Friday, November 17, 2017

New Article: Dwarves Made Most Of The Amazing Items Used By The Gods Of Norse Mythology


(Cropped painting of Thor by Mårten Eskil Winge (1825–1896), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Interestingly, the gods of Norse mythology often had little-to-no innate power when compared to the divinities of other mythologies. At times, the band of deities led by the High One, Odin, seemed to be merely equivalents to Greek or Roman demigods. A prime example is that the immortality of the Norse gods did not occur naturally—to stay alive, the gods were said to eat magical apples of youth, tended by the goddess, Idunn. Also, the gods of Norse mythology were some of the most vulnerable and mortal deities ever worshipped; almost all of the major Norse gods were prophesied to die at Ragnarok. Yet, despite all of their handicaps and vulnerabilities, the Norse gods did become incredibly powerful. Curiously, however, the brilliant workmanship of the dwarves played a huge part in making this happen.

In Norse mythology, the dwarves were the go-to craftsmen for the gods. The great Icelandic chronicler of Norse mythology, Snorri Sturlusson (1179-1241), wrote about several of the magnificent items that the dwarves created for the gods. From tools, to weapons, to livestock, the dwarves could create it.

Read about some of the greatest masterpieces that the dwarves produced for the Norse gods, HERE.
 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Dualistic Reign of Ghazan Khan Of The Ilkhanate

(Depiction of Ghazan and Öljaitü. Jami' al-tawarikh, Rashid al-Din, image produced c. 15th century, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The Mongolian-descended Mahmud Ghazan was born around 1271 and was raised by his grandfather (Abagha Khan, r. 1265-1282) and his father (Arghun Khan, r. 1284-1291) to be a follower of the Buddhist faith. When Abagha Khan died, his son, Teguder, became the new khan of the Ilkhanate. Yet, Teguder’s brother, Arghun successfully raised a large faction against the khan, with one of the main complaints being that Teguder had forsaken Buddhism for Islam. Arghun managed to overthrow Teguder and continued Buddhist dominance over the Mongolian-ruled Ilkhanate.

In 1284, Arghun Khan named his teenage son, Mahmud Ghazan, as the new viceroy or governor in charge of the Ilkhanate’s lands around the region of Persia. Ghazan remained in this post for about ten years, during the reigns of both his father, Arghun Khan, and his uncle, Gaykatu Khan (r. 1291-1295). During his post in Persia, Ghazan battled against a rival faction of Mongolians, known as the Chagatai Mongols, and also defeated a rebellion led by an officer named Nawruz. Even though the revolt was finally crushed in 1294, Nawruz’s life was spared. Interestingly, the rebel leader would play a significant role in Ghazan’s later rise to power.

Continue reading about this khan's reign and his two-sided rule, HERE.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Many Different Categories of Divination, Witchcraft or Magic

(The Witch of Endor (cropped), by D. Martynov (1826-1889), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

The idea of magic, or at least the belief that the future can be predicted through ritualistic, magical or religious means, has seemingly been in the minds of humans since the dawn of recorded history. When hunting witches was a craze in European society, two Papal Inquisitors named Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger described the abilities of the strongest witches in Part II, Question 1, Chapter 2 of their witch-hunter’s manual, The Malleus Maleficarum, which was published around 1487 CE. They wrote that the most talented witches had the ability to control weather. These top-tier supernatural magicians could supposedly summon strong storms of wind, lightning and hail, which they could aim directly at their enemies. They could also curse or hex both man and beast in various ways (such as infertility or death), and they also were said to have psychological powers that could instill madness in victims. They could also allegedly influence the speech of others, specifically by magically forcing any of their captured accomplices to keep silent when tortured by inquisitors.

Offensive magic and witchcraft, which seems to be the type of magic that authors and filmmakers like to portray most of all in their works, drew an unfair lot when compared to the carefully-crafted complex and grandiose names used to label the other categories of supernatural abilities—especially the field of divination, or the prediction of the future using supernatural or pseudoscientific means. Although the magical field of prediction gets a lot less coverage in the books and theater box-offices of the modern world, these prophetic practices were deemed very serious and important in the ancient, medieval and early colonial world. The great Roman orator and statesman, Cicero, wrote one of the most extensive ancient books on the subject, On Divination (De Divinatione). Furthermore, as a consequence of the human addiction to labeling and categorizing absolutely every little thing known to mankind, there is no shortage of overly-specific names for virtually each and every form of these supernatural crafts. Many of these fields fall under the broad category of sortilege, or predicting the future using tools of chance, such as cards. Yet, the broader terms for divination were broken down even further, spawning a whole host of new words, many of which end in “mancy.” For example, divination through the use of cards is called cartomancy. Most of these types of divination are discussed in Part I, Question 17 of The Malleus Maleficarum. Here are just a few of the endless subdivisions of divination that were popular in cultures based out of Europe or the Middle East:

Read about 20 more categories of divination, HERE.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

New Article: Love Killed The Norse God, Frey

(Gerd by W. G. Collingwood (c. 1908) and Frey from Journey Through Bookland (c. 1920) in front of sunburst through a cloudy sky via pxhere.com, all [Public Domain] via Creative Commons or pxhere.com)

On a fateful day, Frey ascended to the top of Hlidskjalf, a watchtower near the center of Asgard. From his vantage point on the tower, the god of sun and rain looked to the north and saw an enormous, beautiful home that belonged to a family of mountain giants. The residence was magnificent, even by the standards set in Asgard. Either inside the house or absent from the property were the giants Gymir and Aurboda, yet their daughter, Gerd, was presently in front of the home, about to approach the door.

As soon as Frey laid his eyes on the young giantess, he was drawn to her grace and beauty. Yet, it was when Gerd lifted her arm to unlock her door the Frey became completely and utterly smitten. With awestruck eyes, Frey watched as his own rays of sunlight reflected against the delicate skin of Gerd’s raised arm, magnifying the radiance of the air, land and sea that lay around her home. She literally and figuratively brightened Frey’s world.

Continue reading about Frey's dooming sacrifice for love, HERE.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Biography: Artemisia I—An Impressive 5th-Century BCE Queen From Within The Persian Empire

(Sketch of Artemisia I by Guillaume Rouille (1518?-1589), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In the past, just like today, the majority of political and military leaders were men. In most (but not all) regions of the world, the prevalence of female leaders decreases as you go back further and further into history. As a sad result, it is common for historians to become extremely enthusiastic when they find even a single woman in a position of influence within a kingdom or empire in the ancient or medieval world. Sometimes, these female rulers earned their place in history by merely achieving and maintaining power, an impressive feat in a world dominated by men. Yet, a few women during this male-dominated period of early history truly proved themselves to be more cunning, courageous and politically competent than their male counterparts. One of these great female figures from ancient history was Artemisia I, a vassal, military leader and trusted advisor of the Persian King of Kings, Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE).

Continue reading about this impressive queen, HERE.