legend

Defeating Death: The Ancient Quest for Eternal Life through Artifacts, Divine Foods and Elixirs

The very earliest written histories reveal that humanity has had the universal desire to live forever, and has sought countless ways in which to defeat the utterly relentless inevitabilities of time and mortality.

Whether bestowed by deities, attained through acts of extreme good, conjured through magical objects or potions, received as a form of punishment, or acquired through a mishap of science, tales of eternal human life exist in numerous legends, myths, religions, ancient historical texts, and they even present themselves in the modern era through life-extension and cryogenic...Read more

The Strange Origin of the Kappa: Japanese Water Imp

Many supernatural creatures are depicted in Japanese art and literature.  Some seem realistic and might actually exist, since there have been witness sightings, while others are clearly composite creatures.  Still others might have been created by storytellers to explain seemingly inexplicable phenomena.  Such creatures include yuki-onna (snow women), who lure young men out of their beds at night and into the mountains where they freeze to death, and kitsune (foxes) which are thought to be shape shifters, often assuming the form of beautiful young women.  Even today in northern Japan, some...Read more

The Sacred Three in Asian Beliefs: Triple Gods, Tridevi, and the Three Treasures

Number three has been considered sacred for over many centuries throughout the world. Its depictions of the triads, triplicates and trinities have also existed in many cultures with various interpretations.

The possible oldest interpretation of the number three is that it represents completion, and many cultures today still interpret it as such—that is, something which has gone through its beginning, middle, and its end. The number three could then be interpreted as the number of reproduction or the continuation of things. From the union of oneness (1) and duality (2) comes the...Read more

Medicine Macabre: The Healing Magic and High Value of Human Fat

What now seems macabre and grisly to many, harvesting parts of the freshly dead human body for use in healing was an old, traditional practice by doctors who claimed it was excellent in treating and curing a host of ailments.

Between skull powder medicine and fresh blood concoctions, ancient doctors working in the field of so-called ‘corpse medicine’ let no part of a dead body go to waste. Not a remedy for the squeamish perhaps, ancient and early modern healers extolled the virtues of human fat and its healing properties.

Pharmacopoeias, or ancient medical texts, listed human...Read more

William of Newburgh: Medieval Vampire Hunter?

“It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this as a warning to posterity, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony.”

 -William of Newburgh, writing in the 12th century.

Derived from the Latin reveniens meaning ‘returning’ or ‘to come back,’ the word revenant is used in a supernatural context to refer...Read more

The Fierce Mythical Unicorn Travelled the World and Through Cultures, Killing and Healing

Legend speaks of a powerful creature, a wild beast that is both an unpredictable, deadly foe and a gentle and innocent spirit. The unicorn, a creature with a single, spiraling horn centered on its forehead has become one of the most popular and enduring of mythological creatures. Like dragons, they are unique legendary figures with an image that is instantly recognizable all over the globe, with tales reaching back through ancient epochs.

Stemming from text mistranslations and misunderstood travelers’ tales, stories of the elusive creatures cemented their place in ancient record...Read more

The Legends of the Panchakanya - The Five Virgins of Ancient India

The Panchakanya (the five virgins) are female characters in the two great epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Each of them is described as extraordinarily beautiful and virtuous. The literal meaning of 'kanya' means ‘girl’, ‘maiden’ or 'virgin'. Although the five women are all married, sometimes with multiple men, this was the word chosen to depict them instead of the word nari (woman) or sati (chaste wife), which was then questioned by scholars. However, the word was chosen because tradition says that the purity of their characters are so strong,...Read more

Was the Garden of Eden a Real Place?

Mention the Garden of Eden to a group of friends and you are likely to get as many suggestions on its true location as people you ask, plus a fair number who will deny that it was ever a real place at all. Places that have been claimed as the true whereabouts of mankind’s original home include numerous sites in Iraq and around the Persian Gulf, Bahrain, Iran, Anatolia, Armenia, Turkey, Jerusalem, east Africa – and even the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, and Jackson County, Missouri. And those are just the better known claims; there are literally hundreds.

Will we ever know for sure where...Read more