Classic Jam Hits

Going through my computer the other day, I found the .pdfs of these classic book sets, and thought to post them here for whoever wants them: Frazer’s The Golden Bough, The Mythology of All Races, and Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Whatever their limitations now, they are still great resources. I…

Conrad in the Underworld

Following yesterday, here is Book 31 from To the House of the Sun, and my version of the Underworld journey. In Books 29 and 30, Conrad has spent the winter of 1865 communing with the ghosts of the Donner Party at Donner Lake; but upon seeing his starved body suddenly rejuvenating, they flee, and he…

Uma Instructs the Gods (Kena Upanishad)

And here’s one of my favorite bits from the Hindu Upanishads, chapters three and four from the Kena Upanishad. From the translation of Swami Nikhilananda: Brahman, according to the story, obtained a victory for the gods; and by that victory of Brahman the gods became elated. They said to themselves: “Verily, this victory is ours;…

Young Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth

One of my favorite stories from Hinduism comes from the Bhagavata Purana, on the childhood of Krishna: ….One day when Rama and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Krishna has eaten dirt.” Yasoda took Krishna by the hand and scolded him, for his own good, and she…

Viking Jesus

To see the ways in which a religion works, one of the best ways is to observe their missionaries and how they adapt stories created in one historical and geographic area, for people and places wildly different. On this point, nothing beats the ninth-century Saxon saga Heliand, which presents Jesus as a chieftain, prayers as…

Ship in Air

Here’s a nice anecdote told twice, first from some anonymous Irish source, and then Seamus Heaney’s version of it in verse. This was the first poem of Heaney’s I ever saw, back in high school when someone showed me the New York Times, perhaps when his book Seeing Things was reviewed there, or when he’d…

The Corn Mother (Penobscot)

The following is one of the most beautiful stories from myth that I know, collected American Indian Myths and Legends, edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz.(The book is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library, which is usually hit or miss, but this one remains one of the best anthologies of myth…

Egyptian Pyramid Texts

As a companion to yesterday’s excerpts from the Hindu Rig Veda, here are excerpts from religious texts even older than those: the Pyramid Texts from ancient Egypt. Beginning in the late Old Kingdom (c.2375-2181 BC), pharaohs had prayers and spells to assist them in the afterlife carved onto the walls of their pyramids—and as you’ll…

Rig Veda

In another life (appropriately enough), I would have been Hindu; in an additional other life, at the very least I would have started studying Indo-European at a young age. As it happened, whatever brief time I’ve been able to devote to Hinduism has no doubt been saturated with the romanticism of a novice who is…

Stonehenge, Castlerigg, Brodgar

Here are some favorite photos from the Neolithic stone circles of England and Orkney, visited in the last few years: Stonehenge, in Wiltshire Castlerigg Stone Circle, in Cumbria, the Lakes District The Ring of Brodgar, in Orkney As the archaeologists will tell you, these circles of standing stones were intentionally placed in an already sacred…

A Visit to the Underworld

Below are excerpts from three of my favorite Underworld journeys from mythology, which also informed my own Underground scene in To the House of the Sun: Book Six of Virgil’s Aeneid, where Aeneas comes upon the shade of his father, who is amazed to see his son, still alive, visiting the land of the dead;…