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

Monstrous Women NEWS!

avignon
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso

Last Fall, I offered the first modules of Monstrous Women. I’d always envisioned it as a generative workshop with two distinct sets of classes, but the funny thing is that monstrous women and women monsters refuse to be sorted and placed in tidy categories. I noticed some overlap, and so I decided to just run with it.

At the end of August, I will be running the second collection of Monstrous Women with all new material. This semester the selections will focus on The Shifting Shapes of Animal Brides, The Seductive Allure of the Femme Fatale, Weeping Women and Tearful Prophecies, The Female Descent into Hysteria and Madness, and Mayhem in Numbers and the Sacred Three. At the moment, there are only TWO seats left in the Thursday evening course. (Note: This is Friday morning AEDT for the Australian writers.) Come join us. It’s going to be a monstrously wonderful time.

On a side note, if you’re interested in the course, but don’t know what to expect, check out the pieces below, which were published by alums of the first session of Monstrous Women. Enjoy!

The Velvet Castles of the Night” by Claire Eliza Bartlett (Daily Science Fiction)

They wait for you, in the velvet castles of the night.

It’s not like they have anything better to do. Everyone knows the story stops for the hero, and who would the hero be but you? That is why every mirror in every inn in this town is enchanted, showing chiseled jaws, sculpted arms. Nine out of ten heroes have a verified need for encouragement along the way.

Author’s Notes: “The Velvet Castles of the Night” was inspired by the Monstrous Women class on vampires, and my own dislike of vampires, particularly female ones, and the way they are depicted in media.

Author Bio: Claire Eliza Bartlett is a US citizen who grew up in Colorado. She studied history and archaeology and spent time in Switzerland and Wales before settling in Denmark for good. When not at her computer telling mostly false stories, she works as a tour guide in Copenhagen, telling stories that are (mostly) true.

“Hidden in the Shadow of a God” by Cassandra Schoeber (Beneath Yggdrasil’s Shadow)

Odin wasn’t returning. I’d been a fool. Thinking I was special to be granted beauty, to share his bed. Believing that because Odin chose me, that meant that I was still one of the gods. But every time he left, his magic seeped out of my veins. And I waited and waited, dependent on his good will and his return.

Like god, like man.

The bastard had used me. He’d enticed me, fucked me, and left me behind.

Without Odin, I had no more magic. And without his magic, I was only one thing.

The Hidden One.

37375855_823846428004387_3958543791899541504_oAuthor’s Notes: Intrigued by the tales of the Norse gods, I was listening to Neil Gaiman read aloud from his book on Norse Mythology. In his forward, he mentions that only a few Norse goddesses are remembered in story today. Many goddesses have names, but their lives and their deeds have long been forgotten. Curious, I researched the “forgotten ones”, intent on giving one of those goddesses a voice. I decided upon Hulda, who is only mentioned briefly as a witch and Odin’s mistress. I figured it must take a great woman to attract both the Allfather’s attention and ultimately his rejection, and so the seed for this story was planted.

In addition, during Monstrous Women, I discovered that the word “hulder” – the term for a female seductress with a cow’s tail – may have originated from Hulda’s name. I merged the two concepts, blending together the voice of a tale-less goddess with the plight of a woman cursed with the tail of a cow. And so, after hundreds of years forgotten, Hulda’s story is finally being told.

Author Bio: Cassandra Schoeber is a dark fantasy and horror writer. Unfortunately, there are times when her stories escape the page, wreak havoc, and eat innocent bystanders. She has published one novella, Ravenous with Fantasia Divinity Magazine, as well as several short stories, including: “Let It Snow” (Silver Apples Magazine); “When the Last Petal Falls” (Fantasia Divinity Magazine); “Hidden in the Shadow of a God” (Fantasia Divinity Magazine); and “He Knows” (Short and Twisted Christmas Tales).

Monstrous Women Schedule

undine2Summer is coming to a close, and we’re getting geared up for a new section of Monstrous Women with Introductions starting the last week of August. There are currently only three seats left for the Tuesday Thursday night section of this workshop. Classes run through the first week of December and will be held from 6-8:30 pm MST (5-7:30 pm PST/ 7-9:30 pm CST/ 8-10:30 EST/ 10 am-12:30 pm Wednesday AEST).

Over the course of 14 weeks, participants will write five short stories based on the following themes: The Shifting Shapes of Animal Brides, The Seductive Allure of the Femme Fatale, Weeping Women and Tearful Prophecies, The Female Descent into Hysteria and Madness, Mayhem in Numbers and the Sacred Three. Participants will also have the opportunity to workshop a selection of revised stories during portfolio sessions, which are held the last two weeks of class.

the mere wifeIn addition to the workshop materials and critique sessions, participants are required to read The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley–a modern retelling of Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel’s mother. According to Headley, Beowulf has been translated incorrectly, and her retelling hinges on one word in particular: aglæca/æglæca. This word is used to describe not only Beowulf, but also his three antagonists Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon as well.  Read more about Headley’s research and applications towards a modern retelling in the NPR Author Interview: “Beowulf In The Suburbs? ‘The Mere Wife’ Is An Epic Retelling“.

New York Times bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley presents a modern retelling of the literary classic Beowulf, set in American suburbia as two mothers―a housewife and a battle-hardened veteran―fight to protect those they love in The Mere Wife.

REGISTRATION: To save a seat for Monstrous Women: A Feminist Approach to Myth and Myth, send an email request for an invoice to Carina Bissett at cmariebissett@gmail.com. The fee to attend the workshop is $450, payable to cmariebissett@gmail.com via PayPal. There is a $100 non-refundable deposit required to hold your spot with payment in FULL prior to the first class. (Payment plans available upon request.) Returning students receive a 10% discount. Registration packet includes detailed information on each module, expectations and etiquette, and educational materials. Space is limited.

Seal Wives and Stamp Collections

Faroese_stamp_584_the_seal_woman
Stamp FO 584 of the Faroe Islands: The Seal Woman 

Selkies, or seal people, can be found populating the folklore of the British Isles and Scandinavia. When they come to shore, these mythical creatures shed their seal skins and dance on the beaches in their human form. Although there are male selkies, it’s the women who often show up in the cultural myths. Labelled as part of the folklore attributed to animal brides, these stories often tell of a fisherman who spies a selkie girl and binds her in her human form by hiding her sealskin. But selkie wives are canny creatures. Even when they are trapped on land in their human forms and are forced into marriage with the human husbands who hold them hostage, they secretly wait for the day when they can reclaim their sealskin and return to their homes beneath the ocean.

In 2015, Denmark’s Faroe Islands celebrated one selkie myth with a stunning series of stamps detailing the story of “The Seal Wife.” In this story, the selkie wife is taken captive by a fisherman who hides her seal coat. Unable to return to the ocean, she is forced into marriage and ends up bearing him seven children. One day, the fisherman goes to work, but forgets the key to the trunk where his wife’s sealskin is hidden. She discovers her coat and returns to her seal form, leaving her human husband behind. Back in the ocean, the seal woman is reunited with her selkie husband and bears him two sons. However, the jilted fisherman tracks down her seal family and murders them. In retribution, the selkie vows to drag Faroese fishermen to a watery grave, until so many fishermen drown that there are enough dead to circle the islands holding hands. With 694 miles of coastline surrounding the Faroe Islands, the selkie’s vengeance will not rest until at least 613,736 fishermen have died. 

There are 10 stamps in the The Seal Woman (kópakonan) series. These Faroe Islands stamps were designed by artist Edward Fuglø and were issued on February 12, 2007. 

stamps-selkie

Further reading: 

Clickbait for Paranormals: Try These Simple Tricks to Make Your Man Give Your Seal Skin Back” by Sarina Dorie

In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire

Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar

“Skin,” The Girl with No Hands by Angela Slatter

“The Tale of the Skin,” The Orphan’s Tales, Volume I: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

  

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks

Seaward by Susan Cooper

The Secret of the Ron Mor by Rosalie Fry

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

The Selkie and The Selkie Bride by Melanie Jackson

Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Secrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

Seal Island trilogy by Sophie Moss

Petaybee trilogy by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Neptune Rising: Songs and Tales of the Undersea Folk by Jane Yolen and David Wiesner