Welcome to week 9 of the Folklore and Mythology Thursday posts. This week I am focusing on elements and characters beginning with “I”. These include: Ichthys Wheel, Incense, Indalo, Irnan, Ulluyankas, Ila-Ilai Langit, and Irik. Enjoy!
“At first glance this looks like a simple six-spoked wheel. However, the name of Christ is cleverly hidden within it, and like the vesica pisces, was a way for early, persecuted Christians to recognize one another. The Greek letters IXOYE can be laid over the cicle.” (Nozedar, 2010:94)
“[T]he importance of incense as a magical symbol lies in the resins and spices that it is made from, its perfume, and the action of its smoke that rises up toward the sky” (Nozedar, 2010:94). “This smoke is believed to conduct prayers, messages, and devotions toward the deities” (Nozedar, 2010:94).
Many different religions make use of incense for ceremonial purposes. “For Hindus, incense represents the element of air and the perception of the consciousness” (Nozedar, 2010:94). It also plays a role in various Christian and Judaic ceremonies. Incense is especially used within the Roman Catholic and High Church of England (Nozedar, 2010:94). Frankincense was also one of three gifts given to the infant Jesus by the three wise men.
“Practitioners of ceremonial magic might use incense so that disembodied entities, such as elementals or other spirits, might use the smoke to make themselves manifest” (Nozedar, 2010:94).
This symbol, said to be of magical significance, is “found in caves in the ALmeira region of Spain and is known to have been created about 5 000 years ago” (Nozedar, 2010:94). Nozedar (2010:94) describes the symbol as “very simple, showing a stick man holding an arch above his head.” This arch may represent a rainbow or the “vault of the Heavens” (Nozedar, 2010:94). Nozedar, (2010:94-95) further states Indalo “was perceived to be a go-between between man and God, the rainbow providing a bridge between Heaven and Earth”.
Moving on to Irish mythology, Irnan was a witch “who once spun a magic web to catch some members of the Fianna, or Fenians, the bodyguard of the High King of Ireland” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139). Her plan failed, however, and she changed herself into a monster, challenging “any one of the Fenians to single combat (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139). The Fenians’ leaders, Finn Maccool, wanted to fight, but was persuaded that fighting this witch did not become one of his stature. The Fenian Goll the fought and slew Irnan and, as reward, was given Finn’s daughter in marriage. (See also Cotterell & Storm, 2007:139.)
“Illuyankas was the monstrous snake or dragon in Hittite mythology. He waged war against the gods, particularly against the weather god, Taru” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288). Illuyankas is slain by Taru, assisted by Inaras (Taru’s daughter) and her lover Hupasiyas. For other versions of the myth see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288.
“The story of Illuyankas and Taru was assimilated into Canaanite mythology as the struggle of the gods against the Leviathan” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:288). Cotterell & Storm (2007:288) also state “the destruction of [Illuyankas] was believed to signal the beginning of a new era”.
Finally, we’ll look at some myths of the Dayak people of Borneo.
Ila-Ilai Langit “is a mythical fish who features in the creation story of the Dayak people of Borneo” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:446). For a full account of the creation myth, see Cotterell & Storm, 2007: 446.
After the clouds, sky, mountains, cliffs, sun and moon are made, “the ‘Hawk of Heaven’ and the great fish Ila-Ilai Langit were brought into being…” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:446).
“Irik is a spirit who features in a creation myth of the Iban, one of the Dayak peoples of Borneo” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447). Irik and the spirit Ara floated as birds above an enormous ocean. “The birds eventually plucked two enormous eggs from the water (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447). Irik forms the earth from one and Ara the sky from the other. The earth is too big however, so they squash it until it reaches the correct size, in the process forming mountains, valleys, rivers, and streams ( see Cotterell & Storm, 2007:447).
The spirits then create humans. First they use tree sap, but when they see that it doesn’t work, they use soil. “After fashioning the first humans, they gave them life with their birdsong” (Cotterell & Storm, 2007:477).
Cotterell, A. & R. Storm. (2007). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. London: Hermes House.
Nozedar, A. (2010). The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
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