Archive for July, 2009


This is a large cast iron wall bracket very interesting. The winged dragon is inspired by Medieval and Gothic designs.

French, late 18th early 19th century.


Length: 42 cm./ 16.4 inches

Height: 24 cm./ 9.4 inches

Width: 12 cm./ 4.7 inches

Western Dragons

The dragon is a mythical creature of great antiquity and is known equally well in the East as in the West. But in China and Japan, although it is similar in form, it is less forbidding and has very different characteristics. The Eastern dragon is benevolent and full of strength and goodness. It is associated with rain and water; in the evening it devours the sun and releases it in the morning. It takes treasure into its safe keeping from those who desire it from avarice.

The Western dragon is a malevolent and destructive power, and hoards gold and treasure for its own selfish purposes.


1 Alphyn, 2 Sagittarius, 3 Cockatrice, 4 Martlet,

5 Male Griffin, 6 Griffin, 7 Dragon, 8 Phoenix, 9 Pegasus,

10 Panther, 11 Wyvern, 12 Pelican, 13 Salamander,

14 Yale, 15 Unicorn, 16 Tyger.

Winged two-legged dragons

The Wyvern

wyvern ex libris

A wyvern or wivern is a winged reptilian mythical beast often found in Medieval heraldry. The name “wyvern” derived from the Saxon word Wivere, which means “serpent”. The French wyvern is known as the vouivre. Both words are etymologically related to viper.

The principal difference between the wyvern and the dragon is that the former has two legs while the latter has four. A wyvern is described as having the body of a snake with a dragon’s head, and a pair of bat’s wings. In Dungeons & Dragons, wyverns have a poisonous stinger in the tail. It can use its wings as forelegs in order to crawl forward, the resulting stance is usually very terrifying.

wyvern Batsford

Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire, England 1140wyvern

A second important difference is that whereas the dragon has an ambivalent reputation, the wyvern is unambiguously malicious. In the medieval bestiaries, the wyvern was used as an allegory of Satan, and was associated with pestilence and plagues. However, the wyvern is most notably show as a creature of protection, power and strength, which was important in battle. This dragon  probably entered British armory as the standard of the Roman cohort and remained in the symbolism of the post-Roman era and in the ‘burning dragon’ of Cadwallader from which the red dragon of Wales is derived.

wyvern Stone carving on a bench

wyvern holdingwyvern after 1200Westminster Wyvern

wyvern Kensal Green Cemeterywyvern Kensal Green Cemetery 2

wyvern Abbey of St Werburgh

wyvern outside the Town Hall in Braywyvern 21101

This large scaly monster was the emblem of the rulers of Wessex and the word “wyvern” is associated with the many areas of Wessex, reflected in many county and town heraldries of the South West and west of England. It also has been used farther afield in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, as the rivers Wye and Severn run through Hereford and Worcester respectively. Therefore, the wyvern is often used as a mascot in the west and south west. For example, one of the local radio stations is called Wyvern FM, and its first logo, in 1982, featured a wyvern dragon.

wyvern lamp

The Vouivre

The Vouivre is a member of the Dragon family, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful species of winged serpents.

Bestiaire d'Amours

vouivre bestiaire

According to old legends and traditions, this mythical reptile lived in swamps, lakes, abandoned chateaux and monasteries of Franche-Comté (Doubs and Jura), Burgundy (Yonne, Nievre, Côte-d’Or and Saône-et-Loire), Lorraine (Meuse) and other regions of France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Aosta Valley, Italy.


Cascade de la Vouivre - Jura

Cascade de la Vouivre - Jura

It is described as a dragon, part woman, part bird and part snake. The Vouivre too wears a jewel in the middle of her forehead. This jewel is what allows to see, and she can only be killed if it is stolen, although it is removed for bathing.

Vouivre Oratoire d'Isabeau d'Ailly Lorraine FanceNeuvy Saint-Sépulchre 1034 -1049Saint-Pierre d'Aulnay

It is said, in an old story of Franche -Comté that a greedy and fearless man, living in the town of Mouth, wanted the carbuncle for his own. He took the advice of an evil sorcerer who told him to slaughter a bull and steal the carbuncle from the Vouivre while she was busy drinking it’s blood. He did this, but once he had the jewel, he refused to share its riches with the sorcerer or the people of the town – and it turned into horse dung in his hands. It was said he smelled of dung for all the rest of his days, and the Vouivre, whose power was diminished without her magical stone, went into hiding.

Notre-Dame de La Charité-sur-Loirevivre 1 Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine BourgogneGaronne Occitan France

“The Vouivre wears but one eye in the middle of her forehead, and that is a carbuncle ; when she stops to drink at a fountain, she lays it aside ; that s the time to possess yourself of the jewel, and she is blind ever after. The Vouivre flies through the air like red-hot iron, Mem. des antiq. 6, 217” [Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm Vol. IV p.1492 – 1883]

Notre-Dame de La Charité-sur-Loire 2door 11th church in Nouziers, Creuse, Limousin Francevouivre Chapiteau de l'église de Lencloître Poitou Charentes

“The Vouivre is a gigantic flying serpent who elevates herself above the summits with much noise while describing immense curves in the sky. She emits a burning breath of flames and sparks which illuminates her glistening scaled clothes and the folds of her disproportionately large wings. On her head, she wears a scintillating diadem and on her forehead a single eye, which, like a luminous diamond or a star, provides her with light for her nocturnal voyages. This intense glow reveals her presence far into the distance.” Lucienne Fontannaz

Notre-Dame de La Charité-sur-Loire 3vouivre 12thVezelay

Variable Spellings

Cuivre, Gibre, Givre, Guibre, Nwywre, Vaisvre, Vaivre, Vaure, Vavre, Vebre, Vèvre, Vievre, Vive, Vivre, Voire,Voivre, Vosvre, Vouwra, Vuipre, Vuivre, Wivre, Wivrot, Woëvre, Woèvre.

Latin : Vipera, Vipère.

St Pierre de la Tour - Aulnay

Vivre 1948

The Basilisk or Cockatrice

The basilisk, king of serpents, whose eyes were so terrible that a glance killed, is the emblem of deadly sin.

basilisk or cockatrice 2

According to the “Naturalis Historia” of Pliny the Elder (40–79 C.E.; Natural history), the basilisk (from the Greek βασιλίσκος basiliskos, a little king, in Latin Regulus) is a small snake that is so venomous that it leaves a wide trail of deadly venom in its wake, and its gaze is likewise lethal.

78. “The basilisk is found in Cyrenaica and is not more than a foot in length; it is adorned with a bright white spot on its head like a diadem. It puts all snakes to flight by its hissing and does not move forward with many winding coils, like other snakes but travels along with its middle sticking up. It destroys bushes not only by its touch but also by its breath, and it burns grass and splits rocks. Its power it a threat to other creatures. It is believed that once one was killed with a spear by a man on horseback and its destructive power rose through the spear and killed both the rider and his horse. Kings have often wished to see a basilisk once dead beyond a shadow of doubt. For such a fantastic creature the venom of weasels is fatal – thus does Nature determine that nothing is without its match. Men throw basilisks into weasels’ dens, which are easily recognized by the putrefaction of the ground. The weasels kill them by their foul smell and then die themselves. Nature’s fight is over.” (Natural History-a selection, translated John Healy, 1991, Penguin Classics)

basilisk Belgum 15th

basilisk France, Saint-Martial de Limoges 13th

The way the basilisk comes into the world is as follows. When a cock is seven years old it will find itself one day in the greatest agony, because it is about to lay an egg. The cock seeks some place to secrete the egg in, but a toad anxiously watches the proceedings. When the cock has laid the egg, the toad comes and sits upon it until it is hatched. The resulting creature has the head of a cock and the body of a reptile. He hide in a crevice or an old cistern, so that no one can see it.

basilisk or cockatricecockatrice Château de Blois 2basilisk St-Pierre St-Pierre de l'Isle 13th

cocatrice Minton chinacockatrice Château de Blois

Part bird, part serpent with lion claws and bat’s wings, is the “mascot” of the City of Basel (one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland), and symbol of the city for over 500 years.


Basilisk with the arms of Basel from a Swiss 1511

basilisk 2 Baselbasilisk 3 BaselBasilisk  Basel

basilisk Basel

Basilisk  Basel fountain 2Basilisk at_Wettsteinbruecke-BaselBasilisk_fountain Basel

Basilisk Basel Ferdinand Schlöth 1879

Ode to Naples

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Antistrophe 1a.

What though Cimmerian Anarchs dare blaspheme

Freedom and thee? thy shield is as a mirror

To make their blind slaves see, and with fierce gleam

To turn his hungry sword upon the wearer; _80

A new Actaeon’s error

Shall theirs have been–devoured by their own hounds!

Be thou like the imperial Basilisk

Killing thy foe with unapparent wounds!

Gaze on Oppression, till at that dread risk _85

Aghast she pass from the Earth’s disk:

Fear not, but gaze–for freemen mightier grow,

And slaves more feeble, gazing on their foe:–

If Hope, and Truth, and Justice may avail,

Thou shalt be great–All hail!

Honore de Balzac

“Physically, Grandet was a man five feet high, thick-set, square-built, with calves twelve inches in circumference, knotted knee-joints, and broad shoulders; his face was round, tanned, and pitted by the small-pox; his chin was straight, his lips had no curves, his teeth were white; his eyes had that calm, devouring expression which people attribute to the basilisk; his forehead, full of transverse wrinkles, was not without certain significant protuberances; his yellow-grayish hair was said to be silver and gold by certain young people who did not realize the impropriety of making a jest about Monsieur Grandet. His nose, thick at the end, bore a veined wen, which the common people said, not without reason, was full of malice. The whole countenance showed a dangerous cunning, an integrity without warmth, the egotism of a man long used to concentrate every feeling upon the enjoyments of avarice and upon the only human being who was anything whatever to him,–his daughter and sole heiress, Eugenie. Attitude, manners, bearing, everything about him, in short, testified to that belief in himself which the habit of succeeding in all enterprises never fails to give to a man.” Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) Eugenie Grandet – Chapter 1


“As Zadig was traversing a verdant Meadow, he perceiv’d several young Female Syrians, intent on searching for something very curious, that lay conceal’d, as they imagin’d, in the Grass. He took the Freedom to approach one of them, and ask her, in the most courteous Manner, if he might have the Honour to assist her in her Researches. Have a care, said she. What we are hunting after, Sir, is an Animal, that will not suffer itself to be touch’d by a Man. ’Tis somewhat surprizing, said Zadig. May I be so bold, pray, as to ask you what you are in Pursuit after, that shuns the Touch of any Thing but the Hands of the Fair Sex. ’Tis, Sir, said she, the Basilisk: A Basilisk, Madam, said he! And pray, if you will be so good as to inform me, with what View, are you searching after a Creature so very difficult to be met with? ’Tis, Sir, said she, for our Lord and Master Ogul, whose Castle, you see, situate on the River-side, at the Bottom of the Meadow. We are all his Vassals. Ogul, you must know, is in a very bad State of Health, and his first Physician has order’d him, as a Specific, to eat a Basilisk, boil’d in Rose water: And as that Animal is very hard to be catch’d, and will suffer nothing to approach it, but one of our Sex, our dying Sovereign Ogul has promis’d to honour her, that shall be so happy as to catch it for him, so far as to make her his Consort. The Case, being thus circumstantiated, Sir, I hope you will not interrupt me any longer, lest my Rivals here in the Field should happen to circumvent me.” Voltaire (1694–1778) Zadig Chapter 15

Basilisk Basel  Swiss 2

La Grand’ Goule

Grand Goule de Poitiers

This legendary monster – a hybrid creature with eagle’s claws and bat’s wings – is associated to the memory of saint Radegund (also spelled Rhadegund, Radegonde), the founder of Sainte-Croix abbey in the 6th century.

sainte radegonde

The dragon used to devour the Nuns of the abbey when they went into the underground storerooms in search of provisions. Radegonde, the patron saint of the Poitiers, went to hunt the monster, with a relic of the real crucifix (gift from the bysantine emperor). Seeing the relic, the Grand’ Goule was completely conquered.

Grand Goule Poitiers

This episode will become a traditional celebration with processions in the neighbourhood around Sainte-Croix. From the 17th century onwards, a wooden effigy of the beast leaded the procession, followed by the inhabitants who threw tiny cookies in its threatening mouth while conjuring danger with an unusual recommendation: Bonne sainte vermine, priez pour nous ! (“Good holy vermin, pray for us”). The sculpture is today on display in the Musée Sainte-Croix.

grand goule Notre-Dame d'Echillais

The Graoully

The name Graoully also transcribed Graouli, Graouilly, Graouilli or Graully finds its etymology in German graülich, grässlich or gräßlich who means “monstrous”.

graoully 16th

The legend of Saint Clement of Metz states that the Graoully, along with countless other snakes, inhabited the local amphitheatre. The snake’s breath had so poisoned the area and the inhabitants of the town were trapped in the town. Saint Clement led the Graoully to the edge of the Seille, and ordered him to disappear into a place where there were no men or beasts.

Saint Clement and le Gaoully - Metz France

graoully by Auguste Migette 1802-1884graouilly MetzCathédrale Saint Etienne Metz

Cathédrale Saint Etienne Metz 2Cathédrale Saint Etienne Metz 3

The Graoully quickly became a symbol of the town of Metz and it can be seen in numerous demonstrations. One can today see it represented in the crypt of the Cathédrale of Metz. It is also reproduced on the blazons of the Football Club of Metz and of the National school of engineers de Metz.

Metz-Cathedrale_St-Clement_Graoully - detailGraoully - Museum de la Cour d'orgraoully in Metz - France 2


“It was a monstrous, ridiculous, hideous figure, fit to fright little children; its eyes were bigger than its belly, and its head larger than all the rest of its body; well mouth-cloven however, having a goodly pair of wide, broad jaws, lined with two rows of teeth, upper tier and under tier, which, by the magic of a small twine hid in the hollow part of the golden staff, were made to clash, clatter, and rattle dreadfully one against another; as they do at Metz with St. Clement’s dragon.” Gargantua and Pantagruel  Book IV by Francois Rabelais – 1548

Graoully in Metz - France

The Tatzelwurm

The Tatzelwurm “worm with claws” in German, is a worm-like cryptid (i.e. its existence has not been scientifically verified).

tatzelwurm 2

This creature is usually described as a snake from five to seven feet long, two large clawed legs and a feline appearance in the head region. They lived in several areas of Europe, including the Austrian, Bavarian, Italian and Swiss Alps.

Michaelerkirche Vienna, AustriaCastle Tyrol  Italy 1140tatzelwurm3jpg

Similar creatures have been part of Scandinavian folklore for centuries. In some circles, it is classified as a variety of lesser dragon, also called Beisswurm, Hergstutzen, Springwurm, Bergstutzen, Daazelwurm, Praatzelwurm, or Stollenwurm.


“Lombard legend has more to tell of snakes, and those expressly small ones. The Heldenbuch describes the combat of a small fire-spitting beast on the Gartensee (L. di Garda) with Wolfdietrich and a lion, to both of whom it gives enough to do:

Nun hörent durch ein wunder, wie das tierlein ist genant:

es heisst zu welsch ein zunder, zu teutsch ein saribant,

in Sittenland nach eren ist es ein vipper genant;

and it is added, that there are but two such vipers alive at once, for the young ones soon after birth eat up their parents.” Jacob Grimm “Teutonic Mythology” Vol. 2 Chapter 21: Trees and Animals

Tabern in Tapolca near Lake Balaton in Hungary

La Vouivre (1989)

La Vouivre is a 1989 French film adaptation of the 1945 novel by Marcel Aymé which tells the tale of the descent into madness of a World War I veteran. Beautifully photographed, La Vouivre captures the dark poetry of the famous novel.

vouivre z


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