Centaurs

I’m pretty sure that centaurs were the original poster children for naughty drunken Greeks.  These half human—half horse creatures were known for being wild, barbarian, lustful lushes.  However, when sober, some were upheld for their wisdom, self-sacrifice, and strength (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).

Even their origins suggest their baser natures—Centaurus (the first centaur) was born when a fiendishly wicked king had an affair with (who he assumed was) Hera—the queen of the Greek Pantheon.  Hera actually turned out to be a cloud Zeus had formed to look like his wife (https://www.ancient.eu/Ixion/).  Anyone else get totally lost trying to follow the convoluted love triangles (quadrangles?!) of the Greek gods?  One possible origin for the centaur is from cultures that did not have horses seeing riders fluidly moving on the backs of their mounts for the first time.  It could also be a reference to traditional ancient bull-hunting.  (https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/centaurs/).    

Centaur from Greek Pottery

Centaurs perpetuate Greek mythology and seem to represent the two sides of man.  Chiron, arguably the most famous centaur (and Percy Jackson’s instructor for my book-loving friends), was wise and brave.  He tutored famous Greeks such as Hercules and Achilles (keep that heel covered!), and he embodied the classically tragic noble death.  Though he was immortal, when Chiron was accidentally wounded by an arrow dipped in the blood of the Hydra (um, gross), he suffered great pain.  When Zeus demanded a sacrifice to free Prometheus, Chiron volunteered—both to be finished with his pain, and to heroically liberate Prometheus (https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html).  

The Hydra…poor Chiron!

On the other side of the metaphorical coin, centaurs were often known to pull the chariot of the god Eros (I’m pretty sure they picked up their relationship advice from him).  For those of you who aren’t into root words, the word erotica comes from the same root as Eros.  I’ll just leave that there.  Frequently drunk and slaves to their animalistic lusts, I’m sure the race of centaurs was procreated with great fervor.  For this reason, the Greeks seemed to look down on the mythical race of centaurs in general (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Centaur-Greek-mythology).

Mosaic of centaurs pulling a chariot

Many conflicts surrounding centaurs seem to feature the human struggle between civilization and complete savagery.  It poses an interesting question about the internal struggles of humanity.   

On which side of the centaur coin do you think man most frequently falls?  Why?  Leave your comments below! 🙂 

 

Writing Prompts:

You are a centaur.  Are you the wizened sage, or the lascivious lush?  Why that one?

 

The wind whipped my tail against my chestnut-colored flank.  I crossed my arms over my chest as the wind teased the hair on my nape from its warrior’s knot.  The decision before me would change the fate of man forever.  Using all in my wisdom, I must choose to…

 

Book Recommendations:

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by: Rick Riordon

Ella Enchanted by:  Gail Carson Levine (okay, so there’s only a few brief mentions of centaurs in the book, but it’s one of my all-time favorites)

The Chronicles of Narnia by:  C. S. Lewis (Glenstorm is my favorite centaur!)

 

Who remembers this gem from the 1940’s?

 

Sources:

https://www.cgtrader.com/3d-print-models/miniatures/figurines/centaur
https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Creatures/Centaur/centaur.html
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Hydra
https://www.globalgayz.com/tunisia-bardo-museum/
 

Gryphons

What do you look for in a friend?  Loyalty?  Protectiveness? Fierceness?  Wisdom?  Kingly status?  If these are on your list, then you, my friend, want to go cyber-stalking and add the next gryphon you find to your social media account (I mean, really, who wouldn’t want a gryphon for a bestie?  And since we’re all currently in quarantine, the likelihood of meeting one on your morning commute seems rather slim).

            This mythological beast with the head, wings, and talons of an eagle, and the body and tail of a lion (www.dictionary.com), has pervaded cultures all over the ancient world, though no one is sure where these stories originated.  There are traces of this mighty winged creature in ancient middle eastern and Mediterranean cultures, and from there it seems to have spread to Asia and down into Greece.  When Rome took over the world, they took stories of gryphons with them.

One of the most fascinating origin possibilities is found in the fossil record (who doesn’t secretly like dinosaurs?).  Many gryphons are depicted with sharp ears, widespread wings, the classic beaked face, four legs, and long slender tail.  To someone unaccustomed to reading fossils, a pentaceratops, with its bony protrusions like ears, huge frill spread like wings, four legs, beaked mouth, and long narrow tail, this animal contains all the possible attributes of the classic gryphon (www.gods-and-monsters.com/mythology-griffin.).  

Pentaceratops

Gryphon

            Did you know that the two most widely used emblems in early heraldry (cue my medieval happy dance…) are the lion and the eagle?  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  The earliest known use of a gryphon as a heraldic device dates back to 1162.  The gryphon appears on the seal of the British Earl of Exeter, Richard de Redvers, but there is some evidence that the same family used it as early as 1107.  The heraldic gryphon may signify that the bearer possesses qualities both of the lion and the eagle (www.gryphonpages.com/heraldry).

            Not only is this mighty creature considered the king of all beasts (long live the gryphon!), but it’s also frequently presented as a sacred animal.  It can often be found among burials, tombs, and sanctuaries (www.britanica.com).  It was used in both medieval Christianity as a symbol of marriage commitment, and as an example of Islamic virtue.  Many gryphons are shown guarding treasures, similar to a dragon.  Medieval alchemists used supposed gryphon bones, wings, and claws in their potions.  Allegedly, drinking from a chalice made of a gryphon’s egg would prolong one’s life (move over, Ponce de Leon!) (www.mythology.net).

            While the illusive but symbolic gryphon remains mysterious, it has become a staple in mythologies world over.  Even today, sites all over the web use griffins, gryphons, or griffons, to inspire loyalty to their products and strike feelings of pride into viewers and consumers.  

Do you have a “gryphon” of a friend?  Comment below and tell me how you met!

Creative Writing Prompts

  1. The sun seemed to hide behind the golden wings as they spread, lifting the massive body into the air.  The wind from the creature’s wings beat against my face, and I found myself…
  • You are a gryphon.  What sort of treasure are you guarding?
  • Looking down, I marveled as my giant wings spread, my tail swished, and my claws dug into the soft earth as the wind ruffled over the feathery plumage at my neck.  The world lay before me, subject to my ruling.  My first action as king would be to…

An interesting short on gryphons

Ah, Narnia!  

http://prehistoricanimal.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-pentaceratops.html

www.pinterest.com

Werewolves

Werewolf.
The word conjures up all sorts of images.  Blood-thirsty beasts.  Slashings.  Mangled corpses and full moons. Sparkly vampires and nemesis-turned-allies.  London.  Lycanthropy.  But where did the stories of these legendary mythical creatures get started?
No one is completely sure where these terrifying beasts made their entrance into society and into the collective societal fear.  According to History.com, some scholars believe that the first written tales of werewolves were in The Epic of Gilgamesh (at least 7th century BC according to www.britanica.com), but werewolves also make an appearance in early Greek mythology with The Legend of Lycaon.  The Saga of the Vosungs from Nordic histories again provides mythic evidence of these monsters of the darkness (www.history.com).  One could travel up the Nile and see many references to Anubis with his jackal’s head—also notably an Egyptian god of death.
The interesting thing here is that multiple advanced cultures the world over have legends of werewolves—whether they are shifters who can assume the form of a wolf at will, or who only turn under the watchful eye of the full moon, or who are akin to demons sent as a scourge upon mankind. 
What led ancient man to his rivalry with the werewolf? There are several possibilities.  The first possibility, of course, is that werewolves are real, and have walked among us for centuries (the documentary, The Bray Road Beast, makes a compelling case). Another possibility is that as people were bitten by rabid animals, wolves in particular, the consequent infections caused people to think the afflicted was turning into the creature that had bitten them.  Werewolves could be a response to brutal serial killings that looked similar to animal maulings (www.historicmysteries.com).  
Arguably the most famous werewolf account took place in Gevaudan, France in 1764.  It was a miserable time in France.  The Seven Year’s War, in which France had suffered heavily at the hands of Britain and Prussia, was facing economic hardship and censorship in the press.  Because of all the political censoring, the press turned to the sensational to garner more subscriptions.  This is where the beast got its vast notoriety, even drawing hunters from far away Normandy (who were unsuccessful).  Witnesses described a giant beast with features like a wolf, only much larger and much more terrifying.  After 30-35 deaths, at last the great beast was brought down in June of 1767—so it was assumed, as the death rate decreased (www.smithsonianmag.com).  At any rate, the large amount of deaths, the publicity of the press, and the terror of the villagers led to the creation of this particular beast and gave credence to the popularity of the werewolf.
It would be remiss to discuss werewolves without a nod to “legitimate lycanthropy” (Webster’s modern definition states lycanthropy is the belief that one can change into a wolf).  Medically termed hypertrichosis, it is a condition in which a person is covered in excess hair all over their bodies (www.dictionary.com).  This, too, could be fodder for the myths surrounding the werewolf.   
Whatever the case, this undying piece of lore has fitted itself into the fabric of mainstream society worldwide and continues to capture imaginations everywhere.
 

Creative Writing Prompts:

 

Mist rose in the dark night like tendrils of hair floating in water.  Suspended against the black night, a ripe moon rose and cast its watery light upon the silver hair of a creature poised on a rocky outcropping.  With a toss of its magnificent head, a lone howl could be heard all throughout the valley below.  Terror lodged in the heart of the villagers as…

 

Are werewolves real creatures that have perhaps been hunted to extinction, or that survive in the shadows of today’s society, or are they a complete work of fiction?  Why or why not?

 

The shriek pierced the night as the great beast took chase after…

 

You have been turned into a werewolf.  Recount the day you received that fateful bite.

 

 

Recommended books for ages 16 and up:

April White’s series:  Immortal Descendants

Melissa Haag’s series:  Judgement of the Six

 

 

“Werewolves of London”

 

 

www.dictionary.com

www.history.com

www.historicmysteries.com

www.smithsonianmag.com

 

Werewolves

Werewolves

Werewolf.

The word conjures up all sorts of images.  Blood-thirsty beasts.  Slashings.  Mangled corpses and full moons. Sparkly vampires and nemesis-turned-allies.  London.  Lycanthropy.  But where did the stories of these legendary mythical creatures get started?

No one is completely sure where these terrifying beasts made their entrance into society and into the collective societal fear.  According to History.com, some scholars believe that the first written tales of werewolves were in The Epic of Gilgamesh (at least 7th century BC according to www.britanica.com), but werewolves also make an appearance in early Greek mythology with The Legend of Lycaon.  The Saga of the Vosungs from Nordic histories again provides mythic evidence of these monsters of the darkness (www.history.com).  One could travel up the Nile and see many references to Anubis with his jackal’s head—also notably an Egyptian god of death.

The interesting thing here is that multiple advanced cultures the world over have legends of werewolves—whether they are shifters who can assume the form of a wolf at will, or who only turn under the watchful eye of the full moon, or who are akin to demons sent as a scourge upon mankind.  

What led ancient man to his rivalry with the werewolf? There are several possibilities.  The first possibility, of course, is that werewolves are real, and have walked among us for centuries (the documentary, The Bray Road Beast, makes a compelling case). Another possibility is that as people were bitten by rabid animals, wolves in particular, the consequent infections caused people to think the afflicted was turning into the creature that had bitten them.  Werewolves could be a response to brutal serial killings that looked similar to animal maulings (www.historicmysteries.com).   

Arguably the most famous werewolf account took place in Gevaudan, France in 1764.  It was a miserable time in France.  The Seven Year’s War, in which France had suffered heavily at the hands of Britain and Prussia, was facing economic hardship and censorship in the press.  Because of all the political censoring, the press turned to the sensational to garner more subscriptions.  This is where the beast got its vast notoriety, even drawing hunters from far away Normandy (who were unsuccessful).  Witnesses described a giant beast with features like a wolf, only much larger and much more terrifying.  After 30-35 deaths, at last the great beast was brought down in June of 1767—so it was assumed, as the death rate decreased (www.smithsonianmag.com).  At any rate, the large amount of deaths, the publicity of the press, and the terror of the villagers led to the creation of this particular beast and gave credence to the popularity of the werewolf.

It would be remiss to discuss werewolves without a nod to “legitimate lycanthropy” (Webster’s modern definition states lycanthropy is the belief that one can change into a wolf).  Medically termed hypertrichosis, it is a condition in which a person is covered in excess hair all over their bodies (www.dictionary.com).  This, too, could be fodder for the myths surrounding the werewolf.   

Whatever the case, this undying piece of lore has fitted itself into the fabric of mainstream society worldwide and continues to capture imaginations everywhere.

Creative Writing Prompts: 

Mist rose in the dark night like tendrils of hair floating in water.  Suspended against the black night, a ripe moon rose and cast its watery light upon the silver hair of a creature poised on a rocky outcropping.  With a toss of its magnificent head, a lone howl could be heard all throughout the valley below.  Terror lodged in the heart of the villagers as…

Are werewolves real creatures that have perhaps been hunted to extinction, or that survive in the shadows of today’s society, or are they a complete work of fiction?  Why or why not?

The shriek pierced the night as the great beast took chase after…

You have been turned into a werewolf.  Recount the day you received that fateful bite.

Recommended books for ages 16 and up:

April White’s series:  Immortal Descendants

Melissa Haag’s series:  Judgement of the Six

“Werewolves of London”

www.dictionary.com

www.history.com

www.historicmysteries.com

www.smithsonianmag.com

Hello world!

Welcome to Facts, Fantasy, and Fascinations!  

This is a blog all about mythical creatures from around the world.  Each blog post (new post every Monday!) will feature a brief history of the fantastical feature, some speculation, fun creative writing prompts, and a bit of frippery and book recommendations for good measure.  It’s the fantasy lover’s dream.