Hello hello, Mythsters,
Jaz is back, and together with Koji, she dives into the second part of our journey through North America. And they also announce their plans for the end of season 1, and what the Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales could do during our between-seasons break. Jaz announces a new project she’s been working on as well.
- Mythsterhood Discord community: https://discord.com/invite/G3PRfrU
- Find us on Twitter: @mythsterhood
- Or shoot us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jaz’s other podcast, Journals of a Journeyman Bard: https://anchor.fm/journeymanbard
- And her other, other podcast, Into the Looking Glass, the infamous new project centered on speculative poetry: https://anchor.fm/lookingglasspoets, or check out the website at lookingglasspoets.wordpress.com
But all this housekeeping aside, the episode was both fun and bittersweet as it means the end of season one is drawing ever nearer. It’s been such an adventure, and we’ve been glad to have you all with us.
And before we get too sentimental, let’s have some dragons!
Jaz: Hello, hello Mythsters and welcome to episode 25 of Mythsterhood of the Travelling Tales. I’m back this week, and with me today is Koji.
Koji: Hello, hello.
Jaz: We’re going to continue exploring North American dragons for one more week. But first, we’ve got some housekeeping out of the way. We are terribly sorry for the delay. But it has been a sort of very strange confligration of timelines and timezones and work schedules that made it impossible for us to record. We do apologize, and we hope to keep ourselves on track for the rest of the season. Not that that is going to be much longer, sadly.
Koji: Aw. We’re almost done.
Jaz: Yeah. It’s been a lot of fun doing all of this, but I sort of dread coming to the end of the season because I don’t want to stop meeting new dragons.
Koji: So true.
Jaz: You guys can’t see this, but I am pouting very much right now.
Koji: But speaking of coming to the end of this season, we do have something we are hoping to do between seasons that might get a few more dragons for you, Jaz.
Jaz: Oh, do tell.
Koji: If there are any authors who are in our audience out there who have stories about dragons published — either stories, novels, or poetry — we would love to have a conversation with you about your inspiration for these stories and your research for these stories, and how much is drawn from real mythology and how much is drawn from your imagination. So we’d like to put out a call for any authors that have written dragon stories to contact us if you would like to be interviewed or have a blog post about your work.
Jaz: Absolutely. You can find us on our discord server, you can find us on twitter, our handle there is @mythsterhood and you can reach us at our email address, email@example.com. Of course we will include all links to those in the show notes. Do reach out if you’re interested. I promise we’ll have fun and we don’t usually bite.
Koji: Unless asked.
Jaz: Good point, yes. Unless it’s consensual, which I do not expect on a podcast interview. One more thing concerning the end of the season, we do still have our end of season collaborative poem going on the Discord server. We might be heading towards a close right now unless someone hops in and brings a new twist to the poem. If you like poetry games, come and check it out. You still have a chance to get in. But yeah, just come hang out on Discord. It’s fun, even if you don’t join the poetry game.
Koji: Also Jaz, I think you have an exciting new project coming up that maybe you would like to mention now?
Jaz: I might, yes. I’m starting another podcast, because two wasn’t enough just yet. I’ve never mentioned my second podcast on here yet because it’s something silly, but it’s basically my journaling in audio format. Those who want to hear my ramble about my writing journey and coo to my dogs and get some horse noises in the background head on over to my website and you will find all the links there. I will include them in the show notes as well. But this new project, it’s called Into the Looking Glass and it is a podcast focused on speculative poetry. And Koji, you are one of the inaugural poets, aren’t you?
Koji: I am, I am. It was so much fun.
Jaz: Yeah. The interview is already recorded, but Koji will be one of the two poets that get an episode released on August first because on release day I thought I would do something special and do a double episode. Do come and check that out. Into the Looking Glass. You can already subscribe to the feed and listen to the first trailer. I will include that link in the show notes as well. That’s going to be a lot of links in there. Anyway.
Koji: Oh yeah, so many links.
Jaz: All the links. Those interested in discovering Koji’s favorite cocktail also would do well to check out Into the Looking Glass. I’ve tried one and they’re really yum. By the way.
Koji: Yay. You tried one?
Jaz: Yeah, I did. But I mean we can’t give away which one it is.
Koji: No, they’ll have to listen for that.
Jaz: Anyway, let’s get to business. Koji, you do have a little disclaimer for us.
Koji: As always, our usual disclaimer. The names in this episode are a little bit easier to pronounce than they were in the last episode, but I have still struggled to find many of the proper pronunciations. So, we apologize for the mistakes we make, and if any of our listeners have the correct pronunciations, please, please feel free to write in and share.
Jaz: Right. With that out of the way, where do we start?
Koji: Last episode we covered North American dragons from the Aztec, Mayan, and Popol Vul, mostly in what is modern Mexico and Guatemala. This week we’re trekking north to what is currently the United States and Canada and looking at both indigenous myths and the spread of European mythology in North America.
Jaz: Oh, interesting. You and Anike concentrated a lot on feathered serpents in our last episode, and from what I can see, it looks like as we go north, we get more horned serpents.
Koji: A lot of horned serpents. And we’re going to start out with one called Amhuluk. Amhuluk who was a horned serpent of the Kalapuya people of the Willamette River in northwestern Oregon.
Jaz: There isn’t much in the way of description. But he is spotted and has long, spotted horns on his head. He has four hairless legs and carries various items tied to his body. He also keeps several spotted dogs to do his bidding.
Koji: So, I’m seeing a theme with the spots here.
Jaz: You think?
Koji: I do. But what we lack in knowledge of his appearance is made up for in what we do know about his legend and powers. Apparently Amhuluk is associated with drowning, disease, and malaria. Everything he sees drowns in the lake he inhabits. Even the trees and sky sink into the muddy water, and the slimy banks of the lake trap all kinds of animals.
Jaz: Especially bears, who are known to go to Amhuluk’s lake to die. They enter the water and are changed into other animals, most often an otter.
Koji: His most famous legend involves three young children who went to the mountain to search for a root and saw Amhuluk coming out of the water. They thought his spotted horns were beautiful and wanted to steal them to make digging tools out of them.
Jaz: But Amhuluk had different plans. He impaled the two younger children, lifting them up on his horns. The oldest boy escaped and ran to tell his father. His parents noticed he had splotches all over his body. The father went to the lake to search for the other two children and saw them rising out of the water on Amhuluk’s horns, shouting, “We have changed bodies!” They did this for five nights, and then were never seen again.
Koji: It’s a dark story to start with, but I think it really sets the tone for the Northern part of North America. Most of the serpent stories portrayed evil or negative spirits as opposed to Asian or even the stories we covered in our last episode of Southern North American serpents.
Jaz: Some of these tales were used as a type of boogie man to keep children in check, right?
Koji: Yeah, I suppose you aren’t going to wander too far into the forest if there’s a giant dragon waiting to impale you. What’s really interesting, though, is there were similar stories throughout the surrounding areas. All the way to the Paiute in Utah.
Jaz: Right. But not all horned serpents are the same. The Zuni people of what is now the Southwest United States had a serpent called Kolowissi,the serpent of the sea. Neighboring Hopi people called this creature the Palulukan. This was an enormous serpent with gleaming scales and horns on his head. He had a large mouth and fins that ran the length of his body. He was so large he had to coil himself to fit into a room, and he mostly lived in deep springs or pools.
Koji: Supposedly he was the chief of the Kokko spirits, which controlled rain and lightning. Although he was a horned serpent, he could transform into other animals. One of the main legends surrounding Kolowissi was used as a warning to keep young women from going to the springs alone. In this story, there was a priest-chief who had a beautiful daughter who couldn’t stand to be dirty. She even lived in a separate room from her family and spent most of her time at a spring at the edge of the village, washing herself and her clothing.
Jaz: But the spring she used, called the Pool of the Apaches, was sacred to Kolowissi. He decided to punish her for constantly contaminating his water, so he turned himself into a baby boy that she found next to the spring. She couldn’t leave him to die, so she took him home and, without telling her family, she played with the baby for several hours before falling asleep next to him.
Koji: At that point, Kolowissi took his true form, placed his head next to hers and encircled her with his coils. When her family tried to wake her, they saw the giant serpent. The father pleaded with Kolowissi, promising him he would atone for his daughter’s mistakes if he could see her again.
Jaz: Kolowissi released the girl, making the entire village tremble as he moved in the room. Then the sacred council prepared offerings for Kolowissi, which the girl had to deliver. The offerings included herself. She had to leave her home and family and live with Kolowissi in the Waters of the World. She was dressed in fine, elaborate clothes, as if for a dance, but the people around her mourned instead of celebrating.
Koji: Then she set off for a distant spring known as the Doorway of the Serpent of the Sea. As she left, Kolowissi lay his head on her shoulder and slowly uncurled himself from her room. It wasn’t until they passed over the mountain that he had completely uncurled himself.
Jaz: As soon as his body was free, he transformed into a beautiful young man in ceremonial dress. However, she kept her eyes down and didn’t notice the change. When she finally looked up and saw him, she didn’t believe he was Kolowissi. But he showed her his shriveled scales beneath his clothing to prove who he was. He asked her to return to his land with him and they married, living together in the Waters of the World.
Koji: You know, I’m not really sure how that’s a warning for young women. It seems she got this handsome god for a husband. I think I would be down at the springs all the time.
Jaz: I would be racing you. This reminds me a lot of the stories about Monyohe from South Africa.
Koji: Right, right, it sounds really similar to that.
Jaz: Yeah, I mean, we’ve had some shape shifters before, but nothing quite this close in plot or storyline or whatever you want to call it.
Koji: I find it fascinating that stories can be so similar when they’re so far apart and there’s not really any connection between the people.
Jaz: Right. I think it speaks to the archetypes that are buried deeper than culture. You know? It’s just… I don’t quite know how to put it into words but there’s got to be a reason why all these parallels exist beyond plausible cross contamination of different cultures.
Koji: And I feel like as we go through more seasons, we’re just going to find more and more of these similarities. Which will be super cool.
Jaz: Yeah, definitely. I’m so looking forward to more of this. Why don’t we get into the Zuni mythology, we learn a little more about Kolowissi as a god. Apparently he was horned and plumed, bringing to mind some of the more southern serpent gods. He was a hero in Zuni mythology because he saved the Zuni people from a great flood. When the flood occurred, they rushed to the top of their sacred mountain to escape the water, but they were dying of thirst and starvation. They prayed to the six directions and Kolowisi heard their prayers. He came from the west and rested his jaw on top of the mountain, regurgitating fresh water, meat, and seeds to feed the Zuni people.
Koji: There has to be some kind of symbolism in the regurgitation aspect of that story, but it’s beyond me.
Jaz: Well, some animals regurgitate to feed their children, so I guess this is just a very nurturing type of deity.
Koji: Right, I see that. Like the bird regurgitating for its offspring.
Jaz: So do note that this is just purely my interpretation and nothing we actually found in any of our sources. But yeah, back to our story. When the waters receded, Kolowisi stayed with the Zuni people and now resides in underground lakes. He’s the guardian of freshwater and moves through any body of water, but is especially known to inhabit the Rio Grande.
Koji: He lives mostly underground, but sometimes surfaces in small lakes or ponds. He is known as a guardian spirit who brings abundance, fertility, prosperity, and health. But people can get on his bad side, and when they do, he can cause floods.
Jaz: So it doesn’t seem like all the horned serpents in indigenous American cultures were evil. This one is pretty benevolent overall.
Koji: Yeah, perhaps I judged too quickly earlier. When you look at the horned serpents across North America, most of them were actually peaceful and hunted for their mystical powers, usually held in their horns or a single jewel in their forehead. For example, the Stvkwvnaya (I think I really messed up saying this episode was going to be easier on pronunciation.)
Jaz: That name just has very unbalanced amount of consonants.
Koji: Two vowels. Two vowels.
Jaz: Yeah, not enough vowels for that long a word. But yeah. It is what it is, so let’s keep going.
Koji: Okay, so I’ll try one more time. Stvkwvnaya of the Seminole people stories had a large single horn at the top of its head which was believed to be an aphrodisiac. People chanted to summon the creature, who would be calmed by the singing and then he would offer his horn.
Jaz: Speaking of symbolism… I mean…
Koji: Right. Less phallic is the estakwvnayy of the Muscogee Creek people which was an underwater serpent covered with iridescent, crystalline scales and a single, large crystal in its forehead. It also had horns like a stag. The scales and crystal were used in divination and the horns were known to be medicinal.
Jaz: Oh, I get the easy name! Fun. Then there is the Uktena of the Cherokee, who was a great snake as large as a tree trunk, horns on its head, a blazing crest on its forehead, and scales that glowed like sparks of fire. Oh, I like that. It had rings of color along its length and could only be wounded by shooting it in the seventh ring from its head. The blazing diamond in its forehead could give the owner special powers, but it was difficult to kill the serpent because the light was so dazzling that most men ran towards the snake instead of away from it. The Uktena had pestilential breath that would make the hunter sick if he breathed the tiniest bit of it. And to see the serpent meant death to the hunter’s family.
Koji: Wow. That’s definitely a more vicious beast. But it sounds like he’s just trying to protect himself. And I think that wraps up most of the general horned serpents in the area, so let’s move on to a few others. Jumping further north, there is the Angot of the Huron people who are from what is now called Ontario. The Angont is a monstrous drake that lives in dark, secluded areas like lakes, rivers, deep woods, under rocks, and in caves. It is a large reptile with four legs and is thought to be the source of death, diseases and all misfortune in the world. People who ventured into its territory, would get sick and bring plague back to their people.
Jaz: Well, that’s a nasty beastie. But nastier still, sorcerers used to hunt the Angont to use its powers against their enemies. They would rub the flesh of the snake on objects such as hair, splinters, animal claws, and leaves, and it would be able to penetrate deep into a person, making them ill and causing them great pain. Only the discovery and removal of the object could cure the pain.
Koji: So now you see why I was saying there are some vicious serpents in these legends. Staying around Lake Ontario, both the Iroqouis and Algonquin people believed there was an entire race of giant serpents in the lake. The Seneca spoke of a single hydra snake called Gaasyendietha, which could breathe fire and fly like a bird. This creature would leave a trail of fire across the sky when it ascended to the heavens, which might have been the Seneca way to explain meteors. There are two legends regarding his birth. One is that Gaasyendietha hatched from serpent eggs. The other is that he came to earth on a meteor.
Jaz: But are they legends? More recently, Gaasyendietha has become a local cryptid. In 1805, a group of fishermen saw what they thought was a tipped over rowboat. They went to rescue it, but were instead greeted by a creature 45 meters long and as wide as a barrel. The fisherman panicked and rowed back to shore, as one would. I know I would. But the monster skimmed the water behind them, taunting them.
Koji: With more and more European influence, the creature has been re-named as Kingstie, a beast that lives off the coast of Kingston, Ontario. He is said to be over nine meters long with short legs and a tail. He has become so popular that he is also the source of several hoaxes. In 1934, people filled a barrel with empty bottles to make it float and attached a head crafted like a dragon. They anchored their monster and attached a long piece of twine to it so they could make it bob from a distance. There were several expeditions to find the creature, but the hoax was not discovered until 1979, when three people claimed responsibility for their prank.
Jaz: So perhaps the modern Kingstie is just a legend after all.
Koji: Yeah, maybe but there are people claiming to have spotted him as recently as 2011. However, they could be mistaking the Lake sturgeons, which can weigh over 200 pounds and grow longer than two meters, for a lake serpent.
Jaz: I suppose this will then take us to our final dragon of the area, which is another European-made cryptid, this time in Maryland and the greater Washington D.C. area.
Koji: Oh yes, okay. An easy name to pronounce and a fun one. The Snallygaster.
Jaz: Can we have an easy one for a change?
Koji: It’s so good!
Jaz: Right. This was a bird-reptile chimera that originated from the superstitions of early German immigrants. It was first called a schneller geist or quick ghost. It was described as half-reptile, half-bird with a metallic beak lined with razor-sharp teeth, occasionally with octopus-like tentacles. Oh, I like tentacles.
Koji: Have we had tentacle dragons before?
Jaz: i don’t think so. Oh, interesting. Another first. Some stories say it has a single eye in the center of its forehead and screeches like a train whistle. It lives in deep caves and swoops silently from the sky to pick up and carry off its victims — usually animals or children. The earliest stories claim that this monster sucked the blood of its victims. Seven-pointed stars supposedly kept the snallygaster at bay, and can still be seen painted on local barns. Oh, that is very cool. I wanna go see those barns now.
Koji: I know, it’s very interesting.
Jaz: If we find images, maybe we can tweet them or something. Because this sounds like fun.
Koji: Oh, yeah, I can totally search for some images of those barns. Okay. Make it a goal. After a while, tales of the schneller geist faded. But the story was revived again in the nineteenth century to frighten freed slaves. Then again to boost newspaper ratings. During these times, the Snallygaster was said to live to be about twenty years old and laid eggs the size of barrels. During prohibition, moonshiners co-opted the story to scare revenue agents away and explain the sounds that came from their stills at night. In the 1930’s, there was widespread panic about the Snallygaster, and people were preparing expeditions to find it. But before these expeditions could take place, the death of the creature was reported in 1932. Supposedly it drowned in a vat of whiskey mash. Coincidentally Federal Prohibition Officers accidently blew up the still before the carcass could be examined.
Jaz: Hm. That sounds too convenient maybe. Accidental my… toe. I was going to say something else, but yeah, my toe.
Koji: Doesn’t it? A little too convenient. One can only hope that another egg survived so we get more legends from the area. Because how many of our dragons have had tentacles?
Jaz: Er, none. So yeah, let’s hope for a cute baby little Snallygaster. Yeah, I’ll adopt that. I suppose this wraps up North America, and then next episode we’ll be flying to South America, with perhaps some stops in the Caribbean to look into their serpents and dragons.
Koji: I cannot wait.
Jaz: So, Mythsters, we will see you again in a fortnight. And until then…
Koji: we wish you all Days like Dragons Greeting Clouds.
Jaz: Later Mythsters!
- Black Drago: Dragons of North America
- A Book of Creatures: Amhuluk
- Keshi: Kolowisi
- Occult World: Kolowisi
- Dragons of Africa, Part II
- Wikipedia: Horned Serpent
- Great Lakes Guide: Meet Gaasyendietha the Meteor Dragon in Lake Ontario
- Wikipedia: Snallygaster
- Legends of America: Snallygaster
- Appalachian History: Snallygaster
Theme music: Wanderer by Alexander Nakarada (serpentsoundstudios.com) Licensed under Creative Commons BY Attribution 4.0 License