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Arrow Philosophy and Religion

Ancient Religions


A

Adad (Hadad)

Ancient weather god of Semitic origin, worshiped in Babylonia and Assyria. Important throughout the Middle East, he was worshiped under many names. As god of the storm, he was, according to one legend, the Epic of Gilgamesh, responsible for the great flood that overwhelmed the world.

Aesir (Germanic religion)

Pre-Christian religious practices among the tribes of Western Europe, Germany, and Scandinavia. The main sources for our knowledge are the Germania of Tacitus and the Elder Edda and the Younger Edda. Although it is possible to perceive certain basic concepts that were important to the pre-Christian Germans, there was no Germanic religion common to all the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples; neither can we know whether a ritual or legend peculiar to one Germanic tribe was common to all Germanic tribes.

Conversion of the Germans to Christianity began as early as the 4th cent. A.D., but it took many centuries for the new religion to spread throughout the northern lands of Europe. In Nazi Germany the spirit of the old religion and the heroic attributes of the Germanic gods were revived as part of the propaganda program of the Nazi party.


Agdistis (Attis & Cybele)

In Phrygian religion, vegetation god. When Nana ate the fruit of the almond tree, which had been generated by the blood of either Agdistis or of Cybele, she conceived Attis. Later, Agdistis or Cybele fell in love with Attis, and so that none other would have him, she caused him to castrate himself. Like Adonis, Attis came to be worshiped as a god of vegetation, responsible for the death and rebirth of plant life. Each year at the beginning of spring his resurrection was celebrated in a festival. In Roman religion he became a powerful celestial deity.

in ancient Asian religion, the Great Mother Goddess. The chief centers of her early worship were Phrygia and Lydia. In the 5th cent. B.C. her cult was introduced into Greece, where she was associated with Demeter and Rhea. The spread of her cult to Rome late in the 3d cent. B.C. was marked chiefly by her Palatine temple. Cybele was primarily a nature goddess, responsible for maintaining and reproducing the wild things of the earth. As guardian of cities and nations, however, she was also entrusted with the general welfare of the people. She was attended by the Corybantes and Dactyls, who honored her with wild music and dancing. At her annual spring festival, the death and resurrection of her beloved Attis were celebrated. She frequented mountains and woodland areas and was usually represented either riding a chariot drawn by lions or seated on a throne flanked by two lions. Cybele is frequently identified with various other mother goddesses, notably Agdistis.



Ahriman (Zoroastrianism)

Zoroastrianism religion founded by Zoroaster, but with many later accretions.

Alecto (Furies)

In Greek and Roman religion and mythology, three daughters of Mother Earth, conceived from the blood of Uranus, when Kronos castrated him. They were powerful divinities that personified conscience and punished crimes against kindred blood, especially matricide. They were usually represented as winged women with serpent hair. Their names were Megaera [jealous], Tisiphone [blood avenger], and Alecto [unceasing in pursuit]. When called upon to act, they hounded their victims until they died in a “furor” of madness or torment. In the myth of Orestes they appear as Clytemnestra's agents of revenge. After Athena absolved Orestes of guilt in the murder of his mother, she gave the Furies a grotto at Athens where they received sacrifices and libations, and became euphemistically known as the Eumenides.


Ambarvalia

In Roman religion, yearly agricultural rite held at the end of May. To insure fertility and disperse evil, each farmer led members of his household and a sacrificial beast in a procession around the boundaries of his fields.



Amon

An Egyptian deity. He was originally the chief god of Thebes; he and his wife Mut and their son Khensu were the divine Theban triad of deities. Amon grew increasingly important in Egypt, and eventually he (identified as Amon Ra; see Ra) became the supreme deity. He was identified with the Greek Zeus (the Roman Jupiter). Amon's most celebrated shrine was at Siwa in the Libyan desert; the oracle of Siwa later rivaled those of Delphi and Dodona. He is frequently represented as a ram or as a human with a ram's head.


Amor (Eros)

in Greek religion and mythology, god of love. He was the personification of love in all its manifestations, including physical passion at its strongest, tender, romantic love, and playful, sportive love. According to some legends he was one of the oldest of the gods, born from Chaos and personifying creative power and harmony. In most legends he was the son of Aphrodite and Ares and was represented as a winged youth armed with bow and arrows. In Greek poetry Eros was often a willful and unsympathetic god, carelessly dispensing the frenzies and agonies of love. At Thespiae and at Athens he was worshiped as a god of fertility. In Hellenistic and Roman myth, he was represented as a naked, winged child, the son and companion of Venus. To the Romans he was Cupid, or Amor. Eros was sometimes attended by his brother, Anteros, who was said to be the avenger of unrequited love or the opposer of love


Anu

Ancient sky god of Sumerian origin, worshiped in Babylonian religion. The son of Apsu (the underworld ocean) and Tiamat (primeval chaos), Anu was king of the great triad of gods, which included the earth god Enlil and the water god Ea.


Anubis

Egyptian god of the dead. He presided over the embalming of the dead and is represented as a dog-headed or jackal-headed man.


Apaturia

In Greek religion, annual festival celebrated by the Ionians and the Athenians. It was held in October or November, in the season when various phratries (clans) met to induct new members, register children born since the previous festival, and pay homage to the gods.


Apis

In Egyptian religion, sacred bull of Memphis, said to be the incarnation of Osiris or of Ptah. His worship spread throughout the Mediterranean world and was particularly important during the time of the Roman Empire.


Apollo

In Greek religion and mythology, one of the most important Olympian gods, concerned especially with prophecy, medicine, music and poetry, archery, and various bucolic arts, particularly the care of flocks and herds. He was also frequently associated with the higher developments of civilization, such as law, philosophy, and the arts. As patron of music and poetry he was often connected with the Muses. Apollo may have been first worshiped by primitive shepherds as a god of pastures and flocks, but it was as a god of light, Phoebus or Phoebus Apollo, that he was most widely known. After the 5th cent. B.C. he was frequently identified with Helios, the sun god. Apollo was the father of Aristaeus, Asclepius, and, in some legends, Orpheus, although his amorous affairs were not particularly successful. Daphne turned into a laurel rather than submit to him, and Marpessa refused him in favor of a mortal. He gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy, and when she disappointed him, he decreed that no one would believe her prophecies. His chief oracular shrine was at Delphi, which he was said to have seized, while still an infant, by killing its guardian, the serpent Python. This event was celebrated every eight years in the festival of the Stepteria. Other festivals held in Apollo's honor included the yearly Thargelia, to celebrate spring, and the Pythia, held every four years to honor his victory over the Python. Besides Delphi, his other notable shrines were at Branchidae, Claros, Patara, and on the island of Delos, where, it was said, he and his twin sister, Artemis, were born to Leto and Zeus. In Roman religion, Apollo was worshiped in various forms, most significantly as a god of healing and of prophecy. In art he was portrayed as the perfection of youth and beauty. The most celebrated statue of him is the Apollo Belvedere,. a marble statue in the Belvedere of the Vatican.



Aphrodite


in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of fertility, love, and beauty. Homer designated her the child of Zeus and Dione. Hesiod's account of her birth is more popular: she supposedly rose from the foam of the sea where Uranus' genitals had fallen after he had been mutilated by Kronos. Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus. She loved Ares, by whom she bore Harmonia and, in some myths, Eros and Anteros. She was the mother of Hermaphroditus by Hermes and of Priapus by Dionysus. Zeus caused her to love the shepherd Anchises, by whom she bore Aeneas. Adonis, in whose legend Aphrodite appears as a goddess of fertility, also won her favors. It was to Aphrodite that Paris awarded the apple of discord, which caused the dispute leading ultimately to the Trojan War. Worshiped throughout Greece, she was the goddess of love, marriage, and family life; she was also worshiped as a war goddess, as at Sparta, and as a sea goddess and patroness of sailors. Aphrodite had important cults at Cythera on Crete, at Paphos and Amathas on Cyprus, at Corinth, and at Mt. Eryx in Sicily. Probably of Eastern origin, she was similar in many of her attributes to the ancient Middle Eastern goddesses Astarte and Ishtar. The Romans identified Aphrodite with Venus.




Ares

In Greek religion and mythology, Olympian god of war. He is usually said to be the son of Zeus and Hera; but in some legends he and Eris, his twin sister, were born when Hera touched a flower. A fierce warrior, he loved battle and often took part in conflicts between mortals. Ares killed Halirrhothios, son of Poseidon, when the youth violated his daughter, Alcippe. For this crime Ares was judged by a tribunal of the 12 Olympians and acquitted. The hill on which the trial took place, the Areopagus, was named for him. The worship of Ares was not as important as that of Mars, with whom he was identified by the Romans.



Artemis

in Greek religion and mythology, Olympian goddess, daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis' early worship, especially at Ephesus, identified her as an earth goddess, similar to Astarte. In later legend, however, she was primarily a virgin huntress, goddess of wildlife and patroness of hunters. Of the many animals sacred to her, the bear was most important. Artemis valued her chastity so highly that she took terrible measures against anyone who even slightly threatened her (e.g., Actaeon). She was attended by nymphs, whose virginity she guarded as jealously as her own. She was also an important goddess in the life of women, concerned with marriage and with the young of all creatures. As the complement to Apollo, she was often considered a moon goddess and as such was identified with Selene and Hecate. In ancient Greece, the worship of Artemis was widespread. The Romans identified her with Diana. She is mentioned in the biblical book of Acts of the Apostles, where she appears to be in competition with the god of the Christians.


Arval Brothers

In Roman religion, college of 12 priests chosen from the most distinguished senatorial families. It was said that the original brothers were sons of Acca Larentia. Theirs was chiefly an agricultural cult, but they were also concerned with the well-being of the imperial house. The Roman emperor was necessarily a member of the college. Their most important ceremony, held in May, was in honor of Dea Dia, a goddess of fields and crops.


Asherah

Asherah, Canaanite fertility goddess and the wooden cult symbol that represented her. She is the consort of El in the Ugaritic texts. Several passages in the Bible may refer to the planting of a tree as a symbol of Asherah, or the setting up of a wooden object as an asherah—the Hebrew words for “tree” and “wood” are the same.


Ashur

Chief god of Assyria. Important as a god of war, he became the omniscient king of the pantheon, replacing the Babylonian Marduk. His name appears variously as Asur, Assur, Ashshur, Asshur, and Ashir.


Ashtaroth

Hebrew plural form of Ashtoreth, the name of the Canaanite fertility goddess and consort of Baal. Her name is vocalized in Greek as Astarte. She was worshiped at various local shrines. There are several references to her in the Bible.


Astarte

Semitic goddess of fertility and love. She was the most important goddess of the Phoenicians and corresponds to the Babylonian Ishtar and the Greek Aphrodite. She took a dominant place in Middle Eastern religions, and the Jews strictly forbade use of her name. She is referred to in the Bible.


Astraea

In Greek religion and mythology, goddess of justice; daughter of Zeus and Themis. Because of the wickedness of man, she withdrew from the earth at the end of the Golden Age and was placed among the stars as the constellation Virgo


Assyrian religion

Middle Eastern religions, religious beliefs and practices of the ancient inhabitants of the Middle East. Little was known about the religions of the city-states of W Asia until stores of religious literature were uncovered by excavations in the 19th and 20th cent. The picture is still incomplete, although from the available information it appears that the various religions shared many beliefs and concepts. It was from these roots that three of the world's major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—developed.


Atargatis

Ancient Syrian goddess. Of obscure origin, she probably belongs to the general pattern of mother goddesses that were worshiped throughout W Asia and Greece. In Rome she was called Dea Syria.


Athena

in Greek religion and mythology, one of the most important Olympian deities. According to myth, after Zeus seduced Metis he learned that any son she bore would overthrow him, so he swallowed her alive. Later Hephaestus split Zeus' skull with an ax, and out sprang Athena, fully armed. Athena was a deity of diverse functions and attributes. Her most conspicuous role was perhaps that of a goddess of war, the female counterpart of Ares. However, she was also a goddess of peace, noted for her compassion and generosity. Like Minerva, with whom the Romans identified her, she was a patron of the arts and crafts, especially spinning and weaving. In later times she was important as a goddess of wisdom. Athena was also a guardian of cities, notably Athens, where the Parthenon was erected as her temple. In a contest with Poseidon concerning dominion over Attica, Athena made an olive tree grow on the Acropolis while Poseidon caused a saltwater stream to gush from the Acropolis. The other Olympians, asked to judge the contest, decided in favor of Athena. Her statue, the Palladium, was supposed to protect the city that possessed it. It was said that because she accidentally killed Pallas she set the name Pallas before her own. Although a virgin goddess, she was concerned with fertility, and at Athens and Elis her worship was notably maternal. Athena is represented in art as a stately figure, armored, and wielding the aegis. Her most important festival was the Panathenaea,. which was celebrated annually at Athens. It included athletic and musical contests, poetic recitations, and sacrifices. At the end of the festivities a grand procession carried a richly embroidered peplos to the Acropolis as a present to Athena.



Attis

in Phrygian religion, vegetation god. When Nana ate the fruit of the almond tree, which had been generated by the blood of either Agdistis or of Cybele, she conceived Attis. Later, Agdistis or Cybele fell in love with Attis, and so that none other would have him, she caused him to castrate himself. Like Adonis, Attis came to be worshiped as a god of vegetation, responsible for the death and rebirth of plant life. Each year at the beginning of spring his resurrection was celebrated in a festival. In Roman religion he became a powerful celestial deity.



Athor (Hathor)

in Egyptian religion, celestial goddess of love and festivity. The personification of the sky, she was represented as a star-studded cow or as a woman with the head of a cow. She was identified with many other goddesses of fertility and love, such as Aphrodite. Her name also appears as Athor.


Atropos (Fates)

in Greek religion and mythology, three goddesses who controlled human lives; also called the Moerae or Moirai. They were: Clotho, who spun the web of life; Lachesis, who measured its length; and Atropos, who cut it. The Roman Fates were the Parcae—Nona, Decuma, and Morta. In Norse mythology, the three Norns wove the web of life.


Aurora (Eos)

In Greek religion and mythology, goddess of dawn; daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. Every morning she arose early and preceded her brother Helios into the heavens. Her husband was Astraeus, by whom she bore the stars and the winds—Notus, the south wind; Boreas, the north wind; and Zephyr or Zephyrus, the west wind. Because Eos made love to Ares, Aphrodite cursed her with an insatiable desire for young men. Among her many lovers were Tithonus and Cephalus. The Romans called her Aurora.


Quote:
Ref : The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed
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Baal

Baal name used throughout the Bible for the chief deity or for deities of Canaan. The term was originally an epithet applied to the storm god Hadad. Technically, Baal was subordinate to El. Baal is attested in the Ebla texts (first half of 2d millennium B.C.). By the time of the Ugarit tablets (14th cent. B.C.), Baal had become the ruler of the universe. The Ugarit tablets make him chief of the Canaanite pantheon. He is the source of life and fertility, the mightiest hero, the lord of war, and the defeater of the god Yam. There were many temples of Baal in Canaan, and the name Baal was often added to that of a locality, e.g., Baal-peor, Baal-hazor, Baal-hermon. The Baal cult penetrated Israel and at times led to syncretism. In the Psalms, Yahweh is depicted as Baal and his dwelling is on Mt. Zaphon (Zion), the locale of Baal in Canaanite mythology. The practice of sacred prostitution seems to have been associated with the worship of Baal in Palestine and the cult was vehemently denounced by the prophets, especially Hosea and Jeremiah. The abhorrence in which the cult was held probably explains the substitution of Ish-bosheth for Esh-baal, of Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (a name of Gideon), and of Mephibosheth for Merib-baal. The substituted term probably means “shame.” The same abhorrence is evident the use of the pejorative name Baal-zebub (see also Satan). The Baal of 1 Chronicles is probably the same as Ramah 2. As cognates of Baal in other Semitic languages there are Bel (in Babylonian religion) and the last elements in the Tyrian names Jezebel, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal.


Baal-berith

local god of Shechem mentioned in the Book of Judges. It has been suggested that the Israelites and local inhabitants of Shechem ratified a covenant there in the temple of Baal.


Baal-zebub

A deliberate Hebrew distortion of the name of the god of Ekron in 2 Kings. In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Beelzebul, the Greek form of the epithet Baal-zebul [Baal the Prince], is encountered.


Bacchus

In Roman religion and mythology, god of wine; in Greek mythology, Dionysus. Dionysus was also the god of tillage and law giving. He was worshiped at Delphi and at the spring festival, the Great Dionysia. In Rome, the mysteries of his cult were closely guarded, and he was identified with an ancient god of wine, Liber Pater. Many legends connected with Dionysus were also used in the cult of Bacchus.


Bacchanalia

In Roman religion, festival in honor of Bacchus, god of wine. Originally a religious ceremony, like the Liberalia, it gradually became an occasion for drunken, licentious excesses and was finally forbidden by law (186 B.C.).


Balder

Balder, Norse god of light; son of Odin and Frigg. He was the most beautiful and gracious of the gods of Asgard. His mother extracted oaths from all things in nature not to harm her son, but neglected the mistletoe. According to one legend Loki gave a dart of mistletoe to the blind god Hoder and aimed it for him at Balder, who was killed by it. The gods grieved inconsolably over his death. It was prophesied, however, that after Ragnarok (the doom of the gods) Balder would return to heaven.



Bast

Ancient Egyptian cat goddess. At first a goddess of the home, she later became known as a goddess of war. The center of her cult was at Bubastis. Her name also appears as Ubast.


Belphegor

local divinity (the Baal) of Peor. According to the Book of Numbers, the Hebrews stayed at Shittim during the wilderness wanderings. While there, Hebrew men had sexual relationships with the local Moabite women. This led to worship of Baal, provoking an immediate outbreak of divine anger. Peor was also known as Beth-peor. Under the form Belphegor, the name became that of a devil in the Middle Ages, said to appear in the shape of a young woman.



Bona Dea

In Roman religion, ancient fertility goddess worshiped only by women; also called Fauna. She was said to be the daughter, sister, or wife of Faunus. No man could be present at her annual festival in May.


Book of the Dead

Book of the Dead, term used to describe Egyptian funerary literature. The texts consist of charms, spells, and formulas for use by the deceased in the afterworld and contain many of the basic ideas of Egyptian religion. At first inscribed on the stone sarcophagi, the texts were later written on papyrus and placed inside the mummy case. The earliest collection, known as the Heliopolitan Recension, dates from the XVIII dynasty (1580–1350 B.C.). It also contains selections from the two previous collections of Egyptian religious literature—the Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (c.2000 B.C.) and the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom (c.2600–2300 B.C.). The Theban Recension, a text that may be contemporary or slightly later, has a distinctive format. There are several noteworthy papyruses, valuable for their art. Among them are the Papyrus of Ani and The Book of the Dead of Hunefer. The two most celebrated English translations were made by Sir Peter le Page Renouf (1892–97) and Sir E. Wallis Budge (1895, repr. 1967).



Britomartis

in ancient religion and mythology, Cretan goddess, sometimes identified with Artemis. To escape the amorous pursuit of Minos, she jumped into the sea, but fishermen caught her in their nets and transported her to Aegina, where she was worshiped as Aphaea. According to another legend, she vanished in a grove sacred to Artemis and was deified as Dictynna.
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Cabiri

In ancient religion of the Middle East, nature deities of obscure origin, possibly Phoenician. They were connected with several fertility cults, particularly at Lemnos and at Samothrace, where important mysteries were celebrated. According to one legend they were also patrons of navigation. In Greek religion they were associated with Hephaestus, Hermes, and Demeter.


Camenae

In Roman religion and mythology, water nymphs gifted in prophecy. At Rome they had a sacred spring from which the vestals drew water for their rites. In later myth they were identified with the Greek Muses.


Ceres

In Roman religion and mythology, goddess of grain; daughter of Saturn and Ops. She was identified by the Romans with the Greek Demeter. Her worship was connected with that of the earth goddess and involved not only fertility rites but also rites for the dead. Her chief festival was the Cerealia, celebrated on Apr. 19, and her most famous cult was that of the temple on the Aventine Hill. There is much argument about the origins and nature of her cults.


Celtic religion (druids)

Priests of ancient Celtic Britain, Ireland, and Gaul and probably of all ancient Celtic peoples, known to have existed at least since the 3d cent. BC. Information about them is derived almost exclusively from the testimony of Roman authors, notably Julius Caesar, and from Old Irish sagas, supplemented to some extent by archaeological evidence. The druids constituted a priestly upper class in command of a highly ritualistic religion, which apparently centered on the worship of a pantheon of nature deities. Druids were also responsible for the education of the young and generally for the intellectual life of the community; although apparently literate, they taught by oral transmission, and their courses are said to have lasted as long as 20 years. The druids believed in immortality of the soul in a nonjudgmental world of the dead. Their religious ceremonies seem to have been performed chiefly in tree groves (the oak and the mistletoe that grows on the oak were held sacred) and at river sources and lakes. The druids performed animal and human sacrifices and practiced divination and other forms of magic. Tacitus mentions a Celtic tribe, the Bructeri, that was led by a prophetess, and Irish legend confirms that there were women druids, although their precise role is not known. According to Caesar, the druids in Gaul were organized into a federation or brotherhood that extended across tribal divisions and was headed by an archdruid; they met once a year, probably on the site of Chartres, to arbitrate private and intertribal disputes. They thus wielded great political power and were an important cohesive force among the Celtic tribes. The druids in Gaul were the core of the rebellions against Rome. Their power, although broken by the Romans, finally yielded only to Christianity. In the late 18th and 19th cent., interest in the druids was spurred by archaeological discoveries and by the romantic movement. The megalithic monuments of France and Great Britain, notably those at Carnac and Stonehenge, were once ascribed to them, but these are now known to predate Celtic culture.


Chaos

In Greek religion and mythology, vacant, unfathomable space. From it arose all things, earthly and divine. There are various legends explaining it. In one version, Eurynome rose out of Chaos and created all things. In another, Gaea sprang from Chaos and was the mother of all things. Eventually the word chaos came to mean a great confusion of matter out of which a supreme being created all life.


Cronus (Kronos)

In Greek religion and mythology, the youngest Titan, son of Uranus and Gaea. With the help of his mother, he led the Titans in the revolt against Uranus and ruled the world. He married his sister Rhea and fathered the great gods—Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Hestia. Because he was fated to be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed them all as infants until Rhea hid Zeus and presented Kronos with a stone wrapped in a blanket, which he ate. Later Zeus tricked him into disgorging his children. Zeus then led the Olympian gods in overthrowing Kronos in the battle called the Titanomachy, described by Hesiod. Kronos and all the defeated Titans, except Atlas, were exiled. Kronos is equated with the Roman Saturn and was probably a god of a pre-Hellenic people.


Cybele

in ancient Asian religion, the Great Mother Goddess. The chief centers of her early worship were Phrygia and Lydia. In the 5th cent. B.C. her cult was introduced into Greece, where she was associated with Demeter and Rhea. The spread of her cult to Rome late in the 3d cent. B.C. was marked chiefly by her Palatine temple. Cybele was primarily a nature goddess, responsible for maintaining and reproducing the wild things of the earth. As guardian of cities and nations, however, she was also entrusted with the general welfare of the people. She was attended by the Corybantes and Dactyls, who honored her with wild music and dancing. At her annual spring festival, the death and resurrection of her beloved Attis were celebrated. She frequented mountains and woodland areas and was usually represented either riding a chariot drawn by lions or seated on a throne flanked by two lions. Cybele is frequently identified with various other mother goddesses, notably Agdistis.
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Dagon

Dagon, god of fertility, widely worshiped in the Middle East, particularly in Canaan. In the Bible he is mentioned as one of the chief deities of the Philistines.


Demeter

In Greek religion and mythology, goddess of harvest and fertility; daughter of Kronos and Rhea. She was the mother of Persephone by Zeus. When Pluto abducted Persephone, Demeter grieved so inconsolably that the earth became barren through her neglect. Searching for her daughter, she wandered to Eleusis, where the Eleusinian Mysteries were inaugurated in her honor. She revealed to Triptolemus, an Eleusinian, the art of growing and using corn. The Thesmophoria, a fertility festival held in her honor at Athens, was attended only by women. The Romans identified her with Ceres.


Diana

In Roman religion, goddess of the moon, forests, animals, and women in childbirth. She was probably originally a forest goddess and a special patroness of women. She was identified with the Greek Artemis, and at her temple on the Aventine at Rome she was honored as the virgin goddess. Her most famous cult, however, was at Aricia, near Lake Nemi; there she was worshiped as an earth goddess and was associated with fertility rites and with the Great Mother Goddess.


Dice (Horae)

in Greek religion and mythology, goddesses of the seasons; daughters of Zeus and Themis. Although they controlled the recurrence of the seasons, they also attended other gods and had no cults of their own. The number and names of the Horae differed from region to region. According to Hesiod, there were three Horae—Eirene or Irene (peace), Dice or Dike (justice), and Eunomia (order).


Dione

Dione, in Greek religion and mythology, earth goddess. In some legends she is the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys; in others she is a Titaness, born to Uranus and Gaea. In yet another version she is the mother of Aphrodite. Her name is the feminine form of Zeus. Her cult was associated with the oracle at Dodona.


Dionysus (Dionysia)

in Greek religion and mythology, god of fertility and wine. Legends concerning him are profuse and contradictory. However, he was one of the most important gods of the Greeks and was associated with various religious cults. He was probably in origin a Thracian deity. According to the Orphic legend, he was Dionysus Zagreus, the son of Zeus and Persephone (see Orphic Mysteries); in other legends he was the son of Zeus and Semele and was reared by the nymphs on Mt. Nysa, where he invented the art of wine making. Having grown to manhood, Dionysus wandered through many lands, teaching men the culture of the vine and the mysteries of his cult. He was followed by an entourage of satyrs, sileni, maenads, and nymphs. Many festivals were held in honor of Dionysus; most famous were the Lesser or Rural Dionysia (in late December), the Greater or City Dionysia (in late spring), the Anthesteria (in early spring), and the Lenaea (in winter). His characteristic worship was ecstatic and women were prominently involved. Votaries, through music, dancing, and drinking, and through eating flesh and blood of sacrificial animals, attempted to merge their identities with nature. Later, however, the worship of Dionysus became more formalized and calm. It was believed that not only could he liberate and inspire man through wine and ecstatic frenzy, but he could endow him directly with divine creativity. Dionysus thus came to be considered a patron of the arts. He was variously represented as a full-grown bearded man, as a beast, and as a delicate, effeminate youth. The Romans identified him with Liber and with Bacchus, who was more properly the god of wine. From the music, singing, and dancing at the festivals of Dionysus developed the dithyramb and ultimately Greek drama.



Dodona


In Greek religion, the oldest oracle, in inland Epirus, near modern Janina, sacred to Zeus and Dione. According to Herodotus, an old oak tree there became an oracle when a black dove, from Egyptian Thebes, settled on it. Priestesses interpreted the rustling of the tree's leaves, the cooing of doves, and the clanging of brass vessels that were hung from the tree's branches. The site has been extensively excavated in the 20th cent.
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Ea

An ancient water god of Sumerian origin, worshiped in Babylonian religion. The great benefactor of mankind, Ea was called the lord of wisdom, of magic, and of the arts and sciences. With the sky god Anu and the earth god Enlil, or Bel, he was the third of the great divine triad.


Egyptian religion

Egyptian religion, the religious beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt. Information concerning ancient Egyptian religion is abundant but unsatisfactory. Only certain parts of Egyptian religious life and thought are known; whole periods remain in the dark. What we do know is that the religious beliefs of the Egyptians were riddled with inconsistencies and confusions. Many gods and goddesses seem more or less identical, and yet they existed together. Contradictory myths explaining the creation of the world, natural phenomena, and the like were accepted without argument. Attributes of deities were freely and indiscriminately adopted from one group or locality to another, and combinations and fusions of gods were frequent. It is impossible to discern an orderly and consistent picture of Egyptian religion, and much scholarship remains hypothesis and conjecture.


Egeria

In Roman religion and mythology, goddess or nymph of fountains. Consort and adviser of King Numa, she was also identified with Diana and worshiped as a goddess of childbirth. The name is used as an epithet for a female adviser or companion.


Eleusinian Mysteries

Principal religious mysteries of ancient Greece. The mysteries may have originated as part of an early agrarian festival peculiar to certain families in Eleusis. The Athenians later (c.600 B.C.) took over the ceremonies. Because the mysteries were secret, little is known of them. Presumably fasting and ritual purification in the sea took place before the large procession from Athens to Eleusis. The rites, which fundamentally celebrated the abduction and return of Persephone, symbolized the annual cycle of death and rebirth in nature as well as the immortality of the soul. It was believed that they had originally been instituted in Eleusis by Persephone's mother, Demeter. Dionysus was also much honored. The festival at Eleusis, known as the Greater Mysteries, was celebrated in the early fall, at sowing time. Another festival, the Lesser Mysteries, was held in the early spring at Agrae.


Elysian fields

In Greek religion and mythology, happy otherworld for heroes favored by the gods. Identified with the Fortunate Isles or Isles of the Blest, Elysium was situated in the distant west, at the edge of the world. In later tradition and in Vergil, Elysium is a part of the underworld and a pleasant abode for the righteous dead.


Enlil

An ancient earth god of Sumerian origin, worshiped in Babylonian religion. With the sky god Anu and the water god Ea, he formed the great divine triad. Enlil, also referred to as Bel, could be hostile or beneficent. He was responsible for the order and harmony in the universe, but as a god of storms and winds he brought terrible destruction.


Erebus

in Greek religion and mythology, personification of darkness. According to Hesiod, Erebus sprang from Chaos and was the father of Day. His name was sometimes used for Hades.


Eris

In Greek religion, goddess of strife. Angered at not being invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, she threw the apple of discord among the wedding guests.


Evander

In Greek religion, a minor deity worshiped in Arcadia in connection with Pan. In Roman religion, he was said to have introduced the worship of Faunus and to have founded the festival of Lupercalia. In Vergil's Aeneid, Evander shows Aeneas the site on which Rome will be built.
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Faunus

in Roman religion, woodland deity, protector of herds and crops. He was identified with the Greek Pan. His festival was observed on Dec. 5 with dancing and merrymaking. Another festival, the Lupercalia, held in February, is also generally believed to have been in honor of him. He was attended by fauns—mischievous and sportive creatures, half man and half goat, similar to satyrs. The female counterpart of Faunus was Bona Dea, also called Fauna.


flamen

in Roman religion, one of 15 priests, each concerned with the cult of a particular deity. The most honored were those dedicated to Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus.


Flora

Flora, in Roman religion, goddess of flowers and fertility. Her festival, the Floralia, Apr. 28–May 1, was celebrated with great gaiety and licentiousness.

Fortuna

in Roman religion, goddess of fortune. Worshiped under several forms, she appears to have originally been a goddess of fertility. She was later identified with Tyche, the Greek goddess of chance, and like her was represented with a ship's rudder and a cornucopia.



Frey

Frey , Norse god. He was a beneficent deity associated with the fertilizing powers of the sun and the rain and, like his sister Freyja, with the return of spring. His worship, which extended throughout most of Scandinavia, had its chief seat at Uppsala.


Freyja

Freyja (Freya), Norse goddess of love, marriage, and fertility. Her identity and attributes were often confused with those of the goddess Frigg. As a deity of the dead, Freyja was entitled to half the warriors killed in battle, the other half going to Odin. She was the sister of the god Frey and was frequently represented as riding in a chariot drawn by cats.


Frigg

Frigg or Frigga,Norse mother goddess and the wife of Odin (Woden). One of the most important goddesses of Germanic religion, she was queen of the heavens, a deity of love and the household. She was often confused with Freyja. From her likeness to the Roman goddess Venus, the Latin day of Venus became in Germanic countries Frigg's day (Friday).
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Gaea

in Greek religion and mythology, the earth, daughter of Chaos, both mother and wife of Uranus (the sky) and Pontus (the sea). Among Gaea's offspring by Uranus were the Cyclopes, the Hundred-handed Ones (the Hecatoncheires), and the Titans. To Pontus she bore five sea deities. Because Uranus had imprisoned her sons she helped bring about his overthrow by the Titans, who were led by Kronos. She was worshiped as the primal goddess, the mother and nourisher of all things. The Romans identified her with Tellus.



genius

genius, in Roman religion, guardian spirit of a man, a family, or a state. In some instances, a place, a city, or an institution had its genius. As the guardian spirit of an individual, the genius (corresponding to the Greek demon) was largely the force of one's natural desires. The genius of the paterfamilias was honored in familial worship as a household god and was thought to perpetuate a family through many generations. Notable achievements or high intellectual powers of an individual were attributed to his genius, and ultimately a man of achievements was said to have genius or to be a genius.


Germanic religion

Germanic religion, pre-Christian religious practices among the tribes of Western Europe, Germany, and Scandinavia. The main sources for our knowledge are the Germania of Tacitus and the Elder Edda and the Younger Edda. Although it is possible to perceive certain basic concepts that were important to the pre-Christian Germans, there was no Germanic religion common to all the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples; neither can we know whether a ritual or legend peculiar to one Germanic tribe was common to all Germanic tribes.

Conversion of the Germans to Christianity began as early as the 4th cent. A.D., but it took many centuries for the new religion to spread throughout the northern lands of Europe. In Nazi Germany the spirit of the old religion and the heroic attributes of the Germanic gods were revived as part of the propaganda program of the Nazi party.


Gnosticism

Gnosticism, dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.; they all promised salvation through an occult knowledge that they claimed was revealed to them alone. Scholars trace these salvation religions back to such diverse sources as Jewish mysticism, Hellenistic mystery cults, Iranian religious dualism (see Zoroastrianism), and Babylonian and Egyptian mythology. The definition of gnosis [knowledge] as concern with the Eternal was already present in earlier Greek philosophy, although its connection with the later Gnostic movement is distant at best. Christian ideas were quickly incorporated into these syncretistic systems, and by the 2d cent. the largest of them, organized by Valentinus and Basilides, were a significant rival to Christianity. Much of early Christian doctrine was formulated in reaction to this movement.

Until the discovery at Nag Hammadi in Egypt of key Manichaean (1930) and Coptic Gnostic (c.1945) papyri, knowledge of Gnosticism depended on Christian sources, notably St. Irenaeus, St. Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Among principal Gnostic writings are the Valentinian documents Pistis-Sophia and the Gospel of Truth (perhaps by Valentinus himself). Important too is the literature of the Mandaeans in modern Iraq, who are the only Gnostic sect extant. Gnostic elements are found in the Acts of Thomas, the Odes of Solomon, and other wisdom literature of the pseudepigrapha.

Some Gnostics taught that the world is ruled by evil archons, among them the deity of the Old Testament, who hold captive the spirit of humanity. The heavenly pleroma was the center of the divine life, and Jesus was interpreted as an intermediary eternal being, or aeon, sent from the pleroma to restore the lost knowledge of humanity's divine origin. Gnostics held secret formulas, which they believed would free them at death from the evil archons and restore them to their heavenly abode. See Valentinus for typical Gnostic teaching on the pleroma.

Gnosticism held that human beings consist of flesh, soul, and spirit (the divine spark), and that humanity is divided into classes representing each of these elements. The purely corporeal (hylic) lacked spirit and could never be saved; the Gnostics proper (pneumatic) bore knowingly the divine spark and their salvation was certain; and those, like the Christians, who stood in between (psychic), might attain a lesser salvation through faith. Such a doctrine may have inspired extreme asceticism (as in the Valentinian school) or extreme licentiousness (as in the sect of Caprocrates and the Ophites). The influence of Gnosticism on the later development of the Jewish kabbalah and heterodox Islamic sects such as the Ismailis is much debated.



Greek religion

Greek religion, religious beliefs and practices of the ancient inhabitants of the region of Greece.


Great Mother Goddess

Great Mother Goddess, in ancient Middle Eastern religions, mother goddess, the great symbol of the earth's fertility. She was worshiped under many names and attributes. Similar figures have been known in every part of the world. Essentially she was represented as the creative force in all nature, the mother of all things, responsible particularly for the periodic renewal of life. The later forms of her cult involved the worship of a male deity, variously considered her son, lover, or both (e.g., Adonis, Attis, and Osiris), whose death and resurrection symbolized the regenerative powers of the earth (see fertility rites). Although the Great Mother was the dominant figure in ancient Middle Eastern religions, she was also worshiped in Greece, Rome, and W Asia. In Phrygia and Lydia she was known as Cybele; among the Babylonians and Assyrians she was identified as Ishtar; in Syria and Palestine she appeared as Astarte; among the Egyptians she was called Isis; in Greece she was variously worshiped as Gaea, Hera, Rhea, Aphrodite, and Demeter; and in Rome she was identified as Maia, Ops, Tellus, and Ceres. Even this listing, however, is by no means complete. Many attributes of the Virgin Mary make her the Christian equivalent of the Great Mother, particularly in her great beneficence, in her double image as mother and virgin, and in her son, who is God and who dies and is resurrected.
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Hades

in Greek and Roman religion and mythology. 1. The ruler of the underworld: see Pluto. 2. The world of the dead, ruled by Pluto and Persephone, located either underground or in the far west beyond the inhabited regions. It was separated from the land of the living by the rivers Styx [hateful], Lethe [forgetfulness], Acheron [woeful], Phlegethon [fiery], and Cocytus [wailing]. The newly arrived dead were ferried across the Styx by the avaricious old ferryman Charon, whom they paid with the coin that was placed in their mouths when they were buried. Unauthorized spirits who tried to enter or leave Hades were challenged by the fearful dog Cerberus. The honey cake that the Greeks buried with the dead was intended to quiet him. All the dead drank of the river of forgetfulness. The judges of the dead—Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus—assigned to each soul its appropriate abode. The virtuous and the heroic were rewarded in the Elysian fields; wrongdoers were sent to Tartarus; and most wandered as dull shadows among fields of asphodel.


Harpocrates

The Greek name for the Egyptian sky god Horus. He was represented as a small boy with his finger held to his lips and came to be considered the god of silence. His cult, combined with that of Isis and Serapis, was very popular in the Roman Empire.



Hathor

in Egyptian religion, celestial goddess of love and festivity. The personification of the sky, she was represented as a star-studded cow or as a woman with the head of a cow. She was identified with many other goddesses of fertility and love, such as Aphrodite. Her name also appears as Athor.


Hebe

in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of youth; daughter of Zeus and Hera and wife of Hercules. She appears only occasionally in legend as a cupbearer and attendant of the gods. The Romans identified her as Juventas.


Hecate

in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of ghosts and witchcraft. Originally she seems to have been an extremely powerful and benevolent goddess, identified with three other goddesses—Selene (in heaven), Artemis (on earth), and Persephone (in the underworld). From the three supposedly came her image in Greek art as a figure with three bodies or three heads. Generally she is identified as a spirit of black magic, Persephone's attendant, with the power to conjure up dreams, phantoms, and the spirits of the dead. In the upper world she haunted graveyards and crossroads and was invisible to all eyes except those of the hounds who attended her.


Hel

in Norse mythology, the underworld (sometimes called Niflheim) and the goddess who ruled there. In early Germanic mythology, Hel was the goddess who ruled the majestic abode for the dead. Later, particularly after the advent of Christianity, Hel became a place of punishment, similar to the Christian hell.


Helios

in Greek religion and mythology, the sun god, son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. Each morning he left a palace in the east and crossed the sky in a golden chariot. In the evening he rested in another palace in the west and then sailed to the east along the river Oceanus. Although he was often invoked for serious oaths, his worship in Greece was negligible, except on Rhodes. There the famous Colossus represented him, and an important festival was celebrated in his honor. In later times he was identified with Apollo. Helios was the father of Aeëtes and Circe by Perse, and of Phaëthon by the nymph Rhode (or Clymene). He was often referred to simply as Titan, especially in Rome, where he was also known as Sol, and where he was an important god. His sister was Eos.


Hera

in Greek religion and mythology, queen of the Olympian gods, daughter of Kronos and Rhea. She was the wife and sister of Zeus and the mother of Ares and Hephaestus. A jealous wife, she fought constantly with Zeus and plagued his mistresses and children. She was the protectress of women, presiding over marriage and childbirth, and frequently punished offending husbands. A powerful divinity, Hera was worshiped in all parts of Greece, especially at Argos and Salmos, where she had splendid temples. She is usually represented as a majestic figure, fully draped, crowned with a wreath or diadem, and carrying a scepter. Frequently she is associated with the pomegranate, symbol of marital love and fruitfulness. The peacock was sacred to her. The Romans identified Hera with Juno.


Hephaestus

in Greek religion and mythology, Olympian god. According to Homer he was the son of Hera and Zeus, but Hesiod states that he was conceived and borne by Hera alone. Originally an Asian fire god, in Greece he became the divine smith and god of craftsmen. He was worshiped primarily in cities such as Athens, where he had a temple. It was said that he was either born lame or was lamed by Zeus, who threw him down from Olympus when Hephaestus took Hera's side in a dispute. He was represented as bearded, with mighty shoulders, but crippled legs. At huge furnaces, worked by Cyclopes, he fashioned ornaments, weapons, and magical contrivances for the gods and heroes (e.g., Achilles' shield). But in mythology he was usually a comic figure. Most scholars agree that he was the husband of Aphrodite, who was unfaithful to him. The Romans identified Hephaestus with Vulcan.


Hermetic books

Hermetic books, ancient metaphysical works dealing essentially with the idea of the complete community of all beings and objects. Authorship of the books was attributed to the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth, whose name was sometimes translated into Greek as Hermes Trismegistus [Thoth the thrice great] and was therefore equated with the Greek god Hermes. The books treat of a variety of subjects, including magic, astrology, and alchemy, and were particularly influential in the 3d cent. with the Neoplatonists and in France and England in the 17th cent.


Hestia

in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of the hearth; daughter of Kronos and Rhea. Both public and private worship of Hestia were widespread; she represented personal and communal security and happiness. An Olympian goddess, she was thought of as the kindest and mildest of the gods. She was of little mythological importance, appearing in only a few stories. The Romans identified her with Vesta.


Hermes

Hermes, in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and Maia. His functions were many, but he was primarily the messenger of the gods, particularly of Zeus, and conductor of souls to Hades. He was god of travelers and roads, of luck, of music and eloquence, of merchants and commerce, of young men, and of cheats and thieves. He was credited with having invented the lyre and the shepherd's flute. His most typical monument, the herma or herm, was a stone pillar which usually had a carved head on top and a phallus in the center, probably representing the god in his original role as the giver of fertility. The Hermaea, a riotous festival, was celebrated in his honor. In art, as exemplified by the statue The Flying Mercury by Giovanni Bologna (Bargello, Florence) Hermes is represented as a graceful youth, wearing a wide-brimmed winged hat and winged sandals and carrying the caduceus. A famous statue by Praxiteles, which is located in the Heraeum at Olympia, Greece, shows Hermes with the child Dionysus. The Romans identified Hermes with Mercury.


hero

hero, in Greek religion, famous person, who after his death, was worshiped as quasi-divine. The heroes might be actual great men and women, real or imaginary ancestors, or “faded” gods and goddesses (i.e., ancient gods who for some reason were demoted to human status). Homer treats his heroes as nobles and fighting men, but many Homeric heroes, such as Hector and Achilles, later became objects of worship. Hero cults were distinctly different from the attendance to the dead, which was meant only to afford comfort in the afterlife. In hero worship, as in the worship of all infernal powers, rituals were performed at night, black animals were sacrificed, and blood and other liquid offerings were poured beside the hero's tomb. The worship centered in general on the supposed place of the hero's tomb; the cult of some heroes, notably Hercules, was, however, widespread.


Horae

in Greek religion and mythology, goddesses of the seasons; daughters of Zeus and Themis. Although they controlled the recurrence of the seasons, they also attended other gods and had no cults of their own. The number and names of the Horae differed from region to region. According to Hesiod, there were three Horae—Eirene or Irene (peace), Dice or Dike (justice), and Eunomia (order).


Horus

in Egyptian religion, sky god, god of light and goodness. One of the most important of the Egyptian deities, Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis. In a famous myth he avenged the murder of his father by defeating Set, the god of evil and darkness. As Horus the Elder he was represented as a falcon-headed solar deity, who was perhaps originally a king or high priest of predynastic Egypt. As Horus the Child, called Harpocrates by the Greeks and Romans, he was represented as a small boy with a finger held to his lips.


Hyperion

Hyperion, in Greek religion and mythology, a Titan. He was the husband of his sister Theia and the father by her of Helios, Selene, and Eos. It is sometimes said that he was the original sun god.
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Ishtar

An ancient fertility deity, the most widely worshiped goddess in Babylonian and Assyrian religion. She was worshiped under various names and forms. Most important as a mother goddess and as a goddess of love, Ishtar was the source of all the generative powers in nature and mankind. However, she was also a goddess of war and as such was capable of unremitting cruelty. Her cult spread throughout W Asia, and she became identified with various other earth goddesses (see Great Mother Goddess). One of the most famous of the Babylonian legends related the trials of her descent into the underworld in search of her lover Tammuz and her triumphant return to earth. In Sumerian religion, where her cult probably originated, she was called Inanna or Innina.



Isis

Isis, nature goddess whose worship, originating in ancient Egypt, gradually extended throughout the lands of the Mediterranean world during the Hellenistic period and became one of the chief religions of the Roman Empire. The worship of Isis, combined with that of her brother and husband Osiris and their son Horus, was enormously resistant to the influence of early Christian teachings, and her mysteries, celebrating the death and resurrection of Osiris, were performed as late as the 6th cent. A.D. The functions of many goddesses were attributed to her, so that eventually she became the prototype of the beneficent mother goddess, the bringer of fertility and consolation to all. She was the daughter of the sky goddess Nut and the earth god Geb. Her symbol was a throne and later the cow, and she was frequently represented with a cow's head or cow's horns. During the Hellenistic period, her image outside Egypt became increasingly Hellenic, with ideal features and locks framing her face. Isis was also a goddess of magic, and legends tell of her ability to counteract evil by casting spells.



J


Janus

In Roman religion, god of beginnings. He was one of the principal Roman gods, the custodian of the universe. The first hour of the day, the first day of the month, the first month of the year (which bears his name) were sacred to him. His chief function was as guardian deity of gates and doors. The gates of his temple in the Roman Forum were closed in time of peace and opened in time of war. Janus was usually represented with two bearded heads placed back to back so that he might look in two directions at the same time. His principal festival was celebrated on the first day of the year.


Juno

Juno, in Roman religion and mythology, wife and sister of Jupiter. In early Roman times she, like the Greek Hera (with whom she was later identified), was goddess and protector of women, concerned especially with their sexual life. In later religion she became, however, the great goddess of the state and was worshiped, in conjunction with Jupiter and Minerva, at the temple on the Capitol.



Jupiter

Jupiter, in Roman religion and mythology, the supreme god, also called Jove. Originally a sky deity associated with rain and agriculture, he developed into the great father god, prime protector of the state, concerned, like the Greek Zeus (with whom he is identified), with all aspects of life. At his temple on the Capitol, triumphant generals honored him with their spoils and magistrates paid homage to him with sacrifices. Jupiter was the son of Saturn and Ops and the brother and husband of Juno.




K


Kronos

in Greek religion and mythology, the youngest Titan, son of Uranus and Gaea. With the help of his mother, he led the Titans in the revolt against Uranus and ruled the world. He married his sister Rhea and fathered the great gods—Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Hestia. Because he was fated to be overthrown by one of his children, he swallowed them all as infants until Rhea hid Zeus and presented Kronos with a stone wrapped in a blanket, which he ate. Later Zeus tricked him into disgorging his children. Zeus then led the Olympian gods in overthrowing Kronos in the battle called the Titanomachy, described by Hesiod. Kronos and all the defeated Titans, except Atlas, were exiled. Kronos is equated with the Roman Saturn and was probably a god of a pre-Hellenic people.
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lares

in Roman religion, guardian spirits. According to some they were ghosts of the dead, destructive spirits who frequented crossroads and had to be propitiated. Others say that the lares were farm deities, worshiped as fertility powers of the earth. The most common myth, however, identifies them as household gods, beneficent spirits of ancestors, worshiped in close connection with the penates.


Larvae (lemures)

in Roman religion, vampirelike ghosts of the dead; also called larvae. To exorcise these malevolent spirits from the home, the Romans held rites, the Lemuria (May 9, 11, 13).


Liber

in Roman religion, god of fertility and wine. He was usually identified with Bacchus, the Latin equivalent of Dionysus. His consort Libera. was identified with Persephone or Ariadne. Liber and Libera had a famous cult on the Aventine Hill in Rome in connection with Ceres. The festival Liberalia was celebrated in their honor.


Liberalia

in Roman religion, festival of Liber and Libera. The rustic festival of great rejoicing and merrymaking was held on Mar. 17. Roman youths generally first assumed the toga virilis (i.e., began dressing like adults) at this time.


Loki

Loki, Norse giant (or deity) who personified evil. He hated the gods of Asgard and continually sought to overthrow them. His worst exploit was the murder of Balder, for which he was punished by Thor. It was prophesied that when Ragnarok (the doom of the gods) occurs, Loki, with the aid of his monstrous children—the Fenris wolf, the Midgard serpent, and the goddess Hel—would lead the enemies of heaven.


Lupercalia

Lupercalia, ancient Roman festival held annually on Feb. 15. The ceremony of the festival was intended to secure fertility and keep out evil. Two male youths, clad in animal skin, ran around the city slapping passersby with strips of goat skin. Because the youths impersonated male goats (the embodiment of sexuality), the ceremony was believed to be in honor of Faunus. The festival survived into Christian times and was not abolished until the end of the 5th cent.



M


maenads

in Greek and Roman religion and mythology, female devotees of Dionysus. They roamed mountains and forests, adorned with ivy and skins of animals, waving the thyrsus. When they danced, they often worked themselves into an ecstatic frenzy, during which they were capable of tearing wild animals to pieces with their bare hands. The maenads were also called (for Bacchus) bacchantes or bacchae.


Magi

Magi, priestly caste of ancient Persia. Probably Median in origin, they were, according to Herodotus, a tribe rather than a priestly family. Zoroaster is thought to have been a Magus. Study of the Magi is hampered by the lack of original source material. They are thought to have molded a pre-Zoroastrian religion, but nothing is known of it except by inference. After Zoroaster, Magian priests headed Zoroastrianism; the greatest was Saena. The Magi were revered by classic authors as wise men, and their reputed power over demons gave rise to the word magic.


Maia

In Greek mythology, oldest of the Pleiades. She was the mother of Hermes by Zeus. 2. In Roman mythology, goddess of fertility; also called Maiesta. She was often identified with Bona Dea. The month of May was probably named for her.


Marduk

An ancient god of Babylonia and chief god of the city of Babylon. His cult rose to prominence in the reign of Hammurabi, and Marduk became the omniscient king of the pantheon—the creator of mankind and the god of light and life. In his various aspects he was the successor of the Sumerian earth god Enlil.


Mars

Mars, in Roman religion and mythology, god of war. In early Roman times he was a god of agriculture, but in later religion (when he was identified with the Greek Ares) he was primarily associated with war. Mars was the father of Romulus, the founder of the Roman nation, and, next to Jupiter, he enjoyed the highest position in Roman religion. The Salii, his priests, honored him by dancing in full armor in the Campus Martius, the site of his altar. Chariot races and the sacrifice of animals were primary features of the festivals held in his honor in March (named for him) and October. Mars was represented as an armed warrior. His attributes include the spear and shield, and the wolf and woodpecker were sacred to him. He was frequently associated with Bellona, the Roman goddess of war.



Matuta

Roman goddess. Sometimes called the goddess of dawn, she was more properly the goddess of childbirth. Her festival, the Matralia (June 11), was attended only by matrons. She was also identified with the Greek goddess Leucothea and as such was worshiped as a sea deity.


Mercury

Mercury, in Roman religion, god of commerce and messenger of the gods; identified with the Greek Hermes. He was honored at the Mercuralia, a festival held in May and attended primarily by traders and merchants.


Middle Eastern religions

Middle Eastern religions, religious beliefs and practices of the ancient inhabitants of the Middle East. Little was known about the religions of the city-states of W Asia until stores of religious literature were uncovered by excavations in the 19th and 20th cent. The picture is still incomplete, although from the available information it appears that the various religions shared many beliefs and concepts. It was from these roots that three of the world's major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—developed.


Milcom

Milcom, in the Bible, god of the Ammonites whose cult Solomon introduced in Jerusalem. In the Book of Judges the name is replaced (probably by mistake) by Chemosh. Milcom may be identifiable with Molech.


Minerva

In Roman religion, goddess of handicrafts and the arts. Probably of Etruscan origin, she was worshiped in various parts of ancient Rome, most notably with Jupiter and Juno in the great Capitoline temple. Her temple on the Aventine Hill was a meeting place for skilled artisans, actors, and writers. She was identified with the Olympian Athena.


Mithra

An ancient god of Persia and India (where he was called Mitra). Until the 6th cent. B.C., Mithra was apparently a minor figure in the Zoroastrian system. Under the Achaemenids, Mithra became increasingly important, until he appeared in the 5th cent. B.C. as the principal Persian deity, the god of light and wisdom, closely associated with the sun. His cult expanded through the Middle East into Europe and became a worldwide religion, called Mithraism.. This was one of the great religions of the Roman Empire, and in the 2d cent. A.D. it was more general than Christianity. Mithraism found widest favor among the Roman legions, for whom Mithra (or Mithras in Latin and Greek) was the ideal divine comrade and fighter. The fundamental aspect of the Mithraic system was the dualistic struggle between the forces of good and evil. Mithra, who gave to his devotees hope of blessed immortality, represented the fearless antagonist of the powers of darkness. The story of Mithra's capture and sacrifice of a sacred bull, from whose body sprang all the beneficent things of the earth, was a central cultic myth. The ethics of Mithraism were rigorous; fasting and continence were strongly prescribed. The rituals, highly secret and restricted to men only, included many of the sacramental forms common to the mystery religions (e.g., baptism and the sacred banquet). Mithraism, which bore many similarities to Christianity, declined rapidly in the late 3d cent. A.D.


Muses

Muses, in Greek religion and mythology, patron goddesses of the arts, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Originally only three, they were later considered as nine. Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry and eloquence; Euterpe, of music or of lyric poetry; Erato, of the poetry of love; Polyhymnia (or Polymnia), of oratory or sacred poetry; Clio, of history; Melpomene, of tragedy; Thalia, of comedy; Terpsichore, of choral song and dance; Urania, of astronomy. Some say that Apollo was their leader. Early places of their worship were the district of Pieria, in Thessaly, where they were often called Pierides, and Mt. Helicon, in Boeotia. The springs of Castalia, Aganippe, and Hippocrene were sacred to them.


mysteries


mysteries, in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults. The conventional religions of both Greeks and Romans were alike in consisting principally of propitiation and prayers for the good of the city-state, the tribe, or the family, and only secondarily of the person. Individuals sought a more emotional religion that would fulfill their desires for personal salvation and immortality. Secret societies were formed, usually headed by a priest or a hierophant. By the 5th cent. B.C. mysteries were an important part of the fabric of Hellenic life. Although the mystic rites were kept secret, it was known that they required elaborate initiations, including purification rites, beholding sacred objects, accepting occult knowledge, and acting out a sacred drama. Some mysteries were of foreign origin, such as the Middle Eastern cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithra; some were embodied survivals of indigenous rites. The most important mystery cults in Greece were the Eleusinian, the Orphic, and the Andanian. Since the mystery deities were associated primarily with fertility, many scholars believe that these cults were based on unrecorded primitive fertility rites. The popularity of mystery cults spread in the Hellenistic age and still more widely in Roman times.
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