Creatures of Mythology and Folklore
One of Aurora's horses.
The sacred bull of the ancient Egyptians. It was known to them as Hapi and was regarded as the incarnation of Osiris or of Ptah. It was believed that when Apis died, a new Apis appeared and had to be searched out; he would be recognizable by certain sacred marks upon his body, such as his color (mainly black) and a knot under his tongue. Apis is sometimes represented as a man with the head of a bull.
A 100-eyed giant (also called Panoptes) who was assigned by the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus, to guard Io, of whom she was jealous. Zeus, who favored his mistress Io, changed her into a heifer to protect her from Hera. The god Hermes, dispatched by Zeus to rescue Io, slew Argus by lulling his eyes to sleep with music and then severing his head. In one version of the story, Argus subsequently became a peacock; in another, Hera transplanted his eyes onto the peacock's tail.
Also known by the name Argus was the old dog of Odysseus, Greek leader during the Trojan War. When his master returned after 19 years, Argus recognized him and promptly died.
Demons who are sworn enemies of the Vedic gods.
Achilles' horse, and brother of Achilles' other horse, Xanthus (Xanthos).
Banshee (THE BAN SIDH) (Gaelic)
Literally means a fairy woman, but is usually used to mean the spirit of a dead ancestress. In the Highlands she was known as the Glaistig Uaine (Green Lady).
A female spirit whose wailing warns a family that one of them will soon die.
In northern England this monstrous dog with huge teeth and claws appeared only at night. It was believed that anyone who saw such a dog clearly would die soon after.
In Wales, the dog was the red-eyed Gwyllgi, the Dog of Darkness.
On the Isle of Man it was called Mauthe Doog.
(This fearsome apparition may well have provided the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes detective story "The Hound of the Baskervilles," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
A good-natured, invisible household goblin. During the night, the brownie performs household tasks; however, if offered payment for his services, he disappears and never returns.
A creature half-man, half-horse, descended from Ixion, and living mostly in ancient Thessaly. These centaurs were invited to a marriage feast, where one of them tried to abduct the bride which resulted in a war that drove them out of Thessaly. Most were savage followers of Dionysus, but some, like Chiron, taught humans.
A three-headed, dragon-tailed dog guarding the entrance to Hades. He permitted all spirits to enter Hades, but none to leave. Only a few heroes ever escaped; the great musician Orpheus charmed it with his lyre, and the Greek hero Hercules captured it bare-handed and brought it for a short time to the regions above. In Roman mythology the beautiful maiden Psyche (or Sybil) and the Trojan prince Aeneas were able to pacify Cerberus with a drugged honey cake and thus to continue their journey through the underworld.
A monster that only fed on "good women" and was therefore mostly skin and bones because its food was extremely scarce!
A monster that had a lion's head, a goat's body, and a dragon's tail. It was killed by Bellerophon.
Cockatrice or Basilisk (Ancient)
A monster with the head of a cock, wings of a fowl, and tail of a dragon; a legendary serpent that is hatched by a reptile from a cock's egg and that has a deadly glance.
A term generally applied to those spirits capable of interaction with humans. They may be human or non-human, or friendly or hostile. They include the demons who cause nightmares; Slavic vampires, or witch-ghosts, who suck the blood of living victims; succubi, who consort with men, and incubi, who consort with women and may impregnate them; the Roman genius, a guardian spirit that stays with a person for life; the Norse troll, a one-eyed monster; the Hindu rakshasa, a malignant ogre who can assume any shape; the Celtic and Teutonic giants, who destroy humans and eat them; the lamias of Greece, who take the form of beautiful women and suck the blood of children or eat them; and the fiery flying "snakes" of Russia. In Christian mythology there is Lucifer, and other fallen angels, and witches who swear loyalty to Satan. There is the Japanese oni, who brings on the winds and lives in the center of the storm, and the Chinese air dragons, whose battles cause waterspouts. Lilith (Jewish and Babylonian), Adam's (of Adam and Eve) first wife, who left him after a major quarrel. In Jewish folklore she is a demon that is the enemy of newborn children. There is a whole branch of learning devoted to the subject called demonology.
A legendary reptilian monster similar in form to a crocodile but with wings, huge claws, and fiery breath. In the Mesopotamian creation myth (Enuma Elish), dating from about 2000 BC, a dragon was considered a symbol for destruction and evil. So it was also considered in the writings of the ancient Hebrews. The Bible (Revelation) also so considers it. Dragons became more benign in later mythologies. The Greeks and Romans believed that they had the ability to understand and to teach mortals the secrets of the earth. Because of this duality, destruction and positive influence, it was often adopted as a military emblem; the Roman legions used it thusly as early as the first century AD. The folklore of northern Europe contains a similar interpretation of the dragon. Norsemen carved the prows of their ships with likenesses of the dragon. The ancient Celtic considered the dragon a symbol of sovereignty. The Teutonic invaders of Britain had dragons depicted on their shields. The dragon also figures in the folklore of Japan.
In China it is traditionally considered as a symbol of good fortune, and was the national emblem of the Chinese Empire. Unlike Middle Eastern or Western dragons, the Lungs (Chinese appelation for "dragons") were benevolent and brought rain, guarded sacred dwellings and such tasks.
There were four types:
1.The T'ien Lung, or Celestial Dragon
2.The Fu Tsang Lung or Treasure Dragon
3.The Ti Lung, or Earth Dragon
4.The Shen Lung, or Rain Dragon (also called Kung Kung)
The latter two Lungs are together known as the Wang Lung, and are propitiated as water deities, dwelling in the Seas. (This information is derived from the 17th century Ming classic San-ts`ai t`ui-hui or Threefold Picture Book. This was an illustrated encyclopedia.)
The Evil Eye (Gaelic)
This is a Highland belief, which has its origins in the Celtic legend of the Fomorian God "Balor of the Evil Eye".
Faery (Fairy) (Worldwide)
One of a variety of supernatural beings having magical powers. Belief in fairies has existed from earliest times, but the concept and description of the creatures varies widely, from the tiny old men, or leprechauns, of Irish legend, to beautiful enchantresses like the Germanic Lorelei, to human-eating giants, or ogres. Particular kinds of fairies include the Arabic jinni, the Scandinavian troll, the Germanic elf, and the English pixie. Although usually represented as mischievous and capricious, they could also be loving and bountiful. In Gaelic folklore the belief in fairies was very widespread until recently. There are several schools of thought as to the origin of the belief in Celtic fairies: 1. Some say the fairies are a folk memory of a former race of people, who lived underground in mound-like dwellings. 2. Many people see the fairies as a non-human race of nature spirits. 3. Some see them as the spirits of the dead, because so many "fairy hills" seem to be located on, or near, ancient burial places. In Arabic and Islamic folklore, the jinni (Genie is the English form.) is a spirit or demon lower in the hierachy than an angel. They could be good, and beautiful, or bad, and ugly. They are mischievous spirits who enjoy punishing humans for wrongs done them, even unintentionally, and so accidents and diseases are considered their work. They are popular in the folklore of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and North Africa. The troll is the Scandinavian equivalent and is variously portrayed as a friendly or mischievous dwarf or as a giant, that lives in caves, in the hills, or under bridges. The English pixie is a fairylike or elfin creature, especially one that is mischievous; a playful sprite.
Fafnir was the son of Hreidmar (the farmer-magician who had received the cursed ring Andvarinaut from Loki). With his brother Regin, Fafnir slew his father to get the ring and the rest of the treasure; his monstrous greed turned him into a dragon so he could guard the hoard. He was eventually slain by Sigurd (Siegfried), who took the ring with disastrous results to himself.
Mischievous creatures, half man, half goat.
A monster with three heads and three bodies, whose oxen ate human flesh, and who were guarded by Orthrus, a two-headed dog. Hercules slew both Geryon and Orthrus.
A misshapen elemental spirit, dwelling in the bowels of the earth, and guarding mines and quarries. The word may have been invented by Paracelsus.
A grotesque, elfin creature of folklore, thought to work mischief or evil.
A water monster invulnerable to weapons. He was killed by Beowulf. The monster's mother, another water monster, was later killed by Beowulf when she tried to avenge Grendel's death.
Gryphon (or Griffin or Griffon) (Mid-East)
A fabulous beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
Originating in Middle Eastern legend, it is often found in Persian art.
It is thought to have symbolized strength and vigilance.
Foul creatures with the heads of old women and the bodies, wings, beaks, and claws of birds. They could fly with the speed of the wind, and their feathers, which could not be pierced, served as armor. They snatched up mortals and carried them to the underworld, leaving behind a sickening odor.
The hippocampus is a creature that is half-horse and half-fish, with the head and forequarters of a horse and the tail and hindquarters of a dolphin. It had forelegs with webbed paws, and may have a fin on the back of its neck. Neptune's chariot was pulled through the ancient seas by several of these creatures, and Neptune was occasionally seen riding one.
One of the most hideous creatures of Greek mythology is the nine-headed hydra. For each head that was cut off, the monster grew two new ones.
A sacred bird. It had a white body and black head and tail. It was associated with Thoth, who was pictured as ibis-headed, as was the moon god Aah, sometimes. The bird was sacred to Isis.
A type of mongoose venerated by ancient Egyptians (called "Pharaoh's rat" because it fed on vermin, crocodile eggs, snakes, etc.).
A male demon that sought sexual intercourse with sleeping women. Supposedly a fallen angel.
A water sprite that is instrumental in bringing about the drowning of sailors and swimmers.
A similar household spirit to the brownie and, also, a gnome that inhabits underground places.
A legendary animal with the head of a man, the body of a lion, a porcupine's quills, and the tail of a dragon or scorpion. First mentioned by Ctesias, a Greek writer in the late 5th or early 4th centuries B.C. when he wrote a history of Persia.
In folklore, a supernatural, sea-dwelling creature; from the waist up, a mermaid is a beautiful, alluring woman and from the waist down she has the body and tail of a fish, complete with scales. The mermaid is frequently described as appearing above the surface of the water and combing her long hair with one hand while holding a mirror in the other. While grooming herself she is likely to sing with a voice so enchanting that men cannot resist it. Mermaids, in the numerous tales told of them, often foretell the future, sometimes under compulsion; give supernatural powers to human beings; or fall in love with human beings and entice their mortal lovers to follow them beneath the sea. Most mermaids are kind and gentle but some are cruel (there are tales that depict some mermaids as drinkers of blood). A similarity exists between many mermaid stories and those told about the Sirens.
In Irish folktales, one is named Merrow, a mermaid who warns fishermen of coming storms.
A man-eating monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man. It was the offspring of Pasiphae, queen of Crete, and a snow-white bull the god Poseidon had sent to Pasiphae's husband, King Minos. When Minos refused to sacrifice the beast, Poseidon made Pasiphae fall in love with it. Afterwards she gave birth to the Minotaur. Minos ordered the architect and inventor Daedalus to build a labyrinth so intricate that escape from it without assistance would be impossible. Here the Minotaur was confined and fed with young human victims Minos forced Athens to send him as tribute. The Greek hero Theseus was determined to end the useless sacrifice and offered himself as one of the victims. When Theseus reached Crete, Minos's daughter Ariadne fell in love with him. She helped him escape by giving him a ball of thread, which he fastened to the door of the maze and unwound as he made his way through it. When he came upon the sleeping Minotaur, he beat the monster to death and then led the other sacrificial youths and maidens to safety by following the thread back to the entrance.
The evil serpent that eternally attacks Yggdrasil, the world tree.
A winged horse, son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and the Gorgon Medusa. Pegasus sprang from Medusa's neck when she was killed by the hero Perseus. Shortly after its birth, the magical steed struck the ground with his hoof on Mount Helicon, and on the spot a spring, later sacred to the Muses and believed to be a source for poetic inspiration, began to flow. All longed in vain to catch and tame the creature, and this became the obsession of Bellerophon, prince of Corinth. On the advice of a seer, Bellerophon spent a night in the temple of the goddess Athena. As he slept, the goddess appeared to him with a golden bridle and told him that it would enable him to capture Pegasus. When Bellerophon awoke, he found the golden bridle beside him, and with it he easily captured and tamed the winged horse.
A supernatural being descended from fallen angels.
A legendary bird that lived in Arabia. According to tradition, the phoenix consumed itself by fire every 500 years, and a new, young phoenix sprang from its ashes.
In the mythology of ancient Egypt,the phoenix represented the sun,which dies at night and is reborn in the morning. It is equated with Bennu, the Sun Bird, emblem of Ra.
The phoenix of Chinese legend is called Fung-hwang or Fum-hwang and is one of the Four Spiritually Endowed presiding over the destinies of China. It originated from fire (was born in the "Hill of the Sun's Halo") and has its body inscribed with the Five Cardinal Virtues.
In Japan it appears as Ho-ho and announces the coming of a new era.
Early Christian tradition adopted the phoenix as a symbol of both immortality and resurrection.
In both ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology, the phoenix is a fabulously beautiful bird thought to be the servant of God. Ancient Chinese, Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Incan, and Aztec mythology all tell of this uniquely immortal bird. It lived close to a cool well. It had brilliant gold and reddish-purple feathers, and was as large or larger than an eagle. Each morning at dawn, it would bathe in the water and sing such a beautiful song that the sun god would stop his chariot to listen. There only existed one phoenix at a time, and it was always male. Some writers believed its life cycle was as long as 12,954 years. When it felt it's death approaching, it would build a nest and set it on fire, and jump in to be consumed by flames. When it was burned, a new phoenix sprang forth from the pyre. The long life of the phoenix, and its dramatic rebirth from its own ashes, made it a symbol of immortality and spiritual rebirth.
A forest and mountain creature. Part human, with a horse's tail and ears, and a goat's horns and legs, satyrs were merry, drunken, lustful devotees of Dionysus.
Part bestial, part human creature of forests and mountains, and follower of Dionysus.
Sleipnir was the swift eight-legged horse ridden by Odin. It was the offspring of Svadilfari (the horse that helped build the walls of Asgard) and Loki (disguised as a mare in that event); and was given to Odin as a gift. Sleipnir could travel through the air and over the sea, and was swift enough to beat any other horse in a race.
1.In Egyptian mythology, a creature having the body of a lion and the head of a man, ram, or hawk.
2.In Greek Mythology, a winged creature having the head of a woman and the body of a lion, noted for killing those who could not answer its riddle.
A female demon, also a fallen angel, who sought intercourse with sleeping men.
Mythological creature usually depicted as eagle-like, representing the great forces of nature (the Great Spirit). It sometimes was a creator, and at other times was associated with the destructive powers of war. It appears in almost all North Amerindian myths, and was also considered a rain-bringer. The Pacific Indians pictured it with a lake on its back (It can eat whales!).
The Siberian Giant Eagle has similar properties, its flashing eyes are lightning and its flapping wings the thunder.
Japan also has a thunderbird. It flies about during storms and is connected with the destructive powers of nature such as thunder and lightning. It also guards the entrance to the Sky-heaven.
(Icelandic) Malignant one-eyed giants.
(Scandinavian) Dwarfs, some cunning and treacherous, some fair and good to men. They were skilled in working metals.
A fabled beast having the head and legs of a horse and a long, twisted horn set in the middle of its forehead. Pure white, it has been used as a symbol of virginity, holiness and chastity. It has also been described as a white horse, with the legs of an antelope, and a spirally grooved horn projecting forward from the center of its forehead, with the horn being white at the base, black in the middle, and red at the tip. The earliest reference to the unicorn is found in the writings of the Greek, Ctesias. Ctesias returned from Persia about the year 398 BC and wrote a book on the marvels of the Far East. He told of a certain wild ass in India with a white body and a horn on the forehead. The dust filed from this horn, he said, was a protection against deadly drugs. Ancient mythology contains stories of unicorns where the horn was supposed to contain a liquid that would cure disease, but the animal was very swift and hard to catch. It was once considered native to India, though it was reportedly seen throughout the world.
The Ch'i-lin is the Chinese 'Unicorn'. An odd-looking creature, it was regarded as a sign of good fortune and justice. It was said to be able to see the evil in men's hearts and slay the wicked with its single horn. It's body and head were similar to a deer's; it had hooves like a horse; a tail like an ox; and a single backward-curving, fleshy horn. Accounts vary as to whether it was a shiny, scaly-skinned creature whose scales refracted the many colors around it or whether it just had multi-coloured hair. Some stories feature them as horses that could run as fast as the speed of light; other stories portray them as being able to walk on grass without crushing it; and several stories point to their ability to sense the guilty. The Japanese Ki-rin is strongly based on the Ch'i-lin.
A wolf-man in Slavic folklore. The wolf was the most feared creature in northern and eastern Europe and Vlkodlak was the personification of the wolf.
1. Achilles' horse, and brother of Achilles' other horse, Balios. They were the offspring of Zephyrus and Podarge (Podarge, one of the Harpies or Podarge, one of Hector's horses). This superb matched pair of horses are immortal and endowed with human speech. Xanthus prophesied Achilles' death and Achilles answered, in effect, "Yes, I know, I know; you don't have to tell me!"
2. The name of the god of the river Scamander, which flowed past Troy.
3. A river in Lycia, sacred to Apollo.
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