Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zashiki-warashi

Zashiki-warashi is a household spirit resembling a child of either gender from about three to twelve years of age in Japanese legends. It is often said that when this being dwells in a house, its family will be prosperous, but when it leaves, the house will fall into ruin, and also that the zashiki-warashi is never seen except for when it is just about to leave. Its presence however, is often marked by the mischief it does to sleeping people, such as moving pillows about and pulling on the bedding.

There are different kinds of zashiki-warashi which vary in pleasantness, with the chopirako variety being said to be pretty and white in colour, and the notabariko kind being said to crawl out from beneath the dirt flow and creep about, making noises like pounding a mill-stone and causing unpleasant feelings.

To attract and maintain a zashiki-warashi in the home, it is said the spirit must be noticed, appreciated and cared for properly, much in the manner one would raise a child, though too much attention may drive it off. It is said, and varies in different legends, that some people can see the zashiki-warashi, usually this is limited to the inhabitants of the house, mostly the children of the house.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y s for Yuki-Onna

Yuki-Onna is a spirit (or yokai) in Japanese folklore. She is a female apparition sometimes encountered on snowy nights, usually described as a tall, beautiful woman with long black hair and red lips. Her inhumanly pale or even transparent skin makes her blend into the snowy landscape.

She sometimes wears a white kimono, but other legends describe her as wearing nothing at all, with only her face and hair standing out against the snow. Despite her inhuman beauty, her eyes can strike terror into anyone who sees her. She floats across the snow, leaving no footprints (in fact, some tales say she has no feet, a feature of many Japanese ghosts), and she can transform into a cloud of mist or snow if threatened.

She is at the same time beautiful and serene, yet ruthless in killing unsuspecting humans. In many stories, Yuki-onna appears to travellers trapped in snowstorms, and uses her icy breath to leave them as frost-coated corpses. Other legends say she leads them astray so they simply die of exposure. Other times, she manifests holding a child. When a well-intentioned soul takes the "child" from her, they are frozen in place. Parents searching for lost children are particularly susceptible to this tactic.  Apart from being a spirit that is seen in snowstorms, her main aim varies from story to story. Sometimes she is content to see a victim die, other times she is more vampiric, draining her victims' blood or "life force". She even occasionally takes on a succubus-like manner, preying on weak-willed men to drain or freeze them through sex or a kiss.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xing Tian

Xing Tian (meaning "punished one or "he who was punished by heaven") is a Chinese mythological headless giant. According to the mythology, during ancient times the giant Xing Tian was originally a follower of the Emperor Yan. After the victory of the Yellow Emperor over Yan at the Battle of Banquan, Xing Tian followed his master to exile in the south.

After the Yellow Emperor defeated and executed Chi You, Xing Tian went forth with an axe and shield against the Yellow Emperor. He forced his way to the southern Gate of the Celestial Court and issued a challenge to the Yellow Emperor for a duel.

The Yellow Emperor came forth and the two engaged in ferocious combat. In a final blow, the Yellow Emperor distracted his opponent with a trick and lunged, and in a flash decapitated Xnig Tian.

Instead of dying, Xing Tian was able to continue moving and began groping about for his head. Xing Tian gave up looking for his head, and instead used his nipples as eyes that could not see, and a navel as a mouth that could not open.

W is for Wendigo

The Wendigo is a malevolent cannibalistic spirit in Algonquin (native American) mythology. It is said that a human can change into a Wendigo when they indulge in cannibalism, or that a Wendigo can possess a human. Some say that the possession causes the transformation, while others say that being bitten by one can cause it.

While hunting, the Wendigo cautiously follows its prey, eventually causing them to fall into hysteria, and once the Wendigo sees an opportunity, it attacks. Anyone who survives a Wendigo attack contracts Wendigo fever: the person will feel an intense burning sensation in their legs, and have relentless nightmares.

It is often described as a tall, thin humanoid creatures, sometimes said to be twisted, bloodstained or fanged. It has no lips, bares jagged teeth, and hisses with every breath. It's bones are visible through sickly skin, and its body is composed of ice. It is believed that a Wendigo will get bigger and more powerful with every victim it consumes, growing more and more hungry. It's hunger is never fully quenched.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

V is for Varcolac

A varcolac in Romanian folklore is a wolf demon. It is said that it occasionally swallows the moon and the sun; it's thus responsible for eclipses.

Some legends say it's a ghost tor vampire (Strigoi) while others say it's a werewolf, but unlike a shapeshifter, a Varcolac is born from the spirit leaving the mouth during sleep. Varcolaci are said to fasten themselves to the thread of people spinning at night, then going up to eat the moon and cover it with blood.

These creatures are  said to be created by:

  • souls of unbaptized children
  • children of unmarried parents, cursed by God
  • they rise upon sweeping dust out of the house at sunset, in the direction of the sun
Varcolaci are recognised by their pale faces, as well as the deep sleep they fall into when sending their spirits out through their mouths to eat the sun or the moon. If they are moved during their sleep they die as their returning spirit won't be able to find the mouth where they came.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U is for Uma-no-ashi

In keeping with the Japanese monsters and myths, since I have found so many fun and truly terrifying ones originating from Japan, the U monster is a Uma-no-ashi. This is a legendary beast that is said to be trees which have a horse's legs that dangles from the branches and kicks people who walk by.

The horse's leg also hides within the leaves and waits for someone to walk by to kick before returning to hide amongst the foliage. Some Uma-no-ashi are so evil that they'll kick their victim until they are dead.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

T is for Tenome

The Tenome is a Japanese mythical creature that is a man-like creature with eyes not in its face, but in the palm of its hands.

The Tenome was originally a bland man in life who was beaten up and murdered by a mugger. He returned as a ghost, but his desire for revenge was so great that his blind eyes were gone, and instead, he grew new eyes in his hands.

Now the "Pale Man" (as he was originally described in the Japanese folklore, it's not made clear whether he is pale because he stayed indoors confined by his blindness or if it is just the translation of "walking dead" or "ghost") roams through cities and villages, searching for the mugger who murdered him. He sees by waving his hands in front of him.

But Tenome never saw the face of his attacker and simply kills whoever he can get his hands on. Although he has eyes in his hands, he is still figuratively blinded by his anger.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Shinigami

Shinigami ("death god" or "death spirit") is an entity in Japanese folk lore that is responsible for seeing that a person dies at their appointed time and then guiding their spirit to be judged in the afterlife. In this respect, Shinigami are related to the Western concept of the Grim Reaper. Though the Grim Reaper is a single entity, there are multiple Shinigami which are often imagined as working together.

It is most commonly used in the Anime/Manga "Bleach" and the Anime/Manga "Death Note".

 In Bleach, Shinigamis' (Soul Reapers in the English Translation) main jobs are to send spirits to the Soul Society (aka. the afterlife) and to cleanse Hollows. In Death Note, Shinigamis are the (original) owners of notebooks called the Death Note. If a name is written in the Note, then the person of that name would die, and the responsible Shinigami would gain life.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

R is for Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent is a common motif in the art and mythology of Aboriginal Australia. It is seen as the inhabitant of permanent waterholes and is in control of life's most precious resource, oils and waters.

Dreamtime stories tell of the great spirits and totems during creation, in animal and human form they moulded the barren and featureless earth. The Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges at it pushed upward.

The Serpent is known both as a benevolent protector of its people (the groups from the country around) and as a malevolent punisher of law breakers. The Rainbow Serpent's mythology is closely linked to land, water, life, social relationships and fertility. There are innumerable names and stories associated with the serpent, all of which communicate the significance and power of the being with Aboriginal traditions.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Q is for Qareen

A Qareen, according to Islamic literature, is a jinn. Qareens are unique to each individual and literally means 'constant companion'. A qareen pushes a person to do evil things and to disobey Allaah, with the exception of Muhammad. Someone to whisper to that person "in the light of day and the darkness of night".

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "His companion (qareen) will say: ‘Our Lord! I did not push him to transgression, (in disbelief, oppression, and evil deeds), but he was himself in error far astray." This is the belief that the Qareen does not force anyone to do evil things, but to seduce those who are susceptible or want to be seduced into doing those dark things.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

P is for Phoenix

A phoenix is a mythical bird that is said to live forever and it brings good fortune to whoever sees one. It is a bird with a colourful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet. It has a 500 to 1000year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites. Both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again.

The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self. In some stories, the phoenix embalms the ashes of its old self in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis ("sun-city" in Greek). It is said that the bird's cry is that of a beautiful song. The phoenix's ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal, thought some stories the new Phoenix is merely the offspring of the older one. In very few stories they are able to change into people.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

O is for Orthrus

Since I did Cerberus for C, I thought it was appropriate to do Cerberus' brother, Orthrus for O.

Instead of having three heads, Orthrus only had 2 heads. From the Greek myths, this dog guarded the red-purple cattle of the tree-bodied giant, Geryon in the "sunset" land of Erytheia ("red one"), one of the isands of the Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. It spotted Hercules trying to steal the cattle and warned its owner. Orthrus fought Hercules with the help from the centaur, Eurytion, but the dog was defeated and clubbed to death.

Orthrus was among Echidna's fearsome brood.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

N is for Nocnitsa

The Nocnitsa, or night hag, of Russian, Polish, Serbian and Slovak folklore is known to torment children at night, and a stone with a hole in the centre is said to be protection from her. In some regions a mother will place a knife in their children's cradles or draw a circle around the cradle with a knife for protection. This is possibly based on the belief that supernatural beings cannot touch iron.

The Noncnitsa is known to sit on her victim's chest and draw their life energy, draining it until they cannot go on (because of this many refer to this creature as a type of vampire) and she will continue visiting. To stop her, the victim has to fight back and do not give in to her.

Many say she visits when you sleep on your back with your hands on your chest. This is called sleeping with the dead. The night hag is made of shadow but the most noticed part of her is the eerie red glow of her eyes and the horrible screech of her voice, the part below her waist is all shadow. Her smell is of moss and dirt from a forest said to be where she lives, and at times her stench can infiltrate your dreams, or linger in the room after her visit. She is also known as a demonic spirit who feeds off your darkness (namely depression and sadness), this makes the night hag stronger, more powerful and makes her harder to get rid of.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mothman

Mothman is the descriptive name given to a West Virginia cryptid said to be a grayish-brown 7-foot tall half-human half-bird with enormous wings that resembled those of a moth and glowing red eyes that terrified those who saw it. The creature did not have a discernible head; its frightening eyes were located near its “shoulders.” Its wings did not flap or move, although it could reach racing speed; it had two human-like legs, and it occasionally emitted a shriek, reportedly similar to a woman screaming.

Mothman is a legendary creature reportedly seen in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia from 15 November 1966 to 15 December 1967. The first newspaper report was published in the Point Pleasant Register dated 16 November 1966, entitled "Couples See Man-Sized Bird...Creature...Something". There were no Mothman reports in the immediate aftermath of the December 15, 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge and the death of 46 people, giving rise to legends that the Mothman sightings and the bridge collapse were connected.

Several hypotheses propose that the Mothman creature was really just a case of misidentification. One theory is that the creature may have been a sandhill crane, a bird that can be up to 6 feet tall with a 10-foot wingspan that glides thought the air with its wings still for long distances and can emit a loud cry. Others suggest that Mothman could really have been a type of large owl; a large bird that had mutated due to the effects of the toxic waste dump created by the now off-limits West Virginia Ordnance Works; or even a huge turkey vulture.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Leviathan

Leviathan was a sea monster referred to in the Old Testament. The word Leviathan has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature.

According to legend, the Leviathan was a fire-breathing creature of such immense size that the sea boils when it swims to the surface. It ruthlessly and fearlessly rules over all the other creatures of the sea. The Leviathan's skin is like a double coat of mail, with overlapping scales the size of shields on its back, and as sharp and hard as broken pottery on its under-parts. Swords and harpoons will simply bounce off such protection. It breathes smoke from its nostrils and flames from its mouth which is rimmed with sharp teeth. Its fins radiate a brilliant light and its eyes are like the glimmerings of dawn.

K is for Krasue

The Krasue is a vampiric floating head from Southeast Asian mythology.  It is a malevolent spirit that manifests itself as a woman, usually young and beautiful, with her internal organs hanging down from the neck, trailing below the head.
Since it has no lower body this spirit hovers in the air above the ground. The organs below the head include a length of intestine and are usually represented freshly daubed with blood. Her teeth often include pointed fangs in vampire-fashion.

It is believed that this spirit was formerly a rich person with a length of black gauze or ribbon tied around the head and neck as protection from the sunshine. The ghost originated with the possession of this woman by an evil spirit which turned her into a head suspended in the air with some internal organs hanging from the neck after the separation of the head from the body. This hungry ghost is always active in the night when it goes out hunting, seeking blood to drink or raw flesh to devour. It is said that that this ghost searches for her body to become whole again.

The creature will die if the intestines get cut off or if its body disappears or gets hidden by someone. If the top part of the body fails to find the lower half before daybreak it will die if it does not rejoin the other half when sunlight comes. Some traditions believe that the creature can be destroyed by burning them alive.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jiang Shi

A Jiang Shi is a Chinese vampire/zombie that's name translates to 'stiff corpse'. It is also known as a Chinese "hopping" vampire/zombie and is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. It is a horrific creature that usually hops along, and when it comes across a victim it will suck the life force out of them ('qi').

The Jiang Shi is said to be raised by a necromancer, or when the soul of a dead man cannot leave his body due to reasons in life, such as they were a horrible troublemaker, or if they commit suicide. The body looks different due to when they were raised. If they are raised soon after death, their appearance looks like a normal human, however if they have decomposed some time before they come to life, they can look horrific and ghastly.

These zombies are usually described as a pale white colour with furry green hair, moss, or mould growing on their flesh. The Jiang Shi also has pale, long white, messy hair atop their heads. They are said to have extremely long tongues and black, sharp fingernails, and they walk along with their arms outstretched.

The Jiang Shi may be distracted if small objects are thrown about, in which case, like most vampires, it will stop to count them. Also, they are blind, and if one holds their breath when it passes, they may remain unnoticed. To deter them from entering a house a 15cm piece of wood nailed to the width of the bottom of the door will stop them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ibong Adarna

The Ibong Adarna, or the Adarna bird, is a legendary bird of the Philippines. It is believed to have a very long, fancy tail with numerous shiny metallic colours. It knows a total of seven songs that are believed to lull anyone to sleep as well as cure any type of affliction; it changes its feathers into more colourful hues and shades after each song. After the last song, it excretes waste, then finally sleeps with its eyes wide open. It is said that its dung can turn any living organism into stone.

Though her song was believed to be so dangerous, any one can still nullify the curse-effect of her song, if and only if, that person wounded his palm and at the same time squeeze a kalamansi (a citrus fruit from the Philippines that looks just like a small lime). And by staying awake, anyone has the chance to catch her and ask for her curing abilities of any kind of sickness.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hell Hound

A hell hound is a dog of Hell found in mythology and folklore, usually surrounding Greek mythology and that of Hades (god of the underworld). Hell hounds typically have features such as black fur colour, glowing red eyes, super strength and speed, ghostly or phantom characteristics and sometimes even the ability to talk.

Hell hounds are often associated with the element of fire and have fire-based abilities and appearances. These dogs seem to appear out of nowhere suddenly and have been known to vanish in a blink of the eye. It is said that hell hounds have the ability to travel through the shadows. They are often assigned to guard the entrances to the world of the dead, such as graveyards and Indian burial grounds, or undertake other duties related to the afterlife or the supernatural, such as hunting down lost souls or guarding a supernatural treasure. If someone were to see the hell hound three times he or she will die an abrupt and unseen death.

The most famous hell hound is Cerberus who guards the entrance to the underworld. He has three heads and is tall enough to make men feel like ants. Cerberus also has a brother, Orthrus, who has two heads. Both brothers were said to bring the souls of the dead or dying directly to Hades.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gashadokuro

A Gashadokuro (pronounced "gah sha doh kuroh") is a giant skeleton creature from Japanese mythology. It is said they are many times taller than a human, up to about 90 feet tall and made of the bones of people who have suffered awful deaths from war or who have starved to death. The bones are collected into this giant creature by the dead's feelings of anger at their own grisly demise.

The Gashadokuro wander at night, usually after midnight, making a ringing noise that sounds in the ears. If they come upon a living person they will attack, often biting the victims heads off with its giant teeth. When the ringing sounds, it would be best to run and hide in order to avoid being discovered.

F is for Furies

The furies are three goddesses of vengeance from Roman mythology: Tisiphone (avenger of murder), Megaera (the jealous) and Alecto (constant anger). They were also known as the Daughters of the Night or the Erinyes (Greek mythology).

Horrible to look at, the Furies had snakes for hair and blood dripping from their eyes. Sometimes they were depicted as having wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog.

Without mercy, the Furies would punish all crime including the breaking of rules considering all aspects of society. The wrath of the Furies manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflected upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease, and a nation harbouring such a criminal could suffer death, and with it hunger and disease.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Enenra

In Japanese mythology, an Enenra is a monster composed entirely of smoke. It resides in bonfires and, when it emerges, it takes the form of a human.

It is said that an Enenra can only be seen by the pure of heart. 

The character 羅 in the Enenra's name is meant to draw a comparison between the Enenra and the lofty characteristics of lightweight cloth.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Doppelgänger

A doppelgänger is the ghostly - in some cases, the physical - double of a living person. The word "doppelgänger" originates from German and is derived from Doppel (double) and Ganger (goer).

In most mythology, the doppelgänger is often referred to as an "evil twin". It is an exact replica of a specific human being.

When one sees their own doppelgänger it is said to be an omen of death, or a warning of approaching danger. A doppelgänger seen by a person's friends or relatives may sometimes bring bad luck, or indicate an approaching health problem.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Cacodaemon

What is a Cacodaemon? Well, this is considered an evil spirit or demon. The term comes from the Latin word 'kakodaimonon' which technically means "evil spirit", and this may also have been influenced by the Greek word 'daimon' meaning "neutral spirit".

A cacodaemon is the opposite of a good spirit known as an agathodaemon (also known as the Greek god of vinyards, health and prosperity).

It is said that the cacodaemon once the figure that represented the twelfth house of the horoscope. It was driven by the belief that the twelfth house was ruled by a demonic spirit, though these assumptions were later dismissed.

Nobody knows the true shape of the cacodeamon as it is supposed to have the power of shape changing and appears to people in different forms.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Banshee

I love all things creepy and macabre and in researching ghouls and monsters for my YA horror, I've decided to focus this challenge around finding creatures of all shapes, sizes and origins and letters.

Banshees originate from Irish mythology, also known as bean-sidhe. This creature often appears as a young maiden, a stately matron or an old hag, usually wearing a grey hooded robe or grey cloak of the dead.

A bad omen when seen, or heard, she is said to weep for the dead and her cries are warnings that someone nearby is close to death. Even though she's not always seen, her mourning call can be heard, usually when someone is about to die.

She may also appear as a washer-woman, and is seen apparently washing the blood stained clothes of those who are about to die.

A is for Australia

It's the first day of the A to Z challenge and after thinking a while on what to do for my "A" I decided on the most obvious choice. Where I come from: Australia.

I have lived in Australia all my life, starting from a country city all the way to a coastal suburb. For the past ten years I've lived 20 minutes from the beach. It was hot (way too hot at times), busy and noisy. But, what's not to like?

I lived on the Gold Coast, which was accessible to the beach, major shopping centres and theme parks. People now ask me why I've moved.

That's right, I've moved to a totally different climate. Back to a country town (definitely smaller than I've lived in before), it's quiet, small and cold (well, I've been told it gets cold in winter).

I had to move for work, but I'm not regretting it... although it would be nice to be able to duck down to MacDonald's or just to the cinema or shopping centre without needing to travel half an hour to get there. Yep, it's that small.

Where do you all come from?
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