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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sea Serpent: Ancient history

In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr, or "Midgårdsormen" was a sea serpent so long that it encircled the entire world, Midgard. Some stories report of sailors mistaking its back for a chain of islands. The Midgardsorm was also child of the Norse god Loke (Loki) and his mistress the jotun woman Angerboda. Sea serpents also appear frequently in later Scandinavian folklore, particularly in that of Norway.
In Swedish writer Olaus Magnus's Carta marina, many marine monsters of varied form appear, including an immense sea serpent. Moreover, in his1555 work History of the Northern Peoples, Magnus gives the following description of a Norwegian sea serpent:

"Those who sail up along the coast of Norway to trade or to fish, all tell the remarkable story of how a serpent of fearsome size, 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, resides in rifts and caves outside Bergen. On bright summer nights this serpent leaves the caves to eat calves, lambs and pigs, or it fares out to the sea and feeds on sea nettles, crabs and similar marine animals. It has ell-long hair hanging from its neck, sharp black scales and flaming red eyes. It attacks vessels, grabs and swallows people, as it lifts itself up like a column from the water."
DescriptionExtremely large whale, the size of an island.

When it is sleeping, or as part of a deliberate trick, the Devil-whale can be mistaken for an island by sailors, but if they land and start a fire, the whale will wake up, and attack the ship or drag it under the water. Sometimes these legends claim that the monster is a huge turtle.

Saint Brendan, in his travels, landed on the back of a devil-whale on Easter Sunday. As he and the monks set a fire to cook their meal, the island began to swim away, and they hurredly returned to their boats. More on Saint Brendan.

Also CalledZaratan, Jasconius

Described ByThe Voyage of Saint Brendan- "When they approached the other island, the boat began to ground before they could reach its landing-place...The island was stony and without grass. There were a few pieces of driftwood on it, but no sand on its shore... {they spend the night there and the next morning} the brothers began to carry the raw meat out of the boat to preserve it with salt, and also the flesh which they had bought from the other island. When they had done this they put a pot over a fire.. When, however, they were plying the fire with wood and the pot began to boil, the island began to be in motion like a wave. The brothers rushed to the boat...the island moved out to sea. The lighted fire could be seen over two miles away." (O'Meara, 1991.)

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