Friday, February 3, 2017

Inuit Mythology of Greenland

Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti

You may think my cat has just walked across my keyboard, but no, today I'm going to introduce you to an unusual mythological beastie hailing from Greenland... the Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti.

Image Courtesy: A Book Of Creatures

The "Az-i-wu-gum" as I will simplify, is a hybrid creature commonly known as the "Walrus Dog". It is described in detail in the "Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore," by Theresa Bane (2016), as having a long, thin, black scaled body, thick, sturdy dog-like legs, and a ferocious dog-like head. It also is described as having a rounded thick tail, with which it strikes its enemy. According to the writings of the 19th Century explorer E. W. Nelson in 1900, the Az-i-wu-gum was universally feared by the native peoples around Alaska and the Bering Strait, as well as Greenland. The beast is said to have lived amongst  herds of walrus, but would kill a man easily and without mercy - should one happen upon it.

Nelson reported a tale of Walrus hunters in the Bering strait being attacked by an Az-i-wu-gum whilst in their boat, with all on board being killed. Although Nelson did not allege to have sighted the beast himself, he reported that all the native peoples were very familiar with it.

Common (viviparous) lizard (zootoca vivipara).jpg
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
As for what exactly the Az-i-wu-gum ki-mukh-ti could actually have been - I just don't know. Being described as scaly is deeply problematic considering the climate of the area in which it is found. There are only two reptilian creatures that I could find that inhabit the Arctic regions. One is is a Canadian garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, "This animal has an incredible ability to withstand low temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures of -5°C without freezing. When temperatures drop lower than this, it can survive with up to 40% of its body fluids turned to ice [ref]".  The other is the viviparous lizard found throughout Europe and Asia, whose range extends north of the Arctic Circle. However, neither of the creatures fit the description or size of the 'Walrus Dog'. 

Additionally, cannot find any details on its diet, though one could guess that if its head was dog-like, then it would most likely be carnivorous. There is however, no mention of it actually eating the walrus with which it lived, or of it eating meat at all. 

In my (non-exhaustive) search of the internet, I have only found Nelson's references to this beast, and no Inuit written texts or recounts -which is disappointing and perhaps I will have to research in detail when time permits.

Anyway I hope you found this as interesting as I did!
  Happy February!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Year of the Odontotyrannus...

Image Courtesy:Wikipedia

Happy New Year for 2017 - official year of the Odontotyrannus.

Just Kidding!

It's hard to believe another year has passed and I've haven't had a new release. Oops.
Well I'm currently in the process of re-writes for "Big Girl," here's to hoping 2017 is a more productive writing year!

Anyway onto the subject of January's post... the Odontotyrannus.

This particular beast caught my attention because it is mentioned in Greek classical writings but also  in a story of Alexander the Great. For those of you not familiar, Alexander the Great became king of ancient Macedonia at the age twenty.  Born in 356 BC, Alexander is remarkable in that by the age of thirty had created a large empire spanning from Greece to NW India. He remained undefeated in battle and is considered by many scholars to be one of history's most successful military leaders.  He died aged thirty-two, many suspect he was poisoned, as he had a lingering death after drinking some dodgy wine. Unlucky.

Anyway, it is alleged that the Alexander's Macedonian army was attacked by an Odontotyrannus during a campaign beside either the Ganges or Indus rivers in Northern India.

According to the Latin "Letter from Alexander" (the seventh of such letters about India written to his tutor Aristotle,) the creature had a black, horse-like head, with three horns protruding from its forehead and was larger than an elephant. The creature was fearless, and undeterred by the sight of fire. It is said to have killed twenty-six Macedonians and incapacitated fifty-two. It was eventually killed by being repeated stabbed with hunting spears.  He reports that that the local Indians called the beast "tooth-tyrant"  hence its Greek name dentityrranus or odontatyrannus.

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
So what may this terrible beast be? Many scholars suggest it may have been a Crocodile living in the river - though the reports of the three horns makes that explanation somewhat problematic. Others suggest it may have been a rhinoceros. This also proves problematic also as the Indian Rhinocerous is famous for being only one horned. Another suggestion is that was an Indus Worm. The Indus Worm is a cryptid beast that looks like an enormous (three metres in length) fruit fly maggot. It is said to live in the mud at the bottom of the river and feed on horses and camels that drink there.  It has terrible teeth on its upper and lower jaw. Again this is unlikely to be the Odontotyrannus, as the dominant features of the beast is that it is black (not white like a maggot) and it has those troublesome three horns. 

The Odontotyrannus is interesting in that the original source descriptions are reasonably consistent. Even an Ethiopian version of Alexander describes it as having three 'tusks'.  Personally think the Rhino description is
most likely - despite the lack of three horns. Maybe there was a mutant? Who knows? The dark grey / blackish skin colour fits, and the Indian Rhino also defends itself with sharp canines. Regardless, I think the Odontotyrannus is is a fascinating beastie, and one well worth knowing about.

Have a wonderful 2017!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Boqs...just when you thought you'd heard it all.

Image Courtesy: Frontiers of Anthropology

Really. Humour me and read on...

Hailing from Chinook and Bella Coola Native American Mythology (Oregon / Washington / British Columbia regions)  - the Boqs at first glance appears like any other Sasquatch / Big Foot mythology.

In form, it is hominid; with a face showing front facing eyes, nose and mouth. It is bipedal (walks on two legs) but with a distinct stooping posture, making it slightly shorter than the average man. The creature's hands in particular are similar to a human, with opposable thumbs. Its arms are exceedingly long and swing below the knees, and, like most Big Foot mythologies - it is very hairy, the hair being more prevalent on its large barrel like chest, though its face is relatively hair free.
It appears also to communicate by bellowing and whistling, and lives in groups.

And here's where it gets a little strange, and if you're easily offended, stop reading here...

 The main difference between the Boqs and other Sasquatch myths is found below the belt (so to speak). This creature's most bizarre feature is its... penis, which is so long that it must be rolled up and carried in the arms when the creature is walking.


It uses its outrageously long member to threaten its enemies but uncoiling it and using it to strike tree-trunks and break branches.

There are several stories about these mythological monsters, the most recent of which was a report in 1924, of a young Bella Coola man hearing bellows, whistles and smashing of branches whilst camping at Burke Channel, in British Columbia.

a goofy movie dancing cartoons bigfoot grooving


There are really many Big Foot style mythologies found all over the globe, here is a non-comprehensive list;
Sasquatch (North America)
Yeti (Tibet)
Yowie (Australia)
Mapinguary (Brazil)
Maricoxi (South America -various countries)
Yeren (South China)
Almas (Mongolia / Central Asia)
Nguoi Rung (Vietnam)
Orang Pendek (Indonesia / Sumatra)

If you're interested in reading more about the Boqs interesting myths here are some links, you might like;
Matthews, J&C., 2013, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, Harper Element.

Have a super week!

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!