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SIREN

Origin: Greek Mythology.

Description: Dangerous and devious creatures, portrayed as femmes fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. 

They were odd-looking creatures who had features of a bird from the waist down and a body of a woman from the waist up. Sirens were thought to be three in number, but that is not certain. The most common names were Teles, Raidne, Molpe, Thelxiope, Aglaophonus, Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leukosia.

It is said that the sirens induced by Hera competed with the Muses in a singing contest and lost. The Muses plucked the Sirens of their feathers and wore them as a trophy. With their feathers plucked the Sirens were no longer able to fly and turned half of their body into a fish tail.

Half-woman and half-dolphin or fish depiction’s today are more common than the early 16th century part woman, dolphin and lion. The fish tail was thought to be shed when needed to make the mermaid more attractive to men. There is a theory that mermaids were actually misidentified sea-cows, mammals or porpoises.

They were also known as the “Sea Sirens”, the personality and appearance is most commonly known to be that of a seductive temptress. Her beauty has been said to reflect the wondrous treasures and power of the sea itself.

Location: They lived then on an island, called Anthemoessa, in the sea between Sicily and Italy. Huge boulders surrounded their island where ships would be destroyed if they ventured too closely.

SATYR/FAUNES

Origin: Greek Mythology

Description: Satyrs were creatures who looked like men, but had the hooves and feet as well as the tails of goats. best described as goat-men. Their preferred pastimes were to chase after the wood nymphs and to play nasty tricks on men. They were also the companions of Pan and Dionysus. “Satyresses” were a late invention of poets that roamed the woods and mountains. In myths they are often associated with pipe-playing.

Because most of the myths revolve around Pan, who is a god, I will do a separate blog about him. For now I’m getting through the creatures, I will move on to the Gods and Goddesses soon.

ORTHRUS/ORTHROS/ORTHUS/ORTHOS

Origin: Greek Mythology.

Description: Was a two-headed dog.

Born Of: Typhon and Echidna. Brother of Cerberus.

Myths:

He was owned by the three-bodied giant, Geryon. Orthrus and his master, Eurytion, were charged with guarding Geryon’s herd of red cattle in the “senset” land of Erytheia (“red one”), one of the islands of the Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. Heracles eventually slew Orthrus, Erution, and Geryon, before taking the red cattle to complete his tenth labor.

OPHIOTAURUS

Origin: Greek Mythology. Means cow serpent in Greek.

Description: creature that was part bull and part serpent.

Story:

It’s sole reference is found in Ovid’s Fasti, where the creature’s entrails were said to grant the power to defeat the gods to whoever burned them. The hybrid was slain by an ally of the Titans during the Titanomachy, but the entrails were retrieved by an eagle sent by Zeus before they could be burned. The creature emerged from Chaos with Gaia and Ouranos.

The Ophiotaurus was probably placed in the heavens as the combined Taurus and Cetus (bull fore-parts with a sea-serpent tail), alongside the lyre Lyra and the alter Ara.

NESSUS

Origin: Greek Mythology.

Description: a famous centaur who was killed by Heracles, and whose tainted blood in turn killed Heracles. He fought in the battle with the Lapiths and also became a ferryman on the river Euenos. 

Myths:

Nessus is known for his role in the story of the Tunic of Nessus. After carrying Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, across the river, he attempted to steal her away. Heracles saw this from across a river and shot a Hydra-poisoned arrow into Nessus’ breast. As a final act of malice, Nessus told Deianeira, as he lay dying, that his blood would ensure that Heracles would be true to her forever.

Deianeira foolishly believed him. Later, when her trust began to wane because of Iole, she spread the centaur’s blood on a shirt and gave it to her husband. Heracles went to a gathering of heroes, where his passion got the better of him. Meanwhile, Deianeira accidentally spilled a portion of the centaur’s blood on the floor. To her terror, it began to fume by the light of the rising sun.

She instantly recognized it as poison and sent her messenger to warn Heracles but it was too late. He lay dying slowly and painfully as the shirt burned his skin- either in actual flames or by the heat of the poison. He died a noble death on a funeral pyre of oak branches, and was taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus and welcome amongst the gods for his noble exploits.

ERINYES (FURIES)

Origin: Greek and Roman mythology. Literally means “avengers”, sometimes referred to as “infernal goddesses”.

Description: Female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as “those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath. They correspond to the Furies or Dirae in Roman mythology. The waists of the Erinyes were entwined with serpents and their eyes dripped with blood, rendering them rather horrific. Other depictions show them with the wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog.

Myths:

When the titan, Cronus, castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from the crests of sea foam. According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level- from Nyx, “Night”. Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recorgnized three: Alecto (“unnameable”), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“vengeful destruction”). 

LERNAEAN HYDRA

Origin: Greek Mythology.

Description: Ancient serpent-like chthonic water beast, with reptilian traits that possessed many heads and poisonous breathe so virulent even her tracks were deadly. Also, according to many myths, one of the heads was immortal.

Location: Its lair was the lake of Lerna in the Argolid, though archaeology has borne out the myth that the sacred site is older even than the Mycenaean city of Argos since Lerna was the site of the myth of the Danaids. Beneath the waters was an entrance to the Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian.

Born Of: Typhon and Echidna. Also, the half-sister to the Nemean Lion.

Myths:

It was the second of Heracles’ 12 labors to kill the Hydra.

During the fight, every time Heracles chopped off one of the hydra’s nine heads, two more grew in its place. So Heracles asked for the help of his nephew Iolaus, who would cauterize each stump when Heracles chopped off a head, preventing the regrowth of two heads. Because the last of the heads was immortal, Heracles was forced to bury it under a large boulder. 

After killing the Hydra, Heracles dipped his arrows in the blood of the beast. These arrows were used to kill Geryon. However, this labor was not counted as Heracles was aided by Iolaus.

The breath of the hydra is so poisonous that it could kill a man just by inhalation. The foul stench that the river of Elis, Anigros, exudes is the smell of the decaying hydra.

Also in Greek mythology, Jason killed another hydra to get the Golden Fleece.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Photo By Herbert James Draper (1909).

LAMIA

Origin:Greek Mythology

Description: She was a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating daemon. Aristophanes claimed her name derived from the Greek word for gullet (laimos), referring to her habit of devouring children. Some accounts say she has a serpent’s tail below the waist. This popular description of her is largely due to Lamia, a poem by John Keats published in 1819.

Born Of: Belus and Libya.

Myths:

Lamia, queen of Libya, won over Zeus’ heart. Hera became jealous of this union and retaliated by killing all her children who were fathered by Zeus. In anger and frustration, Lamia retreated to a cave where she unleashed her wrath by killing the offspring of human mothers, usually by sucking the blood of the children. These actions transformed Lamia’s beauty into ugliness, but she was able to briefly regain her beauty to seduce men, and is said to have drunk their blood.

In some myths, Zeus then gave her the ability to remove her eyes, which came with the gift of prophecy. Zeus did this to appease Lamia in her grief over the loss of her children.

In later stories, Lamia was cursed with the inability to close her eyes so that she would always obsess over the image of her dead children. Some accounts say Hera forced Lamia to devour her own children.

(Source: Wikipedia)

MINOTAUR

Origin: Greek Mythology.

Description: A creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man.

Born Of: Cretan Bull and Pasiphae.

Myths:

After he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos competed with his brothers to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of support. He was to kill the bull to show honor to Poseidon but decided to keep it instead because of its beauty. He thought Poseidon would not care if he kept the white bull and sacrificed one of his own. To punish Minos, Aphrodite made Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, fall deeply in love with the bull from the sea, the Cretan Bull. Pasiphae had the archetypal craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to mate with the white bull. The offspring was the monstrous Minotaur. Pasiphae nursed him in his infancy, but he grew and became ferocious, being the unnatural offspring of man and beast, he had no natural source of nourishment and thus devoured man for sustenance. Minos, after getting advice from the oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. It’s location was near Minos’ palace in Knossos. 

Androgeus, son of Minos, had been killed by the Athenians, who were jealous of the victories he had won at the Panathenaic festival. Others say he was killed at Marathon by the Cretan Bull, his mother’s former taurine lover, which Aegeus, king of Athens, had commanded him to slay. The common tradition is that Minos waged war to avenge the death of his son and won. Catullus, in his account of the Minotaur’s birth, refers to another version in which Athens was “compelled by the cruel plague to pay penalties for the killing of Androgeos”. Aegeus must avert the plage caused by his crime by sending “young men at the same time as the best of unwed girls as a feast” to the Minotaur. Minos required that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, be sent every seventh or ninth year (some accounts say every year) to be devoured by the Minotaur.

When the third sacrifice approached, Theseus volunteered to slay the monster. He promised to his father, Aegeus, that he would put up a white sail on his journey back home if he was successful and would have the crew put up black sails if he was killed. In Crete, both Minos’ daughters, Ariadne and Phaedra fell madly in love with Theseus. Ariadne, the elder, helped him navigate the labyrinth. In most accounts she gave him a ball of thread, allowing him to retrace his path. Theseus killed the Minotaur with the sword of Aegeus and led the other Athenians back out of the labyrinth. On the way home, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos, and continued with Phaedra, his future wife. He neglected, however, to put up the white sail. King Aegeus, from his lookout on Cape Sounion, saw the black-sailed ship approach and, presuming his son dead, committed suicide by throwing himself into the sea that is since named after him. This act secured the throne for Theseus.

KOBALOS

Origin: Greek Mythology. Thought to live in Euboea or near Thermopylai. 

Description: sprites, mischievous creatures fond of tricking and frightening mortals. Greek myths depict the Kobaloi as “impudent, thieving, droll, idle, mischievous, gnome-dwarfs” and as “funny, little tricksy elves” of a phallic nature.

Myths:

They were companions of Dionysus and could shape-shift as Dionysus in the guise of Choroimanes-Aiolomorphos. According to one myth, they robbed Heracles while he slept. He captured them in revenge but took pity on them when he found them amusing. In one version of the myth, Heracles gave them to the Lydian queen Omphale as a gift.

Parents used tales of the kobaloi to frighten children into behaving. Term also means “impudent knave, arrant rogue” in ancient Greek, and such individuals were thought to invoke kobaloi spirits. 

Other European sprites may derive from belief in kobaloi. This includes spirits such as the Lancashire boggart, Scottish bogle, French goblin, Medieval gobdinus, German kobold, and English Puck. 

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