What’s a …?

Scholars, researchers, and hobbyists often use a lot of jargon, verbal shorthand that describes complicated topics quickly and facilitates communication among users. It’s useful but it’s often impenetrable. The articles in this section aim to help with that a bit and explain terminology that you might not know.

  • What’s the Evil Eye?
    This might be one of the most common beliefs in the world. For as widespread as it is, it also shows a great deal of consistency in terms of the Read More
  • What’s a demon?
    This has to be cleared up, because the word contains so much baggage that it’s going to get confusing otherwise. In studying other religions, cultures, beliefs, and mythologies, the word Read More
  • What’s Documentary Hypothesis; OR who wrote the Pentateuch
    Not that kind of documentary. This is about biblical sources. There are a lot of theories and debates on who wrote what parts of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and Read More
  • What’s a Gospel?
    In and of itself, the word ‘gospel’ just means “good news”. We get it from the Old English “godspel,”which was a translation of the  ancient Greek word “euangelion”, which denoted Read More
  • What’s Pollution?
    Not like what happens when you toss trash onto the roads. I’m talking about the idea of pollution in a religious context. This is much more abstract, and we don’t Read More
  • What’s a Cult?
    The word cult has an incredibly negative connotation in English. It is applied to counter-social, often deadly movements. But in the context of ancient Greek practices, it was a much Read More
  • Who were the Etruscans?
    Italy wasn’t always Roman. In the 7th and 6th centuries, the major power in that region was the Etruscans. Obviously, this didn’t last, and there is a lot we don’t Read More
  • What’s Liminal Space?
    You know how there are spaces that aren’t really one thing or another? Like how a doorway is neither inside nor outside of a room? That’s a liminal space. And Read More
  • What’s Syncretism?
    Syncretism, in the context of religion, refers to the blending, fusion, and adaptation of diverse religious beliefs, practices, and traditions. It involves the merging of doctrines, rituals, deities, symbols, and Read More
  • What’s a Myth?
    A Brief Definition of “Myth” as a Concept In common parlance, the word ‘myth’ has a negative connotation, often implying something not only false but also dangerous. Referring to something Read More
  • What’s a Ritual?
    The word ‘ritual’ can carry an almost negative connotation in English, but the simple fact is that humans are ritualistic. Partly because we really like patterns and structure and partly Read More
  • Defining Magic
    Defining magic isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s a word that’s loaded with connotations and hidden meanings. Everyone has a definition that they have created from a myriad of Read More
  • What’s a Black Dog?
    What’s a Black Dog? Well, not dogs. Not really. It’s clear from descriptions that they are something else, some variety of spirit that sometimes takes other forms in addition to Read More
  • Where does Greek Mythology Come From?
    Where does Greek mythology come from? Greece! That’s the most obvious and unhelpful answer I can offer. It’s also not wholly accurate. While the myths and stories ultimately did emerge Read More
  • What’s a Mystery Religion?
    What’s a mystery religion and what makes it a mystery? No, not like the “mystery flavor” of that sugary drink you had as a kid.  More like a club that Read More
  • What’s a Hero Cult?
    Hero…cult? What’s a hero cult? The idea of hero worship, or a hero cult, isn’t a modern invention. Ancient Greeks had their own form of it; they just took it Read More
  • What’s a Titan?
    Greek mythology seems to give a clear division between titans and gods, even having a massive battle between titans and gods known as the Titanomachy. So that begs the question: Read More
  • What’s a Saint?
    What’s a saint? How do we define it? Think of it as a Christian version of the deified dead of the ancient Mediterranean: born mortal but after death venerated for Read More
  • What’s a Nymph?
    What’s a nymph? “Female nature spirit in Greek mythology” is the easiest definition, but it’s a bit more complicated than that because, of course it is. The most basic explanation Read More