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Category: Myths, Legends, Folklore (Page 1 of 3)

Hansel and Gretel, or Hanz and Grete?

Spring is finally here, the trees bloom, the birds are chirping, Easter candy is everywhere, and here I am, researching an old cannibalistic tale for you, because, well, that’s the kind of person I am! Put down the chocolate bar slowly, and follow me on this!

I guess you all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, but just in case you need to refresh your memory, this is the story of the two siblings who were abandoned by their parents, got lost in a forest and came across a house made out of candy. They started eating the roof (you have to start somewhere, don’t you?) until the evil witch who lived there felt the breeze, got out and caught them red-handed. She lured them inside by promising more food, and soon Hansel and Gretel realized they actually were the promised food. The witch tried to fatten Hansel by force-feeding him, and it worked, but Hansel was a clever little boy, who had noticed that the witch was almost blind, so he tricked her by giving her bones to feel. The witch decided that since Hansel wasn’t getting any fatter, a soup would also do, but she might as well put Gretel in the oven for an extra snack. Gretel was fast enough to push the witch inside the oven instead. They killed her – I don’t know if they also ate her, as I also don’t know if they ate the rest of the house too- and went back to their family where they lived happily ever after.

OK, this is a real mess. You have parents abandoning children in a forest, you have force-feeding, and cannibalism, all wrapped up in a lovely gingerbread house, like the ones people make for Christmas. Before you start accusing the German fantasy, keep in mind that this fairy tale was indeed conceived at the time of the Great Famine, which took place between 1315-1317. The brothers Grimm published the story in 1812.

Here’s the small twist though. Upon researching this, I came across a story, which, according to some is the real story behind the tale.

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Necessity

This time I will attempt to tackle a purely philosophical subject. It is inspired by some recent sad events in my personal life, and although I know it doesn’t really belong here, the need to write this (pun unintended) is really strong. Please bear with me, as I try to unfold a core philosophical concept of ancient Greece. Before I begin, let me just take a moment to thank my “silent helper” who wishes to remain anonymous.

The basic theological system of ancient Greece is known to most of you. Even if you are missing the details, the idea of almighty Zeus and his team of Gods and Goddesses is more or less familiar. What you might be missing, or didn’t ever think about, is that this intricate web of deities, which was created over a vast amount of time, was almost a living organism, always expanding by implementing deep philosophical concepts into its core. Of course, those concepts or ideas if you please, were godified/personified along the way adding to the pantheon. The key word here is “importance”. The higher the importance of a concept, the stronger the deity.

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Taurus

Taurus, Taurus… stable, strong, and powerful, but with a complicated story. Taurus has been a strong symbol in almost all ancient civilizations, up to the Roman Empire. The ancient Greeks added a romantic twist to it… wait, it’s not what you think! Ok, it is in a way, I give up.

As in most cases, there are many myths behind this sign, and no one can really prove which one is the most accurate. I will present you with three different versions, with the one I think makes sense, at the very end.

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Aries

… and we move on with the signs, this time doing Aries! The story is long, but not complicated (too many Greek names people- my apologies in advance), and it features an evil stepmother that can put the ones from the medieval fairy tales to shame! Let’s get started, shall we?

So, once upon a time, in an area of Greece called Boeotia, the good King Athamas was married to a nymph called Nephele. They had two children, the twins Phrixus and Helle. The marriage wasn’t meant to last long, and Athamas divorced his wife for a woman named Ino. Let’s just say that Ino wasn’t so happy with her stepchildren and decided to take action. Of course, it’s not so easy to get rid of the King’s children so easily, so she came up with a cunning plan.

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Pisces

Ah, Pisces… I don’t know where you stand, but it is a love/hate thing for me. Truth be told, this is again one of those signs where, story-wise, there isn’t enough to be said.

So, once upon a time in ancient Greece, Gods and monsters alike were walking the earth. There was one in particular, the almighty Typhon, who would put horror writers and directors to shame. The descriptions vary slightly, as I guess the image of Typhon had been a fantasy battleground for the writers and painters of the time. Although they disagree on some things, like the number of his hands with the estimation being between 100 and 200, they agree on other things. He had one hundred snake heads, all venomous and spitting poison, he was so tall that he could “brush the stars”, his legs were spitting poison, his snake tails were spitting poison, his eyes and hair were spitting fire, and all this monstrosity, was stomping, hissing, and yelling.

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The legend of Robin Hood

Although I knew what I was getting into when I started researching this, I wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of info out there. If I were a scholar, I could probably spend the rest of my career just researching this. If you are wondering why I’m going to attempt it, well, let’s just say that someone deserves a better answer than the one he initially got. Allow me to dissect Robin Hood!

First, a small disclaimer… It is my personal belief, that most legends have an actual starting point, that could vary from case to case. It can be an actual hero, whose achievements reached mythical proportions as they were spreading by word of mouth, or it could be a religious tradition/ritual that lost its meaning and transformed as it was delivered on from generation to generation. On many happy occasions, historians can trace back a legend to its origins, and reach a relatively safe conclusion. Robin Hood is not one of these cases…

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Aquarius

We have now reached the time of Aquarius – not the dawning of the age of Aquarius, that’s a different song. I’ve been dreading this sign, as its mythological origins are located in a dark part of ancient Greek mythology. Since there’s no way to go around this, let me face it head on.

So, thousands of years ago, in ancient Troy, a boy was born. His name was Ganymede, and he just so happened to be of exceptional beauty. Despite being the son of the King Tros, and therefore a prince, he had to do several tasks, even as a young boy. One of them was herding sheep. It was during one of those days that Zeus spotted him. Now, the problem with Zeus, was that he had no moral boundaries whatsoever. In this spirit, Ganymede’s young age, sadly wasn’t an issue.

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Origins of Snow White

Today’s story is my mother’s idea! * waves * Hello mom! She enjoys learning new things as much as I do, or to put it better, this is one of her characteristics that I have inherited. She watched a very interesting documentary and thought it would make a nice story. The only difference is, that while researching the information she gave me, I stumbled upon so much more, that I’m actually going to present you with two different versions of the same story! This always happens to me…

This is one of my favorite topics, and as a matter of fact, I had thought about adding it as a separate category. Much like the origins of the myths of the zodiac, this is about the origins of fairy tales. The thing with fairy tales is, that they are usually way older than their first published version, much more twisted, and way more darker, and if you have the patience to look further behind, you might come across an interesting real story. This time we are traveling to Germany. What are we looking for? Snow White!

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Capricorn

I never thought that writing the myth behind Capricorn, would turn out to be such a challenge. There are many explanations around, some of them go so back as to involve Cronus (or Chronos), the father of Zeus. Again, I see no other way, than to start with the rumors and work towards a logical conclusion, well as “logical” as a conclusion about mythology and astrology can be!

So, what do we have here? A goat, but not your ordinary goat. This one has a fish tail! It has even been recorded by the Babylonians as a “Goat-Fish”. Hold on to this particular tail, we are going on a deep dive.

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Thessaloniki

The inspiration for my next article may come completely unexpectedly, e. g through a nice discussion on an irrelevant topic. It was a lovely chat, on epic battle scenes in films, that made me remember this story. Well, it’s not that irrelevant; you’ll be able to follow my train of thought. So, let’s leave the gore behind this week, and dive (pun intended) once again into Greek folklore.

This story is connected to one of the most prominent Greek historical figures, Alexander the Great. There won’t be any descriptions of battles, though; my writing skill is not quite there yet. This is a story about his sister, the beautiful Thessaloniki, and it reads just like a nice medieval fairy tale. The story firstly circulated in the 3rd century AD by a writer named Pseudokallisthenis (no need to remember that, no worries!). It became a huge success, and was in fact translated into many European languages. Of course the writer didn’t make the story up; it was a collection of existing myths surrounding Alexander.

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