Folklore

Folklore: Jersey Devil

A Famous Cryptid

Today I wanted to write and tell you about a piece of folklore that you may already be aware of as it is a well-known creature/cryptid.

I am of course talking about the Jersey Devil.

The story around this creature is that in the 18th century a supposed witch known as Mother Leeds discovered that she was pregnant. This was to be her 13th child. Naturally due to the connotations with the number etc Mother Leeds decided that this child was the son of the devil.

When he was born she was disappointed to see that he was perfectly normal.

However, almost instantly he changed. He became a hooved beat that killed the midwife and ran off into the woods. As you do moments after birth.

The Jersey devil is often credited with killing livestock, though it is sometimes said to have also killed small children. It is also blamed for souring cows’ milk just by being close to the cow.

My Thoughts

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Like Bigfoot, this creature has a large following and at one point a reward was offered for its capture. There was a dramatic increase in sightings in the 1900s, from seeing the creature attack a trolley to footprints in the snow.

With the creature having such a large following there have been a great many hoaxes. But such a large following also leads to a lot of dilution, it’s difficult now to see what this creature symbolised because of the number of retellings it has gone through. Perhaps it can represent the early settlers’ fear of the unknown landscape around them which already housed large predators? It could symbolise fear of the other, which crops up a lot, even today. We naturally fear what is different to ourselves and imagination can enhance that fear.

The Jersey Devil has cropped up a lot outside of its initial folklore, it lent its name to sports teams. You can purchase models and figurines of the creature, much in the same way you can of bigfoot and other cryptids. It’s turned up in tv shows like the X-files, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Real adventures of Jonny Quest and more recently Gravity Falls (an awesome show btw). It crops up in various video games, including one named after it.

Reviews - Films

Film: Antlers

Everyone loves a wendigo

Today I am writing to tell to you about Antlers, which is a film with a lot of symbolism.

It was released in 2021 and directed by Scot Cooper. It was adapted from the short story, The Quiet Boy, written by Nick Antosca.

Summary

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The story takes place in a small town in Oregon, where a drug dealer, Frank, runs his meth lab out of an old mine. Frank is visiting his lab and he; his son Aiden and Franks meth pal are all attacked by a creature in the mine.  Frank and Aiden escape but meth buddy does not. However, Frank and Aiden are not well after the attack and return home to be locked in the basement by Franks other boy, Lucas.

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Folklore

Folklore: The Manananggal

Vampire or witch?

Today I am writing to you about the Manananggal.

The Manananggal is another creature from the Phillipines. They are a sort of vampire witch crossover. Though they do have an odd habit of tearing themselves in half in the stomach then flying off into the night to search for sleeping pregnant women to feed upon.

When I was reading up on these creatures they reminded me strongly of the Aswang which you may remember I wrote about back in January.

Like the Aswang these creatures could have been created to explain the dangers faced by pregnant women. Death in pregnancy is a real risk, especially before the advances made in medical science that we benefit from today and these creatures could have easily been created as a way for people to explain the unreasonable deaths women suffered when pregnant.

To defend against these creatures you can use daggers, sunlight, or a buntot pagi (a whip that is made from the tail of a stingray). Or if you manage to get hold of the upper torso after they’ve torn themselves in half then you should smear it with garlic, salt, or ash, then it will be unable to re-join with its lower half and will be vanquished by the sunrise.

Interesting, yes?

Folklore

Folklore: Futakuchi Onna

Yokai

Today I am writing to talk to you about the Futakuchi Onna.

She is a type of Yokai, or monster, from Japan.

The Futakuchi Onna, is, in its most simple description, a woman with two mouths; one in the usual place, the second on the back of her head beneath her hair (you’d get so much hair in your mouth).

Myth

The story of the Futakuchi Onna is a simple one, she is created when a woman is starving and marries a miserly husband. Any woman has the potential to become a Futakuchi Onna, as it’s more like a curse or disease than something you are born as.

The most well known story of the Futakuchi Onna is that there was one a miserly man, who could not bare the thought of spending money. He lived alone because of this as he could not stand the idea of how expensive having a wife and family would be. But then one day he met a woman in the woods, magically she didn’t eat anything (diet plan gone wrong?). The miser was thrilled because she would be cheep and took her as his wife.

Over time the miser noticed that his rice was being depleted at an alarming rate. He eventually discovered that it was his wife, the mysterious lady who did not need to eat. Apparently she did eat, just not in the usual way. The miser spied on his wife and watched in horror as when she thought she was alone, her hair parted, revealing a second mouth, then, taking on a will of its own, her hair started shovelling rice into the mouth.

Futakuchi Onna appear often in modern day culture, they pop up in astern media and western and appear across all types of media. From anime such as GeGeGe no Kitaro, to video games like The Last Blade and Pokemon (Mawile), from books like Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children to Youtube with YouTuber Futakuchi_Mana.

Folklore

Folklore: Nykur

Today I want to talk to you about the Nykur.

Today I am writing to you about the Nykur.

A Nykur is an Icelandic myth, it usually appers as a horse (kinda, a weird horse). It has a lot of similarities with the Scottish Kelpie.

The Nykur, much like the Kelpie, finds sport in drowning travellers that it lures into mounting it and then runs into water. Its skin is sticky so once the beast is mounted struggling will not free you.

In order to protect yourself you have to engage in Christian practices aka make the sign of the cross against the creature, or in the alternative you can call out the name of the Nykur. Calling its name will send the Nykur away into the water (without the victim), making the sign of the cross will calm the creature so that you can ride it like you would a normal horse.

Legend says that you can tell when a Nykur is around by the sound of cracking ice, which is supposed to be the sound of the creature neighing.  

The Nykur, like many water demons, could have been created as a way for parents to warn children away from dangerous bodies of water. They could also have been created as a way for people to make sense of the unexpected behaviour of water.

Folklore

Folklore: The Wendigo

Nom, Nom, Nom

In todays letter about spooky folklore I want to talk about the Wendigo.

The Wendigo has appeared many times in popular culture, with it appearing in countless videogames, books and films. It is also a staple of the Creepypasta genre, popping up in an unexpectedly large amount of stories.

Sometimes in pop culture the Wendigo will be referred to by its name and other times it can be given a new name, or no name at all, but will still have the traits of the Wendigo of myth.

The name, Wendigo, has also been co-opted by the medical industry, Wendigo psychosis is a mental condition in which the sufferer has uncontrollable cravings for human flesh.

But where did this myth come from and what does it entail?

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The Wendigo originates in Canada, among the First Nations Algonquin tribes. It appears with a number of tribes, each one differing slightly but all of them describing the same basic appearance and behaviours.  

It is often depicted as humanoid in shape, standing unusually tall on two legs and with two arms often ending in human-esk hands with fingers and opposable thumbs. It’s head however is not human at all, it’s head is usually that of a monstrous deer, with antlers and a great deal of exposed bone. Some depictions have the head as being a completely exposed scull, others expose some of the bone and a few have the head covered in fur.

In the stories the origin of the Wendigo differs, for some it was and is a spirit on it’s own and in other stories it is a human who has been possessed by a spirit and warped into a monster.

The Wendigo is said to appear in particularly hard winters, during periods of starvation, scarcity and famine. It embodies all of these things and the malevolent nature that comes out in people during these times. It is strongly associated with cannibalism and greed.

The Wendigo was created by the tribes to explain several things, the most apparent being the change in people during times of scarcity. The idea that men could become possessed by an evil spirit was likely a far more comfortable idea than if your neighbour is desperate enough they might eat you. It offers an explanation of the personality shifts people can undergo when times get hard. But it also serves as encouragement for people to employ moderation in times of scarcity.

Folklore

Folklore: The Aswang

Vampires everywhere

Today I am writing 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.

Folklore

Folklore: Drekavac

Little dead peeps

Today’s real-world horror letter will be about a creature from Slavic mythos, the Drekavac.

This creature differs depending on who is doing the telling, and where they are from but fundamentally Drekavac are little dead people who jump on the backs of living people and tell them predictions, usually cheerful predictions about their deaths and the deaths of their loved ones and, oddly enough, farm animals. Though I suppose back in the day if your farm animals died then you died so that was an epic deal.

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