Friday, July 15, 2016

Hippogriff or Griffin... what's the difference?

What is the difference? 

Well, put plainly it's their bums.

This is a Griffin.

Griffin taxidermy Zoological Museum Copenhagen, courtesy Wikipedia.

 Features: Head, wings, and forelimbs of an eagle, with the rear end of a lion.
Origin: Greco Roman, Persian, Egyptian.
The Griffin is one of those interesting mythological creatures who appears around the world in similar guises. Considered to be the king of all creatures, the Griffin of legend tends to be a guardian creature.
Interesting points: Considered to be an incredibly loyal animal, the Griffin mated for life (which makes the Hippogriff myth even more suspect). If a Griffin's partner died, they would never mate again. They are also an heraldic beast, this means they were often used as a symbol in crests / flags to represent boldness and bravery.

Flavius Philostratus mentions the griffin in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana:

“These animals do exist in India” he said, “and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun ; and the Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them abreast to draw the images ; and in size and strength they resemble lions, but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight; for they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air; and the tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds." [ref]

I'd love to know what creature this guy really was describing!

Now, this is a Hippogriff, as portrayed in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"

Features: Wings, head and forelegs of an eagle, and the rear quarters of a horse.
Origin: Greco Roman.
 Hippos - meaning horse, griff - referring to the griffin. They allegedly the offspring of a griffin and a horse. They are considered to be a symbol of the God Apollo, and their image was used by Emperor Augustus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD) to decorate Apollo's temple (Apollo Palatine) in Rome.
Interesting points: There does not appear to be any myths surrounding the hippogriff. It seems to be a creature of pure symbolism. Though symbolism of what, I can't definitively state. Considering the previous mythology of the eternal fidelity between griffin mates, I am surprised the hippogriff symbolism ever arose in the first place. Some scholars suggest that its use in the Apollo Palatine, is a subtle reference to Egypt (though how they can explain that, I am not sure). Other sources suggest that the hippogriff is a symbol of love, because ordinarily griffins and horses hate one another, and have mated to produce the hippogriff - well, some spicy fireworks must have happened there.


Features: Face of a man, body of lion, tail of a scorpion, sometimes depicted with wings.


Image result for chimera
Features: Multi-headed beast, head of lion, goat and tail of a snake... again sometimes depicted with wings.

Features: Head of a woman, wings of an eagle, body of lion.


Image result for lamassu

Features: Head of a man, body of bull, wings of an eagle.

Minoan Genius
Image result for minoan genius mythology
Features: head of a lion (sometimes a hippo or donkey), tail of a crocodile, sometimes depicted with female human breasts. (read this interesting article here). Though seriously if you're getting a Minoan Genius confused with any other mythological creature... frankly kudos to you for even knowing about it.

And that dear readers is quite enough for today. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Polynesian Supernatural - the Tipua

Maori Tattoos - The Ritual
Image courtesy: Art of Tattoo Designs
The area covered by the term "Polynesia," is massive and therefore so are the mythologies and folklore that can be found in the region. Today however, I'm writing about the Tipua, supernatural being or sometimes referred to as a "demon" hailing from Maori (New Zealand) mythology.

Image result for polynesia mapThis post has not been easy research, as it was a single line reference to a "Pitua" in my "Pacific Mythology" encyclopaedia, by Jan Knappert that initially sparked my interest. Unfortunately most of my Google searches ended up with something about the pituitary gland in the brain... Not was I was after. So after some time scrolling through neurology websites, I realised that Pitua may be a typo, and started reading up on Tipua... and this is what I found...

Let's take a look...

The Māori people were Polynesian people who settled the islands of New Zealand some 700 - 750 years ago (these dates are based on  ancient mitochondrial genomes sequenced and dated to those times). Their mythology, like most mythologies, is fraught with discrepancies, as cultures enmeshed after European colonisation in the late 18th Century, and detailed written records on the subject were not kept or considered until almost a century later.
Image Courtesy: Te Ara
The concept of the Māori demon or Tipua, is often linked with the Taniwha, a sepentine or shark-like 'monster', who lived around water lakes (in serpentine / lizard form) or oceans (in shark forms). These creatures can be either villains or guardians, depending on the particular myth (see my post on Tumuitearetoka).

The Tipua, however, is a concept of its own. Tipua tends to mean "supernatural". Anything can be supernatural, for example; supernatural rocks (Kohatu Tipua), or supernatural trees (Rakau Tipua). These supernatural things were not necessarily evil or demonic, merely supernatural or special in some way. Having said that the Rakau Tipua, may play malicious tricks on people, as according to one legend it pretended to be a log in a river, causing people to capsize their boats...

 In Māori belief systems,  the natural and supernatural worlds are one – interestingly, originally was no Māori word for "religion". In their mythology the Gods (Atua) and Tipua are closely entwined.
The Tipua  are spoken of as shape shifters, and sometimes described as giants, who would do pretty much what ever they pleased. These supernatural beings have also been translated into English as being ogres. They were violent and capricious in nature, stealing women as unwilling wives, and killing men who troubled them.

Most unfortunately, I can't seem to locate any generalised pictures / images of a Tipua in this sense. 
However in the myth of Ngarara, a female Tipua (who appears to be closely related to a mermaid / or Naga like creature) had a long tail and lived in the ocean. If she captured a man and fed him food, he too would grow scales. (Interestingly the word Ngarara relates to reptile in Māori).
This idea is also repeated in another myth of Te Rapu Wai and Kahui Tipua, in which the people living with the Tipua grew scales from eating their food.

So it seems that the concept of Tipua is a complex one. I hope you enjoyed discovering a little more about the mythological world around you. 

Whakawhetai hoki pānui!
Thanks for reading!
Useful references:
White, J. 1888, The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions,Cambridge Press.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Manspiration - of the dark eyed variety

Let it be known that despite my gorgeous husband being blue eyed and slightly ginger (think Jamie Fraser of Outlander but only better looking...), I can certainly appreciate the dark eyed and handsome variety of manspiration, and frequently do.

Here are few of my current favourites: 

Santiago Cabrera - Musketeers
Timothy Olyphant - Justified
Luke Pasqualino - Musketeers
Elliot Knight - Sinbad

You may guess from the line-up above,  am a loving the BBC production of Musketeers. The stories are great, the acting is great, the scenery (mostly set in the Czech Republic) is magic, and the men... well, are simply delectable. It makes for great watching and I am looking forward to season three!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

 Well it's been a very busy Christmas holidays for me. Firstly, we've left the hustle and bustle of the city and moved to the country, in amongst that we tripped over to Japan for a stunning white Christmas!

So.... Here's to hoping that 2016 is a magical year filled with lots of great books, lots of writing, and health and happiness for everyone!

In that vein here is the draft blurb for my upcoming title (tentatively called) "Big Girl".

Happy Holidays!

“Holy shit, you’re… huge.”

Image courtesy: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

In a world where people judge one another by exacting standards of size and style, being a big girl like Eudora Splat was never going to be easy.

Weighted down by expectations and insurmountable differences from her human counterparts, Dora, a half-giant tries to eke out a life for herself, but it’s hard when you’re not entirely human and over seven feet tall.

When Dora loses her job as a gardener, she finds herself drawn into the seamy underworld where magical beings and human purists are at war. Recruited as a prison guard she’s enlisted to protect the magician Evander “Bear” Gordon from human purist attack.

But after so many years of trying to fit in, can Dora embrace her difference, defend the man she charged to protect and find happiness as well?

Happy new year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Once Upon A Time there was... Regina

I feel I have come late to the "Once Upon A Time" party, but sometimes you come late and the party is still rocking. I feel this is very much so with "Once Upon A Time".

As anyone who regularly frequents this blog can attest, I am a fan of all things mythical and magical and the TV series "Once Upon a Time," has me Hooked...every pun intended.


Yes, Hook is indeed one of the many delectable reasons to watch "Once Upon A Time," but he is by no means my main reason.

In fact one of the reasons I love this show so much is because of the Evil Witch, Regina Mills, magically portrayed by the actor Lana Parrilla.


I love the character of Regina, who is what I would call the series' 'anti-heroine'. She is bad ass, tough, determined and powerful. She's a lady that stands behind her word for better or worse - but even better than that, she's also a mother. Regina is the mother of her adopted son, and over the past few series I've loved watching her battle for motherhood rights with her son's biological mother - the more typical heroine of the series Emma Swan. Having said that Emma isn't your typical mother figure either, and again, nor is her mother Snow White - and this is what I love so much about the series. It's a lot about motherhood, the good, the bad and the ugly.

As a mother myself, I love watching mothers be portrayed in film and literature, but get tired of the dichotomous portrayal of either the sappy mother or the terrible mother. As a mother Regina is complex, she loves her son greatly, but her love for him doesn't diminish her ambition either, which is a take on motherhood not always depicted well in film.

I wouldn't recommend "Once" to everyone, there are cliches, there is some goofy one liners, there are plenty of improbabilities... by my oh my is it worth everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

5 Most Bizarre Mythological Creatures

It's been a while coming, but this is a post I've been longing to write -
the worlds strangest and funniest mythological creatures!

The Ant Lion.

Yes, it's really as silly as it sounds.

Image Courtesy: B. Rosen, "The Mythical creatures bible".
Hailing from an early Greek Bestiary, the Ant-lion is a strange creature with the head of a lion and the body of an ant... This is because the Ant-Lion's father is indeed a lion and its mother a tiny ant. Really, the mind boggles at the physiological impossibility of it all. Considering a male lion has a penis about 6-9 inches that is covered with barbs, and the average size of  queen ant (the only ant capable of having young) is a meagre 8 mm - copulation simply could not occur without the assistance of a shrinking ray...which hasn't yet been invented... 
This all aside, it was said in those early Greek bestiaries that because the ant-lion's father is a carnivore and its mother a herbivore... all ant-lion's die shortly after birth.

The Jackalope

Image Courtesy: Museum Of the Weird. 
The Jackalope is a cryptid that comes from America, notably Wyoming. It is said to be a cross between the pygmy deer and a jack rabbit.  In the 16th - 18th Centuries, European bestiaries indicated a strong belief in horned rabbits. According to legend Jackalope milk has medicinal properties (unsurprisingly as an aphrodesiac), and the beasts can only breed during electrical storms that include hail (very specific). The Jackalope can imitate human voices and does so to lead hunters astray.
Interesting to note, it has been suggested that the Jackalope is in fact a jack rabbit suffering from a wart virus, the warts developing into horny growths that may (or may not) appear as 'antlers'.

The Amphisbaena
Image Courtesy: Theoi
The Amphisbaena is a Libyan mythological beastie, said to help women during childbirth. It comes in the form of a double headed snake or dragon - with the heads at either ends of its body.
What's that you say? 
It has a head where its bum should be?
Yes indeedy.
If you're anything like me (which I'm presuming you are because you're reading this), if it really existed how the hell did this critter do its pooping?

Well... If there was any chance of this biological anomaly even reaching existence it would have to have an two sets of internal organs meeting at an anus / vent somewhere in its middle. Generally speaking  reptiles have a multi-purpose orifice called a cloaca - which serves the purpose of common outlet into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts open and that opening is almost always at its tail end.

 When googling this creature I did indeed find images that looked like two headed snakes (heads at each end). They were in fact Eryx johnii, or sand boa snake that has a tail resembling its head. These creatures are found in India, Pakistan and the Middle East... and are possibly what the Amphisbaena really is.

The Batibat

Image Courtesy: Tumblr

This bad girl is found in the Philippines. She is essentially an overweight female wood nymph.
If her tree is cut down to build a bed, she will hunt down the owner of the bed and smother their faces at night until they are dead. It is said that she can be deterred from squashing you if you bite your own thumb... Remember that... It might come in handy.

The Asiman or Obayifo

Image Courtesy: Pieter Hugo

This mythological beastie hails from West Africa and is known as the Asiman or Obayifo by the Ashanti people. Generally considered a vampiric beast, it is  described as having shifty eyes and being obsessed with food.... (Wait I think I know some of these!) The Asiman are often believed to be witches who feed of despair, but also the blood of children.
This isn't funny or bizarre is it? 
 It gets better... When travelling at night they are said to turn into orbs of light. 
Still not bizarre enough? 
Well in Joseph William's 2003, book Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica.,it states that rather than turning into an orb of light, the Obayifo emit a phosphorescent light from their armpits and anus instead.
Mooning animated emoticon
Which makes you think they'd wear thick pants and woolly jackets to prevent giving themselves away.

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Holy Chinese Zombies Batman!

Image courtesy: BIG ACTIVE


Some time ago I wrote a blog post (you can read it HERE) about Zombies and mentioned a few found throughout the world, but one I neglected to mention were the JiangShi - the Chinese Walking Dead.

The Jiangshi are also known alternatively throughout parts of Asia as: cương thi in Vietnamese, gangshi in Korean and kyonshī in Japanese.

Like most zombie mythologies, they have a physical (earthly body), but are not alive and have no free will of their own.

It is said that the walking dead were regularly seen on the roads of rural China, shambling to find their way back to their ancestral homes. If a Chinese person was buried away from his/her ancestral lands without the correct rituals it was widely believed that they would turn into a zombie in a desire to return home.

Image result for jiangshi
Generally speaking, a jiangshi's appearance can vary.  The jiangshi may appear unremarkable albeit pale and stiff with rigor mortis or depending on the length of time out of the grave, can be a rather horrifying spectacle of human decomposition with rotting flesh, and greenish skin covered in mould.
One of the main features of the jiangshi is said to be its stiff mode of movement. They walk with arms outstretched for balance, and may even hop or lope as their limbs are largely unbending.

 I have read that the Chinese character for "jiang" (僵) in "jiangshi" literally means "hard" or "stiff", in reference (one can assume) to the process of rigor mortis, when the body of dead person or animal becomes stiff and unbending. If this is indeed the case, then I would speculate that the jiangshi could only made from a recently dead individual - rather than the long time dead being raised from the grave.

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death") is caused by chemical changes in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to stiffen. It starts between 2-6 hours after death first in the eyelids, jaw and neck, progressing to other parts of the body. Rigor mortis lasts between 24 - 48 hours.

If a corpse was magically animated during those first 24 - 48 hours then the mobility of the individual would be highly compromised as the jiangshi myths suggest they are.

The jiangshi are relatively popular in Chinese and Hong Kong horror movies, and are often depicted wearing Qing era clothing - they are also often referred to as Chinese Vampires, as the familiarity of the Western bloodsucking vampire merged with traditional mythology. Some jiangshi may attack humans and consume their life force. Essentially, however, the jiangshi is a shambling, rotting corpse with little or no self awareness and animalistic tendencies. It is suggested that some Taoist priests and malevolent magicians may raise jiangshi from their rest to do their wicked bidding, but most myths are more benign suggesting that the animated corpses simply want to go home.

Wikipedia (fabulous source of trustworthy information that it is) has amusingly listed [link ref] methods to prevent jiangshi attack. Some of which are quite unusual. I do not have the time to verify the authenticity of these methods or the quotes used, so read and take them with a pinch of salt, or perhaps the hooves of a black donkey.

  • Mirrors: "A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. It is dark on the external but bright inside." (鏡乃金水之精,內明外暗。) 
  • Jiangshis are also said to be terrified of their own reflections.
  • Items made of wood from a peach tree: "Peach is the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter evil spirits." (桃者,五行之精,能厭服邪氣,制御百鬼。)
  • A rooster's call: Yuan Mei's book "Evil spirits withdraw when they hear a rooster's call" (鬼聞雞鳴即縮。), because the rooster's call usually occurs with the rise of the sun.
  • Jujube seeds:  "Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupuncture points on the back of a corpse." (棗核七枚,釘入屍脊背穴。)
  • Fire: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "When set on fire, the sound of crackling flames, blood rushes forth and bones cry." (放火燒之,嘖嘖之聲,血湧骨鳴。)
  • Hooves of a black donkey: Mentioned in Zhang Muye's fantasy novel Ghost Blows Out the Light
  • Vinegar: Mentioned by coroners in eastern Fujian
  • Ba gua sign
  • I Ching
  • Tong Shu
  • Glutinous rice, rice chaff
  • Adzuki beans
  • Handbell
  • Thread stained with black ink
  • Blood of a black dog
  • Stonemason's awl
  • Axe
  • Broom
So, dear readers,  if you suspect your beloved may turn into a jiangshi, keep your roosters and jujube seeds handy.

Have a super day.