Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sisters of the Valkyrie? part IX: Amazons

There are Valkyrie-like goddesses and demi goddesses in other belief systems, who resemble the characteristics of the Northern Valkyries. It makes you wonder if they belong to the same species or come from the same root legend. I've written entries about the subject, starting with individuals and then perhaps go onto research different aspects of the Valkyrie. The ninth entry on the "Sisters of the Valkyrie" is about the Amazons.

Amazons, or others called Oiorpata, are a legendary army consisting entirely of women. It's said that they were from Scythia, which is now the Ukraine. They're also Amazon warriors across ancient Persia, Asia Minor, Crimea, Baltic lands, Black Sea regions, Altai Mountains, Russia, Crete and Anatolia. Whether or not they could be part of a nation or under one ruler is not too difficult to say because amazons warriors appeared throughout Eurasia and found scattered across various places.

In Greek mythology, Amazons live in Themiscyra, a Pontus region, which was once part of ancient Greece and nears South of the Black Sea. Now it's part of Turkey. According to legend the town of Themiscyra was ruled by a beautiful queen named Hippolyta, she wore a magical belt that was made by her father, Ares, the god of war. The belt, or girdle symbolised her power as queen. She encountered Theseus when he arrived to her island after killing the Minotaur. There was much celebration and feasting. He proposed to her during the night's party but she declined marrying him. Later when everyone slept, Theseus and his friend Pirithous planned to kidnap the queen and force marriage. Theseus carried a sleeping Hippolyta to his ship and sailed away to Athens. The amazons woke up and found that their queen was gone so they got their boats ready to set sail. The amazons successfully rescued their queen at midnight on the eve of the wedding and all returned to the island. When Theseus found that his bride-to-be was gone, he gave up on trying to get her back to him.

The demi god Hercules convinced Hippolyta to hand over the belt and it angered the goddess Hera. The amazon queen died and the belt went away with Hercules on the rest of his epic journey. In popular modern literature, created by DC Comics, one of the Amazons appears as a superhero in the 20th Century called Diana Prince or Wonder Woman, daughter of Hippolyta. 

There's archeological discoveries to link Amazons with historic truth. There's amazon graves in Russia, areas of the Don and Volga rivers. The bodies were delicately handles at burial, dressed in combat armour matching the descriptions of the Amazonian women in mythology. There were also amazon graves uncovered in Kazakhstan of women in armour and beside swords, axes, arrow heads, horse harnesses and daggers many of the items made of bronze.

Interestingly the weapons found with the women had shorter narrower handles compared to those weapons discovered at men's grave sites nearby. Bones of domestic animals were buried beside the women indicating that they were not hunter-gatherers. Tattoos worn by male warriors of the region were also upon the dead amazons. So was there a basis of fact to the mythical stories then? Seems there is.

There is so much in comparison to the amazons and the shield maidens of the far north. These were the Northern amazons, women who fought in battle alongside the menfolk. It's believed that the valkyries were really mortal women such as these.  

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