Archive for the ‘Mythology’ category

The Dragon

December 29, 2017

“Confidence is like a dragon where, for every head cut off, two more heads grow back.”

-x-Criss Jami,Venus in Arms

♡ Christina’s symbolic thank you for helping her make tombstones for her Halloween party this year. With the quote… this is a perfect pair. Can’t wait to wear this earring!♡

Oneiroi Dream

November 15, 2016

just one
so faint
I taste it’s core
it never went away

a sullen scent
night swallowed
by the day

one dream
wrapped up
in distant stars
burning memory

drift away
go far from here
though the dream
shall set us free

by Felicia Lujan

In Greek Mythology, “the Oneiroi were the dark-winged spirits (daimones) of dreams which emerged each night like a flock of bats from their cavernous home in Erebos–the land of eternal darkness beyond the rising sun. The Oneiroi passed through one of two gates (pylai). The first of these, made of horn, was the source of the prophetic god-sent dreams, while the other, constructed of ivory, was the source of dreams which were false and without meaning.” Source:

Banshee: Exploring the Origins of a Witchy Woman

August 22, 2014
Banshee by Felicia Lujan

~”Banshee” a Digital Composite by Felicia Lujan~

What is a banshee? Is she a spirit? Is she a figment of our imaginations? Is she a monster? Is she a being of light or a lover of the darkness? Something I read recently sparked my curiosity with regard to the origins of these mysterious women who are supposedly supernatural. The dictionary defines a “ban·shee” as “an Irish legend” and “a female spirit whose wailing warns of an impending death in a house.” Banshee appearances and accounts have largely been captured and passed on through oral traditions; however, there are a handful of documented accounts and attempts to make sense of the stories.

A Princeton University web site defines the banshee as a “woman of the side” or a “woman of fairy mounds” or a “seer.” She is said to be a “female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.” This messenger or “fairy woman” is often “keening at the death of important personages.” Important personages? Yes…that is a word! Many believe the banshee can predict death. Many have heard the “mourning call” of the banshee in the late hours of the night when a person is going to die. This happens most often around woodland areas, though there are some accounts by water. A tale from 1437 says that King James I of Scotland had an encounter with a “banshee who foretold his murder…” Her cries may have been “so piercing” that they were able to shatter glass.

The university web site says that “the banshee can appear in a variety of guises. Most often she appears as an ugly, frightening hag, but she can also appear as a stunningly beautiful woman of any age that suits her. In some tales, the figure who first appears to be a ‘banshee’ is later revealed to be the Irish battle goddess, the Morrígan. The hag may also appear as a washer-woman, or bean-nighe (washing woman), and is seen washing the blood stained clothes or armour of those who are about to die.” I would like to learn more about the Irish battle goddess. The banshee is also rumored to appear in other supernatural life forms. She may appear as a “hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel.” In Ireland, these are animals which the locals associate with dark arts and witchcraft.
Syracuse Herald_1.2.1898_Syracuse_NY
In an 1898 column titled The Easy Chair, the Syracuse Herald said that “a genuine Irish banshee is a little old woman in a red cloak…” A little old woman doesn’t seem that scary, but maybe? The column was spurred by the review of a play titled Number Nine. In numerology, the number nine symbolizes karma, spiritual lightening and awakening, mysticism, and divine wisdom in addition to other things. It is not clear who reviewed the play, but it was apparent that their curiosity was spurred by the mythology shrouding the banshee. The column goes on to say that…“she appears only to announce unpleasant events, such as one’s demise” and that “she does not always appear.” According to the author of this column, the banshee may make an appearance only in sound by wailing.

By 1929, the story of the banshee seems to be associated with the death of important people. If you recall the 1898 column and the number nine, this may be due to a growing association of the banshee with karma. The Buffalo Center Tribune ran a short piece titled Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death with regard to the death of Baron O’Neill. Neighbors of the family mogul “declared they heard the wail of the banshee the night before near the ruins of Shane’s castle on the shores of Lough Neagh. The castle was formerly the O’Neill residence.” Maybe people used the banshee as a way to understand the death of corrupt officials? “Baron O’Neill was eighty-nine…” Really? The number nine shows up again? The article says he “had had a long career as judge and member of parliament” from 1863-1880. Maybe he was a bad man?
Buffalo Center Tribune_1.10.1929_Iowa
In 1942, Virginia Moore published a poem titled The Banshee in the scholarly Poetry journal. Her poem captures the darkness and the light of banshee mythology, which may be seen by writers as a deep symbol of both death as well as the afterlife. Moore wrote…“Lightly, lightly, Ever brightly, Moves the banshee, certain death. Cry and call out, Death will fall out. Hold – you cannot hold – your breath.” It is interesting how she frames the poem with light. When you read about the banshee in historical news articles, she (not he) is always fixed as a creature of straight darkness. This is one reason I love writers. We see deeper than the dark. Moore closes her poem with…“Brilliant yellow, Is this fellow, Is the banshee, plumed and bright. Lovers hearing. Listen, fearing. Hark! Who treads the plushy night?”
Elyria Chronicle Telegram_6.28.1935_Elyria_OH

Patricia Lysaght studied banshee folklore in the mid to late 1970s. In her white paper titled Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey, Lysaght took an in-depth look at the folklore of this mythical apparition based on manuscripts from the 1930s in the archives of the Department of Irish Folklore with the University College in Dublin, Ireland. This female scholar went straight to the source. She says that “the explanations of how the banshee came to be are not only few; they also seem to have a limited distribution, or even to be individual fabrications.” That was interesting to learn. It confirms that more often than not, the early origins of these oral stories were not recorded. She did locate an account of a local custom by Co. Tipperary. Tipperary said that “long ago people used to pay women to moan in the corpse house just when the corpse would be leaving for the church.”

Could this be how the mythology of the banshee started? Were women paid to wail and moan when someone died? Maybe we will never know if a banshee is a spirit or a figment of our imaginations or a monster that encompasses the light and darkness? What I do know is that my unending curiosity associated with the origins of mysterious things will never die, much like the tales of the banshee.

Santa Fe New Mexican_10.31.1976_Santa Fe_NM


Princeton University Web Site (Accessed August 21, 2014)

The Easy Chair~ Syracuse Herald~ Syracuse, New York (January 2, 1898)

Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death~ Buffalo Center Tribune~ Buffalo Center, Iowa (January 10, 1929)

How it Began~ Elyria Chronicle Telegram~ Elyria, Ohio (June 28, 1935)

The Banshee a poem by Virginia Moore~ Poetry (Vol. 59, No. 5, 1942, Page 247)

Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey by Patricia Lysaght~ An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann (The Folklore of Ireland Society), (Page 94-119, 1974-1976)

Down the Old Santa Fe Trail~ Santa Fe New Mexican~ Santa Fe, New Mexico (October 31, 1976)

♥•• Intoxicating Madness and a Magical Root

November 20, 2013


“Insanity” by Felicia Lujan
A digital composite used to demonstrate the personification of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The symbolic image is comprised of 4 layers including: a mandrake root; human hair; a heart; and a tornado.


Mandrake roots have been used medicinally since at least AD 60. Dioscorides, the Greek physician seems to be one of the first to actually explore the anesthetic use of the roots of the mandragora plant. These long, brown roots from the nightshades family were used in a special tincture to help heal those in need. This may be the earliest example of the use of mandrake roots in medicine, however, the most interesting use of these roots has been associated with love charms, potions and magic.

In medieval times “insane root” was believed to be a root which caused “madness in those eating it…” This root has long been correlated with insanity for both concrete and mythological reasons. After researching, I believe these reasons are numerous and depend on the source. The most logical is the fact that the root acts as a natural drug. Mandrake roots contain “deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids.” Those who consume the root become intoxicated. This explains why it was used as an anesthetic. Maybe this is why it was used not only to induce love, but possibly to ease love pains?

Mandrake roots often grow to look like a human figure. For this reason, the folklore and mythology surrounding the root runs deep. The root has been used to make love charms and to concoct magical love potions. According to the Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, “insane root” is also called a “love apple.” The “fruit” symbolizes fertility and has been identified as a personification of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Consequently, love potions made from mandrake were considered aphrodisiacs.

Sounds like an interesting root to experiment with ha? The Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend also says that “insane root” or “love apple” or mandrake “will cure barrenness.” Barrenness? Maybe I was right about the root being used to ease love pains? A mandrake “love charm” also has the power to “make the wearer invisible, or reveal hidden treasures.”

Hum…I guess if you’re looking for me, you can find me scouring the local herberias/yerberias for the magical root which causes intoxicating madness.


Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (Funk and Wagnalls Standard)

Myths and Mandrakes by Anthony John Carter~ Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine~ Vol.96 (2003)


Heart of Bolts

June 3, 2013
Heart of Bolts

~~~~~Heart of Bolts~~~~~
Digital composite by Felicia Lujan
The word “bolt” can mean many things. It can be symbolic of: an actual thunderbolt; electricity; the power of Zeus and the heavens; swiftness and speed; a deadbolt or other mechanism that can be locked; rain; light and darkness; or a mechanical part of a firearm which can block the back-end of the chamber as the propellant burns and makes way for a new shell or cartridge.

Life is the fire that burns and the
sun that gives light. Life is the wind
and the rain and the thunder in the sky.
Life is matter and is earth, what is and
what is not, and what’s beyond is in Eternity.
~~~Lucius Annaeus Seneca~~~


Coincidentally, the quote I have selected to accompany my newest digital composite is that of Lucius Annaeus Seneca. I have been gathering notes and white papers on stoicism for a couple of weeks, but didn’t come across Seneca until tonight. I find the philosophy of Stoics intriguing. I think I would consider myself the exact opposite when it comes to these Hellenistic teachings. I felt that a “Heart of Bolts” conveys the symbolism of both a Stoic and a (non) Stoic if you will? Maybe emotional versus unemotional, though the philosophy is deeper than that. I will never be morally and/or intellectually perfect. In my mind, no human will be and I actually find that beautiful. Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher who was born in Spain (4 BC) and died in Italy (65 AD). I found it curious that I selected the quote of a Stoic tonight. I usually find a quote I like and then look into the individual. I do not interpret this quote as being devoid of emotion. Do you? Well he was also a dramatist! Maybe I still have much to learn?

Thrills, Magic, Health, Faith and Riches: In Pursuit of Treasure

April 10, 2013

In Pursuit of Treasure by Felicia Lujan
If I had to create a definition for the word treasure, it would not be traditional. In my eyes treasure can be many things. I don’t believe that precious metals and gems are the only physical things which possess value. For example, an archaeologist would consider old bones to be a treasure, and a historian would find wealth in certain records. An entomologist would treasure the discovery of a new insect, while a lover of code may prize a new script.

Within the last couple of years, a book by the Santa Fe author Forrest Fenn has been sought-after by treasure hunters. Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir is a book Fenn has used to drive people into a maddened search for a treasure chest the author has hidden. On March 9, 2013, a 34 year old woman from Texas was found after she got lost in Bandalier National Monument while searching for the treasure. This month, officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish threatened to file charges against a man they found digging under a descanso (roadside memorial or grave marker) for the treasure. What are these people thinking?

Web sites across the world proclaim the words “somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe, a magnificent treasure box is hidden. Will you find the treasure? Join the chase!” The book is only being carried by one bookstore here in Santa Fe. The delirium led me to consider the human fascination with treasure, so I decided to peer into a small part of this history.

Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend

~Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary
of Folklore Mythology and Legend (©1949)~

Why are humans so fascinated with the hunt for treasures? Aside from the fact that many people are extremely broke right now, what drives them to partake in the hunt? According to the Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend (©1949), “gold has been consistently the most highly prized of metals thorough the ages…” The book says that “gold was so highly valued, it early became associated with religion. It was used to make idols, as tribute, and as offerings to the Gods.” This means that the symbolism of gold has been ingrained into humans since it was first discovered. Not only has the warm colored metal been associated with the heavens, but the Chinese “believed gold leaf” was “the most perfect form of matter; an unguent containing it was the most powerful remedy of Chinese medicine as it gave renewed life to the human body.”

I have discovered that gold was “a potent curative force” in “early medical practice,” and that it was associated with the Gods. I believe that the value of this metal is inherent in our collective memory for at least two good reasons. I found some interesting articles and books which explore lost treasures. I thought it would be great to share these stories which begin in 1902 and end in 1963. These stories shed light on the quest for treasure and the hunters who obsess about the hunt. The Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend also describes hunters who “go into a trance” while being under the spell of “hunting magic.” A search for gold could not both invite and “repel” madness~ could it? For as long as many people can remember, there have been oral stories of: money walled up in houses; gold being buried in mountains; and unknown treasures which are not considered “lost.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican ran an article on July 24, 1902 in the “Special Correspondence” section of the paper. In this article, it was reported that there was “supposed hidden Spanish Treasure” in Grant County. The special report said that the treasure was hidden in an “old cave near San Lorenzo.” Apparently over the years many people tried to locate the Spanish treasure. I had to laugh out loud in the silent library when I read that the “treasure-seakers” had found many skeletons, but not any treasure. I guess if you were talking to a person interested in straight forward wealth, bones would just be worthless? On the other hand, an archaeologist would find much wealth in that type of finding.

Wealth Hidden by Baker

~Article printed in the Roswell Daily Record
on August 3, 1922~

On August 3, 1922, in Racine, Wisconsin it was was reported that the “lure of hidden treasure” surrounded “an old building on one of the principal streets.” The Roswell Daily Record issued a news release titled “Wealth Hidden by Baker During the War Be Sought by K. of C.” This was a very interesting story. It was reported that a “miser’s hoard of gold” was “buried there, according to pioneers.” It was apparently a “mystery, more than half a century old” that members of the Knights of Columbus wanted to solve. The article seemed to speculate that a German baker starved his wife to become rich. The reporter described her as a “gaunt, silent woman.” During the Civil War, the baker feared “the loss of wealth” so he “withdrew his savings, cashed all his securities and bonds and under cover of darkness buried the treasure somewhere within his house.” The poor starved wife wasn’t even told where the treasure was buried. The baker figured that if she was captured, she would be tortured to reveal the secret location. After the baker died, the wife searched for the loot to no avail.

In the book Hidden Treasure in the Wild West by Oren Arnold (©1966), the author wrote about “Pancho Villa’s Mountain Bank.” Here was one case amongst many cases of hidden treasure being buried in a mountain scape. “The poor people of Mexico considered” Pancho Villa a hero. According to the book, Villa had told his friends “I have some money hidden away in a secret mountain bank.” The hero assured the people by telling them “when it is needed for our experimental work here, I will go get it. Perhaps we can build a testing laboratory with it and hire good scientists. I will look into the matter soon.” What a nice thought! Unfortunately Villa was killed on July 20, 1923. Arnold’s book says that “when he had driven his automobile to a nearby town, old enemies ambushed him.” Before he could reveal the location of his mountain bank, “the harsh staccato bark of machine guns sounded, and Pancho Villa, the great liberator, fell across the steering wheel, dead.”

“Writing in a geological bulletin published by the New Mexico Bureau of Mines in 1935, K.C. Dunham told” the story of Padre LaRue’s mine. In Mines of the Old Southwest by Jack D. Rittenhouse and Rex Arrowsmith (©1963), I located information on the “Organ Mountain Silver Mines.” Arrowsmith was a geologist and gave a particular professional flavor to his account of the mines. The report said that LaRue was “stationed at a hacienda in Chihuahua (Mexico)” and that the priest “was told by a dying friend of placers and a fabulously rich gold-bearing lode in the mountains two days’ journey north of Paso del Norte.” LaRue migrated north with others to the Organ Mountains so that he could find the gold. According to the report, they located the gold, and then buried it at the request of Padre LaRue. The priest was located by the Church in the City of Mexico and he was later “murdered” by a soldier for not divulging the location of the treasure. In case number three, the secret location followed LaRue to his grave.

Treasure Land Map_Campa Book

~Treasure Land map in Arthur L. Campa’s book
Treasure of the Sangre de Cristos: Tales and
Traditions of the Spanish Southwest (©1963)~

The only thing I found in common with the small amount of stories I looked at for this research was the fact that all the men died without telling anyone where the treasure was buried. It is possible that all of these stories were simply not true. It is possible that there was never any treasure at all. Though I guess I could say that as an archivist, I do tend to value stories as a type of treasure. I do find a sort of wealth in that! The author who really put this into perspective for me was Arthur L. Campa. In his book Treasure of the Sangre de Cristos: Tales and Traditions of the Spanish Southwest (©1963), Campa published a “Treasure Land” map which focuses on New Mexico treasures. The map shows places from the north to the south (Taos, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Cuba, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, Tome, Magdalena Mountains, Santa Rita, Mesilla, and the Organ Mountains among others). I was particularly intrigued with Chapter 11~ “Natural Phenomena and the Growth of Legends.”

It is more than safe to conclude that the value of treasure is inherent in our collective memory for several reasons. Campa said that “legends are an interesting product of folk society, the origin of which dates back to pre~Christian days, to Greece, Babylon, and the valley of the Nile. They are so deeply imbedded in the cultural texture of the folk thinking that today, as in the days of the Greeks, even geological formations assume anthropomorphic shapes and are indued with the attributes of folk heroes.” Contemplating the forces which drive humans to insanity can be a good way to peer into the mind. Where are are these behaviors and beliefs rooted?

The treasure Forrest Fenn says he buried may or may not exist. We may never know. Maybe Fenn will take the secret to his grave like so many did before him? Then again “a simple story may be gradually embellished with whatever attributes are important to folk, and with whatever concepts are current and acceptable at the time when it begins.” According to Campa, “very often the actual fact or historical account that gives rise to a particular legend may be totally forgotten, lost, or modified to such an extent that only the legend growing from the original happening survives.”

The Nymph Calypso and Her Stone

February 9, 2013

The back of Odysseus as he turned from Calypso.

The back of Odysseus as he turned from Calypso.

An epic poem by Homer made a mythical woman named Calypso infamous. Scholars have concluded that Homer’s poem The Odyssey (free e-book link below) was written off the Greek coast of Ionia during the latter part of the 8th century (BC). In the poem, Calypso was tragically intrigued by her legendary stone named Odysseus who washed ashore from the Ionian Sea. This poem was laced with temptation, seduction, and diversion. This makes it a classic literary piece, and so begins the Greek myth of Calypso and Odysseus.

Calypso was born to the Greek Titan named Atlas. The mythical Oceanides sea nymph lived on the island of Ogygia. Calypso is said to have had an enchanting voice. She lived in a beautiful cave near the sea. Some scholars and historians believe that the island of Ogygia was a myth, while others think it was actually located in the western Mediterranean Sea. Calypso has been seen as a negative symbol. She has been seen as a symbol of that which diverts men from their goals.

Odysseus was a legendary Greek man who was King of Ithaca. He was a hero in The Odyssey. Odysseus drifted for over a week in the sea before being rescued by Calypso. The king had lost his army and his ship after a battle with “monsters” from Italy and Sicily while returning home from Troy. After floating in the sea for 9 days, Calypso pulled him to shore and decided to keep him because she “became enamored.”

For between 5 and 7 years, Calypso refused to let Odysseus leave her island. Many scholars doubt that she actually forced him to stay and that she probably enchanted him with song. Others think that Calypso held him prisoner or hostage on her island. She offered Odysseus immortality and eternal youth in exchange for his everlasting love. The hero refused, though eventually the two made love apparently against his will.

“Promise” featuring
Calypso and Odysseus
by Jan Styka

It is natural for me to want to look at the woman and man in this Greek myth symbolically. Homer must have realized the symbolic power of these individuals. Odysseus is the stone. He is the hard, positive symbol of this myth while Calypso is the soft, negative symbol. The nymph is but a mere diversion in a mission for the greater good. In essence, this myth captures Odysseus as a classic hero with a noble cause, while Calypso is simply an unwanted muse who spurs distraction.

The golden kiss and enchanting voice of Calypso.

The golden kiss and enchanting voice of Calypso.

It is also interesting to see how scholars have studied the etymology of both names. The origin of the name Odysseus has been connected to two phrases amongst others. Odysseus means “he who causes pain” or “the one who is wrathful.” The name Calypso means “to cover, to conceal, to hide.” Etymologicum Magnum says that the name Calypso means “concealing the knowledge.”

In the end of this myth Calypso releases Odysseus on the sea. She does so against her will so that he can return to his wife Penelope in Ithaca. She had no choice but to do so even though she herself had become enchanted.

**Free E-book** The Odyssey by Homer courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Dr. Eric Perry, PhD

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