World Mythology A Definite Classic Reference

Roy Willis, 2006

Done with one of the last academic books before I immerse myself back in the virtual world of Otherland.

This was a book that I picked off the shelf of Borders, with the intention of getting myself familiarised with museum artefacts that I might come across in the next year or so. I’ve also wanted to know more about Greek and Egyptian mythologies for a long time now, especially those of the former: Zeus – the King of Gods; , Aphrodite – the Goddess of Love and Sex; Athene – Goddess of War… the reading of such mythological characters allows one to retreat into a safe haven and indulge in a world of candid naivete among the senseless and continuous contention.

Senseless naivete? Because it seems apparent to anyone with a clear mind that across mythologies, be it in Asia, the Celtic regions or Egypt, the Gods engage fiercely in and defend the practice of incest. With their siblings and offspring. I can’t refrain from wondering what the reasons for such stark similarities are. What does it say, really, about our ancestral cultures? Can we therefore blame our progeny, or even the current Y-Generation, for their sometimes foolish and heinous behaviours?

Continuous contention? Because every mythology reveals stories of past victories and defeats, triumphs and discomfiture, possessions and enemies, not only of mankind but also within the animal kingdom. But then again, all these stories unite when it comes to providing a rationale for the beginning of time – that of an egg-like casing that cracked open eons ago to birth the first living creature that was to be the Creator of all life forms. I’m pretty curious about whether Stephen Hawking’s version of the Big Bang was a result of his being inspired by such myths.

Some enthralling new finds that I’ve picked up from the book, in alphabetical order:

  • Achilles heel: Achilees was dipped by his mother in the River Styx as a child to render himself immortal and strong. However, as he was held by the heel, his heel was the only part of his body that was left untouched and hence unblessed by the holy water, hence the term ‘Achilles heel’ to mean a crucial weakness of a person.
  • Avatar: meaning ‘descent’ of an incarnation (usually of a deity) to combat a specific evil in the world.
  • In the realm of Dionysos: Dionysos is the God of wine and altered states wherein he was prone to destructive acts. Such a phrase is therefore used to describe somebody drunk, ecstatic or destructive.
  • Halcyon days: to describe a time of peace and contentment as it is linked to the King of Winds in the Greek mythologies who calmed the waves of the seas so that Halycone (or Alcyone) the kingfisher could lay eggs in the ocean.
  • Hermaphrodite: child of Hermes and Aphrodite who was embraced by a water nymph so tightly that he acquired female attributes in addition to his male ones, hence the use of the word to describe someone with dual gender features.
  • Inuit people: meaning ‘genuine people’ as properly termed of the people of the New Arctic World and Greenland.
  • Oedipus: this Greek mythological character who was fated to eventually kill his father had his foot pierced at birth by his father, King Laius, hence his name ‘Oedipus’ to mean ‘swollen foot’.
  • Zimbabwe: it means simply ‘stone dwelling’.

I’ve never known that modern society has picked up so many words with so old an origin. If only there were courses in the university offering the study of the origin of words, or English Etymology; it’ll be great fun!

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