Stories shape our culture. They give us wisdom, and warnings, and hope in dark nights. Sometimes these stories contain objects of power which range from fascinating to terrifying. What are these powerful mythical objects? From instant death to wish granting, every culture has a “thing” that wields great power, sometimes many things, from many gods or beings. Here are 25 Most Extraordinary Mythological Objects Of All Time.
Seven League Boots
Seven League Boots are boots that enable the wearer to take one or two steps and cover seven leagues. They were very popular in European folklore and have also been featured in modern works, such as Howl’s Moving Castle.
The Seal of Solomon
This “seal” was actually a ring, possessed by King Solomon, that supposedly was inscribed with the “the Most Great Name of God” and could control, exorcise, and imprison demons. According to legend, it was given to Solomon by Heaven and was made of Brass and Iron. The Seal of Solomon can also refer to a symbol, but the original Seal was a ring from Heaven.
The Staff of The Monkey King (Ruyi Jingu Bang)
Ruyi Jingu Bang, or The Staff of The Monkey King, belonged to the immortal monkey Sun Wukong. It is sometimes a staff 20 feet high and wide as a barrel with a golden hoop on each end and is sometimes shrunk down to the size of a pin and kept tucked behind Sun Wukong’s ear. It was given to him by the Dragon King and Dragon Queen out of their treasury.
The Hand Of Glory
The Hand of Glory was a mummified or pickled hand (usually the left hand) of a thief that had been hanged. It was used itself as a candle or as a candle holder, and had magical properties which allowed the bearer to see in the dark while leaving everyone else in darkness or making the bearer invisible. It was also used for putting the inhabitants of a house to sleep if left burning in a home and opening all locks around it. A thief’s hand for thievery, makes sense. Gross, twisted, superstitious sense.
The Helm of Darkness
The Helm of Darkness sounds way more impressive than “the cap of invisibility,” but they’re basically the same thing, an object from Greek mythology that allowed the person wearing it to become invisible. When the cyclopses were freed during the great war between the gods and the titans, they made the gods weapons to help them in the rest of the war. The Helm of Darkness was one of these objects, made for Hades, Lord of the Underworld. He kept it after the war (shocking). Hades lent it out to other gods on several occasions, such as when he lent it to Perseus when he hunted Medusa. Being invisible, Medusa’s gaze has no affect on Perseus, and he brought back her head as a prize.
Mjölnir - Thor's Hammer
Thor’s hammer can create thunder, only be wielded by those who are “worthy,” and always boomerangs back to whoever threw it. It was given to Thor by Loki, in return for Loki cutting off the hair of Thor’s wife, Sif. It was forged by two dwarves, Brokkr and Sindri, when Loki bet them that they couldn’t make three objects finer than other dwarves had already made. When Loki lost the bet, which was for his head, he pointed out that he had promised his head and not his neck, so they couldn’t sever his head. The dwarves sewed his mouth shut instead.
There have been many depictions of Pandora’s Box in pop culture throughout the years, and in fact the phrase, “Opening Pandora’s Box” means to start something you can’t stop. But none of that makes Pandora’s Box any less, well, awesome. In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Pandora was made by the gods out of earth and water, and each god or goddess gave her a gift. One of them gave Pandora a jar (it wasn’t a “box” until much later) which contained all the evils of the world as her dowry for marriage, with instructions to not open it. When she opened the jar, the evil flew out, leaving only hope inside. It’s a beautiful ending, but why would you give someone a jar full of evil? Oh, right, because Zeus didn’t like the brother of the guy she was given to for marriage and wanted revenge on mankind, so he used poor curious Pandora to bring evil into the world. Jerk.
The Club of Dagda
The Celtic god Dagda or Daghdha was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann and had power over life and death, crops, time, and the seasons. He was known as the ‘good god’ and wielded a magic club, cleverly named The Club of Dagda, that could kill nine men in a single blow. Ouch. The handle, however, could give back life.
Gleipnir is an enchanted rope from Norse Mythology. It holds the wolf Fenrir, and it is said that it would continue to hold him until Ragnarök, when Fenrir will break free to devour Odin. Gleipnir is stronger than any chain but thin as a silk ribbon and was constructed by the dwarves out of six impossible ingredients – the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the root of a mountain, the beard of a woman, the breath of a fish, she spittle of a birth, and the sinews of a bear.
The Book of Thoth
The Book of Thoth is from ancient Egypt, written by the god Thoth himself. It supposedly contained spells to understand both the languages of animals and the gods, and “In it is all the magic in the world. If [you read] the first page, [you will] enchant the sky, the earth, the abyss, the mountains, and the sea.” However…it was cursed. The first prince who found it, Nefer-ka-ptah, had his wife and child killed and then was compelled to commit suicide. Nefer-ka-ptah was buried with the book, and Thoth’s wrath was fulfilled.
The Deathly Hallows
*Spoiler Alert to those who for some reason haven’t read Harry Potter yet*
The Deathly Hallows are actually a set of three magical objects, given to the Peverell Brothers (who were great wizards) by Death himself. The Resurrection Stone, The Cloak of Invisibility, and the Elder Wand. Each of these objects was passed down to the next generation of each brother, the Resurrection Stone eventually landing in the hands of Lord Voldemort (when he took it from his maternal Grandfather) until it was possessed by Albus Dumbledore.
The Cloak of Invisibility was passed directly down the family line to Harry Potter, who was given the other two Deathly Hallows by Dumbledore and used them to defeat Voldemort in The Battle of Hogwarts in 1998. During the battle, the Resurrection stone was lost, and after the battle, Harry chose to hide the Elder Wand. It is assumed the Cloak of Invisibility will be passed to one of his children.
Yes kids, Tom Riddle and Harry ARE RELATED. *cough*
Excalibur is also known as the Sword in the Stone, the legendary sword of King Arthur. Though some legends say that Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are separate, the poem “Merlin” by Robert de Boron states that Excalibur can only be drawn from the stone by Arthur, the True King of England. Other legends say Arthur received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. When Arthur was dying, he commanded Sir Bedivere to throw Excalibur back to the Lady of the Lake, which he did the third time he was asked. King Arthur’s body was taken into the mists of Avalon, and legend says that both he and the sword will return one day to save England from a great threat.
The Flying Dutchman
Between Spongebob and Pirates of the Caribbean, most people have heard of The Flying Dutchman. Captained by Hendrick van der Decken, the ship sank in 1641 on a voyage to the Far Indies for trade. When the ship came upon a huge storm, the crew begged the captain to change course, but he refused, insisting they continue on into the storm as he lit a pipe and swore a blasphemous oath against God, challenging his wrath. The crew attempted to mutiny, and Captain van der Decken killed the rebel leader and tossed him overboard. When the man’s body hit the water, the ship itself had had enough of the captain’s shenanigans, and cursed him, saying, “As a result of your actions, you are condemned to sail the oceans for eternity with a ghostly crew of dead men bringing death to all who sight your spectral ship and to never make port or know a moment’s peace. Furthermore, gall shall be your drink and red hot iron your meat.” And what did the mad Captain reply? “Amen to that!” The ship cursed itself because of its mad captain.
Kaladanda (Staff of Death)
The Hindu god of death, Yama, is also known as King of Ancestors and the final judge on the destination of souls. He has a magic staff, called Kaladanda, or The Staff of Death, which could kill anybody. Didn’t matter what kind of protections you had, or what kind of special person you were, if Yama wanted you dead, you were dead by his magic stick. And then he judged you and decided where your soul would spend eternity.
The Golden Apple of Discord (The Apple of Eris)
This was a beautiful golden apple that belonged (as you may have guessed) to Eris, the goddess of chaos, strife, and discord. Because of this, Zeus notably didn’t invite her to parties. One such a party was a wedding, and when Eris heard she was not invited, she was, understandably, very angry (come on, you don’t get to PICK what you’re goddess of…) Being the clever goddess she was, she stormed into the wedding feast, a golden apple clutched in her hand, and then flung the Apple among the wedding guests.
The Apple was inscribed with the word “kallisti,” which translated into “For the Fairest.” And so the guests of the wedding fought among themselves, each thinking the apple was intended for them. In the end, three goddesses were left fighting – Aphrodite, goddess of beauty; Hera, goddess of women and beauty; and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. Aphrodite bribed the judge, Paris, to give her the Apple and proclaim her the fairest by promising him the love of Helen of Sparta. After the Apple was awarded, Helen fell in love with Paris and became Helen of Troy (and we all know how that ended…The Trojan war, that’s how it ended).
The moral of this story? Don’t anger the cleverest lady, or she’ll come to your party with magic fruit.
The Cintamani Stone
Sometimes known as the Chintamani Stone, this magical object is a stone from Hindu and Buddhist mythology that could grant wishes. According to legend, it fell from the sky and landed in Tibet among ancient Buddhists who though it to be a spiritual jewel. It’s power was so great (and dangerous) that eventually they sent it to the hidden/flying/golden city of Shambhala. It supposedly also healed sickness and purified water, as a metaphor for the teachings of Buddha.
The Peaches of Immortality
The Peaches of Immortality are from Chinese Mythology and refer to peento peaches, or what we know them as in Western Culture, doughnut or Saturn peaches. The Peaches of Immortality were grown by the Heavenly Queen Mother (aka Xiwangmu), who lived in the Jade Pool in the mountains of Western China. She had 3,600 peento trees in her garden, which were magical and guaranteed eternal youth. They only ripened every few thousand years, but every 500 years, the queen would invite eight immortals to a peento banquet. In China, peento peaches are still symbols of longevity and prosperity, and people sometimes eat peach shaped dumplings on their birthday.
Pair Dadeni (The Cauldron of Rebirth)
Pair Dadeni, or the Cauldron of Rebirth, is from Welsh Mythology. The Pair Dadeni belonged to a pair of giants, Llasar Llaes Gyfnewid and his wife, Cymydei Cymeinfoll, who gave it to the Welsh King Bendigeidfran (Bran the Blessed) in return for his hospitality when they were fleeing Ireland. The Pair Dadeni was then given to Matholwch, King of Ireland, when he married King Bendigeidfran’s sister, Branwen. Mathlowch was a jerk and treated Branwen poorly, so her brothers came and kicked some butt, and long story short, the Irish were throwing their dead into the Pair Dadeni during the battle, but they rose without the power of speech…so..probably zombies…Eventually one of Branwen’s brothers, Efnisien, cleverly got himself thrown into the cauldron alive and destroyed it from the inside.
And that is the sad story of the Zombie Cauldron of Welsh Mythology. Don’t be a jerk, or people will destroy your magical zombie machine.
The Cup of Jamshid
This was a cup that was said to be filled with the elixir of immortality and was owned by the ancient Iranian king Jamshid of the Pishdadian dynasty. It was also known as a cup of Divination, and it was said that all the world and all seven heavens of the universe could be seen by looking in it. Some modern translations of ancient text have translated it as “crystal globe” instead of cup, but that makes no sense, and a cup filled with elixir of immortality is much cooler.
The Mead of Poetry
The Mead of Poetry in Norse Mythology turns whomever drinks it into a poet or scholar. Not emo slam poetry, but a composer of world-renowned poetry, and a scholar who could “recite any information and solve any problem.” The Mead was made from Kvasir, a man made out of the combined spit of the gods. (No, really. At the end of a war, they all spit into a jar to form a truce, and decided not to waste their precious, uh, spit, and so one of them made it into Kvasir.)
Kvasir literally knew everything. There was no question in the nine worlds that he could not answer. Two Dwarves named Fjalar and Galar invited the uber-wise Kvasir over to hang out and killed him and drained his blood, mixed it with honey, and turned it into Mead, which, when drunk, turned the drinker into a poet or scholar. This is why people don’t like Dwarves. Seriously, who does that?
Baba Yaga's Mortar & Pestle
Baba Yaga is a terrifying old witch (sometimes three old sisters) – or something *else* that looks like a terrifying old witch – that appears in Slavic folklore. She’s like the boogie man and the Wicked Witch of the West rolled into one. She flies around in a giant mortar, and wields the pestle as a club…As in, mortar and pestle used for grinding up things like spices, and probably, in this case, the bones of small children. She also has a hut in the woods…which walks around on chicken legs. Yep.
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, fertility, pleasure and beauty. In the Roman pantheon, she was known as Venus, but, same lady. Point is, she was everything every man wanted, and she got around quite a bit. That could possibly have to do with the fact that she possessed a magic girdle (think fancy embroidered belt, not granny panties) that made everyone fall in love with the person wearing it. There’s some controversy over where the girdle was actually worn – in Homer’s Iliad, it states that she takes it off from around her breasts, and in several small ancient statues, Aphrodite is depicted as wrapping a band around her breasts. So…fancy belt, or literal magic bra that pre-dates the push up underwire.
The Doors of Durin
The Doors of Durin, which allowed entrance into the great Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm (later known as Moria) from the West, were constructed by the greatest craftsman of the Second Age of Middle Earth – elf-lord Celebrimbor and the Dwarf Narvi. Though the doors stood open during the peaceful time of the Second Age, allowing trade to flow freely beneath the Misty Mountain, the Doors of Durin were so perfectly crafted to match the mountain that when closed, the could not be seen. Narvi crafted the doors themselves out of a grey material stronger than stone, and they were inlaid by Celebrimbor with ithildin which could only be seen by moonlight or starlight. The inscription Celebrimbor inlaid on the doors gives the password, which when spoken, opens the doors from the outside: “The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.”
The Argo was the ship taken by Jason and the Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece. Athena told Jason to commission a ship of fifty oars and name it after it’s builder, Argus. It was supposedly constructed out of wood from Dodona, an area known to be special to Zeus and home to its own Oracle. Because of this, the Prow of the Argo was said to speak Prophecies. The ship became so legendary that a picture of it was hung in the heavens, the constellation Argo Navis.
Freyja's Falcon Cloak
Freyja is the Norse goddess of love, fertility, beauty, war & death, and the leader of the Valkyries. It’s also where we get the word Friday from (Friday = Freyja’s Day. She could also cry tears of gold, and drove a chariot pulled by large house cats.) She’s basically the best goddess of any pantheon ever, AND she’s got a magic cloak made of falcon feathers that allows the wearer to turn into a falcon. Being the kind goddess she is, Freyja has lent her Falcon Feather Cloak to both Loki and Thor on occasions when they had need of it.
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Photo Credits: 25. Thijs Kinkhorst, Bottes 7 lieues, CC BY-SA 3.0, 24-23. wikimedia commons (public domain), 22. www.badobadop.co.uk, Hand of Glory, CC BY-SA 4.0, 21. Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr, Greek helmet-MGR Lyon-IMG 9724, CC BY-SA 2.0, 20-19. wikimedia commons (public domain), 18. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum 22.1275 Club or Drumstick, CC BY 3.0, 17. wikimedia commons (public domain), 16. pixabay.com (public domain), 15-12. wikimedia commons (public domain), 11. pixabay (public domain), 10. Noodle snacks, Opal from Yowah, Queensland, Australia 2, CC BY-SA 2.5, 9. Gary Stevens via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 8. wikimedia commons (public domain), 7. © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5, Footed cup Met 91.1.559, CC BY 2.5, 6-5. wikimedia commons (public domain), 4. Walters Art Museum, Greek – Aphrodite – Walters 2399, CC BY-SA 3.0, 3. Wiligard, Haidy Wittmann art “Dwarf”, CC BY-SA 4.0, 2-1. wikimedia commons (public domain)