I've paired up with the fabulous review site, I SMELL SHEEP, for a special dual blog and giveaway*, so today I'm writing about -- SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!
*Note - To qualify for either draw, you MUST ENTER BOTH. Yes, it's our sneaky way of making sure you get the FULL SHEEP EXPERIENCE! (instructions at the end of the blog)
SHEEP IN LEGEND AND LORE
In Guangzhou, China, there is a statue commemorating the Five Sheep. It is said that the people used to eat only fish, until five gods came to earth riding on five sheep. Each sheep was a different color and held an ear of rice in its mouth. The gods instructed the people to plant the rice and blessed the city against famine. The gods flew back to the sky but the sheep remained standing until they became stones. Guangzhou is nicknamed “Five Sheep City”, and all sheep are believed to be lucky.
In Greek mythology, Eros (Cupid) fell in love with the mortal Psyche but Psyche had to win over his mother, the goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was jealous of Psyche’s beauty and commanded her to perform a number of impossible tasks --- and one of them was to obtain a snippet of fleece from every member of a certain flock of sheep. Of course, this was not an ordinary flock. They were the wild Meloi Khyseoi, vicious golden-fleeced sheep with sharp horns and venomous bites! Fortunately, the spirit of the river spoke to Psyche and told her that the sheep were only violent in the heat of the day. Following the river’s instructions, Psyche waited until the day grew cooler and the sheep drowsed in the shade. She then was able to obtain the fleece without being harmed.
On the island of Crete, the villages around Mount Psiloritis (now Mount Idi) were said to raise sheep with golden teeth. The people believed that there were such rich deposits of gold in the mountain that the grasses drew gold from the soil, and when the sheep ate the grass, the gold was deposited on their teeth. A monk first recorded the phenomenon in 1415. The real cause turned out to be a plant called nevrida, which the sheep eat in great quantity. Lambs are born with white teeth, and the teeth begin to turn yellow then deep gold as the animal ages. It takes quite a long time for the process, and when the teeth finally become golden, it’s time to butcher that particular sheep.
A Crow legend tells of a man possessed by evil spirits who tries to kill his stepson by pushing him over a cliff. The young man is saved by seven mighty bighorn sheep. The leader of the sheep is Big Metal and he re-names the boy Big Iron. The seven sheep grant him gifts of power and wisdom, surefootedness and keen eyesight. Big Iron returns to his village with knowledge for the people, such as how to build a sweat lodge. He also carried the message that the Crow people would survive only so long as the river winding out of the mountains is known as the Bighorn River. Big Iron became a strong and wise man who lived a long life. He asked to be buried next to the Bighorn River so he could be close to the seven mighty sheep in the afterlife.
Hades was the Greek god of the underworld and also of wealth. Black sheep were sacred to him. He was worshipped but seldom petitioned (in the belief that he could not be swayed) but occasionally mortals would make prayers and bang on the ground to make sure that Hades heard them. They sacrificed black sheep (always at night) and allowed their blood to flow into pits dug into the ground in the belief that it would then reach Hades. Whoever offered the sacrifice however had to turn his face away in case he caught a glimpse of the underworld god. Every hundred years on April 30, a festival was held in honor of Hades, and black sheep and other black animals would be in high demand.
The story of the Golden Fleece was told since at least 800 BC, and probably earlier. The Greek king Athamas was said to have married Nephele, a cloud nymph, and together they had twins, a boy and a girl, Phrixus and Helle. But Athamas was unfaithful. He sired children with a mortal woman, Ino, and then divorced Nephele so he could marry Ino instead. Nephele was cast out of Athamas’ court, but he kept her children. Ino hated the stepchildren and plotted to kill them. Before she could do so, Nephele sent a flying ram with golden fleece that carried her children away. Sadly, Helles fell off and was drowned in the sea, but Phrixus made it to safety. He married the daughter of a king, and gave the king the sheared golden fleece of the ram as a gift. This is the same fleece that Jason and the Argonauts would later obtain. Incidentally, the constellation and zodiac sign Aries represents the golden flying ram that rescued Nephele’s children.
An Irish tale tells of King Fiachna, who was forced to make war upon King Lochlann. He took ten battalions into battle, and slew 300 of Lochlann’s men. But venomous sheep were released from Lochlann’s tent. These sheep slew 300 of Fiachna’s warriors each day. They caused immense slaughter and terror and no one could stand against them. Finally, Fiachna’s entire army was forced to climb the trees of the forest and remain in their branches, while the sheep raged on the ground below, bleating terribly and tearing up the ground. Embarrassed by his army’s plight, King Fiachna was determined to climb down and take on the sheep alone, but a stranger came along with a monstrous and magical dog. The creature killed every one of the savage sheep at its master’s command. The stranger then ordered Fiachna to take over the kingdom of Lochlann, which he did.
In modern times, the most famous sheep in the world is likely Shrek, a Merino in New Zealand that evaded shearing for six years by hiding in caves. He was finally captured in 2004 and his wool was sheared on national television. The wool weighed an amazing 60 pounds – most Merino fleeces are about 10 to 20 pounds at the most. Shrek became a celebrity, getting to meet the prime minister of New Zealand and promoting a children’s charity. Shrek celebrated his 10th birthday with a fundraising stunt for the charity – he was shorn on top of an iceberg that was floating off the coast of New Zealand at the time, wearing special crampons on his feet so he could walk without slipping. Shrek lived to the ripe old age of 17, which is said to be 90 in human years.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
Congrats to Kristina - her name was drawn from the mixing bowl as the winner of the stuffed sheep and swag. And oh yes, we checked -- she did indeed enter the twin draw over at I SMELL SHEEP as well and therefore qualified according to the rules of this particular event.
Thanks to everyone for reading my blog. I have a lot of fun reading all your comments!