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Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
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The Value of Multicultural Awareness
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Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
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Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
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On The Inclusion of Children
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What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
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Keystones of the Sacred Land
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Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
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February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
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February 3rd. 2013 ...
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Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
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January 6th. 2013 ...
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Article ID: 12390
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lord Ansur
Posted: April 13th. 2008
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Did you ever wonder where the ideas and stories about Cyclops, Giants, Griffons, and Centaurs came from? Or how about the “Little People” and Changelings?
Other than the legendary creatures that live in our imaginations and are therefore real in a magical sense, many of the concepts of ancient beings were based on real evidence.
In South America, when the conquering Spaniards introduced horses WITH RIDERS, the natives viewed these ‘new-to-them’ creatures as being half-beast and half-human! Here and in other areas in bygone times, those unused to horses often saw horses with riders as Centaurs with riders.
Most mammal bones, especially thighbones look very much alike, and many of the bones of prehistoric woolly rhinoceros’, mastodons, and such were often mistaken for giant human bones. Finding large human looking bones mixed with the skulls of Mastodons, gave rise to the stories of Cyclops. The Mastodon skulls were mistaken for giants with just one “center” eye—which was actually the position (hole) in the skull where the Mastodons’ trunk had been attached.
The legendary Griffon was a winged creature with the body of a lion and the head of a bird. These were the remains of the Protoceratops, a four-legged dinosaur that had a beak. The “wings” were the fragile bones on the back of the skull that typically broke off but were still found among the remains.
These and other mistaken identifications were the source of mythologies that populated a world of strange and unusual creatures.
Midgets and Dwarfs:
In the past, there were human-like mythic beings—many that are still with us today: The title midget has generally been reserved for people of very short stature—but whose body proportions are much the same as people of average height.
There are over 200 different types of dwarfs. Dwarfs often suffer from underlying metabolic health problems. Some dwarfs have shortened upper parts of their arms and legs and may have a large head with a prominent forehead, a flattened bridge of the nose, shortened hands and fingers, and reduced muscle tone. Many average about 4 feet in height. The dwarfs with shortened limbs generally have spine, limb, and joint problems--which give them the “rolling walk” that are often exhibited by some “little people”. They also may have: a greater susceptibility to ear infections and hearing loss, breathing problems caused by small chests, weight problems, curvature of the spine, bowed legs, trouble with joint flexibility and early arthritis, lower back pain or leg numbness, and crowding of teeth in the jaw. Many require operations and/or they can end up badly crippled in their elder years.
With modern medicine and surgeries, Dwarfs can lead long and successful lives. Still, when an adult Dwarf is picked up and hugged (read: molested) by a regular-sized person because they are “cute”, the psychological implications can be thwarting. Add to that the extra strain on their bodies caused from living in a world that is out of step with their size, and causes them to continually stretch and climb to access items, being a little person is not always easy.
There exists a much rarer form of Dwarfs, the Primordial Dwarfs: They are children that have a smaller body size in all stages of life –even beginning before birth. Imagine a grown person about half as large as a newborn infant yet perfect in proportion, uttering words in a strange, high pitched unearthly voice. Then imagine this figure to be about 19 inches in height and 5 pounds in weight! These children and a very few adults are an extraordinary phenomenon. Typically, their features are a bit different too—their faces are “smoother—with less brow ridges and at their tallest, they seldom exceed 2 feet in height.
It is likely that the Primordial Dwarfs were originally labeled as fairies, gnomes, pixies, and etc. Unfortunately, children that are Primordial Dwarf s often die young and even if they survive to adulthood, they usually don’t survive past 30 years of age.
An even rarer form of Dwarfism is the child afflicted with Progeria. Progeria is caused by a mutant/”clipped” DNA sequence that creates a disease that causes rapid aging. Typically, an 11-year-old child with Progeria has the body of an 80-year-old person. Children with Progeria actually die of old age, usually suddenly by stroke or heart attack, while still in their early teens. Seldom does one live to see 21 years of age. By 3 months of age, babies with this mutation in their DNA begin to loose baby fat, and by 6 months of age, their skin begins to thin and their veins begin to show. Not too long afterwards, they may also become bald.
It is likely that children with Progeria were the source of legends about “changelings” which thought to be fairy children “switched” for human children. According to stories, changelings, not being human, always aged extremely and inhumanly fast. How awful it must have been for such a child back in superstitious past times—when one’s own parents did not accept them!
If you look at our current crop of basketball players, you will see many humans of greater than normal stature. However, this is not about those of us that are ‘tall-normal.” ‘Real Giants’ have existed (and still do today). And their stories were found everywhere in legends and in the traditions of almost every culture in the history of mankind. Their stories were traditionally associated with feelings of terror and their large size was related to the fear they could produced.
Ancient Greece was the source of many legendary beings. The Greeks had stories about gods and heroes that were “larger than life.’ Many of these stories were probably the result of finding large fossil bones. Greece has always been subjected to major earthquakes that mixed many unrelated bones together. Additionally, although early civilization’s paleontology recognized old bones as pre-existing their current era, they did not have the collection of classification knowledge that modern science has accumulated.
The bones of large animals that approximated the shape of human bones that were mixed together with other bones—many of them worn, weathered, or broken, gave Greeks ideas about the elder gods (the Titans). The Titans were described as beings of astounding stature and great strength that rebelled against the Olympian gods.
In some sacred texts, stories can be found about people and races of extraordinary height. The Nephilim were the first people to be referred to by the name of giants in the Bible (Genesis). And then there was Goliath, in the second book of Samuel, who was said to have measured about 10 feet. Hercules was also supposed to be about 10 feet high.
Giant legends survived in most Eastern and Western traditions. They were compiled in medieval encyclopedias and books of wonders, and enlarged upon by the accounts provided by new chronicles or traveler’s reports.
Although the subject of mythological legends and fairy tales, the phenomenon of inordinate bodily growth is usually a clinical problem related to the enlargement of the pituitary gland. The excessive secretion of growth hormone causes “Pituitary gigantism”. The symptoms of this illness are many, including widespread abnormal growth of tissues and organs, with swelling of the lips and ears, painful joints, and impaired vision.
Many of these symptoms are also found in mythological figures and explain part of the lore of giants in myth and literature. And their abnormal facial bone structures due to an excess of growth hormone and their very deep voices made them seem like they were ‘other’ than human. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, unusually tall persons were exhibited in circuses and freak shows. Given the social and physical barriers they had to overcome during their lives, many giants were forced to make careers as human oddities.
The normal human body grows for a certain period of time and then stops—the growth hormone is “turned-off.” But if a Pituitary gland is affected by tumors or other abnormal factors, growth may continue. Sometimes this growth never stops! The result is that most giants have many of the same problems that dwarfs have, such as not having houses, furniture, or appliances that fit them. Plus they usually have trouble walking or end up unable to walk at all. Accordingly, most ‘modern’ giants have weak limbs and little to no athletic prowess. Giants also typically suffer from early deaths.
BUT! Most modern giants are gentle souls—not at all like the mean, viscous, and dangerous giants in old legends.
Although we seem to fear what we do not understand or what does not seem to be like us. Small and big people are human and need to be treated as such.
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