April A-to-Z Reflections

Published May 9, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

First Reflections

Well, my biggest reflection is that I chose a theme that was way too complicated.  As a result, I ended up getting lazier and lazier about it, and the comparisons started getting cheap, sloppy and almost exclusively stuff I knew well before starting the challenge.  (And this, of course, was while taking a class with heavy reading and a paper each week, so it was doubly poorly chosen as a theme.)  It actually started feeling like work in the final few days, to the extent where I had to promise myself a reward for finishing — and a bigger one than I’ve promised myself for finishing my classes for the semester!

Next year, I’m gonna do something much simpler.  I actually already have something in mind, though I don’t know if I’ll end up doing it or not.

had written a long bit here explaining why so many of my “first choice,” as it were, topics for posts were nixed and had to be replaced at the last minute.  It didn’t really have much to do with April A-to-Z, so I’ve moved it into a different post, so if you want to read about it in detail, please follow that link.  I’ll sum up briefly here by saying that my original sources proved unreliable…and as the month progressed, I realized one of my new sources was also somewhat unreliable.  Ugh.  (BTW, if you saw my “U” post and wondered about the other version of the story, it’s in that other post on the sources, so please check it out!)

Summaries and Scores

Overall, I feel like I changed most of my post’s topics within 24 hours of writing them.  So I thought I’d share with you what they were originally going to be about.  (I’ll get to a recap of what they ended up being about — and a tally of cultures — after this.)

  • A was originally going to be “Aravatura” a culture hero from one of the tribes on the Xingu River.   Following the death of his best friend, he goes on a journey to learn about death (essentially).  At first, I thought I couldn’t verify this one, but then I was able to find something…and on reading in more detail, I felt that the comparison I originally wanted to make — to Gilgamesh’s journey following the death of Enkidu — was not actually very appropriate.  So I switched topics.
  • B actually stayed on track.
  • C did, too…though I should have changed it to Chimata-no-kami, and found something else for “M”…
  • D was a nightmare.  The book on African mythology that I had found listed a myth about Dzivagaru as a goddess with a horn of plenty, who at one time withdrew to the mountains, taking all the sunlight with her.  The horn of plenty had lots of parallels, and the thing with the sun had an obvious parallel to the tale of Amaterasu retreating into a cave, so I was stoked, right?  Only then all other sources listed Dzivagaru as a god, and showed no trace of this story whatsoever.  So I had to come up with something else to use.
  • E actually stayed on track, much to my surprise.
  • F was another disaster, stemming from that same book on African myths.  (The annoying part is that I bought it expressly to use it for the A-to-Z!)  It listed an Ivory Coast mask spirit called “Fe,” which it said meant “peace,” but when it described the way it functioned, it was decidedly reminiscent of the head of the Gorgon on the aegis.  Again, I totally failed to find any corroboration.  (Which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong…but I can’t prove it’s right, either.)
  • G worked out as planned, probably because it was European.  That “world mythology” encyclopedia on Eurasian myths seems to be much more reliable than the other books I had at my disposal.
  • H – ditto as G.
  • I was supposed to be “Iamuricuma women.”  Now, the basic part of this one is famous:  early European visitors to the region were told tales of women warriors that so resembled certain ancient Greek ones that the river and its basin are to this day called “Amazon.”  My book on the native myths of the Americas said that the word the natives used to describe these women was “Iamuricuma,” but even a flat-out Internet search only provided hits on sites that were written in Spanish, which makes me suspect it’s just a word (rather than a proper noun) and the book misunderstood or something.  Either way, I couldn’t be sure, so I couldn’t use it.  (Okay, technically I could have used Google translate on the Spanish-language sites, but when I’ve tried that in the past, the results haven’t been terribly comprehensible.)  The worst part is that “I” was not an easy letter to find myths for, so I ended up doing Norse two days in a row.
  • J is one I really should have changed, even though I didn’t.  I even acknowledged in the post that I couldn’t verify it in any credible source.  But the flat-out Internet search had brought up the story, in a single paragraph that had been copy-pasted onto at least half a dozen different sites, so…at least the book didn’t make it up.  And at least I’ve put a new version out there that wasn’t just copy-pasted!  (Ugh, please tell me my version isn’t now going to be copy-pasted all over the Internet.  That would suck…)
  • K is one I changed for different reasons.  I was originally going to use Kumarbi, the Hurrian equivalent of Kronos.  But I decided that might be a bit repetitive after El-lal, so it seemed wise to change it.
  • L was another strangely difficult one.  I started out with Le Jen Zu, a Chinese thunder god born from an egg, but that was a very weak comparison, so I decided I needed a new “L” myth.
  • M was one I was adamant about keeping, no matter what.
  • N got a slight spelling change — Nanabozho instead of Nanabush, what the book had called him — but otherwise remained in tact.  The more major the figure, the higher chance of one of these books being accurate, I guess.  (Though, really, the Native American one mostly proved to be pretty accurate.)
  • O was originally going to be Ogma, the Irish god of eloquence, who also acted as a psychopompos.  Well, I’d already done the whole psychopompos thing (albeit briefly) in “G” and god of eloquence didn’t really hold much on its own, so I decided I’d better re-think “O”.
  • P was going to be Purusha, a primordial giant from India, which had lots of nice comparisons…but felt a bit too close to the new “K” post, so I decided to change it.
  • Q luckily remained in tact.  (Well, the Oceanic stuff came from books from the university library, so they were much more reliable than the ones I had bought at bookstores.)
  • R had a spelling change — Resheph instead of Rashef — but otherwise remained in tact.  Like I said, the Eurasian book was actually pretty accurate, even though it left out a lot of other figures.  (It didn’t even mention Priapus!)
  • S stayed the same, because I’d picked such a major figure to use.
  • T also remained in tact, even though I felt like it was a bit weak, and a bit repetitive.  But by this point I was already losing momentum…
  • U changed because of the change to “A”.  Because originally it was going to be Utnapishtim…
  • V remained the same, again because it was a major figure.  (Seems like I had better luck with the latter half of the alphabet, doesn’t it?)
  • W was also good to go.  (The European ones almost all turned out that way…)
  • X…I forgot to write down “X” in my “Planning the A-to-Z” draft post that I was using to keep track of which ones had “won” out of my list of candidates.  So I can’t really say it changed or didn’t change, ’cause I got all the way up to the time of writing it without realizing I hadn’t decided what it was going to be.  (Though I think I was always going to go with what I eventually went with, because there aren’t that many “X” names out there, and it had some strong comparisons.)
  • Y changed because I’d been a moron.  It was going to be “Yohualteuctin,” the Aztec “Lords of the Night.”  Both the Aztecs and the Mayans had “Lords of the Night” and “Lords of the Day,” and in the entry on the Mayan “Lords of the Day,” the book mentioned that the two groups had fought in the Mayan creation myth, and the “Lords of the Day,” the sky gods, had defeated the “Lords of the Night,” the earth gods.  (Strangely, when it related the creation myth, it reversed that.  I’m not sure which is the mistake.  I should look into that.)  Anyway, that filled me with ideas of comparisons to other sky-vs-earth god battles, particularly the Aesir against the Vanir, but also the Olympians against the Titans, and so on.  Only when I got to “Y” I realized to my chagrin that it was only the Mayan version that featured conflict between those two groups.  So I could have done that for on the Mayan versions, but for the Aztec it didn’t work.  So the Aztecs got shafted, and I had to come up with something else for “Y”.  (The annoying part about that is that one of the two Mayan sets started with a “B” so I could have done that instead of “Bacabs” without removing the Mayan-based post.)
  • Z was particularly plagued with the most stupid of problems.  My original plan was to use Zohak (or Zahak or Zahhak), an Iranian king-turned-demon, who had all the infants in his kingdom slaughtered when he learned that the one destined to slay him had been born.  Only I had set myself a rule that anything which had been directly featured in a Shin Megami Tensei game was off-limits as the center of a post…and when I went to check, I found that yes, of course he had been featured.  *sigh*  But then I found another good one, Zurvan Akarana, the primordial being from whom Ahriman and Ahura Mazda had been born.  I was 90% done with the post (well, maybe only 75%?) when I checked the MegaTen wiki and found that Zurvan, too, had been in a MegaTen game.  So I had to come up with a third choice for Z.  Ugh, what an ending!

So, yeah, plagued with problems, most of them my own fault, particularly the MegaTen thing, because it forced me into more obscure myths, for the most part.  I am not making that mistake again.  Particularly not while I’m still in grad school.  Once I get my degree, then it won’t be so much of a problem.

All right, so now I’ll do the recap of the posts, their myths and their comparisons.  (A tally of cultures will be coming at the end.  I’m curious to see how badly I failed to represent the whole world.)

  • A is for Atrahis – Atrahis is Mesopotamian, and he’s being compared to Judeo-Christian-Islamic, ancient Greek, northwestern US Native American (Skagit tribe, specifically), Irish, Hindu, Hawaiian, Mesoamerican (Walapai culture in Mexico), southwestern US Native American (Pima tribe) and Chinese.  With the disclaimer that there were many more comparisons out there.  (Ultimately, I’m very glad I went with Atrahis instead of Utnapishtim.  I wouldn’t have had strength for all this by the time I got to “U”.)
  • B is for Bacab – Bacabs are Mayan, and they’re frivolously and poorly compared to an ancient Greek mythic figure before being better compared to ones from Chinese (and Korean and Japanese), Buddhist, Egyptian, and Norse traditions.
  • C is for Catequil – Catequil is Incan, and I lamely only compared him to Zeus.  Ugh.  Not a good post.
  • D is for Dudugera – Dudugera is from Papua New Guinea, and I keep leaving out the second “u” when I type it, which is really annoying.  (Not relevant, I realize, but annoying.)  Good grief; I only compared him to Dionysos!  But at least I gave a full telling of the Dudugera story.  That must count for something, right?
  • E is for El-lal – El-lal is from Patagonia (though if I got the name of the Patagonian culture in question, I didn’t write it in the post), and I only compared him to Greek stuff again.  So apparently that laziness was not new to the final days of the month after all…
  • F is for Fei Lian – Fei Lian is Chinese…and I still only compared him to a Greek figure.  Ack!  My A-to-Z journey sucked harder than I had originally thought!
  • G is for Gwyn ap Nudd – Gwyn ap Nudd is Welsh/Arthurian, and originally I only had a Greek comparison.  But then in my further researches through the month, I found a great additional comparison to an Iroquois story, which I added to the end of the post.  (So if you only saw the original version of the post, you might want to go check out the new bit at the end.  If you’re interested.)
  • H is for Hrimthurs – Hrimthurs are Norse, and yet again the comparison is only Greek.  But in this case I feel like that’s okay, because I had a real point to my comparison.  In fact, this is one of my favorite posts of the month.
  • I is for Idun – Idun is also Norse, because “I” turned out to be an unpopular letter to start names with.  I was not pleased to do two Norse posts in a row, especially since I was only comparing Idun, too, to Greek stuff.  (Of course, all comparisons of one Indo-European myth to another are kind of cheap, since they all (might) come from the same original source.)
  • J is for Jinde Sirinde – Jinde Sirinde is from the Fulani people of Nigeria, and I 100% resisted the temptation to compare the Waterlord to the Hydra, despite that everyone else (including the book I found the story in) makes that comparison!  Note my reliance on Greek myths everywhere else, and be suitably impressed.  Anyway, what I did compare this to was the tale of Susanoo fighting Yamata no Orochi and to basic Western European folkloric motifs such as the one in “The Beauty and the Beast.”  Honestly, despite that I shouldn’t have done it because I couldn’t verify the story properly, this is another of my favorites.
  • K is for Kamadhenu – Kamadhenu is Hindu, and I made a series of fairly random bovine myth comparisons to Ugandan, Iranian and Norse traditions, and I coined the term “comparative cow mythology.”  I’m planning on using it in a story soon, if I can just come up with a reason that my characters would be in a university.  Maybe one of the people living in the heroine’s apartment building is a graduate student…
  • L is for Liongo – Liongo is a Swahili epic hero, probably inspired by a real person, and I compared him to Robin Hood, King Arthur (kind of), Sigurd and Cu Chulainn (somewhat weakly).  This is more the skeleton of a post than a real post.
  • M is for Min – Min is Egyptian, and I compared him to several Greek figures, a Roman figure and a Japanese one.  This post is not for those of Victorian-style prudish natures.  However, despite that I gave in to my temptation to use every possible picture I could — including one of my favorite (“erotic”) Pompeiian frescoes — I actually gave a semi-serious discussion of the subject.  Tried to stay rational, rather than going all giggly.  This post was honestly one of the reasons I wanted to do comparative world mythology in the first place, so it’s obviously one of my favorites.
  • N is for Nanabozho – Nanabozho is Algonquin, and I actually really skimped on the comparisons:  I just named a few figures who also fit into the same “trickster” mold.  (And recommended a great book on the subject of the trickster god…which is really the reason I didn’t want to go into too much detail on the comparisons.  When there’s already a full book, far better than anything I could write, why bother?)
  • O is for Oro – Oro is Tahitian, and I only compared him to Ares…largely because I was being lazy and combined my A-to-Z post with my Missing Letter Monday post, meaning I couldn’t use the letter “u,” which was awkward since one of the points of comparison involved the daughters of these two gods of war who delight in slaughter.
  • P is for Pyerun – Pyerun is Slavic, and I weakly only compared him to Thor, despite the proximity of the two cultures.  Yeah, not good, I know.
  • Q is for Qat – Qat is Melanesian, and I compared him to two Chinese figures, one of whom has been adopted and adapted by Korea and Japan as well, and also to a standard motif in European folklore.  I want to call this one of my favorite posts of the month, but it’s more like I love the idea behind the post than that I love its execution.  (If that makes any sense.)
  • R is for Resheph – Resheph is Phoenician, and I compared him to Mesopotamian, Greek, Hurrian, Indian, Tibetan and Aztec figures, with a failed attempt to compare him to something Biblical.  (Or rather, the comparison is there, it’s just pathetic.)  I got to talk about the Trojan War and quoted the Iliad, so I’m fond of this one, naturally.  (Though it is, honestly, one of the ones that inspired the “comparative” part of the world mythology theme, because the first thing I thought when I read about this guy was “Apollo!”)
  • S is for Sita – Sita is the heroine of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, and like the heroine of any male-centered epic, she spends a lot of time away from the action, so this post could have gone a lot more smoothly.  I primarily compared her to Penelope in the Odyssey, as you might expect, but I also managed to find a few more comparisons to other ancient Greek figures, and one to an Aztec one.  I also added — late in the month — a Japanese pseudo-comparison, so if you’re interested, you might want to check that out.  Even though it didn’t go quite as I’d originally intended, I rather like this one.  But no one else seems to.
  • T is for Tāne – Tāne is Polynesian, and I compared him to Greek, Biblical, Native American (a Californian tribe whose name I forgot to write down) and Chinese figures.  At the end of the post, I also nominated it as the month’s worst.  That may have been a little unkind, as at least I gave it an interesting(?) telling at the beginning.  (“C” had a much worse post, no question.)
  • U is for Uaica – Uaica is from the Juruña tribe on the Xingu River in the Amazon basin, and this was a problem post.  (For full details of why, check here.)  I made a weak comparison to a Biblical figure, and I was going to look up other comparable figures, only then the problems reared their ugly heads, and I kind of wanted to just throw my hands in the air and surrender.  In compromise, I surrendered by putting out this terrible, terrible post.  Definitely the low point of the month.
  • V is for Väinämöinen – Väinämöinen is the unusual hero of a Finnish epic, and since I’m comparing a summary of the whole epic to things, there are a lot of them:  Greek, Biblical, generic European folklore, and a half-hearted comparison to Arthurian lore.  (Or rather a “this is what everyone else says” kind of comparison.)  I think this post was so long it defeated all possible readers.  Oops.
  • W is for Wayland – Wayland is the Anglo-Saxon variant of a god present in the wider Nordic/Teutonic pantheon under various, related names.  I compared him to a number of Greek figures (shocker, eh?), and his story to the Arthurian mode, and his brother to the Germanic William Tell and others of his type (of whom there are actually several).  It gets sloppy in the comparisons, but the rest of the post was pretty decent.
  • X is for Xbalanque – Xbalanque is Mayan, one of the hero twins around whom the Popol Vuh centers.  The briefest of comparisons to Navajo, Sioux and Greek, a vague comparison to typical Western European folklore, and then — of course! — a longer comparison to a Greek myth.
  • Y is for Yamasachihiko – Yamasachihiko is Japanese, and after a first (weak) comparison to Greek myth, I go through a better comparison to Medieval and later European folkore, and then descend back into an almost tangential Greek comparison.  (It’s like I’m obsessed or something.  Oh, no, wait, I kind of am…)
  • Z is for Zorya (or Zvezda) – Zorya are Slavic, and I only compare them to Greek and Norse myths, because I was really running out of steam here.  Also because this was my third topic for “Z,” so the well was doubly running dry.

So, for the final tallies, I’ve divided them up by larger region.  The “Middle East” region includes the Levant, and therefore includes all the Biblical references, but it does not include Egypt, as that’s part of Africa.  “Central Asia” is largely just for the Hindu and Buddhist references.  The results:

Main post myth:

  • Africa – 3
  • Central Asia – 2
  • East Asia – 2
  • Europe – 7
  • Mesoamerica – 2
  • Middle East – 2
  • North America – 1
  • Oceanic – 4
  • South America – 3

I’m not pleased by that North America number…and even less pleased by the European number.  I wanted to be more representational than this!  Ugh.  I’m pleasantly surprised that I managed to base four posts on Oceanic myths, though.

Comparison myths:

  • Africa – 2
  • Central Asia – 4
  • East Asia – 7
  • Europe – 39
  • Mesoamerica – 3
  • Middle East – 8
  • North America – 7
  • Oceanic – 2
  • South America – 0

I’m disgusted by how many of these relied on the familiar European myths.  (20 out of 26 posts contained a comparison to ancient Greece!)  I realize that it’s easier to read something unfamiliar and say “oh, that reminds me of this other thing I know so well” than it is to read something unfamiliar and say “oh, that reminds me of that other unfamiliar thing I read last week” but still!  I’m disappointed in myself for being so biased in my representation.

Final Reflections

In a way, I’m looking at this the same way as I look at this past November’s NaNoWriMo:  it was both a success and a failure.  I met the official goals for success, but I feel like I didn’t do all I could have — didn’t do all I wanted to do.  (In the case of NaNo, that meant that although I wrote considerably more than 50,000 words, I didn’t finish the novel, so I viewed it as a failure.)

I had intended to get most of the posts written well in advance, during my Spring Break.  But life interfered with that plan, and I had barely even thought about starting the posts by the time April 1 came around.  (I had at least picked out the topics, but I hadn’t been able to do any further research.)  I probably should have either backed out or changed to a simpler theme, but I was determined to do it, for whatever reason, and although I did it, the further along I got in the month, the less I was willing/able to put into each individual post — unless the topic really spoke to me — and thus the posts became increasingly bad.

I think people picked up on that, because no post after “T” has even one favorite (as of yet), and only one has a comment on it.  The “U” post drove them off, I guess.  Which is a pity, because a few of the later ones are actually pretty good.  Or maybe everyone else just got so swamped in their own final days of the challenge that they stopped checking everyone else’s.

Next year, I will be doing something simpler.  And I’m kind of thinking of working on it this summer; get a jump on things so that I’ll be able to visit the other blogs during April, instead of after it.

Yes, I was so busy with this that I didn’t manage to get to any of the other A-to-Z blogs during the challenge…except for a few I was already following on WordPress, that is.  (Supposedly there’s a way to make blog posts from other platforms show up in the Reader here, but I’m not quite sure how…)

Anyway, once I’m done with my class — final paper due Thursday, ack! — one of the things I plan on doing over the summer is visiting everyone else’s A-to-Z and checking it out.  I’ll start, of course, with the people who’ve visited mine and let comments.  Then I’ll go to the list and just start clicking on links.

In conclusion, all in all, I didn’t really enjoy this as much as I did last year, but it was still fun, though more so during the planning stage.  (I enjoyed the A-to-Z for my other blog much more…)  It’s generally been a stressful spring, though, which didn’t help.  I know it’s going to be better next year!

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4 comments on “April A-to-Z Reflections

  • Glad you made it through A-Z in one piece even though it sounds like it was a struggle. I can’t even imagine starting blog posts for 2017 A-Z this summer! Are you sure you don’t want to wait until, say, December? 😉 If it makes you feel any better, I think towards the end of A-Z everyone was getting burnt out and not doing much commenting. It wasn’t just your blog. Best of luck on your class and your final paper!

    Like

  • While you may not have done everything you wanted to, you actually did do a tremendous amount, and succeeded in including all the world’s regions, even if the coverage was more uneven than you might have liked. I say, Well Done!

    Like

  • Your theme does sound very ambitious, but that’s just how I like them! Much better than the randoms, or the shortcut themes, such as: pick a word starting with that letter of the alphabet and post a picture of said thing, and that’s that. I’ll be sorting through more of your posts now that I don’t have a daily post deadline to worry about. Great fodder for story ideas.

    Also re NaNo, I get what you’re saying about not having a complete novel finished, but I’ve changed my expectations on NaNo since I first started doing them several years ago. 50K is my goal. Then comes the editing and revising. It’s a long process, but 50K is a dang good start. Oh – and don’t they do an editing challenge in January?

    Like

  • It sounds like you had a rather rough time of it – especially with having to change so many posts. It’s awful when your blog starts to feel like a chore.
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

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