Folklore

Folklore: Gashadokuro

Today I want to talk to you about the Gashadokuro.

The gashaokuro, also known as the odokuro, come from Japan. They are classified as a ghost or spirit, but they do have a physical substance to them aka they are not incorporeal.

Appearance wise the gashaokuro look like epic skeletons, they are around 80-90 feet tall. They gnash their teeth as they walk which I can only imagine as being very loud given their size.

They are pulled together from the bones of people who died from either starvation or warfare. Naturally, as you can imagine anyone who died in this awful manner would be pretty miffed. This makes the gashaokuro full of anger, rage and bloodlust.

Any angry bloodthirsty spirit worth its salt is going to eat people.

The gashaokuro roam the countryside during the night hunting people to drink blood from. If they locate someone, they will stalk them silently somehow before ambushing them and biting their heads off and drink the insides. There is no way to fight off the gashaokuro, the only thing you can do is run when you hear a ringing in your ears as this is the only warning you will have. Though honestly, outrunning a gigantic skeleton? Unlikely.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The gashaokuro appear throughout modern culture both as themselves and as the inspiration for other monsters.

The gashaokuro have appeared in video games such as Chrono Trigger with the character Zombor, there are a fair few of them popping up in Castlevania. There is a gashaokuro in AdventureQuest Worlds it is a forbidden Beast of Chaos.

They also appear in animation, such as Hellboy: Sword of Storms, and the Studio Ghibli movie Pom Poko.

Lastly, they are also seen in manga and some of the subsequent anime such as InuYasha and Inu x Boku SS.

Lastly, though I’ve not seen this confirmed anywhere I got very distinct Attack on Titan vibes when I was researching this creature.

Folklore

Folklore: Nykur

Today I want to talk 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 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.

Folklore

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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Folklore

Folklore: Hone-onna

Today’s creepy folklore comes from Japan.

We are going to look at the folklore around Hone-onna.

The story is about a beautiful woman, who is renowned for her looks and style. She wears a beautiful kimono that covers her almost completely but notably leaving her face and neck bare. The myth makes a point of her beauty as she uses it to lure men.

Yup, you guessed it, this is a succubus story, or at least the story has a lot of similarities to the western succubus.

Summary

Hone-onna uses her beauty and grace to lure men to secluded and out of the way places. Once she has lured her prey, she encourages them to undress her. But the all covering kimono is there for a reason. This woman has no skin (Sexy right). She is just meat and bones. Once her prey is suitably freaked out, she embraces him and draws out his life.


Thoughts

As mentioned above there are a lot of similarities here with the western succubus, a beautiful woman who preys on and eats men. This is a reasonably common trope in various myths and folklore, the idea of being lured by something we desire, be it material, physical or emotional and then devoured by it.


This myth taps into several types of fear, the fear that our desires are going to lead us to destruction and warning us not to let them overrule our common sense. Then there’s the very prominent supernatural element with Hone-onna being a literal monster, we all know monsters aren’t real but the uncertainty is always there, especially with monsters like Hone-onna who is so well disguised. Then you have the fear of social expectations and the stigma attached to both casual sex and the innate fear of woman and their sexuality.

The fact that there can be more than one meaning, it is one of my favourite things about these kinds of stories, there isn’t always a right answer.

I like to consider why people made these stories, why would people invent Hone-onna, what would they be trying to stop and all the points I made above come to mind, the stigma around casual sex and the prevalent idea that sexual women are somehow evil monsters. I can just imagine mothers warning their sons not to go out too late because Hone-onna will get you. Don’t get to close to the promiscuous lady she could be Hone-onna. So, overall, I think this myth was brought to life by societal pressure and stigma.

Folklore

Folklore: El Silbon

Today marks the start of a new series!

A lot of the best-loved horror stories originate from myths, with that in mind I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to have a look at the original, the myth and see how some of the horror stories we know and love have been changed. Also, I want to look at myths which, to my knowledge anyway, haven’t yet been adapted for a modern audience.

Today’s myth is that of El Silbon, which translates into English as The Whistler.