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Issue 2: "Imperfect Hosts"
Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg
Second part of first storyline, More than Rubies
Second story reprinted in Preludes and Nocturnes
Cain and Abel, of course, are the first two children of the first two people in Genesis, the biblical creation story. Cain slew Abel over a disagreement over their offerings to God, was marked by God, and was sent to live in the Land of Nod. The nursery rhyme of "Winken, Blinken, and Nod" identifies the Land of Nod as the Land of Dreams.
In Swamp Thing #33 (I believe), Alan Moore identified them as living in humanity's subconscious when Abigail Arcane Cable visited them in a dream and learned more about Swamp Thing's origins. Under Moore's terminology, a mystery may be shared, but a secret must be forgotten if one tries to tell it. Since the issue is mostly a reprint of the first Swamp Thing appearance from HoS #92, Abby chooses to hear a secret rather than a mystery. She wakes up, tries to talk about the dream, and forgets it. Since then, Cain and Abel have been wandering around the fringes of DC's mystic titles (and a rather silly version of Cain appeared in Blue Devil). It has been established that Cain kills Abel rather often, but Abel always gets better. They, and many other characters in this issue, appear because of their roles as "mystery title hosts"; this issue is Gaiman's homage to the predecessors to DC horror line of today.
In addition to beginning Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, the line "It was a dark and stormy night" was used by the 19th century author Bulwer-Lytton. San Jose State University's English Department sponsors a contest each year in which entrants submit their proposed worst opening line for a novel. The results have been collected into three works, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, Son of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, and Bride of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, all edited by Scott Rice and published by Penguin.
Closer to home, Detective Comics #500 features an adaptation of Snoopy's version of "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" by Walt Simonson, starring Batman, with no dialogue. The captions read, in part, "It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon." This book is well worth seeking out, for this story, and for other well done stories.
Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them
is brought to pass for mankind. For fleeting dreams have two gates:
one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those which pass through
the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing tidings which come to
nought, but those which issue from the one of polished bone bring
true results when a mortal sees them.
There are two gates of sleep. One is of horn, easy passage for the
shades of truth; the other, of gleaming white ivory, permits false
dreams to ascend to the upper air.
-- Virgil, Eclogues VI p893
The gates may originate in a misunderstanding of Greek, or in a Greek pun. In Greek (transliterated to the Roman alphabet), ivory = elephas but elephairo = to deceive. Horn = karas; karanoo = to achieve.
The Gates may also appear in the "Dreamlands" stories of H.P.Lovecraft and Brian Lumley.
It has been suggested that John Dee is the son of Ruthven Sykes. Although Dee's coloration, which is not consistent with earlier appearances, suggests that he might have non-Caucasian blood, this is not consistent with his surname, which is the same as what is presumably his mother's married name. There may be some relationship with the historical Dr. John Dee, the court astrologer of Queen Elizabeth I and the inventor/discoverer of the Enochian Keys (no clue what they are, though).
In the Egypt of the Pharoahs, the Three were known collectively as Mut, and named individually as Maat, Hathor, and Nekhbet. In Egypt, as in many of their incarnations, the Three represented matriarchal, pre-civilization, mother/goddess worship.
In Greek mythology, the Three were known as the Fates, or Moirae, named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Each man's life was a thread spun by Clotho, measured by Lachesis, and cut by Atropos. The Fates were the sisters of Hypnos (god of sleep), Oneiros (god of dreams), and Thanatos (god of death). These deities were the parthenogenetic children of Nyx (night), who was herself born of no mother to Chaos.
They have also been identified with the Furies, although this incarnation is generally referred to as "the Kindly Ones" to avoid their wrath. In the original Greek, the Furies are known as Erinyes, while the Kindly Ones are Eumenides. The Furies are named Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto. The Three are also identified with a mother goddess form of Hecate Trioditus ("of the three ways"). In this form, Luna ruled heaven, Artemis or Cynthia ruled Earth, and Hecate ruled the underworld. Hecate is more familiar to modern Westerners as a goddess of witches and black magic.
The Romans knew the Three as the Parcae or Fortuna. Again, the pre-civilization goddess-worshippers followed the Three, as Juventas the maiden, Juno the mother, and Minerva the wise old crone.
The Norse knew the Three as the Norns, Urth, Verthandi, and Skuld.
The Norse were (and are) an Indo-Germanic people, so basically the same arketypes will be found in Norse as well as Greek myths.
The three Norns are named after the past, present and future (in that order). In modern Norwegian you will find remnants of Verdande in the word "Vaerende" roughly translated "the existing" (which covers at least one of the aspects of the word). As for the future, which Skuld represents, it is represented by the verb "skuld", which means to become, should be and/or could be. If we look at the english word "should" we'll find that it has evolved from the same root as "skuld", also the Norwegian word "skulle" (with basically the same meaning as "should") shares some qualities with "skuld" (source: Caplex (a Norwegian dictionary and my own basic knowledge in etymolgy and the history of languages).
The Three occupied a position in Anglo-Saxon lore as the Weird Sisters, and Shakespeare used this cultural referent in his play Macbeth.
Irish Celtic myth portrayed the Three as the Morrigan, a triune war goddess whose aspects were named Nemhan, Babd, and Macha. The Morrigan is also identified with Morgan le Fay, of the Arthurian cycle of legends.
© by Ralf Hildebrandt
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This file was last modified 27. Jan 2007 by root