|How did jaguar get on this list?|
After that release, wemics appeared in 1e's MM II, and the rest is history. Bart Carroll from WotC gives D&D credit for wemics - "...the game's own varieties, including the wemic, scarrow, and 1st Edition's lamia." Wemics also seem to be part of WotC's reserved "product identity" group of monsters that includes things like beholders.
Now, like most classical students, I know darned well that the lamia existed at least a couple of millenia before D&D - and under different names, even in similar present form. So maybe wemics are worth investigating, too?
Ancient Mesopotamians are probably the true root source of this concept, and the earliest art I can find is Middle-Assyrian circa 1300 BC - back when wemics were still called urmahlullû, and had duties primarily including the safeguarding of washrooms against evil demons that wanted to... not let folks wash their hands?
Not much survives in the way of texts, except that urmahlullû opposed demons that offered "misfortune". Constipation, perhaps? Hard to say. It is also possible that historians have made a few assumptions which might not line up perfectly with 3,000 year old hand-washing beliefs.
This is simply the earliest image that includes four lion legs and two human arms - take away the human arms requirement and you have plenty of samples at the Herald's Wall of the ancient city of Carchemish.
Add wings to that creature and you've got a sphinx, and we all know how far back sphinxes go (at least into the Iron Age). The ancients loved them some lions. Figuratively. I hope.
Also, Biblical students will recognize that Daniel dreamed of lion-men, and thus Babylon is associated with such creatures.
But if Assyrians and Babylonians aren't your thing, how about a little English history? Yea, you know you like all that stuffy Commonwealth stuff.
|Nice headband. Does it come in pink?|
This is one of the arms of King Stephen of Blois, most famous for taking the English throne away from a pregnant woman named Matilda and launching a civil war known as The Anarchy. This herald strikes me like it was sort of the Justin Bieber of the 12th century - people were really sure it was cool, and it probably inspired a cult.
The more famous hybrids, Centaurs, originated in the depths of forgotten human history with a cult of the horse - and possibly the first horse riders - and was eventually recollected as mythology in greek times. It's quite possible that lion-men hybrids have similar origins. After all, lions are powerful creatures, and throughout human history they have attracted attention and admiration. Wouldn't it make sense that early humans dreamed of breeding with them? (Note: Don't google for that. Trust me.)
As for the name "wemic", that's a bit tougher. The culture of wemics was originally inspired by the Zulu, according to quotes from Mr. Sutherland.
However, "wemic" is not a validly constructed Zulu word - the phonetic structure is all wrong. Let's try somewhere else. Well, there is a Native American story about an animal-trickster named Wemicus.
Guess where Dave Sutherland, attributed creator of wemics, lived?
Chippewa County, Michigan.