10 of the strangest, most pathetic myths of love and sex
By Mark Miller
Some of humanity's strangest stories come from mythology, and some of the strangest myths of all involve love and sex. Myths from around the world tell stories involving sex and love between gods and humans and sometimes other creatures. These stories often involve a lot of pathos and sometimes violence and revenge. We hereby present a list of 10 strange myths that are too strange to be true but that may contain kernels of truths about human or divine nature:
10. Who enjoys sex more: men or women?
Zeus and Hera, heads of the Greek pantheon, got into an argument about who enjoys sex more, men or women. Zeus contended women get more pleasure. Hera said it's men. They asked the long-lived Tiresias of the ancient city of Thebes to settle the dispute.
Tiresias had been a man who committed the abomination of striking a female snake that was mating and spent seven years as a woman for his sin. When he went before Zeus and Hera, Tiresias was now a man again because he later struck a copulating male snake and was returned to his native gender. Tiresias sided with Zeus, saying women enjoy sex nine times more than men. Furious, Hera blinded him. In recompense, Zeus gave Tiresias the gift of prophecy.
The gift of propehcy was ambivalent because people often excoriated prophets and discounted or denied their accuracy. Some stories say Tiresias lived a long life as a gift from Zeus.
9. Goddess of love and beauty—and many partners
Freya, the Norse goddess of love and beauty, was so lovely that she was desired by all the supernatural beings of the Norse realms—the gods, dwarves and giants. It seems she reciprocated. It wouldn't do to slut-shame a goddess, but let's say she got around some. One website calls her the “party girl” of the Aesir, one of the Norse pantheons. She is even said to have slept with a slave more than once. Ironically Freya (Freyja) means “lady,” and our word Friday is related to it.
Her husband, Odur, who is sometimes but not always equated with the great god Odin, went off on travels on Earth a lot. Freya missed him and sometimes went searching for him, shedding tears that seeded the earth with gold. Her footsteps left beautiful flowers in her path.
As the personification of earth she coupled with Odin, who is the sky; Frey, the rain; Odur, sunshine; and Vili and Ve, Odin's brothers (or alter-egos). Loki accused Freya of sleeping with all of the gods and elves. He even accused her of sleeping with her brother, Freyr.
The indiscretions of Frigg, a goddess often equated with Freya, are recorded for posterity in Semund's Edda:
Be thou silent, Frigg!
Thou art Fiorgyn's daughter
And ever hast been fond of men
Since Ve and Vili, it is said,
Thou, Virdir's wife, didst
Both to thy bosom take
8. Iktomi the Lakota trickster courts a maiden
Iktomi, the Lakota trickster, knew about beauty. In the story "Oh, It's You!" related in the book Native American Trickster Stories, edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz, Iktomi the spider-man was always thinking about sex and copulation. He had his eye on a beautiful girl with long black hair, firm breasts and graceful movements like a cat. From the first time he saw her he was preoccupied with how to get her in bed.
So the ugly Iktomi courted her, playing his flute every day as she went to the river to wash her clothes. He told her what a great lover he was and that she was missing out on great pleasure by rejecting him. She was insulted such an ugly, ill-mannered man would want her. She told Iktomi's wife, who said that's nothing new, he wants to do 'tawiton' with everybody in the village—except her with her gray hair and potbelly. She told the girl she wished she could catch him and beat him. The beautiful wincincala says there is a way. She told Iktomi to come to her tipi that night, that her blind and deaf grandmother won't notice a thing. Iktomi's wife was there instead of the girl.
"Kiss me!" Iktomi told her in the dark, thinking it was the beautiful wincincala. "I love you. How sweet your breath is compared to my old woman." He felt her all over. "Oh, what a beautiful, firm little body you have, not lumpy and saggy like that of my wife. What a joy to make love to a young, beautiful girl instead of to an old, ugly hag!"
They had sex. Next morning, in the light, he saw that it was his wife. "Oh, it's you," he said. "I knew it was you all the time. Wasn't it great?"
She shouted that she'll give him “sagging breasts" and a “lumpy body" and said she'll beat the stuffing out of him. And she did so with a heavy club she had there. The story concludes that Iktomi was sore for a long time, but he kept on philandering.
As you can see, Iktomi's wife was still as beautiful as any young girl, but Trickster didn't realize it until he couldn't see her.
(Link to part of the story:
7. Krishna puts the girls in a dilemma
The unmarried gopi or cow-herd girls of the village of Vrndavana were deep in love with the beautiful Indian man-god Krishna even though they were supposed to be devoted to either Shiva or the goddess Durga. But like good girls they were involved in the worship of Durga when they went to the Yamuna river bank to bathe in the morning. There they would hold hands and sing of the wonderful exploits of Krishna, an incarnation of the supreme Godhead Vishnu.
One morning per tradition they left their clothing on the bank of the river and went into the water. Krishna arrived and took their clothes with him up into a tree. He told them to come out one by one and he will hand over their clothing.
The girls were delighted and smiled at each other, but there was a problem: They can't go before their lord naked. They told Krishna they were his eternal servants and must do as he says, but if he didn't give them their clothing they would tell the elders and the king.
Krishna told them if they are his servants they must do as he says. So, seeing he wouln't budge, they came out of the water nude, one by one. Krishna was pleased with their modesty as they covered themselves with their hands. So he took them to be his wives.
6. Don't go chasing butterflies
The Maidu Indians of Northern California tell a legend about a Tolowim woman who set out to gather food. She had with her her child in a cradleboard. She set the child down when she saw a large butterfly flutter past. She chased the beautiful butterfly, almost catching it, then missing, chasing it on and on. She thought perhaps she was too weighted down with her deerskin robe and ditched it. Still unable to catch the butterfly she tossed away her apron. At night she laid down to sleep and didn't even think of her child.
Next morning there was a man lying next to her. He told her if she wanted to follow him always, she would have to pass by a lot of his people. So she followed the butterfly man and they came to a valley of butterflies. He told her no one ever came through the valley alive, and if she were to do so she must not lose sight of him and must follow closely.
The traveled a long time, and the man kept telling her to hold tight and not let go. Halfway through the valley a swarm of butterflies enveloped them, around their faces and heads. They wanted the Tolowim woman. She held her husband tightly for a while, but finally she let go. She reached out to grasp a butterfly but missed. Then she tried for another, and another, and another, but she never succeeded. She wandered in the valley for a long time, went crazy and died.
5. The best of both worlds
The Greek god Hermes and goddess Aphrodite, the gods of male and female sexuality, had a son called Hermaphroditus, who was originally male but then became both male and female. In the beginning their son was a handsome youngster who inherited the beauty of his parents.
Once he laid down near the naiad nymph Salmacis' well. She loved Hermaprhoditus at first sight and tried to woo him, but he resisted. Then he swam in her spring, and she embraced him. She prayed to the gods to unite her to him, and they became one, neither man nor woman but both. Thereafter, by the will of Hermaphroditus, everyone who swam there at Salmacis became a hermaphrodite.
Hermaphroditus is depicted in ancient art with female face, thighs, breasts and hair and male genitalia.
4. Maybe you really can't go home again
Orpheus, son of the Muse Calliope and a great musician, loved his dryad wife Eurydice so much that when she died of snakebite he determined to travel to the underworld to get her back. He charmed Charon, who ferried the dead across the River Styx. He mesmerized Cerberus, the three-headed dog on guard, into sleep. Then he met with the recalcitrant Hades, who refused to let Eurydice return to Earth. The goddess Perseshone, Hades' queen, heard Orpheus music and was so moved she pleaded on Eurydice's behalf. Hades relented but set a condition: Eurydice must not look back as they left the underworld. Orpheus, scared she wasn't following along, looked back—and she was swept back into Hades forever. Orpheus was overcome and wandered around mad with sorrow until Dionysus' drunken followers the maenads killed him.
3. Perhaps the saddest love triangle of all
To the Letts the Baltic moon god Menu, and Saule, his wife the sun, were so brilliant their children were the stars. Saule had an affair with Perkuno, the god of lightning. The child of this unfaithful union was so brilliant he was the Morning Star. Menu was so angered and ashamed he appeared only at night, but his wife continued to shine brightly all day.
(I couldn't find a great source for this: http://witcheslore.com/bookofshadows/mythology/norse-mythology/3521/)
2. How the cosmos became suffused with love
The Indian pantheon—the entire universe—was in trouble. The Great Lord Shiva had lost his beloved intended, Sati, and Shiva was meditating and doing austerities in great sorrow. He had withdrawn so much that reality was threatened with coming apart, and the Asuras, the forces of evil, were becoming strong again. Only a son of Shiva could lead the gods to victory, but Shiva had no wife, nor desire.
Indra told Brahma of the situation. Brahma revealed that Sati was reicarnated as Uma, also called Parvati. She was dispatched to Shiva's mountain home to see to his needs. Days passed, but Shiva did not notice her or even open his eyes. The crisis was mounting, so the gods sent Kama, the god of love, to smite Shiva with a dart that would awaken his desire for Parvati so she could give birth to the hero who would save them.
Kama arrived with Vasant or spring and the nymph-like Apsaras to arouse Shiva. A divine fragrance and beautiul birdsong filled the air, but Shiva continued impertubably doing his austerities.
Kama strung his bow of sugarcane with an arrow with a flower tip, said a magical incantation and let fly. The arrow struck Shiva in the chest. Furious, Shiva blasted Kama with his third eye and burned Kama to a crisp. Love suffused the universe, unseen now by all but his wife, Rati.
Eventually, Kartikeyya was born to the divine couple, and he led the celestial troops and saved the world.
1. Dawn, go away, you're no good for me
Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, married Tithonus, who had been immortalized by the gods. Eos liked young men, but her husband had not been made eternally youthful when the gods made him immortal.
One day Eos spied Cephalus, who was married, hunting. Eos was smitten and took him as a lover. Cephalus' life became wretched and later tragic because of the goddess' love. Eos had told him he would regret marrying his wife, Procris.
Out hunting one day Cephalus ends up accidentally spearing Procris, thinking she was a beast in the bushes. She'd been spying on him because she had heard he was calling out for the goddess Aura. After Cephalus went into the bushes, he saw what he'd done. Procris asked him to promise never to take Aura into their bed. He quickly explained he was just calling out “aura,” for a breeze, and Procris died with a smile.
Eos and the giant Orion the Hunter also had an affair.