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Posts Tagged ‘alp’

Sorry folks, last weeks post got interrupted by a little ol’ thing called Hurricane Isaac.  What a gods bedamned blow hard. He just would not take a hint and leave.  However, I’ve now officially flown a kite in a hurricane.  The bucket list grows ever smaller.

Now I thought about doing another storm based critter, like the tengu and their bag of winds.  However, the sun is shining and hot today, and that always makes me think of one thing.  Vampires.  Buckle in kiddies, let’s talk about those supernatural leeches, those over grown ticks, the venerable suck heads, the vampires.

We’ve got to start with definitions, because blood is a powerful force and form of sustenance in a lot of mythologies.  Lots of things drink blood, from gods to sphinxes, to the little alp when he can’t get his preferred meal.  To be considered a vampire you have to be pretty much defined by your hunger, by the one thing that drives you.  To be a vampire you don’t have to just like or need blood, you have to be consumed by it.

And that’s just a little sad.  It’s like being impressed by an alcoholic’s need for booze.  Vampires, especially the earlier you go back in the mythos, are wretchedly simple creatures.   Oh sure, they have died and come back, and that’s neato, but they spend all their immortal nights chasing after the red stuff, and it doesn’t give them time for much else.  There is some evidence that the older they got, the more self control they learned, but even Dracula got all hot and bothered by a paper cut.  Even I don’t go nutso over a spilled drink, and I’m a proper lush.   Okay… I’ll wince if it’s scotch… but that’s not my only defining feature damn it!

And most vampires probably don’t live all that long.  This whole Anne Rice thing of a vampire protecting his progeny and teaching them the glorious rites of immortal life is a damn new thing.  In ninety percent of stories, vampires crawl their way out of their own coffins and are left to their own devices.  Sometimes it’s not even another vampire that makes a baby vamp.  Sometimes it’s a curse or the wrong funeral rites being performed, it depends on the culture.  However, a lot of newly risen vamps spend the first night running around like savage dogs, and there is no daddy vamp to tell them ‘sun hot, sun bad’.   They get to find that out at dawn, and maybe they get to cover and maybe they don’t, but by now the villagers are probably looking for them anyway.  It’s a hard knock unlife.

The idea of undead blood suckers is neigh onto universal, like a lot of the big beasties I focus on. Like most things, vampires in different regions can have a variety of powers. We can put this down to cultural differences, or maybe different strains or bloodlines of vampires, or a few other things.   Sometimes the vampires can turn into animals, or mist.  Sometimes they can hypnotize, sometimes not.  Sometimes the vampire is dead to the world, pun intended, during daylight and sometimes it is perfectly awake, just trapped indoors.  There is no one formula.

What’s more interesting though is the variety of weaknesses the vampires get.  I mean, dragons vary from region to region, but you still pretty much need a hell of a sword or lance to actually deal with one.  Vampires get a doozy of restrictions, some that make sense and some that are outright whacky.  The idea that vampires can’t willingly cross running water, and have to be ferried or carried across, is a common one.  Several authors have used the idea of vampires being restricted in cities because of underground water pipes.   Garlic isn’t the only herb that keeps them at bay, everything from myrrh to lavender has been used, and the ever useful wolves bane.  Silver usually isn’t in the vampire myths, unless it’s a silver cross, but it shows up occasionally.  My favorites are the various cultures that have the vampires as extremely o.c.d.  In these legends you can distract a vampire by throwing beans or rice at it, and it is compelled to gather them all up and count them.  This is weird, not only because the idea of a savage animal in ragged grave cloths being compelled to neaten and count is amusing, but also because a form of this shows up in China and Romania, separate cultures with a very similar myth.

And of course killing a vampire is only as hard as driving a wooden stake through a breastbone… which is actually pretty hard.   Tip for you all, go up under the ribcage with a longer stake, the heart is still there.  The fastest way to a vamp’s heart is through the stomach, and Up.   Oh, and some cultures require a rowan stake, or more commonly one of ash.  Got to love the ever helpful vamp and snake killing ash tree.   It is wise to bury the corpse at a crossroads, and removing the head is just common sense. In case some fool removes the stake and the creature rises again.   For the totally obsessive (show of hands people) burn head and body separately and scatter the ashes into different bodies of water.  That recipe would keep Freddy bloody Kruger from making another movie, much less your average vampire.

Now, the origins of vampires are many and varied.  Quite frankly, the idea of vampires having one single origin may be something fairly modern, because obsession with vampires has grown startling since Victorian times.  Why?  Because the Victorians gave them the sexy.  They turned vampires into seducers more than any other culture, and the act of feeding into something down right dirty.  Oh, they weren’t the only ones, but they were the ones that shaped the culture for us.  In a lot of cultures, humans are food and just food, and it is doubtful how many vampires would spare the precious blood on fueling a hard-on anyway.

Likewise, the connection between vampire and church has grown in modern times.  Though faith usually repelled vampires in most cultures, it was the faith of the person more than the symbol of any one faith.   Now there are a few takes on vampires that have Judas as the first earthly vampire, punished by God to be a night-walking bloodsucker because of his betrayal.  The same God who sent his own kid to get hammered?  Why yes, yes it was, but no one ever accused him of constancy.  Lilith actually makes a better candidate for mother of vampires, but hell there are a couple of versions of the first vampires being of alien origin, and only later mixing their blood with human stock.

The most common scientific explanation for vampire myths may be one of the least satisfying ever.  The current theory is that primitive people saw the movements and swellings caused by rigor and thought it was a sign of the body coming back to life.  Because primitive equals beyond stupid in most of these theories.   Blood was a part because of the way blood will leak from the mouth and eyes of a non-formaldehyde filled corpse.  Twitching bleeding body equals bloodthirsty night fiend the world over just doesn’t quite satisfy me, not a bit, but hey, I try to look at all the angles.

I could bring up Vlad Tepish here or Elizabeth Bathory, but I won’t.  Just being a power hungry psycho doesn’t make you a vampire, and bathing in virgin blood may be one person’s search for immortality, but is probably just another one’s kink.  I also consider the ‘energy vampire’ that has become so popular with goth kids to be a separate phenomena.  Sure, there are creatures that feed off pure energy, but that would be another category. And just because you suck all the life out of the party kid, don’t make you a vampire per say.

So where to end this post?  Ah, I know!  Holy water jello shots all around!  First one whose stomach melts goes out in the sun!

 

Writing Posts-

More inventive vampire killing strategies.  Wooden bullets are done to death.  How but a wood shot claymore?

Vampire blood sports.  Humans are sick cookies, you know they are going to toss two starved vamps in a cage at some point and see who wins.

Diabetic vampires.

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For those of you who missed yesterday’s post, I’m starting a new novel.  Anyone who wants to read a rough first chapter should definitely check out the post.  It involves a federal organization that delivers and protects dreams, like the post office only much, much more fun.  With that on my mind, I thought I’d do a quick but appropriate post on one of my favorite little dream related creatures.
Now most cultures have a variety of creatures that cause nighttime distress, manipulate or deliver bad dreams, or just like to snack on sleeping people.  We discussed one of those not too long ago, the alp of German folklore.  (Hmm, wonder why I’m mentioning him again.  Really, go read yesterday’s post for a giggle.)   However, there are only a handful of standard creatures that help alleviate bad dreams.  Most traditional remedies involve chasing off or killing the creature causing your problems, or getting a friendly healer or shaman to prepare you an amulet for protection and good dreams.   The dreamcatcher concept is common in more than just the Native American cultures.
Surely though, if there are beasties and ghoulies that bring nightmares, there must be something out there that does the opposite?  Most supernatural critters exist in some form of whacky ecosystem, with predators and prey, checks and balances.  Well my favorite has always been the baku, both for it’s effectiveness and it’s outright ferocious adorableness.
The baku started as a Chinese beastie, but for reasons we’ll see has become almost wholly associated with Japan over the centuries.  There are some reports of them keeping pestilence and general evil at bay, but their most consistent trait is the ability to eat nightmares and even sometimes good dreams.   It gobbles them up whole cloth, plucking them from the sleeper’s mind and going about on their way.
And that’s it.   No other special abilities.  No shapeshifting, wish granting, or even the ability to speak.  It’s just a beastie that slurps down your subconcious neurosis.  However it has been a mainstay of Japanese culture for hundreds of years, and Chinese even longer.  Like many Asian beasts, it is described as ‘chimerical’ by folklorists of the west.  Mostly because every beast in those cultures is, or more importantly their descriptions are always hodgepodge.  Even when describing their dragons, most oriental cultures try to liken the features to the nearest regular animal they know.  So a dragon has the head of a camel, the scales of a fish, the talons of an eagle.  Ect.   It isn’t really a chimera like we think, those are just handy descriptions.
The baku is described as having the trunk of an elephant, the paws of a tiger, an ox tail and often small horns or tusks.  It’s a small little guy though.  Maybe half the height of a man, and that elephant trunk is more than adept at rooting out your nasty dreams for it’s breakfast.
Which brings us to the odd/interesting moment.  For the last thirty years, thanks to some innovative anime, the baku has become directly associated with the tapir.  To the point that the tapir is often called baku, and baku is often called tapir.  The guys with their wee trunks and snuffling behavior have hit a huge popularity level now that they have been linked to the mythology.
And I want to stress, before the story changes, that this is a brand new phenomena.  Tapir were just not linked to baku originally.  Not till later, when tapir where named mo and mahk in China because of the beasts resemblance to the myth.   For gods sake, one of the anime that helped make this happen was the magna based off Pokemon. The drowsy, a tapir like mud-dwelling critter, is also a dream-eater.  This wasn’t the first link between tapir and the more traditional, more ferocious, tiger-pawed baku, but it is one of the most prevalent. (Yes, I know these sad facts, I also know the turtles in Mario Bros. were based on kappa, and that’s where King Koopa comes from.  Mythology is Everywhere!)
So, much like the changes in the tengu, we are going to see a major paradigm shift in both popularity, and origin stories of the baku in the next fifty to a hundred years.  Which may only fascinate me, but it fascinates me wholly.  Yes yes, I know I’m crazy, but hey it’s my bizarre perspective that is supposed to make these blogs fun.  I give it five years before a tapir logo ends up on some kind of sleep aid drug.   Since the buggers are Not suited to being raised as pets, even by those wealthy enough to afford some eccentric help with their bad night’s sleep.

Writing Prompts
Baku rental agency.  The things look like vacuum cleaners already, might as well have door-to-door salesmen.
Dream plagues. What happens if a certain bad dream spreads from more than one mind?  Is a single baku enough for a village?
Chimerical practice.  Try and describe a regular animal in chimerical terms.  For instance the elephant, with a nose like a snake and huge floppy ears like a great dog.  It can be real fun to see how confusion quickly sets in when you rely on poor analogy.

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