views updated May 18 2018


A sage is a wise or holy figure, often an older man, who possesses insight or understanding beyond that of ordinary people. In myths and legends, sages serve as guardians of special knowledge, helpers or advisers to heroes, and examples of wisdom, virtue, and goodness.

Many mythical sages live in deep forests, on mountaintops, or in other places that are withdrawn from the world. Some are divine beings or demigods. In Hindu religion and mythology wise and powerful sages are called rishis. The constellation of the Great Bear or Big Dipper in the night sky is said to consist of the seven greatest rishis. Other sages appear in Hindu epics. According to tradition, a sage named Vyasa, who lived in forests and caves around 1500 b.c., wrote the epic the Mahabharata.

Other cultures also have legendary sages in groups of seven, which is considered a sacred or lucky number in many traditions. In China, the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove were poets and scholars who abandoned court life for a country retreat. The Seven Sages of Greece were men noted in the ancient Mediterranean world for their wisdom. Among them were a scientist, a lawmaker, and several patrons of the arts.

demigod one who is part human and part god

epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

patron special guardian, protector, or supporter

Some legendary sages, such as King Solomon of ancient Israel, became known for their teachings and wise decisions. Solomon's most famous judgment involved two women, both claiming to be the mother of the same baby. Solomon declared that he would settle the dispute by cutting the child in two so that each woman could have half. When one woman offered to give up her claim to spare the child, Solomon knew that she was the true mother.

See also Seers.


views updated May 21 2018

Sages (Heb., hakhamim, sing., hakham). Jewish scholars and biblical interpreters, often translated as ‘the Wise’. The sages were the active leaders and teachers of the Jewish religion from the beginning of the second Temple period until the Arabian conquest of the East. They are also known as Ḥazal, an acronym for Ḥakhameynu zikhronam li-berakhah, ‘our sages of blessed memory’.