Why are mermaids originally female?

60 important mythical creatures: their origin & meaning

Faun, harpy, goblin or mermaid - we will explain the most important mythical creatures to you. Most of them are deeply rooted in folklore and have become an integral part of today's fantasy world. Find out everything about the 60 internationally relevant mythical creatures from different mythologies.

Mythical creatures have many facets. They can be helpers and good luck charms, enchanted soulless figures without a task, evil and deadly ghosts or grotesque figures that humans cannot make sense of. you have one high cultural significance, shape our worldview and even appear in our proverbs and sayings.

For example, the idiom relates "Rising from the ashes like a phoenix" directly to the mythical creature phoenix, which in mythology repeatedly emerges rejuvenated from its own ashes. The meaning of the phrase is "to emerge strengthened from defeat". The nautical idiom "Spin a yarn" refers to the imaginative tales of seamen about mermaids, goblin men and other mythical creatures, which were told during the protracted spinning of the seaman's yarn (wire rope).

Tip:
In our table of contents you will only find the somewhat lesser known mythical creatures with a longer description. In each chapter there are also many more mythical creatures with a few brief information. So if you are looking for a certain mythical creature, open the search function with Ctrl + F, enter the mythical creature in the search bar and hit enter.

What mythical creatures are

What mythical creatures are

Mythical creatures are creatures that originated from human imagination and whose existence could never be proven. They are either human (giants, vampires, spirits), animal (unicorns, phoenixes, dragons) or hybrid beings, so-called chimeras (griffin, mermaid, harpy, faun). Hybrid beings can be composed of different animals as well as animals and humans.

However, mythical creatures have theirs Usually originates in reality. For example, it is believed that mermaids or mermaids seen by seafarers were actually manatees. Likewise, it stands to reason that accidental finds of giant bones of mammoths or dinosaurs led to fantasy figures such as giants and dragons.

In some cases, alleged mythical animals have even proven to be real animals in modern times (for example the okapi or the moas). The Urge for curiosities and we owe some mythical creatures to the constant curiosity of man. Where there were owners of so-called "Chambers of Wonder" and "Cabinets of Curiosities" in the Baroque era, there are today ‘Cryptozoologists’dealing with phenomena like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

Mythical creatures are clearly different from mythical animals. Mythical animals are the humanized actors within the literary genre “fable”. Even if they are personified in the fable, the animals exist in the real world (fox, rabbit, wolf, lamb, stork etc.). The existence of mythical creatures, however, has not been proven and is only based on alleged observations, myths and creative imaginations.

Occurrence of the mythical creatures

Occurrence of the mythical creatures

Mythical creatures have been found throughout literature for a long time. Be it in medieval legends and epics, in fairy tales, art fairy tales, short stories, poems and novels. Probably the oldest mythical creature is the “lion man”. It was carved from the tusk of a mammoth about 40,000 years ago. So that's probably the art the oldest platform for the representation of mythical creatures. To be added oral traditions, literature, photography and film.

Well-known and popular mythical creatures are dwarfs, giants, vampires, werewolves, dragons, mermaids, fairies, elves, witches and wizards. They appear in numerous stories and films, sometimes more, sometimes less threatening. Less known are, for example, manticores, hippocamps, tricksters, sylphs or incubus. We have compiled a list with brief descriptions of known mythical creatures and a continuation of this list with more detailed descriptions of unknown mythical creatures for you.

Regional mythical creatures

In our list you will find most of the generally known mythical creatures. They all come from different regions and therefore also from different mythologies. Over time, they have firmly established themselves in all media.

From the norse and celtic mythology for example the unicorn, mandrake, dragon, gargoyle, werewolf, aquarius, changeling, mermaid, mermaid and kelpie. From the Orient as well as from Greece, Rome and Egypt known are the basilisk, the phoenix, the satyr, the griffin, the harpy, the hydra, the hippocampus, the pegasus, the medusa, the gorgons, the sphinx, the faun, the nymph or the siren.

Slavic mythical creatures are for example the witch Baba Jaga, the Firebird, the Schrat, the Vampire and Father Frost. Out Asia we know the yeti and the ghoul. The Djinn is an Islamic spirit, the Golem a Jewish clay figure. In Germany we have, for example, the Rhine mermaid Loreley, the Cologne Heinzelmännchen (house ghosts), the Undine (water spirit), the Butzemann (goblin or dwarf demon or ghost), the Klabautermann (ship's ghost or goblin, who, according to nautical superstition, warns the captain of dangers) or the Wolpertinger (hybrid creatures made from parts of different animals).

Origin and meaning of 60 mythical creatures

60 mythical creatures, their origin and meaning

Below you will find a variety of mythical creatures in three categories, arranged alphabetically. First we explained the human mythical creatures for you, then the mythical creatures with human or animal form and then those who only appear in animal form.

Sometimes it's just interesting to see what peoples' imaginations have brought to mind over time. In addition, a great knowledge of mythical creatures for better cultural education. For many centuries people really believed in the existence of these beings and put them in theirs Customs and language integrated. Cryptozoologists are still looking for the truth behind the mythical creatures today.

Mythical human creatures

Below you will find important human mythical creatures at a glance. Human in this sense means that they human-like in their basic shape are, but have, for example, special characteristics such as undersized or oversized bodies, no material bodies, magical powers or other special properties.

We have also listed the well-known mythical creatures for you and added a few brief information so that you don't miss any important mythical creatures. Afterwards you will find some rarer human mythical creatures explained in more detail, as they may not be known to everyone.

  • Elf
    Elves, albums or alves are nature spirits from Nordic mythology.
  • fairy
    According to Roman and Celtic folk tales, fairies are ghostly beings with higher powers.
  • Genie
    Bottle spirits are spirit beings trapped in a vessel who have to fulfill a certain number of wishes for their liberator.
  • spook
    Ghosts are spirit beings with supernatural abilities.
  • gnome
    A gnome is a small creature that lives on or under the earth.
  • Witch / sorcerer
    Witches are people with magical powers who have often made a pact with demons or the devil.
  • leprechaun
    Kobolds are teasing house and nature spirits who often appear as helpers.
  • Headless rider
    The headless rider is an undead from German and Irish legends who returns to the world of the living.
  • Noon demon
    A midday demon is a spirit from ancient and medieval beliefs that appears at midday.
  • mummy
    Mummies are human or animal remains that are protected from decay by mummification. In the realm of mythical creatures, they are walking undead.
  • Ogre
    An ogre is a large, human-like fiend with enormous strength.
  • Orc
    Orcs are non-human beings who roughly resemble humans in stature. They are big, bad and come from the underworld.
  • poltergeist
    Poltergeister make themselves noticeable by moving objects and making loud noises (‘rumbling’).
  • giant
    Giants are oversized and extremely powerful human-like beings who sometimes also have magical powers.
  • Sandman
    The sandman comes from European mythology and sprinkles his sleeping sand in children’s eyes so that they can sleep and dream. They wipe the sleeping sand out of their eyes again in the morning.
  • Troll
    Trolls come from Norse mythology and are a general term for clumsy, eerie more or less human beings who often live in the forest.
  • Death Angel
    An angel of death brings death, accompanies the deceased into the afterlife or receives them there.
  • vampire
    A vampire is a blood-sucking night figure of demonic origin or a revived corpse.
  • Santa Claus
    Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas giving, which is particularly known in Protestant regions.
  • yeti
    The yeti is a hairy, two-legged snowman of the Himalayas.
  • wizard
    Wizards are also called magicians. They have skills that humans cannot comprehend before their knowledge and observation horizon.
  • Tooth fairy
    The tooth fairy leaves children a gold coin for each failed milk tooth under their pillows.
  • zombie
    Zombies are undead who have been robbed of their soul and walk around as mindless beings.
  • dwarf
    Dwarfs are human-like, small beings from Nordic folk tales that live underground in caves or mountains.

Bigfoot

The Bigfoot comes from the north american folklore. In Canada it is also called “Sasquatch”. He is a human-like being, very large with disproportionately large feet and thick fur-like hair. It is said to be sighted over and over again, but these sightings are usually exposed as fakes or are too questionable to confirm a real existence. The research on Bigfoot therefore does not fall into the realm of science, but of cryptozoology.

Evidence for the legend of Bigfoot has existed at least since the 1850s when Indians reported such a being. From 1958 the legend gained new popularity, in 1985 a scientist tried the Bigfoot as a survivor of the extinct great ape genus Gigantopithecus assign - to no avail. To this day, Bigfoot is a myth and a mythical creature whose true existence has not yet been proven.

Faun (Faunus)

Faun as a mythical creature

Faun, originally "Faunus" is a God of nature and the forest. He protects farmers and shepherds as well as their cattle and their fields. It finds its origin in the Indo-European myths the Italians, who lived in the period from about 1200 to 1000 BC. Immigrated to Italy. In the Greek mythology corresponds to the shepherd god "Pan" or that demonic "satyr".

Faun, Pan and Satyr are mostly considered horned hybrid creatures from humans and billy goats shown. Faun's female counterpart is "Fauna," which is considered to be either his daughter or sister. Even if the Faun ’is often spoken of, it does not only appear alone but also in the plural (plural:“ Faune ”).

ghoul

The ghoul is a corpse-eating creaturethat appears in various mythologies. He has his Origins in the Persian-Arab culture, but is known in Europe since the publication of “A Thousand and One Nights”. In the original sense, the ghoul is a dangerous demon that lives in different shapes can hatch and lure travelers off the road to devour them. The female variant of the ghoul is called “Ghula”.

In European mythology and literature, the ghoul is primarily through H. P. Lovecraft to a dog-like shape who lives underground near cemeteries with their conspecifics.

Goblin

As goblins are in English-speaking countries grotesquely ugly and often malicious pests or ghosts designated. They take on the most varied of sizes and shapes, but mostly they are small like goblins or dwarfs. Goblins often become crazy, spiteful, intrusive and with magical powers shown.

Homunculus (homunculus)

A homunculus or homunculus (Latin for "little human") is a artificially created humanwho often appears as the demonic helper of magicians and alchemists. The idea of ​​such a person has been around since the 3rd century AD and then deepened in the Middle Ages. Well-known examples are the Homunculus ra brewed in a glass flask by Wagner ’in Goethe's“ Faust II ”and the monster in“ Frankenstein ”composed of different parts.

Incubus / succubus

A Incubus is a Elf, demon, forest spirit or Sylvan who causes nightmares and mates with a woman at night without her noticing. He is a Deputy of the devilwho dragged sinful souls to hell after their death. The female variant of this demon is the Succubus. He steals the man's semen unnoticed when he sleeps.

The oldest mention of such demons comes from Mesopotamia, where demons are said to have appeared to sleeping people in the form of erotic dreams. The Christian and Jewish counterpart to the succubus is Lillith.

sylph

Sylphs or Sylvani are Air spirits and belong to the elemental or nature spirits. your the human body is filigree and able to reproduce. However, their spirit is not human as sylphs are considered soulless. At the beginning of the 20th century, graceful and delicate girls were also called sylphs. Today the term has been forgotten.

Trickster

“Trickster” is the English term for “Crooks”, “fraudsters” or “swindlers” in literature or mythology, as the characters use tricks to disrupt the order of the universe. You can recognize them by their ambivalent character, since they break the rules to help people on the one hand, and to provoke conflict on the other. These conflicts usually take place between the gods. Tricksters can appear in animal form, as demigods, gods or ghosts.

Tricksters can Shapeshifters or masters of deception be. When they take on an animal form they are mostly rabbits, wolfs, coyotes, spiders or crow. You can even change your gender. Tricksters change situations as they please by motivating people in a certain way or by revolutionizing their views. They also imitate deities and are inventive. However, they can also be portrayed as cheated or unlucky characters.

Revenant

Revenants (also revenants) are mostly ghost phenomena from different cultural regions. you are Living Dead; The dead returning to the world of the living. Often they are angry and want to take revenge for something that either happened to them while they were alive or that disturbed their peace and quiet. The headless rider, for example, is a revenant.

Mythical human or animal creatures

In this section you will find mythical creatures that can appear in human as well as animal form. Some of them are also hybrid beings (chimeras). As in the previous chapter, you will first find the well-known mythical creatures listed with a short description and the less well-known with a detailed description.

  • Mountain spirit
    The term “Berggeist” summarizes all spirit-like mythical creatures that live in mines or in mountains.
  • demon
    The demon is a negative spirit that frightens, threatens or harms people. He is often associated with the devil.
  • House spirit
    House ghosts are usually tied to a specific building or property on which they haunt.
  • Mermaid
    As a hybrid of humans and animals, above woman below fish, mermaids live in the water. Mostly they are soulless beings who can only be redeemed through the love of a human man. Today they are portrayed as murderous and demonic on the one hand, and lovely and innocent on the other.
  • Nature spirit
    The term “nature spirit” summarizes spirits that are related to nature, for example forest spirits, water spirits or air spirits.
  • sphinx
    The Sphinx is an Egyptian hybrid being made up of a lion's body and the head of a human or other animal.
  • Enormous
    Monsters or monsters are particularly ugly or strong, mostly threatening creatures, comparable to monsters.
  • Undead
    Undead return to the world of the living as revenants.
  • werewolf
    Werewolves are people who transform into wolfs when the moon is full. At this stage there is nothing human about them and they are subject to their animal instincts.

harpy

The harpies are winged women from Greek mythology. There they embody the storm winds and are initially called beautiful women with curly hair and bird wings. Later they are ugly demons with light hair. Harpies live in a cave in Crete and have to carry the dead into the underworld or kill people who have drawn the wrath of Zeus.

The poet Virgil describes them as Birds with pale girls' faces and hook-shaped hands. This depiction of harpies has been found more frequently since then. Usually a bird's body is depicted, which has either a woman's head or only the face as a human part. A modern depiction is “Yu”, the exploration bird of the witch “Yubaba” from “Spirited Away”, whose figure is composed of Yubaba's head and a crow's body.

Will-o'-the-wisp

Will-o'-the-wisp

A will-o'-the-wisp, wisp, or swamp light is a kind Luminous phenomenon, an inexplicable and mostly flexible light source. It is usually dense and dark Forests or moors, swampsandCemeteries sighted. Wisps are called either Souls of unhappy deceased viewed or as devious work of supernatural beingswho want to mislead people.

According to popular belief, it is bad luck to try to catch the will-o'-the-wisps or to follow them. Will-o'-the-wisp sightings are still pursued today because there are living beings and gases in nature that can produce light. They are not only a plausible justification for the superstition, but above all scientifically interesting.

Grain demon

The grain demon is a Collective term for supernatural beings who stay in fields of plants or corn. In this case, the designation as a demon is not meant to be judgmental. “Korngeist” would also be appropriate if Wilhelm Mannhardt had not established the term “Korndämon”.

There used to be grain gods who were worshiped to protect agriculture. These were then later demonized and called Child fright built into narratives. The grain demon can be both good and bad, human or animal, female or male.

Minotaur

A Minotaur owns one human body and a bull head. It is a figure of greek mythology and a popular subject in the visual arts. The father of the Minotaur, Minos, was the son of the god Zeus and the goddess Europe. He wanted to become the king of Crete and asked the sea god Poseidon for a miracle that would deter other aspirants to the throne.

Minos vowed to sacrifice the being that he would produce to him again. Poseidon then brought him a mighty bull. Minos became king of Crete, but took a liking to the animal and instead sacrificed an inferior bull. Out of anger, he aroused the desire in Minos ’wife Pasiphaë to mate with the bull. Then she gave birth Minotaur named Asterios. Minos let in labyrinthine prison build for the Minotaur.

Tendril woman

A vine woman grows from calyxes or calyxes and protrudes from them with their (mostly naked) torso. Sometimes she also has wings or wears a polo (cylindrical headgear). The figure of the tendril woman can be found on temples, other buildings, jewelry and utensils, especially in Asia Minor (part of today's Turkey).

The tendril woman is mostly female, but male images have also appeared since the 4th century. It occurs both alone and in combination with other mythical animals, usually with a griffin. It is assumed that they are a is the life-giving mother goddess and mistress of plants and animals.

centaur

centaur

A centaur (originally a centaur) is a hybrid of human and horse. Usually he owns the lower body of a horse and the upper body of a human. Where the horse's neck would begin, the human body begins above the hips. A centaur therefore has four legs and two arms. In rare representations there are also other distributions of horse and human proportions. The representation is usually male, but there are also female centaurs such as “Hylonome”, the wife of “Kyllaros”.

According to myth, centaurs descended from King Ixion and a cloud in the form of Heras. Zeus had created this cloud shape because the drunken Ixion was molesting the gods. When Ixion then wanted to unite with the illusion, he fathered a bastard, the Kentauros, who later mated with mares and thus created the centaurs. In another version, the centaurs were created directly from the union of the cloud and Ixions.

Mythical animal creatures

Mythical animal creatures are often made up of different animals and therefore mostly belong to the so-called hybrid creatures (chimeras). You are times more and sometimes less clearly separable. For example, the griffin can usually be clearly classified into a lion's body and an eagle's head and wings.

In the case of a dragon, however, the transitions to other animal beings are usually blurred. It can be long, snake-like, fly like a bird and be scaled like a reptile. However, no explicit body part is taken from a specific animal.

A counterexample is the Easter bunny, which usually does not deviate from its usual rabbit shape. The only fabulous thing is that he can paint eggs. Strictly speaking, he might even fall into the category of mythical animals with human characteristics rather than the imaginatively constructed world of mythical creatures.

  • Dragon
    Dragons are fire-breathing, snake-like hybrid creatures that combine reptiles, birds and predators in differently weighted parts. Asian dragons, for example, are more snake-like and bird-like and are considered to be lucky charms. European dragons, on the other hand, are reptile-like, ominous monsters.
  • unicorn
    Unicorns are horses or goats with a horn on the center of their foreheads. They became popular in the Middle Ages through the Christian nature theory “Physiologus”, are considered one of the noblest mythical creatures and symbolize the good.
  • Easter Bunny
    The Easter bunny paints the eggs at Easter so that the children can look for them on Easter Sunday. It is mentioned for the first time in the 17th century as a well-defined mythical animal that children are told about so that adults can have fun while children are busy looking for eggs.

basilisk

basilisk

A basilisk is a snake-like mythical creature and namesake of a genus of iguanas in Latin America. The so-called "King of the Snakes" was often called in the Middle Ages Hybrid of rooster (upper body) and snake (lower body) depicted with a crown on his head. In the course of time, however, its appearance has been changed Bird legs and wings complements and sometimes even one Human head added.

The The basilisk's gaze can petrify or kill living things and his breath is so poisonous that it is deadly. The snake-like creature with a petrifying gaze was also taken up in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J. K. Rowling. Here the basilisk represents an oversized, dragon-like snake and hardly bears any resemblance to its original depiction.

Gripping

The griffin is a mythical hybrid creature that consists of several animal bodies. Usually they are eagles and lions: The body corresponds to that of a lion, the head and wings to those of an eagle. But there are also different variants with a snake's head, bird's feet or a scorpion's tail. The qualities of the griffin are strength and alertness.

Researchers suspect that the origin of the Griffin myth was found in the bones of the Protoceratops (resembles the Triceratops) in the ancient. Its physique and its beak provide a corresponding template. In ancient oriental cultures he is a well-known mythical creature that the Protected gold mines and is often portrayed artistically as a guardian.

Hippogryph (Hippogriff)

The hippogryph (since “Buckbeak” in the “Harry Potter” books also “hippogriff”) is a fast riding and flying animal. His head, his Wings and front legs resemble those of an eagle, its abdomen that of a horse. As a hybrid of eagle and horse, the hippogryph differs from the "griffin", which is usually a hybrid of eagle and lion.

Hippocampus

A hippocampus (also hippocampus) has the Front body of a horse and the abdomen of a fish. In the greek mythology he is mainly called Train or mount of sea gods pictured. Sometimes the hippocampus has wings on the front part of its body, the rear part with the caudal fin is usually rolled up and sometimes also has a dorsal fin.

The hippocampus is as well Namesake of the seahorseswhich are called “hippocampus” in Latin and look very similar to the mythical creatures in their basic features. A part of the brain that resembles it in shape was named after the seahorses.

Hydra

The hydra is one in Greek mythology snake-like monster with many heads. If you cut off a head, you will grow two heads in the same place. In addition, the head in the middle is immortal. The name of the hydra is derived from the water snake. The fight against the Hydra was one of the twelve tasks of Heracles (Latin: “Hercules”). This fight was modified and included in Disney’s “Hercules” (1997).

Kelpie

A kelpie is a Water spirit from British popular belief, which is mainly found in Scottish myths finds. It is inhabited deep rivers of the highlands and is not to be confused with “Each Uisge” (water horse), which, in contrast to the kelpie, is said to live on the coast and in lochs.

The kelpie usually has one great horse figurewhich are similar to the hippocampus sometimes a fishtail as an abdomen owns. If a hiker wants to cross its river, it promises to carry it across. But as soon as he sits on his back, it pulls him down and eats him. If a person succeeds in throwing a veil over the kelpie's head or in restraining him, he must be his servant.

His portrayal is mostly with strong body and originally black fur. In some stories it is also white and appears as a stray, innocent pony. You can recognize it by its dripping mane or the blue sheen on its fur. Its skin is similar to that of a seal; soft and cold. In some narratives it is reported that the kelpies can also transform themselves into beautiful women in order to attract men.

Manticore

Manticores are Greek-Persian mythical creatures. they have the Body of a lion and the tail of a dragon or a scorpion. Sometimes they will as well with wings shown. The manticore thus belongs to the so-called chimeras (hybrid beings). His face looks disfigured three consecutive rows of teeth (like a shark). His Ears are human-like.

The manticore can Fire arrows or stings that contain the poison of the Upas tree. As a rule, these arrows come from the back of the dragon or scorpion, but in some stories the manticore can shoot them from his lion's mane. It also kills with its claws, has a loud and impressive voice, and can make powerful jumps. He reaches the intelligence of a person and, according to the stories, lives in the Indian jungle, where he feeds on people, among other things.

Nessie (Loch Ness Monster)

The Loch Ness Monster

Nessie is an animal creature believed to live in Loch Ness, a lake in Scotland. Visually, it is usually called Plesiosaurs described with a elongated torso, a small head, paddle-shaped fins and up to 20 meters in length.

The oldest mention of a sea monster in the River Ness is known from the year 565. In the 16th century, a monster that lives in Loch Ness is mentioned twice. In the 17th century, a "floating island" and a 3.50 meter long sturgeon are reported in Loch Ness.

There were more sightings in the 19th century, but Nessie, "the Loch Ness Monster", only became popular when she was reported in newspapers in 1933 after an alleged sighting. In 1934 a photo was taken that allegedly shows the monster. Overall, however, many sightings were uncovered as misunderstandings or falsifications. However, Nessie's fame as a popular tourist magnet in Scotland is undisputed.

Phoenix

The phoenix is ​​a bird from Egyptian mythology. At the end of his life he burns or dies, only to rise again from his ashes or his decaying body and start a new life cycle. According to religious beliefs, the idea developed that the divine light of the sun could determine the life cycle. Thus, among other things, the phoenix has become a symbol of rebirth.

One of the most famous phoenix representations today is that in the “Harry Potter” books and films. But the phoenix also enjoys other media presentations as symbolic bearer of hope and mythical creatures that are not very unusual in terms of their appearance.

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