Here there be dragons: Sirrush

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For an awesome, respected, Mesopotamian beast featured on one of the most amazing buildings extant from the ancient world, we don’t know much about the sirrush. It looks like a dragon. Early archaeologists gave it the wrong name. That’s about it.

The reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate

The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon was once one of the wonders of the ancient world. Like, on the official list of seven, but then the Greek Pharaohs built the lighthouse of Alexandria and someone dropped the gate from the list. I really think they should put it back and drop the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, actually, since we can’t prove they existed.

In any case… the German archaeologist Professor Robert Koldewey started excavation of the Ishtar Gate in 1899. When he got down a ways, he discovered the blue gate was covered in golden animals. Lions, bulls, and… that other thing. A scaly, long tailed, four legged creature with a serpent’s tongue and the hind feet of a bird.

Archaeologists called it sirrush, an ancient Akkadian word meaning “splendor serpent.” Except now that we know more about Akkadian, we know it should really be “mushushu.” Somehow (and I don’t know how), they discovered the beast was the sacred animal of Marduk (you remember him).


But that’s all we know. No clue if there’s a connection to the vicious Tiamat, what inspired the creature, what it’s doing there looking pretty much like the realistic bull and lion. Were the Babylonians portraying a real live animal, or a mythical protector of their city?

The reconstructed gate is now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Well, the smallest part of it. The bigger, second gate is in storage, since it’s too big.

For more dragons, click the dragon tag in the sidebar.


Vampires we know and love #17: Pijawica

Think vampires are all the same? Think again! Vampires come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. So, this special DotW feature, Vampires we know and love, spotlights different kinds of bloodsucking fiends from around the world.


If you happen to be in Eastern Europe and hear the word pijawica, that is, ‘red-faced with drink,’ you might not be about to meet something deadlier than the town drunk. The drink the pijawica is red-faced with is also red itself.

The pijawica is condemned to a soulless existence because it was a sinful person in life. Various sins can bring this down on your head, but the one guaranteed to make you a pijawica is incest, particularly between a mother and son.

When it’s awake, only fire will kill it. When in its grave, use the old decapitation method, and put the head between the corpse’s knees–according to Bunson. Maberry says an exorcism ritual works. I’d err on the side of caution with that one and do a double-whammy. Some things you don’t take chances with.

To keep it out of your house, mash garlic and wine around all entrances.

The Vampire Encyclopedia
The Vampire Encyclopedia

by Matthew Bunson

Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
by Jonathan Maberry

Gayal/Ut: The eternal consequences of not getting married

In India, it’s important for a guy to get married and have a male heir. I mean, really important. So important, in fact, that he could suffer eternal consequences if he doesn’t.

The key thing is that the male heir performs a key role in the burial ritual, and a guy who doesn’t have a son risks not having someone to perform the ritual properly. Such a person comes back as a Gayal and attacks the males of his family for failing to perform their duties. He can also attack other males in the area.

Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
by Jonathan Maberry
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Thank you, Aldus Manutius

Aldus Pius Manutius

Image via Wikipedia

Guys, guys, guys… I interrupt this blog to tell you something very important.

This is a very special day in the calendar. Today is the 496 anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius, aka Teobaldo Mannucci.

You’re probably wondering “What kind of a demon is that?” No kind. Except maybe a publishing demon.

Born in 1449, about 100 km south of Rome, Aldus changed the world forever. Not just by being born, but for rocking out. After studying Greek literature, he became a tutor to some of the great Italian ducal families, but more importantly, he became the leading publisher and printer of the Venetian High Renaissance.

His editions of the Greek and Latin classics were so popular that right away, other printers started ripping off his trademark. Even his motto is full of awesome–“Hasten slowly.” Zen out on that one, my friends.

From there, he proceeded to invent italic type. That’s right, because of Aldus Manutius, I can do this.

But that wasn’t enough for Aldus Manutius. He was just getting started. He was the first typographer to use the semicolon. Oh, semicolons had been around; people had used them in handwriting. Aldus recognized the awesome and ported it to the movable type platform. It was Aldus who established the rules for the semicolon. And in case you don’t know what those are… The semicolon is used to A) separate words of opposed meaning, and B) indicate interdependent statements. (We have more rules for the semicolon now. Those were Aldus’ ones.)

Aldus followed this awesomeness by inventing the paperback book. QUOTED FOR TRUTH.

Aldus wanted to create editions of classics that people could carry around with them. His 1503 catalog includes long, narrow libri portatiles designed for portability as opposed to the heavy tomes destined for libraries. They were much cheaper and they fit in your pocket. If you have ever read a book in public, you have Aldus Manutius to thank. He’s like the Nikolai Tesla of the publishing industry.

So, today, and every February 6, I salute you, Aldus Manutius. Thank you for the awesome.

Demonspotting: Purson

The Goetia calls Purson a great king of Hell, but with only twenty-two legions, he doesn’t sound like much of a king. For example, Sallos is a duke and he has thirty legions.

What Purson does have going for him is that he’s very pretty. And he has a thing for animals. He has the face of a lion, carries a viper, and rides a bear.

When he shows up, he has a ton of trumpets heralding his arrival.

He knows where all hidden things here, and can discover treasure. He knows and will tell everything past, present, and future, secret and divine, even back to the creation of the world.