General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Gods of Slinging

Message started by Soma_Trip on Nov 17th, 2021 at 3:28pm

Title: Gods of Slinging
Post by Soma_Trip on Nov 17th, 2021 at 3:28pm
I'm not sure if this has been covered in another thread, but is anyone aware of any ancient deities associated with slinging?  I mean, archery has several gods associated with it, Apollo and Diana to name just a couple in the western cannon, but I'm having a tough time finding equivalent figures for slinging.

There are several cultural hero figures, David would probably be the most familiar to the majority of us, but also Cu Chulainn in Irish mythos, but I don't think they can be considered deities.  I guess the closest I was able to find from a quick search is the Celtic god Lugh (also associated with Cu Chulainn I think), but I'm not sure if that figure is tied to slinging in the same way as archery is to Apollo. 

Anyone have any insight on this?  Maybe Oceania or Mesoamerica?


Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 18th, 2021 at 1:40am
If you’re looking for gods specifically associated with sling, then you won’t find any that we know of. Slings aren’t the most godly weapon. But this may also have to do with the fact that weapons in many mythologies tend be attributions rather than having a dedicated god. I’ll list a few examples from the Americas.

Perhaps this is most important, but we are lacking a lot of information. This is the kind of information that gets lost or overlooked. I’m not just talking about slings, the religions of many cultures aren’t often well documented. Looking for something like slings that might get overlooked by the people writing stuff down suffers from this even more.

I’ve read that the twin Zuni war gods used slings as weapons. However, they have several other weapons, so slings aren’t special. Just a part of the war aspect.

Illapa and Catequil in Incan mythology are apparently both gods of thunder and lightning, and both apparently use slings, which would make sense with their attributed aspect (the crack of the sling and thunder). I think Illapa was added to the pantheon from another group, so it might be that they are very similar gods (in other words the same god got copy-pasted). Catequil might also be the god of twins? Unrelated, but more on that at the end.

Although not deities, Iroquoian peoples had varying beliefs surrounding a group of entities called little people. Among the Cherokee they are a race of beings, but among the Cayuga it’s largely condensed down to a brother and sister (twins). They have all sorts of stories, but the Cayuga description including slings is:

“These dwarfs are a species of tiny beings who live in the woods and rocky places and hunt with slings for their livelihood. A Cayuga medicine bundle which we obtained at Six Nations includes a tiny sling and several sling- stones which had belonged to the Little People. The great skill and luck in hunting of the latter would no doubt be transferred to anyone possessing one of their weapons.

According to Cayuga tradition there are two such dwarfs-twins, a male and a female. They hunt with slings and stones and are able to injure or kill people who offend them. They have control over certain illnesses and the Dark Dance Feast is performed in part for them, in part for other spiritual beings. They also sometimes participate in the Dream Guessing Feast.” (Witthoff and Hadlock)

I can’t think of any others off the top of my head. Anyways, for some weird reason, slings in these three cases have some relation to twins. It’s probably just a coincidence since these groups are all unrelated, it’s just interesting.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Kick on Nov 18th, 2021 at 4:51am

Hirtius wrote on Nov 18th, 2021 at 1:40am:
I’ve read that the twin Zuni war gods used slings as weapons. However, they have several other weapons, so slings aren’t special. Just a part of the war aspect.

I think this is quite telling as to why we don't see more specifically sling gods. The three main uses of the sling were in war, in hunting and in shepherding, aspects of human society that could be covered by one god. Why have a god of slinging if you have a god of shepherding? Why have one of slinging if you have a god of hunting? The sling overlaps a lot of things and is such an old weapon perhaps it didn't inspire the same awe as later weapons and tools that came in.

One thing that comes to mind is how in Finland (and other places) stone tools took on mythical properties and were seen as sacred or the weapons of gods because they fell out of use and so weren't understood so, logically to those people that had moved on to metal tools, they were seen as falling from the heavens, made by unknown hands. In comparison, the sling was used for thousands of years well into even the age of gunpowder and right up to today in some areas. It's not that mythical or special. We don't have many if any truly specifically sling gods for the same reason we don't have gods of hairbrushes.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Soma_Trip on Nov 18th, 2021 at 12:13pm
So maybe let's revise this from "god of slinging" specifically, to deity, spirit, or cultural figure that employs or is responsible for the development and/or use of slinging.  Even the most mundane aspects of life will typically have some sort of cultural explanation, a story associated with how it came about, and most gods have symbols or tools they are associated with through a profession or practice.  I agree that the smelting of metals with bright shiny aspects of the sun was a major step in human development, and one that would be shrouded in myth and mystery - especially when that metal actually did crash down through the heavens as in the case of meteoric iron.  Even the fashioning of bows, arrows, atlatls and darts is a far greater investment and has that much more prestige attached to it as a result, to say nothing of stone tools (especially those "eccentric" chipped stones one finds in Mesoamerica).

But slinging is still a highly variable endeavor that would surely help from the assistance of some sort of god, don't you think?  I mean, who do you pray to when you need a hit?  Whose cosmological realm is it?  I think more importantly, you are both hitting upon something I didn't include in my original post for fear of dragging it out too long, and that's the social standing of slinging.  We don't consider slings a godly weapon because of our cultural ideals of worth, and a sling just seems simple, humble and mundane to us (which apparently are not godly characteristics).  There's a sort of general dismissal amongst the public, which becomes especially problematic in antiquities research where the sling often remains unknown or ignored - such as when mass finds of sling-bullets have been ignored or mislabeled (there's a thesis out there from 2013 about this by Barbora Kubikova that does a good job of showing the treatment of such finds up to that date, to cite just one thing).  Slinging is a dim part of our culture today but one generally misunderstood or under-evaluated, which becomes a sort of vicious cycle - we don't really see slings in our cultural representations, which colors how we study and understand history, which informs our cultural representations, and so on.

In the so-called old world, use of the sling seems to have become a marker of cultural embarrassment, something you used when you couldn't afford anything else, and I think that is a stigma that in some ways remains with us today - completely removed from any argument on its effectiveness or non-effectiveness.  But there are cultures where we can assume that the sling was not so culturally dismissed.  In Polynesia/Oceania we have evidence of carefully shaped sling-stones, and the descendants of the Inca still weave intricately patterned slings, some apparently just for ceremonial purpose.  A culture that values the sling and slinging highly is probably going to reflect that through the spiritual-symbolic lens of religion that they see the world through - however developed or defined that belief system is. 

It makes sense to me that the sling would be associated with storms and disease in certain cosmologies - Apollo was associated with healing, but also with striking one down in the first place.  Also interesting that there's often a twin connection somewhere - maybe something to do with the act of cordage making?  Twining bits of fiber together until you have something stronger and more useful than the original?  I doubt the word similarity holds true throughout, but the cosmological twins are near universal, probably speaking to their great antiquity.

That's the other aspect that may be coming into play here - the deep-time antiquity of the whole thing.  After all, I don't think cordage making is an invention of our species, but something probably far older, so is it conceivable that the sling itself is an concept-invention-discovery we can't lay claim to?  Deities and belief systems have been replaced and recalibrated countless times before, maybe I'm just looking for belief systems older than memory.  Overall I just think it fascinating that with the sling we can see how a technology in continuous use fares in that shuffle and evolution of world-view.  After all, if it still performs today exactly as it did millennia ago can we really consider it obsolete?  And who gets to define such things?

Anyways, I think I'm loosing my thread and the dogs are beginning to bark for breakfast (hope it all makes enough sense).  Hirtius, do you think you can shoot me a more full citation on where you found the Zuni and Iroquois info (is it the "...little people" 1946 article)?  Anything else anyone is able to find would also be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance!


Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 18th, 2021 at 1:26pm

There are several books that allude to the same passage, but it’s here at the top of page 87

(Copy entire link)

This is a reference from an article (Leblanc 1999, 47) that I haven’t been able to find yet.

Edit: The quote is from “Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest”, LeBlanc 1999.


In the file I’ve linked, Pg. 420.

The little people seem to be linked to stones and stone throwing in other parts of the article.;file=537041.pdf (412 KB | 8 )

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 18th, 2021 at 2:07pm
As for imagining that there has to be a god of slinging, that’s just not the case. It sounds like you’re basing this on this that a few religions have had a dedicated god to archery. The Greek pantheon has this for whatever the reason. But that’s more of the exception to the rule. As far as warfare was concerned, the spear was infinitely more important to the Greeks than archery. Archers were kind of in a similar boat as slingers. Is there a Greek god of the spear? Not that I remember, I think it would just be an association of Ares since he’s the God of war. In most religion bows were similarly probably more of an association, having a dedicated god is not the norm. I think many Mayan gods are depicted with atlatls, but I don’t think there is a dedicated god for it. It’s interesting to note that the insistence of having an archery deity like Apollo and Artemis has led to some deities in other religions (like Flidais in Irish mythology) being attributed characterizations they probably didn’t have.

I think you’re also assuming that religion works in a way that you pray to the slinging god for a good shot. Maybe, but that doesn’t have to be the case. I doubt every religion has gods that answer personal prayers. In classical Mediterranean mythologies, it was probably more of a transaction where you would leave an object for the God in exchange for a request. Say you do make a prayer. For what? If I wanted my sling stones to fly true in war, I would pray to a war god. In hunting, I’d pray to a hunting god. Gods in many belief systems embody larger aspects than specific things.

That’s not to say there are no sling gods out there, the religions we are drawing from are based on heavily fragmented information. But even slings might especially suffer. In the Americas, all of our info is post Colombian where slings quickly fall out of favor due to firearms. If you go back even further, slings might have had more significance before bows were introduced. With the prestige hits slings have taken and the already and the losing of information on native beliefs, it’s no wonder that we don’t have more information on slings and deities. There’s just no way of knowing.

Last but not least, the information we do have might be very hard to pin down. The information might be in some inaccessible book (Like the Zuni war gods in the LeBlanc book) or lost in some archives somewhere.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Soma_Trip on Nov 18th, 2021 at 5:57pm
Please don't misinterpret me, and don't put words in my mouth as to what you think I think.

I'm not making a statement, but asking a question.  The question is do we know of any deities associated with slinging.  So for instance, there may or may not be a "Greek" god of the spear, but we do have examples of the spear being the specific weapon of a deity - as in the case of Odin or Lugh.  I would not necessarily say that Apollo is a figure that is strictly associated with archery and nothing else, but I do believe there are examples of figures praying to him for a good shot in epic poetry and elsewhere.  I also quickly understood that putting this question strictly in terms of a "god" didn't get to the point, which again is whether we know of ancient mythical figures associated with the sling - I'm specifically trying to broaden how we're looking at it because the meat of what is important is what we know of the stories of the origin and use of slinging.  Who are the cultures who have slinging stories and what are they.  Every culture must explain the phenomenon around them, which I am putting under an umbrella of "religion" partly because that is the method we used to understand the world before philosophy or science.  What are these things in the sky?  How did this mountain get here?  Why do these stars move differently than these?  Why is fire?  How is metal?  In a paradigm that is just starting out, without access to other ideas or concepts, how do we explain all this?  In almost every case there is a story invented, whether it is Artemis or Jesus, to explain why things are the way they are, and it is those stories that I am interested in.  Why do we have fire?  Oh Prometheus stole it from the gods.  I'm pointing to the familiar because that is what we know, it's a common touchstone for us to draw a baseline from, and honestly it's about all we have left.  The vast majority of the stories and myths of the "New World" were destroyed, intentionally in some cases, by Europeans bringing disease and violent genocide (that's kind of still ongoing, since, you know, they're still here and still being screwed over), and I'm only wondering if we know of any that survived that conflagration, such as the concept of the "little people".  Not all of it is post-columbian either, since the Mayan script has been deciphered, and most of that was done pre-contact.  I only wonder what we lost when the priests burned it all.

Not to be too judgemental, but you seem to be doing a lot of heavy lifting for other people's beliefs, making a lot of assumptions on how belief systems work throughout history with blanket declarative statements.  I'm not going to try to pretend that I know how anyone else views the world, let alone those perspectives birthed from environments and ways of life far different from my own understanding.  Even today when we interact with the world, we do not necessarily do it directly, at least from a mental perspective, but we still inhabit a world that we project meaning upon.  I'm not saying that that is all necessarily religious, but it is a system of beliefs we are instilled with and operate from.

It is exactly the obscure bits buried somewhere that I am looking for, or at least paths to begin on.  Apologies if I was not clear on what and how I'm looking at "religion" - or if I was brisk - I'm just trying to convey that I'm trying to look at this far more complexly than perhaps presented or understood by others through my limited communicative abilities.


Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 18th, 2021 at 8:39pm
Geez, I make friends everywhere I go.

I wasn’t trying to speak for you, just respond to what I thought you were saying. I wasn’t trying to make broad sweeping statements, but respond to what I thought you were saying. I guess I still don’t understand what you are trying to say or are asking, it would help if you were more concise.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Kick on Nov 19th, 2021 at 6:43am
Now now, we've had enough fighting on here recently to last all of us several lifetimes.

Soma_Trip wrote on Nov 18th, 2021 at 5:57pm:
The question is do we know of any deities associated with slinging.

To answer this question, yes. They are detailed above. There may be more, but none of us (as far as I know) are dedicated historical researchers of religion, and even if we were, as said, we won't ever know for certain.

As far as I am aware (again, not expert) there aren't any stories about how slinging came to be or really any inventors of slinging. The one exception is the assertions in the ancient world that the Balearic islanders invented slinging (which is clearly untrue and probably came about as a misinterpretation because they were just very good with the sling and was very important for them). I don't know of any origin myths for the sling.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by funditor on Nov 19th, 2021 at 9:25am
From the European theatre two things come to my mind
Not a god but a demigod - there is this story of Hercules or Heracles as he is called in Greek, where he hunts the Stymphalian birds with a sling, there are several depictions on Greek Vases.
Secondly there are depictions of Nemesis, the goddes of revenge I think, on coins, where she holds a sling in her hand. Probably late Roman,

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Soma_Trip on Nov 19th, 2021 at 1:00pm
Hehe, no antagonism meant friend.  Just trying to be precise enough with how I'm asking the question.  The topic of religion can be fraught enough just looking at it at face value, let alone any sort of discussion of comparative or critical perspectives on it.  The way I'm trying to talk about religion may just be different than what many might be used to - as cultural stories that say as much about the people and situations creating them as anything else.

I realize that in the western mytho-religious tradition, the sling is not often a prominent feature - so I'm looking for where it is at least mentioned within this mythology.  It's my guess that if we look to the religion and mythology of cultures like the Polynesian or Inca we might find that their view of the sling as a marker of social status is different.  If they attach more prestige to slinging than other cultures then you might see that reflected in the stories they tell themselves about themselves.  I'm just wondering if anyone is aware of any stories that might fit that bill - to start out with I said "gods" but realizing that was an overly narrow and troublesome definition I tried expanding that to "deities, spirits, cultural-heroes" associated with slinging - basically, if anyone is aware of any time slinging comes up in myth I would be interested in it.

That goes a bit beyond the original thread - but it also begs the question of why there's a complete or relative absence of slinging in these religious/mythological contexts if it is indeed true that there is no deity associated with the sling.  Or it might be more associated with those relatively minor gods in the pantheon, as Kick said like Nemesis or Heracles.  I'm not trying to challenge anyone to a knowledge game - I really don't know and need help finding out about this, and I think it helpful to keep an open mind to what might be possible.

I just don't know if I'm capable of writing a short post  :-/


Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 19th, 2021 at 2:38pm
If you want stories that include slings, there are those as well. There are probably a ton, though again we struggle from lack of information.

A woman named Mabel Powers wrote a book called “Stories The Iroquois Tell Their Children”. How authentic the stories are, we have no way of knowing. In one of the stories called “How The Mice Overcame The Warriors”, there are these warriors that want to be at war and kill all of the time. Nice guys. The mice get sick of this and sneak in at night and chew apart all of their weapons. Slings are one of the weapons explicitly mentioned, along with other curiosities like poisoned arrows.

“At this, all the mice set to work. Snap, snap, snap, went the bowstrings on all sides. Then the sharp little teeth began on the feathers that winged the poisoned arrows. Soon the feathers lay in bits about the ground.

Next, the deerskin cords that bound the sling shots were cut in two, and before the moon had risen, every weapon had been made useless; every Indian had been disarmed,—and the mice had scampered away.

The warriors awoke. Again the war cry was raised. They sprang to their feet and seized their weapons, but found them useless. Their bows had no strings; their arrows, no wings; their slings, no cords.”

Although slings aren’t really integral to the story, they do show up in the war context. Who knows how old this story is, but I can imagine slings were probably used in warfare before contact. There’s other evidence to suggest this. The “Little people” stories, that ‘Sling’ was used as a name (‘Shield’ was another such name. Both were rare, likely holdovers from when those objects were more important), and we even have a surviving sling from the early 1900s showing that they were still remembered even then.

Slings among the Little People are probably a better example of stories where slings were more important to characterization.

Unfortunately I can’t think of any other stories involving slings. It’s especially tough to find such things since most Native Americans have forgotten slings exist.

As for stories from other slinging cultures, I’m even less familiar with those so I wouldn’t be of much help.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Hirtius on Nov 19th, 2021 at 2:45pm
I think one of the Norse sagas (maybe Icelandic) has a story of a man who defends himself on a hill with a sling and kills four attackers. Don’t quote me on that though.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Morphy on Nov 19th, 2021 at 2:57pm
Ive always thought it was interesting that seemingly no culture (at least that I can think of) adopted the whip crack of a sling into a thunder or thunder related deity myth. That was a missed opportunity imo.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Balearic3 on Nov 19th, 2021 at 5:06pm
Found two of the images of Hercules (Herakles) with the sling on vases, as mentioned by Funditor in his post. One  vase is from the British Museum and the other from a vase at the Louvre. Both are depictions of Herakles' Sixth of his Twelve Labours:

THE ORNITHES STYMPHALIDES (Stymphalian Birds) were a flock of man-eating birds which haunted Lake Stymphalis in Arkadia (Arcadia). Herakles' destroyed them as the sixth of his twelve labours, employing a rattle to rouse them from the thick vegetation surrounding the lake and then felling them with his arrows or a sling.

Thankfully someone was kind enough to represent the sling on these two vases.
Heracles_and_Stymphalian_Birds.png (1053 KB | 7 )
Heracles_and_Stymphalian_Birds_Vase_LOUVRE_2.JPG (101 KB | 5 )

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Soma_Trip on Dec 21st, 2021 at 1:30am
Busy time of year, huh?  Thanks for the responses!  Just found out about an Inca storm god - either Illapa or Illapu - that fits the bill pretty spot on.  Some of the modern interpretations from a image search are pretty revealing for how these things can tend to warp throughout time (like everything else I guess) - a lot of those images have been garbled to show an elastic banded slingshot - too many to include here, but a cool find none-the-less.

Incidentally for the myth, thunder is the crack of the sling as the god breaks clay pots of water, causing rain.

Title: Re: Gods of Slinging
Post by Curious Aardvark on Dec 21st, 2021 at 7:44am

I don't think cordage making is an invention of our species, but something probably far older, so is it conceivable that the sling itself is an concept-invention-discovery we can't lay claim to?

caught my eye.

I mean the first cordage, would have been vines. Abundant, ready made and often bound round something to indicate an actul use.

As to when someone started to make their own 'vines' - who knows.
Well, nobody knows :-)

But what species do you think invented non-vine cordage ?
The neanderthals ? - who were ahead of our own branch of humanity in pretty much all civilised aspects.
Or some others ?

And you are all ignoring the one soceity that we Know had shrines to slinging.

The pre-spanish chomorro

There are enormous slingstones all over the islands that were possibly used as shrines.

If any culture had a god or gods of slinging, it's micronesia and the chomorros.

The problem there is the spanish had 500 years to quash and destroy the old beliefs and language.

And under that kind of onslaught, where nothing was written down, even spoken records are often lost.

But the odds are very good that there was a god or gods of slinging on guam and the surrounding islands. 

From guampedia:

In addition to witnessing fights among the CHamorus, the Spanish also observed the spiritual aspect of native warfare. The CHamorus believed in the presence of the mananiti, or ancestral spirits, and the power of these spirits to assist them in fishing, farming, and even in battle. They believed the ancestral spirits lived on in the skulls of their deceased ancestors and that the makana—the practitioners of healing and magic—had the power to communicate with them. The makana would take out the skulls, lay them out and invoke upon them their requests for help and good fortune. In some cases, the makana would take the skulls and place them on the actual battleground. Victory, of course, was seen as a favorable response by the mananiti.

The CHamorus continued to rely on the skulls for spiritual strength, even in their battles against the Spanish in the late 17th century. The makana, in response to Spanish efforts to missionize and colonize the islands, motivated the CHamorus to fight against the priests and soldiers. Jesuit Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, who headed the newly established Catholic mission, worked hard to remove the authority of the makahna by criticizing them whenever possible and ordering the destruction of the skulls. In one account of a battle in 1671, the natives dug trenches at the advice of a council of makhana and placed in them the skulls of their ancestors. The CHamoru warriors fought with new spiritual vigor; however, the Spanish, with their advanced weaponry, defeated the natives. The Spanish then “cast the skulls on the ground and trampled on them.”

So maybe not a specific god, but there were definitely spirits that helped in warfare and warfare was heavily sling biased.

The above account is interesting in that it doesn't mention the length of time it took the spanish defeat the chamorru.

And as all accounts were written by spanish missionaries - one jesuit brother in particular, it's not exactly an unbiased account.

I have read the jesuits full accunt of chomorro culture, but that was  a few years ago. I should have a pdf somewhere.
I know roman sent me a copy.

But it looks like they probably didn't have gods as such.

But shrines with huge slingstones - there definitely are. 
We can speculate that specific ancestral skulls might have been specific to a particular sling-stone shrine.
But we'll probably never know. Forum » Powered by YaBB 2.5.2!
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