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: The Mother Who Tricked a Tiger (Indian Folktale)

Myth Monday: The Mother Who Tricked a Tiger (Indian Folktale)

By Kara Newcastle

Tigers are frightening beasts, to be sure, but for the most part a tiger wouldn’t waste time on a human. Humans are too bony, too stringy—not worth the effort of hunting. Really, it’s the old tigers—the ones with brittle claws, with their teeth falling out, too stiff to run down prey, too weak to wrestle deer—that are the problem; the old tigers are the ones that hunt humans.

Still, even an old tiger is terrifying, and most humans can’t tell the difference between a old, fangless tiger and a fearsome creature in its prime just by looking at it. That’s what happened to a farmer named Kulpreet as he was working in his field one morning, guiding his plow behind his two oxen. The field lay at the edge of the dense jungle, and as Kulpreet steered the bulls away from the treeline, he glanced at the jungle, looked back to his bulls for a moment, then back to the trees—and right into the golden eyes of a snarling monster.

Seeing how close the tiger was to him, Kulpreet’s whole body locked up. Even if he could make his legs cooperate, he knew he’d never be able to outrun the tiger standing before him. He was as good as dead.

“No! No, please!” Terrified, Kulpreet dropped to his knees and threw his arms over his head. “Don’t eat me—you can’t eat me! I have a family to take care of!”

Towering over the man, the tiger snorted, its hot, damp breath ruffling Kulpreet’s hair. “Why should I care about your family? Maybe after I eat you, I’ll eat all of them!”

Disturbed by the appearance of the tiger, Kulpreet’s oxen jerked in their harnesses, one bellowing fearfully. The noise drew the tiger’s eye, and it studied the big animals thoughtfully.

After a considerable moment, the tiger swiped its rough tongue over its lips. “You’re not enough to satisfy me, human. Remove the yokes from your bulls. I will eat them instead.”

Any elation Kulpreet had at the thought that he was being spared evaporated in a heartbeat. “My bulls? You can’t do that—I need them for my plow. I can’t farm without them.”

Its fur prickling along its spine, the tiger swung its evil gaze back onto Kulpreet. “Then you suggest I eat you and your family instead?”

“Please don’t! Listen—you don’t have to eat any of us. My wife has a milk cow—it’s young and fat. I’ll give it to you if you leave us alone!”

Pahari_Cow,_Himachal_Pradesh,_India._8_Nov_2020._D35_0908_01 by ADARSHluck

The tiger arched an eyebrow. “A cow, hm? A cow does have more meat on it than your bony self does. Very well—bring the cow back here.”

Elated, Kulpreet looked up. “Thank you, Lord Tiger—”

“Don’t keep me waiting.” Settling down onto the cool, overturned earth, the tiger flicked its head towards Kulpreet’s house. “Go. Now.”

It took Kulpreet several moments for him to regain control over himself, though his legs quaked violently beneath him as he stood. He nodded rapidly, and barely had the presence of mind to untie his oxen and lead them away from the tiger as he rushed home. His mind raced as he ran into his yard, hastily tying the bulls to a post. He was early, but maybe his wife Ishani had left already doing laundry down by the stream. He could grab her cow and bring it to the tiger without her knowing—

Kulpreet’s heart shot to the pit of his stomach as he saw Ishani walking out of the house, their year-old son on her hip, a tied bundle of clothes in her free hand. She was looking down at their baby, a bright, pleased, proud, loving smile across her face. Their son looked up at her adoringly, giggling, his tiny fingers reaching up to stroke her cheek.

Seeing Ishani there like that made Kulpreet falter. She was a wonderful wife, and an incredible mother … she worked so hard, she was so devoted to him and their children …

Hearing him hurrying towards her, Ishani straightened up in surprise. “Back already? I’ve only just started my chores—”

“Where’s the cow?”

Blinking, Ishani hesitated, then waved to the house. “In back, as always. Why? What’s going on?”

Suddenly unable to meet her eyes, Kulpreet hurried to the back yard. Ishani, knowing something was wrong, dropped her laundry, cradled her baby to her and darted after Kulpreet. “Kulpreet! What is going on?”

“I need the cow,” Kulpreet said quickly, increasing his stride to get away from her. “A tiger came to me in the field. It said it would eat the oxen, but I offered it the cow instead.”

“You did what?!” Horrified, Ishani lunged forward and caught her husband’s elbow, jerking him back before he could reach her cow’s pen. “You’re going to give him my cow? How could you? How am I going to cook without butter and milk?”

Griding his teeth, Kulpreet yanked his arm out of Ishani’s grip. “And how am I supposed to grow grain without bulls to plow the field?”

“The children will starve without the cow!”

“The children will starve without the bulls! We need the bulls to plough the fields so we can grow the crops to eat!”

“The baby can’t eat bread yet!” Ishani shouted. “He needs milk! If you weren’t such a foolish coward, you’d think of a way to get out of this mess!”

Outraged by her words—and knowing that she was right—Kulpreet rounded sharply on Ishani. “Then you think of something, since you’re so smart!”

The viciousness in his tone made their son jump in fright in Ishani’s arms, and his bright eyes instantly welled with tears. Seeing the baby distressed, Ishani quickly shushed her son, stroking his head and kissing his cheek until he calmed.

Clutching the infant against her, Ishani turned back to Kulpreet, and the expression on her face was so filled with resentment that Kulpreet drew back in surprise.

Villagers_from_india_15 by Shrinivaskulkarni1388  wikimediacommons

“Fine then,” Ishani bit out, her voice shaking so badly that she could barely form the words. “If I have to think of a plan, then you’re going to be the one that follows the orders. Go back to the tiger right now and tell it that I’m coming with the cow.”

The thought of going back to the tiger without the cow made all the blood drain out of Kulpreet’s face. “But—”

“Say that the cow gave you too much trouble and it only listens to me.” Ishani spun away from Kulpreet. “Now go. I’ll be along soon.”

 Of course, Kulpreet was terrified of returning to the tiger empty-handed, but the look Ishani gave him unnerved Kulpreet even more, so he fearfully went back to the field. The tiger was still there, lying in the shade, its tail curling and snapping open impatiently.

The tiger laid its ears back as Kulpreet hesitantly approached. “I see you but not the cow you promised me,” the tiger snarled.

Gulping, Kulpreet shrank back. “It’s coming, the cow is coming, my lord, it is … my wife has to bring it, it won’t listen to me, I couldn’t make it follow.”

Its eyes blazing, the tiger hauled itself to its feet. “You promised me a cow,” it hissed. “You’ve reneged on that promise, and I am without food. Seeing as how you’re here …”

Suddenly, the tiger’s eyes narrowed, and it lifted its head, gazing out past Kulpreet at something beyond. Puzzled, Kulpreet turned to follow the tiger’s sight. He jerked back in surprise as he saw a white pony cantering across his half-finished field towards them. Astride the pony there was a man, dressed in fabulous robes and a high turban. As the man drew closer, he pulled a sword from a jeweled scabbard at his side and raised it over his head.

“Aha!” the man crowed. “Praise the gods, a tiger! I haven’t eaten any tiger meat since yesterday, and I had three then!”

Hearing those words, the tiger shrank back, its eyes wide in terror. Before the man and his pony were within ten strides, the tiger wheeled around and tore back into the jungle, disappearing into the shadows.

Astounded, Kulpreet watched the tiger flee, then spun around the face the stranger as he reined the pony to a stop. “Thank you, hunter! You have no idea what you’ve done for me—”

“Oh, stop it, Kulpreet,” the man huffed as he slid out of the saddle. “I only did what you were too afraid to do.”

“Afraid? What? Who are …?” Blinking rapidly, Kulpreet stooped down a bit to peer under the stranger’s turban. Seeing those annoyed eyes glaring back at him, the farmer nearly leapt out of his skin.

“Ishani?!” Kulpreet squawked.

Smirking, Kulpreet’s wife Ishani reached up and patted the turban back into place atop her head. She stood before Kulpreet dressed in his finest clothes, his father’s sword hanging from her belt, and their pony stomping its feet impatiently behind them.

Kulpreet’s jaw dangled. “You … you look just like a man!”

“And I acted like one too!” Ishani retorted. “You were too afraid to do anything, and I wasn’t about to let my children starve. I dressed up and thundered in here. And look—the tiger’s gone!”

As Ishani was saying this, the old tiger was indeed running for its life, running so fast and wildly that it almost trampled its lackey, a small jackal that liked to follow in the tiger’s wake to eat its scraps.

Jackal_(5216995231) by Sumeet Moghe wikimedia

Yipping in fright, the jackal dove out of the way, landing nose-first in a clump of fronds. “Lord Tiger! Where are going? Why are you running like that?”

Panting, the old tiger skidded to a stop. “Jackal, we have to run! There’s a hunter in that field over there—he says he ate three tigers yesterday, and he’s coming for me now!”

Arching a dubious eyebrow, the jackal slunk forward a pace, clinging close to the earth so it could not be seen. It reached the edge of the field and huddled down for a moment, cocking its head and listening intently as the disguised Ishani scolded her husband, and Kulpreet fumed, saying that as his wife she should have stayed home and he would have thought of something. Eventually.

Shaking its head in disbelief, the jackal scuttled backwards and trotted back to the trembling tiger. “Ah, my lord, you’ve been tricked—that’s no hunter. That’s the farmer’s wife, disguised as a man to scare you off.”

Terrified, the tiger shrank back. “No, it couldn’t be. That hunter was huge! He was going to eat me!”

The jackal rolled its eyes heavenward. “Ugh. Look, I promise you, it’s just a woman. Are you going to let a tiny human woman scare you away from our—um, I mean, your food?”

“I am not going back.”

“What if I went with you?”

The tiger bared its cracked teeth. “And then? You’d abandon me to be devoured by the hunter?”

The jackal bristled. “I will not. And if you’re that afraid, then let me tie my tail to yours. That way I can’t run away.”

The tiger found this offer to be agreeable, so it permitted the jackal to tie both their tails together, and they strode back to the field side by side. However, by walking this way neither one could fit comfortably on the path, and they wound up walking on the edges, noisily crunching through dried leaves. The sounds betrayed their approach.

At the edge of the field, just as the embarrassed Kulpreet bowed his head and began to agree that his wife was right, both he and Ishani heard the crackle of leaves and spun around. Seeing the tiger and jackal stalking towards them, Kulpreet reeled back in panic.

“Run!” he screamed. “The tiger’s back—it’ll kill us both!”

For a moment, Ishani was stunned; the tiger had run away in terror when it saw her, why would it come back? Peering closer, she saw the small shape of the jackal at the tiger’s side. Their tails were moving oddly, swishing back and forth …

Realizing what the tiger and the jackal had done, Ishani smirked and waved for her husband to calm himself. “Be quiet, will you? Let me take care of this.”


Shushing Kulpreet, Ishani drew her sword and turned to fully face the tiger and the jackal. Grinning, she raised the sword in a salute, and bellowed out in her deepest voice, “Thank you jackal! You captured the tiger for me. Once I’ve eaten all the meat, you can have its bones.”

The tiger slammed to a stop. “I knew it!” it screeched. Before the jackal had a chance to understand what was happening, the tiger whipped around and shot back into the woods, forgetting that their tails were still tied together. With a strangled yelp the jackal was yanked off all four of its paws and was sent bouncing off every rock and tree trunk in the jungle as it was dragged haplessly behind the spineless tiger.

Watching the pair fade away into the forest, Ishani lowered the sword and giggled. “Never tie your tail to a coward’s.”

Standing behind her, Kulpreet gaped. “You … you scared it away again.”

“And judging by the beating that jackal took, I don’t think it’s going to try to convince the tiger to come back a third time.” Sheathing the sword, Ishani looped her arm through her dumbstruck husband’s. “Now, you finish the field. I’m heading home—I still have laundry to do.”

Myth Monday: Vampires from Around the World (World Mythology)

October 31, 2018

By Kara Newcastle



Everybody knows about the traditional European vampire: thin, pale, red lips, piercing eyes, sleeps in a coffin, survives on blood drawn from a victim’s throat which has been punctured by a pair of fangs, blah blah blah. Fortunately, that’s not the only kind of vampire out there—there are hoards of them all over the world, each more unique (or weirder) than the last. Take a look, and keep the garlic handy!

Oh, and fair warning … some of these can be a little gross.

  1. Bakeneko (Japan): Before the arrival of Europeans, Japanese people believed in vampires, but their versions weren’t reanimated human corpses out looking for blood; typically, a Japanese vampire was an everyday, run-of-the-mill animal that had developed nefarious powers. One famous story tells of how a bakeneko (ghost cat) sought revenge for the unfair death of her owner’s son by Nabeshima Mitsushige, a local daimyo (feudal lord.) The bakeneko killed Mitsushige’s favorite concubine and then took on her appearance so that she could drain the life from him at night. After noticing how Mitsushige seemed well during the day but increasingly weak and frail after spending the night with his concubine, the daimyo’s retainer Komori Hanzaemon hid in their bedchambers one night and caught the bakeneko attacking the prince. He drew his sword and slew the blood-drinking cat vampire.

  2. Chiang-shih/jiangshi (China): The Chinese vampire is one of the more unique reanimated human bloodsuckers in mythology. Why? Because it gets around by hopping! Long ago if a person died far from their home, their grieving relatives would hire a Taoist priest to bring the body home. The priest would go to the corpse, bind its arms and legs together, then attach a magic spell to its forehead to make it stand up and hop its way home—naturally, it only moved along at night when the roads were deserted, since the sight of a corpse bouncing along a road would surely give living witnesses heart attacks. In time the myth evolved, and a chiang-shih was thought to be the reanimated  or demon-possessed body of a dead person who had not been buried properly. They grew fangs and claws and attacked people for blood—all while still hopping around. If a chiang-shih was not disposed of quickly, it would move through seven stages of evolution (sort of like the worst Pokemon imaginable), growing increasingly more mobile, more powerful, and eventually gaining the ability to fly and transform into wolves. They were almost impossible to kill at that point. Salt, garlic and iron were effective tools against a chiang-shih.

  3. Chupacabra (North and South America, Mexico, Central America, Caribbean): The most modern of all vampires, the Chupacabra (“goat sucker”) is a creature that apparently comes in two different species: the half-ape-half-reptile-kangaroo-like-usually-fairly-large-and-may-or-may-not-be-winged variety most often reported in Mexico, South and Central American and certain places in the Caribbean, or the hairless, blue-eyed dog-like creature seen (and killed and taxidermized!) in the Southwest United States. The reptilian version gained notoriety in the early 1990s, particularly in Puerto Rico, when an unexplained rash of pet and livestock killings occurred. The animals—particularly goats, hence the name—were found dead and largely intact, save that they appeared to have been completely drained of blood. Sightings of the fanged kangaroo-lizard-monkey thing quickly followed, giving rise to a new legend. More recently, similar livestock deaths in the United States, particularly Texas, have been blamed on a highly unusual-looking canine-like animal seen lurking around. The dog thing is gray, hairless, has front legs shorter than the back, weird knobs on its hind end, only two mammary glands (unlike a dog’s typical six), piercing blue eyes and long white fangs. The animal has been sighted by hundreds of witnesses, including a sheriff’s deputy who caught it on her dashboard camera. Several have been shot and killed, and the body of one that was hit and killed by a car was rescued by Dr. Phylis Canion, who had it stuffed and mounted. DNA tests suggest that it’s probably a mix of coyote and wolf, but it sure is weird looking. See it here!

  4. Langsuyar and Pontianak (Indonesia): The langsuyar is a woman died either while pregnant or during childbirth, and a Pontianak is a baby that was stillborn (though some other regions believe that pontianak is an even more vicious version of the langsuyar.) The langsuyar appears as a beautiful woman with ankle length black hair (though sometimes she can be a detached head), long claw-like nails, hands that drag down by her feet, and wearing green robes. She hunts infants and especially likes the blood of newborn boys. The langsuyar can be recognized by a hole in the base of her neck, and she can be cured of her vampirism if you cut off all of her hair and fingernails and stuff them into the hole—good luck with that. To prevent the creation of either a langsuyar or a Pontianak, the mouths of the corpses must be filled with beads to keep them from screeching, eggs must be placed under their arms and needles in their hands to keep them from flying. As recently as 2013, villagers in Kelantan, Malaysia, reported a langsuyar flying over their houses, cackling.

  5. Leanan Sidhe (Ireland): Interestingly, while most of Europe west of Romania had never heard of the blood-drinking vampire, Ireland had a wealth of tales about fairies that would feast on the blood or life energies of human beings. One such fairy vampire was the beautiful leanan sidhe, who was highly attracted to poets and artists. If a leanan sidhe found and fell in love with a poet or artist, she would act a as their muse, granting them inspiration to created fabulous works of literature or art. However, there was a cost; the poet may gain inspiration, but he would slowly wither and die as the leanan sidhe fed off of his energy. Once the victim had passed away, the leanan sidhe would move on to find new prey.

  6. Manananggal and Aswang (Philippines): Perhaps the grossest of all the vampires, the manananggal is a woman who can either detach her head from her body or her upper torso from her lower torso (depends on the story). The detached part of her body then flies through the air, trailing its intestines behind it. The manananggal loves to prey on pregnant women and, upon finding one, will perch on the roof of the woman’s house and lower its needle-like tongue down inside. The tongue pierces the woman’s stomach through her bellybutton and sucks out the heart of the baby, resulting in a stillborn child. The manananggal can be defeated if the lower part of its body is found and filled with salt or garlic, preventing the upper half from rejoining the rest of its body, and then dying in the rising sunlight. Another way to defeat the manananggal is to cut its tongue; one popular story (I might be getting it confused with another similar vampire) tells of an expectant mother who was sitting in a chair sewing, and noticed a long dark thread on her lap. Annoyed that she couldn’t find the end of it, she snipped the thread with her scissors, then jumped in fright as she heard something yelp, fall off her roof and crash into her yard. The next morning a dead manananggal was found in her yard, and was recognized as a local woman. A similar creature, called the aswang, is male, doesn’t detach any part of his body but can shapeshift into an animal, and is impervious to sunlight. It feeds on babies and small children, but would never harm anyone in its village and can actually be a good friend. They are driven off by salt, garlic and holy items and can be killed by decapitation. In the 1950s, the CIA helped to curb an uprising in the Philippines by killing a rebel soldier and staging his body to look like he had been killed by an aswang (it worked—the rebels fled the area.) An episode of Destination Truth featured a hunt for an aswang near a mosque in the Philippines.

  7. Obayifo (West Africa): Here’s a interesting vampire for you: the Dahomey and Ashanti people of West Africa believed in a creature called an obayifo, a black-magic user who was so constantly hungry that they were known to steal children to eat (hence the Ashanti word obayifo, “child-snatcher”) and not only sucked blood out of living people but also the juice out of fruits and vegetables. They appeared as ordinary human men or women, and sometimes could leave their bodies and travel as balls of light. In their human forms, they were pretty easily identified as vampires: they glowed from their armpits and anuses.

  8. Penanggalan (Malaysia): Much like the manananggal, the penanggalan is a woman who detaches her head from her body and flies around at night with her organs trailing behind her like the world’s most disgusting kite tail. How the woman becomes a penanggalan varies from story to story, though frequently she’s cited as being a woman who died in childbirth or a midwife who has made a pact with the devil. When she needs to return to her body, she soaks her entrails in vinegar to shrink them down for easier insertion (hey, I don’t make this crap up, I just report it.) The penanggalan uses her long tongue to feed on the blood of pregnant women and infants, all of whom die from a wasting disease. She can be deterred by wrapping thorny branches around windows or planting prickly pineapples beneath the stilt legs of the woman’s house, where the penanggalan will be snagged and can be hacked to death with a machete. If the body is found it can be burned or filled with crushed glass, preventing the head from rejoining. The head will then be killed by sunlight.

  9. Rakshasas (India): Most often described as being infernally beautiful women, rakshasas are blood-thirsty demons that haunt Indian cemeteries and crematoriums, and are known to follow in the wake of Kali, the goddess of destruction. Travelling by night, these fanged beasts liked to prey on pregnant women and infants, and a hero who could kill a rakshasa was a powerful warrior indeed. Like many vampires, rakshasas could be killed with fire.

  10. Red caps (Scotland): Red caps are hard to miss; they’re Scottish dwarves that tramp through the roads and fields at night, brandishing axes and halberds as they go. The second they spy a human being, the chase the hapless person, hack him to death, and then soak their caps in his blood. No, they don’t drink the blood—they just like the color of it. That’s all.

  11. Sasasabonsam (West Africa): A freaky vampire, this thing had iron teeth and hooks for toes. It would sit in tree branches that extended over a trail and dangle their legs down, waiting for someone to pass by. When a human made to mistake of crossing under their tree, the sasasabonsam would grab them with their hook toes, haul them up into the tree and drain them dry.

  12. Soucouyant/loogaroo (Caribbean, United States): A soucouyant (often known as a loogaroo in the United States) is an old, black magic-wielding hag who peels off her skin at night, hides it, transforms into a fireball and then flies through the air seeking victims. She worms her way through a gap in a person’s house and then proceed to drink their blood from their limbs. If she drinks too much, her victim will die and possibly become a soucouyant as well. Like many vampires, the soucouyant is very OCD, and if you scatter rice around your bedroom, around the outside of your home or at a crossroads, she has to stop and count every single grain; if she doesn’t complete the task before dawn, the sunlight will burn her and she’ll rush screaming back to her skin. If you should find the soucouyant’s skin, you should coat the insides with salt and put it back in its hiding place. When the soucouyant tries to put the skin back on, the salt will burn and kill her.

  13. Tlahuelpuchi (Mexico): An interesting and unusual vampire from ancient Mesoamerican myth, the tlahuelpuchi is a person, most often a woman, who is cursed to become a vampire when they reach puberty. They feed largely on the blood of infants, and if they don’t consume blood once a month they will die of starvation. Tlahuelpuchi maintain their own hunting territories apart from one another, though the are in communication with other supernatural entities and magic workers. The tlahuelpuchi hunt by leaving their legs behind in their home, transform into a turkey or a vulture, then fly in a cross pattern above the house of their intended victim as part of a ritual (north to south, then east to west.) When a tlahuelpuchi is discovered, they have to be destroyed immediately, though if a family member kills them the curse can pass on to them. Garlic, certain metals and onions can protect people against the tlahuelpuchi.

  14. Vrykolakas (Greece, Bulgaria, Slavic folklore): Ever had a hard time deciding if you want to be a vampire or a werewolf? Well, you’re in luck, because if you’re a vrykolakas, you can be both! A vrykolakas is a person who lived a sinful life, was excommunicated, ate the meat of an animal killed by a wolf or was a werewolf in life. When this person dies, they can return to life as a vampire. The vrykolakas then roams through their hometown, killing villagers, spreading disease and terrorizing their surviving family members. Burning or dismembering the body, piling rocks atop the body, decapitation and staking were effective ways at killing the vrykolakas. Like a surprising number of vampires throughout the world, vrykolakas are obsessive-compulsive, so if you spread seeds of grains of sand over the grave, the vampire is compelled to count each grain—at a rate of one grain a year, so you’ll be pretty safe.

  15. Yara-ma-yha-who (Australian Aboriginal legend): Among the weirdest of vampires, this one takes the cake: the yara-ma-yha-who is a frog-like humanoid with red hair that sits in fig trees, waiting for humans to stop by. When a human does pause at the tree, the yara-ma-yha-who drops out of the tree and attaches its fingers—each tip of which has a sucker on it—to the victim, draining them of blood. Once the human is dead, the yara-ma-yha-who swallows them whole, drinks some water, sleeps for a little while, then spits the person back out. The victim is alive, but a little shorter than before, and their skin now has a red tint. The yara-ma-yha-who does this over and over again until their victim is turned into a yara-ma-yha-who. Interesting, the yara-ma-yha-who hunts exclusively during the daytime and will only go after living prey, so if you see one coming at you, drop to the ground and play dead until sunset; once it gets dark the yara-ma-yha-who will return to its tree and you can make a run for it.

Myth Monday: Werewolves and Their Kin (World Mythology)

October 17, 2017

Kara Newcastle

Everybody has heard of a werewolf … but have you heard of a wereshark? A werejackal? How about a werebutterfly? Are any of them real? If you’re interested, take a gander at a list I put together for you—a list I had to stop at 17 creatures, because it was getting too long!

  1. Werewolf (Europe, North America): Of course, the werewolf is the most widely recognizable shapeshifter out there, with nearly every culture hosting it’s own take on what it is, how it’s made and how you kill the pesky thing, though it seems to be more at home in Europe than most anywhere else. At once point France was rife with them, Germany was famous for the number of werewolf trials and burnings it had, werewolves ran rampant in Hungary and Central Europe, England and Scotland had it’s fair share, and Ireland used to be known as “The Land of the Werewolves.” Werewolves were thought to be people who could transform completely into wolves either through a curse, some magic doings (such as smearing on an ointment, drinking a potion or wearing a magic belt), by making a deal with the Devil, or by doing something stupid, like eating meat from an animal killed by a wolf or drinking water that was collected in a wolf’s paw print. The Vikings believed that if they wore the pelt of a wolf into battle, they would be imbued with its ferocity and literally turn into wolves as they fought. (There’s also a few hundred reports of “real” werewolves, but that’s going to have to be another blog!)

  2. Jaguar (Central America): Aztec and Mayan societies worshiped the jaguar as scariest predator out there—which it was. Like the Vikings, native Central American warriors called “jaguar knights” would wear jaguar skins and jaguar-head shaped helmets to give them fierceness and strike fear into their enemies. It’s thought that the jaguar was so revered that Olmec nobility would flatten the heads and faces of their infants to try to give them a more jaguar-like appearance.

  3. Bear (Europe, North America): While no slouch in the strength and fury department, the otherwise shy bear doesn’t seem to really have any kind of were- counterpart like many other animals. Many Native American tribes view the bear as an ancestor with human qualities, and shamans were thought to be able to transform into a bear or other animal to lure them back to hunting areas after they had become scarce. The Vikings believed that wearing a bearskin shirt would intensify their strength, making them bear-like but not necessarily turning to a bear. It’s believed that the word “berserk” comes from the Norse words “bear shirts,” and a berserker was a bear shirt wearing wild man who’d kill everything in sight.

  4. Tiger (Asia): The weretiger is an especially feared creature in Asia—an already powerful, silent, huge hunter with the ability to think like a person and escape undetected? Why wouldn’t it be terrifying? Tigers typically don’t kill humans unless they’re cornered or starving, but when they do they strike with a speed and suddenness that’s almost mystical. Some areas of rural India believe that a shaman or magic worker can change himself into a tiger at will, and while he may use that ability for good, such as protecting his farm, they generally use it to terrorize people. A famous story recounts how an anonymous Englishman was determined to see a weretiger and pestered the local Khond populace until someone directed him to a man in the woods. The man was happy to demonstrate how he turned into a weretiger. He drew a circle in the earth, said an incantation—and in a flash of light, turned into a huge, roaring tiger, chasing the terrified Englishman straight up a tree. Something about the tree drove the weretiger off, and the Englishman fled back to the village. The next day he learned that an entire family, enemies of the weretiger, had been slaughtered. Wondering how it was he was spared, the Englishman described his ordeal to a mystic in the village. The mystic explained that the Englishman had unwittingly run straight to a tree that was inscribed with the name of Vishnu, their high deity. The holy tree had scared the weretiger off. Summoning his courage, the Englishman returned to the tree, and indeed found the name “Vishnu” carved into the trunk.

  5. Jackal (Africa): Jackals don’t have a very good rap in most of Africa; they’re seen as cowardly little scavengers, though they are thought to be wise and are frequently clever tricksters in tales. It’s believed that if a witch doctor needed to travel quickly by night, they would do so in the form of a jackal. Other people would tie a strip of leather around their heads to trigger the transformation.

  6. Coyote (North America): Another ancestor spirit of many Native American tribes, the coyote is also closely associated with trickery and sometimes witchcraft. A Navajo man named David Little Turtle once told how he had gone hunting one evening and saw a large coyote. As he lifted his gun to to take aim, he was shocked to hear a familiar female voice shouting at him, warning that he was about to kill a family member. To his disbelief, the coyote faced him and pulled back part of its skin, revealing the face of a female relative. She said that if he would let her live and not betray her secret, then she would perform a sing (ceremony) for him. Knowing better to refuse, David agreed, the woman performed the sing and went on her way. David kept quiet about it for many years, knowing that these witches, commonly called skinwalkers, could be extremely dangerous.

  7. Fox (North America, Europe, Asia): The Native Americans view the fox as an ancestor spirit and wise trickster, though an evil Navajo spirit called a chindi is know to possess foxes to make it carry out its work. In Europe, there are stories of people donning a fox skin belt and turning into the little creatures in order to steal chickens and lambs from their neighbors farms. One story features a schoolteacher, determined to prove to his student that the fox belt doesn’t work, is instantly changed into a fox in front of the terrified pupils. In Asia, the fox is sometimes seen as a malevolent creature, and instead of a human turning into a fox, it’s a fox turning into a human. Though these spirits often seek to do mischief and harm, some are good and want to help humans. In Japanese legend, the white werefox (kitsune) Kuzunhoa married the hero Abe no Yasuna and gave birth to his son, Abe no Seimei, who is known as something like a Japanese Merlin. (There are lots more creatures that fit into this category, but that would make the list a lot longer! Another time, ‘kay?)

  8. Cow (Ireland, North America): Lions and tigers and … cows? Apparently so. According to monk Giraldus Cambrensius, a.k.a Gerald of Wales, in his book The Werewolves of Ossary, he visited Ireland in 1185 and his cousin Maurice Fitzgerald had in his possession a “man-ox,” a strange human-cow hybrid Giraldus himself saw. He also remarked that a “man-calf” had been born near Glendalough. And in Indiana in 1780, a French trapper named Jean Vetal discovered that a stationed American soldier, one who had loudly mocked the trappers’ beliefs, had been transformed into a cow. Having recently been cured of werewolfism himself, Jean knew what to do. Chasing down the cow, Jean managed to stab it with his knife, turning it back into a slightly wounded, highly confused man.

  9. Crocodile (Africa, Asia): In Africa, the sneaky crocodile is a terrifying monster in its own right, but it becomes all the more scary when it could actually be a witch doctor in disguise, or the reincarnated form of a vengeful murder victim.

  10. Hare (England): The hare and rabbit is kind of unique; generally, you wouldn’t think of a bunny as terrifying. If you lived in England in the 13th-17th centuries, during the great witchcraft persecutions, you’d believe otherwise. Many people believed that a witch could turn herself (or himself) into a hare, sneak into another family’s barn at night, then suck all the milk out of a cow until it was dry. These hares were particularly nasty and vicious, hard to kill and more than happy to fight back for a minute and then run like hell.

  11. Butterfly (England): As with the hares mention before, people believed that a witch could turn into this beautiful fluttering insect and steal all their butter away. This might be why we call them “butterflies” today.

  12. Dog (South America): Good luck to you if you live in South America and are an unbaptized seventh child; you’re destined to turn into a weredog, locally known as a lobizon! And don’t think you’re going to spend your days running around catching Frisbees, ‘cuz you’re not. Nope, you’re going to savagely attack any person you come in contact with, ripping them to shreds. In an episode of Destination Truth (formerly Syfy, now Travel Channel), Josh Gates and his team traveled to Argentina, where the lobizon epidemic was so feared that the president himself would baptize babies to protect them from a curse. Among his interviews, Josh met a man who claimed a lobizon invaded his house. The man beat it, noosed it and dragged it outside. He gave Josh the bloodstained lasso he used, and when it was tested, the blood was found to be human.

  13. Shark (Oceania): The shark is a revered ancestor of the Hawaiian people and was worshiped as different deities. One common burial method was to submerge the dead person in the ocean, where they would eventually turn into a living shark or be devoured by sharks and have their spirits inhabit the animals. Either way, they were supposed to protect their relatives when they entered the water.

  14. Lion (Africa): It’s believed, even now in some areas, that a shaman or a chief has the ability to transform into a lion in order to attack his enemies or drive off invaders. Like weretigers, werelions look like ordinary animals but are possessed of human intelligence. From March until December 1898, the man-eating lions of Tsavo, called the Ghost and the Darkness, killed a reputed 135 railway workmen and were so skilled at evading capture that many tribesmen believed that they had to be chieftains in lion form, there to stop the work on the railroad cutting through their lands. In modern times, it was common for warlords to capture mentally handicapped children, dress them in lion skins and torture them, making them deranged and violent, and then setting them loose on their enemies.

  15. Leopard (Africa): Possibly more feared than the werelion, the leopard carried a cult-like status well into the 20th century. Renowned for its ability to remain completely silent and unseen until it struck, wereleopards terrified people, who believed the things were completely evil. A Leopard Man cult flourished in the 1940s, with followers dressing themselves in leopard skins and attacking with hooked iron claws resembling gardening rakes, shredding their enemies and chosen victims. Many believed that they were supernaturally empowered until a few well-placed police bullets brought some of the members down.

  16. Hyena (Africa): Already hated by many people, the werehyena was especially sinister. It would stand just out of sight in the dark near its victim’s house, mimicking the voices of those the people knows. The victim, thinking perhaps that a friend is in trouble, would leave their home to investigate and be immediately pounced on by a giggling hyena, killed and dragged off, never to be seen again. The Ethiopians believed that all blacksmiths were really wizards who could change themselves into hyenas and were called bouda.

  17. Cat (Europe): Good old Europe and its witch-phobia … they made damned sure that women wouldn’t be the only ones to suffer during the Burning Times. Cats, frequently seen accompanying women who were accused of witchcraft, were maligned as diabolical servants (called familiars) or as the witches themselves in disguise. Many people believed that a witch could turn into a cat nine times (that’s most likely where the superstition comes from—and 9 was considered the perfect number to many pagan communities, being three equal groups of three, so it was just used to brand witches as heretics—in case you’re wondering) and in that form do great harm to the community, such as spoiling milk and sickening livestock and people, among other things. Thousands of cats were burned alive, and all the misogynistic religious dumbasses rejoiced … until the Black Plague hit. See, the Black Plague was caused by a bacteria that bred in rats and was transmitted by their fleas jumping off and biting people. Where there was a lack of cats, there was an excess of rats and their bubonic-plague-toting fleas. Makes spoiled milk seem like not such a big deal anymore.



Tiger: (Sultan or T72) By Dibyendu Ash 

Butterfly: By Charlesjsharp

Hyena: By Ion Tichy

Lilith the Black Cat:By The original uploader was DrL

Main picture from The Book of Werewolves

All photos obtained through Wikimedia Commons