The Myths And Folklore Of Gold - Ancient And Modern

Tuesday, 02 June 2015
By Robert McDowall

Gold has shaped and destroyed civilizations. Since ancient times, gold has been endowed with innate value due to qualities including its resistance to corrosion and tarnishing. It is often attributed supernatural properties by several religious practices and folkloric belief. Despite the variance in culture, religion, or race, gold has always been attributed to certain deities, and was conferred specific deistic properties as embodied by the metals themselves. Even now, there is still a certain superstitious belief that deifies Gold, an explanation why its value is not only inherently monetary, but something deeper in the human psyche.

Gold had a significant role in legend, symbolism and folklore. For example Greece, India and China have myths and legends about gold. The myths and legends have survived. They have been adapted to the general superstitions of today. In ancient Greece gold was a metal that was precious to the gods to the extent that they were dressed in gold. Gold is mentioned in Greek mythology for examples as varied as King Midas, the Golden Fleece stolen by Jason who possessed the power of resurrection through to the Golden Apples of Hesperidins. The Golden Apples were guarded by the hundred-headed dragon Ladon. The dragon conferred immortality on whoever ate them. Gold has always been associated with the eternal, the unending, incorruptible and embracing powers of the divine. The colour and lustre of gold continues to be associated with the sun and the sacred masculine. Mythological and legendary mentions of gold cover are referenced in all ancient literature. The Bible itself at least four hundred times references!

The belief in the powers of Gold not only confirms its general worth as currency. It also demonstrates the liquidity of Gold. Belief reflects Gold’s cultural worth. Is this an attribute worth more than all the Gold in the world combined?

Why has this yellow metal captured the imagination and even obsessed throughout the ages? Gold is a unique metal. Gold has a constant luster. Moreover, Gold will not tarnish, corrode or oxidise. Gold is malleable as it can be hammered paper thin and it will not shatter. The precious metal can be easily molded to fit upon, or create, almost any Statue or work of art. To that measure Gold is a Symbol for indestructible, eternal, and adaptable. The colour of Gold does not fade due to the effects of time or the elements of Nature. A Gold coin, or a Golden object, which has been excavated after a thousand years, will come out of the ground in the same untainted condition today as when it was first buried either centuries, or millennia, ago. Because Gold will not tarnish, corrode, or fade in colour. The metal is not only a Symbol for Immortality. It is a Symbol for any incorruptible Quest, Ambition, or Purpose. Gold is also a Symbol for ultimate Wisdom and ultimate Truth.

Although the Symbolism of Gold appears throughout mythology, legend, and folklore, we even find excellent examples of Gold's Symbolism the Tarot deck. The card of "The Fool", along with several other cards, contains a Golden Sky. The Quest, or the Purpose, Symbolized by these particular cards is taking place under the Shining Wisdom of the Eternal Heavens, and that spiritual perfection and superiority are the Lesson contained within that card.

If we look at the financial myths of gold, some of the myths have spawned volumes of detailed analysis.

Is Gold is a protection from a recession? While Gold has been a financial source of refuge, the maxim only holds true while the price of Gold increases to maintain the maim (or myth).

Is Gold is a protection from hyper-inflation? All commodities increase in price during a time of in hyper-inflation- the reason why it is called hyper-inflation. Gold may or may not perform any better that any other commodity.

Is Gold is a currency? Gold is not a currency nor will it ever be unless a jurisdiction decrees that it will. Gold coins are not legal tender. You cannot go into a supermarket and buy groceries with gold dust.

Does Gold hold its value in times of war? Examination of the price performance of Gold during wars y has proved gold does not hold its value in times of war. Indeed, people who have held Gold during times of war have been targets for robbery and murder.

Shares in goldmines have not performed as well as the metal. Mining companies hedge their selling prices and sell the metal on future contracts. If they thought the metal was going to continue to go up, why sell so soon? Mining companies clearly believe the price of the metal may go down at some stage in the future and "a bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush?"

Gold is similar to almost all other asset classes in terms of investor response to events. If Gold does not perform well over time, investors feel they are not getting any dividends or interest and look elsewhere for a better return. Periods occur where lower and middle end of the gold jewelry market is not doing much business. Business is flat. The upper end of the jewelry market is not affected, as the rich will always buy whatever they want no matter the price, but that is only a small section of the jewelry market. Without a lower end market, prices could not keep going up and, like the housing market, the bubble bursts.

This article is part of Robert McDowall's series on Folklore & Finance.