The Greeks sure love their vampires, part 3: Keres

There are a lot of vampires in Greek folklore. In fact, where we have one name for undead creatures who inhabit corpses and suck the blood of the living, they have a crapload of them. I’ll feature one of them today, the Keres, who just love to steal corpses (although why they’d want to is beyond me).

Keres

I’m cheating here. Keres are not exactly vampires. What they are is spirits of the dead that escape from the jars that the Greeks used to use as coffins (I’m going to write something about Greek death rituals pretty soon. It’s interesting stuff).

Keres aren’t that interested in sucking blood–that’s the part that makes them not vampires. Technically, they’re ghouls. What they love to do is to steal corpses. Frankly, I don’t want to think about what the keres do with those dead bodies. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s not sunshine and rainbows.

Now just because keres are more interested in the arteries of the dearly departed doesn’t mean we should invite them into our homes with open arms. You see, keres spread disease faster than the most flea-bitten plague rat.

Luckily there is a preventative measure you can take that will keep keres out of your humble abode. Just paint tar or something equally sticky on the doorframe of the entrance to your house. If any keres tries to get in, they will get caught in the stickiness like one of those fly strips with disgusting dried fly corpses on it.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Seriously fishy characters 5: Kappa

Yay! A Japanese demon!

Kappas are demons that inhabit swamps, marshes, rivers, any fresh body of water, really. They look kinda scaly, might have a turtle shell, and are about the size of a ten year old kid. Some of them have bird beaks or duck bills.

Their skulls are concave on top, and the depression is full of water. This lets them move around on land without drying out. So, if you want to hurt a kappa you see on land, bow politely. The kappa’s innate sense of propriety will force it to return the bow and the water will dump out. It’s not clear if this kills a kappa, but it definitely slows it down.

Apparently there’s another way to get rid of them. Or anyone. See photo.

Try the bowing thing.

Try the bowing thing.

The word ‘kappa’ means ‘river child’ and it is possibly the only demon with a sushi roll named after it.

That’s because kappas have two favorite foods: small, fat, luscious children, and cucumbers. Luckily, the kappamaki sushi roll goes for the last one, not the first.

In fact, kappas will do just about anything for a cucumber. They’re not bad folks, really, despite luring (mostly) kids and (sometimes) adults into water where they drown. And despite the fact they then enter that person’s body through their bum, suck out their guts and eat their liver.

Really, they just want to get along. And eat cucumbers if they can’t chow down on a kid.

In fact, kappas can be very helpful to humans. First you’ve got to make friends with them (a cucumber comes in handy here) and get them to agree to do stuff. One of their more sterling traits–besides the bowing thing–is that they always keep their promises, scout’s honor. None of this ‘looking for loopholes’ that’s so common in dealing with demons.

Once you’re friendly with a kappa, it will do all kinds of things for you (probably for cucumbers), like irrigate your crops and teach you how to set broken bones.
Kappamaki

Kappamaki

P.S.: “Kappa” is also the Japanese term for rain gear.

Sources

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits

by Carol K. Mack, Dinah Mack

(Not so) Worthless Word of the Day: Energumenist

Thanks, Worthless Word of the Day!

the worthless word for the day is: energumenist

[fr. Gk energoumenos, possessed by an evil spirit]
obs. rare : one possessed by demons

“The meerly passive be simply deemoniacks, but
not energumenists.”
– John Gaule, Select Cases of Conscience (1646)

“Who is the energumenist who comes up with these,
or is it a committee, or is it–”
– W. F. Buckley (to M. Thatcher, on Firing Line,
Sept. 20 1975)

-tsuwm
http://home.comcast.net/~wwftd

Seriously fishy characters 4: Tikoloshe

The South African Tikoloshe is an odd sort of water demon in that it’s covered with hair. Usually water spirits tend toward the scaly type (though the Nokk and other mermaid types have hair, they come with an order of scales on the side). More than anything else, the Tikoloshe looks like a baboon, with hair all over and arms that drag on the ground. But it can shape-shift into a black bird with the head of a skull (a bird-skull), a form it uses to scout victims.

I nearly put this guy in the vampire classification, though. But he doesn’t drink blood, he sucks energy. Sexual energy, that is. When a Tikoloshe leaves his African river, he’s looking for a woman. Normally he’s able to get what he wants by pretty words and doing favors–the seduction tactics. He’s charming as all crap (and probably has to be extra charming to make up for all that hair), and many women fall for it. But if they don’t, he’s willing to resort to force if that’s what it takes, or kidnapping.

That’s why you should raise your bed on bricks. If you do, the short demon won’t be able to reach you while you’re sleeping.

Sources

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits

by Carol K. Mack, Dinah Mack

Vampires, Bob Curran
Vampires: A Field Guide To The Creatures That Stalk The Night

by Bob Curran

And perhaps some kung fu

So, I had exciting news this week! Agent J pitched my manuscript Strange Academy to a fantastic list of New York editors and so far, four out of five of them said they want to read it. (I’m sure the other one will pull up his/her socks soon.) Man, I’d love to know about that book before Christmas!

Just two weeks ago at this moment, I was driving back from New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, where I presented “Writing the Rock and Roll Regency” with Sharon Page. Considering we were on at the same time as Jennifer Crusie’s workshop and Madeline Hunter’s, I think we were lucky to get the eight people who turned out. And since it was my first workshop in front of strangers, I didn’t mind the smaller crowd.

The weekend was fantastic. Those New Jersey women sure know how to put on a conference. (But if you’re listening, karaoke is never a good idea. Repeat: karaoke is never a good idea.)

Weekend highlights:

  • Driving down and up with Sharon Page and Tammy Plunkett (two smart and fun women who kept me awake and entertained during the eight hour trip. Sharon is not so great at 6:30am, but perks up over the course of the day. Tammy and I are both morning people.). I got honked at four times, though I didn’t pull any dumb moves. This is a personal record for me.
  • Madeline Hunter’s Surviving Almost There workshop. Fantastic just to talk about the dangers of being almost published. She’s the second person I’ve heard say the risk of quitting goes up when you’re ‘almost there.’
  • Jennifer Crusie knows what is wrong with your book and isn’t afraid to tell you.
  • Susan Meier knows many, many things.

Sometimes I wish I could stick USB keys in other writers’ brains and download me some smarts.

Demonspotting 6: Lucifer

Demon’s wings are as angel’s wings.
Their halos are as shining bright.
They sing as well as angels, too.
But only when it’s night.
– Calvin Miller

Demonspotting 6: Lucifer

Lucifer is one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell, ruler of the east. His element is air. His name means ‘light-bringer’ and he’s associated with the planet Venus, the morning star.

Or maybe Lucifer is just another name for Satan. Possibly not. It’s hard to tell. And he probably doesn’t care for us to know the truth.

One of Gustave Dore's illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost. Lucifer thrown from heaven

One of Gustave Dore's illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost

Like the other princes of Hell, he was once an angel, but rebelled against God. Some say it was because he started to question God. Some say it was for pride. Some say it was because God told him to bow down to mankind and Lucifer loved God too much to worship anything but God.

Whatever the reason, he was cast out of Heaven and condemned to Hell. And of course he’s trying to take as many humans as he can with him.

When you conjure him–and I wouldn’t recommend it–he appears in the form of a beautiful child.

Sources

DictionaryAngelsDictionary of Angels
Gustav Davidson
devilbookThe Devil: A Visual Guide to the Demonic, Evil, Scurrilous, and Bad (Hardcover)
by Tom Morgan, Genevieve Morgan