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Archive for the ‘Myth’ Category

The Great Detective—Sherlock Holmes.

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 “You see but you do not observe.” Holmes to Watson, “A Scandal in Bohemia”

I have had a long-standing love affair-du-Coeur with Sherlock Holmes. I read a bunch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective when I was younger, and a few of them really stuck with me. I’m sure everyone has their favorites.

Well, for some reason or other, maybe it was the recent and latest iteration of Holmes and Watson by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, I felt inspired to go back into Victorian England and delve into the World of Sherlock Holmes once more.

Four novels and fifty-six short stories later, I feel as impressed as ever with Holmes and Watson, and all the crime-solving, mystery-unraveling, clue gathering, disguises, adventures, and explanations. Great stuff!

There is a reason or six why Sherlock Holmes has gripped the imagination of readers, writers and fans since his first appearance on the scene in 1887.

1. The Great Detective Himself

Let’s face it, Holmes is pretty darn fabulous. He’s gifted with intelligence, heightened powers of observation and inference, a scientific and logical mind, the ability to see connections that others don’t see. He’s a master of disguise, chemistry, martial arts and boxing, he’s daring, and he keeps true to his own sense of justice. He does not always win, he does not always find the answer, but if it’s possible, you can be sure he’ll figure out the truth.

Though brilliant, Holmes was not perfect. People have speculated he was manic-depressive, or perhaps had Asperger’s Syndrome. He was high on intellect, and low on emotion—although you could argue it. He was passionate about his crime-solving art—and he had a dry, sarcastic wit which could seriously cut a lesser opponent to shreds. And (nearly) everyone was lesser. He did spend a bit of time addicted to cocaine (when he was bored), which Watson weaned him off of. His chemical experiments, as well as a propensity for shooting off firearms indoors, did not endear him to his landlady Mrs. Hudson. Though she never kicked him out. Hmm, maybe there was something there…? Well, that’s the romance writer in me. Probably been done already, ey?

2. The Crimes—

Watching Holmes unravel the crimes and mysteries is so much fun. The stories cover a wide spectrum. Murder, theft, kidnapping, betrayal, revenge, stolen plans, secrets, espionage, mistaken identity, secret identity, blackmail, fraud—and a few cases which were more mysteries than crime-solving. It’s all about the method! Observation, clues, deductions, inferences, and lots of footwork. He put forensics into action in detective work, sometimes running circles around Scotland Yard, other times working with them at their request, sometimes holding back evidence or explanations if Holmes felt justice was better served that way. The wealth and variety of mystery plots is fantastic.

 3. The Friendship—

Dr. John H. Watson, narrator for most of the stories, chronicler of the tales, is our window into the world of Sherlock Holmes. He is adventurous, brave, loyal, moral, maybe a little stodgy, but a reliable friend—not up to Holmes’ speed, but few would be. Yet they form a strong bond that lasts decades. I don’t know when Watson actually got to practice medicine since he was so ready to drop what he was doing in order to solve crimes, though he did doctor from time to time. He was injured in the Afghan War (odd from today’s standpoint, right? The Watson in the BBC modernization of Sherlock is wounded in the current Afghan war.) Watson does fall in love—something Holmes professes has never happened to him—and marries Mary Morstan from The Sign of the Four. Watson (maybe) even got married again after she (maybe) died—though this woman is never named. No kids—that we know of. Anyway, it’s Watson’s friendship with Holmes, his admiration for his friend’s powers, and his participation in the adventures that invite us into that same bond with the Great Detective. It’s one of the great friendships of literature. Plus Watson is the quintessential sidekick—a prototype for many that came after him.

4. The Nemesis—

Nothing puts the good guys through their paces like a really awesome bad guy. The evil and brilliant Professor Moriarty only figures in a few Holmes’ stories (2 directly), and we hear Holmes mention his struggles against the ‘Napoleon of crime’ in bits and pieces. Quite frankly, Conan Doyle invented Moriarty as a way to send Holmes out in a blaze of Glory. Now Moriarty might have gone over that cliff at Reichenbach Falls, while Holmes (readers find out a decade later, three years in the story world) actually didn’t. Despite his spectacular demise, and like Holmes himself, Moriarty has taken on a life of his own, looming large in the human imagination. Holmes has had many opponents, some worthy of his greatness, others less so, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing these villains get their comeuppance.

5. The Game—

Well, it has been played by some notable folks, including Dorothy L. Sayers and Christopher Morley. The object is to treat the Holmes ‘canon’ – the 56 short stories and 4 novels – as true. As in, Holmes and Watson really lived, Watson had his stories published through his ‘agent’ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the events, places and people are based on real events, places and people. Reams of writing and terabytes of internet space have been devoted to this—it’s like a smart person’s fan club, yet somewhat crazy. I mean, people in Conan Doyle’s day used to think Holmes was real—somewhat annoying to his creator, who wanted to write Other Things. (Which he did, such as The Lost World and a lot of non-fiction work.) That said, people have had fun with dating the stories, figuring out who the historical characters Watson referred to with slight changes and different names might be, how many wives Watson had, where in Sussex Holmes’ bee farm might be, etc.

6. The Interpretations

Holmes was too large to stay chained to the page, and has had a wide and varied series of incarnations on stage, screen, and, well, in other people’s books. He has inspired interpretations of his character, psychology, romances-or-lack-there-of, parody, comedy, and plenty of etc. If I say Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, you get the picture. As opposed to ‘cannon’ story, the ‘Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, an actual penned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. In movies alone, Sherlock Holmes has inspired portrayals by over 70 actors in over 200 films. Whoa!

  There is plenty of fodder in the originals to expand on. We know little of Holmes’ background and family, though we do meet smarter (though indolent) brother Mycroft. People have made up all sorts of interesting theories of his upbringing. Watson gives us tantalizing glimpses of cases he never expands into stories (The Giant Rat of Sumatra—come on, Watson, we need to know!) We get our picture of Holmes mostly through Watson’s first person eyes—though there are 2 stories narrated by Holmes, and 2 in third person. So writers and storytellers can find a twist outside Watson’s viewpoint and have fun with it. Thus we have Young Sherlock Holmes a movie about Holmes and Watson as a school boys, Nicholas Meyer’s Seven-Percent Solution (referencing Holmes addiction to cocaine and Freud’s talking cure of same), the TV show House contains many moments of homage to Sherlock Holmes, Basil of Baker Street is a children’s book, and a Disney movie (The Great Mouse Detective) featuring Basil the mouse and his adventures, with nemesis Ratigan (Vincent Price voices, quite fabulous), the Mary Russell books starting with The Beekeepers Apprentice, where in a 15-yr-old American woman meets Holmes in retirement and they have many adventures together. And eventually, a romance.

Just a small sampling of the many, many Holmes-related and re-imagined works out there.

Below are some of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories.

A Scandal In Bohemia, The Red-headed League, The Speckled Band, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Copper Beeches, The Norwood Builder, Silver Blaze, The Musgrave Ritual, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Abbey Grange, The Second Stain, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

If you want a list of Sherlock Holmes stories, try a visit to the Diogenes club. http://www.diogenes-club.com/hoysummary.htm , Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes . And your local library or bookstore—there’s always a classic edition around. Amazon & BN have everything as well.

A fun article on the real-or-not biz.  http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2088/did-sherlock-holmes-really-exist 

http://www.schoolandholmes.com/index.html a list of Holmes related books, not by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

http://pbpl.physics.ucla.edu/~yoder/mystery/doywork.html short, short summaries of the short stories

Enjoy! The Game’s Afoot

So, do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes tale? Love or loathe the Great Detective? Enjoy any particular re-imagination of Holmes & Watson? Who is your favorite Holmes? Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, or Robert Downey Jr., or…? Do tell!

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Horses are amazing creatures. They represent power and speed, usefulness, companionship, and a wild freedom that appeals to humans even today.

Our relationship with Horse goes back to pre-history.

Yes, we used to hunt them for food. But eventually we caught on, hey, these big, strong creatures sure do know how to run. Hmm. How to make that work for us? In exchange for protection, grass, shelter, a good brushing, some oats and the occasional carrot, Horse has been a good friend.

HORSE HISTORY—The Short Version

Horse has figured in human spirituality and mythology for millennia. Featured in many prehistoric cave paintings in France, were they regarded as Spiritual guides? A link to the Other world? A plea for good hunting?

The majority of Horse species developed in North America, and spread to other continents over time. Ironically, horses disappeared from the Americas around 10,000 years ago—and only survived in Eurasia and Africa. Which meant they were reintroduced to our side of the Atlantic by the Europeans.

All domesticated horse species are thought to be bred from the tarpan, or European Wild Horse, extinct since 1919 (and isn’t that a shame.)

When did Horse go from food to friend? Anthropologists think domestication might have first happened in the Asian steppes around 3500 BC. Possibly people kept herds of horses, most likely at first for food & milk. Around 2000 to 1500 BC humans began using Horse for pulling things, carrying things, then for riding.

We have used them in War (until WWI), for Work, as Status, for Trade & Transport, and in Sports. World horse population is estimated to be around 58 million. Today, most horses are kept for recreational purposes. And while there are populations of horses running wild, they are not true ‘wild horses’, they are descended from horses that were domesticated. More feral horse than wild horse.

HORSE TALES

Horses are beauty and strength in motion.  Horse shaped much of our history, and naturally, Horse has figured strongly in our stories, legends and mythology. There is enough horse lore to fill shelves and shelves of books, but I find this Horse myth particularly poetic.

ArabiansAccording to Bedouin legend, Allah created the horse from the four winds. He endowed the animal with SPIRIT from the North, STRENGTH from the South, SPEED from the East, and INTELLIGENCE from the West.

Real horses are pretty outstanding, of course. Below is a (short) list of some Famous Horses:

  • Comanche was General George Custer’s Horse and the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876
  • Alexander the Great’s horse named Bucephalus. The story goes the king (dad) got the horse as a gift, but no one could ride or even handle him. But boy prince Alex tamed the horse and rode him to fame and conquest.
  • Man O'WarFamed race horses: Man O’War, War Admiral, Secretariat, Citation, Dan Patch, Seattle Slew, Sea Biscuit, Affirmed last horse to win the U.S. Triple Crown (1978)
  • Famous TV horses: Trigger was a Golden Palamino stallion and co-star with Roy Rogers in many of his movies and TV show. Silver (Lone Ranger) Mr Ed the talking horse.
  • Traveler was the name of the horse that Mel Gibson rode in “Braveheart”. Also the name of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse.
  •  BABIECA: Spanish name meaning “a simpleton; stupid” The white Andalusian  belonging to El Cid. According to legend, Babieca was frail and wild and when El Cid chose her, his godfather named her “Babieca!”  But Babieca grew into a  great warhorse, much beloved by El Cid.

HORSE in Fiction

ShadowfaxSAragorn, Legolas & Gandalf a-horsehort, short list—Horses have been the subject of books, the main characters in books, figured prominently in books, and been allegorical subjects.

Famed Fictional Horses:

  • Black Beauty
  • the Black Stallion
  • Misty of Chincoteague
  • My Friend Flicka
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy has some mighty fine horses, including Bill the pony who found his way home, and ShaWraith Horsedowfax, chief of the Mearas, whom only Gandalf could ride. Of course, there were some mighty bad horses in LOTR—the ringwraith mounts. Ugh! Scary beasts.

BIBLICAL HORSES

Famous Scary Horses: The four horses of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Shivers.

Horses in Legends and Mythology:

Arthurian: Gringolet is Sir Gawain’s horse; possible King Arthur Horses: Llamrei, Hengroen, later French sources call his horse Passelande; Sir Caradoc’s horse: Luagor.

 Medieval Romance:  Bayard: a magic horse from the legends of the chansons de geste (“Songs of Heroic Deeds”). It belonged to the four sons of Aymon, and had the ability to grow larger or smaller as one or more riders mounted it.

EponaEpona is Gallic-Roman goddess of the horse & fertility

The HIPPOI ATHANATOI were the immortal horses of the gods. The majority of these divine steeds were offspring of the four Wind-Gods who themselves were said to draw the chariot of Zeus in the shape of horses.

 Horses have been combined with many other creatures, mythologically speaking—hippalectryon (horse-rooster), hippogriff (horse-griffin, itself a mythological creature), centaur (man-horse)

PegasusPegasus  & other Winged Horses Tianma (Chinese Winged Horse) Tulpar (Central Asian Mythology)

Sea Horses (hippocampi)–Poseidon has a few drawing his charriot

Xanthus and Balios—immortal horses given to Achilles, featured in the Illiad

Horses of Doom: Cheval Mallet—a black horse that would lure the unwary to their doom (French) or Gytrash (England) the Kelpie (Irish, with a watery twist), the Night Mare

Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged horse (Norse mythology)

Mares of Diomedes—flesh eating horses, one of Hercules’s Labors was to capture them.

Liath Macha  and Dub Sainglend are the two chariot-horses of the hero Cúchulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.

Enbarr or Embarr (meaning “imagination”) in Irish mythology is Niamh’s horse. He can run across sea and land without touching the ground or water.

UnicornThe Unicorn—legendary one-horned creature, symbol of purity and grace, white, horse-like with a single horn and a goat’s beard, sometimes with a lion’s tale and goat’s cloven hoof. Supposedly has powers of healing, and can only be captured by a virgin.

 Swift WindSwift Wind combo pegasi and unicorn from She-Ra: Princess of Power(1985). Hey, why not?

Awesome websites to explore:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/horse/

http://www.horse-races.net/library/links-famous.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Mythological_horses

http://www.20000-names.com/pet_names_horse_names_equine_names.htm

http://www.giladorigami.com/PG_Horses.html some extremely cool origami horses

http://www.artema.com.au/Boyd/ancient_antecedents/bayard.html Bayard legend

http://www.theoi.com/Ther/Hippoi.html

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Any favorite Horse Tales to share? Have a My Little Pony collection? Horrified by pink and purple horses? Always wanted Swift Wind as a friend? Love to ride, love Horse from afar?

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I love the Halloween Season!

I don’t like roller coasters, slasher movies, or walking home alone in the dark, but give me pumpkins, witches, and skeletons, evil laughs, Frankenstein, Dracula or Mummy movies, a Milky Way, and I’m a happy camper.

In my younger days, I had my goth costume moments, and I did dress up as a vampiress to my husband’s priest,and for a cozy what-if scare I will watch Ghost Hunters with my daughter (she sure does know how to scare herself).

But Halloween is pure fun.

I used to make my kids’ costumes. They were so adorable! My son was a devil (red pj’s, glued on devil horns, a pitchfork—watch out dog!—and once he figured out why the heck I was dragging him around in this outfit, he’d run up to people’s doors chanting ‘candy’! He was 2 ½ ), Zorro, Batman (yes, I made that one despite all the readily available costume shop ones), a pirate, a ninja, and the Prince of Thieves. My daughters have been Sailor Moon (reused several times, a fabulous costume if I do say so myself), princesses (from old bridesmaids gowns, got a lot of mileage there), and then I went to buying costumes, because, well, because, so we had cheerleaders, vampires, and mermaids. Did we do a black widow or ghost bride? Oh, maybe that was me.

Then we went to Zombie soccer players, and minimalist outfits (ie, sweats) and make-up, bloody scars, out with the friends and see ya, mom! Sigh.

So now, only my youngest goes out trick or treating, with friends, and my house must be a little spooky, because I get very few little goblins knocking on my door. I do put on the light. The dog is loud, maybe?

Anyway, I could go on and on about Halloween fun and the joy of a good scare, but I’ll leave it at this.

The spirit world is the closest to ours on the Eve of Hallowmas, or Samhain, depending who and where you are. Roast some pumpkin seeds, light a candle for the dead, ring some bells, and definitely go for the Treat over the Trick.

And I hope you don’t get egged!

Good Halloween Movies

Really old, really creepy. I mean, really. If it’s late and you’re alone, and you watch this thing, you WILL be scared! NOSFERATU—1922, b&w, silent. It’s in the public domain. Creep Factor=HIGH! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA

THE MUMMY—with Boris Karloff—ooh, that close-up of him! Kissing dead things. That vat of embalming fluid. This is both a love story and a creep-fest. Creep Factor=MED

THE MUMMY—Brendan Fraser—I adore #1 and #2. Creep Factor=LOW Although those scarab beetles, ugh! Some good gross-out moments, too. Fun Factor=HIGH

DRACULA—oh, pick any of the dozens of movies out there! Children of the Night, indeed. Creep Factor= SOME CREEPIER THAN OTHERS, SOME STUPIDER, TOO

Frankenstein, Wolfman—hey, I’m a traditionalist! And for a laugh—it still holds up, ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. They meet a lot of other fun characters, too. And who can forget YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, the Mel Brooks comedy with Gene Wilder and many other fabulous people. Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life!

And for a good black and white ghost story, and I probably mentioned it before, try THE UNIVITED (1944) with Ray Milland.

A lot of people tend to ignore movies made in black and white, but if you’re up for something different, I say give it a try! There is nothing like a spooky black and white movie at this (or any) time of year.

And for a fun Halloween TV treat, if you didn’t catch the Halloween episode of The Office, give it a whirl. It was funny, and good. If you missed it, check out HULU http://www.hulu.com/watch/292804/the-office-spooked James Spader’s Scary Story was Excellent.

Nothin’ to fear but fear itself!

Any Halloween tips to share, a favorite costume, or favorite scary movie? Love this holiday or hate it?

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How alien do you find that slithery creature, the snake?

Those lidless eyes, staring, staring at you, the way they curl, coil and undulate, the speed of their strike, the forked tongue, the fangs. It’s so, so, ssssso inhuman! Mammals, even the oh-so-dangerous tiger, at least have a cuddle factor (when they’re small).

Snakes have…scales. Venom. Their own agenda.

Found on every continent except Antarctica (and conspicuously absent from Ireland, Iceland, & New Zealand, and some other islands), the Snake figures prominently in mythologies around the world and throughout human history. In the West, we’re a little prejudiced against them, but in other places and times, the snake has symbolized fertility, rebirth, protection, wisdom, healing, cunning and flat out god power.

Back to those lidless eyes and that unblinking stare. Anything that can stare us down, well it has to know something we don’t, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s just the way it’s made, and yes, it’s probably thinking more about dinner than the secrets of the universe, but you can see it, right? It just looks smart.

In Western lore, Snake has a bad rap as the Garden of Eden dweller who lured Eve into disobedience.  Snake = Evil = Satan to many Westerners.

St. Patrick drove them out of Ireland, St. Columba banned them from the island of Iona (he also reportedly had a bit of a talk with the Loch Ness Monster and forbade the creature from eating humans—Nessie’s been scarce ever since, probably sulking), and statues of Mary Queen of Heaven have her bare foot firmly on the neck of the Serpent.

Now, there are those who say, in St. Patrick’s case, the banished snakes in question symbolize the Pagan Druids he conquered through the spread of Christianity. And St. Columba, descended incidentally from Irish Kings, had a more practical aim in mind—protecting the livelihood of his flock (the people as well as the cows) from pesky snakes. And the symbolism of the snake in Mary’s case is the triumph of Christianity over Adam and Eve’s original sin.

And you’ve probably seen this on TV, because, heck, it’s fairly weird and wild, there are Christian sects that practice snake handling as a part of their worship. Yes, with venomous snakes.

But snakes have had their place in myth and legend well before the Christian era.

Quetzalcoatl in Mesoamerica: the feathered serpent, a god of learning and knowledge, possibly fertility, possibly involved in the creation of mankind. Does anyone REALLY know? No. But there are lots of depictions of the feathered snake god, so we know he was important. Today you can find lots of New Age Quetzalcoatl lore. Was he an Ancient Alien come to earth? Or maybe as some Mormons are said to believe he was JC visiting the Americas after His resurrection? We know just enough about the Big Q to intrigue and not enough to be definitive. This makes him a tantalizing mythological creature.

Vulture on L, Cobra on R, Symbolizing Unification of Upper & Lower Egypt

Wadjetthe Cobra Goddess: The Cobra in Ancient Egypt was an important symbol of strength and power associated with the pharaohs. The Pharaoh wore a hooded cobra on his crown—which would spit fire at his enemies. Not too shabby! You want that serpent on your side. And of course we all know the story of Cleopatra and the Asp.

Moses—since we’re in Egypt, or leaving it—had a staff that could turn into a serpent. And God gave him the power to cure the Hebrews of snakebite. Very useful on a desert trek.

 Nagas, or snake deities in Hindu mythology— represent death and rebirth, fertility, wisdom, and knowledge. Shesha, king of the Nagas, is said to hold all the planets on his hoods. He floats in the cosmic ocean, his massive, many headed body forming the bed where Vishnu rests. Manasa is the queen of the snakes. Nāg Panchamī is a snake-worshiping festival still celebrated in parts of India.

Greek Mythology—you’ve got Medusa & her sisters, whose writhing snake locks gave new meaning to the term ‘bad hair’ day. The Hydra with its many snake heads, Apollo’s fight with the god PythonApollo won, a snake guarded the Golden Fleece, the Minoan Snake Goddess held a snake in either hand probably symbolizing knowledge and wisdom, Asclepius, son of Apollo, is the god of medicine and his snake-wrapped rod is used as a symbol of the healing arts to this day. Hermes’ Caduceus with its wings and entwined snakes is a symbol for commerce and negotiation (the two staffs are often confused).

  Ouroborosthe snake eating its tail—this symbol dates back to the ancients. Many creation myths feature a snake encircling the world. It symbolizes eternity, eternal renewal, immortality, and can be found in alchemy, Masonic seals, West African religions, and has been adapted by modern people around the world. For a surprisingly long list, read the wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros#Modern

I think I have a broach of him somewhere.

JörmungandrNorse Mythology— is the World Serpent who encircles the earth and can grasp his own tail. When he lets go of his tail, the world will end. His arch enemy is Thor. When those two go at it at Ragnarök, watch out! Well, that’s not going to be a good day for anyone.

The Hopi of North America perform a Snake Dance to influence the weather.  After the ceremony, the snakes are released so they can carry the prayers of the priests to the underworld where the rain gods live. Rain ensues.

Garter Snake--very common, non-venomous

Those are just a few of the many, many snake tales.

So, how did the snake come to mean so much and so many different things to us?

“Red to Yellow, Kill a Fellow; Red to Black, Venom Lack” Coral Snake, venomous, L, Milk Snake, non-venomous R. Only ‘good’ in North America! When in doubt, walk away and call a professional.

This reptile has traits that lend themselves to our anthropomorphizing. The way they move, curl-up and coil is so different from our own methods of locomotion-exotic and fascinating, maybe even frightening. Their scales come in all different colors and patterns.  They are good at camouflage, like to hide in rocks and underbrush. Some climb and live in trees. Some swim—including the venomous sea snake (warm waters of the Indian Ocean among other locations).

They are carnivores, they do NOT like milk (not even milk snakes). Non-venomous snakes are great at keeping down rodent populations. Venomous snakes are as well, but you don’t want them hanging around your house or barn.

Snakes molt their skin as they grow (Eternal Renewal). They do not have teeth that can chew, only grab and hold. Most snakes are not venomous. If they possess venom, they will stun their prey with it before digesting them. They can NOT hypnotize their prey. They will strike an enemy in self-defense. Some will even play dead until you go away.

They have jaws, skin and a flexible rib cage that can all spread wide enough to accommodate prey much larger than their resting diameter. Yes, they can swallow prey whole, alive. Pit vipers—rattlesnakes, copperhead, cottonmouth—have heat sensors on the sides of their faces which help them locate prey at night.

Snakes are NOT slimy, they are in fact dry to the touch. Their forked tongues, which they constantly flick, test the air for smells.

Snakes can be enormous (like the anaconda and the reticulated python—30+ feet long, and hundreds of pounds). The smallest is the size of a worm, and is often mistaken for one. The python, the anaconda, and the boa are constrictors, wrapping their considerable selves around prey until they suffocate and can be swallowed. Of course whole.

The gentle rosy boa is one of the most popular snake pets in the US.

GENERALLY humans are not snake prey (we are much more dangerous to them then they to us), but hey, they are opportunists. You wouldn’t have to worry about a three foot long snake, but a thirty foot one, yes. Fortunately, they don’t live in the suburbs (unless someone is keeping one as a pet.)

A snake would rather run than fight, but some are more aggressive than others and will go at you if disturbed.

Most snake bites happen by accident (or stupidity). You want to watch where you put your foot or hand in snake country—most likely reason to be bit: you step on/near one you didn’t see.

Place you are most likely to get bitten by a venomous snake: India. They have a lot of snakes in general, and many species are venomous, like the cobra, krait, and viper. An estimated 250,000 people a year are bit by venomous snakes in India—and of that, an estimated 10,000 die each year. Compare that to under 20 in the USA.

COMMON SNAKE SAYINGS

You Snake! (a sneak, deceptive, sly, devious, untrustworthy), Snake in the Grass (traitor, betrayer), Nursing a Viper at Your Breast (being good to someone who turns around and harms you), Speaking with a Forked-Tongue (liar), Lower than a Snake’s Belly (how low can you go?), A Snake-Oil Salesman (selling a cure-all that doesn’t work), Snaking Through (go through a twisted course), Snake Charmer (a person who has a way with dangerous things, or a charming facade hiding a dangerous person).

For more pictures of snakes: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/photos/snakes/

And videos from Animal Planet: http://animal.discovery.com/search/results.html?focus=site&query=snakes&search=+

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child!” Shakespeare, King Lear

SOME FAMOUS SNAKES (can you tell I have kids?)

Kaa (L) from the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Mowgli’s mentor in RK book, not so much in Disney movie)

Jafar(R) from Aladdin, the Disney Movie (turns himself into a giant cobra during the final battle)

Viper, character in Kung Fu Panda movie

Nagini from the Harry Potter books and movies

Snake Plissken—Kurt Russell played the one-eyed ex-special forces agent in Escape From New York

The Gadsen Flag, one of the flags of the American Revolution

COOL CARSwhat the heck?

Dodge Viper (L) & Shelby Cobra (R)

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So, do you have a snake-opinion? Love them, hate them, fascinated by them?  Feel they are much-maligned? Get the heebie-jeebies when you see one? Have a snake story to share?

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I don’t know what it is, but I like saying it. Chupacabra!

Yet I’m scared of it at the same time. It’s part of that unknown, bump-in-the-night, creepy, scary, there’s something out there that wants to EAT you! thang.

Apparently El Chupacabra  lives in Puerto Rico, and perhaps Mexico, Central America, Texas, and possibly as far north as Maine (maybe it’s looking for Stephen King) It sucks blood from goats and other animals, but smaller than cows. Ew.

And I learned a new vocab word in pursuit of this mythic creature: cryptid. That means a creature or plant whose existence has been ‘suggested’ but is not recognized by science. Plus the actual existence of said creature or plant is regarded as highly unlikely by regular science.

But this is precisely the kind of creature that’s of great interest to cryptozoologists, who are the folks you’re likely to find ‘in search of’ (a roll back shout out to Leonard Nimoy) cryptids, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, and, well, chupacabras.

El Goat Sucker, sightings of which can be traced back to 1995 Puerto Rico, may or may not be the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from neck to tail. It may or may not be upright and look like a cross between your classic big-eyed alien and a lizard.

OR it could be more of a diseased animal type thing—a supposed chupacabra was caught and killed in 2010, but upon scientific examination, the creature was discovered to be a coyote with a severe parasitic infection. Uh-huh. Some scientists have theorized that the beginning of the chupacabra legend stems from coyotes suffering from scabies and mange, which would make them look awful and odd.  Or perhaps it’s the result of too many viewings of the 1995 movie, Species. Add the dark, the rain forest, some odd blood-drained corpses, and perhaps a little rum, and you might be seeing chupacabras, too.

So, skeptic, or believer? The evidence is somewhat skimpy, granted.

But, as my friend Nancy Bluhm once said, the truth can really mess up a good story.  So what do you think? A weird little blood-sucking animal? Or…?

Here are some pictures to help you decide.

A supposed chupacabra found (dead) in Texas. Chickens drained of blood. Ew. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,295481,00.html

Just plain weird, but shows good effort. I got it from here, but I couldn’t tell you where this guy got it from. http://upsidedownhippo.com/archives/2007/10/index.html

Hmph. INteresting.

YOU TUBING THE MONSTER

And if you want a good little JUMPY moment, cruise on over to this you tube video of some guys on the hunt for the elusive Goat Sucker. Nice and creepy. Be Forewarned, there is cussing in Spanish.

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