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Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

We’re going to the lake today, so here’s a reblog from February of 2012.


The Real Tiamat

Tiamat is a name you hear bandied about in games and books, always as a powerful dragon foe. But before pop culture got ahold of her—long, LONG before—Tiamat was a goddess worshipped by the Babylonians as a creator god.

Tiamat is mentioned in sagas dating back to 2,000 BCE. Her original role was as goddess of salt water. Together with her husband, Apsu, god of fresh water, she created the world and the first other deities. Later myths described her as a huge, bloated creature and associated her with the chaos of the open sea. It’s said that Tiamat and Apsu warred against their descendants. Marduk, the sun god, eventually defeated Tiamat by cutting her in half. From one part he created the sky, and from the other, he created the land.

Interestingly, this is quite like Greek/Roman myth, where the elder god Chronos also tried to destroy his offspring.

Babylon was an important city in Mesopotamia, a region where a number of civilizations rose and fell through Biblical times. These included the Akkadians, Sumerians, Assyrians, and of course, the Babylonians.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Legends from all over the world tell glorious tales of heroes who kill mighty dragons. (It seems unfair to the dragons, but there you go.) Here are my picks for the five best known dragon slayers.

5. Beowulf, the epitome of the Norse warrior. He’s most famous for killing the monster Grendel, but in his old age he still had enough courage to take on a dragon that was attacking his people. (They both died.)

4. Saint George, a Medieval English knight, killed a dragon in Libya and converted the populace to Christianity. (This could be a bit of wishful thinking, since modern day Libya is a Muslim majority country.)

3. Hercules, from Greece, defeated the dreaded Hydra in order to win  forgiveness from the goddess Hera. (It didn’t work.) Later, he used trickery to steal golden apples from their guardian dragon, Ladon.

2. Tokoyo, from Japan. She took the place of a maiden who was about to be sacrificed, and killed the dragon Yofune-Nushi. This healed an emperor’s curse. In gratitude, he released her father from prison.

1. Sigurd, a.k.a. Siegfried, killed the dragon Fafnir. Then he bathed in his blood to become invulnerable. He was also able to understand the language of birds, which allowed him to overcome a treacherous attack. Finally, Sigurd roasted and ate Fafnir’s heart! From this he gained powers of prophecy.

Perhaps you disagree with my choices? Comment away! I’d love to hear who you think are the most famous dragonslayers! Also, check out this Top-Five Dragonslayers list that’s more focused on media and video games.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

The hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, had been ordered to lurk in the Garden of the Hesperides by Hera, queen of the Greek gods. His task: prevent any intruders from stealing the golden apples, which bestowed immortality. However, during these days, the demi-god Hercules had offended Hera and been assigned to do ten great labors as penance. The arbiter of the labors was Eurystheus, a devout follower of Hera. In order to delay Hercules completing his penance, Eurystheus declared that two of the ten tasks (killing the Hydra and cleaning the Augean Stables) were void. Hercules would have to do two more.

As the eleventh task, Eurystheus demanded that Hercules bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides. That’s right — in order to appease Hera, Hercules had to steal something from her garden! (What a great idea. Thanks so much, Eurystheus.)

Hercules set off on his journey. After several trials just to find the Garden of the Hesperides, Hercules received advice from the tortured god Prometheus. Prometheus said that the Hesperides were daughters of the god Atlas, who held up the Earth and sky. Because of this, Ladon would not challenge him if he went to pick the apples.

Hercules traveled on and found Atlas, groaning under the weight of his immense burden. He offered to hold the Earth if Atlas would do him this favor. Atlas immediately agreed. He went to the garden, probably had a nice visit with his daughters, and came back with the golden apples.

However, Atlas enjoyed being free. He wanted to extend the time a little longer. So, Atlas offered to take the golden apples to Eurystheus in Hercules’s place. Hercules knew that Eurystheus probably wouldn’t count this task if someone else brought him the prize. He pretended to agree, but asked that Atlas take his burden back long enough for Hercules to fold his cloak and make a pad for his shoulders. Atlas put the apples down and lifted up the Earth. Whereupon, Hercules grabbed the apples and ran off, leaving Atlas with his original task of holding up the earth and sky.

All of this means that Ladon has a great distinction. He is the only magical beast to have survived an encounter with Hercules!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

What’s a dragon without a treasure to guard? (Still pretty scary, if you ask me.) Yet many tales do involve treasures watched over by dragons. In this case, the dragon guards the greatest prize of all: immortality!

The people of ancient Greece believed that a magical garden existed far, far to the west. It was home to the Hesperides, a group of nymphs who embodied the glory of the setting sun. In addition to adorning the sky with wonderful sunsets, the Hesperides had responsibility for Hera’s apple orchard.

Eons before, Hera had received a golden apple from her mother, Gaia, as a gift on her wedding day. This marvelous fruit could bestow eternal life upon anyone who ate it. Hera planted the seeds of the golden apple in her garden and assigned the Hesperides to cultivate the trees. Each tree bore golden apples as its fruit.

Such a treasure naturally attracted would-be thieves. The Hesperides were vigilant and never lost a single apple. However, it seems they sometimes indulged themselves and ate a few of the prized fruit. Hera decided to beef up security by adding a dragon to the mix.

Ladon was his name. He was the offspring of two monstrous Titans, Typhon and Echidna. Among his siblings? The dreaded Hydra. Like his father, Ladon had 100 heads and spoke 100 languages, but the one he spoke best was that of terror and pain.  Many mortals tried to sneak into the garden and purloin a golden apple. None returned to tell of it.

A few of the gods were able to gain access, however. It’s said that Eris, goddess of discord, used one of the golden apples to start a quarrel among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite that ultimately led to the Trojan War. It’s also said that the proud warrior maid, Atalanta, was thrown off her stride by a lure of golden apples. These had been provided by Aphrodite to her suitor, Hippomenes.

Come back on Saturday for more of Ladon’s legend.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been regaling you with tales of the sirrush, a dragon of Babylonian lore. Unlike many dragon tales, the sirrush dwells in a zone of intersection between history and legend. Documents exist from the era that can confirm or deny details about this dragon. One of these is a text from the Book of Daniel.

Daniel, of course, is a famous Biblical prophet. His mission was to throw down idols and expose what, to him, were false gods. Since Babylon was the world’s great power of the time, Daniel went after their pantheon.

In those days, priests of the god Baal housed a sirrush in one of their temples. They worshiped the dragon, believing this was their god personified on Earth. Upon seeing the sirrush, Daniel declared this was nothing but a beast. The priests of Baal were insulted. They challenged him to prove his words. Daniel baked barley cakes, but secretly poisoned them with pitch, hair and tar. When these were fed to the sirrush, it caused the creature to swell up and burst!

Naturally, the priests were even more furious. They demanded justice from their king. This led to Daniel’s stint in the den of lions, from which the prophet miraculously emerged unharmed. The king was suitably impressed that Daniel’s god had protected him. He had the priests of Baal thrown into the lion’s den instead, where they were instantly killed.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

King Nebuchadnezzar II ruled the Babylonian Empire between 634 and 562 B.C.E. As his conquests mounted, he wanted to secure his capital and inspire awe at the same time. To do this, he build a wall around Babylon that supposedly was wide enough to race chariots on top. Visitors to the city had to pass through one of several magnificent gates.

The most famous of these is the Ishtar Gate. Excavated in 1904, it holds reliefs of several animals representing gods in the Babylonian pantheon. There are lions representing Ishtar (goddess of love), bulls representing Adad (god of storms), and the chief god, Marduk, represented by a strange creature called the sirrush.

Sirrush, also translated as mushhshushu or muhushu, is often referred to as a dragon, but that could be because nobody knew what else to call it. Like many mythological creatures, it is a hybrid beast combining a serpent’s head with forked tongue, either horns or a curled crest, a long neck, scaly body, fore paws of a lion, hind legs of an eagle, and a long tail held upright behind it.

Because the other creatures on the Ishtar Gate are realistic depictions of living animals, some scientists have suggested that the sirrush also represented an actual animal known to the Babylonians. It’s hard to imagine what that might be! However, a giraffe has been put forward as one possible model for the sirrush. They do have long necks and horns. From a distance, the giraffe’s markings might look like scales. While giraffes are not native to Mesopotamia, an empire such ad Babylon could have imported strange creatures from outside the region.

Another idea is that Babylonian scientists had discovered fossil bones and were trying to make sense of them. Either dinosaur bones or bones of a giant mammal like Paraceratherium, from Asia, could have accounted for the legends.

Join me on Wednesday for a Biblical tale of the sirrush.

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Of all Egypt’s reptilian gods, the biggest and baddest was definitely Apep, a. k. a. Apophis. This primordial serpent god was a force of chaos without redeeming feature. The other two I’ve mentioned, Wadjet and Sobek, may have been dangerous but they were still firmly established with the “light” pantheon headed by the sun god, Ra. Apep ruled the “dark” pantheon, forces of chaos and destruction that sought to overthrown Egyptian society and traditions. As such, he was Ra’s natural enemy.

A chaos serpent had existed in Egyptian mythology from the earliest times, although actual reference to Apep by name starts around the time of the pyramids. He was depicted as a gigantic golden snake, 16 yards long (14.6 meters). Unlike Egypt’s other gods, he never had a human form. Apep was believed to live in Duat, the underworld. His restless movements caused earthquakes. When he ventured into the upper world, he would surely be confronted by Ra’s allies. Their battles were thought to create violent storms.

Egyption lore told that Ra traveled through the heavens each day in a golden barge. However, each night, he had to pass through Duat before he could reach the eastern horizon. Once Ra ventured into Apep’s domain, he was prey for the mighty serpent. In various tales, Apep tried to stun Ra and his companions with his terrible gaze. Or he might try to swallow the entire barge! Fortunately, Ra knew of the danger. He had an entourage of deities along for the trek through Duat, including another chaos god, Set, who was said to defeat Apep and ensure Ra’s escape from the underworld.

Clearly, Apep was not a god to be worshipped, but one to be warded off by any means necessary. Surviving papyrus and carvings include spells or curses to defeat the evil god. Small drawings or models might be made so that they could be stepped on, crushed, spat on, chained,  or stabbed with spears and knives. Apep’s power was so dreaded that it was believed dangerous to keep these for any length of time.

The only public celebration known to be associated with Apep had a similar purpose. Each year, giant snake replicas would be constructed. Through spells, all the evil in the world was imbued into these images — and then they were set on fire. Symbolically, this was to purify Egypt of Apep’s wicked influence for another year.

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Just a few of my books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

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