Monday, October 27, 2014

Mythological Beings From Around the World

Here we are, two more days until Halloween. Have you been binge-watching scary movies or reading every horror story that crosses your path? Yeah, me too. I usually get a kick out of it, and in the process find myself unable to turn the lights off at night for at least a couple of days. This year, however, not so much. I don't know about you, but as each year passes by, I'm having more trouble finding an intelligent story (in either film or print) that will give me nightmares. True, as we expose ourselves to the same horrors, we become desensitized. So I decided to look for more, to venture beyond the well-worn monsters and explore the unfamiliar. And that's how I came to this idea for the 2014 Coffin Hop. I hope you enjoyed the story of the Choctaw creature, Nalusa Falaya, that I shared on my last post.

In today's tour, I'll take you from the fields of war in Celtic Ireland, to death-infested villages in Germany, passing through a blood-soaked afterlife in Pharaonic Egypt. Don't bring a map. We'll leave the tourist attractions far behind, but don't forget your lamp. Where we'll go, there's only dark.

BADB

In Celtic mythology, Badb is one of the goddesses that form the triple goddess Morrigan. She's a War Goddess associated with death, destruction, and battle. In her human form, she's described as a pale woman with a blood-soaked mouth. Some believe she's a predecessor of the well-known Banshee, as there are accounts of her shrieking while washing the bloodied clothes of soldiers who'd perish in the upcoming battle. In her animal forms, she makes herself a force to be reckoned in the field of battle. As a hooded crow, she flies over the carnage, yelling curses and confusing her enemies. As a wolf, she runs among those fighting. She's also known for using the mouths of fallen corpses to communicate with the living.

Her name means "The One Who Boils" and she presides over the Otherworld Cauldron of Death and Rebirth. In Celtic lore, Badb will be the one to bring the end of earthly time by letting her cauldron boil over and engulf the planet in a wasteland. There's a nightmarish image for you.

SHESMU

He's the Egyptian god of the winepress. Did I say god? Well, technically he is. But you know Egyptian gods, all complex and sometimes borderline bipolar. I guess more modern minds would call him more like a demon-god. Allow me... Some texts of the period describe him as a friend of the righteous dead, offering them wine to ease their journey to the Netherworld. Then, things take a turn for the grisly as Shesmu is also known as the Headsman of Osiris, Slaughterer of Souls, or simply Lord of the Blood (for his friends, maybe?). In this, his most charming side, he's depicted tossing the heads of enemies (his or the pharaoh's) into his wine press to extract the blood as if they were grapes. In the Cannibal Hymns (yes, there's such a thing) this is how Shesmu helps Unas gain power:

"[...] Behold, Shesmu has cut them up for Unas, he has boiled pieces of them in his blazing cauldrons. Unas has eaten their words of power, he has eaten their spirits."

Yikes.

NACHZEHRER

Originally from German mythology, the Nachzehrer or Shroud Chewer is something in between a vampire and a ghoul. It all begins when a person commits suicide, dies a violent accidental death (specially drowning), or dies during times of plague. If you can hear the loud, constant noise of chewing coming from his grave, it is time for you to change countries, as this is a dead-giveaway of a Nachzehrer and the presage of an oncoming pestilence.

At first, the Nachzehrer is too weak to come out of his coffin, so he eats his mortuary shroud and then his own flesh. With every nib, he robs the life-force out of those closest to him. When he's done and stronger, he proceeds to ingest the human remains of those unlucky enough to be interred close by, thus absorbing their relatives life-force. Now, strong and able to move in the world of the living, he takes the form of a pig that drinks blood, and directs himself to the local church where he climbs the belfry or bell tower and rings the bells. Anyone who hears these bells is doomed to die soon after.

So, how to prevent anyone from becoming a Shroud Chewer? Lodge a rock or a coin in the throat of the deceased to prevent it from feeding. Or you can drive a knife through his mouth. Then, there are those who rather just cut the head off the corpse and be done with it.

Fun, right?

So, for a chance to win a copy of the critically acclaimed new magazine Jamais Vu: Journal of Strange Among the Familiar, tell me which of these creatures do you think is more dangerous and why? And don't forget to visit more of the participating blogs to increase your loot!

Enjoy the coffin hopin' and be mindful of the sleeping skeletons.

16 comments:

shelly said...

All of this is very interesting stuff. As for horror movies, no binging for me. I prefer horror like Bram Stomer's, Dracula, What Lies Beneath with Michelle Pheiffer, and The Others with Nicole Kidman. And I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead.

joannaparypinski.com said...

The Shroud Chewer sounds terrifying! I'd have to say that one might be the most dangerous, simply because of how especially frightening it is... and the danger of becoming one. Chills. Never heard of that before; thanks for sharing!

Chris Fries said...

Wait -- a goddess of death and battle that's stuck doing the laundry of the soldiers? No wonder she's shrieking over her boiling cauldron.

Then there's a head-stomping, blood-wine maker, also with a blazing cauldron.

And a shroud-chewer that turns into a belfry-climbing, blood-drinking, bell-ringing pig (ummm.... where's its cauldron???).

I think the bell-ringing pig is scary and so is the head-wine-maker, but any battle-goddess forced to do laundry is going to eventually get dang tired of it and be REALLY pissed!

Hope you have a wonderful Halloween, Gina!

Katie John said...

Some really interesting info - inspiring beasties and myths. Thanks for sharing.

A. F. Stewart said...

A terrifying trio indeed.

DarcNina said...

I think I'd have to go with The Shroud Chewer... The origin story locks it for me. :)

Blaze McRob said...

I love all these little buggers! Way to go, my friend!

I see some fodder for my round the world horror shorts collection I am compiling!

Blaze

Georgina Morales said...

@Shelly: Those are fantastic movies. Have you seen Haunter with Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)? It's a great slow cooker, complex, and interesting. I loved it! Thanks for stopping by.

@Joanna: It does seem like a terrifying vision, right? Thanks for commenting!

@Chris: When you put it like that... Well, poor Badb! I'm liking her a lot more now. LOL Glads to hear from you Chris!

@Katie: Thanks for stopping by!

@A.F: Hahaha! I'm glad these tree did it for you. They all seem like terrifying things to me! ;-)

@Nina: Just the idea of the thing eating his shroud and then the neighbouring corpses... *shudders* Now, that's a monster. Not like those glittering fools on modern times. ;-)

@Blaze: Yay! I'm glad you find the post not only interesting but useful. I'm too compiling a list of little-known horrors to later exploit in my writing. =)

JKP said...

Well I gotta say, given I'm half German I must go with the Nachzehrer. That stuff is just scary a la Dracula, and me love some good old scary tale. I remember once being in my Mom's birth town (in Germany) and visiting the museum of torture (which was the old town castle - how convenient!). There's something very special about places like that, because they hold history, memories, and very often they're haunted! The Nachzehrer reminded me of that old gloomy castle so here, I chose my battle. :) Happy hop! Johanna aka The Manicheans

Paul Stansfield said...

These are all formidable beings, but I have to go with Badb as the most fearsome. Shesmu only kills his enemies, and is nice to some souls. Nachzehrer is nasty, but can be thwarted by a rock--even Charlie Brown could beat one. But Badb will eventually destroy the entire earth, and everyone on it.

Julianne Snow said...

I'd have to go with the Shroud Chewer - need I say more??

Jeff Chapman said...

Fascinating stuff. The German freaks me out the most, chewing away in his coffin until he's strong enough to wreck havoc on the living.

nfalkestav said...

the shroud chewer. After all there are snake poison serums nowadays. BTW, interesting that you bring up the egyptian demons! I have read quite a bit about them since my story World is built on egyptian mythology

Tara Tyler R said...

wow, it's scary over here! but very interesting beings! some of these would make great, tho intricate, costumes!

Georgina Morales said...

@JKP: Hi Johanna! Yes, coming from Mexico we also have very old structures that were once part of the Inquisition and now house torture expositions. How appropriate! And creepy =)

@Paul: Hahaha! That Charlie Brown comment. You win the comment of the day by far. Thanks!

@Julianne: I know, that one gave me the creeps too!

@Jeff: As implausible as the image sounds, for some reason most people find the Shroud Chewer the most terrifying. Including me!

@Nfalkestav: I love Egyptian culture in general and have been studying it since my teen years. It's just fascinating, right?

@Tara: Thanks! It'd be very interesting to meet someone willing to try one of these as costumes. A kindred soul!

Brandy B aka Brandlwyne said...

I would say NACHZEHRER because not only does it foretell oncoming plauges but it eats you too... THanks for listing all the neat mythology :)

brandyzbooks at gmail dot com