Thursday, 07. January 2010
The Real El Dorado?

Satellite technology detects giant mounds over 155 miles, pointing to sophisticated pre-Columbian culture.

It is the legend that drew legions of explorers and adventurers to their deaths: an ancient empire of citadels and treasure hidden deep in the Amazon jungle.

Spanish conquistadores ventured into the rainforest seeking fortune, followed over the centuries by others convinced they would find a lost civilisation to rival the Aztecs and Incas.

Some seekers called it El Dorado, others the City of Z. But the jungle swallowed them and nothing was found, prompting the rest of the world to call it a myth. The Amazon was too inhospitable, said 20th century scholars, to permit large human settlements.

Now, however, the doomed dreamers have been proved right: there was a great civilisation. New satellite imagery and fly-overs have revealed more than 200 huge geometric earthworks carved in the upper Amazon basin near Brazil's border with Bolivia.


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An aerial picture of traces of earthworks built by a lost Amazonian civilisation dating to 200AD. Photograph: National Geographic


Spanning 155 miles, the circles, squares and other geometric shapes form a network of avenues, ditches and enclosures built long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the new world. Some date to as early as 200 AD, others to 1283.

Scientists who have mapped the earthworks believe there may be another 2,000 structures beneath the jungle canopy, vestiges of vanished societies.

The structures, many of which have been revealed by the clearance of forest for agriculture, point to a "sophisticated pre-Columbian monument-building society", says the journal Antiquity, which has published the research.
(Direct Link to the pdf. It has photos of different sites, and a number of maps and diagrams.)

The article adds: "This hitherto unknown people constructed earthworks of precise geometric plan connected by straight orthogonal roads. The 'geoglyph culture' stretches over a region more than 250km across, and exploits both the floodplains and the uplands … we have so far seen no more than a tenth of it."

The structures were created by a network of trenches about 36ft (nearly 11 metres) wide and several feet deep, lined by banks up to 3ft high. Some were ringed by low mounds containing ceramics, charcoal and stone tools. It is thought they were used for fortifications, homes and ceremonies, and could have maintained a population of 60,000 – more people than in many medieval European cities.

The discoveries have demolished ideas that soils in the upper Amazon were too poor to support extensive agriculture, says Denise Schaan, a co-author of the study and anthropologist at the Federal University of Pará, in Belém, Brazil. She told National Geographic: "We found this picture is wrong. And there is a lot more to discover in these places, it's never-ending. Every week we find new structures."

Many of the mounds were symmetrical and slanted to the north, prompting theories that they had astronomical significance.


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Aerial photograph and plan of the Fazenda Colorada site.
Photograph by Sanna Saunaluoma.



Researchers were especially surprised that earthworks in floodplains and uplands were of a similar style, suggesting they were all built by the same culture.

"In Amazonian archaeology you always have this idea that you find different peoples in different ecosystems," said Schaan. "So it was odd to have a culture that would take advantage of different ecosystems and expand over such a large region." The first geometric shapes were spotted in 1999 but it is only now, as satellite imagery and felling reveal sites, that the scale of the settlements is becoming clear. Some anthropologists say the feat, requiring sophisticated engineering, canals and roads, rivals Egypt's pyramids.

The findings follow separate discoveries further south, in the Xingu region, of interconnected villages known as "garden cities". Dating between 800 and 1600, they included houses, moats and palisades.

"These revelations are exploding our perceptions of what the Americas really looked liked before the arrival of Christopher Columbus," said David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z, a book about an attempt in the 1920s to find signs of Amazonian civilizations. "The discoveries are challenging long-held assumptions about the Amazon as a Hobbesian place where only small primitive tribes could ever have existed, and about the limits the environment placed on the rise of early civilisations."

They are also vindicating, said Grann, Percy Fawcett, the explorer who partly inspired Conan Doyle's book The Lost World. Fawcett led an expedition to find the City of Z but the party vanished, bequeathing a mystery.

Many scientists saw the jungle as too harsh to sustain anything but small nomadic tribes. Now it seems the conquistadores who spoke of "cities that glistened in white" were telling the truth. They, however, probably also introduced the diseases that wiped out the native people, leaving the jungle to claim – and hide – all trace of their civilisation.

• This article was amended on Wednesday 6 January 2010. Percy Fawcett's experiences in the Amazon were said to have partly inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, but Fawcett's disappearance did not, contrary to a suggestion in the original article - he vanished after the book was published. This has been corrected.

Source: Amazon explorers uncover signs of a real El Dorado by The Guardian


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The scene depicted in this ancient artwork, on display at the Gold Museum in Bogota, Colombia, shows the origin of the El Dorado myth. Legend tells of a Muisca king who would cover himself in gold dust during festivals, then dive from a raft into Lake Guatavita. Tales of El Dorado, or the "Golden Man," reached Spanish conquistadors around 1530. As attempts to locate him came up short, the legend blossomed into myths of an entire city made of gold.

Photograph by Mauricio Duenas/AFP/Getty Images



See also:
Precolumbian Golden Boat - Famous golden figure based on El Dorado rite (housed in the Gold Museum at Bogotá, Colombia)
El Dorado Legend Snared Sir Walter Raleigh by National Geographic
The Legend of 'El Dorado' by Tairona Heritage Trust
Category: Myths & Sagas | News & Stories |




Saturday, 25. October 2008
The Haunted History of Halloween

The History Channel has always put out some great programs and I think this one is an interesting and informative documentary that gets you in the spirit of Halloween.

On October 31, when pint-sized ghouls and goblins knock on doors, they're actually carrying on a tradition that goes back thousands of years to the Celtic tribes of northern Europe. For centuries this night has celebrated mystery and chaos, a time between summer and winter, a time between life and death.

Host Harry Smith leads this 3,000 year tour through the history of the quintessentially pagan holiday. Discover how trick or treat originated in ancient Ireland's harvest festivals, when food and sweets were offered to entice the dead to stay in the spirit world. See how Christianity tried to co-opt the celebration by turning it into All Saints Day, but how the underlying dark elements have survived, inspiring debate to the present day. From ghoulies and ghosties to the origins of the Jack-O-Lantern, this film is a delicious journey into the enchanting past of the spookiest night of the year.

'The Haunted History of Halloween' by History Channel, 2005
Duration: 45 minutes



See also:
The official website: The Haunted History of Halloween by History Channel

Related Entry:
Samhain, Halloween, Diwali, Tihar and Day of the Dead
Category: Incarnation & Death | Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas | Time & Calendar |




Saturday, 28. June 2008
Myths and Legends Explained

Taking an original photographic approach to look in detail at certain topics, these fascinating book provides deeper understanding and richer enjoyment of the worlds of myths and legends.

  • Looks into myths and legends of cultures from ancient Greece to Aboriginal Australia

  • Clear, informative text helps readers understand and appreciate the world of mythology

  • Features gloriously reproduced artworks and artifacts

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Myths and Legends Explained by Neil Philip, Ph.D.
DK ADULT, Revised edition 2007 | 128 pages | PDF | 21.3 MB


Calling the Gods (from the Voodoo gods of Haiti):

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The designs known as vevers are used to call the gods and are drawn on the earth in flour. At the centre of the circle in a Voodoo ritual would be the poteau-mitan, the center-post by which the gods make their entrance to the ceremony.
The ship symbol stands for Agwé, the god of the sea and formal consort of Erzulie. Agwé himself is generous, faithful, and strong.
Category: Books & Magazines | Mythology & Epics | Myths & Sagas |


Thursday, 26. June 2008
On the trail of the ‘Indian yeti’

In the US it's known as bigfoot, in Canada as sasquatch, in Brazil as mapinguary, in Australia as a yowie, in Indonesia as sajarang gigi and, most famously of all, in Nepal as a yeti.

The little known Indian version of this legendary ape-like creature is called mande barung - or forest man - and is reputed to live in the remote West Garo hills of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.


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Reports of a yeti or forest man have existed in the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya for centuries. Many people in the Garo hills believe that this is a fossilised footprint of a giant early yeti.



I [Alastair Lawson] was invited by passionate yeti believer Dipu Marak to travel throughout the area to hear for myself what he says is compelling evidence of the existence of a black and grey ape-like animal which stands about 3m (nearly 10ft) tall.

There have been repeated reports of sightings over many years by different witnesses in the West, South and East Garo hills.

Mr Marak estimates the creature weighs about 300kg (660lb) and is herbivorous, surviving on fruit, roots and tree bark.

Intense heat

The Garo hills comprise more than 8,000sq.km of some of the thickest jungle in India.

And as I soon discovered, there is no shortage of people who say they have seen the creature at first hand.



'Yeti witness' James Marak


Take woodcutter Nelbison Sangma, for example, who works on the fringes of the Nokrek national park in the Garo hills.

In November 2003, he says that he saw a yeti three days in a row.

He took me from his village to the spot where he says he made the sighting, a five-hour walk in intense tropical heat from his house.

"I saw the creature quite clearly on the other side of the river. It was breaking branches off trees and eating the sap. Its strength was amazing.

"Obviously I wanted to photograph it, but I knew that if I left the area, it would take at least 10 hours or more to get a camera as I do not own one. By that time the creature would have disappeared."

Mr Sangma says that he told the state forestry department of his sighting, but they did not believe him.

He took me to the spot where he says the yeti destroyed a tree - an exhausting uphill walk through thick jungle infested with blood-sucking leeches.

Mr Sangma showed me where the creature broke the tree's branches and clearly visible scratch marks on its bark.



Are these hairs from Mande Barung?


A 10-hour drive away from Nokrek is the other national park of the Garo hills, Balpakram, which lies amid thick jungle on the border with Bangladesh.

It is an extremely remote area, where the hum of insects clicking in the undergrowth sounds like a series of disconnected power cables.

Balpakram is famous for its vast jungle-filled canyon which spans several miles and is surrounded by spectacular cliffs. Any descent is a treacherous exercise.

If ever there was terrain where a peace-loving yeti could live its life undisturbed by human interference, then this has surely got to be it.

Perhaps the most famous reported sighting was in April 2002, when forestry officer James Marak was among a team of 14 officials carrying out a census of tigers in Balpakram when they saw what they thought was a yeti.

According to the author and environmentalist Llewellyn Marak, such stories cannot be dismissed out hand.

"I saw the footprints for myself last year," he said, and they cannot easily be explained away.

"The prints were different from other animals - and were almost human in appearance - apart from the fact that they were about 18 inches [46cm] long.

"Both my father and grandfather also saw the creature at different times. Each said that it resembled a large gorilla."

Mr Marak argues that the Meghalayan forestry department has not seriously investigated the sightings because they are "uninterested and too lazy".

The western side of the state of the Meghalaya is predominantly made up of Garo tribespeople. They are traditionally a matrilineal community, where property is inherited through the female line.

They are also a community where stories and fables are deeply ingrained culturally, which is why senior politicians and officials are reluctant to discount openly tales of a yeti roaming about.

Meghalaya's Divisional Forestry Officer Shri PR Marak denies suggestions that his officers have not properly investigated alleged yeti sightings - which he argues is an expensive exercise in thick jungle only accessible by foot.

He uses diplomatic language when discussing whether yetis exist in the state.

"I have gone to see the evidence for myself and have even taken a plaster cast of one of the footprints," he says.

"As you know the presence of such a creature is an important part of our culture - passed down to us by our parents and grandparents.

"But we have no concrete evidence it exists, and there may even be a possibility that some of the evidence has been manipulated to create a stir.



Measuring 'yeti' footprints


"Because the area where it is believed to live is thick jungle, it will be very difficult to know the truth."

But Dipu Marak has voluminous correspondence from various eyewitnesses to support his contention that there is something out there.

To critics who say he has no photographs of this mysterious creature, he insists that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

"We have so many reports of sightings that I sincerely believe there is some sort of huge creature in the Garo hills," he said.

"This is not just a fairy tale, nor is it an effort to woo tourists. It's deeply embedded in our folklore and scientifically it is possible too.

"While I cannot prove conclusively that this creature definitely exists, nobody can say conclusively that it does not exist either."

Such is the impenetrability and extent of jungle in the Garo hills that the legend of mande barung looks likely to live on in the foreseeable future.

"The truth is out there somewhere," says Dipu Marak sincerely.

"But like the Loch Ness monster this creature is obviously not fond of giving too many photo opportunities."

Source: BBC News


You may also like another cool Bigfoot story:

'Bigfoot' was here! by the Borneo Post. (WITH PICS)

They probably resembled those mentioned many times in foreign reports in claims of sightings of the mysterious ‘Bigfoot’. The shocker has been spreading like wildfire in Daro district for the past few days and among those drawn to the phenomenon was local businessman Tan Soon Kuang.

Yesterday, Tan, 42, e-mailed the images of the mysterious creature’s footprints. He said he personally went to the village (which he refused to name out of respect for the wishes of the locals) to check on the truth of the story. “The truth is in the photographs that I have taken with my camera,” he told The Borneo Post in a telephone interview yesterday. According to him, each footprint measures 47 inches from heel to toe and 17 inches sideways “clearly too gigantic for any normal human being”.



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Local community leader Pemanca Tan Poh Kuan is among those who visited the site to take a closer look at the mysterious footprints.
Category: Myths & Sagas | News & Stories |


Saturday, 14. June 2008
Historical Atlas of the Celtic World

Pre-Christian Celts left no written records, so all the accounts we have of these people are from prejudiced Mediterranean writers.

Description:
The remarkable Celtic culture once encompassed most of western Europe; even after centuries of invasion and conquest it flourished in remote corners of the continent. This book is a beautifully illustrated survey of Celtic society, its history and belief, from its origins to the present day.

This book traces the development of Celtic religion and mythology, and describes the flowering of their unique metalwork, sculpture, and illumination. An expertly crafted view into the Celtic past, while emphasising the relevance of Celtic culture and identity today.

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Coverage includes:
  • Celtic Origins: Pre-Celtic Europe, La Tène and Hallstatt cultures, archaeological evidence
  • The Celtic Peoples of Europe: The Celtic migration, Gauls, Bretons, the Galatians
  • Early Celtic Art: Origins, La Tène Period art, Iron Age Celtic art
  • Celtic Belief: The calendar, death and the afterlife, sacrifice, the bog men, gods and divinities
  • The Celtic Peoples of the British Isles: Britons, Irish, Picts and Scots, Welsh
  • The Roman Invasions: Caesar's conquest of Gaul, Romans in Britain
  • The Druids: Witchcraft, prophesy and divination, archaeological evidence
  • The Celtic Warrior: Celtic warfare, arms and armor, warrior chieftains, resisting the Romans
  • The Post-Roman Celtic World: Barbarian invasions, Anglos and Saxons, Arthur of the Britons
  • The Renaissance of Celtic Art: The High Celtic Period, Celtic Christian art, Pictish symbol stones
  • The Coming of Christianity: St. Patrick, the Celtic church, illuminated manuscripts, the Book of Kells
  • Celtic Mythology: Irish Celtic myth/the Mabinogion, Arthurian myth
  • The Celtic Legacy: Celtic revival art, the Celtic fringe.


Historical Atlas of the Celtic World by Angus Konstam.
Checkmark Books, 2001, 2003 | 192 Pages | PDF | 61.7 MB |
In addition to the text, there are many illustrations and photos of Celtic art throughout the book.


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Category: Books & Magazines | Myths & Sagas | Religion & Early Cultures |


Sunday, 13. April 2008
Atlantis Uncovered

Was there really, 12,000 years ago, a fabulous city whose people had already evolved all the trappings of civilisation - sophisticated culture and society, writing, astronomy, religion, monument-building - while everyone else was still living in the Stone Age?

Ever since Plato first alluded to the mysterious city of Atlantis, destroyed in a terrible flood, the notion of an ancient, lost civilisation has been a compelling myth. The idea was revived in the 19th century to explain the tantalising similarities amongst different far-flung ancient cultures that had no connection with each other - why did so many ancient peoples build pyramids? Why did they write in hieroglyphs? Why was their understanding of astronomy and religion apparently so similar? The popular explanation was that Atlantis was the common source for all civilisation, that after their homeland was destroyed in a catastrophic flood, 12,000 years ago, the survivors of this super-race then travelled the world, spreading their knowledge to all. But if this theory is right, the whole of human history will have to be rewritten.

Jacqueline Smith's film explores whether this popular, yet controversial idea could be true. It examines the mysterious similarities between ancient cultures, and traces the fascinating scientific evidence that shows why the theory of Atlantis has been rejected by mainstream science.

Although it was broadcasted on BBC Two on October 1999, it's a memorable documentary!


'Atlantis Uncovered'
Duration: 45 minutes



You may also like to read the transcript (opens in a new window).

For related entries please use the search function on the left.
Category: Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas | New Legends & Claims |


Wednesday, 26. March 2008
Dragonika

Dragons are mythical creatures that appear in many different cultures and time periods. Dragons have been described as monsters, serpents, reptiles, or beasts. However, there is something magical about dragons that have kept our intrigue over many centuries.

Dragons are usually thought to have wings and breath fire. They also are said to have scales and claws. Some also have horns. Almost always they are said to be venomous. Some dragons may have two or more heads. They may also have more than one tail. They may have two, four or even more legs; however, most are known to have four legs. Dragons are said to eat things such as rats, birds, snakes, bats, or even humans, especially children.

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Click the pictures above for a larger view


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Dragons are very intelligent creatures. They live in remote areas, far away from humans, in places that are dark, damp and secluded, such as caves.Dragons were first thought of as creatures who lived in water. Later they became associated with fire. Sea serpents may have been the first dragons, and may be the reason for this association.

Almost all dragon stories portray the dragon as the villain from whom the hero must protect the city or the princess. But some dragons can take on the form of the protector. The biggest differences in dragons usually come from different cultures, especially the cultures of the East and the West. Each culture seems to have their own idea about dragons.


Dragons have long enchanted us through stories, artwork, and legend. Find out more about these fantastic creatures of mythology and infamy. This site contains a number of articles on dragon information, a community forum, and a gallery of dragon pictures.

Dragonika by Kevin Owens.
Category: Myths & Sagas |


Tuesday, 25. March 2008
The Obakemono Project

Aburasumashi

This squat creature, with his grotesque, potato-like head and straw-coat covered body is said to live on a certain mountain pass in Kumamoto prefecture.

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Apparently one evening an old woman was walking along this road with her grandson, when she turned to the boy and said, "A long time ago, a youkai called Aburasumashi lived here." But speak of the devil, no sooner had she said this than the very same little goblin ambled out of the undergrowth and informed the pair that he was still there!

The abura in this spectre's name means oil, and the sumashi refers to his unchanging facial expression, which always looks prim and unruffled. Aburasumashi and many other obake are said to be the transformed spirits of those who stole lamp oil, which in the days before electricity was a very valuable substance. Perhaps spirits are also drawn to oil because of their association with strange fires, and maybe they too need fuel to burn.


Hakutaku also known as: Bai Ze

The Hakutaku or Bai Ze (as he is known in China) appears as a bovine creature with nine eyes and six horns, placed in sets of three and two on both his flanks and his man-like face.
A wise and holy animal, known for his capacity for human speech, the Bai Ze made his most famous appearance to Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor of China, who found him on top of a mountain near the Eastern Sea. To this man the beast dictated the characteristics and abilities of all the 11,520 types of demons, monsters, shapeshifters, and peculiar spirits in the world. Huang Di published his drawings and writings based on this encounter in a fascinating tome, the "Bai Ze Guide", but alas the book is thought to no longer exist.

In Japan Hakutaku is said to ward off calamity and disease, and his image is used as a charm and deified at temples.

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Kerakeraonna

For some people, nothing in life is worse than being laughed at, and for them the kerakeraonna must be the most terrifying youkai of all. Usually her victims hear her cackling first, before they wheel around, startled, only to meet the apparition of an enormous woman looming in the distance, her derisive laughter filling the whole sky. When they try to run, the haunting sound follows them everywhere they go.


Yōkai, or youkai, also known as obake or bakemono, are the folk monsters of Japan. They constitute a hundreds-strong menagerie of bizarre and varied creatures. They are magical, nebulous beings that exist in some strange state halfway between spirit and flesh, and are often the physical manifestations of extreme mental states, or the monstrous alteration of some ordinary object, animal, or person. They are just as varied in temperament as they are in form, and range from strange but personable goblins, to harmless pranksters that love scaring people, to dangerous ghouls that feast on human flesh.

The Obakemono Project
The Gaijin's Guide to the Fantastic Folk Monsters of Japan.
Category: Demons & Devils | Myths & Sagas |


Sunday, 02. March 2008
In Search of Myths and Heroes: King Arthur

'In Search of Myths and Heroes' was a four-part PBS series with historian and author Michael Wood. He embarks on a set of "on the ground" adventures in search of the world's most famous myths: the Queen of Sheba, King Arthur, Shangri-La, and Jason and the Golden Fleece. The series examines not only why legends were created but how they have been used -- both politically and culturally -- over the years, and why we still need them today.

'King Arthur' was the the fourth episode of his series. In the last episode of this series, Michael Wood explores the greatest British myth: the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Travelling round the Celtic world from Cornwall to Wales, Brittany, Ireland and Scotland, Michael uncovers the extraordinary story of how a shadowy Welsh freedom fighter -a Dark Age Che Guevara- became a medieval superman, and finally the model of a Christian hero.

On the way we discover the real stories behind the Round Table, Excalibur, and the Holy Grail itself, the unattainable, mystical cup of Christ which has inspired poets novelists and film makers from the Middle Ages right down to Indiana Jones, Monty Python and the Da Vinci Code .
-- Maya Vision International, Michael Wood's production company.


Enjoy 'In Search of Myths and Heroes: King Arthur' by BBC / PBS, 2005.
Duration: 59 minutes.



Related Entries:
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Jason And The Golden Fleece
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La
In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Queen Of Sheba

You may also like:
Explore Four Powerful Myths: In Search of Myths and Heroes by PBS.
Category: Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas |


Friday, 22. February 2008
The Celts

Even today, very little is known about the mysterious, elusive culture of the Celtic peoples.

In the same way as all other cultures, the lifestyle of the Celts influenced the structure and beliefs of their religion, known as Druidism. When Anglesey was settled by the Celts in about 100 BC, it became the centre of this religion. It consisted of Pagan beliefs in deities of the Earth, spirits of the woodland, sun gods, as well as elves and demons.

The supreme god of the Celts was Lug, who gave his name to this city of Lyons ("Lugundum" in Latin). Taranis, or Dagada as he was known in Ireland, was the god of the spiritual world. Ogomis, the god of warriors and kingship, was said to have a face which smiled to the right but glowered on the left. Fertility gods and goddesses were abound in Celtic tradition, including Cernunos the Antlered, who was also the god of the untamed forces of nature, and Bridget, the patroness of fire. He was often depicted as being surrounded by deer, serpents and other woodland creatures. A number of animals were seen as sacred by the Celts, including the wild boar. In Gaul, the hunting and killing of the boar stood for the mortal running the spiritual to ground.

Read here a very good short article to the Celts by Megan Balanck.


Here is a nice introduction into the Celtic Pagan Culture. (11:25)




You may also like about the ancient Celts:

OBOD: The Order of Bards, Ovates, & Druids
UK Druidry organization.

Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship
The Irish words, pronounced "arn ree-ocht fane", mean "Our Own Druidism", and that´s just what ADF is - a completely independent tradition of Neopagan Druidism.

Guide to the Druids and Celtic Spirituality
The Druids emerged from the ancient Celtic tribes, at a time when the people had to live close to nature to survive.

Society of Celtic Shamans
Teaching and more from this group of Celtic Shamans.

CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts
A scholarly and very comprehensive archive of Celtic texts.


Online Books:

The Religion of the Ancient Celts by J. A. MacCulloch (1911)
This is an authoritative study of ancient Celtic religion, including extensive material on what is actually known about the Druids.

Survivals in Belief Among the Celts by George Henderson (1911)
An extensive review of evidence of pre-Christian beliefs in Celtic culture.

Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick (1894)
This book reflects a scholarly perspective on the Druids. It ties together many strands of mythology and anthroplogy to shed light on Irish Paganism.

Celtic Myth and Legend by Charles Squire (1905)
A comprehensive treatment of Irish, Welsh, and British mythology, from the ancient pagan pantheons up to the Arthurian legends.
Category: Myths & Sagas | Religion & Early Cultures |


Sunday, 27. January 2008
In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Queen Of Sheba

'In Search of Myths and Heroes' was a four-part PBS series with historian and author Michael Wood. He embarks on a set of "on the ground" adventures in search of the world's most famous myths: the Queen of Sheba, King Arthur, Shangri-La, and Jason and the Golden Fleece. The series examines not only why legends were created but how they have been used -- both politically and culturally -- over the years, and why we still need them today.

'The Queen Of Sheba' was the the first episode of his series. Immortalised in the Hebrew Bible, the Muslim Koran and in many Christian traditions, the tale of the Queen's journey to Jerusalem to meet (and sleep with) King Solomon has been told and retold for nearly three thousand years, right down to Hollywood. In Africa and Arabia it is still told today, and one of the features of these films is their use of storytellers to counterpoint Michael's travels on the ground.

His journey starts on Easter night in Jerusalem and takes us round the Red Sea to Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the lost world of Axum, the little-known first civilisation of Black Africa. In the Yemen Michael explores the stunning monuments of Marib, the earliest civilisation of Arabia. Still virtually unknown to the outside world these are sure to prove eye openers to the TV audience.

But Michael is also looking for a living story, and on the journey he discovers the legend of the Queen of Sheba alive in Arabia and Ethiopia, where she is still viewed as the mother of the nation, whose son brought the mythical Lost Ark of the Covenant back to Axum - where it still resides today!

"Hollywood made Sheba the lover of Solomon", says Michael, "and they made her white. In Africa she's black-and a woman of power; in Arabia she's half woman half demon. But the tale of her transformations -from exotic and mysterious alien to eternal female, from fantasy mother and lover, to cloven footed demon- is a parable of so many women of power throughout history!"
-- Maya Vision International, Michael Wood's production company.


Enjoy 'In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Queen Of Sheba' by BBC / PBS, 2005.
Duration: 59 minutes.



Related Entries:
Queen of Sheba - Behind the Myth (another video)

In Search of Myths and Heroes: King Arthur
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Jason And The Golden Fleece
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La

You may also like:
Explore Four Powerful Myths: In Search of Myths and Heroes by PBS.
The Queen Of Sheba by Michael Wood, BBC.
The Story of the Queen of Sheba - Understanding the Legend by Awakened Woman e-magazine.
BBC: The Story of Africa with a subsection on the Ethiopian Sheba story, including some interesting bits of audio.
The Queen of Sheba and Her Only Son Menyelek (I) or, The KEBRA NAGAST translated by E. A. Wallis Budge.
Category: Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas |


Saturday, 19. January 2008
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Jason And The Golden Fleece

'In Search of Myths and Heroes' was a four-part PBS series with historian and author Michael Wood. He embarks on a set of "on the ground" adventures in search of the world's most famous myths: the Queen of Sheba, King Arthur, Shangri-La, and Jason and the Golden Fleece. The series examines not only why legends were created but how they have been used -- both politically and culturally -- over the years, and why we still need them today.

'Jason And The Golden Fleece' was the the third episode of his series. Michael Wood traces the route of Jason and his famous boat, the Argo, along its route from Greece to Turkey and Georgia.

The Greeks have given the world its greatest body of myths , and the myth of Jason is an epic tale of the hero's quest, the ancestor of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings..

Jason is set a Mission Impossible: to sail into the unknown to find the Golden Fleece. He is saved by the priestess Medea and her magical arts. But her love comes at a high price.

A fairy tale? Or was there a real Jason voyage? Michael heads from Greece to the wild mountains of the Caucasus to find the truth behind the legend.
-- Maya Vision International, Michael Wood's production company.


Enjoy 'In Search of Myths and Heroes: Jason And The Golden Fleece'
by BBC / PBS, 2005.
Duration: 59 minutes.



Related Entries:
In Search of Myths and Heroes: King Arthur
In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Queen Of Sheba
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La

You may also like:
Explore Four Powerful Myths: In Search of Myths and Heroes by PBS.
Category: Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas |


Sunday, 13. January 2008
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La

'In Search of Myths and Heroes' was a four-part PBS series with historian and author Michael Wood. He embarks on a set of "on the ground" adventures in search of the world's most famous myths: the Queen of Sheba, King Arthur, Shangri-La, and Jason and the Golden Fleece. The series examines not only why legends were created but how they have been used -- both politically and culturally -- over the years, and why we still need them today.

'Shangri-La' was the the second episode of his series. Michael Wood travels on a thrilling journey through India and Nepal into Tibet to explore one of humanity's great myths: the myth of an earthly paradise.

The tale of the magical hidden valley of Shangri-La was popularised in the 1930s by the novelist James Hilton in his Lost Horizon, later an Oscar winning Hollywood film. But the story of a lost kingdom behind the Himalayas free from war and suffering is descended from a much older Indian myth. And when Europeans first caught wind of the tale back in the 16th Century, they set about trying to discover it. To find the truth behind the legend Michael follows their track on foot through the Maoist controlled lands of Western Nepal and on into Tibet. On the way he visits Mount Kailash - the sacred centre of the world for all Hindus and Buddhists. Eventually after hundreds of miles on dirt roads he reaches the fantastic ruins of the lost city of Tsaparang, which he suggests is the real inspiration behind the myth.

"One of the oldest myths of humanity, the paradise myth continues to haunt us today, especially in our time of rapid globalisation. Whether such a paradise actually existed or not", Michael concludes, "it represents one of our most basic human desires". -- Maya Vision International, Michael Wood's production company.


Enjoy 'In Search of Myths and Heroes: Shangri-La' by BBC / PBS, 2005.
Duration: 59 minutes.



Related Entries:
Shambala (article)

In Search of Myths and Heroes: King Arthur
In Search of Myths and Heroes: The Queen Of Sheba
In Search of Myths and Heroes: Jason And The Golden Fleece

You may also like:
Explore Four Powerful Myths: In Search of Myths and Heroes by PBS.
Category: Movies & TV | Myths & Sagas |


Wednesday, 09. January 2008
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha

The Story of Nigrodha Deer

Once the Bodhisattva was born as a golden deer in a forest of Varanasi. His eyes were like round gems; horns like silver; and he was bigger in size than other deer. He headed a band of five hundred deer and was called Nigrodharaja. In the same forest there lived another golden deer Sakha, who, too, headed a band of five hundred deer.

As the king of Varanasi was very fond of the deer meet, he asked his men to bring him at least one deer every day. His men, one day, decided to catch all the deer of the forest and bring them to the royal garden to please the king. So, they besieged the forest from all directions by keeping the garden-path clear and approached the centre with noise and drum-beating ...

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The king shooting the deer : Thai version


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Yaksa General Punnaka flying on his horse

The Wisdom of Vidhura Pandita

Once there lived a wise man named Vidhura Pandita. He became the minister of king Dhananjaya, who ruled the kingdom of Kuru with Indapatta (modern Indrastha of the Delhi region) as his capital. The king was virtuous; and so were the other three contemporary kings, namely, Sakka, the king of the devas; Varuna, the king of the Nagas; and Venateyya the king of the Supannas or garudas (large golden eagles).

Once all the four kings met in a garden on some occasion, where each claimed to be the most virtuous. So, the dispute began, which was not resolved by them. So, they requested Vidhurapandita, the wisest person of the time to settle the dispute. Vidhura satisfied all of them by telling that each was equal just like the four spokes of a wheel ...


Dhamma-Chakka-Pavattana-Katha

After the attainment of Enlightenment and becoming a Buddha, Gotama Budddha thought of delivering his first sermon to some receptive ascetics. So, he thought of revealing his doctrine first to Alara Kalama, who was his first guru; and who he had left because his doctrine could not satisfy him. So, he looked for Alara by his divine eye; and learnt of his death.

He then thought of teaching his other guru Uddaka Ramaputta, who he had deserted because he, too, was not convincing. So, he thought of delivering the first sermon to him. But he, too, was dead.

Now, he thought about his five companions with whom he had practised penances in Uruvela for six years before separating from them ...

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Buddha in the dhammacakka-pavattana mudra


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Mara : Thai Version

The Buddha’s Victory over Mara

Mara in the Buddhist tradition can be best understood as Satan, who always tried to dissuade the Buddha or any one from the righteous path.

He is also called ‘Namuchi’ as none can escape him (Namuci iti Maro); and ‘Vasavatti’ as he rules all (Maro nama Vassavati sabbesam upari vasam vattati).

When Gotama renounced the world and passed through the city gates on his horse Kanthaka, Mara appeared before him and tempted him by the offer to make him a universal monarch in seven days, if he was to change his mind. Siddhattha, however, did not pay any attention to him ...


First see the Introduction and then read all fables, classics and legends:
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma.
Don't miss the digital images [ Set 1 | Set 2 ]
Category: Myths & Sagas |


Monday, 19. November 2007
Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids

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Water beckons us. It is soothing and seductive… but it's also capable of unleashing deadly force. The mythic creatures that inhabit the depths give form to water's essential mysteries. They arouse feelings of curiosity, hope—and bottomless fear. Like water itself, these creatures can be beautiful and enticing. But will they share their life-giving bounty? Or lure us to destruction?

Water - Creatures of the Deep


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We share the land with countless living animals. Some are familiar; others seem quite bizarre. Creatures from the lands of myth can be both recognizable and strange. Sometimes they appear to have body parts from ordinary animals combined in very unusual ways. Other times they look just like familiar animals—but have extraordinary and magical powers.

Land - Creatures of the Earth


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Have you ever wondered what it feels like to fly? The smallest bird has powers we will never share. But mythic creatures of the air have even greater powers. Imagine a bird so huge it blocks out the sky, or stirs up storms with its wings. In myths and stories, winged horses, dragons and even people all have the power of flight. These stories help express the wonder and awe inspired by looking up at the sky.

Air - Creatures of the Sky


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Of all mythic creatures that rise from the water, prowl across land or fly through the air, the dragon is the most famed. Stories of serpentlike beasts with fabulous powers inspire awe in almost every part of the world. Rain-bringing dragons in Asian tales can shrink so small that they fit in a teacup - or grow so large that they fill the sky. Dragons in Europe can slaughter people with their putrid breath, or spit fire and set cities ablaze. The earliest dragon legends date back thousands of years, and the creature still haunts our imagination today.

Dragons - Creatures of Power


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The world is full of stories about brave heroes, magical events and fantastic beings. For thousands of years, humans everywhere—sometimes inspired by living animals or even fossils—have brought mythic creatures to life in stories, songs and works of art. Today these creatures, from the powerful dragon to the soaring phoenix, continue to thrill, terrify, entertain and inspire us. We seem to catch glimpses of these creatures all around us: hiding beneath the ocean waves, running silently through the forest and soaring among the clouds. Some symbolize danger. Others, we think, can bring us luck or joy. Together mythic creatures give shape to humankind's greatest hopes, fears and most passionate dreams.

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids
Creatures of the elements; exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, on view through January 6, 2008.



Watch the short videos (but beautiful episodes) covering the exhibition right here!

Discover the majesty of Asian Dragons:



Uncover why the European Dragon
is the most famed of all mythic creatures:



Find out why the majestic unicorn is universally
portrayed as being a white horse having a long, spiraled horn:



The Kraken, the largest sea monster ever imagined:



Learn about the Giants and Cyclopes of Greek legend:



Discover the mysteries surrounding the serpents of the deep:

Category: Events & Meetings | Myths & Sagas |


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