Pyrallis

Variations: Pyrausta, Piralis

Pyrallis

The Pyrallis or Pyrausta is an insect native to the copper-smelting furnaces of Cyprus. It resembles a large fly with four legs.

A pyrallis can only be seen within a fire, flitting and flying through the flames. It cannot survive outside fire, and dies instantly if it flies out of it. In fact, Pliny believed the pyrallis was born from the fire itself.

There is a persistent rumor that the pyrallis has dragon features or something to do with dragons, but this is inaccurate. This misconception likely stems from the whimsical book Inventorum Natura, which presents an entirely fictitious “lost” Plinian manuscript.

References

Pliny; Bostock, J. and Riley, H. T. trans. (1857) The Natural History of Pliny, v. III. Henry G. Bohn, London.

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

Woodruff, U. (1979) Inventorum Natura. Paper Tiger, England.

Polevik

Variations: Polevoi, Polievik, Poludnitsa, Poludnica

Polevik

The Polevik or Polevoi (from pole, “field”) is the Russian spirit of fields, plains, and noontime.

His appearance varies considerably. In Belozersk District and the northern forest regions he is a man dressed in white. In Iaroslavl Province he is an ugly little old man. In Orel Province he is black as the earth, his head covered with green grass, and he wears no clothing. In Tula Province he looks like a shaggy-furred Leshy. Sometimes his eyes are different colors. His skin and hair mirror the soil and vegetation of the fields, and his height grows and shrinks with the crops.

Unlike some of the other spirits, the polevik can be benevolent or evil. A polevik is primarily seen at noon. He likes to lead peasants astray, losing them in endless yellow golden stalks of grain. He disapproves of laziness, and will strangle drunkards sleeping in the fields. Poleviks are capable of seeing the future, and in Iaroslavl Province their appearance is an ill omen. Poleviks are also accomplished horsemen and will ride horses across the fields at breakneck speed, running over anyone in their path.

The female equivalent of the polevik, sometimes replacing him entirely, is the Poludnitsa, Poludnica, or Midday Spirit (from poluden or polden, “noon”). She can be a tall, beautiful woman in white; in Siberia she is an old curly-haired crone dressed in rags, while she has horses’ hoofs in Moravia. In summer, during harvest time, she walks through the fields, protecting the grain. If she sees someone working at midday she pulls their hair violently, twists their heads, and breaks their bones. Other times she quizzes people on agriculture, inflicting disease upon them if they fail to answer correctly. She enjoys misleading children in cornfields.

Polevik children run around the fields catching birds for their parents to eat. They will smother anyone sleeping on the edges of the field.

While poleviks can be destructive, a happy polevik will aid with the harvest, and crops will always be successful under a polevik’s patronage. To earn a polevik’s good will one must leave an offering of two eggs and an old rooster who can no longer crow, in a ditch when nobody is around. Traditional observances must also be followed, and nobody should work at noon.

With the advent of Christianity, poleviks and poludnitsas became mere bogeys, monsters used to frighten children out of cornfields.

References

Aldington, R. and Ames, D. trans.; Guirand, F. (1972) New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology. Paul Hamlyn, London.

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

Ivanits, L. J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. M. E. Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, New York.

MacCulloch, J. A. and Machal, J. (1918) The Mythology of All Races v. III: Celtic and Slavic. Marshall Jones Company, Boston.

Palis

Variations: Pālīs, Pa-lis, Pali (erroneously)

Palis

The Palis (“foot-licker”; rhymes with “police”) can be encountered in the deserts of Iran. There is no description given for this creature, but its appearance is presumably as vile as its habits.

A palis is a vampiric creature that preys on sleeping travelers. It locates their feet and proceeds to lick the soles, steadily draining blood away until the host dies.

Most means of thwarting a palis revolve around concealing one’s feet. The palis is thankfully rather stupid, and can be easily convinced to give and go elsewhere. The best-known method of dealing with a palis was pioneered by two muleteers from Isfahan, who went to sleep in the desert with the soles of their feet touching, blanketing themselves so that only their heads were visible. When a palis arrived, it circled for hours, searching vainly for their feet all night long. By daybreak it slunk away, lamenting its bad luck. “I have wandered through a thousand and thirty-three valleys, but I have never seen a man with two heads!”

References

Browne, E. G. (1893) A Year Amongst the Persians. Adam and Charles Black, London.

Christensen, A. (1941) Essai sur la Démonologie Iranienne. Ejnar Munksgaard, Copenhagen.

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

Masse, H. (1954) Persian Beliefs and Customs. Behavior Science Translations, Human Relations Area Files, New Haven.

Puaka

Variations: Puwaka, Puaki

Puaka

The Puaka (“Pig”) is a Dusun demon that guards water in eddies, and resembles a pig with a razor-sharp tongue. Puakas like to feed from trees, and stand on each other’s backs until they reach the branches.

When you meet a Puaka, it will attack if you move, and come to a halt if you stop. If it catches up with you, it will lick your bones clean. To lose the Puaka it is recommended to cross a stream; the creature may follow you across the stream, but once on dry land it will pause to lick itself dry, licking the flesh off its bones in the process.

“Puaka” and similar terms have meant pig in a number of languages – puaka in Rarotongan, Mangarevan, Rotuma, and Malay, vuaka in Fiji, puwaka in Malay, pua’a in Samoan, puaa in Tahitian, Marquesan, and Hawaiian, buaka in Tongan, and poaka in Maori. While this has been alternately compared to the Sanskrit sukara, the Latin porcus, and the English porker, the word seems to have had its own unique Polynesian origin. In some areas puaka has come to denote the pig-like demon; sometimes it loses its meaning as “pig” altogether, possibly due to the influence of Islam.

References

Mackenzie, D. A. (1930) Myths from Melanesia and Indonesia. Gresham Publishing Company, Ltd., London.