Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Favorite Myths

I’ve never been a big fan of Greek or Roman mythologies. They’re all pretty good, but after I get through a few of them, I just see marble statue after marble statue, and all the names blur together, and I get bored. Nothing against the Greeks or Romans… It’s just not my thing. So I’m drawn more to other mythologies, like Japanese, or Egyptian, or Norse.

While they’re important to know in order to understand an entire mythology, I typically don’t much care for creation myths; they’re usually all so similar. But I really like the Maori creation myth. It goes like this:

Ranginui (or Rangi) and Papatuanuku (or Papa) were the sky father and the earth mother. They were locked in a tight, loving embrace. They had several children, all male, who had to live in the dark space between them. These sons really wanted to see what it was like in the light. One of them suggested killing their parents, but another said it would be a better decision to push them apart; Rangi could go above them and live in the sky, and Papa could remain below them and nurture them. So all the sons tried to push their parents apart, but none succeeded until Tāne (god of forests & birds) lied on his back and pushed with his legs, instead of with his hands as his brothers had done.

There’s a war among the brothers after that, and much ado about creating things as we know them now, but the part I particularly like is that Rangi still weeps for Papa (rain).

There’s an additional myth that ties in here. Tāne made a woman out of red clay (Hine-ahuone) and they made a daughter, Hine-ata-uira (she has other names, too), and Tāne married her. When Hine-ata-uira got curious about who her father was, and discovered that he was her husband, she was ashamed, and ran away to the spirit-world. Tāne tried to follow her, but she told him to go back, because she was going to be the goddess of the underworld. Tāne would care for their children on earth until it was time for them to go to her.

I was actually always interested in Greek Mythology, but it was usually the minor myths that interested me.  I really didn't care that much about what Zeus and Hera were doing but I thought it was pretty neat that Narcissus was so full of himself that he fell in love with his reflection.  This was right after he rejected Echo's love for him.  It's all very TRAGIC, my dear.

However, my most favorite myth has to be the myth of Cassandra.  (Really, was there any surprise?)  Despite the fact that I share the name with dear Cassandra, she really brings back the age old "don't go disrepectin' dem gods."  Apollo gave her the gift of sight at an early age and nurtured that gift in her.  Then, when she got older, he wanted to sleep with her (as gods usually did when it came to humans.)

However, Cassandra stood her ground and told him no (which is what I respect about her.)  But gods didn't take kindly to mere mortals telling them no.  Especially when they had bestowed gifts upon these mortals.  So, Apollo told her that she would be able to foresee the future but no one would believe her predictions.

This happened frequently in her life.  She foretold the fall of Troy and, well, we all know what happened with that one.  She also saw Aeneid starting Athens but he didn't think he would do that either.

Inevitably, Agamemnon rapes her and takes her on as a consort and takes her home with him.  Unbeknownst to him (despite the fact that Cassandra told him), Agamemnon's wife was sleeping around and when he came back, she killed both Agamemnon and Cassandra.

The story is really awful and tragic but, at the same time, I like that Cassandra stands up for herself despite how terribly it ends up for her.  And, you know... she has my name.  She was also described as the second most beautiful woman in the world.  So you figure she was probably a pretty awesome lady despite the short straw she drew.

1 comment:

  1. That Maori myth is very similar to the Japanese creation myth. It can be found here for reference: