The Norse Mythos!

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The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:08 am

Did you know - that there are really only 3 fate sisters? (Idun and Valkyrie aren’t really Fate sisters) and that Freya likes to “ahem” spend time with dwarves?.  If you are interested in Norse Fluff from a TOS perspective… read on.
This is fluff about the Norse Mythology in TOS. Given That the Norse have 12 cards in total, I thought I’d share my knowledge of the Norse Myths here.

Firstly let me say that Norse myths come from a selection of different runic peoms or Eddas. There is no one strict version. But there are some basic similarities across all of them. Also Norse myths are almost always highly sexual in nature so if you are offended by such material you have been warned.

Basically the underlying theme about Norse Mythology is that the gods are always trying very hard to avoid “Ragnarok” or the “Twilight of the Gods”. It’s basically the end of the world for them.
The gods or “the Aesirs” will go through any length to avoid Ragnarok. You should always keep this context in mind while reading the fluff.

Odin
In nose myths he is the All-father. The king of gods (like Zeus for the Greeks). He is one of the three popular gods worshipped by the ancient Norse before they converted to Christianity. (the other two being Thor and Freyr)
He carries a  spear called Grugnir, when Odin throws it, the spear never misses its mark. He also rides an eight legged steed called Slepnir. Who is actually born of Loki while Loki was a mare. (yeh go figure… Norse myths are not very coherent)
In TOS, you can see the spear and the eight legged steed Slepnir depicted on Odin’s card. I don’t know why TOS called him a knight (as there was no such thing in old Norse lore) nor why he is wearing full plate armour…. It’s not a Nordic invention (at least not use by the Norse during those times), but there you have it.  

Loki
He is often describe as the god of mischief, a trickster god. Sometimes he is portrayed as a delicate and handsome male with feminine appeal. There are hints of homosexuality about him but it’s never overtly mentioned in the sagas.
He is the god that will ultimately bring about the Twilight of the Gods by tricking Hoder (a blind god) into killing Balder(another god, the god of good looks apparently).
He sires three children with Angaboda (a female giant) and they are “Hel” (a girl who’s face is half normal and half dark and rotting flesh – make sure you sit on the other side during a date), “Fenris” the wolf and “Jormorgund” the world serpent (so large that it coils around the world). These three children of Loki would be instrumental in bringing down the gods in Ragnarok.
If you have PR Loki, you can see his three children surrounding him as an ethereal presences.

Freyr
The god of rain and sunshine (sometimes god of the sea depending on which version you read). Freyr is another one of the three popular gods that were worship by the ancient Norse. He wields a magic sword that could fight on its own (thus Freyr could never really die whilst he had the sword)

Freya
She is the goddess of love and fertility. She is a sister to Freyr and holds her domain over Folkvang… a place of music, love and other raunchy things. She has a necklace called Brisings where she acquired by performing raunchy sexual acts with four dwarves lol (she’s not the goddess of love for nothing!). She also has a cloak of feathers that can transform the wearer into a bird. You can see both of these magical items on the Pre – power release version of Freya in TOS.

Tyr
The god of war. He only has one hand because Fenris the wolf (loki’s son from Angaboda) bit it off while the gods tried to chain Fenris. Tyr sacrifice his hand so the gods can put a collar and chain on Fenris while Fenris was busy chewing on Tyr’s tasty digits. On th PR version of Tyr you can see that he has no arm.

Thor
He is the hammer wielding son of Odin. And in the myths he is often described as a large and crude red headed brute. So Marvel’s portrayal of “blonde” Thor is really just the Hollywood/comic version. His hammer “Mjonir”, when thrown will always return to his hand. Hence on the PR version of Thor you can see him throwing the hammer. He also wears a girdle of strength and armbands of might to add to his already imposing strength. (These can also be seen in the cards) Hence he can lift Mjonir who supposedly no giant or god could lift. He is a mortal enemy of giants and through his hammer he kept the giants from overwhelming the gods. He is by far the most popular god that was worshiped by the Nordic people before their conversion to Christianity.

Fate Sisters
Collective known as the 3 Norns of Fate. They each represent an aspect of past present and future.  They were often portrayed as weavers, and each strand of thread represented a possible future. They had foretelling powers that even Odin had to bow to. Note that there are only 3 fate sisters in the myths. I suspect MH included Idun and Valkyrie because of series management issues (most card series in TOS are 5 in number…..)

Idun
In many ways she is an important god in the Norse myths. Perhaps more important than many of the famous one that we know. She tends to an apple tree and the apples give the gods their eternal youth and immortality. Without the apples the gods start to wither. So basically, no Idun… no gods!
She is often portrayed as a young blonde girl carrying a basket of apples. You can see this through the Idun evolution from 3 to 6 stars. Some obscure sources claims that she has bears guarding her apple tree…. Perhaps that’s what the bears in PR Idun signifies?

Valkyrie
There are 8 or was it 9 valkyries? They ride on flying horses with wings and descend upon the battle fiend to seek out slain warriors for Valhalla. What is Valhalla? Remember how I said the gods were always trying to ward off Ragnarok? One of the ways Odin dealt with it was to build a hall of feasting, drinking, battling and wenching (womanising) for slain warriors of the battlefield. This hall was called Valhalla (It’s basically the Vikings version of heaven lol). It was the Valkyrie’s responsibility to deliver these valiant mortal souls into Valhalla. It was said that only the brave and mighty would be deemed worthy of Valhalla. The most famous of the Valkyrie is Brunhilde (who features heavily in a play made famous by Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nebulung”).

Nidhogg
A snake who chews at the roots of the world tree. (A tree which holds up the nine worlds).


The NORSE SAGA (Abridge version by Eardrum)

Our tale begins with Loki who fornicated with Angaboda the female giant who subsequently gave birth to three children. The Wolf Fenris, the Serpent Jormorgund and a girl called Hel. Who’s face was half normal and half black.
The three Fate sisters prophesised that these offsprings could pose a danger to the gods in the future. So the gods (in their supreme wisdom)… cast Jormorgund down to the deep oceans of Midgard (Earth), put Hel into a place called Niflehelm (also know as Hell) and decide to raised Fenris in Asgard so the gods can keep an eye on him. The wolf was very much at home in Asgard until the gods turned on him. After awhile Fenris the wolf grew so large that the gods became frightened and decided to collar and chain Fenris. Tyr who was the only god who was brave enough to feed Fenris, came to distract him while the other gods snuck up behind to collar the beast. In the process Tyr lost his hand but Fenris was chained by the gods. While all this was happening Jormorgund the world serpent grew so large that he encircled Earth and Hel… became the mistress of Hell and in charge of the underworld.


Balder the Brave
Cue Balder…a god so fair, so blonde, eyes so blue, that he became every god’s wet dream – both boy and girl gods alike! Because he was soooo hot… when Balder was born the Fate sisters forewarned the gods that Balder’s death would herald the coming of Ragnarok “Twilight of the Gods” (cue eerie music)

So the gods went out to ask everything in existence not to harm Balder. The gods made the pebble promise not to harm balder, they ask the stick to promise also, the stream and so on… anyway you get the general idea. The only thing that the gods neglected to ask was the mistletoe. (It’s a leafy plant if anybody’s asking)
The gods did this partly because they all secretly fantasied about balder and mostly because they were scared shitless of Ragnarok.

Anyway when Balder grew up, he could not be hurt, since everything in existence made a promise not to hurt him. So the gods (who are always playing games after feasting) would get Balder to stand in a corner while they all took turns to throw random things at Balder, all in the name of good fun…since nothing could hurt him or so they thought.  
Loki knew about the secret mistletoe (as it was him who conveniently forgot to ask the mistletoe for the promise) gave a mistletoe leaf to a blind god name Hoder and directed him to throw it at balder. So Hoder threw the mistletoe at Balder and Balder subsequently died. (I mean jaysis…what a softie…. To die from a leaf of all things!!!!)

The gods were shocked and was very angry that doom was now upon them. But they also found out who the true culprit was. So they decided to punish Loki by turning one of his two sons (by his wife Sigyn – another god) into a fierce wolf, who subsequently killed his other son Narvi. They then got Narvi’s entrails (yes, it’s gruesome I know) and bound Loki to a rock. They then placed a serpent on top so that the venom of the snake would drip into Loki’s eyes! But the ever faithful Sigyn came with a bowl to catch the serpents venom before it drips into Loki’s eyes. But when the bowl was filled, Sigyn had to empty it… and this was when the venom drop into Loki eyes he screamed and shock with such pain that it causes Earthquake in Midgard (Earth). Loki will remained all tied up until Ragnarok.




Ragnarok Beckons
The signs of Ragnarok: The serpent Jormorgund breaches land causing the sea to swell upon it, and the wolf Fenris… who is so large now swallows the sun and three winters follow without a summer…. (You know, typical end of the world stuff) oh yeh and Loki also breaks free.
This all signifies that Ragnarok is imminent. To cut a long story short Odin throws open the gates of Valhalla, and the Einharjar (fallen warriors in Valhalla) and the gods ride out to fight off Ragnarok.

In the fight that ensues Odin is swallowed by Fenris, Thor kills Jormorgund but he was bitten in the process, takes nine steps back before he succumbs to the poison and dies.  Tyr fights a wolf called Garm and both are killed. Loki and Heimdall (the gods watchman) fights and both perishes. Frey fights Sutur (a fire giant) but without his magic sword (he gave it away for love) is slain by Sutur.  
Sutur then covers the world with fire (more end of the world stuff).  

And thus the twilight of the gods!
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:23 am

Fate Sisters

The Moirai is actually part of Greek Mythos, though they go by different names; Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. But the three sisters have been closely associated (possibly derivative) of 3 Valkyries in Norse Mythos.

Wikipedia:

The Norns spin the threads of fate at the foot of Yggdrasil, the tree of the world.
In Roman mythology the three Moirai are the Parcae or Fata, plural of "fatum" meaning prophetic declaration, oracle, or destiny. The English words fate (native wyrd) and fairy (magic, enchantment), are both derived from "fata", "fatum" .[65]

In Norse mythology the Norns are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, twining the thread of life. They set up the laws and decided on the lives of the children of men.[66] Their names were Urðr (that which became or happened) related with Wyrd, weird (fate), Verðandi (that which is happening)[67] and Skuld (that which should become, debt, guilt).[68]

Wyrd (Urd), Verðandi (Verdandi), and Skuld.

The Valkyries (choosers of the slain), were originally daemons of death. They were female figures who decided who will die in battle, and brought their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain. They were also related with spinning, and one of them was named Skuld (debt, guilt). While it is a flimsy extension of the mythos, Skuld, being one of the Norn sisters - is also a Valkyrie.

Their close association with Yggdrasil was possibly the reason why Idun was put into a set with them.

Idun
In Norse mythology, Iðunn is a goddess associated with apples and youth. Iðunn 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, she is described as the wife of the skaldic god Bragi, and in the Prose Edda, also as a keeper of apples and granter of eternal youthfulness.

The Prose Edda relates that Loki was once forced by the jötunn Þjazi to lure Iðunn out of Asgard and into a wood, promising her interesting apples. Þjazi, in the form of an eagle, snatches Iðunn from the wood and takes her to his home. Iðunn's absence causes the gods to grow old and gray, and they realize that Loki is responsible for her disappearance. Loki promises to return her and, in the form of a falcon, finds her alone at Þjazi's home. He turns her into a nut and takes her back to Asgard. After Þjazi finds that Iðunn is gone, he turns into an eagle and furiously chases after Loki. The gods build a pyre in Asgard and, after a sudden stop by Loki, Þjazi's feathers catch fire, he falls, and the gods kill him.

The name Iðunn has been variously explained as meaning "ever young", "rejuvenator", or "the rejuvenating one".[1] As the modern English alphabet lacks the eth (ð) character,Iðunn is sometimes anglicized as Idun, Idunn or Ithun.[2] An -a suffix is sometimes applied to denote femininity, resulting in forms such as Iduna and Idunna.[3]

Valkryie
Now, the really generically named one was in fact, Valkryie. But with the addition of the PR status, Valkryie had been given the name of Brynhildr (probably due to additional research on Madhead's side).

Some backstory of Brynhildr: According to the Völsunga saga, Brynhildr is a shieldmaiden and seemingly valkyrie who is the daughter of Budli. She was ordered to decide a fight between two kings, Hjalmgunnar and Agnar, and knew that Odin preferred the older king, Hjalmgunnar, yet she decided the battle for Agnar. For this Odin condemned her to live the life of a mortal woman, and imprisoned her in a remote castle behind a wall of shields on top of mount Hindarfjall, where she sleeps in a ring of flames until any man rescues and marries her. The hero Sigurðr Sigmundson (Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied), heir to the clan of Völsung and slayer of the dragon Fafnir, entered the castle and awoke Brynhildr by removing her helmet and cutting off her chainmail armour.

Reminds anyone of the sleeping beauty fairy tale? Very Happy 

Now, out of all the five, Byrnhildr's connection is the weakest - though she is still part of the Norse sagas written by Snorris Sturluson (who was the write of the Poetic Edda - pretty much where all our Norse legends are recorded). Additionally, Brynhildr may be inspired by the Visigothic princess Brunhilda of Austrasia, who married Merovingian king Sigebert I in 567.

Conclusion
They should not be called the Fate Sister's set. Rather, it is more (arguably) correct to call them all Valkyries.

In several versions of Norse legend, Baldr is actually the third son of Odin (which, in the marvel comics, aren't exactly explored).

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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:56 pm

Idun and fate sisters were never valkyrie though......
I know one of them shares the same name (skuld) but it was never confirmed that they were one and the same?

MH makes it potentially confusing by calling them Moirai sisters which relates to greek mythos. However their names of Ird, Skuld and Verdani are of Norse origins. Im tending towards the Norse because both Idun and Valkyrie are norse.

Note that many old European mythos had the female symbol of the three aspects: The norns for norse, Moirai for greek, even the romans and slavs had a symbol of the 3 aspects. the celts had the maiden, mother and crone. They all seem to possess some foretelling powers or play the role of a seer.
While the concept is similar between cultures, but thats where the similarities end, the actual representations and stories are very different. The Norns are not the Moirai and vice versa.
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Mon Mar 10, 2014 1:37 pm

Indeed, it was never confirmed that they were the same Skuld, as Skuld in the Prose Edda was likely a shieldmaiden with the same name.

Nevertheless, with reference to the haphazard way Madhead researches their references, it is perhaps a moot point to debate about scholastic accuracy in the context of the game.

For example certain other groupings take a rather loose license in the same way.

Greek Beasts - Medusa, Griffin, Cereberus, Baphomet, and Cthulu. Cthulu, which was basically created by HP Lovecraft, had little to no association with Greek Mythos in the first place.

Just bringing up possible readings that may explain the groupings (which is also a fun read), Eardrum.

In the first place, there are various similarities in the creation myths of several cultures across the world (I'm very interested in this kind of stuff), as well as parallel hero legends throughout the world, which often makes me wonder if its simply the same story being retold/borrowed and derived across the different cultures.

Edit: To further add on to the discussion - The Norns did not only refer to the three sisters. There were other Norns besides Urd, Verdandi and Skuld, and not all of them were benevolent; basically, they're female beings who have a hand in the destiny of gods and men (which covers the day that someone is born, and also the day that they die - past, present and future). Because of this distinction, modern interpretations do not actually distinguish between the Norns and Valkryies (technically choosers of the slain), or even the other terms, Fylgia (a supernatural being or creature which accompanies a person in connection to their fate or fortune; they may be an animal instead of a woman), hamingja (interpreted as a personification of luck), or even the broad term of disir (is a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate; which is generally accepted to cover all of the above as a term).

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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:36 am

Agreed.

Norse Myths isn’t the most coherent in terms of a story line. I mean in some cases Garm = Fenris and Idun has been mentioned as Freyja “sigh” and so on. Confusing to say the least.
Throw in MH with their confusing series name… and you’ve got one hell of a melting pot of legends.

Wayyyy back when I first saw Cathullu in the greek beast setup… I was like WTF WTF!!!!!! This cannot be right… WTF is MH doing!
Again I think it comes down not having a place to put Cathullu as there is not enough cards for the Cathullu Mythos, hence for practicality purposes they lumped it in with Greek beast.
It was only later that they included Byakee, Cthunga, Tulzha, Chaugnar Faugn and Dagon (all cathulu elder gods or old ones but in TOS they were dragons of all things lol…. So terribly out of character)


"In the first place, there are various similarities in the creation myths of several cultures across the world (I'm very interested in this kind of stuff), as well as parallel hero legends throughout the world, which often makes me wonder if its simply the same story being retold/borrowed and derived across the different cultures."

Me too lol


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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:07 am

They could've simply named Cthulu as 'The Kraken' to fit into the Greek set though. After all, it basically belonged to the same story of Perseus' hero's journey.

Other groupings (and additions) that didn't quite make sense (and could be possibly interesting) was the Chinese beasts; which is obviously based on the four mythical beasts, though the colors would make more sense if they were taken in the Japanese context; for example,

Chinese Beast: Zhu Que (Fire), Qing Long (Green Dragon - Water), Bai Hu (White Tiger), Xuanwu, (The Tortoise-Snake)

vs the Japanese interpretation (often it is said that the mythos is borrowed from early early Chinese mythos):

Suzaku, Soryu, Byakko, Genbu.

Soryu, in the Japanese context, could mean Blue Dragon instead of Green, because the two colors were referred to with the same characters in both languages.

The odd one out is obvious the dark schema - which has nothing to do with the 4 sacred beasts of either culture. It simply resembles the Chinese Guardian Stone Lions, or the Komainu (which serves as a similar door guardian for Shinto shrines in Japan).


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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by DinneBolt on Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:48 pm

I like this!! Keep on guys  Very Happy 
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 12:15 am

Oh wow an interested audience... How cool!
And here I thought I was talking to the wall! Smile

As far Japanese culture and Myths goes, if you research deeper into history, many of their cultural aspects that we take for granted actually originated in China. Its not something thats highly publicised.

During the Tang and the Sung dynasties the Japanese send vast cohorts of scholars to learn from the Chinese. The learnings they took back included writing, literature, social etiquette, dress culture, beliefs etc.

Did you know that things like Tofu and Ninjas (lol) originated from China and not Japan?
Also the "kimono" was an article of clothing commonly worn in higher society during the Sung dynasty in China. It eventually fell out of fashion in China but never quite lost its appeal with the Japanese. The "Kimono" is an adaptation of the sung dynasty dress code.

Also if you look at the old stlye Japanese writing they are mostly made up of traditional chinese characters.

Just interesting in the sense that many things we take for granted as belonging to a particular culture may have originated somewhere else Smile
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:22 am

don't say that to a Japanese, Eardrum Very Happy most wouldn't care, but some might get offended.

What you say is somewhat true, and also somewhat incorrect.

While much of early Japan (meaning the Hei-an period and slightly earlier) saw some borrowing and derivation of culture and religion from China due to trade and missionary missions, this commonality actually dates back further to the kofun period; which literally translates to 'ancient tombs'.

As far as I understand it, there are graves dating far beyond the recorded history of either cultures; which both cultures had tried to claim lineage from, but nothing was ever concluded about it. If anyone is interested in this, go check out the stories about the Wa Country (Chinese stories), and the Land of Yamato (Japanese), which is said to be possibly one and the same.

Also, I don't know about Tofu, but ninjas are definitely not from China. They originated from the peasantry during feudal Japan, and have strict codes of conduct, philosophy (though honor; bushido is definitely not part of their code - that was for the samurai to worry about. Ninjas just focus on getting the mission done, at any cost; which is why some famous ninja leaders were actually disgraced samurais)

Also, the Kimono predates Song by quite a few centuries, though you're not wrong about it coming from China. But it was from a much earlier China - the Han dynasty, which was about 200-500 AD (and arrived in Japan, adapted during then), while Song was actually after circa 1200.

On the language, you're probably referring to the Kanji of Han characters; but those aren't actually old style Japanese.

The actual Old Japanese bears similarly to the symbols found in ancient China during the Shang period (though no one has ever confirmed this; as no one is able to read those characters anymore). An image of Old Japanese characters.


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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by DinneBolt on Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:29 am

Wow you guys are damn good! I like these kind of things that related to ancient history and myth, anything that is unordinary. But never go deeper like you guys. The best i do is read Romance of Three Kingdoms over 900+ pages.

Eardrum73 wrote:Oh wow an interested audience... How cool!
And here I thought I was talking to the wall! Smile
Nooo you aren't talking to the wall lol. I just found this thread yesterday and i said wtf Eardrum and Larken are so good!
And yes i'll be the interested audience  Very Happy 
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 9:23 am

Great stuff Larken,

But i fear you misunderstand me on some points

About the Kimono, what I actually said was: it was popular with the courts during the Sung dynasty, not that it was invented during that time.
Most sources says it dates back from the Han dynasty. But because there was such a huge cultural influence during the Sung dynasty to Japan, that was where the Kimono gained popluarity in Japan.

As for Ninjas, well that would depend on how you define Ninjas.
If you are saying that they are a caste class, with honor and code of conduct... then yes, I would agree this class of "Ninja" did indeed originate in Japan. (Popularise during the Edo, Tokugawa Shogunate)

However if your "Ninja" is an assassin that dress in black clothes, with only slits for eyes and hides in trees waiting to ambush their prey, than this style of Assassination did indeed orginate in China, long before Japan had their Ninja caste.
My take on this is that the Japanese assimulated the original dark clothed Assassin in to their culture of caste and honor. This then became the Ninja (with code of conduct) that we know so well.
I always look at things from the source, the point of origin, so in this case I attribute it to China. (Historians will agree or disagree, but the difference is really just in the definition.)

You are right about the writing, I was indeed refering to the Han characters and not the super old school writings. Smile

Also as a final point to all my readers. I hope people don't find this stuff offensive because im really not trying to offend anybody.
I have a strong interest in cultural Antropology and sometimes I like to share my knowledge.
Indeed Antropology was one of my many electives in University.
From the onset we are trained to see things as they are without any cultural or emotional biase. It's a code I live by when addressing antropological or historical matters. I call it like it is, if it is what it is, then it is what it is.

To provide a context as to what I mean, I live in Australia and we only have 200 years of history, far shorter than any Chinese or Japanese civilisations. Comparatively we have invented far less things to progress humanity and influence the course of human history far less than many other countries or civilisations.
For better or worst, it is what it is, Im not going feel offended if someone mentions Australia's non existence contribution to human history in a discussion. Im happy that people call it like it is and not to go out of their way distort the truth in order to please my false sense of pride.
This is abit about me and how I do and see things.

Please accept my apologies if I have offended anybody, its not my intention to do so. But if you are offended, you really shouldn't be lol.


Last edited by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:10 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:01 am

The whole assassin in black garb, throwing stars and stuff was actually a stereotype popularised by modern cinema; not history.

There are throwing stars, but not exactly restricted to the type that most people would know (the small, 4 point star). There is an entire art to it, called shuriken-jutsu - which is basically the art of throwing small, handheld weapons (or anything in their hand that could be a weapon). A tangential fact - the famous Miyamoto Musashi who was known for fighting with two swords (Niten-ichi-ryu) was known to occasionally throw his short sword at enemies as a projectile weapon.

An example of a big shuriken



While it would certainly make sense for those operating in the night, but I suspect things were actually more covert in practice; i.e. most ninjas were actually farmers in origin, and their weapons weren't actually specialised for combat; for example, the kunai (pretty popular nowadays, esp if you watch anime like Naruto), was actually a masonry tool or sometimes using in gardening (or I suspect for farming). It is much less ostentatious to stand around in public in dirt covered clothes with a straw hat than wear all black when obtaining information during a time of war; infiltration assaults, are of course a different matter.

Its basically the same logic that applies (when it comes to defining a ninja); a good example would be saying all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.

Likewise, ninjas are often said to be masters of combat, assassination and espionage (which would include everything from CIA, MI5, KGB agents too), but not all assassins are ninjas. The precepts of what defines a ninja is quite specific - and complex, which I won't presume to know too deeply of either; but it contains a code of conduct and ethics that defines ninjutsu as what it is. Otherwise, he/or she is just a common assassin.

A way to see it is that they basically value loyalty to their master over the honor of their own persons; a samurai would worry about whether their actions are honorable when commanded to commit a dishonorable act by their master, but a ninja would not. A ninja has undying loyalty to their master, while an assassin can be persuaded to switch sides (okay, the first part is not entirely true, as ninjas too are humans, and I'm sure that some have betrayed their masters before); though this might actually disqualify them as ninjas.

As a tangential point, have you ever wondered about the role of snakes/serpents in mythology? I find it a rather interesting topic;

esp. with reference to the Thor/Jorgamundr mythos,

there is a parallel I see in Japanese mythos to the above, with Susanoo (the Shint god of sea and storms) vs the Eight Headed Serpent (Yamata no Orochi) ; wielding a long sword named Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (extremely famous one, occupying a similar status to the British's Excalibur; and also originally called Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, which means the Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven), with the ability to (you guessed it) control the weather.

Another topic (on anthropology) you may be interested in is in the Ainu tradition, the aborigines of Japan, before the Japanese took over their lands (at a time that predates records), which is similar to how the colonists displaced the Native Americans in the far west.

I apologise if it seems that I keep picking on stuff, but I tend to ramble on when such topics arise (and as you can see, bring up severely unrelated notes of interest). No offense meant. I'm actually rather enjoying the discussion overall :DI'm no scholar on these matters, but rather just very interested in such things and I can be wrong about a number of things.

Edit: If I'm not wrong, the image of the ninja in full black garb (shinobi shozoku) was in fact derived from the clothes worn by bunraku performers (Japanese puppeteers), to help them hide in the background while they manipulate the puppets.

It is only the modern iterations (and assumptions) of ninjutsu that makes people think that a ninja is the black clothed assassins in popular media. To be accurate, even the ninjutsu schools that exist today are points of controversy for historians - as the last of the ninja clans were actually disbanded in the 17th century by the Tokugawas, replaced by the Oniwabanshu (an early version of intelligence agencies in Japan). The current ninjutsu schools have been founded by men who claim lineage from true ninja (but those claims were in fact unproven, thus the controversy).

Historical ninja was more likely to be wearing disguises of samurais, travelling monks, or peasants.


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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:05 pm

Yeh, Thats kinda my point, with your thumbs and fingers analogy.
Another similar instance would the concept of printing, while invented in China, but ultimately Gutenberg made the better printing press thus printing is something thats associated with the west. But conceptually it was originally invented in China.

I would agree that "classic" Ninjas these days are mostly accepted as having its origins in Japan. But again, its all about how you define Ninja. There are some sources that claim that many methods of Ninjitsu originated outside of Japan. Specifically after the fall of the Tang dynasty.
I don't know enough about this subject to take it any further, but I have definitely seen depictions of assassins in black clothes with slits for eyes from historical art or literature. So I'm convince they are not a product of modern cinema. (Cant say the same for throwing shurikens though)

The idea that Ninjas are a super warrior is actually a misconception, (and I am talking about the classic Edo Tokugawa shogunate ninja now) while they were trained in assassination techniques this did not automatically make them a good fighter. (As in face to face)

Yes most Ninjas in feudal japan belong in the lower caste. And yes they are "suppose" to be 100% loyal to their master.

Most of the aboriginal Japanese, were stocky, hairy people that have either been wiped out or assimilated into contemporary Japanese people.

And Larken, I'm glad theres someone who could appreciate these topics lol, in the guild no less! Smile

I say thank god for you and Dinebolt.... But is there anybody else? Lol
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:48 pm

If you're referring to the methods of killing people by assassination, I'm sure that humans in every era has their methods - even across multiple culture. For example, the classic assassin is said to be derived from Persia; see Hashasin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassins

People are going to find specialisation in certain areas as deemed fit; and the methods of camouflage and killing are probably scattered across various cultures. What's the line that divides what is plain killing by secretive methods from actual ninjutsu? In modern contexts, the code of conduct is probably the dividing line, but I suspect that during the warring periods, there wasn't really much of a difference between the two.

In the respect, I can't really agree with the theory that ninjutsu originated outside of Japan. Killing methods can be borrowed, from outside Japan. Techniques can be borrowed (or even invented), even philosophies. But the resulting mix of efficiency, precepts and principles of ninjutsu is very much Japan in origin.

But also keep in mind that ninjutsu was something that was very much defined clearly after its heyday during the Tokugawa shogunate, but not during. The most famous of the Iga, Hattori Hanzo, was actually a samurai who led the Iga; though most think him to be a ninja. Furthermore, those we call ninja nowadays, never ever referred to themselves as ninja in the respective periods.

So if you're talking about specialized killers with specific talents, I believe almost every culture has something like that, in the origin concept stage. It might be borrowed, but it might not be. After all, how many ways are there to assassinate someone in those times?

It'd be like saying all martial arts stem from one country, when in fact, every culture had their own developmental phase in combat, which is basic kinesiosology; people understand the principles of how one's body should move in combat, and everything stems from there. But that does not mean that every art is one and the same - although they are all capable of beating the shit out of another person.

I agree about the part that being a ninja doesn't mean that they are automatically a good fighter. Keeping in mind that ninja (while almost mythicized and romanticized), are still humans, and humans have their own individual talents, so variation on ability is common. And yes, true ninja are very much normal humans, unlike what the media had portray them to be.





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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:39 pm

No im not talking about assisnation in general and Im not saying that the entire concept of ninjitsu originated out of Japan. I did not say any of that at all in my previous post lol.
Im saying that there is a strong possibility that many methods and techniques of ninjitsu have been said to originate out of Japan.

Here are some links: (i hope they work)

This article explores the possibility of the Chinese origin of Ninjas (Written by a British academic in History)
http://archive.org/stream/TheOriginOfTheNinja/ChineseOrigin_djvu.txt

This one talks of some techniques of Ninjitsu originating outside of Japan. Its just a short paragraph but nevertheless some inferences could be made.
http://www.winjutsu.com/ninjakids/nk_history.html

More reference that Ninjas have their roots in China
http://asianhistory.about.com/od/warsinasia/p/NinjaProfile.htm

Over the years, i have stumbled across many pieces of literature that talks about origin of Ninjas from China. Many of them written by American or British academics. These articles seem to be in decline lately and I often wonder if the political situation between US, Japan and China has conveyed some sort of bias in popular media.
Most people being heavily influence by pop media would "prefer" to believe that it all originated from Japan, but I argue that theres a strong case that many of its roots originated outside of Japan.
Again, I believe it comes down to the definition of Ninja.

Read the first article if nothing else.
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by larken on Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:02 pm

Ah, now I see where you're getting that.

It's actually the first time I came across an article that details the Chinese origin of ninjas.Very interesting articles, thanks.

Most of what I have read so far pertains mainly to the Iga and Koga during the Sengoku Period and what came after.

I have read/seen a few of Cummins' work on other topics (mostly on martial arts). Had no idea he was an authority on the history of ninjutsu; I've read Stephen Turnbull here and there, but his work was more concentrated on the samurai.

You're probably right about the reasons for decline of such articles; Sino-Japanese relations have never been that great in the last century, and I concede the point that it essentially boils down to the definition of ninjas, which opens up another can of worms; depending on the time perspective we're looking at it from. (Let's not go there  Very Happy )

Apologies if I pushed this into becoming a tiresome discussion. No idea how I managed to go from Norse mythos to Japanese ninjas.  Laughing 


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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Lj_Lee on Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:54 pm

Eardrum73 wrote:
I say thank god for you and Dinebolt.... But is there anybody else? Lol

I'm enjoying every post of it lol. You guys like some aspiring historians, puts people like me to shame since my origins from China. Especially that I never knew the history of ninja this is a very interesting read! In a way of a discussion its much better than reading accounts from a single source.
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Re: The Norse Mythos!

Post by Eardrum73 on Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:43 pm

Oh wow... More audience! Smile
We are going to be rich Larken..... Our customer base have doubled lol!

Im not a true historian Lj (amateur or otherwise), im more of an Antropologist lol. Im more into cultures, practises and myths, historians are into dates and kings and big events (really boring stuff). Opps I hope there are no historians reading this lol.

Yeh haha, from a Norse thread to Ninjas the differences couldnt be more pronounce. What a strange tangent lol, but nevertheless an enjoyable intellectual discussion.

I do find it annoying that politics affects popular media and sways the masses into perceiving things with a cultural or historical bias, from a scholarly perpective the political motivations behind it just plain suxs. But you're right Larken, lets not even go there Smile
Rant over lol
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