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Divine Love


M
ost Hallmark holidays have a mascot/icon of some sort, like the Easter Bunny for Easter, or Santa Claus for Christmas, and so on. The cherubic Cupid, son of the Roman love goddess Venus, has pretty much become synonymous with St Valentine's Day. While the arrow-wielding little dude has an interesting story of his own, we thought we'd take a look at some other mythical love deities from different cultures.

Aphrodite - This is the Greek equivalent to Venus, and she's the mother of Eros (a.k.a Cupid in Rome), and Anteros, who is responsible for punishing those who scorn love. Believed to have been born of the sea foam near Paphos, she is said to be the loveliest of the goddesses. The title was dubiously won, if you remember the story in Homer's Iliad, where Paris gives her the pageant prize (an apple) after she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife. Paris then went to Troy, eloped with Helen, and started an epic war.

Being a beautiful goddess also comes with a price, if Roman mythology is to be believed, though, because Venus lost her human lover Adonis when he was mauled to death by a wild boar. She was later married off to Vulcan, the blacksmith of the gods, who was said to live at the bottom of a volcano, and possessed a crippled foot.

Bebhionn (Bébinn, Bé Finn) - She is the Irish goddess of love and pleasure, and interestingly, she's also called the Queen of the Underworld, which brings to mind similarities with the case of Venus and Persephone, the wife of Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld. However, I digress, and to return to Celtic mythology, there is another contender for the post of goddess of love, and this is the Irish goddess Cliodhna (Clídna, Cliona, Cleena) who was the deity of love and beauty, and also known as the queen of the Munster fairies. She had pet birds who ate ethereal fruits and healed the sick with their sweet song. There are some very weird legends about her, including the tale where she left the otherworldly island of Tir Tairngire ("the land of promise") to be with her mortal lover, Ciabhán, but drowned as she slept in Glandore harbour in County Cork. The tide there is known as Tonn Chlíodhna, "Cliodhna's Wave".

Norse mythology has the sibling duo of Freyja (sometimes anglicised as Freya or Freja) and Freyr (sometimes anglicised Frey). Freyr is the phallic god of fertility, and also rules over sunshine, rain, and crops, while his sister seems to hold the portfolios for love, beauty, sex, and attraction. She was also the goddess of war, death, magic, prophecies, and wealth. Any wonder that she was the most popular goddess around? While researching these Norse deities, I came to realise that JRR Tolkien and Christopher Paolini must have both turned to Norse myths for inspiration for their stories. Do consider the fact that Freyr was given Álfheimr, the land of the Elves as a teething gift, and he rides a Dwarf-made boar. The names that occur in these tales are very similar to what you might encounter in LOTR and the Inheritance books.

Kamadeva - It is often said that Hindu mythology closely mirrors Greek and Roman mythology. Kamadeva is evidence that the statement is true. This god of love is depicted as a handsome young winged archer (Cupid, anyone?). His bow is made of sugarcane with honeybees on it as the string and his arrows are decorated with five kinds of fragrant flowers. Its string is made of a chain of honeybees. He is accompanied by a parrot, a cuckoo, and a pair of hummingbird, all of which are symbols of Spring, so I guess Valentine's Day may not be a strictly Western festival after all.

The myths have it that Kandarpa, an aspect of Kamadeva, tried to help the maiden gain the favour of Lord Shiva. When Shiva discovered Kandarpa's hand in the affair, he obliterated the young deity with a single fiery glance, which plunged the land into a state of barrenness. Kamadeva was later resurrected, and the Holi celebrations in the Hindu religion are believed by some to commemorate this legend.

Turan - In Etruscan mythology, Turan was the goddess of love and vitality and patroness of the city of Velch. In art, she was usually depicted as a young winged girl. Pigeons and black swans were her sacred animals, not unlike Aphrodite/Venus.

Etruscan mythology also seems to have an answer to the Greek Anteros in the form of Albina, goddess of the dawn and protector of ill-fated lovers. She was a white sow goddess similar to the Celtic Cerridwen.

Seeing how many different cultures have important deities presiding over this emotion, it's not hard to agree with the saying 'love makes the world go round'. So have a great Valentine's Day, and know that the heavens are watching over you.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


Book review

The Spectacular Sheldon: A tribute

My parents never gave me The Talk. They didn't have to; I had Sidney Sheldon to tell me about the birds and bees. My first encounter with the bests-selling author was when I was 8. They used to show a 'Movie of the Week' on Fridays on BTV (back then, it was the only channel, and a pretty good one too), and I would religiously watch the flicks they showed. On the menu that particular Friday was a movie called The Other Side of Midnight. I was only eight years old, and didn't understand much of what was happening, but the beautiful heroine (Noelle Page, played by Marie-France Pisier) and the dashing anti-hero (Larry Douglas, played by John Beck) left an impression on me.

So when I encountered the book on which the movie had been based, four years later, I knew I had to read it. Obviously, there were still words and phrases that made no sense, but this time, fortified with dictionary and encyclopaedia, I made my foray into Enlightenment. My discoveries were disturbing to my twelve-year-old mind, but I was fascinated by Sheldon's narrative style, and thus began my long love-hate relationship with the author, who passed away at age 89, on January 30 this year. I feel it only fitting to revisit some of the novels penned by this most prolific author, as a tribute to what was undoubtedly a great career.

The Other Side of Midnight

An enchanting French actress Noelle Page rises from her drab surroundings in the fishing town of Marseilles, catapulting to glory. Across the glob, a beautiful young woman Catherine Alexander is looking to make her mark in the world. Connecting the two is a philandering pilot by the name of Larry Douglas. Unbeknownst to them, an unforgiving Greek tycoon Constantin Demiris is holding the strings to their fate, and when he decides to give it a good tug, the plot careens into an explosive finish.

Bloodline

One of my personal favourites, this story deals with the beautiful Elizabeth, who takes over the reigns of Roffe and Sons empire, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. Things start going awry from the moment she takes the chair, and Elizabeth comes to realise that her father's death was no accident as she had been led to believe, but a coldly calculated murder, and that the perpetrator was a member of her own sprawling family. Will Elizabath unearth the culprit in time, or will she too, follow her father's fate? Read to find out...

Sands of Time

Regular readers of my column might remember this review from early last year. This story circles around the lives of four very different women who escape from a convent, where they had been cloistered away from society for a long time. Thrust into an alien, dazzling, and dangerous world, they must stay on the run to escape their terrible pursuers, their fates slowly becoming entangled with that of a band of desperate rebels.

Are you Afraid of the Dark?

Another, more recent RS review was based on this book, which deals with two women, recently widowed, who are beset by the mysterious people who killed their high-profile husbands, and must fight to stay alive. In this struggle for survival, they unearth a terrible conspiracy that could change the very nature of global politics.

Sidney Sheldon compared his own work to 'the old Saturday afternoon serial'. "I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down," he wrote, going on to attribute his popularity amongst female readers to his knack for creating strong female characters. Indeed, Sheldon's ladies are beautiful, intelligent, and resourceful; none of the hapless 'damsel in distress' stuff. While I share the view of many of his critics that his work often tends towards an excess of sex and violence, there's no denying that he does have a compelling narrative voice, and his plots are peppered with enough twists to keep you riveted till the very end. While authors like Nicholas Sparks and Dan Brown ended up in a 'you've read one, you've read them all' rut, Sheldon managed to avoid this by coming up with new and interesting plots. While you have his signature style and the strong female lead, the story itself was new and interesting every time.

Criticism and complaints aside, Sheldon's death is indeed a loss to the reading world, and the man will surely be missed. Vio con Dios, Mr Bestseller!

By Sabrina F Ahmad
sabera.jade@gmail.com


 

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