Category Archives: Mythology

MWINDO – EPIC MYTH OF AFRICA

Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of an epic myth of the Nyanga people of Africa.

PART ONE

MwindoMwindo is yet another semi-divine hero from global mythology. This epic will explore his unusual birth, his heroic deeds and victories over various monsters and hostile gods.

Many of the myths from Africa survived mostly in oral form until comparatively recent decades, so there are even more variations of African epics than readers may be used to. To cite just one example: Mwindo himself is usually referred to by the epithet Kabutwa-kenda, “the little one just born yet walking”. However there are a few versions of the myth in which Mwindo and Kabutwa-kenda are TWO SEPARATE FIGURES and are half-brothers.

masc graveyard smallerIn the versions where they are two separate entities Mwindo is a villainous figure while Kabutwa-kenda is the main hero of the epic. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will be reminded of the Navajo twin gods Nayanazgeni and Thobadzistsini. Nayanazgeni was usually the hero of the epic about the defeat of the evil gods called the Anaye but in the Apache version of the myth his brother Thobadzistsini is the hero and Nayanazgeni is reduced to being a comic relief coward. 

To stay in the area of comparative mythology for a moment Mwindo also shares qualities with the Sumerian demigod Gilgamesh. Like Gilgamesh, Mwindo goes from being brashly overconfident about his own supernatural powers to becoming a more humble hero and more capable ruler as the tale goes on.

The Mwindo Epic begins in the village of Tubondo, surrounded by raphia trees and located on a high hill. The founder and Chief of the village was named Shemwindo and he had seven wives because the Nyanga considered seven to be the number of perfection. Nyanga villages had seven separate kinship halls even if there were not seven separate kinship groups in the village. This was done out of deference to the sheer perfection of the number seven.  Continue reading

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TWELVE DEITIES FROM INUIT MYTHOLOGY

 Inuit mythology is almost criminally neglected. Personally I find it  fascinating and there is a  wealth of underappreciated information to be passed along. Inuit is the term used now, largely replacing  ”eskimo”  which was a pejorative term coined by the Algonquin Indians long ago. The geographical area of the Inuit myths ranges from Siberia across the Bering Strait through Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Names used for the following deities vary across that vast area. Some Inuit settlements like Ayaatayat (near present- day Cape Denbigh) date back 10,000 years. The Inuit were often at war with various Native American tribes and, as a testament to the  fighting  ability of the ancient Inuits they drove the Vikings themselves out of part of Greenland. The Inuit deities are as fascinating as the figures in any other pantheon.

12. NARSSUK – The god of the west wind and a son of the god Sila. Narssuk was depicted as an enormous infant whose winds were generated by the flapping of his caribou- skin diaper. In some versions the goddess Pukimna made the diaper for him. Narssuk supposedly would Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-SIX: MAY 1912

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE 

fool killer picPART 56 – Some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the May of 1912 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version: 

*** Columnist Al Fairbrother, who wrote so many columns pandering to different groups of readers that he would often get caught having published hard-hitting editorials on both sides of a particular issue. The latest instance that irked Pearson and his Fool Killer was a pair of columns Fairbrother wrote, one bashing Theodore Roosevelt for thinking about running for president again and one praising him for it.

*** The Meat Trust, for, as usual “somehow” (wink) obtaining favorable court rulings okaying its dilution of beef products with unlabeled amounts of dog-meat and horse-meat.

*** The latest inane fashion fad: women’s hats with batteries in them to supply power to electric lights which decorated said hats. 

*** The Taft Administration and other federal bodies responsible for trying every trick in the book to harass The Appeal To Reason, a Girard, KS newspaper which courageously took on Big Business and Wall Street. The paper was always being dragged into court over the slightest pretext with even the post office being used to harass it and its subscribers (like the way the Biden Administration is trying to wipe out dissenting opinions by tagging them as “domestic terrorism”). Continue reading

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BAKARIDJAN KONE: AN AFRICAN EPIC MYTH

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its blog posts about neglected mythological epics from around the world. This particular epic comes from the Bambara people of the Kingdom of Segu in what is now Mali.

MaliTHE BAKARIDJAN KONE EPIC – Djeli, the poet-historians of the Bambara people for over 300 years, would often recite, chant and sing this epic myth while playing their stringed instruments called ngoni.

A. The future father of Bakaridjan Kone is a noble-born farmer in Disoro Nko. He grows tired of his agrarian lifestyle and his wives. (“Segu City’s where he’d rather be/ He gets allergic smelling hay” Had to be said.) Hearing that Da Monzon, the great ruler of the Kingdom of Segu, knows how to create gold, the disenchanted farmer goes to Segu City and becomes part of the court of Da Monzon, only to learn the gold story is not true.

A ngoni instrument

A ngoni

B. Kumba, one of the errant farmer’s wives, gives birth to a boy. His deadbeat dad refuses to be present for the naming ceremony but hints around to Da Monzon that maybe he should provide him with a gift to celebrate the birth. Da Monzon is disgusted with the man for abandoning his wives and not being present for said naming ceremony.

              Instead, the king sends cowries to the wives so they can perform a proper ceremony, at which he wants the baby to be named Bakaridjan Kone. As the provider of the boy’s name, Da Monzon has made himself the child’s adopted father.

C. Years go by, and, royal politics being what they are no matter the culture or time period, Da Monzon begins to worry that he may get killed and/or overthrown before any of his sons are old enough to take over as king. His morike (oracle or diviner) tells him that no full-grown man poses a threat, but there is a boy-child who would one day be able to seize the throne. The morike advises Da Monzon to find a boy who is tough enough to not cry out when his foot is pierced by the king’s spear. THAT is the boy who might overthrow the king. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-FIVE: APRIL 1912

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE  

Fool Killer with staff and Bowie knifePART FIFTY-FIVE – Here is a look at some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the April of 1912 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of the character:

*** The Steel Trust – Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller and other “Big Ikes of the Steel Trust”, as Pearson and his Fool Killer called them. The bloated rich pigs were in the news again because – just like today’s corporate rich pigs at Google, Facebook, Twitter and others they were being called out on their prejudiced behavior and their contempt for the notion that Congress or the Stanley Committee or anyone else could hold them accountable.

              They had recently boasted that they were above nations because without their steel the U.S. and some other countries could not wage war or engage in engineering & construction projects or build cargo ships, railroads, etc. Whistleblowers at the steel companies had recently made public statements about the ways the Steel Trust collaborated to control steel prices, EXCLUDE COMPETITION and undertake other acts in violation of Anti-Trust laws at what they called “Gary Dinners.” Testimony from 55 figures had already been heard.

              Another way they were just as disgusting as today’s Big Tech/ Technofascists was the way that untold numbers of SUBPOENAED DOCUMENTS HAD BEEN DESTROYED BY THE CORPORATIONS INVOLVED (like privileged white one-percenter Hillary Clinton flagrantly destroyed so much of the evidence against her). Those documents allegedly contained proof that Steel Trust figures had not only violated the law but had committed perjury in their courtroom testimony. Corporate fascists like Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and others seem to slither the same way no matter the time period.

Fool Killer Red*** Judges and other high officials who betrayed their public trusts. He favored the recall process for judges as well as others. 

*** Tobacco companies plus tobacco users like smokers and snuff-chewers. Continue reading

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THE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962): HAPPY EASTER!

Quest of SethTHE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962) – Written by Esther Casier Quinn, this is one of the best and most concise works of comparative mythology that I have ever read. I meant to review this book way back when I started Balladeer’s Blog in 2010 but for various reasons it kept falling by the wayside. The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Life is also known as The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Mercy, The Legend of the Rood and many other titles.

Quinn draws from a multitude of sources to provide several variations of this tale and explores the ways in which the course of history shaped the revisions and embellishments involved in this legend. The Seth of the title is the son of Adam and Eve, the Oil of Life/ Oil of Mercy is often said to represent Jesus Christ, the Rood refers to the cross on which Jesus was crucified and its “legend” details the history and many forms of the tree/ wood that eventually became that cross. 

For those not familiar with this particular popular offshoot of the canonical story of Jesus Christ here’s a brief overview:
Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-THREE: JANUARY 1912

Fool Killer grayBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE

PART FIFTY-THREE – Some of the targets from the January of 1912 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer:

*** With Christmas just past, the Fool Killer targeted community Christmas events which distributed toys to the children of well-to-do “pillars of the community” families while shutting out poor and needy children.

*** The way too many charitable events wound up being so extravagant that very little was left over for the poor. He cited a particular North Carolina event which, when expenses were paid, only $10.00 was left for the needy.

los angeles times bombing*** J.B. McNamara and J.J. McNamara, who had pleaded guilty in December 1911 to the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building on October 1st of 1910. Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, represented the men but was blamed for mishandling the situation. 

              Pearson and his Fool Killer also bashed the witch hunt that this case unleashed on organized labor since the McNamaras were tied to the Iron Workers Union strike in Los Angeles.

Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-TWO: DECEMBER 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer wardrobePART FIFTY-TWO – Some of the targets from the December of 1911 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer:

*** The United States Supreme Court, authors of so many miscarriages of “justice” in the nation’s history, for the way that Pearson and his Fool Killer felt the court’s vaunted dissolution of the Tobacco Trust (American Tobacco Company) was a farce. ATC was, he felt, allowed too much say in their sentence to dissolve into four separate companies.

              There was certainly a lot of truth to that take on the situation. The “new” companies were soon being accused of colluding with each other to carry out the same monopolistic practices that they had before.  Three of those four companies were found guilty of this in 1938 after years of further investigation and litigation. This calls to mind the way Big Tech basically calls its own shots by virtue of all the political figures they own.

*** Churches which allowed Bingo, a game that the odd Pearson viewed as “gambling.”   

*** George W Perkins at U.S. Steel for what Pearson and his Fool Killer considered the miserly amount that Perkins made employees eligible for under the company’s new profit-sharing plan.   

*** The masked and armed men who tarred and feathered school teacher Miss Mary Chamberlain in Shady Bend, KS. What newspapers of the time called “gossip from jealous women” regarding the teacher prompted the ugly incident, which had been planned at the mill owned by wealthy citizen E.G. Clark. The masked, pistol-packing mob stopped Chamberlain in her buggy and carried out the deed.  Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-ONE: NOVEMBER 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer grayPART FIFTY-ONE – The Fool Killer is back to hurl his Truth Bombs at some more malefactors. NOTE: This month the Fool Killer added a Blacksnake Cattle Whip and a Double-Geared Buzz Saw to his arsenal of weapons. The one to whip the foolish, the other to slice skin off their backs. Some of the Fool Killer’s targets from James Larkin Pearson’s November of 1911 edition of The Fool-Killer:

*** The roughly seventeen multi-millionaires whose wealth supposedly allowed them to control the entire country. In more recent years that number has been lessened to around fifteen, but the basic sentiment remains the same – the country seems to exist for the profit and power of a very, very few.

*** Women who chewed tobacco. Pearson and his Fool Killer supported women’s right to vote but for some reason women chewing snuff really, really bothered him.

*** The federal authorities responsible for sending 12 year old Albert Dewey Carter to five years in prison for stealing $5.00 from the post office. 

*** Writer Upton Sinclair, whose wife Meta had just left him for poet Harry Kemp.

*** Corporation lawyers who “smothered their consciences for a fat salary.”  Continue reading

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MYTHS OF FIJI – GODS AND OTHER ENTITIES ON THE SOUL’S JOURNEY

FOR BALLADEER’S BLOG’S LOOK AT OVER TWENTY FIJIAN GODS CLICK HERE

Fiji 4The people of Fiji believed in an epic journey for the souls of the deceased. That journey is even more detailed than the Soul’s Journey envisioned by the Tupari of Brazil.

I. For four days the spirit of the deceased lingers in the vicinity of its host body’s death. Then it begins the long and perilous journey to Mbulu, the land of the dead.

II. Upon reaching the headlands at Naithobokoboko the spirit encounters the goddess LEWALEVU. This deity tries to prevent the soul from proceeding unless she is propitiated by offerings of leaves.

III. If the deceased successfully passes Lewalevu it next encounters the sandalwood tree at Vuniyasikinikini. The spirit is required to pinch the bark of the Yasi/ sandalwood tree with its fingernails.

              If the nails are long and sharp enough to sink into the bark it proves the person did not do much fighting or hard work in life. If its nails are short and dull it proves the deceased worked and fought hard in life and may continue their journey.

IV. Next awaits the goddess NANG-GA NANG-GA, the Devourer of Bachelors. Nang-ga Nang-ga sits on a black rock by the edge of the sea. On one side of her stone perch lap the ocean’s waves and on the other side steep jagged cliffs jut up to the skies. Continue reading

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