The Myth of the Scarecrow

scarecrow 2Now that fall is here, we are starting to turn our attentions to some of the lesser known myths and legends regarding this time of year.  And what better way to kick off the autumn season than with the myths surrounding the scarecrow?  Therefore, today we will be looking at a few of the origin stories of scarecrows from around the world.

Scarecrows have been around since the ancient world, used by farmers to ward off birds from fields in order to keep the crop before it is harvested.  The earliest signs of scarecrows being in use actually comes to us from ancient Greece. Aphrodite had a son named Priapus — God of fertility and horticulture — who was considered horribly ugly, and it was discovered that birds had tended to avoid any fields in which Priapus had been.  Therefore, wooden statues of Priapus were erected in fields in order to keep the birds at bay.

However, the ancient Greeks were not the only ones to use a scarecrow.  In pre-feudal Japan, scarecrows of different styles littered the rice fields.  The most popular of the scarecrows used, however, were called the kakashi.  These scarecrows were thrown together using old, dirty rags and bells and stick and were mounted on a pole before being lit on fire. Due to the smoke and the smell — kakashi literally translates to “something stinky” — the birds would stay away.  The kakashi were actually based off of a Japanese deity named Keubiko who was a god of agriculture and wisdom.  He couldn’t walk, but he knew everything, and his likeness was mimicked in the creation of the kakashi.

 

scarecrows

Human-like figures weren’t always used as scarecrows, and sometimes keeping the birds away was a full-time job.  In Europe during the Middle Ages, small children would run around in the fields and clap blocks of wood together in order to scare away the birds.  These children were called “crow-scarers.” Though after the plague struck, leaving fewer children around, the farmers decided to try to stuff old clothes with straw, placing a turnip or gourd on top as a head, mounting these figures in the fields.  This method worked, of course, and soon these human-esque figures were used instead.

Of course, we still see this tradition continuing on today.  Straw-stuffed clothes and fabric disguised as human-like guardians are still used, leaving them to protect not only our fields, but to decorate our homes during the fall season.  So next time you see a scarecrow, keep in mind the history of such a simple figure, and remember what our ancestors did in order to ensure that the birds would stay away.

 

For more reading on the scarecrow (sources):

https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/tag/kuebiko/

https://www.thoughtco.com/scarecrows-guardians-of-the-harvest-2562307

The Folklore of the Autumnal Equinox

With autumn fastly approaching, and the trees losing their leaves, it is always important to remember the traditions that come along with this time of year.  Whether it’s pumpkin picking or visiting the graves of our ancestors, the autumnal equinox has become a center of tradition and folklore around the world. Instead of focusing on one, however, we will be taking a brief look at a few different cultures and how they celebrate the change of season.autumn-equinox-4

Paganism has always had roots tied with the natural world, and the autumnal equinox is no exception.  This equinox, in the pagan tradition, is called Mabon — or Second Harvest. Mabon is a time in which pagans will give thanks to the summer and pay respects to the approaching darkness.  A few rituals that tend to be associated with Mabon include — but are certainly not limited to — the building of an altar with harvested fruits and vegetables, the gathering and feasting of apples, offering apples to the goddess, and sharing food with the community.

ohigan-2While pagan traditions tend to lean towards the harvest itself, Japanese tradition tends to focus inward towards their own family and ancestors.  However, it isn’t just the autumnal equinox but both, and these periods are called Ohigan. According to Japanese Buddhist beliefs, the land of the afterlife is due west, and during these times the sun sets directly west, causing these solstices to become symbolic of both the deceased and the transitions of life.  During the weeks surrounding the equinoxes, it is common to visit both your living relatives and the graves of one’s ancestors in order to both pay respect and clean the grave site, leaving flowers behind when you depart.

fall festival

Of course, pagan tradition isn’t the only one that celebrates the equinox with community and harvests, and Japanese Buddhist beliefs aren’t the only ones who focus on their ancestors.  However, we should also take a moment to consider the complete opposite of rituals and folklore that have developed over time, and so we will also be taking a look at the Western traditions as well.  Celebrations that surround the time of the fall equinox tend to be less about some of our older traditions and more about different activities that are celebrated such as county fairs and festivals, apple and pumpkin picking, decorating with the images of fall from leaves to fruits and vegetables and blowing Halloween way out of proportion.  And though we do not celebrate some of our ancestors’ traditions, we do have a feast that finishes off the fall season.

So whether or not you still practice your own traditions or you are celebrating with festivals and decorating with pumpkins, each tradition surrounding the autumnal equinox is unique and centered around the cultural beliefs of the people.  One thing that remains the same, however, is the idea that the equinox brings along change.

For more about autumnal equinox traditions (sources):

http://mentalfloss.com/article/59049/autumnal-equinox-traditions

http://acad.depauw.edu/~mkfinney/teaching/Com227/culturalportfolios/japan/traditions.htm

https://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/mabon.htm

The Myth of the Kludde

kluddeAre you ever terrified of traveling alone at night down dark roads?  What if there were reports of a large, black dog that jumps on top of travellers and viciously attacks them?  Terrified now? Well, in Dutch folklore there exists such a creature, and it is called the Kludde.

Though not much is known about the Kludde, it is said that it can change its shape from that of a large dog to a cat, a frog, a bat, or a horse, sometimes even appearing as a small tree or shrub that grows in height before your eyes.  The only thing it keeps through all of its shapes are small, blue flames that flicker about its head. This creature is accompanied by the sounds of rattling chains as it paces the roads in search of unsuspecting victims. Though once the Kludde finds them, it is said that the creature jumps onto the back of the traveller, growing heavier and heavier until it forces the person down and tears them apart with its sharp teeth and claws.

Whether you are traveling alone or with a group, it is better to just stay off the roads at night if you happen to find yourself walking through the Dutch countryside.  One thing is for certain, if you hear the rattling of chains or see blue flames in the night, run.

Kludde 2

For more reading about the Kludde (sources):

https://www.mythical-creatures-and-beasts.com/mythical-creatures-list.html

https://pantheon.org/articles/k/kludde.html

Matthews, John, and Caitlin Matthews. The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: the Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic. Harper Element, 2009

Mid-September Submission Roundup

Themed Calls

Off the Beaten Path Press

submission 4

This press is looking for stories for their newest anthology publication: Heroes of the Apocalypse.  They are looking for stories regarding the end of the world.  From the editors: “Whether it be natural disaster, zombies, pandemic, alien invasion, space asteroids, killer AI, supernatural demons or ghosts, giant monsters, nuclear war, or however you envision the end of everything coming for civilization. The only thing that these stories need to share are the heroes who fight against all odds to prevent the end (either in success or failure). This is what the stories need to be all about. The human response to the end. So even if you have a 1000 foot Lovercraftian demon stomping on major cities, we need to see the courage on the ground before the boot goes to ant.”

Word Count: 5,000-15,000
Deadline: October 31, 2018
Payment: Royalties paid for sales and a copy of the print version of the anthology.

 

Markets of Interest

Artemis Rising

submission 1

This speculative fiction magazine is seeking submissions from writers who identify as female.  From the editors: “Non-binary authors who identify at any time/to any degree as women are welcome to submit.  We strongly encourage submissions from people of backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from traditional speculative fiction, including, but not limited to, people of color, LGBTQ authors, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and people from outside the United States.”

Word Count: 1,500-6,000
Deadline: September 30, 2018
Payment: $0.06 cents a word

 

Twelfth Planet Press

submission 3

This speculative fiction is looking for novellas from both marginalized writers and those who are not.  From the editors: “We are looking to build a kickass series of novellas that defines and redefines the Twelfth Planet Press brand. We want gritty pieces that challenge the system and punch the patriarchy in the face. We want stories that resist and rebel… and maybe also books that comfort & inspire. For when things are bad out there in the world. We are looking for books that feed the angry soul.”

Word Count: 17,000-40,000 words
Deadline: November 30, 2018
Payment: Advance of $300 + royalties of 40% of all monies received by the publisher, paid twice yearly.

 

Contests

The Icarus Contest

submission 2

Mythraeum is holding a contest for Icarus stories – you can find the myth through the link.  From the editors: “Your story can be about any aspect of this myth. You can focus on Icarus or Daedalus or another figure. Your story can be set in Ancient Greece, a modern office building (very Labyrinth-like!), or on a spaceship. You can make it a Western or a steampunk.”

Word Count: up to 5,000 words
Deadline: October 31, 2018
Entry Fee: None
Prize(s): The winning story wins $300.

 

submission 6

Also, for a list of Feminist Literary Magazines, do be sure to check out Trish Hopkinson’s catalogue.

Not only has she put together a list of magazines, but also their links and payment.

Some things to know about these markets:

  • They generally do not charge fees to submit (although some may charge fees for some types of submissions and for contests).
  • They accept poetry submissions.
  • All accept electronic submissions.

The Folklore of the Night Marchers

nightmarchers.jpg

Ghost stories have always fascinated people, some flocking to distant locations just in hopes for a glimpse of an ethereal figure.  From the castles of Scotland to any major city, tours are always available for those who are curious about the other side. But what about the dead who walk?  What about processions of death walked by the souls of the departed? Every culture has some form of this, however today we will be looking at the Night Marchers of Hawaii.

Night Marchers, or Hukai’po, is the name of a group of ghostly beings who march to the beat of pounding drums.  It is believed that the Night Marchers are armed warriors — generally thought to be marching to or from battle — carrying weapons and wearing helmets and cloaks that are ancient in appearance.  Stories and speculations surround why the Night Marchers walk, including that they are looking for new members or for an entrance to the afterlife, and, of course, the most chilling possibility: they are looking for ways to avenge their deaths.  However, one historian — Nanette Napoleon — believes that these soldiers were just doing their job as it was believed that they escorted the ali’i, or rulers.

No matter their reasoning for walking the earth, it is said that the Night Marchers can often be recognized by their torches and chanting, sometimes even the blowing of conch shells as they march.  They tend to only appear at night, though there are stories of them showing themselves during the day. However, one thing that has been spoken about is the fact that after they pass through an area, footprints have been known to be spotted along their path.

Whether or not they appear during the night or day, one thing often remarked about is that their procession must not be interrupted. As well as not interrupting them, it is important to avert your eyes and never look at them directly as — according to legend — someone you know, or even you yourself, will befall a terrible fate soon after.  In fact, people are urged to “play dead” lest they attract the Night Marchers’ attentions.  The reason for this, according to story-teller Lopaka Kapanui, is that if we are to believe that the Night Marchers were escorts for the ali’i, then they would have proceeded someone who was considered to be sacred, almost godly.  Therefore, when they passed you would not be permitted to look at the ali’i they guarded, and if a commoner had glimpsed at or if the shadow of the ali’i they guarded fell on one of these commoners, they were to be put to death, which was why they tended to march at night.

The Night Marchers are still a group of ghastly spirits that can still be seen to this day.  Ghost tours are available in Hawaii to try to glimpse them, despite the terrible things that may happen if you do happen to see them.  Though not everyone has seen them, it is so common to glimpse the Night Marchers that a lot of locals report having seen or heard them at one point or another.  Either way, one thing is for certain: the Night Marchers remain a grim mystery.

 

For more reading on the Night Marchers (sources):

https://www.to-hawaii.com/legends/night-marchers.php

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/27171113/exploring-the-legend-of-the-night-marchers

The Myth of the Manananggal

manananggal1Vampires.  The world has seen quite the evolution for the blood suckers in pop-culture, from Dracula to Interview with a Vampire all the way to Twilight, though one thing remains the same: they were humans turned into fanged, undead versions of themselves.  However, the idea that vampiric creatures exist has been a part of cultures around the world for centuries in different forms. From the Adanbosam of West African myth — with their long legs they dangle from trees to entrap their prey — to the Vetala of ancient India — ghouls who inhabit corpses and hang upside down from trees.  Today, however, we will be taking a look at the Manananggal.

The Manananggal is a vampiric creature that comes to us from the Philippines.  During the day, the Manananggal is a woman — said to be beautiful — who separates her body in half and preys upon pregnant women and their unborn children by night.  According to legend, the Manananggal will detach herself around the middle, hiding her lower half as bat wings grow from her back. She will take off in search of prey, perching on the roofs of houses and using her elongated tongue to suck the blood from sleeping pregnant women and their unborn children.

Though not much is known about the Manananggal, some people speculate that this creature of myth is based on an actual creature residing in the Philippines: Flying Foxes.  Flying Foxes are in fact fruit bats, and not only could Manananggal be seen as originating based on these creatures, but so can several other creatures in Philippine myth and legend according to Tammy Mildenstein of SOS — Save Our Species project Filipinos for Flying Foxes — who has encountered these stories as she works with their herbivorous cousins.  However, that is not to discount the people who actively believe these creatures to exist. In fact, on the opposite side of the spectrum, there have been multiple eyewitness accounts of people who claim to have seen the Manananggal still living in the Philippines to this day.

In any event, the Manananggal is simply a fearsome, vampiric creature who can blend in with humans by day, transforming herself by night.  The thought is quite terrifying — pregnant women and their unborn charges being attacked while asleep by a woman with half a body and a tongue that slips into their bellies.  One thing is for sure: if you ever see half a body abandoned somewhere, know that the Manananggal just might be nearby.

manananggal2

Manananggal in popular culture: Although the Manananggal hasn’t officially made its debut in popular culture herself, it is definitely worth mentioning that in 2016 independent director Prime Cruz released a romantic/gore film in the Philippines titled “Ang manananggal sa unit 23B” — which won two awards at the QCinema International Film Festival in 2016 for best director and best supporting actress — in which he portrays the Manananggal as a protagonist rather than a villain.

 

For more reading on the Manananggal (sources):

https://pantheon.org/articles/m/manananggal.html

https://www.aswangproject.com/manananggal-wakwak/

https://www.iucn.org/content/flying-foxes-myths-more-bark-bite

The Folklore of Bone Structures

 

bone church 2Structures made of bones have been a topic of fascination for as long as they have been around.  From catacombs to religious structures to homes, bones have become a part of contstruction that we rarely hear about anymore, but still exist.

The idea that a church can be filled with folklore seems to be something overlooked and not commonly spoken of.  But, of course, there are always some interesting things to be found within.  In Poland, it is called Kaplica Czaszek.  However, this macabre place was originally based on Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins in Rome.  The one thing these, and several other churches around the world, have in common, of course, are that they are decorated in bones.

One of the most striking aspects of these bone churches are, of course their decor.  And, to look into the reasoning as to why, we can start with one of the first of them: Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins.  Of course, on the surface the church is quite normal, almost plain, however beneath the church lie five alcoves in which the skeletons of over 4,000 friars rest to this day.  What makes it even more interesting is that some of these bones are laid out still wearing their vestments.

bone churchIn 1631 the Capuchin Friars arrived in Rome with the remains of their deceased.  They interred their brethren beneath the church and, as time went on, others were brought via pilgrimage and laid to rest within as well.  Of course, that’s when they exhumed the remains of their earlier-buried brethren in order to place them on display within the five alcoves.  While this may seem a bit morbid to some, it actually makes sense within Christianity to become fascinated by what we have left behind, especially since the belief in the Resurrection shows that our time on Earth is fleeting.  In fact, a sign now greets visitors who flock to the church doors to this day, reading, “As you are, we once were.  As we are, you shall one day be.”  Though this was supposed to be a reminder as to what we leave behind, it is quite a sight to see the monks still in their habits, their skeletal faces gleaming beneath their hoods.

Similar churches and catacombs have been built much like this one, such as the Capella dos Ossos in Portugal — which is actually based on a church in Italy that was constructed back in the thirteenth century.  Here, the cemeteries were filling with their dead — a common theme amongst the beginnings of these structures — and, instead of condemning the older bones, the monks brought them within the chapel.

The monks then decided that, rather than inter the bones, they would place them on display in order to give the people of the society at this time a place to reflect on their values; a reminder that material objects do not transcend death.  And, since the town of Évora was known for its wealth during this time, it was inscribed above the chapel door, as a reminder to those who came to meditate: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”

Death seems to be a touchy subject with most, which is why many turn towards religion to look for answers or guidance.  Though, as we can see from these bone churches, death is also revered and respected, and should be talked about amongst the living rather than in hushed conversations and behind closed doors.  Whatever your beliefs, these places of death have been sought out by the living and are still open to the public to this day.

mammoth bone hut.jpgSome other places made of bones — though not necessarily human — include the catacombs in Paris (which houses the remains of over six million bodies), the prehistoric mammoth bone huts that were discovered near the Ukrainian village of Mezhyrich, cattle bone houses in Texas that have been constructed over the last fifteen years and are still being made (though not fully made of bones, they are used in the construction of homes), and the dinosaur bone house in Wyoming that was constructed in 1933 and made of 5,796 dinosaur bones (mortared together) in order to draw in business to the family’s gas station.

Bone structures in popular culture: We see many different ways in which structures are built using bones, from the movie As Above, So Below in which a group travels through the catacombs beneath Paris, all the way to the poem by Stephen King The Bone Church (which has actually just been picked up by Netflix for a mini-series).

For more about bone structures (sources):

https://inhabitat.com/6-creepy-churches-made-of-bones/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/san-bernardino-alle-ossa

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/portugals-chapel-bones

http://mentalfloss.com/article/55222/10-buildings-made-bones