The Naga

In the 'medusa' form, a Naga will have many snakes emerging from the shoulders and/or head. This sculpture was probably affixed to the base of a large Buddha statue, so that the Naga would be adoring Buddha with upraised hands. Artist and photographer are unknown.
The Nagas were mythical beings who could transform from man or woman to snake. They were a separate species from humans and lived in their own secret cities deep in the jungle. Often worshipped as gods in the early days, they eventually ended up as minor parts of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Although these beings generally kept to themselves, legend has it that the Naga princes and princesses often married human royalty, and many noble houses in India have claimed that they are descended from Nagas. The wise Nagas could be benevolent demigods, or they could be ruthless rulers, killing anyone who disobeyed them, cursing the land with drought and poisoning the waters. Unicorns were their deadly enemies and could keep the evil Nagas in check. These legends may be based on a real tribe of people called the Nagas, who live on the border between India and Bangladesh.

The Naga have a number of forms that they can shapeshift into, apparently at will. These forms include:

(1) A real snake (generally a cobra or large water python)

(2) A real man or woman

(3) The 'medusa' form, a human with many snakes emerging from the head and/or shoulders

(4) The 'snake mermaid' form, like a mermaid except that the lower half is a snake instead of a fish

(5) A snake too large to be natural (sometimes so big it can swallow elephants)

(6) A snake with many heads (sometimes also gigantic)

(7) A dragon (this is rare in India, but more common in Thailand and Malaysia, where the Naga is sometimes considered a creature of cryptozoology)

Go to the Library
You can find out more about the Naga by reading pages 157-160 of the book Half Human, Half Animal: Tales of Werewolves and Related Creatures by Jamie Hall and pages 174-188 of the book Human Animals: Werewolves and Other Transformations by Frank Hamel.
Human/snake shapeshifters appear frequently in fiction, but they are rarely identified as Naga. One exception is Piers Anthony's Xanth series, where Naga characters appear starting with Heaven Cent. The novel Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe seems to have references to Naga mythology, but these are so slight that I could be mistaken.

return to 'Portal of Transformation'

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