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zompist bboard • View topic - Minor Semitic Deities

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 Post subject: Minor Semitic Deities
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:51 pm 
Smeric
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Does anyone know of any Semitic (or even broader Near Eastern--Sumerian or Egyptian is fine) supernatural beings that might be seen as roughly equivalent to Norse alfar, Irish sídhe, or Greek nymphs/dryades/naiades/sylphs/etc.? Basically I'm looking for something higher on the chain of being than mortals but lower than gods. Arabic djinn came to mind, but djinn seem a little more supernatural than I'm looking for. Same with angels, demons, or Zoroastian yazatas, ahuras, or daevas. I'm working on a translation that refers to elves, and I'd rather use a Near Eastern term than simply borrow "elf" as pata (< L. fata) or ʾelep or some such.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:12 pm 
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I remember reading years ago that an early translation of the Hobbit glossed "Elves" with צַפְרִירִים, from a cognate of English zephyr that was used (in some Talmudic source?) to refer to "spirits of the dawn". I can't find anything on that now and the present term seems to be בני לילית, lit. "sons of Lilith" (which seems a very odd choice for a fantasy world devoid of all Abrahamic influence, though it does recall myths of the origin of Icelandic ).

The closest Middle Eastern analogue I know to Elves are Peris, which originate with Persian mythology but have been thoroughly incorporated into Islamic folklore, where they are generally considered a subclass of jinn. (I can't remember if جِنّ is thought to be a borrowing of Latin genius or if it's considered a native derivation of جَنَّ "hide, envelope".)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:05 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 7:45 pm 
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:26 pm 
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Is India too far afield? Because there's plenty there: gandharvas, yakshas, vidyadharas, nagas, and on the mostly evil side, rakshasas.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:47 am 
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There are also rakshasis and yakshis. Despite what Wikipedia says, my understanding is that yakshis are supposed to be evil and like black widow spiders: seducing their male victims and then eating them, although the eating part is perhaps more like vultures, sucking the bone marrow and leaving nothing behind but the hair and nails.

My understanding is also that in Kerala, at least, all of the following is true: A man sleeping with a yakshi can avoid this disastrous end simply by placing a copy of the Bhagavata Purana underneath the pillow. If a yakshi cannot convince the man to remove it, she will self-destruct. The male targets are usually noblemen whereas the yakshis themselves tend to be low-caste. Yakshis are also hollow inside, often live underneath , and/or may break the ice by asking their target for slaked lime (not a particularly unusual question in India since this is a common ingredient in paan).


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 6:06 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:07 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 2:43 pm 
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I don't think translating names of mythological beings by mapping them onto beings of a different mythological tradition works well, at least not in general. Much less so with beings that are the invention of a specific author. Tolkien's Elves are based on a specifically Germanic mythological concept that is different even from the Irish Aes Sídhe, even though the latter are probably as close as you can get to Germanic Elves outside the Germanic world, and Tolkien's Elves in turn aren't the same as Germanic Elves, but merely based on them; they have their unique traits which aren't found in any mythology.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:15 pm 
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Zephyr is not a native word in Hebrew. It comes from Greek. are definitely not what you are looking for, but are still interesting.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:25 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 6:54 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:13 pm 
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I'd go with ʾork and duvarp instead of ʾorq and dūʾarp

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ìtsanso, God In The Mountain, may our names inspire the deepest feelings of fear in urkos and all his ilk, for we have saved another man from his lies! I welcome back to the feast hall kal, who will never gamble again! May the eleven gods bless him!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:49 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:58 pm 
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I wonder whether I can help you with the Indian mythology part! :P


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:47 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:27 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 5:47 am 
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The Nephilim do not receive a particularly supernatural treatment in the bible, right? My immediate impression of an Assyrian minor deity is the Lamassu, but they aren't humanoid.

Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_M ... and_demons There is possibly a minor contradiction in the problem definition. The race must satisfy both: 1. Being not very supernatural. 2. Being minor deities. Deities are usually quite supernatural. This is not necessarily a fatal objection, but it is something to bear in mind. (I don't see how the original ljosalfar, svartalfar, etc. were much of an exception to this, honestly. Didn't they behave pretty much like spirits anywhere, with magic spells and everything? What medievals often did, following Greek practice, was to reverse engineer stories of kings from even the most supernatural gods. Something along those lines might be one possibility, since actual gods are often portrayed with fewer animal characteristics than races of spirits. Also, that list doesn't mention the Utukku, another candidate you may be interested in, but IIRC the biblical Nephilim are the least magical of the lot. (Ghouls are another possibility I thought of. All these things are supernatural in different ways. Could you specify what you mean by "supernatural"? (Just realized ghouls already appear on the list as gallu. Never mind.)))

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:42 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:56 pm 
Avisaru
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I see what you're going for. There are the bird-headed humanoids Apkallu. Enki created them in Abzu. They came to earth and taught humans the arts of civilization, laws, writing and architecture. Before the flood, they served as advisors to kings. After the flood, Enki banished them back to Abzu. Is it just me, or are there distinct resonances of the Blessed Realm?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:24 pm 
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:24 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:10 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:31 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:44 pm 
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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