Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RICHARD FREEMAN: Odd tales from Herodotus Part Three - Flying Snakes

Herodotus was a Greek Historian who lived c 490-415 BC. He traveled widely in what was the then known world. He was the first person to systematically collect data, test it in as much as he could and present it in a narrative to the reader. He is widely thought of the Father of history, ethnography and anthropology. Though many of his stories were thought of as hard to believe much of what he has written about as since been shown to be accurate.

“There is a place in Arabia more or less opposite the city of Buto, were I went to try to get information on flying snakes. On my arrival I saw their skeletons in incalculable numbers; they were piled in heaps, some of which were big, other smaller, others smaller still, and here were many piles of them. The place were these bones lie is a narrow mountain pass leading to a broad plain which joins onto the plain of Egypt, and it is said that when the winged snakes fly to Egypt from Arabia in spring, the ibises meet them at the entrance to he pass and do not let them get through, but kill hem. According to the Arabians, this service is he reason for the great reverence with which the ibis is regarded in Egypt and the Egyptians themselves admit the truth of what they say. The ibis is jet black all over; it has legs like a crane’s, a markedly hooked beak, and is about the size of a crake. That, at any rate, is what the black ibis is like-the kind namely that attacks the winged snakes, there is, however, another sort, more commonly found in inhabited districts; this has a bald head and neck and is white except for the head, throat, wing-tips and rump, which are jet black; its legs and beak are similar to those of the black ibis. The winged snakes resemble watersnakes; their wings are not feathered, but are like a bat’s.”

Herodotus also mentions these snakes in a passage on the collection of spices.

“… Arabia is the only place that produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and gum called Ledanon. All these except myrrh, cause the Arabians a lot of trouble to collect. When they gather frankincense, they burn storax (the gum which is brought into Greece by the Phoenicians) in order to raise a smoke to drive off the flying snakes; these snakes are he same ones hat attempt to invade Egypt, are small in size and of various colours, and great numbers of them keep guard over all the trees which bear the frankincense, and the only way to get rid of them is by smoking them out with storax.”

“When the Arabians go out to collect cassia, they cover their bodies and faces, all but the eyes, with ox hides and other skins. The plan grows in a shallow lake which, together with the ground round it, is infested by winged creatures very like bats, which screech alarmingly and are very pugnacious. They have to be kept from attacking the men’s eyes while they are cutting the cassia.”

It is unclear in this last passage, if the bat-like creatures and the winged snakes are one in the same.

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