Bestiary

Baba Yaga is a hag from Slavic folklore. She lives in the forest in a hut that stands on chicken legs, and flies around in a large mortar.

Baba Yaga is one of three sisters, and appears as an ugly old woman with a prominent nose. She is usually described as a frightening, evil figure, but is more ambiguous in some stories. She was first mentioned in 1755 by Russian writer Mikhail Lomonosov, and has since become an enduring figure, not just in Eastern Europe, but worldwide.

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Monster master list.

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One of my favorite animals, inexpertly rendered by centuries of European artists. That one from the Netherlands looks like a high school mascot.

Happy World Elephant Day!

If you’re in the mood to learn about some other giant animals, check out Skunk Bear’s latest video.

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Title from “The Ashmole Bestiary” via the Bodleian Libraries; France, 950 from “De medicamentis ex animalibus” via Museum Meermanno; Spain, 1000 from a Madrid fresco via UC San Diego; England, 1200 from “Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc” via Trinity College Library; Netherlands, 1200 from “Der Naturen Bloeme” via Koninklijke Bibliotheek; England, 1230 from “Bestiary” via the British Library; Italy, 1440 from “Herbal” via the British Library;

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mythology meme | Slavic legendary creatures - Sirin

Sirin or the Bird of Sorrow is a magnificent but cruel bird-maiden of Russian legends. Her body of a giant bird of prey is covered in thousand midnight-coloured feathers and a set of sharp claws, big enough to crush a horse. From the chest up, she’s of human appearance and her sinister face of a beautiful woman is adorned by a golden crown or nimbus. Sirin lays her precious eggs on distant seashores before casting them into the waves. When the eggs hatch, a thunderstorm sets over the oceans till they become so rough that no soul can travel across.

She is a death-bringer. Her honey-tongued singing voice stupefies mortals, making them forget everything they had ever known in this world and announces their imminent death. People would attempt to save themselves from Sirin by shooting cannons, ringing bells and covering their ears but to no avail. Her terrifying smirk is the last thing they see before she plunges down at them with her claws and carries them away to the realm of death called Nav where she forever resides with her brighter counterpart Alkonost, her beloved sister otherwise known as the Bird of Joy.

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Ellen Jewett’s fanstastic bestiary

Between dream and nightmare, this canadian artist gives life to these beautiful steampunk-styled creatures. Different forms of life, plants and animals, ally with mechanical objects, in a perfect harmony. These sculptures of an another world are made of clay, with a metallic skeleton.

The Bestiary: Sea Pig

Boy oh boy was I looking forward to reviewing these guys. They are some of my favorite sea animals et al, they are echinoderms, and they are deep sea creatures to boot. What’s not to like?

So what do you get when you take a regular countryside pig, cross it over with a Metroid and add a touch of gummy bear, then dump the result into the ocean?

Probably not anything that resembles the sea pig, but the point still stands.

Look at this precious lil thing.

These guys are the genus Scotoplanes, a term which sounds very similar to “scuttling” and is thus perfectly fitting. Fuck you, I don’t know a shred of Latin.

These fuckos are some of the weirdest stuff you’ll find in the deep sea, which is impressive considering pretty much everything down there could cause Salvador Dalí to take a step back and reconsider his life choices, maybe even shave off his improbable moustache, Taxonomically, they are sea cucumbers, but their body plan is more similar to that of a fat slug that one day decided to grow legs just for the heck of it. The legs are pretty weird too, and function very unlike any other organ of locomotion on the planet. They are the same “tube feet” that starfish have, except a lot bigger. They are basically hollow socks of organic matter that the sea pig constantly inflates and deflates by circulating water in them. It basically does the job of an entire mall clown for each leg.

Despite the fact that they are more frail than a Fabergé egg made out of bath foam, and their exotic appearance, the sea pigs aren’t endangered. This is mostly due to the fact that they multiply with the vigor of steroid-enhanced bunnies, to the point where they constitute arund 60 percent of all seafloor life world-wide. Talk about the newest craze.

I weren’t kidding about the frailty though, these guys have the consistency of Jell-O. They are very vulnerable since they solve their water input by circulating entirely through their paper-thin skin, which makes studying them kind of hard, because, y’know, the sea pig you’ve brought to the surface will sometimes just straight-up fucking melt in your hands.

That’s not a big problem though,since there are lots of them. And when I say lots, I do mean lots. They act as the primary cleanup service on the sea floor, scouting around and getting rid of the organic muck in the mud. Their primary food source is so-called “marine snow”, basically a constant downpour of dead shit from the upper regions where other animals kick the bucket. Imagine it as the Biblical mana, except it’s much more macabre and not divine in origin. Hell, considering the place it falls down to, it probably falls right from Satan’s asshole.

This surreal corpse weather even has its own weather phenomena, most importantly the so-called “whalefalls”, which is basically a whale’s corpse slowly sinking to the seafloor. Whalefalls always involve the nastiest incarnations of pure NOPE dogpiling the carcass and gorging themselves on it until they can’t even move. Literally. The feasters include two-meter-long worms that sweat acid, cat-sized prehistoric isopods able to starve for five years, and bone-eating worms. The legions upon legions of sea pigs swarming these whalefalls look positively tame by comparison.

Speaking of legions, sea pigs have a tendency to gather into hundreds-strong groups and feed together. They usually all face the same direction, so as to better sniff out the incoming marine snow, but they look more like the minions of Hell marching to conquer the mortal realm.

The other reason they’re not endangered is because they don’t have many natural predators. Sea cucumbers tend to be a gourmet prey item on many predator’s menu, to the point where they have to defend themselves by firing their own guts at the enemy out of their buttholes. A sort of fartillery, if you will.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the shitty puns.

Due to the fact that most deep sea creatures are more preoccupied with contemplating how fucking ugy they are than with hunting, sea pigs are in less danger. So they can get away with more conventional defense tactics, such as being drop-dead poisonous. Their poison, called holothurin, is entirely unique to sea cucumbers, and is so effective that Indo-Pacific peoples are said to poison entire coral reef pools with it, since it can knock out lots of fish at once, which are then free to catch. So yeah, biological weaponry in tribal hunting, pretty much.

So what have we learned today? The sea pig feeds on death, tastes like death and is pretty darn cute. All in all it’s a pretty satisfying sea animal we’ve got here.

Name: Tzitzimitl (roughly pronounced Zee Zee Meel)
Area of Origin: Central Mexico; The Aztecs

In Aztec Mythology, A Tzitzimitl (plural: Tzitzimimeh) is a female deity associated with the stars. They were usually depicted as skeletal figures, often wearing skirts and decorative headdresses. In the most famous depictions, adorning their bodies are severed hands, and cut-out hearts, and appear to have pointed claws on both their hands and feet. Another odd detail is that they seem to have eyeballs growing out of different joints, such as the ankles, knees, wrists and elbows, though this differs between the different portrayals. They’ve been decribed as demons, though this doesn’t necessarily reflect their function in the Aztec belief system. Because the Tzitzimimeh were female, they were also related to fertility, and as such associated with other female deities such as Tlaltecuhtli and Coatlicue. They were worshipped by midwives and women in labor. Their leader was the goddess, Itzpapalotl who ruled over Tamoanchan, the paradise where these deities resided. Being associated with the stars, when stars would not be seen in the sky during solar eclipses, this was intepreted as Tzitzimimeh attacking the sun. This caused a belief that during an eclipse, they would descend down to earth to devour humans. They were seen as both protectors of the feminine and progenitors of mankind, and as such, were powerful and dangerous, especially in periods of cosmic instability.

Malphas is a Goetic demon who is depicted as a crow who can change into the form of a man.

Malphas is a President of Hell who commands forty legions. He speaks in a hoarse, raspy voice, and can destroy his enemies’ thoughts and desires. He builds towers and siege weaponry, and throws down buildings.

He is said to gladly accept offerings and sacrifices, but will deceive the one who offers them.

Image source.

Monster master list.

Suggest a spook.

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We can only imagine what early explorers venturing off into the new world must have felt. Medieval maps and encyclopedic bestiaries give us some idea of the strange lands they expected to encounter, inhabited by mysterious figures and loathsome, fictitious beasts. Montreal, Canada based painter Peter Ferguson, previously featured here on our blog, seems to evoke this same combination of wonder, horror, excitement, and intrigue with a unique sense of bizarre humor in his artworks.

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