The Peach Blossom Spring – Musings On Utopia

Peach Blossom Spring

Peach Blossom Shangri-la, also known as Peach Blossom Spring and the Peach Blossom Land, is a Chinese fable written in 421 CE by Tao Yuanming, one of the greatest poets of the six dynasties. He wrote it during a period of national disunity and political instability and tells how a poor fisherman chanced upon a hidden utopian village where people lived happily in peace and harmony, isolated from the outside world.

There are elements and influences from Chinese mythology and folklore and the political and social situation at the time of the author’s life and is essentially an allegorical work of fiction. Nevertheless, with millions of refugees in the modern world seeking a safe sanctuary to live in peace without fear, in the ways of their ancestors before them, this story is still very relevant today. Presented here is a translation by Rick Davis and David Steelman (1), followed by a few observations for discussion.


Peach Blossom Shangri-La: Tao Hua Yuan Ji By Tao Yuanming Translation

During the Taiyuan era of the Jin Dynasty there was a man of Wuling who made his living as a fisherman. Once while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone. He suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees. It lined both banks for several hundred paces and included not a single other kind of tree. Petals of the dazzling and fragrant blossoms were falling everywhere in profusion. Thinking this place highly unusual, the fisherman advanced once again in wanting to see how far it went.

The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through which it seemed he could see light. Leaving his boat, he entered the opening. At first it was so narrow that he could barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses, good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the like. The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and dogs. Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.

The people were amazed to see the fisherman, and they asked him from where he had come. He told them in detail, then the people invited him to their home, set out wine, butchered a chicken, and prepared a meal. Other villagers heard about the fisherman, and they all came to ask him questions. Then the villagers told him, “To avoid the chaos of war during the Qin Dynasty, our ancestors brought their families and villagers to this isolated place and never left it, so we’ve had no contact with the outside world.” They asked the fisherman what the present reign was. They were not even aware of the Han Dynasty, let alone the Wei and Jin. The fisherman told them everything he knew in great detail, and the villagers were amazed and heaved sighs. Then other villagers also invited the fisherman to their homes, where they gave him food and drink. After several days there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some villagers told him, “It’s not worth telling people on the outside about us.”

The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the way.

Liu Ziji of Nanyang was a person of noble character. When he heard this story he was happy and planned to visit the Shangri-la, but he died of illness before he could accomplish it. After that no one else ever looked for the place.


Peach Blossom: A Special Moment In Time

Peaches are highly regarded in Chinese mythology and tradition and are considered the fruit of immortals. Therefore, when the fisherman comes across a grove of blossoming peach trees, he is moving into a magical place, and their flowering indicates a special moment in time. Furthermore, the blossoming peach trees stop at the head of a natural water spring, further showing that something extraordinary is happening. For the Chinese, the wellsprings and sources of streams and rivers are places where water and life enter the world pure, uncontaminated, and transparent. 

A Vulnerable Paradise 

This utopian village exists in tandem with the outside world but is separated and hidden from it, only protected by a secret entrance through a cave. Here, people happily live together in the ways of their ancestors, in peaceful harmony independent of the outside world, sustained by their own efforts. This would seem an ideal way of life, a veritable paradise to many people. But is it all that it seems?   

A Sceptical Viewpoint 

While this happy utopian village society has not changed in centuries, the outside world has moved on. Unlike other examples of mythical other worlds or magical places, the time in the village runs at the same speed as the time in the outside world. We know this because when the fisherman leaves for home after several days, he is still in step with the inhabitants of the outside world.

In this Chinese example, although the two societies move in time, they have evolved in oppossing ways. Moreover, despite the conflict and chaos in the outside world, it is deemed to have progressed, yet remains dangerous. The village has remained stable, happy, peaceful, and safe. While some people see this positively because, living in this state of splendid isolation, its people have remained content and safe from interference from the rest of humanity. 

Conversely, cynics see the village as static and sterile, where no progress has been made in centuries. A hideout for people who lack the courage to face the turmoil, fear, and pain of the outside world, lacking the will to adapt to change to survive. They argue that trouble and pain make the external world dynamic, forcing and accepting change, making individuals and society tough and adaptable. 

The apparent absence of strife in the reclusive village, although bringing happiness and peace to its citizens, provides a static society vulnerable to change from natural events and interference from the outside. The villagers certainly know the dangers of the outside world and ask the fisherman not to reveal their presence. Their fear is underlined by the fisherman marking trees hoping to find his way back and by telling the Prefect of a town of his discovery.

Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Positive View

There is a well-known proverb or koan from Zen Buddhism which springs to mind,  

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” 

Although the quote may not have influenced Tao Yuanming, it does relevant with the villager’s way of life. 

On the surface, a person appears no different after enlightenment as they were before. However, that is not necessarily so. Before enlightenment, a person focused on the outside world of “doing,” doing what ever must be done to survive. After enlightenment, the person’s inner consciousness has changed, and the focus becomes the world of “being”  and being at peace while doing the necessary mundane tasks. 

The hidden village in Tao Yuanming’s story is the inner world of being – the world of enlightenment, peace, and contentment – while the outer world – the world of their origin, the world of the fisherman, of emporers, wars, and strife that stem from the inner resistance and conflict we fight in when doing things we do like doing, despite knowing they have to be done. The villagers all appear happy and content externally to an outside observer, but it takes a great deal of inner strength and effort to accept the necessity of the everyday mundane tasks and sheer hard work necessary for survival. 

The outstanding achievement of the villagers is their acceptance allows them to carry out the mundane and demanding tasks of life happily. Conversely, people in the outside world tend to protest and oppose the tedious and challenging aspects of life even though they are necessary for survival, only to create more conflict for themselves and their society. 

The villagers may appear to look calm and living effortlessly, in a similar way a swan may appear to glide easily and serenely over the water. Yet, all the time below the waterline, out of sight, its legs constantly work hard to maintain the seemingly effortless movement across the water. 

Curiously, the fisherman chooses to return home to his own world, hoping to reveal the rare and fragile paradise he has found rather than stay and enjoy it. He leaves a trail intending to return himself or others to follow, but the trail disappears strangely. Liu Ziji of Nanyang, a man of noble character who planned to visit the village, dies suddenly, so the hidden sanctuary remains undisturbed.   

The disappearance of the trail and the nobleman’s death are fortunate for the villagers. However, the attempted betrayal of the hidden sanctuary’s whereabouts is a typical reaction by someone from the outside world, who finds somewhere special, where people have lived peacefully and happily for centuries, and feels the world must be told about it and see for themselves.   

The Mystery Of Meaning

The meaning of the work has been and still is discussed and argued over by many experts and scholars since its creation. There are many different views, and I would contend the different viewpoints are a necessary part of its mystery which is why it continues to be studied and discussed, and reminds us how,

“all the best things escape too much definition.” (2)

© 14/09/2022 zteve t evans


References, Attributions, And Further Reading

Copyright September 14th, 2022 zteve t evans


The Brujo De Chiloé – The Wild Warlocks Of The Chiloé Archipelago – For Ancient Pages

This article was first published on AncientPages.com, May 4, 2022, titled, The Brujo De Chiloé – The Wild Warlocks Of The Chiloé Archipelago, by zteve t evans.

The Brujo de Chiloé

The Brujo de Chiloé, or the Warlocks of Chiloé, were a secretive coven of male witches allegedly involved in witchcraft and crime on the islands of the Chiloé Archipelago off the coast of southern Chile. It should be emphasised that not all witches on Chiloe were males or belonged to the cult. There were male and female witches who worked for the good of people and were healers and fortune tellers. These were called Machis and considered benevolent, but there were also malevolent practitioners called Kalku, and from these the Brujos may have originated.

Brujo’s cult was believed to be a complex tight-knit, secretive organisation, drawing from indigenous superstition and tradition and using black magic in their activities. Utilizing the superstitions and beliefs of the islander to their advantage they were alleged to have used intimidation and fear to minimise opposition and to achieve their aims. They were said to be involved in blackmail, extortion, smuggling and other criminal activities.

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Native North American Lore: The Cherokee Earth Diver Creation Myth

Mythical Water Beetle

EARTH DIVER CREATION MYTHS

Creation myths evolve in the oral traditions of society, providing an unscientific account of how the world was created and became inhabited by people, animals, and plants.  With oral transmission, it is common to find several versions of the same myth in the same society.  A cultural group often considers these stories to carry important information or truths coded through allegory, metaphor, and symbolism giving that culture, and the individual members, a sense of origin, history, purpose, and even destiny. 

Mythologists classify creation myths in various ways, and the following example is an Earth Diver type of myth.  Earth Diver myths provide a narrative explaining how the earth or land mass formed, making life possible for humans, fauna, and flora.   The diver is a fictional character, usually an animal, bird, or insect that dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring back a clod of the ocean floor which expands into a landmass suitable in size with enough attributes and qualities to sustain plants, living creatures, and humans. 

Presented here is a retelling of an Earth Diver creation myth from the Cherokee people of North America taken from, Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney, followed by a brief discussion of some of the points of interest raised in the story.


BEFORE CREATION

In this myth, the earth is an enormous island floating in an ocean of water.  The island had four cords attached to the sky vault, which was of solid rock.  These four cords kept the island suspended in the water, preventing it from sinking.

Cherokees have always known this but cannot remember who attached these cords.  Furthermore, they say they will fray and break when the world wears out with age, and the island will sink into the ocean.  The Cherokees feared this event deeming it inevitable.

The island has not always existed.  In the distant past, there was a vast ocean of water below the sky vault without a single landmass.  Above the sky vault was a place called Gălûñ′lătĭ, where the animals and birds lived before the creation of land.  It was not very spacious and overcrowded with animals and birds, but there was nowhere else to go because all the world below was covered by water, and there was no land.

DAYUNSI, THE WATER BEETLE

In their cramped environment, the animals and birds were curious to know about the world below, wondering if they could live more comfortably below and spent a lot of time discussing this.  At last, the water beetle named, Dayunsi, or “Beaver’s Grandchild,” boldly volunteered to venture to the watery world below to explore and return with an answer to their questions.

Dayunsi went down and ran over the sea surface in all directions discovering there was no solid place above the water where anything could live.  Finally, diving deep below the water to see what lay beneath, he came upon the sea floor.  Reaching out, he grabbed lumps of soft mud and returned to the surface.

On the surface, the mud began to swell, grow, and expand in all directions until it became an island called land or earth, but in these early times, it was flat, exceptionally soft, damp, and muddy.   Dayunsi returned to Gălûñ′lătĭ to report what he had seen and what he had done.

Although the animals and birds yearned to leave their cramped environment and pondered deeply on the possibility of living below, they were very patient and wary.  Therefore, to play safe, they sent different birds to fly down to explore and bring back news of what the island was like, hoping it would eventually make a suitable home for them.

THE GREAT BUZZARD

Time after time, different birds flew down and explored the world below, only to report the land was still too soggy and wet to bear any weight.  Nevertheless, other birds continued to fly down at intervals to check the condition of the land, only to report that the ground was still too soft.  At last, the Great Buzzard, the father of all buzzards, flew out and returned with news the land was now dry and solid enough to bear their weight.  They sent him back to further scout out the island so he could advise further.

Flying down and all around, he discovered parts of the island were hardening, but many other places were still too soft.  He grew tired as he passed over one region, and his wings flapped against the ground, and wherever his wings struck the soft ground, rifts, ridges, and peaks formed in the mud.  These hardened into valleys, hills, and mountains, and this region became the land of the Cherokees and explains why their country is full of peaks and valleys today.  The animals called down to him to return, fearing that the entire island would become covered in mountains and valleys.

SETTING THE SUN

The animals cautiously waited a while longer until the ground was drier and more solid, and then they went down to live upon it.  There was much more space, but it was a dark world, so the Conjurors positioned the sun to travel under the arch of the sky vault, moving from east to west over the earth.

Unfortunately, the sun was not high enough, and the earth was too hot, causing the shell of Tsiska′gĭlĭ′, the Red Crawfish, to burn bright red ruining his meat for Cherokees to eat.  Therefore, the Conjurors raised the sun a handbreadth higher, but it was still too hot.  So they raised it handbreadth, by handbreadth, until they got it to just the right altitude to warm and light the earth comfortably.  The height they raised it to was called “the seven handbreadths,” or “Gûlkwâ′gine Di′gălûñ′lătiyûñ,” and is the highest point the sun can be above the land without touching the sky vault.

Every day the sun traveled in a set course under the arch of the sky vault, lighting and warming the Overland, and then traveled underneath, doing the same to the Underland, returning to its starting point in the Overland every morning to resume its journey until the end.

THE UNDERLAND AND OVERLAND

The Underland is like the Overland having the same animals, birds, and plants.  The seasons are the same but correspond the opposite to the world above. The mountain streams that flow down from the mountains are the paths that lead to the entrances of the Underland.  The springs that are the sources of these streams are the doors and entrances to the Underland.  Those who wish to enter the Underworld must fast by eating and drinking minimum food and water and be guided by a person of the Underland.

PLANTS AND FLOWERS

During the creation period of the plants and flowers, everyone was to remain awake for seven nights watching the process.  Most managed to stay awake the first few nights, but although they tried, many fell asleep.  After that, only the panther, the owl, and a few other creatures stayed awake.  These received abilities to see in the dark and prey upon those that had to sleep during the night.

Some of the trees also remained awake while the other trees fell asleep.  Those trees which remained awake became forever green, and the best medicine came from them.  However, The trees which fell asleep lost their hair every winter.  Cherokees do not know who ordained this because it all happened before they appeared upon the land.

BROTHER AND SISTER

According to the Elders, the first Cherokees were a brother and sister, and there were no others.  The brother struck his sister with a fish and instructed her to reproduce.  Seven days later, she gave birth to a child, and every seven days after, another child, and so forth.

The population increased fast, and there became a danger the land would not be able to maintain everyone.  Therefore, it was decreed that women should only give birth once a year.  The Elders do not know who ordained this, but it has remained that way ever since.


POINTS OF NOTE

The animals and birds in the myth existed before the creation of the earthly world, moving down from the cramped domain of Gălûñ′lătĭ above the sky vault to populate the newly formed land in the world below.  There was one language used and understood by all living things to communicate with one another and between species.

Intellectually, they were much more human-like than their modern counterparts, consulting, discussing, and making plans together.  Moreover, they appear physically greater and more robust than their modern-day counterparts.

For example, the Great Buzzard must have been gigantic for his wings to dip in the semiliquid ground and form the mountains and valleys of the home country of the Cherokees.  Additionally,  Dayunsi, the water beetle, dives to depths far beyond that of modern-day beetles to return with the mud that formed the land.  Instead of choosing a larger, more potent animal, the humble water beetle plays a significant part in the creation of the land, making life on earth possible for animals, birds, plants, and humans. 

The first humans appeared only after land, sun, animals, birds, plants, and trees became established.  When they did, they found a world that supplied their daily living needs, ready and waiting for them to take advantage of it.  The plants, trees, animals, and birds provided food, clothing, medicine, and most of their daily living needs. 

Of course, people will see many discussion points in myths like this, and opinions will vary, but what matters is what the reader makes of it for themselves.

©20/07/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCE, ATTRIBUTIONS, AND FURTHER READING

Copyright July 20th, 2022 zteve t evans


Khasi Folktales: The Legend of Lum Sophet Bneng

Thanks to Cliparts.Co

THE KHASI PEOPLE

The Khasi are an ancient people dwelling mainly in the Indian state of Meghalaya with smaller populations in the neighboring state of Assam and regions of Bangladesh. They have a long history and rich culture and many ancient traditions and festivals are still practiced. There are still those who remember many of their old myths and stories which give an explanation of where they came from and the world around them.

KHASI MYTHOLOGY

According to their traditional lore, the original home of the Khasi people was known as “Ki Hynñiewtrep” or “The Seven Huts” in English.  Their supreme deity was called, “U Blei Trai Kynrad” or “God the Lord Master,” who had ordered humanity into sixteen divine families known as “Khadhynriew Trep.” In those days families could move freely between Heaven and Earth because a physical connection between the two realms was located on their sacred hill of Lum Sohpet bneng, which means “Navel of Heaven.” Today it is a place of festival and pilgrimage for those Khasis who continue to remember and respect the old religion keeping alive the ancient traditions and lore of their people.

The following folktale of the Khasi people is called The Legend of Mount Sophet Bneng from a collection of tales, legends and myths titled, “Folk-Tales of the Khasis” by Mrs. Rafy.  This tells that on top of the great hill of Lum Sohpet Bneng there once grew tree so tall it reached from Earth up to Heaven.

THE LEGEND OF MOUNT SOPHET BNENG

The tree was called the Jingkieng ksiar and sometimes referred to as the Golden Bridge or Golden Ladder, because the people of Heaven used it to climb up and down between Heaven and Earth.  At the time the Earth was not inhabited by people because they would visit and return to Heaven to live.  

During this time all of humanity lived in Heaven but the Earth was inhibited by all manner of different animals, birds, reptile, insects, and a multitude of other different lifeforms.   There was a great variety of plants, some large, some small, many with luscious fruits, beautiful flowers, and vibrant foliage.  It was a very beautiful and wonderful world, and the humans would visit Earth by climbing down the tree where they could roam in wonder and delight and return at their leisure by climbing back up the tree.

In those blessed days there was only one language spoken and sang and all of creation communicated freely together. Trees, flowers, birds, animals, fishes, insects even rocks and stones and the sixteen families used it to commune among themselves and with nature.

PLANTING GARDENS

When they discovered the soil around Lum Sohpet Bneng was rich and fertile they began to cultivate crops for profit planting many gardens and fields.  U Blei Trai Kynrad, their supreme divinity granted this but decreed that they must return to Heaven every night and only be on Earth during the day. The sixteen human families of Heaven followed this practice rigidly.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, there was a single malevolent one among them who lusted power and resented divine authority. Furthermore, he grew loathe to follow the will of the Creator and sought to rule over his fellow human beings. He was always seeking ways to further and attain his ambitions and gain control over the people.

One day seven families climbed down the tree to work upon their gardens and fields on Earth, leaving the other nine to go about their business in Heaven.

SEVERING THE CONNECTION

When all the seven families were hard at work the malevolent one saw his chance.Thinking that without the tree to move between Heaven and Earth those seven families would be easier to bring under his control without the interference of God the Lord Master. Therefore, he took an axe and cut down the tree that connected Heaven and Earth. The seven families working their crops were stranded on Earth, and those nine families in Heaven severed completely from Earth.

This is how humans came to live permanently upon the Earth. Those seven families were called “Ki Hinniew Skum” which means the “seven roots”, or “seven nests” and it is from these that the rest of humanity living on Earth is descended.

Ever since the people of Heaven and Earth have been separated from each other.  Furthermore, as the seven families spread over the Earth the language became splintered into many different tongues.  The ability of the people to communicate with one another was damaged and the ability to converse with nature was lost or severely impaired.  This all happened thousands of years ago through the act of one evil man who craved power and control over the people.

ANOTHER VERSION

Another version of the myth tells that in the early days of the world there was no separation between Heaven and Earth and people obeyed God’s laws and lived in harmony with the natural world. Heaven and Earth were connected by the Jingkieng ksiar,andpeople began living on Earth. Overtime they forgot or disobeyed the rules of the creator and made their own laws.  Where there had been one language in Heaven and on Earth a multitude of tongues evolved.  People could no longer talk to nature or among themselves and they came into conflict with Heaven.  Because of this the tree withered and died and the connection between the two realms was lost.

A WARNING!

The loss of the tree is often viewed as an allegory warning of the consequences of the severing of connections between humans on Earth and God in Heaven.

©08/06/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright June 8th, 2022 zteve t evans


Mount’s Bay, Lyonesse, Langarroc: Legendary Submerged Lands And Buried Towns Of Cornwall – For Ancient Pages


This article was first published on AncientPages.com, April 21, 2022, Mount’s Bay, Lyonesse, Langarroc: Legendary Submerged Lands And Buried Towns Of Cornwall, by zteve t evans


Cornwall, the uttermost southwestern peninsula of England, has a long, fascinating history absolutely brimming with folklore, legends, and traditions. Ancient monuments scatter the landscape, and all around the rugged coastline, traditions of smugglers, pirates and mermaids abound alongside intriguing legends of towns and land submerged by the sea or entombed under massive dunes of sand. Presented here is a brief look at three legendary places that lie buried under the sand or drowned by the sea.

The Drowned Forest And Lake Under Mount’s Bay

Mount’s Bay is home to St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island with a quaint harbour overlooked by a medieval church and a picturesque castle. It is connected to the Cornish mainland by a stone causeway at low tide. At high tide, the sea rises above the causeway cutting the Mount from the Cornish mainland, turning it into an island. According to tradition, St Michael’s Mount is where Jack the Giant Killer began his career by slaying Cormoran the Giant.

In the past, parts of Mount’s Bay were above sea level and home to woods and a body of water named Gwavas Lake. Humans and animals were believed to inhabit this area, and according to legend, on the bank of the lake was a small chapel where a holy man lived. People came to him seeking healing for ailments and agonies of the mind and body, which he cured using prayers and water from Gwavas Lake. Because of his remarkable healing powers, he became venerated as a saint, and his small chapel received a continuous stream of pilgrims seeking his aid.

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Khasi Folktales: The Cooing of the Doves

Presented here is a retelling of an ancient folktale of the Khasi people who dwell in Meghalaya in north-eastern India and parts of Assam and Bangladesh, sourced from “Folk-Tales of the Khasis,” by K. U. Rafy. It tells how long ago, unlike today, doves sang wonderful songs like many other birds. These songs expressed their happiness to be alive and the glory of the world around, until something happened to end their glorious melodies. Their joyous singing was replaced with the sad, wistful, “Cooing” sound, we are familiar with them making today.

THE COOING OF THE DOVES

The story tells how back in the old days a happy family of the first doves lived in the forest. The youngest was a daughter named was Ka Paro. Being the youngest she was much loved by her parents and siblings who were all protective of her pampering her more than they should. The family often ate together in a nearby field of grain. When it was time for food, they insisting she remain securely hidden in their family nesting tree until the signal was given that all was safe enough for her to venture forth.

Ka Paro

 One day they had left Ka Paro alone in the family nest while they flew to the field and around the area making sure there was no potential danger. While she waited, Ka Paro grew bored and flew to the top of a nearby tree which had a many succulent red berries growing in its branches. She was not interested in the berries but was looking forward to feeding in the grain field with her family. While she waited, she saw many other birds feasting upon them but did not take much notice. Instead, she spent her time preening her feathers while waiting for her family to give the signal all was clear for her to join them.  

A Handome Jungle Bird

To her surprise a very handsome jungle bird of a clan she had never seen before flew down and perched on a nearby branch and started pecking at the berries. Ka Paro had never seen a bird as stunning as this one, with such gorgeous feathers of gold and green, and he came and pecked berries on the very branch that she perched upon.

She was surprised and delighted, and greatly admiring this handsome stranger and began to sing one of her sweetest melodies to attract his attention hoping to please him.

Seeing the gentle beautiful Ka Paro, and hearing her beautiful voice, he was very quickly drawn to her and sang along with her. He introduced himself as U Jylleit, the jungle bird, and she told him she was Ka Paro the dove. The two became fast friends and met every day on the same branch in the same tree. She would sit preening her feathers and singing while, he picked at the berries singing a duet with her. Every now and then the two exchanged shy, admiring glances.

They grew to love each other and U Jylleit plucked up the courage to ask her parents for consent to their marriage. However, her parents were not warmly welcoming to the proposal not feeling too sure of how genuine U Jylleit really was. They did not want to judge him unfairly yet wanted to protect their beloved daughter from being hurt.

Marriage

Therefore, they thought carefully about what to do. Ka Paro loved U Jylleit with all her heart and begged her parents to approve the marriage. She begged, she pleaded and argued her case again and again declaring she loved him like the moon loved the stars and that she would love him forever, while he declared his own eternal love for her before her parents.

However, her parents knew more of the world than their young daughter. Maybe they were being overprotective, but they were not too certain of this handsome stranger who had flown in from nowhere to win their daughter’s heart. Furthermore, there was also the question of a marriage between two different unrelated clans, which the two lovers undeniable were, which made them feel uncomfortable. There was also another reason that caused them to doubt the strength of U Jylleit’s love for their daughter.

They knew that the red berries had attracted him to the tree where their daughter perched, and knew those berries only appeared at the present time of the year. Moreover, with all the other birds feeding on the berries the tree would eventually be gone and would not return until the following year. They also knew, like other crops, the berries appeared at various times in different places and birds and animals moved from one place to another to feed on them.

A Test

For these reasons they were reluctant to risk their daughter’s happiness. Nevertheless,  rather than issues a flat refusal they wisely decided to put U Jylleit to a test

Ka Paro’s parents told the two lovers they would only allow the marriage after all the berries were gone. They wanted to see if U Jylleit, for the love of their daughter, be content with the meagre diet of the doves, which he could have survived on. The two lovers readily agreed. U Jylleit swore he would stay with Ka Paro through thick and thin and never leave her. For her part, Ka Paro had absolute confidence her lover would stay and share the same plain and meagre food as her. She simply did not believe he would fly away to another place where the berries could be found in abundance.

And so, the two lovers continued to meet in the tree and while Ka Paro sang and preened U Jylleit sang and ate red berries which became fewer and fewer. One day Ka Paro flew to the tree to meet her lover and began singing and preening expecting her to join her. He did not arrive as he usually did so she continued and preening and singing but still he did not arrive. Looking around, for him she was shocked to see all the berries had gone and realised the truth.

Hearbreak

U Jylleit, without even saying goodbye, had  taken wing to find another berry tree and she never saw him again. Her heart broken; Ka Paro never sang another note. The only sound she would utter from that moment on was a melancholy “cooing” which is the same we hear from doves all around the world today.

© 28/04/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright April 28, 2022 zteve t evans


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Ancient symbols: The Ouroboros in Alchemy, Gnosticism and Hermeticism

THE OUROBOROS SYMBOL

The ancient symbol known as the ouroboros is a snake, serpent, or dragon with its body looped in a circle. Its mouth is open, and its tail is adjacent to its mouth.  It is not easy to tell if the snake is biting, eating, regurgitating, or even giving birth to itself.  Interpretation depends on the culture and situation where it appears.  Usually, it is considered a symbol of renewal – the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth, and immortality, but there are other interpretations. 

The name “ouroboros” comes from Greek.  The “oura” part means tail, and “boros,” meaning “eating,” so together, it becomes “tail devourer,” or ouroboros.  It entered Western tradition and symbolism from ancient Egyptian and Hellenic iconography and conventions.  It later became adopted into the mystic symbols of alchemy, Hermeticism, and Gnosticism.

THE OUROBOROS THROUGH THE AGES

Remarkably similar versions of this motif have occurred worldwide throughout history.  Despite the vast distances that sometimes separate it, the symbol carries similar connotations, though may be known by other terms.  It is not known if there was a central origin for the image from which it spread or if it evolved independently in various places.  The distance and the different human cultures where the ouroboros appears indicate a degree of independent evolution.  However, it could also spread from one place to another through trade, invasion, or the movement of people.

In certain ancient cultures, because snakes shed their old skins and grow new ones, they are symbols of the renewal of life.  There is also the idea that the snake’s tail is a phallic symbol, with the mouth representing a womb, associating it with fertility.  Mystics also linked the ouroboros with metempsychosis or transmigration of the soul.

The ouroboros differs from other representations of serpent-like entities being a positive and necessary force for good.  In other religions such as Christianity, snakes and serpents represent evil and other religions may have different associations not mentioned here.

The first known use of the image is an artistic decoration on Chinese pottery belonging to the neolithic Yangshao People, who dwelt from 5000-3000 BC along the Yellow River in what is now eastern China.  However, its use as a motif or symbol seems to have evolved later independently in other places.

ANCIENT EGYPT

The ancient Egyptians associating the symbol with time and the universe.  They considered time to be a succession of recurring cycles rather than a linear, constantly manifesting line of events.  They were greatly influenced by the annual flooding of the Nile and the daily recurrent movement of the sun across the sky.

A 14the BC funerary text, usually referred to as the “Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld,” inscribed on the second shrine of the sarcophagus in the tomb of Tutankhamun depicted a prominent figure, possibly representing the mummiform body of Tutankhamun, which is titled, “He who hides the Hours.” Alternatively, some archaeologists see it representing a union between Ra and Osiris.  The ouroboros motif encircles the head of the figure while another encircles the feet.

Experts deem the text refers to the functioning of time.  In this case, the circular serpent motif signifies the deity, “Mehen, the Enveloper,” guardian of Ra on his journey underground. It also appears in other Egyptian works and may represent the chaos surrounding the orderly world is considered a form of the ouroboros.

Engraving of an wyvern-type ouroboros by Lucas Jennis, in the 1625 alchemical tract De Lapide Philosophico. The figure serves as a symbol for mercury – Public Domain – Source

GNOSTICISM

Mystics and scholars of Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and alchemy adopted the symbol because of its associated meaning. Gnosticism developed from Jewish and Christian religious and philosophical thinking in the first and second centuries.  It sought to develop and use specialized knowledge to achieve salvation.  Gnostics saw the head of the serpent as the spiritual world, while the tail represented the physical world, both being eternally united.  While both worlds appear to conflict, they exist in unison and are necessary for a unified universe.

ALCHEMY

In alchemy, the ouroboros is considered one of the oldest symbols representing the idea of eternity and continuous return. Alchemy was a predecessor form of medieval chemistry and philosophy that sought to achieve the Magnum Opus or great work.

This great work might include achievements such as the transmutation of matter, a panacea to cure all ills, the philosopher’s stone, and the achievement of immortality, depending on the interests of the individual alchemist.  It was a discipline rich in allegorical expression and many of its terms and goals are metaphorical.  However, the true purpose of alchemy was the evolution of the human soul through its study and practice. 

The alchemist also used other related disciplines, including astrology, Hermeticism, mathematics, geometry, Gnosticism, and other early sciences and mysticism.  One of the most highly desired but challenging aims for an alchemist was to discover a way to turn a base substance such as lead into gold, an activity known as “chrysopoeia” in alchemy.

A short alchemic text called “Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra,” by Cleopatra, the Alchemist, shows a version of the ouroboros.  This author is not Cleopatra VII – the Egyptian queen who wooed Julius Caesar and Mark Antony even though later works refer to her as Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.  The identity of Cleopatra the Alchemist is murky, and to complicate matters her identity became conflated by scholars with Cleopatra, the Physician.  However, the name Cleopatra the Alchemist may be an alias for an anonymous author or school of alchemists.

Cleopatra, the Alchemist, was a Greek author and physician who lived about 3 AD and was one of the founders of alchemy.  She was also one of four female alchemists able to generate the philosopher’s stone and the inventor of special apparatus used in the alchemic distillation process.

HERMETICISM

In the Chrysopoeia, an ouroboros, with the words, “the all is one,” is seen.  This idea is associated with a philosophical system based on the traditions of the legendary Hermes Trismegistus known as Hermeticism.  The Chrysopeoia also described the ouroboros as,

“One is the Serpent which has its poison according to two compositions, and One is All and through it is All, and by it is All, and if you have not All, All is Nothing.”

The ouroboros expressed many of their beliefs in a visual symbol recognized and understood by other alchemists.  But the world is mutable, and alchemists of the Renaissance began to consider time as linear rather than cyclical.  Therefore, instead of looping back and repeating, eternity became a neverending stream of events that may have had any cycles unrolling as they happened. This new viewpoint makes it very relevant to how the present moment is understood.

©10/03/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright March 10th, 2022 zteve t evans


Further Publications by zteve t evans

Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

Available as a Kindle Ebook And Large Print Paperback – Dimensions : 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm All Images Non-color



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

Available as Kindle EBook


Japanese Folktales: The Legend of the Haunted Furisodé

FURISODÉ

In his book of Japanese ghost stories, folk tales, and legends, In Ghostly Japan,” Lafcadio Hearn tells of an incident in a street of small shops selling mainly antiques and old goods.  He says, 

“Recently, while passing through a little street tenanted chiefly by dealers in old wares, I noticed a furisodé, or long-sleeved robe, of the rich purple tint called murasaki, hanging before one of the shops. It was a robe such as might have been worn by a lady of rank in the time of the Tokugawa. I stopped to look at the five crests upon it; and in the same moment there came to my recollection this legend of a similar robe said to have once caused the destruction of Yedo.”

A “furisodé” is a long-sleeved kimono often worn by unmarried women, indicating they are available for marriage. This minor event evoked in Hearn a memory of an extraordinary legend and the following is a retelling of that legend of the destruction of Yedo by a great fire.

THE SAMURAI DREAM

This legend tells how some two and a half centuries earlier, there lived in Yedo the city of the Shōguns, a lovely young woman. One day as she was attending a festival in the temple, she saw in the crowd the finest looking young samurai she had ever seen or imagined. In her awe of his beauty, she instantly fell in love with him. But, to her dismay, before she could learn his name and who he was, he became lost in the vast, ever-changing throng of people attending the festival. So she sent her servants to search for him or discover his identity, but they could find no trace of him.

Nevertheless, she found the image of the handsome young samurai had become burnt into her mind, remaining clear and lucid in every detail right down to his clothing. As it was a festival, he had been wearing their brightest and most colorful kimonos like herself and everyone else. The young men’s garments were no less gorgeous and colorful than those of the young women. However, it was the upper design of his kimono, the colors and the crest, that had particularly caught her eyes and remained bright and vivid in her mind and made her heart cry out for him. Now, as she considered it in her mind’s eye, it seemed all the more remarkable to the love-struck girl. As she pondered more and more upon the image, the idea grew that she would have a furisodé made to show she was ready for marriage. It would be of similar color and design, with the same crests, and of the same quality silk the samurai of her heart had been wearing. She would wear it around the town in the hope of attracting his attention to her and drawing him into her arms.

NAMU MYŌ HŌ RENGÉ KYŌ! (1)

With this very much in mind, she had a most beautiful furisodé, with long sleeves, made from the finest silk and decorated with the crest she had seen in the most gorgeous of colors and the height of fashion and elegance. Whenever she went out, she would wear it hoping to bring herself to the attention of the samurai of her dreams.   

She treasured it so much that when she was not going out, she would hang it in her room and imagine the form of the unknown samurai of her heart was with her.  In this dreamy fantasy, she spent hour upon hour for longer and longer. Sometimes she would pray her dream lover would appear and sweep her off her feet, and sometimes she would weep. In this way, between ecstatic fantasy and sad reality, she fluctuated, and she would pray to the gods and Buddhas that they may bring her the samurai of her dreams and that he would love her as much as she loved him. For this purpose, she repeatedly recited the mantra of the Nichiren sect, 

“Namu myō hō rengé kyō!”

It proved futile, and all to no avail, for she never again saw the handsome samurai of her dreams. She yearned and pined that he may come and cure her sickened heart, but he never did. Slowly, in lonely misery, pining for her dream lover, she slowly faded, weakened, and died. She was given a Buddhist funeral with all the rites. Her gorgeous furisodé that she had treasured and had been her hope of attracting her dream lover to her was given to the temple that performed the rituals, as was tradition and custom, to dispose of the deceased’s clothing as they saw fit to benefit the temple.

THE HAUNTED FURISODÉ

The furisodé had been made from the finest silk using the best dyes for coloring and showed no sign of wear or the tears that had flowed over it. Its style and design were of the most exquisite taste, and the priest sold it for an excellent price. The garment was brought by a girl of similar age to the lady who had imagined, commissioned, and worn it. Like its previous owner, she was a beautiful girl who wanted to show she was available for marriage. After wearing it for the first day, she fell ill with an unknown sickness and began to act very strangely. She claimed that day and night, a vision of the most handsome samurai she had ever seen appeared before her. It followed her in the day and would manifest before her eyes when she was out. At night it haunted her dreams, and she fell deeply in love with the samurai of her dreams. His vision possessed her, and she knew that for the love of her dream Samauai she would die. Sadly, that is what happened. She withered and failed and died for his love, and for the second time, the beautiful furisodé was given to the temple as custom decreed.

RETURN OF THE HANDSOME SAMURAI

The temple priest remembered selling the beautiful garment and thought no more than how sad events had turned out and sold again.   The buyer was another young lady about the same age as the previous owners who wanted it for the same reason. After wearing it for the first time, she complained of seeing a strange but handsome samurai who would suddenly appear nearby when she was out and would intrude upon her dreams. She talked of a handsome samurai whom she had fallen in love with. Although he would always appear close if she reached out to hold him, he dissolved into nothingness. She, too, fell sick, withered, and died unable to obtain the nourishment her dream samurai could give her.

After her funeral, the temple received the furisodé again, but the priest began to feel uneasy and troubled. Nevertheless, the furisodé was sold to another beautiful young woman hoping to attract a husband by wearing it. Like the others, she complained of visitations from a handsome samurai in her dreams and waking life. Like the previous owners, she withered and died, and after her funeral, the furisodé was given to the temple.

The date was the 18th day of the first month of the first year of Meiréki or 1655, and the priest stared at the garment in alarm and revulsion for he knew these tragic deaths were not just coincidence. He now believed the furisodé, although beautiful, was possessed by an evil presence.

THE GREAT FIRE OF THE LONG-SLEEVED ROBE – FURISODÉ-KWAJI

Thinking that destroying the garment would destroy the evil presence, he made a bonfire and cast it to the fire. The beautiful silk was quickly engulfed in flames, but to his astonishment and horror from the inferno, there sprang dazzling tongues of flame which took the shape of the invocation – 

“Namu myō hō rengé kyō!”

One by one, these letters leaped onto the temple roof like red hot sparks setting it on fire.  Sparks, burning embers, and flames spread to adjacent buildings, and a sea wind carried red hot embers to the roofs and walls of others in the vicinity. Soon the entire street was being consumed by flames, with the sea wind spreading it even further. It was not long before the whole neighborhood was burning and the city in danger of being consumed by the blaze. This was one of the most disastrous catastrophes in Japanese history and became known as the furisodé-kwaji,—the Great Fire of the Long-Sleeved Robe or the Great fire of Meireki.

O-SAMÉ

ONO-NO-KOMACHI, THE BEAUTIFUL POET,

As often happens, famous people who once existed in history become entangled in legends and folklore of historical events. For example, Komachi or Ono-no-Komachi lived over a thousand years ago and was and still is one of the most celebrated poets and beauties in the history of Japan. She was said to be the most beautiful woman of her era, and her poetry so fine it could move heaven and even bring rain in times of drought.

She was loved by many men, and many were said to have died for want of her love. Sadly, as she grew older, her beauty faded and withered along with her fortune, and she was reduced to wearing rags and begging in the streets. She was said to have died in poverty on the road to Kyoto. Because she was dressed in rags when she died, it was considered shameful to intern her in such a condition, and someone donated a second-hand summer robe to wrap her body in called a katabira. Her grave became known as “Place of the Katabira” (Katabira-no-Tsuchi) and was not far from Arashiyama.

And we can see, as so often happens all around the world, facts, events and real people, become embroiled and tangled up to form legends and myths that feed the fantasies of everyday folk – yet still there remains somethings that cannot be explained and cannot be put down to mere fantasies.

© 23/02/2022 zteve t evans



References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright February 23rd, 2022 zteve t evans


Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Moreau.henri, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Myths and legends of great and wealthy cities lost or destroyed appear worldwide. A common theme is an excessive pride or ungodly behavior of the rich or ruling classes that eventually invokes divine retribution upon the city. Presented here are three examples of such legends taken from the collection, “Tales of the Lost, The Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye: Vengeance Will Come!” by zteve t evans.

THE DROWNING OF KER-IS

In Breton folklore, a beautiful city named Ker-Is, or Ys, was located in the Bay of Douarnenez, Brittany, France, reaching its zenith during the reign of King Gradlon before disaster struck. Unfortunately, tidal erosion from the sea threatened to drown the city. So the rulers built massive walls around it to keep out the rising water installing great gates giving access and egress between the harbor and the sea. Gradlon wore the key to these gates on a chain around his neck at all times. 

He fell in love with Malgven, a beautiful pagan woman who bore him a daughter named Dahut. Shortly after, she told him her time in the world was over and she must leave. However, she insisted Dahut should be well-schooled in pagan ways. Gradlon honored this though he chose to convert to Christianity himself.

Dahut grew up to be as beautiful as her mother and became a high-priestess of the old faith. Gradlon gave her Ker-is to rule but retained the key. She planted beautiful gardens filling them with exotic animals and plants, and the city flourished.  One day there came to Ker-is, a mysterious stranger known as the Red Knight who stole Dahut’s heart.  On the night of a great storm, to please him, she foolishly stole the key from her father as he slept, and the Red Knight used it to unlock the gates allowing the sea to flood the city.  

Gradlon managed to mount a horse and rescue his daughter, but the horse could not carry both of them to safety. As the horse struggled, God spoke to Gradlon, commanding him to throw her into the sea. After initially refusing, he complied and survived.  

The old pagan gods rescued their high priestess transforming her into a sea morgen. But, even today, local people and mariners say she is still to encountered sitting on rocks along the wild coastline singing strange songs to lure passing sailors to their doom.

TANNEN-EH: THE CITY ENTOMBED IN SNOW

Kenwbar – Kenneth Barclay – Public Domain

High in the snowy Alps, there was once a beautiful city named Tannen-Eh whose citizens were honest, hardworking, and god-fearing, living harmoniously with one another and their environment.  They fulfilled their basic needs by careful husbandry of agriculture and natural resources. Artisans and those who worked by physical labor were granted as much respect as academics and administrators. The rich happily looked after the poor, who lived in the valley below, who repaid by giving their best service. In this way, for many centuries isolated in the alps, time moved slowly, and Tannen-Eh flourished peacefully untainted by the world beyond.

Outside everything moved faster. Factories churned out toxins contaminating the environment and consuming natural resources ever more quickly and quicker. There was never enough; they wanted more, more, more. Airborne toxins spread far and wide, eventually blighting the pure white snow of Tannen-Eh, but with it came something more frightening. It came slowly, quietly, and unseen, but it was a blight of the worst possible kind.  It crept into the human heart, into the very soul, and the people of Tannen-Eh fell victim to it.

The wealthy grew richer, craving ever more frivolous luxuries. The more they brought, the more they wanted. Their wealth increased, and so did their pride, and they regarded the struggling poor with disdain.   Putting the poor to work, they built a great tower like that of Babel and in it placed a bell. The bell would ring out for every birth, christening, marriage, or death of the fortunate wealthy ones, but not for the poor who they now regarded as unworthy of acknowledgment or commemoration.

 The poor prayed for help, and their prayers went up beyond the tower, beyond the skies, and heard.  But, Heaven works in mysterious ways, and there came a great famine, and the poor starved and suffered. The rich locked their treasure in strongrooms, refusing to spend it to alleviate poverty and distress, and many people died of starvation.

In the first days of winter, snowflakes began to fall, gently at first but soon thick and fast. Soon snow rose above the windows, covering the roofs, leaving only the top of the magnificent tower visible. The rich folk struggled to their tower and tolled the bell seeking assistance from outside. No one came. Snow entirely entombed the city below, and the building became encrusted in an icy white shell so thick it prevented the sound of the bell from escaping.  

Down in the valley, the poor saw the entire city completely covered in snow with only the tower reaching up to Heaven like a glimmering, silvery-white needle. Today, the Oetzthal Glacier entombs the city of Tannen-Eh.

THE DROWNING OF STAVOREN

Statue of the “Lady of Stavoren” in the harbour of Stavoren – Emperoredwin, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

A Dutch folktale called “The Lady of Stavoren” tells of the ruin of a wealthy widow and the divine retribution inflicted upon the city named Stavoren. The widow moved in the highest circles of Stavoren society, whose members were all rich, proud, and very arrogant, competing continuously to outdo one another. The town was populous and prosperous, but only the elite few owned the wealth. Insatiably, the fortunate ones clawed in ever more wealth while the poor endured beggary and poverty.  

The richest and proudest of these elites was the widow who was always seeking new ways to increase her fortune. One day, she had an idea, and to bring it to fruition, sent for the captain of Stavoren’s largest cargo ship. Giving him a chest of gold, she commissioned him to sail the seven seas and buy her the most precious commodity in the world.  The captain had no idea what the most precious merchandise was but set sail in search of it anyway. Eventually, he decided the most precious commodity was wheat, so he purchased a complete cargo and returned to Stavoren. 

Meanwhile, the widow boasted to her wealthy friends how she would soon possess the most precious commodity in the world. Intrigued, they asked what it could be, but she teasingly told them to wait and see.

When the captain returned, she went down to the ship, and he showed her the wheat. She was furious, ordering him to dump every kernel into the sea. The shocked captain begged her to alleviate the hunger of the poor of Stavoren with it. She refused, again commanding him to dump it overboard.  As the wheat went overboard, beggars gathered at the harbor begging for food. Nevertheless, the widow would not relent. The captain was ashamed and angrily foretold God would punish her and know hunger herself.

The widow looked coldly upon him and, removing her most expensive ring from her finger, held it aloft. Then, arrogantly, she told him there was as much chance of that as the precious item of jewelry returning to her as cast it into the sea. 

Divine retribution works in strange ways. The next day she attended a splendid civic banquet attended by all the city elites and served fresh fish. Imagine her shock to find the ring she had thrown into the sea in the body of the fish she was eating.  From then on, her luck changed. All her businesses and investments failed, forcing her forced into begging, but none of her former friends would aid her. She died impoverished, hungry, and cold.

With her death, the elites of Stavoren continued with their arrogant and greedy ways, unaware divine retribution was still unfolding. A sandbar formed blocking the harbor and on that strand grew wheat, but with no kernel. With the port unable to trade, the prosperity of the town plummeted. Businesses failed, shops closed, and the elites lost their wealth. 

One night a powerful storm blew in from the sea, causing the tide to rise, sweep away the dykes, and flood the town. Today Stavoren is a village of about one thousand people, and in the square is a statue representing “The Lady of Stavoren.”

DIVINE RETRIBUTION

Tales such as these provide a quiet but powerful reminder of the consequences of deviance from God’s laws. They attempt a subtle form of social control by interpreting natural catastrophes as the vengeance of an angry God while providing an engaging experience for the audience. The message is that God will not tolerate hubris, uncharitable behavior, and ungodliness in anyone. God knows and sees all, is both omnipotent and omnipresent, and when required, punishes or rewards at will, in a manner of his own choosing. 


Copyright 05/01/2022 zteve t evans

Further Publications by zteve t evans


References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright January 5th 2022 zteve t evans 


Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas  and their  Links to the Gaelic People

Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas and their Links to the Gaelic People

Possibly Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Meritaten, or Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun;
Photo: Andreas Praefcke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

PROGENITORS OF THE GAELIC PEOPLE

In the mythology and pseudo-history of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, Princess Scota and her husband Goídel Glas and their followers were the progenitors of the Gaelic people. The Gaelic people were an ethnic group of Celts, who spoke the Gaelic language, invented by Goídel Glas.

Some modern researchers controversially claim to have identified her as either Meriaten or Ankhesenamun, believed to be daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Accounts differ, but most conclude that she was the ancestor of the Scotti people, who became the Milesians. They conquered Ireland, the Isle of Man, and parts of Argyle on the island of Britain. These people settled regions of Argyll and other parts of the island of Britain north of where the Romans later built Hadrian’s Wall. This region came to be called Scotland after her and her people.

The lightest green represents the maximum expansion of the Gaelic language and culture (c. 1000 CE), the middle shade shows its reach c. 1700 CE, and the darkest color shows areas that are Gaelic-speaking in the present day. CelticBrain, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the controversy and complexity, a romantic and provocative alternative history of the Gaelic nations emerges. It gives the Gaelic people a long and illustrious history with connections to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Egypt, creating an impressive founding myth.

FOUNDING MYTHS

The founding myths of nations play an important role in national identity, perceived status, and ancient heritage. They help establish the legitimacy of the state and the ruling class to assert ownership over the land. The further back in time, the closer the associations with the great ancient civilizations of the Israelite’s, Rome, Troy, Greece, and Egypt, the better.

It was much more than pretentiousness. It also helped justify the existence of a nation and its ruling establishment. Rulers who could show descent from a distinguished ancestor, or powerful divinity, increased the legitimacy of their claim to rule. Founding myths are an essential part of a nation’s identity and culture. Here we will look at three ancient texts, followed by two modern theories involving the origin of the Scots, Gaels, and their language.

THE 11TH CENTURY LEBOR GABÁLA ÉRENN

The first text is The Lebor Gabála Érenn, or “The Book of Invasions,” an anonymous 11th-century compilation of prose and poetry allegedly telling the history of the Irish people connecting in them back in time to the Biblical Adam through his descendants. It presents a heroic and monumental Irish history comparable to that of the Israelite’s, the Romans, or the Greeks, especially the story of the Trojan founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy. It needed to bring together native Irish myths and the Christian perspective of history. Many scholars see it as an attempt to parallel the pre-Christian history of the Irish with biblical events. Although up to the 17th century, most scholars considered it authoritative variant legends exist that differ in detail. Today the text is not universally accepted as accurate and is not seen as factual.

The Lebor purports to document the settlement of Ireland by six groups of settlers. The first was the people of Cessair. The second, the people of Partholón. The third, the people of Nemed. The fourth the Fir Bolg and the fifth the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are seen as the pagan gods of Ireland and the sixth was the Milesians who became the Gaelic and Irish people.

In The Lebor, the origin of the Gaels is traced back through the eponymous ancestor, Goídel Glas, whose grandfather was Fénius Farsaid, a legendary King of Scythia. According to some traditions, Fénius invented the Gaelic language and Ogham script. In others, it was his grandson Goídel Glas. According to The Lebor, Fenius ruled a kingdom in Scythia by the Black Sea, now part of eastern Ukraine. For reasons unknown, he lost his kingdom and went into exile. Whatever happened, he turned up in Egypt where he had a son named Nial, who married the Pharaoh’s daughter, and they had a son they named Goídel.

At this time, in Egypt, the persecution of the Children of Israel was taking place. Rather than participate in the persecution, the family and their followers went into exile from Egypt. They roamed throughout North Africa before eventually sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar and following the Atlantic Iberian coast northerly before settling along the shores of Galicia.

One of their descendants was Mil, also known as Milesius and Míl Espáine or The Soldier of Spain, and his followers were the Milesians. The Tuatha Dé Danaan, the early rulers of Ireland, had killed the nephew of Mil. So to avenge the killing, Mil launched an invasion of Ireland, taking his wife, Scota, with him.

Although Mil and Scota died in the fighting, their three sons, Eber, Eremon, and Amairgen, conquered Ireland and became the Gaels. Being the sons of Scota, they considered her to be their ancestral mother and also called themselves Scots.

14TH CENTURY – CHRONICLES OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE

Now we look at the work of the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun. He wrote the “Chronica Gentis Scotorum” or “Chronicles of the Scottish People”, which consisted of five books in the late 14th century. These works, especially the early parts, are regarded with skepticism by many scholars today.

According to Fordham, the ancestors of the Scots were Egyptians. They were followers of an Egyptian princess named Princess Scota and a Greek, or Scythian prince, called Goídel Glas, sometimes known as Geytholos, Gathelus, or Gaithelus in Latin.

According to this work, the Scots were the descendants of Goídel Glas, the son of King Neolus of Greece, and the Egyptian Princess Scota, his wife. They led a band of followers from Egypt to Spain. Some of their followers traveled on to Ireland led by the son of the King of Spain named Simon Breac, who would become the High King of Ireland. They brought to Ireland the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, an oblong block of red sandstone, which became the coronation seat of the Scottish kings and also used in the coronation of English and UK monarchs later.

15TH CENTURY – THE SCOTICHRONICON

Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower’s Scotichronicon – Unknown author – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 15th century, Walter Bower expanded further on this story in his work, “The Scotichronicon.” According to Bower, Goídel Glas was a Greek prince, but his father, the King, would not allow him any position of power. Frustrated by his father, Goídel Glas raised his own army, causing much trouble and destruction. Eventually, his father was forced to rein him in and sent him into exile. Goídel sailed to Egypt with his army assisting Pharaoh Chencres in fighting an invasion from Ethiopia, a powerful kingdom in the region. Their united armies expelled the Ethiopians giving victory to the Egyptians. After this, Goídel helped the Pharaoh to keep the Children of Israel in subjugation. In return for his bravery, loyalty, and military support, Chencres gave his daughter to him in marriage. She was not named then but later became known as Princess Scota,

According to Bower, Pharaoh Chencres died in the parting of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Children of Israel. With his death, the people of Egypt sought reform, and a period of civil disorder and strife occurred. Goídel Glas was seen as part of the old order and forced into banishment. However, he did not go alone. He took his wife, who was to become known as Princess Scota, his army, and many followers who made them their King and Queen. They called themselves “Scots” after Scota, despite having no realm to rule. In Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Scota means “blossom,” and “Scotti” was a synonym for “Irish,” suggesting the Irish and Scots descendants of Queen Scota were “people of the blossom.” (1)

The Scots roamed the North African deserts, eventually sailing to the Iberian Peninsula now known as Spain and Portugal. They settled in the northwest part of the peninsula called Brigancia that the Romans called Brigantium, now known as A Coruña in the province of Galicia. Here, Scota gave birth to a son named “Hyber,” from which “Hibernia,” an ancient alternative name for Ireland, was derived. Thus, the term “Iberian” derives from “Hyber.

They were said to have stayed in Galicia for several generations but faced continued attacks by the local tribes. Some Scots set sail across the sea looking for a new home and eventually reached a region on the island of Britain that we call Argyll today. These people would eventually become known as the “Scotti.” The country north of Hadrian’s Wall was later to built became Scotland.

THE MOUND OF HOSTAGES

Now we move forward thousands of years to an ancient burial site named the Hill of Tara that still exists in modern Ireland. On top of the hill is an ancient burial and ritual site known as the Mound of Hostages, called Dumha na nGiall in Irish, and once the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Dr. Sean O’Riordan, an archaeologist of Trinity College, Dublin, investigating the site discovered human remains dated to the Bronze Age believed to be those of a young prince. Around his neck was placed a very rare necklace of faience beads made from a mixture of plants and minerals. Carbon dating of the skeleton gave a date of 1359 BC. The design and manner of making of the beads show them to be of Egyptian origin. Not exactly, but still, near to when the boy entombed at Tara, Tutankhamun, the boy king, was interred in Egypt. Placed around his neck was a necklace of blue-green faience beads similar to the Tara find. A Bronze Age burial ground in Devon also yielded a necklace of like style.

LORRAINE EVANS – “THE KINGDOM OF THE ARK”

In her book “Kingdom of the Ark” Lorraine Evans presents the idea that there are historical and archaeological links between ancient Egypt and ancient Ireland, and Scotland. A discovery in North Ferriby, Yorkshire, of the remains of an ancient shipwreck first thought to be a single Viking long-ship. Further excavation brought to light more wrecks but not of Viking origin. Radiocarbon dated them between 1400 – 1350 BC, earlier than the Viking Age. Evans points out that these dates reasonably correspond to the dates of the Tara skeleton and faience beads and speculates that the boats were of Egyptian origin.

She points to the Scotichronicon and asks what Egyptian faience beads were doing at Tara in Ireland and Devon in England. Of course, there are many answers. For example, they could have arrived through trade, or they may have been gifts to some influential people, from other important people. Then the question arises who traded them or who gave them as gifts. It could have been via traveling traders and merchants who may or may not have been of Egyptian origin. On the other hand, they could also have belonged to an Egyptian. Evans speculates that the Tara prince was an Egyptian and possibly also connected with the Devon necklace.

According to the Scotichronicon, the High Kings of Ireland were descendants of Scota. But, awkwardly, Scota is not a name of Egyptian origin. So, who was she, apart from being an Egyptian princess and Pharaoh’s daughter? So, Evans looked closer to the text. She discovered it gave Scota’s father the Greek name, Achencres, a version of the Egyptian name of Akhenaten, the Pharaoh of Egypt in the relevant period. Therefore, Evans speculates that Scota was none other than Princess Meriaten, the eldest daughter of Akhenaten and his primary wife, Queen Nefertiti. (1) This also links in with beads and skeleton at Tara because Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten by one of his wives named Kiya, and possibly married Ankhesenpaaten, the third eldest daughter of Akhenaten.

PRINCESS MERIATEN

When Akhenaten enforced the new religion of the worship of the Aten – the sun disc – on his people, there was a significant conflict with the priesthood of Amun, the former faith. After Akhenaten died, they restored the worship of Amun as the principal god of Egypt. The standard protocol would have been for the eldest daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten to marry her step-brother Tutankhamun. However, the priests of Amun determined to stamp out the Aten religion rejected this. According to Evans, this, with the rumors of plague, was enough to persuade her to marry a foreign prince and go into exile with him, removing further traces of her father from Egypt.

THE TUATHA DE DANNAAN

To answer this question, Evans looked to the myths of the Tuatha de Danaan who inhabited Ireland in this period. The Tuatha de Danaan, or People of the Goddess, Dani, were believed to have established the sacred site of Tara in the valley of the River Boyne.

Tara was their most important sacred ritual and burial place, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, and the place they were inaugurated. The Tuatha de Danaan were considered the gods and goddesses of the inhabitants of Ireland, and their origins stretch way back into prehistory.

According to a different text known and the Annals of the Four Masters, dating from 1632-36, Eremon is the husband of Scota. He and someone named Eber divided Ireland between them into two kingdoms. Eremon ruled the northern realm while Eber ruled the southern kingdom. Evans speculates, Eber and Eremon created two kingdoms unified by the Hill of Tara as a replica of Egypt with its Upper and Lower realms united by Memphis.

There is also the idea the combination of the names of the two gods Ptah-Ra gives Ta-ra or Tara can be pronounced in several different ways. For example, Ptah could be Pi-tah which sounds like Peter. Even so, the way the ancient Egyptians pronounced their language may have been entirely different from the way we would expect.

THE DEATH OF SCOTA

According to the Lebor Gabala, Scota died in a battle at Slieve Mish, near Tralee, Kerry, to be buried nearby in a valley now known as Scotia’s Glen. After her death, the war for control of Ireland continued against three kings of the Tuatha de Danaan; MacCuill, MacCeacht, and MacGreine, whose wives were all goddesses. These were Banba, Fodla, and Eriu. Eventually, the sons of Mil subdued the Tuatha de Danaan taking control of Tara. It is also worth noting the English name for Ireland is derived from Eriu and is also known as Eire or Erin, both derivatives of Eriu.

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and two daughters adoring the Aten
Egyptian Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

RALPH ELLIS – “SCOTA, EGYPTIAN QUEEN OF THE SCOTS”

Ralph Ellis, in his book, “Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots,” claims the primary British reference was like the eighth-century historian Nennius. By tracing the sources of Nennius, Ellis thinks he’s found the answer. He believes that the originator of the Scota-Gaythelos story was an ancient text, The History of Egypt, written in 300BC by the Egypto-Greek historian Manetho. Having traced the source, which was, if not contemporaneous, at least reasonably informed – Ellis believes that he can put flesh on the bones of this story. Using Manetho’s text, Ellis asserts that Scota was Ankhesenamun, a daughter of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. She would also become the First Royal Wife of Tutankhamen. After his death, she married a pharaoh named Aye, who Ellis identifies as Gaythelos.


He also gives what he believes is the origin and meaning of the name “Scota.” When the fleet carrying Ankhesenamun and Gaythelos left Egypt to begin their exile, they sailed west into the setting sun. The boat Ra, the Sun-god, rides across the sky was named Shkoti, and her followers gave this term to Princess Ankhesenamun as the fleet sailed into the setting sun. It may have been a nickname or became a title that was to evolve into Scoti over time. (2) In the history of this group of people, there was more than one royal female named Scota. Again, it may be Scota was a term or title and passed on perhaps from mother to daughter.

Ellis speculates that Aye was the father of Tutankhamen, marrying Ankhesenamun after his son’s death. His rule was brief before a religious conflict with the Egyptian people forced him to leave Egypt with his wife and followers, and Ellis tracks their journey. He believes they took sufficient ships to carry around 1000 followers and enough supplies, weapons, and equipment. Stopping to resupply at several points, they managed to navigate the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic coast of Spain, where they settled for several generations. Their son Hiber gave his name to Iberia. Four generations after they first settled, the descendants of Scota made their way to Ireland, giving weight to the idea that Scota was an inherited or passed-on title.

Here Ellis refers to Irish stories supplementing the myths with other evidence. For example, he points to the number of gold torcs or necklaces worn by pharaohs discovered in the country and points to tombs he believes were built using Egyptian knowledge. Ellis believes this demonstrates that Scota’s people brought this method of embalming their dead from Egypt halfway across the world and from Ireland; it was a short voyage across the water to Scotland. Later, Iberian “Egyptians” seeking a new homeland settled in Scotland, and eventually, many of the original Irish “Scots” joined them.

The story of Scota, Gaythelos, and the history of the Gaelic people comes across as deeply mysterious, romantic, and very interesting. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together and hard to tell fact from fiction. Fascinating though they are, all these stories are products of their culture and times, providing a need for some deep-rooted and illustrious ancestry. Many other nations and peoples have their foundation myths which, although impossible to prove, mean a lot to those people.

Copyright 07/12/2021 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 7th, 2021 zteve t evans