Saturday, April 1, 2017

The awesomeness that is Crazyhead...

 I know, I know. It happens to me all the time.

I've found a new series that I've fallen in love with, but this time its not because of the manspiration aspect, in fact it's rather the opposite.  Crazyhead is a paranormal, comedy, horror, chicktastic series with some of the most engaging and amusing female cast I've seen in a long time.



Susan Wokoma and Cara Theobald as Raquel and Amy, are hilarious together as the oddly matched demon hunting duo.

I've not laughed out loud watching a TV show in ages, and Susan Wokoma had me laughing regularly at their inappropriate banter and the general craziness they endure and propagate.

Basically the story is this; Amy stops taking her medication (presumably an anti-psychotic medication) that suppresses her ability to see demons. Since her early teens, doctors thought she was having disturbing hallucinations of people with fire inside them. In fact they're not hallucinations at all, but rather Amy has the rare ability to see demons. This is when she meets the brash, lonely Raquel whose social awkwardness and frank personality make it hard  for her to keep friends. Raquel is also a 'seer' who uses her unemployed time to go and hunt the demons she sees.

Together they discover a plot by the demons to bring Hell on Earth at Halloween, using Raquel as the bridge between both words. It may sound like a standard story arc, but it's far from standard.

Series One even involves exorcisms in which the excorcisor needs to urinate on the excorcisee. Really. It's not what you expect when you read the 'blurb'. Seriously it's worth watching for is scene alone.

Image result for Crazyhead quotes


 I really can't recommend Crazyhead enough. It's on Netflix and was produced in conjunction with UK's Channel Four.

Watch it!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The tragic Rusalka


The Rusalka come from Slavic and Eastern European folklore and mythology.
Image Courtesy: Anna Vinogradova

The Rusalki in my opinion, are tragic figures. They are the spirits of women who have died tragically via suicide or murder. For example women who gave birth out of wedlock, or become pregnant with another man's child may be violently drowned or commit suicide. These unhappy spirits are then damned to return to Earth for a stint as the unhappy and murderous Rusalka.

Image Courtesy: Russian MythologyEncylopaedia.

Once turned into the Rusalki, their primary objective is to lure people into the water and drown them. They predominantly target young men - as revenge for their own unhappy deaths (largely caused by men). The Rusalka will seduce the man in much the similar way to a Greek Siren, using her voice and /or looks. So entranced by their inhuman beauty the men stupidly swim into the haunted waterway where the Rusalki will tangle his feet with her hair and drown him. Often the men would put up a fight, gripping the Rusalki and trying to haul himself to the surface. However it is said that the skin of a Rusalka is slippery, and no one can hold onto one.  There are also reports that the Rusalki will tickle their victim to death, so that the man will ironically die laughing.

Some sources report that a Rusalka can only exist whilst in water, and so a Rusalka appears with always one foot in the water, retaining her connection to the waterway at all time. Though others suggest that as long as the forest surrounds them, they may take form from the trees.

According to the Singing Bones Podcast (great resource by the way!) the Rusalki is described as "beauteous maidens with full and snow-white bosoms, and with long and slender limbs. Their feet are small, their eyes are wild, their faces are fair to see, but their complexion is pale, their expression anxious. Their hair is long and thick and wavy, and green as is the grass. Their dress is either a covering of green leaves, or a long white shift, worn without a girdle. At times they emerge from the waters of the lake or river in which they dwell, and sit upon its banks, combing and plaiting their flowing locks, or they cling to a mill-wheel; and turn round with it amid the splash of the stream. If any one happens to approach, they fling themselves into the waters, and there divert themselves, and try to allure him to join them. Whomsoever they get hold of they tickle to death. Witches alone can bathe with them unhurt.

Punishment of the wayward female is very common theme in Slavic mythology, and so it little surprise that a sinful female would be punished in such a way. It is interesting to note however, that the Rusalka does have a male counterpart, known as the Vodyanoy. This creature however is not suffering some sort of undead torment / punishment like the poor Rusalka. It is a mythological
Image courtesy: Ivan Bilibin 1934
creature in its own right. Vodyanoy is basically naked old man with a froggy face, green beard, and long hair. His unattractive body is covered with black scales coated in algae and mud. He has webbed paws, a fish tail and red burning eyes.

Hmmm, toad man, versus beautiful suffering woman. Don't you love mythology?

I am not sure if the tradition has continued to modern times, but there used to be a dedicated "Rusalka Week." During this week the Rusalka and Vodyanoy were said to be especially active and it was considered unwise to swim or spend much time near water. This used to occur in June.

In some mythologies, the Rusalka's mood also affected farmer's cropping, and so there were particular times of the yea rwhen the farmers and their wives tried to appease the Rusalka to insure a good crop. During these times the Rusalka would dance, but humans should be careful never to get too close to them, lest they turn murderous and vengeful.

I haven't read anything about what happens when the Rusalka complete their term as a water spirit. One hopefully presumes that when the term of their punishment end and their spirit would finally be at rest, and free, but I haven't read anything to suggest it.

On that rather sombre and disappointing note I shall leave you. 
Enjoy your March, whether it be Autumn or Spring in your hemisphere!


Friday, February 3, 2017

Inuit Mythology of Greenland


Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti

You may think my cat has just walked across my keyboard, but no, today I'm going to introduce you to an unusual mythological beastie hailing from Greenland... the Az’-i-wû-gûm Ki-mukh’-ti.

Image Courtesy: A Book Of Creatures

The "Az-i-wu-gum" as I will simplify, is a hybrid creature commonly known as the "Walrus Dog". It is described in detail in the "Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore," by Theresa Bane (2016), as having a long, thin, black scaled body, thick, sturdy dog-like legs, and a ferocious dog-like head. It also is described as having a rounded thick tail, with which it strikes its enemy. According to the writings of the 19th Century explorer E. W. Nelson in 1900, the Az-i-wu-gum was universally feared by the native peoples around Alaska and the Bering Strait, as well as Greenland. The beast is said to have lived amongst  herds of walrus, but would kill a man easily and without mercy - should one happen upon it.

Nelson reported a tale of Walrus hunters in the Bering strait being attacked by an Az-i-wu-gum whilst in their boat, with all on board being killed. Although Nelson did not allege to have sighted the beast himself, he reported that all the native peoples were very familiar with it.

Common (viviparous) lizard (zootoca vivipara).jpg
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
As for what exactly the Az-i-wu-gum ki-mukh-ti could actually have been - I just don't know. Being described as scaly is deeply problematic considering the climate of the area in which it is found. There are only two reptilian creatures that I could find that inhabit the Arctic regions. One is is a Canadian garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis, "This animal has an incredible ability to withstand low temperatures. It can tolerate temperatures of -5°C without freezing. When temperatures drop lower than this, it can survive with up to 40% of its body fluids turned to ice [ref]".  The other is the viviparous lizard found throughout Europe and Asia, whose range extends north of the Arctic Circle. However, neither of the creatures fit the description or size of the 'Walrus Dog'. 

Additionally, cannot find any details on its diet, though one could guess that if its head was dog-like, then it would most likely be carnivorous. There is however, no mention of it actually eating the walrus with which it lived, or of it eating meat at all. 

In my (non-exhaustive) search of the internet, I have only found Nelson's references to this beast, and no Inuit written texts or recounts -which is disappointing and perhaps I will have to research in detail when time permits.

Anyway I hope you found this as interesting as I did!
  Happy February!



Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Year of the Odontotyrannus...

Image Courtesy:Wikipedia

Happy New Year for 2017 - official year of the Odontotyrannus.

Just Kidding!

It's hard to believe another year has passed and I've haven't had a new release. Oops.
Well I'm currently in the process of re-writes for "Big Girl," here's to hoping 2017 is a more productive writing year!

Anyway onto the subject of January's post... the Odontotyrannus.

This particular beast caught my attention because it is mentioned in Greek classical writings but also  in a story of Alexander the Great. For those of you not familiar, Alexander the Great became king of ancient Macedonia at the age twenty.  Born in 356 BC, Alexander is remarkable in that by the age of thirty had created a large empire spanning from Greece to NW India. He remained undefeated in battle and is considered by many scholars to be one of history's most successful military leaders.  He died aged thirty-two, many suspect he was poisoned, as he had a lingering death after drinking some dodgy wine. Unlucky.

Anyway, it is alleged that the Alexander's Macedonian army was attacked by an Odontotyrannus during a campaign beside either the Ganges or Indus rivers in Northern India.

According to the Latin "Letter from Alexander" (the seventh of such letters about India written to his tutor Aristotle,) the creature had a black, horse-like head, with three horns protruding from its forehead and was larger than an elephant. The creature was fearless, and undeterred by the sight of fire. It is said to have killed twenty-six Macedonians and incapacitated fifty-two. It was eventually killed by being repeated stabbed with hunting spears.  He reports that that the local Indians called the beast "tooth-tyrant"  hence its Greek name dentityrranus or odontatyrannus.

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
So what may this terrible beast be? Many scholars suggest it may have been a Crocodile living in the river - though the reports of the three horns makes that explanation somewhat problematic. Others suggest it may have been a rhinoceros. This also proves problematic also as the Indian Rhinocerous is famous for being only one horned. Another suggestion is that was an Indus Worm. The Indus Worm is a cryptid beast that looks like an enormous (three metres in length) fruit fly maggot. It is said to live in the mud at the bottom of the river and feed on horses and camels that drink there.  It has terrible teeth on its upper and lower jaw. Again this is unlikely to be the Odontotyrannus, as the dominant features of the beast is that it is black (not white like a maggot) and it has those troublesome three horns. 

The Odontotyrannus is interesting in that the original source descriptions are reasonably consistent. Even an Ethiopian version of Alexander describes it as having three 'tusks'.  Personally think the Rhino description is
most likely - despite the lack of three horns. Maybe there was a mutant? Who knows? The dark grey / blackish skin colour fits, and the Indian Rhino also defends itself with sharp canines. Regardless, I think the Odontotyrannus is is a fascinating beastie, and one well worth knowing about.

Have a wonderful 2017!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Boqs...just when you thought you'd heard it all.


Image Courtesy: Frontiers of Anthropology


Really. Humour me and read on...

Hailing from Chinook and Bella Coola Native American Mythology (Oregon / Washington / British Columbia regions)  - the Boqs at first glance appears like any other Sasquatch / Big Foot mythology.

In form, it is hominid; with a face showing front facing eyes, nose and mouth. It is bipedal (walks on two legs) but with a distinct stooping posture, making it slightly shorter than the average man. The creature's hands in particular are similar to a human, with opposable thumbs. Its arms are exceedingly long and swing below the knees, and, like most Big Foot mythologies - it is very hairy, the hair being more prevalent on its large barrel like chest, though its face is relatively hair free.
It appears also to communicate by bellowing and whistling, and lives in groups.

And here's where it gets a little strange, and if you're easily offended, stop reading here...

 The main difference between the Boqs and other Sasquatch myths is found below the belt (so to speak). This creature's most bizarre feature is its... penis, which is so long that it must be rolled up and carried in the arms when the creature is walking.

Yep.

It uses its outrageously long member to threaten its enemies but uncoiling it and using it to strike tree-trunks and break branches.

There are several stories about these mythological monsters, the most recent of which was a report in 1924, of a young Bella Coola man hearing bellows, whistles and smashing of branches whilst camping at Burke Channel, in British Columbia.

a goofy movie dancing cartoons bigfoot grooving

Hehe.

There are really many Big Foot style mythologies found all over the globe, here is a non-comprehensive list;
Sasquatch (North America)
Yeti (Tibet)
Yowie (Australia)
Mapinguary (Brazil)
Maricoxi (South America -various countries)
Yeren (South China)
Almas (Mongolia / Central Asia)
Nguoi Rung (Vietnam)
Orang Pendek (Indonesia / Sumatra)


If you're interested in reading more about the Boqs interesting myths here are some links, you might like;
http://www.ufobc.ca/Supernatural/NativeLegends/index.htm
http://www.native-languages.org/morelegends/boqs.htm
http://www.crystalinks.com/bigfoot.html
Matthews, J&C., 2013, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, Harper Element.

Have a super week!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hippogriff or Griffin... what's the difference?

What is the difference? 

Well, put plainly it's their bums.

This is a Griffin.

Griffin taxidermy Zoological Museum Copenhagen, courtesy Wikipedia.


 Features: Head, wings, and forelimbs of an eagle, with the rear end of a lion.
Origin: Greco Roman, Persian, Egyptian.
The Griffin is one of those interesting mythological creatures who appears around the world in similar guises. Considered to be the king of all creatures, the Griffin of legend tends to be a guardian creature.
Interesting points: Considered to be an incredibly loyal animal, the Griffin mated for life (which makes the Hippogriff myth even more suspect). If a Griffin's partner died, they would never mate again. They are also an heraldic beast, this means they were often used as a symbol in crests / flags to represent boldness and bravery.

Flavius Philostratus mentions the griffin in The Life of Apollonius of Tyana:

“These animals do exist in India” he said, “and are held in veneration as being sacred to the Sun ; and the Indian artists, when they represent the Sun, yoke four of them abreast to draw the images ; and in size and strength they resemble lions, but having this advantage over them that they have wings, they will attack them, and they get the better of elephants and of dragons. But they have no great power of flying, not more than have birds of short flight; for they are not winged as is proper with birds, but the palms of their feet are webbed with red membranes, such that they are able to revolve them, and make a flight and fight in the air; and the tiger alone is beyond their powers of attack, because in swiftness it rivals the winds." [ref]

I'd love to know what creature this guy really was describing!


Now, this is a Hippogriff, as portrayed in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Features: Wings, head and forelegs of an eagle, and the rear quarters of a horse.
Origin: Greco Roman.
 Hippos - meaning horse, griff - referring to the griffin. They allegedly the offspring of a griffin and a horse. They are considered to be a symbol of the God Apollo, and their image was used by Emperor Augustus (23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD) to decorate Apollo's temple (Apollo Palatine) in Rome.
Interesting points: There does not appear to be any myths surrounding the hippogriff. It seems to be a creature of pure symbolism. Though symbolism of what, I can't definitively state. Considering the previous mythology of the eternal fidelity between griffin mates, I am surprised the hippogriff symbolism ever arose in the first place. Some scholars suggest that its use in the Apollo Palatine, is a subtle reference to Egypt (though how they can explain that, I am not sure). Other sources suggest that the hippogriff is a symbol of love, because ordinarily griffins and horses hate one another, and have mated to produce the hippogriff - well, some spicy fireworks must have happened there.


OTHER CREATURES PEOPLE CONFUSE WITH GRIFFINS and HIPPOGRIFFS

Manticore
Features: Face of a man, body of lion, tail of a scorpion, sometimes depicted with wings.

Chimera

Image result for chimera
Features: Multi-headed beast, head of lion, goat and tail of a snake... again sometimes depicted with wings.
Sphinx

Features: Head of a woman, wings of an eagle, body of lion.

Lamassu

Image result for lamassu

Features: Head of a man, body of bull, wings of an eagle.

Minoan Genius
Image result for minoan genius mythology
Features: head of a lion (sometimes a hippo or donkey), tail of a crocodile, sometimes depicted with female human breasts. (read this interesting article here). Though seriously if you're getting a Minoan Genius confused with any other mythological creature... frankly kudos to you for even knowing about it.

And that dear readers is quite enough for today. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Polynesian Supernatural - the Tipua


Maori Tattoos - The Ritual
Image courtesy: Art of Tattoo Designs
The area covered by the term "Polynesia," is massive and therefore so are the mythologies and folklore that can be found in the region. Today however, I'm writing about the Tipua, supernatural being or sometimes referred to as a "demon" hailing from Maori (New Zealand) mythology.


Image result for polynesia mapThis post has not been easy research, as it was a single line reference to a "Pitua" in my "Pacific Mythology" encyclopaedia, by Jan Knappert that initially sparked my interest. Unfortunately most of my Google searches ended up with something about the pituitary gland in the brain... Not was I was after. So after some time scrolling through neurology websites, I realised that Pitua may be a typo, and started reading up on Tipua... and this is what I found...



Let's take a look...

The Māori people were Polynesian people who settled the islands of New Zealand some 700 - 750 years ago (these dates are based on  ancient mitochondrial genomes sequenced and dated to those times). Their mythology, like most mythologies, is fraught with discrepancies, as cultures enmeshed after European colonisation in the late 18th Century, and detailed written records on the subject were not kept or considered until almost a century later.
Taniwha
Image Courtesy: Te Ara
The concept of the Māori demon or Tipua, is often linked with the Taniwha, a sepentine or shark-like 'monster', who lived around water lakes (in serpentine / lizard form) or oceans (in shark forms). These creatures can be either villains or guardians, depending on the particular myth (see my post on Tumuitearetoka).

The Tipua, however, is a concept of its own. Tipua tends to mean "supernatural". Anything can be supernatural, for example; supernatural rocks (Kohatu Tipua), or supernatural trees (Rakau Tipua). These supernatural things were not necessarily evil or demonic, merely supernatural or special in some way. Having said that the Rakau Tipua, may play malicious tricks on people, as according to one legend it pretended to be a log in a river, causing people to capsize their boats...

 In Māori belief systems,  the natural and supernatural worlds are one – interestingly, originally was no Māori word for "religion". In their mythology the Gods (Atua) and Tipua are closely entwined.
The Tipua  are spoken of as shape shifters, and sometimes described as giants, who would do pretty much what ever they pleased. These supernatural beings have also been translated into English as being ogres. They were violent and capricious in nature, stealing women as unwilling wives, and killing men who troubled them.

Most unfortunately, I can't seem to locate any generalised pictures / images of a Tipua in this sense. 
However in the myth of Ngarara, a female Tipua (who appears to be closely related to a mermaid / or Naga like creature) had a long tail and lived in the ocean. If she captured a man and fed him food, he too would grow scales. (Interestingly the word Ngarara relates to reptile in Māori).
This idea is also repeated in another myth of Te Rapu Wai and Kahui Tipua, in which the people living with the Tipua grew scales from eating their food.

So it seems that the concept of Tipua is a complex one. I hope you enjoyed discovering a little more about the mythological world around you. 

Whakawhetai hoki pānui!
Thanks for reading!
Useful references:
White, J. 1888, The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions,Cambridge Press.