The Great Myths #44: Sacred Language & Two Hymns to Speech (Hindu)

Rig Veda 10:71: The Origins of Sacred Speech Bṛhaspati! When they set in motion the first beginning of speech, giving names, their most pure and perfectly guarded secret was revealed through love.       When the wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve, then friends recognized their…

The Great Myths #43 Sacred Language & the Story of Gwion Bach & Taliesin (Welsh)

One of the longer myths I’ll post here, the following story is well worth it, and is indeed a master-class in mythology and folklore. Containing shape-changes, chase scenes, mysterious births, borrowed identities, and competitions of all kinds, it is in the best sense a holy mess, including its sudden and (to us) perhaps unsatisfying ending….

The Great Myths #42: Sacred Language & the Story of Caedmon (Christian)

A brother of the monastery is found to possess God’s gift of poetry [A. D. 680] In this monastery of Streanaeshalch lived a brother singularly gifted by God’s grace. So skilful was he in composing religious and devotional songs that, when any passage of Scripture was explained by interpreters, he could quickly turn it into…

The Great Myths #41: Sacred Language & the Mead of Poetry (Norse)

…And Aegir went on: “How did this craft that you call poetry originate?” Bragi replied: “The origin of it was that the gods had a dispute with the people called Vanir, and they appointed a peace-conference and made a truce by this procedure, that both sides went up to a vat and spat their spittle…

The Great Myths #40: Enkidu Comes of Age (Mesopotamian)

One of the greatest stories of a person “living in nature” becoming “civilized” is perhaps the earliest one. Also here is an intense ambivalence towards the role of women in civilization, as well as the gifts of urban life, such as bread and beer. By the time Enkidu encounters all of them, something has certainly…

The Great Myths #39: Arrow Boy (Cheyenne)

After the Cheyenne had received their corn, and while they were still in the north, a young man and woman of the tribe were married. The woman became pregnant and carried her child in the womb for four years. The people watched with great interest to see what would happen, and when the woman gave…

The Great Myths #38: Baldr’s Dreams, Baldr’s Death (Norse)

Two bits of old Norse, first poetry & then prose, on the death of Odin’s son, Baldr: All at once the gods were gathered, and all the goddesses came to speak, the mighty deities had a discussion, why Baldr’s dreams were foreboding. Odin rose up, the ancient sacrifice, and on the Sleipnir placed a saddle;…

The Great Myths #37: Icarus Falls (Ovid & Virgil)

But Daedalus was weary; by this time, he’d been exiled in Crete too long; he pined for his own land; but he was blocked – the sea stood in his way. “Though Minos bars escape by land or waves,” he said, “I still can take the sky – there lies my path. Though he owns…

The Great Myths #36: Parzival Grows Up & Leaves Home

The sad early life of Parzival is narrated here. His father having died while out on crusade, his mother, Herzeloyde, tries to keep all knowledge of knighthood from her Parzival’s awareness. She retreats to the woods with a small retinue, and of course all of her attempts are in vain.    This lady [Herzeloyde] quick…

The Great Myths #35: A Child During the Trojan War (Greek)

One of the great characters in Greek myth who never actually speaks is Astyanax, the son of Hector and the grandson of the king and queen of Troy. Below are two stories: he first appears in the Iliad as an infant, terrified when he sees his father in full armor, in one of the great…