The Naga

Female Naga - reptilian shapeshifter half cobra and half human

I’d first like to say that I’m in no way an expert on the Hindu Religion or myths. I have done a lot of research but it’s a complicated and vast religion with numerous stories. Which is part of what makes it so fascinating. The myths are magical tales of beings with supernatural powers and often strange appearances. The Naga are one of those wondrous races. I’ve researched them in the past but did a little refresher recently for my latest Spellsinger book, Out of Tune. I never adhere strictly to the myths, preferring to create my own version branching from them, but I do like to base my versions in the original stories. So, just to differentiate between the source and my imagination, I thought I’d share a brief summary of my research.

The word “naga” is taken from the Sanskrit word for cobra and they are referred to in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Naga are a semi-divine—I assume that means they’re demigods—race of reptilian shapeshifter who are half cobra and half human. That’s all pretty straightforward but things get a little murky where their shapeshifting is concerned. Most of what I read said that Nagas can take either a human or a snake form. To me, that says they can be either completely human in appearance or completely cobra. However, they have been depicted in three other ways. The first is a divided form that’s half of each; usually the top half is human and the bottom is snake. The second is a human body with several snake hoods—called a canopy—above its head. I’m uncertain whether the canopy is attached or just symbolic since sometimes (in Buddhism) a dragon head is shown instead of the hoods. The third form is of a hooded cobra with multiple heads. I took the shapeshifting even further and created my own version of them—this goes back to early Godhunter books—where I gave them a werecobra form in which they have a cobra hood laid over their human head like, well, a hoodie and sometimes snake eyes, but I want to make clear that I’ve found no reference to that in the myths and I’m not claiming this shape is true to those stories. There may be such a reference—I haven’t scoured every myth and I don’t put anything past them—but I have yet to come across it.

On to their powers. Beyond the shapeshifting, Naga are known to be stronger than humans (but of course), very attractive, and have a control over water that extends to rain. I haven’t found mention of Nagas controlling or creating storms, but I believe I’m going to explore that possibility when I—spoiler alert—bring them into my Spectra Series. Likely due to their magic, they’re associated with rivers, lakes, seas, and wells. They’re also said to be the guardians of treasure. I’m not sure if there’s a dragon connection to the treasure thing but it seems plausible to me (I refer you back to the Buddhist representation of a Naga with a dragon head above it). They live in an underground city called Pata-loka or Naga-loka full of beautiful palaces adorned with jewels (probably the treasure they’re guarding). There are many supposed entrances to this city and they’re all through some form of water; either a river, lake, or well. The God Brahma sent the Naga to live underground because their race was growing too large. He also told them they could only bite evil people or those soon to die. I guess asking them not to bite people at all was too much to expect. Which brings us to their next talent.

Naga are poisonous just like cobras. Their bite can kill. It’s probably why they made such good guardians and protectors. A Naga was said to have protected the Buddha. Female Nagas are called Nagini, Nagi, or Nagin. I went with Nagini in my books just because it sounds prettiest to me. The Nagini were said to be strikingly beautiful women who sometimes mated with human men. Dynasties in India and Indochina have claimed to have a nagini at their origin.

I could go on, but I think that sums up Nagas nicely and paints a clearer picture of what I kept true to and what I embellished for the books. Once again, thank you for pondering the paranormal with me.

Dvārakā: Krishna’s magical city on Earth

The mythical city of Dvārakā

For my Godhunter Series I conducted research into the myth of Dvārakā, the mythical city that was home to the Hindu God, Krishna and referred to in Hindu scripture. It was said to be a place of wonder and technology that was eventually destroyed and submerged into the sea. I discovered some interesting things about this mythical (or perhaps real) city that I’d like to share with you.

Dvārakā—meaning “Gated City” or “City of Many Gates”—is said to have been on an enormous island, twice the size of Manhattan, just off the coast of modern day Dwarka, around 30,000 BC. Some credit Krishna with building the city but I’ve also seen references to Vishvakarman building it with his mind. What isn’t in dispute is that Krishna loved the city and called it his home. He even defended it from the evil King Salva. Dvārakā was connected to the mainland via a bridge and also had docks for ships. Nine hundred thousand royal palaces stood on the island; palaces made of crystal and silver, adorned with huge emeralds. There were golden skyscrapers with floating tops so high that they could be seen from everywhere. The furnishings and walls inside were constructed with gold, precious jewels, coral, and ivory. Banners of silk hung with strands of pearls from the ceilings. In addition to these amazing homes there were also several parks and gardens full of birds, bees, and plant life. The city was very advanced and had boulevards, streets, plazas, and marketplaces as well as public assembly houses called sudharma sabha and temples for demigods. Water was misted over the city and banners protected it from the sun’s heat.

Some of the god technology said to be on this island were vimana; flying machines that looked like circular carriages and could fire projectiles. The city itself had its own defenses; Krishna defended the city with weapons that had the power of the Sun, shooting down vimana with a vortex and rockets. Krishna’s personal vimana also had the ability to appear in multiple places at once; can you say holograms?

What’s incredibly fascinating about Dvārakā is that it could be more than myth. Ancient ruins have been found off the coast of modern Dwarka, right where the ancient city was supposed to have been. The ruins include several structures including sandstone walls, a grid of streets, and the remains of a sea port. On Bet Dwarka, an island off Dwarka, near the underwater ruins, artifacts dating back to 1,500 BC have been found washed up on the beach. Whether or not these are the ruins of the real life Dvārakā—the city that at the very least inspired the myth—is yet to be proven but the evidence is compelling and piling up. Could the ancient city have really existed? Possibly. Was it full of flying machines, golden palaces, and vortex-wielding gods? I’d really like to think so. Either way, it inspired me to bring a version of it to life in my books, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the product of my inspiration as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The book in which Dvarka comes to life:



Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods

Four Viking warriors and a Viking ship.

The Old Norse religion is a fascinating one full of strong, beautiful, and mischievous gods who love to come down to Earth and hang with the humans. Most people associate Valhalla with the religion, but there are so many other interesting Norse myths about the afterlife, the Gods, and the end of the world. Today, I’d like to ponder the Norse version of the Apocalypse, although I’m not sure “Apocalypse” is the best comparison. Where the Apocalypse is God ending the world, Ragnarok is the end of everything, including the Gods. In fact, the Gods pretty much destroy each other and take us down with them. The word Ragnarok means “Fate of the Gods” but has also been referred to as the Twilight of the Gods; a term I prefer simply for its poetic flow.

The Viking myth about the end of the world has many steps, clues to let the Norse people know what was coming (not that they could do anything about it). I took some liberties with these steps in my Godhunter Series but this is the correct order of the events of Ragnarok; the complete destruction of the entire cosmos, including the Gods.

  1. Fimbulvetr arrives; the great Winter that will last as long as three normal winters. Humans will become desperate to survive and basically turn into a bunch of savages who would slaughter each other over a stale saltine cracker.
  2. The Roosters Crow: there are three roosters whose crowing foretells the coming of Ragnarok but none of them are on Earth. Evidently, the horrible winter is enough to warn humans and they don’t need to hear a stupid rooster crow to know the god crap has just hit the fan. The three Roosters are: Fjalar—who crows in Jotunheim (land of the Giants), Gullinkambi—who crows in Asgard (home of the Aesir Gods), and the third rooster doesn’t have a name, he’s only known as a soot-red rooster who crows in Hel (that’s one L, not two; a land for the dead that’s cold instead of hot). At the same time, Garmr, the Hound of Hel, howls and breaks free.
  3. The wolves, named Skoll and Hati, who have hunted the Sun and the Moon across the sky since there was a Sun and a Moon, will finally catch them and eat ’em up. Much to the surprise of all of us who called them silly puppies for chasing things you obviously can’t catch. Will they, get the last laugh. Nom, nom, nom. They eat the stars too until there’s nothing left but black night.
  4. The world tree, Yggdrasil, with all of the Nine Worlds held within it, will quake and every tree in every world will fall and the mountains will crumble to the ground. Basically, it’ll make a big mess that no one can clean up.
  5. Fenrir, the Great Wolf, shall be set loose and run amok, amok, amok! He’s probably pissed off that he missed the chance to catch the Sun and Moon so he’s gotta find something else to eat.
  6. Jormungand, the enormous world serpent, will rise from the depths, causing tidal waves as he slip-slides onto land.
  7. The snake’s arrival will loose the ship Naglfar—that disgusting ship made of the fingernails and toe nails of dead people (not kidding)—from its moorings to sail over the flooded earth, manned by Giants (the Jotnar led by Sutr) and captained by Loki (who broke free of his own chains to be there). They are headed to a field called Vigridr to do battle. As a side note here; Snorri Sturluson, who wrote the prose Edda, mentions how fingernails and toenails were cut from the dead as part of funeral rites so they couldn’t be used in building the Naglfar. No nails, no ship.
  8. Fenrir will run across the Earth, fire shooting from his eyes and nose, with his jaw open wide to devour everything in his path. Think of a demonic bulldozer the size of the Titanic.
  9. Jormungand will spit venom all over the place like a drooling pit bull and poison the worlds; land, water, and sky. He’s a grumpy gus when he first wakes up and hasn’t had his coffee.
  10. The sky splits apart and out of the crack comes a bunch of Fire-Giants from Muspelheim. Surt, their King who has a fiery sword, leads them. They march across the Bifrost bridge—the rainbow bridge you see in movies—to Asgard, home of the Gods, and as they march, the bridge breaks behind them. No more rainbow connection.
  11. Heimdall blows his horn, Gjallarhorn, to announce the arrival of Ragnarok.
  12. Odin consults the head of Mimir, because the dead, giant head is supposedly even smarter than the Allfather. Odin did give his eye to Mimir for wisdom so I suppose this makes sense.
  13. The Gods convene and decide to go to battle, even though that’s dumb considering that they know what’s coming. I guess going to war is better than doing nothing, especially when you love fighting as much as they do. The Gods meet the Giants (all sorts of Jotun) on a battlefield called Vigrid—it creatively means “Plain where battle surges.”
  14. Odin fights Fenrir with his Einherjar—his chosen human warriors who have been training at Valhalla for this precise battle. Despite their training, Fenrir gobbles them all up, just like the Wolf with Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma. Even Odin gets swallowed. So much for the smart head.
  15. Odin’s son, Vidar, attacks Fenrir to avenge his father. He’s wearing a shoe crafted from the scraps of leather that all human shoemakers have ever discarded. So, basically, a really big shoe. The shoe was made specifically to battle Fenrir, and Vidar uses it to hold open Fenrir’s mouth so he can stab Fenrir through the throat and kill him.
  16. Another big bad wolf named Garm—you may remember him from his howling in Hel—fights the god, Tyr, and they kill each other. So do Heimdall and Loki, Freyr and Surt, and Thor and Jormungand. The most epic of those single-combats with dual deaths is the one between Thor and Jormungand. Thor manages to hammer the big snake to death, but he’s covered in so much snake venom that he only makes it nine steps before he falls dead too.
  17. The remnants of the world—whatever Fenrir didn’t gobble up—sinks into the sea and nothing is left but the void. Creation is undone; the end.

Yeah, rather depressing but that’s about par for the course with end of the world scenarios, and the Vikings had to have one badass enough to match their badassness.

Experience Ragnarok in: