C is for…Chimera

You do not know woman is the Chimera, but it is good that you should know it; for that monster was of three forms; its face was that of a radiant and noble lion, it had the filthy belly of a goat, and it was armed with the tail of a viper . . . a woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep.
Malleus Maleficarum

Chimera is both curious and horrifying. She’s a Greek monster, the daughter of a giant named Typhon and Echnida, the mother of monsters (Cereberus, Hydra, the Sphinx, and Scylla are among Chimera’s siblings, though some sources do say she is the mother of rather than the sister of the Sphinx).

Chimera is a hybrid creature. Some sources vary a bit, but she’s generally picture as three-headed with parts of a dragon, lion, and goat. Her appearance was considered an ill omen, and I suppose that make sense, considering her penchant for eating cattle and burning the land. Her fiery breath allies her closely with volcanoes, and she was considering a harbinger of a volcanic Ceruption. Mythic tradition suggests that she died after being struck through the stomach with a head-tipped spear thrown by a warrior named Bellerophon who was riding on the back of Pegasus.

Chimera came to stand as a symbol of the wickedness of women, especially in the medieval ages, when the quote in the above Malleus Maleficarum, a treatise against witchcraft, was written.

More recently, the name has been used to denote hybridity, as that is what makes Chimera so unique. But there’s an underlying fear to the term, as there always is with hybridity. We fear what we can’t classify.

And how do classify a creature like Chimera, really? We can’t. A chimera, a true chimera, is in its own category.

And that is both beautiful and terrifying.chimera

 

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39 Comments

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  1. The Chimera I will always remember is the one from an old Pegasus cartoon when I was a kid…

    I didn’t know that the Chimera was a woman/female though. That’s an interesting distinction, especially given the top quote.

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  2. it is amazing the drive that we mere humans have to label everything we see. Why is it so terrifying that some things can not be labeled?

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  3. I had no idea the original chimera was a women or that it’s been used to mean an evil woman. Doesn’t that figure? Thanks for the great into and that amazing horse/lion/chimera statue was amazingly creepy. Very cool!

    I’m not doing A-Z this year but your blog title caught my eye. I love monsters!
    Lexa Cain’s Blog

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  4. I love that you mention how natural it is to revile something we can’t classify–so true! I think that’s the real reason men like Malleus Maleficarum hated “witches.” Just couldn’t understand or control them.

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    1. I’ve heard it used to refer to that trait in animals and humans, yes—I think it denotes both that they’re a hybrid (have 2 DNA strands) and are one of a kind—each chimera is different.

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  5. Awesome! What with Melissa doing Centaurs today and all, I feel a bit like I’m taking a stroll through the Monster Manual.

    Good catch with the Malleus. I did not know that part of it, and had forgotten that Bellerophon was the slayer of this beast.

    As the runner of a chimerical blog, I really appreciate this post 😀

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    1. Well you know, the Monster Manual is not a bad place to be. In fact, it might be a Very Good Place to Be.

      I wish I knew more about Chimera in the medieval ages, now. Was curious when I came across that Malleus quote if there were more.

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  6. Whoever wrote MM just really freaking hated women didn’t they. I wonder what the story is behind that… It’s clearly not about witchcraft 😀

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

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  7. I always enjoyed fighting Chimera in Final Fantasy games (always so full of mythical creatures). They were usually such a challenge, as they lacked weaknesses to exploit, and meanwhile would attack you with a variety of attacks and elements. They were often the enemies that functioned most like your own party of heroes did, working as a team (between the heads), and often even healing itself! Not to be taken lightly 🙂 Great A to Z so far!

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    1. Thanks!

      I am sad to say that I haven’t played much Final Fantasy in my day. There was a whole period of my life when somehow I missed All the Video Games and have *got* to go back and make that up.

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      1. I missed it in my earlier days, so I don’t have the Tetris or Mario experience my peers do. We got a console right around when Final Fantasy VIII came out, so that game had a big impact on me. Four discs. Science fiction and fantasy and mythology and time travel… Video games can be great 😀

        And a huge time sink…

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    1. When I was a kid (before the internet) my grandmother gave me a set of old encyclopedias from the 60s and I DEVOURED the Greek mythology. I am a bit obsessed with it as well.

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      1. That is so cool. My passion stems from my father. He loved Greek mythology, used to talk about the gods and goddesses all the time. In a strange way, delving back into it has made me feel closer to him, which is pretty awesome 🙂

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