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Grim Reapers around the globe: 7 creatures that say “Time’s up!”

Before we had civil lawsuits, and lawyers wanting to find someone to take the fall for all Life’s misfortunes, we had mythological creatures to take the blame and who couldn’t be subpoenaed.

This Halloween, in the interests of banishing our modern litigious society, perhaps we should consider reintroducing some of these ancient ghouls to replace the ambulance-chasing variety.

1) Banshee (Ireland)

A fairy woman — omens of death are nearly always women — who weeps and wails when someone is about to die. Usually appears as an old hag, but can be a beautiful woman of any age. Or a hooded crow or hare. Or a stoat. Or a weasel.

Evidently a creature that hedges its bets.

The ever-practical Scots have a version called the bean sìth, who makes herself useful by washing the blood-stained clothes or armour of the nearly dead.

2) Aswang (Philippines)

A generic term for witch/vampire/shapeshifter, etc, responsible for various human misfortunes, including but not limited to:

  • Grave robberies
  • Miscarriages
  • Kidnappings
  • Any mildly strange incidents reported in the local tabloids that would benefit from supernatural sensationalism.

Certain areas of the Philippines have a high prevalence of the neurological disorder dystonia; one theory is that this disease, with its characteristic involuntary muscle contractions, gave rise to the belief in the aswang.

3) Rusalka (Slavic mythology)

Another mythological, wily, conniving female; the unquiet spirit of, say, a jilted woman or unmarried mother who has committed suicide, or a drowned, unbaptized baby.

The rusalka lives at the bottom of a river, emerging in the middle of the night to dance and sing and thus lure unsuspecting males back to the river for a watery death.

Nothing to do with the unsuspecting males having one pint too many at the local hostelry and falling in the river on the way home, then.

4) Sihuanaba (Central America)

Seen from the back, she’s an attractive woman with long hair; from the front, it’s a horse. (No jokes about Sex and the City, please.) Another female creature that lures innocent men astray, this time to lose them in deep canyons.

All very Freudian.

5) Bäckahästen, or Brook Horse (Scandinavia)

A white horse, appearing near rivers. Not a good idea to catch a ride on this creature, because once you’re aboard, you can’t get off. The horse will jump in the river and you’ll drown.

But hey. At least this one isn’t a woman.

6) Hellhound (Europe)

Fierce black dog of super strength and speed, who often has the job of guarding entrances to the underworld, such as graveyards. Why this is mystical, I don’t know. There’s nothing mystical about a dog hanging around a place full of buried bones.

Its howl is an omen, or even cause, of death. Stare into its glowing red/yellow eyes three times or more and you will die, for sure. The mythology books don’t specify what you will die of, though.

Rabies, is my guess.

7) La Sayona (Venezuela)

A beautiful woman from the jungle, appearing to guys who are indulging in extra-curricular love activities, or even just idly contemplating having a bit on the side.

Depending on which story you believe, she either takes the errant man into the jungle to eat or mangle him, or she covers his nether regions with an eruption of boils that he has to explain away later to his wife.

“Look, I’d run out of toilet paper, OK? The only thing handy was poison ivy.”

At this point, the errant husband is probably wishing he’d met the kind of sayona that eats and mangles.


STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s Random Nomad, another crime writer!

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Image: The Banshee (Wiki Commons)


One response to “Grim Reapers around the globe: 7 creatures that say “Time’s up!”

  1. Sprite December 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Grim Reapers are skeletons; some wear nothing, but others wear black, hooded robes and carry scythes. These guys collect dead souls.

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