On our third quest to revive the knowledge of significant magical creatures, we find ourselves in various regions within the Middle East and Eastern Asia. We will start in Egypt, where we learned about the Great Sphinx, but this time for Heqet, relocate past the Red Sea into Ancient Persia, or modern day Iraq to study the fear-instilling Dahak, and we shall swing by India for some Samosas and Tandoori Chicken, all-the-while enjoying traditions that the mythical Apsaras have transmitted onto us.
Historically in ancient Egypt, fertility was associated with the flooding of the Nile River. When there was much water flow, the harvest was prosperous and infants would have more than sufficient food, while when there was a drought, this was not often the case. During Egypt’s second dynasty, there had been many years of drought, and the residents were suffering. One year during this drought, a lone frog had emerged from the Nile River. This was an usual occurrence, as a frog would usually come coinciding with the inundation of the River, but the drought seemed to be worse than ever. The next day, a great flood emerged, one as large as the eldest Egyptian had seen, and soon after fertility rates rose significantly, and there was food for everyone.
Egyptians began to attribute this ‘miracle’ to the frog, that they had begun calling Heqet. Over the ages in legends passed down through generations, this frog transformed into a female Goddess associated with the Nile’s abundance, fertility in general, and later became associated with death and resurrection. Nearly a millennium after Heqet’s first appearance, a similar happening transpired, and legend holds that Heqet returned to assist the Egyptians when she was needed most.
While you have just read an uplifting folktale of a creature coming to human rescue when she was needed, we must prepare you that the legend of the Dahak is by no means similar in nature. Stemming from the Persian Pagan Religion Zoroastrianism, the Dahak is a three-winged, three-headed fire-breathing dragon whose body is composed of slithering scorpions and lizards. In legend, the Dahak stemmed from the Evil Wizard Ahuramazda’s will. Ahuramazda’s only goal was to destroy all of the goodness in humanity, and then humanity itself. The Dahak was the necessary tool to accomplish this. In the Persian myth Atar, after the Dahak had terrorized local cities for years, a young boy named Thraotona stood up against the Dahak, fought it for weeks, until finally emerging victorious by shackling the fierce dragon’s chain’s to the bottom of a mountain.
This legend did not, however, end with the demise of the Dahak. An ancient prophecy remains that one day the Dahak will break its chains and fulfill Ahuramazda’s goal of destroying all of humanity!
The Apsaras in Hindu and Buddhist belief are very similar to water Nymphs in folklore. They are twenty-six female Spirits in human form, who are the protectors of the wind and water, as well as good fortune. The wives of the Gandharvas (the court servants at the palace of Indra), these female Spirits spend a great deal of their time dancing and performing fertility rites. In addition to the above mentioned-roles, they are the consorts who meet the recently deceased at Indra’s gate to paradise and lead them from there.
It is transmitted in legend that while Indra was celebrating the Churning of Creation, the Apsaras added the final necessary piece in their song and dance. There are many Hindu and Buddhist songs and dances in honor of this momentous occasion, as well as others dedicated to the Apsaras in general.
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