Category Archives: Mythology

FIJIAN GOD ROKOMAUTU

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Fiji IslandsROKOMAUTU – A son of the supreme deity Ndengei by his sister. This deity was born from his mother’s elbow as another example of birthing oddities in world mythology. Rokomautu was so headstrong he tried to force even his own parents to worship him. 

Rokomautu falls into the mythological category that Balladeer’s Blog’s readers will remember as a Divine Geographer. When Ndengei first created the world the land was featureless, so he sent his son Rokomautu to provide character. The god sculpted the Earth’s various geographic features. Continue reading

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JOE MAGARAC: NEGLECTED AMERICAN FOLKTALE

Joe MagaracLabor Day weekend seemed like the appropriate time to post my long-delayed look at neglected working class folk hero Joe Magarac. This figure was the Steel Mill equivalent of Paul Bunyan and John Henry.

Though mostly associated with Polish-American steel workers in Pittsburgh, PA the general figure of a literal “man of steel” helping and protecting his coworkers can be found from the East Coast through the American Midwest. Sometimes the figure is Croation or some other ethnicity instead of Polish. 

Written versions of Joe Magarac and/or similar steel worker tall tales seem to have started around 1930 or 1931. Oral legends about such figures – but not specifically Joe Magarac – have been dated as early as the 1890s.

Vintage advertisements from tattered old newspapers indicate that such Man of Steel imagery may have been used for the steel industry prior to World War One. This “Which came first, the chicken or the egg” dilemma for Joe Magarac and other Steel Men puts one in mind of the quandary surrounding Billiken lore.        

Joe Magarac statueAs a lame play on words since this is Labor Day season I’ll present Joe Magarac’s origin and then depict his tales as “Labors” like in The Labors of Hercules.

BIRTH – Joe Magarac supposedly sprang into existence from a mound of iron ore and – depending on the version – that mound was either in Pittsburgh or the Old Country. Magarac emerged from the melting mound fully grown and spoke broken English like so many of the other Polish steel workers. He was called into being by the urgent need to catch up on production since the current shift had fallen dangerously behind.

Joe was 7 or 8 feet tall, his flesh was like solid steel, his torso was as wide as a smoke-stack and his arms were as thick as railroad ties. His surname Magarac meant “mule” in the workhorse sense, referring to his stamina. Joe’s appetite was such that he carried his lunch in a washtub instead of a standard lunch box.

Magarac’s favorite leisure time activity was polka-dancing and halushkis were his favorite food.

THE LABORS OF JOE MAGARAC:   Continue reading

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AUGUST 15th: THE MOON GODDESS AND YI THE DIVINE ARCHER

 I.WHAT’S UP WITH YI?  – Yi the Divine Archer from Chinese mythology deserves to be remembered in one breath with some of the other great heroes and monster slayers from belief systems around the world. Most people are only familiar with his feat of shooting down multiple suns that appeared in the sky one day, but this article will provide a light- hearted look at all of his fantastic adventures. 

Yi is pronounced “Yee” according to some sources, but according to others it’s pronounced “EEE”, so you can insert your own Ned Beatty joke here. (Mine would go like this:  REDNECK: C’mon, ya fat little hog, what’s the name of the Divine Archer in Chinese mythology?    NED BEATTY: EEEEEE! )

Yi was of semi- divine birth, but since “Yi the Semi- Divine Archer” doesn’t have the same ring to it, we’ll stick to his better- known nickname. Yi performed most of his heroic feats for the Chinese ruler Yao, the godling son of the supreme deity Huang Di. Yao would be remembered as the first of the Three Sage Kings in Chinese legends.   

2. OFF- BROADWAY – Two of Yi’s earliest adventures after reaching manhood presented him with the weapons he would be most associated with forever after. Yi saved the people of Yao’s kingdom from a monstrous tiger, from whose bones he carved his indestructible bow. Conveniently his next adventure involved slaying a rogue dragon, from whose tendons he crafted thousands of unbreakable shafts, then affixed arrowheads and feathers to the two ends.  Continue reading

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SHARK GOD OF FIJI: NDAKUWANG-GA

For more than 20 other gods from Fiji see my blog post HERE 

Ndakuwang gaNDAKUWANG-GA – The chief shark god of Fiji. Ndakuwang-Ga established his preeminence by defeating in battle all the other shark deities which guarded particular islands. The only figure to ever beat Ndakuwang-Ga in combat was the octopus god of Kandavu Island. For centuries fishermen from there were considered immune to any and all shark attacks.

Though Ndakuwang-Ga mostly travels in the form of a shark his true form is that of a handsome, muscular Fijian man. His tattoos reveal his godly nature. 

Just as a rainbow on land is attributed to the supreme deity Ndengei a rainbow at sea is credited to Ndakuwang-Ga. Supposedly this shark god and all his subordinate shark deities take the thighs of all their human victims to the reef near Yandua for the shark-priests to retrieve and eat. 

The cycle of myths involving Ndakuwang-Ga features countless instances of him saving his worshippers from sinking ships at sea by letting them ride his back to shore. A reverse of that situation involved a canoe-full of Fijians from Yasawa who paddled to an island rich with coconuts, this deity’s favorite offering. The travelers failed to give any to the shark-god so in revenge he overturned their canoe and devoured all but their leader. That man was condemned to labor for eternity at Nathawa, Yandua,  making and serving coconut offerings to Ndakuwang-Ga. Continue reading

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RAVURAVU: FIJIAN GOD

Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at The Gods of Fiji has been a hit! For another deity from Fiji here is Ravuravu, whom I also went ahead and added to the main article. For more than 20 other gods from Fiji see my blog post HERE

Fiji 2RAVURAVU – One of the evil deities defeated and driven from Skyland by the demigod Tuilakemba.

Ravuravu was the patron god of murderers and after his initial fall from Skyland he assumed human form and lurked in Navukeilagi, where he killed several men and women. Continue reading

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TUILAKEMBA: FIJIAN DEMIGOD

Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at The Gods of Fiji has been a hit! For another deity from Fiji here is Tuilakemba, whom I also went ahead and added to the main article. For more than 20 other gods from Fiji see my blog post HERE

Fiji 4TUILAKEMBA – This figure was the son of Tuilangi, the god who ruled over the Skyland, and a mortal woman. When Tuilakemba was a little boy he was often ridiculed by the other children for not having a father on hand like they did. One day the young demigod had had enough and threatened to kill his mother unless she told him who his father was.

She did so and Tuilakemba was spitefully satisfied. He took to carrying around an ironwood war-club wherever he went. He would use it to strike the heads off flowers, gleefully anticipating one day knocking off the heads of his enemies in wartime just as easily, given his massive strength.

On one occasion he took a nap, planting the ironwood war-club upright in the ground next to him while he slept. When he awoke he saw that the war-club had grown into an enormous tree which reached all the way up to the Skyland realm of his father. Tuilakemba took advantage of the situation and climbed up the newly-formed tree to the land above. 

The little boy walked through the jungle of Skyland until he reached the village ruled by his father Tuilangi. That lord of the land above was in the middle of a council of war regarding his armies’ recent losses in their ages-old conflict with the evil gods of the sky. Continue reading

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KAMBUYA: A WEATHER GOD OF FIJI

RewaBalladeer’s Blog’s recent look at The Gods of Fiji has been a hit! For another deity from Fiji here is Kambuya, whom I also went ahead and added to the main article. For more than 20 other gods from Fiji see my blog post HERE 

KAMBUYA – A god who can send fair weather or rain showers to the world. The center of Kambuya’s worship was Rewa (see photo). It was forbidden to touch a large rock which was sacred to this deity. Anyone foolish enough to touch it would be punished by Kambuya by contracting leprosy.

The god had a mild tricksterish side, too, and would sometimes put obstacles in the way of hungry people headed for a feast. Anyone who arrived late for the event was laughed at as a victim of Kambuya’s practical jokes and would be served last.   Continue reading

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