In myths from northern Europe, a legendary smith used supernatural skills to make weapons and magical items. Known as Wayland in England, the smith appears in Norse* mythology as Volund and in German mythology as Wieland.
Werewolves are man-wolves—wer is Old English for "man." Legends from around the world tell of men who could turn into wolves and then back into human form again. In their animal form, werewolves were bloodthirsty creatures that devoured people, both living and dead.
White Shell Woman appears in the creation stories of various Native American tribes, including the Navajo, Zuni, and Apache. In Zuni myth, White Shell Woman is an ancestor of the Sun Father, a creator god and the source of life.
Both a legendary and historical figure, Dick Whittington was an English merchant and Lord Mayor of London. The real Dick Whittington was the son of a knight, and he became rich and famous selling fabrics to kings and nobles.
Witches and wizards are people thought to possess magical powers or to command supernatural forces. They appear in the myths and folktales of many cultures.
In the mythology of the Iroquois and Huron of North America, the Woman Who Fell From the Sky is a primal ancestor. Also known as Sky Woman or Ataensic, she plays a central role in creation.
In the Taoist mythology of China, the Xian (or Hsien) are a group of eight immortal characters who at one time lived as humans on earth. Some of the Xian were real individuals mentioned in historical records; others appear only in myths and legends.
In the mythology of the Maya of Middle America, Xibalba (place of fright) was an underground realm of the dead. Caves and pools of water served as entry points to the realm.
In the mythology of the Aztecs of central Mexico, Xiuhtecuhtli was a god of fire. A young and vigorous deity, he was regarded as a patron of kings and warriors.
In Norse* mythology, a mighty axis, or pole, ran through the universe in which the gods, giants, and heroes enacted their stormy dramas. That axis, around which all life revolved, was the World Tree, a giant ash tree called Yggdrasill.
Chinese mythology and cosmology rest on the idea that the universe is shaped and maintained by two fundamental forces called Yin and Yang. Although opposites, Yin and Yang are not in conflict with one another.
A primeval frost giant of Norse* mythology, Ymir was formed at the beginning of creation from rivers of ice that flowed from Niflheim, the land of mist, into Ginnungagap, the yawning emptiness. Ymir emerged from the ice as it melted from the heat of Muspelheim, the fire kingdom that lay near these two regions.
A legendary Chinese emperor, Yu the Great was a hero who controlled the devastating floods that ravaged China in the past. Yu is also credited with founding the Hsia dynasty, China's oldest ruling family.
Zeus was the most important deity of ancient Greece, the leader of the gods and the all-powerful overseer of earthly events and human destiny. His role in mythology was complex and filled with contradictions.