Folklore of the Paiute People: The Legend of the North Star

The Paiute people of North America are spread over a wide territory ranging across Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and Oregon. They are an ancient nomadic people who made a living from hunting and gathering and some basic farming.  The Paiutes were made up of two or three main groups which were split into a number of tribes and bands that lived scattered across their territory.  Their spiritual beliefs reflected their closeness to the natural world and they created many myths and legends which attempted to explain the world they lived in.  The following is a rewrite of a legend that tells how the North Star was created and how it helped the Paiutes and other earth-dwellers find their way in the dark.

The Legend of the North Star

Many, many, years ago when the world was still in its youth the People of the Sky were restless and wandered through the heavens leaving their trails behind them.  Today, people on Earth can see the ways they went by watching the trails they left which show in the night sky.  Of all the millions and millions of stars we see in the night sky the only star that does not appear to journey across the night sky is the North Star.

However, the North Star does move.  It moves in a small circle around the north celestial pole each day but from earth, it looks stationary.  Unlike the sun, moon, and stars it does not rise or set.  It appears like the hub of a wheel to stay still in a constant position in the sky and in the northern hemisphere is used as a guide to find north.  However, according to Paiute tradition back in the time of the earth’s youth there was not a  North Star.

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Käna’sta: The Lost Settlement of the Cherokees

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le:Chief Standing Deer – Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina (5756036106).jpg From Wikimedia Commons – Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina – Source: Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Indian Reservation, North Carolina – Author: Boston Public Library

James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who studied among the Southeastern Native American people as well as those on the Great Plains.  He spent several years living with the Cherokee people and compiling their myths, legends, and traditions into a book,  Myths of the Cherokee (1902),   Some of these legends and myths reveal that the Cherokees believed that there existed a kind of “otherworld”.  This was populated by a people who appeared similar to themselves but were invisible unless certain rituals and fasting was performed which allowed the Cherokees to make contact with them.  However, these people could make themselves known to the Cherokee at will and sometimes did. There were also various spirit beings large and small similar to giants, dwarves, and fairies.  Presented here is a legend collected by Mooney called  Käna’sta, The Lost Settlement that feature the belief in the otherworld and its spiritual inhabitants  and what follows is a rewrite base upon this.

Two Strangers Arrive

A legend says that one day two strangers visited Käna’sta and asked to be taken to see the chief as they had a message for him.  The strangers looked very much the same as the villagers and did not seem to be a threat so they were taken to see the chief.

After making the traditional greetings and welcoming them with full Cherokee hospitality the chief asked them what message they carried to him, thinking they were probably from a Cherokee village to the west of Käna’sta. To his surprise, they told him,

“Like you, we are also Cherokees and our town is very close but you have never seen it, but we are there.  In Käna’sta you have sickness and disease.  All around you are enemies who make war on you when they can. One day a stronger enemy will attack and drive you from your homes and take Käna’sta and make you homeless and miserable.  All who live in our town are happy and free of sickness and no enemy can find us.  We have been sent to Käna’sta to invite you to come and live with us in Tsuwa`tel’da which is the name of our town.”

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In Search of Five Fabled Islands

Published on  #FolkloreThursday.com under the title Five Legendary Islands in Folklore by zteve t evans

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Theatrum Orbis Terrarum – By Abraham Ortelius (1527 – 1598) – Public Domain

Five Fabled Islands

Hy-Brasil, Buyan, Saint Brendan’s Isle, the Island of Antillia, and the Isle of Avalon are five fabled islands that were once believed to have existed by many people through the ages.  All had their own magical qualities and characteristics that were given to them by the human culture they appeared in. 

From the elusive island of Hy Brasil, King Breasal had a safe place to rule the world ensuring the natural order was kept. The Slavic people gave Buyan magical qualities to keep safe important concepts such as the Alytar and the Sacred Oak Tree and it was safe enough for Koschei the Deathless to keep his soul there.
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St Brendan’s Voyage – By Unknown mediaeval scribe. (University of Augsburg, Germany (image)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For Saint Brendan, although he found many islands,  the Land of Promise,  which he really sought may have been more of a goal of spiritual attainment. The seven Visigoth bishops found a distant island where a way of life they believed in and cherished could continue untroubled and in safety out of reach of their enemy.  The Isle of Avalon holds a special place in the mythology of the British Isles as the place where their King awaits the call to return and save his people. Of course, there are many other ideas concerning these mythical places, but what really matters is what each person makes – or is made, from these five islands of fable.

Philippine Folklore: Meet the Vampiric, Cannibalistic, Manananggal

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Manananggal – By Gian Bernal (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Philippine Folklore

In Philippine folklore, the Manananggal is a mythical, evil, cannibalistic, vampiric , witch that as well as sucking the blood from victims also eats them.  Sometimes it is confused with the Wakwak which is a strange bird-like, vampiric creature.  However, although they are both vampires unlike the Manananggal, the Wakwak cannot separate its upper body from its lower body.  It is from this bizarre ability that the Manananggal gets its name.  The term Manananggal comes from the  Tagalog word, tanggal, meaning to separate.

Origin of the Manananggal

Philippine folklore gives varying accounts of the origin of Manananggals.  One tradition says there is a black chick living inside the creature.  This is passed on from the deathbed of those afflicted to another person who is usually a relative.  The chick is then believed to reside inside the body of the Manananggal eating the innards of its host while keeping them alive.   It is this that is believed to be the reason why the Manananggal craves the taste of human blood and flesh and transforms into its hideous shape.

Another tradition says that to become a Manananggal you need a special ointment and the egg containing a black chick.  While chanting a special incantation you should anoint yourself with the ointment and place the egg in your armpit until it disappears.  It this ritual is completed you will transform into a Manananggal.  Other traditions say when a Manananggal does not kill their victims outright they will turn into another Mananaggal.

A Shapeshifting Sorceress

Manananggals are usually female, often hideous and terrifying, but when selecting male victims can appear beautiful and alluring.  They are considered to be are an aswang which are shapeshifters in Philippine folklore.   During the day they appear to be ordinary humans and are often a witch or sorceress.  When night comes they transform themselves into a hideous beast to seek out prey. When they wish to feed they will seek out a suitably isolated place where they can separate the upper body from their lower body.   Some accounts say that then they massages a special lotion into their body while chanting a spell.  This results in their eyes becoming wild and enlarged and hair becoming matted.  Their teeth change into long fangs and their fingers transform into long, sharp, claws.  The upper body then sprouts bat-like wings and separates from the lower body and flies off with its intestines trailing along behind in search of prey, which is often a pregnant woman.

The Tiktik Bird

In some Philippine traditions, the Manananggal is accompanied by a bird called the Tiktik. It makes a sound “tik-tik-tik-tik” or “ik-ik-ik-ik” while flying alongside the Manananggal. It is said that the fainter the call of the bird the nearer the Manananggal is to you which is meant to confuse victims.  Black cats and crows are believed to have the ability to warn of the approach or presence of a Tiktik and therefore the Manananggal as well.

Attacking Victims

When they find a suitable victim they will settle on the roof of their house.  They have a  thin, hollow tongue which is very long and very flexible.   They will wriggle this down to the sleeping victim and the tongue will puncture the womb and suck out the fetus, or the blood from a victim who is not pregnant.  When selecting men she seduces them with her beauty, entices them into a remote or private place.   She will then eat them alive being particularly fond of liver, stomach, and heart.

Killing a Manananggal

Manananggals can be killed by being caught in sunlight when they have split apart and taken their monstrous shape.  They are also highly vulnerable when they have split their bodies apart.  This is because the lower part remains motionless while the separation is in action making it vulnerable.  To kill a Manananggal find the lower body and rub salt and ash or garlic over its exposed flesh.  This will prevent the creature rejoining its two halves together and it will be destroyed when the sun rises and its rays touch it.

Keeping Safe

Prevention is the best defense against Manananggals so sure the home is well protected is essential.  To keep a Manananggal away from the home place small pots of uncooked rice, ash or salt around the home which should deter it from settling on the roof.   Manananggals also avoid vinegar, spices and daggers and the tail of a stingray that has been made into a whip.  If these precautions are followed, hopefully, the homestead and its inhabitants should be reasonably safe from these vile creatures.

© 17/05/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright May 17th, 2017zteve t evans

The Tikbalang in Philippine Folklore: A Shapeshifting Trickster

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Tikbalang of the Philippines – By Rodsan18 – CC BY 2.5

In Philippine folklore, a tikbalang is a bizarre, shape-shifting, trickster spirit that haunts certain places in the wildlands of the country.   It is said to be a tall humanoid creature that dwells in the forests and mountains of the Philippines and often described as a reverse form of a centaur.  Where the centaur has the body of a horse and the torso and head of a man, the tikbalang has the head of a horse and the body of a human.  Although descriptions vary they are generally described as being tall and bony creatures with limbs that tend to be disproportionate to their body.  For example, because its legs are so long and skinny, when the creature squats down its knees are higher than its head.  It is usually said to have animal-like feet usually similar to horse hooves.   In some traditions, it is said to have evolved from an aborted human fetus that was held in limbo and sent back to Earth.  In some traditions, tikbalangs can change their shape into that of humans and can also become invisible.

Shapeshifting Tricks

One of the tricks of the tikbalang is to change its physical form into that of a relative, friend or someone closely associated to any traveler that it may come across in the wilds. It then appears to the victim in this familiar form pretending to know the way deceiving them into being led through the dark woods or along remote mountain paths to a place far from the help of others.  When the time comes the for the tikbalang to reveal itself the victim may experience the smell of tobacco before the face and the body of their guide blurs as it changes from the that of the victim’s, relative or friend, into its own true monstrous form.

Those few victims unlucky enough to experience such an encounter have been known to stumble into to villages or towns muttering or raving incoherently.   It is said that people who have tried to help them say that the unfortunate person will tell how they were pushed and struck and knocked to the ground repeatedly.  All through this ordeal all they could do was giggle nervously like they were children.  The more they resisted the more they were abused but once they stopped resisting they found themselves alone in the forest in the night completely disoriented.

Some people claim tikbalangs are purely mischievous rather than malignant spirits arguing they only eat evil people or those who do not practice the form of Catholic devotion known as the angelus.  That may be so but they can certainly be alarming and according to tradition one of the tricks of the tikbalang is to lead solitary travelers astray and get them lost.  No matter which way they turn will keep on returning to a certain place in the forest.  Sometimes this can last for days until the tikbalang tires of the game.  Sometimes the victim becomes completely lost and is never seen by his family and friends again.

Protection Against Tikbalangs

Tikbalangs have many undesirable characteristics that give the good reason for most humans to avoid them.  They are known to be tricksters who try and trick travelers making them lose their way or go round in circles.  However, the savvy traveler could ward against tikbalangs by wearing their shirt inside out.  Another way is to ask loudly for permission to pass by a known tikbalang lair, or by moving silently through the forest so as not to disturb or upset them in any way.

Superstitions and Traditions

In the Rizal Province of the Philippines, the Tagalog people have a superstitious tradition that says tikbalangs were benevolent guardians of the forests.  They were the spirits that were responsible for the forces of nature that made the trees and plants grow and the land to flourish in an area which became their territory. They were said to station themselves at the foot of large trees and stand on guard against anyone who should appear to offer a threat against their territory.

In the Philippines the people say, “ May kinakasal na tikbalang “, when ran falls from a clear sky which means a tikbalang is getting married.    Many cultures from different parts of the world have similar sayings when supernatural or trickster characters get married.  For example, there is a Spanish proverb that says when rain falls on a sunny day a witch is getting married.

Some traditions say that tikbalangs were once very beautiful women who had lived to be very, very, old.  Another says that they will only bathe during a night of the full moon. It is also believed that sometimes a tikbalang will fall in love with a mortal and become infatuated with them.

The Lair of the Tikbalang

Tikbalangs are believed to prefer to live in places where there are many trees and lots of dark, dense foliage and few humans.  They are said to like bamboo and banana groves and the tops of the Balite (Ficus indica) and Kalumpang (Sterculia foetida) trees. Sometimes they are seen sitting in the topmost branches of trees smoking tobacco.  Underneath bridges is also a favorite place for a tikbalang to live.

Taming a Tikbalang

It is possible for those who have the will to tame a tikbalang providing they go about it in the correct way.  Once tamed they can be very useful servants but it is important to remember the following points when taming a tikbalang.

Tikbalangs have a thick mane that consists of sharp spines. The three thickest spines are the important ones to identify for those who want to tame a tikbalang.  According to Philippines tradition, it is possible to tame and train a tikbalang by obtaining any one of these three spines which will give the holder of the spine power over the beast and the tikbalang will then be their servant.

However, as may be expected, it is not an easy task to get one of these spines in the first place and the creature must first be subdued.  To do this it is necessary to leap upon its back and try and tie a specially prepared rope around it.   The tikbalang will respond by flying wildly through the air trying to buck off the rider who must hang on until the beast becomes exhausted and subdued.  The rider must then seek out the three spines which may be gold in color and thicker than the rest and pluck them out.  Once the rider has plucked out these spines the tikbalang will become their servant and serve them for the rest of their lives.

© 25/04/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright April 25th, 2017 zteve t evans

Canarian Folktales: The Legend of Gara and Jonay

La Gomera, view towards Teide

From Wikimedia Commons – La Gomera, view towards Mount Teide – Image by Tamara Kulikova – CC BY-SA 4.0

La Gomera

La Gomera is one of the seven Canary Islands which are an autonomous community of Spain situated to the west of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean  The original inhabitants before the arrival of the Spanish were the Guanche people who were believed to be related to the Berber people of North Africa.   Although much of their culture has been lost some still exists and can be found in legends and traditions of the islands.  Roughly situated in the middle of the island is the Garajonay National Park which is a mountainous region of lush wild evergreen laurel forest. There is a folktale said to be of Guanche origin that tells how the Garajonay National Park was named after two lovers named Gara and Jonay.

The Legend of Gara and Jonay

Gara was a princess of Agula that was known as a place of water on La Gomera and looked across the sea to Mount Teide on Tenerife.  Jonay was a prince and the son of the Mencey of Adeje a ruler of Tenerife known as the place of fire.  This was because of the great volcano Mount Teide that the Guanches called Echeyde or Hell, that was situated on the the island.  Presented here is a retelling of the legend of Gara and Jonay garnered from several other versions.

Los Chorros de Epina

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From Wikimedia Commons – Chorros de Epina – Photo by Noemi M.M. – CC BY-SA 3.0

On La Gomera, there was a tradition that there were even places where magic waters could be found.  These waters had special properties beneficial to health and good fortune and were said to be able to foretell the future.   One such place was called Los Chorros de Epina which is a natural spring that local legend says has healing powers and can also reveal the future to an extent.  The spring water is fed through seven wooden tubes which turn the flow into seven jets of water each of which has different attributes.

According to tradition men should drink from the odd numbered jets starting from left to right and women should drink from the even numbered jets.  It was said the first two pipes were for health, the next two pipes were for love and the next two were for fortune. The seventh jet should only be used by witches.  It was a tradition that the Epina jets were visited by local girls to discover who their future husband or lover would be.  They would take a drink and look into the water. If it was clear they would meet their true love within one year.  However, if it appeared cloudy then the girl would not find a lover.

Princess Gara went to the jets and took a drink and looked into the water.   At first, she just saw her reflection in the clear water.  Then to her alarm, her face turned into a fiery ball like the sun and the water bubbled and hissed as steam rose and the flames tried to mix with the water.  This frightened her and she went to a wise man of the island named Gerián, to ask his advice.  He told her that this was a bad omen saying fire and water could not mix and warned her of trouble brewing in the future.

The Festival of Beñesmen

The festival of Beñesmen was a popular and important festival in the Canary Islands. The Mencey of Adeje, who was one of the kings from the neighboring island of Tenerife, visited La Gomera to take part in the celebrations and with him he brought his son, Prince Jonay.
There were many competitions taking place where the young men of the islands competed against each other, showing off their physical prowess to the girls hoping to impress them.  Jonay took part in many competitions and excelled in all and caught the eye of Gara who cheered him wildly.   Her cheering caught the eye of Jonay and as their eyes met they fell in love.

Every day Jonay would sail across to La Gomera from Tenerife to see Gara.  Their love blossomed and spent many happy hours together walking in the enchanted laurel forest.  After a time the two lovers asked their family for permission to marry which was gladly given and the engagement was publicly and formally announced and all the people rejoiced.

Fire and Water

During the night, Mount Teide the great volcano on Tenerife began sewing forth flame and lava.  A great plume of smoke rose high in the sky and the sea turned red as blood and bubbled and heaved.  As the volcano became increasingly fiery and the sea more dangerous the people grew afraid.  Gerián the wise man who Gara had asked for advice went to see her parents and told them of what she had told him of the vision at the Epina jets.  He warned them that fire and water cannot mix and told them about her relationship with Jonay.  Then he went to Tenerife to see the Mencey of Adeje and warned him of his son’s relationship with Gara.

The two families forbade their son and daughter to meet again.  The lovers were devastated and heartbroken but reluctantly obeyed their parents.   This appeared to satisfy the volcano which ceased spewing out lava and flame and as Mount Teide grew quiet the skies cleared and the seas became calm and the people were glad.

Despite the appeasement of the volcano Jonay could not get Gara out of his mind.  One night while his parents slept he stole down to the sea and tied two goatskins around his waist which he had inflated.  Plunging into the sea he swam from Tenerife to La Gomera in the night.  Gara was overjoyed to see him again and the two vowed that never again would they be parted.  Gara’s parents soon missed their daughter and began searching for her.  Realizing they had been discovered the two lovers fled through the tangled laurel forests of La Gomera until they reached the highest mountain.  The same morning in alarm, Gara’s father called out his army who quickly hunted the two runaways down and by evening had them surrounded.  The setting sun set the sky aglow turning the sea as red as blood.

A Vow of Love

Knowing they would be caught and forced to separate the two made a vow of love.  Jonay took his knife and cut a straight branch from one of the laurel trees and sharpened both ends.   The two lovers positioned the spike to press upon their hearts.  As the soldiers surrounding them advanced the two lovers pressed together in one final embrace and as the fiery sun sank into the bloodred ocean, fire and water became one.

© 07/03/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright March 7th, 2017 zteve t evans

Cruel Coppinger the Cornish Smuggler

First Published on the #FolkloreThursday, web site, February 17th, 2016 under the title: Cornish Smugglers:  The Notorious Cruel Coppinger

Cruel Coppinger

One of the most extraordinary and fearsome figures in Cornish folklore and legend was Cruel Coppinger.  He is thought by many to have been a real person who attained semi-legendary status from his brutal, criminal behaviour and leadership of a ruthless band of smugglers and pirates.

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Pixabay – Image by natureworks – CC0 Public Domain

Shipwreck

According to Cornish legend Coppinger was himself a victim of a shipwreck by a massive storm wrecked his ship off the Cornish coast. As was the practice the local people gathered at the shore to see what they could claim when the storm died down. They watched the doomed vessel sinking and the lightning flashes revealed the dark figure of a huge man leaping from the ship and striding through the wild waves to the shore.  On reaching the shore he grabbed the cloak from an old woman, roughly shoving her to the floor and then leapt on the back of a horse a young woman had ridden down to the shore.  With her still sat on the horse and him behind her shouting furiously in some unknown language, the terrified steed fled and naturally made its way to its home with them both on its back.

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