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Heraldic Dragons

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Also known as: True European Dragons, Classical Dragons.
The Heraldic Dragon is an extremely recognisable creature of British lore due in part to England’s patron, Saint George, being an acclaimed Dragon-slayer. Dragons display a natural arsenal of terrible weapons such as vicious talons, large sharp teeth, a thick almost impenetrable hide, and often a devastating fiery breath. In addition to this, it would appear that their cunning is far sharper than may be at first apparent. Many Dragons though could be betrayed by a single, relatively small soft spot on their underbelly. Into this weakness, a fortunate Dragon-slayer could sink his sword blade, thus bringing relief to society and glory upon himself. Often though, Dragon-slayers would need to resort to thoughtful guile rather than sheer brute force, should they have any chance of vanquishing these dreadful reptilian foes.



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Also known as: Gwiber, Vermine, Penmaenmawr.
Despite being smaller and having one less pair of legs than the Heraldic Dragons, the Wyverns were still a notorious bane to life and an engaging challenge to Dragon-slayers. Indeed, the symbolism attributed to Wyverns is equally as potent as that of the True Dragons. Though used on heraldic emblems, the Wyvern was commonly thought to embody pestilence, war and sin. The creature was itself considered to be a plague-carrier. In the symbolism of the esoteric scientists known as Alchemists, the Wyvern represented base matter, and the battle between a Wyvern and Knight symbolically represented the quest to transform lead into gold. Though comparatively placid when young, Wyverns increase in aggression and appetite with age. Perhaps luckily then their estimated longevity is far less than that attributed to the True Dragons and actually unremarkable even on a human scale. Female Wyverns, especially those with young, are sometimes considered to be the most vicious. Like Dragons, the Wyverns are also known to hoard treasure and some also breathe fire.



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Also known as: Peisht, Swamp Dragons, Draigs.
The majority of Dragons reported in Ireland belong to the Knucker or aquatic / swamp variety, and are known in this land as Peisht , Piast or Peist. Though in appearance they can sometimes bear strong resemblance to the True or Heraldic Dragons, their natural habitat and their adaptation to such marks them as a related but different Demi-Dragon breed. Despite spending much of their existence in an aquatic (or at least very damp) location, some Knuckers also had a breath that could scorch skin from bone. They would often leave their watery abode in order to ravage towns and villages in search of food. Not all Knuckers were winged.
The Dunna Knucker of Lyminster, West Sussex was a rare example of a Dragon or rather a Demi-Dragon, having the ability or inclination to speak with a human tongue. (Some Oriental Dragons were said to be rather eloquent, but their relatives in these isles as a rule could not, or chose not to, speak.)



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Also known as: Serpents, Serpent-Dragons, Worms, Wermes, Wyrrms, Wurms, Orms, Askes, Stoorworms, Vurms, Carrogs, Paiste.
Despite being limbless and therefore less mobile than some other Demi-Dragon breeds, Wyrms were just as capable of causing great devastation and could also prove to be a perplexing quandary for potential slayers, as many had the ability to congeal their body parts together again should they be hacked apart - though a single slicing blow from a woodman’s axe was enough to end the suffering caused by the Great Worm of Shervage Wood in Somerset. The Linton Worm of the Scottish Borders was dispatched by a burning lance being thrust down its throat, whilst it took a razor-barbed suit of armour, a keen blade and the current of the River Wear to rid County Durham of the Lambton Worm. Occurring after Saint Patrick had supposedly banished all serpents from Ireland, Saint Murrough was said to have rid Derry of a colossal Wyrm known as the Lig-na-Baste (or Lig-na-Paiste) meaning the Last Great Reptile.


Basilisk / Cockatrice

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Though being a weird hybrid of reptile and chicken parts, the Basilisk was an extremely powerful and feared beast. Its intense gaze could halt a man, or much larger beast, dead in its tracks and even cause rock to crumble to dust. Its rank breath and caustic saliva carried many strains of disease and lethal bacteria, and would cause plant-life to wither and die. Any waterhole from which the Basilisk supped would instantly be rendered poisonous for other creatures. Even its body odour was fatally toxic to inhale. Though just a diminutive beast, a single Basilisk could turn a lush paradise into a barren wasteland. The term Cockatrice is often interchangeable with Basilisk, but can also specifically refer to the later evolutionary appearance of the Basilisk. The Cockatrice was as strange a creature as the Basilisk, yet its birth process was far weirder. Whilst Basilisks were just thought to hatch from eggs laid by others of the species, the Cockatrice reportedly hatch from an egg laid in a compost heap by a seven year old cockerel whilst Sirius the Dog Star is in the ascendant. Not only that but the spherical, leathery egg would apparently need to be incubated by a toad. The most effective means of eliminating a Basilisk / Cockatrice included the bite of a Weasel, leaves of the plant Rue, the crow of a cockerel or the sight of its own reflection in a mirror.


Winged Serpents

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Described as being the typical dimensions of a grass-snake or adder, these creatures were brightly coloured and sported magnificent, patterned wings and crests which were both feathered and scaled. Historically they were said to have been witnessed in various areas of Wales including the Brecon Beacons, Plinlimmon, Cader Idris and the Berwyns. Indeed, up until the late 19th Century, Winged Serpent encounters were reported near woodlands in Penmark, Porthkerry, Penllyne and Ederynion in Glamorgan. Winged Serpents have however not been reported in the Celtic lands in recent times.


Water Leapers

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Also known as: Water Jumpers, White Duikers, Llamhigyn Y Dwr.
These bizarre creatures are the bane of the Welsh fishermen unfortunate enough to encounter them. Looking like a hybrid between a bat and a frog, the Water Leapers have been seen to bounce along the surface of water, especially in coastal areas. They could prove to be an alarming sight due to their fat slimy bodies, trailing tails, membranous wings, wide mouths and big bulbous eyes. More alarming still is the claim that Water Leapers will readily swoop at and bite people, and may even endeavour to drown them. Farmers as well as fisherman also had grounds to loathe and fear these creatures as it was rumoured that they would drag lambs down beneath the water in order to feast.



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Also known as: Lake Monsters, Beasties, Living Fossils, Saint Columba Dragons.
The Long Necks are a notorious form of fresh-water monster. Despite attacks by them upon human beings being rarely reported, sightings of them do however continue to this day in many lakes world-wide. The most infamous Long Neck of all is most probably the Loch Ness Monster, also known as Nessy. This elusive beast of Inverness, Scotland, has captured imaginations across the globe and across the ages. Indeed the first recorded encounter with this creature involved the Celtic Saint, Columba in the year 565 A.D (hence the alternative name St. Columba Dragons). Seemingly Nessy was more aggressive in those days as Columba, the founder of Iona Monastery, resorted to banishing the beast to the depths of the Loch for attacking a local man. However as the Loch Ness Monster has apparently been seen and perhaps even photographed many times since that first report, it would seem that this creature either has an incredibly long life-span or that a breeding colony has been sustained by the loch.



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Sea-Serpents have long been reported and feared by mariners and coastal dwellers. Some of these creatures show considerable similarity to the Long Necks, and it is possible that they are a brine-water relative to these creatures. Other large-bodied variants are comparable to the primitive Serpent Whale species such as the Zeuglodonts; though these beasts are thought to be long-since extinct they have seemingly since been reported at sea, as well as smaller equivalents (Horse-Eels) being sighted in Irish freshwater. The celebrated Cornish sea -monster Morgawr (Sea Giant), could possibly belong to either the Long Neck or Serpent Whale strain, but despite their immense size these creatures remain extremely elusive to further study. Apparent sightings of Morgawr have been reported at least as early as 1882 and as recently as 2000. Sea Serpents may sometimes display such features as ridges or humps along their spines, hairy manes, intense sparkling eyes and their bellies are often lighter in colour than their backs. Their hide is generally described as being smooth, like that of a frog, or sleek and hairy like an otter. Sea Serpents have been reported off the coasts of Britain and Ireland. A minor wave of sightings were reported off Cardigan Bay on the Welsh coast as recently as the mid 1970s.



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Extremely feared by the Viking invaders and other mariners of old was the dreaded Kraken, though the exact likeness of this terror of the seas could not be agreed on by the ancient sources. Some took it to be a ferocious whale or perhaps a Serpent, whilst others still likened it to a colossal crustacean or mollusc. Whatever, they all regarded the Kraken to be of a magnitude great enough to devour whole ships if it so chose. Some said it was so large that even when it was only half-visible above the sea’s surface, it was still as large as a small island. If all sailors have the same regard of scope as fishermen when it comes to describing the ‘one that got away’, then we can perhaps assume that the Kraken was not quite so large. Indeed, in modern times it has been suggested that the Giant Squid, a creature that exists in the depths of reality, may account for the legendary Kraken’s true identity. Scientists have examined the remains of Giant Squids measuring almost 60 feet (20 metres) long, and some suspect that these may merely be tiddlers. In the early 19th Century a monstrous Kraken was said to have entered Scalloway Bay in the Shetland Islands; unfortunately however nobody present dared linger around long enough to identify the creature as being a Giant Squid or otherwise.



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It has been suggested that these malodorous sea-monsters could be either a grotesque Fay species, or the corrupted souls of cruel pirates who died at sea. Whatever its origin, the Nuckelavee is possibly the strangest entity to be encountered within the waters surrounding these isles. Sometimes though this weird beast will haul itself onto the shores of Northern Scotland, especially the Hebrides. The Nuckelavee reeks like a mixture of dead fish, mildew and rotten eggs, but just as offensive as its odour is its appearance. From the upper centre of its horse-like body sprouts a human torso with extremely long arms, and a huge head that lolls limply on a scrawny neck. The equine legs that project from its body culminate not in feet or hooves, but instead with flippers or fins. Its mouth is wide and lolls open, dripping foul saliva beneath a porcine snout, whilst its single large eye glares cruel and fiery. The Nuckelavee has no outer layer of skin and its thick black blood can be seen coursing through a twisted mass of white gristle, yellow veins and raw, red muscle. The Nuckelavee will chase humans but it cannot cross fresh running water, so if pursued by such a beast it is advisable if possible to head for the nearest tributary. It Is feared that the Nuckelavee may appreciate the taste of human flesh and blood and it was also regarded as a carrier of Plague.



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The Grampus is a very strange marine creature indeed, superficially akin to a dolphin or porpoise but not at all familiar in habit. Perhaps the oddest of their kind dwelled not in the sea but in the rather unconventional habitation of an old Yew tree sited in Highclere churchyard in Hampshire. This creature’s custom of chasing terrified villagers and emitting a chilling cacophony of noises resulted in a local clergyman successfully ridding the area of the Grampus, through the means of exorcism.


All artwork and text © Andrew L. Paciorek