Everything can be dangerous. Especially when we are talking about mythical creatures. Be it enormous beings, that can be mistaken for geological formation, or demons disguised as humans or even those that do not look like living creatures at the first glance.
Ya-te-veo is a man-eating tree that grows in rainforests of Central and South America. Dr. Antonio José Marques from Columbian Barranquilla confirmed the existence of this plant to the author of the book Sea and Land, published in year 1887. It has long snake-like branches covered in poisonous thorns. It received the name Yateveo — Spanish for "I see you" — thanks to the sound it produces. Some of the more trusting witnesses say that its tendrils are in fact cluster of snakes, hissing and reaching for passing by food.
J.W. Buel, the man that wrote the aforementioned book, points out that similar entity can be found in African mythology. A traveler once witnessed a scene, where it had one unfortunate native for lunch. This probably served as an inspiration for the illustration I used here.
There is plenty of these engravings in the book, most often portraying nature as it consumes people. Amongst them is also an illustration for Verne's book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and many others, less known or. You can see selection of them in Steve Lew's album "Sea and Land by J. W. Buel, 1889", which can be found on Flickr.
Engraving of a tree feasting on native man is from the book Sea and Land written by J.W. Buel,
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
One of my most favourite book, when I was a little, was Erben’s collection of fairy tales, and one of the reasons were illustrations made by Artuš Scheiner, which told their own stories. One of these pictures was a unicorn, however not in its delicate white beauty, how it is commonly portrayed. It was hefty horse with dangerous horn and looked like it would trample the gullible virgin trying to use common method to tame it.
Al-mi’raj is very similar. It has one horn, which is black, however its body looks more like a yellow rabbit. But be aware that this rabbit is carnivorous and wild.
It lives on a mysterious island somewhere in Indian ocean, or at least that is what Arab poets say. Its name is sometimes shortened to “mi’raj”, which is also the name of the second part of Muhammad’s journey – to the heavens.
The story of wind troll Ysätters-Kajsa is one that shows her race in a different light, rather than usual stories about evil and stupid giants. Her name can be really easily analysed. Kajsa is word that is used to summon wind trolls and Ysätter is the name of a swamp, where she was born.
She lived in Närke, land on the south of Sweden and was not evil, however she liked to taunt people. Närke flat land enveloped by mountains, where wind often runs around and his personification was easy. Just like many others, this troll is wild, dangerous and moody. Not evil, however she liked to mess around and she hated quarrelsome people (and liked and protect the just and children).
She liked to dance in the wind, her hair in the sky, skirt on the ground – typical tornado. She sat on the cliffs and watched the surrounding landscape at morning, other times she looked down from clouds and thought how to trick people. Sometimes, she watched haymaking and when people loaded their carts, she brought rain. In the winter, when she saw somebody trying to cross snowy plains, she brought snowstorm. Vicar’s wife in Glanshammar had her table, cups and kettle with tea taken away by the wind, that was also ascribed to Ysätters-Kajsa.
Jubokko is a tree. Big and literally bloodthirsty. It catches unsuspecting people and drains their blood. It is inclined to do so mainly because it grows on battlefields, where many died.
There is one small problem. Even though these types of creatures are documented in folklores of many countries (for example Spanish Roblón), jubokko is not in any of these. Only information about it is from the bestiary of Mizuki Shigeru. The famous painter might have made him up, however he did not done so with any other yokai.
According to Zulu and cryptozulu...ologists this snake lives in a lake north from Pietermaritzburg. The first group says that there is horse head stapled to the aforementioned snake body, whereas the second group mentions a big eel. A fish, no matter how big it is, however cannot affect local weather, which is one of the things Inkanyamba does, thus we will care only about the first group, the Zulu. They know that it is not just some supernatural animal, but a creature that grows every time it leaves the lake, moves in spiraling motion towards to skies only to shrink down to its former size while it submerges itself back into the water. It grows mainly in summer months, when – if it is angry – it summons strong storms. If you imagine swirling pillar reaching from earth up to the skies, you have a good idea how Inkayamba looks. At least according to Zulu.
It is common in ancient Greece, that there is a god for almost any profession. Why wouldn't there be one for fools? It sounds quite suspicious, however we need to keep in mind that this god was probably created by poets.
The oldest mention about him is from Hesiod, however it spread really fast in the following seven hundred years. Foolishness is omnipresent and eternal and so is its god.
A possible son of Nyx, the goddess of the night, was hanging around the Olympus, working as an advisor, but when he, after multitudes of warnings, did not stop criticizing everything, Zeus kicked him out.The last straw that made king of gods do it, was Mómos' assertion, that bulls should have eyes on their horns, so the animal could clearly see what it is butting. Suggesting to Prometheus, that human heart would be better outside the body, so one can look into it, was another bright idea. Criticizing of Athena's efforts to teach people how to build houses, advising that they should build them on the wheel so it is easy for them to move from their neighbours, did not help either and I'm not even mentioning his argument with Aphrodite, saying that she may be beautiful, however her sandals are squeaking. There are many Mómoses among us and there is no need to list further examples, because, truth be told, everybody can act like Mómos sometimes.
Jorge Luis Borges mentions in his Book of Imaginary Beings one Argentinian boggart, that is little more recent than most of the occupants of this site. It has been seen north from Cordoba, late at night, running on railway lines or telegraph wires. It rattles with its chains suspended all over its body, which is also the only thing that locals can testify about, because nobody has witnessed him otherwise.
If we willfully ignore the creatures that Heracles met, while doing his job, it is clear that the most popular animal of Greek myths is undoubtedly the godly goat Amalteia. Her main role was production of a milk for a child hidden away in Crete by its desperate mother to protect it from his other parent. The child was named Zeus; the mother was Rheia and father Kronos. Amalatheia was there to ensure Zeus' survival, at least until he is in the age when he can deal with his father personally. She fulfilled her task. This should be enough for the purposes of this bestiary entry... no, there are many similar animals in myths. From dogs and cats to horses, birds and even fleas. This goat cannot even talk, nor has it any supernatural origin.
If I only wanted to scold myself, I would omit the last sentence, so it is clear that there will be something else.
First let's talk about the future.
When Zeus grew up and became the greatest god, he gifted a golden watchdog to his former wet nurse. This dog was there to look after Amaltheia until she died and was processed: her image was imprinted into the skies as a Capricorn constellation, Zeus made an aegis from her skin and one of her horns was given to goddess Tyche and then became the famous cornucopia, eternal stream of drinks and food. It is often attached to river god Achelous, but for today we will stick to the amalthean version.
Now the present.
Things are not usually that simple, how they look on the first sight. According to some sources, Amaltheia was not a goat. She was an oread and an owner of the animal, however, as is common with complicated Greek mythology, some sources talk about her as a mother of both Zeus' nursemaids, Adrasteia and Ida.
Even though this transformation from goat to nymph was made by later authors, it was not completely revolutionary and new perspective of Zeus' early years. Amaltheia was not always a goat.
Finally, we will take a peek to the past.
As we already found out, Amaltheia was not just a four-legged animal and there were three women taking care of little Zeus. And when there are three women, concept of the Great Goddess comes to mind. Adrasteia was an Crone; Ida was a Mother and Amalatheia was a Maiden. This is how it probably looked from the beginning, when Mediterranean civilization was ancient and formed by many small worlds.
Rheia, Amaltheia, Kouretes and Baby Zeus:
By Numérisation Google (Galerie mythologique, tome 1 d'A.L. Millin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8.8. 2018 (22.4.2007)
Near Bohemian village Tatobity you can find one of the more common formes of fire specters, radiating Czech folk tales – a fire barrel. This one, however, has a name and the name is Karbunkulus and it is filled with gold. When it is rolling down from the hill and someone is in front of it, it will avoid him. If it somehow crashes into a human, it will stop and transform into a pile of golden metal.
Nowadays her role is reduced to only one of its aspects, despite that, the daughter of Night and Darkness (Nyx and Erebos) is not mere Goddess of Vengeance. In ancient Greece this very straightforward job was usually assigned to Erinyes, while Nemesis judged humanity's merit and awarded them with either fortune or misfortune. She would then closely observe everyone who got the first reward and punish them if they used their newly found fortune to hurt others. Some versions of the myths attribute this judging to goddess Tyche and let Nemesis deal only with punishments. That is why she is seen as an embodiment of retribution.
It is also said that Nemesis is a daughter of Oceanos and it was her, not Leda, who was seduced (in fact raped) by Zeus in the form of swan and who gave birth to the reason of Trojan War, Helena.
Horg is a result of a terrifying experiment made by three godless brothers, at least that is what German story about Bohemian Forest tells. At first it looked just like some stupid joke to entertain bored people. They lived in Lobnerhof (Lobner Yard) and it was there where wooden figure was carved. It was given name Horg and they used him to do things that were forbidden by God. One of those acts was feeding. “Horg is hungry,” they said while stuffing dummy with a spoon. One night all of them were woken up by a deafening noise – Horg came to life and he stood in the doorway. One of the three, the bravest of brothers, grabbed him and flung him out of their house. Horg returned at midnight, saying: “I will catch the first one, skin the second one and throw the third one at the roof.”
I am not sure how narrator found out about this because nobody saw any of these three brothers since then.
One of the old Celtic gods worshiped in time of Roman reigns over Gallia. He was the patron of agriculture, forests and alcoholic beverages, because people under the Roman influence connected him with Silvanus. He was formerly one of the highest gods, known for his hammer, with which he could either kill or bring the dead alive, each side of the hammer had different role, thus he was probably also the god of death (and reincarnation). That explains his latter specialty with nature and merging with Silvanus – mortality and fertility have lot in common.
In preserved paintings he looks like a bearded middle-aged man with a hammer in one hand and cauldron or bowl in the other. Nantosuelta, most likely his wife, is often depicted next to him and so are three headed dog and a crow.
This Gaul goddess of fertility, earth and fire is often considered to be a consort of Sucellos. She is depicted with him in most of the paintings, holding a staff with little house on its top. This confused many researchers: Is it a beehive or is it a burial casket? However, they all agree that it is a symbol of human dwelling and Nantosuelta is a guardian. We also have to keep in mind her connection with water and cornucopia. According to Delamarre the name has proto-Indo-European root 'swel' (sun) and as a whole it means 'sun-warmed valley'. Others pay attention to the word Nant, which means brook or underground stream in Welsh. These people then translate the name Nantosuelta as 'winding brook'. Considering that she is often depicted in the company of a crow, animal used to symbolize fortune telling and healing, Naltosuelta sure is one versatile goddess.
He lives in Schwerin palace in Mecklenburg and acts there as an unnatural custodian. His usual daily routine is walking through underground and using his big bunch of keys to open various doors.Others saw him holding lantern in one hand and sword in the other. Sometimes he looks like an old man with long white beard, other times he was seen as a dandy with feather on his stylish hat and poirot-esque moustache; his appearance changed many times throughout centuries of dutiful service. The only thing that stayed the same was his height and as is common with most of these elves; he was not exactly big.
It is said that before the times of Christianity, a pagan god lived at the place where Schwerin is nowadays. He ran away as soon as new religion arrived, his former assistants were left there to take care for themselves. Most of them also ran away, but there was one that did not want to break his employment contract, no matter what is happening around him, and that was Petermännchen.
He was blessing for the guardsmen, who wanted to take a short nap during their night shifts: Petermännchen began to rattle, thus waking up all of them and helping them to not get caught slacking on the watch. And whenever guards were not around and a thief found his way into the castle, Petermännchen took care of him himself.
You may know Arion as a songster, who was saved by a dolphin after his forced leap into the sea, however there is also another legendary figure bearing this name. This Arion is swift flying horse, born to Poseidon and Demeter (making the nymph Despoina one of his siblings). The steed was later used by Adrastos, leader of famous war expedition called Seven Against Thebes. Arion helped his rider to escape after their failed attack. There is not much known about him apart from the aforementioned. Heracles used a horse with the same name to conquer Elis, but this black-maned stallion was had no supernatural origin and only link with Poseidon's son was the name they both shared.
26.9.2018 (26. 10. 2003)
Every prohibition works better if you can explain its consequences properly. Inuits, as well as other cultures have useful creatures in their folklore because of this. Qalupaliq (or Kalopaling, sometimes even nicknamed Mitiling based on a species of ducks) belongs to the group of “pedagogical boggarts”. Parents use them to scare their kids and ensure they would not break set rules - in this case behaving around water.
Photographer Paul Nicken mentions Qalupaliq in June 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine. He lived on Baffin Island since he was five years old and heard about this sea monster right from the source. He had no reason to not believe his parents when they forewarned him, that if he ever walks towards the edge of the ice, monster could jump from the water and take him beneath the surface and eat him. If he disrespected his parents' orders, a polar bear could do the same, or he could slip and fall into the water on his own. The story worked perfectly.
Qalupaliq is usually invisible, however in some version he can take the form of a human dressed in a coat made from duck feathers (that is why he is nicknamed Mitiling). He kidnaps children and puts them into the cowl of his coat, filled with rocks. He does not speak and makes whistling sound with one claw on his seal-like feet. Sometimes hunters bring home seal fins to prove that Qalupaliq is real, thus making children's faith in him stronger. There are less and less qalupaliqs thanks to the Inuit hunters, however to hunt one is not an easy task. One must have their eyes closed the entire time, or they may be taken under the water. It is said that their meat is poisonous but ideal for feeding dogs.
God of Knowledge often connected with a coconut palm. A Teacher, who descended from the sky to educate Micronesians in agriculture, tattooing and hairdressing. Son of Aluep, father of Olofat.
Loud hound spectres running around or more precisely flying around in the air of harsh Yorkshires nights. Those are Leeds variant of an apparition usually known as Gabriel Hounds. The reason why they engage in the Wild Hunt is known: Gabble Retchets are the souls of the unbaptized children who return to remind their fate to their parents.
This is one of the less known local Czech boggarts. It shows itself at the night (as do many other similar creatures) on the road from Nový Jičín to Bernartice nad Odrou. However there is a twist. It does not look as a simple member of the Equidae species from the start. When it appears, it takes form of a fireball. At the same place one can see another more common Czech demon – black dog with fiery eyes.
12.11.2018 (1. 11. 2003)
Hunters of Siberian Chukchi sacrifice (usually dogs) to hunting God named Picvu´cin, a small elf whose sleighs are dragging by mice.
A small hairy squirrel with human face and without a tail. An useful helper of Lombardian parents, a creature more mischievous than malicious.
A Christmas cat that operates in Iceland. Inhabitants of this faraway island are in danger, if they don't change into new clothes at Christmas. The overgrown pet of the giantess Gryla (which targets mostly villagers, not townies) can easily devour it's prey whole, so peasants try to process wool from summer shearing in time. Some people say, that Jólakötturinn only steals food from those who are dressed in old, but why risk it. It might be really hungry.
Seven winged horses. First of them is red, followed by orange, yellow, white, black, blue and finally green one. They run around Cantabria during the Saint John's Eve. These emissaries of Hell are accompanied by devilish screams, smoke and fire. Their task is simple – to find and destroy as much four-leaf clovers as they can. Those flowers bring good luck, and that is contrary to Satan’s interests.
This half dragon, half tortoise had lived in Catolania and each day it had ate three or thirteen cats and three children, until it was tamed by a hero named Rufolet. Then it became symbol and folklore figure.
"Things just happen. What the hell."
* Terry Pratchett. Hogfather
Welcome to my world. For the longest time I couldn’t think of right name for this place, so I left it without one. Amongst things you can find here are attempts of science fiction and fantasy stories, my collection of gods, bogeymen and monsters and also articles about things that had me interested, be it for a while or for years. (There is more of this, sadly not in English but in Czech, on www.fext.cz)