Monsters

Monster Engravings: Morss Piscis.

Morss picsis

¬† In¬†1635, scientist and artist¬†Juan Eusebio Nieremberg published this piece¬†in¬†Historia Naturae, which¬†focuses largely on the natural history of Mexico. Historia Naturae¬†was compiled primarily from research conducted in New Spain in the 1570s by the Spanish physician naturalist Francisco Hern√°ndez (1515‚Äď1587). It includes¬†six folio text volumes containing over three thousand plants, animals, and minerals and ten folio volumes of paintings by Mexican artists illustrating the plants and animals described in the text.
“Morss Piscis” means¬†“Marine Fish” and gives no clue to the animal’s identity.¬†It is believed that this actually once an otter, and the drawing was made¬†of the dessicated pelt of the¬†unfortunate animal.

Sea Monsters: Ketos! (sea monster or ancient giraffe?)

Ketos.jpgOn Dec. 17, 2002,Adrienne Mayor published this in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology:

“This note proposes a new interpretation of a scene on a well-known Corinthian vase illustrating the Homeric legend of Herakles rescuing Hesione from the Monster of Troy. Commentators have assumed that the artist intended to depict the monster as a ketos, an imaginary sea monster, but the features of the beast do not conform to the traditional imagery of sea monsters in Greek art.
I suggest that instead of creating a typical hybrid sea monster by mixing the features of various living creatures, this artist used for his model the large fossil skull of a prehistoric mammal. The vase was painted in the midst of widespread interest in large fossil remains, which the ancient Greeks identified as relics of giants and monsters of the mythological age.
The features of the odd head on the vase match the basic skull anatomy of a large mammal of the Tertiary age, such as the Samotherium, a giant giraffe of the Miocene epoch. Numerous literary accounts describe exposures of these and similar large mammal fossils in antiquity along the Turkish coast, on Aegean islands, and on the Greek mainland. I conclude that this vase painting is the earliest artistic record of such a discovery.”

Werewolves: The Nahual!

Nahual.jpg

A Nagual or Nahual (both pronounced [na’wal]) is a human being who has the power to transform either spiritually or physically into an animal form, such as a puma, jaguar, coyote, wolf,dog or sometimes even a donkey or bird.

A¬†Nagual is believed to use their powers for good or evil according to their personality.¬†n modern rural Mexico, “nagual” is sometimes synonymous with “brujo”, or “witch”¬†one who is able to shapeshift into an animal at night,drink blood from human victims, steal property, cause disease, and the like.¬†One’s¬†birth date often determines if a person will be a Nagual. Mesoamerican belief in tonalism, in which¬†every person has an animal counterpart to which his life force is linked, is also part of the definition of nagualism. Each day is associated with an animal which has strong and weak aspects. A person born on “The Dog Day” would have both strong and weak “dog”aspects.

Monsters of Asia: The Baku of Japan!

Baku.jpg

The Baku are the eaters of bad dreams. People may pray to them at night so that the Baku may come and suck their nightmares away.
According to legend, the Baku—with the body of a bear, a lion’s paws and ox’s tail, and the trunk of an elephant—was made up of bits that were left over when the gods had finished creating all the other animals.
In Japan, if one wakes up from a nightmare,¬†the words¬†‚ÄúBaku-san, come eat my dream‚ÄĚ, must be repeated three times to bring¬†the Baku.¬†Then the Baku will come¬†into one’s¬†room and devour the bad dream. However, summoning¬†the Baku must be done sparingly, because if he is still¬†hungry after eating one‚Äôs nightmare, he may also devour a person’s¬†hopes and desires as well, leaving them to live an empty life.
To this day, it remains common for Japanese children to keep a Baku talisman at their bedside.