It’s Halloween and every mother’s son will be blogging about werewolves and vampires. I’ll let the masses have them for today.
Imperial Rome had the most amazing war machine of its time. But even Rome had to face its dragons.
During the Punic War, (264-241 BC) the Roman General Marcus Atilius Regulus was leading Roman battalions against troops from the city of Carthage. Regulus came to the River Bagradas and encountered something he wasn’t quite expecting. A hundred feet of giant serpent rose up out the river, its eyes glowing like lanterns.
The thing must have been scary because a Roman general with legions of the best army in the world behind him opted for a strategic re-alignment of priorities. That is, he thought it best to try to ford the river at another place. Before they headed off to find a better spot, the snake disappeared.
But when they sent the first guy over, the soldier vanished under the water with a scream. Sneaky bastard.
The snake ate five or six soldiers, armor included, before Regulus decided to treat a snake the size of a city like a city. He hauled out the ballistae, catapults, and started hurling rocks at it. Once the thing was dead, he had the soldiers pull it out of the water. 120 feet, this thing was.
Regulus had it skinned and presented the skin to the city of Rome, where it was displayed in a temple on Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, it disappeared around 133 B.C.
Think vampires are all the same? Think again! Vampires come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. So, this special DotW feature, Vampires we know and love, spotlights different kinds of bloodsucking fiends from around the world.
Xiang shi/Jiang shi/Chiang shi
Confused yet? Why would a vampire have three names?
Well, when it’s a Chinese vampire, it would be best to write the name in either Mandarin or Cantonese. Wouldn’t it be great if I knew either of those languages?
Just slur it and you’ll be fine.
According to Chinese folklore, you’d better bury your dead right away, or they might become xiang shi (Yes, I’m using the spelling variant that starts with X. Because it’s cool, that’s why). A xiang shi might not have originally sucked blood, but when European travelers brought their tales of vampires to China, they certainly started then.
A xiang shi might be pretty, or pretty gross, depending on the best before date of the corpse, but if you find yourself facing a person with glowy red eyes, covered in greenish fuzz (like corpse mold), and with long white hair, you can get you’ve got yourself a xiang shi.
To defend against the xiang shi, try holding your breath. Other effective techniques include sticky rice (but not the regular kind) and chicken eggs (but not duck eggs).
Or you could just run.
By the way, my friend Allison Van Deipen’s book Raven features a hot jiang shi hip-hop dancer. I would definitely give up sticky rice for him.
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- Rosemary Guiley, Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters, Checkmark Books, 2005
Note: After I posted this blog this morning, I read it again and said to myself “Gosh darn it, Teresa! What an appropriate post for Canadian Thanksgiving weekend…” Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canucks; Happy Columbus Day to my American friends.
William Butler Yeats describes the ‘Féar Gorta’ (also spelled ‘Féar Gortach’), which means ‘hungry man,’ only as “an emaciated phantom that through the land in times of famine, begging an alms [sic] and bestowing good luck on the giver.”
Other sources are a bit more specific, saying that anyone who doesn’t give the Hungry Man a little something will get very, very hungry, and in the end, eat himself to death. (To me, this sounds like a vengeance curse, so I’d actually go so far as to guess the Hungry Man only shows up at the houses of people who can afford to give.)
But language is a weird thing. There’s another phrase pronounced in similar way–Féar Gortagh–that means ‘hungry grass.’ This is a patch of dead grass, some say it pops up where someone has died violently, some say it happens specifically where someone has died of hunger. This grass turns predator. Anyone who walks across it gets the same sickness as the Hungry Man inflicts on the uncharitable. They get insatiable hunger and eat until they burst.
Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us (Paperback)
by Jonathan Maberry
Three weeks ago, DotW reader Filmassacre requested that my next vampire be the Strix due to the fact he’d just had an encounter with one.
Well, ladies and gents, I do requests. (If you ever want to hear about a particular demon, post it in the comments, or email me at teresawilde(at)gmail(dot)com.)
So, Filmassacre (Alex), this one’s for you. You’re going to be disappointed though! My sources say the vampire known as Strix isn’t really a vampire…
It’s from the Romans we get the first tales of werewolves (well, lyncathrope, really, since that comes from the Latin, and ‘werewolf’ comes from Old English, ‘were’ being Old English for ‘man’). And really, in the terms of shapeshifters, werewolves really were their biggest hit.
But just like Pearl Jam keeps going long after anyone wants them to, the Romans kept churning out shapeshifters. Though we can mostly blame Ovid’s Metamorphoses and those pesky Roman gods for that. They had so many stories of people turning into other things you’d think it was an everyday occurrence in Roman life. “Oh look, there’s Laurel. Turned into a tree again. Wanting to get out of doing the laundry I guess.”
Among Ovid’s metamorphosed were some lovely (and by ‘lovely’ I mean ‘nasty’) female witches called Striges. These chickies love to feast on the yummy buttery flesh of children and drink their creamy blood. They particularly enjoy the milk-fed bowels. Mmm. Like chocolate.
For their next course, they would find sleeping men, have their wicked way with them and then drink their blood.
With all this blood-drinking, you’d think they were quite vampiric, and you’d be right. But they also eat flesh, and the nocturnal sexual activities puts them firmly in the ‘succubus’ corner.
Now with all this stuff to do every night, a girl needs some transportation. The Striges (that’s the plural of Strix. Also Strixes works as well.) figured they’d have to pretty much fly to get it all in. So that’s what they did: through hocus, pocus, and general witchery, they figured out how to transform into birds of prey–mostly owls.
In fact, the Latin word for ‘owl’ is ‘strix.’
I don’t know about you, but this put a new spin on Harry Potter’s Hedwig for me.