Libra in mythology
Posted by Fredsvenn on June 22, 2015
An astrological age is a time period in astrologic mythology which astrologers claim parallel major changes in the development of Earth’s inhabitants, particularly relating to culture, society and politics. There are twelve astrological ages corresponding to the twelve zodiacal signs in western astrology. At the completion of one cycle of twelve astrological ages, the cycle is claimed to repeat itself every 25,920 years.
There are two myths about the effects upon the world due to the astrological ages. Some astrologers believe the changes upon Earth are caused and marked by the influences of the given astrological sign associated with its Age, while other astrologers think that the ages simply happen in that sequence. Astrologers cannot agree upon exact dates for the beginning or ending of the ages, with given dates varying hundreds of years.
Sidereal and tropical are astrological terms used to describe two different definitions of a “year”. They are also used as terms for two systems of ecliptic coordinates used in astrology. Both divide the ecliptic into a number of “signs” named after constellations, but while the sidereal system defines the signs based on the fixed stars, the tropical system defines it based on the position of vernal equinox (i.e., the intersection of the ecliptic with the celestial equator).
Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the two systems do not remain fixed relative to each other but drift apart by about 1.4 arc degrees per century. The tropical system was adopted during the Hellenistic period and remains prevalent in Western astrology. A sidereal system is used in Hindu astrology, and in some 20th century systems of Western astrology.
While classical tropical astrology is based on the orientation of the Earth relative to the Sun and planets of the solar system, sidereal astrology deals with the position of the Earth relative to both of these as well as the stars of the celestial sphere. The actual positions of certain fixed stars, as well as their constellations, are an additional consideration in the horoscope.
In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body’s rotational axis. In particular, it can refer to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation, which, similar to a wobbling top, traces out a pair of cones joined at their apices in a cycle of approximately 26,000 years. The term “precession” typically refers only to this largest part of the motion; other changes in the alignment of Earth’s axis – nutation and polar motion – are much smaller in magnitude.
Earth’s precession was historically called the precession of the equinoxes, because the equinoxes moved westward along the ecliptic relative to the fixed stars, opposite to the yearly motion of the Sun along the ecliptic. This term is still used in non-technical discussions, that is, when detailed mathematics are absent.
Historically, the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes is mostly attributed to Hellenistic-era (2nd century BC) astronomer Hipparchus, although there are alternative suggestions claiming earlier discovery. The classical zodiac was introduced in the neo-Babylonian period (around the seventh to the sixth century BCE). At the time, the precession of the equinoxes had not been discovered. Classical Hellenistic astrology consequently developed without consideration of the effects of precession.
Traditional Hindu astrology is based on the sidereal or visible zodiac, accounting for the shift of the equinoxes by a correction called ayanamsa. The difference between the Vedic and the Western zodiacs is currently around 24 degrees. This corresponds to a separation of about 1,700 years, when the vernal equinox was approximately at the center of the constellation Aries (“First Point of Aries”), and the tropical and sidereal zodiacs coincided (around AD 290, or at 23.86° as of 2000).
The separation is believed to have taken place in the centuries following Ptolemy (second century AD), apparently going back to Indo-Greek transmission of the system. But earlier Greek astronomers like Eudoxus spoke of a vernal equinox at 15° in Aries, while later Greeks spoke of a vernal equinox at 8° and then 0° in Aries (cf. p. 16, S. Jim Tester in ref.), which suggests the use of a sidereal zodiac in Greece before Ptolemy and Hipparchus.
Ptolemy, writing some 250 years after Hipparchus, was aware of the effects of precession. He opted for a definition of the zodiac based on the point of the vernal equinox, i.e., the tropical system. While Ptolemy noted that Ophiuchus is in contact with the ecliptic, he was aware that the 12 signs were just conventional names for 30-degree segments. The Hindu Jyotisha system opted for defining the zodiac based on the fixed stars, i.e., directly tied to the eponymous zodiacal constellations, unlike Western astrological systems.
With improvements in the ability to calculate the gravitational force between and among planets during the first half of the nineteenth century, it was recognized that the ecliptic itself moved slightly, which was named planetary precession, as early as 1863, while the dominant component was named lunisolar precession. Their combination was named general precession, instead of precession of the equinoxes.
Lunisolar precession is caused by the gravitational forces of the Moon and Sun on Earth’s equatorial bulge, causing Earth’s axis to move with respect to inertial space. Planetary precession (an advance) is due to the small angle between the gravitational force of the other planets on Earth and its orbital plane (the ecliptic), causing the plane of the ecliptic to shift slightly relative to inertial space. Lunisolar precession is about 500 times greater than planetary precession.
In addition to the Moon and Sun, the other planets also cause a small movement of Earth’s axis in inertial space, making the contrast in the terms lunisolar versus planetary misleading, so in 2006 the International Astronomical Union recommended that the dominant component be renamed, the precession of the equator, and the minor component be renamed, precession of the ecliptic, but their combination is still named general precession. Many references to the old terms exist in publications predating the change.
A prime meridian is a meridian (a line of longitude) in a geographical coordinate system at which longitude is defined to be 0°. A prime meridian and its opposite in a 360°-system, the 180th meridian (at 180° longitude), form a great circle. This great circle divides the sphere, e.g., the Earth, into two hemispheres. If one uses directions of East and West from a defined prime meridian, then they can be called Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere.
A prime meridian is ultimately arbitrary, unlike an equator, which is determined by the axis of rotation—and various conventions have been used or advocated in different regions and throughout history.
The word equinox comes from this definition, derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). An equinox occurs twice a year, around 20 March and 22 September. The word itself has several related definitions. The oldest meaning is the day when daytime and night are of approximately equal duration.
The equinox is not exactly the same as the day when period of daytime and night are of equal length for two reasons. Firstly, sunrise, which begins daytime, occurs when the top of the Sun’s disk rises above the eastern horizon. At that instant, the disk’s center is still below the horizon. Secondly, Earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight. As a result, an observer sees daylight before the first glimpse of the Sun’s disk above the horizon.
To avoid this ambiguity, the word equilux is sometimes used to mean a day on which the periods of daylight and night are equal. Times of sunset and sunrise vary with an observer’s location (longitude and latitude), so the dates when day and night are closest together in length depend on location.
The other definitions are based on several related simultaneous astronomical events, and refer either to the events themselves or to the days on which they occur. These events are the reason that the period of daytime and night are approximately equal on the day of an equinox.
An equinox occurs when the plane of Earth’s Equator passes the center of the Sun. The two annual equinoxes are the only times when the subsolar point—the place on Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is exactly overhead—is on the Equator, and, consequently, the Sun is at zenith over the Equator. The subsolar point crosses the equator, moving northward at the March equinox and southward at the September equinox.
At an equinox, the Sun is at one of the two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point (RA = 00h 00m 00s and longitude = 0°) and the autumnal point (RA = 12h 00m 00s and longitude = 180°).
The equinoxes are the only times when the solar terminator is perpendicular to the Equator. As a result, the northern and southern Hemispheres are equally illuminated. A number of traditional spring and autumn (harvest) festivals are celebrated on the date of the equinoxes.
Vernal equinox and autumnal equinox are classical names with direct derivatives of Latin (ver = spring and autumnus = autumn). These names are based on the seasons, and can be ambiguous since seasons of the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere are opposites, and the vernal equinox of one hemisphere is the autumnal equinox of the other.
March equinox, also known as the spring equinox, and September equinox, also known as the fall equinox, are names referring to the times of the year when such equinoxes occur. These usages are gaining popularity since they are without the ambiguity as to which hemisphere is the context, but are still only appropriate to cultures using the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar year or their linguistic counterparts. Northward equinox and southward equinox are names referring to the apparent motion of the Sun at the times of the equinox.
Vernal point and autumnal point are the points on the celestial sphere where the Sun is located on the vernal equinox and autumnal equinox respectively. Usually this terminology is fixed for the Northern hemisphere.
The First Point of Libra and Aries
The First point of Aries (also known as the Cusp of Aries and as the vernal equinox point) and first point of Libra (also known as the Cusp of Libra and as the autumn equinox point) are names formerly used by astronomers and now used by navigators and astrologers.
Navigational ephemeris tables record the geographic position of the First Point of Aries as the reference for position of navigational stars. It is considered to be the celestial prime meridian from which right ascensions are calculated.
The vernal point, used for the time of this occurrence and for the direction in space where the Sun is seen at that time, which is the origin of some celestial coordinate systems in the ecliptic coordinate system, is the origin of the ecliptic longitude; in the equatorial coordinate system, the vernal point is the origin of the right ascension.
Strictly speaking, at the equinox the Sun’s ecliptic longitude is zero. Its latitude will not be exactly zero since the Earth is not exactly in the plane of the ecliptic. The ecliptic is defined by the center of mass of the Earth and Moon combined. The modern definition of equinox is the instants when the Sun’s apparent longitude is 0° (northward equinox) or 180° (southward equinox). This definition is used when astronomical almanacs are computed.
The First Point of Aries and the First Point of Libra, located exactly 180° from it, is the two points on the celestial sphere at which the celestial equator meets the ecliptic plane. Over its year-long journey through the constellations, the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north at the First Point of Aries, and from north to south at the First Point of Libra.
Because of the precession of the Earth’s axis, the position of the vernal and autumn points on the celestial sphere changes over time, and the equatorial and the ecliptic coordinate systems change accordingly. Thus when specifying celestial coordinates for an object, one has to specify at what time the vernal point and the celestial equator are taken. That reference time is called the equinox of date. The autumnal equinox is at ecliptic longitude 180° and at right ascension 12h.
Due to the precession of the equinoxes, the astrological signs of the tropical zodiac where these equinoxes are located are identically affected and thus also no longer correspond with the actual constellations once ascribed to them, and are the basis for the concept of astrological ages.
The vernal and autumnal equinoxes are two points at which the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator. At the vernal equinox, the sun is moving along the ecliptic in a northeasterly direction. It is the moment at which the sun passes through this point on or about March 21, marking the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.
At the autumnal equinox, the sun is moving along the ecliptic in a southeasterly direction. It is the moment at which the sun passes through this point on or about September 23, marking the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.
The equinoxes are currently in the constellations of Pisces (vernal) and Virgo (autumn). In sidereal astrology (notably Hindu astrology), by contrast, the first point of Aries remains aligned with Ras Hammel “the head of the ram”, i.e. the Aries constellation.
While the First Point of Aries, named for the constellation of Aries (meaning “ram”) because the Sun crossed the celestial equator from south to north in Aries more than two millennia ago, now lies in the constellation of Pisces, and will move into Aquarius by around 2600 AD, the First Point of Libra lies within the boundaries of Virgo very close to β Virginis, but will pass into the neighbouring constellation of Leo around the year 2440.
The Sun now appears in Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30º), from late April through mid May, though the constellation is still associated with the beginning of spring. Hipparchus defined it as a point south of Gamma Arietis in 130 BC.
The First Point of Aries is so called because, when Hipparchus defined it in 130 BCE, it was located in the eastern extreme of the constellation of Aries, near its border with Pisces and the star γ Arietis. Due to the Sun’s westward movement across the sky throughout the year, this eastern end of Aries was the point at which the Sun entered the constellation, hence the name First Point of Aries.
Due to Earth’s axial precession, this point gradually moves eastwards at a rate of about one degree every 72 years. This means that, since the time of Hipparchus, it has shifted across the sky by about 30°, and is currently located within Pisces, near its border with Aquarius. Currently, the closest major star to the First Point of Aries is λ Piscium, located at (22h 52m 37s, −07° 34′ 47″).
According to the Tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox and crosses the celestial equator south to north, which occurs around March 21. In sidereal astrology (notably Hindu astrology), by contrast, the first point of Aries remains aligned with Ras Hammel “the head of the ram”, i.e. the Aries constellation.
Because the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to go around the Sun, the precise time of the equinox is not the same each year, and generally will occur about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day (backwards) on leap years. Since 1900 the vernal equinox date ranged from March 20 at 08h (2000) to April 21 at 19h (1903).
The upper culmination of the vernal point is considered the start of the sidereal day for the observer. The hour angle of the vernal point is, by definition, the observer’s sidereal time. The same is true in western tropical astrology: the vernal equinox is the first point (i.e. the start) of the sign of Aries. In this system, it is of no significance that the equinoxes shift over time with respect to the fixed stars.
Using the current official IAU constellation boundaries – and taking into account the variable precession speed and the rotation of the ecliptic – the equinoxes shift through the constellations as follows (expressed in astronomical year numbering in which the year 0 = 1 BC, −1 = 2 BC, etc.):
The March equinox passed from Taurus into Aries in year −1865, passed into Pisces in year −67, will pass into Aquarius in year 2597 will pass into Capricornus in year 4312. It passed along (but not into) a corner of Cetus on 0°10′ distance in year 1489. The September equinox passed from Libra into Virgo in year −729, will pass into Leo in year 2439.
Aries is one of the constellations of the zodiac. The Sun now appears in Aries from late April through mid May, though the constellation is still associated with the beginning of spring. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign between March 21 and April 19 each year. Under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits Aries from 15 April to 15 May (approximately). Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Arians or Ariens.
It was originally defined in ancient texts as a specific pattern of stars, and has remained a constellation since ancient times; it now includes the ancient pattern as well as the surrounding stars. It is located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram and its symbol is ♈, representing a ram’s horns.
Although Aries came to represent specifically the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece and associated with the golden ram of Greek mythology that rescued Phrixos and Helle on orders from Hermes, taking him to the land of Colchis, it has represented a ram since late Babylonian times.
Before that, the stars of Aries formed a farmhand, known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”. Different cultures have incorporated the stars of Aries into different constellations including twin inspectors in China and a porpoise in the Marshall Islands.
In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic.
Although likely compiled in the 12th or 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.
Aries was not fully accepted as a constellation until classical times. The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC. On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present.
The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.
By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.
In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.
During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.
Historically, Aries has been depicted as a crouched, wingless ram with its head turned towards Taurus. Ptolemy asserted in his Almagest that Hipparchus depicted Alpha Arietis as the ram’s muzzle, though Ptolemy did not include it in his constellation figure. Instead, it was listed as an “unformed star”, and denoted as “the star over the head”.
John Flamsteed, in his Atlas Coelestis, followed Ptolemy’s description by mapping it above the figure’s head. Flamsteed followed the general convention of maps by depicting Aries lying down.
Astrologically, Aries has been associated with the head and its humors, a system of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by the Indian Ayurveda system of medicine, Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person — known as humors or humours — directly influences their temperament and health.
The humoralist system of medicine is highly individualistic, for each individual patient was said to have their own unique humoral composition. Moreover, it resembled a holistic approach to medicine as the link between mental and physical processes.
From Hippocrates onward, the humoral theory was adopted by Greek, Roman and Persian physicians, and became the most commonly held view of the human body among European physicians until the advent of modern medical research in the nineteenth century. The concept has not been used in medicine since then.
The four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile (Greek: melaina chole), yellow bile (Greek: chole), phlegm (Greek: phlegma), and blood (Greek: haima), and each corresponds to one of the traditional four temperaments. A humor is also referred to as a cambium (pl. cambia or cambiums).
It was strongly associated with Mars, both the planet and the god. It was considered to govern Western Europe and Syria, and to indicate a strong temper in a person.
Pisces (♓), Ancient Greek: “Ikhthues”, the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation, and Virgo, spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude.
Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area on average between February 19 and March 20, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called “Pisceans.”
The symbol of the fishes is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Vishnu, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, and Typhon. According to new agers and some tropical astrologers, the current astrological age is the Age of Pisces, while others maintain that it is the Age of Aquarius.
While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from elliptical longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox is in the Pisces constellation.
Aquarius (♒) (Greek: “Hydrokhoös”), is a summer constellation in the northern hemisphere, found near Pisces and Cetus. It is especially notable as the radiant for four meteor showers, the largest of which is the Delta Aquarid meteor shower in late July and early August.
Under the tropical zodiac, the sun is in Aquarius typically between January 21 and February 18, while under the Sidereal Zodiac, the sun is in Aquarius from approximately February 15 to March 14, depending on leap year. It contained the winter solstice in the Early Bronze Age.
Aquarius, situated between Capricornus and Pisces, is the eleventh astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation Aquarius. It is one of the oldest of the recognized constellations along the zodiac (the sun’s apparent path), and was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century AD astronomer Ptolemy. It remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It is found in a region often called the Sea due to its profusion of constellations with watery associations such as Cetus the whale, Pisces the fish, and Eridanus the river.
Its name is Latin for “water-carrier” or “cup-carrier”, and its symbol is a representation a representation of water. In Greek mythology, Aquarius is sometimes associated with Troy. The water carrier represented by the zodiacal constellation Aquarius is Ganymede, a young Phrygian prince, the son of Tros, king of Troy (according to Lucian, he was also son of Dardanus), and supposedly the most beautiful young man of Troy.
The myth has is that Ganymede was out tending to his fathers sheep in a grassy area on Mount Ida when Zeus took interest in this young beautiful boy. It was the social norm for an older man to take a “young boy” (anywhere from 12 to 19) as a lover in ancient Greece. In Ganymede’s case, he was probably around 15 or so when the considerably older Zeus found him irresistibly beautiful and decided that he wanted him for himself.
The king of gods became enamored of the boy, whisking Ganymede away to the heavens. He turned himself into an eagle, flew down to the mountain in the form of a large bird and carried Ganymede to Mount Ide where Ganymede would have to serve drinks to Zeus. But one day, Ganymede didn’t want to serve drinks anymore, so he poured out Zeus wine and water which caused a great flood. It was then said instead of Zeus getting mad he gave Ganymede immortality and gave him the constellation Aquarius. Ever since, the boy has served as cupbearer to the gods.
Ovid has Orpheus sing the tale: “The king of the gods was once fired with love for Phrygian Ganymede, and when that happened Jupiter found another shape preferable to his own. Wishing to turn himself into a bird, he none the less scorned to change into any save that which can carry his thunderbolts. Then without delay, beating the air on borrowed pinions, he snatched away the shepherd of Ilium, who even now mixes the winecups, and supplies Jove with nectar, to the annoyance of Juno” (Metamorphoses X 154-160).
Aquarius is identified as GU.LA (“The Great One”) in the Babylonian star catalogues and represents the god Ea-Enki himself, who is commonly depicted holding an overflowing vase. The Babylonian star-figure appears on entitlement stones and cylinder seals from the second millennium.
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water flowing into his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
In Old Babylonian astronomy, Ea-Enki was the ruler of the southernmost quarter of the Sun’s path, the “Way of Ea”, corresponding to the period of 45 days on either side of winter solstice. Aquarius was also associated with the destructive floods that the Babylonians regularly experienced, and thus was negatively connoted.
In Ancient Egypt, Aquarius was associated with the annual flood of the Nile; the banks were said to flood when Aquarius put his jar into the river, beginning spring. In the Greek tradition, the constellation became represented as simply a single vase from which a stream poured down to Piscis Austrinus. The name in the Hindu zodiac is likewise kumbha “water-pitcher”, showing that the zodiac reached India via Greek intermediaries.
In Chinese astronomy, the stream of water flowing from the Water Jar was depicted as the “Army of Yu-Lin” (Yu-lin-kiun or Yulinjun). The name “Yu-lin” means “feathers and forests”, referring to the numerous light-footed soldiers from the northern reaches of the empire represented by these faint stars.
Libra (♎) is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It occupies an area of 538 square degrees and contains three stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +65° and -90° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of June.
Libra spans the 180–210th degree of the zodiac, between 180 and 207.25 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between (northern autumnal equinox) September 23 and October 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Libra from approximately October 16 to November 17.
It is a relatively faint constellation, without any stars of first magnitude. The brightest stars Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Sigma Librae – form a quadrangle in the sky.
Alpha Librae, also known as Zubenelgenubi (“southern claw”) and Kiffa Australis (“southern pan” of the scales), is the second brightest star in the constellation. It is binary star lying about 77 light-years from the Sun.
With an apparent magnitude of 2.7, Beta Librae is the brightest star in the constellation. It is a blue dwarf approximately 160 light-years distant. The star is also known as Zubeneschamali (“the northern claw”) and Lanx Australis (“the southern scale” of the balance).
Gamma Librae is a magnitude 4 star also known as Zuben-el-Akrab (“shears of the scorpion”). Sigma Librae is a red giant also known as Brachium (“arm”), Cornu (“horn”) and Zubenalgubi (“southern claw”). It used to be part of the constellation Scorpius and had the designation Gamma Scorpii before being assigned to Libra in the 19th century.
Libra doesn’t contain any bright galaxies, but there is one that may be of interest to observers that can be spotted in a large telescope, lying next to Beta Librae. It is the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5885, with a magnitude of 11.7.
Libra is home to Gliese 581 c, the first extrasolar planet discovered orbiting its parent star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, within the star’s habitable zone. The Earth-like planet was found in 2007. Another planet orbiting the same star, Gliese 581 e is the smallest mass extrasolar planet discovered orbiting a normal star.
The personification of justice balancing the scales dates back to the Goddess Maat, and later Isis, of ancient Egypt. The Hellenic deities Themis and Dike were later goddesses of justice. Themis was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law. However, a more direct connection is to Themis’ daughter Dike, who was portrayed carrying scales.
Virgo is the second-largest constellation. It spans the 150-180th degree of the zodiac, between 152.75 and 180 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Virgo from September 17 to October 17. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Virgos or Virgoans.
According to the Babylonian Mul.Apin, which dates from 1000–686 BCE, Virgo, the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac, was known as “The Furrow”, representing the goddess Shala’s ear of grain. One star in this constellation, Spica, retains this tradition as it is Latin for “ear of grain”, one of the major products of the Mesopotamian furrow. Virgo is often portrayed carrying two sheaves of wheat, one of which is marked by the bright star Spica.
The constellation was also known as “AB.SIN” and “absinnu”. For this reason the constellation became associated with fertility. According to the figure of Virgo corresponds to two Babylonian constellations: the “Furrow” in the eastern sector of Virgo and the “Frond of Erua” in the western sector. The Frond of Erua was depicted as a goddess holding a palm-frond – a motif that still occasionally appears in much later depictions of Virgo.
The Greeks and Romans associated Virgo with their goddess of wheat/agriculture, Demeter-Ceres who is the mother of Persephone-Proserpina. Alternatively, she was sometimes identified as the virgin goddess Iustitia or Astraea, holding the scales of justice in her hand as the constellation Libra.
Another myth identifies Virgo as Erigone, the daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius, who had been favoured by Dionysus, was killed by his shepherds while they were intoxicated and Erigone hanged herself in grief; Dionysus placed the father and daughter in the stars as Boötes and Virgo respectively.
In the Middle Ages, Virgo was sometimes associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea. She was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth.
Leo (♌), originating from the constellation of Leo, is the fifth astrological sign of the zodiac. It spans the 120-150th degree of the Tropical zodiac, between 125.25 and 152.75 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between July 23 and August 22 each year, and under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun currently transits this area from approximately August 16 to September 15. The symbol of the lion is based on the Nemean Lion, a lion with an impenetrable hide.
Leo is followed by the sixth astrological sign of the zodiac Virgo (♍), the sixth astrological sign and one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra). It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica.
The Scorpius astrological sign
Scorpius is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for scorpion, and its symbol is ♏. It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius, commonly represented as a centaur drawing a bow, to the east. It is a large constellation located in the southern hemisphere near the center of the Milky Way.
The Western astrological sign Scorpio of the tropical zodiac (October 23 – November 21) differs from the astronomical constellation and the Hindu astrological sign of the sidereal zodiac (November 16 – December 16).
Astronomically, the sun is in Scorpius for just six days, from November 23 to November 28. Much of the difference is due to the constellation Ophiuchus, a large constellation located around the celestial equator, which is used by only a few astrologers.
The Babylonians called this constellation MUL.GIR.TAB , the ‘Scorpion’, the sign can be literally read as ‘the (creature with) a burning sting’. In some old descriptions the constellation of Libra is treated as the Scorpion’s claws. Libra was known as the Claws of the Scorpion in Babylonian (Zibānītu (compare Arabic Zubānā)) and in Greek (χηλαι).
In Greek mythology, the myths associated with Scorpio almost invariably also contain a reference to Orion. According to one of these myths it is written that Orion boasted to goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto, that he would kill every animal on the earth. Although Artemis was known to be a hunter herself she offered protection to all creatures.
Artemis and her mother Leto sent a scorpion to deal with Orion. The pair battled and the scorpion killed Orion. However, the contest was apparently a lively one that caught the attention of the king of the gods Zeus, who later raised the scorpion to heaven and afterwards, at the request of Artemis, did the same for Orion to serve as a reminder for mortals to curb their excessive pride.
There is also a version that Orion was better than the goddess Artemis but said that Artemis was better than he and so Artemis took a liking to Orion. The god Apollo, Artemis’s twin brother, grew angry and sent a scorpion to attack Orion. After Orion was killed, Artemis asked Zeus to put Orion up in the sky. So every winter Orion hunts in the sky, but every summer he flees as the constellation of the scorpion comes.
In another Greek story involving Scorpio without Orion, Phaeton (the mortal male offspring of Helios) went to his father, who had earlier sworn by the River Styx to give Phaeton anything he should ask for.
Phaeton wanted to drive his father’s Sun Chariot for a day. Although Helios tried to dissuade his son, Phaeton was adamant. However, when the day arrived, Phaeton panicked and lost control of the white horses that drew the chariot.
First, the Earth grew chill as Phaeton flew too high and encountered the celestial scorpion, its deadly sting raised to strike. Alarmed, he dipped the chariot too close, causing the vegetation to burn. By accident, Phaeton turned most of Africa into desert and darkened the skin of the Ethiopian nation until it was black.
Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot and Phaeton with a lightning bolt to put an end to its rampage and Phaeton plunged into the River Eridanos.
The Libra astrological sign
Libra is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. Libra belongs to the Zodiac family of constellations, along with Leo, Virgo, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. Constellations directly bordering Libra are Serpens Caput, Virgo, Hydra, Centaurus, Lupus, Scorpius and Ophiuchus.
In earlier times, Libra was represented not by a balance, but as the claws of a scorpion, Scorpius. At first Scorpio held the scales in his claw, or his claws were the scales. Ancient Sumerians called the constellation ZIB-BA AN-NA, meaning “the balance of heaven”, and it is from this that the Arabs got the name Zuben.
For a time, the constellation was represented by scorpion claws because of an error in translation of the Arabic word “zubana” and Akkadian word “zibanitu,” both of which can stand for “weighing scale” as well as “scorpion.” The Zuben- prefix in the names of the stars of Libra is from the Arabic word for ‘claw’.
In ancient times, scales had a shape similar to that of a scorpion hung upside down. As a result, the constellation was known as Chelae Scorpionis (“claws of a scorpion”) and was not identified with scales until the 1st century BC, in ancient Rome. The Romans created the constellation, Chelae, “claws”, a common Roman title for Libra.
Its name means “weighing scales” in Latin. Hence it seems that the Romans revived a constellation that existed before Greek times. The Chinese called the constellation Show Sing, “the Star of Longevity,” in ancient times, but later renamed it to Tien Ching, “the Celestial Balance.“
Libra is one of the three zodiac air signs, the others being Gemini and Aquarius. Personality traits often associated with people born under the sign of Libra include: harmonious, seeking justice and balance, intellectual, refined and concerned with relationships.
Romans considered it to be a favourable constellation because they believed that the Moon was in Libra when the city was founded. Today, Libra is depicted as the scales held by Astraea (Dike), the Greek goddess of justice, associated with the neighbouring constellation Virgo.
Venus – Constellation
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days, spending about 18.75 days in each sign of the zodiac. Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky, the Moon being the brightest. It is usually beheld as a “sister” or “twin”planet to Earth.
It has no natural satellite. It is one of the four terrestrial planets in the Solar System, meaning that, like Earth, it is a rocky body. In size and mass, it is similar to Earth, and is often described as Earth’s.
After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows. Because Venus is an inferior planet from Earth, it never appears to venture far from the Sun: its elongation reaches a maximum of 47.8°.
The planet Venus in medicine is associated with the lumbar region, the veins, parathyroids, throat and kidneys. Venus was thought to be moderately warm and moist and was associated with the phlegmatic humor. In modern astrology, Venus is the ruler of the second and seventh houses.
Venus is the planet of Friday. In languages deriving from Latin, such as Romanian, Spanish, French, and Italian, the word for Friday often resembles the word Venus (vineri, viernes, vendredi and “venerdì” respectively). Dante Alighieri associated Venus with the liberal art of rhetoric.
In Chinese astrology, Venus is associated with the element metal, which is unyielding, strong and persistent. In Indian astrology, Venus is known as Shukra and represents wealth, pleasure and reproduction. In Norse Paganism, the planet is associated to Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility.
The adjective Venusian is commonly used for items related to Venus, though the Latin adjective is the rarely used Venerean; the archaic Cytherean is still occasionally encountered. Venus is the only planet in the Solar System that is named after a female figure.
(Three dwarf planets—Ceres, Eris and Haumea—along with many of the first discovered asteroids and some moons (such as the Galilean moons) also have feminine names. Earth and the Moon also have feminine names in many languages—Gaia/Terra, Selene/Luna—but the female mythological figures who personified them were named after them, not the other way around.)
The astronomical symbol for Venus is the same as that used in biology for the female sex: a circle with a small cross beneath. The Venus symbol also represents femininity, and in Western alchemy stood for the metal copper. Polished copper has been used for mirrors from antiquity, and the symbol for Venus has sometimes been understood to stand for the mirror of the goddess.
Venus – Goddess
Throughout history and cultures, the planet has been of remarkable importance as an especial object of observation, reflection and projection. Such developments in manifestations of human thought reflect the planet’s image as a result of early observations of Venus and their impact on culture and science.
Popular beliefs and observations resulted in different and in parts similar patterns in mythology as well as phenomenological descriptions, attributions and depictions, e.g. in astrology. Venus is the ruling planet of Libra and Taurus and is exalted in Pisces (♓), Ancient Greek: “Ikhthues”, the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation, and Virgo.
Venus is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus, the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and desire, famous for the passions she could stir among the gods.
Astrologically, Venus is associated with the principles of harmony, beauty, balance, feelings and affections and the urge to sympathize and unite with others. It is involved with the desire for pleasure, comfort and ease. It governs romantic relations, marriage and business partnerships, sex (the origin of the words ‘venery’ and ‘venereal’), the arts, fashion and social life. The 1st-century poet Marcus Manilius described Venus as generous and fecund and the lesser benefic.
Her cults may represent the religiously legitimate charm and seduction of the divine by mortals, in contrast to the formal, contractual relations between most members of Rome’s official pantheon and the state, and the unofficial, illicit manipulation of divine forces through magic. The ambivalence of her function is suggested in the etymological relationship of the root *venes- with Latin venenum (poison, venom), in the sense of “a charm, magic philtre”.
In Roman mythology, Venus was the mother of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.
The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart Aphrodite for Roman art and Latin literature. In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus becomes one of the most widely referenced deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality.
In the interpretatio romana of the Germanic pantheon during the early centuries AD, Venus became identified with the Germanic goddess Frijjo, giving rise to the loan translation “Friday” for dies Veneris.
The historical cognate of the dawn goddess in Germanic tradition, however, would be Ostara (Old English: Ēastre, Northumbrian dialect Ēostre; Old High German: *Ôstara), a Germanic divinity who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter.
Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
Old English Ēostre continues into modern English as Easter and derives from Proto-Germanic *austrōn meaning ‘dawn’, itself a descendent of the Proto-Indo-European root *aus-, meaning ‘to shine’ (modern English east also derives from this root).
The goddess name Ēostre is therefore linguistically cognate with numerous other dawn goddesses attested among Indo-European language-speaking peoples. These cognates lead to the reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess.
The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture details that “a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn is supported both by the evidence of cognate names and the similarity of mythic representation of the dawn goddess among various [Indo-European] groups” and that “all of this evidence permits us to posit a [Proto-Indo-European] *haéusōs ‘goddess of dawn’ who was characterized as a “reluctant” bringer of light for which she is punished.
In three of the [Indo-European] stocks, Baltic, Greek and Indo-Iranian, the existence of a [Proto-Indo-European] ‘goddess of the dawn’ is given additional linguistic support in that she is designated the ‘daughter of heaven'”
Astraea was a daughter of Astraeus, an astrological deity and the Titan-god of the dusk, and Eos, a Titaness and the goddess of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the Oceanus.
Some also associate Astraeus with the winds, as he is the father of the four Anemoi/wind deities. He is also sometimes associated with Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds, since winds often swell up around dusk.
In Hesiod’s Theogony and in the Bibliotheca, Astraeus is a second-generation Titan, descended from Crius and Eurybia. However, Hyginus wrote that he was descended directly from Tartarus and Gaia, and referred to him as one of the Gigantes.
Appropriately, as god of the dusk, Astraeus married Eos, goddess of the dawn. Together as nightfall and daybreak they produced many children who are associated with what occurs in the sky during twilight.
They had many sons, the four Anemoi (“Winds”): Boreas, Notus, Eurus, and Zephyrus, and the five Astra Planeta (“Wandering Stars”, i.e. planets): Phainon (Saturn), Phaethon (Jupiter), Pyroeis (Mars), Eosphoros/Hesperos (Venus), and Stilbon (Mercury). A few sources mention one daughter, Astraea, the goddess of innocence and, sometimes, justice.
The dawn goddess Eos is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of Helios, god of the sun, and Selene, goddess of the moon, “who shine upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless gods who live in the wide heaven.” Hesiod told in Theogony (371-374). The generation of Titans preceded all the familiar deities of Olympus, who largely supplanted them.
In Greek mythology, Hyperion (“The High-One”) was one of the twelve Titan children of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky or Heaven) who, led by Cronus, overthrew Uranus and were themselves later overthrown by the Olympians. With his sister, the Titaness Theia, Hyperion fathered Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn).
As the father of Helios, Hyperion was regarded as the “first principle” by Emperor Julian, though his relevance in Julian’s notions of theurgy is unknown.
In Greek mythology, Theia (sometimes rendered Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa “wide-shining”, is a Titaness and a goddess of the moon. The name Theia alone means simply “goddess” or “divine”; Theia Euryphaessa brings overtones of extent ( eurys, “wide”) and brightness (phaos, “light”). Her brother/consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).
Hesiod’s Theogony gives her an equally primal origin, a daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky). Robert Graves also relates that later Theia is referred to as the cow-eyed Euryphaessa who gave birth to Helios in myths dating to Classical Antiquity.
Once paired in later myths with her Titan brother Hyperion as her husband, “mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one” of the Homeric Hymn to Helios, was said to be the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).
Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers (rhododáktylos) or rosy forearms (rhodópēkhys) as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise. In Homer, her saffron-coloured robe is embroidered or woven with flowers; rosy-fingered and with golden arms, she is pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird.
The Roman equivalent of Eos is Aurora, also a cognate showing the characteristic Latin rhotacism. The Dawn became associated in Roman cult with Matuta, later known as Mater Matuta. She was also associated with the sea harbors and ports, and had a temple on the Forum Boarium. On June 11, the Matralia was celebrated at that temple in honor of Mater Matuta; this festival was only for women during their first marriage.
Among the Etruscans, the generative dawn-goddess was Thesan. Depictions of the dawn-goddess with a young lover became popular in Etruria in the fifth century, probably inspired by imported Greek vase-painting.
Though Etruscans preferred to show the goddess as a nurturer (Kourotrophos) rather than an abductor of young men, the late Archaic sculptural acroterion from Etruscan Cære, now in Berlin, showing the goddess in archaic running pose adapted from the Greeks, and bearing a boy in her arms, has commonly been identified as Eos and Cephalus. On an Etruscan mirror Thesan is shown carrying off a young man, whose name is inscribed as Tinthu.
Eos is cognate to Vedic Sanskrit Ushas and Latin Aurora, both goddesses of dawn, and all three considered derivatives of a PIE stem *h₂ewsṓs (later *Ausṓs), “dawn”, a stem that also gave rise to Proto-Germanic *Austrō, Old Germanic *Ōstara and Old English Ēostre/Ēastre.
This agreement leads to the reconstruction of one of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion, the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *h₂ewsṓs- or *h₂ausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *h₂ewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ἠώς (Ēōs), Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *h₂ews-tro-.
The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *h₂wes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.
The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.
As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).
J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Erigone (“early-born”) in Greek.
The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the New Year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, Eos consorted with the war god Ares and was thereupon cursed with unsatisfiable sexual desire by the jealous Aphrodite. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion and Cleitus. The good-looking Cleitus was made immortal by her. She also asked for Tithonus to be made immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, which resulted in him living forever as a helpless old man.
According to Hesiod by Tithonus Eos had two sons called Memnon and Emathion. Memnon fought among the Trojans in the Trojan War and was slain. Her image with the dead Memnon across her knees (like Thetis with the dead Achilles) is an icon that inspired the Christian Pietà.
The abduction of Cephalus had special appeal for an Athenian audience because Cephalus was a local boy, and so this myth element appeared frequently in Attic vase-paintings and was exported with them. In the literary myths Eos kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting and took him to Syria. The second-century CE traveller Pausanias was informed that the abductor of Cephalus was Hemera, goddess of Day.
Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaeton and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to her — and put a curse on them. In Hyginus’ report, Cephalus accidentally killed Procris sometime later after he mistook her for an animal while hunting; in Ovid’s Metamorphoses vii, Procris, a jealous wife, was spying on him and heard him singing to the wind, but thought he was serenading his ex-lover Eos.
The personification of justice balancing the scales dates back to the Goddess Maat or Ma’at, and later Isis, of ancient Egypt. Maat is the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice.
The word is the proper name of the divinity Maat, who was the goddess of harmony, justice, and truth represented as a young woman. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.
It was considered that she set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Maat was the norm and basic values that formed the backdrop for the application of justice that had to be carried out in the spirit of truth and fairness.
Maat dealt with the weighing of souls that took place in the underworld. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully. In the famous scene of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Anubis, using a scale, weighs the sins of a man’s heart against the feather of truth, which represents maat. If man’s heart weighs down, then he is devoured by a monster.
It is said that Maat used an ostrich feather to measure the weight of the heart, or soul, in which a person’s heart or soul lies in one pan and the ostrich feather of the goddess Maat in the other. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.
Her ideological counterpart was Isfet (meaning “injustice”, “chaos”, or “violence”; as a verb, “to do evil”). Pharaohs are often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws of the Creator.
After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat.
The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).
Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser known deity.
Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Khmun, later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes) and Shmounein in the Coptic rendering.
The Greeks related Thoth to their god Hermes due to his similar attributes and functions. One of Thoth’s titles, “Three-times great, great” was translated to the Greek Trismegistos, making Hermes Trismegistus.
Thoth’s roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (i.e. hieroglyphs) themselves.
In the underworld, Duat, Toth appeared as an ape, A’an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma’at, was exactly even.
The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. divine) law, making proper use of Ma’at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them.
Compare this to how his feminine counterpart, Ma’at was the force which maintained the Universe. He is said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivalled that of Ra and Osiris.
The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, land surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.
In Sumerian mythology, a me (Sumerian, conventionally pronounced) or ñe [ŋɛ] or parşu (Akkadian), is one of the decrees of the gods foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.
The mes were originally collected by Enlil and then handed over to the guardianship of Enki who was to broker them out to the various Sumerian centers beginning with his own city of Eridu and continuing with Ur, Meluhha, and Dilmun. This is described in the poem, “Enki and the World Order” which also details how he parcels out responsibility for various crafts and natural phenomena to the lesser gods.
We never learn what any of the mes look like, yet they are represented as physical objects of some sort. Not only are they stored in a prominent location in the E-abzu. Some of them are indeed physical objects such as musical instruments, but many are technologies like “basket weaving” or abstractions like “victory”. It is not made clear in the poem how such things can be stored, handled, or displayed.
Not all the mes are admirable or desirable traits. Alongside functions like “heroship” and “victory” we also find “the destruction of cities”, “falsehood”, and “enmity”. The Sumerians apparently considered such evils and sins an inevitable part of humanity’s lot in life, divinely and inscrutably decreed, and not to be questioned.
Ma is a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land. There seems to be some loss in records as to the transition, but the same name Ma appears again later, also tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain) the first dragon god. The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records.
Ma was a local goddess at Ma (Comana) and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele, an originally Anatolian mother goddess with a possible precursor in the earliest Neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary dated to the 6th millennium BCE.
She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.
The Hittite toponym Kummanni, the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna, the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC, located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, is considered likely to refer to the city of Comana in Cappadocia, and later Cataonia.
Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.” Several ethnic groups coexisted in the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna. The Hurrians inhabited this area at least since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Hittite expansion in the early Old Kingdom period (under Hattusili I and Mursili I) was likely to bring the Hittites and the Luwians to southeastern Anatolia.
The Luwian language was part of the Indo-European language group, with close ties to the Hittite language. Both the local Hittites and the Luwians were likely to contribute to the formation of independent state of Kizzuwatna after the weakening of the Hittite Old Kingdom.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.
The Hittite sun goddess Arinniti was later assimilated with Hebat. A prayer of Queen Puduhepa makes this explicit: “To the Sun-goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of Heaven and Earth. Sun-goddess of Arinna, thou art Queen of all countries! In the Hatti country thou bearest the name of the Sun-goddess of Arinna; but in the land which thou madest the cedar land thou bearest the name Hebat.”
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.
Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.
Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.
In Hurrian mythology, the Hutena are goddesses of fate. They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Moirai of ancient Greece. They are called the Gul Ses (Gul-Shesh; Gulshesh; Gul-ashshesh) in Hittite mythology.
The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of the harvest goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, also called Kore or Cora (“the maiden”), the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter and the queen of the underworld, in Greek myth.
Apparently like Demeter, Hannahanna disappears for a while in a fit of anger and while she is gone, cattle and sheep are stifled and mothers, both human and animal take no account of their children.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. Hebat is married to Teshub and is the mother of Sarruma and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.
It is thought that Hebat may have had a Southern Mesopotamian origin, being the deification of Kubaba, the founder and first ruler of the Third Dynasty of Kish. The name may be transliterated in different versions – Khebat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version.
In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.
Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld.
In ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito (“she of the Grain”), as the giver of food or grain and Thesmophoros ( thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; “phoros”: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer,” as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.
Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon.
In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos, the “two mistresses and the king” may be related with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.
In a Linear B (Mycenean Greek) inscription on a tablet found at Pylos dated 1400–1200 BC, John Chadwick reconstructs the name of a goddess *Preswa who could be identified with Persa, daughter of Oceanus and finds speculative the further identification with the first element of Persephone.
Persephonē is her name in the Ionic Greek of epic literature. The Homeric form of her name is Persephoneia. In other dialects she was known under variant names: Persephassa (Περσεφάσσα), Persephatta (Περσεφάττα), or simply Korē (Κόρη, “girl, maiden”).
Plato calls her Pherepapha in his Cratylus, “because she is wise and touches that which is in motion”. There are also the forms Periphona and Phersephassa. The existence of so many different forms shows how difficult it was for the Greeks to pronounce the word in their own language and suggests that the name has probably a Pre-Greek origin.
Persephatta is considered to mean “female thresher of corn,” going by “perso-” relating to Sanskrit “parsa”, “sheaf of corn” and the second constituent of the name originating in Proto-Indo European *-gʷʰn-t-ih, from the root *gʷʰen “to strike”. An alternative etymology is from pherein phonon, “to bring (or cause) death”.
In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina, and her mother, Ceres. The Romans identified Proserpina with their native fertility goddess Libera, daughter of the grain and agriculture goddess Ceres and wife to Liber. St. Augustine (AD 354 – 430) observes that Libera is concerned with female fertility, as Liber is with male fertility.
Just as Persephone was thought to be a daughter of Demeter, Romans made Proserpina a daughter of Demeter’s Roman equivalent, Ceres. Like Persephone, Proserpina is associated with the underworld realm and its ruler; and along with her mother Ceres, with the springtime growth of crops and the cycle of life, death and rebirth or renewal. Her name is a Latinisation of “Persephone”, perhaps influenced by the Latin proserpere (“to emerge, to creep forth”), with respect to the growing of grain.
Her core myths – her forcible abduction by the god of the Underworld, her mother’s search for her and her eventual but temporary restoration to the world above – are the subject of works in Roman and later art and literature. In particular, Proserpina’s seizure by the god of the Underworld – usually described as the Rape of Proserpina, or of Persephone – has offered dramatic subject matter for Renaissance and later sculptors and painters.
The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.
According to the personal mythology of Robert Graves, Persephone is not only the younger self of Demeter, she is in turn also one of three guises of the Triple Goddess — Kore (the youngest, the maiden, signifying green young grain), Persephone (in the middle, the nymph, signifying the ripe grain waiting to be harvested), and Hecate (the eldest of the three, the crone, the harvested grain), which to a certain extent reduces the name and role of Demeter to that of group name. Before her abduction, she is called Kore; and once taken she becomes Persephone (‘she who brings destruction’).
Demeter and her daughter Persephone were usually called: The goddesses often distinguished as “the older” and “the younger” (Ereshkigal and Inanna, in Sumerian mythology) in Eleusis, Demeters, in Rhodes and Sparta, the thesmophoroi, “the legislators” in the Thesmophoria, the Great Goddesses, in Arcadia, and the mistresses in Arcadia. In Mycenaean Pylos, Demeter and Persephone were probably called “queens” (wa-na-ssoi).
Demeter’s virgin daughter Persephone was abducted to the underworld by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. Demeter searched for her ceaselessly, preoccupied with her loss and her grief. The seasons halted; living things ceased their growth, then began to die. Faced with the extinction of all life on earth, Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to the underworld to bring Persephone back.
Hades agreed to release her if she had eaten nothing while in his realm; but Persephone had eaten a small number of pomegranate seeds. This bound her to Hades and the underworld for certain months of every year, either the dry Mediterranean summer, when plant life is threatened by drought, or the autumn and winter.
There are several variations on the basic myth. In the Homeric hymn to Demeter, Hecate assists in the search and later becomes Persephone’s underworld attendant.
In another, Persephone willingly and secretly eats the pomegranate seeds, thinking to deceive Hades, but is discovered and made to stay. In all versions, Persephone’s time in the underworld corresponds with the unfruitful seasons of the ancient Greek calendar, and her return to the upper world with springtime. Demeter’s descent to retrieve Persephone from the underworld is connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead.
Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD “Sun”, Assyro-Babylonian Shamash “Sun”), the god of the sun, justice, application of law, and the lord of truth, is the Sun god in Sumerian mythology, the son of the moon god Nanna and the goddess Ningal (“Great Lady/Queen”), a goddess of reeds, daughter of Enki and Ningikurga and the consort of the moon god Nanna by whom she bore Utu the sun god, Inanna, and in some texts, Ishkur.
Utu is chiefly recognised at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia. His brother and sisters are Ishkur and the twins Inanna (the goddess of the planet Venus) and Ereshkigal. His center cult was located in the city of Larsa.
He is usually depicted as wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw-edged weapon not unlike a pruning saw. It is thought that every day, Utu emerges from a mountain in the east, symbolizing dawn, and travels either via chariot or boat across the Earth, returning to a hole in a mountain in the west, symbolizing sunset.
Every night, Utu descends into the underworld to decide the fate of the dead. He is also depicted as carrying a mace, and standing with one foot on a mountain. Its symbol is “sun rays from the shoulders, and or sun disk or a saw”.
Shamash (Akkadian: Šamaš, “Sun”) was a native Mesopotamian deity and the Sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hebrew pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu. Akkadian šamaš is cognate to Syriac šemša or šimšu Hebrew šemeš and Arabic šams.
Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the “offspring of Nannar”; i.e. of the Moon-god. Sin (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: ŠEŠ.KI, NANNA), the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. He is commonly designated as En-zu, which means “lord of wisdom”.
During the period (c.2600-2400 BC) that Ur exercised a large measure of supremacy over the Euphrates valley, Sin was naturally regarded as the head of the pantheon. It is to this period that we must trace such designations of Sin as “father of the gods”, “chief of the gods”, “creator of all things”, and the like.
The “wisdom” personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor.
An important Sumerian text (“Enlil and Ninlil”) tells of the descent of Enlil and Ninlil, pregnant with Nanna/Sin, into the underworld. There, three “substitutions” are given to allow the ascent of Nanna/Sin. The story shows some similarities to the text known as “The Descent of Inanna”. The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.
Since, in an enumeration of the pantheon, Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the Moon-god that the Sun-god appears as the dependent power. Such a supposition would accord with the prominence acquired by the Moon in the calendar and in astrological calculations, as well as with the fact that the Moon-cult belongs to the nomadic and therefore earlier stage of civilization, whereas the Sun-god rises to full importance only after the agricultural stage has been reached.
Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) was a solar god in the mythology of the Urartu. He is the third god in a triad with Khaldi and Theispas and is cognate with the triad in Hinduism called Shivam.
Shiva (“The Auspicious One”), also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is one of the main deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme god within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism. He is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, and “the Destroyer” or “the Transformer” among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine.
At the highest level, Shiva is regarded as limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless. Shiva also has many benevolent and fearsome forms. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya, and in fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts.
The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, the snake Vasuki around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the trishula as his weapon and the damaru as his musical instrument. Shiva is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam, a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples.
The lingam (meaning “mark”, “sign”, or “inference”) is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples. In traditional Indian society, the linga is rather seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of God, Shiva himself.
The lingam is often represented alongside the yoni (literally “vagina” or “womb”), the symbol of the Goddess (Shakti or Devi), the Hindu Divine Mother, female creative energy. Within Shaivism, the sect dedicated to the god Shiva, the yoni symbolizes his consort.
The male counterpart of the yoni is Shivaling. Their union represents the eternal process of creation and regeneration. Since the late 19th century, some have interpreted the yoni and the lingam as aniconic representations of the vulva and a phallus respectively.
The union of lingam and yoni represents the “indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates”. The yoni is the creative power of nature and represents the goddess Shakti. The lingam stone represents Shiva, and is usually placed in the yoni. The lingam is the transcendental source of all that exists. The lingam united with the yoni represents the nonduality of immanent reality and transcendental potentiality.
Linga represents Cosmic Egg (‘Brahmanda’ in Sanskrit) who has no beginning nor end. It is believed that this changing world (‘Jagat’ in Sanskrit) merges or dissolves into the Formless in the end. So, the Linga is the simplest sign of emergence and mergence.
In Hinduism, the ancient Indian texts contain the word yoni in various contexts. In Hindu philosophy, according to Tantra, yoni is the origin of life. The yoni is also considered to be an abstract representation of Shakti and Devi, the creative force that moves through the entire universe.
However, a more direct connection is to the Hellenic deities Themis, the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom, in her aspect as the personification of the divine rightness of law, and her daughter Dike (“justice”). They were both personifications of justice. Dike ruled over human justice, while her mother Themis ruled over divine justice.
Dike, who was portrayed carrying scales, is represented in the constellation Libra which is named for the Latin name of her symbol (Scales). In ancient Greek culture she was the goddess of justice and the spirit of moral order and fair judgement based on immemorial custom, in the sense of socially enforced norms and conventional rules. Her opposite was Adikia (“injustice”), the goddess and personification of injustice.
The sculptures of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia have as their unifying iconographical conception the dikē of Zeus, and in poetry she is often the attendant (paredros) of Zeus. In the philosophical climate of late 5th century Athens, dikē could be anthropomorphised as a goddess of moral justice. She was one of the three second-generation Horae, along with Eunomia (“order”) and Eirene (“peace”).
According to Hesiod (Theogony, l. 901), she was fathered by Zeus upon his second consort, Themis. She and her mother were both personifications of justice. She is depicted as a young slender woman carrying a physical balance scale and wearing a laurel wreath while her Roman counterpart (Justitia) appears in a similar fashion but blind-folded.
Dike is often associated with Astraea (“star-maiden”), the goddess of innocence and purity. Astraea, not to be confused with Asteria, the goddess of the stars and the daughter of Coeus and Phoebe, was the virgin goddess of Innocence and purity and is always associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike.
Astraea is also one of her epithets referring to her appearance in the nearby constellation Virgo which is said to represent Astraea. This reflects her symbolic association with Astraea, who too has a similar iconography.
One of her epithets was Astraea, referring to her appearance as the constellation Virgo. According to Aratus’ account of the constellation’s origin, Dike lived upon Earth during the Golden and Silver ages, when there were no wars or diseases, men did not yet know how to sail, and men raised fine crops. They grew greedy, however, and Dike was sickened.
She proclaimed: Behold what manner of race the fathers of the Golden Age left behind them! Far meaner than themselves! but you will breed a viler progeny! Verily wars and cruel bloodshed shall be unto men and grievous woe shall be laid upon them.
—Aratus, Phaenomena 123
Astraea, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the Golden Age, one of the old Greek religion’s five deteriorating Ages of Man. According to Ovid, Astraea abandoned the earth during the Iron Age. Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo.
The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation. In the Tarot, the 8th card, Justice, with a figure of Justitia, can thus be considered related to the figure of Astraea on historical iconographic grounds.
Dike left Earth for the sky, from which, as the constellation, she watched the despicable human race. After her departure, the human race declined into the Brazen Age, when diseases arose and they learned how to sail. According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.
The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice (Latin: Iustitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, who is equivalent to the Greek goddesses Themis), an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. The scales of justice represent truth and lie. The sword is also believed to represent the ability Themis had from cutting fact from fiction, to her there was no middle ground.
Themis is an ancient Greek Titaness, the six sons and six daughters of Gaia and Uranus (Earth and Sky). She is described as “of good counsel”, and is the personification of divine order, law, natural law and custom. Themis means “divine law” rather than human ordinance, literally “that which is put in place”, compared with títhēmi, meaning “to put”.
To the ancient Greeks she was originally the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies”. Moses Finley remarked of themis, as the word was used by Homer in the 8th century, to evoke the social order of the 10th- and 9th-century Greek Dark Ages:
Themis is untranslatable. A gift of the gods and a mark of civilized existence, sometimes it means right custom, proper procedure, social order, and sometimes merely the will of the gods (as revealed by an omen, for example) with little of the idea of right.
Finley adds, “There was themis—custom, tradition, folk-ways, mores, whatever we may call it, the enormous power of ‘it is (or is not) done’. The world of Odysseus had a highly developed sense of what was fitting and proper.”
The personification of abstract concepts is characteristic of the Hellenes. The ability of the goddess Themis to foresee the future enabled her to become one of the Oracles of Delphi, which in turn led to her establishment as the goddess of divine justice.
Some classical representations of Themis (illustration, above) did not show her blindfolded (because of her talent for prophecy, she had no need to be blinded) nor was she holding a sword (because she represented common consent, not coercion).
The sword is also believed to represent the ability Themis had from cutting fact from fiction, to her there was no middle ground. Themis built the Oracle at Delphi and was herself oracular. According to another legend, Themis received the Oracle at Delphi from Gaia and later gave it to Phoebe (“radiant, bright, prophetic”), one of the original Titans, who was traditionally associated with the moon.
When Themis is disregarded, Nemesis brings just and wrathful retribution, thus Themis shared the Nemesion temple at Rhamnous. Themis is not wrathful: she, “of the lovely cheeks”, was the first to offer Hera a cup when she returned to Olympus distraught over threats from Zeus (Iliad xv. 88). The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word némein, meaning “to give what is due”, from Proto-Indo-European nem- “distribute”.
Themis presided over the proper relation between man and woman, the basis of the rightly ordered family (the family was seen as the pillar of the deme), and judges were often referred to as “themistopóloi” (the servants of Themis). Such was the basis for order upon Olympus too. Even Hera addressed her as “Lady Themis.” The name of Themis might be substituted for Adrasteia in telling of the birth of Zeus on Crete.
Themis was present at Delos to witness the birth of Apollo. According to Ovid, it was Themis rather than Zeus who told Deucalion to throw the bones of “his Mother” over his shoulder to create a new race of humankind after the Deluge.
Themis occurred in Hesiod’s Theogony as the first recorded appearance of Justice as a divine personage. Drawing not only on the socio-religious consciousness of his time but also on many of the earlier cult-religions, Hesiod described the forces of the universe as cosmic divinities. Hesiod portrayed temporal justice, Dike, as the daughter of Zeus and Themis.
Dike executed the law of judgments and sentencing and, together with her mother Themis, carried out the final decisions of Moirai. For Hesiod, Justice is at the center of religious and moral life, who, independently of Zeus, is the embodiment of divine will. This personification of Dike will stand in contrast to justice viewed as custom or law, and as retribution or sentence.
Themis is not wrathful: she, “of the lovely cheeks”, was the first to offer Hera a cup when she returned to Olympus distraught over threats from Zeus. When Themis is disregarded, Nemesis, also called Rhamnousia/Rhamnusia, brings just and wrathful retribution, thus Themis shared the Nemesion temple at Rhamnous.
Nemesis has been described as the daughter of Oceanus or Zeus, but according to Hesiod she was a child of Erebus and Nyx. She has also been described as the daughter of Nyx alone. The name Nemesis is related to the Greek word némein (meaning “to give what is due”), from Proto-Indo-European nem- (“distribute”), the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods).
The word Nemesis originally meant the distributor of fortune, neither good nor bad, simply in due proportion to each according to what was deserved. Later, nemesis came to suggest the resentment caused by any disturbance of this right proportion, the sense of justice that could not allow it to pass unpunished.
In the Greek tragedies Nemesis appears chiefly as the avenger of crime and the punisher of hubris, and as such is akin to Atë and the Erinyes. She was sometimes called Adrasteia, probably meaning “one from whom there is no escape”; her epithet Erinys (“implacable”) is specially applied to Demeter and the Phrygian mother goddess, Cybele. From the fourth century onward, Nemesis, as the just balancer of Fortune’s chance, could be associated with Tyche.
Divine retribution is a major theme in the Hellenic world view, providing the unifying theme of the tragedies of Sophocles and many other literary works. Hesiod states: “Also deadly Nyx bore Nemesis an affliction to mortals subject to death.”
Nemesis is implacable justice: that of Zeus in the Olympian scheme of things, although it is clear she existed prior to him, as her images look similar to several other goddesses, such as Cybele, Rhea, Demeter, and Artemis.
Although a respected goddess, Nemesis had brought much sorrow to mortals such as Echo and Narcissus. Narcissus was a very beautiful and arrogant hunter from the territory of Thespiae and Boeotia, who disdained the ones who loved him. Nemesis lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was only an image. He was unable to leave the beauty of his reflection and he eventually died. Nemesis believed that no one should ever have too much good, and she had always cursed those who were blessed with countless gifts.
In some metaphysical mythology, Nemesis produced the egg from which hatched two sets of twins: Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra, and the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. While many myths indicate Zeus and Leda to be the parents of Helen of Troy, the author of the compilation of myth called Bibliotheke notes the possibility of Nemesis being the mother of Helen.
Nemesis, to avoid Zeus, turns into a goose, but he turns into a swan and mates with her. Nemesis in her bird form lays an egg that is discovered in the marshes by a shepherd, who passes the egg to Leda. It is in this way that Leda comes to be the mother of Helen of Troy, as she kept the egg in a chest until it hatched.
The only consort for Themis is Zeus. One of her children was called Natura, the Greek goddess of the forest. With Zeus she more certainly bore the Horae or Hours (“seasons”), the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time, those embodiments of the right moment – the rightness of Order unfolding in Time.
The Horae were originally the personifications of nature in its different seasonal aspects, but in later times they were regarded as goddesses of order in general and natural justice. They bring and bestow ripeness. They come and go in accordance with the firm law of the periodicities of nature and of life. Traditionally, they guarded the gates of Olympus, promoted the fertility of the earth, and rallied the stars and constellations.
The number of Horae varied according to different sources, but was most commonly three, either the trio of Thallo, Auxo and Carpo – the goddesses of the three seasons the Greeks recognized: spring, summer and autumn – who were goddesses of the order of nature; or Eunomia (“good order – governance according to good laws”), Diké (“justice”), and Eirene (“peace”; the Roman equivalent was Pax), who were law-and-order goddesses.
Followers of Zeus claimed that it was with him that Themis produced the Moirai (“apportioners”), the Fates, the white-robed incarnations of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the “sparing ones”, or Fata; also analogous to the Germanic Norns). Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable).
A fragment of Pindar, however, tells that the Moirai were already present at the nuptials of Zeus and Themis; that in fact the Moirai rose with Themis from the springs of Okeanos the encircling World-Ocean and accompanied her up the bright sun-path to meet Zeus at Mount Olympus.
They controlled the mother thread of lifestyle of every mortal from birth to death. They were independent, at the helm of necessity, directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being by eternal laws might take its course without obstruction.
In earliest Greek philosophy, the cosmogony of Anaximander is based on these mythical beliefs. The goddess Dike (justice, divine retribution), keeps the order and sets a limit to any actions.
The Ancient Greek word moira means a portion or lot of the whole, and is related to meros, “part, lot” and moros, “fate, doom”, Latin meritum, “desert, reward”, English merit, derived from the PIE root *(s)mer, “to allot, assign”.
Moira may mean portion or share in the distribution of booty (“equal booty”), portion in life, lot, destiny, (“the immortals fixed the destiny”) death (“destiny of death”), portion of the distributed land., The word is also used for something which is meet and right (“according to fate, in order, rightly”).
It seems that originally the word moira did not indicate destiny but included ascertainment or proof. The word daemon, which was an agent related to unexpected events, came to be similar to the word moira. This agent or cause against human control might be also called tyche (chance, fate): “You mistress moira, and tyche, and my daemon”.
The word nomos, “law”, may have meant originally a portion or lot, as in the verb nemein, “to distribute”, and thus “natural lot” came to mean “natural law”. The word dike, “justice”, conveyed the notion that someone should stay within his own specified boundaries, respecting the ones of his neighbour. If someone broke his boundaries, thus getting more than his ordained part, then he would be punished by law.
By extension, moira was one’s portion or part in destiny which consisted of good and bad moments as was predetermined by the Moirai (Fates), and it was impossible for anyone to get more than his ordained part. In modern Greek the word came to mean “destiny” (μοίρα or ειμαρμένη).
Kismet, the predetermined course of events in the Muslim traditions, seems to have a similar etymology and function: Arabic qisma.t “lot” <qasama, “to divide, allot” developed to mean Fate or destiny. As a loanword qesmat ‘(”fate”) appears in Persian, whence in Urdu language, and eventually in English Kismet.
It seems that in Pre-Greek religion Aisa was a daemon. In Mycenean religion Aisa or Moira was originally an abstract power related with the limit and end of life. At the moment of birth she spins the destiny, because birth ordains death. Later Aisa is not alone, but she is accompanied by the “Spinners”, who are the personifications of Fate.
The act of spinning is also associated with the gods, who at birth and at marriage do not spin the thread of life, but single facts like destruction, return or good fortune. Everything which has been spun must be winded on the spindle, and this was considered a cloth, like a net or loop which captured man.
Invisible bonds and knots could be controlled from a loom, and twining was a magic art used by the magicians to harm a person, and control his individual fate. Similar ideas appear in Norse mythology, and in Greek folklore. The appearance of the gods and the Moirai may be related to the fairy tale motif, which is common in many Indo-European sagas and also in Greek folklore. The fairies appear beside the cradle of the newborn child and bring gifts to him.
The services of the temples were performed by old women who were physically misshapen, though intellectually superior persons, giving rise to the fear of witches and of the misshapen. They might be considered representations of the Moirai, who belonged to the underworld, but secretly guided the lives of those in the upperworld. Their power could be sustained by witchcraft and oracles. In Greek mythology the Moirai at birth are accompanied by Eileithyia. At the birth of Hercules they use together a magic art, to free the newborn from any “bonds” and “knots”.
In Theogony, Hesiod (7th century BC) uses a lot of eastern material in his cosmology. The origin of all things is Chaos, which is formless and void, and represents disorder. Zeus establishes his order on the world, destroying the powers which are threatening order and harmony.
The three Moirai are daughters of the primeval goddess Nyx (Night), and sisters of Keres (black Fates), Thanatos (Death) and Nemesis. Later they are daughters of Zeus and the Titaness Themis (the “Institutor”), who was the embodiment of divine order and law and sisters of Eunomia (lawfulness, order), Dike (Justice), and Eirene (Peace).
Hesiod introduces a moral purpose which is absent in the Homeric poems. The Moirai represent a power to which even the gods have to conform. They give men at birth both evil and good moments, and they punish not only men but also gods for their sins.
A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is a deity associated with the number three. Such deities are common throughout world mythology; the number three has a long history of mythical associations.
In religious iconography or mythological art, three separate beings may represent either a triad who always appear as a group (Greek Moirai, Charites, Erinnyes; Norse Norns; or the Irish Morrígna) or a single deity known from literary sources as having three aspects (Greek Hecate, Diana Nemorensis).
They are called the Gul Ses (Gul-Shesh; Gulshesh; Gul-ashshesh) in Hittite mythology. In ancient Roman religion and myth, the Parcae (singular, Parca) were the female personifications of destiny, often called the Fates in English. They are similar to the Norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) of Norse mythology, female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, possibly a kind of dísir.
The motif of triple goddesses was widespread in ancient Europe; compare the Fates (including Moirai, Parcae and Norns), the Furies, the Graces, the Hours and other such figures.
The concept of a universal principle of natural order has been compared to similar concepts in other cultures like the Vedic Rta, the Avestan Asha (Arta) and the Egyptian Maat, Moira and the Logos in Greek paganism, and the Tao.
In the Homeric poems Moira, who is almost always one, is acting independently from the gods. Only Zeus, the chief sky-deity of the Myceneans is close to Moira, and in a passage he is the personification of this abstract power.
Using a weighing scale (balance) Zeus weighs Hector’s “lot of death” (Ker) against the one of Achilleus. Hector’s lot weighs down, and he dies according to Fate. Zeus appears as the guider of destiny, who gives everyone the right portion.
In a Mycenean vase, Zeus holds a weighing scale (balance) in front of two warriors, indicating that he is measuring their destiny before the battle. The belief (fatalism) was that if they die in battle, they must die, and this was rightly offered (according to fate).
Ananke, also spelled Anangke, Anance, or Anagke (“force, constraint, necessity”), the personification of destiny, necessity and fate, depicted as holding a spindle, is the primeval goddess of inevitability who is entwined with the time-god Chronos, at the very beginning of time. Together they mark the beginning of the cosmos. They represented the cosmic forces of Fate and Time, and they were called sometimes to control the fates of the gods.
In the Homeric poems Moira or Aisa, is related with the limit and end of life and Zeus appears as the guider of destiny. In the Theogony of Hesiod, the three Moirai are personified, and are acting over the gods. Later they are daughters of Zeus and Themis, who was the embodiment of divine order and law. In Plato’s Republic the Three Fates are daughters of Ananke (necessity).
It seems that Moira is related with Tekmor (proof, ordinance) and with Ananke (destiny, necessity), who were primeval goddesses in mythical cosmogonies. The ancient Greek writers might call this power Moira or Ananke, and even the gods could not alter what was ordained.
Ananke was seen as the most powerful dictator of all fate and circumstance which meant that mortals, as well as the Gods, respected her and paid homage. Considered as the mother of the Fates, the three Moirai, according to one version, she is the only one to have control over their decisions (except, according to some sources, also Zeus).
“Ananke” is derived from the common Ancient Greek noun anankaiē, meaning “force, constraint or necessity.” The common noun itself is of uncertain etymology. In the philosophical sense it means “necessity,” “logical necessity,” or “laws of nature.” The word is often personified in poetry, as Simonides does: “Even the gods don’t fight against ananke”.
Sigmund Freud in “Civilization and Its Discontents” said: “We can only be satisfied, therefore, if we assert that the process of civilization is a modification which the vital process experiences under the influence of a task that is set it by Eros and instigated by Ananke — by the exigencies of reality; and that this task is one of uniting separate individuals into a community bound together by libidinal ties.”
According to the ancient Greek traveller Pausanias, there was a temple in ancient Corinth where the goddesses Ananke and Bia (meaning violence or violent haste) were worshipped together in the same shrine. Her Roman counterpart was Necessitas (“necessity”).
In the cosmogony of Alcman (7th century BC), first came Thetis (Disposer, Creation), and then simultaneously Poros (path) and Tekmor (end post, ordinance). Poros is related with the beginning of all things, and Tekmor is related with the end of all things.
Later in the Orphic cosmogony, first came Thesis or Thetis (Disposer), whose ineffable nature is unexpressed. Thetis is encountered in Greek mythology mostly as a sea nymph or known as the goddess of water, one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of the ancient sea god Nereus. When described as a Nereid in Classical myths, Thetis was the daughter of Nereus and Doris, and a granddaughter of Tethys with whom she sometimes shares characteristics.
Tethys, daughter of Uranus and Gaia, was an archaic Titaness and aquatic sea goddess. Considered as an embodiment of the waters of the world she also may be seen as a counterpart of Thalassa, the embodiment of the sea. Her other counterpart can be considered to be Amphitrite who is the wife of Poseidon, who frequently carries the title wa-na-ka (wanax) in Linear B inscriptions, as king of the underworld.
If surviving Linear B clay tablets can be trusted, the name po-se-da-wo-ne (“Poseidon”) occurs with greater frequency than does di-u-ja (“Zeus”). The early importance of Poseidon can still be glimpsed in Homer’s Odyssey, where Poseidon rather than Zeus is the major mover of events. A feminine variant, po-se-de-ia, is also found, indicating a lost consort goddess, in effect a precursor of Amphitrite.
Tekmor is a mythical primeval Ancient Greek goddess, related with the limit and end of life. In the cosmogony of Alcman (7th century BC), she appears together with Poros (path) immediately after the creation.
Tekmor may be related with the Homeric Moira and with Ananke, (necessity) the primeval goddess of inevitability in Orphic cosmogony. She is absent in later Greek cosmogonies and in Greek literature. It seems that she represented a universal principle of natural order. The Greek writers named this power Moira (Fate), or Ananke (necessity), and even the gods could not alter what was ordained.
The Ancient Greek word tekmar means fixed mark or boundary, goal, end or purpose. (tekmar aionos: end, object, purpose of the century, hiketo tekmor: he reached the goal). It also means sure sign, or token of some high and solemn kind, sign in heavens, or of the moon. In modern Greek the word is the root of the word tekmirion (proof, evidence, or conclusion from existing evidence.)
The word is related with the English word token meaning sign, evidence, which is derived from the PIE base *deik- to show. The Old English equavalent is tacen (sign, symbol, evidence), Old Norse teikn (zodiac sign, omen, token), and Gothic taikn (sign, token).
The relative Sanskrit word Iaksmlka meaning mark, sign or token, is the root of the name of the goddess Laksmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), fortune, and the embodiment of beauty.
Laksmi is the wife and active energy of Vishnu. Her four hands represent the four goals of human life considered proper in Hindu way of life – dharma, kāma, artha, and moksha. Lakshmi is also called Sri or Thirumagal because she is endowed with six auspicious and divine qualities, or Gunas, and also because she is the source of strength even to Vishnu.
When Vishnu incarnated on the Earth as the avatars Rama and Krishna, Lakshmi took incarnation as his consort. Sita (Rama’s wife), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, Draupadi and Satyabama are considered forms of Lakshmi. In ancient scriptures of India, all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband, states Patricia Monaghan, is “the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings”.
In modern times, Lakshmi is worshipped as the goddess of wealth. She is also worshipped as the consort of Vishnu in many temples. The festivals of Diwali and Sharad Purnima (Kojagiri Purnima) are celebrated in her honour.
In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman, she represents both the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. She is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, later makes war upon them and is killed. When she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, she is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk. The heavens and the earth are formed from her divided body.
Tiamat was later known as Thalattē (as a variant of thalassa, the Greek word for “sea”) in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus’ first volume of universal history. It is thought that the name of Tiamat was dropped in secondary translations of the original religious texts (written in the East Semitic Akkadian language) because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word for “sea” for Tiamat, since the two names had become essentially the same due to association.
Thorkild Jacobsen and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu, following an early form, ti’amtum. Burkert continues by making a linguistic connection to Tethys. He finds the later form, thalatth, to be related clearly to Greek thalatta or thalassa, “sea”.
The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish is named for its incipit: “When above” the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, “the first, the begetter”, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, “she who bore them all”; they were “mixing their waters”.
It is thought that female deities are older than males ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR), a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki.
The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.
Uttu in Sumerian mythology is the goddess of weaving and clothing. She is both the child of Enki and Ninkur, and she bears seven new child/trees from Enki, the eighth being the Ti (Tree of “Life”, associated with the “Rib”). When Enki then ate Uttu’s children, Ninhursag cursed him with eight wounds and disappears. Uttu in Sumerian means “the woven” and she was illustrated as a spider in a web. She is a goddess in the pantheon.
In Hurrian mythology, the Hutena are goddesses of fate.
Laima is a Baltic goddess of fate. She was associated with childbirth, marriage, and death; she was also the patron of pregnant women. Laima and her functions are similar to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
In the Latvian mythology, Laima and her sisters, Kārta and Dēkla, were a trinity of fate deities, similar to the Norse Norns or the Greek Moirai. Laima makes the final decision on individual’s fate and is considerably more popular. While all three of them had similar functions, Laima is Goddess of luck and is more related with mothers and childbirth, Dēkla is in charge of children, and Kārta holds power over the adult’s life.
In modern Dievturi, a Neopagan religious movement which claims to be a modern revival of the folk religion of the Latvians before Christianization in the 13th century, these three goddesses are referred to as the three Laimas, indicating they are the same deity in three different aspects. Birth rituals at the end of the 19th century included offerings of hen, sheep, towels or other woven materials to Laima. Only women could participate in the ritual, performed in a sauna (pirtis).
In the cosmogony of Alcman (7 th century BC), first came Thetis (Disposer, Creation), and then simultaneously Poros (Path, Contriver) and Tekmor. Later in the Orphic cosmogony, first came Thesis (Disposer), whose inefflable nature is unexpressed.
Ananke (necessity) is the primeval goddess of inevitability who is entwined with the time-god Chronos, at the very beginning of time. They represented the cosmic forces of Fate and Time, and they were called sometimes to control the fates of the gods.
In the Homeric poems the word usually means “end” (he found an end, i.e. devised a remedy), or termination (you cannot find a termination). It also means sure sign, or token of some high and solemn kind, as Zeus says that his nod is the highest, surest pledge he can give.
The words “moira”, “aisa”, (destiny) mean portion, part. Originally they did not indicate a power which led destiny, and must be considered to include the “ascertainment” or “proof”. In Mycenean religion Aisa or Moira was originally an abstract power related with the limit and end of life.
Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be loosely translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not.
Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life. This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Nietzsche means by the concept of “eternal recurrence”: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.
In Roman mythology the three Moirai are the Parcae (singular, Parca) or Fata, plural of “fatum” meaning prophetic declaration, oracle, or destiny. The English words fate (native wyrd) and fairy (magic, enchantment), are both derived from “fata”, “fatum”.
The Parcae were the female personifications of destiny, often called the Fates in English. They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death. Even the gods feared the Parcae. Jupiter also was subject to their power.
The names of the three Parcae were Nona (Greek equivalent Clotho), who spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle, Decima (Greek Lachesis), who measured the thread of life with her rod, and Morta (Greek Atropos), who cut the thread of life and chose the manner of a person’s death.
In Norse mythology the Norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, twining the thread of life, possibly a kind of dísir, a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate who can be both benevolent and antagonistic towards mortal people.
In younger legendary sagas, the Norns appear to have been synonymous with witches (Völvas), and they arrive at the birth of the hero to shape his destiny. It seems that originally all of them were Disir, ghosts or deities associated with destruction and destiny. The notion that they were three, their distinction and association with the past, present and future may be due to a late influence from Greek and Roman mythology.
They set up the laws and decided on the lives of the children of men. Their names were Urðr (that which became or happened) related with Wyrd, weird (fate), Verðandi (that which is happening) and Skuld (that which should become, debt, guilt).
According to Snorri Sturluson’s interpretation of the Völuspá, the three most important norns, Urðr (Wyrd), Verðandi and Skuld come out from a hall standing at the Well of Urðr (well of fate) and they draw water from the well and take sand that lies around it, which they pour over Yggdrasill so that its branches will not rot.
These norns are described as three powerful maiden giantesses (Jotuns) whose arrival from Jötunheimr ended the golden age of the gods. They may be the same as the maidens of Mögþrasir who are described in Vafþrúðnismál.
Beside these three norns, there are many other norns who arrive when a person is born in order to determine his or her future. There were both malevolent and benevolent norns, and the former caused all the malevolent and tragic events in the world while the latter were kind and protective goddesses.
Recent research has discussed the relation between the myths associated with norns and valkyries and traveling Völvas (seiðr-workers). The norns were thought to have visited newborn children in the pre-Christian Norse societies.
The Valkyries (choosers of the slain), were originally daemons of death. They were female figures who decided who will die in battle, and brought their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain. They were also related with spinning, and one of them was named Skuld (debt, guilt).
They may be related to Keres, the daemons of death in Greek mythology, who accompanied the dead to the entrance of Hades. In the scene of Kerostasie Keres are the “lots of death”, and in some cases Ker (destruction) has the same meaning, with Moira interpreted as “destiny of death” (moira thanatoio) .
The dísir play roles in Norse texts that resemble those of fylgjur, valkyries, and norns, so that some have suggested dísir is a broad term including the other beings. The dísir, like the valkyries, norns, and vættir, are almost always referred to collectively.
Their original function was possibly that of fertility goddesses who were the object of both private and official worship called dísablót, and their veneration may derive from the worship of the spirits of the dead.
In Anglo-Saxon culture Wyrd (Weird) is a concept corresponding to fate or personal destiny (literally: what befalls one). Their concept of fate, wyrd, was stronger than that of the Classical Pagans as there was no resisting it. The word is ancestral to Modern English weird, which retains its original meaning only dialectically.
The cognate term in Old Norse is urðr, with a similar meaning, but also personalized as one of the Norns, Urðr (anglicized as Urd) and appearing in the name of the holy well Urðarbrunnr in Norse mythology.
The Old English term wyrd derives from a Common Germanic term *wurđízonki. Wyrd has cognates in Old Saxon wurd, Old High German wurt, Old Norse urðr, Dutch worden (to become), and German werden. In Old English literature Wyrd goes ever as she shall, and remains wholly inevitable.
The Proto-Indo-European root is *wert- “to turn, rotate, wind “, related with “spindle, distaff”, in Common Germanic *wirþ- with a meaning “to come to pass, to become, to be due” (also in weorþ, the notion of “origin” or “worth” both in the sense of “connotation, price, value” and “affiliation, identity, esteem, honour and dignity.)
Old English wyrd is a verbal noun formed from the verb weorþan, meaning “to come to pass, to become”. The term developed into the modern English adjective weird. Adjectival use develops in the 15th century, in the sense “having the power to control fate”, originally in the name of the Weird Sisters, i.e. the classical Fates, in the Elizabethan period detached from their classical background as fays, and most notably appearing as the Three Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
From the 14th century, to weird was also used as a verb in Scots, in the sense of “to preordain by decree of fate”. Of note is the use of “weird” in Frank Herbert’s Dune to connote an ability to amplify or empower, e.g., certain words being used as “weirding words.”
The modern spelling weird first appears in Scottish and Northern English dialects in the 16th century and is taken up in standard literary English from the 17th century. The regular modern English form would have been wird, from Early Modern English werd. The substitution of werd by weird in the northern dialects is “difficult to account for”.
The now most common meaning of weird, “odd, strange”, is first attested in 1815, originally with a connotation of the supernatural or portentuous (especially in the collocation weird and wonderful), but by the early 20th century increasingly applied to everyday situations.
Wyrd is a feminine noun, and its Norse cognate urðr, besides meaning “fate”, is the name of one of the Norns; urðr is literally “that which has come to pass”, verðandi is “what is in the process of happening” (the present participle of the verb cognate to weorþan) and skuld “debt, guilt” (from a Germanic root *skul- “to owe”, also found in English shall).
It is interesting to note the feminine aspect of wyrd, as fatalism was often personified as a goddess. “Wyrd has been interpreted as a pre-Christian Germanic concept or goddess of fate by some scholars. Other scholars deny a pagan signification of wyrd in Old English literature, but assume that wyrd was a pagan deity in the pre-Christian period.”
Between themselves, the Norns weave fate or ørlǫg (from ór “out, from, beyond” and lǫg “law”, and may be interpreted literally as “beyond law”). According to Voluspa 20, the three Norns “set up the laws”, “decided on the lives of the children of time” and “promulgate their ørlǫg”.
Frigg, on the other hand, while she “knows all ørlǫg”, “says it not herself” (Lokasenna 30). ørlǫglausa “ørlǫg-less” occurs in Voluspa 17 in reference to driftwood, that is given breath, warmth and spirit by three gods, to create the first humans, Ask (“Ash”) and Embla (possibly “Elm”).
Weregild (also spelled wergild, wergeld, weregeld, etc.), also known as “man price”, was a value placed on every being and piece of property in the Salic Code. If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild as restitution to the victim’s family or to the owner of the property.
Weregild payment was an important legal mechanism in early Germanic society; the other common form of legal reparation at this time was blood revenge. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan.
Three Witches – Hecate
In Macbeth the Weird sisters (or Three Witches), are prophetesses, who are deeply entrenched in both worlds of reality and supernatural. Their creation was influenced by British folklore, witchcraft, and the legends of the Norns and the Moirai. In many editions of the play, the editors include a footnote associating the “Weird Sisters” with Old English wyrd or “fate”.
Hecate, the chthonic Greek goddess associated with a three-way crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery, appears as the master of the “Three witches”. She is often shown holding two torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form.
In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd-3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. She was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family.
Hecate may have originated among the Carians of Anatolia, where variants of her name are found as names given to children. William Berg observes, “Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens.”
Dogs were sacred to Hecate and associated with roads, domestic spaces, purification, and spirits of the dead. They played a similar symbolic role in ancient China, where dogs were conceived as representative of the household sphere, and as protective spirits appropriate when transcending geographic and spatial boundaries. Dogs were also sacrificed to the road.
As Roel Sterckx observes, “The use of dog sacrifices at the gates and doors of the living and the dead as well as its use in travel sacrifices suggest that dogs were perceived as daemonic animals operating in the liminal or transitory realm between the domestic and the unknown, danger-stricken outside world”.
Strmiska notes that Hecate, conflated with the figure of Diana, appears in late antiquity and in the early medieval period as part of an “emerging legend complex” associated with gatherings of women, the moon, and witchcraft that eventually became established “in the area of Northern Italy, southern Germany, and the western Balkans.”
This theory of the Roman origins of many European folk traditions related to Diana or Hecate was explicitly advanced at least as early as 1807 and is reflected in numerous etymological claims by lexicographers from the 17th to the 19th century, deriving “hag” and/or “hex” from Hecate by way of haegtesse (Anglo-Saxon) and hagazussa (Old High German).
Such derivations are today proposed only by a minority since being refuted by Grimm, who was skeptical of theories proposing non-Germanic origins for German folklore traditions.
Modern etymology reconstructs Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon- from haegtesse and hagazussa; the first element is probably cognate with hedge, which derives from PIE *kagh- “hedge, enclosure”, and the second perhaps from *dhewes- “fly about, be smoke, vanish.”
The figure of Hecate can often be associated with the figure of Isis in Egyptian myth.
In the syncretism during Late Antiquity of Hellenistic and late Babylonian (“Chaldean”) elements, Hecate was identified with Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”), sometimes it is given as Ninkigal (lit: “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”), the underworld counterpart of Inanna in the Babylonian cosmography.
In the Michigan magical papyrus (inv. 7), dated to the late 3rd or early 4th century CE, Hecate Ereschigal is invoked against fear of punishment in the afterlife. Before she became associated with Greek mythology, she had many similarities with Artemis (wilderness, and watching over wedding ceremonies).
In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler.
Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The goddess Inanna/Ishtar refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.
Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. Ereshkigal was also a queen that many gods and goddesses looked up to in the underworld.
She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.
One of these myths is Inanna’s descent to the netherworld and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself.
The other myth is the story of Nergal, the plague god. Once, the gods held a banquet that Ereshkigal as queen of the Netherworld cannot come up to attend. They invite her to send a messenger and she sends Namtar, her vizier.
He is treated well by all but disrespected by Nergal. As a result of this, Nergal is banished to the kingdom controlled by the goddess. Versions vary at this point, but all of them result in him becoming her husband. In later tradition, Nergal is said to have been the victor, taking her as wife and ruling the land himself.
It is theorized that the story of Inanna’s descent is told to illustrate the possibility of an escape from the netherworld, while the Nergal myth is intended to reconcile the existence of two rulers of the netherworld: a goddess and a god. The addition of Nergal represents the harmonizing tendency to unite Ereshkigal as the queen of the netherworld with the god who, as god of war and of pestilence, brings death to the living and thus becomes the one who presides over the dead.
In some versions of the myths, she rules the underworld by herself, sometimes with a husband subordinate to her named Gugalana. It was said that she had been stolen away by Kur and taken to the underworld, where she was made queen unwillingly.
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. She is said to be the daughter of Loki, a trickster God of the Norse, and a Giantess. Her body was seen as half dead and half alive. Some say that part of of her body was beautiful while the other was horrid like death, symbolizing the light and dark aspects within all of us and everything, the transformation.
One of the myths involving Hel is the story of the death of Baldr (also Balder, Baldur) is a god of light and purity in Norse mythology, and a son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg. Tricked by Loki, Baldr died in a contest that took place in Asgard, which is known as the capitol of the Gods. Upon his death he was sent to the realm of Hel where he was welcomed with a feast. Though back in his world, Baldr was deeply mourned.
According to Gylfaginning, a book of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Baldr’s wife is Nanna and their son is Forseti. In Gylfaginning, Snorri relates that Baldr had the greatest ship ever built, named Hringhorni, and that there is no place more beautiful than his hall, Breidablik.
Hecate also closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, the goddess who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, with whom she was identified in Rome.
Cult images and altars of Hecate in her triplicate or trimorphic form were placed at three-way crossroads (though they also appeared before private homes and in front of city gates). In this form she came to be known as the goddess Trivia “the three ways” in Roman mythology.
Trivia was a friend of Ceres and helped her to find her daughter Proserpina. As a part of her role as an underworld goddess, she was known as the Queen of Ghosts. Although she helped Ceres to find her daughter, she was also known to steal young maidens to assist her in her powers. These women later became nymphs.
Her association for Romans of the first century BCE with Artemis was so thorough that Lucretius identifies the altar of the goddess at the sacrifice of Iphianassa (Iphigeneia) in Aulis as Triviai virginis aram.
The name of Hecate has been compared to the Egyptian goddess of childbirth, Heqet, a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, written with the determinative frog. Heqet was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog’s head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility. She was often referred to as the wife of Khnum.
Khnum was one of the earliest Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile River. Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings. Khnum is the third aspect of Ra. He is the god of rebirth, creation and the evening sun, although this is usually the function of Atum.
In art, he was usually depicted as a ram-headed man at a potter’s wheel, with recently created children’s bodies standing on the wheel, although he also appeared in his earlier guise as a water-god, holding a jar from which flowed a stream of water. However, he occasionally appeared in a compound image, depicting the elements, in which he, representing water, was shown as one of four heads of a man, with the others being, – Geb representing earth, Shu representing the air, and Osiris representing death.
Khnum was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs. He later was described as having moulded the other deities, and he had the titles Divine Potter and Lord of created things from himself.
To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands.
In the myth of Osiris developed, it was said that it was Heqet who breathed life into the new body of Horus at birth, as she was the goddess of the last moments of birth. As the birth of Horus became more intimately associated with the resurrection of Osiris, so Heqet’s role became one more closely associated with resurrection. Eventually, this association led to her amulets gaining the phrase I am the resurrection in the Christian era along with cross and lamb symbolism.
In Ancient Greek religion, Hecate as goddess of childbirth is identified with Artemis, one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities, who was the leader (hegemone) of the nymphs. Some scholars believe that the name of Artemis, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”.
The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito (Σιτώ), “she of the Grain”, as the giver of food or grain and Thesmophoros (thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; “phoros”: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer,” as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.
Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon.
In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos, the “two mistresses and the king” may be related with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres, a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships.
Artemis was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia or Ilithyia, the Greek goddess of childbirth, in aiding childbirth.
The name Artemis (noun, feminine) is of unknown or uncertain origin and etymology although various ones have been proposed. For example according to Jablonski, the name is also Phrygian and could be “compared with the royal appellation Artemas of Xenophon.
According to Charles Anthon the primitive root of the name is probably of Persian origin from *arta, *art, *arte, all meaning “great, excellent, holy,” thus Artemis “becomes identical with the great mother of Nature, even as she was worshipped at Ephesus”.
Anton Goebel “suggests the root στρατ or ῥατ, “to shake,” and makes Artemis mean the thrower of the dart or the shooter”. Babiniotis while accepting that the etymology is unknown, states that the name is already attested in Mycenean Greek and is possibly of pre-Hellenic origin.
The name could also be possibly related to Greek árktos “bear” (from PIE *h₂ŕ̥tḱos), supported by the bear cult that the goddess had in Attica (Brauronia) and the Neolithic remains at the Arkoudiotissa Cave, as well as the story about Callisto, which was originally about Artemis (Arcadian epithet kallisto); this cult was a survival of very old totemic and shamanistic rituals and formed part of a larger bear cult found further afield in other Indo-European cultures (e.g., Gaulish Artio).
It is believed that a precursor of Artemis was worshiped in Minoan Crete as the goddess of mountains and hunting, Britomartis. While connection with Anatolian names has been suggested, the earliest attested forms of the name Artemis are the Mycenaean Greek, a-te-mi-to /Artemitos/ and a-ti-mi-te /Artimitei/, written in Linear B at Pylos. R. S. P. Beekes suggested that the e/i interchange points to a Pre-Greek origin. Artemis was venerated in Lydia as Artimus.
Ancient Greek writers, by way of folk etymology, and some modern scholars, have linked Artemis (Doric Artamis) to ἄρταμος, artamos, i.e. “butcher” or, like Plato did in Cratylus, to ἀρτεμής, artemḗs, i.e. “safe”, “unharmed”, “uninjured”, “pure”, “the stainless maiden”.
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe and the sister of Asteria, and the twin sister of Apollo.
Leto’s primal nature may be deduced from the natures of her father and mother, who may have been Titans of the sun and moon. Her Titan father is called “Coeus,” and though Herbert Jennings Rose considers his name and nature uncertain, he is in one Roman source given the name Polus, which may relate him to the sphere of heaven from pole to pole. The name of Leto’s mother, “Phoebe” (literally “pure, bright”), is identical to the epithet of her son Apollo throughout Homer.
In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus. In Roman mythology, Leto’s equivalent is Latona, a Latinization of her name, influenced by Etruscan Letun.
The Roman equivalent of Artemis is Diana, the goddess of the hunt, the moon and childbirth, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals, though she had an independent origin in Italy. Diana’s cult has been related in Early Modern Europe to the cult of Nicevenn (a.k.a. Dame Habond, Perchta, Herodiana, etc.). She was related to myths of a female Wild Hunt.
Diana was known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. She was one of the three maiden goddesses, Diana, Minerva and Vesta, who swore never to marry. Oak groves were especially sacred to her.
According to mythology (in common with the Greek religion and their deity Artemis), Diana was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, daughter of Jupiter and Latona. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god.
Diana is an adjectival form developed from an ancient *divios, corresponding to later ‘divus’, ‘dius’, as in Dius Fidius, Dea Dia and in the neuter form dium meaning the sky. It is rooted in Indoeuropean *d(e)y(e)w, meaning bright sky or daylight, from which also derived the name of Vedic god Dyaus and the Latin deus (god), dies, (day, daylight), and ” diurnal” (daytime).
On the Tablets of Pylos a theonym diwia is supposed as referring to a deity precursor of Artemis. Modern scholars mostly accept the identification. The ancient Latin writers Varro and Cicero considered the etymology of Dīāna as allied to that of dies and connected to the shine of the Moon.
As a goddess of hunting, Diana often wears a short tunic and hunting boots. She is often portrayed holding a bow, and carrying a quiver on her shoulder, accompanied by a deer or hunting dogs. Like Venus, she was portrayed as beautiful and youthful. The crescent moon, sometimes worn as a diadem, is a major attribute of the goddess.
Diana was initially just the hunting goddess, associated with wild animals and woodlands. She also later became a moon goddess, supplanting Titan goddess Luna. She also became the goddess of childbirth and ruled over the countryside. Catullus wrote a poem to Diana in which she has more than one alias: Latonia, Lucina, Iuno, Trivia, Luna.
In ancient times caves were used for burial purposes in eastern Mediterranean, in conjunction with underground shrines or temples. The priests and the priestesses exerted considerable influence upon the world of the living. Births are also recorded in such shrines, and the Greek legend of conception and birth in the tomb – as in the story of Danae- is based on the ancient belief that the dead know the future.
Such caves were the caves of Ida and Dikte mountains in Crete, where myth situates the birth of Zeus and other gods, and the cave of Eileithyia near Knossos. The relative Minoan goddesses were named Diktynna (derived by Hellenistic writers as from δίκτυα [diktya], “hunting nets”) or Britomartis (later identified with Artemis), who was a mountain nymph of hunting, and Eileithyia who was the goddess of childbirth.
Britomartis was the Minoan goddess of mountains and hunting. She is among the Minoan goddess figures that passed through the Mycenaeans’ culture into classical Greek mythology, with transformations that are unclear in both transferrals. For the Greeks, Britomartis was a mountain nymph (an oread) whom Greeks recognized also in Artemis and in Aphaea, the “invisible” patroness of Aegina.
The goddess addressed as “Britomartis” was worshipped in Crete as an aspect of Potnia, the “Mistress”. The oldest aspect of the Cretan goddess was as Mother of Mountains, who appears on Minoan seals with the demonic features of a Gorgon, accompanied by the double-axes of power and gripping divine snakes. Her terror-inspiring aspect was softened by calling her Britomartis, the “good virgin”, a euphemism to allay her dangerous aspect.
Eileithyia or Ilithyia was the Greek goddess of childbirth. The cave of Eileithyia near Amnisos, the harbor of Knossos, which the Odyssey mentions in connection with her cult, was accounted the birthplace of Eileithyia.
According to some authors her name does not have an Indo-European etymology, which for R. F. Willets strengthens her link to Minoan culture. “The links between Eileithyia, an earlier Minoan goddess, and a still earlier Neolithic prototype are, relatively, firm,” he wrote.
“The continuity of her cult depends upon the unchanging concept of her function. Eileithyia was the goddess of childbirth; and the divine helper of women in labour has an obvious origin in the human midwife.” Additionally, for Willetts, Cretan dialect ‘Eleuthia’ would connect Eileithyia to Eleusis.
19th-century scholars suggested that the name is Greek, from the verb eleutho to bring, the goddess thus being The Bringer. The variants “Eleuthia” (Cretan) and “Eleuthō” (used by Pindar) suggest a possible connection with “Eleutheria” (freedom). The earliest form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek e-re-u-ti-ja, written in the Linear B syllabic script. Ilithyia is the latinisation of her name.
Hesiod (c. 700 BC) described Eileithyia as a daughter of Hera by Zeus (Theogony 921)—and the Bibliotheca (Roman-era) and Diodorus Siculus (c. 90–27 BC) (5.72.5) agreed. But Pausanias writing in the 2nd century AD reported another early source (now lost): “The Lycian Olen, an earlier poet, who composed for the Delians, among other hymns, one to Eileithyia, styles her ‘the clever spinner’, clearly identifying her with Fate, and makes her older than Cronus.”
Being the youngest born to Gaia, Cronus was a Titan of the first generation and he was identified as the father of Zeus. Likewise, the meticulously accurate mythographer, Pindar (522–443 BC), also makes no mention of Zeus
Later, for the Classical Greeks, she is closely associated with Artemis and Hera, but develops no character of her own. In the Orphic Hymn to Prothyraeia, the goddess of childbirth is associated as an epithet of virginal Artemis, making the death-dealing huntress also she who comes to the aid of women in childbirth.
Mentions of wyrd in Old English literature include The Wanderer, “Wyrd bið ful aræd” (“Fate remains wholly inexorable”) and Beowulf, “Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel!” (“Fate goes ever as she shall!”). In The Wanderer, wyrd is irrepressible and relentless. She “snatches the earls away from the joys of life,” and “the wearied mind of man cannot withstand her” for her decrees “change all the world beneath the heavens”.
A bēot is Old English for a ritualized boast, vow, threat, or promise. The principle of a bēot is to proclaim one’s acceptance of a seemingly impossible challenge in order to gain tremendous glory for actually accomplishing it. Examples of the bēot can be seen throughout the epic poem Beowulf, such as when Beowulf vows to fight Grendel without using any weapons or armor.
The Old English word bēot comes from earlier bíhát meaning promise. The original noun-form of bēot corresponds to the verb bi-, be-ˈhátan. A shifting of the stress from bíhát to bi-ˈhát, on analogy of the verb, gave the late Old English beˈhát, from which the Middle English word behote derives.
Boasting or bragging is the act of making an ostentatious speech. It is considered a vice by major religious groups such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Boasting has also been studied by such evolutionary psychologists as Robert Wright, and can involve magnifying an accomplishment out of proportion to its importance.
The Germanic (Latin “mothers”) and Matronae (Latin “matrons”) female deities proposed to be connected to the Norns and the Valkyries was venerated in North-West Europe from the 1st to the 5th century AD.
They are depicted on votive objects and altars that bear images of goddesses, depicted almost entirely in groups of three, that feature inscriptions (about half of which feature Celtic names, and half of which feature Germanic names), that were venerated in regions of Germania, Eastern Gaul, and upper Italy (with a small distribution elsewhere) that were occupied by the Roman army from the first to the fifth century AD.
Information about the religious practices surrounding the Matres is limited to the stones on which their depictions and inscriptions are found, of which over 1,100 exist. The Germanic matres have been connected with the later Germanic dísir, valkyries, and norns attested largely in 13th century sources.
In the Avestan religion and Zoroastrianism, Asha (aša) is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.
It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of “truth”, “right(eousness)”, “order”. Aša and its Vedic equivalent, Rta, are both derived from a PIE root meaning “properly joined, right, true”.
The word is the proper name of the divinity Asha, the personification of “Truth” and “Righteousness”. Aša corresponds to an objective, material reality which embraces all of existence.
This cosmic force is imbued also with morality, as verbal Truth, and Righteousness, action conforming with the moral order. In the literature of the Mandeans, an angelic being has the responsibility of weighing the souls of the deceased to determine their worthiness, using a set of scales.
In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of “truth” and “right(eousness)”, “order” and “right working”.
The word is also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or “genius” of “Truth” or “Righteousness”. In the Younger Avesta, this figure is more commonly referred to as Asha Vahishta (Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”.
The Middle Persian descendant is Ashawahist or Ardwahisht; New Persian Ardibehesht or Ordibehesht. In the Gathas, the oldest texts of Zoroastrianism and thought to have been composed by the prophet himself, it is seldom possible to distinguish between moral principle and the divinity. Later texts consistently use the ‘Best’ epithet when speaking of the Amesha Spenta, only once in the Gathas is ‘best’ an adjective of aša/arta.
Avestan aša and its Vedic equivalent rta both derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ṛtá- “truth”, which in turn continues Proto-Indo-European *h2r-to- “properly joined, right, true”, from the root *h2ar. The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.
It is unclear whether the Avestan variation between aša and arta is merely orthographical. Benveniste suggested š was only a convenient way of writing rt and should not be considered phonetically relevant.
According to Gray, š is a misreading, representing – not /ʃ/ – but /rr/, of uncertain phonetic value but “probably” representing a voiceless r. Miller suggested that rt was restored when a scribe was aware of the morpheme boundary between the /r/ and /t/ (that is, whether the writer maintained the –ta suffix).
Both Avestan aša/arta and Vedic ŗtá- are commonly translated as “truth” as this best reflects both the original meaning of the term as well as the opposition to their respective antonyms. The opposite of Avestan aša/arta is druj-, “lie.” Similarly, the opposites of Vedic ṛtá- are ánṛta- and druh, likewise “lie”.
Avestan druj, like its Vedic Sanskrit cousin druh, appears to derive from the PIE root *dhreugh, also continued in Persian d[o]rūġ “lie”, German Trug “fraud, deception”. Old Norse draugr and Middle Irish airddrach means “spectre, spook”. The Sanskrit cognate druh means “affliction, afflicting demon”.
Aša “cannot be precisely rendered by some single word in another tongue,” but may be summarized as follows: It is, first of all, ‘true statement’. This ‘true statement’, because it is true, corresponds to an objective, material reality. This reality embraces all of existence. Recognized in it is a great cosmic principle since all things happen according to it. “This cosmic […] force is imbued also with morality, as verbal Truth, ‘la parole conforme’, and Righteousness, action conforming with the moral order.”
The correspondence between truth, reality, and an all-encompassing cosmic principle is not far removed from Heraclitus’ conception of Logos, an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion. Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason” it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.
In the Zoroastrian calendar, the third day of the month and the second month of the year are dedicated to and named after aša and Asha Vahishta (Ordibehesht in Modern Persian both in Iranian Calendar and Yazdgerdi calendar).
A special service to aša and Aša, known as the ‘Jashan of Ardavisht’, is held on the day on which month-name and day-name dedications intersect. In the Fasli and Bastani variants of the Zoroastrian calendar, this falls on April 22.
Rapithwin, one of the five gahs (watches) of the day, under the protection of Aša. (Bundahishn 3.22) This implies that all prayers recited between noon and three invoke Aša. Noon is considered to be the “perfect” time, at which instant the world was created and at which instant time will stop on the day of the final renovation of the world.
In the winter months, the daevic time of year, Rapithwin is known as the Second Havan (the first Havan being from dawn to noon), and with the first day of spring, March 21, Rapithwin symbolically returns. This day, March 21, is Nowruz.
Nowruz, the holiest of all Zoroastrian festivals is dedicated to Aša. It follows immediately after Pateti, the day of introspection and the Zoroastrian equivalent of All-Souls Day. Nowruz, Zoroastrianism’s New Year’s Day, is celebrated on the first day of spring, traditionally understood to be the day of rebirth, and literally translated means “New Day”. The first month of the year of the Zoroastrian calendar is Farvadin, which is dedicated to and named after the Fravašis, the guardian spirits of the dead.
“The underlying idea of the dedication” of the second month of the year to Asha Vahishta “may be revivification of the earth after the death of winter.”
In the Vedic religion, Rta (Sanskrit ṛtaṃ “that which is properly/excellently joined; order, rule; truth”), the principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it, is an abstract principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe.
The term may be interpreted abstractly as “cosmic order”, or simply as “truth”. It seems that this concept originally arose in the Indo-Aryan period, from a consideration of the features of nature which either remain constant or which occur on a regular basis.
The individuals fulfill their true natures when they follow the path set for them by the ordinances of Rta, acting according to the Dharma, which is related to social and moral spheres. The god of the waters Varuna was probably originally conceived as the personalized aspect of the otherwise impersonal Ṛta. The gods are never portrayed as having command over Ṛta, but instead they remain subject to it like all created beings.
In the hymns of the Vedas, Ṛta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial orders. Conceptually, it is closely allied to the injunctions and ordinances thought to uphold it, collectively referred to as Dharma, and the action of the individual in relation to those ordinances, referred to as Karma – two terms which eventually eclipsed Ṛta in importance as signifying natural, religious and moral order in later Hinduism.
Sanskrit scholar Maurice Bloomfield referred to Ṛta as “one of the most important religious conceptions of the Rig Veda”, going on to note that, “from the point of view of the history of religious ideas we may, in fact we must, begin the history of Hindu religion at least with the history of this conception”.
Ṛta is derived from the Sanskrit verb root ṛ- “to go, move, rise, tend upwards”, and the derivative noun ṛtam is defined as “fixed or settled order, rule, divine law or truth”. As Mahony (1998) notes, however, the term can just as easily be translated literally as “that which has moved in a fitting manner”, abstractly as “universal law” or “cosmic order”, or simply as “truth”. The latter meaning dominates in the Avestan cognate to Ṛta, aša.
Oldenberg (1894) surmised that the concept of Ṛta originally arose in the Indo-Aryan period from a consideration of the natural order of the world and of the occurrences taking place within it as doing so with a kind of causal necessity. Both Vedic Ṛta and Avestan aša were conceived of as having a tripartite function which manifested itself in the physical, ethical and ritual domains.
In the context of Vedic religion, those features of nature which either remains constant or which occur on a regular basis were seen to be a manifestation of the power of Ṛta in the physical cosmos. In the human sphere, Ṛta was understood to manifest itself as the imperative force behind both the moral order of society as well as the correct performance of Vedic rituals.
That “truth” is also what was commonly understood by the term is attested in Greek: In Isis and Osiris 47, Plutarch calls the divinity Aletheia, “Truth.” Aletheia is truth or disclosure in philosophy. It was used in Ancient Greek philosophy and revived in the 20th century by Martin Heidegger.
In the early to mid 20th-century, Martin Heidegger brought renewed attention to the concept of aletheia, by relating it to the notion of disclosure, or the way in which things appear as entities in the world.
Heidegger gave an etymological analysis of aletheia, and drew out an understanding of the term as ‘unconcealedness’. Thus, aletheia is distinct from conceptions of truth understood as statements which accurately describe a state of affairs (correspondence), or statements which fit properly into a system taken as a whole (coherence).
Instead, Heidegger focused on the elucidation of how an ontological “world” is disclosed, or opened up, in which things are made intelligible for human beings in the first place, as part of a holistically structured background of meaning.
It is a Greek word variously translated as “unclosedness”, “unconcealedness”, “disclosure” or “truth”. The literal meaning of the word is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” It also means factuality or reality.
Maya or Māyā, literally means “illusion” and “magic”. However, the term has multiple meanings depending on the context. In earlier older language, it literally implies extraordinary power and wisdom, in later Vedic texts and modern literature dedicated to Indian traditions, Māyā connotes a “magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem”.
In Indian philosophies, Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting “that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal”, and the “power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality”.
In Buddhism, Maya was the name of Gautama Buddha’s mother. Maya is also the name of a manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of “wealth, prosperity and love”, in Hinduism. For these reasons, it is a popular name for girls.
Māyā is a Sanskrit word with unclear etymology, probably comes from two roots, mā (or may-) which means “measure”, and “yā” which means “vanish, to go, undertake”. These roots are also related to the root mā, which means mother and serve as an epithet for goddesses such as Lakshmi.
A similar word is also found in the Proto-Indo-Iranian language *māyā, cognate to Avestan māyā with the meaning of “magic power”. Franklin Southworth states the word’s origin is uncertain, and other possible roots of Māyā include “may-” meaning mystify, confuse, intoxicate, delude, as well as “māy-” which means “disappear, be lost”.
According to Monier Williams, Māyā meant wisdom and extraordinary power in an earlier older language, but from Vedic period onwards, the word came to mean “illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, witchcraft and magic”.
However, Shastri states that the Monier Williams’ list is a “loose definition, misleading generalization”, and not accurate in interpreting ancient Vedic and medieval era Sanskrit texts; instead, he suggests a more accurate meaning of Maya is “appearance, not mere illusion”.
Maya was the name of Gautama Buddha’s mother. In Hinduism, Māyā is also a form of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and wealth, and the wife of the god Vishnu. In Devi Mahatmya, the epithet for the goddess is Mahamāyā, meaning “one whose power of illusion is great”. Because of the name’s association with revered identities in Indian philosophies, Mayā is a common name for girls in India and amongst the Indian diaspora around the world.
Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. The commonly understood opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning.
The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy and religion. Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most (but not all) of the sciences, law, and everyday life.
Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians. Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth.
There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.
The English word truth is derived from Old English tríewþ, tréowþ, trýwþ, Middle English trewþe, cognate to Old High German triuwida, Old Norse tryggð. Like troth, it is a -th nominalisation of the adjective true (Old English tréowe).
The English word true is from Old English (West Saxon) (ge)tríewe, tréowe, cognate to Old Saxon (gi)trûui, Old High German (ga)triuwu (Modern German treu “faithful”), Old Norse tryggr, Gothic triggws, all from a Proto-Germanic *trewwj- “having good faith”, perhaps ultimately from PIE *dru- “tree”, on the notion of “steadfast as an oak” (e.g., Sanskrit “dru” tree). Old Norse trú, “faith, word of honour; religious faith, belief” (archaic English troth “loyalty, honesty, good faith”, compare Ásatrú).
From Middle English trouthe, trowthe, variant of treouthe, treuthe, from Old English trēowþ, trīewþ (“truth, veracity; faith, fidelity; pledge, covenant”), from Proto-Germanic *triwwiþō (“promise, contract”), equivalent to true + -th.
Thus, ‘truth’ involves both the quality of “faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, veracity”, and that of “agreement with fact or reality”, in Anglo-Saxon expressed by sōþ (Modern English sooth).
All Germanic languages besides English have introduced a terminological distinction between truth “fidelity” and truth “factuality”. To express “factuality”, North Germanic opted for nouns derived from sanna “to assert, affirm”, while continental West Germanic (German and Dutch) opted for continuations of wâra “faith, trust, pact” (cognate to Slavic věra “(religious) faith”, but influenced by Latin verus).
Romance languages use terms following the Latin veritas, while the Greek aletheia, Russian pravda and South Slavic istina have separate etymological origins.
In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue. It was believed that she hid in the bottom of a holy well because she was so elusive. Her image is shown as a young virgin dressed in white.
Veritas is also the name given to the Roman virtue of truthfulness, which was considered one of the main virtues any good Roman should possess. In Greek mythology, Veritas is known as Aletheia and is the daughter of Zeus, or a creation of Prometheus. Veritas was often depicted nude.
The ancient Greek origins of the words “true” and “truth” have some consistent definitions throughout great spans of history that were often associated with topics of logic, geometry, mathematics, deduction, induction, and natural philosophy.
Socrates’, Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas about truth are seen by some as consistent with correspondence theory. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”.
In Hinduism, Truth is defined as “unchangeable”, “that which has no distortion”, “that which is beyond distinctions of time, space, and person”, “that which pervades the universe in all its constancy”. The human body, therefore is not completely true as it changes with time, for example.
Sat is a Sanskrit word meaning “the true essence (nature)” and that “which is unchangeable” of an entity, species or existence. Sat is a common prefix in ancient Indian literature and variously implies that which is good, true, virtuous, being, happening, real, existing, enduring, lasting, essential. It can simply be said to be the present participle of the root as “to be” (PIE *h₁es-; cognate to English is).
In ancient texts, fusion words based on Sat, refer to “Universal Spirit, Universal Principle, Being, Soul of the World, Brahman”. Sat may also refer to Citsvaru’pa, the Supreme consciousness, or Parama Purusha, the Supreme Being. “Sat” is one of the three characteristics of Brahman, as described in sat-chit-ananda.
In Hinduism, Brahmapura is the abode of Brahma, one of the three Trimurti. It is located on Mount Meru. It is also referred to as Brahmaloka or Satyaloka in all of the puranas. Brahmapura is the topmost loka within this material universe.
Sat is the root of many Sanskrit words and concepts such as sattva (“pure, truthful”) and satya (“truth”). As a prefix, in some context it means true and genuine; for example, sat-sastra means true doctrine, sat-van means one devoted to the true. At a suffix, in some context it implies time; for example, panka-sat which means fifty years.
The negation of sat is asat, a combination word of a and sat. Asat refers to the opposite of sat, that is delusion, distorted, untrue, fleeting impression that is incorrect, nonexistent and false.
In Vedic philosophy, sattva (“purity”, literally “existence, reality”; adjectival sāttvika “pure”, anglicised sattvic), is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika (“pure”), rājasika (“excitable”), and tāmasika (“indifferent”). Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying.
Satya literally means truth, reality. It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. In Yoga, satya is one of five yamas, the virtuous restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one’s expressions and actions. It is a Sanskrit word that means adhering to truth, reality and honesty.
“Satya” (Sat-yá) is derived from Sat and ya. Sat means being, reality, and is the present participle of the root as “to be” (PIE *h₁es-; cognate to English is). Ya and yam means “advancing, supporting, hold up, sustain, one that moves”. As a composite word, Satya and Satyam imply that “which supports, sustains and advances reality, being”; it literally means, “that which is true, actual, real, genuine, trustworthy, valid”.
In Vedic literature, and later sutras, the meaning of the word Satya evolves into an ethical concept about truthfulness and is considered an important virtue. It means being true and consistent with reality in one’s thought, speech and action.
A related concept Sattva, also derived from “sat”, means true essence, nature, spiritual essence, character. Sattva is also a Guna, a psychology concept particularly in Sämkya-Yoga schools of Hinduism, where it means goodness, purity, clean, positive, one that advances good true nature of self.
The term satya (Sanskrit; in Pali: sacca) is translated in English as “reality” or “truth.” In terms of the Four Noble Truths (ariya-sacca), the Pali can be written as sacca, tatha, anannatatha and dhamma. ‘The Four Noble Truths’ (ariya-sacca) are the briefest synthesis of the entire teaching of Buddhism, since all those manifold doctrines of the threefold Pali canon are, without any exception, included therein.
Jainism considers satya to be one of its five core principles and all sadhus (“good; good man, holy man”), In Hinduism a religious ascetic or holy person, must take a vow to adhere to it. In Sikhism, Sach (Satya, Truth) is the most important virtue which Sikhs try to develop during their life.
There are many references, properties and explanations of truth by Hindu sages that explain varied facets of truth. Combined with other words, satya acts as modifier, like “ultra” or “highest,” or more literally “truest,” connoting purity and excellence. For example, satyaloka is the “highest heaven’ and Satya Yuga is the “golden age” or best of the four cyclical cosmic ages in Hinduism, and so on.
The Satya Yuga, also called Sat Yuga, Krta Yuga and Krita Yuga in Hinduism, is the “Yuga (Age or Era) of Truth”, when humanity is governed by gods, and every manifestation or work is close to the purest ideal and humanity will allow intrinsic goodness to rule supreme. It is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age”.
The Satya Yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. The goddess Dharma, depicted in the form of cow, which symbolises morality, stood on all four legs during this period. Later in the Treta Yuga it would become three, and two in the later Dvapara Yuga. Currently, in the immoral age of Kali, it stands on one leg.
The yugas are said to succeed each other almost endlessly. After the perfect Satya Yuga, a decline marks the Treta Yuga. Further decline brings about the Dwapara Yuga, and after it come the final and dark Kali Yuga, a time of wickedness, when man kills another man. At the end of the cycle a Divine Being is said to take birth and reestablish righteousness, thus beginning a new Satya Yuga.
Combined with other words, satya acts as modifier, implying truthful. For example, Satya Loka is the “place of truth”, and Satya Yuga is the “Age of Truth” – one of the four cyclical cosmic ages in Hinduism.
In connection to Sadhana, spiritual practice, the meaning of satya is the benevolent use of words and the mind for the welfare of others. This is to say that a benevolent sage must be truthful regardless of the meaning of satya.
Sant Mat refers to a loosely-associated group of teachers that became prominent in the Indian subcontinent from about the 13th century CE. Theologically, their teachings are distinguished by an inward, loving devotion to a divine principle, and socially by an egalitarianism opposed to the qualitative distinctions of the Hindu caste system, and to those between Hindus and Muslims.
The sant lineage can be divided into two main groups: the northern group of sants from the provinces of the Punjab region, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, who expressed themselves mainly in vernacular Hindi, and the southern group, whose language is archaic Marathi, represented by Namdev and other sants of Maharashtra.
The expression “Sant Mat” literally means “Teachings of the Saints” – the “Path of Sants (Saints)”, “Path of Truth”, “Right or Positive Path”. As “point of view of the Sants”, the term Sant is pivotal.
It is derived from the Sanskrit sat and has overlapping usages (true, real, honest, right). Its root meaning is “one who knows(is) the truth” or “one who has experienced (merged into) Ultimate Reality.” The term ‘sant’ has taken on the general meaning of “a good person” but is properly assigned to the poet-sants of medieval India.
“If some god had been holding level the balance of goddess which is Dike” is a surviving fragment of Bacchylides’ poetry. Ancient Rome adopted the image of a female goddess of justice, which it called Iustitia, Justitia or Lady Justice, the Roman goddess of Justice, the spirit of the divine rightness of law who is equivalent to the Greek goddesses Themis, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. The scales of justice represent truth and lie.
Her origins are in civic abstractions of a Roman mindset, rather than archaic mythology, so drawing comparisons is not fruitful. Portrayed as an impassive woman, holding scales and a double-edged sword (sometimes a cornucopia), and since the 16th century usually shown blindfolded, the sculpted figure outside a courthouse is typically Justitia or Lady Justice, not Themis. In the Law Courts at Vancouver, British Columbia, however, the statue is explicitly of Themis.
Since Roman times, Iustitia has frequently been depicted carrying scales and a sword, and wearing a blindfold. Her modern iconography frequently adorns courthouses and courtrooms, and conflates the attributes of several goddesses who embodied Right Rule for Greeks and Romans blending Roman blindfolded Fortuna (fate) with Hellenistic Greek Tyche (luck), and sword-carrying Nemesis (vengeance).
Tyche (“luck”) was the presiding tutelary deity that governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. She is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes. The Roman equivalent is Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and personification of luck in Roman religion. She might bring good luck or bad: she could be represented as veiled and blind, as in modern depictions of Justice, and came to represent life’s capriciousness. She was also a goddess of fate.
Lady Justice is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her right hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.
In her right hand, Lady Justice is seen to have a sword that faces downwards. This sword represents punishment. This sword is held below the scales to show that evidence and court is always held before punishment.