Modern Greek Uses Ancient Mythology?

I once held a position where it was necessary to review documents in other languages. A Greek man was interpreting a Russian document for me, and he first interpreted the Russian word for “iris” (of the eye) as “rainbow”. He said in Greek, the words are the same - going back to mythology where Iris was the goddess of the rainbow.

This makes me wonder how much else the modern Greek language may contain influences from their ancient mythology? - Jinx :confused:

I don’t think that it’s exactly that the language uses mythology, only that it’s derived from Ancient Greek. Sort of like how Thursday in English comes from “Thor’s Day.”

Except of course, “a little rainbow” and iris are the same words in Russian, so maybe you misunderstood what he said, i.e. he was explaining the origin of how it came to be the same in Russian, not Greek… I don’t know about Greek though.

Wayland’s Smithy is a prehistoric barrow (long burial mound) in England. Its name comes from a god of the pagan Anglo-Saxons. J.R.R. Tolkien used to visit it during his tramps over the countryside. As a professor of Anglo-Saxon, he was fully aware of the original mythological meaning of the barrow’s name. That the Anglo-Saxons were aware the place had some sacred, numinous, or otherworldly significance is shown by their naming it after a god. Probably their sense was of dread or awe because they knew it was very old; it not only predated them, it predated the Celtic Britons as well. Something the Celts might have told the Anglo-Saxons if they’d had a chance to tell them anything before the Saxons killed them or ran them off their land. So Tolkien considered all this and must have found Wayland’s Smithy to have a wonderfully spooky ambience, because he wrote it into The Lord of the Rings and populated it with creepy demons who invade the grave and animate the corpses of the ancient kings buried there. (Book 1, Chapter 8, “Fog on the Barrow-Downs.”) Tolkien wanted to write a mythology for England, and he took inspiration from features of the English landscape that could be semiotically read as mythological.

You can probably find examples of mythological names surviving in any modern language. For example, the Arabic word for rainbow is qaws Quzah. It means literally ‘the bow of Quzah’. Who’s that? Pre-Islamic pagan Arabian sky god. It would be tantalizing but narcissistic to hector you with even more examples.

While I have a great respect for Tokien, barrow-wights are certainly not his idea. They come from Norse mythology (which we all know Tolkien studied).

Read again what I said, Gríma. I didn’t say Tolkien made up the Barrow-Wights, I just said he used them to populate a barrow that was inspired by Wayland’s Smithy, not far from where he lived in Oxfordshire. The White Horse nearby carved into the green hillside showed up on the banner of Rohan, to take another example.

And stop looking at me like that! I’ll tell my uncle on you!

Grima! I am Cathode the living color and in stereo.

I thought you implied he invented them. I didn’t think everybody reading this thread would know the origin of barrow-wights. I wasn’t entirely sure you did either, as I thought your expertise of mythology and folklore was big hunks of Africa and Asia rather than (blast I know Celtic isn’t technically the right term. ) the mythology of the UK. No insult or offense was intended.

I think it’s the other way around. I’m not an expert, but from my readings on mythology and languages, it seems that deities were often named as the noun of which they were the god of.

Thus, if I were to create my own deities, I might call the god of the ocean by the name Ocean and the god of the clouds Cloud and the goddess of the rainbow… well, I’d name her Rainbow.

If this is correct, then it certainly shows a different perspective on these mythologies, when you don’t have a separate name for them which is just a meaningless combination of syllables. When you have to say things like “Cloud caused rain to fall on me for a while and after he was done, Rainbow showed up.” This shows just how the ancients were really just anthropomorphizing natural forces when creating their deities.

But as I said, that’s a non-expert’s theory.

If true, then that explains the whole Iris thing. It’s not that Iris came to mean rainbow, in association with the deity of the rainbow. Instead, the word for rainbow (Iris) was used for the name of the deity of the rainbow.

But you couldn’t resist temptation … your Achilles’ heel! :stuck_out_tongue: (That must be a sisyphean problem for you… :wink: )

DC, I was just having fun with you because I love you. You’re a mensch.

Poly, finally somebody got my humor! Yay! I knew I could count on you.

Achilles’ heel? Sisyphean?

Is there an echo in here?Is there an echo in here?

I’ll shut up now; my lips are hermetically sealed. :wink:

It will be a herculean task to close this pandora’s box you’all* have opened.

  • My father was from Greece, but it was southern Greece.

Sorry; hermetically sealed seems to come from the alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, not from the god Hermes.

Gah, that was idiotic. I should have read my source for five more seconds and found out that

[emily] Never mind. [/emily]

Ah, a chance to insert a plug for one of the best books ever written on the history of esoteric philosophy: Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates. Before beginning to tell about Bruno, Yates goes into great depth on the ancient and medieval history of Hermetism, its Egyptian roots and the misunderstanding of it by Romans and Christians, and how it changed in the Renaissance, to put Bruno’s work into the perspective needed to understand it. One group that claimed to be contributing toward reviving it was the so-called Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in London 1888.

I like all these references. I find them as sweet as ambrosia. Besides, trying to stop all these posters would be like fighting the many heads of the hydra. Even if you did get us to stop, you would have alienated so many of us that it would be a Pyrrhic victory. Why not just play the interlocutor in this dialogue? I find that such geek speak is an apphrodisiac to many women. So, say your references clearly, in a Stentorian voice, we may rouse the women enough that things will become a drunken Bacchanalia. So, don’t be so Procrustean. The sybil has given a good forecast. So, relax and have a lotus. In no time, you’ll be taken babes back to your place show you can show them an Archimedes screw.