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Illustration of the Loch Ness Monster. Credit: Michael Rosskothen / Adobe Stock

Have the Ancient Origins of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster Been Identified on Film?

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A Scottish filmmaker has published evidence of the “true nature and origins" of the 1450-year-old mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, which he discovered within a mysterious 7th century text.

Ashley Cowie presents Scottish Television’s The People’s History Show and currently features on Discovery Channel's Expedition Unknown in an episode with explorer Josh Gates hunting for Scottish treasure, and on Mummies Unwrapped , where he joins Egyptologist Ramy Romany in the Argentinian Andes searching for Inca mummies.

On Saturday evening, a short documentary premiered on Cowie's YouTube Channel and a supporting article has been published on his website claiming to have “identified the origins” of the Loch Ness Monster.

He first looks at a research paper published in April in the scientific journal Earth Sciences History” , which examined “More than 1500 genuine monster sightings (excluding hoaxes), going back to 1801” pointing out that after the discovery of dinosaur fossils in 1819, “Reports of sea serpents, which until then had tended towards the serpentine” began to describe the monster as “More and more resembling a Mesozoic marine reptile like a plesiosaur or a mosasaur.”

Cowie says, “While this refreshing research paper shows an ‘increase in sightings of a long-necked plesiosaur type creatures after 1819’, it does little to account for the “serpentine” forms reported on the loch prior to this date.”

Looking for answers he began with the earliest recording of the Loch Ness Monster which appears in the 7th century ‘ Life of St. Columba ’ written by Adomnán of Iona, which you can read online here on the Fordam University website.

Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster increased after dinosaurs’ fossils were first discovered. Restored skeleton of plesiosaurus. CC BY-SA 2.0

Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster increased after dinosaurs’ fossils were first discovered. Restored skeleton of plesiosaurus.  CC BY-SA 2.0

Luring the Loch Ness Monster to the surface

In a paragraph dated to August 22, 565 AD, Saint Columba was traveling to Inverness to win the approval of the Pictish King Bridei to convert his pagan Picts to Christianity when the “water beast” attacked one of his followers swimming in the River Ness. However, Columba drew the “Sign of the cross in the empty air causing the water beast to flee in terror."

Cowie sees Columba drawing the “Sign of the cross” as a “highly-revealing deliberation in the mind of the writer” and he claims this reference is “a metaphor, a motif, an allegory conveying hidden themes”. And when he looked further into Adomnán’s short story, he soon identified three distinctive “ancient archetypes of mythology” known to mythologists as: “ The Serpent Slayer , ChaosKamph (chaos monster) and the Dweller on the Threshold”.

Saint Columba converting King Brude of the Picts to Christianity, by William Hole, circa 1899. Mural painting in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. CC ASA 3.0

Saint Columba converting King Brude of the Picts to Christianity, by William Hole, circa 1899. Mural painting in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  CC ASA 3.0

According to the Austrian psychologist Dr. Carl Jung and the American folklorist Joseph Campbell, ‘archetypes’ are reoccurring themes and figures in world myths, legends, stories, folklore and fairy tales holding deep cultural meaning and in Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero of a Thousand Faces , he explores the “Eight types of characters in the hero’s journey, which include the “Hero, mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian, and shadow.”

Examining the Loch Ness Monster’s Ancient Archetypes

The first major literary archetype Cowie unearthed is the Serpent Slayer which he notes was previously portrayed in the tales of Christian heroes like St Michael, St George and St Patrick, who all slew serpents and dragons symbolic of the “Hero’s lower nature”.

Probably the most famous Biblical serpent appeared in the tree in the Garden of Eden and according to Cowie “In Christian mythology, serpents represent the enemies of God; Satan, Sin and Death” and he holds Columba as a “Classic Celtic Christian serpent slayer.”

Cowie then points to the Dweller on the Threshold archetype which was created by ancient religious writers and esoteric philosophers to represent "The anti-self, the synthetic self, the conglomerate of the self-created ego.”

The Dweller or Guardian archetype represents psychological hurdles that must be overcome by spiritual aspirants as they progress into higher realms of universal and spiritual understanding. Dr. Carl Gustav Jung defined the Dweller or Guardian in his 1938 ‘ Psychology and Religion: West and East ’ as the “ Shadow Archetyp e”, linked in part with one’s uncontrolled primitive animal instincts, one’s lower self.

The Destruction of the Biblical Leviathan. This engraving by Gustave Doré, 1865, holds the conceptual archetypes of the AD 565 incident at Loch Ness. CC ASA 3.0

The Destruction of the Biblical Leviathan. This engraving by Gustave Doré, 1865, holds the conceptual archetypes of the AD 565 incident at Loch Ness.  CC BY-SA 3.0

Leviathan rising in Scotland

The third archetype Cowie found in Adomnán’s paragraph is known as ChaosKamph, a German term meaning “to struggle with chaos”, and in ancient myths heroes battle “Chaos monsters” most often depicted as "Giant water serpents”.

According to the filmmaker, the Loch Ness Monster is an “Archetypal reflection of the Canaanite Lotan defeated by the god Hadad and its later conception as Leviathan in the Biblical Book of Job.” These conceptual beasts were created to allegorize the enemies of Babylon, just like the Loch Ness serpent corresponds with the enemies of “Columba’s Godly utopia” - the  Picts.”

Skeptics who reject the idea of a surviving dinosaur in Loch Ness are quick to refer to the saint’s story being allegorical of his overcoming of the Picts, but “This has always been a two dimensional stance”, says Cowie, “If Adomnán shoe horned the Dweller, the Serpent Slayer and a Chaos Monster into one paragraph, then what other “Archetypal" secrets lie unobserved within his stories? Ironically, says Cowie, for one to “not believe” in the Loch Ness Monster is to close a treasure chamber of ancient archetypal human emotions, thoughts and traits all wrapped up in the monster myth.

In conclusion, to Cowie, “the beast is a mythological shapeshifter, a tool sometimes representing Columba’s personal Dweller on his Threshold, his own struggles, his Chaos Monster, but it’s also “Archetypal for the serpentine-shaped loch itself which was a line of spiritual resistance to Christian evangelization, a tangible threshold.” In other instances, he adds, it references the powerful Druid overlords and King Bridei of the Picts who resisted evangelization.” This is the nature of an archetype or a symbol, adds Cowie, their meaning changes dependent on context.

In the centuries following Columba’s death his semi-mythical life stories became effective vessels of maintaining Christian control over congregations wherein prayer and devotions were offered in memory of the Irish serpent slayer who overcame “The Scottish Chaos Monster of Loch Ness.”

Top image: Illustration of the Loch Ness Monster. Source: Michael Rosskothen / Adobe Stock

Comments

You can draw the same comparison to all types of serpents and reptiles. That doesn't make them all just metaphors, there can still be a real animal there. I still believe there is or at least was an actual sea beast.

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