Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Japanese mythology and folklore have brought us lots of fascinating supernatural beings such as Akashita, Amanojaku, the Azure Dragon, Ehon Hyaku Monogatari, The Ghost of Oyuki, Kamaitachi, Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki, Namazu, Preta, Tennin, the Vermillion Bird, and Yuki-onna among others.

Japanese culture is always rich and it just shows with all the interesting creatures that’s part of its history. They conjured beings to explain everything that’s happening around them. One such creature is Abura-Akago.

Abura-Akago or oil baby is said to be an infant spirit that steals oil out of an andon lamp. Japanese folklore describes the Abura-Akago appearing as a fireball that would float and enters a house. Then it would turn into an infant that would lap the oil content of an andon lamp. Once the oil is finished off, the Abura-Akago wold turn into a fireball and flies out again.

Andon lamps are made of paper that’s stretched over a frame that can be made out of metal, wood or bamboo. Light is made by lighting a cotton wick than’s doused with oil in a ceramic or stone holder. There would be lots of oil robbers that time and that’s how the legend of Abura-Akago is born.

One of the more famous illustrations of an Abura-Akago was one that’s made by Toriyama Sekein in his Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki or The Illustrated One Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past. It is the second book of Sekein’s Gazu Hyakki Yako series that was published around 1791. Much of the creatures featured in this series of books are taken from Japanese folklores, literature and other artworks.
Along with his illustration of the Abura-Akago, Sekein tells the story of a flying fireball that exists in the eighth town of Otsu in the Omi Province. Natives of the town say that a couple of years ago in the village of Shiga lived a person who would steal oil every night. When that person died, his soul became flame and that’s how the legend of Abura-Akago began.

There’s a related Japanese supernatural being that’s quite related to the Abura-Akago. This creature is the Abura-Sumashi or oil presser. This creature originated from the Amakusa in Kumamoto Prefecture. You might know by now that Abura means oil. Sumashi on the other hand means wring, squeeze or press.

The Abura-Sumashi is a spirit that would surprise people along the Kusazumigoe mountain pass. People from the region think that the Abura-Sumashi is the ghost of someone who stole oil. Before the advent of electricity, oil is a very valuable commodity. It is required to light and warm a house, especially during the winter season. Therefore the theft of oil, particularly from shrines and temples, can lead to punishment of reincarnation as a yokai. Modern day Abura-Sumashi are illustrated as a short creature with a straw coat over his body. His head would be potato like.

As you can see Japanese folklore is rich with creatures that are truly unique in their own ways. The Abura-Akago and the Abura-Sumashi are just two of the numerous demons, ghosts and monsters that are part of the rich culture and heritage of Japan.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Norse Mythology - Fafnir

According to Norse mythology, Fafnir was the son of the dwarf king Hreidmar. His brothers are Otr and Regin. He played a major role in the Volsunga Saga, which is the legendary epic that tells about the origin and decline of the Volsung clan. In the saga, Fafnir was a dwarf that possesses strong arms and fears no one. He is said to guard is father’s house that’s made of glittering gold and other precious gems. He is the most aggressive and strongest among the three sons of Hreidmar. This trait would play a vital part in the story regarding treasure and greed.

It is said that Fafnir, Otr and Regin are shape shifters. One day Otr changed into an otter. Loki was at that time was looking for some otter and unfortunately killed Otr without knowing who he was. Loki then went to Hreidmar’s home with Odin and Honir. Hreidmar and his sons immediately recognized the otter skin wrapped around Loki. They wanted revenge for the death of Otr.

Loki, who is known to be the most cunning among Norse gods, said that he would be willing to pay a large ransom for his sin. He said that he didn’t know it was Otr and would his best to replace Otr’s life with treasure that’s at par with the lost. All parties agreed to this and Hreidmar and his sons then held Odin and Honir hostage while Loki went and gather his payment.

Loki then went to the wizard Andvari and forced him to hand over his treasure. Andvari would hand Loki his treasure but he did manage to curse the ring Andvaranaut. Andvari personally forged this ring and thus was his personal favorite. With the curse on it, whoever owns the ring would have misfortune and doom. Also included in the treasure are the swords Ridil and Hrotti, which are quite valuable in their own right. Fearing for his own life and his fellow gods, Loki didn’t think twice about giving the treasure to Hreidmar and went straight to the home of Hreidmar. Upon receiving the treasure, Honir and Odin were released immediately.
Fafnir wanted to keep the treasure for himself, killed his father and then exiled his brother Regin. He then turned into a dragon and kept the treasure in a mountain lair. In European mythology, the dragon is the symbol for greed.

Regin wants the treasure as well so he tricked his foster son Sigurd in killing Fafnir. He achieved this by using the sword Balmung to pierce Fafnir’s heart while the dragon was walking on the way to the stream where he usually goes to drink. Although he managed to kill Fafnir, he made the mistake of taking the cursed ring. He planned on giving it to his bride to be, Brynhild.

Regin corrupted by the curse of the treasure, wanted to kill Sigurd as well. But Sigurd ate Fafnir’s heart and was warned by the birds about his foster father’s plans. Instead, Sigurd ended up killing Regin.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Filipino BloodSucker - Manananggal

The Manananggal is a supernatural creature that originates from Filipino folklore. It is also known as wakwak in some parts of the Philippines. Its Western counterpart would be the vampire because of its habit of devouring humans. Its Malay cousin is the penanggalan.

The legend of the Mananaggal is popular in the Visayas region of the country, particularly in provinces of Antique, Iloilo and Capiz. The Manananggal’s appearance would differ, depending on where and who tells the tale.

Just like the vampires, Manananggals are said to have a dislike of salt and garlic. Another Visayan supernatural creature, the aswang, also shares these characteristics. Other things that the Manananggals are said to avoid include light, vinegar, daggers, spices and sting ray tails that could be used as whips against them. Similar creatures can be found from surrounding countries’ folklores.

A Manananggal is said to be an old beautiful woman that can cut her body into two. She would then fly with her upper torso with large bat-like wings so that she could devour on pregnant women using her proboscis-like tongue. She would suck the blood of the fetus inside the womb of the unsuspecting mother.

Her weakness is her lower torso, which is just left unprotected while the Manananggal’s out hunting. When the lower half is sprinkled with salt or placed with crushed garlic, the upper torso could not rejoin with it and thus the Manananggal will die at sunrise.
The name Manananggal comes from the Filipino root word tanggal, which means to separate or to remove. The word Manananggal in Filipino means someone who can separate her upper body from her lower extremities.

The old practice of hanging cloves of garlic or onion near the window panes to ward off Manananggals are still done by some superstitious folks from the Visayas. Tabloids would usually feature them in the front page to sell their paper. No one can truly say if Manananggals exist. Some say that they’re just some kind of mass hysteria or a way to keep children off the street when nighttime comes.

As to how Manananggals reproduce or multiply is another story. There’s a story that states that a black chick in a Manananggal’s throat is the source of her power. A manananggal will not die unless the black chick is removed. They say there are two ways to do this. One is to spin the manananggal around until she vomits the black chick out. Another method is to hang the manananggal upside down and smoke the chick out her throat.

Another version of the legend states that being a Manananggal is hereditary. Then there are others that say that it is like a virus. If your food is contaminated by a Manananggal’s saliva, you have a chance to be one.

The capital of the Manananggal myth in the Philippines is the province of Capiz. Not only do Manananggals are said to live in that area but so do other supernatural beings such as goblins, ghosts, aswangs, and ghouls. There are also lots of modern day witch doctors still practicing their craft in the said province.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Samael - The Prince Of Demons

No one represented evil better than Samael. Although he could be seen as good or bad, depending on what version of the story you read. He is said to be the prince of demons. He is an accuser, destroyer and seducer. Samael is one of the archangels in Talmudic and Christian religions. According to etymologist, his name means venom of God. He is the Angel of Death, who uses poison to slay men.

There are contradicting things written about Samael. Some say that he is the incarnation of evil and is believed to be the chief of Satans or the prince of devils. That’s the reason why he is the patron saint of the sinful Roman Empire. Yet some say that he is a great prince in heaven, although his evil pursuits are more documented.

According to Judaism, Samael is the ruler of the Fifth Heaven. He is also one of the seven regents of the world is has two million angels ready to serve him. He is said to reside in the Seventh Heaven. Then the Talmud also states that Samael is the guardian angel of both Esau and Edom. According to the Sayings of Rabbi Eliezer, he is suspected of tempting Eve by taking the shape of a serpent then seduced and impregnated her with Cain. Samael is also said to be the angel who fought with Jacob and the one who held back the arm of Abraham when he was about to sacrifice his son. When he failed in his purpose, he went to Sarah and told her the news which was the reason why she committed suicide. No other biblical figure has done more evil than Samael.

Samael is also known as the severity of God. He has a hand in the downfall of angels when he led a group of angels who came down and married daughters of men. When Lilith left Adam, it is said that Samael took her as his bride. According to the Zoharistic cabala, Samael has also been linked to Na’amah, Eisheth Zenunim, and Agrat Bat Mahlat. Except for Lilith, all of those mentioned were angels of prostitution. This must be he reason why Samael is the patron saint of Empire of Rome where everyone engaged in carnal enjoyments.

Like any other biblical angel, Samael can fly like a bird. Yet he commands an army of demons that will do whatever he tells them to do. He is evil personified and is said to be equal to Satan. He is the devil that brought misfortune upon Judah and Israel. Even in the beginning, Samael began his evil ways with Adam. His archenemy is Michael, who represents everything good.

When God was about to help the Israelites out of Egypt, Samael brought accusations against them and he was the happy when Moses died. He possessed King Manasseh and brought upon the martyrdom of the Prophet Isaiah. He was victorious over Michael when God judged that the ten religious scholars during the time of Hadrian should die.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bloody Bones

The Bloody Bones comes from Ireland and is also known as Rawhead and Bloody Bones, Tommy Rawhead, or simply Rawhead. The legend of Bloody Bones has originated from Ireland but has spread throughout the United Kingdom and North America as well.

In older legends, Bloody Bones is believed to live in places near water while in the new versions of the story Bloody Bones lives beneath the sink pipes. Bloody Bones would reward the good children. Naughty children though are said to be punished by Bloody bones by taking them down the drainpipes or into a body of water and drown them. He could also turn naughty children into insignificant things that the parents might discard as thrash.

There are different versions as to how Bloody Bones looks like. There are some that describe him as crouching down like a rock covered with matted hair and with pale dull eyes. There are accounts that state that Bloody Bones looks like a gremlin with warped skin. Then some would describe him as looking like an old man or dog covered with scars and scabs all over his body. Some say Bloody Bones is a burn victim but possesses sharp teeth and claws. There are stories that describe him as a giant razorback boar with some flesh missing. Then there are stories that describe Bloody Bones as a hairy creature with bushy tail, long fangs and razor claws. And then there are some that say that Bloody Bones is a shape shifter that can take on any shape that he wishes.

The legend of Bloody Bones is still much alive today. He is featured in the Monster in My Pocket line as Monster number 68. Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex is loosely based the myth of Bloody Bones. It first came out in the Volume three of his Books of Blood and was made into a movie in 1986. Rawhead Rex is a monstrous pagan demon that’s on a murderous rampage in an Irish countryside.

Rawhead and Bloody Bones is also one of the main villains in Courtney Crumrin comics. He is the only one who survived the attacks of the heroes because he is perceived as a creature that’s immune to any curses. This version of Bloody Bones loves to slaughter and his lair would be decorated with the skulls of his victims.
Bloody Bones also appeared in Anita Blake’s novel of the same name. This version of Bloody Bones is around ten feet tall with a head that’s pulsating with blood. He is a bogeyman that punished bad children.

Other pop culture reference to Bloody Bones include a song called Rawhead and Bloody Bones by the Siouxsie and the Banshees, and in an episode of the television series Supernatural where the stars were battling a monster called Rawhead at the start of an episode.

Bloody Bones is also featured in Chris Wooding’s novel The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray where Bloody Bones would stalk his victims from the back. If that person would look at his or her back for three times then Bloody Bones would attack.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Greek Vampire - Lamia

According to Greek mythology, Lamia is a vampire that stole children to drink their blood. She is usually described as a serpent-like creature with a female head and breasts. Lamia is typically female but is sometimes referred to as a hermaphrodite or a male. The name Lamia comes from the Greek word Laimos meaning gullet.

Lamia is said to be the daughter of Poseidon and Lybie. She was the queen of Libya and Zeus fell in love with her. Hera found out about this and stole and killed all her children except for Scylla. It is still a debate on whether Hera turned her into a monster or this was due to her grief but one thing that’s certain was that Lamia became a murderer of children after that. She envied the joy of other mothers with their children so she would steal them away and eat them.

Legend had it that Hera cursed Lamia so that Lamia can’t close her eyes so that she would obsess over the images of her dead children. As an attempt to please her, Zeus gave her the ability to temporarily remove her eyes so that she can rest her vision. Plus he also gave her the gift of prophecy.

Greek mothers would scare their children with the story of Lamia. They would tell the younger ones to behave or else Lamia might go after them. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Lamia was jealous of other mothers and would eat their children.

There were a lot of interpretations of the myth. Aristophanes suggested that Lamia is a hermaphrodite with a phallus. Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana portrayed Lamia as a seductress. Apollonius said to the groom that his to be was really a lamia that was planning to eat him on their wedding night.

English poet John Keats wrote about Lamia in his 1820 piece Lamia and Other Poems. He based his Lamia on Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Keats described Lamia as one having the ability to change into a very beautiful woman. She would do so in the hopes of seducing a man into loving her.

Lamia survived the test of time is still very much alive in modern day Greek folklore. At present, Lamia is said to sloppy, glutton and stupid. The Greek proverb Lamia sweeping would mean unclean. There’s also a saying the child has been strangled by the Lamia which means that the child died of sudden causes.

Modern Greek Lamia is an ogress that lives in a remote tower or house. Her diet would include humans and can do magic. Her abode would contain magical things and would be able to know about the hero’s action even before the hero would do it. In order to succeed, the hero must use trickery, avoid her entirely or gain her favor to achieve his goal. There are some tales that tells of a Lamia’s daughter that would help the hero and would eventually fall for him.

A Lamia is one of the creatures that can be seen in the movie Pan’s Labyrinth. The movie version also has the appetite for small children and can take her eyes off their sockets.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Legends Of Croatoan

Referred to as Pamlico, the Croatoan was a race of Algonquian people who dominated the islands on the outer banks of North Carolina, south of Roanoke. The English were dedicated to establishing a permanent English presence in North America and an emissary was sent to the Croatoan nation in the hopes of generating positive relations between the two groups. However, it was still a necessity for the English Governor and his troops to return to England in search of supplies and relief effort for the sole purpose of evacuation. He left his colony behind in the hands of the Croatoan. Governor White set sail from Roanoke in August 1587. He instructed the colonist to place a cross on a tree as a sign of distress and that it was necessary for them to remove themselves from the island. This would give him an idea where the colony’s status and would aid him in locating them. What he did not know was that this was the last time he would be seeing them.

Despite wanting to return to Roanoke as soon as possible, Queen Elizabeth had sent orders to all sea worthy vessels to be used against the Spanish naval force. Governor White’s vow to return to Roanoke was not feasible till 1590. He returned only to find that the colony had already been evacuated from the location. All buildings were decrepit or in some cases, dismantled. There were no crosses as indicators of distress, let alone any other signs about there whereabouts and causes of their evacuation. All except the word “Croatoan” carved on a tree in the centre of the town square. There was no evidence of the colony being carried away by natural or unnatural forces, no signs of fight or foul play. Governor White was in a state of puzzlement.

Croatoan are described to be a race of friendly people. Governor White described them as “our friends”. He needed to find the people of Croatoan chiefly because the salvation of his colony was in their hands. Governor set out to find his Croatoan, unfortunately a coastal storm stopped him from his attempt to turn back and they were unable to continue on their quest. Twice this occurred. Disillusioned and dismayed, the Governor returned to his native Ireland. He passed away without anyone knowing. Till this day nobody knows what happened to the people of Roanoke colony.

After 50 years of disappearance, descendants of the Croatoan tribe began to appear. They spole English and had European features. They were known as Lumbee. Till this day they remain in North Carolina, dominating other parts of the region just like their ancestors. They were recognized officially as mixed tribe. The U.S government do not recognize them as an Indian nations whilst North Carolina does not recognize them as the Lumbee as true descendants of the Croatoan people. Till this day, nobody knows what happened to the Roanoke colony, though many have come to believed that the colonist came to live among the Croatoan people. But really, who knows?