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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Aatxe

Aatxe
Other names: Aatxegorri (young red bull), Beigorri, Txaalgorri, Zezengorri

Etymology – “Young Bull”. Aatxe is also referred to as Aatxegorri which means “Young Red Bull”.

There’s a lot of ancient Basque mythology that didn’t survive the arrival of Christianity between the 4th and 12th centuries C.E. Most of what is known and has survived is from the study of place names and the scant historical references of pagan rituals practiced by the Basques.

In Basque mythology, Aatxe is a shape-changing spirit who sometimes takes the form of a fiery red bull or a young man. Aatxe is sometimes identified with another Basque figure known as Etsai. He is also identified with the goddess Mari and may possibly be a manifestation of her will. Though he is more likely just an enforcer and separate. Mari is said to be quick to punish those who lie or cheat and the Aatxe is sent out against those people who have lied, cheated, stolen and have other wise been disrespectful.

There is an old Basque witches song that has the line of: “Yaun Gorril, Yaun Gorril,” which translates into English as “Lord Red, Lord Red.” It’s thought that this line most likely refers to Aatxegorri, showing that he is an important figure in the Basque mythologies and pantheon.

Aatxe comes from the underground world of Euskal Herria. He haunts the caves and gorges of the Pyrenees Mountains, coming out at night, especially during stormy weather, to attack and punish criminals; he also protects people by making them stay home when there’s danger.

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Alyosha Popovich

Alyosha Popovich & Tugarin

Russian: Алё́ша Попо́вич, Alexey, Son of the Priest

In Russian folklore, Alyosha Popovich is an epic hero of the Kievan Rus era. He was a mighty warrior and a trickster; one of three well known bogatyrs, similar to other medieval knight-errants. Alyosha Popovich is considered the youngest of these three bogatyrs. The other two are Dobrynya Nikitich and Ilya Muromets. All three bogatyrs have been portrayed in Vasnetsov’s famous painting called Bogatyrs.

Where many bogatyrs are known for their physical might and prowess in defending the borders of old Russia and fighting various monsters, Alyosha did so by the use of trickery and outwitting his foes. He is best known for his agility, ingenuity, cleverness and resourcefulness. Alyosha Popovich is portrayed as fun-loving with his cheerful, talkative manner and something of a lady’s man with how he could woo women.

Alyosha was always ready to play mischievous pranks on his friends too. Once, when Dobrynya went away on a quest, Alyosha began spreading rumors of how Dobrynya was dead. The people eventually came to believe this and Dobrynya’s wife, Nastasya was expected to marry someone of Prince Vladimir’s choosing. Dobrynya managed to return from his quest to find his wife’s wedding ceremony in progress. Interrupting or stopping the wedding, Dobrynya gave Alyosha a sound beating for this stunt.

Birth of a Legend

According to legend, Alyosha was born to the sounds of thunder and the next day he jumped into the saddle to go off and see the world, all the while bragging of his accomplishments and victories. It’s mentioned in the story of Alyosha’s fight with Tugarin, that his father is Pope Leon of Rostov.

Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin

This story is perhaps the best known of all of Alyosha’s exploits and adventures. In this story, Alyosha Popovitch and his servant Yekim, went to Kiev in order to meet Prince Vladimir. When they arrived, Prince Vladimir was holding a feast and he offered Alyosha a seat next to him at the head of the table. Alyosha declined this offer and chose to sit at the lowest, social hierarchal spot next to the stove.

At the feast, the monster Tugarin came and insulted Prince Vladimir by sitting between him and his wife at the head of the table. Some versions of this story suggest that this is because Tugarin and Vladimir’s wife were having an affair. Tugarin failed at other social protocols such as refusing to say prayer and instead, started right in on the feast, gorging himself.

Disgusted by all of this, Alyosha proceeded to insult Tugarin first with a story about a dog that kills itself by eating too much. Then Alyosha tells Tugarin another story of a cow that kills herself by drinking too much. Both of these stories were commentaries on Tugarin’s table manners. Recognizing the insults for what they are, the monster throws a dagger at Alyosha Popovich which his servant Yekim catches.

Still enraged, Tugarin proceeds to threaten Alyosha with strangulation, with smoke, fiery sparks, charred logs and bolts of fire. Accepting the challenge, Alyosha told Tugarin to meet him out in an open field near the Safat River.

When Alyosha arrives, Tugarin is already up in the air flying, flapping his paper-like wings. Alyosha then prays for rain and in the ensuing rainfall that happens; Tugarin falls to the ground as his wings are too wet and unable to support him for flight. At this point, Alyosha Popovich is said to have knocked Tugarin’s head off with a staff and sticks it on a spear. He then cuts up Tugarin’s body into small pieces and presents it to Prince Vladimir’s court. When Vladimir’s wife hears of Tugarin’s death, she becomes sad and reproaches Alyosha Popovich for the death of her “dear friend.”

Did Alyosha Popovich really exist?

It’s known that Vladimir the Great, a Grand Prince of Kievan Rus’ from 980–1015 C.E. did exist and lived at the time, unifying the area and protecting it’s borders from invading Mongols and other nomads. Vladimir converted to Christianity in 988 due mainly to political motivations and Christianized Kievan Rus. This helps to explain the nature of some of the stories like Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin as the older Pagan traditions and religions giving way in favor of Christianity.

The existence of Dobrynya Nikititch and Ilya Muromets as historical people has also been proven by scientists and scholars. Some historians certainly think there is merit to the stories of Alyosha Popovich having come from Pyriatyn. The evidence for this comes from surviving stories where Alyosha’s mother watches her son march against the enemy in the market square of Pyriatyn. In that story, Pyriatyn is a border city of Old Rus and could easily be a place where many nomads would have been fought off. Literature also places Pyriatyn as Alyosha Popovich’s home town. What’s also considered interesting is that the surname of Popovich is still found among families living in present day Pyryatyn.

Different chronicles also record Alyosha’s exploits. Such as the Nikon Chronicle where he distinguishes himself again the Polovtsy, killing the Polovtsian Khan and his brother. Around 1201, Alyosha Popovich is mentioned again in the fight against Pechenegs. In the Tver Chronicles, it’s recorded that Alyosha fought at a famous battle on the Kalka river in 1223 and it is there that he is killed along side seventeen other champions.

Tugarin Zmeyevich

This monster from Russian bylinas and folktales is known by many names such as Zmey Tugarin, Zmey Tugaretin, Zmeishche Tugarishche, the Worm’s Son and others. Worm, for those who don’t know is an archaic term and name for dragons and can also be spelt Wyrm to distinguish it from earth worms. This monster has come to personify evil, cruelty and appears in the form of a bogatyr with draconic features and temperament.

Tugarin is often described as hissing like a snake and wearing numerous deadly and fiery serpents on him. He is capable of choking people with smoke and throwing bolts of fire at his enemies in order to burn them to death. Some folklore sources say he is also able to take the form of a dragon and fly, but when it rains, his paper-like wings are unable to support him aloft in the sky. Tugarin’s horse is also described as sounding like a beast instead of neighing.

For Folklorists, Tugarin is a clear chthonic symbol of the ancient dragon slaying myths and the dangers of the steppes that show the transition from older Pagan religions to Christianity. The name of Tugarin is also decidedly Turkish in origin and would easily explain how some myths and retellings of the story of Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin Zmyevich, that Tugarin changes from a dragon to a Mongol Khan.

Andromeda

Andromeda

Etymology – “Ruler of Men”

Pronunciation: {an-drahm’-uh-duh}

As found in Greek legends, the story of Andromeda begins with King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, the rulers of ancient Aethiopia. Cassiopeia in her arrogance, boasted how her daughter, Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids. This kind of attitude of extreme arrogance and pride, especially when a person claims being better than the gods, creates what’s known as hubris.

Offended by Cassiopeia’s remarks, the Nereids approached Poseidon and complained, asking him to punish this mortal woman. Poseidon agreed and he sent a flood as well as the sea monster Cetus to destroy the coastline of Aethiopia.

After consulting with the oracle of Ammon, Cepheus was told that he would be able to end the destruction of his country by giving up his daughter Andromeda in sacrifice to Cetus. At the urging of his people, Cepheus had Andromeda chained to a rock by the sea to await her fate.

Luckily for innocent Andromeda, the hero Perseus was flying by over head on his way home from his recent quest to slay the gorgon Medusa, when he spotted her. When Perseus found out the situation, he waited at the rock with Andromeda until Cetus arrived to claim her. With the aid of Hades’ helmet of invisibility, Perseus stayed hidden and used Medusa’s Head to slay the sea monster when it came in close, turning it to stone.

The monster slain, Perseus then claimed his right to marry Andromeda. Given how he had rescued her, both Cepheus and Cassiopia readily agreed to this as not only was their daughter saved, but so was their kingdom.

The story doesn’t completely end there as it seems Andromeda had also been promised to her uncle Phineus to marry. This wouldn’t have been disputed or contested if Phineus had actually been the one to save Andromeda and slay Cetus himself. So Phineus picked a fight with Perseus about his right to marry Andromeda at the wedding.

After slaying a Gorgon and a Sea Monster, a mere mortal man is no challenge for Perseus who once again pulls out Medusa’s head and turns Phineus to stone. With that final problem solved, Andromeda accompanies Perseus back to his home Tiryns in Argos where they eventually founded the Perseid dynasty.

Some accounts give that Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons and two daughters. Others place this count a little differently saying its seven children all together, six sons and one daughter. Most accounts agree that the eldest son, Perses founds his own kingdom and becomes the ancestor to the kings of Persia.

Years later, when Andromeda dies, the goddess Athena places her in the heavens to become a constellation next to Perseus. Other constellations of Cassiopeia, Cepheus and Cetus also immortalize and commemorate this story.

Aethiopia or Ethiopia?

The accounts can vary and much of this owes to some lack of clarity among the ancient Greek Scholars and Historians. Homer is the first to have used the term Aethiopia in his Iliad and Odyssey. Greek historian Herodotus uses the name Aethiopia to describe all of the inhabited lands south of Egypt. The name also features in Greek mythology, where it is sometimes associated with a kingdom said to be seated at Joppa, (what would be modern day Tel-Aviv) or it is placed elsewhere in Asia Minor such as Lybia, Lydia, the Zagros Mountains and even India.

Modern day Ethopia is located on the horn of Africa and has some tentative ties to the legend of Andromeda. The Egyptian priest Manetho, who lived around 300 BCE called Egypt’s Kushite dynasty the “Aethiopian dynasty.” And with the translation of the Hebrew Bible or Torah into Greek around 200 BCE, the Hebrew usage of “Kush” and Kushite” became the Greek “Aethiopia” and “Aethiopians.” This again changes later to the modern English use of “Ethiopia” and “Ethiopians” with the arrival of the King James Bible.

Given the way that Countries, Empires, Kingdoms and Nations rise and fall, expand and shrink, it’s very well possible that both Aethiopia and Ethiopia are one and the same and that modern day Tel-Aviv once known as Joppa (Jaffa) may have once been part of Ethiopia. There is a lot of history that has been lost to the sands of time that can only be guessed at and speculated upon.

Western Astronomy

The constellation known as Andromeda is one of 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy in his book, Almagest. Today it remains as one of the 88 current or modern constellations. Arab astronomers were aware of Ptolemy’s constellations, but they included a second constellation representing a fish at Andromeda’s feet. An Arab constellation called “al-Hut,” the fish is composed of several stars in Andromeda and from several stars in Pisces.

The Andromeda constellation is found on the northern hemisphere where it can most likely be seen during autumn evenings, along with several other constellations named after characters in the myth of Perseus. Because of its northern location, Andromeda is only visible north of the 40° south latitude line and for observers farther south it lies below the horizon. It is one of the largest constellations found in the night sky.

In English, Andromeda is known as the “Lady in Chains” or “the Chained Woman.” It is known as Mulier Catenata in Latin and al-Mar’at al Musalsalah in Arabic. This constellation has also been called Persea, meaning “Perseus’s wife” or Cepheis, meaning “Cepheus’s daughter,” all names that relate this constellation back to its Greek legend of Perseus.

Chinese Astronomy

In traditional Chinese astronomy, nine stars from Andromeda along with seven stars from Pisces, form an elliptical constellation called Kui or “Legs.” This constellation is either represented as the foot of a walking person or a wild boar. The star called Gamma Andromedae and ten neighboring stars were called “Tianda jiangjun.” They represented a great general of the heavens and his ten subordinate officers. The ten stars in the north and center of Andromed formed Tianjiu, a stable from which horses were dispatched for riders. Lastly, other stars in the western part of Andromeda form a constellation known as Tengshe, a flying snake.

The name of the Andromeda constellation in modern Chinese is xiān nǚ zuò, meaning “the immortal woman/fairy constellation”. This constellation lies across two cardinal points or directions which are symbolized by the Black Tortoise of the North and the White Tiger of the West of Chinese astrology.

Hindu Mythology

Interestingly enough too, there is a very similar figure in ancient Sanskrit texts that depict an Antarmada chained to a rock, as in the Greek myth. Scholars believe that the Hindu and Greek astrological myths were closely linked; one piece of evidence cited is the similarity between the names “Antarmada” and “Andromeda”.

Mesopotamian Mythology

Many people are familiar with the story of Andromeda and her strong connection in Greek traditions. The story and constellation probably go back even further as there is also a similar female figure in Babylonian astronomy. The stars that make up the constellation of Pisces and the middle portion of Andromeda formed a constellation representing a fertility goddess, sometimes called Anunitum or the Lady of the Heavens.

Andromeda is also associated with the Mesopotamian creation story of Tiamat, the goddess of Chaos. She bore many demons for her husband, Apsu, but eventually decided to destroy them in a war that ended when Marduk killed her. He used her body to create the constellations as markers of time for humans.

Micronesian Mythology

In the Marshall Islands, the constellations of Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Triangulum, and Aries are all part of a same greater constellation representing a porpoise. Andromeda’s bright stars form the body of the porpoise; Cassiopeia represents its tail and Aries its head.

Polynesian Mythology

In the Tuamotu islands, Andromeda’s stars, Alpha Andromedae are called Takurua-tuki-hanga-ruki and Beta Andromedae was called Piringa-o-Tautu.

The Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy, which naturally enough gets its name from the Andromeda Constellation, is also found here. The Persian astronomer, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first wrote about the Andromeda Galaxy in his “Book of Fixed Stars” around 964. Star charts of this period labeled it as the Little Cloud. The first telescopic observations were done by German astronomer Simon Marius on December 15, 1612. And the first photographs were taken in 1887 by Isaac Roberts from his private observatory in Sussex, England.

The Andromeda Galaxy is approaching the Milky Way at a rate of about 100 to 140 kilometers per second. That is roughly 400 light-years every million years. At that rate, the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies are expected to collide in about 4.5 billion years. What’s likely to happen? No one knows for sure, though there is speculation among the Science-Minded that the two galaxies will merge together to form a giant elliptical galaxy. But not to worry, such collisions and merging of galaxies are fairly common in the universe.

Andromedids

Every November there is a meteor shower that has come to be known as the Andromedids due to where it appears to originate from, the Andromeda constellation. This is a weak meteor shower in that they are slow, averaging fewer than two meteors per hour. Observers of the Andromedids have noted meteors also coming in from other constellations. The last and biggest Andromedids meteor shower was in December of 2011. Astronomers have predicted based on this and past observed history, that there will be another outburst or large meteor showers in 2018, 2023 and 2036.