Fables, parables and miracles
These Greek tales however are just one out of hundreds of mythologies from all over the globe. Here are a few other primitive belief systems, each representing early man trying to understand the world around them and their place within it.
Land of the dead
The civilisation of Ancient Egypt lasted for over three thousand years, during which time the religious beliefs remained largely unchanged. The Egyptians believed that the deities Re, Atum, Ptah, Neith and a mysterious group of eight primordial beings known as the Ogdoad were responsible for creating the world. They also worshipped a pantheon of animal-headed gods, including the hawk-headed Horus and jackal-headed Anubis. The god Osiris however, was a deity of fully human appearance who suffered a death and was credited with a form of resurrection which predates that of Christ. In his resurrected form, Osiris became the judge and ruler of the dead, who were revered highly in early Egyptian culture. This reverence can be seen to this day in the form of the many impressive pyramids built to house those who passed into the next life.
Three for the price of one
Like most ancient belief systems, Hinduism is based on the worshipping of many different deities. Almost all of its mythology relating to gods and demons are based on certain basic premises and are usually filled with some common moral themes and ideas. However, behind all these myths lies the notion of the all-powerful Trinity, which consists of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. Lord Vishnu is the preserver of the universe, responsible for the daily running of the universe. Lord Brahma is the creator of the universe and is responsible for creation of this world and all worldly beings. Lord Shiva on the other hand, is considered the fearsome destroyer. In Ancient Hindu stories, all the gods are very interactive in the world, and tales include several deities actually sleeping with mortals or casting terrible curses over those humans who have wronged them.
Ragnarok 'n' Roll
Norse or Viking mythology refers to the ancient religion of the Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, and Danish people. Nowadays, we're practically all familiar with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings but fewer people are aware that this great modern work is heavily indebted to this ancient mythology. Tolkien himself was very well acquainted with Norse mythology and the name Gandalf is found in The Poetic Edda, one of the great Norse tales. Even the name Middle-earth, the setting for Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, comes from Norse mythology. The Nordic people also believed in an apocalyptic end of the world called Ragnarok, when there will be many great wars. The Norse gods tend to be a tad more gung ho than other deities, such as Loki the Trickster and Thor the god of Thunder, and this may explain why their imagery often adorned heavy metal album covers in the 80's!
King of Kings
Without question the most celebrated myths and legends associated with our fair island is that of King Arthur, the last great British king, defeater of the Saxons, wielder of Excalibur and ruler of the court of Camelot. Whether or not he actually existed will always be a source of great debate; some say he is was Roman general stationed in Britain, others declare him to be a tribal chieftain and warrior from Wales during the fifth Century AD. It is agreed however, that the mythology which surrounds the legends of Arthur as we know him - the sword in the stone, the quest for the Holy Grail, the love triangle with Guinevere and Lancelot - almost certainly originated from the French romance literature of the medieval period. Regardless, Arthur became a shining example of honour and virtue for centuries throughout Europe and beyond.
The Sun and The Earth
The Incas were an ancient people who were incredibly powerful in South America between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, spanning a territory stretching from Ecuador to northern Chile. The most important Inca cult was devoted to Inti the god sun who nourished the earth and man with his rays, but another cult was directed towards Pachama, the mother of the earth. They conceived the world as composed of three aspects: Uku Pacha - the past and the interior world, Kay Pacha - the world of present and of here and Hanan Pacha - the future world. Each of these worlds are inhabited by spiritual beings and human beings can access any of these three dimensions at will. Like the Egyptians, The Incas worshipped the dead, believing that after death, the two souls which inhabit each person would take different paths, one returning to its place of origin, while the other soul remained in the body which was preserved intact and mummified out of respect.