Kamikiri

Variations: Kami-kiri, Kami Kiri, Kamikiri-ma, Kamikiri-mushi, Kami Kiri Mushi; Amikiri (probably)

Kamikiri

Hair has been of historical importance in Japan. During the Edo period, the chonmage or topknot in men was a status symbol. In women, long hair indicated beauty and wealth, with differing hairstyles communicating age, rank, and availability. Cutting one’s hair was a solemn and drastic step associated with religious vows.

Cutting someone’s hair without their consent, therefore, was a spiteful and criminal act, even more so if it seemed to happen without reason. Inexplicable and sudden hair-cutting was known as Kamikiri, “hair cutter”. Most kamikiri incidents happened at twilight, and the victims were usually young women. Matsuzaka City was especially plagued by kamikiri. Often the hair was snipped off while the victim was walking, with the crime noticed only upon returning home.

Who was to blame for kamikiri? Demonic winds could have been the culprit, and they were countered with prayers written on papers and placed in hairpins. Kitsune were also blamed; after three women fell victim in one area, a fox was cut open and long hair found inside.

The phenomenon has also been attributed to a yokai, the kamikiri, kamikiri-ma (“hair-cutting demon”), or kamikiri-mushi (“hair-cutting insect”). It may have been a large longhorn beetle (Cerambycidae), but Edo scrolls elaborate that into a small humanoid creature with pincer hands and a birdlike face. The insect features may be due to kamikiri’s similarity with kamakiri, “praying mantis”.

Toriyama Sekien’s yokai compendia do not include the kamikiri, but rather the scorpion-like amikiri or “net-cutter”. This may be an error, or Sekien’s own spin on the scissors-handed yokai.

References

Foster, M. D. (2015) The Book of Yokai. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Hepburn, J. C. (1872) A Japanese-English and English-Japanese Dictionary. American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai.

Thunberg, C. P. (1796) Travels in Europe, Africa, and Asia, v. III. F. and C. Rivington, London.

Animalito

Animalito

During his time in Spain, Prosper Mérimée was introduced to a number of current superstitions by his traveling companion Vicente. This worthy Valencian informed him of certain animalitos, “little animals”, available for purchase in France from unscrupulous sorcerers.

Nobody knows what they look like save that they are tiny animals that live in reeds. The notorious embellisher Dubois gives them dog mouths and lizard heads. The reed an animalito lives in is sold with a knot in one end and a sturdy cork in the other.

Animalitos are magical beings, capable of granting their owners any wish, any request they desire. Napoleon had one of these imps with him, which prevented him from being killed while in Spain. Only silver bullets can harm those protected by an animalito.

In return for their services, the animalitos request a steep price. They have to be fed every 24 hours. They crave the flesh of unbaptized children, and if that is not available (as is often the case), their master has to cut a piece of flesh from his or her own body. Vicente recounts the tale of an old friend, Romero the footman, who cured his lung disease with the help of animalitos. Now he can run from Valencia to Murcia without breaking a sweat, but his bones show through his skin, his eyes are sunken…

The animalitos are eating him alive.

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Mérimée, P. Les Sorcières Espagnoles. In Mérimée, P. (1873) Dernières Nouvelles de Prosper Mérimée. Michel Lévy Frères, Paris.

Minceskro

Variations: Minceskre, Minčeskre, Minceskol

Minceskro

Minceskro, “the one who came up from the female genitals”, is the eighth child and fourth daughter of Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi, and the King of the Loçolico. She and her siblings are all Roma demons of disease produced from an abusive and unnatural union.

By the time Lolmisho the Red Mouse was born, Ana was in a state of despair at the vile children she had mothered. She begged Melalo to sterilize her and prevent further demons from being born. The two-headed bird obliged, telling her to bury herself in a dung heap. But instead of having the desired effect, all that accomplished was allowing a dung beetle to enter her body.

From that dung beetle was born Minceskro, a hairy little beetle that crawls over the body and enters the bloodstream. She is the cause of blood maladies and venereal diseases – gonorrhea, leucorrhea, syphilis… Her husband is Lolmisho, and their children are measles, smallpox, scarlet fever, and many more besides.

Minceskro’s origin has led to a traditional remedy for syphilis consisting of burying the patient in manure and sprinkling them with firewater. This procedure drives out the beetle and heals the ulcers.

References

Clébert, J. P. (1976) Les Tziganes. Tchou, Paris.

Clébert, J. P.; Duff, C. trans. (1963) The Gypsies. Vista Books, London.

Meyers Brothers Druggist (1910) Demons of Disease. Meyers Brothers Druggist, v. 31, p. 141.

Pavelčík, N. and Pavelčík, J. (2001) Myths of the Czech Gypsies. Asian Folklore Studies, v. 60, pp. 21-30.

Lolmischo

Variations: Lolimišo, Lolmishi, Lolmistro

lolmischo

Lolmischo, the “Red Mouse”, the seventh of the Children of Ana, and her fourth son. Like his siblings, he was conceived by the Keshalyi fairy Ana and her perverse husband the King of the Loçolico.

In this case, Ana was suffering from a skin condition. The vile Melalo recommended that she be licked by mice, but one of them entered her belly, resulting in the conception of Lolmischo. As his name indicates, he is a red mouse or rat. Rashes, hives, itches, ulcers, blisters, and boils fall under his jurisdiction, and he can cause eczema simply by running over the skin of a sleeping person.

He found a wife in his younger sister Minceskro. Their children are the demons of chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox…

References

Clébert, J. P. (1976) Les Tziganes. Tchou, Paris.

Clébert, J. P.; Duff, C. trans. (1963) The Gypsies. Vista Books, London.

Meyers Brothers Druggist (1910) Demons of Disease. Meyers Brothers Druggist, v. 31, p. 141.

Pavelčík, N. and Pavelčík, J. (2001) Myths of the Czech Gypsies. Asian Folklore Studies, v. 60, pp. 21-30.

Bogey

Variations: Bogie, Boogy, Bogy, Bogeyman, Bogyman, Nursery Bogie, and many more

bogey

In its broadest definition, a bogey, bogeyman, or nursery bogie is any monster whose purpose is to scare children into good behavior. In turn, bogeys can punish different kinds of behavior, or even attack without provocation; they can be the cause of unexplained events or be in league with parents; they can be linked to specific areas, or show up on feast days and holidays. Any creature can be a bogey, with the only restriction being their use as a warning (i.e. “don’t go outside at midday or snakes will bite you”). Bogeys are probably the most ancient and widespread of creatures, and will continue to thrive as long as creative parents and gullible children exist. The proliferation of characters such as Slenderman is further proof of these child-snatchers’ enduring appeal.

The Bag Man is the classical bogey. Variations on a man (or woman, or monster) carrying a sack or basket can be found wherever bogeys exist. They are large, hirsute, and fanged. Often they have horns and cloven hooves, the remnants of their origin as demons and devils. Sometimes they are described in ethnically-charged terms, and named after feared and otherized minorities. Bag Men seek out unruly children and stuff them into their bag, carrying them away for punishment – usually devouring them. The Bag Man is most commonly known as the Bogeyman in English-speaking areas. In France he is the Croquemitaine, but also Bras de Fer, Lustucru, Moine Bourru… The French Babou is no doubt one and the same as the Italian Babau. Spanish-speaking countries contend with El Coco, while Arabic-speakers fear Abou Kees (“Man with a Bag”, literally “Bag Father”). In southern Africa the basket bearer becomes the Isitwalangcengce, a hyena-like creature whose head is the basket in which children are carried off. The Southern Californian Haakapainiži is an enormous grasshopper with a basket on his back.

Christmas Bogeys are an offshoot of Bag Men, often sharing many characteristics with them but restricting themselves to Christmas festivities. The likes of Père Fouettard in France, Krampus in Germany, Zwarte Pieter in Holland, and many others besides intimidate children into good behavior. The other major archetype of festive bogey is the Witch, and she usually works alone. The Italian Befana rewards and punishes children accordingly at the festival of Epiphany. The hag Chauchevieille attacks the unfaithful who skip midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Frau Gaude drives a pack of hellhounds through town on Christmas Eve. The Guillaneu of the Vendée rides a headless and tailless horse on the New Year. Trotte-Vieille of the Haute-Saone impales naughty children on her long horns, but can be placated with a cauldron of hot broth on the doorstep. In Lucerne, Straeggel shaves the heads of girls who have not finished their tasks on the last Wednesday before Christmas. The legacy of Christmas bogeys lives on today throughout the Western world, as children are taught to believe in a hairy man dressed in red and carrying a large bag; this man enters houses unbidden and judges children on their behavior, and accepts small offerings of cookies.

Another class of bogeys can be described as “interdictory” or “guardian” bogeys, frequenting certain dangerous areas and dissuading children from going there. One of these is the Green-toothed Hag, found mostly in Britain. There is Grindylow in Yorkshire; Jenny Greenteeth in Lancashire; Nellie Longarms in Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Shropshire; Peg Powler between Yorkshire and Durham, but also other such characters as Marrabbecca, who lives in Sicilian wells. They have long arms, sharp green teeth, and straggly hair, and drag children into stagnant pools to be devoured. The Hook Man is another such archetype, including the sinister Jan Haak of Holland whose large hook pulls children underwater. Water-horses such as Mourioche in Brittany also do their job in keeping riverbanks and beaches deserted. In the Ardennes, the waterways are guarded by the crustacean Traîcousse and the bulky lizardlike Mahwot’; the Karnabo’s eerie whistling sounds from abandoned slate quarries. The Biloko of the Congo gruesomely devour anyone who ventures into the deep jungle; the Colombian Abúhuwa and West African Dodo fill a similar role.

Yet other bogeys are harder to categorize. The Bells of Wallonia, whose ringing causes children to freeze in the middle of whatever grimace they are making. The Camacrusa of Gascony is a disembodied leg that eats children. Scandinavian Church Grims haunt places of worship. The Wallonian Colôrobètch nips children and inflicts them with frostbite. In Russia, the Domovoi and his associates can be used by parents for more sinister purposes. Gatta Marella is a nightmarish alpine cat. Lamiae and Striges are nocturnal predators of children in Greece. Used floorboards (lattes usées) in Mons and Tournai, France, become Latusés, bogeys that keep children out of the attic. The reptilian Whowie and the froglike Yara-ma-yha-who are invoked in Australia.

All of which goes to prove that, when it comes to the art of frightening children, humanity has no equal.

References

Callaway, C. (1868) Nursery Tales, Traditions, and Histories of the Zulus. Trübner and Co., London.

Canobbio, S. (1996) “Se non fai il bravo viene…” A proposito degli spauracchi per bambini. In Les Etres Imaginaires dans les Recits des Alpes. Imprimerie ITLA, Aoste.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1996) La Grande Encyclopédie des Fées. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (2005) The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures. Abbeville Press.

van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.

Heiniger, P. Les Formes du Noir. In Loddo, D. and Pelen, J. (eds.) (2001) Êtres fantastiques des régions de France. L’Harmattan, Paris.Lambot, J. (1987) L’Ardenne. Pierre Mardaga, Brussels.

Knappert, J. (1971) Myths and Legends of the Congo. Heinemann Educational Books, London.Rose, C. (2000) Giants, Monsters, and Dragons. W. W. Norton and Co., New York.

Laird, C. (1976) The Chemehuevis. Malki Museum Press, Morongo Indian Reservation, Banning.

Lawson, J. C. (1964) Modern Greek Folklore: A Study in Survivals. University Books.

Sébillot, P. (1882) Traditions et superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne. Maisonneuve et Cie, Paris.

Tijskens, J. (1965) Les Noms du Croquemitaine en Wallonie. Enquêtes du Musée de la Vie Wallonne, nos. 117-120, tome X, pp. 257-391.

Tremearne, A. J. N. (1913) Hausa Superstitions and Customs. J. Bale and Sons and Danielsson, Ltd., London.

Kranokolaptes

Variations: Kephalokroustes, Sklerokephalon

kranokolaptes

Nicander classified the Kranokolaptes, the “Head Striker”, as a phalangion or spider. This is all the more puzzling because the description has nothing arachnoid about it. No doubt its deadly bites were seen as reason enough to list it after wolf spiders and malmignattes.

The kranokolaptes is an insect found in Egypt, and which develops in the persea tree (perhaps Mimusops). It has the appearance of a moth, with four downy felt-textured wings that leave an ashy dust behind. Philoumenos described it as green in color, but that is apparently a misreading of Nicander. The head of the kranokolaptes is hard, heavy, and nodding; its abdomen is thick and fat. It has a deadly stinger located below its head.

A kranokolaptes will use its stinger to attack the heads and necks of humans and cause instant death. Kranokolaptes stings are deadly unless victims are treated with its antidote – a kranokolaptes drowned in oil.

It has been suggested that hawkmoths (Sphingidae), with their impressive sizes, thick abdomens, and prominent probosces, are at the root of the kranokolaptes tale. The vampire moth Calyptra thalictri is even more compelling. Having evolved from fruit-piercing moths, vampire moths use the same methods to puncture skin and drink blood – and they rock their heads back and forth as they penetrate, explaining the “nodding” aspect. The similarities end here, however, as a bite from Calyptra merely causes swelling and irritation.

References

Beavis, I. C. (1988) Insects and other Invertebrates in Classical Antiquity. Alden Press, Osney Mead, Oxford.

Kitchell, K. F. (2014) Animals in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon.

Bitoso

bitoso

Bitoso, “The Faster” or “Fasting One” (although some accounts mistakenly refer to “The Fastening One”) is one of the children of Ana, a Keshali fairy of Roma folklore who was coerced into bearing the offspring of the King of the Loçolico. As with his siblings, he is the cause of a number of diseases and ailments, although Bitoso has the dubious distinction of being the mildest and least harmful of the lot.

When Schilalyi moved on to molesting her own siblings, Melalo recommended that the King eat garlic on which he had urinated. After the King visited Ana, she give birth to Bitoso, who became Schilalyi’s husband.

Bitoso is a little worm with multiple heads (some accounts specifically refer to four heads) who causes headaches, stomachaches, and lack of appetite; his gnawing causes earache and toothache. He and Schilalyi’s children cause colic, cramps, tinnitus, and toothache. Bitoso himself is mercifully innocuous compared to his siblings.

Bitoso’s pedigree is one that goes back centuries. The folk knowledge that worms cause toothache dates back at least to the Babylonian civilization, in the tale of the worm’s creation. After Anu created the heavens, the heavens in turn created the Earth, the Earth created the rivers, the rivers created the canals, the canals created the marsh, and the marsh created the worm, the worm came before Shamash and Ea, demanding the food allotted to it. It refused figs and pomegranates, instead choosing to live between the teeth and the jawbone, destroying the blood vessels, seizing the roots, and ruining the strength of the teeth.

References

Clébert, J. P. (1976) Les Tziganes. Tchou, Paris.

Clébert, J. P.; Duff, C. trans. (1963) The Gypsies. Vista Books, London.

Kanner, L. (1931) Teeth of Gods, Saints, and Kings. Medical Life, 131, August 1931.

Meyers Brothers Druggist (1910) Demons of Disease. Meyers Brothers Druggist, v. 31, p. 141.

Pavelčík, N. and Pavelčík, J. (2001) Myths of the Czech Gypsies. Asian Folklore Studies, v. 60, pp. 21-30.