The Myth of the Sphinx

sphinx 2Imagine this: you are wandering in the desert when you come across these giant statues.  They have the head of a human, the body of a lion, and they tower over everything for miles.  You have just come across a sphinx.

 

sphinx

The sphinx — in ancient egypt — was a spiritual guardian that was found near tombs and temples.  Generally a male’s head, though sometimes a woman’s, the sphinx was often described as having the body of a lion and wings, wearing a pharaoh’s headdress.  Besides the great sphinx of Giza, there is also a place called Sphinx Alley in Upper Egypt in which a two-mile avenue connecting the temples of Luxor and Karnak is lined with sphinx statues.

One of the most famous of the sphinxes comes to us from the Greek play Oedipus Rex, in which a sphinx terrorizes Thebes, demanding the answer to a riddle.  The riddle, taught to her by the Muses, went: “What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” Whenever the riddle was answered incorrectly, the sphinx would devour the man until Oedipus had given her the proper answer.  Once learning it, the sphinx killed herself, thus sprouting the legend that the sphinx was an all-knowing creature of wisdom.

sphinx 3The sphinx was a creature to protect, not a monster.  However, the idea that one of them would devour you had you not answered her riddle correctly is a terrifying thought.  What if you didn’t know the answer? Well, then I guess the sphinx would make you their dinner.

 

For more information about the sphinx (sources):

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-egypt/the-sphinx

https://www.britannica.com/topic/sphinx

The Folklore of Roanoke

Roanoke-IslandThe story of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is of course famous for being one of the first colonies to be founded in the “New World” — the first being Jamestown.  However, before they had come here, there was a group of one hundred and seventeen people who landed in Virginia, only to never be seen again. This is, of course, the story of Roanoke.

In 1587 colonists landed at Roanoke Island and established a settlement — the first of its kind.  Included in these numbers are John White and his daughter Eleanor Dare — who was pregnant — and her husband, and Chief Manteo who had become an ally to the English.  The group set to work repairing an old fort that had been erected on the island previously, and soon after Eleanor Dare gave birth to the first English child born on the continent.  A few days later, her father left for England to fetch supplies in order to help the budding colony.

roanoke.jpgJohn White was delayed in England, and when he arrived back in Roanoke — three years after his departure — he found that the fort was deserted.  The only piece of evidence that might hint as to where the colonists had gone or what had happened was the word “CROATOAN” which was carved into a nearby tree. Croatoan was the name of Chief Manteo’s home, though when John White went looking for them, he was stopped by a hurricane that damaged his ships so horribly he was forced to return to England.  Though he made several attempts to go back, John White would never return to look for his family and died never knowing what had happened to them.

The colonists of Roanoke had vanished from history.  No one knows exactly what happened — whether they were attacked or they fled or they starved to death remains a mystery.  Archaeologists still search for clues as to what happened to the lost colonists, searching for answers. So far there are none.

 

For more reading on Roanoke (sources):

https://www.ncpedia.org/history/colonial/roanoke-fact-or-fiction

https://www.outerbanks.org/things-to-do/attractions/historic-museums-sites/lost-colony/

The Myth of the Banshee

banshee 1Imagine this: you are walking by the ruins of an abandoned castle in Ireland or Scotland in the middle of the night.  The moon is high above you, and there is no one else around except for you. And then you hear a scream. You have just had an unfortunate encounter with a banshee.

The banshee — Irish: Bean Sidhe; Scots Gaelic: Ban Sith — originally meant a woman of the fairies.  She was a woman who had supernatural abilities, according to myth. She would release a loud, wailing scream that was believed to predict the death of a family member of the person who has heard it.  But where did the banshee come from?

banshee 3.jpgThere are several stories that point to the origins of a banshee.  One story is that she was a murdered young woman, another that she was a mother who died in childbirth.  The way she is described varies from an old woman in black with long, grey hair and a veil to the image of a headless woman, naked from the waist up, carrying a bowl filled with blood.  Though her image tends to shift from region to region, she remains a harbinger of death to those that witness her and hear her wailing scream.

Whether she is a young woman or a headless, naked figure, one thing stays consistent in the stories.  Of course, I am referring to her howls of premonition. One thing is for certain: if you hear her cries do not panic.  Just be prepared for the worst.

 

For more reading on the banshee (sources):

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/wailing-out-lament-filled-legends-and-origins-irish-banshees-007244

https://www.britannica.com/topic/banshee

The Folklore of the Jersey Devil

Jersey-devil 2Wherever you go, folklore and urban legends lie in wait.  Whether it’s a mythical creature or a curse or a ghost, lore of this sort is scattered from city to city, town to town.  In the state of New Jersey there is said to be a creature that roams the Pine Barrens, and it is known as the Jersey Devil.

According to legend, in 1735 Mother Leeds — a resident of the Pines — was pregnant with her thirteenth child.  In some stories she cries this out when she find out she is once again with child, in others it is during labor, but according to legend Mother Leeds raises her hands to the heavens and cries: “Let this one be a devil!”  Whichever version you believe, she goes into labor on a stormy night surrounded by midwives while her husband and children were in another room. The child was born — a normal baby boy — however, the baby began to transform, twisting itself into a hideous creature.  The tiny child was no longer so small as it grew in size, horns and talons and bat-like wings sprouting from his body as feathers coated his flesh. Finally, the child’s eyes began to glow red as they grew into its snarling face.

The child turned on its own mother, killing her, and then went after the midwives.  It flew at them, ripping them apart — some lost their lives, others were maimed — and once it was done it went to the rest of the family and killed most of them.  As quickly as it had attacked, the creature fled up the chimney before the few survivors’ eyes, demolishing it into rubble, and escaped into the Pine Barrens where it has dwelled ever since.

Jersey-devilAnother version states that the creature fled after its birth and returned every night to visit Mrs. Leeds, though she turned it away until it came around no more.  Whichever story you believe, it all leads back to the Devil being loose in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Of course, what kind of creature would it be if it didn’t have stories of being spotted?  One of the most famous accounts comes to us from the beginning of the 19th century when a Commodore Stephen Decatur — a naval hero — was testing cannon balls when he spotted a strange creature flying across the sky.  He fired — and hit — the creature, but it continued to fly away. Others have seen the creature since, continuing into modern times with the most recent repost coming to us from 1987 when a german shepherd was found gnawed on and surrounded by mysterious footprints that could not be identified.

Whether you believe that the devil killed its human family or visited them, it all comes down to that curse Mrs. Leeds cried out.  The child was, in fact, the devil, and can still be found eating livestock and pets, stalking the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. One thing is for sure: stay away from the Pine Barrens at night, or the Jersey Devil just might make an appearance.

 

For more reading on the Jersey Devil (sources):

http://www.pinelandsalliance.org/history/devil/

http://theshadowlands.net/jd.htm

https://weirdnj.com/stories/jersey-devil/

The Myth of Ammit

Ammit

Every culture has their own version of the “underworld” — whether it’s Hell or the Elysian Fields or Diyu.  In Egyptian mythology you are given a chance at a life in the field of reeds, where you can spend the rest of eternity in peace.  That is, of course, unless Ammit devours your unworthy soul.

Ammit — or Ammut or Ahemait — was the Egyptian goddess of divine retribution personified.  However, she was not worshipped as a goddess. Instead, her image was thought to ward off evil.  Generally depicted as a demon with the head of a crocodile, the torso of a wild cat, and the hidquarters of a hippopotamus, Ammit was called the “devourer of souls.”

ammit 2She was usually found in the Halls of Ma’at to await the judgement of the deceased, though she was also shown standing beside the scales of justice.  Ammit would only devour the souls of those who did not measure up on the scales, and though she was called a demon, she is not evil. In fact, the person who was accused of being unworthy was given the chance to defend themselves before being judged to eternal damnation.

Though you were safe if your heart weighed just about even with the feather on the scales, many feared Ammit’s devouring of their soul — also known as the second death.  However, if you led a decent life you were spared from eternal damnation. Ammit was not an evil entity in the end but, more of a keeper of order in the underworld of Egyptian mythology and a reminder to the living to lead a good life. 

For more reading on Ammit (sources):

https://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/ammit.html

http://www.egyptianmyths.net/ammut.htm

The Folklore of Glamis Castle

glamis 2Have you ever wondered about what goes bump in the night?  Ever seen the spooky spectres who haunt the halls or heard footsteps on the floor above you when you know no one is there?  As Halloween draws near, we hear about ghosts and spirits, demons and imps that terrorize our homes and attack the everyday person.  We will not be talking about those today, however, and instead we will be focusing on some famous ghosts that haunt the Glamis Castle all the way in Scotland.

Quick history of the castle itself: it was originally built during the fourteenth century and sits beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland and has been home to the Lyon family since then.  Which brings us to our ghosts. Over these centuries, the castle has become the home to several famous ghosts, with many accounts by eyewitnesses who have come face-to-face with them — in a manner of speaking.

Our first famous ghost is the woman without a tongue.  No one knows who she was, however many people have reported seeing her wandering around the grounds, pointing to her disfigured face, or even staring out of the barred castle windows.  Next up is out young servant boy who has been spotted sitting by the door of the Queen’s room on multiple occasions, quietly waiting. Though not much is known about either of these spirits, we do have two very famous ghosts that have been known to roam these halls.

glamis 3The grey lady is reportedly the ghost of Lady Glamis — or Lady Janet Douglas.  Lady Glamis was burned at the stake in 1537 supposedly because she was a witch, accused of murdering her husband and planning on poisoning the King — King James V of Scotland.  Though she was accused of poisoning her first husband, she was acquitted and so married her second husband. However, nine years after her husband’s death in 1528, she was accused of planning to murder to king.  She was innocent, of course, but that didn’t stop the king from torturing her family and servants until she was convicted, resulting in her being burned at the stake on July 17,1537. Now, people claim to see the grey lady as she runs up the stairs in the clock tower, supposedly leaving a trail of ash in her wake.

The final of our famous ghosts is the ghost of Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford — also known as Earl Beardie.  The story of our Earl goes like this: supposedly he was cruel man who tended to drink heavily, and — according to legend — he had been visiting the castle at the time and returned, drunk and shouting, looking for someone to play cards with.  However, it was the Sabbath, and since no one would take him up on his challenge, he shouted that he’d play the Devil himself. Well, soon after there was a knock at the door, and standing there was a tall man in a long, dark coat — though some stories claim he wore a dark, hooded robe.  He asked if the Earl still needed someone to play cards with, and together they locked themselves in a room in the castle and proceeded to play cards into the night. Well, following this, loud swearing and shouting began to come from the room, and a servant peeking through the keyhole to see what was going on was blinded in that eye and was sent away, accused of spying.  However, that was the last time the Earl was seen — the man had disappeared, along with Earl. It is said that to this day, he is still playing cards in his secret room, shouts echoing from within. It is also said that children who stay in the castle wake in the middle of the night to see a dark figure standing over them, watching them sleep.

glamis 1We might not know what exactly lurks in the darkness, but when we hear these stories we are reminded that some people are never forgotten.  Whether it is a trail of ash or the screaming shouts of a drunk Earl, there are reminders of the past everywhere. That is, if one is only brave enough to stay around after dark and find them.

For more reading on the ghosts of Glamis castle (sources):

https://www.rd.com/culture/most-haunted-places-world/

https://www.hauntedrooms.co.uk/glamis-castle-angus-scotland

The Myth of the Bunyip

Bunyip_1890Australia.  Home to twenty-one out of the twenty-five most venomous snakes in the world.  A magical place where deadly creatures from sharks to box jellyfish to spiders roam free.  And yet, despite all of these known creatures, there is a myth of one that is far more terrifying living in the swamps and lakes and rivers.  Its name is the Bunyip.

Bunyip is the aboriginal term for ‘devil’ or ‘evil spirit.’  It is an aquatic Aboriginal creature of myth described differently in several regions — under different names until European settlers used the more popular of them — and ranging in appearance from an ox to a hippopotamus to a manatee with a long neck.  Though the image changes, one fact that all the legends have in common is that the Bunyip is said to be massive — a giant man-eater.

The Bunyip is known for its monstrous looks, his cries that echo, and the fact that it has killed several people definitely adds credence to the legend.  However, not all agree that the Bunyip is harmful. In fact, he is sometimes described as being a protector of wildlife.  This benevolent image is portrayed in popular culture where there exists a series of children’s books featuring the Bunyip.

bunyip 2.jpgThough the Bunyip can be either a monstrous man-eater or a benevolent protector, the legends seem to have some facts in common.  If you find yourself traversing near bodies of water in Australia, remember to keep an eye out.  For there may be something worse than the deadly bugs and snakes lurking about. One thing is for certain: if you hear its echoing cries or see a massive creature rise up from the depths, run.

For more reading on the Bunyip (sources):

https://aminoapps.com/c/thewitchescircle/page/blog/aboriginal-lore-the-bunyip-devil-spirit-of-australia/8qv1_pjSmuW5YWz1WpgLErK2XMR851GGP

https://mythology.net/mythical-creatures/bunyip/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/bunyip