Lakúma

Variations: Lucooma

lakuma

According to the Yamana, the Lakúma are the most dangerous sea creatures of Tierra del Fuego. These water spirits have been known to tip canoes over, pull their occupants out, and drag them under to consume, leaving their entrails to float to the surface. They can also create huge waves, summon whirlpools, and whip up storms to damage larger vessels.

Lakúma have been compared to whales, squids, and giant worms, making their exact appearance hard to pin down. What is known is that they like to flatten themselves out on the water’s surface, letting their back protrude like a small island. Their broad and flat backs are covered with encrustations of unusually large mussels.

Sometimes there are so many lakúma in one spot that they can be used as stepping-stones. A group of Yamana on a desert island saw countless wide, flat lakúma rise to the surface, forming a living bridge to a bountiful island. “If we run quickly, we’ll get to the other side!” said one man, running over the backs of the lakúma and reaching the other shore. But the others were too slow, and the lakúma dove, taking them to a watery grave. The one survivor recruited enough men to slay many lakúma in retaliation, and their bodies can still be seen today in the form of large, flat stones at the bottom of the sea.

Lakúma will also attack people breaking taboos. It is known that a menstruating girl or túrikipa should not eat berries, but one girl thought she could circumvent the rule by sucking out the juices and spitting the solid outer part. Alas, her canoe was attacked by a lakúma, and it refused the offerings tossed at it until it took the girl and devoured her. It then flattened itself out on the surface and rested. The túrikipa’s people went onto the lakúma’s back, took some of the mussels, and used their sharp shells to dismember the lakúma. But that was small comfort for the túrikipa, whose entrails served as a grisly reminder of her fate.

For all their malevolence, lakúma can be tamed by a powerful yékamuš or shaman, and can become obedient servants. One yékamuš was with his wife in their canoe while she scolded him. “I thought you were a powerful yékamuš, but you can’t even strand a whale, or fetch birds to eat!” In response the yékamuš slept and summoned two lakúma, who raised the canoe’s bow up in the air. “Wake up! Help me!” cried his wife, and the yékamuš stirred and spoke nonchalantly. “I thought you said I was powerless”, he taunted, before telling her to paint the lakúma with white paint. She did as she was told, and the lakúma did not resist. Then they dove and created a good breeze to send the canoe effortlessly to its destination. “I had always made fun of you”, admitted the wife, “but now I know you are truly a capable yékamuš!”

References

Gusinde, M.; Schütze, F. trans. (1961) The Yamana; the life and thought of the water nomads of Cape Horn. Human Relations Area Files, New Haven.

Gusinde, M.; Wilbert, J. ed. (1977) Folk Literature of the Yamana Indians. University of California Press, University of California, Los Angeles.

Lilyi

Variations: Lilye, Lili

lilyi

Lilyi is the second child of Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi. Like her siblings, she is responsible for an array of ailments that plague humanity, and she had her genesis in the abusive relationship between Ana and her repulsive husband, the King of the Loçolico.

After the birth of Melalo, Ana understandably refused to have another child. But this time it was Melalo himself, desirous of a wife, who told his father to cook a fish in donkey’s milk, and administer a few drops of the liquid in Ana before taking her by force. The product of this vile union was Lilyi.

Lilyi, “Viscous” or “Slimy”, is mermaid-like, part fish (some sources specify hagfish) with a human head. Nine sticky threads or barbs flow from either side of her head, and they can penetrate a human body, causing buildup of mucus. She is responsible for catarrh, coughing, dysentery, influenza, vomiting, and other diseases involving mucus and discharges.

Her union with her brother Melalo produced further demons of disease, but she was herself persecuted by her younger brother Tçulo – at least until Tçulo got a sister-wife of his own.

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.

Lyngbakur

Variations: Lyng-bakur, Lyngbakr, Ling-back, Heather-back; Jasconius, Iascanus; Hólma-fiskur, Hólmafiskur (Island Fish)

Lyngbakur

The Lyngbakur is the largest of all the illhveli, the largest of the whales, indeed one of the largest creatures in the sea. In Icelandic lore only the hafgufa (or kraken) is bigger than it, and the two giants are frequently interchangeable.

Despite its enormous size, the lyngbakur is rarely seen, and it does not go out of its way to sink ships the way its smaller brethren do. Most of the time its back is the only thing seen, looking like an island covered with a growth of heather. Its eyes are dorsally located, giving the impression of circular pools of water. From a distance the lyngbakur seems jet-black, but on closer inspection it is a mossy grey. It is tailed and finned like other whales.

The lyngbakur is a slow swimmer, and tends to doze at the surface, looking indistinguishable from a heather-covered island. It is possible to go right up and land on it, but the whale eventually awakes and dives, and anyone still on it will be drowned. Some fishermen in southern Iceland stayed two days on the whale’s back before it sunk, but they had the presence of mind to escape while they could. Trying to draw water from the “pools” on the island is certain to awaken it. The lyngbakur feeds only once every three years, but when it does it engulfs anything in its path, fish, birds, and whales alike.

The saga of Arrow-Odd relates the titular hero’s adventures, which include an encounter with a lyngbakur sent by his enemy Ogmund. He stopped by a large heather-covered island, and had five of his crew disembark to find drinking water. Before long the island began to move, going underwater and drowning the unfortunate crewmen.

Saint Brendan moored at a small island covered with sparse vegetation and with no sand on its shores. He and his followers spent the night praying on the island, but left next morning in a hurry as the ground began to shake. They returned to their ship in time, where they found out that they had been on the back of a Jasconius or Iascanus, a great whale that seems to be none other than the lyngbakur. The next time they encountered the whale, Saint Brendan fearlessly sang Easter Mass on it, and none were harmed.

It is said that there is only one lyngbakur, and it will live until Armageddon.

References

Davidsson, O. (1900) The Folk-lore of Icelandic Fishes. The Scottish Review, October, pp. 312-332.

Edwards, P. and Pálsson, H. (1970) Arrow-Odd: A Medieval Novel. New York University Press, New York.

Hlidberg, J. B. and Aegisson, S.; McQueen, F. J. M. and Kjartansson, R., trans. (2011) Meeting with Monsters. JPV utgafa, Reykjavik.

Llamhigyn y Dwr

Variations: Water Leaper, Water Spirit

Llamhigyn y Dwr

Welsh fishermen, especially around Llyn Gwynan and Llyn Glas, have to contend with the attention of the troublesome Water Spirit, the Llamhigyn y Dwr or “Water Leaper”.

A llamhigyn y dwr looks like a large and monstrous toad, except with a long tail and wings instead of legs. It hides in lakes and other bodies of water, and is carnivorous by nature. Shepherds know not to let their sheep or dogs near the water’s edge, lest the llamhigyn y dwr pounce on them and drag them below.

Fish lost to anglers in those lakes are always the work of a llamhigyn y dwr. It will take the bait cleanly off hooks, or even pull fishermen into the lake. They are fast and powerful swimmers, and will run away with hook, line, rod, and angler. One fisherman’s grandfather told of hooking a llamhigyn y dwr, only for it to emit an ear-splitting shriek, and it would have pulled him off the boat had his friend not been with him.

These tales of the llamhigyn y dwr were told – with significantly more colorful language – by one Ifan Owen, a trustworthy angler by trade with no reason to exaggerate.

References

Jones, T. G. (1930) Welsh Folklore and Folk-custom. Methuen and Co., London.

Rhys, J. (1901) Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx, vol. I. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Lavellan

Variations: Water Shrew, Water Mole, Blind Mouse, Common Lizard

Lavellan

The Lavellan is a toxic mammal found in northern Scotland, primarily Caithness.

A lavellan’s appearance is unclear and unassuming; at the very least, it is believed to be small and furry. Sibbald believed it had the head and color of a marten, while other accounts describe it as resembling a shrew or a lizard. It has bright eyes and moves very quickly.

Lavellans are highly poisonous, and are capable of harming cattle from forty yards away. Their very breath is noxious. They are also lethal to humans, as told in one satirical song: “Let him not go away from the houses, to moss or wood, lest the Lavellan come and smite him”.

Farmers kill lavellans on sight and preserve their skin. Water in which a lavellan skin has been dipped is a certain remedy for lavellan poisoning. Boiling a lavellan head will also provide an antidote.

It has generally been assumed that the lavellan is a demonization of the water shrew, also known locally as water mole or blind mouse. The shrew’s saliva is mildly toxic but nowhere near as virulent as the lavellan’s. Harvie-Brown and Buckley, on the other hand, propose that the common lizard – brownish in color, bright-eyed, swift, and unfamiliar – was the originator of the lavellan. It may well be a combination of both.

References

Campbell, J. G. (1900) Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. James MacLehose and Sons, Glasgow.

Fleming, J. (1814) Contributions to the British Fauna. Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society, Vol. II, Part I, pp. 238-251.

Harvie-Brown, J. A. and Buckley, T. E. (1887) A Vertebrate Fauna of Sutherland, Caithness, and West Cromarty. T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh University Press.

Pennant, T. (1818) British Zoology, vol. I. J. Christie, Dublin.

Lange Wapper

Variations: Lange-wapper, Long Wapper

Lange wapper

Centuries ago, the woods around Antwerp crawled with demons, goblins, and all sorts of evil creatures. They became so troublesome that the townsfolk organized a massive raid, mobilizing priests and arming themselves with bell, book, candle, and icons of the Virgin Mary. The countryside was scoured, and every monster they found was exorcised and banished to the sea.

They did not check the water. One creature escaped their attention by waiting quietly for them to leave. From there he made his way into the canals of Antwerp, where he settled down and incubated his resentment towards humanity.

This was Lange Wapper, or “Long Wapper”. As a shapeshifter, he has no fixed appearance or size. He can be be taller than buildings or the size of a mouse. However, his favored forms usually have long, skinny legs with which he walks on water. These legs can stretch to enormous lengths, allowing him to peer in windows and terrify the inhabitants. The strange movements he makes on those stilt-like legs are the origin of his name, as wapper is an antiquated term for “balance”, and an even more ancient term for “big man”.

Lange Wapper revels in his shapeshifting powers, using them for pranks of varying cruelty. He can become an abandoned kitten, a scared-looking dog, a priest, a nun, a rich man, a beautiful woman, a beggar in rags… any shape that lets him draw unsuspecting victims towards him. Other times Lange Wapper grows to gigantic size and towers over drunkards staggering home at night, frightening them to death. He can duplicate himself as much as he likes, filling dark alleyways with monstrous apparitions. Wappersrui and Wappersbrug are some of his preferred haunts.

A form he often used was a newborn baby, crying on the side of the road. If someone picked him up out of pity, they found their burden slowly growing in weight, until they finally drop it in alarm. The demon then laughs hysterically, and dives back into the canal. He loves milk and especially likes playing this trick on mothers and wet-nurses, draining them dry before making his escape. Lange Wapper also does his best to delay midwives and doctors from attending to women in childbirth.

One time Lange Wapper turned himself into a woman who had four suitors, and soon enough the first suitor arrived to demand her hand in marriage. “I accept, but only if you go to the Notre-Dame cemetery and lay yourself across the crucifix, until midnight”. Confused but elated, the man set off. He was followed by the second suitor, who made the same proposal. “Of course! But only if you go to the Notre-Dame cemetery, take a coffin, carry it to the crucifix, and lie in it until midnight”. The third suitor was told to knock three times on the lid of the coffin, and the fourth had to take an iron chain and run around the crucifix three times, dragging the chain behind him. As expected, the first suitor died of fright when he saw the second crawl into the coffin, the second had a heart attack when the third knocked on his coffin, and the third dropped dead when he heard the fourth running around and rattling his chain. The fourth suitor, baffled, returned to his lover – the real one, this time – to tell her the news, and she committed suicide upon hearing it. Lange Wapper found all this quite amusing.

Lange Wapper does have a soft spot for children, and often becomes a child himself to play with them. But old habits die hard, and he still can’t resist ending the games with some prank.

Unfortunately for Lange Wapper, Antwerp became more and more hostile to him. Modernization of the canals was certainly an annoyance, but the worst came when his fear of Our Lady was discovered. Images of the Virgin Mary proliferated, and soon the demon found himself facing religious imagery everywhere. He has not been seen in a long while; for all we know, he has given up and returned to the sea.

References

Griffis, W. E. (1919) Belgian Fairy Tales. Thomas Y. Crowell, New York.

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

Teirlinck, I. (1895) Le Folklore Flamand. Charles Rozez, Brussels.