Imagine this: you are walking through a jungle with a group of people when something moves just at the corner of your vision. You turn to move, but it’s too late. The massive, reddish creature moves too fast for you to track as it leaps towards you, claws extended. You have just encountered a manticore.
According to Greek myth, the manticore was a massive creature, a chimera of different parts that created the fearsome man-eater. Generally described as having a human-like face, the creature had a red, lion’s body, the tail of a scorpion or a dragon — depending on which account you believe — and having three rows of teeth.
To accompany it’s monstrous appearance, the manticore was allegedly fast, more swift than its massive size should allow. It is so fast that supposedly no man can keep up with its lightning speed. To top this all off, the manticore is said to have extremely sharp claws — claws so sharp that they could cut a man into ribbons with a single swipe! Of course, making this creature even more terrifying, some accounts describe the manticore as being winged, like a dragon. Its tail is barbed and poisonous, having the capability of shootings its stingers towards its victims.
The fearsome appearance of the manticore is sure to give anyone who encounters it nightmares. Though according to legend, the manticore preferred to attack a group of travellers, the way to mark its coming is its call: the loud boom of a trumpet. So beware travellers, and listen for the sound of music amongst the trees. For it might not be a person practicing their notes but rather a terrifying creature lying in wait for its next meal.
For more reading on the manticore (sources):
Imagine this: you are entering the underworld through the River Styx, and as you make your way towards the gates you see a three-headed dog guarding the entrance. He allows you to pass through, though you will never leave again. This is Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog who guards the gates of the Underworld.
Cerberus was supposedly a gigantic, three-headed dog who guarded the gates of the Underworld, stopping any shade who would try to escape. He is described as a creature who eats raw flesh, having a mane of writhing snakes, a serpent’s tail, and lion’s claws. Some accounts claim he even has fifty heads, though some scholars believe they were counting the snakes as well.
One of the most famous stories regarding Cerberus was the twelfth labor of Heracles. Heracles was charged with capturing Cerberus and bringing him back from the Underworld. There are several versions of this story, however one of the famous ones involves Hades telling Heracles he could have Cerberus, so long as he defeated the animal using only the weapons he had carried with him. According to this version of the myth, Heracles uses his lion-skin shield to defend against two of the heads as he chokes the third, ending with Cerberus submitting to him. Hades says Heracles still could not take the creature, and so Heracles shoots Hades with a stone-tipped arrow and he concedes. In other accounts, the two do battle and Heracles wins.
Whichever version of the story you believe, Cerberus was still a fearsome creature who guarded the Underworld with his three heads and lion claws. Whether he was won, or whether he was beaten, Heracles had performed quite the feat in retrieving Cerberus from the Underworld. I mean, who else could do battle against a three-headed creature?
For more reading on Cerberus (sources):
Imagine this: you are wandering in the desert when you come across these giant statues. They have the head of a human, the body of a lion, and they tower over everything for miles. You have just come across a sphinx.
The sphinx — in ancient egypt — was a spiritual guardian that was found near tombs and temples. Generally a male’s head, though sometimes a woman’s, the sphinx was often described as having the body of a lion and wings, wearing a pharaoh’s headdress. Besides the great sphinx of Giza, there is also a place called Sphinx Alley in Upper Egypt in which a two-mile avenue connecting the temples of Luxor and Karnak is lined with sphinx statues.
One of the most famous of the sphinxes comes to us from the Greek play Oedipus Rex, in which a sphinx terrorizes Thebes, demanding the answer to a riddle. The riddle, taught to her by the Muses, went: “What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” Whenever the riddle was answered incorrectly, the sphinx would devour the man until Oedipus had given her the proper answer. Once learning it, the sphinx killed herself, thus sprouting the legend that the sphinx was an all-knowing creature of wisdom.
The sphinx was a creature to protect, not a monster. However, the idea that one of them would devour you had you not answered her riddle correctly is a terrifying thought. What if you didn’t know the answer? Well, then I guess the sphinx would make you their dinner.
For more information about the sphinx (sources):
Imagine this: you are walking by the ruins of an abandoned castle in Ireland or Scotland in the middle of the night. The moon is high above you, and there is no one else around except for you. And then you hear a scream. You have just had an unfortunate encounter with a banshee.
The banshee — Irish: Bean Sidhe; Scots Gaelic: Ban Sith — originally meant a woman of the fairies. She was a woman who had supernatural abilities, according to myth. She would release a loud, wailing scream that was believed to predict the death of a family member of the person who has heard it. But where did the banshee come from?
There are several stories that point to the origins of a banshee. One story is that she was a murdered young woman, another that she was a mother who died in childbirth. The way she is described varies from an old woman in black with long, grey hair and a veil to the image of a headless woman, naked from the waist up, carrying a bowl filled with blood. Though her image tends to shift from region to region, she remains a harbinger of death to those that witness her and hear her wailing scream.
Whether she is a young woman or a headless, naked figure, one thing stays consistent in the stories. Of course, I am referring to her howls of premonition. One thing is for certain: if you hear her cries do not panic. Just be prepared for the worst.
For more reading on the banshee (sources):
Every culture has their own version of the “underworld” — whether it’s Hell or the Elysian Fields or Diyu. In Egyptian mythology you are given a chance at a life in the field of reeds, where you can spend the rest of eternity in peace. That is, of course, unless Ammit devours your unworthy soul.
Ammit — or Ammut or Ahemait — was the Egyptian goddess of divine retribution personified. However, she was not worshipped as a goddess. Instead, her image was thought to ward off evil. Generally depicted as a demon with the head of a crocodile, the torso of a wild cat, and the hidquarters of a hippopotamus, Ammit was called the “devourer of souls.”
She was usually found in the Halls of Ma’at to await the judgement of the deceased, though she was also shown standing beside the scales of justice. Ammit would only devour the souls of those who did not measure up on the scales, and though she was called a demon, she is not evil. In fact, the person who was accused of being unworthy was given the chance to defend themselves before being judged to eternal damnation.
Though you were safe if your heart weighed just about even with the feather on the scales, many feared Ammit’s devouring of their soul — also known as the second death. However, if you led a decent life you were spared from eternal damnation. Ammit was not an evil entity in the end but, more of a keeper of order in the underworld of Egyptian mythology and a reminder to the living to lead a good life.
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Australia. Home to twenty-one out of the twenty-five most venomous snakes in the world. A magical place where deadly creatures from sharks to box jellyfish to spiders roam free. And yet, despite all of these known creatures, there is a myth of one that is far more terrifying living in the swamps and lakes and rivers. Its name is the Bunyip.
Bunyip is the aboriginal term for ‘devil’ or ‘evil spirit.’ It is an aquatic Aboriginal creature of myth described differently in several regions — under different names until European settlers used the more popular of them — and ranging in appearance from an ox to a hippopotamus to a manatee with a long neck. Though the image changes, one fact that all the legends have in common is that the Bunyip is said to be massive — a giant man-eater.
The Bunyip is known for its monstrous looks, his cries that echo, and the fact that it has killed several people definitely adds credence to the legend. However, not all agree that the Bunyip is harmful. In fact, he is sometimes described as being a protector of wildlife. This benevolent image is portrayed in popular culture where there exists a series of children’s books featuring the Bunyip.
Though the Bunyip can be either a monstrous man-eater or a benevolent protector, the legends seem to have some facts in common. If you find yourself traversing near bodies of water in Australia, remember to keep an eye out. For there may be something worse than the deadly bugs and snakes lurking about. One thing is for certain: if you hear its echoing cries or see a massive creature rise up from the depths, run.
For more reading on the Bunyip (sources):
Snakes appear throughout mythology in different forms, from the snake gods of Egyptian mythology to the world serpent Jormungand of Norse myth. However, in Greek myth snakes played many roles, and one such mythic snake was the Amphisbaina.
According to myth, the Amphisbaina was created when Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with the severed head of Medusa and her blood dripped down to the sands below. This snake was two headed, one on each end, and had scaled feet like a chicken and feathered wings. It was considered a formidable adversary, especially since it is said that the snake could charge in either direction, and was described as being deadly poisonous; one bite and the wound would not heal, leaving the victim to die.
However, even though the Amphisbaina was considered deadly, it was also sought out for its healing properties. Some have speculated that its dried skin was a cure for rheumatism while others say that if the skin was worn around one’s neck it could cure a common cold. Another medicinal property tied with this creature states that the wearing of one of these — alive — around a pregnant woman’s neck would ensure a safe pregnancy. The Amphisbaina wasn’t just sought out for is healing properties. According to myth, it was also said that if the meat of the creature was ingested it would act as an aphrodisiac, attracting many lovers to the one who ate of it.
We always remember snakes in myth to be guardians or gods, monsters or tricksters. Amphisbaina was created from the blood of a creature, was given wings and feet and dual heads, but it is not a monster. Instead, the Amphisbaina is a great example about the dual nature of myth — a creature to be feared, and a creature to be revered.
For more reading on the Amphisbaina (sources):
Matthews, John, and Caitlin Matthews. The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: the Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic. Harper Element, 2009