There is a legend my people like to tell. It is based on an ancient ritual text of some sort, found in various locales around Egypt and the Near East, including Alexandria and modern-day Turkey.
It is about a person who has a dream. In this dream, the dreamer is walking beside a mythical creature over the beaches through the sands of time, reviewing scenes from his (in lesser cases, her) life, flashing in the dream sky.
In this dream narrative, the creature sometimes takes the shape of:
1). a gorgon, defined loosely as a repulsive-looking woman;
2). a shark-man, servant of the dragon of the sea; or
3). a goat hermaphrodite with wings for arms.
The troubling part of the dream narrative is that when looking back at particularly difficult times in the dreamer’s life, there might appear only one pair of footprints in the sand.
The dreamer, distraught at this realization, turns to the gorgon, shark-man or goat-bird-hermaphrodite and says, “You promised me if I followed you, that you would walk with me always, but what then is the meaning of only one pair of footprints in the sand, particularly at the most difficult times in my life?”
Depending on which version of the legend is told, the one pair of footprints at these particularly difficult and disturbing moments in the dreamer’s life supposedly means that this was when the creature was carrying the dreamer. Sometimes, on the other hand, it can also mean that this was when the dreamer was carrying the creature.
This is all fine and well, but in a few, somewhat older, badly damaged but still extant versions of the dream text, it is suggested that the dreamer at these times, in fact, eats the creature.
Scholars have long been confused about this version of the legend, and, still today, these translations are hotly debated. Nevertheless, as the dream narrative goes, after eating the gorgon, shark-man or goat, the dreamer then regurgitates the creature up for his children who, in turn, grow up to become the very creatures the dreamer once devoured.
It is not meant, probably, to be taken literally, although throughout the Near East, over the course of the last two thousand years, there have been many rumored sightings of flying goats, particularly during drunken festivals. Several Alexandria sailors throughout its long maritime history, furthermore, have been reportedly stolen—swallowed whole as if by the shark-man—from the prows of their ships. Others, especially in Turkey, or so the rumors go, have been haunted by visions of living-breathing gorgons, which supposedly walk the streets to this day. Hidden behind Muslim veils some of them may well be, perhaps, yes, but gorgons they are nonetheless.