Micronesia, an area in the southwest Pacific Ocean containing thousands of islands, has no single mythology. The various islands and island groups—including the Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands, and Gilbert Islands—each have their own collection of legends and mythological beings.
Midas, a legendary king of Phrygia*, was fabled for having the "golden touch." According to Greek and Roman mythology, Silenius, a companion of the god Dionysus*, became drunk while visiting Phrygia. Silenius was captured and brought to Midas, who ordered that he be released and returned safely to Dionysus.
In Norse* mythology, the giant Mimir was considered the wisest member of the group of gods known as the Aesir. He served as the guardian of Mimisbrunnr, the well of knowledge located at the base of the world tree Yggdrasill.
In Greek mythology, King Minos of Crete was best known for building the Labyrinth—a complicated network of passages—to imprison the monstrous Minotaur. Europa, the king's mother, had been carried away from her home in Tyre by Zeus*, disguised as a bull.
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a monstrous creature with the head of a bull on a man's body. Like many other mythological monsters, the Minotaur had a ravenous appetite for human flesh.
Mithras—also called Mithra—was a deity from ancient Indo-Iranian* mythology. He became a major figure in the religion known as Zoroastrianism, which originated in ancient Persia*.
Mixcoatl was a deity of the Aztecs and of a number of other Native American peoples in central Mexico. Like many mythological figures of this region, Mixcoatl possessed an identity that was both complex and changeable.
Not all mythology dates from the days of ancient cultures. People around the world continue to create new myths and to embroider or rework existing ones.
Moloch, or Molech, was a god to whom some cultures of the ancient Near East sacrificed children. Some scholars have identified Moloch with Melqart, a god worshiped in the city of Tyre on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Monsters peer and prowl, roar and ravage in myths and legends the world over. They are the stuff of nightmares, the looming presences outside the comforting circle of firelight, the menacing shapes glimpsed moving through the shadows of trees or in deep water.
The moon, the largest and brightest object in the night sky, has long inspired curiosity and wonder. It appears at night, the time of sleep and dreaming that sometimes seems to approach the borders of death and the afterlife.
Morgan Le Fay appears in various identities—some helpful, some troublesome—in the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In all her roles, she has the power to heal and the ability to change shapes at will.
The mythology of the Lovedu people of South Africa includes a series of deities known as Mujaji. They are rain queens who send drought to their enemies but cause rain to fall on their people.
The Nyamwezi people of Tanzania in East Africa worship Mulungu as the god who created all things and who watches over the earth. Although he created the world, Mulungu is a very distant god with no personal relationship with living beings.
In Greek mythology, the Muses were sister goddesses of music, poetry, and other artistic and intellectual pursuits. Poets and other artists often called on them for inspiration.
In the mythology of the Nyanga people of central Africa, Mwindo was a hero with supernatural powers who had many adventures. His story is told in the epic of Mwindo.
According to Greek legend, the Myrmidons were a troop of fierce warriors who fought under the leadership of the hero Achilles* in the Trojan Warf. Originally from the island of Aegina, they were created from a colony of ants to repopulate the island after a plague had killed nearly all of its inhabitants.
Nabu was the god of wisdom and writing in the ancient Near Eastern lands of Babylonia* and Assyria*. His cult was introduced to Babylonia shortly after 2000 B.C., and he became known as the son of Marduk, patron god of the city of Babylon*.
Nagas are a race of semidivine serpent creatures in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Female Nagas are called Nagis or Naginis.
In Hindu mythology, Nala and Damayanti were lovers who overcame various obstacles to marry and live happily. Their story appears in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata and in the Naiadhiyacarita, a poem written by the poet Shriharsha.
Narcissus, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Leiriope, was an extremely good-looking Greek youth. His beauty ultimately led to his death.
The Native American or Indian peoples of North America do not share a single, unified body of mythology. The many different tribal groups each developed their own stories about the creation of the world, the appearance of the first people, the place of humans in the universe, and the lives and deeds of deities and heroes.
In Greek mythology the Nemean Lion was a fearsome beast slain by Hercules* as one of his 12 Labors. The hero had killed his wife and children in a fit of madness and was told by an oracle to go to the city of Tiryns for his punishment.
In Roman mythology, Neptune was an early Italian water deity who became identified with the Greek god Poseidon after about 400 B.C. Unlike Poseidon, who appeared in many Greek myths and legends, Neptune played a relatively minor role in Roman mythology In ancient Roman art, he is generally shown holding a trident, a traditional weapon of fishermen in the Mediterranean region.
The Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs) is a German epic poem of the Middle Ages. Based on old Norse* legends, it tells the story of Siegfried (Sigurd), a German prince.
One of the most popular saints in Christianity, St. Nicholas is the patron of children, unmarried women, sailors, and merchants, as well as the patron saint of Russia.