As the holiday season continues, I give you yet another god that embodies the season’s spirit. Depending on who you ask, Baldr represented a lot of different things. The only commonality among these interpretations is that he was clearly the most beloved god. Everyone liked him.
Here’s a video on his tragic end.
Don’t feel sad, though. Baldr “returned” when Christianity spread through Scandanavia.
I hope Baldr’s joy reaches you during this holiday season.
Today’s Dictionary.com word of the day is vajra, which is a thunderbolt of Indra. It seemed appropriate to provide you with a video describing Indra, who in the 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons world is the chief of the Indian pantheon. Here’s a video about him.
I know that a lot of you have short attention spans, so here’s another one that’s only 3 minutes long.
One thing that’s important to note is that there are people that still practice this faith even today. When I was in 7th grade, I had a friend named Shashank. He was Hindu, and I showed him the entries for the Indian pantheon in Deities & Demigods. The only thing I remember him saying from 42 years ago was that Indra’s elephant, Airavata, was known for its trunk, which it wielded as a formidable weapon. The legends of which I’m aware state that Airavata has seven trunks, and he most notably used it to “reach down to the watery underworld, suck up the water, and spray it into the clouds. Indra then caused cool water to rain down, thereby linking the waters of the sky to those of the underworld.” Hinduism is a large religion, which means the stories can easily change from person to person. There’s no right answer, as often legends are essentially fan fiction spanning generations.
In any case, Shashank displayed took pride in the entries, not offense. Not everyone would have the same reaction. To me, mythology is nothing more than an anthropological study, so I take the same approach to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. as I do any religion generally considered, “mythology.” If it makes you feel better, I find the “mythologies” far cooler.
A few of weeks ago, I saw The Northman. I loved it but understand that it isn’t for everyone. It’s a Norse tale, which means it doesn’t fit the formula for what sells in Peoria.
The cast was great, but this post isn’t a review. The movie, like several others before it, got me thinking.
I didn’t study mythology because of my interest in 1st Edition D&D (“1e”); it was the other way around. Mythology (and dinosaurs) got me into 1e in the 1970s. I thought, “Wow! I can tell my own stories within these settings and characters?!” However, whether it’s D&D, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or Bulfinch’s Mythology, western literature tends to sanitize the characters and their stories. The “good-aligned” deities are often presented as noble, loving, and helpful. There are certainly some exceptions — Zeus was an asshole — but the sense of right and wrong have been aligned at least to some extent to what the modern audience thinks as “good.” We really do make the gods in our own image. The Northman reminds us that the “good guy” is not someone you’d want to marry your daughter. Life was brutal and uncaring back then, and being that way yourself was an effective survival strategy.
That said, there’s a reasonableness to garnering lessons from these myths. In a very narrow, personal way, I relate rather strongly to the protagonist’s backstory (appropriately discussed today). I would never handle our similar predicament in the same way, but the character’s backstory loosely parallels my own. If you dig through the primitive details of the specific culture at hand, you can find some universal truths, or at least something to which you can relate (no more than vaguely, I hope). After all, people take from stories whatever message they want to hear. We tend to cut out the brutality from these stories, and thus also ignore how those that wrote them applied them to real life.
So no, you wouldn’t want to invite any of these ancient people to dinner.
D&D didn’t get me into mythology; mythology got me into D&D. I loved mythology as a kid (still do), so I loved the idea of playing a game that allowed me to write stories within those worlds. The MCU is now getting deeper into the mix with Egyptian gods in Moon Knight, Greek and Egyptian gods (and maybe others) in Thor: Love and Thunder, and perhaps more in Black Panther 2 and others further down the pike.
Due to my one year streak of posts soon coming to an end, the theme of the weekend has been time, so here are a couple of videos on time deities, starting with Chronos, the Greek god of time. This one also discusses how mythology often resembles fan fiction. Some gods were worshipped over centuries, and some over millennia. Some stories passed orally, while others were changed as the political winds shifted. Ancient peoples believed what they wanted to believe, and that changed.
Next up is the closest thing we have to a time deity in Egyptian mythology, Shai, a goddess of destiny. Like time, the story told has no ending. It was . . . lost to time. Get it?
Continuing my current theme of acting, I provide a video of Dionysus. One of the lesser known (if unsurprising) domains of Dionysus is the theater. But don’t worry; this video just talks about getting drunk.
Well, no. It speaks a lot about his story generally. Something, something, grapes, something. Maybe I’m the one that’s been drinking.
As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I provide a video talking about the history of vampires. Sure, I should have posted this last Monday, as I had just seen Morbius the day before, but I’m weeks ahead of schedule in my writing, and I’m too lazy to shuffle around the posts and rewrite them so their new order of publication jives with the text within.
My 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“) players’ characters are still in their adventuring infancy, so it’s too early to throw a vampire at them, but I look forward to it. Maybe I could create a more level-appropriate 1e Dhampir myself.