Folklore: Funayurei

Today’s legend comes from Japan and delves into Japan’s apparent love for creepy ghost ladies. We will be looking at the funayurei, a type of ghost, commonly portrayed as women with a passion for sinking ships. 

The Myth

The funayurei legend has multiple variations, they all have the same basic structure and story but with subtle differences that change amongst tellers.  

Common points across almost all telling’s are that these creepy ghost ladies like to sink ships. In some versions, the funayurei are very much like sirens, beautiful women who lure ships into dangerous situations for the crew of the ship to meet a watery end. In some versions, the funayurei don’t lure the ship into dangerous territory but rather fill the ships with water themselves to sink them.

One of the key differences between funayurei and sirens is their origins. Sirens have always been sirens, meaning they are a creature completely separate from humanity, they were born sirens, they did not become sirens. However, the funayurei were once people who were turned into funayurei. Their myth has an almost vampiric element to it, in that those killed by the funayurei will rise themselves as funayurei. 

Appearance-wise the funayurei are creepy ghost ladies but they might not always appear as such. They can turn themselves into ships to ram into and take down other ships. This takes the ghost ship to a whole new level. 

Over time, funayurei have developed a range of abilities, not only do they sink ships but they can affect the navigation gear on a ship, effect the crews moral, they might force a ship to run aground by setting a fire in the open sea making the ship’s crew think it land is nearby so they sail off course.

Usually, funayurei live in the sea but have been known to swim up in rivers as well. They like to appear on rainy days, which is not a surprise as they were likely invented as a way for people to understand and explain ships having accidents in poor weather.

There are ways to protect yourself and your ship from the funayurei, such as throwing rice balls, flowers or incense into the sea. You can also freak them out by staring them down. They don’t like their water being messed with and will leave if you stir it with a stick.

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