As prescribed by Paulina Constancia

Snakes & Ladders 4: The Mythical & Natural in the Mekong and the Amazon

Today we look at snakes and ladders, the mythical and the natural in two of the world’s greatest rivers – the Mekong and the Amazon.

Mythical SNAKES

of the Mekong

“The Phaya Naga (Thai: พญานาค) are nāga, mythical serpent-like creatures, believed by locals to live in the Mekong river or estuaries. Some have tried to explain sightings as oarfish, elongate fish with red crests; however these are exclusively marine and usually live at great depths. People in both Laos and Thailand attribute the naga fireballs to these creatures.” via Wikipedia

Read more about Naga mythology


Phaya Naga
Image source


King of Naga
Art by Victorior on Deviantart

“Naga, in Hinduism and Buddhism, is the Sanskrit word for a deity taking the form of a great snake, specifically the multi-headed king cobra. The traditions about nagas are common in all the Buddhist countries in Asia. In many countries, the concept of naga has merged with local traditions of many great and wise serpents.”  Read more on burmese-art

And here’s more —
Naga fireball – a.k.a. “Mekong lights” – glowing balls are alleged to naturally rise from the water high into the air. The balls are said to be reddish and to have diverse sizes from smaller sparkles up to the size of basketballs. To the locals – it’s the Naga spitting fireballs but to some individuals attempting to explain the phenomenon – the fireball is a result of flammable phosphine gas generated by the marshy environment. The fireballs are most often reported around the night of Wan Ok Phansa at the end of the Buddhist Lent in late October. Read more on wikipedia

Bangkok scoop says, “Many Thais, especially rural villagers, maintain a strong faith and it is a significant religious event to pay respect to the river and to the Naga. For all involved, every time the red-pink Naga Fireballs bursts upwards the people will greet it with joyous cheers. For centuries, their existence was a closely-held secret among villagers living near the northeastern town of Nong Khai. Then, the miraculous event was discovered by outsiders who now flock to the riverbanks each October full moon night in enormous numbers—400,000, at last count.” See images and learn more on bangkok scoop


of the Amazon

Yacumama– literally “spirit mother of the water”, in Quechua (via elmundomagico)
“In the mythology of the indigenous people of South America, the yacu-mama is a sea monster, fifty paces long, believed to inhabit the mouth of the Amazon River and the nearby lagoons. The Yacumama is believed to be the mother of all creatures of the water. According to the legend, the yacu-mama would suck up any living thing that passed within 100 paces of it. To protect themselves, the local Indians would blow on a conch horn before entering the water, believing that the yacu-mama would reveal itself if it was present. It is sometimes believed to be a giant snake the “Giant Anaconda” or caecilian known as Minhocão.” via Wikipedia


Painting by artist-ayahuascero (shaman) Pablo Amaringo
“The yakumamas are portrayed guarding the gates of a golden city…” Read more


“The three powers”
Another painting by the artist-shaman Pablo Amaringo, of one of his visions.
The top power is Wayramama, mother of the air; in the center is Yakumama, mother of the waters;
and at the bottom is Sach’amama, mother of the forest.”
Image via incaglossary

I  like the sense of mystery in the Mekong and the Amazon. In a way, the belief in the Naga and the Yacumama is a perfect way to ensure nature conservation. They are sort of Gods and guards of the natural treasures of the rivers.



Monkey LADDER Lianas
in the Mekong region and the Amazon forest

What are lianas?
“A liana is any of various long-stemmed, woody vines that are rooted in the soil at ground level and use trees, as well as other means of vertical support, to climb up to the canopy to get access to well-lit areas of the forest. Lianas are especially characteristic of tropical moist deciduous forests and rainforests, including temperate rainforests. There are also temperate lianas, for example the members of the Clematis or Vitis (wild grape) genera. Lianas can form bridges amidst the forest canopy, providing arboreal animals with paths across the forest. These bridges can protect weaker trees from strong winds. Lianas compete with forest trees for sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. Well-known lianas include monkey ladder  and “water vine”, which can refer either to Cissus hypoglauca or to members of the genus Doliocarpus. ” Read more on wikipedia

“It’s easy to see how monkey ladder (Bauhinia guainensis) gets its name ­ the flattened profile with indentations that look like steps. It is used for handicrafts and has some medicinal uses. The genus Bauhinia is a large group, with species characterized by leaves that have the shape of a cloven hoof.” via jungle photos

As evidenced by these ladder-like growths in the rainforests of Thailand and the Amazon, Nature is indeed the best designer. – P.C., DDoA

Monkey Ladder Lianas in a Thai rainforest:


Monkey Ladder Lianas – Thai rainforest
Order print on shutterstock

Lianas in the Amazon rainforest:


Monkey Ladder Liana by Jamesnicky
From Parque Nacional Madidi – Amazon Basin
Image via tripwow

So do… as the river dwellers of the Mekong and the Amazon, treat the river with great reverence and gratitude for its bounty & mystery.



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This entry was posted on October 23, 2014 by in Create, Imagine and tagged , .
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