greek mythology

Historical Fiction

vaulted cellarHistory has always been one of my favorite topics.

In college, I started out as a double major in English: Creative Writing and History with an emphasis on European History. That didn’t end up happening since I was so ready to be done with school. Knowing how helpful the time I’ve spent learning from Romance Writers of America and the internet has been, I wish I’d gone with the History major instead.

But I digress.

I’ve always loved historical romance novels and historical fiction. At one point, I didn’t feel comfortable writing them and the level of research that go into something like that. They still do intimidate me, even though I’ve written a fantasy romance series set in medieval Ireland, a Wild West paranormal romance novella, and co-wrote an urban fantasy romance that takes place in an alternate reality Ireland.

Regardless, I sincerely admire authors who write them. I’ve accepted that paranormal romance and urban fantasy placed in contemporary times is more my forte.

Anyways.

My favorite historical time period and location is Dark Ages and Medieval Europe, particularly in Scandinavia (Vikings!) and the UK and Ireland. So many fascinating things happened, and I love reading about mythology. When my husband and I have traveled, we always try to hit the museums.

There’s also ancient Greece and Rome. I’ve read a couple of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books that incorporate that time period, which were really cool.

I’m very passionate about history. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a historical romance or fiction. That genre is on my TBR list this year, though, since I’m challenging myself to read wide.

What are your favorite time periods to read about? Do you have favorite time periods you don’t feel are represented enough in fiction?

Leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think!

Until next week,

Sarah

S is for Stymphalian birds

Name: Stymphalian birds

Type: birds

Origin: Greek mythology

Description: Man-eating birds who have bronze beaks and sharp metallic feathers, which they throw at their victims. Also, their feces is quite toxic. Their name comes from the fact that they live near Lake Stymphalia in Arcadia. They’re sacred to the god of war, Ares.

Interesting Facts: The Stymphalian birds were Herucles’s sixth task in The Twelve Labours of Herucles. He scared the birds by shaking a rattle made by Hephaestus for the purpose and given to him by Athena. He shot some with arrows to complete the Labour.

What “S” creatures or beings do you know about?

O is for Otso/Orpheus

Hey everyone! A couple bits of news first. Don’t forget that I have the Hunky Hero giveaway going on. Also, Captive Moonlight is now on sale at All Romance eBooks (and at a discounted price!).

Anyways, today I’m doing a Finnish mythology being, but I have a tribute to an extra one based in Greek/Roman mythology that I couldn’t let slip by.

Name: Otso (also known as Ohto, Kontio, metsän kuningas (the king of the forest), and mesikämmen (honeypaws) my favorite, lol)

Type: bear/nature spirit

Origin: Finnish mythology

Description: The Otso is basically a bear spirit. He’s typically called friend, brother, uncle, or forest cousin (read below on its name). In some of the traditions, bears were thought to be relatives who had ran away from the community and were transformed by the forest’s power.

Interesting Facts: Despite the long list of terms for it, this spirit wasn’t properly named since the Finns did everything they could to avoid directly referring to it due to it being that sacred to them. They even have a ritual called Peijainen for if a bear was killed. There would be mourners and wailers for it. The bear’s skull, which is where the bear’s spirit resided, would be placed in a sacred clearing and taken care of and given gifts.

Now to the extra credit: Orpheus. He was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in Greek mythology. His ability to play music and sing was seen as almost divine, and it charmed or entranced. His music even overrode that of the Sirens who were known for their bewitching voices.

There’s some controversy over whether he was a coward or not (ahem, because he had caused the gods to allow him to go to the Underworld to try to bring Eurydice, his wife who died by snake bite after being chased by a satyr, back instead of… dying so he could be in Hades with her *rolls eyes*). They think he wasn’t truly in love with her for that, and therefore that the gods had punished him and only gave him an apparition of his wife in the Underworld.

Regardless of all that, I enjoy picturing Orpheus as this guy someone caring and… err… attractive. 😉 Maybe it’s the romantic in me. Here’s Eurydice by Sleepthief. I’ve listened to this song so many times, and it’s absolutely beautiful and romantic, even if it’s also sad.

Tell me what you think! Also, can you name any other O beings or creatures?

N is for Nereid

Here is today’s A to Z Challenge post. It’s is a quickie since I’m also doing the Hunky Hero BlogHop today.

Name: Nereid

Type: sea nymph

Origin: Greek mythology

Description: The Nereids are the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris and sisters to Nerites. They are sea nymphs and often accompany Poseidon. Their demeanor is friendly, and they help sailors who are fighting dangerous storms. They live in and are associated with the Aegean Sea.

Interesting Facts: One of the moons of Neptune is named Nereid after them since they were attendants of Neptune (Poseidon in Greek mythology). Notable Nereids are Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon.

Have you heard of the Nereids? Are there any N beings or creatures you know of?

M is for Minotaur

Name: Minotaurs, which means the “Bull of Minos.”

Origin: Greek Mythology

Type: Human Hybrid

Description: A little bit about the Minotaur. He has the head of a bull and the body of a man. His parents are the Cretan Bull and Pasiphaë. Pasiphaë was married to King Minos of Crete, but after King Minos had prayed to Poseidon and received support from him, he was supposed to kill the Cretan Bull. He thought it was so beautiful that he couldn’t, so he sacrificed one of his own bulls.

For his punishment, Pasiphaë fell in love with the Cretan Bull and had the architect Daedalus build a hollow wooden cow so she could mate with the bull. Minotaur was nursed by his mother until he became fierce and began devouring men. He lives at the center of the Cretan Labyrinth, which was constructed by Daedalus and his son by command of King Minos of Crete.

Interesting Facts: One of the future Athenian king Theseus’s acts which helped him to secure his throne was to slay the Minotaur. Also, since some sources don’t specify which end is part bull and which is part human, sometimes the Minotaur has a bull’s lower half and a human torso.

Have you heard of the Minotaur before?

L is for Lampads

Hope you’re all having a fantastic Friday the 13th! Some quick news to share before I dip into today’s topic. Castles & Guns, my group blog, is having our first “Giveaway from the Castle Vault”! Make sure to swing by and enter to win some of the great prizes lined up.

Name: Lampads (means “Torch Bearers” also spelled “Lampades”)

Type: khthonian nymphs (minor nature goddesses of the underworld)

Origin: Greek mythology

Description: The Lampads live in Greek mythology’s Underworld. They accompany Hecate the titan goddess who is associated with magic, witchcraft, curses, and crossroads among other things. The Lampads were given to Hecate as a gift from Zeus for her loyalty during the ten-year War of the Titans. The Lampads carry torches while they go with Hecate on her night-time travels and activities. Their torches apparently have the ability to drive people into madness.

Interesting Facts: Their Latin name is Nymphae Avernales. They’re mentioned in Latin literature such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Statius’s Silvae.

Have you heard of the Lampads before? What other creatures or beings can you think of that start with L?

E is for Empusa/empusae

Today we’re traveling to Greece. It’s been a wild day, but you’re getting two for the price of one in this segment of our trip!

Name: Empusa, or as a species, it’s empuse. The plural is empusae. (meaning is unknown)

Type: Originally, a vampire-like demigoddess, later a species of monsters under Hecate’s command.

Origin: Greek mythology

Description: Here’s what wikipedia says about her, “Empusa was the beautiful daughter of the goddess Hecate and tohhe spirit Mormo. She feasted on blood by seducing young men as they slept (see sleep paralysis), before drinking their blood and eating their flesh…. In later Greek mythology, her role was reduced to a species of Hecate a spectre called an empuse or empusa (pl. empusae). The empusae were sent by Hecate to guard roads and devour travelers (Hecate was also the goddess of roadsides). According to Philostratus, empusae ran and hid, uttering a high-pitched scream, at the sound of insults.”

Interesting facts: The word is still used in regards to shapeshifting hobgolins that harass Greek shepherds. In literature, they’re used in Grecian Rune by James Matthew Byers, and in the Percy Jackson series.

Have you ever heard of the demigoddess Empusa or the empusae?

Into the Paranormal: Alphito

Howdy everyone! Welcome to this edition of Into the Paranormal! Today’s post is about a boogeyman/goddess called Alphito.

I few weeks back, I was digging through a list of legendary/supernatural beings to find some good topics for Into the Paranormal. I browsed through them fairly quickly looking for something fairly easy to summarize, but also one that really captured my attention. Then I found Alphito. What first caught my eye is the fact a quote from the foreword of a cookbook comparing the author to Alphito.

Maida Heatter is the fairy godmother of anything sweet, spicy, crunchy, chewy, or fluffy you could possibly imagine baking. In Greek mythology, Maida, with her elegant halo of silver hair, would have been known as the goddess Alphito, the symbol of flour and lady guardian of the mill. (Source)

That sounds nice, so what else is there to know?

The first recorded mention of Alphito is in the Moralia of Plutarch, which relates nurses telling superstitious tales of her to scare children and make them behave. Pretty much a boogeyman. Although, her name is related to the word alphita, “white flour”, and alphitomanteia, which is a type of divination which happens from flour or barley meal. As the quote above said, her hair is white and she’s presumed to be old.

There’s a lot of speculation into whether she’s more than a boogeyman. Author Robert Graves wrote a thesis stating that she was originally the White Goddess from Greek mythology, but his book received a decent amount of criticism regarding his thoughts.

In parting, here’s a description of Alphito from Graves:

In one sense it is the pleasant whiteness of pearl-barley, or a woman’s body, or milk, or unsmutched snow; in another it is the horrifying whiteness of a corpse, or a spectre, or leprosy. … Alphito, it has been shown, combined these senses: for alphos is white leprosy, the vitiliginous sort which attacks the face, and alphiton is barley, and Alphito lived on the cliff tops of Nonacris in perpetual snow.” (Source)

What do you think about Alphito? Have you heard of her?

L is for Lamia

Lamia (2nd version) by John William Waterhouse
(1909); Note the snakeskin on her lap.

Lamia are half-snake, half-woman vampiristic beings from Greek mythology. They eat children and seduce young men. Unlike Medusa, who has hair of snakes, the lamia usually wears snakeskin along her waist and her right forearm, giving hints of her actual characteristics.

According to the Greek mythology, Queen Lamia of Libya had an affair with Zeus. However, Hera found out and killed the children Lamia had already given birth to. Driven mad by this act, Lamia began eating other children and slowly became hideous and corrupt.

Mothers used to tell their children stories of Lamia to warn them of slowly awakening sexuality and to generally make the children behave. Some also used these stories to explain why certain questionable women, and their male companions, were rarely seen after they had met during the night.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • While both the lamia and Medusa share Greek roots, the lamia is described as more human of the two.
  • In modern stories, Lamia is considered a more remote creature, similar to Baba-Yaga, living in a tower or a house far away from people.
  • Considered magically adept and excelling in deception, lamia were said to have hid among the populace and wreak havoc until finally being hunted down.

Have you heard of the Lamia before? If so, where? Also, is there a mythological being you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

H is for Harpy

Harpy, from the Greek word harpūia, means “swift robber” or “snatcher.” They are personifications of destructive wind. Mostly, they live in areas where the sea is prevalent, specifically the island of Strophades. A harpies appearance includes the head and neck of a woman with the wings, bodies, and talons of a bird. They’re cruel, vicious, and very violent.

In tales, harpies fly over their victims, snatch what they want whether it’s food or a person, and carry them away from the help of others, or to the underworld, so the harpies can eat. However, if they don’t kill their targets, they drive them to the edges of their sanity.

One of the most popular stories featuring harpies is about Phineas. Wikipedia says:

Phineas, a king of Thrace, had the gift of prophecy. Zeus, angry that Phineas revealed too much, punished him by blinding him and putting him on an island with a buffet of food which he could never eat. The harpies always arrived and stole the food out of his hands before he could satisfy his hunger, and befouled the remains of his food. This continued until the arrival of Jason and the Argonauts. The Boreads, sons of Boreas, the North Wind, who also could fly, succeeded in driving off the harpies, but without killing any of them, following a request from Iris, who promised that Phineas would not be bothered by the harpies again, and “the dogs of great Zeus” returned to their “cave in Minoan Crete”. Thankful for their help, Phineas told the Argonauts how to pass the Symplegades. (Argonautica, book II; Ovid XIII, 710; Virgil III, 211, 245).

Although, they are often compared to sirens, who sink ships by seducing and luring sailors in with their voices,  harpies have directly opposite approaches to killing.

Interesting Tidbit:

  • In Dante’s Inferno XIII, the second ring of the seventh circle of Hell is for suicides. They are transformed into trees and bushes, which are consumed by harpies.
  • The American Harpy Eagle is an actual bird that appears on Panama’s Coat of Arms and is their national bird.
  • Harpies and sirens both became beautiful and seductive later on through Roman romanticism. This has turned the harpy into a more sorrowful spirit of death.
Links:
What are your thoughts on the Harpies? Have you experienced any books, movies, or games with them in it?