Malicious Myths: The Penanggalan

Penanggalanpic1Brace yourself, because this might be one of the most stomach churning segments of Malicious Myths we’ve ever done (quite literally). The Pennanggalan, also known as Hantu Penanggal, is a variation of the vampire myth that originates from Malaysia and is connected to a wider constellation of Southeast Asian horrors, from the Manananggal of Filipino folklore and the Leyak of Bali to the Krasue of Thailand and the Cambodian Ap.

So, if you’re planning on backpacking in Southeast Asia, make sure to double-check that your travel insurance covers “supernatural encounters”. “Penanggal” or “Penanggalan” in Malay literally means “to detach” or “to remove” and can be perhaps explained by the Penanggalan’s nasty habit of launching its head off of its body.

Unlike other vampiric creatures, Penanggalan are exclusively female and are able to masquerade as normal human beings during the daytime, transforming into their hideous counterparts only at night. They tend to prey upon pregnant women and new-born babies, which is why they often opt for professions as midwives. After all, sucking the blood out of helpless victims might sate your hunger, but it won’t pay the bills. By day, the Penanggalan largely goes about its business and cannot be distinguished from a normal woman.

At night, however, it twists its head off of its body and flies out into the night in search of blood. Like some awful harbinger of birth, the Penanggalan perches on the roofs of houses where women are in labour and lies in wait. As the woman gives birth, the Penanggalan will wriggle its invisible tongue into the house and begin draining the blood of the new mother. In some instances, it may even eat the placenta, drain the blood of the new-born, and feast on the flesh of its victims as well.

While the Penanggalan rarely drains its victims entirely, those who have been fed on by the Penanggalan will contract a wasting disease that is almost inescapably fatal. As if squeezing another human being out of your body wasn’t bad enough, now you have to contend with a blood-sucking pile of organs hanging outside your window. To add insult to injury, even if you escape the Penanggalan’s invisible tongue, you will still develop incurable open sores if you happen to be unlucky enough to be brushed by its hanging entrails.

d47f55dd94807ff8e691cf9ad8cdc603According to most folk legends, the Penanggalan flies through the air in search of food, although alternative accounts state that they can pass through walls and can even ooze up through the cracks in the floorboards of a house in order to get to their victims. In some instances, they are depicted as being able to use their intestines like tentacles and entangle their victims in a mushy web.

The organised Penanggalan will always keep a vat of vinegar in their house, as otherwise it would be impossible for her to return to her body. After a night of floating-head shenanigans, the Penanggalan will return home to immerse her entrails in this vat of vinegar so that they shrink and can fit easily into the empty husk of body she left behind. That being said, we don’t recommend preparing a vinegar bath for those days when you’re planning on struggling into your skinny jeans.

If you happen to be going into labour in Malaysia, the best way to protect against a Penanggalan attack is to scatter thorny leaves on the roof or loop them around windows. It is believed that this sharp shrubbery will trap or injure the Penanggalan’s dangling viscera as it flies by. In some cases, families will even plant pineapple trees under their houses months before the birth of a child, as traditional Malay houses are built on stilts and the prickly fruit will supposedly deter the Penanggalan from squishing its way through the floorboards. As an extra precaution, the pregnant woman will keep a pair of scissors or betel nut cutters under her pillow, as the Penanggalan is deathly afraid of these items. In short, the Penanggalan likes its betel nuts uncut and its draping entrails firmly intact.

Once an unsuspecting Penanggalan is ensnared on foliage or entangled in a forest of pineapple trees, it can be easily dispatched using machetes. An alternative way to kill the Penanggalan is to first find out where she lives. While they may appear like normal women during the daytime, there are a few key traits that will give the Penanggalan away. They will usually avoid making eye contact, will lick their lips hungrily when performing their midwife duties, and will perpetually stink of vinegar.

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The key is to follow your foul-smelling friend back to their house, wait until nightfall, and then casually break into their home. If your suspect is in fact a Penanggalan, then she should have left her headless body behind as she flew out into the night to feed. All you need to do is fill the empty body with pieces of broken glass and, when the unknowing Penanggalan attempts to reattach herself to her body, her internal organs will be severed. Denying a Penanggalan re-entry into her host body before sunrise or sanctifying the body by cremation will also result in her death.

If you need to prove your friend is a Penanggalan to win a bet, however, then you should simply flip the body upside down. According to the rich tapestry of Malaysian folklore, the Penanggalan is intelligent enough to lead a complicated double life, but not quite smart enough to recognise the front of her own body, so flipping her body will mean she inevitably attaches herself backwards. When she emerges from her house the next day, her head will be facing backwards and she’ll probably die of embarrassment due to how frankly ridiculous she looks.

Appearance

Penanggalanpic2During the day, the Penanggalan appears like a normal human woman. At night, however, this gruesome ghoul detaches its head and flies around of its own accord. As it flies, its internal organs dangle below it and are said to twinkle like fireflies as it glides through the moonlit night. Its long, tangled hair fans around it as it flies and its glowing red eyes pierce the darkness.

While the Penanggalan predominantly uses its invisible tongue to drain its prey, it is often depicted as having fangs. The number of fangs varies from region to region, with some describing it as having two, like the Western vampire, and others stating that the average Penanggalan is adorned with a mouthful of fangs.

Origins

minasako_himiju_by_broken_orange-d4s0lnvAccording to traditional Malaysian folklore, a Penanggalan is created when an old or young woman uses black magic in order to obtain everlasting beauty. The woman will typically make a pact with a demon and, as part of this pact, it is stipulated that the woman must not eat meat for 40 days. Apparently these women weren’t great at reading the fine print on their contracts, because breaking this pact results in them becoming a bloodthirsty Penanggalan.

This may seem like an insane lack of self-control on the part of the woman, but imagine going without bacon for over a month and we’re sure you’d crack too. In some instances, the woman either died during childbirth and transformed into a Penanggalan or was subjected to a powerful curse that was outside of her control, although this is far less common.

There is alternative Malaysian folktale that states the original Penanggalan was once a beautiful priestess. One day, this priestess was taking a ritual bath in a tub that originally held vinegar. As she bathed herself and entered into a state of deep meditation, a man entered the room without warning and startled her. Out of shock, she jerked her head up so quickly to look at him that the sheer force severed her head from her body and eviscerated her in the process, which is often known in Malaysia as the “overreaction of the century”.

Enraged by the peeping tom, the priestess flew after him and left her empty body behind her in the tub. In this version of the legend, it’s not entirely clear why the Penanggalan went on to target pregnant women and new-borns, although to be honest we’re willing to question the sanity of a woman who thought tearing her own head off was an appropriate response to anything.

Another more plausible version of this legend states that the original Penanggalan was an ugly young woman who had become consumed by bitterness at her single status and was feverishly jealous of all married women. Her unchecked rage eventually resulted in a murderous rampage, during which she murdered many innocent pregnant women. As punishment for her heinous crime, the people of her village hung her head from a tall tree and tied her legs to a bull.

When the bull charged, her body was torn away and her severed head was left dangling from the tree with all of the internal organs still intact. While the people of the village celebrated their triumph over evil, they were less than pleased when they discovered that the severed head had gone missing later that night and that they had unwittingly unleashed a hellish demon on their small settlement.

Modern-Day Usage

The Penanggalan may not be as well-known as its other vampiric counterparts, but there are a few choice references to our floating foe:

  • There are numerous horror films that feature the Penanggalan, including Penanggal: The Curse of the Malayan Vampire (2013), Mystics in Bali (1981), The Witch with Flying Head (1982, also known as Witches with Flying Heads or Fei Tou Mo Nu), The Resurrection of Angel Eyes (1988), and Mystery of the Merry Widow (1991).

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    The exceptional poster for The Witch with Flying Head
  • In the comic Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others, the titular Hellboy travels to Malaysia in 1958 and comes upon a village that is without a Bomoh shaman. In the Bomoh shaman’s absence, the village has fallen victim to a Penanggalan.
  • In the 2016 comic Cry Havoc, the character of Sri reveals that she is a Penanggalan.
  • The graphic novel Okko: The Cycle of Water features two Penanggalan as its main villains.
  • The short manga comic “Head Prolapse Elegy” by Shintaro Kago is centred around a Penanggalan.
  • The Penanggalan is set to appear as an enemy in the upcoming action RPG Indivisible.
  • Penanggalan feature as enemies in the living card game Legend of the Five Rings.
  • In the SCP series, it is heavily implied that SCP-1060 is a Penanggalan.
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Malicious Myths: The Penanggalan

Malicious Myths: The Bunyip

We’re heading Down Under for our latest instalment of Malicious Myths and delving into the murky history behind a mythical creature from Indigenous Australian folklore known as the Bunyip. Don’t let its adorable name fool you. After all, Australia has a long and noble history of giving ridiculously cute names to incredibly dangerous things, such as the dugite, a type of venomous snake whose bite can be lethal; the bluey, a slang term for the floating sacks of death that are the Portuguese Man o’ War; and the gympie gympie plant, whose sting is so painful that it drives people to suicide. In a country where even the plants are capable of waging psychological warfare and everything appears ergonomically designed to reduce the human population, you have to do something pretty special to stand out. So, if the Bunyip is capable of striking fear into the heart of a hardened Australian, you know it’s serious.

3124398The Bunyip is an amphibious lake monster that is said to inhabit swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, waterholes, and even household wells. It lays in wait at night for unsuspecting prey to pass by its territory and will happily devour any animal or person, although it has a particular fondness for the flesh of women and children. In other words, you may be the first one on the list to get a lifeboat, but you’re also top of the menu for the Bunyip. When the Bunyip approaches a hapless victim, it lets off a series of haunting howls to warn them of their imminent doom before swooping in for the kill. This is perhaps why the Bunyip is often less than successful in its ambush attempts, since announcing your presence to your prey is generally considered bad practice among apex predators. According to certain legends, the Bunyip is said to be very aggressive, very hairy, and has supernatural powers. Kind of like your mother-in-law, only not quite as terrifying.

When Europeans arrived in Australia, they took accusations of the Bunyip very seriously and early European settlers regarded them as just another strange animal to add to the roster. When you’re confronted with tiny creatures that poop out cubes (just Google “wombat poop”) or spiders the size of a household clock, you start to radically adjust your perception of “normal”. Some historians believe that, during the 19th century, these European settlers actually infused the indigenous Bunyip lore with that of the Irish Púca, a shape-shifting spirit found in Celtic folklore. In true colonial fashion, these settlers took it upon themselves to culturally appropriate even the unsavoury elements of Indigenous Australian mythology.

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Credit: Ben Ward

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Bunyip sightings became widespread throughout Australia and, in July 1845, the first written use of the word “bunyip” was made in a newspaper known as The Geelong Advertiser, which proudly announced that a collection of fossils found near Geelong belonged to a deceased Bunyip. From then on, the people of Australia were gripped by Bunyip fever. In January 1846, a peculiar skull found by the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales was declared to be that of a Bunyip and was put on display in the Australian Museum for two entire days before mysteriously disappearing. The fact that this skull had already been identified as that of a deformed foal or calf by several experts apparently mattered to no one.

People flocked to the museum in droves to see the skull and finally speak out about their own personal experiences of the Bunyip, resulting in the formation of support groups like Bunyip’s Anonymous. Okay, so that last part might be a lie, but for a long time people truly believed that the Bunyip was real. In March of the same year, three men set out on a boat to capture a Bunyip that had been sighted sunning itself opposite the Custom House in Melbourne, only to discover with profound disappointment that it was actually just a large Platypus. Fast forward to the 1950s and the term “Bunyip” had largely lost its sting, being instead used as an Australian slang term to mean “imposter” or “humbug”. While the obsession with the Bunyip may have died down over the years, one thing has remained unchanged: if you go to Australia, something is gonna try to kill you at some point.

Appearance

Bunyippic1In spite of its tendency to warn its victims of its impending approach, the Bunyip leaves relatively few survivors, so descriptions of this mysterious creature vary widely and are largely quite piecemeal in nature. Writings by George French Angus indicate that, according to the Moorundi people of the Murray River, the Bunyip looked just like an enormous starfish, although this is by far the most unusual description. Most accounts list a number of common features of the Bunyip, including a canine face, a crocodile-like head, large glowing eyes, jet-black fur, an equine tail, and flippers or thick legs.

In some instances, it also boasted tusks like a walrus and a bill similar to that of a duck, with scales or feathers covering its body instead of fur. In many ways, the Bunyip can be perceived as uniting the characteristics of the emu and the crocodile, two of the most formidable animals that are native to the Australian outback. But emus are harmless, we hear you cry! They eviscerate people. Seriously. Look it up. We weren’t kidding. Everything in Australia will try to kill you, even the koalas.

When in the water, the Bunyip is said to swim like a frog, but chooses to stand on its hind legs and walk erect when on land, towering in at about 12 to 13 feet in height. In fact, some accounts state that the Bunyip was so colossal in size that it could easily pull trees out by their roots and carry one in each arm. While its paws are furnished with long claws, its preferred method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. Because nothing quite compares to the soft caress of a Bunyip as you slowly suffocate.

Origins

The word “bunyip” is thought to have originated from the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Indigenous Australians living in southeastern Australia, although the legend of the Bunyip appears to be widespread among Indigenous Australian communities throughout the country. It roughly translates to mean “devil” or “evil spirit”, because apparently the name “hugging beast” was already taken.

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Who wouldn’t want a hug from such a majestic beast?

In 1933, the geographer and author Charles Fenner posited that Bunyips were actually just sightings of Australian fur seals, which were known to make their way up rivers and could often be found very far inland. After all, these seals have smooth fur, prominent eyes, and they are known to bellow loudly when trapped inland. Plus everyone knows seals subsist off a diet of fish and human children. The howl of the Bunyip has also been attributed to a bird known as the shy Australasian bittern or “Bunyip bird”, which emits a low-pitched booming sound during mating season. It might be shy, but it wants you to know when it’s horny.

Another theory suggests that the legend of the Bunyip evolved from the cultural memory of extinct Australian marsupials like the DiprotodonZygomaturusNototherium, or Palorchestes. Since Zygomaturus was quite difficult for people to pronounce, they opted for the far more accessible “Bunyip” instead. In-keeping with this theory, it is possible that the Indigenous Australians could have come across fossils of prehistoric creatures such as the Procoptodon, a gigantic kangaroo, and that may be how the legend of the Bunyip was born. Honestly, we’re not sure what’s more terrifying: a crocodile-emu hybrid with magical powers; or a 7-foot-tall kangaroo. Remind us never to go to Australia.

Modern-Day Usage

While the Bunyip might seem like a relatively obscure mythical creature, it has remained a staple part of popular culture in Australia for many years and can be found in media throughout the world. Here are just a few references to this cuddly child-eating critter:

  • The National Library of Australia continues to sponsor a traveling exhibition on the Bunyip and several Bunyip-related folk-tales can be found on the Australian government’s website. There was even an official set of four postage stamps that was issued with different artist renderings of the Bunyip.
  • The “Bunyip Aristocracy” was a derogatory term coined in 1853, which was used to lambast the attempts of certain individuals to establish an aristocracy in the Australian colonies.
  • A variety of names throughout Australia contain the word “Bunyip”, such as the Bunyip River, the town of Bunyip in Victoria, and a now disbanded Christian community in Clifton Hill that was delightfully named the House of the Gentle Bunyip.
  • Several children’s books contain references to the Bunyip, including The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek and The Ballad of the Blue Lake Bunyip. Hopefully they left out the part about it loving the taste of child flesh.
  • A number of novels also include Bunyips, such as Naomi Novik’s Tongue of Serpents and C. Robert Cargill’s Queen of the Dark Things.
  • During the 1950s, a horrifying puppet known as Bertie the Bunyip appeared as a
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    By far the most terrifying of them all: Bertie the Bunyip

    popular character on the children’s TV show Philadelphia.

  • In the video game Chrono Cross, the Bunyip is a boss monster that guards the Black Crystal in Another World’s Fort Dragonia.
  • The video game Final Fantasy X features enemy creatures known as Bunyips, which appear on the Djose Highroad.
  • The Bunyip is a character in the video game RuneScape and, as an homage to its origins, it speaks with a thick Australian accent.
  • Bunyips are portrayed as mystical and peaceful elders who inhabit a world known as “The Dreaming” in the video game series Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.

 

 

Malicious Myths: The Bunyip

Malicious Myths: The Nian (年兽)

To most people, the beginning of a New Year promises a fresh start; a chance to right the wrongs of the previous year (of which there are, undoubtedly, many) and become the person you’ve always dreamed of being, albeit after you’ve gotten over that horrific hangover. But it’s important to remember that not all New Year’s celebrations are full of such hope. The Chinese may not celebrate New Year at the same time as us, but that’s not the only thing that sets them apart.

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Every year, when winter ravages the land and there is nothing left to eat, a terrifying beast rises up out of the sea and prowls the Chinese countryside in search of prey. It terrorises villages, kills livestock, razes farmer’s crops, feasts on the villagers themselves, and has a horrifying preference for child meat. After all, nothing goes down smoother than a ten-year old vintage. And by “ten-year old vintage” we mean your son. This ferocious beast travels from village to village, leaving destruction and devastation in its wake. Its Chinese name of “Nian Shou” (年兽) literally means “The Year Beast”, and its presence has become synonymous with that of the New Year itself. So, while the rest of the world is popping bottles of champagne and drunkenly regaling their friends with their 2015 woes, the people of China are huddled up in their homes waiting to be devoured. Or are they?

It turns out that the Chinese preference for the colour red isn’t just a tribute to their Communist leaders (or should we say overlords). This love of all things scarlet dates back thousands of years, to when the Nian first began raiding the villagers’ pantries for long grain rice and supple young boys. In spite of its enormous size and brute strength, the Nian is deathly afraid of three things: loud noises, bright lights, and anything red. It might look like a fearsome lion, but it’s really more of a scaredy-cat.

legend_nian2Thus during the New Year or Spring Festival period, Chinese people make more noise and create more commotion than a busload of preteens at a One Direction concert. They beat drums, set off fireworks, burn firecrackers in the street, and (from personal experience) do everything in their power to assault your eardrums on an almost hourly basis. Seriously, it’s a small wonder that the entire population hasn’t gone deaf by now. At night, paper lanterns are crafted, lit, and paraded through the streets, while red decorations and couplets of auspicious sayings are hung from the doorways of houses. People will often stay up late or even all night long on New Year’s Eve simply to ward off any sneaky demons lurking nearby.

The tradition of the Nian has become so ingrained in the culture that, rather than a cheery “Happy New Year”, people will greet one another with the phrase “Guo Nian” (过年), which means “the passing of Nian” or “surviving the Nian”. And we thought New Year’s Resolutions were bad. So you may have to start a diet and give up smoking, but at least you didn’t ring in the New Year by congratulating yourself on not being eaten.

Appearance

nianDepictions of the Nian vary depending on which part of China you’re in, but generally speaking it is immense in size and has a jaw so wide that it can scoop up several people in a single go. Remember that time you ate a whole can of Pringles and then cried bitterly about what a fat waste of space you had become? Well imagine doing that with a can full of small children, and that’s how the Nian rolls. It is often portrayed with a single horn or several large horns on its head, which it uses to skewer youngsters before toasting them over a fire like fleshy marshmallows.

In some instances it is said to have the powerful body of an ox and the head of a lion, but in other cases it appears as a half-dragon half-unicorn hybrid. The former usually depicts it with a snub-nose or relatively flat-face, while the latter portrays it with a much longer snout. In any case, it has large sharp teeth capable of tearing through even the strongest of children’s clothes. That is, until Matalan finally brings out their “flesh-eating monster friendly” range.

Origins

The story of the Nian dates back thousands of years, to a period that the Chinese refer to as “Shang Gu” (上古) or “the Ancient Times”. Long before the human race had achieved such heights of civilisation as the shotgun and the indoor toilet (both of which are still very hard to find in China), farmers were being terrorised by the ravenous Nian. It was supposedly so formidable that even other demons and beasts dared not get on its bad side, for fear that it would straight up murder them and feast on their tasty organs. At one point, to prove it was the baddest of the bad, it even killed every wild beast in the mountains and drove several species to extinction just to win a bet. Move over Chuck Norris, we got a serious badass over here.

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If I fits, I sits

On the run-up to New Year, villagers from across China would flee into the mountains and hide from the creature. That was until one year, when the people of Peach Blossom Village were preparing for their annual fleeing. As Hallmark always says, nothing brings a family together quite like fleeing for your life. Suddenly an old beggar entered the village, his hair a silvery white and his eyes a bright blue. Everyone was too busy making preparations to pay him any mind, but an elderly woman approached him and gave him some food.

She beseeched him to follow them into the mountains, as the Nian was fast approaching and would surely devour him if he stayed. The beggar promised that he could drive the monster away and would do so on one condition: the elderly lady must let him stay in her home for one night. But it wasn’t kinky geriatric sex that was on his mind. In spite of the woman’s entreaties, the beggar would not be moved and she was forced to head up into the mountains alone.

9753b31f15dd7a88d4f2e91b0add00baNight fell and the dreaded Nian dashed into the village, searching for a couple of kidlets to whet its appetite. It was furious to find that the village had been abandoned, but soon noticed that the candles in the old lady’s house were still lit. Approaching with caution, it was horrified when it saw a piece of red paper stuck to the door. Loud sounds like thunder began emanating from the house and the beast was paralysed by fear. At that moment, the beggar burst out of the house wearing a red robe and, with its enormous tail between its legs, the Nian bolted into the darkness.

The next day, the villagers returned and were amazed to find that their homes, livestock, and grain stores were still intact. The beggar was gone, but inside the elderly woman’s house they found the remnants of his nightly activities: a few candles, some used firecrackers, and reams of red paper. They realised that the beggar was actually a celestial being who had been sent to teach them how to ward off the Nian. Overjoyed at the prospect of a casualty-free New Year, they all dressed up, set about preparing a huge banquet, and then travelled to nearby villages in order to inform others of the incident.

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Rawr

From that day onwards, during the New Year period, people would stick red paper couplets to their doors, keep their homes well-lit, set off firecrackers, and violate all fire-safety laws known to man. The next day would be spent visiting friends and relatives to congratulate them on having survived the night and not blown themselves up. Seriously, it’s a miracle so few people end up blowing their hands off.

Modern-day Usage

Wherever there are knock-off martial arts games or TV shows, there will always be the Nian. After all, cultural appropriation is totally okay so long as you keep it factual, right? Right?! With that said, here are a few modern-day references to our leonine leviathan:

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  • A Chinese animated comedy film called Mr. Nian (年兽大作战) follows the story of a hapless and bumbling Nian.
  • There is a two-headed canine beast in the online game World of Warcraft called a Nian. During an annual event called The Lunar Festival, a boss version of this monster appears called Omen.
  • In the online role-playing game Guild Wars, the Nian is part of an event called the Canthan New Year Celebration.
  • There is a monster in the mobile strategy game Game of War called the Nian Lion whose appearance is clearly based on the Nian.
  • Nian or “The Year Beast” features as an event boss as part of the New Bloom Festival in the online video game DOTA 2.
  • In the video game World of Kung-Fu, the Nian features as a mount.
  • In the online game Perfect World: International, there are creatures known as Nienbeasts that are available as mounts and were visually based on the Nian.
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Ride ’em Cowboy
  • The Nian makes an appearance in an episode of the animated sitcom Three Delivery entitled “Night of the Nian”.
  • There is a television series called Spirit Warriors which feature Nian as characters, although they are portrayed as humanoid rather than bestial.
  • In 2013, McDonald’s launched this amazing advert where a man refuses to give his hamburger to the Nian.

 

 

Malicious Myths: The Nian (年兽)

Malicious Myths: Jólakötturinn

yulecatIf you’re not a cat person, then prepare to have your feline fears suitably justified. For Christmas is coming, and the horrifying Jólakötturinn or Yule Cat is on the prowl. This monstrous creature, a staple of Icelandic folklore, stalks the snowy countryside and searches out those who haven’t received new clothes on Christmas Eve. Anyone who has not had the fashionable wherewithal to update their winter wardrobe will be devoured by this malicious mog. Yes, you heard me, devoured. Or, as the Icelanders would euphemistically call it, to be “claimed by the Christmas cat”.

So, if you ever find yourself lacking in fresh wintry apparel on Christmas Eve and hear a pitiful meowing at your door, you know exactly who’s waiting for you on the other side. But how does the cantankerous kitty know if you’ve received any new clothes, I hear you cry? Well, he patrols your homes and peers into your windows, of course. He’s the cute, cuddly peeping Tom-cat who has a passion for frolicking in the snow and the fresh taste of human blood.

Yet you can’t entirely blame him; after all, it’s in his nature. Jólakötturinn heralds from a wide pantheon of celebrated child-eaters. He is the house pet of Grýla, a horrifying ogress who loves nothing more than her mischievous sons, the Yule Lads, and the sweet, sweet taste of baby meat. While the thirteen Yule Lads wreak havoc on the thirteen days leading up to Christmas, Grýla and Jólakötturinn are busy gorging on plate after plate of baby back ribs. In some versions of the tale, the Yule Cat eats the food of those who haven’t received new clothes, rather than eating them. So, instead of preying on those too poor to afford new threads, it simply eats the only square meal they’ll probably have that year. Nice.

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Chilling with some of the Yule Lads

Stories of this ferocious feline were considered so terrifying that, at one point, it was illegal to use them to scare children. However, the allure of child abuse proved too strong and the ban was soon lifted. The stories themselves served as an incentive to maintain a good work ethic, as working hard was the only way to guarantee you would get new clothes for Christmas. In short, the moral of the story was: work hard for material gain or slack off and get eaten by a giant cat.

And it seems this tactic has worked rather well, since the people of Iceland put in more overtime than any other European nation. They may have traded in the loom for a modern computer, but their productivity doesn’t appear to have waned. Even to this day, people still consider receiving new clothes before Christmas to be of paramount importance. Honestly, we couldn’t think of a more stylish way to avoid being eaten alive.

Appearance

108251763_33547_originalTo all intents and purposes, Jólakötturinn looks just like a normal cat. Aside from the fact that he’s monstrously huge, has whiskers as sharp as needles, giant eyes that glow like beacons, and razor sharp claws the size of an average snowmobile. He is often depicted as looking emaciated, since it seems the good ol’ Icelanders rarely forget to update their wardrobe and he’s probably gone several years without a decent meal. He has a particularly strong, large tail, which allows him to leap great distances and pounce on his “oh-so-passé” prey. The jury is still out as to whether large balls of twine, toy mice, or lazer pointers have any effect on this furry foe.

Origins

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These pants are so last year!

The origins of Jólakötturinn are shrouded in mystery and, although he is believed to date back to the Dark Ages, written records of his mythos didn’t appear until the nineteenth century. Historians posit that he may be connected to several other mythical animals associated with the Yuletide season such as the Yule Goat, a pagan deity who was charged primarily with watching people closely and making sure their Yule preparations were done correctly. After all, Christ was born in a barn, so it seems only fitting that farm animals should be sent to do his bidding.

Yet the most likely explanation for his conception was as a simple yet effective threat. Farmers created the horrifying figure of the Yule Cat to encourage their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. Any worker who was seen to be diligent and hardworking was rewarded with new clothes, while those who were lazy and idle were given nothing and risked becoming the kitty’s next meal. What better way to get your employees to reach their quota than risk of feline dismemberment.

tumblr_nlwnt1ylqg1u8cvvto1_500Unfortunately, this doesn’t account for those who were too poor or unlucky to receive new clothing during the Christmas season. While it seemed these ill-fated souls were doomed to spend the rest of their days jostling for space in a cat’s stomach, this dilemma opens up a whole new meaning behind the myth. People were not only encouraged to be assiduous during the run-up to Christmas, but were simultaneously urged to help those less fortunate. Like Dobby and the fabled sock, families would give clothes to the needy and destitute so that everyone could enjoy a carnage-free Christmas.

Modern-day Usage

References to our terrorist tabby are few and far-between. In fact, they’re so rare that we could only manage to dredge up two:

  • The Yule Cat mythos was popularised by Icelandic poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum in his poem Jólakötturinn. It was this literary work that promoted the idea of giving to the needy, as evidenced in the lines:  “You may have it now in your mind/to help, when it’s needed./Maybe there still are children/that receive nothing at all”.
  • Iceland’s very own mental patient Björk wrote a song called “Jólakötturinn”, which was based on Kötlum’s poem and even uses some of the lines as lyrics.
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Please lemme eat ya

 

 

 

Malicious Myths: Jólakötturinn

Malicious Myths: The Were-Hyena

Were-hyenas are a type of therianthrope, which is an incredibly nerdy way of saying someone who can shapeshift into an animal or human-animal hybrid. Unsurprisingly the animal of choice in this instance is a hyena and, still less surprising, the myth originates from North Africa, where hyenas are as common as disgruntled Englishmen on the London Underground. Yet don’t immediately dismiss the were-hyena as simply the African equivalent of our beloved werewolf; they’re far more complex than that.

While werewolves are solely human at heart, were-hyenas begin life either as humans who can transform into hyenas or, rather bizarrely, as hyenas that can disguise themselves as humans. Unlike werewolves, were-hyenas can go both ways, making them the proverbial bisexuals of the therianthrope community. Essentially being a were-hyena is a two way street, with horror at both ends. They can be solitary but are also known to hunt in packs, because apparently being imbued with bestial strength and an insatiable appetite for human flesh isn’t terrifying enough. They have been known to call out people’s names at night to taunt them and lure them away from safety, singling them out before eventually devouring them. So next time you hear your mom calling you from down the stairs, you might want to consider taking a baseball bat with you, just in case.

It was believed that magicians and witches were able to transform into these creatures at will but another, rather odd, African superstition placed the blame of were-hyena attacks almost solely at the blacksmiths door, as it was thought that blacksmiths were particularly prone to becoming were-hyenas. This was taken to the extreme in Ethiopia, where people genuinely believed that all blacksmiths were witches or wizards known as bouda who could transform into hyenas at will. Ethiopian Christians typically accused Ethiopian Jews of being bouda, spreading rumours that they unearthed Christian corpses and consumed them. Since Jewish men in Ethiopia were also, rather conveniently, often blacksmiths, it is commonly thought that one belief arose from the other.

Since, in all cases, were-hyenas could control their own transformation, they could theoretically appear at any time, but preferred to change under the shadow of night. When not stalking prey, they are known to engage in all sorts of distasteful activities, including grave-robbing, cannibalism, pillaging, and making horse shoes (they are blacksmiths after all).

In the Kunari language of the former Bornu Empire, which once occupied much of the territory around Lake Chad, they were referred to as bultungin or literally “I change myself into a hyena”. This inevitably led to a lot of pronoun confusion, as people were never quite sure whether they were being accused of being a were-hyena or whether their friend was in fact just confiding in them about being a were-hyena themselves. It was traditionally believed that a handful of villages in the region, such as Kabultiloa, were occupied entirely by these creatures, which would probably explain the low house prices.

Evidently they don’t like wearing pants

Yet the were-hyenas grip extends even further, deep into Sudan, Tanzania, and Morocco, where some of the Berber people regard them as men or women who change into hyenas at night and resume their human form at dawn. As far as Persia there were rumours of a creature known as a kaftar, a monstrous “half-man half-hyena” that loved to slaughter children. And in Greece, right up until the 19th century, people believed that the ghosts of werewolves that weren’t destroyed properly would haunt battlefields as vampiric hyenas and drink the blood of dying soldiers. In short, ancient people thought hyenas were kind of…well…jerks.

Another potential version of the were-hyena was a creature called a hyena man, who had two mouths so that it could talk and eat at the same time. Any person who had tasted human flesh could be transformed into a hyena man by a magician, so keep an eye on all of your cannibal friends. They were said to have a preference for living near graveyards and eating the flesh of the dead, although they’re also quite partial to the flesh of the living. Some appear handsome (in spite of the rather obvious two mouths), while some appear strange and have the smell of a hyena about them. So if you see any handsome two-mouthed men on Tinder, be prepared to swipe left.

Appearance

The were-hyena is said to metamorphose between three main forms: that of a human, a human-hyena hybrid, and a hyena. As a human, they appear largely the same as you and I, although perhaps with a fancy Mohican to sweeten the deal. As hybrids, they walk or stand on their back legs, have some of the facial features of a hyena, and have large golden eyes that glow red right before they attack. When they metamorphose fully into hyenas, they are much larger than their natural counterparts and are sometimes completely hairless. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they are said to have the odour of rotting flesh about them and are known to bury their victims alive, coming back later to feast on their remains.

Origins

The were-hyena was thought to be the ultimate manifestation of people’s real-life fear and hatred of hyenas. This is supported by the were-hyenas nature itself, as they were not only humans who could transform into hyenas but also hyenas who could dupe people by taking on human form. The vitriol towards our furry friends is the result of both myth and reality, as several of the animal’s features appear to offend us in a very basic way. They are nocturnal, which is naturally perturbing as it means oftentimes they can see us while we cannot see them. Their characteristic yipping noise, which sounds eerily like hysterical human laughter, is particularly unnerving and perhaps gave rise to the belief that they could imitate human speech and call out people’s names.

And, even though it has now largely been proven that they kill much of what they eat, they were historically regarded as scavengers that fed on rotting flesh, giving them the reputation of being both cowardly and repulsive. In African folklore, they were even accused of robbing corpses from their graves, having a negative influence on people’s souls, collecting human bones and piling them up as trophies, kidnapping children, and tricking people for their own amusement.

One myth in particular, which originates from the Beng people of the Ivory Coast, is known as “The Dispersal of All Animals” and describes how Hyena, the villain of the story, attempts to convince the other animals to kill the first man and woman to have ever lived. Fortunately Dog, foil to the hyena in many respects, warns our progenitors before they get straight up murdered and essentially wiped from all existence.

Talk to the hand, haters

In the border zones of Afghanistan and Pakistan, hyenas are still regularly killed by hunters as they are thought to kill donkeys, dig up human graves, and bite off the limbs of children who sleep in the open. Not to state the obvious here but perhaps children should just stop sleeping in the open desert alone when there are bloodthirsty hyenas about. In Arab folklore, it was even suggested that hyenas were vampiric creatures that could mesmerise victims using their eyes or entice them with their pheromones. Move over Sex Panther, we want a spritz of that Sex Hyena.

This hatred for the animal was, in some cases, then attached to and magnified by prejudice towards a certain group, such as blacksmiths or Jews, and may well have been an early form of anti-Semitism. Various details of the mythology were likely inspired by the rich heritage of Africa’s many indigenous folk religions. It may have even derived from fear of the the Korè cult, a branch of the Bambara people in Mali who attempted to “become” hyenas by imitating their behaviour using masks and roleplaying games. In other words, the terrifying mythology behind the were-hyena may just have been inspired by, for lack of a better word, furries.

Modern-day Usage

Though were-hyenas are undoubtedly not as popular as their lycanthropic cousins, there are a few modern-day references to this giggling ghoul:

  • The 2011 horror film Hyenas, written and directed by Eric Weston, is about a roving pack of were-hyenas that are being hunted down by a man seeking revenge for his dead family.
  • The 1994 film Le Cri du Coeur or The Heart’s Cry, directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo, features the story of a were-hyena.
  • In the first season of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an episode entitled “The Pack” involves a group of Buffy’s friends and classmates becoming possessed by the spirits of hyenas and devolving into creatures resembling the were-hyena.
  • In the autobiographical novel The Life and Adventures of Nathanial Pearce by Nathaniel Pearce, the author recounts a story he once heard from a man called Coffin about a servant who asked for leave of absence. Supposedly, not long after the leave of absence was granted, the other servants observed the aforementioned servant transform into a large hyena and rush off across the open plain. On his return the next morning, the servant was confronted by Coffin about the incidence and readily admitted that he was capable of such a transformation. The novel also described several native stories in which dead hyenas had been found with earrings on their ears, leading to the belief that they were women who had transformed.
  • The role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons features a fictional creature known as a gnoll, which looks like a human with a hyena’s head.

 

This article has been used as a reference in the book Shapeshifters: Morphing Monsters & Changing Cryptids by Nick Redfern.

Malicious Myths: The Were-Hyena

Malicious Myths: The Vodyanoy (водяно́й)

Looming up out of the murky depths of Slavic mythology, the vodyanoy are water spirits that love nothing more than partaking in a game of cards, smoking a wooden pipe, and dragging innocent victims into their swamp. They are never seen too far away from their watery abodes, as they have no power on land but are virtually invincible in water. They usually float in rivers, streams, or ponds on a half-sunken log, making obnoxiously loud splashes as they go, and have a particular preference for rivers with strong currents and swamps.

Be forewarned, peeve these slippery little suckers off and they’ll break dams, destroy watermills, and drown people and animals. Historically, fishermen, millers, and even bee-keepers would make sacrifices in a desperate attempt to appease this watery OAP. Because nothing effects bee-keeping like the state of a nearby river, apparently. And, if drowning gets a little too cliché for them, the odd hipster vodyanoy will drag their victim down to their underwater realm and make slaves of them for all eternity.

Anyone bathing after sunset, at midday, at midnight, on a holy day, or without having made the sign of the cross before entering the vodyanoy’s territory immediately makes themselves a target for its wrath. Further solid proof that showering is better than taking a bath or, as we like to call it, stewing in one’s own filth. They have a preference for attacking inexperienced swimmers, but will also place alluring items such as ribbons and hand mirrors near the banks of water bodies to entice fishermen closer before launching at them like a soft, wrinkly crocodile. Fancy ribbons must have been worth a lot more in olden times, seeing as people were willing to risk their lives for them.

The Czech, Slovenian, and Slovak equivalent of the Russian vodyanoy, known as a vodník (plural vodníci, to get technical), rather comfortingly comes in both good and evil varieties. That being said, their main aim is to trap the souls of drowned people into porcelain lid-covered cups, so swings and roundabouts. They perceive these screaming ghosts cups as a form of currency, with the number of cups representing their status or wealth to other vodyanoy. Should the lid of the cup be removed, the soul will float away and escape in the form of a bubble, because apparently being a bubble is preferable to being trapped in a cup.

Drowning and chill?

It seems Slavic women either have incredibly low standards or vodyanoy have a few romantic tricks up their sleeve, because they are commonly known to marry drowned or disinherited girls, although they will occasionally target happily married women. Every time a woman gives birth to a vodyanoy’s child, he will emerge from his swamp to request the services of a midwife, who will be handsomely rewarded in gold and silver. We imagine the extra costs incurred are thanks to the obvious need for a water-birth, and the fact that any midwife who’s willing to help deliver a slimy frog-child deserves a little bit extra.

They are believed to hibernate during winter which, we imagine, accounts for about 90% of the year in Russia. When they awaken, they crush the ice in the river and disperse it, occasionally stopping to take a breather and destroy the odd watermill. If they happens to be in a good mood, they may just guide fish into fishermen’s nets or warn them against floods, which is a totally reasonable way to make up for drowning their friends, neighbours, and relatives.

Aside from homicide, vodyanoy enjoy a dizzying variety of hobbies, including playing cards, smoking a pipe, riding catfish, destroying the nets of hardworking fishermen, and turning themselves into other animals to confuse people. You know, just your average Friday night. In some instances, fishermen would even place a pinch of tobacco on the surface of the water in the hopes that the resident vodyanoy would give them a fish in return. At night, they emerge from the water to let their sea cows and sheep graze on the surrounding land.

We’re betting that you’re all wondering what a sea-sheep might look like now.

Appearance

Like that creepy old man who always stares at you from the window of the old folk’s home, the vodyanoy resembles a naked pensioner with a swampy beard, long green hair, and a face like a frog. His body is inevitably covered in algae and mud, since living in a swamp doesn’t afford the most hygienic of lifestyles, and he’s typically covered in black fish scales. He has large webbed paws instead of hands, a fish’s tail, and eyes that are said to burn like scorching hot coals.

In Czech, Slovenian, and Slovak accounts, the vodník looks markedly different and has far more human characteristics. They essentially just look like regular men, with the exception of the gills, webbed hands, and algae-coloured skin. So they’re pretty easy to differentiate from people; unless you’re in the Deep South that is. If the bright green hair wasn’t an obvious tell, they are also known to dress in a very strange manner, with a preference for patchy shirts, odd hats and coat-tails that are perpetually wet.

Vodyanoy are masters at shape-shifting, meaning they can take the appearance of a handsome young man, well-known and beloved local villager, or even an old salmon. He uses these guises to trick unsuspecting victims into drowning, becoming his slaves, or eating him. Okay, we’re not entirely sure on that last one, but what else could you accomplish as an old salmon?

Origins

Get out of my swamp you crazy kids!

Vodyanoy are believed to be a later incarnation of one of the many pagan demons associated with water. Right up until the 19th century, people in Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, and other Slavic countries still readily made sacrifices to the vodyanoy, demonstrating that this belief existed alongside Christianity for many centuries. In fact, the vodyanoy’s preference for those who bathed on holy days or did not make the sign of the cross before entering the water shows some incorporation of Christian belief into the vodyanoy myth.

Their association with water-bodies and penchant for destroying anything that might hinder water flow, such as dams, watermills, and hapless fishermen, makes him a sort of Poseidon figure; a protector of the rivers, streams, and ponds that populate the Slavic countryside. Although it is unsure precisely where vodyanoy came from, their status as a guardian of water is undeniable.

Modern-day Usage

We’re sure you’ll agree that the vodyanoy, with his flaring gills, soul-filled cups, and inappropriate levels of nudity, is a pretty peculiar fella. So it comes as no surprise that references to this aquatic pensioner are equally as weird:

  • In the 2013 thriller Croaker, directed by Fred Terling, Vodnik features as the main character.
  • Bizarrely, Vodyanoy is one of the best known characters of the Soviet cartoons, which are clearly things we are all aware of. In the Soviet animation The Flying Ship (1979), he sings a song about how lonesome he is and how he longs to talk with someone.
The Soviet Vodyanoy looking a little blue
  • Composer Antonín Dvořák, perhaps most famous for his frequently abused and blatantly plagiarised Symphony No. 9, wrote a symphonic poem entitled Vodník about our slippery stud. He also features as a character in Dvořák’s opera Rusalka.
Just read it already
  • In the superlative novel Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (go read it), the Vodyanoi are a race of fish people who are able to manipulate water. Most notably, a group of Vodyanoi dockworkers are shown to be on strike and create a water-dam to block shipping routes (why aren’t you reading it yet?).
  • In the video game series The Witcher, which was in turn based on the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski of the same name, there is a race of water creatures known as vodyanoi or Fish People.
  • Vodyanoi appear as enemies in the MMO game Final Fantasy XIV. Because what legendary creature hasn’t weaseled its way into Final Fantasy by now.

 

This article was featured as a reference in The Slenderman Mysteries: An Internet Urban Legend Comes to Life by Nick Redfern.

Malicious Myths: The Vodyanoy (водяно́й)

Malicious Myths: The Churel (चुडैल)

The churel may sound like a delicious (hopefully cinnamon-flavoured) pastry, or perhaps some colourful bird of paradise, but we can assure you it is not. Churels are the vengeful spirits of women who return to earth in order to drain the blood, virility, and even the semen of male victims, transforming them from sperm-filled youths to dusty old men. They go by numerous alternate names, including the churail, chudail, jakhin, mukai, and nagulai, and originate from South Asian folklore, enjoying enduring popularity throughout North India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

They will typically target their own relatives, specifically male members of their family, and will usually attack them in order from youngest to oldest, or from most-loved to least-loved. So, for once, being a young, attractive, well-liked man is not a good thing. Go figure. They are commonly found in places associated with death and filth, such as graveyards, abandoned battlefields, crossroads, toilets, and the male changing rooms of any gym. Once they have sated their blood-lust with their own family members, they can often be found trawling the darkened highways, seducing lone travelling men to accompany them before sucking them dry. Innuendo totally intended.

In some legends, the churel will keep the young man captive until he grows too old, or repeatedly boinks him until he withers, dies, and joins the spirit in her sexy vengeance (essentially death by snoo-snoo). In other accounts, if a young man is seduced by a churel and simply eats food she has offered to him, he will return to his village at dawn an elderly man. Basically if you get attacked by a churel you have two options: death by a crushed pelvis or instant retirement. In Hindu folklore, churels may transform into dakinis, horrifying god-like creatures that serve the goddess Kali and join her in feasting on human flesh and blood. Because, after subsisting off a diet made up almost entirely of sperm for however long, human flesh probably starts to look quite appealing.

A Dakini about to straight up murder this unfortunate guy

According to most legends, there are three different types of churel: soshi churels, poshi churels, and toshi churels. Soshi, Poshi, and Toshi may sound like members of the Spice Girls but don’t let that fool you, these are hideous, blood-sucking monsters we’re talking about. Oh wait.

The Soshi Churels are the most common and return to seek vengeance on their family for having neglected or abused them in life, focusing entirely on draining the lifeblood of all their male family members. They sometimes wait besides fields and call out to their relatives as they return home from work. If you answer the churel’s call, she will haunt you until your eventual death, but ignore her and she’ll…well…just keep shouting at you. Maybe just buy a pair of earplugs?

The Poshi Churels were women who had no real sexual desire in life and so focus their sexual deviancy and bloodlust on children. They can only be brought to heel by the man they once loved in life, to whom they are still subservient. The Toshi Churels are the rarest of all and represent women who were closely bonded with their husbands. They will return to their capacity as dutiful wives and, in a bizarre twist, serve only to protect their family.

Appearance

The churel is often depicted as a grotesque and emaciated creature, with long sagging breasts, unkempt hair, a pot belly, and claw-like hands. They sometimes roam around completely naked with their matted pubic hair visibly exposed, kind of like Courtney Love on an average Saturday night.

They have unnaturally long, thick black tongues surrounded by broad, rough lips, although in some accounts they are said to have no mouth at all. In rare cases, they are reported to have pig-like faces with large fangs or human faces with sharp tusks. Yet the most common and unique feature of the churels are their feet, which face the wrong way round with the heel at the front and the toes at the back.

In this form their sex appeal is doubtful at best, so they conveniently transform into beautiful young women in order to seduce their prey. In this guise, they carry a lantern, partially cover their face, and usually wear a long red or white sari that covers their legs. Although in this state they appear almost exactly like a human woman, their feet are still pointed backwards and so they take great pains to hide them. Once they have ensnared a lusty lothario, they will reveal their true form and engage in the freakiest, nastiest sex you could possibly imagine.

Origins

When a woman dies either during childbirth, while pregnant, or while menstruating, there is a strong possibility that she will become a churel. Normally she will rise from the grave because she wants vengeance for her deceased child, because her family treated her badly in life or because they did not care for her properly during her pregnancy. So, when in India, be really nice to pregnant women or risk facing death by semen extraction.

When a pregnant woman dies during the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, it is believed she will come back as a particularly powerful churel, while in Western India they believe that any woman who died an unnatural death will become a churel. Originally it was believed that only low-caste women could turn into churels, although it seems bloodthirsty revenge is a dish best served to people of any class background. In short, all churels are created equal, and are all equally as terrible.

The only way to completely avoid a churel is to prevent her creation in the first place, so extra special care must be taken when dealing with pregnant women. Should they, through some awful circumstance, die anyway, there are a handful of things the family can do to hopefully prevent their return and thus protect their precious nads. Forgoing the Hindu tradition of cremation, a potential churel should be buried face down. Songs and prayers in remembrance of her should be sung at her funeral, while all rites and rituals must be performed with the utmost care.

During the funerary procession, the corpse should be carried out of the house through a side door rather than the front door, so that hopefully the churel does not find her way back into the house. Because, after all, it’s not like she lived there for an extended period of time and probably knows the layout of the house or anything. Sometimes family members will sprinkle mustard or millet seeds around the grave and even the whole village, because it is believed that the churel must count every single seed before returning home. This isn’t a sure-fire way to stop her, but it’ll certainly slow her down and make that second mortgage you took out on your house to buy mustard seeds worthwhile.

In order to tie the churel to the burial site, four nails are normally fixed to the four corners of the grave and red flowers are planted upon it. In extreme cases, the corpse may even be bound so that the churel’s movement is restricted when they finally rise from the grave. In Punjab, they take this restriction to a whole new level by nailing the hands and feet of the corpse to the coffin, shackling its feet in chains, and smearing red pepper in its eyes to hopefully blind the waking churel. In some cases, they will even break the deceased’s legs, chain the big toes together, or turn the feet backwards.

Hindu priests are regularly called to perform exorcisms, pray, burn incense, or make offerings to the deceased’s burial site in an attempt to ward the churel off, but this is not a permanent solution. In spite of all these precautions, churels are known to return home months or even years after their death. So if you thought your family get togethers were bad, at least old Auntie Sue isn’t trying to drag you away to her sex dungeon.

Modern-day Usage

Outside of South Asia, the churel isn’t a particularly well-known creature and thus rarely makes an appearance in pop culture. That being said, we’ve managed to scratch together a scant few references to our horny hag:

  • The Indian B-movie Chudail: The Witch (1997) directed by P. Chandrakumar is about a woman who develops supernatural powers by draining the life-force from male victims.
  • The novel Vampire Wives Tales – India: The Churail by Douglas Werner is about an Indian woman who dies in an airplane crash and becomes a churel.
  • The Churel features several times in the video game series Shin Megami Tensei.
  • There is a Chudail Trail in the Indian village of Kuldharanear Jaisalmar, where visitors can walk through this supposedly haunted place and learn about the legend of a woman named Nandini.
Malicious Myths: The Churel (चुडैल)