Introduction: Are dragons and serpents merely fabrications of
the boundless human imagination, or do they represent something of great
spiritual significance for all cultures?
Many are the fabulous beasts created in the stories by human kind. For thousands
of years, we have told of fantastic creatures of supernatural powers, some of
the forces of good and others of the forces of evil. But of all these
sensational monsters, none has slithered into as many of man's legends than
dragons and serpents.
Dragons and serpents vary in description according to culture, although many
striking features are retained throughout the written, oral and artistic
traditions of the world. They are usually depicted as gigantic snake-like
reptiles, with a long, sinuous body armoured in either green, blue or red
scales. The head is typically massive, with a broad mouth full of enormous,
sharp teeth and a long, forked tongue. The snout is long and sometimes horned;
the eyes are usually very large and cold. Often, these creatures possess long
ears and a frilled neck, resembling either a crest of feathers or webbed skin.
The body itself is usually decorated with an array of small, triangular spines
extending from the head down the back to the long, barbed tail. Dragons normally
posses four, short limbs with long claws, although some serpents have no legs at
all. In some cultures, dragons are also equipped with enormous, bat-like wings;
in others, they have the ability to breathe fire. They can live in mountains,
caves, seas, lakes and even the heavens.
The Dragon of the Orient:
Just as their appearances differ from culture to culture, dragons and serpents
represent many contrasting ideas for different groups of people. Dragons are
perhaps most well recognised in Chinese tradition. The Chinese recognised the
dragon as one of the four sacred creatures to contain all elements of yin and
yang - dark and light - in addition to the Phoenix, the Unicorn and the Turtle.
The Chief of all scaly creatures, the dragon symbolised wisdom, strength,
goodness and the element Water.
Most of us are all to familiar with the classic
western concept of the dragon, but not all have a great insight into probably
one of the most recognised dragons, the Chinese dragon. In Chinese mythology there are five types of
dragon:-Those guarding the gods and emperors, Those controlling the wind and
rain, Earthly dragons which deepened the rivers and seas, Guardians of hidden
treasure, The first dragon
The First dragon appeared to the mythical
emperor Fu-hsi, and filled the hole in the sky made by the monster Kung Kung.
Its waking, sleeping and breathing determined day and night. Season and weather. There are many differences between the
classical dragon and the Chinese dragon, these include the ability to fly even
without wings, shape-shifting abilities, and of course the general benevolent
behaviour to the populace. The Chinese dragon is made up of nine entities.
The head of camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the horns of a stag,
the neck of a snake, it's belly a clam's, it's claws that of an eagle, while the
soles of his feet are that of a tiger, and the 117 scales that cover it's body
are that of a carp. The Chinese dragon has four claws as standard,
but the Imperial dragon has five, this is to identify it above the lesser
classes. Anyone other than the emperor using the 5 claw motif was put to death.
The Chinese dragon (Lung) was a divine bringer of rain, necessary for the good
of the people. Throughout Chinese history the dragon has been equated with
weather. It is said that some of the worst floodings were caused when a mortal
has upset a dragon. The dragon was also a symbol of the emperor whose wisdom and
divine power assured the well-being of his subjects. Many legends draw
connections between the dragon and the emperor. Some emperors claimed to have
descended from the dragon. Chinese dragons of myth could make themselves
as large as the universe or as small as a silkworm. They could also change color
and disappear in a flash. They rise to the skies in the spring and plunge into
the waters in the autumn...
The mermaid and merman legends
begin with the worship of gods as have many mythologies. This information has
been divided into three different categories to help save time in your browsing
and to establish simple guidelines to see different periods in the mythology of
mermaids. The earliest representations and descriptions of these now well known
creatures can be traced back as far as the eighth century BC. .
three stages of mermaid mythology: Merfolk as Gods
:- a look at the birth of the mermaid mythology and how it began as pagan water
deities and supernatural female water beings. Merfolk and Christianity :- the role of the mermaid mythology changed significantly with the growth of the
Chirstian Church, this is a look at how and why the myth survived when so many
other pagan deities didn't and what the new role of the mermaid was. Merfolk and the
Rise of Science:- for a long time the mermaid was believed to have existed
even by educated men, with the rise of science and the Enlightenment the tides
turned back to try and disprove the existence of such a creature as the mermaid.
This being done the role of mermaids changed yet again.
were known to worship a sea-god called Oannes, or Ea. Oannes was
reputed to have risen from the Erythrean Sea and taught to man the arts and
sciences. In the Louvre today can be seen an eighth century wall-scene depicting
Oannes as a merman, with the fish-like tail and the upper body of a man.
Syrians and the Philistines
were also known to have worshipped a
Semitic mermaid moon-goddess. The Syrians called her Atargatis while the
Philistines knew her as Derceto. It is not unusual or surprising that
this moon-goddess was depicted as a mermaid as the tides ebbed and flowed with
the moon then as it does now and this was incorporated into the god-like
personifications that we find in their art and the ancient literature. Atargatis
is one of the first recorded mermaids and the legend says that her child
Semiramis was a normal human and because of this Atargatis was ashamed and
killed her lover. Abandoning the infant she became wholly a fish...
Seven Days feature writer Stefanie Fox went in search of literary enlightenment and instead unearthed tales of mythical creatures . . . WITHIN the bounds of the rose-covered stone walls stood a table, covered with a crisp white linen cloth.Laden with cake and a bone china tea-set, it seemed set for a quintessential English country reception - until I saw the posters for the Centre for Fortean Zoology on the wall, and met the professional dragon tracker sitting quietly in the corner.The rural idyll of Woolsery is now the unlikely home of the CFZ Press, the publishing arm of 'the world's largest cryptozoological organisation'.
The CFZ investigatessupposedly mythological creatures from around the
world and our own backyards, such as the Owlman of Cornwall, the
Morgawr - a Cornish sea-dragon - and of course our own Beast of Exmoor.
The Press was formed in 1995 in order to publish books and periodicals
on the subjects of their investigations.
And if you think dragons only
exist within the pages of Harry Potter novels and doubt the feasibility
of the Exmoor Beast you need to read one of their latest publications.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary the CFZ Press has launched three new
books, two about rural Devon and all by authors resident in Devon.
Dragons: More than a Myth? examines the legend of the dragon around the
world through history to the present time, and follows the author on
his own expeditions and scientific investigations.
Richard Freeman,once Head of Reptiles at Twycross Zoo, has tracked
dragons through cold, dank tunnels a mile below the Earth's surface in
Thailand, and come to the conclusion that there are real beasts at the
heart of the legend.
Containing many eye-witness accounts the book takes the dragon from the
pages of children's books to what some believe to be a very real and
Richard tells of four teenage boys dragged to their deaths by a
reptilian monster in Florida, a cult sacrificing humans to a dragon-god
in 20th century Tyne-and-Wear, and sea serpents in the Bristol Channel.
Local sailors beware.
While the Cat's Away, a novel about the Exmoor Beast sightings, was
written by Chris Moiser, a zoologist who has spent some time studying
'the beast' and written several small books on British mystery cats.