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.

Tçaridyi

Variations: Tcaridyi, Tharidi

tcaridyi

Tçaridyi, “Hot” or “Burning” is one of the children of Ana, sired unnaturally by the King of the Loçolico as a spouse for Tçulo. As one of the Roma demons of disease, she torments humanity to this day.

Tçulo proved to be more troublesome than expected, persecuting even his own sister Lilyi. To distract him, Melalo told his father to conceive a wife for the little urchin. What the King used to induce Tçaridyi’s conception is unknown, but it probably involved worms of some kind.

Tçaridyi herself takes the form of a little hairy worm or caterpillar. She only infests women, slithering through their arteries and veins. The long hairs on her body detach as she moves, causing fever and inflammation, especially puerperal fever. Her union with Tçulo produced women’s diseases; otherwise, Tçulo and Tçaridyi torture humans but rarely kill them.

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.

Indus Worm

Variations: Odontotyrannus (allegedly)

indus-worm

Deep in the Indus River live worms that resemble those found in figs or rotten wood, only seven cubits (over 3 meters) in length on average, and thick enough that a ten-year-old boy could barely wrap his arms around one. They have two square teeth, one above and one below, each about 18 inches long. The skin is two fingers thick.

By day the worms remain underwater, wallowing in mud, but they emerge at night to prey on animals up to the size of a cow or camel. Victims are seized, dragged into the Indus, and devoured at leisure. The large teeth can crush their way through flesh, bone, and stone, and only the paunch is left uneaten. There have also been cases of hungry worms seizing drinking camels and oxen by the nose in broad daylight, and pulling them under.

Despite its predatory nature, it is prized by the Indians for its oil, which is highly flammable and capable of consuming wood and animals alike. Fires started by Indus worm oil can only be quenched by throwing large amounts of clay and rubbish on them. The oil is so rare that only the king of India may possess it. To obtain this oil, the worms are captured on hooks to which a lamb or kid has been chained, and slain with javelins, swords, and clubs. After landing and killing a worm, it is hung up for thirty days, with vessels underneath to catch the oil that drips from its carcass. 5 pints of oil are produced in this way. The worm is then disposed of, and the oil is sent to the king. Stored in clay vessels, it makes a formidable siege weapon.

The amphibious lifestyle, geographical location, and predatory habits of the Indus worm have led to comparisons with the Odontotyrannus, although the similarities end there.

References

Aelian, trans. Scholfield, A. F. (1959) On the Characteristics of Animals, vol. I. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ctesias, McCrindle, J. W. trans. (1882) Ancient India as described by Ktesias the Knidian. Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta; B. E. S. Press, Bombay; Trubner and Co., London.

de Xivrey, J. B. (1836) Traditions Tératologiques. L’Imprimerie Royale, Paris.

Shahmat al-Ard

Variations: Kharȃti

Shahmat-al-ard

Shahmat al-Ard, the “fat of the earth” or “grease of the earth”, is a worm that contracts into a bead if touched. Al-Qazwini, who called it the Kharȃti, said that it was long, red, and lived in damp areas. On the other hand, al-Zamakshari believed it to be small, white, speckled with red spots, and resembling both a white fish and the hand of a woman. Hurmus said that it smelled good, and was immune to fire, being capable of crawling through a bonfire unharmed.

Its primary value is in the variety of medicinal benefits it provides. Its fat, if painted onto one’s skin, will protect from fire. The entire worm, dried and eaten, cures jaundice and scrofula; dried and taken with water, causes immediate delivery in the case of a difficult birth. Roasted and eaten with bread, it dissolves bladder-stones. A shahmat al-ard reduced to ashes, mixed with oil, and applied to the head will cure alopecia and restore hair growth.

Nonetheless it is not generally eaten, since as a filthy worm it is unclean and unfit for human consumption.

References

al-Damiri, K. (1891) Hayat al-hayawan al-kubra. Al-Matba’ah al-Khayriyah, Cairo.

Jayakar, A. S. G. (1908) Ad-Damiri’s Hayat al-Hayawan (A Zoological Lexicon), vol. II, part I. Luzac and Co., London.