Skinwalkers

“Yee naaldlooshii.”  “With it, he goes on all fours.”  (www.legendsofamerica.com)

These are the Navajo words used to describe a most feared and dangerous witch.  The Skinwalker (Seriously.  Cue the shudders as I’m typing this).

Skinwalkers are prevalent in Navajo legends as a form of dark witchcraft.  For the Navajo, good and evil powers merely are—it’s the same power, but with two sides.  The way a man harnesses the power depends upon the man.  There are other tribes that have legends of Skinwalkers, and all of them includes a nasty witch capable of taking on the form of an animal (www.legendsofamerica.com).

The permeance of these dreaded creatures runs so deep that many refuse to speak of them today (yes, in 2020!) for fear a Skinwalker may come after them or a loved one.  It is believed that these terrifying beings walk among the tribe during the day but secretly transform into the beast of their choosing once the moon is up and the skin is donned (creepy, much?).

According to Navajo legends, most Skinwalkers were once medicine men who achieved the ultimate level of spiritual power.  And then chose to use those powers for evil (www.navajolegends.org).  A lot like Star Wars, the Jedi, and the Sith.  One power, but two sides:  good and evil (I know I’m not the only Star Wars fan here…).

It’s reported that Navajo men only wear sheepskin or buckskin, and only for special ceremonies.  This is one reason the Navajo have become famous for such intricate textiles (and they are stunning—I own a set of Navajo-made clothes). They believe the Skinwalkers must don the pelt of the animal they wish to transform into—so the wearing of hides is taboo (www.navajolegends.org).

There’s nothing nice that can be said for these creatures of the night.  According to tribal legend, they must kill a sibling or family member to become a Skinwalker.  They wreak havoc.  Make people sick.  Commit murder.  They rob graves and are necrophiliacs (ahem, doing naughty things with dead people).  Even so recently as the mid-70’s, legal proceedings were brought against a nameless witch (reported to be of the spiritual level of the Skinwalkers) by attorney, Michael Stuhff (www.rense.com).  Skinwalkers are very real in the minds of many from the cultures who hold tales of these evil men who twist themselves to evil’s desires.  I’m certain I never want to meet one.

What do you think?  Are Skinwalkers real?  Or are they only legends?  Pop up to the grey Comments button at the top and let me know!

Book Recommendations

Shadow of Time: Dark Dreams  by Jen Minkman (intended for mature readers)

How the Stars Fell Into the Sky: A Navajo Legend  by Jerrie Oughton

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez

Creative Writing Prompts

“Shhh!” My mother shushed me with more vehemence than normal.  “Never speak that word.”  Chills tingled down my spine at the fear in her eyes.

The moon rose and with it, the hairs on the back of my neck.

Something moved in the shadows.  Malevolent eyes glittered red.  My blood froze. 

The video clip below contains some mature content. Viewer discretion is advised. It’s creepy and dark, but very interesting.

Selkies

Though the stories of selkies are often romantic, in the end, someone always ends up with a broken heart.

The most popular of the Selkie legends (although it does vary some from place to place) start with the finding of a seal pelt.  Occasionally, Selkies come to the shore and shed their furry skins simply for the enjoyment of being on land for a while. If a human man happens upon the seal skin while it’s unattended, he can coerce the Selkie woman to become his wife.  Most stories hold that Selkie women make excellent wives as long as they cannot find their skins.  Once they find their pelts, they are compelled to escape to the sea, leaving their human life behind forever.  Some legends even have the Selkie’s own children accidentally discovering their mother’s seal skin and returning it to her, and consequently, robbing themselves of their parent.  It’s a tragic tale that never ends well.  Someone—sometimes someones—are left bereft.

Selkies are sometimes mistaken for mermaids or lumped together with them.  However, Selkies are said to be beautiful women (occasionally men, but most legends refer to them as women) who wear magical seal skins in the water but who become women on land once their seal skin is removed.  Fur, not fish scales on the lower half.

Original Art by Stuart Higgins. See more @limbo_artwork on Instagram

Legends of these creatures are popular in Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia, and particularly the Orkney Islands.  In fact, the term selkie is the Orkanian (from Orkney) word for seal (www.orkneyjar.com).  To this day there are selkies all over the place in the cooler climates of Orkney and Scandinavia.  However, Selkies might be a bit harder to spot (they don’t like to make a fuss, you know.).

Looks like a good Selkie habitat

It’s thought that hundreds of years ago, people used stories to explain oddities or strange happenings.  Often these stories involved gods or goddesses, or unfamiliar (some maybe real?) creatures to explain such things. The Selkies have their own descendants in this way.  In the Outer Hebrides, there is a clan who claims they come from a line of Selkies due to the hereditary webbing of skin between their fingers (the condition is called Syndactyly) (www.conollycove.com, www.cinncinatichildrens.org).    I think that’s a pretty logical explanation for a child born with scaly-like skin (like psoriasis) or for the webbed digits—we must come from these revered creatures of legend.  See?  Here’s our proof!  

What do you think?  Would you rather meet up with a mermaid or a Selkie for afternoon tea?  Go up to the top of the article, click the grey Comments, and let me know!

Selkie by Julia Ruprecht. Find more of her artwork @julruprecht on Instagram

Book Recommendations

Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

The Little Selkie by K. M. Shea

An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Fathom by Merrie Destefano. (Fathom is going on sale for .99 this week!!!)

Creative Writing Prompts

The sun feels glorious on my skin as I shiver in the light breeze that flits off the ocean.  I peel the rest of my seal skin from my legs, reveling at my toes that wiggle into the rough sand.

“Your mother must never touch the skins kept in this trunk.  Do you understand?”  I nodded my wee eyes, terrified at the vehemence in my father’s voice as he locked the cedar trunk.

I stared at the webbing between my fingers proudly.  It proved I was kin to a Selkie.

Contains some slightly mature content

Mermaids

Water is mysterious.  Water is life-giving.  Water is deadly.  Water is home to merfolk.

Mermaids have taken many faces over the centuries.  Some accounts say they are beautiful women that occasionally come on land and marry human men (more on Selkies next week!).  Others have mermaids as omens of bad luck and bringers of destruction (we’ll visit Sirens later this summer).  Disney says they’re rebellious teenagers with phenomenal pipes.  So, where do the legends come from?

“Mermaid” by Tamsin Bridge ©
Follow her @mnemosynes.dream on Instagram or find more of her artwork here.

Stories of half-fish, half-human people have abounded in cultural stories for thousands of years. Even the Bible has a merman!  The god of the Philistines, Dagon, was man on top, and all fish on the bottom (www.biblegateway.com).  Merfolk appear in other ancient cultures as gods or goddesses like Ea, the Chaldean god of the sea, or the Greek Triton, the son of Poseidon (www.britanica.com).  England and Iceland have their fair share of mermaids tales as well.  It’s believed that early settlements near water, possibly where the tails of large fish could be seen breaking the surface of the water now and then, may account for some of the mermaid tales that have circulated (www.realmermaids.net).  It has also been suggested that sightings of dugongs or manatees—mammals that nurse their young, and that from afar, have a (notably plump) humanoid shape, could have been mistaken for these mythical maidens (www.britanica.com).

Statue of Triton
Photo credits to @warriorphotographer

As most early civilizations formed near water, it’s only natural that there would be legends that sprung up from their surrounding environment.  It seems that most of these “Mer” deities were male to begin with, only later veering into more female counterparts, starting with Astargatis, an Assyrian goddess.  Astargatis reportedly killed her human lover (www.legendsandmyths.net) and then escaped to the sea.  Only in her vanity, refused to give up all her beauty, and kept the upper half of her body human.  Greeks later took Astargatis and made her Aphrodite (www.realmermaids.net).  Interesting!  But what is even more fascinating is the mapping of these stories.  Nearly every ancient culture in the Mesopotamia area has stories of merfolk.  It does make one think…

Statue of Dagon, the Philistine god

Mermaids became wildly popular with the (rather grim!) story of “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837.  Though it was changed significantly by Disney to give us Ariel and her singing backup (sha-la-la-la….), it became an enduring part of modern culture and brought about a resurgence of mermaids.  

Even more prevalent in today’s culture, though perhaps less realized, is the logo that graces every Starbucks cup (www.northernstar-online.com).  This is the representation of Melusina—a girl cursed by her mother and betrayed by her husband and fated to remain a lonely woman with two fish tails (sometimes serpent tails) for the rest of her near-immortal life (www.pitt.edu).  Kind of a downer mascot for a pick-me-up drink?

Why do you think we’ve remained so fascinated with mermaids?  Go up to the top of the article, click the grey “comments” and let me know!

Book Recommendations

“The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen

Everblue by Brenda Pandos

Seaweed by Lee Strauss

Creative Writing Prompts

“I see it!  Look!  It splashed again!” I swore it was a mermaid.  The very thing we’d been searching for the past four months.

The creature writhed on the beach.  Shimmering scales dimmed and fell off, littering the sandy shore with iridescent pebbles.  Was the sea girl dying…or…transforming?

Either I was going crazy, or I’d just seen a plump woman plunge beneath the surface of the water carrying an infant with her.

Kiss the Girl…because no post about mermaids is complete without this song.

And because I like this version, too…

I thought this last clip was superb speculation and story telling in a short snippet. What do you think?

Additional Sources

www.tamilandvedas.com/tag/dagon/

Dragons Part IV

What could a world-wide flood possibly have to do with dragons?

What do Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Sumerian, Islamic, Buddhist, Babylonian, Aztec, Judeo Christian, Australian, Chinese, and Hawaiian myths all have in common?

Give up?

Each of these vastly different, widespread cultures (in addition to many other cultures) has stories of dragons and a story of a world-wide flood (www.mythoreligio.com).  That’s lovely, but what does a giant flood have to do with dragons, you may ask?  Excellent question.

Sir Reginald III aboard the Ark, enjoying a lovely cuppa. Original artwork by Julia Ruprecht. Check her out @julruprecht on Instagram.

In doing my research for the past few dragon-themed articles, I kept coming back to one question—where did all the stories about man killing great, hateful beasts originate?  Dragon stories populate every major culture in the world.  Surely, they can’t all be symbolic stories.  There’s too much evidence of early people interacting with and fearing these giant creatures (check out the past three dragon posts for more details.  They’re in the archives).  To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “No survivors?  Where do the stories come from then, I wonder?”

This led me to the great Flood.  The most widely known and accepted flood story is found in the Bible in the book of Genesis.  To recap things quickly:  In the beginning, God created the world, and created man to rule over it (starting with Adam and Eve).  Over time, man became evil, and God was grieved that He’d ever created them.  God brought judgement to the world by way of much (MUCH!) water.  Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, were found to be righteous.  God commanded Noah to build an ark (think 500-foot-long, multiple storied sea-faring vessel).  At the appointed time, God sent two of every kind of animal into the ark.

Now, going further into the Biblical account, God made Adam and Eve and all land-dwelling creatures on the sixth day.  Including dinosaurs…ergo, dragons (www.answersingenesis.org).  So.  If we can set aside that modern science has told us that dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before humans evolved to walk on land, could this be the link that brings humans and dragons together?

If dinosaurs/dragons were created with man at the very beginning, what if they were still roaming freely about during Noah’s time?  And if God told Noah to take two of each kind, then it stands to reason that Noah could very well have brought on a few pairs of different kinds of dragons.

If this could have been the case, then it stands to reason that man and dragons did live together—maybe even up into the middle ages.  Perhaps some of those tales of knights hunting dragons were real.  There are an awful lot of them.  Look at Bishop Bell’s tomb from the late 1400’s (www.creation.com).  Look at the temple at Ta Prohm.  The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon.  Persian artifacts depicting dragons.  Sumatran art showing warriors hunting a dinosaur-like creature.  China is inundated with dragons in every walk of life.  Ancient Greek pottery shows Hercules rescuing Hesoine from a dragon.  North American Anasazi rock depictions show a convincing Apatosaurus-like animal (www.genesispark.com).

Top Left: Dragon on the Ishtar Gate. Top Right: Stegosaurus from Ta Prohm. Bottom: From Bishop Bell’s tomb.

The point is, every major culture has stories of dragons.  Stories of great floods.  Most of them have stories with interactions between people and dragons.  World-wide coincidence? 

So where are all the dragons/dinosaurs now?  Obviously, they’re extinct.  Although there are still rumors of large dinosaur-like creatures roaming in the forgotten parts of the world like the Congo (www.livescience.com) Australia, and Papua New Guinea.  But what if they became extinct through natural causes?  Like loss of habitat.  Like over hunting.  Like low birth rates. Like any number of things that can and does cause extinction of species today. 

Plesiosaurus Fossil

Is it possible that ancient cultures simply found fossilized bones and concocted their stories from them?  Maybe.  It is just as likely—possibly more so—that they lived with these giant creatures of legend?  You tell me.

Pop up to the top, click the grey Comments, and tell me what you think—Did dragons and people exist together?

Book Recommendations

Fossils by Gary Parker

Flood by Design by Mike Oard

Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol. 1 by Dr. Carl Werner

Noah:  Man of Destiny by Tim Chaffey & K. Marie Adams (recommended for 16 and up)

The Flood of Noah: Legends and Lore of Survival by Bodie Hodge & Laura Welch

Creative Writing Prompts

The waters rose.  With a heavy heart I watched, safe inside the ark, while our village flooded.  Soon it would just be the eight of us and the animals.  The baby dragon roared beside me from his pen.

I readied my spear.  I’d only have one shot to take down this fearsome creature!

Dragons did/did not live with man.  

Additional Sources

www.mid-day.com

www.hoshanarabbah.org

www.christiananswers.net

www.lyntonlevengood.deviantart.com

Dragons Part III

If you look up Chinese dragon, do you know the first thing that pops up?  Menus.  Many, many Chinese menus.  And trust me, I love Chinese food!  But I’m pretty sure there aren’t real dragons being sautéed with garlic and broccoli in all those woks.  But it does show the prevalence and the importance of this great mythological beast.

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations, enjoying some marshmallows with his cousin, Chang, who is visiting from China. Original art by Julia Ruprecht. @julruprecht on Instagram

One of the earliest mentions of the Chinese dragon originates with their creation myth.  After a massive flood, Fu Xi and his sister, Nuwa, were the only survivors.  They went to the mythical mountain of Kunlun and prayed to the Divine Being.  The Divine Being blessed them.  They married then set about populating the earth.  In order to speed things along, they formed people out of clay and then made them live with the power entrusted to them by the Divine Being (www.nouahsark.com).  Where are the dragons in this story, you might ask?  Fu Xi and Nuwa are most often depicted with human torsos and heads, but with the bodies of dragons (though sometimes Nuwa is part fish or part snake…so, Medusa’s cousin or a mermaid?) (www.britanica.com).  Many Chinese people today still consider themselves descendants of the dragons (www.chinahighlights.com).  

Fu Xi and Nuwa with their dragon tails

Since then, the Chinese dragon has seen some evolution.  It is now considered the compilation of several animals—the head of a dog, the body of a serpent, the talons of an eagle (www.culturachina.net).  However, its place in Chinese society has remained steady over vast centuries.  It was considered the national symbol of China until a more recent move by the Communist party moved away from Imperialism and instituted the Giant Panda as China’s national symbol.

Traditional Chinese Ceremonial Dragon

Chinese dragons often fly, are givers of wisdom, and bringers of rain (which is pretty important when the livelihood of many depended on rice pads in ages past).  But did these great beasts actually exist?  Could they be the creation of a discovery of a giant serpentine creature?  Check out the Titanoboa remains out of South America for comparison.

Titanoboa fossil discovered in South America

For years, Chinese apothecaries have ground up the bones of dragons and sold them as cures for a variety of ailments.  Even today, you can go in and order some dragon capsules to calm your angry bowls or to calm your shen (spirit) (www.acupuncturetoday.com).  Obviously, these bones come from somewhere, right?  

These “dragon bones” are literally the fossilized bones of long-dead animals.  We’re all familiar with dinosaur bones.  It stands to reason that before the term “dinosaur” was coined, dragons were simply the giant fossilized remains of what we now call dinosaurs.

Is it Dragon or Dinosaur?

I find it particularly interesting that in so many different cultures, dragons were (or are!) a serious force to be reckoned with—both good and bad.  Sometimes both.  The Chinese have dragons in their creation story.  European history is peppered with valiant knights slaying marauding dragons.  Is it just coincidence or the discovery of fossilized remains that have fueled ALL of these vast dragon myths?  What if people and dragons really did live alongside each other?  

Join me again next week for a last look at dragons (for now) and we’ll examine one other well-known creation story with a slightly different twist and how dragons may have roamed the earth with humans.

Do find European dragons or Chinese dragons more interesting?  Go to the top of the article, click the grey comments, and tell me why!

Book Recommendations

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Drawing Dragons: Learn How to Create Fantastic Fire-Breathing Dragons by Sandra Staple

Creative Writing Prompts

I knelt on the ground near the sacred springs, hoping the dragon would show itself and hear my pleas for help.  There was a ripple over the surface of the water…

Sir Reginald III blew a burst of flame from his right nostril, toasting my marshmallow to perfection.  “You still haven’t answered my question.  What do you think about my proposition?”  His cousin, Chang, watched me with unwavering eyes.

“There!” I shouted as I just made out a glimpse of flashing, shimmering scales in the sky as the dragon wove in and out of the clouds.

Chinese Dragons
Chinese Dragon Boat Racing
Chinese Dragon Dance

Additional Sources

www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Chinese_mythology

www.reddit.com/r/photoshopbattles/comments/1u0gfq/titanoboa_skeleton/

www.dreamplango.com/article/5250/5-strange-beautiful-rice-terraces

www.traditionalchinesemedisave.com

www.artwithmsk.com

www.bigfootevidence/blogspot.com

Dragons Part II

The sun glinted off George’s helmet as he readied his spear.  Aiming at the dragon’s heart, he spurred his horse forward.  The princess screamed and flames engulfed George as the dragon reared back its head.  Armor heating, George flung a prayer heavenward and plunged his spear into the dragon’s breast, rescuing the princess and defeating his mighty foe once and for all.  

Saint George and the Dragon, by Paolo Uccello 1470

St. George is arguably the most famous of all medieval saints associated with a dragon.  He is the patron saint of England (also of Portugal, Greece, Georgia, and Lithuania!), credited with slaying the mighty dragon, and in Christian terms, he slew the devil, freeing England from the clutches of Satan, turning the country to the true religion and saving it from eternal peril (https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/exploring-famous-legend-st-george-and-dragon-005794).  

Stained glass St. George from St. Marys Painswick
Church dates to the late 1000’s

This story is recorded in infamy, but what if it’s not just a story?  What if there really was a knight named George and he really did slay a dragon?  Is it possible that dragons didn’t all die out millions of years ago as modern science tells us?  There are an awful lot of depictions of St. George killing the dragon that match up superbly well with known dinosaurs from the fossil record.  How could these medieval artists have matched these animals so completely unless they’d seen them for themselves? It’s only been in the past century or so that dinosaur skeletons have been recreated with any amount of accuracy with the further knowledge anatomy. Let’s take a closer examination.

The Temple-Bar Dragon that guards the separation of the cities of London and Westminster

In the middle ages, it is important to note that when the word “dragon” was mentioned, everyone knew what the storyteller was speaking about—without description.  This ideal of a dragon was prevalent enough, that even when crucial to a story or legend, often very little description is spent on the beast itself, as everyone was already familiar with this phenomenon (https://www.medievalists.net/2017/04/seven-things-didnt-know-medieval-dragons/).  How do multiple societies become so familiar with this central idea without ever seeing such a creature?

The Welsh Flag
Dragons have been historically prevalent enough to still be featured on this nation’s flag

Let’s take a momentary rabbit trail.  Did you know that the word “dinosaur” was first invented in 1842?  Sir Richard Owen, an English paleontologist who was part of Darwin’s well-known Beagle expedition, discovered giant fossil remains of what he called “terrible lizards.”  He called them dinosaurs (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-31623397).  Any guesses as to what these creatures were previously termed?  Ah, yes.  Dragons.  Do you think the world’s dinosaurs, proven in the earth’s fossil records could be the same creatures that roamed the earth and terrorized villages and were called dragons?  Could they have lived alongside humans?  We’ll look at this more in a later post.

Sir Richard Owen

Did you know that a bone belonging to a Tyrannosaurus Rex was found in Montana—and that there were blood vessels and soft tissues preserved inside it???  If these bones were millions of years old, these tissues wouldn’t be present.  It stands to reason that these giant beasts may have actually walked the earth with humans.  And given rise to the world-wide phenomenon of the dragon (https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/08/17/dragons-everywhere/).

Soft tissues found in the T-Rex bone discovered in Montana
Below: The “young” Montana T-Rex bone

By the time of the medieval age, these giant lizard-like beasts seem to have faded largely into symbolism to show good defeating evil.  But what about Bishop Bell’s tomb?  He died just before 1500, and his tomb clearly depicts dinosaurs (www.creation.com/bishop-bells-brass-behemoths).  Or what about the newly discovered temple remains of Ta Prohm deep in the Cambodian jungle (not quite European, but still compelling)?  With a coinciding date of 1186 and a clear depiction of a stegosaur, as well as carvings of swans, monkeys, a water buffalo—all clearly known animals.  Was the stegosaur a contemporary of this temple and the people who built it (www.icr.org/article/jungle-covered-ruins-may-hold-surprising/)?

The Ta Prohm Stegosaurus

Regardless, the European dragon has reached far and wide and still shows itself in modern fantasy and imagination world over.

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations. The quintessential European Dragon enjoying a nice cuppa. Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht. @julruprecht on Instagram

Let’s have some fun in the comments (go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button)!  What’s your dragon name? 

Book Recommendations

St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

The Dragonslayer’s Sword by Resa Nelson

Creative Writing Prompts

 

Smoke curled from the beast’s nostrils, floating up and turning the air acrid.  I readied my sword.

 

Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations was the most genteel dragon I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting.  He sat opposite me; his steaming cup of tea held delicately in his claws.  “What do you think of my proposition?” he asked me.  I gulped.

 

Why do you think European dragons have achieved such wide-spread popularity?

Additional Sources:

www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g297390-d325222-i55451792-Ta_Prohm-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Province.html

www.biblescienceforum.com/2016/07/05/dragons-are-not-mythological-creatures/

www.historytoday.com/history-today/st-george-and-dragon

www.pinterest.com/pin/122441683592675007/

www.royal-flags.co.uk/cheap-wales-cymru-flag-2807.html

www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/the-whale-story-richard-owen.html

www.sfgate.com/news/article/T-rex-soft-tissues-recovered-in-Montana-2690216.php

westerndigs.org/magnificent-t-rex-found-on-montana-ranch-museum-reports-with-pictures/4/

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g186289-d3161461-i130429485-St_Marys_Painswick-Painswick_Cotswolds_England.html

Dragons Part I

Dragon.

Fire-breather.  Scales.  Wings.  Terror.  Gold.  Monster. 

All these things describe the age-old King of Mythology, the Dragon.  Nearly every country in the world (yes, dragons are a world-wide phenomenon!) has legends of dragons going back to time before memory.  These great beasts of the air and creatures of the deep crevices populate legends and myths from practically every major recognized culture (https://www.dragon-history.com).  

Meet Sir Reginald III, Earl of Facts, Fantasy, & Fascinations
Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram

Most people picture a large, flying reptile spouting flames, ravaging towns and sacking castles when they hear the word “dragon” (Smaug, anyone?).  However, many dragons seem to have their roots in a more serpentine nature.  The English word for dragon derives from drakon—a Greek word originally meaning large serpent (www.britanica.com).  Many legends, particularly in Asian cultures, still show dragons with snake-like bodies and benevolent attitudes.  

Smaug and Bilbo from the Lord of the Rings books
(Check out the Elves post for more info on Tolkien’s creations)

Additionally interesting regarding the serpentine-ness of early dragons are the medieval Christian associations of dragons with the devil (more on European dragons coming soon!).  In Genesis, it is Satan masquerading as a serpent that tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, thus causing pretty much all of humanity’s issues thereafter.  Is it possible that dragons and serpents have this common ancestor and that there may be more authentic cause for the similarities between the two?

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the Serpent

So, the big question…were dragons real?  There seems to be a lot of world-wide hype about a purely mythical creature.  What about ancient texts that refer specifically (and in most cases, give very vivid descriptions!) to giant serpents, great beasts, Leviathan, and Behemoth?  Some of these texts include the Bible, the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh, pieces written by Aristotle, Beowulf (what if Grendel and the Great Dragon were real, not just depictions of a pagan society recorded by Christian monks?), as well as several other solid historical sources (www.answersingenesis.org).  Ancient historians and the earliest writers don’t seem to have any problem with a staunch belief in dragons.

Carving of the Gilgamesh story

Tell me, what other creatures do we know for certain existed that may seem like dragons? 

Join me next week and we’ll look more into this phenomenon that swept Europe in the middle ages…the dragon-slaying knight.

Tell me in the comments, do you think dragons were/are real?  Why or why not?  Go to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” and you’re good to go!

Book Recommendations

Siersha of Errinton by Shari L. Tapscott

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Dragon Rose by Christine Pope

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

Smoke drifted from the beast’s nostrils as I stood, frozen in time and place.  Giant orange eyes gazed balefully at me.

Dragons were/were not real.  Here’s why:

The dragon motioned with its scaly arm.  “You may take one item from my treasure horde.  But be wise in what you choose.”  I stared at the vast pile of riches before me.  What would best aide me in my quest?

Trailer for I Am Dragon–the original is in Russian.  And it’s on Prime.  I highly recommend watching in the original language with subtitles. 😉

 

Mythological Bestiary: Dragons

And no self-respecting blogger would do a post on dragons without including Smaug. 😉

Smaug “I am fire!”

Additional sources:

www.designbolts.com/2012/12/05/20-amazing-beautiful-digital-art-desktop-wallpapers-in-hd-quality-2013-edition/

www.theverge.com/tldr/2015/3/4/8150917/smaug-the-hobbit-virtual-reality

www.tattooforaweek.com/en/Serpentine-Dragon-Temporary-Tattoo

wonderfulgraceofjesus.wordpress.com/tag/in-christ/

www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/myth-gilgamesh-001927

hk.asiatatler.com/life/dinosaur-fossils-collectors

The Loch Ness Monster

Urquhart Castle sits a silent stone sentinel, guarding the vast waters before it.  Waiting, watching, for a glimpse of its most famous inhabitant.  The Loch Ness Monster.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Nessie, possibly the most famous mythological marine creature in the world, is said to exist deep in the murky waters of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland.  Many people claim to have seen this large, long necked, flippered friend.  Some sightings date as far back as Pictish stone carvings (think back before Rome invaded England!  That’s old!).  A 565 AD biography of St. Columba contains the first written mentions of Nessie.  It’s said that our mysterious beastie chomped a swimmer and was poised to go after another, but St. Columba commanded it back, and the creature obeyed (www.britanica.com).

St. Columba rebuking the monster

Loch Ness, with a depth of close to 800 feet, and a length of nearly 23 miles, has plenty of places for a giant marine creature to hide.  The loch is filled with fresh water and holds a larger volume of fresh water than any other lake in Great Britain (www.history.com).  What if Nessie really has been hiding for centuries?  Could it be possible?

Ariel view of Loch Ness

Let’s look for just one minute at a real creature that has indisputable proof of existence in the fossil record.  Meet the plesiosaur.  Plesiosaurs had a small head, long willowy neck, a plump, rounded body, and four flippers (www.britanica.com).  Sound a bit like the common description of our favorite loch-loving friend? 

 

Plesiosaur Skeleton

What if dinosaurs didn’t all die out however many years ago?  What if some of them survived?  Maybe even secretly thrived?  Could Nessie be one such creature?  Scientists are still discovering new land and marine animals every year.  Why couldn’t Nessie have escaped notice?  Especially in the deep shadowy waters of a giant lake, or if the Nessie population is small.

Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram!

The most famous Nessie photograph, captured in the early 1930’s, was proved to be a hoax in 1993. However, it’s important to note that of the three men who concocted the toy submarine-based photo, one of them claims to have seen the Loch Ness Monster and remains a believer (http://www.unmuseum.org/nesshoax.htm).

The “Original Sighting” of Nessie

What do you think?  Is Nessie real, or has she always just been a hoax? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Go to the top of the post, click the grey “Comments” and it’ll take you right there.

Book Recommendations

Dragons of the Deep by Carl Wieland

The New Answers Book 1 by Ken Ham

The Fossil Book by Gary Parker

CREATIVE WRITING PROMPTS

“Look!”

“Where?”

“There!”

“Is that…” the words died away as a head towered out of the water.  Beady yellow eyes fixed on us as the sun glinted off rows of tiny, needle like teeth.

The Loch Ness Monster is/is not real.  Why or why not?

Nessie was my best friend.  Only no one else knew she existed.

 

The Loch Ness Monster Myth

National Geographic on Loch Ness Sightings

The History Channel on Loch Ness

Award winning, professional harpist, Tiffany Schaefer, plays a beautiful rendition of the Scottish song, “Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon”

 
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Loch-Ness-monster-legendary-creature

https://www.visitinvernesslochness.com/property/urquhart-castle/

http://travelinos.com/castles/n22-16194-Urquhart_Castle

 http://anomalyinfo.com/Stories/565-ce-st-columba-and-beast-river-ness

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/loch-ness-from-above-veli-bariskan.html

https://www.britannica.com/animal/plesiosaur

http://livingdinos.com/the-cryptids/marine-cryptids-sea-monsters/living-plesiosaurs/

Elves

Elves…are they the tall stately creatures of Lord of the Rings (you a fan of Legolas, too?), or the silly little thing that your parents put on the shelf for you at Christmas (Santa’s elves will be featured in December)?  Actually, they’re both.  And several other pointy-eared things in between.

Elves are classified as a type of Fae (as we learned last week, this means anything having to do with fairies).  Stories of elves seem centralized in Germany, but elves populate legends all over the world (www.encyclopedia.com).  It’s interesting to note that the light elves (the good ones) and the dark elves (the not-so-good ones) seem to correspond with the Seelie (good summer) and Unseelie (the naughty winter) Courts of the Fae in Scottish lore (www.britanica.com).  Perhaps modern Elves are descendants of this Fae legend?

Depiction of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts

Speaking of the Fae, in some ancient stories, such as the King Arthur Legend, elves and fairies are interchangeable.  Some histories have Merlin falling in love with Nimue, the Lady of the Lake (she tosses up Excalibur), who happens to be an elf.  She also tries to trap and kill him (obviously she’s one of the naughty elves).  Some origins in Norse mythology have elves with wings like butterflies.  Also, in Norse legends, elves came in pairs—one light and one dark.  Sounds familiar, eh?  The Norse light elves were said to inhabit Alfheim—Heaven.  And the dark elves inhabited Niflheim—Hell (https://www.ancient-origins.net/).  I find it interesting how multiple cultures found similar representations for possible angelic or demonic beings.  

The Elven Lady of the Lake handing up Excalibur

I’d be remiss in discussing elves if I didn’t take a minute and mention J.R.R. Tolkien (if you’ve never heard of him, stop what you’re doing and message me IMMEDIATELY).  If the name sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, Tolkien is the author of the world-wide best sellers The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

The classic Tolkien Elf
Sketch by Julia Ruprecht
Follow her @julruprecht on Instagram

Tolkien’s world building was extensive and has revolutionized the way the world (literally the world!) views elves.  This master of languages created several races of elves that have bits and pieces taken from elvish mythology world over.  The next time you see a lanky blonde with long hair and pointy ears, you can thank Tolkien.  

            Elves have become a staple in today’s fantasy novels (as well they should!) but have been around for centuries in their original cultures.

Why do you think so many cultures have similar representations of elves?  Let me know in the comments.  Go to the top of the article, find the grey “comments” and click!

Book Recommendations:

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Creative Writing Prompts

“Quiet!  There’s an elf about!” Da shushed.  “Do you want to be carried off to Niflheim?” I gulped as a pointed ear poked round the side of the barn.

I am an Elf upon the Shelf.  Literally.  My human put me here last night.  I feel like I get a bad rap.  Really, I’m just doing my job.  Like the time when…

Gliding silently over the moss-strew floor, sunlight dappled the shoulders and blonde hair of the creature who ruled this forest realm.  

A brief history of elves

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tolkien elves, this is where this week’s give away stems:

For all my Lord of the Rings loving friends…If you’ve never watched the movies, go check them out.  You’ll appreciate this clip more after doing so. 😉

They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard

Fairies

Did you know that there are hundreds of different types of fairies?  And most of them are not the cute, sassy Tinkerbell variety, though most are considered magical (rest assured, I’ll be featuring many of them in future posts)!  Fairies throughout history have been so feared that at one time, people wouldn’t even mention their names, referring to them only as The Little People, Hidden People, or sometimes The Gentry (https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Origins-of-Fairies/, https://fiveminutehistory.com/the-history-of-fairies/).  All that aside, I’d still sign myself up for a Fairy Godmother given the chance.

Because fairies encompass so many different forms, there seems to be a fairy for literally every shape, size, occasion, and country (Tinkerbell, Lucky Charms, Cupid, jinnis/genies, anyone?).  And fairies are a lot older than you might expect—the earliest fairies are featured in Greek mythology (https://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/faeries.html)!  While not on par with the gods and goddesses, think of fairies as spiritual beings one rung down the ladder—more like a demi-god.

Original artwork by local artist, Julia Ruprecht
Follow her on Instagram @julruprect

Most dismiss any Fae creature (anything belonging to the realm of the fairies) as purely imagination, though there are many (and several current) accounts of run-ins with the Wee People.  Do please share your story in the comments if you’ve had such an experience!  I’ve not yet been so lucky myself (although I do have friends who have found fairy rings—places fairies are said to dance).  Historically, these tiny creatures transcend the corporeal realm into the spiritual one.  Many stories associate the Fae with angels, or their equivalents in other religions (https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Fairy).   

A Fairy Ring
Discovered and photographed by Jenny Johnson

Fairy lore seems especially prevalent in Britain and Ireland (which probably accounts for most of my fascination).  In Ireland, some buildings had their corners cut off so they wouldn’t be in the middle of fairy paths.  And in some houses, front and back doors were built perfectly aligned and left open certain times of the year so the fairies could traipse through undisturbed (https://fiveminutehistory.com/the-history-of-fairies/). All legends aside, the word fairy didn’t appear until the middle ages in Europe.  The word probably comes from the Latin word fata—The Fates (https://www.etymonline.com/word/fairy).  Regardless of the origin, fairies continue to fascinate people on a global level.  Why are we so preoccupied with these tiny magical beings?

Do we long for a simpler time of childhood when all fairy tales were real?  Do we catch glimpses of them from time to time that give us that strange feeling in the pit of our stomachs?  Are they simply figments of human imagination created to explain the misunderstood?  Or are they perhaps real, waiting just beyond our realm?

Do you believe in fairies?

 

Creative Writing Prompts:

If you were a fairy, what’s the first thing you’d do with your magic?

The wind whispered through the grass, ruffling my wings like shimmering gossamer.  Spring was coming, the time we fairies danced on the lawn, sprinkled the grass with dew, and opened the flowers each morning.  But this year, there was a problem.

I am the reason humans fear the Fae folk.  It all started as an accident…

Book Recommendations

(Ya’ll, I LOVE a good Fae read, please leave any other book suggestions in the comments! Go to the top of the post, in the grey text above the title, click “Comments” and you’re good to go!)

The Creepy Hollow Series, by Rachel Morgan

The Goblin Wars Series, by Kersten Hamilton

Pippa of Lauramore, by Shari L. Tapscott

No post on fairies would be complete without these two classic scenes from Peter Pan–apologies, the first is really grainy.

I do believe in fairies!

Beautiful dance of the fairies 

www.fairies.zeluna.net 

www.disnerdadventures.blogspot.com