Friday, February 15, 2013

Fickle Gods, Helpful Goddesses


FAIZAH'S DESTINY borrows heavily from Persian mythology, but the gods pretty much match up to the Roman and Greek gods. Essentially, every civilization re-uses the same gods, but give them different names and their own special flavor.

The heroes are often the mighty warrior types: Hercules, Gilgamesh, Samson. Since I’ve written this book for kids, my heroes are teenagers, not at all like the legends (might become legendary themselves). But they’re not in mythology, so you’ll just have to read "Faizah's Destiny" to find out about them (when it's released in the Spring).

As usual, the "real" info is from the Encyclopedia Mythica.

Ahura Mazdah
In Persian belief, Ahura Mazdah ("Lord Wisdom") was the supreme god, he who created the heavens and the Earth, and another son of Zurvan. Atar, his son, battled Azhi Dahaka, the great dragon of the sky (note that Azhi shows up in "Setara's Genie"), and bound it in chains on a high mountain. The dragon was, however, destined to escape and destroy a third of mankind at the final reckoning, before it was slain. Ahura Mazdah was the god of prophetic revelation, and bore both Ahriman and Ormazd.

As leader of the Heavenly Host, the Amesha Spentas, he battles Ahriman and his followers to rid the world of evil, darkness and deceit. His symbol is the winged disc.
Anahita
The ancient Persian water goddess, fertility goddess, and patroness of women, as well as a goddess of war. Her name means "the immaculate one". She is portrayed as a virgin, dressed in a golden cloak, and wearing a diamond tiara (sometimes also carrying a water pitcher). The dove and the peacock are her sacred animals.

Anahita was very popular and is one of the forms of the 'Great Goddess' which appears in many ancient eastern religions (such as the Syrian/Phoenician goddess Anath). She is associated with rivers and lakes, as the waters of birth. Anahita is sometimes regarded as the consort of Mithra.
My Mashup

I use Ahura more or less as described in the mythology site. Because he was the leader of the Amesha Spentas (the good guys), I decided to portray him like Zeus or Thor, just another god amused at the foibles of humankind, but rarely steps into the action. He is also equated with Mithra, so I have him married to Anahita. Ahura shows up in only one chapter ("Demons and Deities") and he chats with Anahita about the progress of the heroes. He claims to have set up the whole situation (just like a man).

I made Anahita my main character’s supporter. She appears to Faizah hovering over a lake. She tells the girl that one or more of her companions (three boys, wouldn’t you know) will be seduced to the dark side by demons. In typical godly fashion, she can’t give Faizah a straight story; she only hints at what might happen.

Excerpt (pre-release version):

Each time the light dimmed, it returned brighter than before, pulsing in time to the beat of her heart. As the shape within the light grew more and more distinct, a part of Faizah’s mind wondered if she should be afraid. Somehow she wasn’t. Instead, she felt a strong attraction to that glowing figure and walked to the lake’s edge to get a better look.

The apparition hovered a few inches above the surface of the lake. Faizah could now see, through the shimmering aura surrounding her, the figure was that of a woman. She was looking out over the lake to the point where the shooting star had disappeared over the caldera rim. Clad in a golden cloak, a diamond tiara adorned her brow, and two small lions lay at her feet. The figure turned slowly to look directly at Faizah, and a gentle smile curved her lips.

Faizah gasped in sudden recognition. This was the goddess Anahita! She did exist!

Faizah stood entranced as the patroness of all women, the goddess of water and fertility, and of war, came gliding smoothly over the surface of the lake toward her.

As the figure halted before her, Faizah glanced quickly over her shoulder at their campsite. The boys hadn’t moved, and she could hear Menog’s rumbling snore. She turned back to face the goddess.

“They will not awaken, Faizah,” Anahita’s lilting voice sounded in her ear. “I would speak to you alone.”

“Why...what...why have you appeared to me, Goddess?” Faizah stammered, her voice trembling.

“My husband has listened to your thoughts, Faizah. Ahura favors your purpose. He sent Menog to guide you through the cavern.”

Faizah’s eyes widened as she struggled to grasp what she was hearing. Ahura, too?

“Ah...we are grateful to Ahura for his favor. But...but, if he is protecting us, why did the boys become ill? Why didn’t I get sick, too?”

Anahita’s musical laugh was the tinkling of bells in a breeze. “Pazuzu of the southwest wind controls this valley. He guards it jealously and blows illness toward all who enter. This is why no one lives here.” Her smile widened. “And I might have had some small part in keeping you from getting sick.”

“I have read that Pazuzu can kill,” Faizah ventured, “yet the boys only have a cough. Did you do that, too?”

“No. That was your doing. Pazuzu can indeed kill. The medicine you made is what saved the boys. There is magic in you, Faizah, which is stronger than you know.” Anahita looked over Faizah’s shoulder at their little camp then back at Faizah. Her smile vanished, and her look became serious.

“I, too, favor your journey. But your friends,” she continued with a gesture toward the sleeping boys, “have lost their purpose. Be always on your guard, Faizah, for powerful forces oppose you.”

“If you favor our journey, Goddess, can you not tell me where to find Master Wafai?”

“A fair question, but the answer, I’m sorry to say, is no, I cannot.”

“But...but, you’re a goddess! Surely?”

“Master Wafai is safe; you needn’t worry about him. You are destined to follow a different path.”

Faizah’s brow wrinkled with concern. Why would she be selected by Anahita? She stammered, “What path?”

Anahita’s gaze lowered. “Many no longer believe in us, the gods and goddesses. As their belief wanes, so does our influence in the world. I, my husband, Ahura, my brother and sister goddesses, none of us are as strong as we once were. There are those, like your Master Wafai, who serve us still, and so we retain some of our strength. Even you doubted our existence, but your hope that we were real allows me to appear to you.”

“I’m sorry I ever doubted, Goddess,” Faizah whispered. “What must I do? Is it right that we go first to find the Simurgh, or should we be doing something else?”

“So many questions!” Anahita’s musical laugh drifted across the water. In the distance, a peacock’s raucous shriek seemed to answer her. “Listen, my pet calls to me,” she said. Then her smile faded, and her eyes mirrored the seriousness in her voice.

“Know this, Faizah. I will protect you as much as I can and lend you what assistance I am able. Even so, your success or failure depends on you. Your own wits and your own strength are far more important than any aid I may give you.”