Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Similar Myths to Heracles (Hercules)

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 29, 2015

Armenian Vahagn

Vahana

Similar Myths to Heracles (Hercules)

Orion (constellation)

Orion in Prehistory

A wagon (also spelt waggon in British and Commonwealth English) is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals, used for transporting goods, commodities, agricultural materials, supplies, and sometimes people. Wagons are distinguished from carts, which have two wheels, and from lighter four-wheeled vehicles primarily for carrying people, such as carriages.

Vahana (literally “that which carries, that which pulls”) denotes the being, typically an animal or mythical entity, a particular Hindu deity is said to use as a vehicle. In this capacity, the vahana is often called the deity’s “mount”.

Upon the partnership between the deity and his vahana it is woven much iconography and mythology. Often, the deity is iconographically depicted riding (or simply mounted upon) the vahana. Other times, the vahana is depicted at the deity’s side or symbolically represented as a divine attribute.

The vahana may be considered an accoutrement of the deity: though the vahana may act independently, they are still functionally emblematic or even syntagmatic of their “rider”. The deity may be seen sitting or on, or standing on, the vahana. They may be sitting on a small platform called a howdah, or riding on a saddle or bareback. Vah in Sanskrit means to carry or to transport.

In Hindu iconography, positive aspects of the vehicle are often emblematic of the deity that it carries. Nandi the bull, vehicle of Shiva, represents strength and virility. Parvani the peacock, vehicle of Skanda, represents splendor and majesty. The hamsa, vehicle of Saraswati, represents wisdom, grace and beauty.

However, the vehicle animal also symbolizes the evil forces over which the deity dominates. Mounted on Parvani, Skanda reins in the peacock’s vanity. Seated on Mushika, Ganesh crushes useless thoughts, which multiply like rats in the dark. Shani, protector of property, has a vulture, raven or crow in which he represses thieving tendencies. Under Shani’s influence, the vahana can make even malevolent events bring hope.

The vehicle of a deity can vary according to the source, the time, and the place. In popular tradition, the origin of each vehicle is told in thousands of different ways. The vahana and deity to which they support are in a reciprocal relationship. Vahana serve and are served in turn by those who engage them. Many vahana may also have divine powers or a divine history of their own.

Case in point, the aforementioned Nataraja story, represents a conflation of Hindu gods with local gods, syncretizing their mythos as their territories began to overlap. According to one source, “they could be a synthesis between Vedic deities and autochthonous Dravidian totemic deities.

Vahagn Vishapakagh (Vahagn the Dragon Reaper) or Vahakn was a god of fire and war worshiped anciently and historically in Armenia. Sometime during Ancient history, he formed a “triad” with Aramazd and Anahit.

It was said that Vahagn fought and conquered dragons, hence his title Vishabakagh, “dragon reaper”, where dragons in Armenian lore are identified as “Vishaps”. He was invoked as a god of courage, later identified with Heracles. He was also a sun-god, rival of Baal-shamin and Mihr.

The stalk or reed, key to the situation, is an important word in Indo-European mythology, in connection with fire in its three forms. Vahagn was linked to Verethragna, the hypostasis of victory in the texts of the Avesta; the name turned into Vahagn (the Avestan “th” becoming “h” in Arsacid Middle Persian), later on to take the form of Vahagn.

Vahram / Vahrām is a variant name of the divinity Verethragna in Zoroastrianism. Other variants are Vehram, Bahram, Behram, Balram. Vahram is also a common given name for Armenian males. Vahramian / Vahramyan derived from Vahram become an Armenian family name.

Vahram may have connection to Balram both of which are considered as Herakles (Zoroastrians) and Megasthenes’ Herakles (Indus). It is unclear whether the latter refers to Balram or Krishna whose stories have a strong resemblance to Herakles. Many scholars have suggested that the deity identified as Herakles was Krishna.

Bahram or Vahram, variant Bahran or Vahran, meaning “smiting of resistance” or “victorious”, is a Persian surname or a male Persian given name. Bahram means “victorious” in the Avestan language in Zoroastrianism.

Verethragna is an Avestan language neuter noun literally meaning “smiting of resistance”. Representing this concept is the divinity Verethragna, who is the hypostasis of “victory”, and “as a giver of victory Verethragna plainly enjoyed the greatest popularity of old”.

The name and, to some extent, the deity has correspondences in Armenian Vahagn and Vram, Buddhist Sogdian Wshn, Manichaen Parthian Wryhrm, Kushan Bactrian Orlagno. While the figure of Verethragna is highly complex, parallels have also been drawn between it and (variously) Vedic Indra, Puranic Vishnu, Manichaean Adamas, Chaldean/Babylonian Nergal, Egyptian Horus, Hellenic Ares and Heracles, Roman Mars, Germanic Tyr.

In the astronomical and calendrical reforms of the Sassanids (205-651 CE), the planet Mars was named Bahram. Zaehner attributes this to the syncretic influences of the Chaldean astral-theological system, where Babylonian Nergal is both the god of war and the name of the red planet.

In Egyptian mythology, Ptah (Egyptian: ptḥ, probably vocalized as Pitaḥ in ancient Egyptian) is the demiurge of Memphis, god of craftsmen and architects. From the Middle Kingdom onwards, he was one of five major Egyptian gods with Ra, Isis, Osiris and Amun.

In the triad of Memphis, he is the spouse of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertum. He was also regarded as the father of the sage Imhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC, meaning: “the one who comes in peace, is with peace”), an Egyptian polymath who served under the Third Dynasty king Djoser as chancellor to the pharaoh and high priest of the sun god Ra (or Re) at Heliopolis.

Imhotep is considered by some to be the earliest known architect and engineer and physician in early history, though two other physicians, Hesy-Ra and Merit-Ptah, lived around the same time. Two thousand years after his death, Imhotep’s status was raised to that of a deity of medicine and healing. He was identified or confused with Thoth, the god of architecture, mathematics, medicine and patron of the scribes, having Imhotep’s cult merging with that of his former tutelary god.

Taking this into consideration, he was thus associated with Amenhotep son of Hapu, who was another deified architect, in the region of Thebes where they were worshipped as “brothers” in temples dedicated to Thoth and later in Hermopolis following the syncretist concept of Hermes-Thot, a concept that led to another syncretic belief, that of Hermes Trismegistus and hermeticism. Imhotep was also linked to Asklepios by the Greeks.

According to myth, Imhotep’s mother was a mortal named Kheredu-ankh, elevated later to semi-divine status by claims that she was the daughter of Banebdjedet. Conversely, since Imhotep was known as the “Son of Ptah,” his mother was sometimes claimed to be Sekhmet, the patron of Upper Egypt whose consort was Ptah. Also according to myths, his father was also an architect and was named Kanofer.

In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis (alternatively spelled Hapi-ankh), is a bull-deity that was worshipped in the Memphis region. “Apis served as an intermediary between humans and an all-powerful god (originally Ptah, later Osiris, then Atum).”

Kothar-wa-Khasis is a Canaanite god whose name means “Skillful-and-Wise”, “Adroit-and-Perceptive” or “Deft-and-Clever”. Another of his names means “Deft-with-both-hands”. He is smith, craftsman, engineer, architect, and inventor. He is also soothsayer and magician, creating sacred words and spells, in part because there is an association in many cultures of metalworking deities with magic. The god-name Ka-sha-lu in texts from Ebla suggests that he was known in Syria as early as the late third millennium BC.

Kothar aids Baal in his battles, as recounted in the Myth of Baal, by creating and naming two magic clubs (Yagrush and Ayamur) with which Baʿal defeats Yam. Kothar also creates beautiful furniture adorned with silver and gold as gifts for Athirat. And he builds Baʿal’s palace of silver, gold, lapis lazuli, and fragrant cedar wood. One of his significant actions is as the opener of the window through which Baʿal’s rains can come and go to fertilize the earth and provide for the continuance of life.

Kothar’s abode is Egypt, written in Ugaritic as HKPT – read perhaps as “hikaptah” – derived from the Egyptian for “the house of the ka of Ptah” used for Memphis and paralleled in a poem with KPTR – representing Caphtor. Memphis is the site of the temple of Ptah, the Egyptian god responsible for crafts, whose name means “the Opener”.

In his book on the Myth of Baal, Mark Smith notes that there is a possible pun involved in Kothar’s epithet “The Opener”. According to the Phoenician mythology related by Mochos of Sidon, as cited in Damascius’s De principiis, Chusor, Kothar’s name in Phoenician Greek, was the first “opener.” Assuming the West Semitic root *pth, “to open,” Albright argues that this title represents word-play on the name of the Egyptian god Ptah.

Smith further explains Kothar’s double abodes as reflexes of metal or craft trade both from Egypt and from the Mediterranean Sea to Ugarit, as Kothar is imputed to be the divine patron of these skills. Kothar had a minor role in ancient Egyptian religion, as the mythological builder of chapels for Egypt’s more important deities.

In Germanic and Norse mythology, Wayland the Smith (Old English: Wēland; Old Norse: Völundr, Velentr; Old High German: Wiolant; Proto-Germanic: *Wēlandaz, from *Wēla-nandaz, lit. “battle-brave”) is a legendary master blacksmith.

Heracles (from Hēra, “Hera”, and kleos, “glory”), born Alcaeus (Alkaios) or Alcides (Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus.

He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman Emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves.

The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.

Many popular stories were told of his life, the most famous being The Twelve Labours of Heracles; Alexandrian poets of the Hellenistic age drew his mythology into a high poetic and tragic atmosphere. His figure, which initially drew on Near Eastern motifs such as the lion-fight, was known everywhere: his Etruscan equivalent was Hercle, a son of Tinia and Uni.

Heracles was the greatest of Hellenic chthonic heroes, but unlike other Greek heroes, no tomb was identified as his. Heracles was both hero and god, as Pindar says heroes theos; at the same festival sacrifice was made to him, first as a hero, with a chthonic libation, and then as a god, upon an altar: thus he embodies the closest Greek approach to a “demi-god”.

The core of the story of Heracles has been identified by Walter Burkert as originating in Neolithic hunter culture and traditions of shamanistic crossings into the netherworld.

Herodotus connected Heracles to the Egyptian god Shu. Also he was associated with Khonsu, another Egyptian god who was in some ways similar to Shu. As Khonsu, Heracles was worshipped at the now sunken city of Heracleion, where a large temple was constructed.

But most often the Egyptians identified Heracles with Heryshaf, transcribed in Greek as Arsaphes or Harsaphes. He was an ancient ram-god whose cult was centered in Herakleopolis Magna.

Via the Greco-Buddhist culture, Heraclean symbolism was transmitted to the far east. An example remains to this day in the Nio guardian deities in front of Japanese Buddhist temples.

Temples dedicated to Heracles abounded all along the Mediterranean coastal countries. For example the temple of Heracles Monoikos (i.e. the lone dweller), built far from any nearby town upon a promontory in what is now the Côte d’Azur, gave its name to the area’s more recent name, Monaco.

The gateway to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, where the southernmost tip of Spain and the northernmost of Morocco face each other, is, classically speaking, referred to as the Pillars of Hercules/Heracles, owing to the story that he set up two massive spires of stone to stabilise the area and ensure the safety of ships sailing between the two landmasses.

Herodotus also connected Heracles to Phoenician god Melqart, (lit. Melek-qart, “King of the City”; Akkadian: Milqartu), the tutelary god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was often titled Ba‘l Ṣūr, “Lord of Tyre”, and considered to be the ancestor of the Tyrian royal family. In Greek, by interpretatio graeca he was identified with Heracles and referred to as the Tyrian Herakles.

As Tyrian trade and colonization expanded, Melqart became venerated in Phoenician and Punic cultures from Syria to Spain. The first occurrence of the name is in a 9th-century BCE stela inscription found in 1939 north of Aleppo in northern Syria, the “Ben-Hadad” inscription, erected by the son of the king of Arma, “for his lord Melqart, which he vowed to him and he heard his voice”.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Vulcan is the god of fire, including the fire of volcanoes, also god of metalworking and the forge. Vulcan is often depicted with a blacksmith’s hammer. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor.

The origin of the name is unclear and debated. Roman tradition maintained that it was related to Latin words connected to lightning (fulgur, fulgere, fulmen), which in turn was thought of as related to flames. This interpretation is supported by Walter William Skeat in his etymological dictionary as meaning lustre.

Vulcan created a net out of unbreakable steel so that he could catch Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, and Mars, the god of war, in the act of making love. He was jealous of their relationship, because Venus was his beloved wife. Vulcan managed to catch them but, afterwards, Mercury stole the net from the blacksmith god so that he could catch Chloris, a nymph whom he admired.

His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. In Etruscan religion, he is identified with Sethlans, the god of fire, the forge, metalworking, and by extension craftsmanship in general. In Etruscan arts Sethlans may be identified by his tools, the hammer and tongs of the blacksmith, and by the pileus or conical cap he wears.

As a smithing god, Hephaestus made all the weapons of the gods in Olympus. He served as the blacksmith of the gods, and was worshipped in the manufacturing and industrial centers of Greece, particularly Athens. The cult of Hephaestus was based in Lemnos. Hephaestus’ symbols are a smith’s hammer, anvil, and a pair of tongs.

Hephaestus is probably associated with the Linear B (Mycenean Greek) inscription A-pa-i-ti-jo, found at Knossos; the inscription indirectly attests his worship at that time because it is believed that it reads the theophoric name Haphaistios or Haphaistion. The name of the god in Greek (Hēphaistos), has a root which can be observed in names of places, of Pre-Greek origin, like Phaistos (Pa-i-to in Linear B).

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