Potterheads who found themselves stranded in an ocean of existential crisis after the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the last installment in the series surrounding the enthralling adventures of the boy wizard, J. K. Rowling unveiled a bright glimmer of hope yesterday with the world wide release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a cinematic spin-off from the blockbuster franchise.
If it is not evident from the title of the movie itself, lined up for the spectators’ visual treat is an array of magical creatures that will hurl you into a world of imaginative excellence. But let’s not start believing that fantastic creatures are to be found only in Ms Rowling’s books.
Here are twelve lesser known but wildly absurd/scary mythical creatures from cultures across the globe that have been around for centuries:
1. Harpyiae – Greek Mythology
“Swift robbers” or simply “snatchers” by name, they are described as winged beasts with the upper body of a woman who is hideous in appearance, her face pale with hunger, and is long-clawed. These “hounds of Zeus” were dispatched by the god to grab people and things from earth, and sudden disappearances were often attributed to them. In one instance, they were tasked to harass the blind King Phineus of Thrake as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the gods to earthlings; every time a meal was placed before the king the harpies would swoop down and take it away, or befoul it, rendering it unfit to eat. Their place of abode in mythology is still debated, narrowing down the spot to either the islands called Strophades, a place at the entrance of Orcus, or a cave in Crete.
2. Banshee – Irish Folklore
These spirit creatures have no physical form but are described to resemble old women with wrinkled skin and long disheveled fair hair, who can float several feet over the ground and pass through solid objects. They are even said to be spotted in the form of a washer-woman, washing off blood stains from the clothes of a person who are soon to meet their end. Banshees are primarily identified by their shrill shriek heard in the middle of the night, foreboding a person’s death.
3. Krampus – Norse Mythology
Had the legend of this entity been more popularized, trust me, Christmas would not have been as looked forward to as it is now. A demonic beast complete with horns, cloven hooves, thick matted fur, long pointed tongue and rows of fangs for teeth – was a staple companion of Santa Claus who punished naughty children while Claus rewarded the good ones. Krampus is pictured as carrying a chain, or birch branches to whip children with, and a sack in which he kidnaps mischief makers in to carry them to the underworld where he can torture, or even eat, them.
4. Ammit – Ancient Egyptian Religion
Translated as “Devourer” or more specifically, “Bone Eater”, this Egyptian funerary deity/demon was a blend of a lion, hippopotamus and crocodile. In ancient Egyptian art Ammit is seen stationed next to the scales of justice in the underworld, where Anubis weighs the purity of the deceased’s heart against the feather of Ma’at – the goddess of truth – on a scale. The hearts of the souls that don’t pass this test are swallowed by Ammit and are doomed to die a feared second death, banning them from ever attaining peaceful immortality.
5. Patasola – Hispanic Culture
Another female demonic spirit, its aim is to lure men in the forest – loggers, miners, hunters – and kill them. Its eyes bulge, nose is hooked, has thick lips, and catlike fangs, and, as its name suggests, a characteristic single leg. It catches the attention of males with cries of help, often taking up the shape of their beloved, and when it is sure that its victim is completely lost in the forest it reveals its true hideous appearance and slaughters it. Its origin stories are even more chilling – one even says that the patasola is the ghost of a woman who once lived but was mutilated before her death, and that she might have been an unfaithful wife, or even one who killed her own child to be with another man.
6. Nasnas – Arabian Mythology
Born of a Shiqq (a lower form of a djinn or demon spirit) and a human, this crossbreed has just half the body of a human – and nothing else. It has half a head, half a torso, one arm, one leg, and is said to have a tail which enables it to maintain balance and stay super agile even with one hind limb. It commonly shows itself in the garb of an old man, and barely speaks (because it has, well, just half of its vocal chords), imploring travelers to carry it to a well for water, and once there, it drowns its victim.
7. Bultungin – North African Culture
You have heard about werewolves. Now hear about the were-hyenas. Don’t mistake them to be simply African werewolves; there is huge difference between the two. While a werewolf is essentially a human who transforms into a cannibalistic animal on a full moon night, the were-hyena swings both ways – they can either originally be a human, or a hyena to begin with. Many believe that were-hyenas, known by different names in different regions, Bultungin being the oldest, is actually an animal that disguises itself as a human. They taunt their victims out of the safety of their houses by calling out their name, and hunt them down solitarily or in packs.
8. Grootslang – South African legend
A creature as old as the world itself and accidentally created by the gods is said to inhabit n a cave called the Wonder Hole in the Richtersveld area of South Africa. Having realized their mistake in bestowing too much strength, cunning and intelligence upon this beast which has physical attributes both of an elephant and of a serpent in gigantic proportions, they split the creature into two separate species – the elephant, and the snake. But one of the original grootslang escaped this fate and reproduced – many times – keeping its kind alive. They feed on elephants that they lure into their cave, a place which is also believed to be filled with diamonds. however, there is hope for its human captives – they can bargain for their freedom with the offer of precious gems.
9. Kishi – Angolan Folklore
For once, an evil mythical entity who is male lures women instead the other way round! This hill-dwelling malevolent beast has the face of a handsome man and is a charming smooth-talker who goes into villages and wins the heart of the most beautiful woman around. Then, in seclusion, it turns around to reveal its other face – that of a ravenous hyena with jaws so powerful it would take a single bite to kill. This face it hides by overgrowing its hair or wearing a head dress. Before it finishes off its prey it terrorizes it, because, true to its vile nature, it feeds off the victim’s fear as much as it does off its flesh.
10. Raiju – Japanese Mythology
A traditional Pikachu. While this mythical creature may come in the form of a cat, fox, weasel or wolf, what remains constant is the fact that their body is made of – lightning! Its cry is a thunder and it darts from one spot to the other in a ball of lightning (obviously) during thunderstorms, and the trees that get struck by lightning are said to have been scratched by Raiju, who is also the companion of Rainjin, the Shinto goddess of Lightning. Unlike other mythical creatures who reside in secluded spots nestled in nature, Raiju’s chosen habitat is the human navel where is often falls asleep, and Raijin, in an attempt to wake it up, strikes him with a thunderbolt, which causes the person whose navel the electric pet is snoozing in ill health.
11. Bukavak – Slavik Mythology
Here is one more reason to keep your hydrophobia alive – a six-legged demonic creature with twisted horns that ambushes its prey and strangles it is believed to inhabit water bodies (lakes and pools). It makes a loud noise when it comes out of water at night, which has earned it its name – buka translates to sound. So if you are taking a night stroll by a calm waterside and hear an ear-shattering howl – don’t look back. Just run.
12. Jorogumo – Japanese Mythology
Get ready to redefine arachnophobia. A jorogumo is a half-human (upper body) half spider(the lower half has eight visible arachnid legs) monster that takes up the form of a beautiful woman and – you guessed – lures men to their doom. Often her victims will follow her into a hut where she begins to play the lute, its music mesmerizing her prey into stupor while she spins her spider silk around him, preparing her next meal. This is a milder version of the legend. In the other one, she takes up the form of a woman with an infant asking passers-by for help. When someone does fall for it and lends a hand, she transfers the baby onto their arms – and the bundle that was supposed to be a human baby turns into a bundle of hundreds of spider eggs… that hatch and make a meal out of the Good Samaritan. Good bye good deeds.