Tag Archives: Mythology

Tiyanak

Context:

K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is Filipino. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent lots of time with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines.

Context of this piece was in a Filipino restaurant where K started talking about her Filipino heritage. We asked her more questions about her Lolo and what he would tell her as a child.

Text:

K: “Well my Lolo would tell me about Tiyanaks all the time as a kid. He said they were somewhat of an evil spirit. The way they would trick people into coming close to them was to hide their true form and look like a baby. So they would transform into a baby, my Lolo said it was usually a newborn baby not really like a toddler or anything, and that they would cry. They used their cries as a trap to get people to hold and comfort them.

Me: “What would they do once they were held?”

K: “It would go back to looking like it did before and then they would attack the person holding them. That’s why my Lolo always reminded me about them whenever I’d go back to the Philippines to see family. He was always so scared I’d be too nice and pick up a baby like that, even though I always told him I wouldn’t. I was too much of a scaredy cat to ever pick up something like that after all my Lolo had warned me about.”

Analysis:

There are various stories and tales about the origins of tiyanaks. The Mandaya people of Mindanao claim that the tiyanak is the spirit of a child whose mother died before giving birth. It is said that this is why it was “born in the ground”, and now takes the form of a helpless baby seeking comfort. Due to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 16th century, the tiyanak myth was integrated into Catholicism. The tiyanak from the Catholic version were made up supposedly of the souls of infants that died before being baptized. In the modern-day Philippines, the way a tiyanak is thought to be created from aborted fetuses that returned from death to seek revenge on those who deprived them from living a long lasting life. It is also told by people in the Philippines that the reason a Tiyanak becomes an evil spirit is because it cannot go to the afterlife because of not having a name. This is why it is assumed that it takes the form of others as it never had a true sense of identity. This supposedly causes them to be Earth-bound creatures which wander around searching for someone to give them names before attacking them.

Aswangs

Context:

K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is Filipino. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent lots of time with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines.

Context of this piece was in a Filipino restaurant where K started talking about her Filipino heritage. We asked her more questions about her Lolo and Lola, and what stories  she had heard from them.

Text:

K: “This one creature scared me the most as a kid, I think. It’s just because it was so easy for it to change into anything and well my Lola would always tell the scariest stories to me. Aswangs are shapeshifters, they basically transform into another creature. They aren’t a universal monster type thing you know, but it’s used to name shape-shifting monsters.”

Me: “What kind of monster is a shapeshifting one?

K: “I’m sure there’s more but I can only remember my Lola telling me about two. I remember the vampire and the manananggal”

Me: “What’s the second one? I have no idea how to pronounce it or what it could be”

K: “Its somewhat like a vampire but it eats organs and takes a different shape than a vampire would. My Lola said in its human form it looked like a pale woman with beautiful hair that was so long it almost reached her knees! But it was something way different at night, it would separate itself from the waist up, hide its body, and then grow wings to look for prey……yeah, this one really left me scared”

Analysis:

Aswangs seem to be a part of Filipino folklore and the name itself is used as an umbrella-term for creatures that have the ability to morph into other beings. The aswangs can be labelled into different categories; vampires, weredogs, witches (Kulams), viscera suckers (aka manananggals), and ghouls. Vampires are a common part of western folklore but in contrast to the vampires from western cultures, the vampire aswang consumes blood through their tongues and not through fangs. In addition to sharing similar concepts of folklore with other cultures, the notion of a werewolf exists in Europe but as the Philippines has no indigenous wolf species, the term weredog was created in place. Weredogs are said to be aswangs as they shed their human form in the daytime for an animalistic one at night. In the Filipino folklore, not all witches can be considered aswangs. Only witches that have the capabilities of certain aswangs already can become one. Ghoul aswangs are typically considered humanoids that feast on freshly buried corpses. The viscera suckers, as said in the text, transform into winged creatures that are made up of half of their original body and hunt at night.

You can see more about Aswangs here at,  Ratcliff LK. Filipino Folklore. The Journal of American folklore. 1949;62(245):259-289. doi:10.2307/537202

https://uosc.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01USC_INST/273cgt/cdi_crossref_primary_10_2307_537202

Duendes

Context:

J is a 23-year-old first generation Salvadorian-American  and resides in Southern California. Her dad would travel throughout Latin America when he was young, and she recalls the stories he would tell her as a child. Many of these stories were ones that her father had heard from others during his travels, so she enjoys spreading the stories to others.

The context of this piece was during a shift at a community center where the employees were asked about stories they had heard from their cultures or other for an upcoming cultural heritage event.

Text:

J: “So from what I know they’re like small little creatures. Kinda like gnome look-alikes.”

Me: “Are they bad creatures or are they a good omen?”

J: “Okay this is from like stories what my dad would tell us, like stories that they’re actually like bad creatures and like they live in Latin America because I haven’t heard of them here in the U.S. Like for example they would try to steal babies or a little kid’s soul. They’ll like snatch it and they’ll take it to like some river”

Me: “What happens after that?”

J: “You’d have to go to the river to claim it back. That’s what I know about them. They’re small and like a lot of little kids have said that ‘oh I’m playing with so and so’ and then the parents will be like ‘well who’s so and so?’ and the kid will be like ‘oh my little friend.’ Like little kids are the ones that can see them. For example, when a baby is crying like a lot a lot its because like the soul got snatched by the duende and the parents has to go to the like, to a river and like reclaim it. I don’t know how they reclaim it or what they have to say but that’s pretty much how they get it back.”

Analysis:

Duendes are cryptids that are said to inhabit places such as Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Iberia, and Latin America. These mythical creatures are characterized differently with each culture that talks about them. Some describe Duendes as kind, helpful creatures that guide lost children while stories such as the one J gave depict them as mischievous and evil creatures that harm children. Although the characteristics of the Duendes change, their general description is consistent through ought as they are described as small, swift creatures with exaggerated facial features. I also found it interesting how J heard about the lore of the Duendes. Although she nor her father had “first-hand experiences” with the Duendes, they heard it through other people. The spread of lore in this case was through storytelling, this is so important because it continues to spread lore from one or multiple regions and distributes them across the globe

Nuwa repairs Heaven

Context:

H is a parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 

Text: 

H: So basically, Nüwa is the goddess in China, well not China but in heaven. She’s a goddess in heaven but she was supposed to keep an eye on Earth. But in very old ancient times, somehow the heaven collapsed because the four pillars that hold heaven collapsed and the Earth was not covered because heaven collapsed. And fire went out of control and water flooded the earth and in order to patch the heaven, Nüwa had to do something. So she melted five different colored stones to patch up the sky and she also cut off the legs of a great turtle. I guess the turtle is also a god, you know, and set those legs as pillars to support the sky. And she also helped to put out the fire and drain the flood, you know the water, and basically she helped save the Earth.

Me: Hmm Okay.

Reflection: 

I think this story is really interesting because it is about a feminine figure who has a lot of power in the world of gods, which is not something very typical in Western culture. It is also interesting because I do not remember this specific goddess, but I do remember that these pillars are part of other tales in Chinese mythology that surround Sun Wukong, a character in Chinese mythology that I learned a lot about as a child. This story also seems to build on the myths that have turtles in which a city or island is on the turtle’s back, although this story is using the turtle’s legs rather than its back. According to other sources, Nuwa also created humans which is why she is so protective of them and rushes to patch up heaven in order to prevent the fall out onto Earth. In some versions of this story, the five different colored stones that were used to patch the heavens explain why the clouds can be multicolored in our sky. 

Greenberg, ByMike. “Who Is the Chinese Goddess Nuwa?” MythologySource, 5 July 2021, https://mythologysource.com/nuwa-chinese-goddess/. 

Saci perrere

CONTEXT:

C is a 26-year-old Brazilian immigrant from Sao Paolo and another city. He lived in areas like Utah and some other states before moving to Austin, TX .

The context of this piece was at a Brazilian barber shop after customers were asked if there were any folklore they remembered. I had a Portuguese-speaking friend with me who translated the conversation/story for me after the fact.

TEXT:

“Go ahead and tell her, well it was this myth from the indigenous people. I’m not sure if it came from the Amazon or some other region of Brazil. But the myth goes that I tribe once tortured a young fawn and because there is a white Angel watching or somewhere in the story I don’t remember where, then an indigenous deity that was the protector of young female animals came out and created a trickster. He was known to set farm animals loose, spill milk, Tease cattle dogs, cursed chickens and spoil their eggs. What everyone remembers though and still says they hear sometimes today; is this bird he transforms into that sings a sad end haunting song. the only way to escape this prankster apparently, is to run across the stream, he doesn’t hurt you but a lot of tribes when asked about why they moved, say they crossed the river to escape a Saci Perrere that was haunting them on their old land.”

ANALYSIS:

This myth in Brazilian culture, emblematizes an interesting aspect of the culture which is known as “tipos” and gives a flair from one of Latino America’s largest African demographics in Brazil. In this myth, indigeneity of Brazil takes on an African representation in this mythical deity’s imagery. The Saci Perrere’s standing as a trickster figure could be construed as more racialized than most. Although, cited as an indigenous diety here, all of the genie like imagery depicts an African prankster. Unfortunately, what I mentioned about racial identities and tipos plays into this myth in a negative way. Many emphasize that the cap that the magical genie is known to smell bad and that in fact this is a very dangerous deity. As time passes too, this reading can also take on a life of its own in today’s stereotypes that derived from the days of slavery that immigrant populations and especially diasporic African communities cannot swim because of migrating overseas and lack of resources. Otherwise, this myth carries on a waning value of indigenous Brazil, to preserve the wildlife and nature, but also tells a bit about gender roles too by imbuing the value of protecting the feminine.