Demons from the Wilderness, Lovers from the Sky

Anonymous tender couple hugging on picturesque river coast

Half-human half-beast creatures are found in myths and legends of nearly every, if not all, culture in the world. Although many of them made their first appearance in stories from ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and Egypt, these creatures are most likely a much older concept that was passed down over generations. Ancient Greek’s Pan, who symbolizes and rules over the untamed wild, is depicted with the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat while otherwise being mostly human in his appearance. One of the most popular representations of Anubis, the Egyptian god of death, depicts him as a figure with the body of a man and the head of a jackal with pointed ears holding a gold scale while a heart of the soul is being weighed against Ma’at’s truth feather. In Buddhist mythology, there is the Kalaviṅka, a divine bird with a human head who preached the Dharma through its songs and, in South east Asian mythology, two of the most beloved mythological characters are the benevolent half-human, half-bird creatures known as the Kinnara and Kinnari, celestial musicians who come from the Himalayas and watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger.

The ancient Greek Centaurs constitute an important part of early Greek mythology as they are connected with great mythological heroes such as Achilles and Heracles. The lyric poet Pindar (517 – 438 BC) tells us the story of Ixion, a rather sinister trickster figure. His biggest crime is that of violating xenia (“guest-friendship”), the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, particularly the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. Ixion invited his father-in-law to his home as his guest and proceeded to push the old man into a bed of burning coals.

Ixion then lived as an outlaw – half-mad and shunned by society. Zeus took pity on him and brought him to Olympus. However, Ixion grew lustful of Hera and tried to rape her. As Hera is the wife of his host, Ixion committed another violation of xenia. When Zeus found out about his intentions, he made a cloud in the shape of Hera which became known as Nephele. Ixion laid with Nephele and the union resulted in a deformed son who was named Centaurus. Centaurus later lived on the mountain of Pelion and mated with the Magnesian mares who resided there. This resulted in the birth of the Centaur race, with the mother’s features below, the father’s features above.

File:Old Centaur of Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodise from Hadrian's Villa at the Capitoline Museum MH.jpg
Old Centaur of Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodise tormented by Eros (missing). Gray-black marble, Roman copy from the Hadrian era (117-138 CE) from a Hellenistic original. Recovered from Hadrian’s villa, near Tivoli, photographed at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Italy.
117-138 CE

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