing maidens and the Land of Women [and] an island of perpetual feasting and pleasure where old age was unknown” (Tresidder, 2004:299) before they returned to Ireland.


Minia is a “cosmic serpent of northern African mythology” (Tresidder, 2004:318), and, in the Sahara and Sahel it is believed that Minia was the first thing the divine creator created (Tresidder, 2004:318).

“The serpent’s head was in the sky and its tail was in the waters beneath the earth. Its body was divided into seven parts [and these were used to] form the world and all life” (Tresidder, 2004:318).


Mokosh (or Makosh) “was the centre of a fertility cult that was widespread among the eastern Slav peoples” (Tresidder, 2004:300) and is the goddess of “fertility, abundance and moisture” (Tresidder, 2004:300). Mokosh is also the protector of maidens and of women’s work (see also Tresidder, 2004:300).

Obec Mokošín- Bohyně Mokoš.jpg
By Mido mokomidoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Sources and more:

Read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Check out The Folklore Podcast – Fairies! Slenderman! Awesomeness! And more!

Also be sure to stop by Ronel’s blog for her folklore and fiction posts!


Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Folklore and Myth Thursday – Week 12 – L

Join me in exploring the world’s vast variety of myths and legends. Like previous weeks, I will focus on one letter of the alphabet for the week.

This week’s post is filled with mythical creatures, gods and symbols and includes the leucrotta, lamassu, Lhamo, Latin cross, lapis lazuli, and Lugh. Some more websites and sources are listed at the end of the blogpost.


The crocrotta, according to Pliny, is a combination of a wolf and a dog “with impossibly strong teeth and the uncanny ability to lure by imitating the human voice” (Rosen, 2008:111). The leucrotta is the offspring of a crocrotta and a lion. The leucrotta “is about the size of the wild ass, with the legs of a stag, the neck, tail, and breast of a lion, the head of a badger, cloven hooves, and an enormous mouth that extends up to its ears. Instead of teeth it has a horizontal blade of bone between the upper and lower jaws” (Rosen, 2008:111). Like the crocrotta, the leucrotta can also imitate the human voice.


“In Mesopotamian mythology, Lamassu help people fight chaos and evil. Each day, they hold the gates of dawn open so that the Sun god Shamash can rise and also help to support the weight of the Sun disc.” (Rosen 2009:287) The Lamassu is described as combining the body of a bull or a lion, the wings of an eagle and the head of a bearded man. Statues of these Lamassu  can be found in the sites of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian cities (Rosen 2008:287).

Human-headed Winged Bulls Gate - Louvre.jpg
By PoulpyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Palden Lhamo is one of the Dharmapalas, “terrifying creatures charged with defending the precious teachings of Tibetan Buddhism” (Rosen, 2008:354). Rosen adds that the Dharmapalas “are embodiments of the Buddha’s compassion, which can take an extremely wrathful form to help people overcome obstacles” (Rosen, 2008:354).

Palden Lhamo is a “female protector … dark blue in color, with flaming red hair, symbolizing her wrathful nature, and wears a crown adorned with five human heads” (Rosen, 2008:354). These human heads symbolise “the five negative passions: anger, obsession, pride, jealousy, and ignorance” (Rosen, 2008: 354).

For more about Lhamo’s exploits, see Rosen, 2008:354.

Public Domain, Link

Latin Cross

Also called the Christian Cross, the Latic cross is the “typical cross shape that is the major symbol of Christianity” (Nozedar, 2010:107). (Only when Christ appears on the cross is it referred to as a crucifix.) “The Latic Cross is symbolic of the victory of Life over death … [and] the benediction made when the Cross is drawn in the air not only indicates ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’, but coincides with a much earlier use of the cross; as a symbol of protection” (Nozedar, 2010:107).

For more, see Nozedar, 2010:107.

Lapiz Lazuli

“The golden specs which are scattered throughout this beautiful blue stones like stars in a dark sky are in fact flecks of iron pyrites” (Nozedar, 2010:356). Sacred to the Egyptian goddess of Truth, Ma’at, it was believed to be particularly “potent in treating eyes” (see Nozedar, 2010:356). “[There] is also a New Age belief that the stone can help to open the third eye” (Nozedar, 2010:356).

The lapis lazuli was also called the “stop stone” and was used to cause miscarriage when worn in the form of an amulet (see Nozedar, 2010:356). For more, see Nozedar, 2010:356 and watch this video to see how the stone was used to create pigment.


Lugh is one of the major Celtic gods and is multi-talented, with talents as a warrior, harpist, historian, poet, and sorcerer (see Nozedar, 2010:495). Lugh is the god of light and his weapons are a sling and a spear. He is also called a “more advanced and sophisticated” god than Dagda by Nozedar (2010:495).

“Lugh is honored with the festival of of Lughnasadh at the beginning of August … [it] marked the beginning of the harvest, a time for weddings and handfastings” (Nozedar, 2010:495). See also Nozedar, 2010:495 for more about this Celtic god.

Sources and more:

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Check out The Folklore Podcast – it really is very interesting and entertaining.

Also be sure to stop by Ronel’s blog for her folklore and fiction posts!

Nozedar, A. (2010). The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.

Folklore and Myth Thursday – Week 11 – K

Welcome to week 11 of the Folklore and Myth Thursday posts. If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, be sure to follow the link at the end of this post, where I’ve also included some links to another great folklore website.

This week I’ll be looking at Kokopeli, Ka, Kachina, Kalkin, Karashishi, Khnum, and Kurma.


“Kokopeli, in Hopi Indian, means ‘wooden backed’” (Nozedar, 2010:104). The figure, which has antlers and carries a flute, appears in pre-historic rock carvings and is believed to be a fertility symbol (Nozedar, 2010:104). Nozedar (2010:104) also adds that “Kokopeli represents the essence of the creative force, whatever form it mat take”. He also represents the end of winter and the “coming of spring, hope, and new life” (Nozedar, 2010:104). See also Nozedar (2010:104) for some of the Kokopeli legends.


“In Egyptian belief, the soul or spirit of an individual after death. Life-like funerary statues were believed to embody the ka of the person whom they represented” (Tresidder, 2004:270).


Returning to Native American mythology, Tresidder (2004:270) notes that the Kachina are “[one] of a class of ancestral spirits, according to the Pueblo Native American peoples of the southwestern United States, such as the Hopi and Zuni”. THe Kachinas act and are revered “as intemediaries between humans and the great elemental gods” (Tresidder, 2004:270). Kachinas are also bringers of harmony and prosperity (Tresidder, 2004:270).

Kachina doll.JPG
By GromboOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Kurma, a tortoise, is the second avatar or incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu (Tresidder, 2004:277). “Kurma supported Mount Mandara on his back during the churning of the ocean by the Devas and Asuras” (Tresidder, 2004:277). See also this post for more about this myth.


Kalkin is “the future tenth avatar… of the Hindu god Vishnu” (Tresidder, 2004:271). Kalkin, Tresidder (2004:271) notes, is a messianic figure whose “advent will herald the end of the present cosmic age of evil, the Kali Yuga, and the beginning of a new golden age, or Krita Yuga”. Kalkin will appear as a warrior on a white horse (Tresidder, 2004:271), although Tresidder also notes that, according to a South Indian popular belief, “Kalkin will manifest as the horse itself”.


The Karashishi are symbols of strength and courage (Tresidder, 2004:271). These chow-faced “lions” (Tresidder, 2004:271) guard Buddhist temples in Japan. Tresidder (2004:271) also notes: “[the] male has his mouth open, but is not terrifying”. They are called the “Dogs of Fo [Buddha]” (Tresidder, 2004:271) and the “stylized form is based on second-hand Chinese contact with the lion”.


Khnum is one of four “principal creator gods of Egypt” (Tresidder, 2004:272); the other gods being Amun-Ra, Atum and Ptah (see also Tresidder, 2004:272). Khnum is normally depicted as a man with the head of a ram, which is not only his sacred animal, but also a symbol of male creative power (see Tresidder, 2004:272).

“Khum was envisaged as a potter who moulded deities, humans and animals from clay on his potter’s wheel, and then breathed life into them… Khum was believed to control the rising of the waters of the Nile, an annual phenomenon crucial to the fertility of the land” (Tresidder, 2004:272).

Cnouphis-Nilus (Jupiter-Nilus, Dieu Nil), N372.2.jpg
By Jean-François Champollion – Brooklyn Museum, No restrictions, Link

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

To read the previous entries in this blogpost series, follow this link. 

Folklore & Myth Thursday – Week 10 – J

Welcome to Week 10! This week I’ll be looking and some of the (perhaps) lesser known characters, folklore, and mythological entities that start with the letter J. This week’s topics are Japa Mala, Jiza, Jambudvipa, Julunggul, and Jurupari.

Rudraksha beads.jpgJapa Mala

The sacred prayer strings of Hindu monks (Nozedar, 2010:132). Japa Mala “consist of 108 beads, since 108 is a sacred number in the Dharmic religions” (Nozedar, 2010:132). See also rudraksha beads in Nozedar (2010:132).

Photo: By User:Nesusvet – Own work, Public Domain, Link


Jizo is a Japanese Buddha deity (Tresidder, 2004:263). “Jizo is depicted as an innocent, childlike character, venerated as a protector of the souls of children and unborn babies” (Nozedar, 2010:97). Tresidder (2004:263) also notes: “Jizo looks after anyone in pain and is believed to bring souls back from hell. Together with Amida and Kannon he is one of the three most popular deities of Japanese Buddhism” (Tresidder, 2004:263).

Jizo Children.jpg
By The original uploader was Mind meal at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.0, Link


“The circular continent at the centre of the world, according to Hindu and Jain myth” (Tresidder, 2004: 258). At the centre of the continent is Mount Mandara/Meru “which was used by the Asuras and Devas to churn the ocean” (Tresidder, 2004:258). (See this post for this myth told in full.) “Jambudvipa is ringed by the great Salt Ocean and by another seven continents and seven seas” (Tresidder, 2004:258).

Map of Jambudvipa Indian Hindu Cosmology.jpg
By Internet Archive Book ImagesImage from page 35 of “A comprehensive history of India, civil, military, and social, from the first landing of the English to the suppression of the Sepoy revolt; including an outline of the early history of Hindoostan” (1900), No restrictions, Link


Julunggul is also called Kalseru and, in “the Australian Aboriginal pantheon… is the rainbow serpent Goddess of Fertility who oversees the maturation of boys into men” (Nozedar, 2010:508). Julunggul created the landscape itself and “is the embodiment of water” (Nozedar, 2010:508). Nozedar (2010:508) also notes that “Julunggul resembles other serpent deities, including Owa in the Toruban tradition and Damballah in Voudon”.


According to the Tupi people of Amazonian Brazil, Jurupari is a “child of the sun who overthrew the rule of women” (Tresidder, 2004:269). “In their version of the myth found widely from the Amazon to Tierra del Fuego, the Tupi recount how women, not men, originally ruled the world” (Tresidder, 2004:269).

Tresidder (2004:269) recounts how the “sun grew angry at this and took a wife, Ceucy, a virgin, whom he made pregnant by the sap of the cucura tree.” Jurupari is born and he transfers “all power and sacred wisdom to men [and tells them to] celebrate their power by holding feasts from which women were excluded on pain of death” (Tresidder, 2004:269).

Jurupari, to make an example, even causes his own mother’s death. “To this day Jurupari is said to wander the world looking for the perfect wife for his father, the sun” (Tresidder, 2004:269).


Nozedar, A. (2010). The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

The official #FolkloreThursday site can be read over here and remember to follow the Twitter conversation using the #FolkloreThursday tag.

Folklore and Myth Thursday: Week 9 – I

Welcome to week 9 of the Folklore and Mythology Thursday posts. This week I am focusing on elements and characters beginning with “I”. These include: Ichthys Wheel, Incense, Indalo, Irnan, Ulluyankas, Ila-Ilai Langit, and Irik. Enjoy!

Ichthys Wheel

“At first glance this looks like a simple six-spoked wheel. However, the name of Christ is cleverly hidden within it, and like the vesica pisces, was a way for early, persecuted Christians to recognize one another. The Greek letters IXOYE can be laid over the cicle.” (Nozedar, 2010:94)

Ephesus IchthysCrop.jpg
By User:Mufunyo – Rotated and cropped from Commons image Image:Ephesus Ichthys.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


“[T]he importance of incense as a magical symbol lies in the resins and spices that it is made from, its perfume, and the action of its smoke that rises up toward the sky” (Nozedar, 2010:94). “This smoke is believed to conduct prayers, messages, and devotions toward the deities” (Nozedar, 2010:94).

Many different religions make use of incense for ceremonial purposes. “For Hindus, incense represents the element of air and the perception of the consciousness” (Nozedar, 2010:94). It also plays a role in various Christian and Judaic ceremonies. Incense is especially used within the Roman Catholic and High Church of England (Nozedar, 2010:94). Frankincense was also one of three gifts given to the infant Jesus by the three wise men.

“Practitioners of ceremonial magic might use incense so that disembodied entities, such as elementals or other spirits, might use the smoke to make themselves manifest” (Nozedar, 2010:94).


This symbol, said to be of magical significance, is “found in caves in the ALmeira region of Spain and is known to have been created about 5 000 years ago” (Nozedar, 2010:94). Nozedar (2010:94) describes the symbol as “very simple, showing a stick man holding an arch above his head.” This arch may represent a rainbow or the “vault of the Heavens” (Nozedar, 2010:94). Nozedar, (2010:94-95) further states Indalo “was perceived to be a go-between between man and God, the rainbow providing a bridge between Heaven and Earth”.

Almeria Andalucia Indalo Man.jpg
By Andy Roberts from East London, England – Almeria Andalucia Indalo Man, CC BY 2.0, Link


Moving on to Irish mythology, Irnan was a witch “who once spun a magic web to catch some members of the Fianna, or Fenians, the bodyguard of the High King of Ireland” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139). Her plan failed, however, and she changed herself into a monster, challenging “any one of the Fenians to single combat (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139). The Fenians’ leaders, Finn Maccool, wanted to fight, but was persuaded that fighting this witch did not become one of his stature. The Fenian Goll the fought and slew Irnan and, as reward, was given Finn’s daughter in marriage. (See also Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139.)


“Illuyankas was the monstrous snake or dragon in Hittite mythology. He waged war against the gods, particularly against the weather god, Taru” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288). Illuyankas is slain by Taru, assisted by Inaras (Taru’s daughter) and her lover Hupasiyas. For other versions of the myth see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288.

“The story of Illuyankas and Taru was assimilated into Canaanite mythology as the struggle of the gods against the Leviathan” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288). Cotterell & Storm (2007:288) also state “the destruction of [Illuyankas] was believed to signal the beginning of a new era”.

Finally, we’ll look at some myths of the Dayak people of Borneo.

Ila-Ilai Langit

Ila-Ilai Langit “is a mythical fish who features in the creation story of the Dayak people of Borneo” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:446). For a full account of the creation myth, see Cotterell & Storm, 2007: 446.

After the clouds, sky, mountains, cliffs, sun and moon are made, “the ‘Hawk of Heaven’ and the great fish Ila-Ilai Langit were brought into being…” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:446).


“Irik is a spirit who features in a creation myth of the Iban, one of the Dayak peoples of Borneo” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447). Irik and the spirit Ara floated as birds above an enormous ocean. “The birds eventually plucked two enormous eggs from the water (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447). Irik forms the earth from one and Ara the sky from the other. The earth is too big however, so they squash it until it reaches the correct size, in the process forming mountains, valleys, rivers, and streams ( see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447).

The spirits then create humans. First they use tree sap, but when they see that it doesn’t work, they use soil. “After fashioning the first humans, they gave them life with their birdsong” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:477).


Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.

Nozedar, A. (2010). The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

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Folklore and Myth Thursday – Week 8 – H

Welcome to week 8 of the Folklore and Myth Thursday posts! This week I’ll be looking at mythological and folkloric characters starting with the letter H and these will include Huitzilopochtli, Hanuman, Han Xiang and Han Zhongli, Hina, and Hine-hau-one.


Huitzilopochtli is said to have led the Aztecs from “Aztlan in northwest Mexico on a great migration to their new home in the Valley of Mexico” (Rosen, 2008:392). He is the offspring of Coatlicue (whom you may recall from week 3) who is an Aztec goddess. Huitzilopochtli’s name means “the hummingbird of the south” (Rosen, 2008:392) and is the Aztec god of “war and the Sun and principal deity of the great city of Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City)” (Rosen, 2008:392).

You can read more about Huitzilopochtli as a cultural hero in The Mythical Creatures Bible (2008) (see the sources list at the end of the post).

Huitzilopochtli “was engaged in a constant struggle with the darkness and required nourishment in the form of sacrifices to survive” (Rosen, 2008: 392). “In images he has a black face, blue arms and legs, hummingbird feathers on his left leg, feather-tipped arrows, and a spear-thrower in the shape of a serpent” (Rosen, 2008:392).


One of the most important characters in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, Hanuman is one of the Vanara – “a human with the tail of a monkey” (Rosen, 2008:344). “Vanaras are brave, inquisitive, loyal, adventurous and kind. About 12 in. (30 cm) shorter than human beings, their bodies are covered with light brown hair, and they have monkey tails and simian faces” (Rosen, 2008:344).hanuman_painted_by_pahari_painter

Hanuman’s mother is one of the Apsaras (a female spirit of the clouds and waters) while his father is the wind god Vayu. After Hanuman flies into the sky as a young child to catch and eat the sun – thinking it is a fruit – he is struck by Indra with his thunderbolt weapon and falls back to earth unconscious. “Upset at this treatment of his son, Vayu withdraws all winds from the world and living beings begin to die” (Rosen, 2008:344). The Devas revive Hanuman and gives him many powers.

The Ramayana also tells of Hanuman’s part in the search for and battle to rescue Sita from the demon Ravana. (See also Rosen, 2008:344.)

Han Xiang and Han Zhongli

Both Han Xiang and Han Zhongli are of the Eight immortals of Chinese Daoist myth. Han Xiang is the great-nephew of Han Yü, “a philosopher and essayist of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE)” (Tresidder, 2004:221). Han Xiang went in search of the Dao (the Daoist principle of existence) “as the pupil of the Immortal Lü Dongbin” (Tresidder, 2004:221). Lü Dongbin took him to heaven to eat of the peaches of eternal life, but as Han Xiang climbed the tree, he slipped and fell to earth. “As he was about to hit the ground he achieved immortality” (Tresidder, 2004:221).

Han Zhongli lived during the Han dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) and learned the Dao from Li Xuan “the first immortal, and was the messenger of heaven” (Tresidder, 2004:221).


A photo by Dan Howard. to Tongan myth, Hina was the woman who grew the first coconut. “Hina was a noblewoman whose virginity was respected and protected by all the community. An eel had intercourse with her and made her pregnant. Her people caught the eel, chopped it up and ate it, apart from the head, which Hina asked to keep. She buried the head and from it sprouted the first coconut” (Tresidder, 2004:237).


According to Maori myth, Hine-hau-one was the first human being. The creator god Tane made the first human from sand of Hawaiki Island and she was called Hine-hau-one (”Earth-Created Maiden” [Tresidder, 2004:237]). Hine-hau-one “was responsible for the first human birth and for the arrival of mortality” (Tresidder, 2004:237). Her and Tane’s daughter, Hine-titama, would become Hine-nui-te-po, “the giant goddess of the underworld and death” (Tresidder, 2004:237).


Rosen, B. (2008). The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Folklore & Myth Thursday Week 7 – G


The red garnet is the best known of the garnets and has a similar colour to venous blood (Nazedar, 2010:351). The garnet has also long been associated with blood and “is said to be efficacious in treating bleeding wounds, blood disease, and hemorrhages” (Nazedar, 2010:351). As it was believed to be able to stanch bleeding, it was used as a talisman by some and set into sword hilts and shields (Nazedar, 2010:351).

“A very tough stone, the garnet is one of the twelve stones which were set into the breastplate of the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem” (Nazedar, 2010:351). Nazedar (2010:351) also adds that garnets may be used as a healing stone to regenerate body and spirit and treat melancholia.

Garnets are also associated with the Aquarius zodiac sign, the month of January, and the Root Chakra or Muladhara (Nazedar, 2010:352).


In Taoism the gourd is a symbol of good health. “One of the eight Taoist Immortals, Li Tie Guai, had the gourd as his personal emblem, and because he was able to ‘escape’ from his body, it became symbolic of release from the material world” (Nazedar, 2010:295). Gourds are also sometimes seen as emblematic of “the body as the container of the soul” (Nazedar, 2010:295).



Part of the Hindu pantheon. The Garuda is a mythological bird that acts as the steed of the god Vishnu. “Garuda is described as a ‘golden-winged sun bird’ and shares aspects of its appearance, as well as symbolic meaning, with the eagle, simurgh and the phoenix” (Nazedar, 2010:259). Garuda is often pictured with a snake in its talons “symbolic of the struggle between the heaven and the earth (spirit and matter) and also between fire and water…” (Nazedar, 2010:259).



“A Grindylow is a pale green water demon that lives in the weed beds at the bottom of lakes in Britain… the creature is described as humanoid in shape, with long arms, long, brittle fingers, sharp little horns, and small green teeth” (Rosen, 2008:140). They are said to grab small children who venture too close to the water and eat them.


“In Jewish folklore, a Golem is an animated artificial man. The word ‘golem’ comes from the Hebrew word gelem which means ‘raw material’” (Rosen, 2008:203). Golems are made from clay with the word Emet (truth) written on its forehead or placed in its mouth (Rosen, 208:203). A golem could be “deactivated by erasing the first letter to form the word Met (death)” (Rosen, 208:203).


Nazedar, A. 2010. An Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook: An A to Z Compendium of Over 1000 Designs. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

Rosen, B. 2008. The Mythical Creatures Bible. London: Sterling Publishing.

Folklore and Myth Thursday – F

Fenrir, Fir Bholg, the Fomorii, Fravashi, and the Feathered Serpent


Along with the Midgard Serpent, Hel, and Sleipnir, the wolf Fenrir is one of Loki’s offspring. The great wolf bites off the god Tyr’s hand when the gods set out to bind the wolf until the end of the world. Fenrir will “burst his chains” (Mortensen, 2003:38) at the start of Ragnarok. “Fenrir goes forth with yawning mouth; his upper jaw touches heaven while his lower jaw drags along the earth” (Mortensen, 2003:38). Fire also burns from his eyes and nostrils. Odin comes to stand against Fenrir during Ragnarok and is slain by him. Vidar, another of Odin’s sons, then avenges his father by killing the wolf (see Lindow, 2001:113). See also the Younger Edda for more detail on Fenrir’s death at Vidar’s hand. The tale of Fenrir’s binding is also fully told in the Gylfaginning in the Younger Edda.

Lindow, J. (2001). Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mortensen, K. (2003). A Handbook of Norse Mythology. New York: Dover Publications.


Via Wikipedia Commons. Public Domain.

Fir Bholg

(Also Firbolg in some texts)

Fir Bholg is the “name of the fourth race of people to invade Ireland, according to the Book of Invasions … The Fir Bholg held Ireland for thirty-seven years, during which time their five leaders divided it into five provinces: this is the origin of Connacht, Ulster, Leinster, Munster … and Meath.” Tresidder goes on to tell that the “FIr Bholg were defeated at the first battle of Magh Tuiredh by the Tuatha Dé Danann … Eochaidh mac Eire, the last Fir Bholg king of Ireland, fell during the battle” (Tresidder, 2004:183). The Fir Bholg thereafter made peace and withdrew into Connacht (see also Tresidder, 2004:183).

Tresidder, J. (2004). The Complete Dictionary of Symbols in Myth, Art and Literature. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Fomarii, The

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology tells that the Fomarii “were sea gods in Irish Mythology. Violent and mis-shapen, the Fomarii emerged from the waves to challenge two rulers of Ireland: the Filbolg and the Tuatha De Danann” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:133). “Often the Fomorii were described as having only a single hand, foot or eye” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:133).

Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.


“Fravashi … is the Avestan language term for the Zoroastrian concept of a personal spirit of an individual, whether dead, living, and yet-unborn. The fravashi of an individual sens out the urvan (often translated as ‘soul’)into the material world to fight the battle of good versus evil.” – Wikipedia.

Feathered Serpent

The feathered serpent is a “significant supernatural entity or deity, found in many Mesoamerican religions”. Called Quetzalcoatl among the Aztecs, Kukulkan among the Yucatec Maya, and Q’uq’umatz and Tahil among the K’iche’ Maya. “The double symbolism used in its name is considered allegoric to the dual nature of the deity, where being feathered represents its divine nature or ability to fly to reach the skies and being a serpent represents its human nature or ability to creep on the ground among other animals of the Earth, a dualism very common in Mesoamerican deities.” Follow this link for more information on feathered serpents. – Wikipedia.


Via Wikipedia Commons. Public Domain.