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Remarkable new archaeological discoveries are beginning to suggest that Stonehenge was built at a time of particularly intense religious and political rivalry. Just two miles north-east of the World Heritage site, at an important archaeological complex known as Durrington Walls, archaeologists have just discovered what appears to have been a vast 500-metre diameter circle of giant timber posts. The find is of international significance.
We’re all familiar with nose-to-tail eating, the idea that you should use all of an animal once it’s been slaughtered. Thanks to the taboo on cannibalism and various laws about indignity to dead bodies, we tend not to put human bodies to post-death use. Gods, however, are not so squeamish. The Norse gods in particular show thrift and ingenuity, as well as a strong stomach, in their use of their dead compatriots.
I should point out that the Norse gods could, on occasion, lay on a proper funeral: Baldr was buried with full honours. But the dead bodies of one giant and two gods were clearly too valuable to be left lying around.
Volunteer archaeologists have unearthed a miniature bronze figure of a Roman goddess from Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. Helpers from the WallQuest community archaeology project and the Earthwatch Institute dug up the figure of the goddess Ceres which is thought to be a mount from a larger piece of furniture. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain and fertility. Arbeia was a supply base where thousands of tons of grain were stored in granaries to feed the army stationed along Hadrian’s Wall. This is the second goddess that the WallQuest project has found at Arbeia in two years. In 2014, a local volunteer found a carved stone head of a protective goddess, or tutela.
Like the eagle in Aquila, the swan is a bird with many associations, so it seems logical to put a swan in the sky. It was Venus’ bird; the Romans sometimes called the constellation Myrtilus because of this, myrtle also being Venusian.
The Greeks, however, assigned the swan to Apollo, who had a team of them to pull his chariot. Zeus also assumed the shape of a swan to rape Leda, the queen of Sparta, who then gave birth to the Dioskouroi (and in some versions, Helen and Clytemenestra) in an egg, which must have been rather uncomfortable for her.Read More »
While it’s part of Norse myth that the gods and giants are enemies, it seems that the giantesses were a different story. Odin clearly never met one he didn’t like, and he was far from being the only one to have a fling with one. Even Thor the giant-smasher had an affair with Jarnsaxa. These romances usually resulted in the second-generation gods, such as Thor’s son Magni.
Sometimes, however, the sons of these unions were mortals, or demi-mortals anyway. The Swedish ruling dynasty called the Ynglings and the Norwegian earls of Hladir traced themselves back to the giantesses/goddesses Gerdr and Skadi, respectively.
Now, ask what the reason is for my pride, and then dare to prefer Latona to me, that Titaness, daughter of Coeus, whoever he is. Latona, whom the wide earth once refused even a little piece of ground to give birth on.
(Latona is the Roman name for Leto.) Even in her great access of hubris, the only thing Niobe could say of Coeus/Koios was that no one knew who he was. A quick look at online guides to Greek myth shows that Koios is by no means famous now, but there seems to be a desire to fill out his dossier.
This blog has frequently lamented the demotion of Pluto. After being expelled from the company of planets, it now resides in the newly-named Plutoids, in the company of Eris, Sedna and other dwarf planets. Another one-time planet suffered a worse, and lonelier, fate one hundred years ago.
Eagles and thunder-gods often appear together, but in Greek myth the eagle was Zeus’ accomplice as well as his emblem. It stole the beautiful youth Ganymede from his fields and carried him to Olympos to be Zeus’ cupbearer. (Ganymede is also in the heavens, as the constellation Aquarius.)
The eagle also carried out Zeus’ punishment of Prometheus, who stole fire to give to the humans. Zeus had him chained to a cliff face, and the eagle came every day and tore out his liver. Hercules rescued Prometheus as part of his 11th Labour and killed the eagle. Zeus then put it in the sky to reward its faithful service.