Sea Witches

Seaweed tangles as the winds thrash.  Waves decimate the shoreline dragging sand, shells, driftwood—anything its dark fingers can reach, dragging it to the bottom of the ocean, never to see daylight again.  Rain pelts the sea grasses, tearing roots from the earth, pummeling the ground.

Tropical storm?  Maybe.  But it could be the doing of a sea witch.  

There are many stories of sea witches, particularly in old Norse mythology.  They are malevolent spirits of the water, sometimes shown as mermaids or selkies (see the archives for posts on these creatures!) that can control the waves, the tides, and often times, the weather (www.ancient-origins.net).

Original Artwork by DreadD @Drea.D.Art on Instagram

Many legends of sea witches focus on the lunar cycle and the tides.  This is especially true in British mythology.  Many a tale has been brought back by a sea-fairing sailor about dangerous sea witches out in the open water or storms and damage they caused (www.themystica.com).

There’s not a ton of information out there about sea witches in particular.  Their legends often blur with other similar sea myths.  Most frequently, tales of these wicked mystical creatures have their roots in siren lore, oftentimes mistaken for a mermaid (more on sirens on a future post…did you know sirens originally had feathers and wings, not tails and fins?).

Sea witches may have gotten a nasty rep simply because they’re very forgetful (I mean, I forget things all the time, and I don’t have all that water pressure sitting on my brain).  In desiring a hunky sailor, the sea witch may take him down to the depths of her ocean city, but drown him in the process because either they forgot he needed oxygen, or didn’t realize he didn’t have gills (although I’d think a quick scan of the neck for gill activity would suffice?).  What a way to go, poor sailor.  Other tales claim that men jumped overboard to save what they presumed was a drowning woman, only to drown themselves as the mermaids/sirens/sea witches swam away to safety (www.gods-and-monsters.com).

Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht @julruprecht on Instagram

The story of Thessalonike may be the best go between for the siren/mermaid and sea witch stories. Thessalonike was the sister of Alexander the Great, and as I’m sure any caring older brother would do, when he obtained a jar of water from the Fountain of Immortality, he washed his sister’s hair with it.  Because, isn’t that what we would all do with water from the Fountain of Immortality?  Sign me up for some of that hair care.

Alexander the Great, brother of Thessolonike

At any rate, when Alexander died, Thessalonike was so beset with grief, that she flung herself into the sea, wishing to join him in death.  But because of her immortally-washed tresses, she transformed into a mermaid.  It’s said she roamed the Aegean Sea for ages.  When sailors passed her, she’d ask them if Alexander was still among the living.  If they answered yes, then she let them pass.  But if they told her he was dead she transformed into a hideous monster and drowned the lot of them.

The sea witch seems to have some pretty murky origins, mixed and matched with different mermaid and siren stories from different places in the world.  But as a rather murky dangerous sea creature, I imagine that’s just the way most sea witches would prefer things.

Original Artwork by Rilee Belnap @Bella_ran_art on Instagram

What would you do if you found a flask of water from the Fountain of Immortality?  Pop up to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button, and let me know!

Book Recommendations

Fury by Merrie Destefano (read Fathom first—it was recommended on Selkie week!)

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

Of Song and Sea by Chanda Hahn (also this week’s giveaway!!!)

Creative Writing Prompts

I clasped my hands and wailed.  Where was my brother?  Where was Alexander?  The seaweed tangled about my tail, mocking my grief.

Anger burned through my veins.  How dare the humans disobey me.  I’d show them who had the power.  With a twirl of my fingers, I set the clouds to gathering and darkening with my brewing anger.

Oh.  Oh dear.  The man.  The beautiful man.  He wasn’t breathing.  I brushed his skin with my tail, but nothing happened.

Because you can’t talk about sea witches without mentioning the most famous of them all:

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.

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