A large Romanian dragon, often multiple-headed (three, seven, or twelve, or even a single one, for example when posing for a street decoration, see the illustration), usually represents the Dark side, which the Hero must remove from the path to reach the Princess. In folktales and fairy tales, this is usually Făt-Frumos, the third son, the intrepid warrior, savior, and fatalistic wanderer through the world and between worlds.
Like many of his relatives, Balaur has reincarnated in our world into provable creatures. He gave his name to a dinosaur, more specifically a dromaeosaurid, that roamed and hunted in the Upper Cretaceous of present-day Romania. Its saliva, unfortunately, does not turn into precious stones, as that of the original folkloric dragon, but still, it is (or was, if you haven‘t your own time machine) an interesting creature. Balaur bondoc was one of the small theropods of the Haţeg ecosystem, rising in the area of the present-day city of that name from the waters of the Mesozoic ocean of Tethys. The Cretaceous population there was truly dwarfed compared to the usual continental average, with a select beast growing to two meters, for example, while its herbivorous neighbor and eventual prey, Magyarosaurus, a relative of the largest known lizards, was six meters long.
Small water horse, most often seen in pools and waterfalls. That is a clue for a sensible person to avoid further exploration.
But Ceffyl-Dwr likes to play – and then – like many British supernatural horses – he just grazes on the shore and waits for someone to notice him and decide that it would be a shame to leave a nice steed without an owner. The mounted horse then with pleasure throws the rider off. Always.
Worse, if Ceffyl-Dwr gets the urge to take off – because he can. The surprised rider floats in the air until the horse turns to air or nothing, or to fog. The result is the same: the high-speed approaching land.
10.12.2022 (6. 9. 2001)
A cousin of the Scottish Loch Ness monster, living only a couple of kilometers further south in Wales lake of Tegid Llyn. It was first sighted in 1920 and, like all its relatives, is described as being very similar to the Mesozoic plesiosaur. A crocodile, if you aren‘t a big cryptozoologist fan.
It is also rumored that the monster is originally a witch from the village of Pontrhydfendigaid, a hundred kilometers away (where, incidentally, the first Welshman to climb Mount Everest, mountaineer Caradog Jones, was born). Mari Berllan Bitter was said to be able to turn into a hare during her lifetime, but she probably did more than that.
10. 12. 2022 (13.7.2009)
According to Lucan, Amphisbaena belongs to the Libyan snakes (like the basilisk). According to the ancient Greeks, it had two heads, each at one end of its body, its name can be translated from Greek as Walking in both directions. She was also called the Mother of Ants, which sounds very ironic as she lived on ants.
Like many dragon and serpent monsters, Amphisbaena was given the honor of being the godmother of non-mythical animals – in her case, even the entire family Amphisbaenidae, comprising around a hundred species of earthworm-like tropical lizards.
The amphisbaina in the picture comes from an old English bestiary known as Bestiary Harley, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
12.12.2022 (16.7. 2001)
All that is known about this creature to me and the Encyclopaedia Mythica is that it is a water bull from the Scottish Highlands. The name translated from Gaelic means water (uisge) bull (tarbh). If you can see the affinity with the golden liquid known as whisky, then you don't need glasses, as this word is also of Gaelic origin – originally the Highlanders called this grain product uisge beatha, the water of life. You know that, many human vices are usually covered by more pleasant names.
Tanit, the Punic moon and fertility goddess, a relative of Astarté, used to be one of the highest deities of ancient Carthage. Today she is little better known than her husband Baal-Hammon, the chief Carthaginian god to whom children were sacrificed and whose cult was also at home in Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia. But the defeat of the once mighty empire was not averted by either of them. (Rumours of child sacrifice, often thought to be mere Roman propaganda, were incidentally confirmed in the 1920s.)
Her symbol (appearing somewhere on the right) was a triangle, with a horizontal line on it and a circle, according to some views a sun wheel. I don't know, it reminds me of a stylized human (or divine) figure, and somewhat of an Egyptian ankh too. The goddess herself used to take the form of a young woman, sometimes winged, with one palm open, accompanied by a dove, a fish, a pomegranate, and of course a crescent moon. All of them are well-known divine attributes. Sometimes she used to have a lion's head, as some depictions, including the illustration of this story, show her. This suggests that Tanith's next function may have been head of the Ministry of War.
Again: not far from Carthage, as the desert was traversed by the caravan, was Egypt and their lioness Sekhmet.
Tanit's name was taken over by the imported Roman Juno. After the fall of Carthage, the Romans suppressed the original cult, but removing Tanit would not have been so easy. The goddess belonging to the moon then became Caelestis (Junó Caelestis), Tanit's ideological descendant.
The cult of the former Carthaginian First Lady was later taken over – in its own peculiar form – by the North African Berbers, and in the form of Tanith, her name became the name of many characters, both real and literary.
Acheri lives in the mountains of India. As a little girl, she descends from the peaks to the valleys, and her visits are definitely not welcome.
Because Acheri is a nightmare.
She sends shadows of sickness over unsuspecting sleeping victims, cowardly choosing mostly children. Although medical prevention is now gaining ground in all parts of the world, it is still a good idea to take practical precautions against this demoness. To do this, from time immemorial, they have composed an amulet of red thread, hung around the neck. It is not uninteresting that in Europe, too, red pendants have always served to protect against being struck by a witch and against evil spirits.
We seem to have stumbled upon a really ancient demonological practice here. If you don‘t feel well, pop into the doctor and have a spool of red thread added to your usual medication. You know, just in case.
2.1. 2023 (21.8.2001)
One of those wonderful mythological animals manifesting the Creator's desire to save imagination and use unsaleable stock. The Indian Yali certainly belongs to this fauna, as do the basilisk, the crocotta, or the leucrocotta, not to mention the centaurs. It is described as having the body of a lion, the trunk of an elephant, and tusks. Nowadays, it is mostly found only as temple decorations. And there it sometimes has a snake's tail.
7.1.2023 (6. 9. 2001)
Chasing Tangie we have to go far north, to the islands off Scotland. In Orkney, it appears in the form of seaweed or a seahorse. I do not know how it behaves there, but in Shetland, it figures in a not-very-honorable role in the legend of Black Eric.
Tangie, belonging to Black Erik, had the form of a sea horse. Erik rode it from his lair on the side of a mountain called Fitful Head. The cave is still called Thief's Hole, and it's really a telling name.
Erik and Tangie terrorized the area for a long time. Their raids plagued the already impoverished region and there seemed to be no end in sight. Until one day, a highlander named Sandy Breamer lost patience with working his meager fields for nothing; a life on the rugged Shetlands wasn't worth much without Erik.
Sandy bravely stood up to the rogue. Oddly enough, things weren't so hot with Eric, and his reputation must have been greatly exaggerated; an angry Sandy drove him to the top of Fitful Head and dumped him in the sea.
The county had peace from the dreaded thief, but its supernatural steed wasn't giving up.
He continued to harm, attempting to procure a mortal bride. Whether he succeeded, I do not know. Perhaps it has, for the latest news from the north no longer mentions the creature.
A tree spirit from Sweden, living, like older versions of Greek dryads, as long as its plant lives. Like them, even the radandar (plural) occasionally come out. And like the other tree spirits, they don't live in every tree, usually only in distinct solitaries, in the oldest trunks, or in plants at springs.
Living in the sea, rivers, and Scotland's famous lochs, this monster resembles a kelpie. It also likes to come ashore in the form of a horse or pony, luring a rider and immediately transporting him to the water. But while the kelpie viciously knocks you down and amuses itself with the sight of a helplessly flailing, drenched, and angry human being, the Each uisge will pounce on its victim without hesitation, tear it apart and eat it. It is most probable that some victims, attributed to the kelpie, have rather fallen upon this creature. Beware.
If you happen to get into a saddle, you can only hope for a better choice. There is a help, though not a big one. The kelpie will dive into the water immediately, while the Each uisge must see or smell it. Question is, if this information is really helpful, because the skin of the Each Uisge is considerably adhesive.
Sometimes the Each uisge transforms into a young man, but the water grasses in his hair give him away, so there should be no problem there. Just watch out for strange strangers walking along the shore and avoid them from afar.
The creature's voraciousness proves that it is not specialized. It will feed on sheep or goats as well as humans. In its desire for well-done mutton, it is no match for humans. A man from Raasay, for example, could tell us about it.
Once upon a time, a blacksmith from that village lost his daughter. She reached a dangerous age, and wanted boyfriend, but none of the Raasay´s youths were apparently good enough for her (or not good enough for her father). She searched wherever she could, until one day she was not to be found herself. The blacksmith soon found out why – his unfortunate daughter had been charmed by the Each uisge.
The unhappy father had Scottish blood in his veins. There will be time for mourning later!
Instead of horseshoes and plowshares, he and his son set about forging great hooks. Then both went on the shore roasted lamb. In addition to the wood put their blacksmith's work pieces into the fire.
The mutton was almost done when a misty haze descended over the lake. Something emerged from the water under this cover and plunged straight onto the succulent roast on the fire.
The smiths quickly drove red-hot hooks into the meat, which didn't do the monster any favors. The moment of surprise and the hook attack were fruitful – after a short but fierce fight, the monster was dispatched.
Its body then dissolved by morning, just like a jellyfish washed up on the beach by the tide.
The Scottish Gaels came to the Highlands from Ireland (however, in ancient times Caledonia or Scotland was called Scotia Minor, while Hibernia or Ireland was called Scotia Maior). And the Each uisge probably arrived with them. For the Irish know the Aughisky, a water-horse that comes up out of the sea and behaves exactly the same as the Each uisge – it grazes and runs about, waiting for some greedy man to try to mount it. Aughisky goes into a mad dash, until sees or smells the sea. Then plunges into the depths and eats the rider. It is not lives on human only, adds cattle to its diet too.
The fewest news – quite logically, given the size – comes from the Isle of Man. The water horse there is called Cabyll-Ushtey, its color is grey (or all shades of grey) and it does not deny his affinity with the Aughisky and the Each uisge by its behavior.
The Man of Noses is an interesting figure in Catalan folklore. He has just as many noses as there are days left in the year. So three hundred and sixty-five on the first of January, three hundred and sixty-four on the second of January, three hundred and sixty... Okay, I'll shut up now.
An interesting gentleman, right?
But that's not all. There is another unusual feature: He is only visible on the last day of the year. When Catalan parents send their offspring out to look for this interesting creature on New Year's Eve, it takes a while for the children to realise how many olfactory organs Home dels nassos has on this day...
As folklorists believe, however, the Man of Noses is an ancient being, originally a vegetation and calendar deity.
2.2. 2023 (1.11.2015)
The black sheepdog with the monkey face and glowing eyes is a boogeyman strictly local, terrifying on the road from the village of West Wratting to Balsham. It is not an ancient haunt, with some folklorists pointing out that it first appeared near Cambridge in the last century.
2.2.2023 (8.11. 2015)
It can be a great relief to parents of mischievous children to be able to rely on the help of supernatural beings. (But, please, be careful. Did you read the Grimms, didn´t you? Not only watch Disney.). After all, children are one of the last nations to know that They really exist.
Many old unemployed mythological beings took a job of pedagogical boggarts. In Japan, for example, they are the Tengu, one of the myriad forest creatures, that educate children in frightening ways. They look like humans – except for the wings (which wouldn't matter from an aesthetic point of view) and the long noses, or perhaps straight beaks, sticking out of their faces. Whether they fly with their wings or with the help of the fans they wear has not yet been determined.
What's confirmed is a fact, that these creatures are known to be mischievous, and impish, and love to play games with humans. When they lose, however, they can become quite angry.
The head of their clan is Sojo-bo. They are very popular in Japan (children are naughty everywhere) and are the heroes of many fairy tales and theater plays.
Tengu mounted wild boar, eighteenth-century woodcut (reproduced in the nineteenth century) by William Anderson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
In its original form, the kelpie is a dark monster, half horse and half bull with sharp horns. It likes to turn into a horse too, preferably a white one. If it takes on human form – ladies beware – become a handsome young man. He does not deny his origins, of course; the unmistakable identification of a kelpie is wet hair, full of aquatic plants. In this form he likes to court young girls, the seduction has the same reason as the offering of colored ribbons by Czech water demons – gifts and sweet talk are a prelude to a journey into the deep.
The kelpie's favorite practice is, of course, grazing on the banks of a river or lake. An apparently abandoned and seemingly fabulous horse, it lurks for passers-by. If one of them has the wicked idea of taking possession of the ownerless animal, and the traveler saddles the horse, the kelpie will then jet off to the water. It plunges in – and if one is lucky, he is only thoroughly flushed out. Other stories, however, remind us that the kelpie, accordingly with the transoceanic ahuizotl, likes the flesh of its drowned victims.
Although it is claimed that the pixies are an ancient British race that inhabited the islands before the arrival of other elves, demons and fairies, and then preferred to move to the south-west, they nevertheless do not deny a certain kinship with the Scottish brownies. Similarly like to take on small chores overnight. But because their partners are not thrifty Scots but Cornish and Devonshire peasants, their help is not altruistic. Pixies require a certain amount of provision, such as milk to quench their thirst, a bucket of water in which mothers bathe their offspring, and a patch of ground to dance on after work. Unlike the brownies, they have no accommodation requirements.
In fact, the pixies – and here we go again – mostly live on the moors. Their aquatic origins are revealed by their penchant for night rides on stolen horses and ponies – when a frothing animal stands in front of your paddock in the morning, its mane tangled in untangleable knots, you know that the surrounding pixies have once again unleashed their passion (literally, in this case).
(The proclaimed association with the water element is more than conclusive in this case, as the horse has been associated with it since dawn of time and almost everywhere, think of the tangie, Czech water demons, or the famous herds of Poseidon).
Night rides are a favourite, but not the only pastime of this shy animal. They like swimming, dance by moonlight, and some of them love practical jokes. Most often leading travellers astray, occasionally sneaking into houses and throwing small objects at people instead of doing chores. They just like to play.
Their appearance is pretty unambiguous – they're no bigger than a human palm, dress in green so they can hide faster and better, and they have reddish-red hair. Their noses are up nicely, eyes are green (sometimes squinty), and ears are pointed. Like any of the more numerous supernatural nations, the pixies are not the same in character. They are neither good nor bad, and as with humans, each individual is an individual. They can fly – not with the aid of wings, but by simple levitation. The story of their origin is that as a race they are not good enough for Heaven, but neither bad enough to be interned in Hell, and so must live eternally on Earth.
Many stories are told of them in Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire where they live. One – quite a short one – is here:
Sometime in the early fifteenth century people from a village on the Isle of Wight decided that their old church was no longer a representative shrine but a local disgrace. So they decided to build a new one. But where? In a turbulent debate, a site was finally chosen right in the middle of the village.
A work could begin.
The material was gathered and the foundations were laid. On the first day, work proceeded at a breakneck pace, and when the weary villagers went to bed, they reckoned that at this rate the rough structure would be finished in a few weeks.
The next day the village was awakened by the angry cries of a few early birds that could not sleep, and even at dusk went to enjoy the sight of yesterday's work.
There was no sign of it. The lot looked like it did last month, and all the building material was gone!
By the time the last villager ran to the site, they knew where to go. Everything had been moved overnight to the top of a nearby hill.
The distraught villagers didn't think long. They knew their land and knew that whoever could perform such a spell could be none other than the pixies.
Some eager heads suggested taking the material down and starting over, the mischievous pixies certainly wouldn't repeat their joke, that would be beneath them. But some of them remembered the recent squabble over the right place for the new church, and since the situation had honed their rhetoric, it wasn't hard to convince the rest of the village that this time it wasn't a joke, but friendly advice.
The villagers decided to save the lucrative plot of land and built the sanctuary on the hilltop chosen by the pixies.
At least they didn't have to laboriously take the material down and tire later generations by inventing a new name for their small settlement. Over time, the hill came to be called God's Hill and the village, which still exists today, was named after it – Godshill.
Japan is a country of frequent earthquakes. A part of tectonic activity may be due to crustal movement, but not everything can be blamed on Mother Earth. For beneath the Japanese islands lies the seven-hundred-mile-long seismic eel Jinshin-Uwo, head off Kyoto, tail tip off Aomori. And because the islands on its back are not the lightest of loads, it sometimes needs to stretch.
Now we are across the sea to the Celestial Empire. One of China's many legendary creatures resembles popular adversaries from Frank Baum's famous tale. In its simplest form, it is a monkey with a human face and wings that allow it to fly. And the more complex, or probably original form consists of an owl with a human face, a monkey body, and a dog tail. The Hsigas protected it from strong drafts.
When you meet a good-looking girl, you think how nice it might be to spend the night under the same roof. Alternatively, you try to implement your idea, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and it depends on the circumstances and a whole range of variable factors. But to have a woman walk into your house after dark without telling you is not only unlikely but ultimately always dangerous, even if you don't live in Suriname and she's not an Azeman.
And if you are in South America and a one visits you, don't expect any romantic at all. An Azeman is a local demon, combining the morphological abilities of werewolves and the gastronomic habits of vampires. Of the house boogeymen, she is the closest thing to a nightmare. No butterfly, fluttering around the lampshade and casting uncomfortably mobile and atmospheric shadows on pages of King's latest novel, which you must finish even if it's past midnight, but a succubus, a creature dangerous to men and the secret study dream of every teenage demonologist.
Azeman is a woman during the day, maybe even a pretty one, who transforms after sunset – mostly into a bat, but she can metamorphose into other animals as well. Basically, she chooses a form that allows her to move stealthily through the night and easily infiltrate the home of her intended victim. When she reaches her destination, she sets about drinking – how else – blood.
There are two inexpensive and cheap methods of self-defense.
Simply scatter a handful of seeds or grains on the floor – which are also seeds, but for God knows why (but surely – because of their fundamental importance in terms of human civilization) they are always extracted from the set of seeds – i.e. scatter them on the floor, and the Azeman, on seeing them, is seized with an overwhelming desire to count them. She counts and counts – try it sometime and you'll find that it's a) really contagious and b) reliably adrenaline-inducing – and since it, like you, can't count, she's gone.
If you don't feel like sweeping up every morning, you can stick a broom between the doors – the Azeman can't get through them, plus she'll be busy counting his bristles for the rest of the night. It is highly likely (but not certain) that it will never appear in your house again.
This creature is one of the reasons to be cautious when visiting South Asian rainforests. It's easy to spot – a lion's body (often red in color), a human head on one end and a poisonous barb, or a whole bunch of the same, on the other end, a tail. Its mouth has three rows of sharp teeth, and its eyes are blue. Its voice sounds like a brass section – combining the sounds of pipes and trumpets. It lives on flesh, including human flesh.
Manticore is a fearsome predator, as one medieval legend of Alexander the Great attests. The brave conqueror lost thirty thousand men in his famous campaign due to lions, bears, dragons, unicorns – and manticores. (Kyng Alisaunder, England, 13th century).
The first person to mention manticores was the Greek physician Ctesias, active at the Persian court in the fifth century BC. It is also mentioned by Pliny and several ancient authors.
Even its name is of Persian origin – martikhoras means man-eater, and for a long time it meant nothing more than a man-eating Indian tiger (which, unlike the man-eating shark or Carcharodon carcharias, is not a zoological term, and in accordance with it represents only a deviation from the normal, which in the tiger's case is usually a handicapped individual, unable to catch any other prey than a slow and vulnerable human). It was only over time that the mantichora became a symbol of fear and cruelty – apart from the romanticizing medievalism, the blunt description and depiction of Indian temple figures contributed primarily to this.
Illustration comes from The History of Four-footed Beasts (1607) by Edward Topsell /Public Domain
"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)