45 votes
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Why does looking at Medusa with a mirror work?

It was looking directly into Medusa's eyes that would turn a mortal to stone, not the whole of her face. Using the shield as a mirror meant that even if Medusa's gaze fell upon Perseus, it would be at ...
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32 votes
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Was the Minotaur a single being, or a race?

In Greek Mythology, the Minotaur was a singular creature, the man/bull hybrid offspring of King Minos' wife. Minotaur is a proper noun meaning "bull of Minos", while the creature itself was known as ...
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  • 1,885
28 votes

Was the Minotaur a single being, or a race?

The Minotaur was a lone creature, the first and only of it's kind. The unfortunate result of a Greek God loosing his temper. Shortly after King Minos (or Minos The King) ascended to the throne of the ...
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  • 2,281
24 votes
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What is the difference between giants, Jotuns and trolls in Norse mythology?

Giants are said to be element-based creatures. Giants are extremely strong and are associated with cold and frost.[1] One giant is supposed to bring about the wind (Hræsvelgr), while another is ...
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  • 3,403
23 votes
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What is the earliest known dragon myth?

Sumer, sometime in the 4th or 3rd millennium B.C. My first instinct was to check out the Wikipedia article again. One interesting quote was The presence of dragons within Chinese culture dates back ...
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  • 7,035
22 votes

What species is the Lady of the Lake?

Many early Celtic legends apply male and female characteristics to geographical features. If you take Mary Caine's works on the areas around the Isle of Avalon, the hills of Glastonbury, then the ...
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  • 1,055
20 votes
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Are Kitsune and Huli jing the same?

They are not really the same. In fact, they are not both fox spirits with nine tails. Left: A nine-tailed fox depicted in the ancient Chinese bestiary Classic of Mountains and Seas (山海經) | Right: A ...
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  • 7,626
19 votes

Why does looking at Medusa with a mirror work?

The myths themselves are not going to give a technical explanation of this, so we are setting off on the wrong foot if we are seeking an answer at such a level, which is that of our modern ...
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17 votes
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What happened to Medusa's sisters?

In pseudo-Apollodorus' version, Medusa's sisters sought revenge on Perseus, who escaped them by using the Cap of Hades (which rendered its wearer invisible): So Perseus put the head of Medusa in the ...
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  • 16.7k
17 votes

Hephaestus and Medusa had a son named Cacus. How was Hephaestus shielded from being turned to stone?

I don't really consider that a particularly good source. Virgil says that Cacus was Half Human, in the Aeneid, Book VIII: There was a cave here, receding to vast depths, untouched by the sun’s rays, ...
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17 votes
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Is there a creature in mythology that is a frost bird or a frost phoenix?

The Pomola is a snow bird spirit in Native American mythology, it lived on Mt Katahdin and caused cold weather In Penobscot folklore, the Pomola was a bird spirit that lived on Mt Katahdin. It was ...
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  • 2,281
16 votes
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Why was Medusa's hair made of snakes?

It was an especially cruel and specific punishment for Medusa as she was known for her beautiful golden hair Medusa's transformation from a beautiful golden haired priestess of Athena to not-so-...
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  • 2,281
16 votes
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What was the earliest werewolf myth?

There's a wolf transformation in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and as written texts go they don't come any earlier. Although in this case it was a spell cast upon him and he never had a chance to transform ...
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15 votes

Is there a creature in mythology that is a frost bird or a frost phoenix?

In Greek mythology, the giant Alcyoneus had seven daughters: Phthonia, Anthe, Methone, Alcippe, Pallene, Drimo, and Asteria. When their father was slain by Heracles, they threw themselves into the ...
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  • 3,403
15 votes
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What is the meaning of not giving clothes to supernatural helpers?

The following quotes are taken from Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins - An Encyclopedia, by Carol Rose (highly recommended). In the entry for Brownies: Families were proud of their ...
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15 votes
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How and why was Talos killed?

When the Argonauts reached Crete, Talos - the bronze guardian of Europa - managed to push them back to the sea with ease. The Argonauts were desperate for food and water, and Medea decided to use her ...
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15 votes

Are there any gods who are in a different species than humans?

The World Turtle (Wikipedia) This motif is very well known. Not a god per se, but close enough. (Btw: I think it represents a ship). Rainbow Serpent (Wikipedia) The Rainbow Serpent or Rainbow Snake ...
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  • 328
14 votes
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What is the origin of the myth that witches burn in water?

TL;DR This belief doesn't come from a myth. It first appeared in The Wizard of Oz. I think the first time this belief was stated was in The Wizard of Oz rather than in any myths. The belief probably ...
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14 votes

What kind of dog breed would Cerberus be?

Cerberus was the son of Echidna, a half-woman half-snake, and Typhon, a huge serpentine horror. That's a hell of a pedigree for a dog. More seriously, I imagine Cerberus had to be at least loosely ...
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  • 2,267
12 votes
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Were Sirens humans or Monsters?

There are a lot of different stories about the Sirens'nature, looks, number and parentage. One that keeps coming back is that initially they were indeed beautiful sea nymphs/ demi-godesses, able to ...
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  • 236
12 votes

Why does looking at Medusa with a mirror work?

This is a physicist's answer , commenting on the quotes in the checked answer: "by which they flew; and they turned to stone such as beheld them." There is no indication of direct gaze in the eyes in ...
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  • 1,031
12 votes

What is the earliest known dragon myth?

The excellent answer by HDE mentions the Chinese dragon from 4700-2900BC, but did not explore further. This answer will attempt to source the claim for the Chinese dragon, which is arguably older and ...
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  • 296
12 votes

Are there any gods who are in a different species than humans?

Coyote! (A key figure in Navajo mythology.) Also Iktomi in Lakota mythology.
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12 votes
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What kind of snakes were the Gorgons' hair made of?

Most sources I know of simply use some form of "ὄφις" (snake) when describing Medusa or her sisters. That's not particularly helpful in identifying the species of the snakes. One source that uses a ...
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11 votes

Why does looking at Medusa with a mirror work?

I think the "in-world" world answer would definitely be based on physics, specifically optics and reflectivity. Our modern conception is quite different than of the ancient. The modern ...
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  • 13.9k
11 votes

Greek/Roman Mermaids

Nereus was a fish-tailed deity. Anything needed to be said about Nereus is nicely expressed in this link, but I'll sum up some things. That Nereus is a sea-god of some antiquity is noted by the ...
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  • 6,578
11 votes

Greek/Roman Mermaids

I believe it may be the Tritons, but there are probably other part-fish, part-humans. Plus, there was a fish-headed god in antiquity (not greco-roman). A side note is that there were some ...
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11 votes

Is the Kraken a single being or a species?

The Kraken is a single entity. However in modern times it became a more loose term having sailors during the 1500-1700s calling giant squids "Krakens". The possibility of so many sightings led people ...
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  • 2,309
11 votes
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Prevalence of Underwater Panther

The underwater panther is indeed a very widespread figure. Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms: Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography has a section titled "The Forms of the Underwater Powers", ...
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