Mythology Literature: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Mythology

Ever since humans began to take notice of their surroundings, we have asked why things are the way they are. Modern science has solved many of these mysteries, but the humans who lived long ago had to come up with alternative explanations. Thunderstorms were explained as a sign of the gods' displeasure, and a bountiful harvest was a sign of divine favor. The mythos and legends around each pantheon were created to shed light on a largely hidden, mysterious world. Today, articles, LitCharts, and books help illuminate the values and thought processes of the cultures that birthed these unique stories.

Greek Mythology

  • Greek Mythology: An Introduction: Myths adapt and change over time, but there are consistencies. This article discusses the most well-known Greek gods and their roles in mythology.
  • The Olympians: There are so many characters in mythology that books, articles, and LitCharts are dedicated to explaining them. Take a look at some of the main characters in Greek mythology here.
  • Greek Gods and Religious Practices: The myths and rituals of ancient Greece often intertwined. The Metropolitan Museum has an excellent introduction to Greek mythology and the religion of the time.
  • The Greek Creation Myth: Most systems of belief seek to explain how the world began. In the Greek version, the planet formed from two halves of a golden eggshell.
  • The Life and Times of Hercules: Hercules is one of the most famous Greek heroes. The half-human, half-god character appears in many myths and stories.

Roman Mythology

Norse Mythology

  • The Norse Creation Myth: Unlike Greek and Roman creation myths, which tend to focus on Earth, the Norse creation myth addresses several different worlds and how the domain of mankind grew from them.
  • The Norse Family Tree: Today, many cosmological objects have been named in honor of Norse gods. This helpful chart shows the relationships between the different deities and creatures of Norse mythology.
  • Norse Gods and Goddesses: One of the most famous Norse gods is Thor, the god of thunder. Learn about some of the lesser-known gods, like Andvari the dwarf, with this compendium.
  • Thor to Odin: A Guide to the Norse Gods: A unique aspect of Norse mythology is that it includes a story of how the world will end. However, that's not the only interesting quality of the lore.
  • The Aesir and Vanir: In Norse mythology, there are several different groups of gods. The Aesir were the gods of war, and the Vanir were gods of fertility.

Egyptian Mythology

  • The Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt: From Tawaret, who protected women during pregnancy, to Ptah, the god of craftsmen, there were gods and goddesses to watch over every aspect of life.
  • The Egyptian Myth of Creation (PDF): The Egyptian myth of creation revolves around three main characters: Osiris, Horus, and Isis. After the creation of the world and the establishment of the underworld, Horus became the first king of Egypt.
  • Egyptian Mythology, Creation, and Iconography: Many of the Egyptian gods had animal characteristics, such as the head or limbs of a certain creature.
  • Deities of the Afterlife: Osiris was the main god of the dead, but he wasn't the only deity to be found in the underworld. Anubis, who had the head of a jackal, was the god of embalming and burial.
  • Osiris and a Brief Background of Egyptian Mythology (PDF): From the siblings Shu and Tefnut to Ra, god of the sun, this detailed overview of the Egyptian creation story is well worth a read.

Native American Mythology

  • Native American Myths: Every Native American tribe has its own stories and legends. This page goes over some myths from tribes of the Pacific Northwest.
  • Walks All Over the Sky: This story from the Tsimshian Tribe of the Pacific Northwest explains how the sun and moon came to be as a result of a feud between two brothers.
  • Thunderbird and Trickster: The Thunderbird is an element found in many Native American myths. As its name suggests, the Thunderbird was thought to create lighting and thunder.
  • Lakota Story of the Re-Creation of the Earth: Death and rebirth are common themes in mythology. In this story from the Lakota, a turtle brings up mud to create a new land.
  • Raven Steals the Sun, Stars, and Moon: According to this myth, there was originally no light in the night sky. Raven, a clever trickster, stole the sun, stars, and moon from the daughter of a nearby chief.

Sumerian Mythology

  • Anu the Sky-God: In Sumerian and Mesopotamian lore, Anu, also called An, was one of the most authoritative and powerful gods.
  • The Debate Between Winter and Summer: In this story, Summer and Winter are personified, and their heated debate eventually gives way to harmony and balance.
  • Sumerian Mythos: Part of Mesopotamian Mythology: Much of Sumerian lore gets lumped under the blanket term "Mesopotamian," but the Sumerians had a distinctive and influential culture.
  • Sumerian Hymns and Prayers to Nin-Ib (PDF): This comprehensive examination of the role of the god Nin-Ib addresses the nature of Sumerian gods. There are also examples of prayers and hymns that would be offered to the gods.
  • Mesopotamian Deities: These five deities are some of the most famous across Mesopotamian lore.

Asian Mythology

  • Tales of the Eight Immortals: In Chinese tradition, there is a group of figures known as the Eight Immortals. Rather than being a core part of any religious tradition, they instead function as inspirational folk characters.
  • Dragons and China's Myths: Dragons are famously fearsome mythological creatures and still feature heavily in Chinese art and media. They even play a major role in Chinese myths.
  • Asian Dragons: Whether they function as messengers to heaven or guardians of nature, dragons frequently appear in Asian legends and myths.
  • Japanese Creation Story: The creation story that comes from Japan focuses on the creation of the Japanese islands and the separation of the living and the dead.
  • The Origin of Japan and Her People: The two main characters in the story of Japan's creation are Izanagi and Izanami, but they aren't the only ones. This page offers a more detailed rendition of the creation myth.

Celtic Mythology

  • The Healing of the Morrigan: In Celtic mythology, the Morrigan is an enigmatic figure, usually portrayed as a female at various stages of life. She famously appears to the folk hero Cuchulain.
  • The Hound of Ulster: Originally named Setanta, Cuchulain gained his name after killing his uncle's dog. He vowed to act as a guard and became the hound of Culain, taking the name Cuchulain.
  • Celtic Superstitions of Death Within Irish Fairy Tales (PDF): The dullahan and banshee are two creatures of Celtic mythology. They typically appear when death is imminent, but other forms of fairies are said to take an active role in daily life.
  • Myths of Stonehenge: Stonehenge is one of the most famous surviving relics from the early Celtic age, and there are plenty of myths surrounding its construction.
  • A History of the Gods of Irish Myth (PDF): Knowledge of Celtic gods and goddesses comes through the recorded word of Christian missionaries. Through stories and legends, the original Celtic deities were preserved throughout the years.