Sunday, January 11, 2009

Odd Gods, Mythological Sods

Since just after Christmas I've been doing a set of illustrations of some of the odder gods and other characters from world mythology. It may end up as a book proposal, it may end up as a submission to a magazine, or maybe even for next year's QI Annual (G)? The fact is that in most ancient religions and mythologies there are some extraordinarily odd characters. And I've been having fun drawing them.

Depicted here are the Yara-ma-yha-who and Ometochtli. There are hundreds more and they're keeping me very busy. There may even be an A-Z in this. Any suggestions?

If Australian Aborigine parents wanted to ensure that their children did not wander too far from the camp, they would tell the story of the Yara-ma-yha-who, a small but very nasty demon who lives in the crowns of fig trees. The Yara-ma-yha-who feeds firstly upon blood, which it slurps up through octopus-like suckers on its hands and feet, and then eats its victim. Later, after a drink of water and a nap, it is violently sick and the eaten person is restored, albeit a bit shorter and a bit redder. Should the victim be unfortunate enough to suffer several of these attacks, they will eventually become a Yara-ma-yha-who themselves. Looking like a small hairy red man with an enormous head and a wide toothless mouth, the Yara-ma-yha-who cannot run very fast, having a slow, rolling gait like a parrot or Johnny Vegas.
The Centzon Totochtin (the ‘400 Rabbits’) were the children of Mayahuel, the goddess of excess, and Pantecatl, the god who discovered fermentation. They are chiefly associated with drinking (usually of Pulque or Octli, an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the Maguey plant). In the Late Postclassic period of Aztec history, these gods became the focus of the Octli Cult – which a cynic could view as an opportunity to get rat-arsed in ‘honour of the gods’. The chief ‘drunken rabbit god’ was Ometochtli whose name translates as ‘two rabbit’. Among his beer buddies were the gods Texcatzonatl, Macuiltochtli, Colhuatzincatl and Tepoztecatl who was particularly associated with wind. It is not recorded whether their names were just as unpronounceable when sober.

Text and illustrations copyright (c) 2009 Stevyn Colgan

6 comments:

Comedy Goddess said...

These are great! What an interesting subject matter. Good luck!

Persephone said...

Well, you've already said you've got plenty, but if you need a couple of First Nations suggestions, cannibal figures are always exciting. Where I grew up in British Columbia, there was the D'sonoqua, the cannibal woman who makes off with unwary children and who also brings prosperity and good luck. She's usually depicted with wide staring eyes and a rounded mouth. Where I live now, the traditional Algonquin cannibal figure is the dreaded Wendigo who grows larger after eating someone but always looks emaciated. Brrrr...

Stevyn Colgan said...

CG - Thanks! There's no more fascinating area for illustration believe me!

Persephone - There are hundreds ... but I still need to pick my 'A-Z' and I like the sound of both of these/ I know of the wendigo but the D'sonoqua is a new one for me so I'm digging out some background now. She sounds like a hoot. Yes, first world countries are targets as much as any second or thirld world countries. The only rule I've set myself is to avoid current religious belief. So I won't be including any of the brilliant Hindu gods for example. But there's plenty more to work with.

chris hale said...

Stevyn, you might want to check out the Hittite gods here:

http://history-world.org/hittite_gods.htm

It seems that their sky god was called Anus *snigger*

Persephone said...

"First Nation" isn't the same as "First World". It's PC in Canada, where "American Indian" isn't accurate. My husband recently told me that northern aboriginal nations, such as the Inuit and mixed descendants of First Nation and European (M├ętis) aren't "First Nation", but "aboriginal", so I still have a lot to learn...

Stevyn Colgan said...

Chris - Cheers mate. Some of these are great!

Persephone - I stand corrected (said the man in the orthopaedic shoes - Alan Partridge 2002)