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Chechnya: The Folklore, Mythology and Ancient Religions

If you have followed my blog over the past two years you will know how fascinated I am by ancient culture, mythology, folklore and indigenous traditions. Some I have shared are very well known and some not so much. Today I want to dive into a place and people that unfortunately most are not aware of have a rich history regarding their spiritual beliefs that is on a small scale as far as I have researched still exists. That place is the land of Chechnya and its people. So let’s get into it and I hope you enjoy what I am about to share with you.

Introduction

The Chechens (/ˈtʃɛtʃɛnz, tʃəˈtʃɛnz/Chechen: Нохчий, Noxçiy, Old Chechen: Нахчой, Naxçoy), historically also known as Kisti and Durdzuks, are a Northeast Caucasian ethnic group of the Nakh peoples native to the North Caucasus. They are the largest ethnic group of the North Caucasus and refer to themselves as Nokhchiy; singular Nokhchi, Nokhcho, Nakhchuo or Nakhtche). The vast majority of Chechens today are Muslims and live in Chechnya, a republic of Russia. The North Caucasus has been invaded numerous times throughout history. Its isolated terrain and the strategic value outsiders have placed on the areas settled by Chechens has contributed much to the Chechen community ethos and helped shape its national character. Chechen society has traditionally been egalitarian and organized around many autonomous local clans, called teips.

A teip (also taip, teyp; Nakh [ˈtajpə]family, kin, clan, tribe) is a Chechen and Ingush tribal organization or clan, self-identified through descent from a common ancestor or geographic location. It is a sub-unit of the tukkhum and shahar. There are about 150 Chechen and 120 Ingush teips. Teips played an important role in the socioeconomic life of the Chechen and Ingush peoples before and during the Middle Ages, and continue to be an important cultural part to this day. Teips being sub-units of tukkhums, members of the same teip are traditionally thought to descend from a common ancestor, and thus are considered distant blood relatives. Teip names were often derived from an ancestral founder. As is also true of many other North Caucasian peoples, traditionally Chechen and Ingush men were expected to know the names and places of origin of ancestors on their father’s side, going back many generations, with the most common number being considered as 7. Many women also memorized this information, and keener individuals can often recite their maternal ancestral line as well. The memorization of the information serves as a way to impute clan loyalty to younger generations. Among peoples of the Caucasus, traditionally, large scale land disputes could sometimes be solved with the help of mutual knowledge of whose ancestors resided where and when.

The Chechens, who call themselves noxchii (singular noxchi or noxchuo ) and their land Noxchiin moxk (“Chechen land”), are the largest indigenous nationality of the North Caucasus. They speak a language of the Nakh-Daghestanian, or East Caucasian language family that is native to the Caucasus, and have lived in or near their present locations for millennia. Chechnya is a small territory of about 5,000 sq. mi. (13,000 sq. km.) corresponding to about 85 percent of the historical Chechen lands (the rest is in today’s Daghestan), with some non-Chechen steppe land added in the north. The lower North Caucasus foothills and adjacent plain including the capital city of Grozny (Soelzha-ghaala “Sunzha City” in Chechen, a name still much in use despite its official renaming to Djohar in 1996) are the most densely populated part of Chechnya. The Chechens numbered just over a million in mid-2000 according to a Danish Refugee Council census. Somewhat over half of the world’s Chechens live in Chechnya; most of the others are scattered throughout Russia, several tens of thousands live in Kazakhstan and nearby, and a few tens of thousands in JordanTurkey, and Syria. Continue reading HERE.

Chechens: Culture and Society is an ethnography that elaborates the lived experiences of Chechens, focusing primarily on relationships and socio-cultural norms within the context of the current conflict in the Chechen Republic.

The Mythology and Folklore

Although the Vainak peoples (Chechens and Ingush) of the North Caucasus were Islamized relatively late in the early modern period, Amjad Khaimuka (2005) explores their pre-Islamic religion and mythology, including traces of ancestor worship. I propose to rebuild some of the elements. and a funeral cult. The Nak, like many other peoples of the North Caucasus, such as the Circassians and Ossetians, practiced tree worship and believed that trees were the abode of spirits. The Vainak have developed many rituals for offering specific types of wood. The pear tree held a special place in Vainakh beliefs.

Jaimoukha (2005), page 252, contains a list of reconstructed ‘Vainak gods’. Dar (Chechen), Dar (Ingush) or Dara – Supreme God. Corresponds to the Greek Zeus, the Roman Jupiter, the Germanic Wodan, and the Circassian Teshwe. Gal-Yerdi or Gela – Sun god and patron of cattle breeders. Worship services were held on Nak New Year’s Day, with metal spheres, candles, and sometimes animal sacrifices. Hera – God of Darkness. Seela or Sela – God of stars, thunder and lightning. Sera is often portrayed as an evil and cruel deity in Vainak mythology. His skeins (loose bags made of animal skins) contained “nights” (stars, lightning, thunder). He lives on top of Mount Kazbek in a fiery chariot. It was he who chained Puharmat to the mountain for stealing fire, and for this reason it was forbidden to carry embers and ashes on Wednesdays in his month in the old Vainakh calendar. During the period of Christianization in Chechnya and Ingushetia, he (like Vatshira in Ossetia and Ilya Muromiets in Russia) was identified with Elijah the Prophet and maintained his status. He also, like the Greek Zeus, was unable to control his mortal lust for women (to the dismay of his wife Hulki), and as a result of his episode with a mortal maiden, his daughter, the goddess Sera Sata was born. Sata or Sera Sata – According to various versions, Sheila’s wife or daughter. Goddess of craftsmanship, especially female craftsmanship, equivalent to Satanaya in the Northwest Caucasus. Her face is described as beautiful and shining like the sun. She guides Pukarmat to the top of Mount Kazbek and helps him steal Serra Fire for Earth’s inhabitants. Maetsill – God of agriculture and harvests, and protector of the weak. Ishtar-Deela – Lord of life and death, ruler of the underworld (“Deeli-Malkhi”), responsible for punishing the wicked. Molyz-Yerdi – War god who brought victory to Vaynak. Elta – God of hunting and animals, and of the harvest before Maethir took over the role. He was blinded in one eye due to his father Dheera’s disobedience. Amgali (-Yerdi) – minor deity. Taamash(-Yerdi) – (“Lord of Wonders”) Lord of Destiny. It’s usually small, but when it gets angry, it becomes huge. Tusholi – Goddess of fertility, protector of those greater than her father, Deela. She is believed to live in the sacred Gullane Am Lake. According to scholars, Tushori was the primary deity in early beliefs. People petitioned her for healthy offspring, a bountiful harvest, and a prosperous herd of cattle. In later times, Tushori became an object of worship mainly for childless women. She had a holy day, Tushori Day, on which women brought offerings such as red deer horns, bullets, and candles to the sanctuary of Mount Dheerateh (except for priests and priests). could only be entered with explicit permission). (It was forbidden to cut down trees.) Her day is now considered “Children’s and Women’s Day”. The hoopoe, known as the ‘chicken of Tushori’, was considered ‘her’ bird and could not be hunted except with the permission of the high priest and strictly for medical purposes. Dartsa-Naana (“Mother of Blizzards”) – Goddess of blizzards and avalanches. She lives on the snowy summit of Mount Kazbek, drawing a magical circle around it, which no mortal of any sense dares to cross. If any would dare to do so, Datha Nana would cast them into the abyss and let deadly snow roll upon them in her mountain home. Mok Nana – Goddess of the wind. Seelasat – (“Oriole”) Guardian of the Virgin (probably identical to Sata / Sela Sata, see above). Meler Yerdi – God of plants and cereal drinks. Aira – Guardian of the Eternal Timeline. Mozh – The evil sister of the Sun and Moon. Shrikes have eaten all their other relatives in the sky and are now in constant pursuit of their celestial brethren. A rare eclipse occurs when she catches up with them and takes them prisoner. Mr. Moz agrees to release Sun and Moon only at the request of his innocent eldest daughter. Bolam-Deela – Not much is known about him/her. He/she may or may not have been equal to Dheera Mark. Khagya-Yerdi or Maetzkhali – Lord of the Rock. Mattir-Deela – Another lesser-known god. P’eerska – (Friday) Keeper of Time. SOURCE

Closed Captions in English is available for this video.

When meeting the Chechen mythology and Chechen pagan cults, their connection with the culture of Asia and Europe is clearly traced. This is explained by the fact that since the third century AD, the Caucasus has been the intersection of the routes of communication of many Eastern and European civilizations. Thus, in the language, cults and mythology of the Chechen Republic, in its everyday traditions, up to the present day, the features of the culture of the peoples of Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe are preserved. The same applies to the Chechen theater, music and dance culture of Chechnya. Due to the constant military actions on the territory of the Chechen Republic over many centuries, a significant part of the cultural heritage of the people was irretrievably lost. But the traditions turned out to be alive thanks to the Chechen people, who retained their cultural and ethnic identity.

The number of genres of modern Chechen folklore is impressive: it is the traditional Nart heroic epic and associated mythology, various fairy tales, legends, tales and legends, religious, children’s and ritual folklore, plays, songs and poems of the so-called tyullik and Zhukhurgov. Chechen mythology is not so rich, but it is interesting with relics of pastoral and agricultural cults and totemic beliefs, and the myth “How the sun, moon and stars happened” is just a fundamental work of cosmogony and a significant historical monument of folk culture.

The Vainakh symbol of Dela-Malx. on the stone is the Ingush symbol of sun/earth motion, as is on the flag of Ingushetia:
Dela-Malx was the main god. In ancient Vainakh traditions they days honoured were the winter and summer solstice, except it is in the opposite perspective… in December, the darkest day of the year, was celebrated the “birth” of the sun (positive sense) and in June, the lightest day of the year, was the “death” of the sun (almost negative sense), as the days would then become shorter.

The heroic epic of Chechnya is in many ways similar to that of the Balkars, Ossetians, Circassians and Karachais – both in form and content. Basically, it has three epic groups: legends about giants (cyclops, giants with two eyes and giants – the founders of clans), works about national heroes and traditions – legends that are not associated with the Nart epic, but have a heroic-epic typology. Here is a translation of an excerpt from a legend typical of the second epic group of works:

So only on the battle lined up both nations with the leaders,
Troy sons rush, with chatter, with a cry, like birds:
Creek is such a crane is distributed under the high sky
If, having avoided both winter storms and endless rains,
Screaming herds fly through the rapid flow of the Ocean,
Swearing threatening and killing men undersized, pygmies,
With terrible rage on whom from air heights attack.

Chechen fairy tales are very similar to works of a similar genre of other peoples of the North Caucasus and Europe. The plot is a fairy tale magic, domestic, tales of animals, where good always triumphs over evil, and the main character usually comes out the winner from various difficult situations. SOURCE

The Vainakh peoples (Chechen: вайн нах, Ingush вей нах “our people”) are the speakers of the Vainakh languages. These are chiefly the ethnic Chechen, Ingush and Kist peoples of the North Caucasus, including closely related minor or historical groups.

Vainakh Deities

The gods of the Chechen and Ingush peoples SOURCE

Necropolis in Itum Kale(Chechnya), and tower of Tsoi-Pheda protecting the peace of the dead

The following is a list of Vainakh divinities — from “Amaga-erda”, the protector of lakes, to the “Votshabi”, the spirits which watch over herds of aurochs. This list was copied from Mariel Tsaroieva’s amazing Anciennes Croyances des Ingouches et des Tchétchènes (“Ancient Beliefs of the Ingush and the Chechens”, published in 2005), which I found in a remainders bookshop in Brussels. Ms Tsaroieva is of Ingush origin, and holds a PhD in History of Religion from the prestigious Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales in Paris. A former teacher of romance linguistics at the state universities of Chechnya-Ingushetia and Kyrgyzstan, she has published many articles and books on folklore and “geolinguistics”, both in Russian and in French.

The list reads as follows:

The Gods of the World

“diala” — the god-father

“tusholi” — the goddess-mother

“kurkhars” or “tshugul” — the hairstyle of Ingush women

“tq’a” — the god of the universe

“nana latta” — mother earth

“h’al-erda” — the sky-god

“mago-erda” — the god of magic and of wisdom and knowledge

“eshtar” — the god of the afterlife


The Astral Divinities

“malkha” — the sun-god

“but’ ” — the moon-god

Seela or Sela – God of stars, thunder and lightning. Sela is often portrayed in Vainakh myth as an evil and cruel god. His skein (a loose bag made of animal skin) held the “night” (stars, lightning and thunder). He lives on the top of Mount Kazbek with his fiery chariot.


The Gods of Nature


“seli” — the god of (thunder-)storms and lightning

“dardza-nana” — the goddess of snowstorms

“mikha-nana” — the goddess of the winds

“khi-nana” — the goddess of rivers and springs

“amaga-erda” — the protector of lakes

“hagar-erda” or “hirga-erda” — the aurochs-god or the rock-god

“amgali-erda” and “saniba-erda” — the tribal gods

“kherkh-erda” — the god of fruit-trees (also protector of great trees, with the “naj-gantskhoi”, the spirits which protect “naj”, “oak trees”)



The Gods of Various Domains of Rural Life

“elta” — the god of hunting

“votshabi” — the spirits which protect herds of aurochs

The “Masters of the Woods” and their daughters or sisters, the “almas”

“tamij-erda” — the god of stock-breeding

“mat-tseli” — the god of agriculture and of justice and equality

“matir-diala” or “matar-diala” — the god of haymaking

“mats-khali” — the god of renewal (of crops)

“boalam-diala” — the god of plants (vegetation) and of travellers



The Gods of Social Life

“susan-diala” — the protector of women and of maternity (i.e. the protector of mothers)

“agoi” — the protector of girls

“orkhus” or “orkhush” — the god of fecundity and procreation

“dika-seli” — the god of goodness and kindness

“arda” — the god of boundaries (or of boundary-markers?) and of clan possessions



The Gods of Work and Handicrafts

“sela-sata” — the protector of handicrafts and know-how

“p’harmat” — the blacksmith-god

“malar-erda” — the god of intoxicating drinks (i.e. the god of alcohol)

“moloz” — the god of war


The Gods of Disease

“una-nana” — the goddess of contagious diseases

“higiz” or “hegiz” — the goddess of smallpox



Some Forgotten Gods of Antiquity

“ami” and “h’ur-ami” or “fur-ami” — perhaps the god of good tidings and the goddesses of the winds, respectively

“baini-seli” — the god of agriculture, perhaps, now replaced by “mat-tseli”; apparently related to the Georgian Mokheve (i.e. the inhabitants of Khevi, the valley of the Terek between the Djvari Pass and the Daryal Gorge)

“falkhan” — probably related to Mago-erda, the god of wisdom and knowledge

“suvsa” — probably the ancient goddess-mother

“sampai-tsuge” or “siampai-tsuoge” — probably the ancient god of trees or of forests; sometimes worshipped as the rain-god

In Conclusion

I really enjoyed putting this post together and learned quite a lot regarding this subject and plan to look more into the traditions and folklore of the people of Chechnya. I found a real treasure trove of resources which I will include for those of you who want to learn more about the amazing folklore and mythology which originated from the ancient people of such a fascinating culture.

Further Resources

Chechen native religion

The legend of the “Hordune-Din” (the “Sea Stallion”)

The Pagan Religious Practices of the Chechens and the Ingush

The Shamanic Themes in Chechen Folktales

The Origin of the Chechen and Ingush: A Study in Alpine Linguistic and Ethnic Geography

The Diversity of the Chechen culture: from historical roots to the present

Chechen Fairy Tales, Fables and Stories

The Abrek in Chechen Folklore

Dancing Through Mythological Threads: Unraveling the Symbolism of Chechen Dance

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The Dacians: Wolf Warriors and Their People

The history the ancient Roman empire is a subject I have studied extensively for many years and with that always expanded my studies of interest regarding the different tribes of people and other civilizations they encountered and battled in their expansion across Europe, Norther Africa and into the East. One of these groups of people are one of my favorites during that period of history and they were the Dacians. The Dacians much like the Celts were not always one unified group of people but in Dacia, which today is modern Romania, they were many different tribes of people who lived in one territory but it would be their encounters with Rome that would eventually cause reason to become one Wolf and rip into the Lion of Rome. Here is their story.

The date and credibility of the earliest reports concerning a Dacian people are contested. The ancient assumption, that slaves, who figured in New Attican (4th century B.C.) plays under the name of Daos, were in fact Dacians, is less than plausible, for the first confirmed report of the Dacians’ existence refers to a time at least two centuries later, whilst the Romans first reached the Danube even later, between 76-73 B.C. The utility of our data is limited both by the fact that only fragments of the detailed chronicles survive, and by the fact that the reflections on individual peoples found in these chronicles often compress events stretching over several historical periods. Thus historical research has not been able to establish clearly whether King Oroles of Dacia made war against his eastern neighbours, the Celtic Bastarnae, in the 2nd century B.C., or in some much later, equally indeterminate period. There is a similar lack of consensus over such an essential question as the identity of King Rubobostes, who is claimed by one source to have built up the power of Dacia; was he the first significant Dacian ruler, some time during the 2nd century B.C., or was his name merely a misspelling of Burebista, the king who is generally credited with founding a powerful Dacia? A further difficulty derives from the fact that more than one name has been attributed to the Dacians. The tribes that spoke Thracian and lived in the eastern half of the Balkan peninsula, the lower Danube valley, and Transylvania were called by a variety of names in Greek and Roman literature. The Thracians proper, who had very early contact with Greek culture, inhabited a region bounded in the north by the Balkan Mountains and in the west by Macedonia, while the Getae lived in a region north of the Balkan Mountains, along the lower reaches of the Danube. The Dacians of Transylvania, who were the {1-43.} last Thracian-speaking people to come to the notice of Greco-Roman world, are also called Getae in Greek sources; and Roman historians, who drew upon Greek sources, often — and arbitrarily — translated the appellation ‘Getae’ as ‘Dacian’, even when, as it happened, they were referring to authentic Getae. Thus caution must be exercised when dealing with the fragmentary sources that mention Dacians in the context of the wars, waged by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., on the northern borders of Macedonia, against various Thracian, Getian, and Celtic tribes. Continue reading HERE.

The Dacians or Geto – Dacians were part of the great people of the Thracians. They were organized into tribes that are scattered throughout the Tisa, the Carpathians, and the Black Sea, and one side of the lower Danube. They had a developed civilization , made money, searched for gold and silver and they made from them, with great skill, jewelry, religious objects, etc… was the first king who united , in 82 BC, the Geto-Dacian tribes into one kingdom, great and powerful. He had a conflict with the Roman emperor, Cesar. Burebista was assassinated in 44 BC. After the assassination of Burebista, the kingdom broke into 4 – 5 smaller kingdoms.

They dealt mainly with farming, bee keeping, grazing and making pottery. It have been found many ceramic vessels.

The ancient Greeks called them Dacians or Geto – Dacians. The Romans cold them Dacians and their territory was called Dacia. They were well known for their organization, their bravery and diligence. Continue reading HERE.

Romania was internationally recognized in 1878, but its history is much older. To understand the people who inhabit this country, one must go back thousands of years and meet the first king who united the local tribes, Burebista. He and his successor, Decebal, warred against Roman legions, and although they displayed extraordinary bravery and military prowess, it wasn’t enough to preserve their independence. In this book, you will discover how Romania developed from a distant Roman province on the fringes of the Roman Empire to a modern state in eastern Europe, one ready to adopt Western values.

Romania lies on Europe’s eastern border, and as such, it is often neglected in history. Although it is a culturally very rich country, the world displayed little interest in its promotion. By reading this captivating history of Romania, you will learn about the turbulent past of the region, the many wars it fought, and the people who led them. You will also learn the truth behind the character of Vlad the Impaler and decide for yourself if he was a ruthless, bloodthirsty ruler or a politician, tactician, and national hero.
Map of the Roman province of Dacia, part of modern-day Romania and Serbia, between the era of Trajan (106 CE) and the evacuation of the province in 271 CE. Roman settlements and legion garrisons with Latin names included. SOURCE

The Carpathian Mountains were a favorable environment for the Dacians’ economic development, primarily due to seasonal migration of livestock from the hills to the mountains (a practice called “transhumance”), the Dacians’ main occupation being sheep-herding. For practicing sheep-herding, the Dacians created paths through the mountains in order to reach the Carpathians’ abundant pastures. Transalpina is nowadays the most famous tourist route as the highest altitude road crossing the Carpathian Mountains; it still serves as a transhumance route, a tradition kept alive since the Dacians’ times.

Apart from transhumance, the Dacians were known for beekeeping and for their knowledge in the usage of medicinal plants. The tradition of producing honey and collecting medicinal plants was maintained until today in the traditional Transylvanian village and ancient works from the 1’st and 2’nd century BC certify that the Dacian practitioners of natural medicine had principles similar to those of the school of Hippocrates, father of medicine.

The usage of medicinal plants was woven with the spiritual-mystical side of the Dacian people and transposed into their rich mythology. Thus, according to the supreme Dacian deity, Zalmoxe, one could not try healing the body without healing the soul. Hereby, the Dacian people showed that they understood the connection between the body and the soul, these psycho-somatic notions being probably particularly rare at that time.

The Dacians believed in the immortality of the soul, for them death being only a passage from the material world to the spiritual one, governed by Zamolxes. The harmonious blending with Christianity led to the conservation of some aspects and traditions; Some Dacian deities evolved into Christian characters such as St. Elijah or Romanian fairy tale characters such as Prince Charming (Făt-Frumos – son of the sun) and Ileana Cosânzeana (daughter of the moon). SOURCE

The Dacian Wars

Deep within the wild and mysterious Carpathian Mountains of modern day Romania, nestled upon a series of hillsides, lie the ruins of an ancient metropolis that reached its heyday nearly two thousand years ago. It’s name was Sarmisegetuza, and it’s from this great mountain stronghold that Decebalus, the last king of the Dacia, masterminded his wars against the Romans.

After securing peace with Domitian in 89 CE, the Dacian King – Decebalus – was viewed as a rex amicus (a king friendly to Rome). However, the peace was seemingly weighed in favor of the Dacians, which irked the Romans. Worse still, the empire was suffering from shortages of metals – both gold (affecting the currency) and iron and copper (for arms and armor) – which needed to be addressed as a matter of priority. Fortunately for the Romans, Dacia was rich in these precious raw materials, and the belligerence of Decebalus and the lopsided Domitianic treaty meant that conflict could be justified. This is the casus belli given by Cassius Dio, writing some time after the war, but who nevertheless remains the most complete account of Trajan’s campaign.

Trajan’s Dacian War actually occurred in two stages. The first war lasted from 101-102 CE. The Romans advanced into Dacia from the city of Viminacium. The city had been the base for the Roman invasion of Dacian territory during Domitian’s war previously. After crossing the Danube River and marching into the heart of Dacia, Trajan and the Roman forces decisively defeated a Dacian army at the Second Battle of Tapae. With winter looming, Trajan hesitated in the advance on Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital. Decebalus took advantage of the pause and marched to assault the Roman province of Moesia.

A first battle, near the future city of Nicopolis ad Istrum, was a tentative Roman victory. The second engagement, the Battle of Adamclisi, was a hard-fought Roman victory. Decebalus, seeing that defeat was inevitable, requested a truce. Trajan agreed, under the provision that the Dacians yield territory held by the Romans, as well as the weapons and materials they had received after the treaty of 89 CE. Although Decebalus acquiesced to the terms, this would only be temporary… Continue reading HERE.

Historians believe that the Dacians and Getae were essentially the same group of tribes during successive periods, related to Thracian tribes from territory south of the Carpathian Mountains, but their exact relationship in place and time is a subject for debate. Those called the ‘Getae’ by ancient Greek sources were actively expanding by at least the 4th century BC; some enlisted as mercenaries in Roman armies during the 1st century BC, and others later clashed with the army of Augustus, fighting alongside the Sarmatians. The people whom the Romans called the ‘Dacians’ are best known from wars against the emperors Domitian in AD 85–89 and Trajan in 101–106. At their peak, the Dacians and Getae defeated neighbouring peoples stretching from modern Slovakia to southern Ukraine and it is believed that the effectiveness of their weapons caused modifications in Roman infantry armour.

The Dacian Draco

A Dacian Draco relief of Trajan’s Column.

The Dacian draco was a military standard used by troops of the ancient Dacian people, which can be seen in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in several scenes depicted on Trajan’s Column in Rome, Italy. This wind instrument has the form of a dragon with open wolf-like jaws containing several metal tongues. The hollow dragon’s head was mounted on a pole with a fabric tube affixed at the rear. In use, the draco was held up into the wind, or above the head of a horseman, where it filled with air and gave the impression it was alive while making a shrill sound as the wind passed through its strips of material. The Dacian draco likely influenced the development of the similar Roman draco. SOURCE

This Dacian Draco military standard hangs above my desk in my living room.

Gods and Goddesses of The Dacians

GEBELEIZIS, He is the Thunder. He is a celestial god. His attribute is the eagle. Gebeleizis, represents the clear sky. Everything that disturbs his harmony, storms, clouds, have to be combated. That’s why the Dacians shoot arrows towards the sky, in the clouds – to drive them away, to help Gebeleizis (this custom is related by Herodotus).

The goddess Bendis is corresponding to Artemis, in the Greek mythology, or Diana, in the Roman mythology. Therefore, Bendis is a goddess of the moon, of the forest. Herodotus wrote that this goddess is adored by the Thracian women, being borrowed from the populations at the north, who can only be the Dacians.

The cult of this goddess was confirmed by the archeological discoveries (a head of bronze found at Costesti, a medallion of clay, discovered at Sarmizegetusa, and a bronze bust from Piatra Rosie).

Her cult survived during the period of Roman occupation, in the form of Roman godess Diana. The name of Diana can be traced in the Romanian words zana, sanziana (Sancta Diana) or cosanziana (Quo Sancta Diana).

Derzelas (Darzalas) is a Thracian chthonic god of health and human spirit’s vitality.

Darzalas was the Great God of Hellenistic Odessos (modern Varna) since the 4th century BC and was frequently depicted on its coinage and portrayed in numerous terra cotta figurines, as well as in a rare 4th-century BC lead one, found in the city. There was a temple dedicated to him with a cult statue, and in 238 AD, games (Darzaleia) were held in his honor, possibly attended by Gordian III. Darzalas was often depicted in himation, holding cornucopiae with altars by his side. Continue reading HERE.

Herodotus goes on to describe a ritual that the Getae perform once every five years. For this ritual, the Getae would cast lots to determine who to send to Zalmoxis as their messenger. He would be given instructions as to what favors the Getae want their god to grant them on that occasion. After that, the messenger would be sent to Zalmoxis via the following means:

“They arrange three lances, with men to hold them, and then others grab the hands and feet of the one being sent to Zalmoxis and throw him up into the air and on to the points of the lances. If he dies from being impaled, they regard this as a sign that the god will look favorably on their requests. If he does not die, however, they blame this failure on the messenger himself, call him a bad man, and then find someone else to send.” SOURCE

Dacians and The Wolf

The wolf is the symbolic animal of the Dacians, who also called themselves “wolves”. The legend says they could turn into wolves. Some legends say that a big white wolf fought next to the Dacians when their capital Sarmizegetusa fell to the Romans. SOURCE

The oldest mentioning of the werewolf comes from 6th century BC and has its origins on the actual territory of Transylvania, according to the ancient historian Herodotus, all of this happening centuries before any other European references in regard with this subject.

The Legend of the Great White Wolf states that in lost times, a high priest of Zamolxis was roaming through Dacia’s forests in order to help the needy. Zalmoxis realizing the potential of his servant, called him into the mountains to be close to him. Far beyond human territory, the beasts of Dacia considered him their leader, wolves appreciating him the most. After some time Zalmoxis summoned him and asked him to serve in another way, and with his approval, the deity transformed him into a large and mighty White Wolf, the most respected and feared beast from all of Dacia. His purpose was to gather all the wolves from the forests and protect Dacia when needed. Whenever the Dacians were in danger, the wolves came to their aid when they heard the howl of the Great White Wolf.

The incorrect international adaptation of the werewolf concept, due to the lack of information and folklore research, reinvented him as a negative character, although according to the Dacian mythology this creature has a divine role of man’s protector.

The Dacians used to call themselves “daoi”, a word inherited from the ancient Phrygian language, daos, meaning wolf, as they had a strong connection to these animals. Their battle flag called Draco was formed out of a wolf’s head with its mouth wide open alongside the body of a dragon, symbolizing the spirit of this vivid animal guardian.

Thus, the basic legend of the Great White Wolf has its origins in the Dacians’ respect for the wolf and from this picture the werewolf idea came to life. However, its purpose was a noble one, as the werewolf was protecting the Dacian people in times of war. SOURCE

The legend of the Big White Wolf is part of the Romanian folklore. That means it has been passed down from generation to generation since ancient times. Here is my own translation of the legend from Romanian to English:

The Big White Wolf is not an animal, he is human…

Once, in forgotten times, a priest of Zamolxis was wandering the realms of Dacia without respite. He was helping those in need, and conveying to the Geto-Dacians that the great god was watching over them. In contrast to all others, without being old, he had hair and beard as white as snow. His faith, courage, and perseverance were known not only by humans and by Zamolxis himself, but also by the wild beasts. The god, realizing the value of his servant, keeps him at his home in the mountains to have him closer. Far away from humans, the priest continued to serve with the same determination as before. In short time, the wild beasts of Dacia came to obey him and consider him their leader. He was most adored by the wolves, for they were the only ones without a leader, only hunger keeping them in a pack.

After a while, Zamolxis speaks to his priest and decides that time has come for the priest to serve him in another shape, thus transforming him into an animal. However not into any animal, but into the most feared and respected beast of Dacia. Into a White Wolf, as big and strong as a bear, giving him the mission to gather all the wolves from the forests in order to defend the realm. In this way, whenever the Dacians where in danger, the wolves came to their aid. It was enough for the Big White Wolfs howl to be heard and from wherever they were, the wolves jumped forth to defend those who had become their brothers. But the White Wolf was also a judge, punishing the cowards and the traitors.

One day however, the god summoned his servant again, this time to give him the possibility to choose for the last time whether he wants to remain wolf or become human again. Although feeling sorrow in his heart, knowing what times are to come, he decides to remain by his god, hoping that this way he will better serve his territory and his people. Despite the vigilance of the Geto-Dacians, of the wolves and of the Big White Wolf, the Romans manage to infiltrate into their ranges. When the big invasion was about to start, the Romans planted in the hearts of some cowards the seed of mistrust towards the big god. Thus, some Dacians start fearing that the god will not be by their side in the great battle. The traitors taken over by fear start killing all the wolves that come in their way hoping that one of them would be the Big White Wolf whose head they could offer to the Romans in exchange for their lives. The wolves that managed to escape run into the heart of the mountains and never returned to help the brothers who had betrayed them. The White Wolf and Zamolxis withdraw into the Sacred Mountain from where they will see with grief in the heart how the Geto-Dacians will be conquered by the Romans because of the betrayal.

Dacian Wolf Legend

The Dacians had such a rich culture in all regards and it still carries great influence in Romania and surrounding areas to this day. As you have seen there is so much written about them and yet there is still so much we do not know but hopefully through ethical Archeology and other research we can uncover more about the fierce and proud Wolf warriors and their people of Dacia.

Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire – Episode 6: Dacian Wars (Documentary)

Further Resources

The Dacians, The Wolf Warriors

The Celts and The Dacians

The Dacians: Wolf Warriors

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The Picts and Who They Were

Being someone who really enjoys learning about ancient civilizations, culture and the people who lived through those times I truly find fascinating. Whether it is the Hittites who fought the ancient Egyptians, The “Sea People” of the Mediterranean or the Tartessians, they all had a hand in forging modern society. Today I want to share with you the still in many regards mysterious people of Scotland known as The Picts.

Origins of The Picts

By the fourth century AD, the predominant race in northern Scotland were the Picts, the name was coined by the Romans who referred to them as ‘Picti’ meaning ‘painted ones’, which referred to the Pictish custom of either tattooing their bodies or covering themselves with warpaint. The Irish referred to them as Cruithni, meaning “the people of the designs”. What they called themselves has gone unrecorded.

The Picts were descendants of the Iron Age people of northern Scotland, believed to have originated in Iberia as hunter-gatherers, they moved through lower Britain and entered Scotland around 7000BC. Recent DNA tests have proven the Picts were closely related to the Basques of northern Spain. The connections between northern Britain and Celtic Spain are supported by many myths and legends. The dolmens, standing stones and the trail of “cup and ring” designs carved on stones by the prehistoric people of Iberia make their way from Spain and Portugal and northern France to Ireland and Scotland and represent the earliest evidence of the movement of prehistoric man from Iberia to Britain. SOURCE

The Picts is a survey of the historical and cultural developments in northern Britain between AD 300 and AD 900. Discarding the popular view of the Picts as savages, they are revealed to have been politically successful and culturally adaptive members of the medieval European world.

Who Were The Picts?

From the accounts of Britain made by the classical authors, we know that by the fourth century AD, the predominant people in northern Scotland were referred to as “Picts”.

Throughout history, these Picts have been shadowy, enigmatic figures.

From the outset, they were regarded as savage warriors but by the time the Norsemen were compiling their sagas and histories, the memory of the Picts had degenerated into a semi-mythical race of fairies.

Theories abound, although these days it is generally accepted that the Picts were not, as was once believed, a new race, but were simply the descendants of the indigenous Iron Age people of northern Scotland.

The cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the Picts is simply because they left no written records.

Because of this, we have no clear insight into how they lived, their beliefs or society. All we know of them is from second-hand anecdotal evidence, lifted from the various historical writers who recorded their own, possibly biased, impressions of the Pictish people.

The earliest surviving mention of the Picts dates from AD 297.

In a poem praising the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus, the orator Eumenius wrote that the Britons were already accustomed to the semi-naked “Picti and Hiberni (Irish) as their enemies.

From Emenius’ statement, we can see that the Picts were already a major thorn in the Roman Empire’s side. And they continued to be a problem for their neighbors – continually harassing them for centuries after the Roman legions abandoned Britain. But who were they? Continue reading HERE.

The Picts were a people of northern Scotland who are defined as a “confederation of tribal units whose political motivations derived from a need to ally against common enemies.” They were not a single tribe, nor necessarily a single people, although it is thought that they came originally from Scandinavia as a cohesive group. Since they left no written record of their history, what is known of them comes from later Roman and Scottish writers and from images the Picts themselves carved on stones.

Conflict with the Romans

The Romans referred to Scotland as Caledonia, a name derived from the Pictish tribe Caledonii. By AD 80 the Romans had succeeded in subduing the tribes of Britons which occupied the area south of the Forth and Clyde, but those to the north proved harder to conquer.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus recorded ‘ …the Picts, divided into two tribes called Dicalydones and Verturiones. are roving at large and causing great devastation. In the early-600s, the Spanish bishop and encyclopaedist, Isidore of Seville wrote of them:-‘the Picts, whose name is taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’

Gnaeus Julius Agricola advanced to the River Tay, constructing a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil, north of Perth. The Picts, under the leadership of Calgacus (‘the Swordsman’), met the Romans under Julius Agricola, at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 84 A.D. when the Romans marched on their main granaries. Prior to this, the Picts had avoided open battle, preferring to carry out guerilla-style raids. Tacitus records a speech which he claims to have been made by Calgacus before the battle in which he describes the Romans as: “Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace. Continue reading HERE.

Pictish Carvings

The Aberlemno I roadside symbol stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb.
This film begins where Symbols and Signs ends and traces attempts to explain the meaning of the Pictish symbols through the translation of Ogham and Latin inscriptions on a small number of the symbol stones. The film focuses on a number of key Pictish stones including those at St Vigeans, Auchenblae and Aberlemno. The film asks whether a Pictish ‘Rosetta Stone’ has been discovered which reveals the meaning of the symbols.

The Picts left no written records but instead their legacy comes down to us in the carved stones that can be found around Scotland. See our guide to the ten best places to see Pictish and Celtic carvings in Scotland. Researchers continue to explore the meaning of the carvings found on Pictish stones, which often feature symbols, animals and people.

The occasional new find such as the imprint of the hand of a Pictish copper smith continue to build on our knowledge, whilst projects such as the Northern Picts Project carry out award-winning research into the Picts and their landscape. SOURCE

The Picts have fascinated for centuries. They emerged c. ad 300 to defy the might of the Roman empire only to disappear at the end of the first millennium ad, yet they left major legacies. They laid the foundations for the medieval Scottish kingdom and their captivating carved stones are some of the most eye-catching yet enigmatic monuments in Europe. Until recently the Picts have been difficult to trace due to limited archaeological investigation and documentary sources, but innovative new research has produced critical new insights into the culture of a highly sophisticated society which defied the might of the Roman Empire and forged a powerful realm dominating much of northern Britain.

This is the first dedicated book on the Picts that covers in detail both their archaeology and their history. It examines their kingdoms, culture, beliefs and everyday lives from their origins to their end, not only incorporating current thinking on the subject, but also offering innovative perspectives that transform our understanding of the early history of Scotland.
Picts: History and Heritage provides an overview of some of the key developments in the evolution of the Pictish kingdom between the 5th and 9th centuries. Using recent studies on the political centralisation of Pictland and its external relations with neighbouring kingdoms, the film traces some of the key developments in the history of Fortiu until the Gaelic takeover at the end of the 9th century.

Timeline of the Picts: Key Figures and Events

When the Angles of Bernicia overran the British kingdoms, one of which was the Anglian kingdom of Deira, they became the most powerful kingdom in Britain. Deira and Bernicia together were called Northumbria.

It is believed the Picts were probably a tributary to Northumbria until the reign of Brideimac Beli in 685 AD. The Anglicans suffered a severe defeat at the Battle of Dun Nectain that stopped their northward expansion. The Picts sent the Angles back south to Britain.

By the mid-9th century, Vikings had destroyed the kingdoms of Dal Riata and Northumbria, greatly diminished the power of the Kingdoms of Strathclyde and founded the Kingdom of York. During a major battle in 839 AD, the Vikings killed the King of Fortriu, Eogan man Oengusa.

Sometime in the 840s AD, Cinaed mac Alpin (Kenneth MacAlpin) became the king of the Picts. He united the Picts and the Scots, and together these tribes formed the new Kingdom of Scotland. At this time, they routed out the Vikings. SOURCE

What Happened to The Picts?

It is believed that, over several decades, the Picts merged with the Gaels. Pictland, also called Pictavia, gradually merged with the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba, which eventually came to be called Scotland.

Alba expanded, absorbing the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Bernician Lothian. By the 11th century, historians believe the Pictish people and their identity had been subsumed into the “Scots” conglomeration of people.

During the Dark Ages, the Pictish language did not suddenly disappear, but a process of Gaelicisation (which may have begun generations earlier) was clearly underway during the reign of Kenneth MacAlpin. Eventually, the inhabitants of Alba became fully Gaelicised Scots, and the Pict identity was forgotten. Later in British Isles history, the idea of the Picts as a Celtic tribe was revived in myth and legend. SOURCE

Further Resources

The Picts: 13 Amazing Facts about the ancient people that protected Scotland from the Roman Empire

Land of the Picts: New excavations reveal the truth behind the legend of these fearsome northern warriors

The Kingdom of the Picts

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Tartessos: The Iberian Lost Civilization

One of my passions regarding history are lost or little known ancient civilizations and when I come across or a friend shares with me something about a civilization I have not heard of before I tend to dive into it to learn as much as I can. Recently a friend of mine introduced me to the lost and little known ancient civilization known as Tartessos. Tartessos was a civilization that was located in Southern Spain along the Mediterranean and suddenly disappeared around 500 BCE. So after extensive research I found the best resources to share with you regarding this fascinating civilization.

Tartessos expansion through its existence.

“Tartessos” is the name given by the Greeks to the first Western civilization they knew, which was inhabiting the southwest of Spain. It was the first organized state of the Iberian Peninsula and was highly developed politically and culturally by the end of the second millennium before Christ.

The kingdom of Tartessos was the first one in Spain which had relations with the historical eastern Mediterranean civilizations, like Greeks and Phoenicians, and had with them important commercial relations. Therefore, and for their wealth in minerals, the Tartessos reached great importance. The country of the Tartessos is mentioned in many historical sources as a rich and splendorous kingdom.

The kingdom of Tartessos was located in a region crossed by the river “Tartessos”. This river was later called “Betis” by the Romans and “Guadalquivir” by the Moors.

Roman authors describe the region:

“Tartessos is a river in the land of the Iberians. It reaches the sea by two mouths and between these two mouths lays a city with the same name (Tartessos). The river is the longest in Iberia, has tides, and now is called Baetis”.

That means; with the name Tartessos the Greek and Roman authors identified a river, a kingdom and the capital of this kingdom, located at the mouth of that river. Further details about the location of this capital we find here:

Ephorus (Escimno, 162) writes that the capital Tartessos was two days of travel (1000 stadiums) from the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar). From Gibraltar to the present mouth of the Guadalquivir there are 900 stadiums.

Despite many detailed descriptions, the capital of Tartessos has not yet been found as the geography of the area has changed during those last 3000 years:

The eastern mouth of the river is the only one that now exists. It is located in the province of Cadiz, and was much wider historically.

The western mouth does not exist anymore, but it is considered that it was located between the current towns Matalascañas and Huelva. In this area today we only find a number of lakes.

Historically, between these two river arms there was a large lagoon, and in this lagoon there was at least one island where the legendary city probably was located.

Neither this lagoon nor any islands exist today, all this is an area of marshes which form a part of the Doñana National Park along the Costa de la Luz. Investigations in Doñana lead to the conclusion that there have been two natural disasters (tsunamis) that caused the islands and dry areas to sink, one of which happened around 1500 BC and the other 200 AC. Continue reading HERE.

With Tartessian tentatively identified as Celtic, and at the very least Indo-European, this might this change our view of the ancient Celts.

Tartessian language

The Tartessian Fonte Velha inscription (Bensafrim, (Lagos)) beginning with “lokooboo niiraboo too aŕaia i kaaltee…” meaning “Invoking the divine Lug of the (Gallaecian) Neri (tribe), this funerary monument for a noble Celt…”. Fonte Velha (Bensafrim, Lagos). Tartessian or Southwest script. Fonte Velha (Bensafrim, Lagos).

Tartessian is an extinct Paleo-Hispanic language found in the Southwestern inscriptions of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly located in the south of Portugal (Algarve and southern Alentejo), and the southwest of Spain (south of Extremadura and western Andalusia). There are 95 such inscriptions, the longest having 82 readable signs. Around one third of them were found in Early Iron Age necropolises or other Iron Age burial sites associated with rich complex burials. It is usual to date them to the 7th century BC and to consider the southwestern script to be the most ancient Paleo-Hispanic script, with characters most closely resembling specific Phoenician letter forms found in inscriptions dated to c. 825 BC. Five of the inscriptions occur on stelae with what has been interpreted as Late Bronze Age carved warrior gear from the Urnfield culture.

Beyond the Aegean, some of the earliest written records of Europe come from the south-west, what is now southern Portugal and south-west Spain. Herodotus, the ‘Father of History’, locates the Keltoi or ‘Celts’ in this region, as neighbours of the Kunetes of the Algarve. He calls the latter the ‘westernmost people of Europe’. However, modern scholars have been disinclined – until recently – to consider the possibility that the south-western inscriptions and other early linguistic evidence from the kingdom of Tartessos were Celtic. This book shows how much of this material closely resembles the attested Celtic languages: Celtiberian (spoken in east-central Spain) and Gaulish, as well as the longer surviving langiages of Ireland, Britain and Brittany. In many cases, the 85 Tartessian inscriptions of the period c. 750-c. 450 BC can now be read as complete statements written in an Ancient Celtic language.
Two of the carved figures likely depict goddesses wearing gold earrings. (Image credit: Samuel Sánchez )

Archaeologists in Spain have unearthed five life-size busts of human figures that could be the first-known human depictions of the Tartessos, a people who formed an ancient civilization that disappeared more than 2,500 years ago. 

The carved stone faces, which archaeologists date to the fifth century B.C., were found hidden inside a sealed pit in an adobe temple at Casas del Turuñuelo, an ancient Tartessian site in southern Spain. The pieces were scattered amongst animal bones, mostly from horses, that likely came from a mass sacrifice, according to a translated statement published April 18.

“The unusual thing about the new finding is that the representations correspond to human faces,” Erika López, a spokesperson for the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), said in the statement. 

Archaeologists from the CSIC called this discovery “a profound paradigm shift in the interpretation of [Tartessos],” since this ancient civilization, which existed from about the eighth to the fourth centuries B.C., was long considered an aniconic culture in which divinity was represented through animal or plant motifs, rather than idolized humans, according to the statement. Continue reading HERE.

Tartessos was an ancient harbor city on the southern Iberian (ancient Spain) coast. Greeks considered it an important and wealthy trading partner, rich with metals, silver and gold. In this video, we talk about the rise and fall of the forgotten Tartessian Civilization.
7th century BCE pectoral (brooch on the chest) from the Tartessian Culture. Archaeological Museum of Seville. (SOURCE)

Before the Tartessians

Southwest Andalucia had been an area of rapid development ever since the Neolithic people arrived about 5800 BC. The fertile valley of the Rio Guadalquivir and, to a lesser extent, the narrow coastal strip along the Mediterranean coast, together with the wetter climate in the west caused by the prevailing winds off the Atlantic Ocean meeting the west facing highlands of the Sierra Morena, Sierra Grazalema and the Alcornocales, reduced crop failures and encouraged an increase in population, compared to the more arid, eastern parts of Andalucia.

The increase in population had encouraged the formation of family clusters, that became settlements whenever population densities rose above a certain level. This appears to be a phenomenon or urge that is built into the human psyche since it has occurred all over the world at different times, despite there being no possibility of communication between those populations separated geographically and in time.

How the societies developed following the initial clustering depended on the environment, climate and outside influences. In some parts of the world societies have developed to a certain level and then failed, only to be reborn, sometimes on numerous occasions. So it was with the Tartessians.

Soon after the Neolithic period started, people started to claim the land in western Andalucia. From about 4700 BC, they built megalithic structures, symbols on the landscape populated by ancestors, thereby proclaiming their ages long ownership of the land. The megalithic phenomenon expanded from Huelva and Cadiz provinces, up the Guadalquivir valley into Granada and Almeria. The so-called ditched enclosures appeared. These are now thought to have been communal areas demarcated into spaces in which different activities occurred, ceremonial, metalworking, animal butchery as well as in some instances, dwelling spaces. Single burials became multiple burials and, towards the end of the period, regressed back to individual burials, often cremated. The huge site of Valencina de la Concepción at Seville is the most researched site that combines all these features. Continue reading HERE.

Endowed with extraordinary wealth in metals and strategically positioned between the Atlantic and Mediterranean trading routes at the time of Greek and Phoenician colonial expansion, Tartessos flourished in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. Tartessos became a literate, sophisticated, urban culture in southwestern Iberia (today’s Spain and Portugal), enriched by commercial contacts with the Aegean and the Levant since at least the ninth century. In its material culture (architecture, grave goods, sanctuaries, plastic arts), we see how native elements combined with imported “orientalizing” innovations introduced by the Phoenicians. Historians of the rank of Herodotos and Livy, geographers such as Strabo and Pliny, Greek and Punic periploi and perhaps even Phoenician and Hebrew texts, testify to the power, wealth, and prominence of this western-most Mediterranean civilization.

Archaeologists, in turn, have demonstrated the existence of a fascinating complex society with both strong local roots and international flare. Yet for still-mysterious reasons, Tartessos did not attain a “Classical” period like its peer emerging cultures did at the same time (Etruscans, Romans, Greeks).

This book combines the expertise of its two authors in archaeology, philology, and cultural history to present a comprehensive, coherent, theoretically up-to-date, and informative overview of the discovery, sources, and debates surrounding this puzzling culture of ancient Iberia and its complex hybrid identity vis-a-vis the western Phoenicians. This book will be of great interest to students of the classics, archaeology and ancient history, Phoenician-Punic studies, colonization and cultural contact.

Further Resources:

The inscription from Mesas do Castelinho, south Portugal, was discovered in September 2008. With 82 readable signs it is now the longest of the corpus of 95 Tartessian inscriptions. These texts survive from the Early Iron Age in the south-western Iberian Peninsula, the earliest writing from Atlantic Europe. By recombining word roots, prefixes and endings previously attested, the new inscription permits a major breakthrough with the language, confirming word divisions and contributing to the critical mass of evidence. It is now possible to take the case for Tartessian as an Indo-European and specifically Celtic language a step further, to ask what sort of Celtic language Tartessian was and how its syntax and sound system compares with those of Celtiberian, Gaulish, Old Irish and Welsh.

The Iberian civilisation that vanished

The Ancient People Who Burned Their Culture to the Ground

First ever human depiction of lost Tartessos civilization uncovered in Spain

Tartessian

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The Druids: History and More

Being someone who is spiritual and has a passion for history one area that has fascinated me are the tales of the ancient Druids. From accounts by those of the Roman empire into the Renaissance age and even to this day where modern Druidism still exists. Druids existed in the religious practices of the ancient Celtic cultures and it is said even held sort of position as judges. The ancient Druids are still shrouded in mystery but enough is known to enable me to provide my readers with a ton of excellent resources which I hope will be enjoyed.

A Long History

About 2500 years ago, and possibly long before that, at each end of the Indo-European arc, tribal spiritualities emerged that would eventually grow to become flourishing modern movements, with adherents all over the world. While the earliest versions of what would later become the Hindu and Jain religions emerged in the Indus valley, in western Europe at about the same time, writers began to record the existence of Druidism.

Its practice was first noted in two Greek works over two thousand years ago in around 200 BCE although both works were since lost. In 50 BCE Julius Caesar wrote that Druidism originated in Britain, and although some claim that Druids could be found across much of Europe, from Ireland in the west to Anatolia (now Turkey) in the east, scholars now believe this is unlikely. Instead Druids were probably native just to the British Isles, Ireland and western Gaul (now France).

Although written accounts seem to have begun 2,200 years ago, Druidry was probably in existence for a good deal of time before then, and it seems likely that as a type of religion or magical practice it evolved out of earlier pre-Druidic cult practices. Continue reading HERE.

The Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis

In this compelling and highly reliable study of the Druids, respected Celtic scholar Peter Berresford Ellis sifts through the historical evidence and, with reference to the latest archaeological and etymological findings, gives the first authentic account of who the mysterious Druids were and what role they played in Celtic society.
The Druids emerge as the intellectual caste of ancient Celtic society. They were the doctors, the lawyers, the ambassadors, the advisers to kings. They also had a religious function. Ellis describes the special Druidic training, their philosophy, their belief in auguries, and their intriguing origins. He also shows that the current “New Age” image of the Druids as benevolent wizards comes from a woefully inadequate interpretation of the facts.

“By the bright circle of the golden sun,
By the bright courses of the errant moon,
By the dread potency of every star,
In the mysterious Zodiac’s burning girth,
By each and all of these supernal signs,
We do adjure thee, with this trusty blade
To guard yon central oak, whose holy stem,
Involves the spirit of high Taranis:
Be this thy charge.”-MASON

THE
THE VEIL OF ISIS;
OR,
MYSTERIES OF THE DRUIDS
BY
W. WINWOOD READE.
(1861)

In simple terms, the Druids were the priests of the Celtic tribes in Britain. But to state that fact does not convey the breadth of their influence in Celtic society. The Druids were a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators among the Celtic tribes.

They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote (i.e. memorized). Druids had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may in some situations have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.

We know that the Druids used both animal and human sacrifice, and that many of their observances centred on oak groves and water. The Isle of Anglesey, in present-day Wales, was a centre of Druidic practice. SOURCE

Using ancient and medieval sources, alongside comparative analysis, the identity and beliefs of the druids take shape, from their organizational practices, to their philosophy and spiritual beliefs.

“The Druids officiate at the worship of the gods, regulate at public and private sacrifice, and rule on all religious questions. Large numbers of young men flock to them for instruction, and they are held in great honour by the people.”

Julius Caesar (Gallic Wars, VI:13)

A Complete History Of The Druids: Their Origin, Manners, Customs, Powers, Temples, Rites, And Superstition, With An Inquiry Into Their Religion (1810) by T. G. Lomax. This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world’s literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

Theology

Since Druidry is a spiritual path – a religion to some, a way of life to others – Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life. Some will favour a particular way of understanding the source of this spiritual nature, and may feel themselves to be animists, pantheists, polytheists, monotheists or duotheists. Others will avoid choosing any one conception of Deity, believing that by its very nature this is unknowable by the mind.

Monotheistic druids believe there is one Deity: either a Goddess or God, or a Being who is better named Spirit or Great Spirit, to remove misleading associations to gender. But other druids are duo-theists, believing that Deity exists as a pair of forces or beings, which they often characterize as the God and Goddess.

Polytheistic Druids believe that many gods and goddesses exist, while animists and pantheists believe that Deity does not exist as one or more personal gods, but is instead present in all things, and is everything. Continue reading HERE.

Two Druids, 19th-century engraving based on a 1719 illustration by Bernard de Montfaucon, who said that he was reproducing a bas-relief found at Autun, Burgundy. SOURCE

Caesar’s Account of the Druids

According to Caesar, who had encountered druids in Gaul, they were an essential class of the Gallic society. The Druids recognized a single leader who ruled the group until his death. They met at a sacred place in Gaul every year, while Britain remained the center of druidic studies. Caesar notes that the Druids who wished to undertake further druidic education often made pilgrimages to Britain to improve their knowledge which sometimes lasted over twenty years. 

The Druids did not take part in war and were exempt from military taxes and enlistment. Instead, they studied lore, medicine, astrology, and philosophy, among many other subjects. According to Caesar, they did not record their practices, but they did make use of the Greek alphabet in different spheres of their public and private accounts. Caesar’s most disturbing recording is the practice of human sacrifice, for which the Druids used criminals. The victim would be sacrificed through burning in a wicker man. 

The wicker man was a large wicker effigy in which the body was placed. Yet archaeology has not provided any evidence of this practice nor of its associations with the Druids. Indeed it is not unlikely that Caesar exaggerated specific claims to exemplify Gaul and Britain’s conquest. Caesar depicted the Druids as both learned and barbaric. But just how much of this account is exaggerated, we will probably never know. SOURCE

In this edition of “Ancient World History”, we are going to take you through a journey where you can learn about the rise and fall of the druids i.e., find out all about the history of druids.

Further Resources:

The Druids and Romanization

Who were the Druids?

Who were the Druids? A history of Druidism in Britain

The Buried Mysteries Of Wale’s Ancient Druids | Time Team | Odyssey

The Druid’s Book of Ceremonies, Prayers and Songs

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Goddess Lilith: Origin, Working with Her and More

I have been aware of the Goddess Lilith most of my life but growing up in the toxic environment during my childhood, Lilith was characterized as an evil and malicious demon which I later learned is a Christianized version twisted for that religions own purpose. The truth is that Lilith’s origins is shrouded in some mystery and is quite a complex Goddess who is deserving of true respect, honor and dedication. That is my purpose of this blog post which is important to me as I have close friends who work with her in their magick practices.

Lilith’s Origins

The exact origins of Lilith are uncertain and there is lot of speculation around the historical accuracy of most versions of her myth.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Lilith was associated with the figure of a female night demon. In this culture, the shadowy creature symbolized the wind and, therefore, had its image related to pests, malaise and death. To get in touch with her universe, Lilith used water as a portal. Already in Hebrew mythology, with quotes in the Midrash and Talmud, Lilith is also seen as a demon.

Among the Sumerians, in the middle of 3000 BC. C., Lilith was known by the name of Lilitu. In that period, her figure appeared, at first, in the representation of a group of demons or spirits related to storms and winds. According to some mythologists, in 700 BC the name was changed to Lilith. As in Sumer, the peoples of Babylon associated Lilith with evil spirits and demonic entities. Symbolizing her by the moon, the Babylonians believed that the female devil varied between bad and good phases. SOURCE

Lilith is a Sumerian or Babylonian demon Goddess, Who is perhaps better known for Her role in Jewish legend. Called “The Dark Maid” or “Maiden of Desolation,” Lilith is associated with owls and is a creature of the night. She is depicted on a Babylonian clay plaque from 2000-1600 BCE as beautiful winged woman with bird’s feet and claws.

As a young woman, Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess of love and war, plants a sacred huluppu-tree from which She hopes to make Her throne (representing Her power as an adult woman) and bed (representing Her full sexuality). But Lilith, along with the serpent and the lion-faced anzu-bird, takes up residence in the huluppu-tree, as a symbol of Inanna’s fears. The hero Gilgamesh eventually drives Lilith out, and Inanna is then able to claim Her throne and bed.

In Jewish legend, Lilith is Adam’s first wife. She refused to have sex with him because she did not want to be beneath him. She left him and was cursed to give birth to one hundred demon children a day who were then killed. She was said to take Her revenge for this curse by stealing or killing human children. Her name means “Screech Owl” or “Night Creature.” She is mentioned in the Bible: as the Hebrew God, Yahweh, threatens the destruction of Edom (a land located to the south and east of the Dead Sea) He describes what will happen after it is laid waste: “…The night creature shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest” (Book of Isaiah, chapter 34, verse 14). Like in the Inanna legend, Lilith’s presence symbolizes a dark time of fear or desolation. SOURCE

Burney Relief, Babylon (1800-1750 BCE). Some scholars (e.g. Emil Kraeling) identified the figure in the relief with Lilith, based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) SOURCE

Epithets and Names of Lilith

Lilith has had many names throughout history, some with known origins and some without. A few popular titles are:

  • Screeching Owl
  • Demon of screeching
  • Temptress
  • Night Monster
  • Lilu
  • Lamia
  • The First Feminist

According to the book Folk-lore of the Holy Land, these are the names of Lilith:

Satrinah, Lilith, Avitu, Amiz Raphi, Amizu, Kakash, Odem, ‘ik, Pods, ‘ils, Petrota, Abro, Kema, Kalee, Bituah, Thiltho, Partashah. SOURCE

Lilith out of Eden: Asmodeus’s companion

There are at least three versions of Lilith’s fate outside Eden: the first tells that she was confined to the caves of the Red Sea, where she would still live dedicating herself to pagan rites in full harmony with nature.

On the other hand, the second version says she was the lover of every demon in the world: in essence, once she left the Garden of God, she would have lain with the demons present on earth to prove that she did not need divine grace.

This version, however, would be forced and is not very valid for the followers of Lilith, who point out that since there are only two human beings on a still pure earth, there certainly could not be many demons.

A third version says that Lilith could be allowed to return to Eden as long as she became the protector of all newborns. Lilith, however, saw it as an affront: taking care of children not her own would be a punishment. It seems therefore that she went far away until she met the demon Asmodeus.

Between the two it was an instant love or, at least, it was something that resembled it; it seems that they chose each other as companions and that Lilith gave birth to many Lilim, or demon children, also called jinn.

At this point, it seems that once again God tried to bring her back. He commissioned three angels, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, to look for her. The three did not use the right strategy: they ordered her to return by threatening her with death, but she replied that she could not return to Adam after having had a relationship with a demon and that she would never be able to die because she became immortal. Continue reading HERE.

I made this altar piece dedicated to Lilith several years ago for a friend in Switzerland that has the sigil for the Goddess.

Sigil of Lilith

Lilith is a symbol of femininity, beauty, freedom, rebellion, strength and courage. She is the liberator of the women, encouraging them to be strong and to fight for their rights. Lilith is also known to help during the childbirths and all which concerns the femininity.

Lilith is associated to the night and to the moon, to the water, to the rose, to the snake, to big cats, and more particularly to the cat, to the owl and to the hyena.

In the tarot, she is symbolized by the Empress and the High Priestess.

Lilith is often associated with Ishtar/Inanna, with Isis, or with Kitra for vampyres. In the Luciferian Wicca, she embodies the goddess, the symbol of the feminine energy of the universe (associated with the God, Lucifer, the symbol of the male energy).

This book shows you how to get in touch with this powerful Goddess the right way.
There are several books out there that teach magical rituals using the energy of Goddess Lilith. Most of these books teach effective things, but the way they approach the Goddess can be dangerous. In this book I teach you how to contact Lilith safely and efficiently.

Calling on Lilith Ritual

In most Wiccan and pagan traditions, the sacred feminine and masculine represent different aspects of life, personalities, and energies. Often, the masculine (either in energy or via the God) is utilized for spells and rituals focused on strength. But sometimes, what you need can’t come from the masculine. Sometimes what you need is unmatched feminine ferocity, strength pulled from the fury and darkness that has built over millennia. In those instances, calling upon Lilith will aid you in finding your inner strength and releasing that power.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • a sliced apple (to eat, make sure it is in good shape)
  • red wine (or grape juice if you don’t drink alcohol)
  • bloodstone (for strength, courage, and confidence)
  • a small plate
  • chalice
  • any owl or serpent statuary or imagery you’d like to include on your altar
  • music from a female artist you like

Perform this ritual at night. If there is a dark moon soon, wait for that if you can. If you can perform it outdoors, that will work best, as Lilith lives in the wilds. Set your statuary or imagery on your altar if you’d like. Place the bloodstone at the center. Place the plate with the sliced apples to the right of the bloodstone. Place the chalice with the red wine to the left of the bloodstone.

Begin by focusing your intention on calling Lilith and finding your strength. Meditate on your intentions for a few moments. Play the music, pick up the bloodstone, and begin to dance. Dance wildly, widely, without inhibition. Feel the wild within your heart grow and let it flourish in your dance. Dance to a few songs, holding the bloodstone tightly as you do, letting the energy you are raising be intensified by the power of the stone.

Turn down the music (but not off) and return to your altar. Touch the stone to the apple and the wine, then replace it in the center. Hold your hands over the apple and wine and recite this incantation:

Lilith, First Witch, Dark Mother

Protector of all who are othered

Help me release my power

No longer see me cower

Move both hands over the apple. Recite this incantation:

Knowledge from its flesh

Wisdom that is refreshed

I bring your power into me

I set my wildness free

Eat one slice of apple, focusing your intention. Move both hands over the wine. Recite this incantation:

Millennia of tears and blood

Building into a flood

Of women’s fury and power

I bring to myself in this dark hour

Take a sip of the wine, focusing your intention. Turn the music up again and call to Lilith to dance with you.

Lilith, wild, strong, and free

Join in and dance with me

Help my strength to grow

My own power let me know

As you dance, take breaks to thank Lilith, eat more of the apple, and drink more of the wine. Continue until both are gone. Carry the bloodstone with you when you need the strength of the dark feminine. SOURCE

Symbols of Goddess Lilith

Correspondences and Offerings to Lilith

  • Clay: Lilith is said to be made of clay.
  • Figures of animals such as owls and snakes.
  • Books and artwork depicting Lilith
  • Lilith’s Sigil
  • Symbols of the Dark Moon
  • Crystals such as tiger’s eye, amber, bloodstone, moonstone, and obsidian.
  • Black candles
  • Use a scrying mirror to invite her spirit
  • You can use scents such as jasmine, dragon’s blood, musk, and sandalwood.
  • Alcohol, specifically red wine.

Some may choose to use blood as an offering for Lilith, but blood is a powerful connection to your own energy. You should only use blood in a ritual if you have a complete understanding of the energetic implications of doing so. This is not recommended for those who are just beginning to work with any deity. SOURCE

**NOTE** A close friend of mine who works closely with Lilith shared with me that Red Carnelian stone is also associated with Lilith.

A look at the magick and rituals of the most useful Daemon and Goddess in all magick.
Lilith. A daemon to some. A goddess to others. A name which struck fear in the hearts of men and women in the middle ages. A name associated with the most powerful Daemoness in history.
A name that is very maligned. She is actually a goddess of feminism, and encompasses all the aspects of her dual nature: Darkness and Light
The largest book I have ever written on a single Goddess. Lilith is both Goddess and Daemoness, her powers range all across the spectrum.
Lilith’s story has been told and retold by countless religious people, pagans, and feminists. In her story, Lilith was highly feared and regarded as a demon by many religious folks. Today, she is considered a goddess too many women who seek her out via ritual for her guidance with bold sexuality, feminine empowerment, and sacred rebellion.

Further Resources

Goddess Lilith

Lilith the Original Woman: Reclaiming the Wild Instinctual Nature of Woman

Lilith, the Triple Goddess of Astrology

This guided meditation was recorded live during our Lilith Dark Goddess Liberation Session, and then mastered as a stand alone meditation.
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Romulus & Remus and the She-Wolf of Rome

The history of the ancient Roman Empire has been a fascination of mine for decades and I have always enjoyed anything and all things from that amazing time period from its fruition to the fall of the Roman empire and into the time of the Byzantine Empire. The humble beginnings of Rome far before it became an empire has a really interesting story regarding two orphaned brothers and a She-Wolf simply known as La Lupa and the First lady of Rome. From this it has been always recognized that Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BCE. So today’s blog post will be covering all about Romulus, Remus and the famous She-Wolf of Rome.

La Lupa the She-Wolf

According to tradition, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by the twins Romulus and Remus. Sons of the god Mars and a mortal woman named Rhea Silvia, a direct descendant of Aeneas, the twins were abandoned by their uncle in the Tibur river. A she-wolf discovered them on the banks of the river and suckled them until they were taken in by a passing sheperd, Faustulus. Faustulus raised the boys together with his own twelve children until they decided to found a city of their own. They chose the spot by the Tibur where they had been rescued by the wolf, which was near the base of the Palatine hill in Rome. The representation of the wolf suckling the twins became a popular subject in Roman Republican and Imperial art. SOURCE

Cristina Mazzoni, She-wolf: The Story of a Roman Icon. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010

“Lupus est homo homini.” Plautus Asinaria 495

This famous quotation, through its various translations, perfectly encapsulates the themes explored in Cristina Mazzoni’s new book. Man is a wolf to other men—as Plautus undoubtedly meant it——but a wolf can also be interpreted as a human being in particular circumstances. In both Italian and Latin the word lupa can describe a she-wolf or a prostitute, either a ferocious animal or a female human of voracious sexual appetites. This paradox has informed interpretations of the legend of Romulus and Remus since antiquity, where the she-wolf figures as animal, mother, and whore simultaneously, and the complexity and ambiguity of this formative being have given her long life as a symbol representing a myriad of concepts, individuals, and entities. Mazzoni sets herself the ambitious task of exploring the she-wolf in all her forms and interpretations, from the famous Lupa Capitolina to her appearance in modern art, archaeology, poetry, and literature. Continue reading HERE.

Symbolism of the She-Wolf

The she-wolf of Rome represents the following concepts:

  • The she-wolf represents Roman power, which made her a popular image throughout the Roman Republic and Empire. The connection between the Roman state and the she-wolf was such that there were at least two dedications to the she-wolf performed by priests.
  • Wolves, especially she-wolves, are a sacred animal of the Roman god Mars. It is believed that they acted as divine messengers, thus seeing a wolf was a good omen.
  • The she-wolf is associated with the Roman Empire’s wolf festival Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival that starts at the estimated spot where the she-wolf nursed the twin boys.
  • The she-wolf also comes across as a mother-figure, representing nourishment, protection and fertility. By extension, she becomes a mother-figure to the city of Rome, as she lies at the very heart of its establishment. SOURCE
Mosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus, inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome. From Aldborough (UK), about 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum).

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus were the direct descendants of Aeneas, whose fate-driven adventures to discover Italy are described by Virgil in The Aeneid. Romulus and Remus were related to Aeneas through their mother’s father, Numitor. Numitor was a king of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium in central Italy, and father to Rhea Silvia. Before Romulus’ and Remus’ conception, Numitor’s reign was usurped by Numitor’s younger brother, Amulius. Amulius inherited control over Alba Longa’s treasury with which he was able to dethrone Numitor and become king. Amulius, wishing to avoid any conflict of power, killed Numitor’s male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, patron goddess of the hearth; they were charged with keeping a sacred fire that was never to be extinguished and to take vows of chastity.

There is much debate and variation as to whom was the father of Romulus and Remus. Some myths claim that Mars appeared and lay with Rhea Silvia; other myths attest that the demi-god hero Hercules was her partner. However, the author Livy claims that Rhea Silvia was in fact raped by an unknown man, but blamed her pregnancy on divine conception. In either case, Rhea Silvia was discovered to be pregnant and gave birth to her sons. It was custom that any Vestal Virgin betraying her vows of celibacy was condemned to death; the most common death sentence was to be buried alive. However, King Amulius, fearing the wrath of the paternal god (Mars or Hercules) did not wish to directly stain his hands with the mother’s and children’s blood. So, King Amulius imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered the twins’ death by means of live burial, exposure, or being thrown into the Tiber River. He reasoned that if the twins were to die not by the sword but by the elements, he and his city would be saved from punishment by the gods. He ordered a servant to carry out the death sentence, but in every scenario of this myth, the servant takes pity on the twins and spares their lives. The servant, then, places the twins into a basket onto the River Tiber, and the river carries the boys to safety. Continue reading HERE.

The 21st April 753 BC is traditionally the date of the founding of Rome by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. (Romulus would later murder Remus.) Legend has it that they were abandoned as babies by their parents and put into a basket and then placed into the River Tiber. The basket was discovered by a female wolf who nursed the babies for a short time before they were found by a shepherd. It was the shepherd who brought up the twins.
According to legend, Romulus was born to a Vestal Virgin and left for dead as an infant near the Tiber River. His life nearly ended as quickly as it began, but fate had other plans. A humble shepherd rescued the child and helped raise him into manhood. As Romulus grew older, he fearlessly engaged in a series of perilous adventures that ultimately culminated in Rome’s founding, and he became its fabled first king.

Establishing a new city had its price, and Romulus was forced to defend the nascent community. As he tirelessly safeguarded Rome, Romulus proved that he was a competent leader and talented general. Yet, he also harbored a dark side, which reared its head in many ways and tainted his legacy, but despite all of his misdeeds, redemption and subsequent triumphs were usually within his grasp. Indeed, he is an example of how greatness is sometimes born of disgrace.

Regardless of his foreboding flaws, Rome allegedly existed because of him and became massively successful. As the centuries passed, the Romans never forgot their celebrated founder.
The founding of Rome is a legendary tale about the twins and demigods, Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia and either the god Mars or the demigod Hercules. Also, in order to synthesize the myth of Aeneas, a Trojan prince who had fought in the Trojan War before setting off to Italy to establish the Roman bloodline, Romulus and Remus were believed to be direct descendants of Aeneas.
During Rome’s 2767th birthday celebrations, Larry Lamb heads to the city to investigate the Romanian Empire. In this first episode, Larry learns how Rome was founded by exploring the story of Romulus and Remus, using the works of ancient Roman historian Livy as a guide. He also goes on to discover how Rome would later become a city.

Further Resources

The legend of Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus: Roman mythology

Capitoline She-wolf

The She-Wolf: Mother to Other Species

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The Nine Herbs Charm

The Nine Herbs Charm poem is quite a fascinating piece that conjures words into Galdur (spoken magic spells) a mention of Oden or Woden and is still to this day in my opinion an important piece regarding herbal remedies utilized by practitioners of Galdur and Seiðr. So today’s blog post I want to share with you all the details, background and everything important to know regarding this charm.

“These nine have power against nine poisons. A worm came crawling, it killed nothing. For Woden took nine glory-twigs, he smote the adder that it flew apart into nine parts.”

— Excerpt from The Nine Herbs Charm

This tenth or eleventh century work is a collection of remedies, prayers, blessings and charms for humans and livestock (Pettit, 2001). Its 63 somewhat curious lines of verse and seven of prose have fascinated scholars of history, religion, literature and linguistics, as well as herbalists delving into the treasures of the past for knowledge and wisdom which might inform their current practice. The charm itself is difficult to translate and interpret (Banham, 2009), not helped by the corrupt nature of the manuscript text, where some words appear to be missing and certain lines may have been transposed (Cameron, 1993). It is complex and mystifying, perhaps deliberately tantalising, so that only the cunning may unpick it; the Anglo-Saxons after all delighted in riddles (Porter, 1995). SOURCE

NIGON WYRTA GALDOR

POPULARLY KNOWN AS THE NINE HERBS CHARM

The Nigon Wyrta Galdor (NWG) or, popularly, the Nine Herbs Charm, is an Old English healing spell—a galdor—intended to remedy a wound of some kind. The charm is recorded in a single manuscript, Harley MS 585 (ff 160r—163r), commonly known today as the Lacnunga (Old English ‘remedies’), which the British Museum dates to the 9th or early 10th century. The topics, themes, and entities the charm touches upon, such as animism, emphasis on the numbers nine and other multipliers of three, and the invocation of the Germanic deity Odin (Old English Wōden) stem from the pre-Christianization beliefs of the Old English.

Remember, Mugwort,
what you brought to pass,
what you readied,
at Regenmeld.

You’re called Una, that most ancient plant.
You defeat three, you defeat thirty,
you defeat venom, you defeat air-illness;
you defeat the horror who stalks the land.

And you, Waybread, plant-mother!
You’re open to the east, yet mighty within:
Carts creaked over you, women rode over you,
over you brides bellowed, over you bulls snorted!

You withstood it all—and you pushed back:
You withstood venom, you withstood air-illness,
you withstood the horror who travels over land.

Now, this plant is called Stune, she who grows on stone:
She defeats venom, she grinds away pain.

She’s called Stithe, she who withstands venom;
she chases away malice, casts out pain.

This is the plant that fought against the wyrm.
She is mighty against venom, she is mighty against air-illness;
she is mighty against the horror who travels over land.

You, Venom-loathe, go now!
The less from the great,
the great from the less,
until for both he receives a remedy.

Remember, Chamomile,
what you brought to pass,
what you accomplished,
at Alorford,
that no one should lose their life to disease,
since for him Chamomile was prepared.

Finally, this plant is known as Wergulu,
who a seal sent over sea-ridges,
to aid against venom.

These nine plants defeat nine venoms!

A wyrm came slithering, and yet he killed no one,
for wise Wōden took nine glory-twigs
and smote the serpent,
who flew into nine parts!
There, apple overcame venom:
There, the wyrm would never find shelter.

Fille and Fennel, a most mighty pair!
The wise lord shaped these plants,
while he, holy, hung in the heavens,
he sent them from the seven worlds, seven ages of man,
for wretched and wealthy alike.

She stands against pain, she stands against venom,
she is potent against three and against thirty,

against a foe’s hand, against great guile,
against malice and bewitchment
from animal and spirit.

Now! May the nine plants do battle against nine glory-fleers,
against nine venoms and against nine air-diseases,
against the red venom, against the running venom,
against the white venom, against the blue venom,
against the yellow venom, against the green venom,
against the black venom, against the bluevenom,
against the brown venom, against the purple venom,
against wyrm-blister, against water-blister,
against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,
against ice-blister, against venom-blister.


If any venom comes flying from the east,
or any comes from the north,
or any from the west over folk!

Christ stood over illness of every kind.
Yet I alone know water running
where the nine serpents guard.

Now, may all plants arise,
seas ebb, all salt water,
when I blow this venom from you.

Ingredients: Mugwort, Waybread open to the east, Lamb’s Cress, Venom-Loathe, Chamomile, Nettle, Sour-Apple-of-the-Wood, Fille, and Fennel. Old soap.

Prepare and apply the salve: Work these plants to dust, and mix them with apple mush. Make a paste of water and ashes. Take Fennel and mix the plant into the boiling paste. Bathe the wound with an egg mixture both before the patient applies the salve and after.

Sing the above galdor over each of the nine plants. Sing the galdor three times before the patient self-applies the salve, and sing the galdor three times on the apple. Sing the galdor into the patient’s mouth, sing the galdor into each of the patient’s ears, and—before the patient applies the salve—sing the galdor into the patient’s wound.

What are the Nine Herbs?

The Nine Herbs Source: https://spitalfieldslife.com/2018/05/15/the-nine-herbs-charm/

A vast rabbit hole about medicinal healing, magickal properties, and numerology related to this charm and all its translations and interpretations exists, but we’ll get right to the point. Here are the nine herbs, their Old English names, their Latin binomial names, a few interesting points involving their history in herbalism, and lastly, the symbolism behind their corresponding number in the charm.

  1. Mugwort (mucgwyrt, Artemisia vulgaris): Mugwort is one of the oldest and most powerful herbs (one of our faves!). A potent herb for intuition, visions, and dreams, it is also antibacterial, a digestive bitter, and a relaxant. You will see it all over the side of the road in summertime. One is the number of unity and a symbol of the sun: a perfect starting point for this midsummer custom. 
  2. Plantain (wegbrade, Plantago major): Plantain was called “waybread” in ancient herbal texts for its propensity to grow where the earth was most densely packed: trails and roadways. It’s excellent for bites and stings and known for its superb drawing power. Two is the number of balance and duality and represents the waxing and waning of the moon.
  3. Lamb’s Cress (lombes cærse, Cardamine hirsuta): Also known as Shepherd’s Purse, or stune in Old English, and related to the verb stunan (‘to combat’), it is another strong antibacterial herb and also a diuretic. Three, as noted above, is poignant in pagan beliefs. It is sacred to the goddess and represents her three phases: maiden, mother, and crone. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “third time’s a charm”… Well, now you know where it came from!
  4. Nettle (stiðe, Urtica dioica): As referenced in our spring column, Nettle is one of our favorite herbs. It is abundant in our region and great for relieving pain and inflammation. Its energetics are cool and dry, which makes it a great restorative spring tonic, but its fiery sting is surely reminiscent of the summertime. Four is a very meaningful number in many mythologies and represents the seasons, the elements, the cardinal directions, the moon phases, and the tarot suits.
  5. Betony (attorlothe, Stachys officinalis): The Romans listed 47 different medicinal uses for Betony and believed that even wild beasts used it as medicine and would seek it out when wounded. In pagan beliefs, five is most prominently represented by the pentacle, a talisman that is directly used in magickal evocations and symbolizes interconnected life and eternity. It is also the number of humankind (five senses, five digits, five appendages, etc.).
  6. Chamomile (mægðe, Anthemis nobilis): Externally, Chamomile can help heal wounds, and internally, when made into a tea, is wonderfully calming. It’s often taken to soothe upset stomachs and menstrual cramps, and helps with insomnia. Its flowers also resemble the sun! Six is three times two, thus having similar attributes to the number three, but intensified.
  7. Crab Apple (wergulu, Pyrus malus): It is believed all apples evolved from the Crab Apple, the original wild apple. With ties to Christian beliefs involving the serpent in the garden of Eden, the Charm also mentions it just before the slaying of the adder. Seven is considered a spiritual number and corresponds to the psychic centers, called chakras. Also, more commonly, the seven days of the week (as well as the length of one moon phase). 

The eighth and ninth herbs of the charm, Thyme (fille, Thymus vulgaris) and Fennel (finule, Foeniculum vulgare) are mentioned together. Both are considered digestive herbs, and magickally, both are associated with protection, strength, courage, and the will to live. In some translations, Thyme is replaced with Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)but in either case, they both have a direct correlation to the god Woden and his power. Appropriately, eight is a number of power. It represents the sun and the eight sabbats (seasonal pagan holidays), and of course, the number nine completes the cycle. SOURCE

The god Wōden (the Old English form of the name Odin) makes a rare appearance in a small healing charm recorded in the 900s.

Further Resources

The Nine Herbs Charm
In Modern English

WODEN’S NINE HERBS CHARM from Lacnunga LXXIX-LXXXII

The Nine Herbs Charm

The Nine Herbs JSTOR

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Foxes: Folklore, Myth and More

The Fox is an incredible animal who is as diverse in its sub-species to where they live which is every continent except Antarctica. They can be found from Australia to the Arctic and just about everywhere in-between. So it is not surprising that when it comes to folklore and mythology both newer tales to those of ancient times you will find the Fox mentioned more than any other animal from Japan to the Native American tales. The Fox also happens to be a personal favorite of mine so featuring them on my Blog for me is a must.

Foxes in Folklore

Symbolism and metaphor are often used in folklore to explore the depths of human emotions and how we have connected with the world around us. Animals in particular, have long been a popular source of inspiration, acting as reflections of our best and worst qualities, or appearing to us as magical creatures linking the mortal and spirit realms.

There are maybe only a handful of animals, both real and mythological, that are more commonly found in folklore globally than the fox. Considering the relatively close proximity humans and foxes have had with each other, it is no surprise that we included this relationship in our mythologies and tales. Even the ancient Sumerians were inspired by foxes and included one in the Eridu Genesis myth, first recorded around 1600 BCE.

In general, there is a split consensus cross-culturally when it comes to the depiction of foxes in folklore. The fox is perhaps most well known as a trickster, sneaky and cunning in behavior, creating devious plans which they occasionally fall victim to. In Aesop’s Fables, they are egotistical, con artists, and benefit from the misfortune of others. Phrases like “sly as a fox” and “outfoxed” are references to the trickster persona. Continue reading HERE. And find Part 2 HERE.

Fox Carved in Stone Göbekli Tepe. Acsen. Shutterstock.
Göbekli Tepe is a world heritage site in Turkey. The monolithic structures are thought to have been erected around 9,600-8,200 BCE.

It would be difficult to compile a complete list of all the available fox mythology. In the Scandinavian countries, foxes were believed to cause the northern lights. These aurora were called “revontulet” in Finland, meaning “fox fires”. SOURCE

The Scandinavian legend of Aurora borealis by CORinAZONe on DeviantArt

A more modern version of the of the Northern Lights regarding a Fox written by Don Fowler is a favorite of mine which I want to share with you.

Long ago when the world was young there lived in the forest of Midgard a small fox named Rav who was as black as night. He was a sly little fox who liked to play jokes on the other animals of the forest. Needless to say, he didn’t have many friends in the forest.

One day he was confronted by some rabbits that wanted to make fun of his abnormal black fur. He ran past them and swiped his tail over the grass in passing, lighting it into flames. The scared rabbits bound off in fear and hasted deep into the forest to escape the flames.

The land wight of the forest lake got upset with Rav and scolded the fox for causing such trouble. Rav tried to lie to the forest lake, telling her that he would not do such a thing again. But the forest lake knew better than to trust a fox and sent him from Midgard across Yggdrasil to Jotunheim, the land of giants and trolls.

Jotunheim is a cold, icy land, and there the fox found his lovely black coat had gone arctic white. Worse than that, now the little arctic fox was all alone and had to constantly flee from the giants and the trolls of the wild north. He did well at protecting only his own hide and the years passed before he knew it.

Then on a bitter cold day he spied a small fire where two travelers were eating. One had red hair and a beard and carried a mighty hammer. The other had black hair and seemed, to Rav, to be very cunning and fair. But as he was watching the giants played a trick on the travelers by making the snow storm so hard the travelers could not find their way. Rav knew the lost travelers would come under attack by the giants soon.

It was then Rav felt regret for his own actions in the past, and felt sympathy for the bold travelers. Running ahead, he swept his tail over the snow, sending up a whirl of fire into the sky making it like day. It was enough to startle the giants as he lit a path to the Bifrost bridge for the travelers.

At the top of the bridge one of the travelers companions could make out what was going on far below. He quickly alerted all in Asgard of the danger of the trouble making giants. So it was that in the end the travelers made it back to their land safely despite the snow storm.

Impressed with the little arctic fox they made Rav a small home at the base of the Bifrost bridge where it meets the frigid snow of the north. It would be the little arctic fox’s duty to send up flames nightly so that anyone lost could see and find their way back home. He was so good at making his northern lights that they became known as the Foxfires or the Revontulet.

The Fox is the star of more fairy tales and fables than any other animal! Find out why by reading this book. From California to Norway, Africa to Ancient Greece these stories have traveled with the people who loved them best. You can learn to be witty, clever, and outsmart your foe with the help of these fox tales. Maybe you too can learn to sing your own fox songs! The author, Brian “Fox” Ellis once had a pet fox! He has studied the science and folklore of foxes and shares his love of these cunning creatures with all who will listen. He infuses the folktales with solid science and writes science with a fairy tale spin. He has performed Fox Tales around the world and because his name is Fox, folks have given small fox carvings of virtually every style imaginable. This book is the fourth in a series called Fox Tales Folklore that blends history and ecology, poetry and personal narrative to explore themes like A River of Stories, Prairie Tales, Bird Tales and Fish Tales. All of the books will soon be available here on Amazon as a paperback or eBook, but you can also visit www.foxtalesint.com to download an audio book or you could even watch a live performance of these stories on his YouTube channel Fox Tales International.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
“On this highway is a place called Teumessos (Teumessus), where it is said that Europa was hidden by Zeus. There is also another legend, which tells of a Fox called the Teumessian Fox, how owing to the wrath of Dionysos the beast was reared to destroy the Thebans, and how, when about to be caught by the Hound [Lailaps (Laelaps)] given by Artemis to Prokris (Procris) the daughter of Erekhtheus (Erechtheus), the Fox was turned into a stone, as was likewise this Hound.”

THE ALOPEX TEUMESIOS (Teumessian Fox) was a giant fox sent by the gods to ravage the countryside of Thebes as punishment for some crime. Kreon (Creon), regent of Thebes, commanded Amphitryon destroy the fox–an impossible task for the beast was destined never to be caught. The hero solved the problem by setting the magical dog Lailaps (Laelaps) on the trail, for it was destined to always catch its quarry. Zeus, faced with a paradox of fate–an uncatchable fox being pursued by an inescapable dog–, turned the pair to stone, so freezing their contest in time. SOURCE

Kitsune

Kitsune (狐, キツネ, IPA: [kitsɯne]) in the literal sense is the Japanese word for “fox”. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict legendary foxes as intelligent beings and as possessing paranormal abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others – as foxes in folklore often do – other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and humans lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto “kami,” or “spirit,” and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox’s supernatural significance. Continue reading HERE.

The Role of Foxes in Slavic Mythology and Folklore

By @Dunoss.Art on Instagram

The early Slavs often had a similar perception of the fox that is still popular in modern culture across the world today. No matter the species, foxes were seen as sly and cunning tricksters. They use this skill often to deceive protagonists, and this makes them often villains in folk tales. Among the Slavs, though, the fox has positive roles as well.

When tricksters are mentioned in Slavic mythology, it’s impossible not to mention Weles (Veles), god of the lowlands, underworld, serpents, and cattle. Like the fox, Weles is often incorrectly perceived as evil, stealing Perun‘s cattle as well as his son, Jaryło. The god serves a crucial role, though, and so does the fox, serving as the symbol of mind over brute strength. Continue reading HERE.

The fox is a scavenger carnivores dog generally found in urban city areas in the northern Hemisphere. The fox is a nocturnal mammal meaning that the fox only goes out a night to hunt for prey. Wild foxes tend live for around 6-7 years but some foxes have been known to be older than 13 in captivity. The wild fox hunts for the mouse and other small mammals and birds but foxes appear to enjoy all species of insect.

Further Resources

Foxes and Fox Lore

The Nine Tailed Fox of Chinese Mythology

Foxes in Mythology

Native American Fox Mythology

Vulpes, Vixen and … Vulpix? Foxes in folklore and popular culture

Fox Symbolism & Meaning

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The Goddess Hecate

The Goddess Hecate (Hekate) is a Goddess that holds great importance within the pantheon of Greek mythology for quite a few important reasons which I plan to cover in this blog post. I myself have not personally worked with her much but have read about her quite a lot and even researched the well know Wheel of Hecate. So knowing how important this Goddess is to so many, I took great care in putting this together so as to make sure I did her justice in honoring her importance and assisting in educating others about who she is, her origin and how to connect with her power and magick.

Everything You Need To Know About Hecate (Maiden, Mother, Crone)

By Danielle Mackay, BA Classical Studies and Linguistics, MA Classical Studies

The goddess Hecate is one of the lesser-known goddesses of the Greek pantheon. Child of Perses and Asteria, she was the only Titan to retain her control under Zeus’ reign. Hecate’s powers transcended the boundaries of the sky, the earth, the seas, and the underworld.

Although there are few myths about the goddess Hecate, her tales reveal a lot about her spheres of influence. During the Roman era, many of her attributes fell in the realm of the underworld. Yet, she also controlled elements that placed her firmly in the light. The goddess possessed extensive powers, which were later assimilated by other deities. Hecate could bestow wealth and blessings on her worshippers, yet she could also withhold these gifts if she were not adequately worshipped. This article will explore who Hecate was and what her attributes and symbols were.

Classical scholars dispute the origins of Hecate’s worship in Ancient Greece. For many, the goddess’ worship has a pre-Greek origin, while for others, it originated in Thrace. Among the theories, the most popular is that Hecate was accepted into Greek religion from the Carians in Asia Minor. According to scholars, it is believed that the goddess came to Greece during the Archaic age. The presence of Hecatean worship in Caria is attested by the number of cult sites dedicated to the goddess. The most prominent of these was in Lagina. However, due to these Anatolian cult sites’ late dates, other classicists argue that an Anatolian origin is impossible for the goddess. Continue reading HERE.

Hekateion (little votive column to Hecate). The triple-body goddess is surrounded by three dancing Charites. Attica, ca. 3rd century BCE.

To those at the forefront of Pagan scholarship, the rise of Hekate is neither coincidental nor surprising. Sorita d’Este, author of Circle for Hekate and over a dozen other titles, is a researcher whose work is rooted in mysticism and mythology. She is also the founder of Avalonia, an independent publisher of Pagan and esoteric books.

“In the ancient world, Hekate was a goddess of many names and many faces,” said d’Este. “She was also worshiped by people from many nations and places, so her continued ability to adapt and be relevant today should not really come as a surprise. Hekate is relevant and present in the 21st century. This is evident in the surge of interest in her but also the number of appearances she makes in pop culture, the number of books written about her, and the way that she has a place in the worship and work of polytheists, as well as Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, ceremonial magicians, and even Buddhists and Hindus.”

In 2010, d’Este produced Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, an anthology in which nearly 50 individuals from around the globe share their own personal visions of the goddess. Shortly thereafter, she created The Rite of Her Sacred Fires, an international devotional event celebrated every year during the May full moon. d’Este then formed Covenant of Hekate, a “network of devotees from different traditions and backgrounds who share their works with one another.” SOURCE

Hekate Her Sacred Fires is an exceptional book for an extraordinary, eternal and universal Goddess. It brings together essays, prose and artwork from more than fifty remarkable contributors from all over the world. Their stories and revelations are challenging, their visions and determination in exploring the mysteries are inspirational, and their enthusiasm for the Goddess of the Crossroads is truly entrancing and sometimes highly infectious.

“Hecate’s themes are the moon, beginnings and magic. Her symbols are serpents, horses or dogs (Her sacred animals), light (especially a torch), myrrh, silver and moonstone. This Greco-Roman Goddess rules the moon and opportunities. Tonight She opens the path through which the old year departs and the new enters. People customarily worship Hecate at crossroads, where worlds meet, which may be why She became a witch’s Goddess. On this, Hecate’s Day, She bears a torch, lighting the way to the future.

At the eve of a New Year, take a moment and pat yourself on the back for a full of Goddess-centered thinking and action. Note your achievements, and thank Hecate for helping you find the way when your vision seemed clouded. An additional benefit here is that speaking this Goddess’s name today banishes unwanted ghosts, including those figurative ghosts of past negative experiences. Let Hecate take those burdens so your new year will begin without anything holding you back.

To accept this Goddess’s powers in your life throughout your celebrations today, wear white or silver items, and light a white candle in Her honor. For a token that will emphasize Hecate’s magic and lunar energies whenever you need them, bless a moonstone, saying something like:

‘Hecate, fill this silver stone
keep your magic with me where ever I roam.’

Carry this, keeping the Goddess close to your heart and spirit.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.) SOURCE

The Wheel of Hecate

Greek Goddess Hecate Wheel

The Hecate’s Wheel is a powerful symbol that represents the goddess Hecate. It is also referred to as the Strophalos of Hecate. Hecate’s Wheel is a circle that has a circular maze surrounding a spiral. This symbol draws its inspiration and power from the Moon, Earth, Sea, and Sky. This is more so because the deity Hecate is the ruler of these spheres of the Universe.

Hecate’s Wheel draws attention to the 3 phases of the triple Hecate, the goddess of the moon. It accentuates the 3 phases of the female cycle. The female life starts as a Maiden, graduates to a Mother, and later to a Crone. Hecate’s Wheel indicates the immense blessings and goodwill this goddess provides for the family.

Those with this symbol as their religious icon find it easy to attract prosperity, growth, and progress in their families. Traditionally, Hecate has been seen to be the guardian of the crossroads. This evolved with time, and she became the guardian of magic and witchcraft. Hecate’s Wheel aptly captures the evolution displayed by the goddess Hecate throughout history.

Up to 500 BCE, physical representations of Hecate indicate her evolution through the various phases of womanhood. Hecate’s Wheel started inculcating these images as early as 100 AD. Some of the earliest images of Hecate’s Wheel also depicted the influence of Aphrodite in the affairs of Hecate. In modern times, Hecate’s Wheel has become an important pagan spiritual symbol. It has gained a lot of traction amongst modern pagans. Continue reading HERE.

“Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods…. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea”.

Her gifts towards mankind are all-encompassing, Hesiod tells:

“Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less”.

Hecate was carefully attended:

“For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her”. SOURCE

How to work with Hecate through deity communication, altar building, offerings, etc is definitely a little rough. Hecate being the deity of witchcraft can be overwhelming to those who she has called out to who don’t have much info on her. This video will hopefully fill in some of the gaps for some. Goddess Hecate within Greek mythology has a very interesting history, but also a very small mythology. But don’t let that fool you because Hecate is full of mystery and there is still a lot when working with her.
Hello dear friends, today the video is different! Talking about a Greek goddess – Hecate. I truly hope you enjoy the video.

Further Resources

The Covenant of Hekate (CoH) was born out of the desire to create a community and centre of study for those who share a passion for the history, mysteries and magic of the Goddess Hekate.

Hecate: Greece’s Dark Goddess of the Crossroads

Hecate: Holding Court Over Ancient Greek Witchcraft, the Moon, and Ghosts

Hecate Greek Goddess of Witchcraft : The Complete Guide

The Greek Goddess Hecate

The Functions of the Greek Goddess Hecate – by Lucy Moore