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 will be released by the end of the year.  Please check out my Kickstarter Campaign for this project.

        “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.]


Kristin said...

Wouldn't that be awful if there were flying poisonous snakes flying around my yard? I guess that won't happen because I have no frankincense trees there.

Jade Li said...

Very interesting topic. I'll be reading your A2Z blog this month of the creatures. My topic is signs and symbols across the globe.

Deborah Weber said...

Oh goodness this is fabulous on all levels - your art, your upcoming book, and the Amphiptere, both your version and the one mentioned by Herodotus. And now I'm delighting in the thought of frankincense guarded by small colorful winged serpents - how wonderful!

I also love that you've adapted the challenge posting to meet your needs - that's brilliant. I look forward to working my way back (and forward) through all your postings as I can.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I’d swear I’ve heard of this one in the description, but not the name. It’s amazing what people believed in the days when the world was a huge place and you were never going to go far from your home - although, I think Herodotus did travel a bit!

Alexandra Heep said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and good luck with the book!

Charity Bradford said...

This is a great topic! Looking forward to seeing the rest of the alphabet. Congrats on the upcoming book as well.

Amelia said...

I've not heard about this creature, the Amphiptere before, so this was a nice introduction and I'll definitely hunt online for more information about it :D