Hey there, I’m Mike Rugnetta! This is Crash Course Mythology and today We’re going to talk about the dying god, a specific archetype of god that might seem counterintuitive, considering lots of the myths we’ve already talked about feature gods who are immortal. The dying god trope, though, is one found in many regions throughout the world, but especially in the Greco-Hellenistic Roman World, which includes Egypt. Don’t worry, though! Thoth is fine, he’s just more like a death secretary. Alright, let’s go. *Crash Course Intro* The dying god is, you guessed it, a god who dies and is often but not always reborn. Sometimes gods die for the benefit of their people, in which case, they’re a savior as we discussed in a previous episode. Other times, the god is reborn actually or symbolically. So these stories also have something in common with the myths that represent regeneration or seasonal rebirth. In the west, the most well-known story of a dying god is, of course, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. We’re not going to get into that one here because it’s a widely studied story that y’all are likely familiar with. Instead, let’s start with an iconic dying god from Ancient Greece. The Story of Adonis. Nowadays, calling some dude an Adonis is shorthand for saying that he is super hot. But, originally, Adonis was the Greco-Roman Version of a semitic God, sometimes Identified with Osiris. In Semitic languages like Hebrew, Adonis’s Name is Adonai or Lord. So Adonis’s significance goes way beyond killer abs. In some versions of the Adonis’s story, his mother was a virgin. In others, he’s the result of incest between his mother and her father, the King. Still, other versions claim that Adonis may have been born out of a myrrh tree. So, for those of you keeping track at home, we’ve had several brain baby, a thigh baby, one stone baby and now our first tree birth. Probably the best known version of the Adonis myth comes from Ovid’s metamorphoses which details Venus’s mad love for the beautiful young god. However, we can’t give Adonis all the credit. Venus only fell for him after one of Cupid’s arrows grazed her breast. She leaves Olympus to chase Adonis around the wood. She warned him not to be too risky in his hunting, but as you can probably guess, Adonis does not listen. He’s killed by a boar that gore him in the groin, Ouch. When she finds him dying, Venus is distraught. Brutal. Venus, history’s first black metal lyricist. She, then, sprinkles nectar on Adonis’s blood and it transforms into a red anemone flower. This flower is born, lives, dies and is reborn again – each year – like flowers do, so it’s a symbolic reminder of the cyclical nature of the seasons and perhaps, our grief. Thoth – you get all misty-eyed or is it just allergies? Seeing the same flower die every year might be kind of sad, but in another way, it’s a hopeful symbol, for the idea that maybe death isn’t final after all. Now, let’s turn to one of the most famous dying gods, our friend Odin, who hanged himself from the World Tree – Yggdrasil – as a sacrifice in order to gain the Knowledge of Runes. He doesn’t really die in most versions of the myth, but he does suffer. Both from hanging and from being pierced in the side with a sword. Note the parallels with the death of Jesus here #dyinggods There’s also Balder, a Norse god, who actually does die. Like Adonis, Balder is often described as beautiful and beloved by all the gods Except, of course, for Loki, who as I may have mentioned is: the worst. Loki was jealous of Balder’s popularity and schemed to have him killed by the one thing that he was vulnerable to: you’re not going to guess what it is It’s mistletoe. So think of that at the next office Christmas Party, hm? His mother, Frigg, had gotten every substance on Earth to swear not to bring harm to Balder, except from mistletoe, because she thought that it didn’t matter. Loki crafted a dart from mistletoe and got the blind god, Hodr, to throw it at Balder while everyone else was having fun throwing stuff at him because he’s invulnerable. Norse gods sure do know how to party. Balder dies and goes down to single hockey stick, Hell, the place. His mother asks for volunteers to try to bring him back and Balder’s brother, Hermod steps up, saddles up and rides down to hell. Hel, the person who minds Hell, the place, isn’t particularly moved. But as underworld gods are often want to do she decides to make a deal. She says that if everyone on Earth will weep for Balder and she’ll let him return. Turns out, Balder was so beloved that everyone and everything on Earth did weep for him, Except for one giantess named Thokk who says, Harsh, Thokk. What Balder ever do to you? Jeez. So Balder doesn’t come back from the dead all because of Thokk. Though, if you ask the other gods, they’ll point out something very interesting, isn’t Loki, who’s the worst, a shapeshifter And have you ever seen him and Thokk in the same room? Just Saying. These are the reasons Loki Is the worst. Far from being a bittersweet reminder of life’s impermanence, Balder’s death foreshadows Ragnarok, the literal Death and Rebirth of everything. More on that in a few episodes. (If the world doesn’t end) The story of the Corn Mother, a great goddess from native American Mythology is one where the dying god, specifically makes sacrifices in order to bring salvation to her people. Thought Bubble, this one’s a little grisly but we think he can handle it. The first mother was born from a drop of dew during the time when the All-Maker was creating all sorts of things. She was a beautiful young woman who upon being born proclaimed, All-Maker certainly loved her and together they bore the first people. Following All-Maker’s instructions, the people learned to hunt. In time, they became so good at it that they exhausted all the game on the Earth. Then, the people began to starve and this made the first mother very sad because she had made the people and now couldn’t do anything to help. Her husband didn’t want to see the first mother so sad and asked what he could do to stop her weeping. The first mother replied with the only thing he could do: Kill her. Her husband refused at first but eventually he relented and asked the first mother, how he should do it, first mother told him that when the sun was at its highest point, he should kill her and have two of her sons dragged her by the hair over the barren Earth until all the flesh had been scraped from her body, then they were to take her bones and bury them and wait seven months before returning. At this time, their mother’s flesh would feed the people. The husband and son did what the first mother said and waited sadly for seven months to return to the place where first mother’s flesh had been stripped from her bone. There they found plants with tassels of hair, silky like the first mother’s and sweet fruit that they could eat. This was corn and as the first mother promised, it fed the people. From then on, her sacrifice being repeated and renewed every seven months. Thank you, Thought Bubble. After the discovery of corn, the people of Earth went back to the place where they’d buried her bones and they found another plant with sacred leaves, that when burned would clear their minds and help them with their prayers. This was tobacco. So, thanks? Yeah that one’s a lot more tricky, just ask… Well we’re gonna get to trickster gods in the next episode. So, the first mother now called the Corn Mother saved the native American people from starvation. There’s an amazing blend of archetypes in this story. Obviously, there’s the Earth Mother who gave birth to humanity, and cares for them. Like human mothers, she weeps at her helplessness when her children suffer and she’s willing to sacrifice anything, including her body so that her children will survive. In this sacrifice, she also plays the role of the savior which is more typically a role performed by male gods in myths. The Corn Mother is also a culture hero, her sacrifice transforms a hunting people into an agricultural people, though many native Americans in North America pursued both hunting and agriculture simultaneously as means of subsistence. The Corn Mother here by providing an alternative form of food enabled the animals to recover, providing game for the people. And in addition to providing food, the Corn Mother gave the people tobacco which became an important part of their religious ritual and other practices. Many of the dying god stories involve cycles, whether it’s Adonis and the annual flower or the corn Mother and the annual harvest, these stories remind us that birth is often twinned with death, which may make the latter inevitability easier to accept, and the Corn Mother story adds an extra layer in reminding us that motherly sacrifices enable all life. We’ve seen the idea of god sacrificing themselves as the foundation of Creation before, Tongu’s body became the Earth’s, the body and bones of Amir became the Earth’s and the Mountains, and his skull became the sky Gaia gave birth to the mountains of the oceans. It’s not surprising that throughout most of human history, when child birth was much more likely to end in the mother’s death, that we find stories where gods sacrificed themselves so that humans can live. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next time. Check out our Crash Course Mythology Thoth tote Bag and Poster Available now at dftba.com Crash Course mythology is filmed in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio in Indianapolis, Indiana and introduced with the help of all of these very nice people, our animation team is Thought Cafe. Crash Course exists thanks to the generous support from our Patreons at Patreon. Patreon is a voluntary subscription service where you can support the content you love through a monthly donation and help keep Crash Course free for everyone forever. Crash Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud, check the description for a link to a free trial. Thanks for watching, and hey, Balder does not appreciate your jokes.