Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Meme Miriam

This is just a quick follow up article to my last post about maidens & towers. Just really to catalogue some of the other little bits and pieces that I felt were worth making note of. They mainly centre around the name Mary, it's apparent meaning, and some of its other variants.

Before writing the previous article I wasn't aware of how closely the names Mary and Miriam are related. In fact, it's said that Miriam is essentially the original and that names like Mary and Marie are descendant variants of it.

From Wikipedia;
Maryam or Mariam is the Aramaic form of the biblical name Miriam (the name of the prophetess Miriam, the sister of Moses). It is notably the name of Mary the mother of Jesus.
In Latin Christianity, the Greek form Mariam was adopted as latinate Maria (whence French Marie and English Mary).
 
(The Biblical Miriam, Sister of Moses
- Anselm Feuerbach)

Normally I'm a little sceptical of the accepted historical timelines. So from my point of view I guess it's equally possible things could be the other way round in regard to which name developed from which. Either way is good though.

Interestingly, with Miriam it actually has the double "M" sound within the single name. So if Mary Magdalene is also Miriam Magdalene then in that case we would have three "M" sounds. Though with the "M" being both at the end of the first name and the beginning of the last it's possible that the two are just fused together in some sense.

The biblical Miriam, sister of Moses, was the daughter of Amram - another name with two M's. Her mother was Yocheved - who was said to be spared the "curse of Eve" (pain in child birth) because of her piousness. So there's also a loose child birth reference there too.

In regards the name Miriam Wikipedia also states;
Since many Levite names are of Egyptian origin, the name could come from the Egyptian mr "love", as in the Egyptian names mry.t-jmn (Merit-Amun) "beloved of Amun" and mry.t-rꜥ (Merytre) "beloved of Ra".
That the Egyptian mr means love is quite interesting. Of course, it also looks like our abbreviation for mister - "Mr". Which reminds me that we also have many "M" words as titles too - Mr, Mrs, Mz, Miss, Madam, Dame, Mademoiselle, Monsieur, etc.

Also, I was looking at the name Maleen, as in the Maid Maleen fairy tale per last article. Marlene was the closest English name I could think of. Now according to Wikipedia (a lot of Wiki today) Marlene is a German feminine name, derived from Maria combined with Magdalene. So once again it all seems to come round in circles.

Finally I'll finish with another passage from Wikipedia. This time from the footnotes of the Mary Magdalene page. It ties in with the Magdalene/prostitute theme and seems worth remembering.
Other interpreters have seen Magdalene as referring to a kind of hairstyle. This translation stems from certain passages in uncensored versions of the Talmud, where a woman, esoterically identified as Jesus's mother, is called "hamegadela se’ar nasha", which has been translated "Miriam, the dresser of women's hair", possibly a euphemism for "prostitute".
[See R.T. Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash, pp. 40f. The Talmudic passages are at tractate Sanhedrin 67a and tractate Hagigah 4b of the Babylonian Talmud; cf. tractate Shabbat 104b.]
The English theologian John Lightfoot (1602-1675) noted these passages and commented: "Whence she was called Magdalene, doth not so plainly appear; whether from Magdala, a town on the lake of Gennesaret, or from the word which signifies a plaiting or curling of the hair, a thing usual with harlots."
[Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, chapter "Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Matthew".]
That "esoterically identified as Jesus's mother" is especially eye-catching as it suggests that Mary the Mother and Mary Magdalene are just overlapping expressions of the same archetype. Which is basically my reading of all these "Mary" traditions.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Maid Maleen - The "Maiden in the Tower" Meme

I recently came across the German fairy tale Maid Maleen, one of the many fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. It caught my interest as it ticked many of the boxes concerning a theme I've noticed in folklore and history. A theme which seems to be something of a recurring motif in both western and middle eastern traditions.

Namely; The maiden, the tower and the "M" name (oftentimes a double "M" name).

The main examples I've previously focused on being; Maid Marian, Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary and Mermaids.


For instance, if we take the name Mary Magdalene, it's generally stated that Magdalene means tower. The Hebrew migdal (מגדל) meaning tower or fortress, and the Aramaic magdala translating as tower or elevated.

However, another variant of Magdalene is Madeleine, and in German the name Mädelein translates as "little girl". So the name Magdalene could also be said to mean maiden. This would bring us nicely to this maiden & tower theme.

I've also argued that the name Mary could simply translate as marry. Or even more simply as sex - the ceremony of marriage just being a symbolic celebration of the act of sex. Of course, mer also translates as sea as well. So you could even argue that the name Mary Magdalene translates as sea-maiden, or mer-maid.

In old English mermaids where called merrymaids, which brings us back to merry/marry. On top of this the word mermaid was also used as a label for a prostitute in days of yore. Mary Queen of Scots famously being slandered as a "mermaid", insinuating she was a prostitute, back in the 16th century. Again this gives us the loose translation of sex-maid. Which likewise ties in quite neatly with the classic depiction of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute or fallen woman.

(The Penitent Mary Magdalene - Giampietrino)

Of course, sailors meeting strange girls in harbours is not a million miles away from the classic mermaid tale. So the label of "mermaid" for prostitutes makes a degree of sense.

It's also worth noting that we have the word mar meaning "to spoil" something. Which perhaps ties in with ideas of maidens loosing their virginity or purity.

If we return to the marry/Mary idea then the name Virgin Mary could simply mean a married virgin. This would make a lot more sense of the whole "virgin birth" idea. It would not be a virgin giving birth, but a married virgin giving birth.

A virgin gets married, then has a baby.

(The Virgin Mary -
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato)

Maid Marian would likewise translate as a maid marrying. Most probably why the figure of Maid Marian is so heavily associated with May Day and fertility rites. It may also explain why Robin Hood's Men were so merry.

Anyhow, the story of Maid Maleen also seems to fit this theme quite nicely. The story goes something like this;
Maleen, a princess, fell in love with a prince, but her father forbade her from marrying this prince as he intended her for another suitor. However, she refused to follow her father's orders, so he bricked her up in a tower, along with her serving ladies, with food and water to last seven years.
After seven years the food ran out, but no one came to release her from the tower. So she and her serving ladies escaped by using a simple knife to scrape away the mortar and dislodge stones from the tower. On escaping they found that the kingdom was in ruins and completely deserted.
With nothing better to do they travelled to a nearby kingdom in search of work. Fortunately they found employment in the royal kitchens of the very prince Maleen had fallen in love with. He was due to be married to another, however on the day of the wedding the bride sent Maleen in her place instead, as she feared that she herself was not beautiful enough to face the prince and the people of the court.
Later, after the wedding, when the prince entered the wedding chamber that night to meet his bride, he grew suspicious that she was not the girl he'd earlier walked down the aisle with. After asking her a series of questions his suspicions were finally confirmed when she failed to display any knowledge of a golden necklace he'd given her during the marriage ceremony.
On leaving the chamber he then found Maleen, complete with the golden necklace he'd given her. The two then lived happily ever after in classic fairy tale style.
The entire story can be found here on this handy website;
https://www.grimmstories.com/en/grimm_fairy-tales/maid_maleen

It's actually quite a nice little tale and well worth reading. My synopsis barely does it justice.

In Maleen's tale we see similar ideas to the ones mentioned earlier - a maiden, a tower, a marriage, and a name beginning with the "M" sound. So we seem to have yet another example of this trope or tradition.

My interest in this story also spurred me on to do some further digging, which led me to two towers in the real world associated with maidens.

(Clockwise from left; a classic fairy tale Rapunzel style
tower, then Maiden's Tower in the Bosporus, and finally
Maid Maleen escaping from her stone tower)

First up, we have Maiden's Tower (also known as Leander's Tower), which is located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosporus strait. The tower has many legends, most notably the following one;
According to the most popular Turkish legend, an emperor had a much beloved daughter and one day, an oracle prophesied that she would be killed by a venomous snake on her 18th birthday. The emperor, in an effort to thwart his daughter's early demise by placing her away from land so as to keep her away from any snakes, had the tower built in the middle of the Bosporus to protect his daughter until her 18th birthday.
Quite an obvious metaphor for fears regarding lost chastity.
The princess was placed in the tower, where she was frequently visited only by her father. On the 18th birthday of the princess, the emperor brought her a basket of exotic sumptuous fruits as a birthday gift, delighted that he was able to prevent the prophecy. Upon reaching into the basket, however, an asp that had been hiding among the fruit bit the young princess and she died in her father's arms, just as the oracle had predicted; hence, the name Maiden's Tower.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiden%27s_Tower

The second tower is Maiden Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan. This one likewise has many legends associated with it. The most striking one being the tale of a "fire-haired" warrior-maiden who defends ancient Baku from destruction and enslavement. The full story can be found on the Wikipedia page below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiden_Tower_(Baku)

Both the tower in the Bosporus and the tower in Baku look quite beautiful. I'll have to make sure to keep my eye out for any other towers that are similarly named.

(On the right the equally enchanting
Maiden Tower, Baku)

I think I may do a follow-up article next looking at the name Miriam - a variant of the name Mary. I think I'll call that one Meme Miriam :)