THE 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: