Rakshasa: Servants of the demon king

Image of demon King Ravana, who has ten heads,...

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t paint a good picture of an East Indian Rakshasa (feminine: Rakshasi) for you, since they all look different. Sources agree, though, that they are vaguely humanoid (though huge), extremely deformed (multiple heads, extra arms, that sort of thing, and generally unpleasant-looking (long tongues, big bellies). They appear in the Vedic texts (Pantschatantra, Mahabarata, Katha Sarit Sagara, etc) as your general sort of evil demonic foe. That kind of thing.

These bad boys (and girls) are strong, especially at night, and commit every sort of evil deed, from cannibalism, cutting off the top of people’s skulls to drink human blood out of, to eating food that’s been sneezed on (Oooh, eeeee-vil).

They all serve the demon king Ravana. Even though they are enemies, they seem to fulfill a purpose in the universe, perhaps as a test for heroes. They are very loyal to each other, and keep the vows they make. In their spare time, they live in a beautiful palace.

The few men brave enough to marry Rakshasi have found that they eventually mellow out and turn into beautiful women.


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Adventures in Demon Hunting 6, or An Account of Creatures Strange and Wondrous: Ahuizotl

More strange and mystical creatures encountered by intrepid Demon Hunters Teresa and Jolaine on what became known to history as The Great Demon Hunting Expedition of 2009: Ahuizotl.

Ahuizotl (ah-wee-ZO-tul)

Oh, were our intrepid Demon Hunters not filled with fear when met with the mighty Ahuizotl? Did they not quiver in their gum boots and pith helmets?

Yet, we considered ourselves lucky to have photographed the elusive Ahuizotl, as, according to the ancient Aztecs, it dwells in deep pools of water and rarely surfaces. As we were unwittingly strolling near the beast’s lair, in the Canadian Museum of Civilization, we heard the pitiful cry of a baby. Knowing that the diabolical creature often mimics the wail of human infants, we were immediately put on our guard.

Inching closer, we saw an ill-fated would-be Good Samaritan approach the demonic fiend’s lair, expecting to discover a young child in distress. Instead, the evil creature, a cross between an otter and a monkey, grabbed the man by the hand on the end of its tail and pulled him under the water.

Days later, the corpse floated to the surface, only missing its eyes, teeth, and fingernails.


Seriously fishy characters 1: Madame White

Madame White is a character who appears in several Chinese folktales. She’s a lovely woman who appears, accompanied by her pretty handmaid, to a handsome young man and convinces him to marry her.

From there, the legends diverge a bit. Some portray Madame White as an evil entity who kills one man every month by tearing out his heart and liver after being his lover.

But Madame White can also be genuinely in love with the man, and he with her.

From the Summer Palace in Beijing. Check out Madame White.

From the Summer Palace in Beijing. Check out Madame White.

The end is the same, though… it turns out that Madame White was originally a white python, and her maid a blue fish (or green snake).

Depending on your version, the story is either a thrilling tale of the young man’s narrow escape when a Taoist priest identifies the snake demon and imprisons her with her maid in the Liefeng Pagoda, or, it’s a tragic story of love denied.

While you’re making up your mind, check out this YouTube Video of a Chinese TV series based on the legend.



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Adventures in Demon Hunting 1, or An Account of Creatures Strange and Wondrous: Blurry, grainy photographs

Several weeks ago, I, and my intrepid friend Jolaine, realized it was high time for this demonic researcher to get out from behind the computer and do some actual, true-to-life demon hunting.

We considered many possibilities. Should we plunge into the dark unknown of the Amazonian rainforest in search of the wild and bizarre? Should we risk our very lives by facing the dark predators of Scotland (not to mention the bagpipes)? Should we delve into historical documents to uncover the truth behind a four hundred year old mystery?

As this was the first expedition (and we wanted to be home in time to pick up some sushi and watch The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), it was decided that we should ease into the initiative by going local. The expedition committee settled on a location only one province away: the Mythic Beasts exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

We intrepid explorers donned our camo gear and pith helmets and headed out into an unknown world of strange, almost unbelievable creatures. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will uncloak these mysterious and exotic monsters for you, complete with outlandish claims and grainy photographs.

Grainy photograph #1: Mishipashoo/Mishepishu

The explorer Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City, describes a Native ceremony in his journal of an 1613 journey up the Ottawa River:

“After carrying their canoes to the foot of the fall, they assemble in one spot, where one of them takes up a collection in a wooden plate, into which each one puts a bit of tobacco. The collection having been made, the plate is placed in the midst of the troupe, and all dance about it, singing in their style. Then one of the captains makes a harangue, setting forth that for a long time they had been accustomed to make this offering, by which means they are insured protection against their enemies, that otherwise misfortune would befall them, as they are convinced by the evil spirit…”

What is this evil spirit
, our intrepid explorers had to ask themselves.

So we kept our eyes open, and the answer was soon revealed to us.

Natives who lived in the Ottawa River area believed a monstrous creature lived in the nearby lakes. Without an offering of tobacco to ease its wrath, it would lash its huge serpent-like tail at any stray canoe, tipping its owner and its contents into the water.

This might sound not such a big deal to you or me, or many people who do casual canoeing these days, but the Natives carried their lives in canoes on their voyages. The loss of weapons, hunting instruments, supplies, or warm clothing, might actually mean death.

The creature’s name was Mishipashoo/Mishepishu, or “great water lynx.” It had the unlikely head of a large cat, a serpent’s tail, razor spikes on its back, and horns on its head.

Gentle readers, at great risk to OUR VERY LIVES, your intrepid explorers bring you an unfocused, grainy photograph of the Mishipashoo. Are you sitting down?



On Saturday

On Saturday, meet a new vampire to know and love, the Nachzehrer (Even the name sounds scary!).


A good year for werewolves

On December 14, 1598 in Paris, a tailor was burned at the stake.

This guy could have given Sweeny Todd a run for his money. He was known as the Chalons werewolf, and he had a taste for flesh–any kind, so long as it was young.

His MO was to lure kids into his shop (You have to figure there was some candy involved because what kid would go into a tailor’s shop?), where he’d slit their throats and then chop them up like meat. You can guess what he did with them after that.

You’re probably wondering where the ‘werewolf’ part comes in–right here.

Apparently it wasn’t enough for this guy to keep barrels of drying bones in his basement, he was rumored to have roamed the woods outside Paris in the form of a wolf. Just for fun, he’d attack people and rip out their throats.

After his trial and execution, something even stranger happened.

This guy’s crimes were judged to be so awful that the court ordered all records of them, and of the trial, to be burned.

Now that would all be odd enough, except for one more little thing… Actually, make that two.

Our Demon Tailor was not the only werewolf around that time. 1598 was a bumper year for les loups-garou in France.

One Jacques Roulet had been caught with the fresh blood of a fifteen year old boy under his fingernails, earlier that year in Angers, less than 300 km outside Paris, to the east. Roulet was sentenced to death, but he appealed and was sent to an insane asylum for a couple of years instead.

And an entire family of werewolves, the Gandillons, were identified in St. Claude, in the Jura region, also that year. They were all burned at the stake, despite the fact that only one of them was proven to have killed somebody.

Now here’s the thing. If you plot Angers, the Jura region, and Paris on a map, you’ll notice something. It makes a nice little triangle. If you had a car (which would wouldn’t have in 1598), you could get to each of these places in a single day.

Now maybe the tailor was just your average serial killer, Roulet merely crazy, and the Gandillons had rabies. Or each of these people were visited by someone just passing through…

Since those court documents were destroyed, we’ll never know.

Next week on Demon of the week–Vampires we know and love: Baobhan sith. Scottish vampire fairies (So cool!)

– Teresa

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