Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fantasmagoria...Vampire cats

Have I ever told you I have a totally indulgent family? No? Well, my gorgeous sister recently bought me a new mythological creatures book! It's called Fantasmagoria, by Julia Bruce, and it is wonderful, filled to the brim with interesting facts and very cool illustrations.

So for today's post I'm going to focus on one the beasties in this great book.
I chose the topic because I love cats, I have two. I have discovered through my years of meeting other authors that many have cats (and usually more than one) I'm not sure why that is.

It is unsurprising  perhaps that cats of various forms crop up in mythology all around the world. Perhaps it is their unearthly eyes, the intriguing combination of sharp claws and supersoft fur, or perhaps the knowing look in their eyes, that inspires these myths.

Interestingly there is a widespread belief in almost all cultures that a cat will suck the life (or breath via smothering)from of a newborn baby - and many of the vampire cat tales are similar in that the creature attacks human babies.
 The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima
This is one of the few myths in which the vampire cat does not target infants. This legend speaks of a shapeshifting cat (again something very common throughout world mythology). The the shapeshifting vampire cat was created when a cat crept into a young woman's bedroom and mauled her neck (presumably to drink her blood), then dragged her into the garden and buried her. The cat then assumed the woman's form.

It just so happened that this particular lady was the object of a young princes affections. Though she was his favourite, he failed to notice an change in her after the cat shift. However, a change became noticeable in the Prince. From that day on he became increasingly pale and sickly. No one seemed to know what was wrong with him, as no one realised that the vampire-cat-woman was visiting him at night. The prince continued to deteriorate.

 As a result, the prince was put under heavy guard, alas, every night his guards would become sleepy at precicely ten o'clock, and would fall asleep. It was then that soldier named Ito Soda came and asked if he may be able to watch over the prince. He was adviced to be careful of the sleepiness that would over come him at ten o'clock. Ito Soda was prepared, when he began to feel sleepy, he stuck a knife in his thigh and would twist it every time he felt sleepy. Thus, he remained awake (and in considerable agony one suspects). At midnight he saw the girl creep into the prince's room. As she approached she asked Ito Soda why he was awake. The vampire-cat-woman then left, unable to take her sustenance from the Prince. That morning, the prince woke up feeling much better. The same thing happened on the second night, and on the third the girl didn't come at all - and all the soldiers were able to stay awake.

By this time, the prince and Ito Soda were convinced the prince's lady love was the culprit. So Ito Soda went to confont her. Terrified at her discovery the woman fought him and escaped into the mountains where she continued her vampiric behaviour. After some time the prince sent out hunt to kill her. She was found in the mountains and slaughtered.
(Bruce, 2009, pp100)

The Bajang
The Bajang is a Malaysian type of vampire cat. It is also a shifter, able to take the form of a fox, pole cat or feral cat, as well as a small stocky and unnattractive person.

The bajang's true form is that of a stunted, stocky human with a blunt nose, wispy hair, and pale brown skin. It has beady orange eyes and a wide, lipless mouth, which is permanently creased in an evil sneer. Its hands are bony claws, and its feet resemble the talons of a vulture.
The bajang can alter self at will into the form of a small wildcat. The creature is most often encountered in this form and disturbs the household by mewing like a great cat. As a wildcat, it has light brown fur and retains its distinctive orange.

Like many south-east Asian mythological beasties, the bajang consumes human fetuses, and also likes human milk.

According to Monstropedia Bajang can be captured and guarded in a bamboo tube. A specific type of leaves will be used as a cork of the tube and locked with a talisman. Bajang will be fed with eggs an milk. Bajang can be used as a familiar (like the Pelesit) and reared in intention to harm an enemy, causing disease, madness or death.  .

On a facinating but disturbing side note, Lilith (who hails from Hebrew folklaw) fled from Adam (as she didn't want to obey him) she turned into a giant black cat, who also liked to feast on the blood newborn infants. What a way to demonise disobediant women! Phwaw.

There are of course more vampiric cats in mythology, but alas time eludes me, so on this note, I wish you all a good weekend.

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