March 13, 2019

A is for Amphiptere

        My theme for this year’s April A-Z Blog Challenge is fantastical creatures, celebrating my upcoming book, On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, which I hope will be released by the end of the year.

        “The amphiptere is a winged serpent.  The ancient writer says: The trees which bear frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, a great number round each tree.  There is nothing but the smoke of bitter wood that will drive them away from the trees.
        So say ancient writers, describing how merchants of Arabia obtain the highly valued frankincense, for their chief interest is in the use humans may make of the natural world.  But what shall I say of the amphiptere, for it is the purpose of this work not only to describe the strange and wondrous creatures of the Realms of Imagination, but also to learn from them such lessons as may guide and nourish our own spirits.  The amphiptere, then, is a creature about which learned men have little to say except how to eradicate it, and yet is it not marvelous that a creature can be possessed of deadly venom yet also possessed of protecting wings?  Like the snake it sheds its skin to be born anew, and like the bird it flies free of earth in image of the soul.  Surely there must be more to understand and celebrate in a creature so remarkable.”

        Thus begins the entry for the amphiptere, the first creature in my bestiary.  (The “ancient writer” quoted is Herodotus, in his History from about 440 BCE.)  My illustration of the amphiptere doesn’t have a particular story associated with it because, to tell the truth, I made the image more as a doodle while I was running a printmaking workshop and had a bit of time while all my students were happily carving their own blocks and didn’t need me!  The other creature for the letter A has much more of a story behind it, but to read about it you’ll have to click the link to see
(And in fact, from there you’ll have to click through again to read more about the aspidochelone.  Here’s a shortcut, but I hope to lead you down some interesting and entertaining wormholes during the A to Z Challenge this year!)

[Picture: Amphiptere, rubber block print by AEGN, 2018.]

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