Water Witch Lore – Legendary Rivers

Legendary Rivers

River in general have some rather dark folklore about them. In Scotland and Ireland, superstition holds that each river demands one life as its due each year. Rivers are a common theme in mythology as gateways to the other side, the land of death. The river Styx, for example, was the portal to the land of the Underworld.

Styx was considered so holy that to swear by it was sacred, even for the Gods. The person making the promise was bound by the river to tell the truth. The water was undrinkable  – it would cause even a deity to lose their voice for nine years. If one swore an oath by the Styx and did not keep it, Zeus himself would force the oath breaker to drink from its waters.

In order to cross the river Styx into the land of Hades, one had to pay the ferryman, Charon. The ancient Greeks buried the dead with coins under their tongues to ensure that their loved ones would be carried safely across.

Styx, which translates to “river of hate,” was only one river in the Greek Underworld. The other four rivers in the Underworld were as follows:

Acheron:  The “river of woe”

Cocytus:  The “river of lamentation”

Phlegethon:  The “river of fire”

Lethe:  The “river of forgetfulness”

In Norse folklore, the Underworld was known as Niflheim. It was ruled over by the Goddess Hel. It was said to have eleven icy cold rivers, which eventually emptied into the river Styx. The river Slith was a combination of floating blades, blood, tears, waste and poison. The river Gjall was called the “river of echoes.” It had many waterfalls, strong currents, and bones floating in its waters.

Though the connection between rivers and the Underworld in folklore may be a dark theme, rivers have their light side too. It is said that no vampire, demon, ghost, or attacking spirit can follow one across a river.

Rivers with an inspirational overtone far outnumber the darker rivers of myth. The Nile, the Ganga, and the Niger just to name a few, are thought to be life-giving. Millions of lives depend on the waters from these rivers. The Nile River is said to be responsible for Egypt’s existence, as it could never be what it is without her power. The people also credit the river with growth in the areas of friendly personalities, generosity, and love. When it comes to rivers in general, the Water Witch understands that sitting on a riverbank and watching the sun sparkle on the water is actually a way of soaking up the love of the universe.

 

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Deity of the Day for Feb. 11 – ERESHKIGAL

Deity of the Day

ERESHKIGAL

Also known as ALLATU, ERESHKEGAL, ERISHKEGAL, ERISHKIGAL
 
Underworld Goddess of Death, Darkness and Dust.
 
The consort of NERGAL, and ISHTAR’s sister, she is a brooding moody figure who is prone to fits of fury and spasms of tearful temper. Particularly when she doesn’t get her own way. If you see her lips turn black, you know things can only get worse.

ERESHKIGAL is known as ‘Lady of the Great Place’. Which in this instance means Deadville. ‘Queen of the Great Below’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

In fact the locals referred to her domain as ‘The Land of Gloom’ — and were not impressed by a menu offering a choice between mud and dust. Dead boring really.

ERESHKIGAL’s Underworld realm is guarded by Seven Judges and Gatekeepers, who seem very zealous about keeping people out. Which, we feel, is hardly necessary.

Earth Goddesses – DEMETER

Earth Goddesses – DEMETER 

Demeter is the Greek goddess of the grains, agriculture, and fertility. She is the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. She is an Olympian.

Demeter is so prevalent in the Greek myths that she is even responsible for the changing of the seasons. In Homer’s Hymn to Demeter, he relates the tale. Demeter, whom Homer describes as a stately goddess, had a child with Zeus named Persephone. Unbeknown to Demeter, Zeus had planned with Hades to ensnare the young Persephone so that Hades would have a wife and therefore a queen of the Underworld. Zeus cunningly brought forth the brightly colored narcissus flower in an attempt to lure Persephone away while she was at play in the fields.

As Persephone set about gathering a bouquet of lovely irises, roses, hyacinths, violets and crocuses, she caught sight of the most magnificent flower in the field – the narcissus. Persephone, stunned by the flower’s beauty, reached out with both hands to pick it for her bouquet. As she did, the Earth opened wide and Hades, riding upon his golden chariot led by immortal horses, snatched the beautiful Persephone and took her wit him into the Underworld. Persephone cried out for her father to save her. Her cries echoed across the countryside, yet no one except Demeter heard her.

Demeter searched the Earth for nine days, grieving so desperately that she touched not a single drop of drink or bite of food. On the tenth day, at the crack of dawn, Hecate spoke with Demeter. She sent Demeter to speak with Helios, the sun god. Demeter begged Helios to tell her who had taken her beloved daughter. Helios replied that it was Zeus himself and explained the role of Hades in the plot.

Demeter was furious and grief stricken. She left Olympus and wandered to Eleusis. For a year she stilled the Earth from fruitfulness. In her grief, the flowers no longer bloomed and the gardens withered and died. The Earth was barren. Zeus sent Iris to try to persuade Demeter to come home, but Demeter would not budge. One by one, each of the gods tried to talk Demeter into returning to Olympus. She refused them all, saying that she would never return until she could lay eyes again on her beloved daughter.

Zeus upon hearing this, sent Hermes to speak with Hades and attempt to cajole him into releasing Persephone. Hades agreed and asked only that Persephone keep him in her heart fondly. With that he tricked her into eating three pomegranate seeds, thereby assuring that she had to return to him. Persephone happily ate the seeds and went on her way back to her mother. When Demeter was greeted by the sight of her daughter, the Earth was once again fruitful and the people rejoiced. Afraid, Demeter asked her daughter if she had eaten anything while in the Underworld, to which Persephone replied that she had eaten the seeds of a pomegranate. Demeter explained that she must live in the Underworld for one third of each year. She swore that while Persephone was on the Earth, she would hold it in bloom for her daughter’s pleasure., but that while Persephone was in the Underworld, it would be barren and cold. Thus, the season were born.

Demeter, with her somewhat ironic sense of humor, placed the poppy in the corn and barley fields. She put all of her sweetness into the fig, which grows alongside wild herbs. As the poppy and the fig grow around the base of her more substantial foodstuffs, they represent the dark side of Demeter. The dark side is the side that holds the life and death of mortals in her hands and carries the seeds of each in her womb. Demeter represents both hunger and abundance.

In one myth, Demeter condemns a man to eternal hunger for daring to attempt to chop down her sacred grove to make a roof for his hall from the wood. The man subsequently eats until there is only one thing left to eat – himself. He devours his own limbs.

Demeter was also a goddess of fertility and, in one myth, coupled with a human in the field. The pairing produced a child. Soon after Demeter became known as a goddess who guarded marriage and was included in ancient marriage rites. Concubines and the like were condemned to her stone gardens, where no plants could ripen and bloom. Demeter’s festival, held in late autumn was celebrate by legitimate wives and included a ritual sowing of the field. It was conducted with the hope of a harvest of beautiful children, a bounty borne from human seed.