Changelings

Changelings could be things like glamoured rocks and logs, but were also often old fairies that no one wanted to deal with anymore, and so they were given to mortals in exchange for children. There were many myths about how to get one’s loved one back from fairies when they were replaced with a changeling. One of the ways to discover if your child was a changeling in Ireland involved brewing eggshells. The changeling would be so perplexed that it would comment on the act, revealing itself to be far older than a human infant or child. Once found out, the changeling could be exchanged for the true human child.

People who have studied the phenomenon and its history have a dark tale to tell. They believe that the changeling legend was eventually used, specifically in Ireland, as an excuse for people to abuse, neglect, and even kill disabled people, as changelings were often described as being different from normal humans in many ways. However, it was also occasionally used as an excuse to kill anyone who did not quite fit in, much like the excuse of witchcraft was used in other European countries. The last recorded case of this was in 1895, when an ill woman named Bridget Cleary was murdered by her husband and several of his friends. Her corpse was found burned and brutally mutilated, and her husband refused to murder. He instead said that he had succeeded in driving the fairy out, and that his wife would soon be returned to him. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but this was in a much more modern age. The stories of changelings are much older than that.

~Victoria

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Four-Leafed Clovers

Four-Leafed clovers are considered to be good luck all over the Western world. However, they’re not always easy to find. In fact, for every four-leafed clover, there’s estimated to be 10,000 normal three-leafed clovers.

Nowadays four-leafed clovers represent luck overall. Some say that the four leaves actually represent faith, hope, love, and luck. In medieval times, carrying a four-leafed clover was supposed to allow you to see faeries, witches, spirits, and other entities or beings that could cause you harm.

Five-leafed clovers also exist. They’re considered to be even luckier than the four-leafed clovers. Also known as rose clovers, the fifth leaf is supposed to stand for money. The most leaves ever found on one clover stem is 56. The clover was found in Japan in 2009.

~Victoria

Mayan and Aztec Masks

Both the Mayans and the Aztecs also had masks they used in traditional ceremonies and some of which are still found in sites today.  For the Aztecs, the masks were mainly for display, not for actual use.  Many were inlaid with precious stones, especially turquoise which was used in a lot of Aztec art.  The shards of turquoise were placed on bases that were made of wood, stone, or sometimes even a real skull. Other decorative items used were obsidian, pyrite, coral and shell.  Archeologists have also found masks with inlaid teeth and eyes.  Mayans commonly used jade to decorate their traditional masks which were sometimes used to adorn the faces of the dead.  While it is not known the significance of the masks on the deceased, there are some scholars who believe that they were either used to scare off potential grave robbers or for ceremonies in the afterlife.  Mayan warriors would also wear masks into battle to channel the ferocity of a certain animal.  There were many other uses for the masks, such as births, weddings, and funerals.  Sadly, most of the lore for the two tribes has been lost over time due to Western influence and the destruction of cultural artifacts by the Spanish.

~Elyce

Egyptian Weighing of the Heart

In the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, you had to pass through the Hall of Ma’at, the goddess of justice, truth, and harmony and the daughter of Ra, before you could move on to the afterlife. In the hall, a dead person’s heart would be weighed against Ma’at, represented by a feather. If their heart was lighter than the feather, they were free to move on. If it was heavier, then a goddess named Ammut would gobble up your heart. She is usually depicted with a crocodile’s head, a hippo’s hindquarters, and a lion or leopard’s forelimbs. Besides Ammut and Ma’at, Anubis and Thoth would attend this ceremony. Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife, would weigh the heart and Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing, would record the findings.

~Victoria

Egyptian Pantheon

This list is by no means complete, but it does list many of the major Egyptian deities. All of these deities also have several different names and variations in spelling those names.

Geb: Geb is the god of the Earth. He lies flat on his back, with his wife bent over him. She is held away from him by the god Shu. His wife is Nut and his children are Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

Nut: Nut is the goddess of the sky. She is bent over her husband, Geb, held apart from him by the god Shu. Her children are Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

Amun: Amun is a god with a ram’s head that ruled over the wind. He was once king of the gods, and he later was combined with Ra as Amun-Ra.

Ra: Ra is the great Egyptian sun god and is often considered one of the most powerful gods. He was later combined with Amun to become Amun-Ra. In one Egyptian creation myth, Ra called all things into existence by saying their secret names. He is often depicted as a falcon with a sun disk on his head.

Osiris: Osiris is the god of rebirth, renewal, fertility, and the afterlife. He is married to his sister, Isis, and is the father of Horus. At a party, his brother, Set, asked Osiris to climb inside a sarcophagus. Osiris did so and Set killed him, chopped him up into little bits, and hurled them all over Egypt. Isis managed to put Osiris back together (except for his genitalia, which she recrafted for him out of wood) and resurrect him with her magic. Because of this, Osiris became associated with not only the afterlife, but the Nile itself. Every year, the Nile floods onto its banks and deposits fresh, fertile soil for farming, which allows life along the river to continue.

Isis: Isis fit the ancient Egyptian ideal of the perfect mother and wife. She is a goddess of nature and of magic and is associated with resurrection, as it is her magic that resurrected her husband, Osiris, when he was murdered by Set, and that allowed her to have her son, Horus. She is usually depicted with a headdress with a throne on it. Isis actually was so popular that the Greeks and Romans even worshiped her. Cleopatra and her family were actually Greek, not Egyptian. She actually was the first of her family to learn the Egyptian language and to actually behave and worship like an Egyptian. She heavily worshiped Isis and actually made herself out to be sort of “Isis on Earth”, making herself very popular with her people.

Set: Set is the god of chaos and desert storms. He is the son of Geb and Nut, the brother of Osiris and Isis, the brother and husband of Nephthys, and the father of Anubis. No one is entirely sure what animal Set’s head is supposed to look like, and it’s been compared to an aardvark, donkey, fennec fox, and a jackal.

Nephthys: Nephthys is the goddess of funerary rites and, like her sister, is also skilled in magic. She is usually depicted as a woman with a headdress with hieroglyphs on it or as a woman with falcon wings. She is the sister and wife of Set and the mother of Anubis. According to the Pyramid Texts, it was before her and Isis that evil spirits quaked with fear. While Isis was the birth mother of Horus, Nephthys nursed him. Like her sister, Nephthys also had some Greek and Roman worshipers.

Anubis: Anubis is the god of burial and mummification and is usually depicted with a jackal’s head. He is the son of Set and Nephthys.

Horus: Horus is a god of the skies and is the son of Osiris and Isis. He directly opposed Set and often tried to avenge his father by fighting his uncle. In one story, Horus loses an eye to his uncle in a fight. The eye he lost became known as The Eye of Horus, or Wedjat Eye, and was used for protection and warding off the Evil Eye. He is usually depicted with the head of a hawk or as a hawk.

Hathor: Hathor is the Egyptian goddess of love and happiness. She is most often depicted with a cow’s head, or as a woman with cow horns with a sun disc in between them. She is the wife of Horus.

Ma’at: Ma’at is the Egyptian goddess of justice, truth, and harmony. She is usually depicted with a feather in her hair, or just as a feather. She is the daughter of Ra, and it is against her that someone’s heart must be weighed when they die. If their heart weighs more than the feather, their heart is devoured. If their heart weighs less or the same, they get to go to the afterlife.

Ptah: Ptah is the god of craftsmen and is usually depicted as a man carrying a staff.

Thoth: Thoth is the god of knowledge and writing. He is usually depicted as having the head of an ibis or sometimes a baboon. The Egyptians believed that Thoth gave them the knowledge of hieroglyphic writing.

Sobek: Sobek is the god of water and of crocodiles and is usually depicted with the head of a crocodile.

Sekhmet: Sekhmet is a lioness-headed goddess of destruction, fire, and war.

Bast: Bast is a cat goddess of protection.

~Victoria

Human Sacrifice Among the Inca

The Inca had a different way of going about sacrifices than many other cultures. First of all, the Inca rarely, if ever, sacrificed prisoners, or even adults in general. All Incan sacrifices were children between the ages of six and fifteen. These children went through a process called capacocha, a process which ended with their inevitable sacrifice. Children were sacrificed to the gods because they were considered the purest of all beings, and so much more worthy than any adult could ever be. Those chosen were always the healthiest, and the closest to the Inca idea of perfection. To be chosen was considered quite the honor. Chosen children were given clothes and food that were quite similar to those of the highest-ranking people in Incan culture. They also were taken to Cuzco to meet the emperor. Then, they were taken to live high in the mountains. Until the time of their sacrifice, they’d be given increasingly high amounts of coca, which is the type of plant used in cocaine production and the production of the soft drink, Coke. Although, Coke has started removing the cocaine from the leaves before using them. The children would chew the leaves and several of the mummies have been found with chewed leaves still inside their mouths. A few weeks before the sacrifice took place, the children’s dose of coca would increase dramatically and they would also start consuming large quantities of alcohol. These would have made them very incoherent by the time of the sacrifice, if not unconscious. At that point, the children were killed in one of three ways: strangulation, one quick blow to the head, or left in a secluded cave to die of hypothermia in their sleep. Strangulation was the least common, with the quick blow to the head being the most. Usually, the children were killed quite quickly while as incoherent as possible, in an effort to make the child’s death not quite as traumatic.

~Victoria

Islam

Islam

Islam is the youngest child of a religious family that includes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. Just like the others, Islam was born from a religious movement in the Middle East. The holy book of Islam is the Quran and Muslim people worships in mosques. Muslim people believe in most of the same prophets that Christians and Jews do, including Jesus. However, they believe that Muhammad was the last prophet and that he gave the truest view of God, who they call Allah. Islam is currently the fastest growing religion in the world.

Five Pillars

There are several different sects of Islam, just as there are with any other religion. However, all of them share a belief in the Five Pillars of Islam. Each sect has slightly different pillars, but most have similar ideals at heart. The following are the Five Pillars of Sunni Islam.

Shahada (Faith): This is a declaration of faith that states, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”. This phrase, repeated in Arabic three times, is how one converts to Islam.

Salat (Prayer): This pillar states that Muslims must pray five times a day, facing the Kaaba in Mecca. They must pray before the sun rises, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at night. Muslims must wash before praying, and this washing is called wudu (purification).

Zakāt (Charity): According to Muslim belief, Zakāt is vital. It states that if a Muslim is wealthy, then they must donate a percentage of their income to charities in their community. If a Muslim does not have enough wealth to do this, then they are supposed to do acts of charity rather than donate money. In other words, they’re supposed to perform good deeds. This pillar is supposed to help reduce inequality.

Sawm (Fasting): Fasting is an important part of Muslim faith. They fast ritually, to repent, and to achieve the self-discipline that their religion holds in high esteem. Ramadan is a sacred month, and during it all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk. However, those who are medically unable to fast for long periods of time are exempt. The people who are exempt include, but are not limited to: prepubescent children, elderly people, diabetics, pregnant women, nursing women, and menstruating women.

Hajj (Pilgrimage): The Hajj is a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca which every able Muslim is supposed to make in their lifetime. After making this pilgrimage, Muslims are known within their communities as Hajj or Hajja, depending on their gender.

History

Islam first appeared around 610 AD. It was born from the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, who received his knowledge and prophecies from an angel of Allah (God) named Jibril (Gabriel). Muhammad preached his teachings first in Mecca, but he and his followers were persecuted by the local authorities. Muhammad preached about racial equality and religious tolerance, which threatened the power of the city’s leaders. After a long struggle, Muhammad and his followers traveled to Medina and formed a Constitution for the settlement. The Constitution of Medina included, but is not limited to, the following rules: that the city was a sacred place where weapons and violence were not permitted, that the city had freedom of religion, that the tribes maintained stable relationships with each other within the city, that there was a tax system to support the city if conflicts arose, and that women had secure positions in society. In addition, the Constitution also created a judicial system for resolving disputes. This judicial system even allowed non-Muslims to bring their own laws and judges to court.

Islam began to spread quickly, much to the dismay of leaders in various parts of the world. It even was quite popular in Spain. However, as Catholicism grew in religious power, many of the Muslims (often called Moors) were persecuted and even killed for their beliefs.

Unfortunately, this discrimination, persecution, and Islamophobic behavior have continued to this day. In fact, many Muslim women are currently afraid to wear their hijabs. And hijabs, or other headscarves, are simply worn as an expression of modesty in their religion. They aren’t using them to hide diabolical secrets or wearing them because they’re oppressed. Many of them enjoy wearing their hijabs and take a great deal of time to coordinate them with outfits and to make sure they’re sitting correctly. The mods of this blog really don’t understand why some Islamophobic people find it fun to rip off these women’s religious headwear. You aren’t going to find your long lost morals hidden underneath.

~Victoria

Religious Resources

Given recent events, our blog will be doing a short series on various religions for the next week. As such, our first post will be a list of resources that has to deal with these religions. I apologize for the brevity of this list, but it’s hard to find sources on the history and practice of major religions that are unbiased. I have included links to the main texts of each religion and to historical resources.

Judaism

Torah and Judaism Resources: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/

Christianity

Latin Vulgate (in Latin): http://www.drbo.org/lvb/chapter/01001.htm

Latin Vulgate Bible (in Latin and English): http://vulgate.org/ot/genesis_1.htm

King James Bible: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

History of Christianity Resources: http://theologydegreesonline.com/christian-history/

Islam

Different Versions of the Quran: http://www.quranflash.com/home?en

History of Islam: http://islam.uga.edu/history.html

~Victoria

Myths About Celts

Were the Celts Uncultured?

No. In many works, the Celts are portrayed as uncultured barbarians. However, the Celts were very skilled, specifically in metalwork, but also in masonry and other crafting arts. The Celts themselves were skilled specifically with iron and gold, but also became capable with silver as well after it was introduced to them by the Vikings. In fact, many larger groups of people traded with the Celts to obtain their finely made iron goods, specifically their weapons. As for gold, the Celts placed a high value on the metal and often wore pieces of it on their persons. One of the most well-known pieces of jewelry worn by the Celts was the golden torque, a hoop made out of gold with one narrow opening, which would sit around the neck with the opening facing the front. The more ornate the torque was, or the more gold was in it, the higher the person stood within the group’s social ranking.

Were the Celts Unclean?

No. Another common misconception about the Celts is that they were unclean. This one is easily refuted, considering the fact that the Celts cared very much about their personal appearances and were some of the first people to invent soap.

Did the Celts Perform Human Sacrifices?

Rarely. A third misconception is that the Celts were very interested in human sacrifice. The Celts did sacrifice people, but only very rarely. Most often, the sacrificed items and animals to the gods. Their religion, since it was so nature based, involved giving back to nature some of what was taken from it. So they would take some of their finished products and bury them to pay back the Gods for what they had given them.

Did the Celts Completely Lack Strategy?

No. A fourth misconception, and the final one mentioned here, is that the Celts basically ran into battle like wild morons, which would be useless against a more disciplined force. The Celts did not attack in groups of shouting morons. In fact, they came up with some of their own interesting military innovations to help combat such groups. Also, they tended to use guerilla style warfare that more suited their knowledge of the land and their small groups.

Did the Celts or their Druids Build Stonehenge?

No. Most now believe that Stonehenge was built over five thousand years ago, starting in roughly around 3100 BC. Considering that Celtic cultural traits didn’t start appearing in Britain until roughly the 6th century BC, Stonehenge could not have been built by the Celts, or their priestly and scholarly social group, the druids. It was built around two thousand five hundred years before the Celts even showed up in Britain. Archaeologists agree that the construction of Stonehenge was conducted in various stage by various groups of people, starting with a Neolithic farming culture.

~Victoria