Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Quicksilver Month

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 203:


Anything mercurial is characterized by the rapid or unpredictable changeableness of one's mood.  It also might mean something is more directly related to the element, the planet, or the mythological messenger god.  Sometimes all of these at once.  The general adjective and the element are no doubt named for the god Mercury's ability to change places so quickly.  The element was once called quicksilver, because it looks like moving, living, moody silver. 

Quicksilver by Keith Moseley at flickr

Mercurial seems to best describe April 2013, half-spent as it is.  Living in the middle of the continent, we've seen March and April change their moods frequently from calm, halcyon days to blustry wintry ones.  Snow and rain have been competing for territory this week, leaving us in a state of jaded confusion: I thought we were done with winter!  Look, there are flowers!  It shouldn't be snowing when there are flowers!  What is wrong with this world?  Global warming!  Well, I say.  At least it's wet.  Perhaps we've finally begun to turn this neverending drought around.

I'm not a climatologist, and this is not a science blog, although I can say our fears about weather, climate and our inability to properly harness them make for great science fiction.  Spring has a temper in general: it has good days and bad days: the lion and the lamb; blizzards, tornadoes and thunderstorms; sunshine, daffodils and birdsong.  This month is absolutely and indeniably alive.  I'm sure February is mighty jealous.  And May will be especially glorious when all calms down!

Mercury Bronze 1570 van der Schardt 4
Mercury by Mary Harrsch

Monday, November 19, 2012

AIL Day 69: puckish

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Puckish (adjective) means impish or whimsical; playful - especially in a mischevious way.  Taken, of course, from the mythological fairy Robin Goodfellow, an Old English/Celtic "puca."  You may remember him from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Depictions of him have him resembling a faun (Mr. Tumnus) or a satyr with a goat's hooves and long, pointed ears (eyebrows to match).  I love this word, because I envision puck sitting in a tree with a wink and a grin to rival Peter Pan's.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 44: golem (j)

Today's sort of creepy word is...

A golem is an element of Jewish folklore in which a clay figure is brought to life by magic.  According to Ye Olde Wiky-paedia, the first reference for a golem comes from Psalm 139:16 "my unshaped form."  Golems have been formed supposedly for defense or menial tasks, a creature made of mud with holy words etched into its forehead or around its neck, which once taken away will reduce the creature to dust.  I came across this term in two places: Sherlock and The X-Files.  In "Kaddish" an episode in the fourth season of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully investigate mysterious happenings in a Hasidic community, murders that can only be attributed to the golem-esque reincarnation of a dead man.    In the first series of Sherlock, "The Great Game" a serial killer - a giant of a man with laptodactylic features and superhuman strength - referred to as a "golem" is a component of Moriarty's web of crime.  Great name for a villain, huh?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 40: harpy (jillian)

Today's word is...


A harpy (noun) is a predatory monster from Greek mythology, which has a woman's head and a vulture's body.  A contemporary harpy would be a predatory person or a leech, and also a shrewish woman.  Not your average insult, eh?  More effective, too.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 38: chimera (jillian)

Today's word is...



A chimera (noun and sometimes capitalized) is a fire-breathing she-monster from Greek mythology with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail.  Chimera has come to describe any imaginary hybrid monster.  Chimera is also one of my favorite metaphors describing a illusion, vision or an unfathomable, soul-shaking nightmare.  In biology and genetics, the term refers to an individual made of unmatching genetic material; in theory what might happen if an embryo sometime in the early stages of division absorbs another "sibling" embryo. One also thinks of chimeras in regards to conjoined human twins or a cat born with two heads - phenomena stranger than fiction.  If that's not an image for Halloween, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 35: Niobe (jillian)

Today's word is...

In Greek mythology, Niobe (noun) was the daughter of Tantalus and the wife of Amphion, of whom Homer refers to in the Iliad.  The gods punished her for an over abundance of pride (or hubris, which means "excessive self-pride or confidence" either in honor or in defiance of the gods... leading to a smack-down) with the deaths of her children.While weeping for her slain children she was turned into a stone from which her tears continue to flow. 

Niobe turns up in metaphor the way that Sisyphus and Oedipus do, and we just can't remember where we've heard the name before.  Homer did, of course, pack on the characters.  Well, now we both know that any reference to Niobe implies sorrowful, eternal weeping. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Word-smithery: Halcyon Days (Jillian)

A word has been dancing in my head these last few days. Since the bizarre 85-90 degree heat of March has finally retreated (anything goes in the Midwest), we have returned to halcyon days: temperatures not quite at 70 during the day, cool nights, blue skies with a swirls and daubs of cirrus cloud here and there. The violas and pansies are growing. Birds (and the gibbons at the zoo just a few blocks away) are in chorus from the wee hours of the morning till sunset.

Halcyon? It is a simple adjective, really, meaning "calm and peaceful." A halcyon is also a bird out of Greek mythology, but probably refers to the kingfisher. According to Ye Olde Wiky-pedia, it is "said to breed in a floating nest at sea during the winter solstice, during which time it charms the wind and waves into calm." The myth tells of Alcyone and Ceyx who angered Zeus. Ceyx was killed at sea, and Alcyone threw herself into the sea in grief. Out of pity, Zeus turned them into halcyon birds.

I've also learned that "halcyon days" refers to a seven-day period in wintertime when storms do not occur. Apparently, this is when Alcyone (or the kingfisher) lays her eggs. Nevertheless... "halcyon" as a descriptor for a period of mild, calm weather in Spring... or Summer... or any season is appropriate. I think so, anyways.

I hope at least the halcyons of Spring stick around for a little bit longer before the heat returns and scorches all this lovely greeness.


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