world mythology

All posts tagged world mythology

A to Z: Yurlungur

Published April 28, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Aaaaaand we have another one I really shouldn’t be doing.  But this was one of the ones I really wanted to cover, you know?

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

This colorful fellow shows up quite frequently.  His compendium text for the Devil Survivor and Shin Megami Tensei IV games is:

A snake with a rainbow body from Murngin lore.

He is a fertility deity who controls the weather and resides in a holy pond filled with rainbow-colored water.  He is a grand entity that transcends good and evil.

Although actually, that last sentence is only in the Devil Survivor games, not the Shin Megami Tensei IV games.

But setting that aside, let’s start with the basics.  Unless you happen to be particularly well versed in the cultures of that part of the world, you’re probably wondering what “Murngin” means.  It refers to a particular aboriginal group in Australia, but it’s actually an outdated term:  Yolngu is the currently accepted name for the group.  Anything more detailed than “they live in northern Australia” would either end up with me making mistakes and or spouting misinformation/misunderstood information, so I’m instead just going to point you in the direction of the Wikipedia page on them if you want to learn more.  (It cites a lot of sources; even if the page itself is less than useful, the sources are probably good.)

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A to Z: Tzitzimitl

Published April 23, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I wonder if Nahautl names look as daunting to native speakers of other languages as they do to native speakers of English?  Though Tzitzimitl is actually fairly tame, as Nahautl names go.  (Quechua names can also be pretty intimidating.  Actually, maybe it’s just long names in any language that isn’t either Germanic or Romance that look impossible.  I even stumble over Greek names sometimes…)  Of course, right now, I have a killer visual migraine going on, and everything looks daunting.  So I should just get on with the plot and hope the caffeine kicks in to get rid of the flashing lights in front of my eyes.  (I wonder how many people in older times thought they were crazy and/or having visions just because they had an odd form of headache?)

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

So, this is the way Tzitzimitl looks in most of the MegaTen games.  (Her appearance in the two Persona 2 games was a lot like this, only toned down a bit, and as to Devil Children…well, the less said about that the better all around, it seems from what little I know about it.)  In Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker and Shin Megami Tensei IV/IV Apocalypse, her compendium entry says this:

Aztec goddesses of night and fear.

They constantly attack the sun and cause solar eclipses.  They demand a sacrifice once every 52 years.

In Persona Q, on the other hand, her compendium entry says this:

Goddess of Aztec myth governs night and fear, symbolizing death and evil.  Her war with the sun caused a catastrophic solar eclipse.  She seeks a sacrifice every 52 years.

Obviously, you notice there are some discrepancies there.  The first three games refer to Tzitzimitl as more a type of being than a single goddess, and the fourth one mentions a single goddess.

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A to Z: Rangda

Published April 20, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

“R” is one of those letters where I really only considered one option.  Mostly because “B” had so many other options.

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

That’s her appearance in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, which holds a special place in my heart.  Aside from being 3D instead of 2D (in some cases), that’s what she’s looked like in all the games I’ve played.  (Though she’s had a few different looks over the years, one of which I’ll show you below.)  And this is what the Devil Survivor and Shin Megami Tensei IV games have to say about her:

A wicked witch and the symbol of evil in Balinese Hinduism.

When women who used magic held a grudge or went down the path of evil, they became this dreadful creature. She spreads plagues, causes natural disasters, curses people, and even uses evil spirits to do her bidding.  The holy beast Barong that symbolizes good is her eternal rival.  Even if defeated, she will come back to life, and their battle will have no end.

Persona Q had a slightly different version:

A wicked witch of Balinese lore, she represents evil and is Barong’s eternal rival.

Even if defeated, she will come back to life, and their battle will have no end.

As usual with the Persona Q version, it’s more an abbreviation than a different version.

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A to Z: Quetzalcoatl

Published April 19, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Unsurprisingly, “Q” is a letter with few choices.  Possibly the fewest choices, in fact.  (Well, maybe “U” gets that distinction…but it’s close.)

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

In most of the MegaTen games, Quetzalcoatl’s appearance is a riff on the art above.  Which is certainly fitting, given that his name means “feathered serpent” in Nahuatl.  Though in traditional depictions of the feathered serpent, the feathers don’t tend to take on the form of wings like that.  For example:

Quetzalcoatl in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (16th century). Wikimedia Commons

Feathered collars are also common in Mesoamerican depictions of feathered serpents.  Which, btw, date back at least as far as Teotihuacan, and are also common in Mayan art, though the two Mayan feathered serpent deities cannot simply be considered Quetzalcoatl by another name.  (As both of their names have the same meaning, and they all have a certain amount of overlap in social function, it seems at least possible — if not outright probable — that all three evolved either out of the Teotihuacan feathered serpent or from an earlier one that left  no trace in the archaeological record.)

However, MegaTen‘s Quetzalcoatl doesn’t always look like a feathered serpent.  Sometimes he looks like this:

Again, image copyright Atlus but downloaded from the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

And that, too, is not entirely wrong:

Another image of Quetzalcoatl from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (16th century). Wikimedia Commons

So, art aside, who is Quetzalcoatl?  All four of the MegaTen games I’ve been consulting for this month’s A-to-Z posts have the same thing to say about him: Read the rest of this entry →

A to Z: Ogun

Published April 17, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Right before I came in here to write this post, I was reading the book I’m currently in the middle of, and I came across a passage about Ogoun (as the author spells his name) and the serendipity was too great to ignore.  So, here’s a post about Ogun!

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

I’ve got the text of two compendium entries for Ogun.  First, from the two Devil Survivor games:

A heroic warrior god of Voodoo.  Worship of him involves the use of rum, which he enjoys.

He has many aspects such as warrior, guardian, and victim, as well as governor of fire, politics, and of course, war.  His name comes from the Nigerian god of ironsmithing.

And, although it’s not very different, here’s his entry from Shin Megami Tensei IV/IV Apocalypse:

A heroic warrior god of Voodoo.  Worship of him involves the use of rum, which he enjoys.

He has many aspects, such as governing fire, politics, and of course, war.  His name comes from the Nigerian god of ironsmithing.

Before I say anything else, I have to make the stylistic comment that “such as” in those two sentences feels really, really amateurish.  (I realize I’m no one to talk on that subject, but I’m not a paid professional (outside of very specific circumstances), so it’s a bit different.)

Ogun will always have a special place in my heart (and probably the hearts of many others among the older MegaTen players), because he’s the first Persona acquired by fan-favorite character Mark.*  (Though in the crappy original translation (which I spent a while talking about yesterday) they changed Ogun’s name to Shaman.)   It was probably coincidental that it was Mark who was chosen to be changed into an African-American for that original PS1 translation.  (Actually, it almost certainly was due to the fact that he was the only one wearing a hat to hide his hair.)  The MegaTen Wiki provided a cool image from the manga adaptation of the original Persona, showing Mark summoning Ogun:

Image copyright whoever wrote the manga. And Atlus. And whoever published the manga.

In that manga panel — much more so than in any of the official game art — it’s easy to see similarities between Ogun’s face and some traditional African masks.  (No idea, off-hand, if any of those masks are from the right cultures, but…I’ll give them credit for effort, either way.)  Doesn’t look anything like the Nigerian statue of him pictured on the Wikipedia page, though.

And that seems a good place to switch to talking about the real Ogun, continuing with that passage I just read.  It’s from the book I’m reading for the social science challenge for Read Harder 2018, and since I plan on giving it a very long review when I finish it (EDIT:  should be this Sunday, as I just finished it the day before this post is scheduled to go up), I don’t want to go into too much detail about the book, or even what it’s called.  (I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t at least give credit here to the author, Wade Davis, but I won’t be specifying anything else until the review goes up.)  Anyway, here’s the passage, from a sequence discussing spirit possession:

Ogoun has the warrior’s passion for fire and steel, usually brandishes a machete, and often handles glowing embers.  And why is it that when Ogoun does pass the flames, the one possessed is not harmed?  It was upon these unanswered questions that my logic wavered.  There may, in fact, be a natural explanation for these extraordinary abilities, but if so it lies in regions of consciousness and mind/body interactions that Western psychiatry and medicine have scarcely begun to fathom.  In the absence of a scientific explanation, and in the face of our own certain ignorance, it seems foolish to disregard the opinions of those who know possession best.

In the glossary at the back of the book, Davis has this to say about who Ogoun is:

A vodoun loa, the spirit of fire, war, and the metallurgical elements; the blacksmith god.

In a later passage, discussing the history of the revolutions that turned the French colony of Saint Domingue into Haiti, he talks about a meeting of about 200 slaves representing the thousands across a large section of the colony.  The meeting was the launching of the revolution, and the decisive moment came when one of the women was possessed by Ogoun, who made it clear that it was time to fight.

In one of the earlier passages, he mentions that Ogoun’s colors are blue and red.  There’s no mention of rum in connection with Ogoun, though there’s been a fair chunk of rum elsewhere in the book.  The Wikipedia entry on him does confirm the rum thing, though.  (It isn’t entirely surprising that various details might have been omitted, as Davis’s book is not about loa or the specific beliefs about them, but about vodoun itself, in a very particular Haitian context.)

Regarding the pre-Vodoun Ogun, according to Wikipedia, he’s a Yoruban god who started out as an early mortal king.  (It’s more complicated than that, of course, but since the game’s only talking about the New World version, I figure that’s about all the detail we really need in this context.)  However, he’s not exclusively a god of metal-working, as the game suggests, but rather already represents all the same things he does in Vodoun.

There’s probably more I could/should say, but I think I’ll leave it here, to make up for yesterday’s stupidly long post.

*Always remember:  Mark danced crazy!

A to Z: Lugh

Published April 13, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

This one is going to prove to be more of a challenge than I expected when I picked him…

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegTen Wiki. Click for link.

Lugh appears in a number of Shin Megami Tensei games (though in the two Persona 2 games, he’s called by one of his other names, Idanach/Il-Dana), but in Devil Survivor 2 he’s a vital plot element.  The Devil Survivor sub-series functions around the premise of limited-range, hyper-accurate predictions of the future, specifically, death predictions which the player can use to prevent the deaths from taking place.  (There are a few characters whose deaths have to be prevented (including the hero, obviously!), but most of the others, if the player messes up, they’ll have to either go on with that character dead, or they’ll have to load a saved game.)  In Devil Survivor 2, a secret organization has sealed powerful demons throughout Japan, and is now having to unseal them in order to fight off a threat to the whole world.  Of course, it’s the player character and his party who are actually doing all the unsealing (and most of the fighting), but Lugh’s seal was compromised, requiring a lot more work, and a medium to facilitate the summoning.  And if the player did the wrong things before the battle, the summoning can cause the death of the medium.  (From what I hear, it’s a particularly horrible death, too.  Thankfully, I haven’t seen it myself.)

…y’know, I’m not sure that was actually relevant information to the post…

Okay, moving on, this is what the Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker compendium has to say about Lugh:

A sun god of Irish lore.  His name means “flashing light.”

He is skilled in many arts, carries his spear Areadbhar, and is known as the Long Arm.

He is father to Cu Chulainn and is said to have many wives, including Bui.  His grandfather Balor was also his greatest foe; during the battle of Magh Tuireadh he pierced Balor’s evil eye with a magic stone.

All right, so first and foremost, since the game text is vague on this point, I’ll be clear:  Lugh is the Irish name for an important god who was present throughout the Celtic world.  He’s not an exclusively Irish figure, though what I’ll be discussing today is strictly the Irish version.  (In the same way that if I was discussing a Roman god, I wouldn’t insert stories about his Greek counterpart.  Not without identifying them as such, anyway.)

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A to Z: Kijimuna and Koropokkuru

Published April 12, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

This time, I couldn’t quite decide which one to do, and since they seem closely related (despite being from opposite ends of Japan), I thought I’d do them both.  (There must be something about K that makes it double:  the other contender for today’s post was the vampire hunter/vampire pair of enemies Kresnik and Kudlak.)

We’ll start with Kijimuna:

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

This little cutie is an Okinawan spirit.  (And on the 3DS screen, that body looks more like a green pine cone than something covered in leaves.  Guess there’s something to be said for a bigger screen…)  His text from the two Devil Survivor games is as follows:

A tree spirit of Okinawa.  They are about the size of babies and are covered in hair.

They are the spirits of old Chinese Banyan trees and are also known by the names of Kijimun and Bunagaya.  They love fish and crab, but if they eat one eye of a fish, they get tired of eating the rest and discard the remains.  They hate octopi and will run at the mere sight of one.

So, for those unfamiliar with Japan, Okinawa here refers to the island of Okinawa (it’s also the name of a Prefecture of Japan) one of the most southern islands of Japan.  (Or is it the most southern?  I’m a little unclear on whether the smaller islands that were formerly part of the Ryukyu Kingdom were annexed along with the rest of it.)  Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu chain of islands, which curve around very close to Taiwan.  Because of the short distances involved, Okinawa (and the rest of the Ryukyu Kingdom) had a large Chinese population, so Okinawan culture and language is different from that of the majority of Japan.  The Ryukyu Kingdom was annexed by Japan in the 1870s after a couple of centuries of Ryukyu paying tribute as a vassal state.  Okinawa remains distinctly different from the rest of Japan, more than a hundred years later.  (It’s also still the site of numerous US military bases, though what possible excuse there can be to still have military bases there more than seventy years after the end of WWII, I can’t imagine.)

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A to Z: Jahi

Published April 11, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

This is another one, I have to admit, where it was the character design that cemented my choice.  Looking at the real story behind this one leaves me all the more intrigued, though…

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

It’s hard to know quite what order to present my thoughts, but I guess I’ll follow structure and start out by giving you the game material.  So, that’s the portrait of Jahi in the recent games she’s appeared in (and, according to the wiki, that’s what her original character design was back on the SNES as a boss in Shin Megami Tensei if…)  The only compendium entry I have for her is this one, which according to my file came from both Devil Survivor Overclocked and Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker:

A female demon of Zoroastrian lore, said to be Ahriman’s lover.  Just as her name means “ill-natured woman,” she is an ill-natured creature.  She was also called Jeh in Medieval Persia.

Curiously, the wiki claims that her compendium entry in Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker was the same as the one they provide from Devil Summoner:  Soul Hackers, only adding in a typo:

An evil witch of Zoroastrian lore, said to be Angra Mainyu’s mistress. She is the cause of menstruation in all women, and she is the ruler of courtesans across the world. Skilled at the seductive arts, she leads humans astray, and the cold, derisive aspect of women is the fault of Jahi.

I’m not sure why my notes and the wiki disagree on her compendium entry from the same game.  (It does mention her being a DLC demon, so maybe they patched the game to give it the less incendiary text at some point between when they copied the text and when I played the game?)

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A to Z: Inti

Published April 10, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Maybe a little too well-known, but I haven’t done any from South America yet this month, so today’s post will feature the Incan sun god, Inti.

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

Had to shrink the image down to medium-sized; at full-size, his sun disk was looking very creepy to me.  (Maybe I’m just too tired to be doing this, but I don’t have any choice, because I’m falling behind; my number of buffer posts has fallen from 6 to 4.)

So, the text from Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker and Shin Megami Tensei IV/Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalpyse about Inti is as follows:

The Inca god of the sun, revered as a creation god.

He and his wife, the moon goddess Mama Quilla, were worshipped as great gods and loved by the Incas.  The Inca king Manco Capac was said to be Inti’s son, and was also worshipped as a sun god.

Pretty straight-forward, and more or less correct, although I’m not sure “creation god” applies at all.  Not in any sense I’m used to, anyway.  Wikipedia points out that rather than being simply the sun god, Inti is “more appropriately viewed as a cluster of solar aspects, since the Inca divided his identity according to the stages of the sun.”  (Ugh, I hate myself for relying so much on freakin’ Wikipedia for this.  I really suck…) What the game’s text leaves out is that Inti is usually said to be the son of Viracocha, who is more generally considered the true creator god of the Inca.  (Though there is some debate over that, too.)

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A to Z: Girimehkala

Published April 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

There were a lot of good options for this post, but I ended up going with this guy because of my personal story to tell about him.  (Personal story re:  his video game appearances, not the mythical original.)  Back in…uh…probably around 2005, I was playing Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, the first MegaTen game I ever played all the way through.  (I had the original Persona and Persona 2 Eternal Punishment on the Playstation, but had gotten lost so many times in the forest in the first one that I ended up not finishing it until shortly before Persona 3 came out.)  So I’m going along and suddenly I’ve got this boss battle against an enormous, cyclopean elephant who makes fun of my character and reflects physical damage.  (He always reflects physical damage.  I have no idea why.)

This was him:

Image copyright Atus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

That screenshot seems to have been taken in the Cathedral of Shadows (where you fuse and summon demons), but it’s the same 3D model he had everywhere else.  (And I remember the model looking more effective at the time.  It’s been awhile since I played a Playstation 2 game, apparently…)

For whatever reason, I was convinced his name was Grimehalka.

Over time, I realized part of my mistake, and started calling him Girimehalka.

I think I finally noticed that it was “hkala” not “halka” sometime around…maybe last year?  Maybe the year before?  I still keep falling into the trap of pronouncing it “halka” instead of “hkala.”  (Overwrites are hard…)


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