Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Favorite Mythological Creatures

  I've always been fascinated by mythology.  To this day, I muse that the convenient swirl of hair below a horse's forelock is where its unicorn's horn once was.  But I also can't see the Black Forest without wondering if the ErlKing goblin is lurking in the shadows of the lovely trees.  Myths have always inspired people as to the possibilities out there, as well as represented the shadows and light of the universal history of mankind.

The plural is pegasi, but in Greek mythology there was only one Pegasus.  He was a beautiful horse, white, winged, and magnificent, born from the union of Poseidon (who, some say, created horses from the surging sea foam of waves) and Medusa, back when she was still a beautiful woman before Athena turned her into a monster.  The Greek heroes often sought out Pegasus as a mount when they quested to slay deadly monsters.  Interestingly, Heracles and Pegasus never met in myth, though the Disney film will tell you otherwise. ;)  Theseus rode Pegasus in order to destroy Medusa.  Medusa was in fact Pegasus's mother, though it is sometimes said he sprang from her blood in the temple of Athena.  Later, Bellerophon rode Pegasus when he slew the terrifying Chimera. Bellerophon later fell to his death from Pegasus's back, and so the immortal horse flew to Olympus, where he became the steed of Eos, the goddess who brought the dawn.  Pegasus also brought Zeus thunder and lightning on his back, and was placed in the autumn sky as a constellation in honor of his service to the gods.  

I grew up around horses, so the animals have always been special to me.  Whilst Pegasus is renowned as a noble and beautiful horse, the treacherous Kelpie is an infamous monster which hails from Scotland.  The Kelpie is a beautiful water horse whom waits in the shallow water of lakes and streams and entrances humans to sit on its back.  Many humans have tried to bridle the Kelpie and employ it to plow fields, but almost invariably the water monster drags them down to the briny deep to devour them.  There's a rumor that it prefers livers above all else.  ;)

The idea of a firebird which explodes in flames when dying only to be reborn in its ashes is an ancient one.  The Egyptians first told stories of the creature, and much of Asia and Middle East followed suit over the centuries, calling it by the varied names of Feng-Huang, Ho-oo, Benu, and Firebird.  Today Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes from the Harry Potter series is well-known as a symbol of wisdom and rebirth.

The Good People
It's what they would prefer you to call them.  :)  Modern faeries abound in urban fantasy and in art, but the original faeries were descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, a mythical race of gods and goddesses who once inhabited Ireland.  After the coming of Christianity to the Emerald Isle, the Tuatha (their name means, in Irish, the people of the goddess Danu) were reduced to nature spirits and the seldom-seen bogies and tricksters of faerie lore.  The sidhe, as they are sometimes called, are said to live under mounds and in cairns, as well as in their mythical homeland of Tir Na nOg.  They are the inspiration for many modern fantasy races, including the elves of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.

Kitsune is the Japanese word for 'fox'.  In Japan, foxes were revered as wise nature spirits who safeguarded forests and temples.  Many of the urban temples in Tokyo boast statues of foxes which are really quite uncanny!  As long as there have been stories of the mythical fox, there have been stories of humans-- particularly young women-- who turn out to be foxes.  Always, the Kitsune's true nature is that of the fox, and even in their human forms they are capricious and sly.  The typical legend is that a young man falls in love with a girl and marries her, only to later find that she is in fact a fox.  Sometimes, a fox will bless a village or a helpful human. The Kitsune is said to be different from typical foxes in that it may have several tails.  Two or three tails is common in art, but the wisest and eldest Kitsune are said to have snow-white nine tails.  This portrait of a Kitsune is actually quite eerie... it's kinda freaking me out!

Hope you guys enjoyed the myth snippets and the pics.  Feedback is what I live for, so tell me what you think! As far as the Midnight Summer Fest goes, don't forget to enter my giveaway to win one of two books featuring myth and folklore.


Aylee said...

Well, I learned something new. Actually, lots of things new :) Out of these, I knew the least about Kelpies and Kitsune. I guess Kitsune is where they got the idea for Vulpix and Ninetails in Pokemon. You're right, that is one creepy picture.

alyssa said...

I love kelpies :)

Sugar and Snark said...

Pegasus is awesome!

Maria Behar said...

Gosh, I should have commented on this sooner, since it was this post that inspired my own post on unicorns and winged horses! Sorry 'bout that, but here I am now!

All of the creatures you mention are, of course, fascinating! My very favorite of all the ones you've mentioned is Pegasus, but I also love faeries and elves! Naturally, since I'm a devoted Tolkien fan!!

You're so lucky to have grown up around horses!! As I was growing up, all I could do was read my horse novels -- such as "National Velvet", "My Friend Flicka", and the Black Stallion books, and daydream about these beautiful animals...

The only creature I've never heard oft is the kitsune. In American slang, as you know, girls are frequently said to be "foxy". One guy will also tell another, "Yeah, she's a fox!" What an interesting coincidence!

Anyway, thanks for a fascinating post!!

Kat said...

@Maria-- You're right, "foxy" is an interesting coincidence! I've never heard that the phrase is related to kitsune... but I guess a lot of the people who say "foxy" don't know how foxy foxes are said to be in Japan! :)

mr.bishop said...

interesting do you know anything about Dullahan's?

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