New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology ULTIMATE INFINITE

Introduction by Robert Graves



New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology

Translated by Richard Aldington and Delano Ames and revised by a panel of editorial

advisers from the Larousse Mvthologie Generate edited by Felix Guirand and first published in

France by Auge, Gillon, Hollier-Larousse, Moreau et Cie, the Librairie Larousse, Paris

This 1987 edition published by Crescent Books, distributed by:

Crown Publishers, Inc.,

225 Park Avenue South

New York, New York 10003

Copyright 1959

The Hamlyn Publishing Group

Limited New edition


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval

system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,

recording or otherwise, without the permission of The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited.

ISBN 0-517-00404-6

Printed in Yugoslavia

Scan begun 20 November 2001

Ended (at this point Goddess knows when)

LaRousse Encyclopedia of Mythology

Introduction by Robert Graves

Perseus and Medusa

With Athene's assistance, the hero has just slain the Gorgon Medusa with a bronze harpe, or

curved sword given him by Hermes and now, seated on the back of Pegasus who has just sprung

from her bleeding neck and holding her decapitated head in his right hand, he turns watch her

two sisters who are persuing him in fury. Beneath him kneels the headless body of the Gorgon

with her arms and golden wings outstretched. From her neck emerges Chrysor, father of the

monster Geryon. Perseus later presented the Gorgon's head to Athene who placed it on Her


Relief from Melos, British Museum


Orestes and Iphigenia

Orestes brought before the priestess of Artemis at Tauris, where he and Pylades were

captured by the hostile people. Orestes is unaware that the priestess is his sister, Iphigenia,

believed to have been sacrificed by his father Agamemmon at Aulis.

Detail from a Pompeiian mural now in the Museo Nazionale, Naples


Robert Graves: Introduction

G.-H. Luquet: Prehistoric Mythology

The religion of the first men

The cult of the dead

J. Viaud: Egyptian Mythology

The Ennead of Heliopolis and the family of Osiris

Protective divinities of the Pharaohs and the kingdom

Divinities of River and Desert Divinities of Birth and Death

Men deified and the Pharaoh god

The sacred animals

F. Guirand: Assyro-Babylonian Mythology

The Gods of Elam

L. Delaporte: Phoenician Mythology

The Gods of Carthage

The Hittite gods

F. Guirand: Greek Mythology

Prehellenic mythology

The mythology of classical Greece

Sidereal and meteorological gods

Orion: The Pleiades: The Hyades

Gods of the winds

Gods of the waters

Divinities of the earth

The life of man

The underworld

The heroes

F. Guirand


A.-V. Pierre: Roman Mythology


Corcoran: Celtic Mythology

E. Tonnelat: Teutonic Mythology - Germany and Scandinavia

G. Alexinsky: Slavonic Mythology

F. Guirand: Finno-Ugric Mythology

P. Masson-Oursel


Louise Morin: Mythology of Ancient Persia

Religion of the Zend-Avesta

A Summary of Moslem Myths

P. Masson-Oursel


Louise Morin: Indian Mythology

The Brahmanic Dharma

The Heretical Dharmas

Mythology of Hinduism

Ou-I-Tai: Chinese Mythology

Odette Bruhl: Japanese Mythology

The Great Legends

The Gods

Buddhism in Japan

Max Fauconnet: Mythology of the Two Americas

North America


Central America

South America



By Robert Graves

Mythology is the study of whatever religious or heroic legends are so foreign to a student's

experience that he cannot believe them to be true. Hence the English adjective 'mythical', meaning

'incredible'; and hence the omission from standard European mythologies, such as this, of all

Biblical narratives even when closely paralleled by myths from Persia, Babylonia, Egypt and

Greece; and of all hagiological legends. Otherwise, the New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology

offers a comprehensive and compact Who's Who or Who Was Who of the better known gods,

goddesses, heroes, monsters, demons, angels and saints from all over the world, including certain

Moslem ones. It does not discuss philosophic theory or religious experience, and treats each cult

with the same impersonal courtesy.

Myth has two main functions. The first is to answer the sort of awkward questions that

children ask, such as: 'Who made the world? How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do

souls go after death?' The answers, necessarily graphic and positive, confer enormous power on

the various deities credited with the creation and care of souls--and incidentally on their


The second function of myth is to justify an existing social system and account for

traditional rites and customs. The Erechtheid clan of Athens, who used a snake as an amulet,

preserved myths of their descent from King Erichthonius, a man-serpent, son of the Smith-god

Hephaestus and foster-son of the Goddess Athene. The Ioxids of Caria explained their veneration

for rushes and wild asparagus by a story of their ancestress Perigune, whom Theseus the

Erechtheid courted in a thicket of these plants; thus incidentally claiming cousinship with the Attic

royal house. The real reason may have been that wild asparagus stalks and rushes were woven

into sacred baskets, and therefore taboo.

Myths of origin and eventual extinction vary according to the climate. In the cold North,

the first human beings were said to have sprung from the licking of frozen stones by a divine cow

named Audumla; and the Northern after-world was a bare, misty, featureless plain where ghosts

wandered hungry and shivering. According to a myth from the kinder climate of Greece, a Titan

named Prometheus, kneading mud on a flowery riverbank, made human statuettes which Athene

- who was once the Eibyan Moon--Goddess Neith - brought to life, and Greek ghosts went to a

sunless, flowerless underground cavern. These afterworlds were destined for serfs or commoners;

deserving nobles could count on warm, celestial mead-halls in the North, and Elysian Fields in


Primitive peoples remodel old myths to conform with changes produced by revolutions, or

invasions and, as a rule, politely disguise their violence: thus a treacherous usurper will figure as a

lost heir to the throne who killed a destructive dragon or other monster and, after marrying the

king's daughter, duly succeeded him. Even myths of origin get altered or discarded. Prometheus'

creation of men from clay superseded the hatching of all nature from a world-egg laid by the

ancient Mediterranean Dove-goddess Eurynome - a myth common also in Polynesia, where the

Goddess is called Tangaroa.

A typical case-history of how myths develop as culture spreads: - Among the Akan of

Ghana, the original social system was a number of queendoms, each containing three or more

clans and ruled by a Queen-mother with her council of elder women: descent being reckoned in

the female line, and each clan having its own animal deity. The Akan believed that the world was

born from the-all-powerful Moon-goddess Ngame. who gave human beings souls, as soon as

born, by shooting-lunar rays into them. At some time or other perhaps in the early Middle Ages,

patriarchal nomads from the Sudan forced the Akans to accept a male Creator, a Sky-god named

Odomankoma: hut failed to destroy Ngame's dispensation. A compromise myth was agreed upon:

Odomankoma created the world with hammer and chisel from inert matter, after which Ngame

brought it to life. These Sudanese invaders also worshipped the seven planetary powers ruling the

week - a system originating in Babylonia. (It had spread to Northern Europe, by-passing Greece

and Rome; which is why the names of pagan deities - Tuisto. Woden, Thor and Frigg- arc still

attached to Tuesday, Wednesday. Thursday and Friday.) This extra cult provided the Akan with

seven new deities, and the compromise myth made both them and the clan-gods bisexual.

Towards the end of the fourteenth century A.D., a social revolution deposed Odomankoma in

favour of a Universal Sun-god, and altered the myth accordingly. While Odomankoma ruled, a

queendom was still a queendom, the king acting merely as a consort and male representative of

the sovereign Queen-mother, and being styled 'Son of the Moon': a yearly dying, yearly

resurrected, fertility godling. But the gradual welding of small queendoms into city-states, and of

city-states into a rich and populous nation, encouraged the High King the king of the dominant

city-state - to borrow a foreign custom. He styled himself 'Son of the Sun', as well as 'Son of the

Moon', and claimed limitless authority. The Sun which, according to the myth, had hitherto been

re-born every morning from Ngame, was now worshipped as an eternal god altogether

independent of the Moon's life-giving function. New myths appeared when the Akan accepted the

patriarchal principle, which Sun-worship brought in: they began tracing succession through the

father, and mothers ceased to be the spiritual heads of households.

This case-history throws light on the complex Egyptian corpus of myth. Egypt, it seems

to have developed from small matriarchal Moon-queen-doms to Pharaonic patriarchal Sunmonarchy,

Grotesque animal deities of leading clans in the Delta became city-gods, and the

cities were federated under the sovereignty of a High King (once a "Son of the Moon"), who

claimed to be the Son of Ra the Sun-god. Opposition by independent-mindcd city-rulers to the

Pharaoh', autocratic sway appears in the undated myth of how Ra grew so old and feeble that he

could not even control his spittle: the Moon-goddess Isis plotted against him and Ra retaliated by

casting his baleful eye on mankind they perished in their thousands. Ra nevertheless decided to

quit the ungrateful land of Egypt; whereupon Hathor. a loyal Cow Goddess flew him up to the

vault of Heaven. The myth doubtless records a compromise that consigned the High King';

absolutist pretensions, supported by his wife, to the vague realm of philosophic theory. He kept

the throne, but once more became, for all practical purposes, an incarnation of Osiris consort of

the Moon-goddess Isis -- a yearly dying, yearly resurrected fertility godling.

Indian myth is highly complex, and swings from gross physical abandon to rigorous

asceticism and fantastic visions of the spirit world, Yet it has much in common with European

myth, since Aryan invasions in the second millennium BC. changed the religious system of both

continents. The invaders were nomad herdsmen, and the peoples on whom they imposed

themselves as a military aristocracy were peasants. Hesiod, an early Greek poet, preserves myth of

pre-Aryan 'Silver Age' heroes: 'divinely created eaters of bread, utterly subject to their mothers

however long they lived, who never sacrificed to the gods, but at least did not make war against

one another.' Hesiod put the case well: in primitive agricultural communities, recourse to war is

rare, and goddess-worship the rule. Herdsmen, on the contrary, tend to make fighting a profession

and, perhaps because bulls dominate their herds, as rams do flocks, worship a male Sky-god,

typified by a bull or a ram. He sends down rain for the pastures, and they take omens from the

entrails of the victims sacrificed to him.

When an invading Aryan chieftain, a tribal rain-maker, married the Moon priestess and

Queen of a conquered people, a new myth inevitably celebrated the marriage of the Sky-god and

the Moon. But since the Moon-goddess was

everywhere worshipped as a triad, in honor of the Moon's three phases - waxing, full, and waning

- the god split up into a complementary triad. This accounts for three-bodied Geryon, the first king

of Spain; three-headed Cernunnos, the Gallic god; the Irish triad, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who

married the three queenly owners of Ireland; and the invading Greek brothers Zeus, Poseidon,

and Hades who, despite great opposition, married the pre-Greek Moon-goddess in her three

aspects, respectively as Queen of Heaven. Queen of the Sea, and Queen of the Underworld.

The Queen-mother's decline in religious power, and the goddesses' continual struggle to

preserve their royal prerogatives, appears in the Homeric myth of how Zeus ill-treated and bullied

Hera, and how she continually plotted against him. Zeus remained a Thunder-god, because Greek

national sentiment forbad his becoming a Sun God in Oriental style. But his Irish counterpart, a

thunder-god named The Dagda, grew senile at last and surrendered the throne to his son Bodb the

Red, a War God - in Ireland, the magic of rain-making was not so important as in Greece. One

constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens among the gods above reflects events on

earth. Thus a father-god named 'The Ancient One of the Jade' (Yu-ti) ruled the pre-revolutionary

Chinese Heaven: like Prometheus, he had created human beings from clay. His wife was the

Queen-mother, and their court an exact replica of the old Imperial Court at Pekin, with precisely

the same functionaries: ministers, soldiers, and a numerous family of the god's sisters, daughters

and nephews. The two annual sacrifices paid by the Emperor to the August One of the Jade - at

the winter solstice when the days first lengthen and at the spring equinox when they become

longer than the nights - show him to have once been a solar god. And the theological value given

to the number 72, suggests that the cult started as a compromise between Moon-goddess worship

and Sun-god worship: 72 means three-times-three, the Moon's mystical number, multiplied by

two-times-two-times-two, the Sun's mystical number, and occurs in solar-lunar divine unions

throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Chinese conservatism, by the way. kept these gods dressed

in ancient court-dress, making no concessions to the new fashions which the invading dynasty

from Manchuria had introduced.

In West Africa, whenever the Queen-mother, or King, appointed a new functionary at

Court, the same thing happened in Heaven, by royal decree. Presumably this was also the case in

China; and if we apply the principle to Greek myth, it seems reasonably certain that the account of

Tirynthian Heracles' marriage to Hera's daughter Hebe, and his appointment as Celestial Porter to

Zeus, commemorates the appointment of a Tirynthian prince as vizier at the court of the

Mycenaean High King, after marriage to a daughter of his Queen, the High Priestess of Argos.

Probably the appointment of Ganymede, son of an early Trojan king, as cup-bearer to Zeus, had

much the same significance: Zeus, in this context, would be more likely the Hittite king resident at


Myth, then, is a dramatic shorthand record of such matters as invasions, migrations,

dynastic changes, admission of foreign cults, and social reforms. When bread was first introduced

into Greece - where only beans, poppy-seeds, acorns and asphodel-roots had hitherto been known

the myth of Demeter and Triptolemus sanctified its use; the same event in Wales produced a myth

of 'The Old White One', a Sow-goddess who went around the country with gifts of grain, bees, and

her own young; for agriculture, pig-breeding and bee-keeping were taught to the aborigines by

the same wave of neolithic invaders. Other myths sanctified the invention of wine.

A proper study of myth demands a great store of abstruse geographical, historical and

anthropological knowledge; also familiarity with the properties of plants and trees, and the habits

of wild birds and beasts. Thus a Central American stone-sculpture, a Toad-god sitting beneath a

mushroom, means little to mythologists who have not considered the world-wide association of

toads with toxic mushrooms or heard of a Mexican Mushroom-god, patron of an oracular cult: for

the toxic agent is a drug, similar to that secreted in the sweat-glands of frightened toads, which

provides magnificent hallucinations of a heavenly kingdom.

Myths are fascinating and easily misread. Readers may smile at the picture of Queen Maya

and her pre-natal dream of the Buddha descending upon her disguised as a charming white baby

elephant he looks as though he would crush her to pulp when 'at once all nature rejoiced, trees

burst into bloom, and musical instruments played of their own accord'. In English-speaking

countries, 'white elephant' denotes something not only useless and unwanted, but expensive to

maintain; and the picture could be misread there as indicating the Queen's grave embarrassment

at the prospect of bearing a child. In India, however, the elephant symbolizes royalty - the

supreme God Indra rides one - and white elephants (which are not albinos, but animals suffering

from a vitiliginous skin-disease) are sacred to the Sun, as white horses were for the ancient Greeks,

and white oxen for the British druids. The elephant, moreover, symbolizes intelligence, and Indian

writers traditionally acknowledge the Elephant-god Ganesa as their patron; he is supposed to

have dictated the Mahabharata.

Again, in English, a scallop-shell is associated either with cookery or with medieval pilgrims

returning from a visit to the Holy Sepulchre; but Aphrodite the Greek Love-goddess employed a

scallop-shell for her voyages across the sea because its two parts were so tightly hinged together

as to provide a symbol of passionate sexual love - the hinge of the scallop being a principal

ingredient in ancient love-philtres. The lotus flower sacred to Buddha and Osiris has five petals,

which symbolise the four limbs and the head; the five senses; the five digits: and, like the pyramid,

the four points of the compass and the zenith. Other esoteric meanings abound: for myths are

seldom simple, and never irresponsible. ULTIMATE INFINITE  PREHISTORIC MYTHOLOGY