Currently viewing the tag: "mythology"

Ancient Greek legends tell of brazen sailors embarking on long and perilous voyages to the remote land of Cilicia, where they traveled to procure what they believed was the world’s most valuable saffron. The best-known Hellenic saffron legend is that of Crocus and Smilax: The handsome youth Crocus sets out in pursuit of the nymph Smilax in the woods near Athens; in a brief dallying interlude of idyllic love, Smilax is flattered by his amorous advances, but all too soon tires of his attentions. He continues his pursuit; she resists. She bewitches Crocus: he is transformed—into a saffron crocus. Its radiant orange stigmas were held as a relict glow of an undying and unrequited passion. The tragedy and the spice would be recalled later:

Crocus and Smilax may be turn’d to flow’rs,
And the Curetes spring from bounteous show’rs
I pass a hundred legends stale, as these,
And with sweet novelty your taste to please.
Ovid, Metamorphoses.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story involving trade in a precious spice.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your favorite flower and what it means to you.

Art Prompt: Crocus and Smilax

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of saffron.

Photo Credit: Chris Alban Hansen on Flickr

Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. According to Yokai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shape shift into human form. While some folktales speak of kitsune employing this ability to trick others—as foxes in folklore often do—other stories portray them as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Foxes and human beings lived close together in ancient Japan; this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers. This role has reinforced the fox’s supernatural significance. The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. Because of their potential power and influence, some people make offerings to them as to a deity.

Conversely foxes were often seen as “witch animals”, especially during the superstitious Edo period (1603–1867), and were goblins who could not be trusted (similar to some badgers and cats). –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story involving a trickster or kitsune.

Journaling Prompt: What animal do you associate with trickery? Why?

Art Prompt: Kitsune

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the tradition of the kitsune in Japan.

Photo Credit: Christopher Lance on Flickr

Now the chi-lin, the Chinese unicorn, is not only an altogether different species from the white European variety or the menacing Persian karkadann; it is also a different matter in its essence from either one. Apart from its singular physical appearance—indeed, there are scholars who claim that the chi-lin is no unicorn at all, but some sort of mystical dragon-horse, given its multicolored coat and the curious configuration of its head and body—this marvelous being is considered one of the Four Superior Animals of Good Omen, the others being the phoenix, the turtle, and the dragon itself. –The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a mythical creature, like the chi-lin, that wanders into modern society.

Journaling Prompt: Would you like to meet a chi-lin, which is a creature that punishes falsehood? Why or why not?

Art Prompt: Chi-lin

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about a mythical creature that they may not have heard from and what we learn from it about the society that imagined it.

Justice on the ALbert V Bryan Courthouse in Alexandria VA sends mixed messages. “Justice Delayed Justice Denied” vs. Tortoise and Hare.

I slumped back in my chair, willing my mind to think faster. No human had ever set foot inside Vampire Court. This could be the break I needed in my career to join the big league—the kind of case any lawyer with an ounce of ambition would kill for. Oh. My. God. My mouth went suddenly dry. –The Vampire Code by E.C. Adams

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of a legal proceeding involving your protagonist and his/her favorite mythical creature.

Journaling Prompt: How would your life change if your favorite mythical creature were real?

Art Prompt: Vampire Court

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience a fantastical tall tale of an encounter with a creature you thought was mythical.

Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas on Flickr

the gundestrup cauldron

Cerridwen was not only mother of birth, but also of death and transformation. In another legend, she offers Bran the Blessed her magical cauldron, which can resurrect the dead warriors placed inside it. This Cauldron of Regeneration, womb of the death mother, was one of the most famous treasures of Celtic myth. Bran later was transmogrified into the Fisher King of Grail legend, with the Cauldron of Cerridwen recast as the Holy Grail. The cup, as a universal symbol of the mother-element, water, reflects the womb-vessel, and later, the chalice of resurrection, “the female-symbolic bowl of life-giving blood.”5 As for its feminine characteristics, the Grail dispenses both material food and spiritual solace. It preserves youth and maintains life. It heals knights wounded in battle. It radiates light and a sweet fragrance; it rejoices the troubled heart. In all these ways it is a source of solace and spirituality, elevating man above the animal and toward the divine. It is the guiding symbol, the anima, for which man quests. –From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend by Valerie Estelle Frankel

Fiction Writing Prompt: How has resurrection – physical or emotional – played a role in your protagonist’s life? Add to your character sketch.

Journaling Prompt: In what part of your life have you experienced a resurrection? How has that affected you?

Art Prompt: Holy Grail

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the role of resurrection in myths from many cultures and why it is such a powerful symbol.

Photo Credit: mararie on Flickr

My Mermaid

Myth images of half-human beasts like the mermaid and the minotaur express an old fundamental very slowly clarifying communal insight: that our species’ nature is internally inconsistent, that our continuities with and our differences from, the earth’s other animals are mysterious and profound, and in these continuities and these differences lie both a sense of strangeness on earth and the possible key to a way of feeling at home here.’ –From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend by Valerie Estelle Frankel

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story with a protagonist who is struggling with his or her animal nature.

Journaling Prompt: Which of your instincts do you associate with an animal nature and why?

Art Prompt: Inner animal

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience why we are fascinated with mythological human-animal hybrids and how their appearance in fiction helps us understands the animal parts of our own nature.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr


A great flat head broke the surface not ten feet away. I could see the water purling away from keeled scales that ran in a crest down the sinuous neck. The water was agitated for some considerable distance, and I caught a glimpse here and there of dark and massive movement beneath the surface of the loch, though the head itself stayed relatively still. I stood quite still myself. Oddly enough, I was not really afraid. I felt some faint kinship with it, a creature further from its own time than I, the flat eyes old as its ancient Eocene seas, eyes grown dim in the murky depths of its shrunken refuge. And there was a sense of familiarity mingled with its unreality. The sleek skin was a smooth, deep blue, with a vivid slash of green shining with brilliant iridescence beneath the jaw. And the strange, pupilless eyes were a deep and glowing amber. So very beautiful. And so very different from the smaller, mud-colored replica I remembered, adorning the fifth-floor diorama in the British Museum. But the shape was unmistakable. The colors of living things begin to fade with the last breath, and the soft, springy skin and supple muscle rot within weeks. But the bones sometimes remain, faithful echoes of the shape, to bear some last faint witness to the glory of what was. Valved nostrils opened suddenly with a startling hiss of breath; a moment of suspended motion, and the creature sank again, a churning roil of waters the only testimony to its passage. I had risen to my feet when it appeared. And unconsciously I must have moved closer in order to watch it, for I found myself standing on one of the rock slabs that jutted out into the water, watching the dying waves fall back into the smoothness of the loch. I stood there for a moment, looking out across the fathomless loch. “Goodbye,” I said at last to the empty water. I shook myself and turned back to the bank. -Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene or poem about a mythical creature appearing to a contemporary person.

Journaling Prompt: Which mythical creature would you most enjoy seeing in person and why?

Art Prompt: Nessie

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the power of mythical creatures to inspire our lives.

Photo Credit: Carla216 on Flickr


We do not believe in the reality of Olympus, so the ancient Greek gods live on in us as symptoms. We no longer have thunderbolts of Zeus, we have headaches. We no longer have the arrows of Eros we have angina pains. We no longer have the ecstasy of Dionysus, we have addictive behavior. Even though we no longer recognize the gods we experience their powerful forces.-Carl Jung

Writing Prompt: Write about a character with a symptom caused by the spirit of a Greek god.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you felt like the victim of the wrath of a Greek god.

Art Prompt: Greek god

Photo Credit: Eddi van W. on Flickr

Anima Mundi

Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, it’s natural, healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Writing Prompt: Create a story, scene, or poem about a culture that has lost its connection to myth.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a lesson you’ve learned from a myth or cultural story.

Art Prompt: Mythology

Photo Credit: AlicePopkorn on Flickr


I think I’ve met this monster. Maybe you have as well. If you’re writing fiction, this monster is an absolute must for your character’s life experiences.

The terrible dragon, with one hundred heads, that guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides, slain by Hercules, was celebrated in classic mythology; so was the Lernean hydra, a monster of the marshes that ravaged the country of Lerna in Argolis, destroying both men and beasts. The number of its heads varies with the poets, though ancient gems usually represent it with seven or nine. Hercules was sent to kill it as one of his twelve labours. After driving the monster from its lair with arrows he attacked it with his sword, and in place of each head he struck off two sprang up. Setting fire to a neighbouring wood with the firebrands he seared the throat of the Hydra until he at length succeeded in slaying it. The fable is usually referred to in illustration of a difficulty which goes on increasing as it is combated. -John Vinycomb, Fictitious And Symbolic Creatures In Art – With Special Reference To Their Use In British Heraldry

Writing Prompt: Create a situation for your protagonist that increases in difficulty as he or she works through it.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a situation that seemed to get harder, stickier, or more painful as you worked through it.

Art Prompt: Hydra

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Inform your audience what they should do when they run into a situation where the degree of difficulty keeps going up.

Photo Credit: Zaqarbal on Flickr