The Great Myths #57: Loki’s Monstrous Children (Norse)

Read the other Great Myths here High continued: “And Loki had other offspring too. There was a giantess called Angrboda in Giantland. With her Loki had three children. One was Fenriswolf, the second Iormungand (i.e. the Midgard serpent), the third is Hel. And when the gods realized that these three siblings were being brought up […]

Odin & Baldr (poem)

Odin & Baldr The High One heard the lowest prophecy: already riddled with the worst of dreams, his boy Baldr would be killed by his brother. And worse: another brother would avenge him, family hacking down family. And worse: these murders would lead to the end, to three winters of war and three more years […]

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 shining days when the world was new”: Virgil Greets the Spring

From the second of Virgil’s Georgics, translated by David Ferry: It’s spring that adorns the woods and groves with leaves; In spring the soil, desiring seed, is tumid, And then the omnipotent father god descends In showers from the sky and enters into The joyful bridal body of the earth, His greatness and her greatness […]

The Great Myths #33: The Child Cúchulainn Gets His Name (Celtic)

When Culand the smith offered Conchubur his hospitality, he said that a large host should not come, for the feast would be the fruit not of lands and possessions but of his tongs and his two hands. Conchubur went with fifty of his oldest and most illustrious heroes in their chariots. First, however, he visited […]

The Great Myths #31: The Child Krishna & the Universe in His Mouth (Hindu)

One day when Rāma and the other little sons of the cowherds were playing, they reported to his mother, “Kṛṣṇa has eaten dirt.” Yaśodā took Krishna by the hand and scolded him, for his own good, and she said to him, seeing that his eyes were bewildered with fear, “Naughty boy, why have you secretly […]

The Great Myths #30: The Holy Grail Appears (Middle High German)

The story of the Holy Grail’s appearance to a young man named Perceval/Parzival/Parsifal, is told in many places, and goes something like this: he comes by chance upon the Grail Castle, and is introduced to a wounded man, the Fisher King; during a feast that night, the Grail appears, and if only Parzival would ask […]

The Great Myths #29: Learning Poetry in the Giant’s Stomach (Finnish)

The poet/shaman Väinämöinen, in need of new poems and spells in order to build a boat, goes through an ordeal within the belly of a giant, the keeper of those stories. Here, the giant/ogre figure is more primordial and wise and not simply uncivilized and destructive: Steady old Väinämöinen when he got not words from […]

The Great Myths #27: The Monster Bear & the Making of Thunder (Miwok)

From the Miwok tribe of California, who are now “practically extinct”: Bear’s sister-in-law, Deer, had two beautiful fawn daughters. Bear was a horrible, wicked woman, and she wanted the fawns for herself. So this is what she did. One day she invited Deer to accompany her when she went to pick clover. The two fawns […]

The Great Myths #26: Sigurd Kills the Monster Fafnir & Understands the Language of Animals (Norse)

What is the reason for gold being called otter-payment? It is said that when the Aesir went to explore the whole world – Odin and Loki and Haenir – they came to a certain river and went along the river to a certain waterfall, and by the waterfall there was an otter and it had […]

The Great Myths #25: The Monster Kirttimukha & the Face of Glory (Hindu)

The Indian legend of the “Face of Glory” begins, like that of the Man-Lion, with the case of an infinitely ambitious king who through extraordinary austerities had gained the power to unseat the gods and was now sole sovereign of the universe. His name was Jalandhara, “Water Carrier,” and he conceived the impudent notion of […]