I have developed something of an obsession with Japanese folklore lately and have decided to gather together some resources and keep them in one place in case any one else is interested in exploring this fascinating area. My recent (and first ever) trip to Japan has fuelled the fires even more so I will update this post as I discover more.
Dragons are one of the most enduring of mythical creatures and hold a special place in the hearts of many people. They have been present in the myths, folklore and art of a diverse range of cultures throughout time, and stories about them continue to this day. This post is primarily a collection of links to resources for those interested in finding out more about these amazing mythical creatures.
I was reflecting recently on the type of content that had been shared during Folklore Thursday's cities and urban areas theme. It was interesting to me that there was a significant amount of folklore that was of the spooky kind. There were plenty of ghosts, hauntings and the supernatural. I pondered the reason for this, and for the eerie nature of a lot of urban legends. Now, I may be totally wrong, but I can't help wondering if it isn't the case that when a lot of people find themselves together in cities, somewhat isolated from the natural world, that the tone of tales also becomes rather unnatural. Things don't feel right when we isolate ourselves from the natural order of things.
In cities, particularly in the past, people worked indoors and lived in very close quarters. The streets were dirty and the air often dirtier. Away from nature, crammed into these conditions, tales took a more sinister tone and I wonder whether that is a symptom of the human cut of from wh…
Benzaiten, also known as Benten, is the Japanese goddess of all that flows, including water and rivers but also words, music, poetry, speech and learning. She originated in India as the Hindu goddess Sarawati and shares a lot of the same characteristics. Over time she evolved into a Buddhist goddess and is now included as the only female amongst the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan.
'Benzaiten Seated on a Dragon' - Keisei Benzaiten in Art
In art she is often depicted holding a musical instrument and her image is usually connected in some way with water. In Japan she is closely associated with dragons and snakes. Her connection to snakes is possible derived from Saraswati who is said to have killed a three headed snake. This is possibly the root of the Japanese tales below, which connect her to the dragon.
Goddess Benzaiten by Celeste Angus From a miniature shrine …
Throughout history bats have made their way into the folklore of cultures around the world. Interestingly there is disparity between their role in western folklore to that in the east. Exploring different folktales has given me a new appreciation for this remarkable animal.
The oldest fossils of bats are around 50 million years old. There are over 1000 different species and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are particularly prevalent in tropical areas. Bats are rather unique because, as mammals, they carry and feed their babies like humans and other mammals, and yet they don't walk or crawl but rather fly like birds. Often termed liminal, which is to say they are outside the normal order of things, their inability to fit neatly into a particular category of creatures makes them all the more mysterious. It is no surprise then that they have come to be associated with things such as death, hauntings and the dark side of life.
Many artists over the years have chosen the Greek Myths as the subject of their work. During the late 15th and 16th centuries classical mythology was a particularly popular subject of paintings. Perhaps this is why many of the Renaissance paintings remain timeless for they have tapped into the universal nature of humanity and in them we are able to see ourselves reflected. Due to the vast amount of artwork based on mythology I include here a small selection of my favourite paintings and myths.
Greek goddess Aphrodite emerged from the sea fully-grown after the titan Cronus slew his father Uranus and threw his genitals into the sea. She is the goddess of love, beauty and pleasure and is depicted above in Botticelli's famous 'Birth of Venus'.
Hermes is the Greek god of speech, travellers, shepherds, merchants and thieves. He stole his brother Apollo's cattle the same day he was born. Hermes is often depicted wearing winged sandals and a helmet. He was the messenger of the…