Tag Archives: Demon

Sleep Paralysis Demon

Folklore/ Text: Sleep Paralysis

SM: “Do you know what sleep paralysis is? It’s basically when your mind is awake in bed, but your body is still asleep. I used to get sleep paralysis a lot, and I would open my eyes and see a figure. Sometimes it would scream at me, and it was so scary because I thought it was real… Like someone was trying to attack me. To remedy this, my mom used to tell me “if you sleep in these certain positions, the sleep paralysis demon is going to get you!” But she would say this to combat the way I would sleep in positions that are bad for my body. I would always get sleep paralysis when I was sleeping pin-straight on my back or stomach. Legend has it that if you see a demon when you’re having sleep paralysis, the demon is coming back from hell to check on you… And now I still avoid these sleeping positions to this day, because I don’t want a visit from the sleep paralysis demon.”      

Explanation/ Context: Sleep paralysis is not incredibly common, but it’s something that is widely feared because of those who have experienced it. But the element that is folkloric about it is the alleged sighting of the ‘sleep paralysis demon.’ People who have endured this kind of paralysis almost always report seeing some kind of hideous, frightening, threatening figure. And its sightings date back to Why don’t people experience nice things during sleep paralysis?

Lilith

Background: Informant is a 19 year old, Jewish American college student from New Hampshire. They shared this story about their family and how it relates to their Jewish tradition and culture. The informant has been through Jewish education and experiences the holidays every year.

Informant: So, one really bizarre story is the story of Lillith. So, Lilith is rumored to be the first wife of Adam, and so it’s very controversial in Judiasm because Orthodox Jews follow what I’m about to share. So, Lillith escaped the Garden of Eden to gain independence so in some ways it’s been adopted by feminist Jews who see Lillith as regaining her independence. But, largely she’s seen as a sort of she-demon. So basically Lillith left the Garden of Eden and was not allowed back in because she was replaced with Eve. So we commonly know Adam’s partner to be Eve. So, she returns and is furious with men. So for this reason Orthodox Jews do not cut boys’ hair for an extended period of time because the idea is that in the night, if Lillith passes over and sees a child with short hair they see it as a man, so then Lillith will kill the baby boy. So, it’s this really intresting thing where she steals the children of Adam and Eve because she’s jealous and also a feminist twist. 

Reflection: This story was so intresting to me. As the informant told it and inserted some of their own opinions on it using a modern lens, I saw how folklore changes over time. This piece of folklore reflects people’s changing opinions on women, as Lillith is a woman who was demonized. Today, however, Jewish feminists have adopted the story as a story of a woman who they can look up to. It’s really compelling to see how folklore can change over time in it’s meaning while the content of the story is actually very much the same. 

Demon Baby of Hull House

Storyteller:

“Do you know about the demon baby of Hull House? Hull House was a settlement home developed by Jane Adams, the godmother of social work. And in 1902 a baby was born outside of Chicago, outside of wedlock, where it was born with horns and a tail, and cloven feet. Unable to keep the baby, they brought it to Hull House where it could be cared for and most importantly prayed for…but nothing could fix it. They kept it away as it started to become a draw. And so they kept that baby up in the attic where it wouldn’t bother anyone or be bothered by them. And it’s said that still today, you can see that baby up in the window…”

Background Info: The storyteller lives in Chicago and it is a story that buddies of the storyteller had been telling while living in the city.

Context: I was with my family and I was telling them that I had this project coming up and told them some of the stories people had told me for it. That spurred a conversation where everyone started sharing their pieces of folklore and this was one of them.

Thoughts: I was immediately captured by the title of this story. When the storyteller asked me if I had heard of a demon baby I was intrigued. The storyteller’s performance was captivating because the storyteller used a tone of voice that many use when telling creepy stories. I read up on the story after it was told and I discovered that some people refer to the baby as a “devil baby” and there are many different versions including an Italian version and a Jewish version which can be found here:

Addams, Jane. “The Devil-Baby at Hull House.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Oct. 1916, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/.

 

La Tulivieja – A Panamanian Demon/Monster

“The story is, there was this girl who was very beautiful. And she had a secret relationship with a guy in her town from which a she got pregnant and a little boy was born. Then she drowned the boy in the river to make up for her premarital relationship sin. After that, God punished her by making her the ugliest monster possible. Like, making her face like a colador (pasta strainer) where hair came out of the holes. And like her hands turned into claws, and her feet turned backwards. And she’s supposed to spend the rest of her life looking for her son in her river. The legend is that she still hounds the river looking for her son and she will take her beautiful form while sitting by it. Any noise will bring out the ugly monster, though.”

            According to the informant, this legend is so well known that is ofen reffered to in a common phrase that is used. Typically, when someone who is going out with/dating a woman suddendly discovers that she is not as charming as she once appeared, it is common to say “salio la tulivieja”, which translates to “the tulivieja emerged”. Because phrase and the meaning behind it are so popular, many young men are warned to make sure that the women they are interested in are not secretly tuliviejas.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. Jonathan claims that because the phrase that was derived from this story is so popular, most Panamanians are familiar with the story behind it, since knowledge of the tale is necessary for the phrase to be understood and used properly. Thus, if someone does not understand the phrase, they usually end up asking someone else to explain it to them, eventually causing the story to be told. This is how Jonathan himself learned the tale. Although it can really only be used by members of the male gender, Jonathan still finds the phrase entertaining and fun to use because it is such a silly way to tell a friend that he should stay away from the girl that he is interested in seeing.

Clearly, the tale itself is prominent within it is prominent within Panamanian culture. What makes it remarkable, however, is that it has changed into something more than just a story. It has now become an expression that is often to convey a generally understood idea. The fact that this was able to occur says something interesting about folklore in general. It reveals that folkloric pieces can still maintain their original essences, even when conveyed in a different form. Thus, because the original tale is still eventually being told, there should be no fear that the story is being lost.

Aswang

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


Informant: “This is like evil. So basically what it is, it’s like… It’s kind of like a shape-shifter. Like it takes on a human form during the day, and at night it takes on a monstrous form of either a bat, a bird, a rat, or something… Something that’s vicious, you know?”

Me: “Wait, did you say monster during the night? Or just and animal”

Informant: “A monstrous animal-like, animalistic… Yeah, not like a monster, it could be a bat, it could be a rat, uh… a bird… Some vicious creature. And in the day it take son this human form an it’s disguised. And what it does, is at night it feeds on human bodies. Or like, it wakes up humans in the middle of the night and they eat their flesh. And they kind of, they have this thing that they do where they feed human flesh to humans, so that they’re like manipulated.”

Me: “Does that turn them into Aswang as well?”

Informant: “Yeah, yeah. Yes.”

Me: “Ah, ok. So they like sneak into peoples’ houses?”

Informant: “Yeah, they sneak into peoples’, or they wake them up when they’re sleeping. I’m not sure if they actually turn them into Aswang, but they definitely feed on the humans. And they’re kind of like demonic, violent, evil creatures that you should be careful of. I don’t know if there’s any prevention, like… That you have to block your doors is all I know.”

Me: “But who do they target specifically?”

Informant: “Anyone.”

Me: “Anyone? So, like, how do you avoid them? You don’t know?”

Informant: “I don’t know how to avoid. Like, my grandma never told me. They just feed on anyone.”

Me: “Okay, but are they like, uncommon attacks?”

Informant: “I don’t know that part, just that they attack random people.”

Me: “And has she seen one?”

Informant: (shakes head) “I think it’s just a legend.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s grandma learned about these creatures through oral tradition, and the legend is not particular to any island or culture specifically in the Philippines. The informant also doesn’t believe the Aswang are real, especially because it’s known as a creature that comes in the middle of the night and eats your family. She believes if it were real, there would be some sort or prevention or protection methods against them. For the informant, the lesson of this legend would be to lock your doors at night and not go wandering around at midnight, lest something bad happen. All of the informant’s family members know about this legend and other popular ones as well, since it’s been around for a long time and is so widespread.

What seems to be the trend with legends, is that you can always pull a lesson or a message out of them once you are able to look past the creepy, scary stuff. In this case, the lesson could be something as simple as keeping your doors locked at night, or watching out for those who would try to hurt or take advantage of you.