The Abaasy & Adar Llwch Gwin: Magical Creatures, or What?

Historically, descriptions of weird events up in the sky use names like monsters or demons, serpents or birds, giving rise to “mythical creatures”, whereas from our modern perspective the events clearly involved flying vehicles. As I write elsewhere:

It’s obvious when looking at depictions of gods that the ancients sometimes had a hard time figuring out what they were seeing, or hearing described. “It’s a bird, it’s a plane….” Of course, planes were beyond the understanding of ancient people, as were machines generally. If it moves, it’s a human or other animal. If it flies, it has to be a bird, but, wait, it’s long like a snake, and omigosh it’s breathing fire! If it’s operating a weapon, it must have hands. If it makes loud noise, it must have a mouth.

Descriptions of the gods are often at least partly descriptions of the vehicles in which the gods travel — leading to some odd-looking gods, and perhaps leading to the invention of gods with multiple aspects, avatars — magically transforming from fiery serpent to human form as they step out of or slide off of their fiery serpent, or thunderbird, or silver eagle, or flying elephant.

There are hundreds of mythical creatures that seem more like machinery. Here’s a quick look at two of them, the Abaasy and the Adar Llwch Gwin.

The Abaasy (also Abaaht or Abasy or Abassy) are demons that live in the underworld, according to the ancient Yakut people (modern-day Sakha (Yakutia) Republic in the Russian Federation):

Encyclopedia Mythica describes the abaasy as having teeth made of iron, and traveling in packs of seven. In other sources they are described as “one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged” monsters mounted on “two-headed, eight-legged, two-tailed dragons as steeds.” In olonkho they are ugly and horrible man-eating beings. Their chief Alyp Khara Aat Mogoidoon is three-headed, six-armed and six-legged giant with a body made of iron…. The abaasy are alleged to be the spirits of the long-time deceased who dwell near graves or in deserted places who otherwise travel about causing destruction. They serve Arson-Doulai, the ruler of the dead, who also swallows people’ souls and gives the living diseases. The abaasy can be appeased by blood sacrifices. The concept of the abaasy is so ingrained into Sakha thought that the verb абааһы көр- (to see abaasy) is the everyday term for “to hate” or “to dislike”. —

And then there’s the Adar Llwch Gwin:

According to Welsh tradition, the Adar Llwch Gwin were giant birds, similar in kind to the griffin, which were given to a warrior named Drudwas ap Tryffin by his fairy wife. The name derives from the Welsh words llwch (“dust”) and gwin (“wine”). These birds were said to understand human speech and to obey whatever command was given to them by their master. However, on one occasion, when Drudwas was about to do battle with the hero Arthur he commanded them to kill the first man to enter the battle. Arthur himself was delayed and the birds immediately turned on Drudwas and tore him to pieces. Later, in medieval Welsh poetry, the phrase Adar Llwch Gwin came to describe all kinds of raptors including hawks, falcons, and, on occasion, brave men. —

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