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Zeus

Zeus (/ˈzjuːs/; Ancient Greek: Ζεύς; Modern Greek: Δίας) is the King of the Gods in Greek Mythology. Zeus was viewed as a king who oversaw the universe. In Hesiod's Theogony, he assigns the various gods their roles. In the Homeric Hymns he is referred to as the chieftain of the gods. He is also called the "Father of Gods and men", according to Hesiod's Theogony. He ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus in ways representative as both a father as head of the family and a king. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak. In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical "cloud-gatherer" also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward, with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.

Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he was married to Hera, although, at the oracle of Dodona, his consort was Dione: according to the Iliad, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione.

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Luxor Temple, Egypt

Ancient Egyptian literature is literature written in the Egyptian language from Ancient Egypt's pharaonic period until the end of Roman domination. It represents the oldest corpus of Egyptian literature. Along with Sumerian literature, it is considered the world's earliest literature.

Writing in Ancient Egypt—both hieroglyphic and hieratic—first appeared in the late 4th millennium BC during the late phase of predynastic Egypt. By the Old Kingdom (26th century BC to 22nd century BC), literary works included funerary texts, epistles and letters, religious hymns and poems, and commemorative autobiographical texts recounting the careers of prominent administrative officials. It was not until the early Middle Kingdom (21st century BC to 17th century BC) that a narrative Egyptian literature was created. This was a "media revolution" which, according to Richard B. Parkinson, was the result of the rise of an intellectual class of scribes, new cultural sensibilities about individuality, unprecedented levels of literacy, and mainstream access to written materials. However, it is possible that the overall literacy rate was less than one percent of the entire population. The creation of literature was thus an elite exercise, monopolized by a scribal class attached to government offices and the royal court of the ruling pharaoh.

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Agni, god of fire

LGBT themes in Hindu mythology involve Hindu deities or heroes whose attributes or behavior can be interpreted as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), or as having elements of gender variance and non-heterosexual sexuality. Traditional Hindu literary sources do not speak of homosexuality directly, but changes of sex, homoerotic encounters, and intersex or third gender characters are often found both in traditional religious narratives such as the Vedas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas as well as in regional folklore.

Hindu mythology has many examples of deities changing gender, manifesting as different genders at different times, or combining to form androgynous or hermaphroditic beings. Gods change sex or manifest as an avatar of the opposite sex in order to facilitate sexual congress. Non-divine beings also undergo sex-changes through the actions of the gods, as the result of curses or blessings, or as the natural outcome of reincarnation.

Hindu mythology contains numerous incidents where sexual interactions serve a non-sexual, sacred purpose; in some cases, these are same-sex interactions. Sometimes the gods condemn these interactions but at other times they occur with their blessing.

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Le Vampire,engraving by R. de Moraine

Legends of vampires have existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of demonic entities and blood-drinking spirits which are considered precursors to modern vampires. However, despite the occurrence of vampire-like creatures in these ancient civilizations, the folklore for the entity we know today as the vampire originates almost exclusively from early 18th-century Southeastern Europe, as verbal traditions of many ethnic groups of the region were recorded and published. In most cases, vampires are revenants of evil beings, suicide victims, or witches, but can also be created by a malevolent spirit possessing a corpse or by being bitten by a vampire itself. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some areas it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

Tales of the undead consuming the blood or flesh of living beings have been found in nearly every culture around the world for many centuries. Today we know these entities predominantly as vampires, but in ancient times, the term vampire did not exist; blood drinking and similar activities were attributed to demons or spirits who would eat flesh and drink blood; even the devil was considered synonymous with the vampire.

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Achilles killing a Trojan prisonner in front of Charun.

Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to the myths and study them in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece, its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek mythology is embodied explicitly in a large collection of narratives and implicitly in representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth explains the origins of the world and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and other mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on events surrounding the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices.

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Vithoba

Vithoba is a Hindu god, worshipped predominantly in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. While generally considered a manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu or his avatar Krishna, he is sometimes associated with the god Shiva, the Buddha or both. Vithoba is often depicted as a dark young boy, standing arms-akimbo on a brick, sometimes accompanied by his main consort Rakhumai (Rukmini). Vithoba is the focus of the monotheistic, non-brahminical Varkari sect of Maharashtra and the Haridasa sect of Karnataka. Vithoba's main temple stands at Pandharpur in Maharashtra, close to the Karnataka border. Vithoba legends revolve around his devotee Pundalik, who is credited with bringing the deity to Pandharpur, and around Vithoba's role as a saviour to the poet-saints of the Varkari faith. The Varkari poet-saints are known for their unique genre of devotional lyric, the abhanga, dedicated to Vithoba and composed in Marathi. Other devotional literature dedicated to Vithoba includes the Kannada hymns of the Haridasa, and Marathi versions of the generic Hindu arati songs, associated with rituals of offering light to the deity. Though the origins of both his cult and his main temple remain subjects of debate, there is clear evidence that they already existed by the 13th century.

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Featured article/7[edit]

Ganesha

Ganesha is one of the best-known and most-worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon; his image is found throughout India. Hindu sects worship him regardless of other affiliations. Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha's elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom. He is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits and explain his distinct iconography. Ganesha emerged as a distinct deity in clearly-recognizable form in the 4th and 5th centuries, during the Gupta Period, although he inherited traits from Vedic and pre-Vedic precursors. His popularity rose quickly, and he was formally included among the five primary deities of Smartism (a Hindu denomination) in the 9th century. A sect of devotees called the Ganapatya, who identified Ganesha as the supreme deity, arose during this period. The principal scriptures dedicated to Ganesha are the Ganesha Purana, the Mudgala Purana, and the Ganapati Atharvashirsa.

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Kitsune

Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; kitsune usually refers to them in this context, and are akin to European faeries. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and human beings lived in close proximity in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as his messengers. This role has reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity.

It is widely agreed that many fox myths in Japan can be traced to China, Korea, or India. Chinese folk tales tell of fox spirits (called Huli-jing) that may have up to nine tails, or kumiho as they are known in Korea.

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Featured article/9[edit]

King Authur by Peter Vischer in Hofkirche

King Arthur is a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various histories, including those of Gildas, Nennius and the Annales Cambriae. The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons and established an empire over the British Isles, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. In fact, many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey's Historia, including Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, the wizard Merlin, the sword Excalibur, Arthur's birth at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann and final rest in Avalon. The 12th-century French writer Chrétien de Troyes, who added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story, began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, both in literature and in adaptations for theatre, film, television, comics and other media.

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An engraving of Orion from Johann Bayer's Uranometria, 1603

Orion was a great huntsman of Greek mythology who was placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion. He is described as a great hunter in the ancient Greek epic, the Odyssey, when Ulysses meets him in the underworld. The bare bones of his story are told by the Hellenistic and Roman collectors of myths, but there is no record of him comparable to that of other Greek heroes, such as that of Jason in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes or in Euripides' Medea. The remaining fragments of legend have provided a fertile field for speculation about the prehistory of Greek myth. Ancient sources tell several different stories about Orion. There are two major versions of his birth and several main versions of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boeotia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was blinded by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death by the blow of Artemis or of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio, and his elevation to the heavens.

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Depiction of Aravan, worshiped at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore

Iravan (Aravan) is a minor character from the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. The son of Pandava prince Arjuna (one of the main heroes of the Mahabharata) and the Naga princess Ulupi, Iravan is the central god of the cult of Kuttantavar and plays a major role in the cult of Draupadi. Both these cults are of South Indian origin, from a region of the country where he is worshipped as a village deity. The Mahabharata portrays Iravan as dying a heroic death in the 18-day Kurukshetra War, the epic's main subject. However, the South Indian cults have a supplementary tradition of honouring Iravan's self-sacrifice to the goddess Kali to ensure her favour and the victory of the Pandavas in the war. The South Indian cult focus on three boons granted to Iravan by the god Krishna in honour of this self-sacrifice. Iravan is also a patron god of well-known Indian transgender communities called Ali. In Koovagam, Tamil Nadu, an 18-day festival holds a ceremonial marriage of Iravan to Alis and male villagers and followed then by their "widowhood" after ritual re-enactment of Iravan's sacrifice. Iravan is also known in Indonesia. Independent Javanese traditions present a dramatic marriage of Irawan to Titisari, daughter of Krishna, and a death resulting from a case of mistaken identity.

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Cumulonimbus clouds are involved in thunderstorms, and can produce heavy rain and hail. It was believed that demons could lead these clouds over fields to destroy crops. The demons could be thwarted by men with supernatural properties.

A zduhać, vetrovnjak, and zmajevit were, in Serbian tradition, men with an inborn supernatural ability to protect their estate, village, or region against destructive weather conditions, such as storms, hail, or torrential rains. It was believed that the souls of these men could leave their bodies in sleep, to intercept and fight with demonic beings imagined as bringers of bad weather. Having defeated the demons and taken away the stormy clouds they brought, the protectors would return into their bodies and wake up tired.

Notions associated with the zduhać, vetrovnjak, and zmajevit, respectively, are not identical. The zmajevit fought against female demons called ala, which led hail clouds over fields to destroy crops. The zduhaći (plural) of an area usually fought together against the attacking zduhaći of another area who were bringing a storm and hail clouds above their fields. The victorious zduhaći would loot the yield of all agricultural produce from the territory of their defeated foes, and take it to their own region. The vetrovnjak, recorded in parts of western Serbia, fought against a bringer of bad weather imagined as a black bird. The zduhaći are recorded in Montenegro, eastern Herzegovina, part of Bosnia, and the Sandžak region of south-western Serbia. The zmajevit are recorded in central and eastern Serbia, and the region of Banat.

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