Category Archives: Modern Mythology

This category is for posts dealing with 1) modern mythology, also known as UPG, and 2) stuff that someone made up. It’s a fine line, but worth pursuing.

Is Danu a real goddess?

One of the things everyone knows about Irish mythology is that the deities we all know (Brigit, the Dagda, Boand, Ogma, etc.) are all members of the Tuatha de Danann, the people or tribe of the goddess Danu.

However, none of the Irish sources mention this goddess, who was an important enough ancestor that her name identified all of her descendants. (Imagine if the Olympian gods of Greece were known as the Gaians, for example.) Some Celtic scholars have gone so far as to doubt the existence of any such deity. Why?

Continue reading

Athena, Medusa and the Sun-Goddess

During my research for my post on Medusa and the Gorgon, I  constantly ran into the idea that the Gorgon was a faint echo of an early Mycenean sun-goddess, depicted face-front with radiating (snaky) hair. I could see how that idea might arise, but Athena as sun-goddess struck me as a bit of a reach. After all, Athena wears the Gorgon on her breast as a symbol of the triumph of cunning (metis) over elemental powers. (Deacy: 47)

It must be tempting, though, to invert the Greek beliefs that shaped patriarchal culture, with its binary of sun/reason/male vs. night/emotion/female. Especially in the form of its most complicit goddess, Athena, who upheld father-right against the Furies’s desire to avenge a matricide. (Although kicking Bachofen and his followers comes about 150 years too late.) Feminizing the Greek sun, and connecting it to those elemental powers, may feel like sweet revenge.

Continue reading

Koios: famous for being obscure

I have a tag I use from time to time: “obscure deities”. The Titan Koios (or Coeus) was famous for being obscure. In the Metamorphoses, the ill-fated Niobe says of him and his daughter Leto:

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.

Continue reading

Who is the Birch Goddess?

Berkana, or Birch, the 18th rune, is often said to be named after the birch goddess. I think however the “goddess” part is modern mythology. Before I go any further I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s how mythology gets made. It is interesting to see how ideas get put together and grow into something new.

Continue reading

Sheila vs. Patrick: March 18th and Sheila’s Brush

Sheila’s Brush is a Newfoundland term for a storm on or about the 18th of March. Because Sheila’s storm comes just after St. Patrick’s Day, Sheila is often described as the saint’s wife or mother. You would think that this would be an Irish tradition as well, carried to the new world by immigrants, but it appears to be a local invention.

Continue reading

Horned goddesses

When I was writing about the Irish goddess Flidais, I said that I would be covering hunting goddesses and horned goddesses in another post. The post on hunting goddesses was duly written, but the horned goddesses slipped away.

This may be due in part to the fact that I thought of horned goddesses as a mainly modern phenomenon. The first inkling I ever had of them came from Chesca Potter’s artwork. Her image of the folkloric figure Elen (heroine of “The Dream of Macsen Wledig“,  in the Mabinogion) as a horned goddess caught my attention. However, I had no context for it, and it remained an interesting picture, and nothing more.

Continue reading

Freyja: the Valkyrie Goddess?

The Norse goddess Freyja and the valkyries, choosers of the slain, seem to have a lot in common. Both can take bird-form, are associated with war, magic and death, and take mortal protegés and lovers. Add that to the fact that she and Odin took half of all slain warriors each, and many have concluded that Freyja was the leader of the valkyries, the valkyrie goddess if you will.

Continue reading

Flidais: A Chariot Drawn By Deer

Where did the idea that Flidais rode in a chariot drawn by deer come from? It’s not in her main legend, the Táin Bó Flidais, nor in the follow-on story, the Táin Bó Cúailnge. It’s an attractive image, bringing to mind the Middle Eastern goddesses with their lion-drawn chariots,  Freyja with her cats, and Nerthus in her wagon drawn by heifers.

Continue reading