Thursday, April 24, 2014

Utset #atozchallenge

U - In Native American mythology, Utset and Nowutset were two sisters created by Sussistinnako when he drew a cross in the Lower World and sang the sisters into creation. Utset and Nowutset created the sun, moon, and stars. The Native people came from Utset and all others from her sister, Nowutset, before Utset tore her heart out after she lost a game of riddles to Utset.

This sparked a great war in the Lower World that lasted for eight years. During the ninth year, the Lower World drowned in a primordial flood. But Utset saved her people by leading through through a reed into the Upper World.

She also carried with her a bag of stars.

One day, she asked Beetle to watch over this bag of stars so she could tend to her people, but Beetle chewed a hole in the bag. Many of the stars spilled across the sky. When Utset saw this, she abandoned her people to retrieve the stars, but there were so many of them, she didn't get very far.

Utset was so caught up with the stars, her people began to starve. When she realized this, she placed the stars that remained in the bag into the sky as the Pleiades, Orion, and the Great Bear.

She then rushed back to tend to her people. To save them, she planted pieces of her heart into the ground. Corn grew from it, thus nourishing her people and becoming an incredibly important plant to the Native people.


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tiwanaku #atozchallenge

T - Prior to the rise of the Incan Empire, Tiwanaku was the cultural center of a tribe long lost to the world. From about 300 BCE to 300 BC, this group spread through a large portion of South America, colonizing areas that once belonged to smaller tribes and groups.

They were rather advanced when it came to farming, using an exhaustive technique that wielded even more product than many modern farming techniques. As a result, they were able to support a massive number of people. It's estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to one million individuals called the city of Tiwanaku home during the height of the civilization. They were also quite skilled at negotiating treaties, which allowed them to flourish by forcing other civilizations to become dependent upon them.

With no written language, little remains of this society now, including their name.

But what we have found in the ruins is fascinating.

The people of Tiwanaku participated in a rather brutal form of human sacrifice in which they would rip an individual open and disembowel him or her. Gods and religious beliefs from other societies were also often swallowed up by the Tiwanaku people. When the city was found in the 1500s, evidence of many other religions was found among the ruins. The Tiwanaku people would carry these beliefs and artifacts back to their city and add them to their own pantheon, most often in a subordinate position to their own gods.

One of their most important gods was Viracocha, who created the world and organized everyone into societies (which the Tiwanaku continued to do through colonization of South America). Viracocha came from Lake Titicaca during a period of great darkness. As he rose from the waters, he created the sun, moon, and stars. He then made Giants to carry the rocks which eventually built Tiwanaku. But these Giants angered Viracocha, so he sent a great flood to destroy them.

Once destroyed, Viracocha started over with a new race at Tiwanaku. He breathed into small rocks to create humans, and then wrote his instructions for civilization down onto a giant piece of rock. Of course, his people couldn't read, so he drew great lines in the rock, and demanded that his people settle into each of those areas and name the tribes to live therein. The spreading of the Tiwanaku society was their way of following that instruction.

His mission thus completed, Viracocha walked out onto the water of the ocean and disappeared, never to be seen by his people again. But he did not vanish from the world entirely. Viracocha wandered, teaching others and working miracles. Interestingly enough, Viracocha was a white man, dressed in robes, who carried a staff and a book. He frequently dressed as a beggar.

As the Tiwanaku society began to lose power, the Incan Empire rose. Viracocha became an important deity in their pantheon, taking on the same creator role as he did in the earlier Tiwanaku society. And, as with so many others from around the world, the similarities between Viracocha and Jesus are striking.


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shapona #atozchallenge

Statue of Shapona
S - In the Dahomey and Yoruba faiths of Africa, Shapona (also Shakpana and Sopona) is a powerful deity or Orisha (spirit) believed to infect humans with smallpox, insanity, and other infectious diseases. As Shakpana, this Orisha takes the form of an old man. He is the son of Yemaya (Goddess of water and childbirth) and Obatala (the god who created the human race after getting drunk and failing to create earth), and isn't necessarily a nice god.

The Dahomey and Yoruba people are very careful not to anger Shapona, as they believe doing so will cause an outbreak. In fact, they often refuse to even speak his true name for fear of angering him. For a very long time, shrines to Shapona were maintained by a specific group of priests. The people believed that angering these holy men could cause an outbreak, thanks to their special relationship with Shapona. This exclusivity lead to the creation of powerful secret societies (cults of Shapona).

Priests in these societies would blackmail individuals into doing as they were told by promising the wrath of Shapona (in the form of smallpox) if they failed to perform as expected. When these individuals actually began falling ill with smallpox, it raised a few red flags. A doctor (Dr. Sapara) went undercover in one of these societies to investigate.

Come to find out, the priests were actually causing the outbreaks. They would intentionally infect villagers with the disease to punish him/her for not following orders. To make matters worse, they were a very vocal opponent to smallpox vaccinations. To avoid their wrath, and thus the wrath of Shapona, many refused these vaccinations. Which meant they continued to be vulnerable to the disease, which kept the priests in power.

Pretty horrible, right?

Based on the findings of Dr. Sapara, the Shapona societies were outlawed in 1907. However, worship of Shapona continues throughout Africa. After their history with the Shapona cults, I can't say I blame them for being extra careful! Luckily, with these societies out of the way, smallpox vaccination has flourished, and the wrath of Shapona has become a little less terrifying.


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rainbow Bridge #atozchallenge

R - In Norse mythology, the Rainbow Bridge (Bifröst or Asbrú) is the burning bridge that stretches between Asgard (heaven) and Midgard (earth). The bridge was created by the Æsir so they could easily travel between their realm and the human world. Each day, the Æsir ride their horses across the Rainbow Bridge to Urd's Well, where they hold court.

At the far end of the Bifröst sits the Norse god Heimdall. Heimdall stands guard against Giants who might use the bridge to enter Asgard. He also stands watch for Ragnarok, the doom of the Gods. As with so much else, the Bifröst will be destroyed during this apocalyptic battle when the inhabitants of Muspelheim ride across the bridge.

In Gylfaginning (the first book of the Prose Edda) Snorri Sturluson says:

In the midst of this clash and din the heavens are rent in twain, and the sons of Muspell come riding through the opening. Surtr rides first, and before him and after him flames burning fire. He has a very good sword, which shines brighter than the sun. As they ride over Bifrost it breaks to pieces, as has before been stated. The sons of Muspel direct their course to the plain which is called Vigrid.... The sons of Muspel have there effulgent bands alone by themselves.

Many believe that the Rainbow Bridge represents the Milky Way. This isn't particularly surprising given how many different cultures have incorporated the Milky Way into their beliefs. Others have incorporated the Rainbow Bridge into their own beliefs. In the poem, The Rainbow Bridge, for instance, animals who pass away go to a beautiful meadow just outside of heaven. When their owners pass, they arrive in the meadow to be reunited. Together, they cross the Rainbow Bridge into heaven.

On an unrelated note, I'm trying desperately to get caught up on visiting all of you, but am still nearly a week behind. Be patient with me. The last couple of weeks have been insanely busy. FADE made it to bestseller status (yay!), and I'm in the midst of a massive query round. It's an exhausting process!


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quetzalcoatl #atozchallenge

Q - Quetzalcoatl is probably one of the most familiar names in Meso-American mythology. We might mangle the pronunciation some (read: most of the time), but we do recognize the name!

Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent God, was a huge part of the Meso-American belief system, with many different tribes of people worshiping him over a long period of time.

Artwork depicting the important role of Quetzalcoatl has been found in Nahua, Toltec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations. Oddly enough, Quetzalcoatl has even made his appearance in Mormon belief as well, with the third president of the LDS Church declaring that Quetzalcoatl was none other than Jesus himself.

Like Bacchus in Rome and Horus in Egypt, Jesus and Quetzalcoatl certainly have a lot in common. Quetzalcoatl is the god of truth, justice, knowledge and the wind. He is Lord of the Dawn, the patron of priests, inventor of books, and the creator of the people in the Age of the Fifth Sun. He was born of a virgin, and rose from the dead to become the Morning Star.

While very few Meso-American groups agreed on exactly where he came from, most agreed that his mother was the virgin Chimalman. Like so much else, how he came to be created within her varies greatly from one tribe to another. In one myth, for instance, she swallowed an emerald and he popped out. In another, Mixcoatl hit her in the stomach with an arrow, and Quetzalcoatl was born nine months later.

In another story, Quetzalcoatl's mother was Coatlicue, who birthed all the stars of the Milky Way. In another, he was one of the guardians of the four cardinal directions, birthed by Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl. Yet another says he was the son of Mixcoatl and Xochiquetzal.

These variations can be attributed in part to the cultural differences between each civilization. In the Teotihuacan civilization, Quetzalcoatl was a peaceful vegetation god. At that time, he wasn't associated with human sacrificed. When the Nahua migrated from the north several centuries later, however, they brought their own beliefs with them, including a belief in sacrifice. Quetzalcoatl the vegetation god quickly became Quetzalcoatl the god of the morning star who required sacrifice.

In a throwback to the Neolithic revolution (during which religious hierarchy began to more closely resemble the newly found social and political hierarchy that came with the advent of farming and villages), that same shift of belief is present in a lot of different cultures and mythologies. As groups of people merge, one set of beliefs is eventually replaced by the beliefs of the strongest, or the disparate beliefs are blended together until a new system emerges in which aspects of each cultures' belief can be found.

Either way, Quetzalcoatl underwent a lot of changes as each new civilization arose, but still somehow managed to stick around in one form or another for a very long time. Today, traces of him can be found in many modern religions as well. Including, as I mentioned above, Mormonism

Another interesting note before I shut up.... The second coming of Quetzalcoatl was closely associated with the year 1519. So much so, in fact, that when Cortes landed, the Aztec people may have viewed him as Quetzalcoatl himself. According to the Florentine Codex, this particular belief led to the fall of the Aztec Empire to Cortes and the Conquistadors when Montezuma offered Cortes his throne. Whether or not that's true is open for interpretation, but it's an incredibly fascinating theory, especially given the similarities between Quetzalcoatl and Jesus.

I could go on and on about Quetzalcoatl, but I'll shush now. :)


FALLThe Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is now available at Amazon Barnes and Noble | KOBO. FADE - The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two is available at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million.