Myth Monday: The Princess Who Cried, or The Creation of Scargo Lake (Native American Legend)

Myth Monday: The Princess Who Cried, or The Creation of Scargo Lake (Native American Legend)

By Kara Newcastle

Holy crap, I actually have time to write?!

That aside, this is a story I’ve been dying to get to ever since I found out about it at the end of this past summer. I really love the beaches in Dennis, and in order to get to my favorite ones, you have to drive past a place called Scargo Hill. At the top of said hill, there’s a big thirty-foot tall tower, built out of old cobblestones, looking like something the Templar Knights built (it’s not, though as a child I had fun pretending it was.) If you can stomach climbing up the winding metal staircase, at the top you can get a great view of the area, particularly of the freshwater Scargo Lake.

Scargo Lake has two beaches that you can visit, one of which is called “Princess Beach.” For years, I wonder why it was called that, and this past summer I decided I was going to find out. And I’m so glad I did! This is a great story, and, as happens so freakin’ often in mythology, there are many different versions of the legend. I choose the one I liked the best to share with you. (There’s only one version I found that named both her father and her lover. I was a little skeptical about the authenticity of the names, so I kept her father’s name the same but changed Scargo’s lover’s. If I find out anything, I’ll change them to the correct names.)

Scargo Lake, by Costoa, Wikimedia commons

Hundreds of years ago, the sachem Mashantam ruled over his tribe, the Nobscussett, in the woodlands not far from Cape Cod Bay. The tribe at that time was small, just about one hundred people and the most beautiful of them was the sachem’s only child, his daughter Scargo. She was flawless both in visage and character, exceedingly sweet and kind, and because she felt such duty for her people, Scargo was placed as the caretaker of the freshwater spring that provided her village with drinking water.

Eagle of Delight, from the National Museum of Denmark

Late in the spring, warriors from neighboring villages came to visit, sent by the great chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag Nation to bring words of peace. One of these warriors, a bold and dashing young hunter named Megedagik, parted from his company just long enough to visit the freshwater spring by the Nobscussett village. As he came upon the little pond, he froze in place, struck dumb by the sight of a beautiful young woman kneeling down by the spring, collecting water to bring to her father. The girl glanced up as he approached, and she smiled at his stunned expression.

“Here for a drink?” she asked.

It took the warrior a second to remember that he had a voice. “Uh … yes. Yes, I am.” He cleared his throat and thrust out his chest, hoping to regain his composure after being caught gawking at the girl. “I am Megedagik I come with my brothers to bring greetings from Great Massasoit.”

The girl’s smile grew even brighter. “Then you met my father?”

Megedagik felt his heart falter for a moment. “Your … father? The sachem Mashantam?”

“That’s the one.” The girl stood up. “I’m Scargo.”

“I’m Megedagik.”

Scargo giggled. “You said that already.”

Any other time Megedagik would have turned himself inside out over making such a flub in front of a girl as lovely as Scargo, but he found himself smiling at her sweet laugh. Forgetting all about his drink, Megedagik walked with Scargo back to her village, talking and laughing with her the entire way. By that night, the pair were smitten, and by the next day, they were hopelessly in love.

Much to the princess and the warrior’s dismay, Megedagik could only stay a short time, as he and his fellow warriors had to continue their mission. The morning that he had to leave, Megedagik wrapped the trembling Scargo in his arms and pulled her tight against him.

“I promise I’ll come back,” he whispered into her silken black hair, “and when I do, we’ll marry right away. Until then, just stay strong. I’ll send you a present soon.”

Bitter though she was at the thought of letting him go, Scargo was brave, and she held back her tears, waving goodbye to Megedagik and his men until they vanished deep into the woods. Her father Mashantam and the other villagers comforted Scargo as much as they could, for they all knew how much she loved Megedagik.

Less than a day later, two strangers arrived in Scargo’s village. People emerged from their wigwams, staring dumbstruck as the two men, puffing and muttering mightily, staggered to carry the bright orange object up to Mashantam and Scargo’s home.

Alerted by their bemused warriors, the chief, and his daughter hurried out of their house, stopping short as the two men, wheezing in exhaustion, very carefully lowered a massive pumpkin down to the ground.

Groaning, one of the strangers straightened up, planting his hands on the small of his back and flexing his spine back. “Princess Scargo,” he panted, “this is a gift for you, sent by Megedagik. He says—agh, sorry, something just popped—that as long as the fish are alive, he will be protected and come back to you soon.”

Jumping at the sound of her true love’s name, Scargo hurried forward to inspect the pumpkin—and she cried out in delight. The massive gourd had been hollowed out and filled to the brim with clear water. Swirling around inside were four gorgeously shimmering fish, the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

“I will do everything I can to keep them alive,” Princess Scargo said as her father and their people bent to watch the fish. “If they are safe, then Megedagik will be safe.”

The villagers and the sachem were all charmed by the unusual gift, and over the days many people would visit Scargo and ask her how her pretty fish fared. Scargo would answer happily that the fish were healthy and that she couldn’t wait to show Megedagik when he returned.

As the weeks passed, summer arrived, promising to be brutally hot and dry. Scargo and the villagers moved the hollowed pumpkin to the shade of the trees to protect the fish, but soon the fish grew larger, and larger, taking up more and more room in the pumpkin. Seeing that her beloved pets were uncomfortable, Scargo decided to move them to the little pond by the spring. There they thrived … for a little while.

As the summer progressed with no rain and days of intensely blazing sun, the spring began to dry up. Scargo watched in horror as the little pond began to shrink, and her dear fish began to die, one after the other, until only one was left. This one was very big, and every day that passed, there was less water for it to swim in. It would not have long.

Scargo was devastated. Try as she might, there was nothing she could do to help her pet. Overcome with grief at her loss, shame that she had not fulfilled her promise, the realization that her people were running out of water to drink, and a growing fear that Megedagik would not return, Scargo collapsed by the dying spring and sobbed. She cried for so long and for so hard, that her father Mashantam’s heart broke for her, and he called his people together.

“My friends,” the sachem said, “my daughter is weeping. Yes, she weeps for her pets, she weeps for her lover, but she also weeps for all of us. We must find more water.”

The Nobscusset all winced, all feeling sorry for the sweet girl, but not knowing how to solve the problem of lost water. When they voiced this, Mashtantam held up his hands for silence.

“I have an idea,” he said. “We will dig a lake. Our finest hunter will shoot arrows in four directions. Where the arrows land, that will be as far as the lake goes. We will all dig out the land using clam shells.”

The people were perplexed. “That seems like a good idea,” they said cautiously. “But where will we get water to fill it?”

The sachem nodded. “Scargo’s tears will fill it.”

The village immediately went to work. Their best hunter shot arrows into four directions, and everyone immediately began digging, scooping out earth with clamshells, piling it up to form the hill overlooking the lake. They fashioned the shape of the new lake in the form of a great fish, to honor the creatures that Megedagik had sent their beloved princess.

The only person who did not work was the poor Princess Scargo, who lay there, weeping. As soon as the land was carved away, Scargo’s tears poured into the lake, filling it within hours with crystal clear, fresh water. When the princess saw what her people had worked to achieve, her tears finally stopped, and they released her last fish into the water. As soon as it slid beneath the surface, the fish magically spawned, creating hundreds more just like itself.

Realizing that calamity had been averted, Scargo was at last comforted and happy again. Before that fiery summer ended, Megedagik returned and he and Scargo were married, much to the joy of her people. Together they built their home and raised their children on the shores of the lake that now bears her name—Scargo.

Like I said, there are many versions of this story. Some have Scargo herself and her friends digging out the lake, some have her just sitting at the top of Scargo Hill, with her tears pooling down at the bottom. Sometimes it’s one fish that rapidly outgrows the pumpkin, sometimes Scargo finds out that her lover was killed in battle and that’s why she cries so much. Some stories say that Scargo cried so many tears that she eventually drowned in them, and transformed into the lake fish that fed her people. Another storyteller mentioned that “Scargo” actually means “skunk,” and the lake is supposed to be in the shape of a skunk. Obviously, I chose the nicer of the many versions. (There’s also one about the giant Maushop—known as Moshop around here, based on what I found—digging out the land to build a hill for him to sit on, and when he lights his pipe, the smoke causes a thunderstorm to fill the lake. You can read a bit more about Maushop in my blog about Granny Squannit here!) There are other, modern stories about the lake, including one about the ghost of a woman with long dark hair seen crying at the water’s edge at dusk … could it be Princess Scargo?

If you’re ever in the area, stop by Scargo Lake or Scargo Hill Tower. It’s a really beautiful location—just follow all the rules, please!

Myth Monday: The Underworld (World Mythology)

October 15, 2018

By Kara Newcastle

Pretty much every culture in the world had some kind of myth about life after death. Some of these places were heavenly, some were horrifying, and some were, well, kind of boring. Here’s a selection of post-life destinations for the ancient deceased.

Ancient Greece: The realm of the dead was called Hades, named after its eponymous king, and was divided into three sections: The Elysian Fields, a paradise for heroes; the Asphodel Fields, an ordinary area for the common folk; and Tartarus, a place of creative torment for sinners and evil-doers. The souls of the dead were escorted to the Underworld by Hermes, the messenger god, who would leave them on the banks of the Styx, the River of Blood (one of seven rivers that wound through Hades.) The dead would have to pay the ferryman Charon to escort them safely to the opposite side of the Styx, where they would be sorted into their afterlives by three judges. If a soul decided that they would like to take another shot at living, they would drink from the Lethe, the River of Oblivion, forget all about their past lives and be reborn into a new body. The entrance to Hades was guarded by the giant three-headed dog Cerberus, who would drag back any soul that tried to escape and shred any living being that tried to enter. Four living men were permitted to enter (Hercules, Orpheus, Theseus, and Pirithous) but getting away wasn’t exactly easy.

Amat has been a good girl, give her a treat!

Ancient Egypt: The afterlife, called Duat or the Field of Reeds, was a paradise, but only if you could survive the journey to get there. The road to heaven was filled with hundreds of monsters and demons that would try to destroy any human souls that journeyed to the afterlife. Deceased Egyptians were buried with a Book of the Dead, a combination travel guide and spell book to help protect them from the vile creatures. Led by the jackal-headed god of mummification Anubis, the deceased would negotiate their way past all the monsters and meet the god of the dead Osiris, and Ma’at, the goddess of truth. There the soul would place their heart on one side of a scale, and Ma’at would place the Feather of Truth on the other side. If the heart was lighter than the feather, the soul was deemed worthy of paradise and permitted into Duat. If the feather outweighed the heart, Ma’at would take the heart and toss it to Amat, the crocodile-headed/lion-maned/hippo-bodied she-monster that guarded the gates to heaven (not like what you see in Moon Knight). Amat would devour the heart, and the sinful spirit would be obliterated. In addition, the snake demon of darkness Apep escaped the underworld every night to wage war with the gods on earth. The sun god Ra would turn himself into a cat and whack off Apep’s head with a knife.

Sumeria: the land of the dead, Irkalla, was ruled by Ereshikgal, a dread goddess whose upper torso was that of a beautiful living woman but her lower torso was a decaying body. She was so powerful that she was able to kill her sister Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and war (don’t worry, the gods brought her back.) The Sumerian underworld had seven gates (like the Greek underworld had seven rivers), and each gate was guarded by a huge creature called a Scorpion. The only living being known to enter the Underworld and escape was the Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh entered the underworld to seek out the spirit of the ancient king Utanpishtim, and from him learn the secret to immortality.

Dut duh duh dah dun, dut duh duh DAH dun, dut duh duh duuuuuuuun!

Vikings: Put it this way; if you were a warrior and you were annihilated on the field of battle, then lucky you! You either get chosen by the Valkyries, the warrior daughters of the king of the Viking gods Odin and taken to Valhalla to party with the king, or you get chosen by Freya, the goddess of sex and war, and go party with her—doesn’t matter what you were like in life, if you died in battle, then you got the grand prize. Anybody who wasn’t killed while fighting went to an icy cold hell beneath the earth called Niflheim, ruled by the dread goddess Hel. Like Ereshikgal, Hel looked like a beautiful, normal human woman on top but was a rotting corpse below. Her monster dog Garm guarded the gates of Niflheim.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem reanimated-in-an-underworld-city-of-walking-corpses-on-the-other-side-of-the-most-disgusting-river-in-the-universe bones …

Maya: of all the underworlds to go to, Xibalba shouldn’t be anywhere on anybody’s list. The place is nasty. Tim Burton would take one look at the place, back up, and say, “Holy shit.” How messed up is it? Well, first you have to enter a cave, then cross over a river of blood, then a river of scorpions, and then (I hope you’re not eating as you read this) a river of pus to get there. Xibalba is set up like a city inhabited by rotting corpses (though the Hero Twins’ mother was supposed to be very human-looking), with buildings such as the House of Bats, where huge bat demons would swoop down and chop off your head, which would then be taken to be used in a ball game. The inhabitants were mean, petty, vicious, and vindictive. And apparently, you could die in Xibalba … where the deceased spirits of the deceased spirits went after that I don’t know.

Everybody, meet Xolotl. He’s a good, if terrifying, doggie.

Aztec: the Aztec underworld was called Mictlan, ruled by King Mictlanecuhtli (“King of the Dead”) and Queen Mictecacihuatl (“Queen of the Dead”) and while pretty much everybody wound up there, the journey to the underworld was difficult (hey, nobody said it would ever be easy.) Escorted by the dogman-like psychopomp Xolotl, the spirit had to endure challenges such as a wind that blew knives around, and a river of blood with deadly jaguars (I don’t know if the jaguars are actually in the river of blood.) Mictlan is divided into nine parts, with areas reserved for people who died in a particular way, such as in childbirth. However, people who died in a water-related mishap were sent instead to the paradise Tlalocan, ruled by the rain god Tlaloc and his wife Chalchiuhtlicue … maybe because they felt bad about it?

Celtic: The Celtic Underworld really isn’t so much of an underworld as much as it is a mystical island paradise that lay in the West. The people of Britain believed in Avalon, the Island of Apples, ruled by the fairy Morgan and the final resting place of King Arthur. One of the many lands of the dead in Irish mythology was Magh Meall, ruled by the sea god Manannan Mac Lir (or sometimes the Fomorrian king Tethra) who kept an impressive dining hall where he provided wonderful mead and meat from his immortal pigs (they regenerated after being slaughtered.) There were thought to be about a thousand of these lands, collectively called the Blessed Isles or the Summerlands, but, unlike most of the other underworlds we’ve examined, ordinary humans could visit them, and frequently did. Unfortunately, there’s a price to pay for visiting the land of the dead; time passes differently there, and some stories claim that for every hour spent in the Blessed Isles, one day goes by in the real world.

      A famous legend from Irish mythology told of a prince named Bran, who set sail with a number of his men to visit these islands. When Bran decided it was time to head home, the spirits warned him not to set foot on human-inhabited land, or he’d die. Upon returning to Ireland, he and his crew met a group of strangely dressed people on the shore. He told him that he was Prince Bran, but the bewildered people didn’t believe him, saying that Bran and his men died over a hundred years before. One of his men, so frustrated at not being believed, jumped over the edge of the ship, and the second his foot touched the sand, he turned instantly to ash. Shocked by the death, Bran told his story to the horrified Irish, then he and his men turned their ship away and sailed back to the Blessed Isles. Interesting note: the country of Brazil was so named because, hundreds of years ago, a group of Irish traveled across the Atlantic, searching for these islands, but instead are thought to have found America (they didn’t turn to ash upon returning home, luckily.) Many years later an explorer who found this part of South America thought that this must have been the area the Irish spoke of and named it Brazil, after one of the mythical islands called Hy Bresail.

Yama king, Youdu you.

Chinese: Ever seen Big Trouble in Little China? (If not, shame on you.) Remember how Wang remarked, “The Chinese have a lot of hells”? Well, it’s true; some legends say in Diyu, the Chinese underworld, there are as few as three and as many as 12,800 “courts”, each designated to punish a soul for a particular sin, and ruled by ten fearsome judges known as the Yama kings. Diyu is so big, it actually has a capital city, called Youdu, and the realm is divided into eight cold hells, eight hot hells, and a few thousand different hells for various other sins. Every person passes through each part of Diyu for cleansing, staying there for however long the attending Yama king thinks is appropriate. Once the soul is deemed clean, it is allowed to leave Diyu and be reincarnated. Many years later, Taoism declared that there were only eighteen hells, with one Yama king who ruled over all these courts and appointed judges to each court. These hells included tortures such as being trampled by animals, freezing, having boiling liquid poured down their throats, being thrown off a cliff into a valley filled with knives, or drowning in a pool of rotten blood—for starters. The soul would be ripped apart, and then restored to relive the tortures over and over again.

A mother’s work is never done.

Japanese: In the beginning, there was the goddess Izanami and her brother-husband, Izanagi. They lived in happiness until Izanami tragically died while giving birth to the god of fire. Izanagi was devastated and determined to bring her back. He traveled underground to the cold, dark land of Yomi and called for his wife. Izanami, hidden in the darkness, called back to him that she could not follow him because she had eaten the food of the underworld and was now bound there, and then she went to sleep. Determined not to leave her, Izanagi groped through the dark until he felt the wooden comb in Izanami’s hair. Taking it, he set a flame to it to make a torch—then recoiled in revulsion when he saw what was once his beautiful wife. Izanami was now a rotting corpse! Izanagi screamed in horror, waking Izanami. Izanami was so outraged at his rejection of her that she chased after him, siccing several demon women on him as well. Izanagi managed to outrun his corpse-wife, emerging out onto the sunlit surface and quickly rolling a boulder over the entrance to Yomi. On the other side, Izanami screamed that she would kill 1,000 people a day in retaliation for his rejection. Izanagi answered by saying that he would grant life to 1,500 people in response. No matter what though, everyone, regardless of who they were in life went to the dull land of Yomi, which is neither a heaven nor hell … just kind of a holding tank for spirits.

Myth Monday: The Fox’s Killing Stone (Japanese Legend)

Myth Monday: The Fox’s Killing Stone (Japanese Legend)

By Kara Newcastle





I’ve been trying to get to this story since the news broke this past March. Maybe you heard, maybe you didn’t, but after all the bull crap we’ve been through the last three years, I think a lot of people heard this and said, “Soooo, a rock in Japan broke open and possibly freed the spirit of a fox demon into the world. Sure, at this point, why not?”

All right, lemme back up so you can get the full story here …

Throughout Asia, foxes are creatures to be feared. Yes, they are funny and mischievous and have those gorgeous tails, but they are also highly likely to become powerful, shapeshifting demons that survive on the life essence of human beings. Usually, when a fox is born, it’s just an ordinary fox, but should it live to be one hundred years old, it grows a second tail. For every hundred years it lives, it gains another tail, and with each new tail it becomes even more powerful. In Japan, these creatures were known as kitsune.

Japan has many legends of kitsune (see my blog Kuzunoha, The Fox Mother here), and while a handful are somewhat benevolent, the vast majority of them are evil to the core. These evil kitsune will go after any human, but a high ranking male official—like the emperor—is a special target. The kitsune will transform themselves into astonishingly beautiful and talented women and make their way into the royal court, becoming courtesans and ingratiating themselves to the emperor, princes and other powerful men. The men become so enraptured by their seductive new companion that they spend as much of their time with the disguised fox spirit as they can. Gradually, the men’s health begins to fade until they die to what appears to be some kind of wasting disease.

Then the kitsune moves on … if she isn’t discovered first.

This particular kitsune we’re going to talk about seems to be one of the most aggressive demons out there, as her destruction spread over three kingdoms and cost thousands of men their lives.


We don’t know what this nine-tailed kitsune called herself before arriving in Japan, but the Japanese remember her as Tamamo no Mae. Tamamo no Mae made her appearance first in China during the Shang Dynasty. There, she killed Daji, King Zhou’s concubine, and transformed herself to resemble the dead girl. The fox spirit enraptured King Zhou to the point where he started to slack off on his royal duties spent lavishly on her, going so far as to have a lake of wine made for her. The false Daji was sadistic, laughing at executions and torturing innocent people because she was “curious” about how their bodies worked. This became too much for the Chinese people, and King Zhou was disposed in a rebellion. The new king, Wu, ordered Daji executed. Some records say that Daji was indeed killed, but others say that the fox spirit escaped, fleeing to India, where she resumed her murderous ways.

Lady Kayo carrying a severed head

Safe in India, the demon took on the guise of Lady Kayo, and became the concubine to crown prince Banzoku (if these don’t sound very much like Indian names, remember that the source material for this story comes from Japan.) She influenced the prince with so much evil that he was prompted to cut the heads off a thousand men. In time, the fox was discovered, so she ran back to China sometime around 780 B.C. This same year a fierce earthquake struck Guanzhong, and Bo Yangfo, a fortune teller, predicted that this signaled the end of the Zhou dynasty.

Indian crown prince Banzoku terrorized by Lady Kayo in her fox demon form

In 779 B.C., Bao Si, said to be one of the most beautiful women in all of Chinese history, became a concubine to King You. She rapidly became the king’s favorite, and after giving birth to his son, Bofu, King You kicked out his wife, Queen Shen, and their son the crowned prince and installed Bao Si as the new queen. Bao Si often seemed unhappy, so, to entertain her, King You would order the emergency beacons lit. This caused the nobles from the surrounding states to gather their armies and rush to the capital, but, instead of putting down an uprising or repelling an invasion, they only found Bao Si there, laughing at them. King You did this so many times that the nobles began to ignore the beacons.

Bao Si

Meanwhile, Queen Shen’s father was outraged that his daughter had been shunted aside in favor of a bratty concubine, and that his grandson, the legitimate heir, lost his rightful throne to an out of wedlock child. The queen’s father raised an army and attacked the palace. King You ordered the beacons lit, but the nobles no longer believed that there was any danger, and no one came to his aide. King You and Bofu were killed, and Bao Si was given first to the army’s commander, then to Queen Shen’s father. The queen’s father paid Bao Si to leave the capital. Bao Si did, but when confronted by an attack by nomad warriors, she hung herself.

Or did she?

Well, if this legend is to be believed, no. No, she did not.

At some point between the 700s B.C. And the 1100s A.D., the kitsune kept a low profile and traveled from China to Japan. When Emperor Toba was crowned in 1108, the kitsune decided to come out of retirement and was hired by a rival warlord to assassinate Emperor Toba. The kitsune disguised herself as Tamamo no Mae, an exquisitely beautiful, highly intelligent and very refined courtesan. Toba was immediately infatuated and spent all of his free time with her.

Tamamo no Mae

It wasn’t long before the emperor became deathly ill. The court doctors were at a loss, as his symptoms didn’t resemble anything they were familiar with. Out of desperation, they brought in a sorcerer named Abe no Yasuchika to examine the dying emperor. After examining Toba, Yasuchika declared that he was not dying from disease, he was slowly being killed with magic. The sorcerer accused Tamamo no Mae of cursing Emperor Toba.

Initially, the court was shocked; how could it possibly Tamamo no Mae? She was so beautiful. How could something that beautiful be evil?


Abe no Yasuchika reveals Tamamo no Mae to be a kitsune

Abe no Yasuchika said he could prove Tamamo no Mae’s guilt. He suggested that he preform a holy ritual with Tamamo no Mae in attendance. At first, the courtesan resisted, but agreed after the court pressured her to join. Almost as soon as the ritual began, nine fox tails sprang out from under Tamamo no Mae’s kimino. Before anyone could react, the exposed kitsune leapt out a window and fled into the mountains.

Emperor Toba was devastated to learn that the woman he loved was actually a monster, but he knew that she had to be stopped before she harmed any one else. He ordered his generals Kazusa no suke and Miura no suke to take an army and hunt her down.

Miura no suke catches up with Tamamo no Mae

As anyone who has hunted foxes knows (and I hope you never have), it is damned hard to hunt the red rascals as they are so clever, and Tamamo no Mae was no exception. Kazusa and Miura tracked the kitsune all over the country, finally catching up to her on the plains of Nasu. There, Miura managed to shoot an arrow through her neck. As her body fell to the ground, either the kitsune’s spirit sprang out of the corpse and leapt into a boulder, or the body itself transformed into a rock. From then on, anyone who touched the boulder died soon afterwards. It became known as the Sessho-seki, “The Killing Stone.”

Sessho-seki (the boulder with the prayer rope around it)

Interestingly, the Sessho-seki is not the only stone of it’s kind in Japan, it’s just the most famous due to the legend. This boulder and other rocks like it are found in areas where fissures release toxic volcanic gas, so to ancient people who didn’t understand this sort of thing, it’s easy to see why they would assume it was the rock itself doing the killing. This particular Sessho-seki remained on Mount Nasu I disturbed for over a thousand years before unexpectedly (or, like I said before, given everything that was going on at the time, it’s no surprise that it happened) split apart. This wasn’t exactly great news for some of the more superstitious folk in the area, but some more level-headed people suggested it was bound to happen, as the boulder had cracks that would fill with water and then freeze.

Sessho-seki, shattered (by Miyuki_Meinaka, May 6 2002, wikimedia commons)

Then there was that earthquake near Fukushima about a week later, but don’t worry about that.

However, we might actually escape any nine-tailed fox demon wrath. There is a story that many years after the kitsune had been defeated, a Buddhist monk named Genno was traveling through the area when he paused to rest near the stone. The kitsune’s spirit hurled abuse at the holy man, but, rather than be frightened or insulted, Genno kindly asked the spirit to talk with him. Eventually, he got the kitsune to tell him her life story and admit that she was ashamed of what she had done. Sensing that the kitsune truly was repentant, Genno preformed an exorcism and the kitsune’s spirit moved on, promising to never haunt the stone again.

Maybe it’s true, and we’ll scrape by this one … but if any phenomenally beautiful women suddenly start hanging on to any world leaders and weird crap starts happening, I’m checking for fox tails.

Red fox, by US Fish & Wildlife, wikimedia commons






Myth Monday: How the Sacred Birman Cat Was Created (Burmese Legend)

Myth Monday: How the Sacred Birman Cat Was Created (Burmese Legend)

By Kara Newcastle

Birman2 by Berk wikimedia commons

In Khmer, animals were precious. Some outside the empire would look at an animal and just see an animal, but the Khmer people knew that human souls could be reincarnated into animals, where they would await their final departure into the afterlife. Each human had an animal scared to their station, and cats had the special honor of carrying the souls of priests and kings.

Sorrowfully, the Khmer empire was not always at peace. Strife from without and within could ravage the land at any time, and it was during one of these wars that the priests found themselves fleeing deep into the mountains of northern Burma. Once they were sure they were safe, the priests constructed an astonishing temple Lao-Tsun, dedicated to their gods Song Ho and his wife, the blue-eyed goddess Tsun Kyankse. There, the priests were able to worship and study in peace, caring for the one hundred temple cats and any creature or person they found in need.

Bagan,_Myanmar,_Htilominlo_Temple_2 by Vyacheslav Argenberg wikimedia commons

The chief priest was Mun-Ha, and none could compare to him in his piety, and in his devotion to Tsun Kyankse, who oversaw the reincarnation of souls. He was such a generous and kind man that the goddess blessed him with a beard of gold, so all who saw him would see how good and pure he was. Always at his side was Sinh, the cat. Sinh had eyes as yellow as the chief priest’s golden beard, and his body was covered in long, soft fur the color of earth. Sinh devotedly followed Mu-Ha everywhere he went, purring and chirping to him and no one else.

The priests and their cats lived in peace for only a short while; the horrible night came when their enemies discovered the new temple hidden in the mountains and attacked it with the rage of a thousand demons. In the chaos of the massacre, Mun-Ha was found slumped on the floor, dead. Wide-eyed Sinh was huddled beside him, at times laying back his ears and hissing at the murderers when they came too close.

Upon seeing the body of their cherished abbot, the other priests despaired; how could this have happened? They worked so hard to stay hidden, they dedicated every moment of their lives to worshipping the gods and caring for weak, doing all that was required of them, and now they were all to die? Not even the virtuous Mun-Ha had been spared!

As if sensing the priests’ anguish, Sinh suddenly stood. Looking down at his fallen master, Sinh lifted one front paw, then the other, placing each of his four feet gently down on the dead Mun-Ha’s forehead.

As the confused priests watched, a golden light seemed to burn from deep within Sinh’s chest. It flared out like a roar of flame, swirling around the cat’s body. As the light passed over him, Sinh’s fur changed from earthen brown to glowing gold. His eyes, once a burning yellow, shown with the same blue shade of the goddess Tsun Kyankse. Each of Sinh’s paws turned snow white.

Blinking his incredible blue eyes once, Sinh turned and gazed at the temple entrance.

All the priests understood immediately; they had witnessed a miracle. Mun-Ha’s soul had passed into Sinh’s body, and the goddess Tsun Kyankse was now watching over them. Knowing that they had not been forsaken, the priests rallied and fought back, driving their stunned attackers back and barricading the doors. Unable to breach the temple a second time, their enemies gave up and returned home.

For six days Sinh did not eat nor drink. He only sat before the statue of the goddess, staring at her. On the morning of the seventh day, the beautifully transformed Sinh quietly passed away, and the priests knew that Mun-Ha had passed on into paradise.

With Mun-Ha gone, the priests knew they need to select a new leader. After seven days of discussion, they came together to make the final decision. Before anyone could suggest a candidate, a pattering of hundreds of paws filled the air. The priests looked down in amazement as the 99 remaining temple cats flooded the room—and each and every one had been transformed the way Sinh had, with golden fur, blue eyes, and white paws. Seeing this as a sign from Tsun Kyankse, the priests bowed to the cats and waited quietly as the felines all trotted up to one young priest named Legoa, forming a circle around him. Thus, the new chief priest was chosen.

It was from these cats that the Sacred Cat of Burma—known as the Birman to world—was created.

Sacré_de_Birmanie_240808 by Grez wikimedia commons

Myth Monday: The Cat and The Cradle (Dutch Folklore)

Myth Monday: The Cat and The Cradle (Dutch Folklore)

By Kara Newcastle

You know the Netherlands—you’ve seen the pictures of the bright tulips, the churning windmills, the sharply peaked and tightly nestled houses along the canals. This is a bright and cheery country.

It wasn’t always that way.

There was a time when the Netherlands was pagan and wild. This was long before people tamed the land with the canals and dykes, so nature struck whenever it pleased, frequently flooding the farms and forests, drowning cattle and annihilating crops and orchards. It was one such flood that carried off a baby girl named Honig-je (Little Honey), and the cat that saved her.

Whenever her parents were away, Honig-je was kept company by a beautiful cat with luxurious long, thick fur. This cat raised her kittens alongside Honig-je, and when those kittens grew and moved on, the mother cat would dote on Honig-je like she was one of her own babies. The cat was so affectionate to the little girl that people began to call the cat Dub-belt-je, or Little Double, because she was showered twice as much love on Honig-je as she did on anyone else.

One day while the men were out hunting and the women were gathering crops, Honig-je slept soundly in her cradle with Dub-belt-je snuggled on top of her like the warmest, fluffiest blanket. For days storms had raged, swelling the rivers with rainfall until the waters swamped the banks. A horrific flood roared through the village, tearing through the longhouses there—and sweeping away the cat and the baby in the cradle.

As waves crashed over the cradle, rocking it violently from side to side, Dub-belt-je scrambled out of the sobbing Honig-je’s hands and leapt onto the roof of the cradle. Every time the cradle teetered one way and tipped another, Dub-belt-je ran in the opposite direction, using her weight to balance the floating cradle, keeping it from being overwhelmed and sunk. She continued this, keeping Honig-je safe, until the floodwaters pushed the cradle into the river, and they were swept downstream.

Some time passed before the waters calmed enough for Dub-belt-je to settle. Peeking down into the cradle to check on her beloved human baby, Dub-belt-je would then scan the shoreline, knowing that she had to get Honig-je to safety, and knowing that she couldn’t do that alone. She needed people to help.

The river carried them for miles, passing by fields and forests.  Night fell dark and heavy, the moon and stars smothered by the rainclouds, but Dub-belt-je was a cat, and she could see perfectly fine in the dark. With her incredible glowing eyes, Dub-belt-je began to notice that the land on either side of the river was becoming more developed. There were roads, and bridges and—ahead! She could see a tall, pointed thing … she knew what that was! A church steeple!

Digging her claws into the cradle, Dub-belt-je threw back her head and screamed for all she was worth. She howled and yowled and screeched as the cradle floated down the river, passing the church, houses, shops—all dark, all shuttered. All the humans were asleep!

Taking a deep breath, Dub-belt-je shrieked again, dredging up the most awful noise she could pull out of herself. As she screamed, Dub-belt-je started noticing little points of glittering lights appearing in pairs along the edge of the river, over the bridges, on the rooftops—cats! They were cats!

Nederlands: Gevelsteen op het Huis te Kinderdijk van het katje op de wieg. By RubenKoman 2010 wikimedia commons

Dub-belt-je wailed to her feline cousins, and, realizing her plight, every cat in the town began to caterwaul at the top of their lungs. The cacophony of their raspy voices rattled through every building until, at long last, a light glowed behind a shuttered window. The shutter banged open, and a young boy leaned out, scowling, rubbing his eyes as he extended a candle out into the darkness.

“What’s gotten into all of you?” he fumed. “Don’t you know that we’re trying to …”

Looking up at him, Dub-belt-je gave her most piteous cry. She felt her voice breaking, going out. She couldn’t keep this up any longer. If he didn’t see them now …

Hearing the saddest meow out of all the noise around him, the boy blinked, then squinted down into the dark river. “What is that?”

All at once, the boy’s eyes focused and he gasped in horror. Jerking his head back into his house, the boy yelled for his mother as he ran out the door. Sliding down the bank, the boy splashed into the river, wading in up to his chest, reaching out and grabbing the edge of the cradle. As he towed the cradle back to shore, Dub-belt-je sank down into a relieved heap.

By then the boy’s mother had reached the edge of the river, and she cried out in shock at the sight of the waterlogged cradle and bedraggled cat. The woman and the boy looked inside, saw the beautiful tiny Honig-je, and swiftly brought both her and her feline savior into their home. It was here that Honig-je grew into a lovely young woman, with Dub-belt-je faithfully at her side. Honig-je married the boy who saved her, named Dirck, and their son became a great healer and banisher of evil fairies. The village where Honig-je was rescued is now called Kinderdijk (the children’s dyke), and a statue of Dub-belt-je stands guard over Honig-je’s tomb in the church. Every year on December sixth, Sinter Klaas Day, Dutch children would place a new collar on the statue of the heroic cat.


Myth Monday: The Colony of Cats (Italian Fairy Tale)

Myth Monday: The Colony of Cats (Italian Fairy Tale)

By Kara Newcastle

Once upon a time, animals could talk. Not just meow or bark or oink, they could actually speak real words. Back in those days the rodents absolutely ran amok, eating every piece of food they could get their nasty little teeth on, so the townsfolk were quite willing to pay someone—human or animal—to deal with the plague. In Sicily, a colony of cats hired themselves out as effective rat catchers, were paid handsomely, and used that money to buy their own villa.

Since they weren’t exactly capable of maintaining a house, the cats employed a human servant to cook and clean for them. When a lady in town found herself in need of a job, she would announce to the world, “I will go and live with the cats,” and then head to their villa to apply for work. The cats would hire her, but the maids who worked there usually became lonely for human company—or exasperated by the cats’ exacting demands—and would not stay long. Therefore, a position was usually available.

On the other side of the town lived a widow and her two daughters. The eldest, Peppina, was pretty, but she was also arrogant and snide. Her younger sister, Lizina, was even fairer and possessed a much more pleasant personality, but she was all too frequently at the receiving end of her mother’s bad temper and her sister’s cruel remarks. Their mother resented Lizina, seeing her as a burden when they had so little money to support themselves. Peppina, jealous of Lizina since the day she was born, did everything she could to humiliate and torture her little sister. If Lizina did anything to defend herself, she was beaten, and her food was taken away and given to Peppina.

Finally, Lizina couldn’t stand another moment of torment and she shouted at her family, “I don’t know why you hate me so much, but if you want me to go, fine! I’ll go live with the cats!”

“Then get going!” her mother howled, raising the broomstick she used to beat her child and chasing the poor girl out of the house. Lizina wasted no time in running away, leaving with only the ragged clothes on her back. Bitter but resolute, the girl traversed through town and over the countryside, hardly pausing for even a moment, until she reached the cats’ home.

Just as Lizina was walking up to the gate, the front door to the villa flew open and an older woman stormed out, angrily knotting her shawl over her head and muttering a thousand curses under her breath. As she stomped by, Lizina could see a dozen bright red scratch marks up and down the woman’s face.

“Mouse cacciatore! Rat stigghiola! Lizard ravioli!” the woman screeched. “Disgusting! I’ll never cook for those cats ever again!”

Watching the woman stomp away, Lizina hesitated for a moment. Mouse cacciatore …? That didn’t sound very appetizing. And those scratches—did the cats do that?

Wondering if she had made a mistake in leaving her mother, Lizina turned to look at the house again—and jumped in surprise. At her feet sat a very pretty little gray striped cat, gazing p at Lizina curiously. Behind the cat were five more, all of different sizes and colors, each spaced out along the walkway with the last one seated just inside the door.

The little gray cat at her feet cocked its head at her. “Hello,” it said. “How can I help you?”

Remember, this was a time when animals and humans could speak to one another, so Lizina was not at all surprised by a talking cat. The girl smiled politely down at the little cat. “Hello. My name is Lizina. I came looking for work?”

The little cat’s tongue flicked out and ran over its lips. “Well! As luck would have it, Papa Gatto just fired our last cook.”

Hearing that, Lizina nervously glanced down the road at the shrinking form of the angry, clawed-up woman. “Did he …?”

“Oh, the scratches?” Chuckling, the little cat quickly licked the tip of one forepaw. “That’s only because she tried to take a broom to him when he told her to leave. You seem like a much nicer human—I don’t think you have to worry at all. Please, follow us.”

Standing up, the gray cat trotted away from Lizina, its tail high in the air. The five other cats all meowed eagerly, falling in step behind the gray cat, trailing it back into the house. Feeling a little more assured, Lizina followed the cats into the villa.

Stepping inside the grand old house, Lizina stopped short and her jaw dropped open. Everywhere inside the house—all over the floor, on the tables and chairs, running up and down the stairs, strutting along the rafters … were cats! Hundreds of cats and kittens, cats that were big and small and skinny and fat, fluffy and slender, some with smushed-in faces, some with bobbed tails or crinkly little ears. They greeted Lizina with a cacophony of meows, many of them rushing to rub their bodies across her legs, some barely acknowledging her from where they lounged, a few bolting away in fear. Looking at them all, Lizina couldn’t help but smile in delight.

Sitting up on its haunches, the little gray cat waved both of its forepaws at Lizina to get her attention. “Follow me!” it shouted over the meowing. Nodding, Lizina shuffled onward, giggling as the cats wound in and out of her legs.

Lizina followed the gray cat into the kitchen, where the first thing she noticed was a large pile of brown wool laid lumped upon a table. Lizina was just started to think about how she could spin the wool into yarn when the pile suddenly yawned enormously, showing off huge white fangs.

The little gray cat sprang up onto the table. “Papa Gatto, look at this! As soon as you told off that rotten old lady, this new girl shows up!”

“Hm?” Lifting his head, the brown cat regarded Lizina through half-lidded eyes. He yawned again, then eased himself up onto all four paws, arching his back in the mightiest stretch he could manage. Lizina couldn’t stop herself from staring at the fluffy brown tabby in shock; all the other cats were relatively cat-sized, but this one, the one they called Father Cat, he was as big as a dog!

Sitting himself down on the corner of the table, Papa Gatto swiped at his incredibly long whiskers with one paw. “Fate works in mysterious ways, I suppose. What is your name, child?”

“L-Lizina, sir.”

“Very polite. Moreso than our previous employee.” Papa Gatto scanned Lizina up and down with calculating yellow eyes. “You’re come seeking work with us, hm? You understand that while we do need a maid, we are cats, and we will be making requests that would seem unusual for a human.”

“I understand, sir.”

Papa Gatto swished his tail as he studied her. His eyes narrowed briefly as he took in her thin body, the dark bruises on her arms. “Hmmm … My dear, as part of your pay, you are welcome to live with us here. I sense that would be best for you.”

Incredible relief washed through Lizina, and she nodded eagerly. “Yes, yes please … I’d like to stay here. I’ll do anything you need me to, and I won’t complain. I’ll work hard. Just let me stay.”

“Very good.” Leaping down from the table and landing with an impressive thump!, Papa Gatto sauntered towards the open back door. “I’m going back to the barn. My family will instruct you on what we need.”

And instruct the cats did, and straightaway. Lizina found her work cut out for her at first, and she discovered that some of the cats were very particular about how things should be done around the house. Other cats insisted on following her everywhere she went, sitting close by and scrutinizing the way Lizina prepared the food, swept the floors, tended the garden, made the beds. Some of the cats were extremely playful and loved to get under Lizina’s feet, scrambling around under the sheets as she made the bed, zipping through doors as she tried to close them, attacking her ankles as she walked by with loads of laundry. Even when Lizina needed a moment to refresh herself, she would hear a chorus of pathetic meowings and see little paws groping under the door. When she went to bed, at least a dozen cats insisted on cuddling with her, though a few couldn’t resist pouncing on her feet every time she rolled over.

As difficult as it was, Lizina didn’t complain, and she didn’t scold. The dread of returning to her mother’s house kept Lizina from losing her temper, but soon she found that she actually enjoyed working with the colony. Lizina began to learn things about the cats, that their purring meant they were happy, that the way they held their tails or moved their ears showed Lizina what they were thinking. She broke up spats and rescued kittens who had gotten caught or climbed too high, and took care of the sick, and of an old tomcat with a bad paw. Once she overcame her squeamishness, Lizina made all the wonderful foods the cats loved—fish and chicken and sparrows and rabbit and lizards and mice and rats—and the cats adored her. Every now and again Papa Gatto would come down from his barn and ask the colony of cats, “Are you happy with this nice girl?” and the cats would happily yowl, “Yes, Papa Gatto, she’s the best servant we ever had!”

Lizina continued to work hard and loved every one of the cats there in the villa, but as time went on, she became lonely. She thought about her mother and sister, and, despite the way they had mistreated her, she still missed them, as they were the only human family she had. She was thinking these thoughts one day and growing tearful when Papa Gatto came down for a visit.

Seeing Lizina crying in the corner of the kitchen, Papa Gatto rushed to her side, alarmed. “What is the matter, my sweet child? Was someone here cruel to you?”

Quickly wiping her face with her apron, Lizina shook her head. “Oh, no, not at all, Papa Gatto. The cats here are so wonderful to me, but I do miss my mother and sister.”

Papa Gatto nodded sagely. “Ah, I understand. This is a problem that has afflicted many of our servants. Lizina, you shall go home to visit your family, and come back whenever you are ready to. But, before you go, I would like to give you a reward for all of your loving services to me and my family. Please, follow me down to the cellar.”

Lizina was surprised by the request; she had never gone down into the cellars before, because Papa Gatto always kept the door locked. She followed Papa Gatto to the door, waiting patiently as he produced a key from somewhere in his luxurious fur and unlocked it. Papa Gatto led her down a short flight of stairs, bringing her up to two enormous earthenware pots. At Papa Gatto’s instruction, Lizina looked into each. One was filled with oil. The other was filled with gold.

Papa Gatto smiled at Lizina. “Child, which pot shall I bathe you in?”

“Bathe? Me?” Lizina looked back at the pots, then shyly back at Papa Gatto. She was too timid to ask for the gold. “W-well … the oil jar.”

Papa Gatto chortled, expecting that answer. “No, no. You deserve better than that.” Picking the startled Lizina up in his massive paws, Papa Gatto quickly dunked the girl into the pot of gold. When Papa Gatto pulled her out and set her upon her feet, Lizina looked down at herself in astonishment; her skin glowed like the sun! She looked like a statue of pure gold.

Pleased, Papa Gatto nodded towards the cellar door. “You may go now,” he purred. “But Lizina, take care—if you hear a cock crow, you must turn towards it. If a donkey brays, you must turn away.”

Overcome with delight, Lizina kissed the happy Papa Gatto and rushed on her way home. As she approached her human family’s shack, Lizina heard a rooster crowing off to her side. Remembering Papa Gatto’s warning, Lizina turned towards it, and immediately a golden star alighted itself in her black hair. A moment later, a donkey brayed, but Lizina resolutely turned her back toward it, and continued home.

As it so happened, Lizina’s mother and sister Peppina were outside their hovel, and when they saw Lizina they both shrieked in disbelief at her appearance. They rushed to her, grabbing at her golden arms, her golden clothing, gasping in astonishment. Lizina, even though she remembered how they had treated her, was overcome with happiness and her eyes filled with tears. As she drew a handkerchief out of her apron pocket, a dozen gold coins spilled out with it. In fact, every time Lizina reached into her pocket for something, more gold coins would miraculously pour out.

With all this good fortune and new money, Lizina’s mother was more than happy to have her youngest daughter back. Peppina was happy too—really, more for the magic money Lizina spilled than for Lizina’s return. As their mother fussed over Lizina, Peppina tried to pull the gold clothes and the golden star off the girl, but they would not budge.

Lizina stayed with her mother and sister for several days, using her magic money to fix their house, and buy them food and clothes. When she had a little time to herself, Lizina would sit in the front window and do some little chore. It was one of these times that Prince Cristoforo was passing by, and his eye was caught by Lizina’s glittering gold skin. The prince was so amazed by the sight, that he went straight up to the house and insisted that he meet the golden girl. Lizina’s sweet nature delighted Prince Cristoforo even more than her golden skin and magic coins, and, after visiting her two more times, he asked her to marry him, and Lizina agreed.

Now, this was just too much for Peppina to take. Deciding that Lizina’s good luck had come from working for the colony of cats, Peppina rose early one morning and marched over to the villa. Without bothering to knock, Peppina burst straight through the front door, sending twenty terrified felines scattering in every direction.

“My name is Peppina,” the older sister announced as she let herself in, stepping on two fluff tails, causing their owners to yowl in pain. “My sister is Lizina. She worked for you before, and I want to work for you now.”

Hearing that she was Lizina’s sister sent elation through the colony of cats, as they all missed Lizina terribly. But as Peppina stood there boldly before the slit-eyed Papa Gatto, the kittens looked at one another and whispered, “She doesn’t seem anything like Lizina.”

The older cats hushed the kittens. “Let’s give her a chance and see.”

Well, the cats didn’t have to wait long; Peppina was the absolute worst servant they ever had, the utter opposite of Lizina. Peppina refused to clean anything, wouldn’t make the cats’ favorite meals, chased the inspecting cats out of the kitchen, and even whacked one young tomcat with a rolling pin as he tried to jump in through the window!

The moment Papa Gatto returned to check on his household, the colony of cats swarmed him, all crying out in fury and horror. They told him how Peppina had hurt them, shouted insults and abuse and threats, how their home was filthy and the kittens were starving.

“Please get rid of her, Papa Gatto!” the cats begged.

His fur standing on end, Papa Gatto stalked into the kitchen where he found Peppina lounging in a chair, filing her nails. She barely spared him a glance.

“Get up,” Papa Gatto snarled, “and follow me to the cellar.”

Ecstatic, Peppina leapt to her feet and hurried after the huge cat. The cellar! Lizina had told the about how the big cat had brought her down to the cellar and gave her those wonderful gifts. Now Peppina would get them too!

Leading Peppina up to the earthenware jars, Papa Gatto growled deep in his throat, swishing his tail and laying his ears back. “In which jar should I dip yo—?”

Peppina immediately pointed to the jar of gold. “That one.”

Outraged, Papa Gatto bared all his teeth. “You don’t deserve it!” he roared. Latching his claws into Peppina’s backside, he lifted her up and dunked her repeatedly into the jar of oil. When Peppina was well soaked and sputtering, Papa Gatto threw her into the ash heap, batting her around until she was thoroughly filthy from head to toe. He then chased her out of the villa, shouting, “Begone from my sight! And when you hear a donkey bray, be sure to look in its direction!”

Beside herself with fury, Peppina staggered home, screeching curses at the cats the entire way. Just as she came into sight of her mother’s house, Peppina heard their donkey braying out in the field. Remembering what the huge tomcat had told her, Peppina turned to face the donkey and—poof!—instead of a golden star upon her brow, a donkey’s tail sprouted from the middle of her forehead!

Peppina ran the rest of the way home in hysterics, and it took Lizina two hours with two cakes of soap and extremely hot water to scrub her sister clean. When they couldn’t pull the donkey tail off of Peppina’s head, their mother went insane with rage. Picking up the old broomstick, the old woman beat Lizina within an inch of her life, then picked up the poor girl and threw her down an old well.

The next morning, Prince Cristoforo arrived to take Lizina away to be wed. He barely approached the door when it flew open, and Lizina’s mother pushed a girl, well wrapped in white veils, out to the prince.

“Here is your beautiful bride, Lizina!” the old woman said breathlessly. “Yes, this is Lizina, the girl you want to marry, this is her, this is Lizina.”

Eager to see his bride’s face, Prince Cristoforo reached for the edge of the veil. The old mother squawked and rushed out, swatting the prince’s hands away. “No! What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know it’s bad luck to see the bride before you’re married?”

Not knowing how to answer that, Prince Cristoforo agreed to wait, then helped the bride and her mother into his carriage, and away they went to be married.

Regrettably for the “bride,” the carriage’s path to the cathedral brought them straight past the colony of cats. Having heard the news that Lizina would marry the prince, every single cat gathered outside on the walls, in the yard, in the trees and on the roof, to see her pass and cheer for her. One whiff of the air told the cats everything, and all together they all burst out,

“Mew, mew, mew!

Prince, look back behind you!

In the well is fair Lizina,

And you’ve got nothing but Peppina!”

Startled, the prince rounded on the cringing bride, and before the mother could do anything about it, Prince Cristoforo ripped the veil off the girl—and screeched at the sight of a donkey tail flapping around Peppina’s face.

Enraged at the deception and fearful for Lizina’s safety, Prince Cristoforo ordered the carriage to be turned around. Reaching the hovel, Prince Cristoforo shoved Peppina and her mother out of the carriage and drew his sword, threatening them with horrible fates if they didn’t bring Lizina out that instant. Lizina’s mother was so terrified of the prince’s anger that she ran to the well and pulled Lizina out.

With Lizina freed and safe, the prince took her home to his father’s palace. The next morning they were wed, and every member of the colony of cats was in attendance.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Myth Monday: Why the Cheetah is So Fast (African Bushman Mythology)

Myth Monday: Why the Cheetah is So Fast (African Bushman Mythology)

By Kara Newcastle

Cheetah Running by Malene Thyssen (

Happy International Cat Day!!

This happened a long time ago. Almost at the beginning of time, but not quite. At the beginning of time, the Creator had made the land and the sky and the water and all the animals that live in those places, so it was a little bit after all that when this happened. It’s when the Creator was figuring out what each animal is best at.

One morning, the Creator was looking at all the animals, and he began to wonder which animal was the fastest of them all; should it be Tsessebe the Antelope, or Cheetah the Big Cat? Both could run very, very fast … but which one was the fastest?


After pondering this for a while, the Creator decided that there was only one way to be absolutely sure: Cheetah and Tsessebe would run a race. They would start at the base of the great baobab tree and run across a huge plain, with the finish line being the big hill far on the other side. The Creator presented this to Tesessebe and Cheetah, and both animals quickly agreed, for they both enjoyed a challenge.

The race was set for the next morning, but as the day wore on, Cheetah began to doubt himself; he knew he was fast, but the plain the Creator had chosen was so big, and riddled with thorn bushes. As he walked through the savannah with his friend, Wild Dog, Cheetah looked down at his own paws.

“I don’t know, Wild Dog,” Cheetah sighed. “My paws aren’t tough enough to run that far. Tsessebe has those sharp hooves that can dig into the dirt. I don’t think I can compete.”

Wild Dog yipped. “No worries, bud. I have a pair of paws I can lend you, if you want. The pads are tough and the claws stick out all the time, so it’ll give you better traction on the dirt.”

Cheetah’s round ears perked up. “Really? You’d lend me your paws, Wild Dog?”

“Heck yeah! Come on over to my house and we’ll set you up.”

Wild Dog

“But … would I be cheating if I did that?”

“Cheating? Pfft. It’s more like evening the playing field. Come on over.”

Cheetah went over to Wild Dog’s hut, and, just as promised, Wild Dog lent him a set of tough padded, bare-clawed paws. After trying them on and testing them out, Cheetah thanked Wild Dog and happily trotted off back home to rest before the big race.

At sunup the next morning, both Cheetah and Tsessebe arrived promptly at the baobab tree where the Creator waited. The Creator welcomed the two competitors with a grin, and reminded them of the rules: they were each to run their fastest across the field, starting from the baobab tree and ending at the big hill. Whoever reached the hill first would be deemed the fastest of all animals.

“Remember,” the Creator said as Tsessebe and Cheetah took their places, “no cheating. I want an honest race. I expect the best out of each of you.”

“The best?” Arching an eyebrow, Tsessebe swiveled his head round to glare at Cheetah’s new paws. “What about Cheetah? Those don’t look like his normal feet. Those look like Wild Dog’s feet. Isn’t that cheating?”

Ferdinand Reuss, wikimedia commons

Cheetah winced at the Creator’s questioning gaze. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just wanted the best chance. Tsessebe has those sharp hooves and can run over anything. My old paws were too soft.”

“Hmmm …” The Creator tapped his chin as he considered Cheetah’s reasons. Glancing back at the raceway ahead of them, the Creator paused, then nodded. “Cheetah has a fair point, Tsessebe—if he were to catch a thorn in one of his real paws, he could be badly hurt and it would ruin the race. You have hard hooves that won’t feel a thing. Since I want to see your best efforts, I’ll allow it, but he’ll have to return the paws to Wild Dog afterward.”

Smiling, Tsessebe proudly shook his antlers. “No worries, sir.”

Working his new paws into the dirt, Cheetah nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

“Great.” Rubbing his palms together excitedly, the Creator took his place before the two animals. He held out his arms above his head. “Ready …?”

Drawing in a breath, Cheetah set his stance. Tsessebe snorted and pawed the earth.

The Creator snapped both his arms down. “Go!”

Tsessebe shot ahead, flying like lightning over the tall grasses. Cheetah was a heartbeat behind the antelope, his new claws digging into the earth and propelling him forward. Tsessebe was already far ahead, but Cheetah paced himself, focused on his breathing, letting himself build up speed.

Within seconds they were halfway across the plain and Cheetah was catching up to Tsessebe’s heels. The other animals who had gathered to watch cheered as Cheetah and Tsessebe reached the first of the thorn bushes, shouting warnings and encouragement.

Snorting, Tsessebe narrowly dodged the thorns, his flanks slicing to ribbons on the sharp spines. Seeing the bushes, Cheetah ducked and wove around them, his tough paw pads barely noticing the smaller, fallen thorns, but his caution cost him speed. He began to fall back more and more as the bushes grew more densely together. His heart began to fall. He was going to lose!

Seeing the hill in the distance, Tsessebe put on the speed, his long legs thundering through the brush. Panting, he swung his head around, looking for the Cheetah, finding the lithe cat fading into the dust behind him. Thrilled, Tsessebe plunged forward—

Pain flew up his leg as Tsessebe’s dainty cloven hoof came down on top of a rock hidden in the thorns and grasses. Skidding out, Tsessebe’s leg twisted gruesomely beneath him and he slammed into the earth, rolling head over tail, crying out in agony.

“Oh!” Horrified, Cheetah jammed his new paws into the dirt, sliding a distance over the grass past the fallen, wailing Tsessebe. Whipping around, Cheetah ran as fast as he could back to his rival. “Tsessebe! What happened? Are you hurt?”

“My leg!” Tsessebe gasped. “I twisted it—I think it’s broken!”

Urging the antelope to lay still, Cheetah sat beside him and comforted him until the Creator, having seen the crash, rushed to their sides. Cheetah explained what he had witnessed as the Creator examined Tsessebe’s broken leg.

As he used his powers to heal Tsessebe, the Creator looked at Cheetah curiously. “Cheetah, you could have kept running and won the race. Why did you stop?”

“Why? But, how could I keep going?” Cheetah glanced down at Tsessebe as the antelope flexed his repaired leg. “Tsessebe was hurt. I wanted to make sure he was all right.”

“You were concerned for him?”

“Yes sir.”

“And you never thought about finishing the race?”

“That wouldn’t have been fair if I did.”

Delighted, the Creator laughed and reached over, ruffling the fluff of Cheetah’s neck. “Cheetah, you are very considerate and honorable. Because of that, I’m going to award you the title of Fastest of All Animals—and I’ll let you keep Wild Dog’s feet so you always stay the fastest.”

And that’s why the Cheetah is so fast.

Mark Durmont wikimedia commons

Myth Monday: The Wendigo (Native American Mythology)

Accurate Wendigo by SpongePP, wikimedia commons

Myth Monday: The Wendigo (Native American Mythology)

By Kara Newcastle

Okay, it’s finally time to write about it, after avoiding it for a few years … recently, I saw an ad for the movie Antlers, and I was pretty sure I knew what it would be about before I saw the actual trailer.

Yup. It’s about the Wendigo, one of the evilest creatures in all of mythology, and one on a list of things that creeps me out big time. I knew I was going to have to do a deep dive sooner or later because it’s gotten to be a popular monster in media, and whenever I watch a show about the paranormal there’s always one guy that brings up the Wendigo. You know the one. The guy that watches a blurry CCTV capture of a something-or-other poking around a bunch of trash cans and proclaims, “Even though this video comes from Australia and the creature we’re watching is about the size and shape of a wombat, I can say without a doubt that it is in fact a Wendigo.”

Yeah, okay.

The Wendigo (among other spellings: Windigo, Windlgo, Witiko, Witiku, Weetigo and many more) is a cannibal monster from the mythology of the Native American tribes of the northern United States and Canada. Most of the legends we know about it come from the Algonquin-speaking tribes (i.e., Ojibway, Cree and Chippewa), and while their descriptions of it vary somewhat, they all agree that it is a giant creature with a heart of ice, that emerges in the wintertime to hunt humans, and, given the chance, possess human beings to turn them into cannibals. The Wendigo is believed by researchers to be more of a boogeyman to scare children from wandering off into the wilds, an ancestral memory of a time of starvation when people turned to cannibalism, a metaphor for greed and insatiability or even psychosis, but to many people, it’s a real entity.

The Wendigo is a manitou, which is best described as being an elemental spirit that is not as strong as a god (as with all of mythology, there are variations on this belief), and while a manitou can be either benevolent or evil, the Wendigo always falls into the later category. (The root word for “Wendigo” in Algonquin actually means “evil spirit” and “cannibal.”) The Algonquins believed that the Wendigo was created when a hunter became lost in the forest and, rather than die of starvation, he would attack and eat other humans to survive. The second he tasted human flesh, he was forever doomed to become a monster.

While the Ojibway tribe around Berens Lake, Ontario, believed that their version of the Wendigo was an amphibious, crocodile-like monster with bear or deer feet, nearly all other tribes describe the Wendigo as being anywhere from fifteen to twenty or more feet tall. It was so big it would use trees for snowshoes as it traveled through the forests, prairies, and swamps. Sometimes it was hairy, but most times it had bright white skin stretched tightly over a severely emaciated body. It had bulging eyes, and often wore deer antlers on top of its head. Because of the Wendigo’s insatiable hunger, it eats the flesh of its fingers down to the bone, and chews off its own lips. Some tales state that it had a white star emblazoned on its forehead. Its heart was made entirely of ice.

Wendigo Wintery Forest by DracoLumina17, wikimedia commons

The Wendigo would hibernate in the summer and awake to hunt in the winter, often traveling in a whirlwind or blizzard. They would lurk silently in the forest until they came upon a wandering human, then release a shriek that would paralyze their victim. Most people who are stalked by the Wendigo die of fright once they see it, though others aren’t so lucky; they’re eaten alive in their paralyzed state. If you’re ever by yourself in the woods and you feel a sudden, unusual chill go up your spine, turn around and run—a Wendigo’s nearby! (When do you go? When there’s a Wendigo!)

Wendigos tend to be solitary, but it’s not unheard of them to roam in packs, and then use the skulls of their victims to play catch or soccer (really.) However, Wendigos don’t often band together, because they’re just as likely to attack and eat each other as they are to eat a human.

Wendigos are particularly evil for their ability to turn ordinary humans into other Wendigos; they love to possess people and turn them into cannibalistic murder machines. A human can be turned into a Wendigo if they resorted to cannibalism to survive, as mentioned before, but they could also become a Wendigo if they were cursed by a shaman, if they survived a physical attack by a Wendigo (especially if they were bitten but escaped, which is rare), if they dreamed about the Wendigo, or if they invoked it in a ritual and willingly offered themselves up as an avatar.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the ritual thing; why in the hell would somebody want to become a soulless, ice-hearted cannibal beast? For power, that’s one reason. Another would be to destroy their enemies, although they’re more likely to eat their own family first before going after anybody else. Also, Wendigos were thought to be very wise and knowledgeable, so some dumbasses might want to obtain that knowledge, but thinking that they could overcome the urge to eat people. These psychos would go deep into an area where the Wendigo had been sighted, fast for several days, then offer themselves up to the Wendigo. If the Wendigo liked them, the monster would adopt the devotee as their own child. More often than not, the Wendigo would just eat them.

Skeleton by the Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington State, wikimedia commons

If a person is possessed by a Wendigo, they won’t change in size or appearance, but their skin will become cold, and they might become hairy. The biggest change comes in their personality, as they become aggressive and deranged, and develop a craving for human meat. Canadian fur trapper George Nelson wrote back in 1812 or 1813 of a case of an older man living with his daughter and son-in-law who suddenly began acting strangely. The man would stare at his daughter for long periods and say that he loved her so much he could eat her. The old man began to sleep naked outside on the woodpile, and he would only eat his meat raw. In time his condition improved, though no one could explain what had happened.

Another case Nelson recorded was of a young man who began to dream of the Wendigo. He was so worried about the dreams that he told his friends that if he ever started to act strangely, then they must kill him. His friends initially shrugged it off, but when the man began to alarm them with his behavior, they and his own brother ambushed him and shot him through the heart. To their horror, even though the bullet had gone straight through the body, the young man sat up, not spilling a drop of blood, and began to laugh maniacally. They were too late; his heart had already turned to ice. They eventually managed to overpower the man, kill him, cut his body up and burn the pieces. Every time they threw the ice-lump of his heart into the fire, it would jump back out. They eventually had to smash it with their icepicks to finally kill it.

Photo of Swift Runner, taken shortly after his arrest at Fort Saskatchewan

In 1878, possibly the most famous human Wendigo case occurred. After a harsh winter, Swift Runner, a Plains Cree member, emerged out of the forest and into civilization, grieving the loss of his wife and children (some stories include his mother and brother.) He told all who would listen that they all died from starvation, and he had to bury each one himself. This was not an unusual story for the place and time, but people were instantly suspicious; Swift Runner said that his family starved to death, but he himself looked healthy. Too healthy. Investigators went to his cabin and were horrified to find the butchered bodies of his family members. When confronted with the evidence, Swift Runner admitted that he had killed them, but said that he was starving and needed to eat. The authorities pointed out that he was only twenty-five miles away from the nearest town and could have easily gotten help. Swift Runner responded that he was under the control of a Wendigo at the time. The authorities didn’t believe him and had him executed for murder at Fort Saskatchewan.

Not every story ended like the one above. It was possible for a shaman to cure a person of the Wendigo possession if they were treated quickly (interesting side note: the Delaware tribes had their own version of the Wendigo called a Mhuwe. One legend stated that a Mhuwe was captured by the tribe and fed cooked meat, vegetables and fruits until he turned back into a human.) The best way to cure a person of possession was to find the original Wendigo, kill it, cut up the body and burn the pieces (as mentioned above.) Once the original Wendigo was dead, anyone it had afflicted would return to normal. However, it didn’t always work out that way, and it was common for possessed people to beg to be killed before they hurt anyone. Algonquins would frequently decapitate the bodies of supposed human Wendigos to keep them from returning from the grave, much like vampires. In addition, some say that a silver bullet was sufficient to kill a Wendigo (this could be a mix-up between legends, as some people tend to think of the Wendigo as a kind of werewolf, but I need more research into it.) Some legends advise feeding the afflicted pure animal fat. If the possessed person vomited ice, then the treatment was working.

One famous slayer of Wendigos was a Cree shaman named Zhauwuno-geezhigo-gaubow, better known as Jack Fiddler to the white man. He and his father were renowned for their ability to track down, identify and slay human Wendigos—including Jack’s brother Peter Flett, who resorted to cannibalism on an ill-fated trapping trip, and his brother Joseph’s daughter-in-law, who was very sick. In total, Jack Fiddler claimed he killed fourteen Wendigos, a boast which soon got him and his brother Joseph, another Wendigo hunter, arrested by the Mounties in 1907. Charged with murder, Jack Fiddler managed to escape, but he hung himself shortly afterwards. Many people, including missionaries and Hudson Bay Company fur trappers pleaded for Joseph’s release, but by the time the appeals came through, he had already been executed.

Which now brings us to the horrific events of July 30, 2008—and I’ll spare you the worst of the details because it really is stomach churning. On a full Greyhound bus from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Edmonton, Alberta, 40 year old Vincent Weiguang Li inexplicably drew a knife and attacked 22-year-old Tim McLean as he slept in the seat next to him. The bus driver stopped the bus and terrified passengers fled as Li began to cannibalize McLean. Why he chose to attack McLean on the bus isn’t certain, but Li told police that he did it because McLean was an “alien,” and that God told him to do it.

Many paranormal researchers like to jump on this case as proof of Wendigo possession, but they frequently neglect to mention that Li was a schizophrenic who worked as a newspaper carrier. A week and a half prior to the attack, the paper Toronto Sun, which Li delivered, had an article in it discussing the Wendigo. Li likely read the article and was influenced by it. Furthermore, the historian who was quoted in the original article about the Wendigo, Nathan Carlson, later stated that Li’s attack on McLean was very similar to other attacks made by people believed to be possessed by the Wendigo, which only added fuel to the cannibal monster fire. (In case you’re wondering, Li was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He changed his name and is a free man.)

So it sounds more and more like the Wendigo is really just an explanation for insane behavior, and there’s even an unofficial clinical term for people who are under the delusion that they are these cannibal monsters: Wendigo psychosis. But that doesn’t explain why that to this day people still claim to see a Wendigo, or something they assume is a Wendigo. Sightings of alleged Wendigos were made by Jesuit missionaries back in the 1600s. Early Minnesotan settlers claimed that a spate of Wendigo encounters occurred from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, and the creature came to be treated as a harbinger of death. In fact, in the town of Roseau, just 11 miles south of the Canadian border, reported that after every Wendigo sighting, someone in town would die.

Modern day cryptozoologists have speculated that the Wendigo is actually a type of particularly aggressive Bigfoot, and that legends of the Wendigo are really rooted in partly-remembered encounters between humans and Bigfoot that ended badly—for the humans. That would hold up to the descriptions of the Wendigo being tall and hairy, but most of the indigenous Canadians were pretty adamant that Wendigo and Sasquatch were two separate beings.

As for modern day depictions, the Wendigo has appeared most famous in Algernon Blackwood’s novella The Wendigo, in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, comic book hero Wolverine frequently crosses paths with the monster, appeared in the TV shows Charmed, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, and Teen Wolf, pop up in tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons, menace characters in cartoons like My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic and DuckTales (2017 version), and is no stranger to video games such as Fallout. Outside of the media, there’s Lake Windigo, a lake inside Star Island in Cass Lake, Minnesota named after the monster, where the local tribes would perform ceremonies to keep the spirit at bay. There’s also a Wendigo Lake  north of Toronto, Ontario, famed for its residential programs for troubled boys. And there’s the resort Le Village Windigo on the shores of Baskatong Lake … no, I don’t know why they chose that name just yet. Looks like a nice place though.

Lake Wendio by Paul LaRocque, wikimedia commons
Wendigo Lake

Oh, and God forbid you ever come face to face with a Wendigo, but if you do, there’s a surefire way to escape it: throw feces in its face. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, but if you lob a handful of crap at a Wendigo, it becomes confused, giving you a chance to run away. Seeing as how you likely have messed your pants upon seeing one, you’ll have enough ammo to channel your inner chimpanzee and stun the Wendigo long enough to save your life.