Opimachus

Variations: Chargol, Ophiomachis, Ophiomachus, Opimacus, Opymachus, Ibis, Snake-eater; Attachus (probably); Opinicus, Epimacus (probably)

Opimachus

There is only one Biblical mention of the insect called chargol, in Leviticus 11:22, as one of the four insects that are safe for consumption. It has been assumed to mean “beetle” in some translations. Other identifications include a katydid or bush cricket, a species of Gryllus cricket, or the wart-eating cricket.

The Septuagint’s translators borrowed heavily from Aristotle in an effort to give names to all the animals in the Bible. An Aristotelian account of locusts fighting and killing snakes (perhaps based on stories of insects feeding on dead snakes?) gave the chargol the name of ophiomachus, “snake fighter”. This in turn became the opimachus or opimacus, described by Thomas de Cantimpré and subsequently Albertus Magnus as a worm that attaches itself just below a snake’s head. It cannot be removed and kills the snake.

By the time the opimachus or opymachus was described in the Ortus Sanitatis (citing Thomas), it had become confused beyond recognition. While Thomas and Albertus list it among the insects, it is now placed with the birds as a small fowl. It is depicted as a quadrupedal griffin with a long pointed beak and large rabbit’s ears. It has longer hind legs to permit it to jump. It may or may not be the same as the bird known as attachus.

Dapper says that the ophiomachi or ibides (ibises) are birds that live in Ethiopia and are so named because they eat snakes.

Finally, the long journey of the snake-fighter comes to an end with the opinicus or epimacus, a variety of generic heraldic griffin whose name is almost certainly derived from a Levitical insect.

References

de Cantimpré, T. (1280) Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.

Coogan, M. D.; Brettler, M. Z.; Newsom, C.; Perkins, P. (eds.) (2010) The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Cuba, J. (1539) Le iardin de santé. Philippe le Noir, Paris.

Dapper, O. (1686) Description de l’Afrique. Wolfgang, Waesberge, Boom, & van Someren, Amsterdam.

Harris, T. M. (1833) A Dictionary of the Natural History of the Bible. T. T. and J. Tegg, London.

Magnus, A. (1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI. Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.

Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.

Vinycomb, J. (1906) Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art, with Special Reference to their Use in British Heraldry. Chapman and Hall, London.

Nadubi

Nadubi

The Nadubi is one of a variety of evil nocturnal spirits that haunt Australia. Nadubi may be found on the rocky plateau of Arnhem Land. They serve as a warning against traveling alone in the bush during the chilly hours of night.

Nadubi are a spirit people similar to humans in appearance but with barbed spines sprouting from their elbows and knees. Cave paintings at Oenpelli show a nadubi woman with spines on several areas of her body, including her elbows and vulva. Another cave painting at Sleisbeck shows a kangaroo-like creature with a spiny tail and spiny projections on its mouth and rear; this may also be a depiction of a nadubi.

A nadubi will creep up on a lone traveler and project a spine into his or her body. The victim can only be saved by the timely removal of the spine by a medicine man; usually this aid is administered too late, and the unfortunate sufferer sickens and dies. As only medicine men can see nadubi, it falls onto them to drive those malignant spirits away from encampments.

Despite their best efforts, every now and then the vigilance of the medicine men slips, and a scream in the night testifies to the fate of another solitary wanderer.

References

Johnson, D. (2014) Night Skies of Aboriginal Australia. Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Mountford, C. P. (1957) Aboriginal Bark Paintings from Field Island, Northern Territory. Records of the South Australian Museum, v. XIII, no. 1, pp. 87-89.

Mountford, C. P. (1958) Aboriginal Cave Paintings at Sleisbeck, Northern Australia. Records of the South Australian Museum, v. XIII, no. 2, pp. 147-155.

Roberts, A. R. and Mountford, C. P. (1975) The Dawn of Time. Rigby Limited, Adelaide.

Zoureg

Zoureg

The Zoureg is a snake, one foot in length, that lives in the Arabian desert. When it moves it goes through everything in its path like a hot knife through butter; rocks, trees, walls and human bodies are all equally powerless to stop it. Anyone who a zoureg goes through dies instantly. It can only be killed by decapitating it in its sleep.

It has proven difficult to locate de Plancy’s sources for this purported Arabian legend, considering that “zoureg” is an oddly transliterated word with multiple possible spellings in Arabic.

References

de Plancy, J. C. (1863) Dictionnaire Infernal. Henri Plon, Paris.

Great-hand

Great-hand

The Old Town of Edinburgh is honeycombed with cellars, passages, and tunnels. These subterranean labyrinths are home to ancient horrors long forgotten by the residents. Great-hand is one of these.

Great-hand lives in the tunnel beneath the Royal Mile, stretching from the Castle to the Palace of Holyrood. Once used by soldiers for surprise attacks, it eventually fell into disuse. Then Great-hand moved in and the passage was abandoned completely. Nobody ever left the tunnel alive.

The only thing that has ever been seen of Great-hand is a hand – an enormous grisly hand, with fingernails like the claws of an eagle. If that hand is attached to a body, none have seen it.

After a while of avoiding the tunnel, a piper declared he would cross the tunnel, playing his pipes the whole way to verify his progress. Taking his dog along with him, he entered through the cave near the Castle, and the sound of his pipes could be heard traveling underground as he went down the hill. Then, at the Heart of Midlothian, the music stopped. The attending crowd went back to the entrance of the cave to see the dog running out in abject terror, completely hairless. The passage was blocked up from both ends.

Similar stories are told across Scotland involving haunted caves, foolhardy pipers, and dogs shedding their hair with fright. They are cautionary tales warning of the perils of the underground.

References

Fleming, M. (2002) Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland. Mercat Press, Edinburgh.

Wako

Variations: Waco

Wako

The Wako are tsawekuri, animal spirits in the folklore of the Cuiva of Colombia and Venezuela. They look like pacas, with spots and long vicious fangs. Wako dig caves with many small exits and hiding-places, and live there in large numbers. Their call sounds like ao, ao, ao, ao.

Wako are carnivorous and anthropophagous. Anyone who ventures into their caves is hunted down and devoured. However, they refuse to chase anyone who is naked.

A Cuiva man who was left by his wife once made the suicidal decision to dig into a wako nest. Despite his son’s entreaties, he dug into the hole where a wako had been seen, feeling around with his hand and pulling it out quickly. His actions startled the wako, who ran out of their burrow calling ao, ao, ao, ao. There was nothing left of him after they were done.

Another man descended into a wako cave to avenge his pregnant wife, who had been eaten by the wako. He successfully exterminated the entire nest of wako.

References

Arcand, B.; Coppens, W.; Kerr, I.; and Gómez, F. O.; Wilbert, J. and Simoneau, K. eds. (1991) Folk Literature of the Cuiva Indians. UCLA Latin American Center Publications, University of California, Los Angeles.

Tsetahotsiltali

Variations: Tse’tahotsiltali, Tse’tahotsilta’li, Tse’dahidziqa’li, Tse’daxodzi’ltali, Kicker, Kicking Monster

Tsetahotsiltali

Tsetahotsiltali, “He [who] Kicks [people] Down the Cliff”, was among the many Anaye or “Alien Gods” slain by Nayenezgani. As with the rest of his brood, he was born from a human woman who, in the absence of men, had resorted to other means of stimulation.

Tsetahotsiltali was born at Tse’binahotyel, a high, wall-like cliff. He had no head, with only a long pointed end where the head should be. His mother, disgusted at the monster she had borne, put him in a hole in the cliff and sealed it with a stone. Tsetahotsiltali survived anyway.

As he grew, Tsetahotsiltali’s hair grew into the rock, anchoring him fast. He sat in place next to a well-beaten trail, his legs folded up, and anyone who passed by would be immediately kicked and sent tumbling down the cliff. Tsetahotsiltali’s children waited at the base of the cliff to dismember the offerings their father sent down. With three types of fruiting cactus growing nearby, a steady stream of victims was guaranteed. His spy was the turkey vulture.

That was where Nayenezgani found him. The hero followed the trail to the top of the high cliff, and beheld his enemy, much like a man in shape. Tsetahotsiltali was leaning back inoffensively, pulling at his whiskers, but Nayenezgani kept his eye closely on him as he walked past. Sure enough, Tsetahotsiltali kicked out suddenly, but Nayenezgani dodged the kick easily. “Why did you kick at me?” he asked the monster. “Oh, my grandchild”, said Tsetahotsiltali innocently, “I was tired and just wanted to stretch my legs”. Four times Nayenezgani passed by, and four times Tsetahotsiltali missed. Then the hero grabbed his stone knife and struck Tsetahotsiltali above the eyes, stabbing over and over until he was sure the monster was dead. But the body remained attached to the cliff, the thick cedar-root-like hairs holding it fast, so Nayenezgani had to chop through these as well before Tsetahotsiltali’s went tumbling down the same way his many victims had.

Immediately Nayenezgani heard a cacophony of squabbling voices. “I want the eyes!” “The liver’s mine!” “Give me an arm!” The sound of Tsetahotsiltali’s children fighting over their father’s body was a grim reminder of the fate Nayenezgani had escaped. The hero found another trail to the base of the cliff and beheld Tsetahotsiltali’s twelve hideous children, their father’s blood still streaming from their mouths. Only the bones and scalp of Tsetahotsiltali were left. Disgusted, Nayenezgani slew most of that vile brood. The survivors were spared, exiled, and, depending on the narrative, may have been transformed into Rocky Mountain sheep, owls, box turtles, or birds of prey.

Nayenezgani took Tsetahotsiltali’s scalp as a trophy and planted seeds in the surrounding area.

References

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Reichard, G. A. (1950) Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York.

Chimalcoatl

chimalcoatl

The Chimalcoatl, “shield snake”, is a long, thick Mexican snake. It earns its name from the fleshy, colorful shield on its back. Its appearance is an omen of death or prosperity and fortune in war, depending on the occasion.

References

Nuttall, Z. (1895) A Note on Ancient Mexican Folk-lore. The Journal of American Folklore, v. 8, no. 29, pp. 117-129.