The word chimera is nowadays also used to indicate the ‘concept’ of a chimera. That is, the idea of one being made up of several other beings (known to us). Another term for such creatures is a “hybrid.” What other fantastic creatures are there (according to mythology) still present on our earth, who share characteristics of average creatures? Which hybrids haunt the night, or the underworld?
We know dragons, of course, but these are simply outgrown lizards. Not a composite of different animals, anyway, and certainly not as diverse in composition as the Greek Chimera, or the number two on this list! Which creatures are chimeras? We’ll see…
In case you’re wondering how we ranked this list, here’s my answer: magic. By the way, we have left all human-beast combinations aside in this list. There are so many chimera-like creatures that combine parts of humans with other animals, that we thought this topic deserves its own list.
10. Ammit – Croco Hippo Lion
Ammit is the ‘devourer’ or the ‘soul-eater’ (sometimes Ammut or Ahemait) and it is a demon of ancient Egyptian mythology. Of course Ammit is a woman because yes, women are usually (though not always) the “bad influence” in mythologies. What was special about Ammit, besides her insatiable hunger for human souls, was her appearance. She was part lion, part hippo and part crocodile.
In case the reader is not aware of this, a hippo has the image of being a cute creature, but in fact they are very dangerous animals, and also quite aggressive if you come near them. The ancient Egyptians knew this, after all, they shared the Nile with Hippos (hence perhaps the name…?), and Egyptians of common sense therefore chose this set of creatures for a demon like Ammit. Piece by piece murderers,
Ammit lived in the stories near the Scales of Right, in Duat. For those who didn’t pay attention during geography lessons, Duat lay in the Egyptian underworld (probably you can’t fly there with a regular scheduled service). The story goes that, in the Hall of Two Truths, Anubis weighed the heart of the recently deceased.
The counterweight was a feather of Ma’at, the goddess of Truth, and if one’s heart was too heavy, and therefore not pure, Ammit was allowed to consume the soul. With that the soul became restless for eternity, and there was no end to this restlessness. Hence ‘eternal’. Ammit was not revered but feared (no wonder), and we’ll see this trend continue. The general lesson: Chimera-like creatures are there to fear and hide from.
9. Hippocampus – sea horses
The Hippocampus (sometimes Hippokampoi, from Hippo (horse) and Kampo (monster)) is a sea monster originally found in both ancient Greek and Phonetic mythology. However, the name is purely Greek, and this term, confusingly, is now also used for something completely different, namely a small part of the brain.
The Hippocampus of mythology was a horse in the front, and a fish-like creation in the back. We know little about the Hippocampi creatures, but of course we know a little. Thus, Homer, a famous ancient writer, wrote of Hippocampi. He wrote (loosely translated) that Poseidon, the god of the sea, had a chariot drawn by Hippocampi. Apollonius of Rhodes describes these creatures as horses rising from the sea and galloping across the desert.
Biologists among us may wonder whether it is a marine fish or an inland fish. Both, according to mythology. The difference between the two was not so important in ancient Greece, so they saw no difficulty with a mythological creature that could dwell on land, as well as in salt and fresh water.
Over the centuries, the symbolic power of the Hippocampus has remained strong, mainly because it was widely used in heraldry (the decoration of family coats of arms and the like). More recently, the aircraft company Air France uses the Hippocampus as a patron saint on their engines.
8. Pegasus – even more horses
Pegasus, who doesn’t know him? The flying horse. The warhorse of Hercules, according to some stories (and according to Disney). Indeed, we linger on horses (see Hippocampi), but exchange the sea for the sky. Pegasus is a hybrid creature that is both a horse and a bird. Incidentally, Pegasus is a stallion, and almost always depicted as snow white. He was born from Poseidon, the sea god with the Hippocampi as war-horses, hence the influence of horse blood.
The flying skills (and wings) come from Medusa, the monster with the snakes on her head. We won’t go into detail about why Poseidon and Medusa knew each other ‘intimately’. Such trivialities don’t matter in mythology, and by the way, Greek mythology is full of curious reproductive tales (see, for example, the list of Greek gods ).
However it happened, Medusa gave birth to Pegasus and his brother Chrysaor (an ordinary man, of course!). During birth, Medusa was beheaded by Perseus, and some sagas say that this was actually the reason Pegasus and his brother were born. In any case, Medusa did not have to show much maternal love to her human child and foal…
Over the years, Pegasus has acquired many charged meanings, as a symbol and icon. In the beginning he was mainly the figurehead for wisdom, but in the Renaissance that turned into poetry and the precursor of inspiration for poets. And to Disney, Pegasus was Hercules’ faithful canine companion. Whether the stubborn original Pegasus would have agreed to that image…
7. Seraphim – Burning Bird Serpents
Seraphim, Seraphim or Seraphim are angels. Celestial beings with wings and a human appearance. However? Well, that’s how we know them today, but originally….
The word Serafin probably comes from the ancient Akkedian word sarapu (to burn) and the Ancient Egyptian word srf (to be warm). The curious thing is that these beings, as they are called in the Books Numbers and Deuteronomy of the Torah, are by no means the sweet naked baby cherubs we know from Renaissance artworks. In those ancient works Seraphim are ‘nachash’ or serpents. Some deviations, however: they can fly and talk (or sing, whatever you want).
At least we can say with certainty that Seraphim are not humans. Although they may resemble humans in contemporary art and culture, they have an original snake-like feel to them, as well as six wings (therefore, they are biologically arthropods, in the same category as crabs, scorpions, and centipedes). Sometimes these wings are reptile-like (a bit like dragons). In any case, it is not correct to call them human, because they are beings above humanity. And a hybrid form of all kinds of creatures that we find on Earth. Perhaps God got ideas from his Seraphim in his creation?
Faravahar is one of the most famous symbols of Zoroastrian mythology, at a time when this was still a state religion in ancient Iran (the old Persian Empire, way back when). The symbol is used today to represent the Iranian nation, but the symbol originally stood for the Fravashi, a kind of guardian angel. A Fravashi was namely a guardian spirit that sends the soul of a person into the material world to participate in the battle between Good and Evil.
The appearance of Fravashi is rather mysterious, and there is no generally accepted representation of a Fravashi, but the common belief is that they do resemble the symbolic image Faravahar. So it’s kind of a bird-like person. Curiously, however, the word fravashi is unmistakably feminine, while the symbol faravahar is unmistakably masculine. All in all, a very mysterious creature, and a hybrid of something… and something else.
Anyone who has read Harry Potter books already knows the Griffin. It is one of the most famous mythical Chimeras, and one of the few that appears not so much gruesome, but often ‘stately’ in the mythical tradition. A Griffin is a creature with the body, tail and hind legs of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and the front legs of this eagle. Traditionally, the lion was the king of beasts, and the eagle the king of birds, and so the Griffin is… the emperor, more or less. It is also often a protector of treasures and priceless prizes and possessions. Furthermore, it is usually a wise animal, and therefore there are few “crazy” adventures to tell about Griffins. They are simply too smart to get caught up in such trivial adventures.
4. Ganesha – multiple elephants in one?
Ganesha (also called Ganapati or Vinayaka) is one of the most idolized deities in the Hindi deities pantheon. You can find his image scattered all over India, and there are even sects that specialize in worshiping this deity. In addition, Ganesha has also penetrated other religions, such as Janisism and Buddhism. Who is this Ganesha then? Ganesha is an elephant-headed being and is the god of principles (hence he is invoked at the beginning of rituals or ceremonies).
His appearance is therefore that of an elephant’s head, but it does not stop there. Some of his images depict no fewer than five elephant heads, enough to earn a spot in this list. In addition, he often only has one tusk, a kind of one-horned elephant. The number of arms is often fluctuating (handy) but it is usually between two and sixteen pieces! In addition, he occasionally has a third eye, and usually one or more snakes draped around him. He is usually red in color, unless he ‘starts’ a meditation, then he is usually blue. So all in all, quite a diverse and chimera-like deity, this Ganesha.
3. Surma – Dog Snake from the Far North
After all those mythical creatures from warm countries, it’s time for a cooler region. Surma is a character from Finland, from Finnish mythology, to be precise. Surma, like almost all the other Chimaera we’ve reviewed so far, is a horrific monster, and his only job is to inflict violent death. That, and protect the gates of the Tuonela. The Tuonela is, of course, the Finnish underworld.
Anyway, Surma can be recognized by his appearance: that of a large dog with a snake tail. Oh, and he can turn you to stone (a touch of Medusa, that is). The Finnish word Surmata comes from this Chimaera, because it means ‘to kill’ or ‘slaughter’.
2. Ao Ao – Sheep with pit
The Ao Ao is probably the most unknown and strange creature on this list. This animal comes from Guarani mythology. Guarani is an indigenous people from South America, around Paraguay (but spread over a wider area than that). The Ao Ao is one of their mythical creatures, and it is a monster that resembles a sheep but with dangerously sharp and long tusks. The name Ao Ao comes from the battle cry of this animal. When it hunts for victims, it shouts ‘ao ao ao’. That is good to know, because the animal is not very friendly.
The Ao Ao is known for its unbelievable reproductive capacity and is therefore sometimes seen as the spirit of procreation. The Ao and its offspring protect the hills and mountains of its habitat, and since they recognize humans as their only prey, they don’t do well with a group of Guarani home seekers. Once they have decided to devour a human, they are unstoppable and will hunt day and night until they have devoured the person. Climbing a tree is therefore pointless, the Ao will simply wait until you fall out of pure misery. The only way to escape is to climb a palm tree. Yes, a palm tree, because a palm tree possesses an unknown but convincing power that makes the Ao chase Ao away. Should you find yourself in a situation where an Ao is chasing you,
1. Greek Chimaera – The Chimaera
In ancient Greece there was a myth about the Chimera of Lycia, a region that now roughly coincides with large parts of Turkey. This Chimera had the appearance of a lion, but usually a goat’s head on its back, and a tail with the head of a serpent. The Chimera is the descendant of Typhon, the deadliest monster in Greek mythology and the “father of all monsters,” and Echidna, also one of the deadliest monsters and the corresponding “mother of all monsters.” The Chimaera’s siblings are Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound (which incidentally had a serpent’s tail and lion’s claws), and the Hydra (many-headed monster from the Mediterranean).
To get a full description of the Chimera, let’s let the ancient Greek writers do the talking. Thus Homer wrote in his Illiad (loosely translated) “an immortal creation, not human, a lion in front, a serpent behind, and a goat in the middle, breathing fire and all.”
So this is the original Chimera, the hybrid monster that was given the name, and would later name all other hybrid monsters. We close this list with this hybrid.
But a lot of Chimera-like animals didn’t appear in this list, even though we did our best to represent a nice representation of colorful animals. If you miss one, be sure to comment it in the comments section below, we’re all eager to see more curious hybrid monsters!
- Top 10 Mythological Human-Animal Monsters
- 10 Mysterious Unknown People From History
- Top 10 Mysterious Ghost Ships
- Top 10 Facts About The Mysterious Inca City Machu Picchu
- 10 Mysterious Geoglyphs on Earth
- Top 10 Famous Philosophers
- Top 10 Most Awful Women Who Ever Lived
- Top 10 Worst People Who Ever Lived
- Top 10 Most Terrible Nazis in WWII
- Top 10 Famous Queens