Myth as Paranormal Fact?

Hey, look at this – I’m actually posting when I’m supposed to, instead of late! (Yes, we’ll see how long this lasts).

Anyway, today’s post was inspired by a posting by Aaron Sagers – it may well inspire a few posts. It’s rather cute and interesting, so here’s the link:

“Top 10 Paranormal Myths” by Aaron Sagers

Back yet?

So, I wanted to consider his myth #1: Paranormal Facts Exist. He says there is no clear evidence and that facts for the paranormal don’t “quite” exist yet. Not sure I entirely agree with that. Is there evidence like Big Foot’s corpse or a vampire giving interviews (beyond the fictional kind)? No. However, I think there is some form of evidence: the myths.

As humans, we’ve long attempted to explain the inexplicable, to find ways to understand our world. Along the way, we’ve created myths and legends to help give explanation. While some of them we’ve perhaps grown out of (like that whole world-is-flat notion), others persist.

Some stories that resonate with us … or which we can’t quite find evidence to throw away yet.

Take vampires and werewolves. There are myths around the world that offer different variations on the same theme. Most compellingly, despite the variations, there are consistencies too (such as in the blood-sucking part). Is it because this legend calls to some deep-seated, primitive fear, such that we can’t ignore it? Or have there been actual incidents? Can’t know that for sure, I suppose. Not without evidence. 😉

Then there are other legends, like the wailing banshee, the Loch Ness, the windigo. These are legends were perhaps someone encountered something on some deserted moor, or in a deep, dark wood. Who are we to know that they didn’t? What makes these “reports” any less credible than alien abductions or alleged miracles? Who is to say that any – or all – are not true?

So much as it seems I am a believer, I like to think of myself as someone who would like to believe … but retains a healthy dose of skepticism.

What about you?

Thanks for reading – despite it being such a short post today. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog?

Have a great week. 🙂

Supernatural Tigers

I am flipping through my favorite mythology book today, The Dictionary of Mythology by J.A. Coleman, and we come upon T for Tiger. My source for this post is that book, p 1018 (yes, it’s a big ol’ beauty of a book.)

There is something beautiful about a tiger, something that reminds us of our (relatively) harmless pets back home, while at the same time we look at the size of their paws – as big as my head – and would be idiotic to forget just how powerful and dangerous they can be.

Tigers also show up in supernatural mythology.

Certainly you’ve seen pictorial representations of the tiger (along with the dragon) in Chinese culture. It inspires awe with its power and vitality within the culture – as it does in most places. If you wear a Tiger Claw (hu chao) amulet, it is said to ward off fear and to give the wearer the courage of the tiger. This animal is also the favorite transportation for deities (yes, if I was a god, I’d want to ride a tiger too, wouldn’t you?). Winter and the north are represented by the Black Tiger, while fire and the south are represented by the Red Tiger. East and Vegetation get the Blue Tiger, and the center and the sun get the Yellow Tiger. I am somewhat curious if the tiger is literally blue, red, and black.

Mr. Tiger shows up again in the East Indies where there is a myth about a race of men who could transform into tigers. Related to that, in Sumatran lore, a sinner who prays for reincarnation may leave his grave in the form of a tiger. (Hmm … those two myths are a story waiting to be written, aren’t they?)

In Hindu lore, as in the myths of the Chinese, the deities use tigers for transport, in this case Shiva. The Rajput people / line themselves claim to be descendants of tigers, which of course leads to more intriguing possibilities of body shifting and transformation.

In Japan, the tiger is the warriors’ emblem, and is said to live for 1,000 years. (I suppose living that long would be very helpful if you’re a warrior heading into battle. I’d want to be thinking in tiger-terms, too, never mind great ferocity in battle.)

Finally, in Malaysia tigers offer more intriguing possibilities and stir the imagination. They are said to be the incarnation of the dead or of the souls of sorcerers. Plus, it is said that a man can purchase the magic necessary to transform himself into a tiger both in life and after death. I wonder here if this is related to the East Indies belief where a penitent sinner can be reincarnated as a tiger?

So, have I inspired a shape-shifter story yet? Come on, I’ll convert you to a passion for shape-shifters yet. 😉

What do you think? Do intriguing possibilities lay in these myths? Have you heard any interesting myths / legends about tigers or other animals?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week.

Oh, and hey! Like the post? Why not sign up for the blog? Have a good one. 🙂

Here Be Dragons? : The Myth and Magic

I’ve been thinking a great deal about dragons lately, as they are yet another one of those weird and wonderful mythic creatures who exist so prolifically across the globe. A quick search suggests some are still convinced dragons are real and do exist, but I’ll leave that to you to decide completely.

What I do want to consider is: could dragons be a case of where there’s smoke there’s fire (which kind of turns into a pun without meaning to, provided the dragon set the fire …)

Anyway, what I mean is that when you find different myths about dragons in so many different cultures, often in great detail and with great similarities, could this be a case where dragons did indeed exist, and simply because we don’t have modern versions flying around, or skeletons that are definitely dragon vs dinosaur, we wrap them into the myth category instead of extinct animals?

There’s the other thing: could dragons be a type of dinosaur? Personally, I hate to consider it since I have a pet-phobia about dinosaurs, but it kind of makes sense. Here you arrive with other prehistoric and ancient creatures who have, against the odds, seemingly survived. Deep sea creatures, sharks, alligators – they are indeed prehistoric. So why not other survivors, like say the Ogopogo in B.C. or the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland – couldn’t they be similar odd-ball survivors? And if dragons were / are a type of dinosaur, it would stand to reason that perhaps their skeletons already have been discovered, and they’ve simply been classified as a variety of dinosaur rather than anything else. There is so much we don’t know about the ancient denizens of this planet as it is: scientists are only now coming to accept dinosaurs may have been covered in feathers rather than the scaly reptiles they’re most often portrayed as.

Of course, with humans stomping all over the planet, flying over its surface, and diving deeper to the depths of the oceans all the time, is it conceivable that a creature as large as a dragon could have remained concealed for all this time? Any flying would certainly be picked up by airspace controllers, would it not?

That’s the thing about dragons: they’re just so darn big. While something like a werewolf or other man-size-or-smaller type creature could potentially have hidden or gone to ground to stay alive long enough, something the size of a whale is kind of hard to miss. And of course, something that big also needs a steady supply of food which consists of more than just sacrificed village-virgins, since you’ll run out of those soon enough, especially if they keep getting sacrificed.

So where is a dragon to hide? Or is this perhaps why we must accept they’re extinct now, but may have been around a few hundred years ago, just not post-Industrial Revolution? Could our medieval ancestors have really encountered dragons? Did St. George really slay one? Despite what some see as clear “evidence” throughout ancient writing, it’s possible we may never know for sure, since it’s so hard to distinguish between myth and fact when interpreting things like art remnants and folklore.

Is there a dragon hiding in your back garden? What do you think: complete myth, or some element of truth?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Werewolves: Victims of Bad Press

Shape-shifters have long fascinated me, particularly werewolves, and in this, my first actual paranormal-themed blog, I must come to the defense of the werewolf. Just post-Halloween, it’s become abundantly clear that werewolves are suffering some major PR problems: they’re cast as the villains, or cursed and afflicted (and still the villain). Other fanged-creatures seem to be gaining in popularity despite their life-issues (ie: they’re undead), and yet the werewolf still gets cast as the bad guy.

This is completely uncalled for. There are so many reasons why werewolves are great (and make great heroes). If you’re into alphas, can you get any more alpha then an alpha wolf? They’re alive, hot-blooded, and passionate since – with their animal side – they may be more willing to give into urges and desires. All that aside, there’s mythological basis to dismiss the bad publicity werewolves keep getting.

Throughout the world, different forms of shape-shifters have long existed in myth, many of them having the ability to change into other animals. To keep things simple, we’ll focus on the wolves, the most likely basis for the werewolf myth.

Are there myths that suggest werewolves are evil? Yes. In Nordic and Icelandic lore exist the pagan cult of were-animals, the eigi einhamr, who have the ability to take on the form or powers and characteristics of their animal (Guiley 117). Once transformed, the animals with human intellect devour others and do evil things. Inuit lore tells of the adlet, a race of man-dogs born of an Inuit woman and a large red dog; repulsed by her sons, she sends them to Europe where they marry white women and become flesh-eating monsters (Guiley 2). Similarly, the windigo of Native American lore becomes a flesh-eating wolf-monster after becoming lost on a hunting trip and consuming human flesh (Guiley 324). The consumption of human flesh is so strong a cultural taboo, in other cultures some werewolves are created as punishment by the gods, such as in the case of Veretius, King of Wales, who St. Patrick turned into a wolf (Ingpen 226-227), and King Lycaon of Acadia who Zeus turned into a werewolf for serving human flesh (Steiger x).

The consumption or hunger for human flesh is one of the “symptoms” when looking for a werewolf, along with hanging out in a lot of graveyards, insatiable lust, animal-like actions and instinct, and excessive hairiness even in human form. Oh, and the mark of the pentagram, which starts to give you a clue where some of this bad PR is coming from. After all, the same folks who see a lonely spinster with a few cats and a talent for herbalism as a witch who should be stoned or burned, may be just as likely to see a hairy guy who gets all the women as a werewolf who should be shot with silver. During the 15th and 16th centuries at the peak of the Inquisition, many were accused as werewolves, guilty of murder and cannibalism. In the Pyrenees alone, some 200 men and women “werewolves” were executed as a result (Guiley 316-318).

What it sounds like is the werewolf is a victim of speciesism, that is prejudice or discrimination based on species, along with the assumption of human superiority on which speciesism is based (and yes, it’s a real word, in the dictionary and everything). Further evidence of this is in the fact that much of what werewolves are criticized and feared for has to do with their close affiliation with their animal nature, the wolf itself.

I would argue the more dangerous side could be their human side. After all, humans have a greater tendency to harm or torture others out of sadistic or psychotic desires, whereas this is practically unseen in the animal world. Humans start wars, use material wealth as a marker of worth, whereas animals are more likely to use something like meritocracy (ie: you hunt the best, are strongest, you win). Wolves work together, in highly organized packs led by their alpha. Their desires and needs are primal, for things like food, sex, the hunt, etc. Wouldn’t werewolves be likely to work in similar ways?

Finally, let’s return to myth, where there is evidence for “good” werewolves as well. Perhaps the earliest werewolf may be King Gilgamesh’s friend, Enkidu c. 2000BC. Enkidu is first created to counter Gilgamesh’s extreme lust, as a worthy enemy. Enkidu instead protects the forest creatures until brought before Gilgamesh, and after wrestling they become friends and go on to battle other gods and giants together (Steiger 99). Shetland lore provides the wulver, a man with a wolf’s head and man’s body covered in brown hair who fishes, generally wants to be left alone, but could be helpful to those in need, leaving food on their doorsteps (Guiley 327). In Spain, a 13th century romance by W. Palerne describes the tale of the noble werewolf, Alphonsus (Guiley 324), rightful heir to the Spanish throne, whose stepmother uses charms and potions to transform him into a werewolf so her son can inherit instead. Rather than becoming evil, Alphonsus rescues the infant William, heir to Sicily, falls in love, has lots of other adventures – but no eating of any one.

Perhaps the most compelling is the snippet about the 1691 Trial of the Werewolf (Lecouteux 168). This is a real, documented trial, similar to some of the witch trials at the time. But, this werewolf does not deny he is a werewolf, and in fact claims he and his fellow werewolves are “Dogs of God” and in fact protectors of human society. Quite a different view from the villains they’re so often portrayed as, hmm?

Anyway, I’ll hop off my soapbox now, and hope I’ve given you reason to be pro-werewolf. Below I’ve included a few links for interest, along with some authors and places where werewolves get to be the alphas they deserve to be. Have I missed any? Have I convinced you? Please, share your comments below, and join the Pro-Werewolf campaign! J

You might also be interested in an earlier article I wrote:“Ode to the werewolf”

For a bit of info about other werewolf trials:  http://yaiolani.tripod.com/middle.htm

Link to a casual English translation of the 1691 Livonian trial: http://werewolf-research.tumblr.com/post/769044033/confessions-of-a-benevolent-werewolf-a-translation-of

Other authors who write “Pro-werewolf”:

Kelley Armstrong

Susan Krinard

Christine Bell (thanks M!)

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Lori Handeland

Angela Knight

Sources:

Coleman, J.A. The Dictionary of Mythology: An A-Z of Themes, Legends and Heroes. Toronto: Arcturus Publishing Ltd., 2007.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Encylopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2005.

Ingpen, Michael Page & Robert. Encylopedia of Things That Never Were. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1998.

Lecouteux, Claude. Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 2003.

Steiger, Brad. The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-shifting Beings. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Summers. The Werewolf in Lore and Legend. New York: Dover Publications, 2003.