black folklore

Anubis Aesthetic

Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead. Despite being one of the most ancient and “one of the most frequently depicted and mentioned gods” in the Egyptian pantheon, Anubis played almost no role in Egyptian myths. Anubis was depicted in black, a color that symbolized both rebirth and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. His female counterpart is Anput. His daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.

Shapeshifter Aesthetic ; requested by anon

Shapeshifters are beings that have the ability to transform into other living things. In some lore they have to kill the thing they are assuming the shape of before hand, and in others it is an ability cast on an object using a spell or magic. The most popular version of shapeshifting is that of a person into an animal, and vice versa.

strzyga aesthetic

a female demon somewhat similar to vampire in Slavic folklore. People who were born with two hearts and two souls and two sets of teeth were believed to be strzygas. according to belief, only one of their two souls would pass to the afterlife; the other soul was believed to cause the deceased strzyga to come back to life and prey upon other living beings. These undead strzyga were believed to fly at night in a form of an owl and attack night-time travelers and people who had wandered off into the woods at night, sucking out their blood and eating their insides.

The “Folkloric Devil” is a term applied to the figure who appears in folk-tales and legends and who is often called “the devil”, but it’s obvious that he emerges from a different source than the theological background of Christianity.

Old divinities or diminished Gods that maintained a presence in the minds or cultures of European peoples are suggested (often enough, and for good reasons) as a source of this figure; but beyond that, the pre-Christian societies had spiritual forces and persons that they related to in the sense of “outsider” powers that could be shady or tricky or dangerous at times, but who often had kinds of relationships nonetheless with human beings. These are the main source of the “folkloric” Devil/Devils.

The Folkloric devil isn’t concerned with damning souls, primarily, but he always wants to make deals or pacts to help humans who need things, but so that he can gain, too- a sign of his origin in the older world of spirit-relationship and spiritual ecology. In Christian gloss, he begins more and more to want “souls” for his help, but he is always able to be tricked, himself- and this is very important. Human heroes or protagonists can outwit him. This is something that would be impossible to do to the Theological Devil, who is far beyond humans in power, and second only to God himself in power.

Modern Pop Culture produces surprising emergences of the old Folkloric Devil- Charlie Daniel’s song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is an appearance of a Folkloric Devil, who can be out-played by the intrepid and arrogant local boy, on the fiddle. There is the Christian conceit of the Devil seeking souls in that song, but that’s just a minor detail, more suited to a Christian audience and born from the imagination of a low Protestant folk singer.

The Folkloric Devil is a being- and a representative of a whole class of beings- who can be engaged with by humans, for gains. They can be harmful, they can be helpful, and they can be outwitted or outdone at times. Sometimes, they become protagonists themselves.

Theological Elites in the Pre-Modern period of Europe saw no distinction between their Theological Devil and the various emergences of the Folkloric Devil. The “Devil” of witch cults and covenants and of individual sorcerers or witches was of the Folkloric variety, though in their own personal understandings, even they may have believed that he was the same as the theological devil, such was the nature of their times. It’s not like there was a neat chart that spelled all this stuff out to earlier people, and folk in Pre-Modern times heard Christian ministers ranting alongside fire-side bards telling folktales, and so the Folkloric Devil/Devils could take on Christian gloss and attributes at times, and the Theological devil could appear in decidedly “folkish” ways.

What’s important to remember is that the Theological Devil doesn’t exist except as the shadow of Christian psychology. He is born from the idealistic Christian imagination, as the necessary counter-ideal or counter-force to their idealistic notion of good, the warped good, the fallen good, born in their continuation of earlier dualistic religious tropes that posited a cosmic war between good and evil cosmological forces.

The Folkloric Devil, on the other hand, very much exists, both in the form of a powerful former divinity worshiped by practically every human culture known previous to Christianity, and as a folk-memory of certain spirit-entities (very much tied to this world) that people have always engaged in relationships with, though they are a group of entities who are, in ways, challenging, dangerous at points, and ambiguous.

The Theological Devil is a remnant of idealism and the diseased imagination of absolutists and idealists. The Folkloric Devil is a remnant of ancient spiritual ecology and human relationships to the wilder, stranger Otherworld.

- Robin Artisson

Kallikantzaros

(Greek: καλλικάντζαρος, pl. καλλικάντζαροι kallikantzaroi;) is a malevolent goblin in Southeastern European and Anatolian folklore. Stories about the kallikantzaros or its equivalents can be found in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia.. Kallikantzaroi are believed to dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, from 25 December to 6 January (from the winter solstice for a fortnight during which time the sun ceases its seasonal movement). The term kallikantzaros is speculated to be derived from the Greek kalos-kentauros (“beautiful centaur”), although this theory has met with considerable opposition.

It is believed that kallikantzaroi stay underground, sawing the world tree so that it will collapse, along with the Earth. However, according to folklore, when they are about to saw the final part, Christmas dawns and they are able to come to the surface. They forget the tree and come to bring trouble to mortals. Finally, on the Epiphany (6 January), the sun starts moving again, and they must return underground to continue their sawing. They see that during their absence the world tree has healed itself, so they must start working all over again. This is believed to occur annually. Kallikantzaroi are believed to be creatures of the night. Read More || Edit

The Black Dog of Bungay
Pencil/digital, 12x9

Black dogs are a common tradition attached to many locations, most often appearing black and shaggy, of enormous size, with eyes like saucers that glow in the dark, but sometimes invisible, with their presence only detected from the blast of their hot breath and padding footsteps.

By the time these traditions were recorded, some confusion between originally distinct sorts of manifestations may have set in, for in some tales, Black Shuck (or Shock) seems more like a shape-changing bogey. Now and then he takes the form of a calf, and on one occasion appeared with “a donkey’s head and a smooth velvet hide.” Black Dogs commonly haunted lanes, footpaths, bridges, crossroads and gateways - all points of transition, from ancient times held to be weak spots in the fabric dividing the mortal world from the supernatural. Shuck often appears as a phantom, and Black Dogs are generally thought to be connected with the pack of spectral hounds that accompany the Wild Hunt. Perhaps they were originally psychopomps - escorts of the dead on their journey to the underworld. Certainly they sometimes act as “fetches,” appearing as portents of death and disaster.

This would explain a certain ambivalence in attitude towards Black Dogs, which in some places are disposed to be friendly, acting as guardians and guides to lonely travelers. While in Suffolk Shuck is usually harmless if let alone, in Norfolk none can set eyes on him and live, again a characteristic of the Wild hunt. It is in this demonic character that he first appears in print, in an old tract by Abraham Fleming (d.1607), entitled “A Strange and Terrible Wunder Wrought very late in the Parish Church of Bongay” which details that on Sunday, August 4th 1577, between nine and ten in the morning when most people were at church, there broke over Bungay “a great tempest the like whereof hath been seldome seene” with cracks of thunder that made the church “quake and stagger.” Hard upon this there appeared what to the congregation a great black dog (“an horrible shaped thing”). “This black dog… running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people.. passed between two persons, as they wee kneeling uppon their knees, and wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clean backward.” Passing another man in the congregation, the dog gave him a frightful burn, “that therewith he was presently drawn together and shrunk up, as it were a peece of lether scorched in hot fire; or as the mouth of a purse or bag, drawen togither with string.” This man survived, as did the church clerk, who was outside cleaning the gutter when a violent clap of thunder knocked him off his perch. In proof that the dog was not a hallucination, says Fleming, “there are remaining in the stones of the church, and likewise in the church door which are marvelously rented and torn, ye marks as it were of his claws or talans.”

The Black Dog visited the nearby town of Blythburgh on the same day, appearing upon an overhead beam in the church, then leaping down and killing two men and a boy, and burning someone’s hand. Both here and at Bungay his activities sound suspiciously like the effects of ball lightning, which is told entered a church during a tempest in about 1649, “killing many.” And indeed if we look in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577) we find the events of Bungay narrated without mention of the Dog. Fleming’s timing is slightly different than Holinshed’s, as is his list of casualties, while the way he describes the man shrunk up “like a peece of lether” as believed to be “yet alive” suggests that he had a local informant. To this informant we could owe the Black Dog: in other words, Fleming might be telling us what the people of Bungay thought of the event which to Holinshed and the outside world was simply a “strange and terrible tempest.”

But, it has to be said, Bungay’s apparition is not unique. A pamphlet entitled “The Wonders of this Windie Winter” had already appeared in 1613, telling of a Sunday in a Kent church during a tempest, when people were at evening prayer, there “broke into the Church a most ugly shape or the air like unto a broadened bull.” This apparition struck the minister’s left arm, leaving it blackened and paralyzed, and in the stampede that ensued, a miller was killed. After that, the bull vanished, taking with it part of the wall. All this, it is implied, came about because people would talk in church. Even setting aside bulls and Black Dogs, was there simply a good tale making the rounds within these communities?

Whatever the truth, a standard erected in 1933 concludes with its inscription:

All down the church in midst of fire
     The hellish monster flew;
And passing onwards to the quire
     He many people slew.

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Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.

– Black Elk, Heȟáka Sápa,


This art is made by the talented Karen Noles. 

Tibicena

Region of origin: Canary Islands

Demonic figures of Guanches mythology alternatively known as Tibicena and Guacanchas to inhabitants of different islands, they were thought to be children or attendants of Guayota, an evil god of darkness and volcanoes and would hunt humans and livestock found outside at night as well as serving as familiars and servants to witches. Though largely described as being large, black dogs, idols of Tibicenas have been found shaped as boar- or bear-like animals and even Yeti-like hominids. It’s believed the indigenous Guanches of pre-European colonization would make small sacrifices to these idols to protect themselves from the Tibicenas’ nocturnal hunts, but belief in them has persisted into modern times, with sightings being recorded as recently as the mid-1900s. Oddly, in the latter half of the century, there have continued to be sightings of mysterious large dogs exhibiting strange behavior or abilities, but these all having white fur.