Author Topic: Why are Chimeras significant? What is the significance of Chimerism?  (Read 2140 times)

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January 31, 2015, 02:44:18 PM
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Share your knowledge with me while pondering this question and my answer to it.

From what I know there are many versions of Chimeras. According to John Vinycomb in "Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures",

"The origin of the story of the chimera is ascribed to a mountain in Lycia which had a volcano on its top and nourished lions; the middle part afforded pasture for goats, and the bottom was infested with serpents; according to Hesiod it had three heads, that of a lion, a goat, and a dragon. Bellerophon destroyed the monster by raising himself in the air on his winged steed Pegasus, and shooting it with his arrows"

From what I know there are many versions of Chimeras, and more than just 2 or 3 beings combined into one vessel. There is the Sphinx, a Man-headed lion, the Mermaid, half woman half amphibious creature, the Gryphon which would be a creature with a body of a lion and eagle, the Minotaur, a Bull-headed man. I'm sure there are many more creatures I've not named, but this would be a few good examples. From what I know of these creatures, some are revered as and others are feared as creatures to be slain. I came about this question after talking to my friends about the connections of these animals and why would they be significant to our history? What about them makes them significant? The reasoning we all agreed on makes the most sense to us. They are significant because they can be.

What do you think of my question, my answer, and the reasoning behind it? :]

January 31, 2015, 10:22:30 PM
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  • Posts By Osmosis

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If you mean that they are significant "because they can be" in the sense that they lend themselves well to symbolic association, I would agree with you on that point.

Chimeras are what are called liminal beings. They exist between familiar states and therefore are unfamiliar by nature and fixate the mind, making for great symbols. From another perspective, the combination of two separate symbols into a new whole which may have a different meaning from either of its parts is par for the course in dreams and the human unconscious in general. So, again, they make for great symbols... and I do not use the word "symbol" lightly - a good symbol is a suitable form for what would otherwise be formless, and by studying a manifest symbol we can learn about an unmanifest principle, energy or being.

It should be obvious that the nature of a particular chimera depends on what it is composed of. Some are composed entirely of different animals, in which case, analyze the symbolism of the animal as it is expressed through the symbolism of the body part which belongs to it. Others have human characteristics, and I believe that it is fair to distinguish between human and non-human chimeras. Human chimeras mostly seem to have human heads or upper bodies; less frequently (as with Egyptian symbolism, as I know you know) everything BUT the head is human. But what you almost never see is something like, a dragon with human hands, for instance. In short, greater care seems to be taken with human chimeras to preserve the human form, because otherwise it disturbs us.

Human chimeras can be interpreted as identifying animal qualities within human consciousness so that they can be understood and worked with more easily. You could even work with the animal in question, either to gain rapport with some spirit or for purely psychological purposes. Another interpretation of human chimeras is that of transformation, either from an undesirable animal state, or towards some desirable animal quality. A third interpretation might be that human chimeras represent non-human, not-quite-average-human, or super-human intelligences, whether spirits, magicians / shamans, or gods.

That's the gist of chimeras, although you should check out their use in alchemy. Also, isn't it interesting that Pegasos himself is another kind of chimera?

"And in this lies my honour and my reward, - / That whenever I come to the fountain to drink I find the living water itself thirsty; / And it drinks me while I drink it." - Almustafa