The old-world civilizations; the Indian, Chinese, Mesopotamian and Nile civilizations believed that gold was something divine that has a strong relation with gods. Other old civilizations such as the Greco-Roman or the early Germanic tribes such as the Norse, the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts included gold in their myths and legends as sacred metal. Then last but not least, South-American civilizations had a similar thought of relating gold to gods and heavenly powers. This part will scope on how our distant ancestors passed their thoughts to us about the yellow precious metal.
The Greco-Roman myths are rich with gold. There are numerous golden artifacts and weapons, such as Artemis’ bow, the Golden Fleece and the Golden Apple. The last two examples are sufficient to show how iconic was gold to the classic western civilization. The Golden Fleece was the quest of Jason to overthrow his uncle and this artifact had healing powers. He had to travel across the black sea to obtain this relic. It is Ironic that some sheep in this area back there had actually gold-dust in their fleece, as this area is rich with gold deposits in the mountains. While the golden apple, which is a fruit of the tree of life, was the prize that Paris handed to the most beautiful goddess. Because of this prize, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love and the winner of the trophy in this archaic beauty contest, allowed Paris to kidnap the most beautiful woman, Helen of Troy, and started a 10-years war in Greece. There is no need to mention that statues of Zeus, the king of gods and leader of the gods who defeated the Titans, and other gods were made of the precious metal in the most sacred temples. The yellow metal symbolized life, wealth and supremacy.
The old European-tribes also had their share with the yellow metal in their fairy tales and legends. Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon hero of legend met his maker after a battle with a dragon because a gold cup stolen from the dragon. The Dullahan, a Celtic/Irish daemon, was only vulnerable to gold as werewolves are weak against silver. It is the original model for the entity of the headless horseman like the one who appeared in Sleepy Hollow movie. Gold here was used as a purifier of souls and a protector against evils. Valhalla, the Norse-pagans heaven, had a golden hall for the great warriors decorated with golden shields. Odin, the Norse counterpart of Zeus, had a golden ring that spawns 8 new rings every 9 days as a source of continually-growing economic power. The yellow metal was the reward of the brave for the Norse. The same applies to Gals, Tautens, Saxons and Huns who attacked the Roman-Empire to acquire riches and had similar legends and myths to the Norse and the Greek.
In the Mesopotamian, modern-time Iraq, the yellow metal existed as an iconic metal of power and greatness. Between the two quarrelling Sumerian deities, Emesh and Enten, gold was a present to end this conflict and to start working together to create vegetation. The Sumerian myth king of gods, a correspondent to Zeus, Enlil, created a golden pickax as his first creation, to seed and grows plants. He also had a house of silver and gold in the sun where he resides. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king mentioned in the bible and credited for the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Ishtar Gate, was fond of gold, as legends said that he built his palace and some parts of the city from gold. The yellow metal was associated there with the most elite of gods and kings who hold absolute powers, and as a symbol of good-faith and highly-valued gift.
The ancient Egyptians thought their gods’ bodies were made from pure gold. They conquered, traded and make treaties over this divine metal. Egyptian kings, Pharaohs, were thought as demigods by the commoners. Thus, they cared much for possessing gold to prove their claims as demigods and to be buried with them as they pass away to the other world and meet the golden gods. Just seeing how much gold was in king Tutankhamun tomb, a young king faithful to the god Amun, will strike anyone if this was the amount of gold of only one king. Gold there was a symbol of immortality and rebirth beside its notion of security against the unknown.
The ancient Chinese thought of gold as the ultimate color. It is the color that generates Yin and Yang together and the symbol of earth, tranquility, calamity and freedom. Yellow is the color of dragons; deities responsible for immortality and procreation. The emperors had gold as the color of royalty and made their cloths containing this color. In the ancient Chinese myth, Can Cong, the god of silk, gave humans each year one of his golden silkworms as a gift, and they return the golden worm later. Silk was given a sacred position by associating it with the yellow metal. Gold as a color is associated there with good luck and future happiness along with highness and holiness.
The ancient Indian civilization myth included the precious yellow element in their version of world creation story. The world was created from a golden egg, hiranyagarbah according to the Hindu myth. Buddhism, originated in India and one of the most widespread philosophies around the world, had the largest gold statue in the world of its founder. A 5.5 tons statue of Gautama Buddha made of gold in Thailand, where his teachings reached and appreciated. Buddha was portrayed with golden halos in pictures, and described by many as pure and shining as the yellow metal, especially with his yellow cloths. The popular Hindu goddess of prosperity, beauty and fortune, Lakshmi, appears in the form of gold to her faithful worshipers. In the spiritual land of India, the yellow element is more than just a precious metal that is valued economically; it is a divine sign of luck from the gods.
Ancient South American civilization had its share with gold in their culture. El Dorado, the hidden-city of gold rumored in Columbia and searched for by the Spanish Conquistadors in renaissance-era. Unlike other civilizations, the Aztecs gave the god of wisdom, Quetzalcaotl, the responsibility to protect their precious metal and their smiths. Maybe this was because gold-dust was used in religious ceremonies. The yellow metal was believed to be the sun’s sweat, and silver was moon’s tears. While their rivals, the Mayans, believed that man was created from gold, not clay like other cultures by the hands of a yellow god.
The precious metal was the symbol of sun in proto-cultures and they related it to its power, warmth, essence of life and generosity. There was no culture, that gold was absent in their legends and myths; as each culture has a deity related to the yellow metal, or a hidden paradise made of gold. Our ancestors bartered, then invented trade with the most valued standard the saw, gold. The yellow metal was the standard that every nation used since discovering it and inventing trading till recently, particularly the 70s. We can’t cut our relation with gold for as it has a great emotional and historical value to us. It has been always a great gift and an icon of wealth, power and beauty. Maybe in another 500 years, man may forget his relation with the yellow metal, but it’s still highly unlikely. It is still the safe heaven financially and dear emotionally.