In Greek and Roman mythology, Lethe was one of five rivers in the underworld, or the kingdom of the dead. Drinking from Lethe (whose name means "forgetfulness") caused the souls of the dead to forget all knowledge of their previous lives.
The sea serpent Leviathan is mentioned several times in the Old Testament of the Bible. Legends about this immense and powerful creature were based on earlier stories about Tiamat, a dragon defeated by the god Marduk in a Babylonian creation myth.
Various Bantu-speaking peoples of central and southern Africa believe in a supreme deity called Leza. A sky god and creator spirit, Leza is the subject of several myths.
According to Jewish legend, Lilith was the original wife of Adam, the first man created by God. She often quarreled with Adam and eventually left him.
The Loch Ness Monster, known affectionately as Nessie, is a legendary marine animal associated with Loch Ness, the largest and deepest lake in Scotland. Legends about the monster have been told for centuries.
In Norse* mythology, Loki was a trickster who caused endless trouble for the gods but who also used his cunning to help them. He lived in Asgard, the home of the gods, and he served as a companion to the great gods Thor* and Odin*.
According to legend, Lucretia was the beautiful wife of the early Roman army commander Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. During a military expedition, Lucius and the other Roman leaders talked about how moral and good their wives were.
An important and popular deity in Celtic* mythology, Lug (or Lugh) was a god of the sun and light known for his handsome appearance and skills in arts and crafts. A patron of heroes, Lug appears in many Irish and Welsh legends.
One of the major epics of India and the longest poem in the world, the Mahabharata is a sacred Hindu text. It consists of many legends and tales revolving around the conflicts between two branches of a mythical family.
In the mythology of the Incas, Manco Capac was the founder of their nation and a culture hero who set the Incas on the road to glory. There are several versions of his story.
The manticore (also known as martichora) was a mythical animal with a human head and face, a lion's body, and a scorpion's tail. According to legend, this fast, powerful, and fierce beast attacked and devoured people.
In Hindu mythology, the gods created Manu, the first man, who gave life to all humans. According to legend, he was the earth's first king and the ancestor of all the kings of India.
Before the birth of Marduk, there were two primeval gods: Apsu, god of the sweet waters; and his wife, Tiamat, goddess of the salt waters. This pair produced children, who in turn gave birth to Marduk and other deities.
Mars was a major Roman deity, second only to Jupiter* in the Roman pantheon. He began as a protector of agriculture but later became the god of war, honored throughout the realm of the conquering Romans.
Masewi and Oyoyewi are twin brothers who play a prominent role in the creation myths of the Acoma people of the American Southwest. In these stories, their mother, Iatiku, gave birth to people, and they emerged into the light from underground at a place called Shipap.
Maui created the islands while out on a fishing trip with his brothers. First he fashioned a magic fishing hook from his grandmother's jawbone.
The Mayan civilization flourished in Mesoamerica from around 300 B.C. until the Spanish conquest of the early A.D.
In Greek mythology, Medea was an enchantress and witch who used her magic powers to help Jason* and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece*. Later, after Jason betrayed her, she used her witchcraft to take revenge.
Medusa, one of three sisters in Greek mythology known as the Gorgons, had a destructive effect upon humans. In many myths, she appeared as a horribly ugly woman with hair made of snakes, although occasionally she was described as being beautiful.
Melanesia, an area in the southwest Pacific Ocean, consists of thousands of islands and a remarkable variety of cultures. These individual cultures possess different mythologies and deities.
In Polynesian mythology, the Menehune were a group of little people—about 2 feet tall—who lived in caves in the forests. The Hawaiians used to warn travelers to watch out for the Menehune because they shot tiny arrows at people who bothered them.
In Greek mythology, Menelaus, king of Sparta*, was the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and the brother of the great warrior Agamemnon*. Menelaus's beautiful wife, Helen, the daughter of Zeus* and a woman called Leda, was at the center of the events that led to the Trojan War.
In the legends about King Arthur, the king had the help and advice of a powerful wizard named Merlin. Indeed this magician, who arranged for Arthur's birth and for many aspects of his life, can be seen as the guiding force behind the Arthurian legends*.
Female mermaids and male mermen are imaginary beings with the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of fish. Often mentioned in European legends, they also occur occasionally in the folklore of seagoing peoples from other regions of the world.
The Metamorphoses, a poem by the Roman author Ovid dating from around A.D. 8, tells many of the ancient myths and legends of Greece, Rome, and the Near East.
Mexico's mythology, like its population, reflects a blend of Native American and Spanish influences. Most people in modern Mexico trace their ancestry to Native Americans, to the Spanish who controlled Mexico for three centuries, or to both, in a mixed-race heritage called mestizo.