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Mythical Monsters

Charles Gould

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With extensive footnotes, this book is mostly about dragons; Western, Chinese, and Japanese, although it also covers the Sea-serpent, the Unicorn, and the Chinese Phoenix. The book actually starts off with a discussion of some other earth mysteries: the world-wide flood myth, cultural diffusion, and Atlantis; the cryptozoology material starts at Chapter VI. Translations from rare documents, and historical accounts from newspaper articles, make this a must-have book for anyone interested in this subject.

This book has 365 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1886.

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Excerpt from 'Mythical Monsters'

The Greek, the Celt, and the Viking, descended from the same Aryan ancestors, though all drawing from the same sources their inspirations of religious belief and tradition, quickly diverged, and respectively settled into a generous martial race—martial in support of their independence rather than from any lust of conquest—polite, skilled, and learned; one brave but irritable, suspicious, haughty, impatient of control; and the last, the berserker, with a ruling passion for maritime adventure, piracy, and hand-to-hand heroic struggles, to be terminated in due course by a hero's death and a welcome to the banqueting halls of Odin in Walhalla.

The beautiful mythology of the Greek nation, comprising a pantheon of gods and demigods, benign for the most part, and often interesting themselves directly in the welfare of individual men, was surely due to, or at least greatly induced by, the plastic influences of a delicious climate, a semi-insular position in a sea comparatively free from stormy weather, and an open mountainous country, moderately fertile. Again, the gloomy and sanguinary religion of the Druids was doubtless moulded by the depressing influences of the seclusion, twilight haze, and dangers of the dense forests in which they hid themselves—forests which, as we know from Cesar, spread over the greater part of Gaul, Britain, and Spain; while the Viking, having from the chance or choice of his ancestors, inherited a rugged seaboard, lashed by tempestuous waves and swept by howling winds, a seaboard with only a rugged country shrouded with unsubdued forests at its back, exposed during the major portion of the year to great severity of climate, and yielding at the best but a niggard and precarious harvest, became perforce a bold and skilful mariner, and, translating his belief into a language symbolic of his new surroundings, believed that he saw and heard Thor in the midst of the howling tempests, revealed majestic and terrible through rents in the storm-cloud. Pursuing our consideration of the effects produced by climatic conditions, may we not assume, for example, that some at least of the Chaldæans, inhabiting a pastoral country, and being descended from ancestors who had pursued, for hundreds or thousands of years, a nomadic existence in the vast open steppes in the highlands of Central Asia, were indebted to those circumstances for the advance which they are credited with having made in astronomy and kindred sciences. Is it not possible that their acquaintance with climatology was as exact or even more so than our own? The habit of solitude would induce reflection, the subject of which would naturally be the causes influencing the vicissitudes of weather. The possibilities of rain or sunshine, wind or storm, would be with them a prominent object of solicitude; and the necessity, in an unfenced country, of extending their watch over their flocks and herds throughout the night, would perforce more or less rivet their attention upon the glorious constellations of the heavens above, and lead to habits of observation which, systematized and long continued by the priesthood, might have produced deductions accurate in the result even if faulty in the process.

The vast treasures of ancient knowledge tombed in the ruins of Babylon and Assyria, of which the recovery and deciphering is as yet only initiated, may, to our surprise, reveal that certain secrets of philosophy were known to the ancients equally with ourselves, but lost through intervening ages by the destruction of the empire, and the fact of their conservancy having been entrusted to a privileged and limited order, with which it perished.

We hail as a new discovery the knowledge of the existence of the so-called spots upon the surface of the sun, and scientists, from long-continued observations, profess to distinguish a connection between the character of these and atmospheric phenomena; they even venture to predict floods and droughts, and that for some years in anticipation; while pestilences or some great disturbance are supposed to be likely to follow the period when three or four planets attain their apogee within one year, a supposition based on the observations extended over numerous years, that similar events had accompanied the occurrence of even one only of those positions at previous periods.

May we not speculate on the possibility of similar or parallel knowledge having been possessed by the old Chaldæan and Egyptian priesthood; and may not Joseph have been able, by superior ability in its exercise, to have anticipated the seven years' drought, or Noah, from an acquaintance with meteorological science, to have made an accurate forecast of the great disturbances which resulted in the Deluge and the destruction of a large portion of mankind?

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