Tiamat’s Tale by Nancy Vedder-Shults

nancymug_3About 15 years ago, I was writing a book entitled Embracing the Dragon: A Myth for our Times.  In it I critiqued the so-called heroic myth, which I call the dragon-slaying myth.  My research led to the discovery of many Western dragon tales, which I retold from the dragon’s perspective. “Tiamat’s Tale,” transcribed below, was one that I offered orally – as a storyteller.  


“The ocean is the beginning of the earth.  All life comes from the sea.”  And at the outset Her name was Tiamat.  Tiamat, the watery womb where all is amorphous and malleable. Tiamat, the primeval cauldron where one thing shapeshifts into another in the eternal whirlpool of creation.  Tiamat, the unfathomable abyss. Before Her there was nothing.  Without Her there is nothing.  And after Her there will truly be nothing.

Those who learn to trust Her, discover Tiamat’s bliss, the creative ebb and flow of Her salt flood.  Foremost among these was Apsu, Tiamat’s husband and lover, for he was the first to issue from Her tidal wave.  His sweet waters mingled with Her salty brine, and together they brought forth gods and goddesses as silt precipitates from a stream or sand washes up on a shore.  Tiamat’s undulations and Apsu’s wet dreams stirred the ardor of their children in turn, and soon there were many generations of gods and goddesses. Continue reading “Tiamat’s Tale by Nancy Vedder-Shults”

Stories for (Re)creation in the New Year by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedTwo New Years’ Eves ago, I came to the realization that I did not need to watch the television countdown to ring in midnight and begin the New Year.  I had always watched the show with my family as a child, and even while it made me feel curiously bad, I still somehow felt like it was an obligatory component of the day, right up there with kisses, well wishes, blowers, horns, and sparkling wine.  Since we seldom went to an actual New Year’s party, it was a way of connecting with the world.  I gave it up, though, when I ultimately deemed the musical guests and hosts to be unviewable.

I was not looking to make a new tradition per se that year when I decided to light a hunk of myrrh in the fireplace.  The myrrh had come to me as a gift in a Three Kings Christmas set.  It made a pretty decent blaze because I had placed it atop a bed of shallow candle wax from an old votive candle.  Let me say, while it smelled lovely and burned a long time, I do not recommend doing this – the fire became alarmingly vigorous for a little while.  Anyway, I spread a cloth on the floor and set out some food, calling my family together to sit in a circle by the hearth.  We dimmed the lights, and by fire I read the Epic of Gilgamesh (with some tasteful PG 13 edits) from 11:00 pm until 1:00 am.  I had been reading great epics to the kids, and it seemed somehow appropriate to return to Babylon that year.  We did not mark the New Year at a precise moment but rather sailed into it on the tides of an ancient tale.  It was a revelation to us all, mostly because we were reclaiming that night from the media usurpers who had defined it for us for most of our lives.

This year, we intended to do something similar until we ended up throwing an impromptu party for some friends and their children.  I knew they would all have limited interest in my second annual fire reading, so we just fed them and eventually counted down the final moments of 2014 on my watch.  But, after they left, we returned to the myth, this time reading the Babylonian Epic of Creation.  We hit the mark, as the story itself was ritually performed at each New Year.  It carried us deep into the first day of 2015 and was also a great revelation. Continue reading “Stories for (Re)creation in the New Year by Natalie Weaver”

Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger

We’ve recently celebrated Thanksgiving, when I hope that, like me, you gave thanks to the deity of your choice for the wise and thoughty blogs we’ve been reading on this site. Now we’re well into the holiday season, which seems (at least in the malls) to start earlier every year. No matter what you call the December holiday, its origin lies in the winter solstice, which is the tipping point of the year’s dark season. The solar gods—Adonis, Amon-Ra, Apollo, Attis, Baal, Horus, Jesus the Christ, Lugh, Marduk, Mithra, Shamash, Sol Invictus, and the rest—are born or reborn now. These are the gods who live for a season or a year in great honor, after which they’re sacrificed, spend a season underground, and are then reborn. This happens every year at the winter solstice. (Just so you know: if Jesus was a real man, he was probably born in the spring or fall between 7 and 4 B.C.E. In 354 C.E., Bishop Liberius of Rome moved his official birth date to December 25 to match the birth date of the popular Roman god Mithra.)

Also born and reborn at the winter solstice is the light itself, the solar light and the temple light, too. We can think of the reborn light as literal light—a lamp in a temple that burns for eight days when it has fuel for only one—or metaphorical light, that is, learning, wisdom, and generosity. Hanukkah (which usually comes in December but which coincided with Thanksgiving this year) embraces both literal and metaphorical light. Continue reading “Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger”

Happy Birthday, Solar Gods By Barbara Ardinger

Throughout history and all around the world, people have celebrated midwinter and the rebirth of the sun. My favorite night of the solstice-Hanukah-Christmas season is December 24, Modranicht. If we have Mother’s Day in the springtime, it seems only fair that we should celebrate Mother’s Night in the winter. We get the term Mothers’ Night from the English monk, Bede, who said that the Angles began their year on the night of December 24–25.

The winter solstice this year falls on December 21, though it can also occur on December 22 and December 23. The word “solstice” means “sun stand still.” No, it’s not Joshua’s long day again. On the solstice, the sun rises from the same point on the horizon for a couple days (this is the standing still), is at its lowest point in the sky at noon, and (in the Northern Hemisphere) is at its southernmost point. It’s the longest night of the year, and when the sun is reborn, it moves across the sky for six months to the summer solstice, where it’s at its northernmost point.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Solar Gods By Barbara Ardinger”

The Feast Day of St. Brigid by Carol P. Christ

May we remember Brigid on her day in the fullness of her connection to bountiful and life-giving earth by setting a bowl of milk on an altar or special place in the garden on her holy day.  Who knows, a snake just might come to drink from it.

The Christian Feast Day of St. Brigid of Kildare, one of the two patron saints of Ireland, is held on February 1, the pre-Christian holiday known as Imbloc.  It is well known that St. Brigid has the same name as a pre-Christian Goddess of Ireland, variously known as Brighid (pronounced “Breed”), Brigid, Brigit, Bride, or Bridie.  The name Brigid is from the Celtic “Brig” meaning “High One” or “Exalted One.”  Brigid like other Irish Goddesses was originally associated with a Mountain Mother, protectress of the people who lived within sight of her and of the flocks nurtured on her slopes.

Imbloc marked the day that cows and ewes give birth and begin to produce milk.  It was also said to be the day when hibernating snakes (like groundhogs) first come out of their holes.  In northern countries, Imbloc signals the beginning of the ending of winter.  The days have begun to lengthen perceptibly after the winter solstice when the sun stands still and it seems that winter will never end.  At Imbloc spring is not yet in full blossom.  But if hibernating snakes come out of their holes, it is a sure sign that the processes of transformation will continue and warmer days will not be far off.  As Marija Gimbutas says, “The awakening of the snakes meant the awakening of all of nature, the beginning of the life of the new year.”   Continue reading “The Feast Day of St. Brigid by Carol P. Christ”

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