Bestiary 9

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Ahuitzotl

In Aztec folklore of Mexico Ahuitzotl is a strange animal about size of a dog, that lives in the water. It has hands and feet like a monkey and another hand at the tip of his extraordinarily long tail. It lives in deep water, waiting for the humans to come to the edge of it. When it sees a victim, its long tail, ending in a monkey’s hand, grabs the human and pulls him under water. After three days the dead body is cast ashore without its eyes, teeth and nails. These are the only things Ahuitzotl is after. Nobody would touch the returned body, only a priest, who sends it to a small house erected near the water, because it is clear that the rain god Tlalocs had chosen that soul for Paradise. Flue is played to him and relatives are told to rejoice because of this choosing.

Ahuitzotl appears on Aztec carvings, but the hand at the end of its tail is never shown, the tail is always coiled and the hand hidden.

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Vata

Planet wide sentient kelp from the seas of Pandora in the Tau Ceti system (F.Herbert: Jesus Incident, Lazarus Effect), was called Avata by the first human colonists (from Indian “Avatar”).”One in the many”, kelp was capable of cross-species telepathic communication. It was not edible and close presence to kelp was disorienting and hallucinogenic, fragmenting human mind. Kelp had a language of its own, transmitted by light, pulsing and glowing nodules like “fireflies of the sea “.

Air born vector of Avata were highlighters, huge orange spherical balloons filled with hydrogen gas, some over 50 metres in diameter. Truncated sphere was flattened along the top, which formed muscular base for the tall rippling sail membrane, capable of tacking into the wind. Numerous long corded tendrils extended from the underside, carrying the ballast rocks or any cargo ‘lighters wanted to move. Grazing the ground with ballast rocks, sparks often ignited the hydrogen and the balloon would explode in a ball of fire.

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Neither kelp nor highlighters were bothered by deadly poisonous predators of Pandora – Hooded Dashers, Spinnerets, Nerve Runners and others, who decimated the human colony. Avata projected into the predators’ mind images which rendered her safe. Kelp was considered a hindrance to colonisation of the planet and it was exterminated by the human settlers. Without the kelp to subdue the fitful rages of tides, the seas of Pandora took over and eroded the two small landmasses, forcing the humans to move into or on the sea.

Genetic material of kelp was preserved in the engineered human clones and the planet-sized consciousness remained in a true kelp-human hybrid, Vata, born to a woman shortly before the demise of the kelp.

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Buraq

Variously spelled Al-burak, Borak, Al-Bouraq etc., all meaning “lightning” in Arabic. Buraq is the animal that Muhammad mounted on the night of his ascension to heaven. The earliest tradition held that Muhammad climbed a ladder to reach the heaven. Later sources introduced a more dignified means – buraq: “smaller that a mule, larger than an ass, with human face, with hoofs and tail of a cow and rump of a horse. The saddle was emerald green, harness of pearls, turquoise stir-ups. In one stride it went as far as the eye could reach.”

The Sura 17 of Koran, which is said to deal with Muhammad’s vision of his ascension, mentions neither the ladder, nor the beast. Buraq first appeared to account for Muhammad’s overnight journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and back, a round trip of 1600 miles, which is suggested in the above mentioned Sura 17.

The face of buraq was later changed into the one of a veiled woman. In visual art Muhammad’s image was never shown, only alluded to, by a pink cloud. Since the 14th cen. it became a favourite subject of Persian miniatures. Today buraq often appears on trucks and buses in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A contemporary Indonesian airline is also called Buraq. The saddle is shown to the pilgrims in the Mosque of Al-sakhra in Jerusalem. Muslims of India usually picture buraq with man’s face, with wings and the tail of a peacock.

One legend tells that buraq, on leaving the ground, tipped a jar of water. The Prophet was taken up to the 7th heaven, along the way speaking in each of the heavens with the patriarchs and angels living there, then He crossed the Unity and felt a coldness that chilled his heart when the Lord laid a hand on his shoulder. Man’s time is not commensurable with god’s time: on his return the Prophet raised the jar, out of which not a single drop had yet been spilled.

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Chimera

In Greek “khimaira” is a she-goat. Monster with lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent for tail. Dating from 5th cen BC, it is an ancient symbol of elemental chaos and dangers of land and sea. Born from the union of Echidna and Typhon, Virgil gives her “body all aflame”. It came from Lycia, where ther was a volcano of the same name.

Hesiod held that Chimera had three heads, lion’s at the front, goat’s rising from her spine, and serpent’s at the tip of her tail. Not every classical author took her seriously. Plutarch suggested that Chimera was the name of a pirate captain who adorned his ships with the images of a lion, goat and a snake. Rabelais cracked a joke: ”Can a Chimera, swinging in the void, swallow second intentions?”

Corinthian Bellerophon, riding on a winged horse Pegassus, shot Chimera dead with his arrows.

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