Tag Archives: comparative mythology

SAMSON MYTHS IN ISLAMIC LITERATURE

Previously, Balladeer’s Blog examined non-Biblical Samson myths depicting the figure as a sun god. Here in this second installment, I will look at some of the traditions regarding Samson in Islamic literature. For the first post in this series click HERE.

samson strongSAMSON IN ISLAM – Right at the start, I’ll make it clear that there is no specific reference to Samson in the Koran. Period. In some of the other scholarly writings by Muslim authorities of the distant past they included Samson aka Shamsun by speculating that he was among the many unnamed prophets of their faith.

However, some of those sources simply list Samson as one of the Judges in the Children of Israel chapters and tend to keep him in the same time period as Biblical tales of the long-haired strong man. Other Islamic sources specifically name Samson/ Shamsun and place the period of his life anywhere from the 1st Century B.C.E. to the time of the Christian Saint George.

samson and lionNOTE: Yes, that still puts Samson’s existence before Muhammad was even born, but the academic and religious debates about this are outside the material I am covering in this post.

For brevity’s sake I will avoid the in-depth arguments regarding exactly when Islam’s version of Samson supposedly lived. Suffice it to say that the Muslim literature in question states that Samson was born in a “Roman” city, placing his lifetime during the Roman occupation of the Middle East. This is much later than Biblical accounts of Samson.  Continue reading

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SAMSON MYTHS: VARIATIONS

Just as the Orphic variations of the Homeric Hymns offer alternate versions of some of the ancient Greek myths, there are sources that provide alternate versions of the middle eastern Samson story.

samson and lionSAMSON AS A NON-BIBLICAL SUN GOD – Before getting into the Biblical and Talmudic Samson tales, let’s take a look at the tradition of Samson being an ancient sun deity. In this context his “seven locks/ braids of hair” were seven solar rays emanating from his head like in ancient artwork of other solar figures.

            A few examples would be the idol of Helios with seven rays from his head, Apollo with the same seven rays and even Phaethon having his father the sun god wind the “seven rays like strings upon his hair.”

            In this version of the Samson story, it becomes a seasonal myth in which the sun god’s wife Delilah (or just Lilah in some versions) is a winter goddess. She causes the loss of Samson’s strength by cutting his seven locks/ braids/ solar rays, symbolizing the weakening of the sun and the shortening of the days throughout fall and winter. 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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SEASONAL MYTHS WHICH HAVE THE SAME THEME

Persephone and pomegranateThis is a good time to examine some of the ancient myths about winter and the coming of spring.

The celebration of those myths plus the fact that many of those myths centered around dead and resurrected deities necessitated Christianity’s attempt to superimpose its OWN dead and resurrected deity over top of those older stories. Hence the celebration of Easter in springtime. (And it’s not just Christianity that behaved that way – other religions also would superimpose their own celebrations over top of those held in honor of the previously dominant gods in their region. I’ll cover the behavior of those other belief systems – especially Islam and the Incan faith – another time.)

Not all seasonal myths conformed to the following pattern. I’m limiting this list to the ones that did.

PERSEPHONE

Pantheon: Greek (The Romans called her Proserpine)

The Tale: Persephone was the beautiful daughter of the goddess Demeter (Ceres to the Romans). Persephone caught the eye of Hades, the god who ruled over the realm of the dead. Overcome with lust Hades (Pluto to the Romans) emerged from his subterranean domain and stole Persephone away to his realm to become his Queen.

The Savior: Demeter went searching for her daughter throughout the world, often assuming the form of a mortal woman. Her search wore on and on with no results, causing Demeter to fall more and more deeply into despair. Because she was the goddess of nature that despair manifested itself in colder weather, in the leaves falling off the trees, other vegetation dying and some animals hibernating or migrating to flee the cold.  Continue reading

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SEASONAL MYTHS WITH THE SAME THEME

Persephone and pomegranateSpring keeps trying to arrive but this bitter winter refuses to give up just yet. Our nationwide longing to be liberated from the tyrannical grip of winter made this a good time to examine some of the ancient myths about winter and the coming of spring.

The celebration of those myths at this time of year plus the fact that many of those myths centered around dead and resurrected deities necessitated Christianity’s attempt to superimpose its OWN dead and resurrected deity over top of those older stories. Hence the celebration of Easter in springtime. (And it’s not just Christianity that behaved that way – other religions also would superimpose their own celebrations over top of those held in honor of the previously dominant gods in their region. I’ll cover the behavior of those other belief systems – especially Islam and the Incan faith – another time.)

Not all seasonal myths conformed to the following pattern. I’m limiting this list to the ones that did.

PERSEPHONE

Pantheon: Greek (The Romans called her Proserpine)

The Tale: Persephone was the beautiful daughter of the goddess Demeter (Ceres to the Romans). Persephone caught the eye of Hades, the god who ruled over the realm of the dead. Overcome with lust Hades (Pluto to the Romans) emerged from his subterranean domain and stole Persephone away to his realm to become his Queen.

The Savior: Demeter went searching for her daughter throughout the world, often assuming the form of a mortal woman. Her search wore on and on with no results, causing Demeter to fall more and more deeply into despair. Because she was the goddess of nature that despair manifested itself in colder weather, in the leaves falling off the trees, other vegetation dying and some animals hibernating or migrating to flee the cold. 

As this first winter wore on, human beings began praying to Demeter to restore the world’s greenery and the warmer temperatures of the past. In her overwhelming sadness at the loss of her daughter Demeter ignored those prayers, prompting humans to begin praying to the other gods to intercede on humanity’s behalf. At length Zeus, the sky god who ruled over all the gods in the Greek pantheon, realized that the only way to end Demeter’s despair and end the terrible winter was to find her daughter Persephone and reunite mother and daughter. Continue reading

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SUN GODS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Balladeer’s Blog’s mythology posts are among the most popular parts of this site. As a change of pace from my examinations of multiple deities from a single mythological pantheon this time I’ll do a light-hearted look at solar deities – both male and female – from around the world.

Seqinek11. SEQINEK

Pantheon: Inuit

Lore: Also called Malina, Seqinek’s home was in Udlormiut, the land that was on the other side of the sky. In Inuit cosmology the sky was the roof of the enormous ice- house (igloo) that enclosed the world and Udlormiut lay on the other side.

By day Seqinek would leave her home and run across the sky, with the sun itself being the flame from the torch she carried as she ran. The goddess was forever fleeing her brother, the moon god Tatqim, whose partially burnt- out torch was the moon.

For more Inuit deities – https://glitternight.com/inuit-myth/

10. SURYA

Pantheon: Hindu

Lore: The sun was Surya’s chariot racing across Continue reading

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TWO MORE ALTERNATE EASTERS

CrossBalladeer’s Blog examines two more ancient works which – if they had been deemed “authentic” (LMAO) – might have resulted in very different versions of Easter celebrations.

THE GOSPEL OF THE EGYPTIANS – This Apocryphal Gospel is also referred to as The Gospel According to the Egyptians. This particular work is dated to around the 100s A.D.

The surviving references to this Gospel center around conversations between Jesus and one of his female followers – Salome. The gist of the material is the Gnostic condemnation of procreation, since in their view the reproductive process does nothing but entrap even more spiritual matter in the physical world created by Yaldabaoth, the Demiurge.

Jesus calls for humanity to reject and despise “the shameful garment” called the body. He also hinted that once spiritual matter returns to the Pleroma that all duality will cease, including the notions of male and female, which will no longer be separate states of being.    

One of the key sayings in The Gospel of the Egyptians is found when Jesus tells Salome “Death will endure as long as women give birth.” This concept is also alluded to when Jesus says “I have come to destroy the works of the female,” referring, of course, to all of us since our bodies – our physical prisons to the Gnostics – all emerged from the wombs of women.   Continue reading

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AIWEL LONGAR: THE AFROCENTRIC PASSOVER TALE

Balladeer’s Blog has been examining various dead and resurrected deities from around the world as well as various Apocryphal Gospels. Since this is the season for Passover as well as Easter here’s a look at the Aiwel Longar Epic, which features many parallels with the myth about Moses, Passover and the Ten Commandments. 

Aiwel LongarThe mythic tale of Aiwel Longar comes from the Dinka pantheon. Nhialic is the supreme deity to the Dinka and the first man and woman he created were Garang and Abuk. The Dinka people live in the Upper Nile in Sudan, as they have for centuries.

AIWEL LONGAR

I often cover the way in which cultures which come into contact borrow mythic material from each other to embellish their own respective belief systems. The story of Aiwel Longar clearly influenced (and vice versa) Egyptian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim myths. It also bears striking similarities to the Gnostic Hymn of the Pearl.

PART ONE – Born as simply Aiwel, this figure was a gift from the god of the Nile River to Aiwel’s widowed and childless mother. The infant already had a full set of teeth when his mother picked him up out of the Nile River, where the river god had set him adrift.

Like many mythic figures Aiwel could talk and function like an adult at a very young age. While still a toddler he often stole and drank entire gourds full of milk. After one such binge Aiwel’s mother caught him and the young demigod warned her not to tell anyone or else she would die.  Continue reading

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GOSPEL OF THE SAVIOR: COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY

Jesus ResurrectedBalladeer’s Blog continues examining various accounts of dead and resurrected deities, as is customary at this time of year.

THE GOSPEL OF THE SAVIOR – The narrative of this gospel centers around dialogues between Jesus and his apostles in the last few days before his arrest and crucifixion.

Some of the material is similar to the Gospels of John and Matthew, but  some is Gnostic, with references to discarding the useless garment of the body so the soul can return to the empyrean realm. 

The most striking departure in this gospel comes in the Garden of Gethsemane segment, when Jesus, as God the Son, traditionally prays to God the Father to spare him the ordeals that lay ahead. In The Gospel of the Savior Jesus transports himself and his apostles to the throne-room of God the Father  where he makes his appeal in person. Continue reading

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COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY: THE GOSPEL OF NICODEMUS

Balladeer’s Blog continues examining various accounts of dead and resurrected deities, as is customary at this time of year.

facepalm jesusTHE GOSPEL OF NICODEMUS – Despite the title of this gospel, Nicodemus doesn’t even show up until section five. This alternate scripture started out as The Acts of Pilate, and covered the story of Christ’s trial and execution from the point of view of Pontius Pilate. This half of the gospel serves the purpose of making Pontius Pilate look even more reluctant to prosecute Jesus than the canonical gospels do. Continue reading

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