Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ancient Horror

     Nerd confession: I am obsessed with all things related to Ancient History. From the Greeks & Romans to the Norse and the Egyptians. I am just infatuated with mythology.   I spent quite a few years studying the theories and myths of Atlantis and have always been enthralled with all of the evil creatures from the ancient times. I find it extremely fascinating and inspiring and always look forward to learning new myths. 
    There are some myths that I have always been overly obsessive with, such as Lorelei, Medusa, Sirens, and my favorite- Vampires. Some of the creatures  are quite terrifying and can cause extreme fear in those who grew up with these beliefs.  They have cruel personalities and gruesome features. I would like to share some of those fascinations with my blog audience! 

    I actually happened to visit Germany when I was younger with my parents. We took a boat ride along the Rhine River and the tour guide told us all about the tale of Lorelei. I was immediately fascinated and drawn in. Before we left this area of Germany, I made my parents buy me 3 postcards with Lorelei depicted on it. I pretty much wanted to BE her and thus started my fascination. 

   The Lorelei is a rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine near St. Goarshausen, Germany, which soars some 120 meters above the waterline. It marks the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea. A very strong current and rocks below the waterline have caused many boat accidents there. Lorelei is the name of a feminine water spirit, similar to mermaids or Rhine maidens, associated with this rock in popular folklore and in works of music, art and literature.

   According to the German legend, there was once a beautiful young maiden, named Lorelei, who threw herself headlong into the river in despair over a faithless lover. Upon her death she was transformed into a siren and could from that time on be heard singing on a rock along the Rhine River. Her hypnotic music lured sailors to their death. 

   Medusa - To some, Medusa was an ugly creature, although I happen to find her amazingly beautiful and she is by far my favorite myth! Let's have a look at how she came into existence, for she wasn't always that ugly. The cruel Gods played their role in forming her into a hideous creature. Medusa was the daughter of Phorkys and Keto.  She was one of the three sisters known as the Gorgons. The other two sisters were Sthenno and Euryale. Medusa was the only mortal out of the three. She was once very beautiful and lived far in the north were the sun didn't visit. Being very curious, she wanted to see the sun, and asked the Goddess Athena for permission to visit the south. Athena refused to allow her to visit. The Medusa got angry and dared to say that Athena hadn't given her permission because she was jealous of her beauty. That was it! Athena was angered and punished her by turning her hair into snakes and cursing her by making her so ugly that whoever looks at her eyes would turn into stone.

    Cyclops- They were represented as one-eyed giants in Greek mythology. The Cyclops were the sons of Uranus (Sky) and Gaia (Earth). They were giants with one  eye in the middle of their forehead and they were known to have a foul disposition. According to the myth, they were strong and stubborn brutes. Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was involved in the assistance of building massive formations

   Satyr- Satyrs are described as roguish but faint-hearted folk — subversive and dangerous, yet shy and cowardly.  As Dionysiac creatures they are lovers of wine and women, and they are ready for every physical pleasure. They roam to the music of pipes, and they love to dance with the nymphs (with whom they are obsessed, and whom they often pursue), and have a special form of dance. Because of their love of wine, they are often represented holding wine cups, and they appear often in the decorations on wine cups. How much would you love to invite a couple of Satyr's to your house party! LOL

   Trolls-  The name Troll is Norse for monster. Danish trolls have large noses, are extremely ugly and wear a craftsman's apron with a red cap and a white long beard.  Trolls had humps on their backs and hooked noses wearing grey jackets and a red cap. In Norway there are said to also be ugly but are also hairy. There is a Norwegian female version of the Troll, which is a beautiful redheaded lady. Generally Trolls lived in communities under hills in long barrows and ancient earthworks. These homes were places of great splendor with vast amounts of treasure.
In the middle Ages they are fiends that wield black magic. Trolls steal possessions, women and children. They hate noise and can be driven out by church bells. One can also protect themselves from Trolls by a branch of mistletoe. This was used to stop children and animals from being taken. They are cannibalistic and are excellent at creating metals and creating magic out of herbs. They turn into stone if the light hits them and so Trolls only come out from dusk to dawn to cause trouble and steal from people.

    Minotaur - This was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man. It is said to have been the offspring of the intercourse of Pasiphae with the bull sent from the sea to Minos, who trapped him in a labyrinth, and fed him with the bodies of the youths and maidens whom the Athenians  were obliged to send to Minos as tribute. The monster was slain by Theseus. It was often represented by ancient artists either alone in the labyrinth, or engaged in the struggle with Theseus.
Before he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos struggled with his brothers for the right to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of approval by the gods for his reign. He promised to sacrifice the bull as an offering, and as a symbol of subservience. A beautiful white bull rose from the sea, but when Minos saw it, he coveted it for himself. He assumed that Poseidon would not mind, so he kept it and sacrificed the best specimen from his herd instead. When Poseidon learned about the deceit, he made Pasiphae, Minos' wife, fall madly in love with the bull. She had Daedalus, the famous architect; make a wooden cow for her. Pasiphae climbed into the decoy and fooled the white bull. The offspring of their lovemaking was a monster called the Minotaur.


   Centaur - This creature is part human and part horse.  A pair of them draws the chariot of Constantine the Great.  They were said in Greek mythology to be wild, savage, and lustful. They are widely known for their extreme drunkenness as it is said that centaurs could not hold their liquor at all yet drank all the time. It is said that the myth of the centaurs arose with the misinterpretation of a horse and rider being fused together. Not because they were actually being fused together but because the speed in which they united was exceptional. The very word centaur breaks down to Cento-goad and Tauros-bull, which hints that they were actually cattle herders.

    Sirens-  In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.  The Sirens of Greek mythology are sometimes portrayed in later folklore as fully aquatic and mermaid-like. The Sirens might be called the Muses of the lower world. "Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption."  Their song is continually calling on Persephone. The term "siren song" refers to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad result. Later writers have inferred that the Sirens were cannibalistic.  "lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones."  According to Hyginus, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them.

     Ekhidna - She was a monstrous she-dragon with the head and breast of a woman. She probably represented or presided over the corruptions of the earth: rot, slime, fetid waters, illness and disease.  Hesiod, makes her a daughter of monstrous sea-gods, and presumably associates her with rotting sea-scum and fetid salt-marshes. She has been described as the consort of Typhoeus, a monstrous storm-daemon who challenged Zeus in heaven. Together they spawned a host of terrible monsters to plague the earth.


      Cereberus- Here is an offspring of Echidna and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant whom even the Olympian gods feared. Its brother is Orthrus, always depicted as a two-headed hellhound. The common depiction of Cerberus in mythology and in ancient  art is a 3 headed hellhound. In most works the three-heads each respectively see and represent the past, the present, and the future, while other sources suggest the heads represent birth, youth, and old age.

Each of Cerberus's heads is said to have an appetite only for live meat and thus allow only the spirits of the dead to freely enter the underworld, but allow none to leave. Cerberus was always employed as Hades' loyal watchdog, and guarded the gates that granted access and exit to the underworld. 

    Argus Panopte-  A giant with a hundred eyes who lived in the region of Argolis in the Peloponnese. Once when Zeus was consorting with the Nymph Io, his wife Hera arrived on the scene. The god quickly transformed his lover into a white heifer, but the goddess was not deceived. She demanded the animal for a gift and set Argos Panoptes as its guard.
Zeus sent Hermes to surreptitiously rescue his lover. The god first tried to lull the giant to sleep with his music, but failing that, slew him with his sword. It was from this endeavor that he earned his familiar title Argeiphontes (literally "the slayer of Argos"). Hera rewarded Argos for his service by placing his hundred eyes on the tail of her sacred bird, the peacock.

    Banshee- The Banshee is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. The story of the bean-sidhe began as a fairy woman keening at the death of important personages. In later stories, the appearance of the banshee could foretell the death.

According to the legend, the banshee can appear in a variety of guises. Most often she appears as an ugly, frightening hag, but can also appear as a stunningly beautiful woman of any age that suits her and is seen washing the blood stained clothes or armor of those who are about to die. Although not always seen, her mourning call is heard, usually at night when someone is about to die and usually around woods.

     Dziwozoana or Mamuna are female swamp demons in Slavic mythology known for being malicious and dangerous. Most at risk of becoming one of these demons after death were thought to be midwives, old maids, unmarried mothers, pregnant women who die before childbirth, as well as abandoned children.

Sometimes they carry off young men to be their husbands. The Dziwozona had huge breasts which they used for attack and murdering.

    Werewolf-  a mythological human with the ability to shape-shift into a wolf-like creature, either purposely, by being bitten or scratched by another werewolf, or after being placed under a curse. This transformation is often associated with the appearance of the full moon. Werewolves are often attributed super-human strength and senses, far beyond those of both wolves or men. TEAM JACOB. LOl!

     Encantado- Although they don’t look so scary when appearing in their human form, many South Americans are so terrified by this Brazilian mythical creature that most villagers will not dare go near the Amazon River at night. Apparently,  this is where the beautiful creature roams in its human form – it’s most dangerous state. By day, the Encantado lives as either a freshwater dolphin or sea snake. When they transform into humans though they behold superior musical abilities, seductiveness, and attraction to parties. Their victims can be driven to insanity, illness or even death. While in human form the Encantado will wear a hat to hide its protruding forehead. It does not disappear while shapeshifting and frequently displays magical abilities, such as the power to control storms and haunt humans. They use various mind control techniques and can inflict illness, insanity, and even death. 
The creatures are known for kidnapping humans. Plenty of South Americans believe in the existence of the Encantado and claim to have seen and interacted with the species. The most common stories involve a type of freshwater dolphin which lives in the Amazon River called the Boto. It is larger and more primitive-looking than the other type of Amazon dolphin and said to have the ability to turn human. There was a recent claim that an Encantado impregnated a Peruvian woman. The stories also involve snakes, whose kinds can vary from the common type to coral snakes.

     Aswang-  A mythical creature which derived from Filipino folklore.  The creature is described as a combination of vampire and witch and is almost always female. Spanish colonizers noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century.
 The Aswang is an eater of the dead and a cannibal. They are capable of transforming into either a huge black dog or a black boar. The creatures stalk and eat human beings at night. Garlic bulbs, holy water, and other objects are believed to repel Aswang. Many stories revolve around these creatures eating children and unborn fetuses. In human form they appear normal, and are quiet, shy, and elusive. At night, they transform into the deadly beast. One key feature of the Aswang is its bloodshot eyes.

     Rakshasha is a demon or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are believed to be derived from foot of the Hindu God of Creation. Rakshasas are a populous race of supernatural humanoids that tend toward evil. Powerful warriors, they resort to the use of magic and illusion when unsuccessful with conventional weapons.  As shape-changers, they can assume various physical forms, and it is not always clear whether they have a true or natural form. Rakshasas are notorious for disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, possessing human beings, and so on.  Their fingernails are venomous, and they feed on human flesh and spoiled food.

     Leshy- A male woodland spirit from Slavic mythology that protects wild animals and the forest itself. Often it will lead humans astray to its cave where it can make them sick or possibly even tickle them to death. Known for its mischievous behavior it often takes the form of a peasant but can be spotted by its glowing eyes. In its normal state it has a beard made from living grass and vines, and is often depicted with a tail, hooves and horns. They also have the ability to shrink themselves down to the size of a blade of grass or to the height of the tallest trees.

     Incubus - Incubus is a demon in male form supposed to lie upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have sexual intercourse with them, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions. An incubus may pursue sexual relations with a woman in order to father a child, to carry on its legend.  Some sources indicate that it may be identified by its unnaturally large or cold penis. EW! Tradition holds that repeated intercourse with an incubus may result in the deterioration of health or death. Victims may have been experiencing waking dreams or sleep paralysis. The influence of Incubi could also have been invoked to explain otherwise “unexplainable” pregnancies or real rapists might have been described as incubus to escape punishment.

There are 2 animistic creatures I feel obligated  to include that are not along with my horrifying theme above. They are just simply beautiful and exquisite creatures I feel deserve their shine on this post.


      Phoenix-   Originally, the Phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.
The Phoenix can be found in the mythologies of the Arabian, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indians and Phoenicians.
The Phoenix is a mythical bird with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (or purple, blue, and green according to some legends. It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self. In some stories, the new phoenix embalms the ashes of its old self in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (literally "sun-city" in Greek). It is said that the bird's cry is that of a beautiful song. The Phoenix's ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal, though in some stories the new Phoenix is merely the offspring of the older one. In very few stories they are able to change into people.

     Pegasus is one of the best known mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine horse, usually depicted as white in color. According to legend, everywhere the winged horse struck his hoof to the earth, an inspiring spring burst forth. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by Medusa. He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing when his mother was decapitated by Perseus.  After killing his owner by mistake, Zeus transformed him into the constellation Pegasus and placed him up in the sky.

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