Monday, September 30, 2013

History mystery: Ancient Mythology about Rainbow

The most favorite component throughout history is the rainbow which is a natural phenomenon appreciated for its beauty. According to the Sumerian mythology, the rainbow’s power, according to some was regarded as the sole benevolent portraying its perception of the world culture though its past stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh for instance, an ancient king of Sumerian’s reign during 3000 BC; gives us detailed written evidence of the culture during that age. It portrays the Sumerian farmer god Ninurta defending Sumer with a bow and arrow wearing a crown similar to a rainbow. According to Christian mythology, in the chapter of Genesis, Noah was appointed by God to save every living pair of species from the great floods. When the flood had destroyed all living creatures from the face of the earth, the rainbow was a symbol of God’s promise that he would never destroy all of the earth with flood and the rainbow was a covenant between God and man forming an arc between earth and heaven. As per the Greek mythology, the daughter of first generation gods Electra and Thaumas, Iris was the goddess of sea and sky and her father was the wondrous marine god while her mother the amber, a cloud nymph.

Iris was a messenger of the gods and in ancient Greek vase painting depicted as a young woman who flew on golden wings, dressed in rainbow colors, a herald’s rod and at times a water pitcher in her hand. She seems to be speeding with the wind delivering news and appears in nine of the twenty four books of Homer’s – The Illiad. She is often depicted standing beside Zeus or Hera offering nectar from her jug and as a messenger of the gods was incomparable from Hebe art..She was the goddess of the rainbow and often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. For the Greeks from the coastal dwellings, the rainbow was seen spreading over the distance between the clouds in the sky and the sea and the goddess was said to represent the rain clouds with water from the sea. Greek myth was of the belief that Iris delivered messages that were rarely of peace or of good fortune. One of her jobs was to fill a golden jug with holy water for Zeus who would make misbehaving gods make a binding oath on the holy water. She has no distinctive mythology of her own but she appears in a myth as an errand running messenger and described as a virgin goddess.

According to later writers, Iris was married to Zephyrus and was the mother of Eros. Being engaged in service of Zeus and Hera she even served Achiles in calling the wind to his assistance and performed her services not only when commanded but also rendered advice and services of her own accord. Her name seems to contain double meaning where iris relates to the rainbow and eiris to the messenger.
According to some poets, Iris is described as the rainbow itself, while Servius implies that the rainbow was merely the road on which she travelled which appeared when the need arose and disappeared when it was not needed. Regarding her worship, the Delians offered her cakes made of wheat and honey and dried figs on the island of Hecate. In ancient Greek vase painting, she appears as a beautiful young woman, standing and dressed in a long wide tunic with a light upper garment and wings attached to her shoulders. She is found carrying the herald’s staff in her left hand or appears to fly on their wings with sandals on her feet along with the staff and the pitcher in her hand and compared to a swift footed storm wind messenger.

Different mythology and groups like the Norse and Navajo are of the belief that the multi colored arc, bridged the distance between earth and heaven while some called it the bridge or the gateway to heaven. The Norse believed the rainbow to be bridge that could be used by gods and mortals killed in the battle of just war. According to some they believe that the rainbow only shows up in the sky when St. Peter opened the pearly gates of heaven to usher in the new souls in heaven and its colors representing the magnificence of heaven. Others think that it is a link of six or seven bridges, based on the belief of individual’s culture on the number of colors in the bow that the soul had to successfully travel to reach heaven. As per the African’s belief the rainbow was actually a full circle, half of which could only be seen at an appropriate time. They also believed that the rainbow separated the earth from the heaven. As per Roman mythology, the rainbow is believed to be the pathway for Mercury the messenger god.

According to German, myths the rainbow was considered as a bowl that God used during his creation to color the world while others thought that it was a magnificent gift of nature. The ancient Arabians believed it was a tapestry woven by the south wind while the Incas thought that it was a gift from their sun god. The Buddhist identified the rainbow to the seven regions of the earth due to its seven colors and believed it as the next highest state of achievement before Nirvana, the place very one and all individuals meet their end. The Hindus believe that the rainbow represents the archer’s bow of their god of war and that the god used the bow to send arrows of lightening to kill demons who threatened their land and their people. In Islam, it is believed to have only four colors instead of the seven colors, namely blue, green, red and yellow which are related to fire, earth, water and wind. The Native American tribes considered the rainbow as the drinking fountain for all souls of heaven while other believed it to be a bridge between the world of humans and the world of gods though not heaven and still others believed it to be merely a pathway which the gods used.

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