In the mythology of the Australian Aborigines, Dreamtime, or The Dreaming, is the period of creation when the world took shape and all life began. During Dreamtime, ancestral beings created the landscape, made the first people, and taught the people how to live.
Druids were priests of an ancient Celtic * religious order. Powerful figures in the Celtic world, they served not only as religious leaders but also as teachers, judges, advisers, soothsayers, healers, and poets.
In myths and tales, dwarfs and elves are small humanlike creatures, often endowed with magical powers. Dwarfs generally look like old men with long beards and are sometimes ugly or misshapen.
In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk (or dibbuk) is the spirit or soul of a dead person that enters a living body and takes possession of it. Dybbuk is a Hebrew word meaning "attachment." According to tradition, the dybbuk is a restless spirit that must wander about—because of its sinful behavior in its previous life—until it can "attach" itself to another person.
In Greek mythology Echo was a mountain nymph who annoyed Hera, queen of the gods, by talking to her constantly. Echo's chatter distracted Hera and prevented her from discovering the love affairs of her husband, Zeus *.
According to the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Garden of Eden was an earthly paradise that was home to Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. The Bible says that God created the garden, planting in it "every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." Eden was a well-watered, fertile place from which four rivers flowed out into the world.
Bordered by deserts, Egypt's Nile River valley was relatively isolated from other centers of civilization in the ancient Near East for thousands of years. As a result, Egyptian religion remained almost untouched by the beliefs of foreign cultures.
In the mythology of the ancient Near East, El was the supreme god of the Canaanites*. He was the creator deity, the father of gods and men, and the highest judge and authority in all divine matters and human affairs.
The legend of El Dorado was about a fabulously wealthy city of gold and the king who ruled over it. The story sprang up shortly after the first Spanish explorers landed in Central and South America.
In Greek mythology, there are two figures called Electra. The earlier Electra was one of seven daughters of the Titan Atlas* and Pleione.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Elysium was the place of rest for the dead who were blessed by the gods. It was also known as the Elysian Fields or the Elysian Plain.
The "wild man" Enkidu is an important character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a collection of stories about a Sumerian* king who wanted to become immortal. As the rival and then the best friend of the hero Gilgamesh, Enkidu represents the force of untamed nature, a force that civilized, city-dwelling society both feared and admired.
In the mythology of ancient Mesopotamia*, Enlil ("lord of the wind") was the storm god and the god of earth and air. He was one of a trio of major gods that included Anu and Ea, the gods of heaven and water.
Enuma Elish was the creation myth of the people of Babylonia, a civilization of the ancient Near East. Written in the form of an epic, Enuma Elish gives the Babylonian account of the origin of the world.
In Greek mythology, Eros was the god of erotic, or sexual, love. The Romans called him Amor or Cupid, from the words amor meaning "love" and cupido meaning "desire." His role in mythology changed over time, as did images of him in sculpture and other works of art.
Eshu, also known as Elegba or Legba, is a trickster god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in West Africa. He is unpredictable, sly, and fond of pranks that can be cruel and disruptive.
In Greek mythology Eurydice was a dryad, or tree nymph, who became the bride of Orpheus, a legendary hero known for his musical skills. While walking in the countryside one day soon after their wedding, Eurydice met Aristaeus, the son of the god Apollo*.
In Arthurian legends, Excalibur was King Arthur's magic sword. There are two accounts of how Arthur obtained Excalibur.
The Fates were three female deities who shaped people's lives. In particular, they determined how long a man or woman would live.
Born in the holy city of Mecca in Arabia in about 605, Fatima was the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Generations of Muslims have revered her as one of four "perfect women." (They also place Mary, the mother of Jesus, in this group.) Fatima is especially important to the Shiite sect of Islam.
The legend of Faust is well known in Germany and western Europe. The hero of the tale, a German magician named Faust, or Faustus, agreed to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, knowledge, earthly pleasures, and magical powers.
Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, was one of three terrible children of the Norse* trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboda. Their other children—Jormungand, a giant serpent, and Hel, the goddess of the dead—were thrown out of Asgard, the home of the gods, by Odin*.
Finn, also known as Finn MacCumhail or Finn MacCool, is the hero of a series of Irish legends known as the Fionn (or Fenian) Cycle. Finn was the son of Cumhail, who led a band of warriors called the Fianna.
Finnish mythology, like that of many other cultures, tells the stories of gods and legendary heroes. Most of the myths date from pre-Christian times and were passed from generation to generation by storytellers.
In ancient times, people considered fire one of the basic elements of the universe, along with water, air, and earth. Fire can be a friendly, comforting thing, a source of heat and light, as anyone who has ever sat by a campfire in the dark of night knows.
In one story, the firebird stole apples from the tsar's garden. The tsar promised his kingdom to the son who could catch the firebird.