Legends in Mind

The late Joseph Campbell whetted many appetites for knowledge of myths and symbols. Frequent Last Word contributor Lollie Rogers tests whether your command of this fascinating field is truly powerful . . . or the stuff of myths. A hint: the source of the information in the questions is not a Joseph Campbell book.

1. Who was the Persian god, most frequently represented as a bull, revered as the god of light? His birthday was celebrated just after the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, so he was worshipped as he who would return light to the world, ensuring that the cycles of the seasons would continue.

2. In what culture is found Amaterasu, said to have emerged from her cave to bring light to the world? Like other sun goddesses, she is typically represented with a mirror as a symbol of the solar disk and her relationship to the sun.

3. In which country is Lakshmi, related to Greco-Roman Fortuna as a goddess of the multitude of all good things, said to have been born from the ocean like the Greek goddess Aphrodite?

4. This character appears as a monkey in tales from China, a spider in tales from Africa, a coyote or raven in those from Native American culture, and a wide variety of animals from African-American tales. He provides “vicarious triumph” to those suffering from the burden of oppressive customs and societies.

5. This symbol, square in shape and containing four points, has appeared in religious iconography in various cultures dating back to 10,000 BC. It was carved into images of Buddha and Greek and Roman goddesses and the Christians used it extensively during the Middle Ages for church decoration. It was considered both a solar and lunar symbol. More recently, it has been co-opted to represent racist ideals.

This goddess was immortalized in a hymn by Homer. She was the goddess of grain and vegetal fertility and, perhaps most importantly, she was also the central figure in one of the earliest mystery cults. Initiation rites surrounding acceptance into her cult remain unknown yet today, in spite of the fact that scholars have searched ancient records for information on this secret practice.

7. This word originally meant “grandmother” and was used as a title of respect for any older woman. It later was used in a collective sense, referring to any group of older women; and it eventually came to refer to their conversations, or “old wives’ tales.” Today it carries a more
perjorative connotation.

8. Which culture tells stories of warrior goddesses, maidens who could don swan plumage, able to award victory in battle or victorious death? The most famous story tells of a man who stole one of these goddesses’ plumage; she was unable to get it back and was forced to do his will. As punishment, she was made to fall asleep behind a flaming castle.

In legends and Teutonic folklore, these creatures inhabited grottoes, symbolizing the deeper, more unconscious aspects of our psyches. Folks believed that by drawing these creatures out of their caves, they would work magic. This may be because their work with metals buried deep within the earth associated them with alchemy. In other parts of Europe they were thought to live in trees that could be tapped for good luck.



Contest Rules
1. We are looking for the word or name that fits the description in each question.
2. Send us your answers by mail, fax or e-mail (see below) so that we receive them by September 26.
Be sure to include your name and mailing address on your entry.

Send your entries to:
The Last Word
c/o USC Trojan Family Magazine
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2538

We will also accept entries by fax:

or via the Internet magazines@usc.edu

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Last Word Solutions - Summer 1997 3. We will award up to five $30 gift certificates from Borders Books & Music to those mythologists who send us all nine correct answers. If more than five mythologists send us correct answers before the deadline, we will draw the winners by lot.

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