Thursday, October 29, 2015

5 Most Bizarre Mythological Creatures

It's been a while coming, but this is a post I've been longing to write -
the worlds strangest and funniest mythological creatures!

The Ant Lion.

Yes, it's really as silly as it sounds.

Image Courtesy: B. Rosen, "The Mythical creatures bible".
Hailing from an early Greek Bestiary, the Ant-lion is a strange creature with the head of a lion and the body of an ant... This is because the Ant-Lion's father is indeed a lion and its mother a tiny ant. Really, the mind boggles at the physiological impossibility of it all. Considering a male lion has a penis about 6-9 inches that is covered with barbs, and the average size of  queen ant (the only ant capable of having young) is a meagre 8 mm - copulation simply could not occur without the assistance of a shrinking ray...which hasn't yet been invented... 
This all aside, it was said in those early Greek bestiaries that because the ant-lion's father is a carnivore and its mother a herbivore... all ant-lion's die shortly after birth.

The Jackalope

Image Courtesy: Museum Of the Weird. 
The Jackalope is a cryptid that comes from America, notably Wyoming. It is said to be a cross between the pygmy deer and a jack rabbit.  In the 16th - 18th Centuries, European bestiaries indicated a strong belief in horned rabbits. According to legend Jackalope milk has medicinal properties (unsurprisingly as an aphrodesiac), and the beasts can only breed during electrical storms that include hail (very specific). The Jackalope can imitate human voices and does so to lead hunters astray.
Interesting to note, it has been suggested that the Jackalope is in fact a jack rabbit suffering from a wart virus, the warts developing into horny growths that may (or may not) appear as 'antlers'.

The Amphisbaena
Image Courtesy: Theoi
The Amphisbaena is a Libyan mythological beastie, said to help women during childbirth. It comes in the form of a double headed snake or dragon - with the heads at either ends of its body.
What's that you say? 
It has a head where its bum should be?
Yes indeedy.
If you're anything like me (which I'm presuming you are because you're reading this), if it really existed how the hell did this critter do its pooping?

Well... If there was any chance of this biological anomaly even reaching existence it would have to have an two sets of internal organs meeting at an anus / vent somewhere in its middle. Generally speaking  reptiles have a multi-purpose orifice called a cloaca - which serves the purpose of common outlet into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital tracts open and that opening is almost always at its tail end.

 When googling this creature I did indeed find images that looked like two headed snakes (heads at each end). They were in fact Eryx johnii, or sand boa snake that has a tail resembling its head. These creatures are found in India, Pakistan and the Middle East... and are possibly what the Amphisbaena really is.

The Batibat

Image Courtesy: Tumblr

This bad girl is found in the Philippines. She is essentially an overweight female wood nymph.
If her tree is cut down to build a bed, she will hunt down the owner of the bed and smother their faces at night until they are dead. It is said that she can be deterred from squashing you if you bite your own thumb... Remember that... It might come in handy.

The Asiman or Obayifo

Image Courtesy: Pieter Hugo

This mythological beastie hails from West Africa and is known as the Asiman or Obayifo by the Ashanti people. Generally considered a vampiric beast, it is  described as having shifty eyes and being obsessed with food.... (Wait I think I know some of these!) The Asiman are often believed to be witches who feed of despair, but also the blood of children.
This isn't funny or bizarre is it? 
 It gets better... When travelling at night they are said to turn into orbs of light. 
Still not bizarre enough? 
Well in Joseph William's 2003, book Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica.,it states that rather than turning into an orb of light, the Obayifo emit a phosphorescent light from their armpits and anus instead.
Mooning animated emoticon
Which makes you think they'd wear thick pants and woolly jackets to prevent giving themselves away.

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Holy Chinese Zombies Batman!

Image courtesy: BIG ACTIVE


Some time ago I wrote a blog post (you can read it HERE) about Zombies and mentioned a few found throughout the world, but one I neglected to mention were the JiangShi - the Chinese Walking Dead.

The Jiangshi are also known alternatively throughout parts of Asia as: cương thi in Vietnamese, gangshi in Korean and kyonshī in Japanese.

Like most zombie mythologies, they have a physical (earthly body), but are not alive and have no free will of their own.

It is said that the walking dead were regularly seen on the roads of rural China, shambling to find their way back to their ancestral homes. If a Chinese person was buried away from his/her ancestral lands without the correct rituals it was widely believed that they would turn into a zombie in a desire to return home.

Image result for jiangshi
Generally speaking, a jiangshi's appearance can vary.  The jiangshi may appear unremarkable albeit pale and stiff with rigor mortis or depending on the length of time out of the grave, can be a rather horrifying spectacle of human decomposition with rotting flesh, and greenish skin covered in mould.
One of the main features of the jiangshi is said to be its stiff mode of movement. They walk with arms outstretched for balance, and may even hop or lope as their limbs are largely unbending.

 I have read that the Chinese character for "jiang" (僵) in "jiangshi" literally means "hard" or "stiff", in reference (one can assume) to the process of rigor mortis, when the body of dead person or animal becomes stiff and unbending. If this is indeed the case, then I would speculate that the jiangshi could only made from a recently dead individual - rather than the long time dead being raised from the grave.

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death") is caused by chemical changes in the muscles after death, causing the limbs of the corpse to stiffen. It starts between 2-6 hours after death first in the eyelids, jaw and neck, progressing to other parts of the body. Rigor mortis lasts between 24 - 48 hours.

If a corpse was magically animated during those first 24 - 48 hours then the mobility of the individual would be highly compromised as the jiangshi myths suggest they are.

The jiangshi are relatively popular in Chinese and Hong Kong horror movies, and are often depicted wearing Qing era clothing - they are also often referred to as Chinese Vampires, as the familiarity of the Western bloodsucking vampire merged with traditional mythology. Some jiangshi may attack humans and consume their life force. Essentially, however, the jiangshi is a shambling, rotting corpse with little or no self awareness and animalistic tendencies. It is suggested that some Taoist priests and malevolent magicians may raise jiangshi from their rest to do their wicked bidding, but most myths are more benign suggesting that the animated corpses simply want to go home.

Wikipedia (fabulous source of trustworthy information that it is) has amusingly listed [link ref] methods to prevent jiangshi attack. Some of which are quite unusual. I do not have the time to verify the authenticity of these methods or the quotes used, so read and take them with a pinch of salt, or perhaps the hooves of a black donkey.

  • Mirrors: "A mirror is the essence of liquid metal. It is dark on the external but bright inside." (鏡乃金水之精,內明外暗。) 
  • Jiangshis are also said to be terrified of their own reflections.
  • Items made of wood from a peach tree: "Peach is the essence of the Five Elements. It can subjugate evil auras and deter evil spirits." (桃者,五行之精,能厭服邪氣,制御百鬼。)
  • A rooster's call: Yuan Mei's book "Evil spirits withdraw when they hear a rooster's call" (鬼聞雞鳴即縮。), because the rooster's call usually occurs with the rise of the sun.
  • Jujube seeds:  "Nail seven jujube seeds into the acupuncture points on the back of a corpse." (棗核七枚,釘入屍脊背穴。)
  • Fire: Zi Bu Yu mentioned, "When set on fire, the sound of crackling flames, blood rushes forth and bones cry." (放火燒之,嘖嘖之聲,血湧骨鳴。)
  • Hooves of a black donkey: Mentioned in Zhang Muye's fantasy novel Ghost Blows Out the Light
  • Vinegar: Mentioned by coroners in eastern Fujian
  • Ba gua sign
  • I Ching
  • Tong Shu
  • Glutinous rice, rice chaff
  • Adzuki beans
  • Handbell
  • Thread stained with black ink
  • Blood of a black dog
  • Stonemason's awl
  • Axe
  • Broom
So, dear readers,  if you suspect your beloved may turn into a jiangshi, keep your roosters and jujube seeds handy.

Have a super day.