name is attributed to his call of “Roes, roes, roes!” Etymologically it may be
derived from the Scandinavian ruske,
“to rush at”; the Anglo-Saxon breosan,
“terrify”, or the Dutch roezen,
“making a din”. It may also simply be another variant of Osschaard, derived
from ors, “horse” or “mount”, and hard, “strong”. Sometimes the name is used
to simply mean the devil.
almanac of Blankenberge tells of the dreadful storm of 1791. It destroyed the hut
of a suspected witch on the beach, and the inhabitants were overjoyed, smashing
what little was left of the ruins. Then a spinechilling sound rang out over the
dunes – “Roes, roes, roes!” A huge black dog with bells around its neck came
running down the dunes, and the villagers scattered. That dog was Roeschaard.
puts his shapeshifting powers to use in performing cruel pranks. There is no
limit to the forms he can take. He turns into a fish and allows himself to be
caught before destroying the net. He gets into boats and tips them over. He
pounces on people’s backs and rides them to exhaustion. In the form of a baby, he
allows people to take him home before laughing wickedly and escaping, calling
out “Roes, roes, roes!” behind him.
of Blankenberge eventually found a way to escape Roeschaard’s attentions. By
giving themselves a second baptism and a new name, they would break
Roeschaard’s power over them. The ceremony undertaken by new sailors involved
being splashed with salt water while the following formula was intoned:
I baptize you,
and may Roeschaard, the thrice-ugly one, turn away. Turn, turn, turn, your name
is [here the requisite sea-name was given]
Roeschaard came to claim someone, they could simply tell him they were not the
person he was looking for. Since then Roeschaard’s power has been in decline.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
A. (2007) Flanders: a cultural history.
Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Found in maritime
Flanders, land of Waas, and especially Hamme, near Dendermonde, Osschaert is
one of several mischievous shapeshifters that plague Belgium. He was
particularly around the chapel of Twee Bruggen.
According to van Hageland, his name may be a combination of ors, an archaic word denoting a horse or more generally a mount, or os, an ox, with hard, meaning “strong” or “valiant”. In this sense, Osschaard or Osschaert is a headstrong and dangerous steed.
As with others of his kind, Osschaert appears in countless forms, most notably a human-headed bull with heavy chains on its legs and feet. He has also appeared as a dog, a rabbit, a horse, a giant, a dwarf… At Knoche-sur-mer, where he serves as a bogey to frighten children, he is a ghost with a bull’s head. Commonly he drags a long length of chain behind him.
mischievous rather than actively evil. He delights in jumping on the backs of
people and forcing them to carry him until they collapse. He is just as likely
to jump off his mount’s shoulders to dive into a woman’s basket, causing her to
stagger under the sudden load. Osschaert particularly enjoys tormenting sinners
and wicked people, and will target them above all others.
over all the water in the area, so the first fish caught is returned as an
appeasing gift to Osschaert. Not that he’s guaranteed to ensure a good catch.
And beware of catching fish without thanking Osschaert! One fisherman dragged
his catch onto the beach only to find himself pinned down for an hour by Osschaert;
when he was finally released his catch had disappeared. Another fisherman
pulled an incredibly heavy net onto his boat, only to find it full of horse
church of Twee Bruggen, daring Osschaert out loud to scratch you will result in
a mauling. Specifically, one only has to utter the formula Grypke, Grypke grauw, wilt gy my grypen, grypt my nou (“Grypke,
Grypke grey, if you will gripe me, gripe me now”) and Osschaert will appear on
your back and ride you to the nearest crossroads or image of the Virgin Mary.
In fact, in areas where people dared Osschaert to appear resulted in the spirit
becoming more cruel and aggressive due to being repeatedly called upon.
A young man
of Doel, crossing a field by night, found himself face to face with an
enormous, monstrous horse. “This is Osschaert”, he thought to himself. “I must
get out of his way”. He decided to pass through the churchyard, but then met a
dog the size of a horse on the main road. He crossed himself and took another
path to the churchyard, but there was Osschaert in the form of a rabbit,
jumping back and forth towards him. He tried to turn around the churchyard,
only to find Osschaert waiting for him in the shape of a donkey with enormous
fiery eyes the size of plates! That was the point when the man gave up, jumped
the wall, and ran home in a cold sweat.
man, a fisherman of Kieldrecht named Blommaert, thought he could outsmart
Osschaert. He usually placed his catch of fish in a water-tub near the window.
One night he found that some fish were missing; not only that, but there were
ashes on the hearth, as though someone had broiled the fish on the embers.
Blommaert could find no signs of break-in, and concluded Osschaert was behind
this mischief. When the same thing happened a second time, he decided to cure
Osschaert of his thieving behavior. He covered the entire hearth with
horse-dung, and scattered some ashes over it to disguise it. Osschaert showed
up as usual, pronouncing “Blommeken, vischkens braeyen”, but when he tried to
cook the fish it ended up spoiled with the dung. He ran away screaming and
cursing in frustration. Blommaert celebrated his cunning revenge – but alas, it
does not pay to outwit Osschaert. The next day, when Blommaert drew in his net,
he found it extraordinarily heavy. After much effort, he hauled it on deck, and
found it to be full to cracking with horse-dung. Osschaert laughed loud and
long, and Blommaert returned home angry and defeated.
is retired, if not dead. A priest at Hamme was said to have banished Osschaert
to wander at the sea-shore for ninety-nine years. And at Spije, Malines, one
can see Osschaert’s coffin. It is a small coffin-shaped bridge over a stream.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
Harou, A. (1905) Mythologie et folk-lore de l’enfance. Revue des Traditions Populaires, v. XX, p. 96.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward Lumley, London.
The first notable record of Kludde’s appearance was penned in 1840 in Ternat, by the Baron of Saint-Genois. This back-riding shapeshifter appears in Brabant and Flanders, notably in Merchtem and in Dendermonde, where he lives in the Dendre. In Ostend he is considered a necker or nix, and the flat country knows him as a werewolf. He causes fear and confusion and drinks green pond-water, but avoids crosses and consecrated areas.
comes out at night in the Flemish mists. He has earned his name from the call
he cries while fleeing – “Kludde, Kludde”! As a shapeshifter, he has no fixed
appearance, and Kludde has been encountered in the forms of a great black dog
with a rattling chain around its neck, a half-starved horse, a sheep, a cat, a bat,
a frog, or even a tree. The only constant in Kludde’s transformations is the
presence of two dancing blue flames that flit ahead of him. These are Kludde’s
Kludde plays are mischievous but not deadly. In the guise of a black dog or werewolf
he will jump onto a person’s neck, and vanish after wrestling his victim to the
ground. As a horse, he tricks people into riding him, only to gallop full-tilt
and fling his rider into a body of water. As his erstwhile jockey flounders in
the water, Kludde lies on his belly and laughs loud and long, vanishing only
when the victim emerges from the water. As a tree, Kludde appears as a small
and delicate sapling, before growing to such a height that his branches are
lost in the clouds. This unexpected event shocks and unnerves all who see it,
and amuses Kludde.
foolish to evade Kludde, as he can wind like a snake in any direction, foiling
attempts to outmaneuver him. Trying to seize him is like grabbing air, and it
leaves burns behind. He can also make himself invisible to some people and not
to others, driving travelers out of their minds as they try to describe the
protean creature tailing them – yet when their companions look behind, they see
nothing but an empty road.
de Blécourt, W. (2007) “I
Would Have Eaten You Too”: Werewolf
Legends in the Flemish, Dutch, and German Area. Folklore 118, pp. 23-43.
van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.
J. C. (1863) Dictionnaire Infernal.
Henri Plon, Paris.
Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward
The Kongamato, “overwhelmer of boats”, is a river-shutter of Kasempa District in northern Zambia. It is known from Kaonde folklore, and the Jiundu Swamp is one of its favorite haunts. The fact that the Jiundu has historically been a haven for thieves, murderers, and assorted lowlifes is probably relevant.
A kongamato is a kind of bird, or rather a lizard with the membranous wings of a bat. It has a wingspan of 4 to 7 feet across and lacks feathers, its body covered in skin. It is mostly red in color. The beak is armed with sharp teeth. Claims that the kongamato is a surviving pterosaur are best forgotten.
Kongamatos live downstream of river fords. There they cause the river to stop flowing and the water level to rise, overwhelming and tipping over canoes. Sometimes a canoe will slow down and come to a dead stop despite the paddler’s best efforts; this is because a kongamato has seized the boat from underneath the water.
Few people see a kongamato and live, and the kongamato itself is invulnerable and immortal, eating any projectile thrown at it and leaving no physical trace of itself behind. When it kills people it devours only the two little fingers, the two little toes, the earlobes, and the nostrils. That said, four deaths attributed to the kongamato in 1911 did not record any such mutilation; more likely, then, that a kongamato caused their deaths by the flooding of the Mutanda River near Lufumatunga.
To ward off kongamato attack, the charm known as muchi wa kongamato is used. This consists of mulendi tree root ground and mixed with water. The resulting paste is placed in a bark cup. When crossing a dangerous ford, the mixture is sprinkled onto the water using a bundle of mulendi bark strips. This wards off the kongamato and its floods.
Melland, F. H. (1923) In Witch-bound Africa. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.
The Öfuguggi or Reverse-Fin Trout is one of several Icelandic fish distinguished by an extreme toxicity. Its poisonous reputation is such that its name has entered common Icelandic as a slur for jerks, perverts, loners, and homosexuals. The stories told of it are identical to those of the shaggy trout, and the two fishes are commonly confused. Accounts of this lethally poisonous fish date to before the mid-17th century.
As the name suggests, an öfuguggi looks deceptively like a normal brown trout with the exception of reversed fins and swimming organs, although Jónas Hallgrímsson specified in 1841 that only the small adipose fin is reversed. The öfuguggi swims backwards with its tail first and the head following; in color it is jet-black or coal-black. The flesh is red, indicating that the fish feeds on the bodies of drowned men.
Reverse-fin trouts live in the cold depths of freshwater lakes. There they are sometimes fished, prepared, and eaten – causing the deaths of all who tasted the meal. Öfuguggi poisoning may cause the victim to swell up until their stomach bursts, producing a cross-shaped wound. The most infamous poisoning incident is that of Kaldrani farm, where almost everyone on the household took ill and died after a meal of trout. The only survivor was a pauper girl who had no appetite at the time.
There have been sightings and tragic tales of the reverse-fin trout across Iceland. Known place names include Öfuguggatjörn (Reverse-Fin Pool), the vanished Öfuguggavatn (Reverse-Fin Lake), and Ofuggugavatnshaeðir (Reverse-Fin Lake Hills).
Davidsson, O. (1900) The Folk-lore of Icelandic Fishes. The Scottish Review, October, pp. 312-332.
Hlidberg, J. B. and Aegisson, S.; McQueen, F. J. M. and Kjartansson, R., trans. (2011) Meeting with Monsters. JPV utgafa, Reykjavik.
Pálsson, G. (1991) Coastal economies, cultural accounts: Human ecology and Icelandic discourse. Manchester University Press, Manchester.
The Velachif is a giant and hideous snake found above the lake of Tenochtitlan. It is amphibious like a crocodile, and extremely venomous; death is virtually certain if bitten by one. A velachif has a rounded head, a parrot-like beak, and a colorful, predominantly red body.
The inhabitants of Mexico frequently hunt it. Its flesh is of excellent quality.
Thevet, A. (1575) La Cosmographie Universelle. Guillaume Chaudiere, Paris.
The Ichisonga is a pachyderm-slayer from the folklore of the Lambas of Zambia, usually found in the Kafue River. It is a herbivorous water beast that resembles a rhinoceros and has a horn on its forehead.
Although a grass-eater, the ichisonga has a special hatred for the hippopotamus. If an ichisonga hears a hippo, it leaves the Kafue River, traveling along the bank so the hippo does not scent it. Then it re-enters the water, goes for the largest bull hippo, and stabs it to death with its horn.
If an elephant is killed nearby, the ichisonga will roar and drive the hunters away from the carcass. It then stays near the elephant’s remains for days until the carcass rots. The ichisonga is motivated by uŵulwishya – jealousy.
Doke, C. M. (1931) The Lambas of Northern Rhodesia. George G. Harrap and Company Ltd., London.