• Tag Archives Mythology
  • Mythology from the Heart of Africa – The Mwindo Epic

    Several myth cycles have been featured here before, most often the Cthulhu Mythos, of course, but there have also been mentions of Norse Mythology and more recently the Epic of Gilgamesh. Now it is time for some mythology that is often, sadly, ignored by most:

    African mythology.

    The fact that African mythology is often ignored in cultural studies is tragic, since this continent offers an astoundingly divers and rich treassure of tales that, due to the nature of human origin, go back longer than anywhere else on earth.
    Here is one great example of African mythology: The Mwindo Epic, a tale by the Nyanga people of the Congo:

     

     

    Also of note is the way the epic is traditionally told (this is according to the Wikipedia, so accurracy may be flexible):

    The Mwindo Epic varies from typical oral myths in that it is not only spoken, but performed among gatherings of locals. The myth is performed mostly by a single bard wielding a calabash made into a rattle and donning various bells and other forms of noisemakers. To tell the story properly the bard acts out all the parts and does not refrain from being very animated in his dances and acting. It is not unusual for the bard to throw in some narrative not native to the story detailing his own life and his own personal experiences. The narrator is usually accompanied by four younger men who play on a percussion stick.

    Audience participation is important. The audience will often sing along with the narrator and the percussionists during the songs, and repeat certain lines of the story while the narrator pauses between sections. The bard is often shown appreciation by the audience with applause, yells, and gifts.

     


  • Steampunk Odin – Why is there an affinity for Norse Gods and Steampunk?

    First, the picture:

    Odin's Final Battle

    This is, according to the artist 3dsquid, a Steampunk version of Odin, he is from the Philippines, so I will not scold him for missing a crucial ocular detail here…

    Now, there seems to be a certain tendency to steampunk-up Norse gods, I have previously (in 2009, oh my gods…) posted an image of Steampunk Thor on this  blog and now I noticed something:

    When you search for steampunk Thor/Odin/Loki, you find a couple of at least half-usable images, but try the same with the Greek or Roman pantheon and things are far less easy. I speculate this is partly due to recent movie releases but also because of Viking-derived and general awesome regarding the Aesir. I admit, I am not unbiased in this matter.

    What ever the reason may be, I think it is highly interesting that there is much more overlap between Steampunk and the Norse Pantheon than for any other, at least as far as I could find out in the amount of time available.

    If any of you knows a decent example of another Steampunk version of a deity, let me know, please

    Image Credit: 3dsquid

  • Steampunk Torah – The Interview

    PunkTorah FlyerToday is Shavuot, the day God, according to Jewish tradition, gave the Torah to his people assembled at Mount Sinai. Now this was a long time ago and according to common wisdom, Judaism has not changed much… Well, think again. There is a rather active modern Jewish community on the ætherweb and in the world outside the ætherweb which has taken Judaism into the 21st century.

    One of their most recognisable websites is PunkThora and it is on PunkTorah where you can find the Torah mixed with Steampunk:

     

    Steampunk Torah: The Jewish Steampunk Miniseries

    (click the headline)

    I strongly recommend you go and read it. It is quite different from everything Steampunk related I have read so far but the anthropologist in me rejoices.

    I contacted PunkTorah about an interview regarding their ongoing Steampunk project to which they graciously agreed. So today, I am happy to share this interview with you, my readers.

    I had the pleasure of interviewing both Patrick Aleph, the executive director of PunkTorah and Rivkah Wood, a.k.a. Raven,  mind behind Steampunk Torah.

    So, let’s get on with the interview.

    Traveler: Patrick, please give us a quick introduction to PunkTorah.

    Patrick Aleph:

    PunkTorah is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to independent Jewish spirituality and culture. Our projects include the PunkTorah blog, NewKosher.org, our Jewish food and party website, and OneShul, the world’s first online independent synagogue. Our newest project is The G-d Project, a social media site and online evolving documentary highlighting the diversity of Jewish spiritual community.

    PunkTorah supports indie projects that connect Jewish spirituality, contemporary culture and community together. We love Raven’s Steampunk work. As a personal fan of the Steampunk genre, I am thrilled to see someone take the spirit of that fantasy era and connect it to Torah Judaism.

    We are always looking for new writers and have started a small publishing and record label outfit to support indie Jewish artists doing creative work. We’d welcome your readers whose work is aligned with our vision of a better Jewish world to submit their projects for potential release.

    Traveler: Have you received any negative comments regarding the steampunkification of the Torah?

    Patrick Aleph: No, we have received only positive comments.

    Traveler: Rivkah, do you imagine a specific time period for your steampunk Torah stories? Are they set in a steampunked version of the iron age or rather neo-victorian?

    Rivkah Wood (Raven):
    It’s neo-Victorian, although modern technology doesn’t exist in this world; it’s more fantasy-steampunk than science fiction-steampunk … there will be mystical elements, so it’s of the magic school rather than heavily science-based.

    Traveler: Could you tell us about your approach concerning tese passages of the Torah. In other words, what exactly is „Midrash?“

    Rivkah Wood :
    Midrash
    is basically creative exploration/interpretation of the „white spaces“ in Torah.  (which is also what Christians call Old Testament.)  It is a way of illuminating the text by imagining and expressing things that might have been.
    My Midrashim are rather different, in that I’m taking a d’var Torah first (an interpretation of Torah on another level; in my case I am taking readings of Torah on the mystic level, which takes nothing literally) and I’m using that entire interpretation of the Torah portion in creating my fictional world.  These midrashim are also different in that one character is journeying through the entire Torah…so they’re not just isolated stories, as is usual.
    The heroine is basically going through a journey that, in her world, mirrors the journey one can take through the year with Torah.

    Traveler: Why did you choose Steampunk or how did you come up with the idea of using a Steampunk theme?

    Rivkah Wood:
    How did I come up with Steampunk?  I’ve been a devotee of it for quite some time.  I grew up obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and Victorian London, so it was just a small step from there to Steampunk.
    I decided that the „white spaces“ (the spaces between the words, basically) in Torah are timeless, because the study of Torah is a rabbinic tradition, meaning every generation has an obligation to interpret it according to the times in which they live, so it can apply to us all.
    I wanted to contribute somehow to PunkTorah, as I really love the site and what they do (check it out! They have services that are inclusive of all) and Patrick said they had plenty of D’vrei Torah. So I said, what about a weekly midrashic exploration?  Then I settled on Steampunk.  Patrick was very kind and said „yes!“ very enthusiastically to everything.  He has not said no to a single idea of mine or piece I have written; if you’ve ever worked in the writing world, that is so extremely rare as to be shocking!  I appreciate it so much.
    So, that’s how Steampunk Torah was born.

    Traveler: Are you a scholar regarding Judaism or are you studying to become one?

    Rivkah Wood:
    I am planning to pursue a path to the Rabbiniate (in other words, become a Rabbi one day, manymany years from now)  and it’s important to me to give the disenfranchised, or those who feel excluded, a voice…call it a personal crusade.  The purpose of this project, really, is to engage Jewish teens in exploration of the journey that Torah embodies; to enable them to see that living a Jewish life is not only cool, it can be an exciting lifelong adventure. I would like to help Jewish teens break free of the mindset that their religion is where they are limited, hampered in their desire to find out who they are, or judged; I hope to open their eyes to the possibility that deepening in Jewish life and thought can actually set them free to fully become who they are.

    Rivkah, Patrick, I thank you for your time and leave you with the Rivkah’s final remark:

    If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! I plan to develop this project further; the weekly format is a new kind of challenge, as I cannot go back and edit, as one would when writing a novel- and the „chapters“ have to be written fairly fast.  I have decided that at the end of the year, when the story has gone through the entire Torah cycle,  I am going to rewrite, go back and add the things I have edited out, and basically deepen the text.  So feedback of all sorts would be very helpful.  You can help a lot by spreading the word!

     

    So please, spread the word and if there is anything you would like to ask Rivkah, drop me a line, I pass it on!


  • Saturday of Neil Gaiman Week

    Well, this is the second to last day of Neil Gaiman Week and it hurts to know that I will not be able at all to fit all the stuff in I originally wanted to do. There is simply too much great stuff around to cover in one week. Oh well, the review of American Gods (one of my all-time favourite novels) and a closer look at Death (the character and the graphic novels The Time of Your Life and The High Cost of Living) will have to wait for now.

    Tomorrow, I am going to end with a cthulhuesque piece by Neil Gaiman, the famous I, Cthulhu and today I will muse a little about mythology in Neil Gaimans work. This way, I will also be able to touch American Gods.

    Nei Gaimans work is infused with mythology, both with actual mythology as can be seen in American Gods, and his very own. The most famous example of this are the Endless. Within the DC Universe (or at least the Sandman Universe) they are even more powerful than the gods. Destiny is the oldest of the seven, but Death is the one who will lock up the universe behind her once everything is finished.

    For those of you who are not familiar with the endless, they are a happy, slightly dysfunctional family consiting of: Destiny, Death, Dream, Desire, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (she used to be Delight).

    The Endless form their own very unique group of personifications of concepts. Some of them universal (Death, Destruction, maybe destiny). The others may only be valid within certain cultures or be restricted to influecing beings capable of emotions (I have no idea if microbes or plants dream, after all. Still, the concept is sound, it definitely holds the Sandman Universe together (I sound a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi here, don’t I). Also, real-world mythology features heavily in Gaiman’s work. From gods like Ubasti, Thor and Lucifer to mythical beings of various cultures and the Atlantean mage in The Books of Magic (not to mention the angel, his lover and their child…) and it all fist together. It does so beautifully.

    The same is true for the logic behind the gods and their avatars in American Gods. I found the modern godlings like Television a very disturbing but insightful idea. People are really sacrificing time, families and lives to television and increasingly so, children are sacrified or sacrifice themselves to computers. There’s the story about the korean boy who collapsed after several days playing non-stop and we had a few cases in Germany of severely neglected, and sometimes tragically so, children, because their parents simply did not care and rather played at the computer or watched TV.

    Also, the gods of American Gods very much reflect the reality of religions around the world. „He was me but I am not him.“ says the Icelandic Odin at the end of the novel. I think the Kali or Vishu worshiped by Indians living in America for three generations is different from the ones worshiped in India for thousands of years.

    And the „old gods“ are not dead either. We still remember the Greek and Roman gods, we named planets after them. The temples of the Egyptian Gods receive floods of visitors while people are drainig out of churches run by pedophile priests. The last word has not been spoken yet. I even know and have talked to people who think Cthulhu is just as real as all the others (this is a positive statement, they did not mean to say, he is fiction like all the others).

    Believe is a strange thing and American Gods makes this clear in a very insightful way.

    Sadly, I have to stop my musings here… We are hosting a house-warming party tonight and there is still food to be prepared. If you just happen to be in Augsburg, drop me a line via email…


  • More Steampunk Mythology

    As it seems, the Norse Pantheon is a favourite with Steampunk inspired artists:

    Odin’s Final Battle by ~3dsquid on deviantART

    I did not find a Steampunk Zeus. If anyone finds depictions of members of other pantheons, please let me know!


  • Steampunk Mythology

    A few months back I posted an image of a Steampunk Thor on this blog. As it seems, I may well be able to assemble a complete pantheon of steampunked gods and heroes on this blog. As you may have guessed, I found another image taken from Earth’s mythology and given a steampunk make-over. In today’s case, it is Ikarus:

    Steampunk Ikarus
    The Fall of Ikarus

    The artist behind this image is Nigel Quarless, you can find his blog behind the image. I think taking inspiration from our ow cultural backgrounds is one great way to explore Steampunk as  genre. It also sparks imagination…. Just guess where would be now if Ancient Greece had in deed already been at a 1880’s-1920’s level of technology…

    Let’s see what other god, godling or hero I can find who has chosen goggles as part of their gear.