Berserks, or berserkers, were wild warriors who fought savagely in battle and worshiped Odin, king of the Norse* gods. The word berserk comes either from a Norse word for "bear-shirt" (meaning bearskin) or from "bare-of-shirt" (meaning without mail or armor).
Written almost 2,000 years ago, the Bhagavad Gita is probably the most widely read of the Hindu scriptures, and it lays out some of the basic ideas of Hindu culture. The poem is actually part of a larger Indian epic, the Mahabharata, which tells the story of the struggle between two closely related leading families.
Billy the Kid was one of the most notorious outlaws of the American West. Born William Bonney in New York City in 1859, Billy spent his childhood in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Rising above the earth and soaring through the skies, birds have been symbols of power and freedom throughout the ages. In many myths and legends, birds link the human world to the divine or supernatural realms that lie beyond ordinary experience.
Blackbeard was the nickname of Edward Teach, a notorious English pirate of the early 1700s. He was a large, strong, fierce-looking man.
Bluebeard is the villain in a European folktale made famous by Charles Perrault in his tale Barbe bleue. According to the story, Bluebeard married several women, one after the other, and murdered each of them.
The Book of the Dead is a large collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts relating to funerals and the afterlife. The texts include spells, magic formulas, hymns, and prayers.
Daniel Boone was a legendary American pioneer who helped explore and settle Kentucky. He gained fame as a trailblazer and hero of the American West.
In Greek mythology, Boreas was the god of the north wind and the son of Astraeus and Eos, deities of the stars and dawn. His brothers were Eurus the east wind, Notus the south wind, and Zephyrus the west wind.
In Norse* mythology, Bragi was the god of poetry. He was the son of Odin* and the husband of Idun, the goddess of fertility.
In Hindu mythology, Brahma was the first god in the sacred Hindu trinity, or Trimurti. The other gods were Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer.
St. Brendan, nicknamed the Navigator, was an Irish abbot of the 500s who became the hero of legendary ocean voyages and the patron saint of seafarers.
Brer Rabbit is the main character in the Uncle Remus tales written by Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908). As a trickster, Brer Rabbit outsmarts larger and stronger animals, such as Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
Robert Bruce, also known as Robert the Bruce, was king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. A heroic leader, Bruce led the Scots in their fight against English rule.
In Icelandic and German mythology, Brunhilde was a strong and beautiful princess who was cruelly deceived by her lover. Her story is told in the Edda poems of Iceland and the Nibelungenlied, a German epic of the 1200s.
Buddhism, one of the great religions of the world, was founded in India in the 500s B.C. and then spread throughout Asia.
Between the 1880s and the 1920s, Americans created a brand new national mythology based on the settling of the West. History, legends, and folktales all contributed to the mythology of the Wild West.
The United States has many legends dating from the 1800s, when the country was expanding westward and people were clearing the land for farming. This folklore includes a number of "tall tales"—humorous stories about larger-than-life characters who possessed unusual strength or cleverness and performed extraordinary feats.
Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy, was an outlaw of the American West whose daring exploits made him a legend. Cassidy led the Wild Bunch, the most successful and well-organized gang in the West.
Greek mythology was full of heroes whose lives were entangled with those of the gods. One such hero was Cadmus, legendary founder of the great city of Thebes *.
The caduceus was the staff or rod carried by the messenger of the gods, known as Hermes to the Greeks and Mercury to the Romans. The caduceus became a powerful symbol of magic.
In the mythology of the Bushmen of southwestern Africa, Cagn is the god who created the world and all the people and things in it. In some stories, he dies and then comes back to life.
In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve, the ancestors of the human race. Cain killed his brother Abel, becoming the first murderer.
In Greek mythology, Calliope was the most honored of the nine Muses, sister goddesses who were patrons of the arts and sciences. Calliope, the leader of the Muses, was the patron of the epic.
In Greek mythology, Callisto was one of many human women who were seduced or raped by Zeus*. Daughter of the king of Arcadia, Callisto joined the followers of the goddess Artemis*.
In Greek mythology, Calypso was either a goddess or an ocean nymph, who inhabited a mythical island called Ogygia. Calypso appeared in the Odyssey, the Greek epic that describes the wanderings of Odysseus* on his way home from the Trojan War*.