Thursday, December 31, 2015

Conall Cernach

Conall Cernach (modern spelling: Conall Cearnach) is a hero of the Ulaidh in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. He is said to have always slept with the head of a Connachtman under his knee. His epithet is normally translated as "victorious" or "triumphant", although it is an obscure word, and some texts struggle to explain it. Alternative meanings include "angular, having corners", "swollen", or "possessing a dish or receptacle".

His father was Amairgin mac Echit and his mother was Findchoem. His parents' marriage was barren, until Findchoem visited a druid and was advised to drink from a certain well. She took a drink from the well, swallowing a worm with it, and became pregnant. Findchoem's brother Cet mac Mágach, a Connachtman, protected his sister until she gave birth to a son, Conall. Druids came to initiate the child into their religion, and prophesied that he would kill more than half of the men of Connacht, and that he would always have a Connachtman's head on his belt. Cet took the child, put him under his heel and tried to break his neck, but only damaged it, leaving Conall with a crooked neck.

Conall would have a fierce rivalry with Cet for the rest of his life. He shamed Cet at a feast at the house of Mac Dá Thó, a hospitaller of Leinster, when the warriors of Connacht and Ulster competed for the champion's portion by boasting of their deeds. Cet reminded all comers how he had bested them in combat, including emasculating Celtchar with his spear. However, just as Cet was about to carve, Conall arrived, and his boasts topped even Cet's. Cet admitted defeat, but claimed that if his brother Anlúan were present, his feats would top even Conall's. Conall responded by tossing him Anlúan's freshly severed head.

Bricriu's Feast
He also competed for the champion's portion at a feast held by the troublemaker Bricriu, albeit with less success. Bricriu went in turn to Conall, Lóegaire Búadach and Cúchulainn, and promised each of them the champion's portion. When the feast started each of the three warriors' charioteers stood up and claimed the champion's portion for his master. A fight broke out between Conall, Láegare and Cúchulainn, until King Conchobar, Fergus and Sencha intervened to separate them. Meanwhile, Bricriu went to each of the three heroes' wives - Conall's wife Lendabair, Lóegaire's wife Fedelm, and Cúchulainn's wife Emer - and promised them precedence at the feast, and when the women approached, Conall, Lóegaire and Cúchulainn were almost set to violence again. Emer was the first to enter, as Cúchulainn lifted the side of the house up to let her in, tipping Bricriu into a ditch. The Ulstermen asked first Ailill and Medb, king and queen of Connacht, then Cú Roí, king of Munster, to adjudicate the dispute. In every test set, Cúchulainn came out on top, but neither Conall nor Lóegaire would accept the result. Finally, a hideous, giant churl, carrying a huge axe, appeared at Emain Macha. He challenged each of the three heroes to cut off his head, and then allow him to return the next day to cut off the hero's head. Lóegaire accepted the challenge and cut off the churl's head, and the churl picked up his head and left. He returned the next day, but Lóegaire was nowhere to be seen. Conall was the next to take up the challenge, but he too did not fulfil his side of the bargain. Finally Cúchulainn cut off the churl's head, and submitted himself to the churl's axe the following day as promised. The churl spared him, revealed himself as Cú Roí, and declared that Cúchulainn should have the champion's portion undisputed at any feast held by the Ulstermen.

Fráech's Cattle Raid
He helped the Connacht hero Fráech recover his abducted wife and sons and stolen cattle. They tracked them to Alba (Scotland), southwards through Britain, across the English Channel, through Lombardy, to the Alps, where they met an Irish girl herding sheep. She told them the land was ruled by warriors who stole cattle from far and near, and had recently brought back Fráech's cattle and family. She advised them to go to the woman who tended the cows, who warned them that the fort where Fráech's wife was kept was guarded by a serpent, but promised to leave the gate open for them. When they attacked the fort, the serpent leaped into Conall's belt, and did him no harm. They liberated Fráech's family, took all the cattle and treasure, and went back to Ireland the way they came.

The Battle of Howth
He fought Mes Gedra, king of Leinster, in single combat following a battle provoked by the Ulster poet Athirne. Mes Gedra had lost a hand in an earlier fight, so Conall fought him with one hand tucked into his belt. He won, taking his opponent's head as a trophy. When he put Mes Gedra's head on his shoulder, it straightened his neck. Conall's charioteer couldn't carry the head, so he cut out the brain and preserved it by mixing it with lime. The calcified brain was later stolen by Cet and used to kill Conchobar mac Nessa.

The death of Cúchulainn
Conall and Cúchulainn had sworn to each other that whoever was killed first, the other would avenge him before nightfall. When Lugaid mac Con Roí and Erc mac Cairpri killed Cúchulainn, Conall pursued them. Lugaid had also lost a hand, and Conall again fought one-handed, but this time he only won after his horse took a bite out of Lugaid's side. He took both their heads, and when he took Erc's head back to Tara his sister, Achall, died of grief.

Final showdown with Cet
Conall pursued Cet after he had made a raid on Ulster, killing twenty-seven men and taking their heads. It had snowed, so he was able to follow his trail. He caught up with him, but was reluctant to face him until his charioteer chided him for cowardice. They met at a ford, and Conall killed Cet in a ferocious combat that left Conall near to death himself. He was found by Bélchú of Breifne, a Connachtman, who took him home, tended to his wounds, and planned to fight him when he was fit. But Bélchú soon regretted his honourable behaviour and asked his three sons to kill Conall as he lay in his sickbed. Conall overheard and forced Bélchú to take his place in the bed, and when his sons arrived they killed him instead. Conall then killed the three of them and took all four heads home.

Later years
After Conchobor and his son, Cormac Cond Longas, had been killed, Conall was offered the kingship of Ulster, but he refused it, putting forward instead his foster-son, Conchobar's younger son Cúscraid, who was proclaimed king. In his declining years he contracted leprosy and went to stay with Ailill and Medb of Connacht, who were best placed to look after him, since they had the resources to satisfy his enormous appetite. Ailill was seeing another woman behind Medb's back, so Medb incited Conall to kill Ailill, something he was happy to do as Ailill had killed Fergus mac Róich. He fled, but the men of Connacht pursued and killed him at a ford on Lá Bealtaine. Both oral tradition and old textual sources place this at the town of Ballyconnell, County Cavan.

Unusually for a character from the Ulster Cycle, Conall appears in medieval Irish genealogies as the ancestor of the kings of the Dál nAraidi and the Uí Echach Cobo. The legendary High King Mal mac Rochride was also said to be descended from him.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lugaid mac Con Roí

In the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, Lugaid mac Con Roí was the son of Cú Roí mac Dáire. He was also known as Lugaid mac Trí Con ("son of three hounds").

He avenged his father's death by killing Cúchulainn after conspiring with Medb and the children of other people Cúchulainn had killed.

After Lugaid's spear had spilled out his innards, Cúchulainn tied himself to a standing stone so he could die standing up. Only when a raven landed on his shoulder was Lugaid convinced he was dead. As Lugaid cut off his head, Cúchulainn's sword fell from his hand and cut off Lugaid's hand.

Conall Cernach pursued him. As Lugaid had lost a hand, Conall fought him with one hand tucked into his belt, but he only won when his horse took a bite out of Lugaid's side. He took Lugaid's head and set it on a stone, but his blood melted the stone and the head sank right through it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Láeg, or Lóeg, son of Riangabar, is the charioteer and constant companion of the hero Cú Chulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. His horses are Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend.

Cú Chulainn sends Láeg to the Otherworld with Lí Ban, sister to Fand, and he brings back bountiful descriptions of the Otherworld in the tale Serglige Con Culainn (The Sickbed of Cúchulainn). In the tale of Cú Chulainn's death he is killed by Lugaid mac Con Roí with a spear intended for Cú Chulainn.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cú Chulainn

Cú Chulainn, also spelt Cú Chulaind or Cúchulainn ([kuːˈxʊlˠɪnʲ]; Irish for "Culann's Hound") and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin /kəˈhʊlɨn/, is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore. He is believed to be an incarnation of the god Lugh, who is also his father. His mother is the mortal Deichtine, sister of Conchobar mac Nessa.

Born Sétanta, he gained his better-known name as a child, after killing Culann's fierce guard-dog in self-defence and offered to take its place until a replacement could be reared. At the age of seventeen he defended Ulster single-handedly against the armies of queen Medb of Connacht in the famous Táin Bó Cúailnge ("Cattle Raid of Cooley"). It was prophesied that his great deeds would give him everlasting fame, but his life would be a short one. He is known for his terrifying battle frenzy, or ríastrad (translated by Thomas Kinsella as "warp spasm" and by Ciaran Carson as "torque"), in which he becomes an unrecognisable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. He fights from his chariot, driven by his loyal charioteer Láeg and drawn by his horses, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend. In more modern times, Cú Chulainn is often referred to as the "Hound of Ulster".

Cú Chulainn shows striking similarities to the legendary Persian hero Rostam, as well as to the Germanic Lay of Hildebrand and the labours of the Greek epic hero Heracles, suggesting a common Indo-European origin, but lacking in linguistic, anthropological and archaeological material

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gáe Bulg

The Gáe Bulg (also Gáe Bulga, Gáe Bolg, Gáe Bolga), meaning "spear of mortal pain/death spear", "gapped/notched spear", or "belly spear", was the name of the spear of Cúchulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. It was given to him by his martial arts teacher, the warrior woman Scáthach, and its technique was taught only to him.

It was made from the bone of a sea monster, the Coinchenn, that had died while fighting another sea monster, the Curruid. Although some sources make it out to be simply a particularly deadly spear, others—notably the Book of Leinster—state that it could only be used under very specialized, ritual conditions:

The Gáe Bulg had to be made ready for use on a stream and cast from the fork of the toes. It entered a man's body with a single wound, like a javelin, then opened into thirty barbs. Only by cutting away the flesh could it be taken from that man's body.

In other versions of the legend, the spear had seven heads, each with seven barbs. In the Táin Bó Cuailnge, Cúchulainn received the spear after training with the great warrior master Scáthach in Alba. She taught him and his foster-brother, Ferdiad, everything the same, except she only taught the Gáe Bulg feat to Cuchulainn. He later used it in single combat against Ferdiad. They were fighting in a ford, and Ferdiad had the upper hand; Cúchulainn's charioteer, Láeg, floated the Gáe Bulg down the stream to his master, who cast it into Ferdiad's body, piercing the warrior's armor and "coursing through the highways and byways of his body so that every single joint filled with barbs." Ferdiad died soon after. On a separate occasion, Cúchulainn also killed his own son, Connla, with the spear. In both instances, it was used as a last resort, as once thrown it proved invariably fatal.

Cú Chulainn's use of the Gáe Bulg in the Táin Bó Cuailnge exemplifies its deadliness and the gruesome nature in which it leaves its victims. This can be seen in the fact that after it is utilized, one must literally cut into the victim to retrieve it. This was the case in Cú Chulainn's slaying of Fer Diad. As it is stated in Ciaran Carson's translation of The Táin:

Láeg came forward and cut Fer Diad open and took out the Gáe Bolga. Cú Chulainn saw his weapon bloody and crimson from Fer Diad's body... "

Traditionally, the name has been translated as "belly spear", with the second element of the name, bulga, being treated as a derivative of Old Irish bolg "belly, sack, bag".

Several notable Celtic scholars, including Joseph Loth and Kuno Meyer, have preferred to derive it rather from Old Irish bolc "gap, breach, notch" (cognate with Welsh bwlch), suggesting a linguistic link with the second element in the name of Fergus mac Róich's sword, Caladbolg and King Arthur's sword Caledfwlch

Saturday, December 26, 2015


In Norse mythology, Gungnir (Old Norse "swaying one") is the spear of the god Odin.

Poetic Edda
According to the Poetic Edda, the spear was fashioned by the Dwarves; Loki discovers the Spear whilst visiting the Dwarves (on an errand to commission golden hair for Sif). Loki flatters the Dwarves and asks the Spear of them, which they give him.[citation needed] In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, the Æsir-Vanir War is described as officially starting when Odin throws a spear over the heads of an assembly of Vanir gods. Whether or not this was specifically Gungnir is, however, unstated. In Sigrdrífumál, the valkyrie Sigrdrífa advises Sigurd on the magical application of runes. She gives Sigurd advice and shares with him lore, including that runes were carved on the tip of Gungnir.

Prose Edda
According to chapter 51 of the Prose Edda book, Gylfaginning, Odin will ride in front of the Einherjar while advancing on to the battle field at Ragnarök wearing a gold helmet, an impressive cloak of mail and carrying Gungnir. He will then attack the wolf Fenrir with it.

In Skáldskaparmál, more information regarding the spear is presented. The spear was fashioned by the dwarves known as the Sons of Ivaldi under the mastery of the blacksmith dwarf Dvalin. The spear was obtained from the dwarves by Loki, the result of a scheme he concocted as a partial reparation for his cutting of the goddess Sif's hair. The spear is described as being so well balanced that it could strike any target, no matter the skill or strength of the wielder.

Archaeological record
If the rider on horseback on the image on the Böksta Runestone has been correctly identified as Odin, then Odin is shown carrying Gungnir while hunting an elk.

In the Ring of the Nibelung
In Wagner's opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Wotan's (Odin's) spear is made from the wood of the world tree Yggdrasil and engraved with the contracts from which Wotan's power derives. He uses the spear to break the sword of Siegmund, leading to Siegmund's death. When he tries to bar the eponymous hero of the opera, Siegfried (Siegmund's son), from awakening Brünnhilde from her magic sleep, Siegfried breaks the spear in two and Wotan flees. It is implied that this is also the end of Wotan's power and he never appears onstage again.

Friday, December 25, 2015


Gullinbursti (meaning "Gold Mane or Golden Bristles") is a boar in Norse mythology.

When Loki had Sif's hair, Freyr's ship Skíðblaðnir and Odin's spear Gungnir fashioned by the Sons of Ivaldi, he bet his own head with Brokkr that his brother Eitri (Sindri) would not have been able to make items to match the quality of those mentioned above.

So to make gifts to Freyr, Eitri threw a pig's skin into a furnace as Brokkr worked on the bellows, and together they manufactured the boar Gullinbursti which had bristles in its mane that glowed in the dark.

According to Húsdrápa, Freyr rode Gullinbursti to Baldr's funeral, while in Gylfaginning, Snorri states that Freyr rode to the funeral in a chariot pulled by the boar.

The boar is also known as Slíðrugtanni (sometimes Anglicized to "Slidrugtanni").

Thursday, December 24, 2015


In Norse mythology, Brokkr (Old Norse "the one who works with metal fragments; blacksmith", anglicized Brokk) is a dwarf, and the brother of Eitri or Sindri.

According to Skáldskaparmál, Loki had Sif's hair, Freyr's ship Skíðblaðnir and Odin's spear Gungnir fashioned by the Sons of Ivaldi. Loki boasted greatly of all the things that the Sons of Ivaldi could create. In addition, he also boasted that the other dwarves could not create anything beautiful or useful. Brokkr, who was in Aasgard at the time, declared that his brother Eitri could make things far more beautiful and useful than the Sons of Ivaldi. Brokkr bet his head with that of Loki that his brother Eitri could make things with better craftsmanship than Skíðblaðnir or Gungnir.

While Eitri used magic in a forge that was extremely hot, Brokkr worked the bellows so that the fire would not cool down nor get too hot for the magic. While making the boar Gullinbursti, a gadfly, often thought to be Loki himself, came and bit Brokkr on the hand. Brokkr was not disturbed though and kept blowing into the fire. While making the golden arm ring Draupnir the gadfly came again and bit Brokkr, this time in the neck but Brokkr kept on blowing. Finally, while making the hammer Mjöllnir the gadfly bit Brokkr on the eye this time. This temporarily caused Brokkr to stop blowing. That brief stoppage of blowing into the fire caused Mjöllnir's handle to become shorter than it should have been. Because of this, Thor had to wear the iron gauntlets Járngreipr to handle it.

Eitri succeeded in making the golden ring Draupnir, the golden-bristled boar Gullinbursti and the hammer Mjöllnir. These objects were judged by the gods to be superior and Brokkr won the bet. However, Loki did not allow him to take his head as doing so would have damaged his neck which was not included in the bet. In lieu of this, Brokkr sewed Loki's lips so that Loki would not brag until the thread came out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Wudga (Old English: Wudga, Widia; Middle High German Witege or Witige; Gotho-Latin: Vidigoia; Proto-Germanic: *Widigaz) or Vidrik "Vidga" Verlandsson (Old Norse: Vidrīk + Viðga or Videke + Verlandsson, Vallandsson, or Villandsson) is a hero in several early Germanic legends and later Scandinavian ballads.

In Legends about Theoderic the Great, he was of Dietrich von Bern's warriors. In one of the ballads, he won particular fame in his duel with Langben Rese/Risker.

During the Middle Ages, he became the son of Wayland the Smith and Böðvildr, and this entitled him to carry a hammer and pliers in his coat of arms. Later the origin of his name "Wayland's son" was forgotten, but the fame of the character prevailed. During the 16th and the 17th centuries, this led to the idea that his name "Villandsson" referred to Villand Hundred in Skåne, and the hundred duly began to use his coat of arms as its own. Wudga wielded the sword Mimung, forged by his father, as was the helmet he wore. His mount was the stallion Schimming, one of the finest horses of its age.

Wudga probably has a historic basis in either the Gothic national hero Vidigoia, or in Vitiges, a king of the Ostrogoths.

According to Jordanes, Vidigoia was Gothorum fortissimus and defeated the Sarmatians with a ruse for which he became the subject of epic songs among the Goths. Wudga's treachery may derive from Tufa who deserted Theodoric to join Odoacer, whereas Wudga's greatest treason, which was surrendering Ravenna, appears to be based on a merger with king Vitiges. This king gave away Ravenna in 540 to a minor force led by Belisarius and the surrender was held to be a disgrace by his fellow Goths.

Before treating the adventures of Viðga (Wudga) and Heimir (Hama), the Þiðrekssaga introduces the Velents þáttr smiðs to explain how Wayland the Smith became the father of Viðga.

Viðga was only twelve years old when he decided to become a warrior. He was already strong and good at fighting with arms. His father gave Viðga weapons of his own manufacture, and most importantly his own sword Mimung and his horse Skemming.

Searching for the famous warrior Thiðrek (Dietrich von Bern), Viðga met Hildebrand, Háma and earl Hornbogi, but at first Hildibrand believed that Viðga was a dwarf. Viðga and Hildebrand became such good friends that they entered sworn brotherhood, but when they met Hildebrand secretly switched Viðga's sword with an ordinary one.

When Viðga finally met Þiðrek, the latter challenged Viðga to fight a duel with him, and Hildebrand failed with his attempts to make peace between the two. At first the two heroes jousted with lances during which Viðga's lance shattered on Þiðrek's shield. Viðga then cut off Þiðrek's lance and they continued on foot with their swords.

Finally Viðga's fake Mimung shattered on Þiðrek's sword and Þiðrek was about to give the unarmed Viðga his coup de grâce. Then Hildebrand returned the true Mimung to Viðga and Viðga got the upper hand in the duel. Eventually, Þiðrek had neither shield nor a functioning helmet, and Þiðrek's father Þetmar tried to stop the duel. Viðga was, however, furious with his opponent who had wanted to kill him and refused to stop the fight. It was only when a mighty stroke with the sword shattered Þiðrek's helmet and Hildebrand intervened that the fight ended. From that moment, Viðga became one of Þiðrek's companions.

There was a war between Sweden's (Vilkinaland) king Osantrix and Attila who had conquered Hunaland from Osantrix and taken his daughter. Eventually, Attila had to call on Þiðrek and his warriors who helped Attila defeat Osantrix. As the Swedes withdrew, Osantrix' duke Hertnid took Viðga prisoner and Osantrix put him in a dungeon. Viðga was then rescued by his friends Vildifer, who was disguised as a bear, and the minstrel Isung.

During his fight with Sigurd, Þiðrek borrowed Viðga's sword Mimung, and when Sigurd realised against whose sword he was fighting, he surrendered to Þiðrek.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Háma (Old English: Hāma), Heimir (Old Norse), or Heime (German) was a legendary Germanic hero who often appears together with his friend Wudga. He appears in the Anglo-Saxon poems Beowulf and Widsith, in the Scandinavian Þiðrekssaga and in German epics such as Alpharts Tod.

Since Wudga is based on a Gothic hero named Vidigoia, it is possible that Hama has a similar origin, and the Anglo-Saxon poem Widsith talks of Hama and Wudga as Gothic warriors fighting against the Huns in the Vistula forests, where the Goths had an early settlement. Later, during the evolution of the legends, the two heroes were connected with both the Gothic kings Ermanaric and Theodoric the Great, and they were increasingly presented as traitors; it is as traitors that they appear in the Þiðrekssaga.

According to the Þiðrekssaga, Heime was originally named Studas and named so after his father. He lost his name, however, and was renamed Heime as he looked as ferocious and grim as a dragon by that name. In German versions, he had killed the dragon. In the Middle High German Dietrich cycle, he is the son of a Madelger or Adelger of Lamparten, and he appears either as a duke or as a giant with several hands or elbows, a trait which also appears in the Swedish version of the Þiðrekssaga. Heime has an excellent weapon named Blodgang and a famous horse called Rispa. When Theodoric is only 12 years old and Heime is 17, Heime leaves his home to challenge Theodoric in a duel. In the fight, Heime's sword, Blutgang, is destroyed and Theodoric's helmet shattered. Heime loses the duel, and swears allegiance to Theodoric. Later, when Theodoric wins the sword Eckesachs, he gives his old sword Nagelring to Heime. Heime is among Theodoric's twelve men who help him fight against Isung.

In the German poems, Heime is bought over by Ermanaric and so abandons Theodoric. This is not mentioned in Þiðrekssaga, but on the other hand it relates that Heime and his comrade Widga (Wudga) fight for Ermanaric. This pairing of Widga and Heime is also mentioned in Widsith. In Alpharts Tod, Witege (Wudga) is rescued from Alphart (Hildebrand's kinsman) by Heime. By dishonourably fighting two against one, Heime and Wudga kill Alphart.

The Þiðrekssaga has Heime spend his last years in a monastery where he calls himself Ludwig. When a giant named Aspilian threatens the monastery, Heime dons his armour again and kills the giant. He fails to return to his life as a monk because Theodoric calls him back and wants his services again. Heime then returns to the monastery in order to demand taxes from the monks, but when he does not receive anything, he kills every monk inside it and burns it down. Heime then has to fight a second giant, but loses and is killed. He is avenged by Theodoric. According to German sources, Heime is buried near Innsbruck at a monastery called Wilten.

In Grípisspá, Helreið Brynhildar and the Völsunga saga there is a Heimir, and although the accounts of this Heimir have nothing in common with the traditions mentioned above, they have been presented as the same character. This Heimir is the king of Hlymdalir, the maternal uncle of Brynhildr and foster-father, or spouse, of Brynhildr's sister Bekkhildr. He is also the foster-father of Aslaug, Brynhildr's daughter with Sigurd (Sigfried). As the Burgundians wanted to kill the little child, he kept her hidden in a harp and wandered as a minstrel until he arrived in Spangereid in Norway, where he was murdered in his sleep by Áki and Grima, who believed that Heimir kept valuables in the harp.

Monday, December 21, 2015


In Norse mythology, Sindri (from the Old Norse sindr: "spark") is the name of both a character (probably a dwarf) and a hall that will serve as a dwelling place for the souls of the virtuous after Ragnarök.

Völuspá (37) mentions "a hall of gold, of the lineage of Sindri" located northward, in Niðavellir. There are several reasons to think that Sindri is probably a dwarf: his name is related with forging and the hall is made of gold (dwarves are said to be skillful smiths), the location of the hall is Niðavellir, which possibly means "dark fields" (dwarves live away from the sunlight).

Moreover Sindri is a dwarf in one of the manuscripts of the Prose Edda. In the Skáldskaparmál (Codex Wormianus version), Snorri Sturluson tells how the dwarves Brokkr and Eitri fashioned some of the magical objects used by the gods (the boar of Freyr Gullinbursti, the golden ring of Odin Draupnir and the hammer of Thor Mjöllnir). The names of the dwarves are not given in the three other main manuscripts but in the Codex Regius, someone added more recently the names of Brokkr and Sindri.

Sindri is also a dwarf in Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar. He helps Þorstein to defeat a powerful enemy (22-23) and to escape when he is taken prisoner.

In Gylfaginning, Snorri refers to Sindri as the name of a golden hall that will serve as a dwelling place for the good and righteous after Ragnarök (along with Brimir and Gimlé):

That too is a good hall which stands in Nida Fells [Niðafjöll], made of red gold; its name is Sindri. In these halls shall dwell good men and pure in heart.
—Gylfaginning (LII), Brodeur's translation
For Rudolf Simek, this seems to be a transposition of the Christian belief in Heaven, despite the fact that Sindri is in Snorri's account located in Niðafjöll, the mountains from which the corpse-sucking dragon Níðhöggr comes according to Völuspá.

Some argue that Snorri's view of Sindri as a place rather than as a character may come from a misinterpretation of the stanza of Völuspá

Sunday, December 20, 2015


In Norse mythology, Mjölnir (Old Norse: Mjǫllnir, IPA: [ˈmjɔlːnir]) is the hammer of Thor, a major Norse god associated with thunder. Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains. In his account of Norse mythology, Snorri Sturluson relates how the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Sindri and Brokkr, and how its characteristically short handle was due to a mishap during its manufacture.

An account of the origin of Mjölnir is found in Skáldskaparmál from Snorri's Edda: In this story, Loki bets his head with Sindri (or Eitri) and his brother Brokkr that they could never succeed in making items more beautiful than those of the Sons of Ivaldi (the dwarves who created other precious items for the gods: Odin's spear Gungnir, and Freyr's foldable boat Skíðblaðnir).

Sindri and Brokkr accept Loki's bet and the two brothers begin working. They begin to work in their workshop and Sindri puts a pig's skin in the forge and tells his brother (Brokkr) never to stop working the bellows until he comes and takes out what he put in. Loki, in disguise as a fly, comes and bites Brokkr on the arm. Nevertheless, he continues to pump the bellows.

Then, Sindri takes out Gullinbursti, Freyr's boar with shining bristles. Next, Sindri puts some gold in the forge and gives Brokkr the same order. Again, Loki, still in the guise of a fly comes and, again, bites Brokkr's neck twice as hard as he had bitten his arm. Just as before, Brokkr continues to work the bellows despite the pain. When Sindri returns, he takes out Draupnir, Odin's ring, which drops eight duplicates of itself every ninth night.

Finally, Sindri puts some iron in the forge and tells Brokkr not to stop pumping the bellows. Loki comes a third time and this time bites Brokkr on the eyelid even harder. The bite is so deep that it draws blood. The blood runs into Brokkr's eyes and forces him stop working the bellows just long enough to wipe his eyes. This time, when Sindri returns, he takes Mjölnir out of the forge. The handle is shorter than Sindri had planned and so the hammer can only be wielded with one hand.

Despite the flaw in the handle, Sindri and Brokkr win the bet and go to take Loki's head. However, Loki worms his way out of the bet by pointing out that the dwarves would need to cut his neck to remove his head, but Loki's neck was not part of the deal. As a consolation prize, Brokkr sews Loki's mouth shut to teach him a lesson.

The final product is then presented to Thor, and its properties are described, as follows,

Then he gave the hammer to Thor, and said that Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail; and if he threw it at anything, it would never miss, and never fly so far as not to return to his hand; and if be desired, he might keep it in his sark, it was so small; but indeed it was a flaw in the hammer that the fore-haft was somewhat short.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


In Norse mythology, Brísingamen (or Brísinga men) is the torc or necklace of the goddess Freyja. The name is an Old Norse compound brísinga-men whose second element is men "(ornamental) neck-ring (of precious metal), torc". The etymology of the first element is uncertain. It has been derived from Old Norse brísingr, a poetic term for "fire" or "amber" mentioned in the anonymous versified word-lists (þulur) appended to many manuscripts of the Prose Edda, making Brísingamen "gleaming torc", "sunny torc", or the like. However, Brísingr can also be an ethnonym, in which case Brísinga men is "torque of the Brísings"; the Old English parallel in Beowulf supports this derivation, though who the Brísings (Old Norse Brísingar) may have been remains unknown.

Friday, December 18, 2015


In Norse mythology, Heimdallr (modern Icelandic Heimdallur) is a god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, has gold teeth, and is the son of Nine Mothers. Heimdallr is attested as possessing foreknowledge, keen eyesight and hearing, is described as "the whitest of the gods", and keeps watch for the onset of Ragnarök while drinking fine mead in his dwelling Himinbjörg, located where the burning rainbow bridge Bifröst meets Asgard, the world of the gods. Heimdallr is said to be the originator of social classes among humanity and once regained Freyja's treasured possession Brísingamen while doing battle in the shape of a seal with Loki. Heimdallr and Loki are foretold to kill one another during the events of Ragnarök. Heimdallr is additionally referred to as Rig, Hallinskiði, Gullintanni, and Vindlér or Vindhlér.

Heimdallr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the poetry of skalds; and on an Old Norse runic inscription found in England. Two lines of an otherwise lost poem about the god, Heimdalargaldr, survive. Due to the problematic and enigmatic nature of these attestations, scholars have produced various theories about the nature of the god, including his apparent relation to rams, that he may be a personification of or connected to the world tree Yggdrasil, and potential Indo-European cognates.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil (/ˈɪɡdrəsɪl/ or /ˈɪɡdrəzɪl/; from Old Norse Yggdrasill, pronounced [ˈyɡːˌdrasilː]) is an immense tree that is central in Norse cosmology, in connection to which the nine worlds exist.

Yggdrasil is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Yggdrasil is an immense ash tree that is central and considered very holy. The gods go to Yggdrasil daily to assemble at their things. The branches of Yggdrasil extend far into the heavens, and the tree is supported by three roots that extend far away into other locations; one to the well Urðarbrunnr in the heavens, one to the spring Hvergelmir, and another to the well Mímisbrunnr. Creatures live within Yggdrasil, including the wyrm (dragon) Níðhöggr, an unnamed eagle, and the stags Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Conflicting scholarly theories have been proposed about the etymology of the name Yggdrasill, the possibility that the tree is of another species than ash, the relation to tree lore and to Eurasian shamanic lore, the possible relation to the trees Mímameiðr and Læraðr, Hoddmímis holt, the sacred tree at Uppsala, and the fate of Yggdrasil during the events of Ragnarök.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


In Norse mythology, Freyja (/ˈfreɪə/; Old Norse for "(the) Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, keeps the boar Hildisvíni by her side, possesses a cloak of falcon feathers, and, by her husband Óðr, is the mother of two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. Along with her brother Freyr (Old Norse the "Lord"), her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr's sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the Vanir. Stemming from Old Norse Freyja, modern forms of the name include Freya, Freija, Frejya, Freyia, Fröja, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia, Freja, Frua and Freiya.

Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin's hall, Valhalla. Within Fólkvangr is her hall, Sessrúmnir. Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak, is invoked in matters of fertility and love, and is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife. Freyja's husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names. Freyja has numerous names, including Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís.

Freyja is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, the two latter written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century; in several Sagas of Icelanders; in the short story Sörla þáttr; in the poetry of skalds; and into the modern age in Scandinavian folklore, as well as the name for Friday in many Germanic languages.

Scholars have theorized about whether Freyja and the goddess Frigg ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples; about her connection to the valkyries, female battlefield choosers of the slain; and her relation to other goddesses and figures in Germanic mythology, including the thrice-burnt and thrice-reborn Gullveig/Heiðr, the goddesses Gefjon, Skaði, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa, Menglöð, and the 1st century CE "Isis" of the Suebi. Freyja's name appears in numerous place names in Scandinavia, with a high concentration in southern Sweden. Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name, but it was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization. Rural Scandinavians continued to acknowledge Freyja as a supernatural figure into the 19th century, and Freyja has inspired various works of art.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


In Germanic mythology, Frigg (Old Norse), Frija (Old High German), Frea (Langobardic), and Frige (Old English) is a goddess. In nearly all sources she is described as the wife of the god Odin. In Old High German and Old Norse sources, she is also connected with the goddess Fulla. The English weekday name Friday (etymologically Old English "Frīge's day") bears her name.

In Norse mythology, the northernmost branch of Germanic mythology and most extensively attested, Frigg is described as a goddess associated with foreknowledge and wisdom. Frigg is the wife of the major god Odin and dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir, is famous for her foreknowledge, is associated with the goddesses Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gná, and is ambiguously associated with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity, Jörð (Old Norse "Earth"). The children of Frigg and Odin include the gleaming god Baldr. Due to significant thematic overlap, scholars have proposed a particular connection to the goddess Freyja.

After Christianization, mention of Frigg continued to occur in Scandinavian folklore. In modern times, Frigg has appeared in modern popular culture, has been the subject of art, and receives modern veneration in Germanic Neopaganism.

Monday, December 14, 2015


In Greek mythology, Endymion (/ɛnˈdɪmiən/; Ancient Greek: Ἐνδυμίων, gen.: Ἐνδυμίωνος), was variously a handsome Aeolian shepherd, hunter, or king who was said to rule and live at Olympia in Elis, and he was also venerated and said to reside on Mount Latmus in Caria, on the west coast of Asia Minor.

There is confusion over the correct location of Endymion, as some sources suppose that one was, or was related to, the prince of Elis, and the other was a shepherd from Caria— or, a later suggestion, an astronomer: Pliny the Elder mentions Endymion as the first human to observe the movements of the moon, which (according to Pliny) accounts for Endymion's love. As such, there have been two attributed sites of Endymion's burial: the citizens of Heracleia ad Latmo claimed that Endymion's tomb was on Mount Latmus, while the Eleans declared that it was at Olympia.

However, the role of lover of Selene, the moon, is attributed primarily to Endymion who was either a shepherd or an astronomer, either profession providing justification for him to spend time beneath the moon.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


In Greek mythology, Selene (/sɨˈliːni/; Greek Σελήνη [selɛ̌ːnɛː] 'moon';) is the goddess of the moon. She is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister of the sun-god Helios, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. She drives her moon chariot across the heavens. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion. In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. Both Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate, and all three were regarded as lunar goddesses, although only Selene was regarded as the personification of the moon itself. Her Roman equivalent is Luna.

The etymology of Selene is uncertain, but if the name is of Greek origin, it is likely connected to the word selas (σέλας), meaning "light".

Just as Helios, from his identification with Apollo, is called Phoebus ("bright"), Selene, from her identification with Artemis, is also commonly referred to by the epithet Phoebe (feminine form). The original Phoebe of Greek mythology is Selene's aunt, the Titaness mother of Leto and Asteria, and grandmother of Apollo, Artemis, and Hecate. Also from Artemis, Selene was sometimes called "Cynthia".

Selene was also called Mene. The word men (feminine mene), meant the moon, and the lunar month. It was also the name of the Phrygian moon-god Men.

The usual account of Selene's origin is given by Hesiod. In the Theogony, the sun-god Hyperion espoused his sister Theia, who gave birth to "great Helios and clear Selene and Eos who shines upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless Gods who live in the wide heaven." The Homeric Hymn to Helios follows this tradition: "Hyperion wedded glorious Euryphaëssa, his own sister, who bare him lovely children, rosy-armed Eos and rich-tressed Selene and tireless Helios." Here Euryphaëssa ("wide-shining") is probably an epithet of Theia.

Other accounts make Selene the daughter of the Titan Pallas or of Helios

Like her brother Helios, the Sun god, who drives his chariot across the sky each day, Selene is also said to drive across the heavens. The Hymn to Selene, provides a description:

The air, unlit before, glows with the light of her golden crown, and her rays beam clear, whensoever bright Selene having bathed her lovely body in the waters of Ocean, and donned her far-gleaming raiment, and yoked her strong-necked, shining team, drives on her long-maned horses at full speed, at eventime in the mid-month: then her great orbit is full and then her beams shine brightest as she increases. So she is a sure token and a sign to mortal men.

The earliest known depiction of Selene driving a chariot is inside an early 5th century BC red-figure cup attributed to the Brygos Painter, showing Selene plunging her chariot, drawn by two winged horses, into the sea. Though the moon chariot is often described as being silver, for Pindar it was golden. And while the sun chariot has four horses, Selene's usually has two, described as "snow-white" by Ovid, or was drawn by oxen or bulls.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


In Greek mythology, Theia /ˈθiːə/ (sometimes rendered Thea, Théa or Thia), also called Euryphaessa "wide-shining", is a Titaness. The name Theia alone means simply "goddess" or "divine"; Theia Euryphaessa (Θεία Εὐρυφάεσσα) brings overtones of extent (εὐρύς, eurys, "wide", root: εὐρυ-/εὐρε-) and brightness (φάος, phaos, "light", root: φαεσ-). Her brother/consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).

Hesiod's Theogony gives her an equally primal origin, a daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky).Robert Graves also relates that later Theia is referred to as the cow-eyed Euryphaessa who gave birth to Helios in myths dating to Classical Antiquity.

Once paired in later myths with her Titan brother Hyperion as her husband, "mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one" of the Homeric Hymn to Helios, was said to be the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).

Pindar praises Theia in his Fifth Isthmian ode:

Mother of the Sun, Theia of many names, for your sake men honor gold as more powerful than anything else; and through the value you bestow on them, o queen, ships contending on the sea and yoked teams of horses in swift-whirling contests become marvels.

She seems here a goddess of glittering in particular and of glory in general, but Pindar's allusion to her as "Theia of many names" is telling, since it suggests assimilation, referring not only to similar mother-of-the-sun goddesses such as Phoebe and Leto, but perhaps also to more universalizing mother-figures such as Rhea and Cybele.

Theia's mythological role as the mother of the Moon goddess Selene is alluded to in the application of the name to a hypothetical planet which, according to the giant impact hypothesis, collided with the Earth, resulting in the Moon's creation.

Theia's alternate name Euryphaessa has been adopted for a species of Australian leafhoppers Dayus euryphaessa (Kirkaldy, 1907).

Friday, December 11, 2015


In Greek mythology, Hyperion (Greek: Ὑπερίων, "The High-One") was one of the twelve Titan children of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky or Heaven) who, led by Cronus, overthrew Uranus and were themselves later overthrown by the Olympians. With his sister, the Titaness Theia, Hyperion fathered Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn).

Hyperion's son Helios was referred to in early mythological writings as Helios Hyperion (Ἥλιος Ὑπερίων, "Sun High-one"). In Homer's Odyssey, Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the Sun is once in each work called Hyperionides (Ὑπεριωνίδης, "son of Hyperion"), and Hesiod certainly imagines Hyperion as a separate being in other writings. In later Greek literature, Hyperion is always distinguished from Helios; the former was ascribed the characteristics of the "God of Watchfulness, Wisdom and the Light", while the latter became the physical incarnation of the Sun. Hyperion is an obscure figure in Greek culture and mythology, mainly appearing in lists of the twelve Titans:

Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature.

— Diodorus Siculus (5.67.1)

There is little to no reference to Hyperion during the Titanomachy, the epic in which the Olympians battle the ruling Titans.

As the father of Helios, Hyperion was regarded as the "first principle" by Emperor Julian, though his relevance in Julian's notions of theurgy is unknown.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. He is the son of the Titan Hyperion and the Titaness Theia (Hesiod) (also known as Euryphaessa (Homeric Hymn 31)) and brother of the goddesses Selene, the moon, and Eos, the dawn.

Helios was described as a handsome titan crowned with the shining aureole of the Sun, who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky each day to earth-circling Oceanus and through the world-ocean returned to the East at night. In the Homeric hymn to Helios, Helios is said to drive a golden chariot drawn by steeds (HH 31.14–15); and Pindar speaks of Helios's "fire-darting steeds" (Olympian Ode 7.71). Still later, the horses were given fiery names: Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon, and Phlegon.

As time passed, Helios was increasingly identified with the god of light, Apollo. However, in spite of their syncretism, they were also often viewed as two distinct gods/titan (Helios was a Titan, whereas Apollo was an Olympian). The equivalent of Helios in Roman mythology was Sol, specifically Sol Invictus.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


In Greek mythology, Cercaphus was one of the Heliadae, sons of Helios and Rhodus. He and his brother Ochimus were the only to stay at the island of Rhodes, after their brother Tenages was killed by the other four and the murderers had to escape.

Ochimus, the eldest of the seven, became the king of Rhodes. Cercaphus married his brother's daughter Cydippe (or Cyrbia), daughter of Ochimus and Hegetoria, and subsequently inherited the island. According to an alternate version, Ochimus engaged Cydippe to Ocridion but Cercaphus loved her and kidnapped her. He did not return until Ochimus was old.

Cercaphus and Cydippe had three sons, Lindus, Ialysus and Camirus. After their father's death and a devastating deluge, they divided the island among themselves, and each founded a city and named it after himself (modern Lindus, Ialysos and Kameiros)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Pelias  was king of Iolcus in Greek mythology, the son of Tyro and Poseidon. His wife is recorded as either Anaxibia, daughter of Bias, or Phylomache, daughter of Amphion. He was the father of Acastus, Pisidice, Alcestis, Pelopia, Hippothoe, Amphinome, Evadne, Asteropeia, and Antinoe.

Tyro was married to Cretheus, with whom she had three sons, Aeson, Pherês, and Amythaon, but she loved Enipeus, a river god. She pursued Enipeus, who refused her advances. One day, Poseidon, filled with lust for Tyro, disguised himself as Enipeus and from their union were born Pelias and Neleus, twin boys. Tyro exposed her sons on a mountain to die, but they were found by a herdsman who raised them as his own, as one story goes, or they were raised by a maid. When they reached adulthood, Pelias and Neleus found Tyro and killed her stepmother Sidero, for having mistreated her. (Sidero hid in a temple to Hera but Pelias killed her anyway, causing Hera's undying hatred of Pelias.) Pelias was power-hungry and he wished to gain dominion over all of Thessaly. To this end, he banished Neleus and Pherês, and locked Aeson in the dungeons in Iolcus (by the modern city of Volos). While in the dungeons, Aeson married and had several children, most famously, Jason. Aeson sent Jason away from Iolcus in fear that Pelias would kill him as an heir to the throne. Jason grew in the care of Chiron the centaur, on Mount Pelium, to be educated while Pelias, paranoid that he would be overthrown, was warned by an oracle to beware a man wearing one sandal.

Many years later, Pelias was holding the Olympics and offered a sacrifice by the sea in honor of Poseidon. Jason, who was summoned with many others to take part in the sacrifice, lost one of his sandals in the flooded river Anaurus while rushing to Iolcus. In Virgil's Aeneid, Hera had disguised herself as an old woman, whom Jason was helping across the river when he lost his sandal. When Jason entered Iolcus, he was announced as a man wearing one sandal. Paranoid, Pelias asked Jason what he would do if confronted with the man who would be his downfall. Jason responded that he would send that man after the Golden Fleece. Pelias took Jason's advice and sent him to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It would be found at Colchis, in a grove sacred to Ares, the god of war. Though the Golden Fleece simply hung on an oak tree, this was a seemingly impossible task, as an ever-watchful dragon guarded it.

Jason made preparations by commanding the shipwright Argus to build a ship large enough for fifty men, which he would eventually call the Argo. These heroes who would join his quest were known as the Argonauts. Upon their arrival Jason requested the Golden Fleece from the King of Colchis, Aeëtes. Aeëtes demanded that Jason must first yoke a pair of fire-breathing bulls to a plough and sew dragon's teeth into the earth. Medea, daughter of Aeëtes, fell in love with Jason, and being endowed with magical powers, aided him in his completion of the difficult task. She cast a spell to put the dragon to sleep, enabling Jason to obtain the Golden Fleece from the oak tree. Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts fled Colchis and began their return journey to Thessaly.

During Jason's absence, Pelias thought the Argo had sunk, and this was what he told Aeson and Promachus, who committed suicide by drinking poison. However, it is unknown but possible that the two were both killed directly by Pelias. When Jason and Medea returned, Pelias still refused to give up his throne. Medea conspired to have Pelias' own daughters (Peliades) kill him. She told them she could turn an old ram into a young ram by cutting up the old ram and boiling it. During the demonstration, a live, young ram jumped out of the pot. Excited, the girls cut their father into pieces and threw them into a pot, in the expectation that he would emerge rejuvenated. Pelias, of course, did not survive. As he was now an accessory to a terrible crime, Jason was still not made king. Pelias' son Acastus later banished Jason and Medea, to Corinth, and so reclaimed the kingdom. An alternate telling of the story has Medea slitting the throat of Jason's father Aeson, who she then really does revive as a much younger man; Pelias' daughters then slit their father's throat after she promises to do the same for him, and she merely breaks her word and leaves him dead.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Poseidon is one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain is the ocean, and he is called the "God of the Sea". Additionally, he is referred to as "Earth-Shaker" due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the "tamer of horses". He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard.

The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology; both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon. Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece as a chief deity, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades. According to some folklore, he was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which was devoured by Cronos.

There is a Homeric hymn to Poseidon, who was the protector of many Hellenic cities, although he lost the contest for Athens to Athena. According to the references from Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, the island of Atlantis was the chosen domain of Poseidon.

Pederasty in ancient Greece

Pederasty in ancient Greece was a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos) usually in his teens. It was characteristic of the Archaic and Classical periods. The influence of pederasty on Greek culture of these periods was so pervasive that it has been called "the principal cultural model for free relationships between citizens."

Some scholars locate its origin in initiation ritual, particularly rites of passage on Crete, where it was associated with entrance into military life and the religion of Zeus. It has no formal existence in the Homeric epics, and seems to have developed in the late 7th century BC as an aspect of Greek homosocial culture, which was characterized also by athletic and artistic nudity, delayed marriage for aristocrats, symposia, and the social seclusion of women. Pederasty was both idealized and criticized in ancient literature and philosophy. The argument has recently been made that idealization was universal in the Archaic period; criticism began in Athens as part of the general Classical Athenian reassessment of Archaic culture.

Scholars have debated the role or extent of pederasty, which is likely to have varied according to local custom and individual inclination. The English word "pederasty" in present-day usage might imply the abuse of minors in certain jurisdictions, but Athenian law, for instance, recognized consent but not age as a factor in regulating sexual behavior.

The Greek word paiderastia (παιδεραστία) is an abstract noun of feminine gender. It is formed from paiderastês, which in turn is a compound of pais ("child", plural paides) and erastês . Although the word pais can refer to a child of either sex, paiderastia is defined by Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon as "the love of boys," and the verb paiderasteuein as "to be a lover of boys."

Since the publication of Kenneth Dover's work Greek Homosexuality, the terms erastês and erômenos have been standard for the two pederastic roles. Both words derive from the Greek verb erô, erân, "to love"; see also eros. In Dover's strict dichotomy, the erastês (ἐραστής, plural erastai) is the older lover, seen as the active or dominant partner, with the suffix -tês (-τής) denoting agency. Erastês should be distinguished from Greek paiderastês, which meant "lover of boys" usually with a negative connotation. The erastês himself might only be in his early twenties, and thus the age difference between the two lovers might be negligible.

The word erômenos, or "beloved" (ἐρώμενος, plural eromenoi), is the masculine form of the present passive participle from erô, viewed by Dover as the passive or subordinate partner. An erômenos can also be called pais, "child." The pais was regarded as a future citizen, not an "inferior object of sexual gratification," and was portrayed with respect in art. The word can be understood as an endearment such as a parent might use, found also in the poetry of Sappho and a designation of only relative age. Both art and other literary references show that the erômenos was at least a teen, with modern age estimates ranging from 13 to 20, or in some cases up to 30. Most evidence indicates that to be an eligible erômenos, a youth would be of an age when an aristocrat began his formal military training, that is, from fifteen to seventeen. As an indication of physical maturity, the erômenos was sometimes as tall as or taller than the older erastês, and may have his first facial hair. Another word used by the Greeks for the younger partner was paidika, a neuter plural adjective ("things having to do with children") treated syntactically as masculine singular.

In poetry and philosophical literature, the erômenos is often an embodiment of idealized youth; a related ideal depiction of youth in Archaic culture was the kouros, the long-haired male statuary nude.