The Níðhöggr Scandinavia

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nidhöggr or Nidhogg (Malice Striker) is a powerful dragon that is found in Norse Mythology. The mighty dragon chews on the roots of the ash tree Yggdrasill, also known as the World Tree, which holdes the 9 realms of Norse mythology together. He hopes one day to topple Yggdrasill and destroy all realms. He has a rivalry with an eagle that lives at the top of the World Tree and the two exchange harsh words through Ratatöskr, the squirrel, that bears the words between the two. It is said that the Nidhöggr will arrive at Ragnarok, the Norse Judgement day.

Prose Edda

According to the Gylfaginning part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, Níðhöggr or "Nidhogg Nagar" is a being which gnaws one of the three roots of Yggdrasill. It is sometimes believed that the roots are trapping the beast from the world. This root is placed over Niflheimr and Níðhöggr gnaws it from beneath. The same source also says that "[t]he squirrel called Ratatöskr runs up and down the length of the Ash, bearing envious words between the eagle and Nídhöggr."[2]
In the Skáldskaparmál section of the Prose Edda Snorri specifies Níðhöggr as a serpent in a list of names of such creatures:
Snorri's knowledge of Níðhöggr seems to come from two of the Eddic poems: Grímnismál and Völuspá.
Later in Skáldskaparmál, Snorri includes Níðhöggr in a list of various terms and names for swords.[3]

Poetic Edda

The poem Grímnismál identifies a number of beings which live in Yggdrasill. The tree suffers great hardship from all the creatures which live on it. The poem identifies Níðhöggr as tearing at the tree from beneath and also mentions Ratatoskr as carrying messages between Níðhöggr and the eagle who lives at the top of the tree. Snorri Sturluson often quotes Grímnismál and clearly used it as his source for this information.
The poem Völuspá mentions Níðhöggr twice. The first instance is in its description of Náströnd.
Níðhöggr is also mentioned at the end of Völuspá, where he is identified as a dragon and a serpent.
The context and meaning of this stanza is disputed. The most prevalent opinion is that the arrival of Níðhöggr heralds Ragnarök and thus that the poem ends on a tone of ominous warning.
Níðhöggr is not mentioned elsewhere in any ancient source.

Níðhöggr's name

In the standardized Old Norse orthography the name is spelled Níðhǫggr or Niðhǫggr but the letter 'ǫ' is frequently replaced with the Modern Icelandic 'ö' for reasons of familiarity or technical expediency.
The name can be represented in English texts as Nidhogg, Nidhoggr, Nithhogg, Nidhögg, Nidhöggr, Nithhöggr, Nídhöggr, Nithhoggr, Nidhhogg, Níðhögg, Niðhoggr, Níðhoggr, Nídhögg, Hidhaegg, or Nidhhoggr. The Modern Icelandic forms Níðhöggur and Niðhöggur are also sometimes seen and anglicized as Nidhoggur. The Danish form Nidhug or "Nidhøg" can also be encountered.


In Norse mythology, the dwarf Fafnir was one of three brothers. He didn’t begin life as a dragon, but became one after murdering his father for gold. He hid in the wilderness with the treasure, and became a dragon in order to better guard it. Unfortunately for the upstart dragon, he also happened to breathe poison around the land, which the locals understandably weren’t too happy about.

Fafnir’s brother, the blacksmith Regin, asked his own step-son—the young hero Sigurd—to kill the problematic dragon. Sigurd decided to dig a ditch, hiding there with the aim of suddenly leaping out and stabbing Fafnir in the heart.

Odin, King of the Gods, for his own reasons turned up and advised Sigurd to dig a number of other ditches to drain away the dragon’s blood, so that he wouldn’t drown. Sigurd listened to the advice, and when Fafnir showed up he duly attacked him. Though he missed the heart (instead plunging his sword into the dragon’s shoulder), the wound still turned out to be fatal.

Regin then asked Sigurd to cook the dragon’s heart. Sigurd, for some reason seeing nothing odd about this, did as he was told. He touched the heart to check if it was cooked, and burned his thumb in the process; and when he touched his thumb to his mouth in order to ease the pain, he suddenly found that he was able to understand the speech of birds. These birds told Sigurd that Regin intended to kill him, so the young hero killed Regin first, and made off with all of the gold himself.

The Wawel Dragon

Krakow, the ancient capital of Poland, is said to have been founded above the lair of a dragon known locally as Smok Wawelski. There are a number of versions of this tale, but the most popular has it that the dragon pillaged the countryside for many years, devouring livestock and terrifying farmers.

The king sent out a call to noblemen and knights throughout the land, stating that whoever managed to slay the dragon would be rewarded with riches and marriage to his daughter. But none of the knights were able to get the better of the dragon, who quickly reduced all comers to a pile of ash.

A poor shoemaker’s apprentice named Skuba eventually volunteered his assistance. The king, who was by this stage rather desperate, agreed—though few people had much faith in the ability of the young lad. Skuba knew that he couldn’t kill the dragon with force, so he set a trap.

He killed three lambs, stuffed them with spices and sulphur, and left them lying outside the dragon’s cave. After the dragon had devoured this tasty morsel, he experienced a massive burning in his stomach. The pain became so great that he drank half of the nearby river in an attempt to quench it—eventually consuming so much water that he actually exploded.

Should you ever find yourself in Poland, you can still visit the dragon’s cave today.


Modern-day crocodiles are living relics of the dinosaurs—but there was a time when crocodiles hunted and ate said dinosaurs. Deinosuchus is an extinct species related to alligators and crocodiles, which lived during the Cretaceous Period. The name deinosuchus translates to “terrible crocodile” in Greek.

This crocodile was far larger than any modern version, measuring up to thirty-nine feet (12m) and weighting almost ten tons. In its overall appearance, it was fairly similar to its smaller relatives, with large robust teeth built for crushing, and a back covered with armored bone plates.

Deinosuchus’ main prey were large dinosaurs (how many can make that claim?) in addition to sea turtles, fish and other hapless victims. Potential proof of the danger of deinosuchus comes from the fossils of an albertosaurus. These specimens bore tooth marks from both deinosuchus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, which means that there is a great chance these two fierce predators once engaged in colossal battles.

Dragon (Asian)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Semimythical Beast of East Asia. One of the four sacred animals of Chinese mythology. 

Variant names: Chen (Mandarin Chinese/Sino-Tibetan), Chi lung ("wingless dragon"), Chi'ih, Féi-yu, Fu-ts'ang lung ("treasure dragon"), Jiao lung ("scaly dragon"), Kiao lung, Kioh lung, Kura-mitsu-ha (Japanese, "dark water snake"), Kura-okami (Japanese, "dragon god of the valleys"), Kura-yama-sumi (Japanese, "lord of the dark mountains"), Long, Long-ma (Vietnamese), Lung ("five-clawed dragon"), Lung wang ("dragon king"), Mang ("four-clawed dragon"), Naga, Qiu lung ("horned dragon"), Riong (Korean/Altaic), Riu (Japanese), Shen lung ("spiritual dragon"), T'ao t'ieh ("glutton"), Tatsu (Japanese), Ti lung ("river dragon"), T'ien lung ("celestial dragon"), Ying lung ("winged dragon"), Yu lung ("fish dragon"). 

Physical description: A huge body with both serpentine and crocodilian characteristics. Has 117 fishlike scales. Straight horns like a deer's, through which it can hear. Flat, long head like a camel's. Has a bladderlike swelling on the top of its head. Bearded. Eyes like a rabbit's. Ears like a cow's. Tongue and neck like a snake's. The male has a luminous pearl concealed under its chin by a fold of skin. Long mane. Wings seen only in mature specimens. Belly like a frog's. Four feet, with claws like a hawk's. Footpads like a tiger's. Chinese dragons have four or five toes; Japanese dragons only have three. 

Behavior: Can fly without wings. Has the ability to change forms. Sometimes guards treasure. Lays a brightly colored, gemlike egg. Said to have a 3,000-year growth cycle in which it first looks like a water snake, grows a carp's head and scales, develops four limbs and a long tail, sprouts a pair of horns, and finally grows wings. A benevolent creature symbolizing authority, strength, experience, wisdom, and goodness. Originally the Chinese rain god, the Dragon was associated with the Chinese emperor, ancestor worship, fertility, and pools. 

Habitat: Wells, rivers, lakes (in China); the ocean (in Japan). 

Distribution: China; Japan; Korea; Indonesia. 

Significant sightings: The oldest known image of a Chinese dragon is a rock painting dating from 8000 b. c. that was found in 1993 on a cliff in southwestern Shanxi Province. 

In the fourth millennium b. c., a Dragon delivered the eight mystic triagrams, Hae Pa Kua, to a legendary emperor. 

The Northern Song emperor Huizong in a. d. 1110 classified all Dragons into five families- Blue Spirit Dragons, very compassionate kings; Red Spirit Dragons, the kings of lakes; Yellow Spirit Dragons, kings who receive vows favorably; White Spirit Dragons, virtuous and pure kings; and Black Spirit Dragons, the kings of mysterious lakes. 

Another official classification of Dragons divided them into Spirit Dragons that fly into heaven and Earthly Dragons that protect treasure or hide in the earth. 

The Russian monk Elder Barsanuphius served with a nursing detachment during the Russo- Japanese War. Some Chinese soldiers told him that in 1902, when they were stationed at a post in the mountains 40 miles from Muling, Heilongjiang Province, they saw a winged Dragon creep out from a cave on several occasions.

Sources: Nicholas Belfield Dennys, The Folk- Lore of China (London: Trübner, 1876), pp. 102-111; Charles Gould, Mythical Monsters (London: W. H. Allen, 1886), pp. 212-259; M. W. de Visser, The Dragon in China and Japan (Amsterdam: Johannes Müller, 1913); J. O'Matley Irwin, "Is the Chinese Dragon Based on Fact, Not Mythology?" Scientific American 114 (1916): 399, 410; L. Newton Hayes, The Chinese Dragon (Shanghai, China: Commercial Press, 1922); Ernest Ingersoll, Dragons and Dragon Lore (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1928); L. C. Hopkins, "The Dragon Terrestrial and the Dragon Celestial," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1931, pp. 791-806, and 1932, pp. 91-97; B. Gokan, "Historical Review of Discussions on the Fossil Elephants Found in Japan in the Late Yedo Period," Chishitsugaku zasshi 45 (1938): 773-776; Maria Leach, Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1949-1950), vol. 1, p. 323; Martin Birnbaum, "Chinese Dragons and the Bay de Halong," Western Folklore 11 (1952): 32-37; Richard Carrington, Mermaids and Mastodons (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957); Frank James Daniels, "Snake and Dragon Lore of Japan," Folklore 71 (1960): 145-164; Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969), pp. 64-66, 82-84; Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden (New York: Random House, 1977); Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of China and Japan (New York: Gramercy, 1994); Karl Shuker, Dragons: A Natural History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), pp. 86-93; Victor Afanasiev, Elder Barsanuphius of Optina (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000).

Earth's oldest animal ecosystem held in fossils at Nilpena Station in SA outback.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Spriggina - the fossil named after Reg Sprigg who originally discovered these types of fossils in the Nilpena region in 1946.

The dickinsonia fossil, a poster child for ediacara fossils at Nilpena.

By Kerry Staight

It may have been a pastoral property for 150 years, but long before livestock roamed Nilpena Station west of South Australia's Flinders Ranges, it was home to an array of ancient creatures that scientists say mark the dawn of animal life.
Each year leading US geologist Dr Mary Droser, from the University of California, swaps the big city for the SA bush to study what has been left behind - ediacara fossils which she says date back at least 550 million years.
"There is this group of fossils that occurs before things have skeletons, and there are these soft-bodied organisms that lived for 40 million years, and this is their fossil record," Dr Droser told ABC's Landline.
"So it's Earth's oldest animal ecosystem and Australia has the best record."
Dr Droser has been making the annual pilgrimage to the station, around 500 kilometres north of Adelaide, for more than a decade, along with her two children and mother.
"My first day here I'm always up at like five because I can't get out here fast enough," said the geologist as she surveyed the fossil field at the start of this year's trip.
"I get excited months leading up to even coming here and once I'm here I can barely stand it."
While it might be a world away from their Californian and New York bases, the family considers the station's rustic shearers quarters their second home.
"It's not really luxurious, but it gives you the outback feel," said Dr Droser's 13-year-old son Ian Hughes, who has spent all his birthdays but one at Nilpena.
"Coming here is like my big birthday present. It's fantastic.
"It's so beautiful. There's always so much to do. You can hike, you can look for fossils ... it's just so much fun."

Fossil site discovered in mid-80s

Ross Fargher, who runs Nilpena, discovered the fossil site in the mid-1980s on the side of a hill, not far from the shearer's quarters.
While the cattle station is on what is considered marginal country, scientists say the organisms that left the imprints in the rocks were actually marine animals.
"All this country was underwater," Mr Fargher said.
"It's pretty hard to get your head around."
The same types of fossils were first found by renowned Australian geologist Reg Sprigg in 1946 on another part of Nilpena called Ediacara Hills, so the era when these ancient organisms existed is known as the Ediacaran Period.
There are several notable ediacara fossil fields in the world, but Dr Mary Droser says the one she works on at Nilpena is a stand-out.
"You go to Namibia and you get certain types of fossils that are thought to be younger than this and Newfoundland you get ones that are dated older than this," she said.
"And what we find here is we get all of these fossils and we get the ones from Newfoundland and we get the ones from Namibia.
"So we actually have everything and there's no site that has all of these things. It's really absolutely extraordinary."

First evidence of animal sexual interaction

The geologist and her team of researchers from the US - along with experts from the South Australian Museum - have identified about 40 different kinds of animals in the rocks.
Among them are same-sized tubular fossils, found in packs, which she says are the first evidence of animal sexual interaction.
"When you say that people immediately think there's a male and a female and you caught them in the act and it's not really that." Dr Droser said.
"What we catch here is the product of the sexual reproduction."
She named the species Funisia Dorothea after her 87-year-old mother, who does a lot of the support work for the team, including the cooking.
"Obviously I believe in procreation or something ... I have 11 grandchildren," Dorothy Droser said.
"I'm proud. I think it's great. It's a great find to find out the first sexual and asexual activity on Earth... isn't that impressive?"
As well as well known ediacara fossils like dickinsonia and spriggina, the site also contains the world's largest aspidella and tracks from tiny but significant bilaterian animals.
"The guy moving around here is probably our closest relative here," said Mary Droser.
"It's not necessarily our ancestors but our first cousins."

Fossil site makes heritage list

The contribution of Ross Fargher and his station were also recently recognised in stone, with the naming of a new fossil, nilpenia rossi.
"It probably looks a little bit like a mop or something with all these tentacle type things running in all different directions, but quite impressive to see," Mr Fargher said.
Nilpena's fossil field, which is not open to the general public, is one of only a handful of National Heritage Sites in South Australia.
Among scientists and evolutionists the site is recognised as an international treasure.
Indeed, NASA has funded some of Dr Droser's work in the hope that it sheds light on how life evolves on other planets.
It is work she says has only just begun.
"Sometimes I scratch my head and think 'oh my gosh my life isn't long enough'," the geologist said.
"I think we're the tip of the iceberg here and many generations after us will be coming here and working on these, that's our hope."

For more on this story watch Landline this Sunday at noon on ABC 1.