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COPTIC MYTHICAL FIRE-BREATHING ANIMAL

September 4, 2017

Mythical hound

The drawing above comes at the end of the Coptic manuscript Oriental No. 7022, on Fol 60a. You can find about the contents of this manuscript here. It was published by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1914 in his book, Coptic Martyrdoms, etc., in the Dialect of Upper Egypt.

The drawing shows a creature that is composed of parts taken from different animals. The head is probably of a hound that has a collar around its neck, and is fire-breathing from his mouth; the body is probably that of a lion with curious spots on its legs; and the tail seems to be of a dragon. This mythical animal is a chimera in the fact that it is made of different parts of animals but not the known Chimera of Greek mythology that is also fire-breathing but with a head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a serpent or dragon.  It does not look also like a werewolf[1] or a hellhound[2] – both mythical and fictional animals with different shapes. I cannot find any creature in the Bible that can fit this chimera drawn by the Coptic artist.

Who is the artist? At the end of the text of MSS Oriental No. 7022 there is colophon written by a certain Joseph, the son of Sisinnios, the archdeacon of the Catholic Church of Saint John the Baptist in the city of Snû (I cannot identify this city, but most probably in the region of Edfu). This Joseph is the copyist of the Coptic text from an older manuscript, which happened in 951 AD. He most probably drew the above picture, and most probably he just copied it from the older manuscript. The original artist remains unknown.

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[1] A werewolf or lycanthrope in Greek mythology is a person who changes for periods of time into a wolf, typically when there is a full moon.

[2] A demon in the form of a dog, being a guardian of the underworld in Greek mythology.

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