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Psyche and Cupid: Mythology’s Greatest Love Story

by January 8, 2021

Written by Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
There are many beautiful myths from Classical civilization. One of the most beautiful of all is that of Psyche and Cupid. Unlike most ancient legends, it is a romantic tale and has a happy ending. This myth has been enormously influential, and it has helped to shape modern romantic literature and even modern conceptions of love.
Origin of the myth
The main source for this myth is one of the greatest Roman novels, the Metamorphoses by Apuleius, which dates to the second half of the 2nd century AD. The story is narrated by the main character Lucius to a young bride who has been kidnapped by pirates. However, the story is much older and there are depictions of Cupid and Psyche in Hellenistic Greek art. Many believe that there are elements taken from Mystery Religions in the story. These were cults that promised their adherents salvation, which were popular throughout the Classical era.
The story of Psyche and Eros
Psyche was the daughter of a king and queen and she was stunningly beautiful. She was so beautiful that she was even compared to some of the Goddesses. This drove Aphrodite, or Venus in Roman narratives, the Goddess of Love, mad with jealousy. She devastated the kingdom of Psyche’s father with the plague. Aphrodite told the king she would only end the plague if she sacrificed Psyche to a sea-monster. When the King was tying his daughter up, Cupid, the son of Aphrodite, saw Psyche and he instantly fell in love with her. The winged god rescued Psyche and was so enamored with her that he married her, even though she was a mere mortal.

Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard: the butterfly hovering over Psyche symbolizes her innocence, prior to sexual awakening.

Cupid asked his new love never to look at his form. He could not let a mere mortal look upon him as she could be harmed. Despite this, the couple was happy and Cupid turned out to be a great husband. Psyche was so happy that she did not ask to see her husband and had no idea that he was a God. Cupid, as a God, could provide his wife with a lavish lifestyle. Now the two sisters of Psyche heard about this and they became insanely jealous. They began to plant seeds of doubt in Psyche’s mind about her husband. They asked her ‘why would he not let himself be seen?’
Psyche could no longer restrain herself and one night when her husband was sleeping, she brought a candle into the darkened bed-chamber. Psyche was transfixed by her husband and his otherworldly good looks. Cupid woke up to see his wife standing over him. She had disobeyed him and in a rage, he flew away. He returned to his mother, who had always hated Psyche and been opposed to her marriage to her son. Psyche was disconsolate and she vowed to do all she could to win her husband back.

Amore e Psiche (1707–09) by Giuseppe Crespi: Lychnomancy, a form of divination or spirit conjuring, is thought to be represented here in Psyche’s use of the lamp to see the god.

Psyche, with great bravery, approached Aphrodite and asked her how she could win her husband back. Aphrodite decided to torment her and set her four tasks. If Psyche could complete these tasks, then she would help her to become reconciled with Cupid. She was able to accomplish the first three tasks, thanks to her ingenuity, but the last task was by far the most challenging.
Aphrodite asked Psyche to descend to the underworld and to retrieve Persephone’s special beauty ointment. This was an impossible task for any mortal. However, Psyche went to a speaking tower who told her how to evade Charon and Cerberus and enter the realm of the dead, unscathed. The voice from the tower also told her how to approach Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. She was successful and she managed to get the magical cream. Psyche became curious and wondered what the cream would do for her—would it make her perfect?  She opened the box, and when she did, she immediately fell into a deathlike slumber. Cupid heard of this and he immediately went to help his beloved.
Marriage of Cupid and Psyche
Cupid flew to Zeus, or in Latin sources, Jupiter in Olympus, and asked him to intervene. Zeus convened an assembly of the Gods and they decided that Aphrodite had been too harsh. Zeus agreed to bring Psyche back to life and allow her to enter Olympus and drink ambrosia, which made her immortal. Psyche became a Goddess and she and her husband had a daughter, Voluptas, who became the goddess of Pleasure. The marriage of Psyche and Cupid became a favorite topic of Classical and later Renaissance artists.

Voluptas is pictured with her parents, Cupid and Psyche, at far right in Banquet of Amor and Psyche by Giulio Romano.

The meaning of the myth
It is widely believed that the myth is an allegory. Psyche was regarded as the personification of the soul. Many believe that it shows how the soul can fall to its death by engaging in sexual love, represented by Cupid. The moral of the story was believed to be the dangers of excessive passion and sexuality. There are other interpretations of the myth. One is that it represents the story of the soul’s death and resurrection, which is central to the Mystery Religions of the Ancient Greeks, such as Orphism.
The influence of the story of Psyche and Cupid
The myth was adapted by many poets and writers. The story inspired many writers to compose romantic love stories. The elements of the myth, the separation of young lovers and their eventual reunification, was repeated in countless love stories. In this way, the myth has been crucial in the construction of modern ideas about romantic love.
The myth is an unusual one, in that it has a happy ending and celebrates romantic love. It is almost certainly an allegory related to the fate of the soul. This fable was important as it greatly influenced romantic literature and these works have changed the way we understand human love and romance.

10 Movies That Cater To Greek Mythology Fans

by November 24, 2020

Written by Kristin Herman, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdo

Greek mythology has fascinated audiences for over two millennia, and numerous movies have been inspired by these ancient stories. Here are 10 great movies that you can watch right now to get into the spirit of Greek mythology!

Yorgos Tzavellas’s Antigone, 1961

1. Antigone (1961)

“Based on the tragic play by Sophocles, Antigone tells the story of two brothers – the two sons of the late King Oedipus, fighting for the throne of the Seven-tailed Thebes, and dying from the fight,” according to Bailey Gipps, a business writer at Australian help and Elite assignment help. “When the new King Creon refuses to properly bury one of the brothers, the story’s heroine, Antigone, defies him and tries to bury the other brother herself.”

Disney’s Hercules

2. Hercules (1997)

The animated Disney musical film inspired by the mythical Greek hero of the same name, Hercules has been praised for its stunning visuals, music, and humor. Although Hercules did take some liberties, mythology-wise, it still sheds light on ancient Greek society in a fun way.

Wrath of the Titans

3. Wrath Of The Titans (2012)

The Wrath of the Titans has a fanbase of its own, despite being a sequel to the 2010 film the Clash of the Titans 2010. Its main attraction is monsters: monsters fighting, much like what you’d find in a typical Greek myth. The plot follows Perseus, who must save Zeus and mankind by taking on the Titans, who have escaped from the gods’ stronghold.


4. Immortals (2011)

Immortals takes a few pages from the 300 movie. The term ‘Immortals’ itself refers to the group of individual gods and goddesses that resided in Mt Olympus – Zeus, Apollo, Athena, etc. Although the dialogue might seem a bit off at times,Frank Miller’s rich artistry and imagination pull through. Even so, many fans of Greek mythology would still choose 300 over this movie, and here’s why….


5. 300 (2006)

300 is a film based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel by the same name. The film plays with Greek mythology very loosely, tracing the conflict between Greece and the rising Persian empire, where both sides begged the gods for victory. It also touches on the ancient Spartans’ strong machismo beliefs and customs.

Wonder Woman

6. Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman offers a fresh take on Greek mythology – and is more than just another superhero movie. From the goddess Diana’s origins on Themyscira to the horrors of gas production during World War I, Wonder Woman comments on race, gender, and human nature in a film full of action, heart, and humor.

Helena, 1924

7. Helena (1924)

Manfred Noah’s Helena was produced in Germany and is over three hours long. Following Helena and the fall of Troy, this film is magnificent, especially with recent restorations done by the Munich Film Museum.


8. The Minotaur (2006)

A loose retelling of the famous Greek myth, The Minotaur is a horror film about a village during the Iron Age that worship the child of a bull god and a woman – the Minotaur. The villagers would sacrifice people to the beast every few years. But when a man’s girlfriend is chosen to be sacrificed, he decides to challenge the beast in the labyrinth.


9. Troy (2004)

Troy is the most character-driven and convincing presentation of the Greek myth about the Trojan War,” Ben Mahomed, a marketing blogger at Big Assignments and Essay roo, said in an interview with Classical Wisdom. “With every character invested in the story, the battles are more believable. Plus, it caters to themes of romance and honor. And, with philosophy and destiny intertwined with the dialogue, this movie will have Greek myth fans hooked from beginning to end.”

Oedipus Rex, 1967

10. Oedipus Rex (1967)

Finally, Oedipus Rex is a 1967 Italian film that is an adaptation of the famous Greek tragedy by Sophocles. When a child is born in a Milan village in the 1930s, his father abandons him in a desert. It’s not until a couple rescues the child that the three mythological sisters of fate begin to weave his life thread in this enthralling film adaption.


These 10 movies show that Greek mythology remains celebrated, mainly because of its strong storytelling and amazing characters. Even the gods are humanized, making them relatable to people even thousands of years later.

Kristin Herman is an editor at Pay for an essay and OX Essays. She is also a contributing writer for online publications, such as Research paper writers. As a marketing writer, she blogs about the latest trends in online advertising and social media influencing.


The 5 Most Powerful Creatures From Mythology

by November 13, 2020

Written by Michael Dehoyos, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

All cultures throughout the world have their own legendary creatures. These creatures were believed to be extraordinary animals or hybrids who possessed special abilities or attributes. While some were believed to be highly intelligent, others were known for being dangerous and powerful. Here we explore the top five most powerful mythical creatures.

1. Chimera

Illustration of a chimera by Jacopo Ligozzi, 1590–1610

The Chimera originates from Greek mythology and was thought to be a female monster from Asia Minor. The two-headed chimera was in fact comprised of three animals: she had a lion’s head and body, upon which sat a second head – that of a goat – and had a snake for its tail. A fire-breathing monster, it was in fact the goat head which breathed out fire.

Although the chimera was believed to be almost invincible, according to legend, Bellerophon was able to slay her by driving a lead-tipped sword into her flame-covered mouth, making her choke on the molten metal. Since then, the term chimera has often been used in mythology to describe creatures which are made up of various parts that come from different animals.

2. Basilisk

Basilisk illustration by by WretchedSpawn2012

Considered by many to be one of the deadliest mythological creatures, the basilisk or cockatrice was believed to be born from a serpent’s egg which had been incubated by a cock, or rooster. The resulting creature was therefore half-bird and half-snake.

Often referred to as the king of serpents, the basilisk was believed to be extremely hostile towards all humans. It was said to have the power to kill a person simply with one glance. In addition to its powerful killing glance, its venom was also claimed to be extremely toxic and deadly.

3. Dragons

“Probably one of the more well-known mythical creatures, dragons are a common feature across many different cultures. There are many descriptions of a range of dragon types throughout folklore, including the Hydria, Dragonnet and African dragon. It was believed that the different names of the dragons related to different aspects of their characteristics,” according to Ramon Richards, a journalist at Britstudent and PhDKingdom.

In Western cultures, dragons were often depicted as four-legged reptiles that could fly and breathe out deadly fire. In Eastern cultures, however, they were more commonly described as highly-intelligent, four-legged serpents.

4. Kraken

The Kraken, a legendary sea monster. Source: Mars Lewis /Adobe Stock

The Kraken is a mythological creature from Scandinavian mythology. Most often described as gigantic squid or octopus-shaped sea monster, the Kraken was believed to be found off the coasts of Greenland and Norway. According to various myths, the Kraken was extremely powerful. In fact, it was believed that it was powerful enough to create whirlpools which could bring down entire ships. The Kraken itself was also reported to attack and destroy ships.

“There is some suggestion that the myth of the Kraken could have arisen as a result of giant squids, which could grow to be up to 18 meters long. These rare creatures were very rarely seen by humans, but it is likely that the few sightings were enough to inspire the mythical creature we know as the Kraken,” Alexandria Allen, a history writer at 1Day2Write and Writemyx, said in an interview.

5. Sirens

The Fisherman And The Syren, by Frederic Leighton, 1856–1858

Sirens were considered dangerous and beautiful creatures. Also known as mermaids, sirens had an upper body which resembled that of a human female, whilst their lower half was that of a fish. Sirens appear in folklore from many countries worldwide. Most often they were deemed to be a sign of misfortune.

It was believed that they possessed beautiful, enchanting voices which, along with their physical beauty, were used to lure sailors to their deaths. Sirens were most often associated with drownings and shipwrecks, whilst their male counterparts (known as mermen) were believed to have the power to summon storms and even sink ships.


There are countless other mythical creatures to be found in folklore and tales from cultures all around the world. While not all mythical creatures were believed to be dangerous, all were fantastical. As a result, these creatures have managed to remain part of our modern cultures vis-a-vis popular literature, films and television. Clearly, these powerful mythical creatures continue to fascinate and capture our imagination.

Michael Dehoyos is a writer and editor Next Coursework and Academic Brits, where he works closely with companies of all sizes to improve their marketing strategy concepts. He regularly writes articles for Dissertation Help, and has contributed to numerous other websites and publications. In his spare time Michael enjoys traveling and immersing himself in the culture and history of the places he visits.

Assyria: Land of Demons

by October 30, 2020

By Benjamin Welton
There is a story (most likely untrue) that begins with a team of European archaeologists overseeing a dig in northern Iraq. They are somewhere near Mosul, the current stronghold of the Sunni extremist group ISIS in Iraq. They have come to this part of the world in order to excavate relics from the bygone empire of Assyria – a brutal, but effective state composed of warrior kings and their dreaded armies.
For the archaeologists themselves, the importance of Assyria is twofold: first, the Assyrian state ruled for a time the world’s largest and most powerful empire. They reigned by the point of the sword, and tales of their shocking inhumanity on their vanquished foes still have the ability to terrify even the sternest of imaginations.
Secondly, the Assyrians, and the empire they created, were one of the great foes of both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. As such, Assyrian villains are sprinkled throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, the Book of Nahum details the fall of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, the most reviled fortress city in the ancient Near East. For the Jews, the early prophecy that Nineveh, the:
“city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder” (Nahum 3:1), would fall must have seemed like a divine gift of salvation.
Besides this biblical prophecy, our European archaeologists would have undoubtedly been aware of the fact that Jesus Christ spoke the Aramaic language, the lingua franca of the Near East. This was a tongue which had been used by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, along with the older Akkadian language, as a tool for imperial unification in the realms of trade and government.
While the European archaeologists rock themselves to sleep with ideas of discovering some proof of the historical Jesus, or maybe uncovering something that had been lost to recorded history for thousands of years, their local workers, most of whom are pious Muslims, pray for the expedition to not find anything. After all, it would not be wise to upset the old gods, which to them represent powerful demons.
But in the morning, underneath the hot, arid sun of old Assyria, the workers stumble upon something large.
After frantically removing the earth, they recognize a face. The face has a long, square beard, braided with three rows of curls. Above his hair is a crown of sorts.
More digging reveals wings.
My God, they’ve uncovered a statue of Lamassu, a protective deity. They have awakened the old gods. They flee in terror.
Or so the story goes…
But you see, the old gods of Mesopotamia are not to be taken lightly. According to the famous British Egyptologist Sir E.A. Wallis Budge’s book Amulets and Superstitions, the:

“literature of the Sumerian and Babylonians…proves that the people who occupied Mesopotamia from about 3000 BC downwards attached very great importance to magic in all its branches, and that they availed themselves of the services of the magician on every possible occasion.”

A large part of this ancient magic involved protection against the many demons who plagued them, from the spirits of the angry dead to the archfiend Lamashtu, the female demon who lived in the mountains and cane brakes and preyed upon pregnant women and children.
Again, Budge was succinct when he stated that from the earliest moments of recorded time, the people of Mesopotamia, “were in perpetual fear of the attacks of hosts of hostile and evil spirits which lost no opportunity of attempting to do them harm.”
In order to understand Assyrian demonology, one must appreciate the peoples who came before, for the Assyrian religion, and even the Assyrian way of war, was inherited (although the Assyrians did add excessive cruelty, so they can be credited with at least one innovation).
It started in Sumer, the first great civilization in Mesopotamia (modern day southern Iraq). They created not only writing, but also a whole pantheon that would serve their successors up until the coming of Alexander the Great. The Sumerian gods included: Enlil, the Lord of the Storm and the heroic head of the pantheon, the air goddess Ninlil, and Inanna, the female god of fertility, war, and wisdom.
The Sumerians built impressive ziggurats, or stepped temples, for the purposes of worshipping these gods. Cities such as Uruk, Nippur, and Eridu (which the Sumerians considered ancient – thus making it arguably the world’s oldest city) served as commercial and religious centers.
There were city-specific deities, but also monsters, such as Tiamat, the primordial chaos demon of the ocean who serves as the primary antagonist in the Babylonian creation myth, The Enûma Eliš.
[Side Note: This text, along with the Neo-Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, were both re-discovered in 1849 by the British archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard at the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. Ashurbanipal was the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.]
Likewise, dark, malevolent gods were present in their cosmology… and none was more vile that Ereshkigal, the goddess of the underworld, or Irkalla. Along with Nergal, the plague god, Ereshkigal acted as the tyrant of Irkalla and was the chief judge of the dead.
The story of Inanna’s descent into the underworld provides a glimpse into Ereshkigal’s wickedness:

Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Ereshkigal rose from her throne..
Inanna started toward the throne..
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her..
They passed judgment against her..
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death..
She spoke against her the word of wrath..
She uttered against her the cry of guilt..
She struck her..
Inanna was turned into a corpse,.
A piece of rotting meat,.
And was hung from a hook on the wall… .

Inanna, who is more commonly known by her Akkadian name of Ishtar, manages to defeat the machinations of Ereshkigal and returns to the world of the living. For her pain, Ereshkigal threatens Inanna with a show of her power, to send her army of the dead above ground as a moving pestilence bent upon destruction.
Empire Map
To their enemies, the Assyrian hordes must have seemed like Ereshkigal’s army of the ravenous dead; they were a nation of fearsome warriors. And although their rise was slow and their fall spectacular, the Assyrians left an indelible mark on the regions that they conquered… More than anything else, they spread fear.
Evidence of this can be found in the fact that the early Jews turned the Assyrian gods into demons. Astarte, the Assyrian version of Ishtar, became Astaroth, the Crowned Prince of Hell. Similarly, the Assyrian Bel, who would be called Baal by the Canaanites, would become Beelzebub, the demonic “Lord of the Flies.”
Although these later Judeo-Christian interpretations form the Western world’s view of the Mesopotamian religion as being thoroughly evil, the Assyrians themselves weren’t without their own demons.
(Again, most Assyrian demons were present beforehand, in the mythos of earlier Mesopotamian societies. These include the Sumerian ekimmu, a type of vampiric ghost, or the Akkadian lilu and lili, who were male and female demons that more than likely served as the inspiration behind Lilith in the Old Testament. Demons that were specific to the Assyrians – or at least more often used by them – include Ilu Limnu, the “evil god” who is never given definite characteristics, and the gallu, or bull demon.)
In The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, the Assyriologist Reginald Campbell Thompson details the various “demons, ghouls, vampires, hobgoblins, ghosts” that cursed the regions around the Tigris and Euphrates… as well as the Babylonian and Assyrian incantations that were used against them.
According to Thompson, the Assyrians held a great fear of sorcerers, whom they called the “Raiser of the Departed”.
However, they feared the ekimmu and wind spirits above all else.
The most famous Assyrian wind spirit known widely today is Pazuzu, the son of the god Hanbi and the demon of the southwestern wind. With the body of a lion or dog, a scorpion’s tail, wings, talons, and a serpentine phallus, Pazuzu brought famine and locusts during the dry seasons. In an odd twist, Pazuzu was the rival of Lamashtu (the goddess who preyed on pregnant women and children), and as such, his image was often used to combat other demons.
Of course, Pazuzu’s notoriety is the result of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Although the film is more obvious than the book in depicting the spirit of Pazuzu as a monstrosity haunting young Regan MacNeil (neither, however, directly state that the demon is indeed Pazuzu), the message is still clear. Blatty’s decision to make the chief evil in The Exorcist a pre-Christian, Assyrian demon is in keeping with the Western tradition of seeing all things Mesopotamian as depraved.
Furthermore, by beginning his novel, and thus the film, in northern Iraq, Blatty made the conscious decision to play upon his audience’s preconceived notions…
Namely, that the land of the old Assyrians is indeed a land of demons.

Why are Monsters SO Cool?

by October 3, 2020

Let’s face it… Monsters are cool. Whether you are 5 or 50, they can enthrall, enchant and terrify!
But… why? Seriously, what causes humans all over the globe, all throughout history to invent these creative creatures that can scare us so?
And, more specific to the Greco-Roman world, what is it about our classical monsters that still manage to capture the imagination…. thousands of years later?
This is exactly what Dr. Liz Gloyn, Reader of Classics at the University of London and one our Symposium speakers delves into in her most recent book, Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture“.
She looks at how monsters can been seen throughout the modern era and their enormous adaptability in finding places to dwell in popular culture without sacrificing their connection to the ancient world.
Yes, dear reader, those monsters are still hiding among us! But where?
From the siren to the centaur, all monster lovers will find something to enjoy in this stimulating and accessible book:
Check out these Great Reviews:
“In this remarkable volume, Liz Gloyn is a new Ariadne who tosses Theseus out of the labyrinth and instead offers the Minotaur a dazzling story-thread. Gloyn’s compelling exploration gives voice to the classical monsters of popular culture and uncovers their powerful impact on society today.” – Monica S. Cyrino, Professor of Classics, University of New Mexico, USA,
“Informed by expert knowledge of the field and presenting a highly thoughtful and engaging approach to the material, this book creates a space that enables classical monsters to push the ubiquitous – and usually male – hero off the pedestal for a moment and be appreciated in their own right.” – Michael Williams, Professor of Film, University of Southampton, UK,
“This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in monsters and their place in popular culture.” – Salon Futura
Ask the Monster Expert Yourself!
Dr. Liz Gloyn will be speaking LIVE at our Classical Wisdom Symposium both in her own presentation on Monsters, Power And Control and in the panel discussion.
In fact, you can read her book and ask her questions about it directly! Make sure to check out all the details of our Symposium below!

Register Your Spot for the Symposium HERE.

Zoroastrianism: Divinity and The Struggle Between Good and Evil

by August 28, 2020

Written by Lydia Serrant, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, of which numbers are in decline. Otherwise known as Mazadayasna by those who follow it, the roots of Zoroastrianism date back as far as the Second Millennium BC and served as the state religion of Persia and other Iranian Empires for more than a millennium.
The Origins of Zoroastrianism
The religion is named after its founder, Zoroaster (or Zarathushtra) who lived sometime in ancient Iran (the exact date is currently contested). Born under a Polytheistic religion, Zoroaster received a vision of Vohu Manah (roughly understood as the God of Good) who took him on a journey to the Amesha Spenta, a cohort of divine entities and the Lord of Being and Wisdom known as Ahura Mazda – the highest Deity in Zoroastrianism.
And thus, Zoroastrianism was born. Zoroaster condemned the worship of multiple Gods, politically opened the wedge between Iranian and Indian Aryans in Ancient Iran, and historically introduced the world to one of the first monotheistic faiths.
The Birth of Good and Evil
From Zoroastrianism, the concept of a singular God made its way into the Big Three Religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And whilst the Zoroastrianism did its best to spread the concept of a singular God of Good and Wisdom throughout early civilization, another concept spread along with it – Evil.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Alexandre-Louis Leloir, 1865.

Whilst they are not worshipped by the major religions, Evil and spirits that represent Evil were certainly considered as deities in Zoroastrianism and are still to this day in the Big Three religions in the form of Demons, Jinns, and Dybukks.
As in the major religions of today, Zoroastrianism is primarily concerned with the battle between Good and Evil, whereby spirits and forces from both sides do their best to influence humanity and manifest in the material world via the actions of mortal beings. Evil and the accompanying concept of Temptation, play a vital role in Death and the formation of the Afterlife.
The battle between Good and Evil brings to light that most Monotheistic faiths are religions of Duality. The influence of dualistic monotheism is evident in the development of Heaven and Hell where reside the Gods of Light and Darkness, who meddle in the lives of men until all is destroyed in the days of Final Judgement.
The Afterlife and the Evolution of Paradise
There is some evidence to suggest that these themes made their way into Judaism and later religions that stem from Judaic teachings, upon the liberation of the Jews by Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great. Shortly after and during this time, deities such as the Beelzebub emerged, a figure that later became Satan of Christianity and Sheytan of Islam.
After the Persian conquest of the Greek territories, even Greek Philosophy began to adopt some features of Zoroastrian thought. Until the Persian influence, the Greeks believed that humans were merely puppets of the gods and the course of one’s life was spun by the Gods of Fate. After Persian Zoroastrianism reached their shores, the Greeks began to speak of the power of the individual, and how the choices we make in life had an impact on the quality of our death.
Winged Guides
Gods of Good and Evil often rely on agents to interact with humanity to do their bidding. When asked to think of an agent of the Gods, images of feathered Angels or Demons with Bat-like wings often come to mind. But where did these images come from? What is the link between flight and divinity?
Peri Banu

Peri Banu and Price Ahmed, Edmund Dulac 1882

Peri, (or Pari) are beautiful winged women of Persian mythology. They could be likened to Angels of Christianity, except for their origin.                                         
Initially barred from entering heaven until proper penance was paid, the Peri represent spirits that drift between worlds. Whist initially being described as spirits of mischief, once introduced to Islam and incorporated into Turkish and Armenian mythology, Peri became benevolent sprits that stood in opposition to Jinns, Divs, and other spirits of Darkness.
From thereon, Peri became the guide of humanity. Religious texts speak of Peri in both psychological and physical terms, describing instances of humans being abducted by Peri to attend Divine social events, or Peri appearing in dreams to deliver messages of importance.
Even marriage was deemed possible between humans and Peri. In one legend, the Queen of Sheba is believed to be the product of such a union. However, due to the natural darkness that resides in all men, it is written that the relationship between Peri and Humanity is doomed to fail.
The images of human and bird hybrids, or birds sympathetic to humans, are not at all uncommon in ancient mythology.
A further example is Simurgh – an ancient Bird of Persian, modern Iranian and Kurdish Folklore that spread across most of the Eastern Roman Empire with the Persians.
Flight of Simurgh

The Flight of Simurgh c.1590 Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection

Simurgh is often depicted as a bird with the head of a Man or Lion – however, the Bird is considered a Goddess, mother figure, and healer. Similar to the Peri, she is a messenger who travels between heaven and earth, offering divine guidance to those who are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her majesty.
Simurgh is known to adopt human men, and considering her role as the Great Mother, there are no reports of her giving birth to anything other than herself. Simurgh is the precursor to the Phoenix – a bird of fire that respawns from its ashes. She is the sum of all knowledge, having seen the destruction and rebirth of the world many times over.
Other interpretations of Spirits of Paradise appear in later Islamic texts in the form of the Houri, beautiful women who accompany the dead to the Afterlife. The Houri are also reminiscent of the Valkyrie, ancient Norse spirits described as beautiful women who accompany those who died in battle to Valhalla. The Valkyrie are depicted either with wings or riding the backs of winged-horses.
Although Houri do not have wings, upon death a human spirit receives one Houri as a reward for every day of fasting or a good deed done in life. With the Houri, we see the evolution of reward giving and the promise that deeds done in life will be rewarded – or punished – in the afterlife and that good fortune is a gift from the heavens.
The Huma, a Divine Bird of Sufi and Diwan mythology and ‘Bird of Paradise’ in Ottoman Legend, bestows gifts on those deemed worthy and can foretell or bestow Kingship. This is possibly an early example of the belief in the Divine Right of Kings.

Mosaic detail of the Huma Bird at the Nadir Divan-begi Madrasa in Bukhara, Uzbekistan Taken by RK

The Huma is androgynous, having both male and female attributes. Again, the underlying theme of duality resurfaces, and we are presented with a symbolic creature that embodies masculine and feminine harmonies that reproduces by itself, further representing the cycle of rebirth.
Representations of Bird and Human hybrids are symbolic of the forces of Good and Evil and other dualities in nature, that for every action there is a reaction and this process is an essential element of creation itself. This, I believe, is the message of Zoroastrianism and the religions that have followed. The wings of the Angels, Peri, and other winged creatures represent the Flight of the Soul, the Loftiness of Spirit and the Human Mind, in contrast with the physical world, materialism, and nature, as represented by human features, sympathies, and unions. The symbology speaks of a human spirit that is not born good or bad, but is shaped by the choices it makes over a lifetime (or many lifetimes, according to Buddhists).
The Huma, Phoenix, and Simurgh not only represent the cycle of life and death but also the Duality of masculine and feminine energies. Nature cannot exist without these reproductive elements. Therefore, Birds of Paradise are the link between life and death and serve as a reminder that every ending is a new beginning, and with every failure, new knowledge is born. These are archetypes as old as time.
The Zoroastrian representations of bird-like creatures have developed to appeal to the inner nature of humanity. Personal choice is central to the Zoroastrian text, as one has to earn their place in paradise, and personal responsibility for one’s actions could not exist without some basic concept of free-will. Zoroastrianism recognized that both Good and Evil are central to human nature, and now, as was then, we are vulnerable to external forces that challenge us to choose between the two.