The Myths Portal

1929 Belgian banknote, depicting Ceres, Neptune and caduceus

Myth is a genre of folklore or theology consisting primarily of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin myths. For folklorists, historians, philosophers or theologians this is very different from the use of "myth" simply indicating that something is not true. Instead, the truth value of a myth is not a defining criterion.

Myths are often endorsed by secular and religious authorities and are closely linked to religion or spirituality. Many societies group their myths, legends, and history together, considering myths and legends to be true accounts of their remote past. In particular, creation myths take place in a primordial age when the world had not achieved its later form. Other myths explain how a society's customs, institutions, and taboos were established and sanctified. There is a complex relationship between recital of myths and the enactment of rituals. (Full article...)

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Aravan worshipped at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore. A cobra hood is sheltering Aravan's head.

Iravan also known as Iravat and Iravant, is a minor character from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The son of Pandava prince Arjuna (one of the main heroes of the Mahabharata) and the Naga princess Ulupi, Iravan is the central deity of the cult of Kuttantavar (Kuttandavar) which is also the name commonly given to him in that tradition—and plays a major role in the sect of Draupadi. Both these sects are of Tamil origin, from a region of the country where he is worshipped as a village deity and is known as Aravan. He is also a patron god of well-known transgender communities called Alis (also Aravani in Tamil, and Hijra throughout South Asia).

The Mahabharata portrays Iravan as dying a heroic death on the 8th day of the 18-day Kurukshetra War (Mahabharata war), the epic's main subject. However, the South Indian traditions have a supplementary practice of honouring Aravan's self-sacrifice to the goddess Kali to ensure her favour and the victory of the Pandavas in the war. The Kuttantavar tradition focuses on one of the three boons granted to Aravan by the god Krishna in honour of this self-sacrifice. Aravan requested that he be married before his death. Krishna satisfied this boon in his female form, Mohini. In Koovagam, Tamil Nadu, this incident is re-enacted in an 18-day festival, first by a ceremonial marriage of Aravan to Alis and male villagers (who have taken vows to Aravan) and then by their widowhood after ritual re-enactment of Aravan's sacrifice. (Full article...)

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An eight-armed seated woman dressed in a sari, holding a child and various weapons, ripping the womb of a woman, lying on her lap, while trampling a man

  • ... that Tamil Hindu parents dedicate their one-month-old children to the goddess Periyachi (pictured), who is depicted ripping a woman's womb?


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To farmers of eastern Europe, the ala was a demon who led hail and thunderstorms over their fields, ruining their crops.

An ala or hala (plural: ale or hali) is a female mythological creature recorded in the folklore of Bulgarians, Macedonians, and Serbs. Ale are considered demons of bad weather whose main purpose is to lead hail-producing thunderclouds in the direction of fields, vineyards, or orchards to destroy the crops, or loot and take them away. Extremely voracious, ale particularly like to eat children, though their gluttony is not limited to Earth. It is believed they sometimes try devouring the Sun or the Moon, causing eclipses, and that it would mean the end of the world should they succeed. When people encounter an ala, their mental or physical health, or even life, are in peril; however, her favor can be gained by approaching her with respect and trust. Being in a good relationship with an ala is very beneficial, because she makes her favorites rich and saves their lives in times of trouble.

The appearance of an ala is diversely and often vaguely described in folklore. A given ala may look like a black wind, a gigantic creature of indistinct form, a huge-mouthed, humanlike, or snakelike monster, a female dragon, or a raven. An ala may also assume various human or animal shapes, and can even possess a person's body. It is believed that the diversity of appearances described is due to the ala's being a synthesis of a Slavic demon of bad weather and a similar demon of the central Balkans pre-Slavic population. In folk tales with a humanlike ala, her personality is similar to that of the Russian Baba Yaga. Ale are said to live in the clouds, or in a lake, spring, hidden remote place, forest, inhospitable mountain, cave, or gigantic tree. While ale are usually hostile towards humans, they do have other powerful enemies that can defeat them, like dragons. In Christianized tales, St. Elijah takes the dragons' role, but in some cases the saint and the dragons fight ale together. Eagles are also regarded as defenders against ale, chasing them away from fields and thus preventing them from bringing hail clouds overhead. (Full article...)

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