Due to a high volume of questions concerning Magical and Mythical Creatures, we will begin a series upon these legendary, but not nearly outdated beautiful beasts. This week, we will start with three creatures that hold a very significant place in different cultures around the globe – spanning from the northernmost point in Europe to the vast Desert in Africa to the most Sacred Temples in India. We will begin our Journey with the Norns, with its origins in only miles away from the Arctic Circle in Norway, then continue to the Sphinx, and end with the Nagas.
Much like the Three Fates of Greek Mythology, the Norse Norns are the female beings who hold the destiny of each inpidual in their hands. There are three Norns total, each of whom occupies a specific role in their existential occupations. Named Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, these three female creatures represent the Past, Present, and Future, respectively. They live under the great world tree, Yggdrasil, which is said to be surrounding by nine worlds. While legends differ as to whether these Norns are of pine heritage, or come from a line of Elves, they are said to be faceless, and those who attempt to see their face will confront their fate at that very moment.
If you would like to know more about Norns, feel free to ask us any questions, or consult the 13th century literature of Snorri Sturluson; namely the Prose Edda.
If you have heard of the Great Sphinx before, you might hold an image of the great construction of a winged-lioness with a human female's head in Giza, Egypt, near the pyramid of Cheops. This is the most widespread representation of this mystical creature, though the word 'Sphinx' does not actually stem from Egyptian origins, but rather from the Greek language, signifying a 'living statue' combining elements of Egyptian or Greek royalty with their animal counterparts. A Sphinx does not have to be part lion and part human as is the Great Sphinx, but instead be any animal fused with a King (Pharaoh), another member of his family, or Deity. There is variation in the role of the Sphinx between Egyptian and Greek Culture. The Egyptian Sphinx, generally a male with the exception of the Great Sphinx, is said to represent power through a benign rule over the constituents within his or her domain. This contrasts with the Greek Sphinx, who is usually female, and is antagonistic in nature. In Legend, this Sphinx will not let anyone pass her without answering her riddle correctly.
Here is a riddle in Greek Mythology that only that the travelling King Oedipus was able to answer to move past and ruin the Grecian Sphinx. Let's see if you can figure it out:
What goes on four legs, on two, and then three, but the more legs it goes on, the weaker it be?
We conclude our journey in India, with the great snakes known as Nagas. These creatures possess a snake-like form, though they are regarded as giant serpents that swam in the Primordial Ocean, and have survived through the ages in underground waterways. Said to have been created by the great Sage Kasyapa and his twelve wives at the dawn of time, the Nagas possess a good side, but also one of evil. They are holders of great treasure, with the greatest of them being the Nagamani - a jewel that transmits fortune and prosperity to any individual who views it. On the other hand, the Nagas are not very tolerant of human interference with their relatively dormant lifestyle. Their vengeance may strike when humans pollute the environment, or simply ignore it. Let this be a lesson to you!
Folklore concerning the Nagas differs in Hindu and Buddhist belief, though a common ground between these Faiths is that these Nagas were able to taste the elixir of immortality, or the Amrita. While these giant snakes may shed their skin often, they will never die!
Librarian and Senior Witch
More on Magical Creatures
Magical Creatures, Part 2
Magical Creatures, Part 3