Bellerophon Picture

Greek legend tells how Bellerophon rode Pegasus the flying horse and slew the monster Chimaera. The Chimaera had the head of a lion, the head and udders of a goat and a serpent for a tail.

There are many other legends of monster slaying heroes in Indo European myth: Perseus and Cetus, Hercules and the Hydra, Apollo and Python, St. George, Bel/Marduk and Tiamat etc. In many cases they seem to represent the creation of order out of chaos. When one of the hydra’s heads is cut off, two more grow in its place. Like damming a river, the natural chaos fights to reassert itself. In the oldest legends, the monster seems to be female. From Bulgaria comes the tale of the hero Mavrud, who cut off the heads of a hydra like monster named Lamia, symbolising the pruning of the vine. In Slavic countries, Lamia is the name given to a monster with multiple heads. The number of heads is usually a multiple of three. In Greece, Lamia is the name given to a mythical woman with the body of a snake. Sometimes these monsters are benign, like the Chinese dragons.

The sun is in Capricorn, the constellation of the goat in Winter and in Leo the lion in Summer. The serpent tail reminds me of a scorpion, and the sun is in Scorpio in Autumn. St. George’s day falls close to Beltane, the fire festival of Bel (erophon?) in the Spring, so the hero and the three headed monster can be taken as symbols of the four seasons.

George is a traditional name for a ploughman, someone who cuts straight lines in the earth. The name “George” has been interpreted as “Ge-urge” meaning the one who stimulates the earth. One of Marduk’s symbols is the spade, although this seems strange at first for a god of light (William Murdoch, the inventor of gas lighting ended his days at the court of the Shah of Iran, where he was believed to be an incarnation of Marduk).

I got the idea for this picture while gardening. The radiant hero of the Spring ploughing season is battling the multi-headed bindweed, which regrows and multiplies whenever it is cut. Bellerophon finally killed the chimaera by sticking a lead tipped spear down the monster's throat. The lead was melted by the beast's fiery breath. I prefer to keep heavy metals out of the garden

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