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One of the most famous goddesses of the continental Celts had mainly four-legged creatures from the Equidae family in her reference, i.e. horses, donkeys, and their mutual offspring. Although her scope was somewhat wider, and included the usual concern of the ancient goddesses for fertility, the aforementioned plant-eaters and hee-hawers kept her almost full-time, which is why Epona is more often depicted in the company of horses than with a cornucopia in her hand. But those pictures exist too.

Epona's presence in stone and bronze can be found virtually throughout continental Celtic Europe. Mostly in France, where this particular cult probably originated; horses, of course, were worshipped by all Celts, an example being the discovery of offerings at Czech Býčí Skála, but here it is not certain what name the deity in question bore. Nor the Uffington horse, however much the modern pagans might like it, is not a representation of this goddess, for it is not even certain whether it was the work of the newcomers or of the original inhabitants of the islands. The existence of Epona across the channel has not (yet) been confirmed, so the same applies here as in the case of Býčí skála. But the monuments found in the east, in Hungary, are consistent; as one of the last, Epona managed to take its place in the rich divine system of ancient Rome, helped by, among other things, the popularity and dependence of the Apennine Empire on cavalry. And it was in the aforementioned provinces around the Danube that non-Celtic Roman cavalry commanders worshipped her. Her feast day was then on 18 December.


Epona from Homburg's Römermuseum Schwarzenacker Museum, Lokilech, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

28.8.2023 (14.8.2011)

Zwarte Piet

One of many descriptions of the most demonic being, the Devil. A Dutch and Flemish one by name alone. He somehow got in the way of St. Nicholas, which is why you can still see him at the beginning of December. St. Nicholas chained him up to prevent him from escaping because the chimney´s climbing and filling prepared stockings with candy was apparently beyond the Saint's strength and he needed a helping hand.

28.8.2023 (5.6.2002)


Harmless goblins make their home in Cantabria, Spain. However, the green eyes in the black face are not often seen, and like many other woodland faeries, Trenti are essentially invisible, masquerading themselves as fungi, moss, or leaves. They like to scare passers-by and even more like to pull women's skirts. (Or is it just a twig? Certainly not.)

28.8.2023 (18.9.2011)

The Etruscan Underworld

The mythology of the ancient inhabitants of Etruria, the Etruscans, is buried in time and lost under the layers of Greek and Roman influences. And yet, Etruscan religion was a powerful indeed.

"A nation that was devoted to religion, all the more than other peoples, because it excelled in the art of cultivating religion," the Roman historian Titus Livius characterized the Etruscans. (I guess it was him, but my old notes I used twenty years ago, were... well, slightly disordered.)

The Etruscan priests were acknowledged experts in predicting the future, for the entire nation lived in thrall to the quest for the will of the gods and the effort to fulfill it without fail. The Pantheon was a match for that. It was vast, open to the influences of the outside world, and not only from today's perspective, complex.

One of the simpler areas was the Etruscan Underworld.

Although, according to some monuments, the afterlife was full of pleasures, some speak a different language. The demons of Etruria, the helpers of the god of the Underworld, who carry the souls of the dead to his realm. Sure, the soul can get down there on its own, by horse or chariot, but the journey in the arms of a winged demon has a different ring to it.

Let's start at the beginning, with the highest-ranking character. That, of course, was the god of the underworld Aite, sometimes Aita or Eite, depending on the transcription. In any case, it was a variant of the Mediterranean underworld god, called Hades by the Greeks and Pluto by the Romans. He wore a wolf skin on his head and presided over underworld feasts. At his side, of course, sat his wife Phersipuai, in whose name you can clearly hear the Greek Persephone. A strong Hellenic influence, powerfully influencing not only Etruscan but also Roman mythology, can be traced throughout the Mediterranean. Roman mythology, distinct and independent in its origin, suffers to this day from the mechanical equation of the various deities (Zeus = Iupiter, Hera = Juno, and so on), but the Romans, in the same misleading style, attempted to equate deities from completely different cultural areas, thus causing confusion in later times in Celtic and, by extension, Slavic mythologies.

Enough lamentations, there are plenty of them in the underworld anyway. In Etruscan religion, the ruling couple were, as already mentioned, served by demons. For example, Charun.

You hear the resemblance to the grim ferryman across the River Styx, Charon? You hear well, but forget further comparisons. A demon of rotting bluish flesh, with a hooked nose and a grinning face with long and pointed ears, who appears at the moment of death to strike a man with a hammer, is far from the taciturn Charón. He sometimes has wings, snakes on his head and shoulders and body, and sometimes carries a torch and a hook.

Tuchulcha has no relative in the surrounding religions. Instead, he has a vulture's beak and talons, snakes in his hair, around his legs and arms and in his clasped hands, horse ears and bat wings.

Vanth is the goddess of death. She too uses large wings, but fortunately her body is human. She holds a key in her hand and her face is stern, for she represents the inevitability of fate.

The list of Etruscan demons does not end with her, the underworld is full of all sorts of apparitions: the Tritons. The Typhons and the Scillas, the Furies of Nathum, but in describing them my untold sources end here, and so do I.

30.8. 2023 (24.7.2002)

Lu cifru and friends

Does this name remind you of Lucifer? You're not far away. Lu cifru is an extremely proud demon of Italian origin. Although official demonology, which we have touched on a bit in previous weeks, of course, considers this and similar creatures to be the head of Satan, folk spookyology is already going the other way. We will stick to it and, although, of course, he belongs to the devils, we will admit to lu cifru the existence of its own genus.

As has been said, it is a proud creature, and on the one hand, is a copy of the tabooed name of Satan, like Farfanicchio, Fistolo, Berlic, Farfarello, Tentennino, Culicchia, and Ticchi-tacchi. Similarly, as we have shown, the Czech name of Satan is circumvented. The Spaniards have Don Martin and Don Piñol, and the English say Old Nick for good measure, every nation has found its own way. As the Campanian saying goes: A nomena el gjaul, al capite, i.e. When hears his name, the devil comes.

That's why the Sicilians call him Santu di Caulu or Santu di Pantani.

Lest I forget myself in Hell.

One of the Italian demons "at the crossroads" is the Arsu cani, the Burning dog, to whom other demons are subordinate. For example, the Farfareddu, which is a nightmare, or the Zuppidu, from whose name one can recognize the ancient Cupid and who turns everything into sensual pleasures. Another demon is Mazzamareddu, ruling the elements, who abuses the natural forces of earthquakes, tornadoes and storms while the lying and hallucinogenic 'Ntatiddu bribes with gold.

Italy, of course, possesses a much larger number of supernatural beings, which it associates with the devil, and which in other regions live independently of the main underground command. I'll lump some of them together so that I don't forget them later and so that they make it into the Bestiary. Incidentally, the Parasaco, one of a long line of pedagogical bogeymen, also puts children in the bag. Racecotena is the itch-inducing gnome, Tentillo is the tempting and outrageous devil. The Campanian Farfariello, whose name comes from the Arabic farfar, a goblin, qualified in later times as a jester, while another goblin, the Mazzamauriello, took its name from the Spanish (matamoros, as Spanish soldiers were called in the south).

As usual, there are many devil's caves, tracks, and structures on the Apennine Peninsula, and an immense number of legends – and, as time went on, hilarious stories. The Italians love to outwit the devils and make fun of them. They have a champion – St. Anthony. He did many things, like Prometheus he brought fire from hell and defeated and mocked the devil several times. According to the Abruzzans, he did not become such a warrior by chance, for he was promised to Satan at his unplanned conception.

30.8. 2023 (20.7.2002)


The monkey who, according to the story of the Akawaio Indians, caused the flood of the world. Whether by inadvertence, curiosity, or trying to rob a god of his food. Depends on how you interpret the story.

It happened in the making of the world when the Creator's son and Teacher of Men, Sigu, sent a clever but lazy monkey to fetch water. He continued to work on refining existence. He cut the Great Tree, which his father Makunaima had created and on which all other plant life grew. He wanted to scatter the seeds over the land with the help of the birds and animals, all of whom were at his command. But when the trunk fell to the ground, water, full of all kinds of fish, sprang up from the hollow stump. Sigu quickly wove a magic basket and covered the stump with it to prevent an uncontrollable flood.

All seemed well, the god returned to his work, the animals to his aid, the world green with sown plants, when finally Iwarrika came in from his errand. He saw a basket on a stump and his mind flashed: there must be some delicacies underneath. Why else would anyone put a pot upside down?

He picked up the basket, and from beneath it the water rushed up and began to drown the world. There was nothing to do but quickly organize a rescue operation. Sigu got the tree animals and birds to save themselves in the tall trees on the high hills, while he led those that could not climb into the cave, whose opening he then sealed with wax. Many dark and stormy nights then had to be endured by all before the water finally receded.

Linguistic and biological supplement.

Just as the Inuit are said to have words for different kinds of snow, only not the general one, so the Caribs (to whose linguistic group the Akawai, who live in the north-east of the South American continent, belong) have words for different kinds of monkeys – and the Iwarrika is known to us as Cebus olivaceus a.k.a the Wedge-capped capuchin.

6.9.2023 (5.11.2017)

Rauhe Else

Rauhe Elsa was a water maiden who appeared to Wolfdietrich, the prince from medieval German legend, the son of the ruler of Constantinople, who was raised by wolves. First, she hid the sword of the sleeping hero, then she came before the waking man covered in water plants, mud, and slime, with feet the size of shovels and sunken eyes, and asked him to marry her. She said she would bring him three kingdoms as a dowry.

Wolfdietrich refused. Of course, he did.

Elsa shed her scales and transformed into a girl of unprecedented beauty.

Wolfdietrich changed his mind.

He said he would marry her, but if he did not get food and drink, the wedding would be nothing, because he was already starving and might not live to see the ceremony. And even if he does, he still can't take her as his wife, because he has to free his family first. So Elsa, who – honesty for honesty – has admitted to being an enchanted Trojan princess named Siegeminne, offers him food and help. When the hero then took his father's throne, the mermaid became the queen of sea magic and underground faeries.

6.9.2023 (28.1.2018)


A large, scaly, horned, green-eyed, glowing water demon with sharp claws and teeth who drowns children in Friesland, the Netherlands. He lives, as it were, by the shores of lakes and in ditches, just where you'd expect a careless human. He lurks constantly, especially after dusk.

6.9.2023 (26.11.2017)


A Waterwolf drowns inattentive children in the vicinity of Utrecht. The name, written in Dutch as well as in English gives away the appearance, but does not add that this demon is equipped with two fins to move quickly through the water.

Another Utrecht hastrman is Bullebak. He pulls children underwater with a hook. At night, he scares them by howling.



A handsome man, but with a fish lower half, swims – at least according to the stories we now call folk tales – onto Scheveningen beach. The girls of this now-Hague district believed that to get him, all they had to do was make three crosses on the water giant's forehead.

6.9.2023 (26.11.2017)


Gorgona Medúsa

The only mortal of the trio of Gorgons, the monstrous daughters of the god Phorcys and his wife Ceto. Also the most famous. Graves translates her name as Cunning, but she didn't see through Perseus' mirror trick.

She was exceedingly ugly, like her sisters Stheno and Euryale, but not from birth. Once upon a time, all three had been beauties, and if it hadn't been for the affair between Poseidon and Medusa, they would still be. However, the two made their bed in Athena's temple, and as a result, Medusa ended up with wings, glittering eyes, huge teeth, brass claws, and snakes for hair. Her gaze, like that of the basilisk, was petrified.

Athena is connected to Medusa's entire life. She transformed the beautiful girl into a monster (and it was not just the virgin goddess's indignation at the desecration of the temple that was involved; one can surmise that Poseidon's presence played a large role, for it was with him that Athena often wrestled for the favor of the faithful). The same goddess later advised Perseus how to discern a mortal monster among the immortals and how to use the mirror to kill it without difficulty.

Perseus heeded the advice, and the moment he cut off Medusa's head, the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor, two somewhat overwrought aftermaths of a passionate temple night, leaped out of her. The hero, whose story is almost notorious (although the film Clash of Titans tells it rather sparingly and in a jumbled fashion), promised Medusa's head to Polydect to dissuade him from his intention to become Perseus' stepfather. He did, however, use it several times.

It entered geology as an orogenic element when Perseus used the head to transform the giant Atlas, holding the vault of heaven, into the Atlas Mountains we know today.

The drops of blood that spilled into the Libyan desert on the return flight gave rise to a cluster of serpents whose venom later interfered with Iason's quest for the Golden Fleece when he killed one of the Argonauts. Later times identified these serpents (and gave them a different shape) as basilisk, amphisbain, seps, and other strange creatures. With them, of course, we leave the Greek myths.

The fate of Athena and Medusa was indeed closely linked, Medusa's head eventually finding its way onto Athena's aegis. Her shadow was then encountered by Herakles on his way to Tartarus, he was frightened but reassured that there was nothing to fear.


Displayed Gorgon Medusa: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

6.9.2023 (27. 7. 2002)


I hope the passerby zoologists don't start stoning me immediately. In no way do I want to refer a creature named Physeter macrocephalus to the realm of myths, even though I know that it is a perfectly ordinary sperm whale. But there was once a monster that gave the sperm whale its scientific name, and which came into the world by the same routes as the camelopardalus. Except that the eyes of sailors are bigger than the visual organs of an ancient Roman tourist in Africa.

According to Olaus Magnus, the physeter (otherwise known as pristis) is a ninety-metre (!) whale with a lamprey-like snout that likes to attack ships in the Indian Ocean. It sucks in water and then splashes it onto the ship. If the attack misses, it uses its weight to attack directly. For details, see Magnus´s work Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus.

6.9.2023 (15.8. 2002)


On our way to the Indian Ocean in search of the physeter, we passed the Cape of Good Hope, like Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the true path to the treasures of the Indies. It was the Portuguese sailor who met Adamastor at the southernmost tip of Africa. The giant, human-shaped monster was about to destroy the expedition, just as it was said to destroy anyone who wanted to sail past the Cape.

As we know, the monster, which the gods turned into a mountain and placed on the cape to guard the South Sea, failed to frighten da Gama. On the twentieth of May, 1498, he reached Calicut, India, and opened the eastern route to Asia, while the Spaniards were about to plunder the New World.

Adamastor was and is interpreted as a clash between the modern (in the Christian sense) world and the world of ancient African deities, or as a clash and victory of the Renaissance over the Middle Ages.

6.9.2023 (29. 8. 2002)



Once upon a time, there was a princess. Two princesses. Actually, no, there were three...

It's not easy with Scylla. Greek mythology knows at least three females with that name. To get to ours, let's get the previous ones out of the way.

Scylla No. 1 was the daughter of the Libyan Queen Lamia (whose portrait definitely belongs in the Bestiary and I'll put it here sometime) and she was the only one of Lamia's children - whose father was Zeus – who survived a hateful attack by Zeus' wife Hera.

The other Scylla was the daughter of Nyssus, the ruler of Nyssa. When that city was besieged by Minos, Scylla fell in love with him and betrayed her hometown. She didn't fare well. Minos, or the ghost of her father in the form of an eagle, drowned her, and Scylla was turned into a keiris fish or keiris bird. Apparently, there were no eyewitnesses, so the sources differ.

The Scylla No.3 was not a princess. Her parents are thought to be - remember we are in Greek mythology - the following married or illegitimate couples:

The sea god Phorkys and the sea goddess Crateis (who is, of course, Hekate Kratois, or the goddess of death, and Scylla's possible origin comes from Hekate "with the dog's head", for the goddess of death was triple-headed, with one lion's head, one mare's head, and the third just a dog's head, and together she was, of course, the classic triune goddess one finds in all cultures).

Or (and this rumor has been here before) Scylla was born into the infamous family of Typhon and Echidna. The father, however, is a matter not always certain, and so it is rumored that Tyrrhenos or Triton took Typhon's place in this case.

Scylla wasn't always a monster. Like her half-sister, Medusa, she was a beautiful lady who made the mistake of having an affair with a high-ranking god. The wives of high-profile gods tend to be high-profile goddesses, and in this case, it was Amphitrite who exposed her husband Poseidon's philandering. It could also have been the sorceress Kirke, jealous of the god Glaucus, but the result is the same. The beautiful Scylla has become... You know what? Let's give the word to the real authority:


Verily she has twelve feet, all misshapen, and six necks, exceeding long, and on each one an awful head, and therein three rows of teeth, thick and close, and full of black death. Up to her middle she is hidden in the hollow cave, but she holds her head out beyond the dread chasm, and fishes there, eagerly searching around the rock for dolphins and sea-dogs and whatever greater beast she may haply catch, such creatures as deep-moaning Amphitrite rears in multitudes past counting. 1)


Scylla (whose heads were canine, as you can see in the picture) then took up residence in the Strait of Messina off Sicily and devoured sailors. Ulysses lost six of them (seven according to some sources), the best of the crew, without the brave king lifting a finger to save them.

She, too, met the famous monster hunter Heracles. She ate one of his oxen from the herd that had stolen the giant from Geryon, and the intrepid hero killed her, of course. In this case unnecessarily, for Forkys, who, whether he was her father or not, still was above all a god of sea monsters, brought her back to life.

Thanks to Heracles' robbery of Geryon's flock, Scylla gained a neighbor with whom she formed the still-famous duo, Charybdis.


1) Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.



Scylla's neighbor in the Straits of Messina was of noble birth indeed. Her father was Poseidon and her mother was the earth goddess Gaia herself. But young lady had no upbringing, was greedy and insatiable.

She could have gotten away with anything, but when she stole and promptly ate several cows from the herd that had been stolen by Zeus' protégé, Heracles, the supreme god ran out of patience and threw Charybdis off Olympus into the Mediterranean.

Right into the place where Scylla, a monster who revels in the salted flesh of sailors, had been living for some time. The two ladies quickly agreed.

Charybdis' daily habits were simple. Three times a day, she sucked in water, ate what she found, and then vomited it up again. The resulting eddies of water would then chase the prey of her neighbor, and the passing ships had to choose one of the paths, so the success of the hunt was almost always assured. Only Iason and Aeneas managed to avoid both, Ulyxes losing six or seven of his best sailors.

19.9.2023 (27.7.2002)


I have a picture in my archive, but I won't use it, it is so different from the general idea of a leviathan that it would be misleading... This leviathan is one of the evil demons that appear during the apocalypse.

Most of the time, however, the leviathan takes the form of a whale (but a really big one), less often a crocodile or a snake, or a dragon (here lies the catch in the Latin word serpens, which, except for the meaning of snake, means dragon in some cases.

The Canaanites knew of a creature called Lotan, a seven-headed dragon slain by the god Baal; Leviathan is the Ugaritic evil god, yet he is most often encountered at sea, where he appears in all his glory.

Actually, not all of him, he often sleeps with his back above the water, inspiring hope in passing sailors for some solid ground beneath their feet. It never takes long for the leviathan to sink, and the sailors barely save their bare lives. And sometimes they don't. In Jewish myths, he may have been the protector of all water creatures (like the Zíz works for flying ones and the behemoth for those who walk on land), but time has moved on and, as it does, found him another occupation.

The researcher most skilled in the field of Leviathan is St. Brendan. He has even encountered the creature twice.

The priest, aware of the pitfalls of the leviathan's presence in the Bible, calls the creature Jasconius and says that the beast tries to tuck its tail into its mouth, which, given its size, is quite impossible.

On first landing on the jasconius's back, the Irish priest had his companions light a fire, which naturally caused the fish to move. The people fled in terror, only to reanchor at the jasconium eight years later.

This time they were more cautious and so were able to rest in peace, plus find the pot they had forgotten in their haste to find the fish all those years ago.

19.9.2023 (15.8. 2002)


We have to go to the Mediterranean to see the hippocampus. Its appearance is already revealed by its name: hippos – horse and kampos – sea monster. Half horse and half fish.

Like many fantastic animals, the hippocampus gave its name to a creature that actually existed – in this case, the fish Hippocampus hippocampus, the seahorse. Yes, seahorses are fish, even if they don't look like it. Every reader of these lines has a hippocampus, for the hippocampus is part of the brain. What purpose it serves, however, I cannot serve, not being a neurobiologist.

19.9.2023 (29.8.2002)


A toothy, biting and eating sea monster, as usual, anthropophagous or man-eating. The orc, unfortunately (or fortunately) did not survive the Middle Ages, which belonged to it. Although its origins can be traced back to Pliny, it was the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that was the golden age of all sea monsters, for it was to brave men aboard caravels, cogs, and carracses sailing over the horizon that this time belonged.

If you wish to argue that the marine mammal Orcinus orca, the killer whale, can be described in the same way, then know that the killer whale is indeed a toothy, biting, carnivorous sea creature, as usual sarcophagous, i.e. carnivorous, with not the slightest interest in feeding on something as worthless as the master of the World. It even allows itself to be dressed by him. But since we rescued Willy, the reputation of this magnificent animal has improved incredibly.

Let's hope the same fate finally befalls these shark beasts, raging at the drop of blood. It doesn't belong here, (or it does, because it's also a myth, just a contemporary one) but the only logical consideration is why would a carnivore whose every catch spurts blood into the water go berserk for something like this? You know that gnawing desire to stab a table when you stick a fork in a potato? Let alone the uncontrollable urge to cut through everything in sight when I plunge a stainless steel blade into a steak (medium, please)?

19.9.2023 (29.8.2002)





"Things just happen. What the hell."
* Terry Pratchett. Hogfather


Welcome to my world. For the longest time I couldn’t think of right name for this place, so I left it without one. Amongst things you can find here are attempts of science fiction and fantasy stories, my collection of gods, bogeymen and monsters and also articles about things that had me interested, be it for a while or for years. (There is more of this, sadly not in English but in Czech, on www.fext.cz)



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