Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Goddess Culture

Freyja, by J. Doyle Penrose (1862-1932). Bette...Image via Wikipedia
Field trip! We leave Turkey today to visit Scandinavian mythology and Damascus, Syria?  Yes, the two are related and here's how:

It's my belief that most religions have things in common, no matter where in the world they originated. The idea of a goddess culture, or worship of a female deity struck me first when I read The Red Tent and I've seen it in so many places ever since. Anat, Isis, Rhiannon, Tlazolteotl, Aphrodite... all can and most have been translated into a version of the Virgin.

For Burnt Amber, the Queen of the Valkyries kept presenting herself. She is the Scandinavian goddess Freya, also known as Vanadis or The Lady. The goddess of love, fertility and beauty but also of war and death, she fits right into a story with all of those problems.  Her hair is strawberry blond, she drives a chariot drawn by two cats and wears a cloak of falcon feathers to cross the worlds. The tears she cries for her lost husband turn to amber. All of these physical attributes really work with Sybil's story.

I allude to many aspects of Vandis in the story. Most were inadvertent until I strengthened them with a stronger focus. Perhaps my simplest reference to the goddess is the blue wildflower, specifically the common milkwort known as Freya's hair, but the type imagined by the reader is not important as the color. There's more though.

Vanadis has lent her name to many things on earth, the most important being the heavy metal Vanadium. The ore was used in Damascus Steel, to give strength to metal and form beautiful, swirling patterns at the same time. The technique was a specialty of Middle Eastern sword making about the time of Queen Zabel and the Crusader states. Damascus being close to Cilicia, I naturally included the long swords in my book. But there's more...

Vanadium is also found naturally in Sea Cucumbers, creating yellow blood in some. The sea cucumber is used in oriental cultures for healing and studies suggest it accelerates tissue repair.  You see, you don't always need unobtanium, there are plenty of things to get inspired by right here on terra firma.

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ice-bjorn said...

I enjoyed your writing! August and I have started home-schooling and the first subject we've been studying is ancient Egypt and the Egyptian pantheon. We've found amazing parallels between symbols, rituals in old Egypt and Christianity. As we started with Cleopatra, we've seen the role of female deities (as both giver and taker of life) being somewhat universal.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Thanks Bjorn! I love Egyptology too, but at the moment Rick Riordan is cornering that market with The Red Pyramid.

I was at a museum recently and a boy there explained how the Peruvian Pachamama was disguised as the Virgin in a painting I was looking at. Middle Grade and Young Adult seem to be the best genres to explore mythology and ancient religions. I think kids are open to the references all around us, while we’ve been taught not to recognize them!

ice-bjorn said...

Good point, Carolyn.

Hart Johnson said...

It sounds like your goddess fascination started around when mine did, though my instigating book was Mists of Avalon. The Red Tent and Poisonwood Bible both contributed though, to my growing feeling that when the topic was religion or myth, it was best to look at who had a vested interest in the story being told.

I feel a kinship with Freya, being a Norsisima Strawberry Blonde with world domination aspirations and all...


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