Zeus’s parents were both Titans, children of Uranus (Sky) and Gaea (Earth). Zeus’s mother was Rhea; his father was Cronus. Fearing that one of his sons would overthrow him, Cronus swallowed his five other children, but Rhea rescued Zeus and had him raised in secrecy in a cave. Eventually Zeus tricked Cronus into vomiting up […]
Both Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus were fathered by Zeus, king of the gods. Apollo’s mother was the goddess Leto; Dionysus’s mother was a mortal named Semele. Apollo was the god of light, healing, music, and archery. Dionysus, a darker figure, was the god of wine and fertility.
In the Jewish calendar, Tammuz is the name of the month that falls during June and July.
In medieval times, the philosophers’ stone was the substance that alchemists claimed would turn base metals into gold. The great search for the stone laid the groundwork for the development of the science of chemistry.
According to legend you get the gift of eloquence when you kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland. To reach the Blarney Stone, go to the southern wall of Blarney Castle in the village of Blarney, County Cork, Ireland. The stone is under the battlements there. Be warned: You have to hang head downward to kiss […]
Black is the color of mourning today because in ancient times, it was believed that the spirits of the dead could repossess the bodies of the living. So, to disguise themselves from evil spirits, mourners painted their bodies black. Later societies translated this custom into wearing black clothes and veils.
The Princess slept on 20 mattresses and 20 eiderdowns (fluffy featherbeds), between 2 of which was placed a single pea.
The Phrygian king Tantalus committed an abomination when he cut up his son Pelops and served him for dinner to the gods. He was punished in Hades by unending thirst and hunger. Water slipped away from him whenever he tried to drink it; fruit trees were forever out of reach. This story is the source […]
This basic element of tennis rackets and violins called catgut comes not from cats but from the intestines of sheep. The cat in the word may have derived from kit, an old word for a small violin. Valued for its toughness, catgut is also used for artificial limbs and in small machines like typewriters and […]
In Malory’s Mane d’Arthur, the Lady of the Lake is a supernatural figure who lives in a magical lake. She steals the infant Lancelot and raises him in the lake, hence his name, Lancelot du Lac. She also awards King Arthur the sword Excalibur, which he takes from an arm reaching out of the lake. […]
Yes, hares supposedly bring bad fortune. Legend has it that witches transform themselves into hares, so crossing a hare’s path may mean meeting up with a witch. Further, hares have been believed by some to be melancholy creatures; thus, eating a hare can ruin your day.
As presented in Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Sir Galahad was the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Princess Elaine. Also the last descendant of Joseph of Arimathea, he was the purest knight of the Knights of the Round Table.
Before it became the Nazi symbol of Aryan superiority, the swastika had several meanings, all positive. In Sanskrit, the word swastika means “conducive to well-being.” The Aryans of India believed swastikas represented the sun’s motion across the sky, a symbol of its goodness and regenerative power. The Greeks and Persians believed it represented prosperity and […]
Over the course of 12 years’ service to Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, Hercules performed the following known as The Twelve Labours of Hercules: 1. Killed the Nemean lion 2. Killed the hydra of Lerna 3. Captured the Erymanthian boar 4. Captured the hind of Artemis 5. Killed the man-eating Stymphalian birds 6. Cleaned the Augean […]
The Round Table seated 150 knights, with one place left open for the Holy Grail. The table’s design was conceived by Merlin to prevent any bickering about who would get places of honor.
In Western Europe, people have considered the feet of rabbits lucky since before 600 B.C. Several characteristics of the rabbit may have led to its great popularity: It is born with its eyes open, suggesting innate wisdom; it spends much of its life underground, suggesting a connection to a mysterious netherworld; it is prolific, suggesting […]
One reason spilling salt is considered bad luck is because salt was once valuable and difficult to obtain. According to an old Norwegian superstition, a person is doomed to shed as many tears as it takes to dissolve the spilled salt. Another reason is the belief that spilled salt refers to the devil. In the […]
Despite rumors that the slightest nibble on the Christmas flower poinsettias will result in death, poinsettias are not poisonous to humans. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission determined in 1975 that the toxicity of poinsettias is a myth, though the flower is a nonfood substance and, if eaten, could cause some discomfort.
The Grateful Dead does not mean a rock group. It is a folktale in which a young man buries a corpse at great personal risk, then obtains a bride with the help of the grateful deceased. A version of the tale appears in the apocryphal Old Testament book of Tobit.
The Greek Adonis, the Babylonian Tammuz, the Sumerian Dumuzi, and the Egyptian Osiris are all forms of the same god. After being carried off to the underworld, Tammuz, god of crops and vegetation, was rescued by his lover Ishtar. All life on earth withered between his dying (in winter) and his rising (in spring).
The ancient Scandinavians appear to be responsible for the legend of newborn babies being delivered by the stork. The myth grew out of observations of storks, their nesting in chimneys, their monogamy, and their gentle behavior toward their kin. The myth did not gain worldwide acceptance until the nineteenth century, when Danish writer Hans Christian […]
Daughters of Zeus, they were Greek goddesses of fertility, later associated with beauty and love, Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness), and Thalia (Bloom). Their collective name, Graces (they were also known as Chorites), referred to the gracious or pleasing appearance of fertile gardens and fields.
Ishtar was the great mother goddess of the Babylonians and Assyrians. Her concerns included fertility, healing, sexuality, and lust.
The moon does occasionally appear blue because of dust conditions in the atmosphere. The most famous widely observed blue moon of recent times occurred on September 26, 1950, owing to dust raised by Canadian forest fires.
Yin is female, dark, negative, earthly. Yang is male, bright, positive, heavenly. In Chinese mythology, both are ethers born in the division of the original cell of chaos, Ch’i.