Apsaras, the Desperate Housewives of Hindu Mythology

Français : Apsaras, détail d'une partie inféri...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These lovely celestial spirits come from Hindu mythology (and Buddhist) and, being gorgeous, stacked, and awesome dancers, are very un-demonic. They do have a bit of moral ambiguity to them, though. So they count under my Bad Girls category.

Apsaras serve Indra, the Hindu leader of the gods and the lord of heaven. He’s also the god of war and storms. Apsaras are usually court dancers and musicians. It’s common for an apsara to be the wife of a Gandharva, a male supernatural warrior.

Here’s where the moral ambiguity comes in. Lots of stories about apsaras tell of them serving Indra by visiting meditating sages. Thing is, sages who are close to enlightenment… Well, Indra gets worried about these guys. See, if they achieve enlightenment, they get really powerful. Perhaps powerful enough to challenge the lord of heaven.

So, to divert a sage from his studies, Indra just might call on one of his favorite celestial maidens to take a trip to Earth. There, her job is to find the sage and lead him off the path of enlightenment. Which she generally does by sleeping with him.

Okay, that’s not really great behavior, but think about it. Indra’s chief weapon, his alternative for distracting a sage, is a bolt of lightning. So, if you had a choice, would you rather be fried to a crisp or seduced?

I thought so.

Apsaras can fly, change shape (though they’re beautiful, so why would they want to?) and rule over luck and good/bad fortune. They also escort the souls of dead warriors to the afterlife, so they have a lot in common with your Norse valkyries.

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Vampires we know and love special editon: Brahmaparusha

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.

Brahmaparusha

This Indian vampire is similar to the Bhuta, but really knows how to accessorize. They like to wear a tiara of human intestines on their heads. Also, they cut off the top of your skull and drink your blood from it. Somehow I don’t think Martha Stewart would approve.

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

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Gayal/Ut: The eternal consequences of not getting married

In India, it’s important for a guy to get married and have a male heir. I mean, really important. So important, in fact, that he could suffer eternal consequences if he doesn’t.

The key thing is that the male heir performs a key role in the burial ritual, and a guy who doesn’t have a son risks not having someone to perform the ritual properly. Such a person comes back as a Gayal and attacks the males of his family for failing to perform their duties. He can also attack other males in the area.

Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us
(Paperback)
by Jonathan Maberry
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
http://www.geocities.com/taliesindubh/ancient.html

Bhuta: Demons who can’t touch the ground

A malignant Indian spirit of the dead. Bhuta can blight crops, kill livestock, cause accidents, disease, and insanity. Oh, and they eat flesh, too. Pretty gross.

They are restless souls who died by suicide, execution or violence. Their existence is also connected with not having the proper death rituals performed for them.

Bhuta can appear as flickering lights, or as ghostly apparitions, but they always, always hover above the earth.

Because they never touch the ground, you can avoid bhuta by dropping down and lying flat. They also hate the smell of burning turmeric, so that will chase them away, too.

Sources

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

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhuta

Vampires we know and love #10: Asrapa/Dakini

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.

Asrapa/Daki

Guiley describes an asrapa as “a blood-sucking witch who attends Kali, the fierce human-eating [East Indian] goddess.” Their turn-ons include hanging out naked in cemeteries, shape-shifting and raising the dead.

But, but, but… I think Guiley has kept the nature of Kali really simple there. Kali doesn’t just eat people.

One of her big roles is, in fact, killing demons. She’s also a war goddess who likes to drink the blood of her victims on the battlefield, getting kind of drunk off it and dancing around on their corpses. But, she has a benevolent aspect too, and is seen as the mother of the universe. Actually, her destructive streak might be seen as a protective streak, keeping her children safe from demons and their enemies.

But I digress. We were talking about beings known as asrapas, or dakinis.

Yes, they drink blood and attend Kali. “Asrapa” means blood-drinker, in fact. “Dakini” means sky-walking woman. In Tibetian Buddhism, dakinis are spirits/demons/fairies of the air. There are five different kinds of dakinis, and they each represent different things; the blue ones represent peacefulness; the yellow ones, grandness; red, fascination; green, sterness; blue, understanding.

Sort of like the different colors of M&Ms.

Vampires we know and love #8: Churel/churail/chudail

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.

Churel/churail/chudail

Attention ladies:
When in India, avoid at all costs dying during the Dewali festival, in childbirth, or while you’ve got your period. If you do, you run the risk of becoming a churel/churail/chudail.

While the jury is out on how to pronounce the name of this Indian vampire, sources agree that you will develop tiny, sharp teeth; a black tongue; huge lips that shine without the use of any gloss whatsoever; filthy, unmanageable hair; and boobs that hang down to your knees.

Attention guys:
If your girlfriend/wife dies during Dewali, during childbirth, or while having her period, run. The churel will come after you first.

She’ll move on to the rest of the family after that.

Vampires we know and love #6: Vetal

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.

Vetal

While a vetal (or baital) doesn’t drink blood, it is a spirit that animates corpses, so we’ll call it close enough to a vampire for now. Especially since they are half-man, half-bat.

The vetala are Hindu spirits trapped in the dead zone between life and the afterlife because they didn’t have the proper funeral rites performed for them. They can cause miscarriages, madness, and they can kill kids.

While they can be repulsed by chanting mantras, and gotten rid of entirely by giving them the proper funeral, some Indian sorcerers have a different tactic for dealing with the vetala. They capture a vetal to work for them.

It’s pretty handy, since the vetala know the past, present, and future. So the sorcerer will make a slave out of the demon and get it to answer questions, run errands, that kind of thing.

There’s a series of famous Indian stories called Baital Pachisi or Vetala Panchvimshati, in which King Vikram tries to capture a vetal for a tantric magician.

Ghoul on Ghoul Action 2: Pisaca

Hello demon fans:

I’m back from vacation and it’s really cold here, so you can expect the blog to get updated on Wednesdays again… because it’s too chilly to leave my house. As a special treat this Wednesday, I’ve got the story of the earliest known vampire exorcism. But for now, I give you the Pisaca.

<h2.Ghoul on Ghoul Action 2: Pisaca

When the great god Brahma made gods, demons, ancestors and people, so the story from the Hindu sacred texts the Puranas, goes, his newly created beings got hungry. They reached for the best (and only) snack at hand. That is, Brahma himself. Brahma was pissed off at this and who wouldn’t be, I ask you, who wouldn’t be?

Brahma got so mad that his hair fell out and turned into serpents. Then he got mad about being bald and surrounded by snakes.

His anger was so intense that it took physical form, as ghoulish flesh eating creatures, the first Pisacha.

Pisacha are former humans who rise from the grave to hunt their fellow men for food. Caught between Heaven and Hell, they can never rest. Even if you manage to whip out your sword and kill one, it will come back as a ghost, doomed to haunt the place where it died its second death.

Unless you can manage to learn the Pisacha’s living name and can have a holy sage do the proper burial ritual using that true name.

There is an even more valuable use for a Pisacha if you manage to catch one. Because they are stuck between the worlds, they are outside the space-time continuum, you might say. So they have special knowledge of events both past and present. A useful accessory for the budding wizard on the go.

Sources

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead
The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead
(Paperback)
by J. Gordon Melton