There are countless recorded sightings of spirits and angels. But history is filled with many mythical creatures, in legends passed from generation to generation and in illustrations from ancient artwork. These creatures have been fueling imaginations across many cultures for centuries.
Often, such creatures appear in ancient myths, where they act as companions to cultures’ gods and goddesses or protect sacred places. Though the legendary creatures are characters in stories, curious people still seek out the creatures in our tangible, modern world. Following are some descriptions of the most common mythical and legendary creatures.
- Centaurs are mythological creatures which have a human upper bod, with a lower body of a horse. Centaurs date from ancient Roman legends and appear in artwork in the region surrounding the Mediterranean.
- Dragons are serpent-like creatures that breathe fire and fly, though there are many different types of dragons with a broader range of powers and characteristics. Many people think dragons are fictional creatures. But some people think they may be related to dinosaurs. They think dragons live hidden from view, possibly in dark caverns.
- Griffins have the head and wings of eagles, with the body and the claws of a lion. Folklore and art from ancient Greece and Rome show the earliest representation of griffins. Griffins are known for their protective and fierce nature and are considered to be king over all of the other animals. Griffins are commonly depicted as the guards of treasures and gold.
- Mermaids exist both in myth and as actual figures in true historical accounts of famous adventurers. Mermaids have the body of a woman, with the tail of a fish in place of their legs. Mermaids can be found in stories from around the world.
Some people believe that mermaids are somehow related to ancient Greece’s sirens. Sometimes, mermaids are shown as powerful, and are related to shipwrecks, storms, and disasters at sea. Other times, thanks to Disney, they’re benevolent or even helpful beings who save humans’ lives or fall in love with a human.
- Phoenix also can be found in stories from around the world. A phoenix is a bird that can live for hundreds of years. When it dies, it does so in a burst of dramatic flames. The beauty of the story of the phoenix is that a new bird rises from the ashes of the old. In many myths, the Phoenix is related to the cycle of life, or to the sun.
- Selkies have their origin stories in Ireland and Scotland. Selkies are legendary creatures that are seals when in the water, but human when on land. In human form, a male selkie may attempt to seduce the lonely wife of an absent fishermen. But a human male can claim a female selkie as his wife by stealing her skin. Many of these stories have tragic endings, in which the selkie returns to the sea.
Unicorns are beautiful and pure creatures. They resemble horses, and each has a single horn which contains magic healing powers. Some myths explain how unicorns perished in the Great Flood, after they were too proud to board the ark.
Whether they originate in ancient stories passed from generation to generation, or inhabit hidden lands, legendary creatures have inhabited people’s hearts since time began. Their enduring nature makes one wonder if there really is truth behind the ancient stories!