A goddess in the form of a frog. Or with the head of this amphibian, which is not strange, as it is a creature revered and worshipped in ancient Egypt. Symbolizing fertility and harvest, the frogs had this function easily: they were born with the Nile floods, on which the ancient farmers depended.
Heqet, whom the Greeks probably identified with Hekate partly because of her name, was the goddess who took care of the culminating phases. First the culminating floods, then the germinating grain, and when, as part of her life-giving focus, she became one of the divine assistants in the creation of the new human, it was specifically the conclusion of childbirth that she was put in charge of. The Egyptian midwives referred to themselves as Heqet's handmaidens, while the birthing mothers had a water lily amulet at hand.
It is one of a large family of Chinese dragons.
Like any eastern dragon, he is useful and, within reason, kind. And, of course, tied to the water element, in this case the rivers, of which he is the deity. In fact, Chinese dragons are largely concerned with the weather, which, as has been proven over the centuries, is related to bodies of water. But since turtles are part of the water element in those parts and head the resort of the rivers, Pi-shi's appearance is a compromise - half dragon, half this shell-encased reptile.
The ancients – the Greeks for a change, not the Romans – lived in harmony with many non-human creatures. One of these was the centaurs, half horse, half human (otherwise probably quite ordinary human members of a tribe whose totem animal was the horse). This is common knowledge and needs no elucidation. But since most Greek civilizations were tied to the sea, they could not fail to find in it the ichthyocentaurs, or sea-folk, whose members were half human with a horse or lion's body and a dolphin's tail, for four legs are not of much use in the water.
Resembling dwarves in height, Venusleute (Venus' people) live in caves in the Moravian Šumperk region. They are good-hearted and usually treat people well. The treacherous parents of Hansel and Gretel would not have made it into the tale here, for the Venusweibla, or women of Venus' people, help the lost children.
The Yecks - among many, many other unusual creatures – appear in India. Small furry creatures that can change shape. You'll recognize them by their white cap. Try to steal it - it's definitely worth it, as it makes you invisible.
Despite their undersized stature, yecks are strong and can move mountains.
Before Buddhism penetrated the mountains, the Tibetan divine universe consisted of three spheres. These were inhabited by a considerable – and ever-increasing – number of different beings.
In the lowest, subterranean realm, for example, were the dreaded spirits Sa-bdag and Sri. Occasionally, people could hope for treasure from them, but mostly they were vampires who attacked infants.
Other dangerous creatures inhabited the rocks and trees, they were called gNyan, and if someone annoyed them (which was quite easy), they would send all sorts of diseases to them.
Well, even more, fearsome creatures were the inhabitants of the middle sphere, or air – the bTsan, wild red riders in helmets and shells, riding purple horses. They were led by their king; whoever they met they shot at, their arrowheads causing fatal diseases.
According to Pliny, another Ethiopian animal. Although it is not large and moves slowly, with its heavy head always bowed to the ground, an encounter with it may not end well. For, like the basilisk, the One Who Looks Down (which is a translation of the Greek katoblepas) can kill with a look, or possibly a breath. Since it feeds on poisonous shrubs, it's no wonder.
It is sometimes confused or associated with another African creature called the gnu, and in medieval times it was sometimes called the Gorgon, from which the aforementioned basilisk may have inherited its deadly gaze.
Illustration by Jan Jonston / Public domain
Once upon a time, in a village in the Colombian region of Antioquia, there was a man who always liked to dress well in black, riding a black horse. He had a stern face, but otherwise, he was a good man. Harmless. He became harmful after his death when his ghost (sometimes accompanied by two black dogs) began to haunt night walkers. Drunks, gamblers, and brawlers, as it is remembered. Those who don't keep the peace at night. He chooses moonlit spots to intervention.
Another man in a hat haunts Guatemala, Central America. In 1950 he became the subject of one of the first films there; as you can see he is a truly legendary bogeyman. Girls with beautiful eyes and long hair are warned about him, they can be bewitched by his singing and the sound of his silver guitar. Such a girl cannot sleep, she does not eat... not that she sighs with love, but there is a speck of dirt in every meal, and a dwarf wears the big sombrero squeal under her window from evening till morning. It helped, in one particular case of one particular girl named Susana, when her parents cut her hair and handed it over to a priest in the church to chase away the insistent singer with the help of prayers and holy water.
Mexicans use this title for the Devil, because it is and was a good custom to use code names in such cases. Satan, more often than the dog, can hear his name. And as the Devil always wears a broad hat in the parts here spoken of, the proxy appellation is at hand. Especially since the brim of his sombrero is really wide.
In this North American country, as elsewhere, people make deals with the Devil regardless of prior warnings. So did the man who wanted to build an oil refinery in Tula. During the day, the work went well, but overnight it all went to waste. It was, of course, the Devil who did the demolishing, and who wanted – and directly asked for it when he visited the owner at night – to make a contract for the completion. He demanded the souls of the local children as ransom, and later the souls of the adults. As it was presented, it was also signed. As of the following night, the daily work stay untouched and the refinery could be put into operation two years later. Of course, children began to disappear from the surrounding villages, but what did the rich businessman care... After some time, the devil came for the other half of the reward, the soul of the elder. The refinery blew up, many workers died in the explosions, and the toxic fumes poisoned even more people in the surrounding area.
Snow Woman. Literally translated. And accurately describes the nature and character of this ice demon. As is customary with the elements, she likes to focus on the travelers she leads astray in blizzards. Occasionally even freeze them with her icy breath.
She is not entirely heartless.
Once upon a time in the north, many, many years ago, a woodcutter named Mosaku lived with a young apprentice named Minokichi. Some say that Minokichi was Mosaku's son, and he was twenty years old, others say eighteen, but the story came to me like this.
They were living the best life they could in that cold country, working and doing pretty well.
One winter's day – and winters in the North are really tough – the sky was covered with heavy clouds and it wasn't long before a blizzard came.
"Let's run!" shouted Mosaku. He didn't have to urge his apprentice twice; soon they were both taking shelter in the hut, where the fire was blazing merrily. Snowstorms are common in Musashi Province, but they usually don't last long. This one, however, did not stop. It continued to batter the walls into the evening, sending myriads of heavy flakes through the air and showering the region with snow, as if preparing for the arrival of another ice age. The two loggers waited so long for the element to subside that sleep came upon them.
As the fire began to die down and the comfortably heated cabin began to cool, Minokichi awoke. He was about to nod – but then the door flew open and a cold wind rushed in. It extinguished the fire, chased away the remnants of heat, and brought something that nearly made the apprentice's heart stop.
A beautiful woman in a white kimono appeared in the hut, walked up to Mosaku and breathed on him. And again. A white frosty mist blew from her mouth.
"Snow woman," Minokichi exclaimed, shivering – not with cold, but with fear. He had heard the tale of the ice demon that came for human lives on frosty nights a thousand times.
Yuki onna, for it was indeed she, looked at him in surprise. Minokichi curled up into a ball, shivering and not daring to look at the demon. He expected it to breathe on him as well. But the snow woman took pity on the trembling and nearly dead young man. She approached him, and in a voice like a Melusine, she said:
"Do not be afraid. I will leave you alone to-night. You are too young to die. But remember: You must never tell anyone what you saw."
Then, when Minokichi carefully raised his head, the demon was no longer in the hut.
In the morning, he found Mosaku's body frozen to the bone. But the blizzard was gone, the sun was shining, and Minokichi wasn't sure if he had been dreaming. Finally, a sudden gust of wind could have broken the door down, and Mosaku was old and not so resilient after all.
Still, he preferred to remain silent. A whole year, during which he had taken over his master's work.
Another winter came. One evening, when Musashi Province was again hit by a snowstorm, Minokichi heard a soft knock. He got up and went to open the door.
A girl was standing outside the house.
"I got lost in the blizzard. Can I take shelter with you until the storm ends?" She pleaded. Minokichi agreed – how could he not, knowing from personal experience how dangerous it was to spend that time outdoors, and – who wouldn't want to spend the night under the same roof with a pretty girl?
He invited her in and offered her dinner. Her name was Oyuki, and as she thawed, ate, and relaxed, Minokuchi found her quite entertaining. They stayed talking until morning, then when she was about to leave, he invited her to breakfast, then lunch, and he kept looking for excuses until she stayed. In time, they were married.
They lived the best life they could in that cold country, worked, and were quite well off. After a year or so they had a child, and then another. Oyuki was cheerful and Minokichi was happy, which could have been the end of the story. But there is a sequel.
Then winter came again (which happens once a year on most reasonable planets) and it was a proper winter, as they were used to in Musashi province.
One evening, Oyuki was sitting and sewing, and Minokichi was sitting and watching her. And while he was having fun, he suddenly realized that his wife's face looked familiar. After several years of marriage, this should be normal for all spouses, but the woodcutter couldn't shake the impression that Oyuki's profile brought back memories of someone else's face.
"When you sit like that, you remind me of a woman. It's been a long time since I've seen her. It was cold then too," he said aloud.
"When was that?" Oyuki asked. She continued to go about her business, but Minokichi had the feeling that she had become distracted.
"I wasn't even twenty, my love. I was an apprentice to old Mosaku when a snowstorm caught us in the forest," he said. And because it had been in him for so many years, he went on.
"We hid in the cabin, only then she showed up and... I think it was a snow woman."
Oyuki put down her sewing.
"And didn't she tell you not to tell anyone, ever, about what you saw?"
"Oh, yes," Minokichi replied, then paused, "What do you know about it?"
Oyuki stood up. She turned to her husband and her face was icy white. Minokichi gasped.
"Yes, I am. And you broke your promise," she said. A few flakes floated from her mouth.
"Are you going to kill me?"
"I can't," she sighed. The floor was covered with a sheen of iridescence. "Someone has to take care of our children. Because I have to leave. Because you broke my words," she repeated.
Don't leave, a terrified Minokichi wanted to shout, but it was too late. The door opened of its own accord, a cold wind blew in, and Oyuki disappeared.
Minokichi ran outside, but he couldn't find her footprints in the thick snow.
From that moment on, he never saw her again.
This collection of letters from unexplored corners of the keyboard puts together the name of a race of immortal beings, the Cherokee Protectors. The Nûñnë'hï build their great cities beneath the mountains, like the Apache Gahé. But they also live in the water, in places inaccessible to ordinary people. Cherokee hunters who have wandered deep into the mountains have occasionally brought reports of the sound of drums and music (these magical people are known for their talent and fondness for dancing) from places where they have found no habitation. And there have been a few lucky ones who have strayed in the mountains, or come to harm, and would have died without the help of others; fortunately the Nûñnë'hï have taken them in, and in their subterranean homes have left them to rest, or have cured them.
In addition to private and personal rescue services, beings from the mountains have intervened on a number of occasions on a large scale. With a sudden attack of their numerous armies, they decided to the already lost struggle of the Cherokees with an unknown tribe, and even once, in times not very happy for the Cherokees, gave asylum to a group of Indians of this nation in their underground kingdom.
This beast is found mainly in Scandinavia (in Sweden they named it Jerff), which does not mean that it is not also known to the Dutch or Germans, who call it Vielfras. It is sometimes a symbol of greed, as it likes to gorge itself. And when it feels overfed, it squeezes between two trees, throwing up its devoured prey to have another go.
Some describe it as half lion and half hyena with sharp claws and a fox tail, others, such as Olaus Magnus, as a large (but really large) dog with a cat's face, long brown hair, and a tail that people use for "brave winter caps."
The Hungarian demon, an adversary of the light deity Isten, used to take care of illnesses and similar inconveniences for people. That is why it survived the rise of Christianity, in which it became the very home of all evil spirits, and still survives in curses such as "Egye meg a fene!" or "A fene vigyen el!"
A Lithuanian bogeyman used by desperate parents to tame wild animals.
"Don't be naughty or Baubas will take you," they threaten. Apparently without much success. A little vigilance should be in order, however, for the denizen of the dark corners, or dweller a realm under the carpet, blessed with long skinny arms and red eyes, was apparently formerly a nightmare that suffocated sleepers and ruffled their hair.
Protectors of homes in ancient Rome. The family of these mythological creatures is quite large and its members are found practically all over the world – for example, the Brownie in Scotland or the Šotek in Czech countries.
The Penates started modestly as protectors of the pantry but eventually expanded their remit to include the whole house (family), and their careers progressed to the role of protectors of the state. Unlike the Lares, the Penates focus not on the house but on its inhabitants – when the family moved, they went with it, while the Lares stayed.
The statuettes of the Penates usually stood on the hearth, and each family usually had two of them. They had no names and could only be worshipped by free people, not slaves.
The state Penates (the Roman state was considered one large family), resided in the temple of the goddess Vesta.
The dei domestici Lares, as already mentioned, were protectors of places, not people, which did not prevent them from protecting their temporary lodgers even far from home. They never moved, however. They, too, did not specialize only in homes, where they also had idols on their hearths, but there were also the Lares of particular city districts, the Lares of the military and the naval, and the Lares of the pilgrimage (which used to have chapels at the crossroads). According to some sources, their father was the god Vulcan, according to others Mercury, and their mother was the nymph Lara. However, the most widespread view (the same as in other cultures) considered the Lares to be the good souls of deceased ancestors.
The head of the family brought gifts to the Lares and Penates on every important occasion. The greatest flowering of their cult took place under Emperor Augustus, who had a shrine built for them.
The Lar on the picture comes from the first century, was found in Andalusia, and was photographed in Madrid's Museo Arqueológico Nacional by Luis García, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Luis García, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The sun and war god of the ancient Berbers. They relied on him in battles with the Romans, yes that's how old history, the conquest of Carthage, we're talking about. The horned bull deity unsuccessfully helped as late as the fifth century when the Berbers were at war with the Byzantine Empire.
Gurzil, whose prophetic gift also helped people in their travels, was supposed to be the son of the Egyptian Ammun, and thus another identity of the Phoenician Ba'al Hammon, the official god of Carthage.
The whirlwind that sometimes suddenly rises and falls to the ground in the summer around Hulst in the Netherlands is, according to local memoirs, the soul of a woman who died in childbirth. Not properly cared for and therefore without the possibility of going to heaven. (Of course, they didn't take her down to hell either, apparently.) But Barende vrouwe, Varende moeder or the Wind Bride, as the locals also call her, keeps trying.
A very dangerous Thai demon, bouncing through the night forest on one leg. He is a bloodsucking creature, but he doesn't lunge for the throat like an honor-seeking vampire, he chooses a capillary on the toes of sleepers. That way he cowardly disguises his visit so that he may return unnoticed and therefore unchased. And the victim grows weaker and weaker, unaware of why until he grows quite weak.
The Mesopotamian Dagon (more accurately Dagan), who later made a career as a false idol and in medieval demonology even rose to the position of one of the high-ranking princes of hell, was originally an agrarian deity, concerned, as befits such a function, with grain and fertility. In the agricultural cultures of Mesopotamia, this meant standing at the head of the religious system. He was also – among other things – the father of Baal and the inventor of the plow.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional since ancient times, he was by no means a water god; the comparison to the Mesopotamian Oan was made by a fairly common translation error. The root dgn meant grain in Ugaritic; the ancient Hebrew dagan meant the same thing. But dag in turn meant fish, which is why in later translations and interpretations of the Scriptures the fifth chapter of the Book of Samuel became wet and Dagon was given the honor of being a fish deity.
This most famous fantastic animal is described by the venerable gentlemen Ctesias and Pliny. The Greek physician was, of course, the first – according to him there were fast donkeys of white color, with a purple head, blue eyes, and a single, three-colored horn live in Hindustan. The Horn is red at the tip, black in the middle, and white at the root. Pliny refined this description, leaving in his writings the following combination: horse's trunk, deer's head, elephant's feet, boar's tail.
Even the Middle Ages did not yet know the gentle creatures of Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn or Ridley Scott´s Legend. The European unicorn usually resembled a goat with a lion's tail, its horn long and spirally curled. It can still be seen in nature – in the Czech Republic, for example, they have it or had it at Žleby Castle. Unfortunately, its former owner did not have four legs and spent his life in the sea, as it is guaranteed that real unicorn horns come from narwhals. But more about them later.
Another form of unicorn is the famous globetrotter Marco Polo. He saw a creature with a pig's head, an elephant's body – and of course, a horn sticking out instead of a nose.
Marco Polo visited China, and the Chinese consider the unicorn, called Ki-Lin, to be one of the four lucky animals. It has the body of a deer, the tail of an ox, and the hooves of a horse. The horn is fleshy, not made of keratin, and the fur is bursting with color. Like the European unicorn, Ki-Lin does not harm anyone. He doesn't even trample grass. If someone kills it or finds it dead, it's always a bad sign. Ji-Lin has lived for a thousand or two thousand years.
The famous creature, a symbol of purity, could not be found on the shields of the knights. The heraldic unicorn is a horse with a spiral horn, a goat's chin, a lion's (or cow's) tail, and is an artiodactyl.
According to some sources, a unicorn can kill an elephant with a single sting but is usually considered a gentle and timid animal that can only be captured with the help of a pure maiden. Only such a maiden will approach, place her head in her lap, and be obediently led away. As for the old jokes about the present-day impossibility of procuring the required bait, I note that far from being about the physical condition of the virgo intacta, it is about the whole set of medieval virtues that the virgin-bait must possess.
The most interesting thing about unicorns – whatever they looked like – was the proverbial horn, for which rhinoceroses are still killed in Africa today. The horn has been one of the most sought-after medicines since the time of Ctesias. Ground up, it cured stomach aches and epilepsy, and increased resistance to poisons. It could reliably detect poisoned drinks even in the form of a cup.
It has always been a noble creature that symbolized love and purity, and in China it was the sign of kings. All of which have endured to this day.
The Unicorn became a part of paleontology too. In 1663, when the tireless Otto von Guericke, a Magdeburg burgomaster and physicist, made the world's first paleontological reconstruction, he assembled a unicorn from the bones he found (probably mammoth and rhinoceros). His unicorn was a unique animal, somehow lost its back legs.
Well, that being said, the only monoceros or unicorn observed today is the narwhal, or whale, Monodon monoceros, described by Linné in 1758. It lives in the polar seas and, despite the age of its scientific classification, is by no means well studied. However, this seemingly striking creature may have been introduced into the Monodontidae family by a desperate attempt at survival. For, as is well known, unicorns were among the creatures that did not fit into Noah's rescue vessel. It's possible they didn't drown, as many others did, but successfully adapted.
The boring science, however, assigns narwhals to rhinoceroses, antelopes, and other sources that contributed to the birth of unicorns. What spoke most to the Greeks, however, might be the Persian bas-reliefs, which show bulls in profile and thus with only one horn visible.
A dog, which is haunting Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The town of Stroudsburg, to be exact. More precisely, in the site of the local shopping mall, standing where an old mill once stood (which may explain a lot). Sometimes a Boogie Dog can be heard whining from somewhere, sometimes it can be seen, and in that case everyone agrees on one thing – it is a dog with a lion's head.
This water bird comes from the Scottish Highlands, haunts lochs and saltwater wells over there. And that's all I know about it.
3.5.2023 (1.3. 2002)
From the Scottish Highlands comes a sea snake called Cirein crôin. It is the largest creature on Earth, and its size and appetite is evident from the fact that six or seven whales are its snack.
9.5.2023 (1.3. 2002)
comes from Wales. He is related to the pixie, and will happily do all the housework for a bowl of cream. That would be quite all right, but you mustn't treat bwca badly – then he turns into a vengeful little creature who pinches sleepers' noses at night, steals small things, ruins clothes, and – watch out – reveals all secrets with gusto. I don't know why, but bwcas don't like teetotalers or people with long noses.
We'll still be able to move a few thousand kilometers from Wales to Bulgaria. The Stopan there was quite classically the spirit of one of the ancestors (as well as the general idea of the genius and many others) and, like other dei domestici, cherished the house and family (nothing new). He did it so well, however, that even after the arrival of the Christians, he continued to be worshipped, with the oldest woman in the family offering him a black chicken, wine, or bread. Then when the Muslims came to Bulgaria, the only thing that changed was that the black ram was sacrificed to the Stopan by a man.
"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)