E for Echidna

E for Echidna

Out of my mythological pandora box comes Echidna the half beautiful maiden and half fearsome snake. Known as a monster of the underworld in Greek mythological story written by Aristophanes, Echidna has hundred heads. Another folklore describes Echinda as having the head of a beautiful woman with long hair and a serpent’s body below the neck. She was known to be the mate of fearsome monster Typhon and bore to him fierce offsprings. Well-known of them is Lyrnean Hydra the many-headed serpent who, when one of its heads was cut off, grew two more. While a legend says that Echidna was immortal and ageless another mentions that a hundred-eyed giant called Argus Panoptes killed her when she was sleeping.

Continuing with my stories of mythological beings, let me call them half-human and half-serpent, I write here about Hydra one of the offsprings of Echidna. So poisonous were its breath and blood that even its tracks were known to be deadly. Heracles killed Hydra as the second of his twelve labors. As per Bibliotheca, Heracles with the help of his nephew Lolaus killed Hydra. Heracles would cut off each head and Lolalus would cauterize the open stumps so that the head would not grow back.

Greek mythology talks of another legendary creature called Lamia a mistress of god Zeus. Hera, Zeus’ wife, was jealous of Lamia hence transformed her into a monster that hunts and devours children. Many paintings depict Lamia having human legs and a snakeskin around her waist. There is also a snake on her right forearm.

Chinese mythology mentions Fu Xi a culture hero and his sister Nu Wa a goddess best known for creating mankind and repairing pillar of heaven. Fu Xi and Nü Wa are said to be creatures that have faces of human and bodies of snakes. Nu Wa is also known as the snake goddess.

Indian mythology prominently mentions snake deities, specifically king cobra, who can take the form of humans or serpents. Male is called Naga and female is called Nagini. There are many other words used for snake deities in India some of them being Shesha and Phanin. Takshaka and Vasuki are known to be the kings of Nagas. Shesha or AadiShesha is generally depicted with a massive form that floats in the ocean of milk, to form the bed on which Vishnu lies. He is depicted with five heads, seven heads and sometimes thousand heads. Indian mythology is different from others in this angle. Serpents are revered in Hindu culture while in many other mythologies serpents are either monsters or dangerous creatures.

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