Myth, Legend, and Symbolism

Phil

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Love the poem, Tani.

Here's another classic I thought might appeal. OK, it's not about cephalopods but about the humble trilobite, that wonderful denizen of the ancient seas. Hope no-one minds, afterall, don't we all love marine invertebrates, wherever and whenever they were?

It was written by May Kendall in 1887 and is an absolute classic. Please enjoy!

'Lay of the Trilobite'

A mountain's giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
'I don't know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley - he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

'How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes -
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.

'You've Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You've Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!

'You've Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You've cannon and you've dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you're in!'
Remarked the Trilobite.

'But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn't care - I didn't know
That I was a Crustacean.*
I didn't grumble, didn't steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.'

Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried: -

'I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite
In the Silurian seas!'

* He was not a crustacean. He has since discovered that he was an Arachnid, or something similar. But he says it does not matter. He says they told him wrong once, and they may again.


Good, isn't it!
 

nanoteuthis

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Phil said:
Good, isn't it!
Absolutely brilliant :grad: and very funny :biggrin2: I always did suspect those Trilobites of knowing a lot more than they were letting on!

Somewhat along the same lines -- though not as erudite -- is this favorite of mine, penned by that prolific polymath, Anonymous:

EVOLUTION: THE MONKEYS' VIEWPOINT
[just one of numerous titles attributed to this poem - TD]

Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree
Discussing things as they're said to be.

Said one to the others, "Now listen you two;
There's a certain rumor that can't be true;

"That man descends from our noble race.
The very idea! It's a dire disgrace!

"No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her baby, and ruined her life.

"And you've never known a mother monk
To leave her babies with others to bunk.

"Or pass them on from one to another
'Til they hardly know who is their mother.

"And another thing you'll never see
A monk build a fence 'round a coconut tree

"And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monks a taste.

"Why if I put a fence around this tree
Starvation would force you to steal from me.

"Here's another thing a monk won't do -
Go out at night and get on a stew;

"Or use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life.

"Yes, man descended, the ornery cuss,
But brother, he didn't descend from us!"


Nowadays. this one shows up all over the internet, but the first time I saw it was long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far, away) when I was a teenager and a friend gave me a little bronze statue based on Rodin's Thinker, but featuring a chimpanzee -- sitting on a pile of books marked "Darwin" -- contemplating a human skull. The poem was taped on an attached card, and I thought it was a perfect combo.

(Uh-oh, better throw in something ceph-y before Tony tosses us out on our tentacles.... :lol: )

:nautilus: :octopus: :squid: :cthulhu: :nautilus: :squid: :cthulhu: :nautilus: :octopus: :squid: :cthulhu:
 

nanoteuthis

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From the massive reference book, THE PENGUIN DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS, 1996 pb, eds. Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, transl. John Buchanan-Brown:

OCTOPUS: This shapeless, tentacled creature stands significantly for the monsters who regularly symbolize the spirits of the Underworld and even Hell itself.

The octopus was a decorative motif in northern Europe from the Greek world to that of the Celts, which might help to account for its Hyperborean origins. The octopus corresponds to the zodiacal sign of Cancer and is opposed to the dolphin. This identification is not unrelated to the creature's "infernal" aspect, the Summer solstice being the gate of the Underworld.


TD Notes:

-- Hyperborea, in Greek mythology, was a long-lost Utopian country in the far North.

-- The reference to the "infernal" character of the Octo and the "gate of the Underworld" might explain Tolkien's use of a fanciful mega-ceph at the entrance to the subterranean cave of Moria.

-- The identification of the Octo with the astrological sign of Cancer (the crab) undoubtedly refers to the multiple arms of both sea-creatures. From my rather rudimentary knowledge of astrology, I also seem to recall that the sign of Cancer is associated with the feminine, maternal principle. Is it possible that this association could have derived from an ancient observation of the fact that Octos' behavior represents the ultimate in maternal devotion (starving itself to death in order to care for its eggs)?

-- The sign of Cancer (approx. 22 June - 22 July) begins immediately after the Summer solstice.

-- I am not certain what "opposed to the dolphin" might mean. Just out of curiosity, I looked up Dolphin in this same book and noted a reference to the fact that the people of Crete believed that dolphins carried the deceased on their backs to the Isles of the Blessed. Perhaps the "opposition" refers to Octos' association with Hell/Inferno vs. dolphins' association with Heaven/Isles of the Blessed?

CUTTLE-FISH: The cuttle-fish or squid would seem to be a curious candidate for the first master of fire in a myth recorded by G. Frazer from the Nootka Indians of Vancouver. The deer stole it from him and gave it to mankind. The myth explains that at that time the cuttle-fish lived both on land and in the sea.

TD Notes:

-- This is reminiscent of the Greek myth of the Titan Prometheus, who stole fire from the Gods and gave it as a gift to humanity. In this context, the deer would parallel Prometheus and the Squid would parallel one of the Gods (Zeus, Hephaistos, or Helios).

-- Just as other Pacific Rim peoples regarded cephs as sacred creatures, IMHO the cited myth might indicate that the Native North Americans of Vancouver held the Squid in esteem as a God.

-- Could it be that the reference to "living on land and in the sea" was the result of identifying the primordial Squid with the small shallow-water Octos which moved on land from tidepool to tidepool?

All comments, additional references, etc. will be welcomed!
 

nanoteuthis

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Fujisawas Sake said:
Yeah, I remember reading an old Polynesian or Hawaiian legend about a greedy shark who nearly gets himself killed by a lazy octopus reef guardian who puts the squeeze on shark (literally) for waking him up from his nap.
Konichiwa, John --

I finally found a reference to this myth, in my trusty copy of Knappert's PACIFIC MYTHOLOGY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYTH AND LEGEND (see my first couple of posts on this thread), under the entry SHARK:

In Fijian mythology the Shark-God is the scourge of the fishermen, eating their fish as well as the men who fall overboard. His name is Dakuwanga. However, one day he meets his master, the giant octopus, guardian of the reef. The octopus wins the battle and the Shark-God has to promise never to attack the men of Kandavu.


TD Notes:

-- According to my netsearch, Kandavu, a.k.a. Kadavu, is an island in Southern Fiji which is also known as "Little New Zealand":

http://www.svcherokee.com/pages/Kandavu.htm

-- Here is a more complete version of the legend which I found on the net (go to site and scroll down to "Dakuwaqa the Shark God"):

http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/fiji/about_destin/legends.html

-- If you haven't already seen it, check out this beautiful modern interpretation of the Octopus in the "guardian" role (in this case, his beloved "charge" is a mermaid), by artist David Delamare:

http://www.daviddelamare.com/guard.html

-- IMHO it is interesting to note the discrepancy between Pacific and European views of the Octo. While European (and Anglo-American) cultures tend to vilify Octopuses, Pacific cultures tend to admire or even deify the species.

"Sea" y'all later,
Tani
 

nanoteuthis

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Tintenfisch said:
.... I think there's also brief mention of what the native American peoples who encountered them (coastal, I suppose :) ) thought/believed about them, at least those living on the northern west coast of North America.
Hm, a vague and unresearched post. Anyone else know more about this?
Hiya Kat --

I just re-read your post and realized there is a reference to this in THE PENGUIN DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS. See my post of 11 March containing the entry under CUTTLE-FISH, with the reference to the Nootka Indians of Vancouver.

Pax,
Tani
 

Tintenfisch

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TaningiaDanae said:
...there is a reference to this in THE PENGUIN DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS.
Them penguins are smart, huh. :idea:

The idea of octopus being related to the Zodiac sign Cancer got me thinking about whether there are any octo or squid constellation... alas, none that I know of (though I bet you could pick one out in any group of stars ;) )... reminds me of the scene in A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe tells Jennifer Connolly to pick out any aminal (I think?) and he'll find a contellation for it... and she says octopus!

:octopus:
 

nanoteuthis

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Hey Steve-O' -- made ya look! :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao: :roflmao:
 

Phil

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Tintenfisch said:
The idea of octopus being related to the Zodiac sign Cancer got me thinking about whether there are any octo or squid constellation...
See! The constellation of 'Octopus' exists!

Dubious proof here:

LINK
 

nanoteuthis

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Phil said:
See! The constellation of 'Octopus' exists!

Dubious proof here:

LINK
Awww, that is so cute! Looks just like my Beanie, Orbi (Official Ty name: Inky) What I find amusing is the downloadable pdf file of constellations to trace at home and send to the course instructor. Makes me wonder how many of the original tracings she receives are actually printable....

:jester:
 

tonmo

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Hey, just FYI, I discovered that this discussion thread is linked to from the following page:

http://www.bluecoast.org/kanaloa1.html

Go to the "Edit | Find" command from your browser and type in "tonmo" and you'll find the section that has content related to this discussion.
 

nanoteuthis

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WhiteKiboko said:
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse...
Hey, WK, would that be from "Sympathy for the Devilfish"?
(Next line: ".... or I'll lay your sole to waste.")

:heee:

tonmo said:
Hey, just FYI, I discovered that this discussion thread is linked to from the following page:

http://www.bluecoast.org/kanaloa1.html

Go to the "Edit | Find" command from your browser and type in "tonmo" and you'll find the section that has content related to this discussion.
Tony, great stuff! Perhaps we should reciprocate by listing their site as one of our official links. I was very impressed with the entire page, being quite interested in (but not well-informed about) Pacific Island culture and religion.

BTW, I collect Tarot and other guidance / divination packs, and two of them -- HAWAIIAN AUMAKUA CARDS (M. Lucy Wade Stern) and MANA CARDS: THE POWER OF HAWAIIAN WISDOM (C.K. Becker & D. Nardin) -- each contain a Kanaloa / Ceph card. I'll try to get the Big Calamari to take pix of the two cards and post them here with the interpretations -- I assume the copyright issue is OK as long as I give detailed proper credit in the photos' captions. (Tony, please confirm this for me.)

On my "To Do" shelf are a few books -- and one brief teaching tape -- about the Hawaiian language. It appears to be the only Polynesian language for which one can find significant learning materials in the US, I suppose because Hawaii is our 50th State. However, I did manage to find a small book of beginners' Maori lessons at one of the online language book catalogs (I've got the info on one of my other screen names, so if anyone's interested I can look it up for you).

I assume the situation is reversed in NZ, where the Polynesian population is primarily Maori, and Hawaiians, Tongans, Samoans, and Tahitians (if any) are in the minority. Fijians are unique because, if I'm not mistaken, they are racially Melanesian while their language is more closely related to Polynesian. (This is not unheard of in other parts of the world. F'rinstance, a Welsh geneticist recently discovered that although the Welsh language is definitely Celtic, the Welsh people are genetically related to the Basques -- a European minority living around the French-Spanish border, who may be the most ancient ethnic group on the continent, and closest descendants of the original Cro-Magnons.)

In any event, the Pacific Island peoples have a profound and often mystical respect for Cephs of all kinds, in marked contrast to the widespread European / American view of them as "creepy-crawlies" -- which this site has (hopefully) been instrumental in changing.

Aloha,
Tani
 

WhiteKiboko

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TaningiaDanae said:
Hey, WK, would that be from "Sympathy for the Devilfish"?
(Next line: ".... or I'll lay your sole to waste.")

:heee:
it would be indeed.... that was my exact train of thought when i put it up.... :) ooops i mean :twisted:
 

Clem

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Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what this water spirit is?



:wink:

Clem
 

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(Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what this water spirit is?)

Ummm... Great Cow-Skulled Aqua-Rooster?
:cyclops:
 

Clem

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Headfoot said:
(Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what this water spirit is?)

Ummm... Great Cow-Skulled Aqua-Rooster?
:cyclops:
AKA "Old MacDonald's Worst Nightmare.":wink:

The puny little legs were probably added by the illustrator to make this water spirit credibly amphibious; it's a trick used by the illustrators of old when they were converting cephalopods into Many Headed Hydras.



Above is Conrad Gesner's rendering of a Hydra, circa 1551-58, from his Historia animalium. Note the afterthought feet. Often interpreted as a fanciful squid, Gesner's engraving might in fact be of a tentacular club from a squid: each "head" could be a sucker carried on a stalk, the "crowns" serrated sucker rings.

A hint about our mystery water spirit: it comes from the Indian sub-continent.

:?:

Clem
 

Clem

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Here's another image of our mystery water spirit: he's the red beastie engulfing the base of the arch.



:?:
 

Clem

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The figure in question is known as a makara. In Hindu mythology, it is a water-spirit associated with the deities Ganga (Goddess of Heavenly Waters), Varuna (God of Winds) and Kama (God of Love), depicted in illustrations as an aquatic steed for these deities. Makara sometimes appear as earrings on images of Vishnu; paired makara are said to symbolize the two, complementary forms of knowledge: logical and intuitive.

The word makara likely derives from the words makar or magar, sometimes used to describe crocodiles but also as a general term for strange sea-creatures. In the Hindu sacred text The Bhagavad Gita, it is said that "the makara among the fish is like the Ganges among the rivers; like Rama among the warriors."
 


The makara has been likened most often to a "water-elephant," and most depictions show an animal with a broad tail, scaly or rugose skin and a head covered with horns; one feature common to all illustrations is the presence of a long trunk. If color is used in the illustration or applied to the sculpture, it is usually red overall.

If the makara image resembles an elephant or a manatee-like mammal, it also resembles a cephalopod. The broad tail and horn-festooned head are suggestive of fused tail fins and an arm corona, and the "trunk" could be interpreted as either a tentacle or the raised first arm pair of a squid or cuttlefish. The linkage of a cephalopod's arm to an elephant's trunk turns out to have an echo in Eastern Europe, where the Czech and Slovak term for octopus is chobot nece, "trunk animal." On Indian makara, the trunk sometimes has papillae or pads distributed down its length.



The scales and bumps shown on some makara are not disqualifiers for the notion of cephalopod lineage; the tubercles, cartilaginous ridges and photophores found on some squid and cuttles could have been simplified as scales for the sake of visual comprehensibility. Thysanoteuthis, Taningia and Histioteuthis are among the teuthids found in the Bay of Bengal, along with numerous sepiids, octopus and nautiloids.
 

nanoteuthis

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Hi there Clem --

Wow! This is absolutely amazing stuff, and makes me hope that you will continue to pursue research along these lines for this thread, relating to as many cultures as possible. I have some general familiarity with Hinduism, but had never heard of this creature. It makes sense that Cephs combine both sacred and sensual connotations in Hindu symbolism (as they do in both Japanese/Shinto and Polynesian symbolism) -- since the two qualities are aspects of the same principle in these cultures.

Some of my fellow Noo Yawkers might be surprised to know that the noun "mugger" is derived from the (Hindi? Sanskrit?) word magar, but since crocodiles are ambush hunters, the connection isn't that hard to trace. Even more interesting, I recall that in one of Arthur C. Clarke's works (either the book THE DEEP RANGE or his short story about the attempted capture of an Archi -- I forget the name) he refers to the featured GS as "the old mugger".

Unlike our use of the term "mugger", the connotations of the term in Hindu symbolism are obviously positive, considering the association with the sacred river Ganges, the Gods Varuna and Kama, the hero Rama (like Krishna, an avatar of the Preserver Deity Vishnu), and -- by the nature of the term "water-elephant" -- Ganesha, the beloved elephant-headed God of Happiness. Jai Makara!

I was also delighted to hear that some of my fellow Taningiae currently patrol the Bay of Bengal. Anywhere in the deep some illumination is needed.... we'll be there!
:idea: :squid: :idea:

Keep those myths, legends, symbols, photos, and discussions coming....

Taninigia
 

Clem

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Taningia,

Glad you enjoyed the makara stuff. You can also find a list of cephalopods found in the Bay of Bengal at Cephbase; just select "Bay of Bengal" from the biogeography database of large marine ecosystems.

One of Vishnu's incarnations looks a little bit like a squid:



Multi-armed deity with a twin-finned tail...hmm.

:?:

Clem
 

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Ah good I was hoping there was a thread on this kind of thing (great stuff too).

In the latest Fortean Times there is a report on various ancestral spirits - here is the extract I thought worth throwing in (from FT181:44)

Even today, he tells me at one vahi-mana (place of supernatural power), there is a female spirit that regularly materialises.... with a pet octopus perched upon her shoulder. Sounding like a cross between a Disney character and Casper the Friendly Ghost, she's friendly, helpful and "appears to people in the state between awake and asleep" to aid in healing.
Thats all there is but I thought it worth passing on.

Now a quick question. It has come up before (and I believe is being discussed in the members area?) but I have been looking into the origins of tentacle hentai and the modern incarnation seems to have been acceptable because of the various appearances during the Edo Period. Now this seems to be influenced by resurrgence in Shinto which like other animistic belief systems blurs the boundary between humans and nature. However, trying to find out any preceeding precidents in Japanese mythology have proved difficult and I struggled to find anything on the ocotopus or squid in Japanese mythology (in any context) - I assume there must be some but I couldn't find anything. Anyone know of any (not necessarily in connection to my intial query)?

I also only have the Ancient Mythology volume of Campbell's masks of God and I wonder if the Oriental Mythology volume has anything on this:

http://www.phil-books.com/The_Masks_of_God_Oriental_Mythology_0140194428.html

I'll see if I can't dig it out.

Emps
 

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