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Author Topic: Alternate Versions of Myths  (Read 777 times)

Zlote Jablko

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Alternate Versions of Myths
« on: January 14, 2019, 12:03:44 am »
Hello everyone. I’m searching for Goddesses in Slavic folklore, due to their relative scarcity in medieval chronicles about Slavic paganism. I’ve retraced the steps of a number of scholars who say folklore contains remnants of a struggle for the Goddess Mokosh between two male suitors.
The link below alludes to the relevant work by Ivanov/Toporov and Belaj.

It looks like a struggle between the underworld God Veles and the celestial Perun for the “hand” of Mokosh. In some stories she is abducted, but in others she is portrayed as a traitor. In the outskirts of Moscow, the term for the Goddess survived as a word for a promiscuous woman (Mokosja). The Mokosha also appears as a vengeful spirit in north Russian folklore who punished women for spinning flax on her holy day. She seems broadly similar to the Lithuanian Laume and Laima, female figures associated with spinning and fate. This is a familiar archetype for me of course, but in other ways I find her difficult to pin down.


I feel I am coming to appreciate her, but I’m struggling with stories that seem to portray her as adulterous whereas others are more favorable.
What do you recommend for contradictory stories like this?



http://sms.zrc-sazu.si/pdf/06/SMS_06_Marjanic.pdf

ehbowen

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2019, 01:42:01 am »
I feel I am coming to appreciate her, but I’m struggling with stories that seem to portray her as adulterous whereas others are more favorable.
What do you recommend for contradictory stories like this?

Even with human girls, it's not unusual for jealousy and envy to spawn vicious, unfounded rumors. I can't weigh in on this either way, no data, but if you feel a connection maybe you could look closer to "the source" to get a better idea of which stories are true and which are malicious gossip.
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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2019, 06:42:55 am »
Hello everyone. I’m searching for Goddesses in Slavic folklore, due to their relative scarcity in medieval chronicles about Slavic paganism. I’ve retraced the steps of a number of scholars who say folklore contains remnants of a struggle for the Goddess Mokosh between two male suitors.
The link below alludes to the relevant work by Ivanov/Toporov and Belaj.

It looks like a struggle between the underworld God Veles and the celestial Perun for the “hand” of Mokosh. In some stories she is abducted, but in others she is portrayed as a traitor. In the outskirts of Moscow, the term for the Goddess survived as a word for a promiscuous woman (Mokosja). The Mokosha also appears as a vengeful spirit in north Russian folklore who punished women for spinning flax on her holy day. She seems broadly similar to the Lithuanian Laume and Laima, female figures associated with spinning and fate. This is a familiar archetype for me of course, but in other ways I find her difficult to pin down.


I feel I am coming to appreciate her, but I’m struggling with stories that seem to portray her as adulterous whereas others are more favorable.
What do you recommend for contradictory stories like this?



http://sms.zrc-sazu.si/pdf/06/SMS_06_Marjanic.pdf

Myth is fluid. They change over time, with the storyteller, etc.--and sometimes end up in contradictory places. Why not run with the interpretation you're most comfortable with? Or if you can wrap your head around it, maybe there's a way embrace the contradiction, to reconcile the opposing elements of the various myths to reveal something about us and our world?
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

arete

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2019, 01:27:39 pm »
I feel I am coming to appreciate her, but I’m struggling with stories that seem to portray her as adulterous whereas others are more favorable.
What do you recommend for contradictory stories like this?
I can tell you about the greek gods. Orthodox Christians accuse us pagans that the Gods we worship all have vice. According to christian morality, the greek gods are petty. So we don't evaluate the greek gods with christian morality. So we approach the myths of our gods with a free clear and true perspective. I suggest to reapproach freely the myth of the goddess and see what the myth really teaches, in my opinion  :)

Pickle

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2019, 03:41:16 pm »
I’m struggling with stories that seem to portray her as adulterous whereas others are more favorable.
What do you recommend for contradictory stories like this?

I've a similar issue, though not exactly the same.

I've been feeling drawn to Cerridwen over the past year or so (who I don't necessarily view as a goddess, but nevertheless an important figure).  But initially I rejected the fact that she's portrayed as both vengeful for chasing down the person who mistakenly spilled (and consequently used up) her magical potion (who is in most versions of the tale a young boy) and then later as pretty much murderous for having resolved to kill the infant she bore (who wasn't killed afterall, and later became Taliesin).

I guess that now, I'm working toward seeing her more in her aspects as the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge/inspiration, and as symbolising creativity & transformation.  (And recalling that in the tale, although she may have resolved to kill the infant she didn't actually go through with it -- and thought & deed are different things.)

I'm not sure if that's any help to you at all?

Edit: added a final line
« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 03:43:05 pm by Pickle »
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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2019, 06:24:59 pm »
Even with human girls, it's not unusual for jealousy and envy to spawn vicious, unfounded rumors. I can't weigh in on this either way, no data, but if you feel a connection maybe you could look closer to "the source" to get a better idea of which stories are true and which are malicious gossip.

I think this is a good idea.

Given the nature of myth and story as well as our own fragmentary information about past religions, whenever we attempt to reconstruct a given Power's myths, we're going to run into conflicting versions. This is especially true of goddesses, which isn't surprising because so many cultures throughout history have had (and still have) complicated problems with women, and goddesses are often expected to carry a lot of that baggage.

I suggest giving up on getting a quick answer to these questions about Mokosh from any specific academic source. Instead, settle in for a long haul of getting to know her while letting her incongruities and different versions exist side by side in your mind. Eventually, you'll likely develop a better feel for what deeper truths the contradictions point to.
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Zlote Jablko

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2019, 03:27:37 am »
Even with human girls, it's not unusual for jealousy and envy to spawn vicious, unfounded rumors. I can't weigh in on this either way, no data, but if you feel a connection maybe you could look closer to "the source" to get a better idea of which stories are true and which are malicious gossip.

Yeah, I take some of it with a grain of salt. I thought I would post some of the stories that seem related to this reconstructed myth. Slavic mythology is always kind of conjecture. We have seemingly mythological stories, some of which share certain recurrent themes, but reconstructing a proto-myth from them is an extrapolation at best.


A common theme is a woman being infested with serpents followed by death in rebirth.


"In some versions of this song, Marya the White Swan is the Dragon of the under-world, transforming herself into that shape in the coffin, in order to kill Mikailo. The malicious view is the one adopted in many legends and tales; Mikailo cuts his bride in bits when he discovers her character, cleans out the snakes and other reptiles concealed within her body, sprinkles her with living water (the waters of life) marries her, and lives happily ever after."
-The Epic Songs of Russia, by Isabel Hapgood, regarding the Bylina of Sweet Mikailo Ivanovich the Rover

In other versions of the same tale, Marya the White Swan does not morph into a dragon, but betrays Mikailo by cheating on him with Tzar Vakramey. When she is finally cornered near the end of the song, she says

"Lo, my former husband is alive again; pour him a cup of green wine and mingle the herb of sleep therein."
It does not work however. He ends up decapitating her, and marrying Tzar Vakramey's sister, who assisted him when he was previously defeated. In a similar fashion, the songs of Ivan Godinovich tell of how the bride Avdotya betrays her husband for Koschei the deathless, a Russian folkloric figure who often takes the form of a serpent or dragon and likely symbolizes death. (His name is probably related to "Kost" meaning bone.)


The notion of a traitorous woman consorting with a serpent or infested with serpents recurs in too many stories to count. Another good one is "The Wonderous Story of Ivan Golik and the Serpents" from the Book of Cossack Fairy Tales by Nisbet (Gutenberg link below.) Near the end of that tale, the wife is having tea with serpents and laughing at her husband who is forced to herd cattle for them. When Ivan returns and chases the serpents away however, the story reads:

"But she, the accursed one, was in no way frightened, but caught Ivan by the hair of his head. He, however, caught her also by her long locks, and flicked her with his whip till he had flicked all the serpent-blood out of her, and she walked the earth in human guise. So she cast off her serpent nature, and lived happily with her husband. And that’s the end of the kazka."

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29672/29672-h/29672-h.htm


This seems to portray her in fairly negative light. However, the Cossack fairy tale book has another story that I find very interesting. It's called "The Serpent Wife." The beginning and the ending are very fascinating to me. First off, it starts with a man who finds a wife by burning the last sheaf of the harvest in the fire.

"Then when he had brought home all his master’s corn, he begged that he might have the remaining little sheaf for himself. He refused to be rewarded for his smart labour, he would take no money; he wanted nothing for himself, he said, but the little sheaf he had left in the field. So his master let him have the sheaf. Then he went out by himself into the field, burnt the sheaf, just as the Serpent had told him, and immediately a lovely lady leapt out of it. The labourer forthwith took and married her."

This is a total goddess reference, for someone who is big on folklore. The last sheaf was often dedicated to a Goddess in Europe. In Russia, people would sometimes implore the witch Baba Yaga to take the last sheaf and spare them. In Poland as well, the last sheaf was dedicated to the grain mother. Even in Scotland, you have a similar tradition of dedicating the last sheaf to the winter hag.  So the Serpent wife is a fertility Goddess of sorts, or perhaps a daughter of hers. The tale concludes with the following episode:

"When he got home he went straight to his chamber to lie down on his pillow. There was no sign of his wife, but a huge serpent was just coiling itself round and round and settling down in the middle of the pillow. Then he called to mind how, once, his wife had said to him, “Beware, for Heaven’s sake, of ever calling me a serpent. I will not suffer thee to call me by that name, and if thou dost thou shalt lose thy wife.” He called this to mind now, but it was already too late; what he had said could not be unsaid. Then he reflected what a good wife he had had, and how she herself had sought him out, and how she had waited upon him continually and done him boundless good, and yet he had not been able to refrain his tongue, so that now, maybe, he would be without a wife for the rest of his days."

I guess I'll take it as a reminder that there are two sides to many stories, especially where men and women are concerned. On top of that, the idea of whipping the serpent blood out of a women feels kind of gross and archaic if taken literally. It reminds me of the spring tradition in some Slavic cultures of whacking women with branches and dousing them with water (Whipping out the evil spirits and sprinkling them with the water of life?) In that case, it could be taken for a metaphor for death, purification, and rebirth. See the link below.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/06/easter-monday-tradition-whipping-slovakia-girls-health

 I know it's a mess, but that's Slavic recon for you. Part of the reason I do it is because I know few people will. I'd welcome any additional analysis however.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 03:29:43 am by Zlote Jablko »

ehbowen

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2019, 09:01:41 am »
A common theme is a woman being infested with serpents followed by death in rebirth.
...
 I know it's a mess, but that's Slavic recon for you. Part of the reason I do it is because I know few people will. I'd welcome any additional analysis however.

Well, what your tale puts me in mind of is my own idea that the spiritual being whom I identify as the enemy, or Satan...who is represented in Christian thought as "the old serpent"...is constantly trying to drive people apart by "wedging in" between them and relentlessly, bit by bit, driving them apart. Oh, he lets them see a "glimpse" of each other's true personality through his wedge, enough so that they each end up putting the blame on the other person, but the cruel bastard she's seeing is actually about ninety percent Satan and ten percent her real husband and likewise with the faithless, bitchy coquette he's seeing who seems to be her. If they accept the manufactured illusion as reality then they give up and never find each other's true personalities again. Just My Humble Opinion, of course.
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EmberHearth

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2019, 11:19:50 pm »
When it comes to myths and sexuality, I certainly agree that there are multiple sides to the story.

It's not only the goddesses.  Many of the gods have stories of r*ping goddesses and/or mortal women.

When it comes to the women in particular, I am reminded that the concept of monogamy is at least partially Christian, and entirely cultural.


One of the things I struggled with, associating with a CAW proto-nest, was polyamory. At the time, I was in a monogamous marriage, and happy to remain so.  It still took me a while to get over my own feelings about other people, and mind my own business.



I have [/size]found that the sexual mores are some of the hardest to let go.
[/size]
In some places, it was entirely proper for a family to offer a male guest a woman for the night.  Variations up to and including the wife of the house.


There are many places where the Christian sense of "proper" never really took.  Like the friend who told me, "The first child can come at any time. The second always takes 9 months."


There continues to be another tradition, of women owning their own sexuality, and having the right to do as she pleases.  Some of the "virgin" goddesses fall into this category, that they have & do take lovers when they choose, but are never owned by a man.


Freya is one of these.  Fringa is also accused of sleeping with Odin's brothers.  I'm not so clear on Norse tradition.  I have read of cultures where swapping with a sibling's partner was accepted.  Usually in an extension of Levitate marriage (the surviving spouse marries a sibling of the deceased), where they may have sexual access pre-death.




I guess I'll take it as a reminder that there are two sides to many stories, especially where men and women are concerned. On top of that, the idea of whipping the serpent blood out of a women feels kind of gross and archaic if taken literally. It reminds me of the spring tradition in some Slavic cultures of whacking women with branches and dousing them with water (Whipping out the evil spirits and sprinkling them with the water of life?) In that case, it could be taken for a metaphor for death, purification, and rebirth. See the link below.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/06/easter-monday-tradition-whipping-slovakia-girls-health

 I know it's a mess, but that's Slavic recon for you. Part of the reason I do it is because I know few people will. I'd welcome any additional analysis however.


Wow.  I'm glad I didn't go through that.


The whipping part, reminds me a little bit of the birch twigs sometimes used in sauna/bathhouse traditions.  But there's a huge difference between stimulating one's own circulation (striking oneself with branches), and physical assault by another.

Zlote Jablko

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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2019, 11:19:57 am »
When it comes to myths and sexuality, I certainly agree that there are multiple sides to the story.

It's not only the goddesses.  Many of the gods have stories of r*ping goddesses and/or mortal women.

When it comes to the women in particular, I am reminded that the concept of monogamy is at least partially Christian, and entirely cultural.


One of the things I struggled with, associating with a CAW proto-nest, was polyamory. At the time, I was in a monogamous marriage, and happy to remain so.  It still took me a while to get over my own feelings about other people, and mind my own business. I have found that the sexual mores are some of the hardest to let go.

In some places, it was entirely proper for a family to offer a male guest a woman for the night.  Variations up to and including the wife of the house.


There are many places where the Christian sense of "proper" never really took.  Like the friend who told me, "The first child can come at any time. The second always takes 9 months."


There continues to be another tradition, of women owning their own sexuality, and having the right to do as she pleases.  Some of the "virgin" goddesses fall into this category, that they have & do take lovers when they choose, but are never owned by a man.


Freya is one of these.  Fringa is also accused of sleeping with Odin's brothers.  I'm not so clear on Norse tradition.  I have read of cultures where swapping with a sibling's partner was accepted.  Usually in an extension of Levitate marriage (the surviving spouse marries a sibling of the deceased), where they may have sexual access pre-death.

It's complicated when dealing with a religion rooted in a patriarchal culture. I consider myself a feminist, yet I also think that many of the values of ancient cultures still apply to us. Also, I strongly suspect that even the mythology of a patriarchal culture often has a pre-patriarchal layer, going back to the neolithic or even earlier.

Eastern Europe is still a very old-fashioned place in this respect, and there's little doubt about how the ancient Slavs saw women. On the other hand, the Slavs once shared Eastern Europe with another group of cultures called the Scythians and Sarmatians (Ancestors of the Ossetians.) So much so that they borrowed words like "Axe", "Sky", and even "God" from them. The Sarmatians had a very different view that I have tried to incorporate. They may have actually been the origin of the legendary Amazons (see below.) Their warrior woman burials are pretty interesting to me. They remind me of some Russian fairy tale and folk song characters, like the warrior woman Maria Morevna (Literally "Maria the Sea's Daughter.") I have a very strong UPG and research-based feeling that she's a warrior Goddess from the Scytho-Sarmatians.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141029-amazons-scythians-hunger-games-herodotus-ice-princess-tattoo-cannabis/

This shines through in Ossetian mythology. In one Nart Saga, there is a competition to see who excels at three virtues: Courage, tolerance of hunger, and finally- respect for women. Sosruko basically tells them how he caught his wife sleeping with a young herdsman, and treats him as an honored guest. Then when he leaves, he jests with her and the two remain close. All I can say is that he's made of stronger stuff than I am. I understand polyamory, but at the same time, that amount of trust seems tremendous to me. I suppose it would make sense for the relationships between Gods however, which are often eternal and/or cyclic.



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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2019, 10:45:47 pm »
It's complicated when dealing with a religion rooted in a patriarchal culture. I consider myself a feminist, yet I also think that many of the values of ancient cultures still apply to us. Also, I strongly suspect that even the mythology of a patriarchal culture often has a pre-patriarchal layer, going back to the neolithic or even earlier.

I am familiar with modern Russian patriarchy, and the paradox of idealizing housewives while having a huge number of women working outside the home.

I'm less familiar with the historical context of Slavic culture with respect to women.

I do know that Russia was influenced by the Tartars, but haven't looked into their roles for women.

The part of "The Bathhouse at Midnight" that still sticks in my mind, had to do with the long tradition of subversive manuscripts to get around (first Church, then Czar, then Soviet) censorship.

In addition to the Sarmatian and Ossetian cultures, you might also consider the influence of the Kiev Rus (Vikings).  Some of which was documented by Ahmed Ibn Fadlan.  Although it sounds like that may be a later period than your focus.


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Re: Alternate Versions of Myths
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2019, 11:54:21 pm »
I am familiar with modern Russian patriarchy, and the paradox of idealizing housewives while having a huge number of women working outside the home.

I'm less familiar with the historical context of Slavic culture with respect to women.

I do know that Russia was influenced by the Tartars, but haven't looked into their roles for women.

The part of "The Bathhouse at Midnight" that still sticks in my mind, had to do with the long tradition of subversive manuscripts to get around (first Church, then Czar, then Soviet) censorship.

In addition to the Sarmatian and Ossetian cultures, you might also consider the influence of the Kiev Rus (Vikings).  Some of which was documented by Ahmed Ibn Fadlan.  Although it sounds like that may be a later period than your focus.

The Tatars, like the nomadic Scythians before them, appear to have allowed women to have more freedom than many patriarchal cultures. They were still patriarchal, as has probably been the norm in most of Eurasia since the neolithic, but of course the spectrum of patriarchy is very broad. This is one thing that makes me cautious about sweeping claims that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were especially patriarchal. The central argument seems to be that nomadic pastoral lifestyle= strongly patriarchal culture. Yet the argument that settled agriculturalists are inherently less patriarchal doesn't seem to be supported by recorded history.

The Vikings are interesting, but it's difficult to weed out individual Germanic influences on the Slavs. There are parallels, but it's hard to say when they might have been introduced, because there's such a long history of shared influences across northern Europe. Parallels could have developed under Varangian (Swedish Viking) influence. It could also have been the Goths. It could date back to the Bronze Age.

One interesting note about Mokosh, since that's the original subject of the thread, is that she evidently became identified with St.Paraskeva. One cause for confusion was that Paraskevi means "Friday" so to the Slavs, Mokosh literally became "St. Friday." This may be related to the fact that their Germanic neighbors regarded Friday as Freya's day. Not sure how well that fits with her role as a fate Goddess. So perhaps that does tell us something about her. Similarly, the Wends on the eastern German border referred to Thursday as Perundaan. "Perun's Day."

Out of curiosity, do you know if Freya or any other Norse Goddess was associated with the linden tree? Because that seems to be a consistent association with Mokosh and her relatives in Baltic and Slavic lore.

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Allaya, Chatelaine, HarpingHawke, Jenett, Morag, rocquelaire, Sefiru

Discord Chat Staff
Chat Coordinator:
Morag

Reserve Staff:
Aisling

Cauldron Council:
Bob, Catja, Emma-Eldritch, Fausta, Jubes, Kelly, Phouka, Sperran, Star, Steve, Tana

Cauldron Assistants
[Non-Staff Positions]

Site Assistants
[Non-Staff Positions]
Webmaster:
Randall