Folklore

Folklore: The Aswang

Today I want to talk to you about the Aswang.

The Aswang is a creature from the Philippines, or, according to some, it can be a catch all term for a group/type of creature.

Generally Aswangs are thought of as shapeshifters, they look human during the day and tend to portray themselves as mild mannered and feeble (superman vibes?). They will tend to make friends, who are none the wiser.

If you are looking at them as a group then said group can be broken down into, Vampires, the typical beautiful women who drinks blood, but this vampire does so via a long tongue and tends to live in forests rather than graveyards. The Aswang can also be a witch, a vindictive creature fond of curses. The curses tend to cause foreign bodies like rice or bugs to come out of the victims body (grim). Then you have the Viscera Sucker, which feats on organ meat of young or unborn children. Next you have the ghoul, who eats dead people. Lastly, there’s the Werecreature, they can become anything, from a dog or cat to a pig, this version eats pregnant women who have tied up their hair (keeping your hair lose keeps you safe).

The aswang is a creature, or group of creatures, with a lot of variety and because of this it can tap into a lot of different types of fear. However, there are similarities, most of the Aswang prey on women, pregnant women or children. They hide in plain sight either in or close to a village and they trick people into trusting and in some cases even marrying them.

They play into the intrinsic fears we have, especially the werecreature who can become a threatening animal. But they also play into the more esoteric fears we have around women and pregnancy. Pregnancy is risky, even today women and children can be lost to a complication and the Aswang could easily have been a cultures way to explain those losses in a way we can understand. Like most stories and myths they are created to help us understand the world, monsters are made to make the world less frightening, to make it make sense.

The Aswang also plays up to our fear of being bamboozled, they hide in plain sight, they get us to trust them only for them to betray us and harm the community. This is almost a societal tension, mistrust of outsiders, fear that those around us aren’t being honest with us, are hiding something or are more than they seem.

As said above, Aswang were probably created to explain death and injury, particularly to children and pregnant women. They were created to help us explain and understand tragedy. But they were also created to give us a sense of control. There are various countermeasures that can be taken to keep the Aswang at bay, there are various holy objects and behaviours that can be used to fend these creatures off, prevent miscarriage and protect the village.

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