Ancient time-travelling myths
- King Kakudmi's Meeting with Brahma
- One of the very first time travel stories recorded in history appears in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata– thought to have been written as early as 400 BC. The story follows King Kakudmi and his search for a perfect partner for his daughter, Revati. Revati was Kakudmi’s only daughter, and he believed that she was so beautiful and well-educated that no man would be good enough to marry her. And so Kakudmi took Revati to Brahmaloka to visit Brahma (the creator god in Hinduism) and ask for his advice about finding a suitable husband for her. Brahma was enjoying a musical performance when they arrived and so they waited until it ended. To their surprise, Brahma told them that time runs differently on different planets. During the time they’d waited, such a long time had faded away that all men they'd previously considered as possible suitors had now died. Brahma comforted them by recommending a worthy husband living on earth for Revati. What’s interesting though is the similarities that Hindus share with modern-day physicians in viewing time as relative to space.
- The cave of Al-Kahf
- This famous story is recorded in the Quran (the central religious text in Islam). In around 250 CE, there ruled a Roman king called Daqyannos who held pagan worships every year. One young man who believed in the oneness of Allah (the Islamic god), criticised the King’s pagan worship as inappropriate. He rebelled against the widespread practices that took place together with some youths who also felt the same way. In order to flee from persecution (punishment), they went into hiding and eventually came to rest in a cave where Allah, caused them to sleep for 300 years. When they woke up after centuries of sleeping, their time travelling story came to the surface, which brought the then king to seek their blessings. Popular in Europe and the Middle East during medieval times, this story was translated into Latin and made its way into lots of Christian works at that time. Its popularity, however, decreased after the Renaissance.
- The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus
- This is a similar story to the ‘Cave of Al-Kahf’ found within Christianity. According to Christian interpretations, seven young men were accused of following Christianity and suffered persecution by the Roman emperor, Decius. Although they were given time to give up their faith, they chose instead to hide away in a mountain cave to pray. Whilst there, they fell asleep for centuries. They finally awoke during the reign of the Eastern Roman emperor, Theodosius II (408-450), the sleepers awoke. The emperor was moved by the sleepers’ story and consequently, all bishops previously charged with believing in resurrection were pardoned.
- Chronos and Kairos
- The Greeks liked to personify near enough everything (i.e. give something human-like features). Chronos and Kairos are the two main personifications of time. In Greek mythology, Chronos is a tired, bent-backed old man with a long grey beard. In contrast, Kairos is a young man, handsome and energetic. Chronos stands for linear time, meaning that he rules over everything and leads human life so that one event happens after another in a sequence. Without him, our life would be made up of small instances and we might not be able to easily distinguish between what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future. Kairos, on the other hand, stands for opportunity and the ‘right’ /’best’ time to act on something. But these good moments might not come around that often, can be short and easily fade away.
- Urashima Taro
- Found in Japanese legend, this is a time travelling story of Urashima Taro, a skilled fisherman with a big heart. One summer evening, when he was going home after a day’s fishing, he came upon a group of children torturing a small turtle. Urashima felt sorry for the poor little turtle and put it back into the water. The next morning, a huge turtle tells him that the turtle he’d saved the day before was the daughter of the Emperor of the sea, Ryūjin, who wanted to thank him. So he went to visit Ryūjin in his Palace under the sea. There he also met the Princess of the Sea (the turtle he’d saved). But concerned about being away from his elderly parents, he asked to leave the palace after spending just three days there. The Princess, in return, gave him a magic box that could keep him safe but told him never to open it. When he came back to the village, he found that 300 years had gone by and everything had changed. Struck by grief, he opens the box only to find himself turning into a weak and old man- the box had contained his old age.
- Niamh and Oisin
- This is a mysterious time travelling story found in Irish legend. Niamh was one of the Queens of Tír na nÓg (the Land of the Young). When she first saw Oisin, (the leader of the Fianna, one of the warrior bands), she thought he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. And so she decided to ride across the sea and take him back as her lover. After living an idyllic (perfect) life for three years with Niamh, Oisin became homesick and longed to return home (to Ireland) for a brief visit. While Niamh explained to him how the time was different there and that everyone he knew would be long gone, he insisted to go and Niamh reluctantly sent him off on a white horse. She gave him strict instructions that he should never touch the ground there. Not surprisingly, Oisin saw huge transformations that had taken place over three hundred years since he’d left. On his way back to Niamh, he offered to help a group of men lift a large stone to make a road. But in doing so, he fell to the ground and instantly turned into an old man. He also had an interesting encounter with St Patrick who asked him to be baptised to avoid falling into hell. But he chose to stay with the spirit of the Fianna in the Land of the Young.
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