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18 19 the hYdra The mythological Hydra embodies the fertilising powers of water. Today, anything thing living that is hard to destroy may be called hydra headed. One of the earliest representations of the Hydra appears on a 1400 BC cylinder seal from Syria, and portrays part of a myth where the fertility god Baal conquers the sevenheaded dragon Latan, a creature identified with the watery forces of chaos and disorder. In Greek mythology, the description of Heracles fight with the Lernaean Hydra shows her powers of renewal. The Hydra was an aweinspiring sightshe had a prodigious doglike body and eight or nine reptilian heads one of which was immortal. For every head that Heracles cut off, the beast reproduced it twofold until he set the neighbouring woodland alight and with redhot brands seared the necks, finally burying the immortal head beneath a rock. This battle seems to record the suppression of the Lernaean fertility rites, as new priestesses, like the regenerated heads of the Hydra, constantly appeared in the temple on the banks of the river Anymone until it was burned down. The Bible has its own famous Hydra in Revelations 123. and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. Above An etching from the Mansell Collection of Heracles fighting the Hydra. Opposite, left to right The Biblical Hydra an image of a Hydra found on a seal, c. 1400 BC
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