Ancient Mysteries Mythology Symbolic Creatures

Symbolic Creatures

Symbolic Creatures
Catalog # SKU3887
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name John Vinycomb
ISBN 10: 0000000000
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Symbolic Creatures

Fictitious & Symbolic Creatures In Art
With Special Reference To Their Use
In British Heraldry

John Vinycomb

THE human mind has a passionate longing for knowledge even of things past comprehension. Where it cannot know, it will imagine; what the mind conceives it will attempt to define.



To classic fable we are indebted for very many of the fictitious animals which heralds have introduced into coats armorial. In all ages man has sought to explain by myths certain phenomena of nature which he has been unable to account for in a more rational manner. Earthquakes were the awakening of the earth tortoise which carried the earth on its back; the tides were the pulses of the ocean; lightning was the breath of demons, the thunderbolt of Jupiter, the hammer of Thor; volcanoes were the forges of the infernal deities.

In the old Norse legends we read of waterspouts being looked upon as sea serpents, and wonderful stories are related of their power and influence. The Chinese imagine eclipses to be caused by great dragons which seek to devour the sun. Innumerable beliefs cluster round the sun, moon, and stars. We may trace from our own language the extent of power which these peculiar beliefs have had over the human mind. We still speak of mad people as lunatics, gloomy people as saturnine, sprightly people we term mercurial; we say, "Ill-star'd event," &c. &c. The ships of the early navigators, with masts and sails and other requisites for directing their motion or influencing their speed, would be objects of astonishment to the inhabitants of the countries they visited, causing them to be received with the utmost respect and veneration. The ship was taken for a living animal, and hence originated, some say, the fables of winged dragons, griffons, flying citadels, and men transformed into birds and fishes. The winged Pegasus was nothing but a ship with sails and hence was said to be the offspring of Neptune.

"In reality," says Southey, in his preface to the "Morte d'Arthur," vol. ii. 1817, "mythological and romantic tales are current among all savages of whom we have any full account; for man has his intellectual as well as his bodily appetite, and these things are the food of his imagination and faith. They are found wherever there is language and discourse of reason; in other words, wherever there is man. And in similar states of society the fictions of different people will bear a corresponding resemblance, notwithstanding the differences of time and scene." And Sir Walter Scott, in his "Essay on Romance and Chivalry," following up the same idea, adds, "that the usual appearances and productions of nature offer to the fancy, in every part of the world, the same means of diversifying fictitious narrative by the introduction of prodigies. If in any romance we encounter the description of an elephant, we may reasonably conclude that a phenomenon unknown in Europe must have been borrowed from the East; but whoever has seen a serpent and a bird may easily aggravate the terrors of the former by conferring on a fictitious monster the wings of the latter; and whoever has seen or heard of a wolf, or lion and an eagle, may, by a similar exercise of invention, imagine a griffon or a hippogriff."

Beyond the common experiences of every-day life the popular mind everywhere cares very little about simple commonplace practical truths. Human nature seems to crave mystery, to be fond of riddles and the marvellous, and doubtless it was ever so and provided for in all the old faiths of the world.

224 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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