Monday, 23 April 2012

Different Permutations of the Dragon: Exploring the Myths of the Hydra, Nagas and Aspis

ByAlex Tayrien

The Dragon appears in nearly every culture's mythology. It shows its face in forms as diverse as Wyrm in Scandanavia and the Lochness monster in Ireland. Here, we explore three diverse monsters: The Hydra of ancient Greece, the fabled creature from India, the Nagas, and the Aspis of medieval times. These, of course, are no more than dragons in disguise.

The infamous Hydra, comes from the myth of Hercules. This Hydra, which resided in Lake Lerna, was Hercules' second labor. It has been referenced by authors as diverse as Seneca and Hesiod.

Here are some peculiarities specific to the Hydra:

1. It had 9 heads.

2. Its middle head is immortal.

3. It was raised personally by Hera, the enemy of Hercules and wife of Zeus.

4. It was a female.

5. It was killed by the only thing that could harm it: venom from its own spilled blood.

The Nagas, are legendary monsters found throughout Vedic and Buddhist myth. They have different qualities depending on which culture you ask.

1. Malaysia and Cambodia: The Nagas is multi-headed, much like the Hydra. Males has an odd number of heads, females an even number. This satisfies the aesthetic of yin and yang.

2. Vedic myth: Here they are single-headed. Depending on the myth they are viewed as both hateful and benevolent. In the Mahabharata, they are the curse of King Pariksit. Elsewhere, it is the Naga who assists the gods in recovering the elixir of life, amrita. The Eternal Naga, Ananta, was the throne of Ganesh. And the Bhagavad Gita casts the Naga as the symbol of Krishna.

3. Buddhist myth: One of the most famous Naga, Mucalinda, the Naga King, was the protector of Buddha. When Siddhartha Gautama was meditating his way to Nirvana, the elements were set in a fury, and a great tempest was sent upon him. Mucalinda knowing the greatness of the moment emerged from the earth, spread his hood over Buddha as the tempest raged for 7 days.

The Aspis was a posionous serpent from medieval literature. With two legs, though, it is clearly a form of Dragon. Here are a couple things particular to the monster.

1. It is highly venomous. So much so that even grazing the skin of a dead Aspis was certain death.

2. Its only weakness was music. Simply playing a tune, would lull it to sleep.

As you can see, the Dragon persists throughout human legend. Maybe it is inherent to the human mind to craft a serpent as the perfect monster, the dragon.

Alex Tayrien is a fan of dragon mythology and has broadened that interest into a business, selling dragon statues and figurines at:

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