Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - Depictions of the mysterious giant Piasa bird can be found on a limestone bluff overlooking the Mississippi.
Native American legends tell this creature existed long before the pale faces arrived on their lands. It was a bird described as one ‘that devours men’ in the Illini tongue.
An interesting theory suggests the Piasa Bird may be related to ancient Japanese dragons.
The first discovery of the Piasa Bird was reported in 1673, when French Canadian explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet sighted a painting of the creature as they navigated the river near present-day Alton, Illinois.
A representation of the legendary creature. The original cliff drawing of the bird was destroyed during the 19th century. Credit: Illinois Dept. Of Natural Resources
“As we were descending the river,” Marquette recorded later in his diary: “we saw high rocks with hideous monsters painted on them and upon which the bravest Indian dare not look. They are as large as a calf, with head and horns like a goat, their eyes are red, beard like a tiger’s and face like a man’s. Their tails are so long that they pass over their bodies, ending like a fish’s tail.
They are painted red, green and black and so well drawn that I could not believe they were drawn by the Indians and for what purpose they were drawn seems to me a mystery.”
Who Made The Paintings Of The Piasa Bird?
Measuring some 30 feet long to 12 feet high, the depictions of the Piasa Bird are the largest petroglyphs ever documented in aboriginal America. The carvings were made on the sheer face of the cliff. Native Americans said the cliff was so steep that no man could climb up to it.
Drawing in a 1678 French explorer map.
If Native Americans did not make the carving of the Piasa Bird, then who did?
The Illini Indians near what is now Alton were terrified of the bird and fired arrows and bullets whenever they passed the painting.
Researchers who spoke to Illini Indians learned that the Piasa Bird existed in this country many thousands of moons before the arrival of the pale faces. Indians from Miami said something similar. According to them, the Piasa Bird was present in America several thousand winters before the pale faces came.
The Native American dragon came to the country a very long time ago. The Illini Indians say the giant bird killed not only their animals but also people and they drove it away in prehistoric times.
In the 19th century explorers reportedly found a nearby cave filled with human bones, and sightings persist in the area of a giant bird.
Was The Piasa Bird Related To Ancient Japanese Dragons?
Nobuhiro Yoshida, Professor of languages and president of the Japan Petrograph Society compared the paintings of the Piasa Bird with depictions of ancient Japanese dragons and found some striking similarities.
Top image: Piasa Bird of Alton, Illinois. Bottom image: The Japanese dragon. Credit: Professor Nobuhiro Yoshida and Frank Joseph
According to Professor Yoshida, the Piasa Bird resembles the dragon depicted by Seikoh Kano in his painting for the ceiling of the Hachi-Rai shrine at Yukuhashi, Fukuoka Prefecture. Both the American Piasu and the Japanese dragon have talons, are winged, bearded, horned, and are multi-colored.
This may naturally be a pure coincidence, but it’s an interesting observation. However, unlike the murderous Piasa Bird, dragons were the objects of Japanese prayers and rituals, because the creatures were personifications of drought-ending thunderstorms.
As Ancient Pages wrote earlier, we encounter dragons and dragon kings in almost every ancient culture of the world. Dragons played an important role in the beliefs of our ancestors and these creatures were depicted in a variety of ways.
Dragons can be placed in two groups- East and West dragons, and they were regarded as either good or very fearsome and evil creatures.