Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Traditional Humanoids: Basajaun, Tiyanak & Tikbalang - Part I
Some mythical creatures have their origin in tradition and tales from the distant past. Each culture is associated with a multitude of interesting and odd creatures...many of these beings are humanoid. This is the 1st part of the series...a compilation of traditional humanoids:
Basajaun, the Lord of the Forests
In Basque mythology, the Basajaunak are a spirit that dwells in caves or in the woods who protects flocks of livestock and teaches skills such as agriculture and ironworking to humans. They are collectively known as the 'Basajaun, the Lords of the Forests.' Fifteenth-century carvings depicting the Basajaunak can be seen in Burgos Cathedral and in the monastery of Santa María la Real in Nájera. The Basajaun also exists in Aragonese mythology in the valleys of Tena, Ansó, and Broto. There are writings about these 'simiots' of Spain's Catalunya and Upper Aragon - creatures that may well find their U.S. counterparts in the Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
These creatures are of various height (though most are very tall), completely covered in hair with a long mane that falls to the knees, and wander the Pyrenees with incredible agility. They were said to be megalith builders and became known as rural genies.
The legend says that long ago, only the Basajauns knew how to plant, harvest and mill wheat to make flour. The Basajauns kept this knowledge to themselves, but one Basque man worked out a plan to steal the secret and give it to the human race. The Basque man made a bet with the Basajauns to see who could jump over the heaps of wheat they had harvested.
The Basajauns laughed at the Basque man, because they knew that a mere human would be no competition for them, and they laughed at his big floppy shoes. They all jumped over the wheat easily, but when the Basque man tried, he landed on top of one of the heaps, and the Basajauns laughed again.
Then the Basque man laughed, and he laughed last and best, but quietly, because his trick had worked. Now, the Basajauns are big and slow-witted, but when they saw the Basque man walking away home, with his big, floppy shoes full of grains of their wheat, they realized that they had been tricked. When they stopped laughing, the Basque man began to run for his life, and it's a good thing that he did. He was already a far away when one of the Basajauns threw a hatchet. The lords of the woods may be slow, but they are strong.
The Basque man saw the hatchet coming, and he ducked behind a chestnut tree just in time, because the hatchet struck the tree and split it in half. Now the Basque man had the seeds, but he didn't know when was the right time of the year to sow them. Fortunately, a man was passing by the cave of one of the Basajauns, and he heard him singing:
"If the humans knew this song
They'd be well informed.
When the leaf is in the bud
Then you sow the corn.
When the leaf falls off the trees
Then you sow the wheat.
When the February feast comes round
Sow the turnip in the ground."
The man told the Basque man what he heard, and the Basque man told all the humans, and that is how cultivation spread through the world.
Another part of the legend states that the Basajaun is the protective spirit of the flocks. It shouts in the mountains when a storm approaches so that the shepherds may withdraw their sheep. By lurking around a pen or its surroundings, it keeps the wolves from approaching. The Basajaun's presence is announced by the sheep who, shaking, and ring the bells around their necks. Thus the shepherds can go to sleep in peace, knowing that during that night or that day the wolves, great enemies of the flocks, will not come to bother them.
An undated screen capture from a video depicting a supposed Basajaun fleeing a cave in the Catalonia Pyrenees. My guess is that this image was from of a staged video...though I can't confirm that.
Modern day livestock farmers in Valcarlos and Ondorrola are fully convinced of this creature's existence. In testimony from an interview, an elder stated that he would receive visits from the Basajauns at his homestead, but never knew why. They had not visited him for a long time. Another eyewitness account mentions a sighting of a young Basajaun basking in the sun at the opening to the Mailuxe cave, and then added description of this creature as being blond.
In June 1993, a group of cave explorers allegedly encountered a Basajaun-like creature in the ruins of a church in the Catalan Pyrenees of Spain. The 'wild man' was described as standing 5 ft. tall and bulky, covered in shaggy hair and made a sound that resembled an enraged cat. A few months later, two paleontologists were reported to have been jumped by two large, hairy humanoids while conducting research
in the Ripoll forests of Gerona Province, Catalonia region of Spain.
Tiyanak, the Demon Child
Tiyanak (Demon Child) or impakto are creatures which, in Philippine mythology, imitate the form of a child. It usually takes the form of a newborn baby and cries like one in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by the victim, it reverts to its true form and attacks the victim. Aside from slashing victims, the tiyanak also delights in leading travelers astray or in kidnapping children.
Some say the tiyanak are babies who died before receiving baptism rites. After death, they go to a place known as Limbo, a chamber of Hell where unbaptized dead people fall into and transform into evil spirits. These phantoms return into the mortal realm in the form of goblins to eat living victims. The tiyanak can also be the offspring between a demon and a human or an aborted fetus, which comes to life to take revenge on its mother.
There are several versions of Tiyanak physical descriptions and activity. This mythical creature are also sometimes related to a Malaysian folkloric creature called Pontianak which is, according to Malay folklore, a woman who died during delivery or childbirth.
The Pontianak - in Malay folklore, it usually announces its presence through baby cries or assumes the form of a beautiful lady and frightens or kills those unlucky enough to come too close. It disguises itself as a beautiful young woman mainly to attract its victim (usually male). Its presence can sometimes be detected by a nice floral fragrance, followed by an awful stench afterward
According to folklore, one can bewilder the creature and break loose from the enchantment of its cries by turning his clothes inside out. The legend has it that Tiyanaks find this method laughable and would just leave the victim alone. Some say that repellents like garlic and the rosary can also drive the tiyanak away.
Tikbalang, the Demon Horse
The Tikbalang (many different spellings are used - translates as 'demon horse') is a creature of Philippine folklore said to lurk in the mountains and forests of the Philippines. It is generally described as a tall, bony humanoid creature with disproportionately long limbs, to the point that its knees reach above its head when it squats down. It has the head and feet of an animal, most commonly a horse. It has been compared to the half-man, half-horse centaur from Greek mythology. It travels at night to rape female mortals who will then give birth to more Tikbalang. It is sometimes believed to be a transformation of an aborted fetus which has been sent to earth from limbo.
Tikbalangs are very playful with people, and they usually make a person imagine things that aren't real. Sometimes a Tikbalang will drive a person crazy. Legends say that when rain falls while the sun is shining, a pair of Tikbalangs are being wed. Since horses only arrived in the Philippine archipelago during the Spanish invasion, there is a theory that the image of a half-horse, half-man creature was propagated by the conquistadors to keep the natives afraid of the night. There are stories claiming that the Tikbalang are actually half-bird, half-man creatures, much like the Japanese Tengu.
A traveler who finds himself lost and suspects that a Tikbalang is leading him astray may counteract it by wearing his shirt inside out. Another countermeasure is to verbally ask permission to pass by, or to avoid making too much noise while in the woods so as not to offend or disturb the Tikbalang.
Folklore says that one can tame a Tikbalang and compel it to be one's servant by plucking three golden hairs from its mane. There are also stories where a Tikbalang asks its intended prey a riddle. Someone who manages to answer correctly will be rewarded with a pot of gold.
Other legends depict the Tikbalang as a monster of the night, with eyes that glow red. This version of the Tikbalang casts it as a fearsome creature, a real danger to people. It is believed that when it is angered - and it is easily angered - it stomps on people with its hooves until they die. In these tales, the Tikbalang is always accompanied by the stench of burning hair and smokes great big cigars.
It is said that delirious town folk who have stumbled their way into town after long absences tell of how an apparation resembling a Tikbalang pushed and slapped them, often knocking them over and not allowing them to right themselves; all the while shaking with nervous, childish giggling. People say that the cessation of resistance or protest will suddenly lead a victim to find themselves alone in the woods, plunged into darkness; the sun long set. The path home, recalled by the few who return after a disappearance, is hampered by a severe sense of disorientation and a forest that seems to curl in on itself repeatedly.
Vinson, Folk-Lore du Pays Basque (1883)
J.M. Satrústegui of Barandiarán, Eusko-Folklore
Encounters with Flying Humanoids: Mothman, Manbirds, Gargoyles & Other Winged Beasts
The Cryptoterrestrials: A Meditation on Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us
Monster Files: A Look Inside Government Secrets and Classified Documents on Bizarre Creatures and Extraordinary Animals
Phantoms & Monsters: Cryptid Encounters