Friday, April 26, 2013

Supernatural Friday: A Ghost By Any Other Name is a GHOST!

A Ghost By Any Other Name is a GHOST!
Pamela K. Kinney
(this poem is copyrighted, so just share the link please if want people to read it).

Slithering through the ether
A breath of cool breeze,
Or something else.
It haunts corners of deserted buildings
A lost soul, or demonic thing.
Sometimes, they are like radio,
Repeating endlessly over and over.
Other times, they communicate.
Move objects and appear to us.
Ghosts, specters, phantoms,
Orbs, apparitions, reverent,
Haunt, shade, shadow person,
So many descriptions, so many names.
Doesn’t matter;
Haunting is what they do!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Not Messages, But Spirits in a Bottle

A lot of places these days, gardeners get a fake tree or even use a real one, and hang blue bottles or all different colored bottles from the tree. The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light. The spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living, trapped for all eternity. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as "witch balls" the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long times, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African-American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.

Like witch's bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, bottles began to be used in spellwork. Bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes were filled with herbs and other items of significance for the purpose of protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.

Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!

Getting spirits into bottles and even jars actually exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

If you like to make your own bottle tree as I plan to this spring, here are some directions I’ve found:

Find a strong tree or stump with branches, like crepe myrtles and cedars trees that are traditionally used, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.

A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home, near the entrance, in the garden, or where you want it in your yard and slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is find a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches so they hang from the tree.

And here's a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker. Give it a day, then return to your tree when there’s a wind blowing and if you listen closely, you might hear the moans of the trapped spirits in the bottles when the wind blows. Just pray they’re not calling out your name though. . .

Friday, April 12, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Sasquatch/Bigfoot

Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, as humankind likes to call them, has been seen for a long time in the United States. Even more so, versions have been seen in other parts of the world. What are people encountering? Is it real? Or folklore? So famous has it become there's even a TV show not unlike "Ghost Hunters" on SyFy Channel, called Finding BigFoot on Animal Planet. Gosh, I even found an article on Brewer offers $1M Bigfoot reward: There is an organization, Bigfoot Field  Researchers Organization, founded in 1995, making claim to being the only scientific research organization that explores the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery. You can even do a Sasquatch Festival May 24th through 27th in Washington.

Sasquatch stories go back centuries. Tales of mythical giant apes lurk in the oral traditions of most Native American tribes, as well as in Europe and Asia. The Himalaya has its Abominable Snowman, or the Yeti. In Australia, Bigfoot is known as the Yowie Man. Bigfoot advocates hypothesize that the primate is the offspring of an ape from Asia that wandered to North America during the Ice Age. They believe there are at least 2,000 ape men walking upright in North America's woods today.

Bigfoot is sometimes described as a large, hairy bipedal hominid, and many believe that this animal, or its close relatives, may be found around the world under different regional names, such as the Yeti of Tibet and Nepal and the Yowie of Australia. Stories of wildmen are found on every continent except Antarctica. Ecologist Robert Michael Pyle argues that most cultures have human-like giants in their folk history.

Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those who claim to have encountered it, and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Alleged witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead; the top of the head has been described as rounded and crested, similar to the sagittal crest of the male gorilla. The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. Scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal, in part because of the large numbers thought necessary to maintain a breeding population. A few scientists—such as Jane Goodall, and Jeffrey Meldrum—have expressed interest and belief in the creature, with Meldrum expressing that evidence collected of alleged Bigfoot encounters warrants further evaluation and testing.

Yowie, also known as Yoser, Tjangara, Yay-ho, Koyoreowen (southern Australia), Jimbra, Jingera, Turramulli, and Lo-an (western Australia). Yet another cousin of the Bigfoot, this time from down under. Reports of a Sasquatch like creature are also numerous throughout Australia, ever since European settlers first entered the continent. Before the coming of the settlers, Yowie sightings were made by the Aborigines and remembered in their folklore. 

An earlier name for the creature was 'Yahoo', which according to some accounts was an aborigine term meaning "devil", "devil-devil" or "evil spirit." More likely, the indirect basis for the name was Jonathan Swift, whose Gulliver's Travels book (1726) includes a subhuman race named the Yahoos. Learning of the aborigines' fearful accounts of this malevolent beast, nineteenth-century European settlers in all probability applied the name Yahoo to the Australian creature themselves. The term "Yowie" stared to be used in the 1970's, apparently because of the aborigine word 'Youree', or 'Yowrie', apparently the legitimate native term for the hairy man-monster. One can easily assume the Australian accent could distort "Youree" into "Yowie." 

Sightings of the Yowie take place mostly in the south and central Coastal regions of New South Wales and Queensland's Gold Coast. In fact, according to local naturalist Rex Gilroy, the Blue Mountain area west of Sydney is home to more than 3,200 historical sightings of such creatures. In December 1979, a local couple (Leo and Patricia George) ventured into the region for a quiet picnic. Suddenly, they came across the carcass of a mutilated kangaroo; moreover, said the couple, the apparent perpetrator was only forty feet away. They described a creature at least ten feet tall, and covered with hair, that stopped to stare back at them before finally disappearing into the brush. 

Or Mapinguari. Also known as Isnashi. Brazil's Bigfoot, described as a tall black-furred hominid usually seen in the jungles along the 'Rio Araguaia', a large river in Brazil's state of Mato Grosso do Sul. 

Ape-like creatures have been reported in many areas of Brazil for over two hundred years, but it seems that this central area of this immense and diversified country is the 'hotspot' for them. 

In March and April of 1937 one of these creatures supposedly went on a three week rampage at Barra das Garas, a small farming town 300 miles southeast of the city of Curitiba, capital of the central state of Mato Grosso do Sul. A large number of heads of cattle were slaughtered by somebody or something with super-human strength, enough to torn out their huge tongues. Reports included unconfirmed sightings, humanoid-like tracks as long as 18 inches, and horrible roaring from the woods. All together, over one hundred heads of yellow cattle of old Spanish origin were killed, all the way to Ponta Branca, located 150 miles south of Barra das Garas. This Mapinguary rampage made the major newspapers. 

Other reports from South America describe the Mapinguari as a large foul smelling nocturnal animal, covered in red hair and with a frightful screaming cry. This other version of the legendary creature is supposedly a strict vegetarian, with feet that are turned backwards and claws capable of ripping apart the palm trees it feeds on. Other local names for this type include 'capŽ-lobo' (wolf's cape), 'm‹o de pil‹o' (pestle hand), and 'pŽ de garrafa' (bottle foot). 

According to old Indian, 'seringueiro' (rubber tree worker) and 'caboclo' (local mixed race people) legends, the Mapinguary was a man whose hubris led him to seek immortality and who is now relegated to wandering the forest forever as a stinking, shaggy, one-eyed beast. Fifteen feet tall and with hair so thick it makes it invulnerable to bullets, swords, knifes, arrows and spears, the creature loves tobacco and twists off the upper skulls of its human victims so as to suck up their gray matter. But its most freaky feature is its 'extra mouth' in the middle of its belly! When it feels threatened, it lets out a truly vile stench like commingled garlic, excrement, and rotting meat from this second mouth, which, the Indians say, is strong enough to suffocate any attacker. Because of this despicable odor, the creatures are often followed by clouds of flies, and the strongest warriors are forced to flee from the smell of the monster alone; others find themselves dazed and sick for days after an encounter. 

Because of such reports, legends and descriptions, a small number of naturalists believe that these are surviving specimens of the giant ground sloth, Mylodons, generally assumed to have died out around ten thousand years ago. They were red-haired vegetarians that emerged about 30 million years ago and roamed the Americas, the Caribbean, and Antarctica. With large claws that curled under and faced backward when they walked on all fours, these giant marsupials could also stand on their hind feet like people. Some species had dermal ossicles, bony plates that made their skin very tough. 

South America's Bigfoot -- Ape-like creatures have been reported in many areas of South America, and they go by many different names, depending on the region. Some of these names are:
Aluxes, Goazis and Guayazis (dwarf-like man-faced animals).
Aigypans and Vasitris (evil man-like beasts).
Matuyus and Curupiras (wild men with their feet pointing backwards, which supposedly help the wild animals and are defenders of nature and ecology).
Curinqueans (giants measuring twelve feet tall). 
Di-di or Didi, Mono Grande and the Mapinguary (Sasquatch-like creatures). 

Since the arrival of the Portuguese and Spanish in South America, a steady stream of reports about bestial and dangerous sub-humans have filtered out of the hinterland. None is more compelling than the one made by Colonel P. H. Fawcett, made world famous by his dramatic and still unexplained disappearance with his eldest son in this area. The Colonel's diaries were preserved up to his last fatal expedition, and published by his son, Brian Fawcett, under the title 'Lost Trails, Lost Cities'. In it, the Colonel describes an encounter in 1914 with a group of enormous hairy savages that, although looked very primitive, were carrying bows and arrows. Apparently these wild men could not speak, but just grunt, and upon arriving their village, the Colonel and his group were on the verge of being attacked, barely avoiding capture or death by firing their guns into the ground at the apemen's feet, who then fled in terror.

Yeti, the Tibetan name for the Abominable Snowman, is a human-like monster whose tracks have been discovered in the frigid lands of perpetual snow in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet. According to locals, this creature is but one of several unidentified creatures that inhabit the highlands of southern Asia. Several sightings, mainly of footprints, have been reported by westerner explorers throughout the years. In 1998, the latest sighting had American climber Craig Calonica, while on Mount Everest, claimed to have seen a pair of yetis while coming down the mountain on its Chinese side. Both had thick, shiny black fur, he said, and walked upright. Another Himalayan name for Yeti is Meh-Teh ("man-beast"), a type of Yeti supposedly proportioned more like a hairy heavy set man (but it leaves a most inhuman type of footprint), and the Dzu-Teh like a gigantic ape-man. Another type of Yeti (pygmy size) is called Teh-lma. 

The Meh-Teh is allegedly a very bestial and shy type of hairy hominid, with a animal-like behavior and thick reddish-brown to black fur, a conical head, stout neck, wide mouth with no lips, and long arms which reach almost to its knees, supposedly inhabiting the Tibetan upper plateau forests. Its five-toed feet are short and very broad, with a second toe longer than the big toe.

The Yeren is an alleged mysterious creature, half-human, half-ape, that supposedly lives in the remote forests of central and southern China. It is also known as Yeren and Xueren (also the name of like creatures in the Philippines)
The creature is said to stand an average of six and a half feet tall and to be covered in thick brown or red hair. It is bi-pedal and has a hefty abdominal region as well as an ape-like muzzle, large ears and eyes like that of a human, leaving behind large footprints, up to sixteen inches long, with five toes, four small toes held close together and a larger toe that points outward slightly. 

According to Chinese folklore, the creature eats people. Coming across a human, it grips his or her arms tightly, making escape impossible. It is apparently so overjoyed by trapping its prey that it faints with mirth - but without losing its hold. When it returns to its senses, it kills and eats its victim. Thus travelers in the mountains were advised to wear a pair of hollow bamboo cylinders on their arms. If a Wildman caught them, they could then, while the creature was in swoon, slip their arms out of the cylinders and escape. Reports of the creature go back to as far as 2000 years.

Other bigfoot-like beings reported or stories are told about are Almas of the Caucasus Mountains, in the republic of Kazakhstan, central Asia, Chuchunaa of Siberia, and Higabon of Japan, reported in the Japanese islands, specially in the Hibayama mountains in Hiroshima. There’s also the Nguoirung is also known as the Vietnamese Wildman, or "Forest People,” Orang-Pendek (Little Man) and Orang Letjo (Gibbering Man) of Sumatra.

This creature is supposedly seen only in the State of Washington in the United States, maybe even Oregon, Northern California, and other parts of the Far West. But that is wrong, for there have been sightings of Big Foot for more than four hundred years in many other states too, especially in Virginia. The sightings in Virginia would be the oldest sightings, some that date back to before the 1800s. The Department of Forestry’s website says there are 15.8 million acres of forest in the state. 

Similar to Asia’s Abominable Snowman, the history of Bigfoot reaches far back into America’s past with the Indian people. In the Northwest and west of the Rockies, Bigfoot is seen as a special being, all due to close relationship with humankind. Indian tribe elders see him as a border between animal-style consciousness and human-style consciousness, one that gives him special powers. In Indian culture, animals are not looked upon as inferior to humans. Instead, they are regarded as elder brothers and teachers of humans. Interestingly enough, the Northwestern tribes never considered the Sasquatch as other than a physical being. But to other tribes in the U.S., Bigfoot is perceived more as a supernatural or spirit individual. An appearance to humans is meant to convey some sort of message.

The Sioux called Bigfoot Chiye-tanka. Turtle Mountain Ojibwe call the Sasquatch Rugaru, close to the French word, loup-garou, which means werewolf.  They also associate Bigfoot with Windago, the cannibal-giant of their legends.  The Hopi see Bigfoot as a messenger who appears in times of evil. Among the Iroquois, mentioned much more often than Bigfoot are the “little people”—both are regarded as spiritual or interdimensional. These are the Pukwudgies. They believe that these beings can enter or leave our physical dimension whenever they wish to.  Strange that these little people myths are all over the world, like the little people known as fairies in Europe, for example.

Sightings of the Sasquatch have been reported to this day, even by credible people. To many, these facts suggest maybe the presence of an animal, probably a primate that exists today in very low population densities. Bi-pedal, unlike an ape, it walks with long strides and has a cone shape for top of the head. If so, it has became very adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection.

Iroquoian peoples called them stone giants. The story goes that these giants overran the country, fought a great battle, and held the people in subjection for a long time. Ravenous, they devoured the people of almost every town in the country. At the Mississippi they had separated from all others and headed northwest." The family was left to seek its habitation, and the rules of humanity were forgotten, and afterwards even ate raw flesh of the animals. They practiced rolling themselves on the sand. Doing so to insured their bodies were covered with hard skin; so they could become giants and dreadful invaders of the country.

Onondagas tell a different story. A Stone Giant lived near Cardiff, south of their reservation. Once like other men, he turned into a cannibal and grew larger. His skin became hard like scales, flesh no arrow could pierce. Every day he came through the valley, caught and devoured an Onondaga. The people formed a plan. They created a road in the marsh with a covered pitfall. They lured the giant through the path and he fell into the pit, killed. This, the earlier story, and another stone giant tale by the Onondagas sounded not unlike the Wendigo legends told by the Cree Indians. 

Whatever these creatures, missing link or a species of ape, they fascinate us. Remember, animals have been and are still being found we have no knowledge of, except as legends. One of these was the mountain gorilla. Maybe we shouldn't capture one, for how long will these legends remain hidden from mankind? Sometimes, legends and myths should remain just that: stories for our imagination and wonder. 


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Raven Myths and Legends

In honor of Ravencon that I will be at later today and rest of the weekend, I will blog about myths and legends of the raven.

Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, ravens has long been considered birds of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends.

The raven is the national bird of Bhutan, and it adorns the royal hat, representing the deity Gonpo Jarodonchen (Mahakala with a Raven's head; one of the important guardian deities of Bhutanese culture.).  As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls. In Sweden they are known as the ghosts of murdered persons.

In Irish mythology ravens are associated with warfare and the battleground in the figures of Badb and Morrígan. The goddess An Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn's shoulder in the form of a raven after his death.
Ravens were also associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (the brother of Branwen), whose name translates to "raven." According to the Mabinogion, Bran's head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion. The name of the god, Lugh, is also derived from a Celtic word for "raven." He is the god of the sun, and the creator of the arts and sciences.  He is depicted as giant and the King of the Britons in tale known as the Second Branch of the Mabinogi. Several other characters in Welsh mythology share his name, and ravens figure prominently in the 12th or 13th century text The Dream of Rhonabwy, as the army of King Arthur's knight Owain.
According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens of the Tower of London are removed. It had been thought that there have been at least six ravens in residence at the tower for centuries. It was said that Charles II ordered their removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer. However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend. Charles, following the time of the English Civil War, superstition or not, was not prepared to take the chance, and instead had the observatory moved to Greenwich.
The earliest known reference to a Tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1883.[  This and scattered subsequent references, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told to tourists by the Yeomen Warders. There is evidence that the original ravens were donated to the tower by the Earls of Dunraven perhaps because of their association with the Celtic raven-god Bran. However wild ravens, which were once abundant in London and often seen around meat markets (such as nearby Eastcheap) feasting for scraps, could have roosted at the Tower in earlier times.
During the Second World War, most of the Tower's ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving only a mated pair named "Mabel" and "Grip." Shortly before the Tower reopened to the public, Mabel flew away, leaving Grip despondent. A couple of weeks later, Grip also flew away, probably in search of his mate. The incident was reported in several newspapers, and some of the stories contained the first references in print to the legend that the British Empire would fall if the ravens left the tower. Since the Empire was dismantled shortly afterward, those who are superstitious might interpret events as a confirmation of the legend. Before the tower reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, care was taken to ensure that a new set of ravens was in place.
To the Germanic peoples, Odin was often associated with ravens. Examples include depictions of figures often identified as Odin appear flanked with two birds on a 6th century bracteate and on a 7th century helmet plate from Vendel, Sweden. In later Norse mythology, Odin is depicted as having two ravens Huginn and Muninn serving as his eyes and ears – Huginn being referred to as thought and Muninn as memory. Each day the ravens fly out from Hliðskjálf and bring Odin news from Midgard.
The Old English word for a raven was hræfn; in Old Norse it was hrafn; the word was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle.
The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including the Tsimishian, Haida, Heiltsuk, Tlingit, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.[ For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the individual who brought light to the darkness. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. When the Great Spirit created all things he kept them separate and stored in cedar boxes. The Great Spirit gifted these boxes to the animals who existed before humans. When the animals opened the boxes all the things that comprise the world came into being. The boxes held such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One such box, which was given to Seagull, contained all the light of the world. Seagull coveted his box and refused to open it, clutching it under his wing. All the people asked Raven to persuade Seagull to open it and release the light. Despite begging, demanding, flattering and trying to trick him into opening the box, Seagull still refused. Finally Raven became angry and frustrated, and stuck a thorn in Seagull's foot. Raven pushed the thorn in deeper until the pain caused Seagull to drop the box. Then out of the box came the sun, moon and stars that brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.
In the Talmud, the raven is described as having been only one of three beings on Noah's Ark that copulated during the flood and so was punished. The Rabbis believed that the male raven was forced to ejaculate his seed into the female raven's mouth as a means of reproduction. Interestingly according to the Icelandic Landnámabók – a story similar to Noah and the Ark, Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson used ravens to guide his ship from the Faroe Islands to Iceland.