Monster of the Week: The Siren

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John William Waterhouse, The Siren, 1900

The Siren (1900) by John William Waterhouse

Temptation can take many forms, but the fear of being seduced by the song of a siren has haunted mankind for millennia. From a secluded island home, Sirens enthrall passing sailors with their supernatural song. Their voices cast doom on those who hear their call.

Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.”
-Walter Copland Perry Continue reading

Pele: Hawaii Fire Goddess

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The_goddess_pele_by_arthur_johnsen

Pele by Arthur Johnsen

In Hawaiʻi, the name Pele evokes images of molten lava, flame, and boiling oceans. Pele is a powerful and volatile creator, known as Pelehonuamea (“Pele of the sacred land”) and ka wahine ʻai honua (“the woman who devours the land”). Through her destructive power, Pele is responsible for creating and shaping the landscape of the Hawaiian Islands in an ongoing cycle of devastation and regeneration. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: The Rougarou

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What was a loup-garou? Oh, well, it was the most terrible thing in the world. Sometimes it was a wolf, and sometimes it was a man, or a woman either, whichever it felt like in its wicked heart. And always it could take your heart out, and then you died, because you could not breathe without your heart.
—Laura Elizabeth Howe Richards, Marie (1894)

Rougarou-SwampFrom deep within the murky bayous of Louisiana comes the legend of the dire lycanthropic creature known as the Rougarou. Rougaroux are found in French-speaking areas of North America such as Québec, but most particularly in Cajun Acadiana (in and around New Orleans), where its legend has proliferated from those of the werewolf-like loup-garou of medieval France—loup is the French word for wolf, and garou is a French word similar in meaning to werewolf. Cajun lore uses the terms loup-garou and rougarou interchangeably. A major difference between the Rougarou and the creature we more commonly think of as a werewolf is that the Rougarou has agency over its transformation, and maintains the consciousness and intelligence of its human form throughout that change. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: Jólakötturinn

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jolako%cc%88tturinnstampJólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, is an Icelandic holiday monster. He is a giant cat who is said to eat children who have not finished their autumn wool-working chores, thereby failing to have been rewarded with new clothes by Christmas Eve.

“His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high,
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.”
—Jóhannes úr Kötlum, “Jólakötturinn” (Vignir Jónsson, trans.)

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Monster of the Week: Frankenstein

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Boris Karloff as the Creature, 1934

Two hundred years ago, on the shores of Lake Geneva during a dark and dismal summer, the eighteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin created one of the most enduring monsters of contemporary history. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously as an epistolary three-volume novel two years later. The second edition was published in France five years after that in 1823, bearing for the first time the English author’s married name: Mary Shelley. Since then, the novel has become one of the most widely taught literary texts in the English language, and the creature commonly known as Frankenstein remains one of the most recognizable and popular monsters of the horror genre and beyond.

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The Mysterious Menehune of Hawaii

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stone-statues

Stone Menehune statue

In Hawaiʻi, tales of the little people known as the Menehune have been passed down through generations. Stories of these mysterious folk can be found in ancient Hawaiian mythology and through more recent accounts. Menehune live in deep mountain forests and secret valleys, staying hidden from the modern world. Though tales of the Menehune are known throughout Hawaiʻi, they’re most associated with the island of Kauaʻi. Continue reading

Monster of the Week: Huli Jing

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huli-jing-china

After aging for 1,000 years, a huli jing becomes a jiuwei hu (nine-tailed fox)

Accounts of foxes with supernatural powers have existed for millennia. The huli jing (狐狸精 húlijīng) is a fox spirit that arose out of Chinese traditions, predating the Japanese kitsune and Korean kumiho. Despite attempts to suppress the practice, the huli jing was venerated at household shrines throughout China for many centuries.

The fox can be a force of benevolence or malevolence, depending on its individual nature, thus the intentions of these mischievous creatures are suspect when they interact with humans. A huli jing may attempt seduction to steal human essence, curse those they seek vengeance against, reward worshippers with wealth, or provide sage guidance.

“Without fox demons, no village is complete.” —Chinese proverb Continue reading