Ages before Riordan, Harryhausen, Lovecraft, Gothic literature, and The Brothers Grimm, we had the vain, ill-tempered, petulant, vengeful, spiteful, mean-spirited, self-absorbed, egomaniacal, bloodthirsty gods of mythology themselves. Good times! No doubt we all of us have some kind of familiarity with mythology, and it’s arguably the origin of horror itself. So let’s take a moment and have a look at a few of the more obscure terrors of the ancient world.
In some versions, Tithonus and Ganymede were kidnapped by Eos to be her lovers. Zeus became smitten with Ganymede as well and re-kidnapped him. In other versions, Ganymede was only nabbed by Zeus. Either way, Tithonus and Eos are a thing, and Eos graciously decides to ask Zeus to grant Tithonus eternal life. As always, careful what you wish for because Eos did not think to ask for eternal youth as well. Eventually Tithonus becomes too weak to use his limbs, so all he can do is make noise and therefore becomes either a cicada or a cricket–appropos here in the colonies as the 17-year swarm is upon us.
Ya gotta use your imagination and focus on the visuals for this one. First, Atum wills themself (selves? I dunno, but Atum is neither male nor female, so, y’know) into being out of the chaos of Nu. In the G-rated version, Atum “joins” with their shadow to create a son, Shu, and daughter, Tefnut whom Atum spits out. In the less family friendly versions, Atum either ejaculates or vomits them. So yeah. Picture that–two immortal beings forming, coming to life, and emerging out of a pool of deific bodily fluids.
Yeah yeah, everyone knows basically what happened to Medusa, but as is always the case there’s a number of versions of the story. Poseidon rapes her right in Athena’s temple after which Medusa is turned into a gorgon. One theory is that Athena turned her into a gorgon and set her on an island, probably Sarpedon, not as punishment but in order to protect her from the pursuit of men and/or to act as a tool of vengeance against them. There’s also a version in which one of Medusa’s sisters is also turned into a gorgon just for standing too close when Medusa was transformed. Then of course there’s Perseus carrying her severed head around.
First of all, imagine this image brought to the big screen. Anyway, this comes from The Epic Of Gilgamesh. After defeating a monster, Gilgamesh goes to a stream to wash off the blood, gore, grime, sweat, entrails and assorted monster ick. Ishtar spots this and finds it devastatingly attractive, so she appears to Gilgamesh and says “You, ya handsome devil, you get to be my next lover,” to which Gil responds with a hard pass. He then recounts the fates that befell all her previous lovers–a shepherd turned into a wolf, the brightly colored bird whose wing she broke, the lion she condemned to a lion pit, etc. For this outrage, Ishtar attacks Gilgamesh with The Bull Of Heaven, but that’s another story.
No no, not “nail Osiris in a sarcophagus and toss him in the Nile,” but the bit after that. See, Osiris comes to rest in Byblos, somewhere around Syria. A tree grows and incorporates the sarcophagus into its trunk. As it contains Osiris, this tree is special and fragrant, getting the attention of King Malkander and Queen Athenais. The tree is cut down and installed as a column in the palace. Isis hears of this and investigates. She becomes a nursemaid to the king’s son, Diktys, who suffers from an incurable illness. Isis puts him in a fire each night to cure him (good to be a goddess). One night the queen happens upon this. Oops. Anyway, Horus is later conceived when Isis lies with the body of the slain god.
Okay. I tried to stay away from the more obvious tales, so this is a pretty good start. What horrifying myths can you remember? Let me know in the Comments.