Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades

Welcome back! Ready for more swords? In Part 1, I listed blades that, like the Soul-Devouring Sword in Ice Fantasy, were possessed and/or cursed. These swords were animated or driven by forces that initially existed outside of their steel or bronze. Now I’d like to cover swords in a slightly different category: Living blades. Unlike cursed swords, these weapons have a little bit more ambiguity because they have their own intelligence and therefore their own agenda. Just like with people, whether you get along with a living sword is a matter of personal compatibility rather than because the sword itself is good versus evil. So here are another five blade displaying a different kind of spirit! Again, I will include at least one update of the exact sword in modern media along with one echo, a similar media sword possibly inspired by the myth. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 2: Five Living Blades”

Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades

Greetings on this morning after Guǐ Jie /the Ghost Festival! Contemplating the roaming spirits of this thin time led me to thinking of the Soul-Devouring Sword (噬神劍) from Ice Fantasy. The energy-eating sword spirits possessing it give the sword great power but in their hunger they may strike even when the sword’s wielder would rather show mercy. Searching for a mythological model for the Soul-Devouring Sword turned up several interesting possibilities that I could only cover briefly. It seemed a shame to just leave those blades in my unposted notes, so I’d like to expand on them now. I’ll pair each one with at least one update, where the exact sword reappears in modern media, and at least one echo, original fictional weapons that bear some resemblance to the mythical. In keeping with tone of the Ghost Festival, I’ll start with possessed and cursed blades. Continue reading “Spirited Swords, Part 1: Five Possessed and Cursed Blades”

Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my dive into mythology in the Grishaverse! In Part 1, I looked into some origins for Grisha in general, Morozova’s amplifiers, and some connections to Russian Firebird tales. This time I’ll be focusing more on specific characters rather than overall themes. I am drawing mainly from Bardugo’s novels rather than the Netflix show, with topics from the Shadow and Bone trilogy to the King of Scars duology. I’ve tried to keep the references general outside of the Spoiler Zone, though. Once again, please note that these posts reflect my own connections between myth and literature as a reader, and that they are not meant to cover every possible mythical reference from the Grishaverse. Continue reading “Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 2”

Red Thread Reblog: Who Mourns the Sirens? — Myth Crafts

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

A Song Below Water reinterprets the “traditional” siren mythology to reflect the struggles of Black women today, but it turns out that traditional narrative was more complicated as well. The Mythcrafts team, Shiva and Emma, routinely take on topics ranging from (and sometimes blending) mythology, folklore, modern media, science, and spirituality. Sometimes they dive deep and sometimes their posts have a lighter narrative feel. Whichever suits your mood, Mythcrafts is always a good place to stop by if you’re looking for well-researched commentary with a refreshing layer of wit. Their insightful investigation into the evolution of siren mythos reveals how these beings began as bird-like nymphs whose song was simply sad rather than meant to lead men to their deaths. Reading this post was such a revelation, and it makes a perfect companion to A Song Below Water, showing how the image of sirens has come full circle, or perhaps even spiraled to a new level.

Sirens are often mistakenly thought of as a monstrous counterpart to the mermaid; evil temptresses lurking in the sea foam waiting to lure innocent sailors to their death with their songs. This was not so in the classical tradition; Sirens were in fact half-avian and it was their hybrid bird nature that was responsible for […]

Who Mourns the Sirens? — Myth Crafts

Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 1

Considering the popularity of Netflix’s new Shadow and Bone series, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the Grishaverse. For those not familiar with the term, the Grishaverse is a fantasy world where some people—Grisha—are born with the ability to manipulate parts of the physical world, including air, iron, shadows, and light. Leigh Bardugo’s world includes several nations, but the stories mostly center around Ravka, inspired by historical and mythical Russia. Today, I’d like to examine the mythical side of things, the tales that might have shaped the Grishaverse. Some topics will touch on some pretty big spoilers, but I’ll make sure to keep those at the end under a “Spoiler Zone” label for those who wish to avoid them. Continue reading “Shadows of Legend: Sifting Bones of Myth from the Grishaverse, Part 1”

Of Cu Chulain and Cowboys: Reflections on an Irish Epic and Westerns

It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day, which means it’s time for an Irish-themed post! I’m part Irish and feel a strong connection to that heritage. So every March, I’ll be covering a topic related to Irish mythology, history, or media—or even all three. Erin go bragh!

What would you do for a cow? Probably not much, and you probably send hundreds of people die in a battle over one. Yet that is the subject of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, also translated as The Cattle Raid of Cooley. I had been planning to read the Táin for a while knowing only that it was one of the most important epics in Irish cultural history. When I actually sat down with it, I was startled, partly because it was about stealing a bull and partly because certainly elements reminded me of the cowboys and ranchers of the Western genre. Now, I’m not saying one is directly related to the other. However, they do work remarkably well as mirrors, helping us to look deeper at the themes they share and those they don’t. Continue reading “Of Cu Chulain and Cowboys: Reflections on an Irish Epic and Westerns”

Red Thread Reblog: Oh, Maya Gods! — VoVatia

Welcome to Red Thread Reblog, a feature that pairs a post about media inspired by mythology with a post about the mythology shown in the media.

Gods of Jade and Shadows draws inspiration from the Mayan Popol Vuh. In addition to the Mayan creation story, this collection includes a tale where the Hero Twins face off in a game of ball (and tricks) with the gods of death. This post from Nathan of VoVatia will give you a good overview of the Popol Vuh. He also starts off with a bit of history about how this key Mayan document survived into the present day. I’m still exploring the archives and recent posts of VoVatia, which covers a range of topics including video games, current events, mythology, religion, and Oz fandom. Each has Nathan’s characteristic blend of serious reflection and pragmatic humor. I am particularly glad to share his post on the Popol Vuh because it’s one of the few I found that examines the stories in enough detail to really create a sense of the worldview from which Gods of Jade and Shadow grew while handling the topic with a respectful curiosity. And he raises some interesting questions with his reflections on the death gods’ names!

I saw a mention of the Popol Vuh, a Mayan book of myths, at Intelligent Life, as well as a link to an animated narration. Since I haven’t said much about Mayan mythology, I might as well address this. When the Spanish conquered what is now Guatemala, they destroyed most of the artifacts of Mayan […]

Oh, Maya Gods! — VoVatia

A Pair of Thin Places, Part 2: Kilauea

Volcanoes inspire both wonder and fear. Around them rock can flow like water and burn like fire, reshaping the landscape. It’s not surprising, then, that many have developed the layers of tales and rituals that mark a long-term thin place. In Part 1, we looked at Devils Tower/Bear Lodge, which is not a volcano but may be the crystallized heart of an attempted one. Now I’d like to turn to Kīlauea, a living volcano still bringing destruction and creation every time it erupts. Oh, and it’s also said to be the home of a goddess. Continue reading “A Pair of Thin Places, Part 2: Kilauea”

Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn

I often focus on more obscure creatures for Quarterly Bestiary, but today I’d like to touch on a mythical heavyweight: the unicorn. Now, before you expect sparkles and rainbows, bear in mind there’s a lot more to unicorns than that. Behind the modern image lies a history full of strange, sometimes dark twists. I couldn’t hope to cover it all in one post even if I limited myself to only the unicorn of Western Europe, so I’ll focus my discussion around the unicorn’s horn, also called the alicorn. Even with that limitation, there’s simply so much myth and media on the unicorn that I’m approaching this a little differently. Instead of going over the mythology in one section and the media in another, I’ll take each topic by topic. So let’s take a look at the alicorn, possibly the unicorn’s source of power and the thing that identifies it as more than a horse. Continue reading “Quarterly Bestiary: Unicorns: The Power of the Alicorn”

Siuil a Run: A Song and a Manga Bridging Two Traditions

It’s the week of St. Patrick’s Day, which means it’s time for an Irish-themed post! I’m part Irish and feel a strong connection to that heritage. So every March, I’ll be covering a topic related to Irish mythology, history, or media—or even all three. Erin go bragh!

Follow a thread of story and you never know where you’ll end up. About a year ago, I stumbled on an unusual manga about two characters who blur the black-and-white rules of their world. Siúil a Rún: The Girl from the Other Side is now one of my favorite graphic series, and volume 8 is scheduled for release today, St. Patrick’s Day! What’s Irish Gaelic doing in a manga title? Well, when I went searching for the answer to that question, it led me back to an Irish folk song. On the surface, they’re very different works, but both reflect on the divisions of human conflict versus the bonds that bring us together. This time, I’ll take the proper path, from “Siúil a Rún”, a song of love and war, to a manga that blends European and Japanese mythological influences. Continue reading “Siuil a Run: A Song and a Manga Bridging Two Traditions”