Tuesday, 25. March 2008
The Obakemono Project
This squat creature, with his grotesque, potato-like head and straw-coat covered body is said to live on a certain mountain pass in Kumamoto prefecture.
Apparently one evening an old woman was walking along this road with her grandson, when she turned to the boy and said, "A long time ago, a youkai called Aburasumashi lived here." But speak of the devil, no sooner had she said this than the very same little goblin ambled out of the undergrowth and informed the pair that he was still there!
The abura in this spectre's name means oil, and the sumashi refers to his unchanging facial expression, which always looks prim and unruffled. Aburasumashi and many other obake are said to be the transformed spirits of those who stole lamp oil, which in the days before electricity was a very valuable substance. Perhaps spirits are also drawn to oil because of their association with strange fires, and maybe they too need fuel to burn.
also known as: Bai Ze
The Hakutaku or Bai Ze (as he is known in China) appears as a bovine creature with nine eyes and six horns, placed in sets of three and two on both his flanks and his man-like face.
| A wise and holy animal, known for his capacity for human speech, the Bai Ze made his most famous appearance to Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor of China, who found him on top of a mountain near the Eastern Sea. To this man the beast dictated the characteristics and abilities of all the 11,520 types of demons, monsters, shapeshifters, and peculiar spirits in the world. Huang Di published his drawings and writings based on this encounter in a fascinating tome, the "Bai Ze Guide", but alas the book is thought to no longer exist. |
In Japan Hakutaku is said to ward off calamity and disease, and his image is used as a charm and deified at temples.
Yōkai, or youkai, also known as obake or bakemono, are the folk monsters of Japan. They constitute a hundreds-strong menagerie of bizarre and varied creatures. They are magical, nebulous beings that exist in some strange state halfway between spirit and flesh, and are often the physical manifestations of extreme mental states, or the monstrous alteration of some ordinary object, animal, or person. They are just as varied in temperament as they are in form, and range from strange but personable goblins, to harmless pranksters that love scaring people, to dangerous ghouls that feast on human flesh
For some people, nothing in life is worse than being laughed at, and for them the kerakeraonna must be the most terrifying youkai of all. Usually her victims hear her cackling first, before they wheel around, startled, only to meet the apparition of an enormous woman looming in the distance, her derisive laughter filling the whole sky. When they try to run, the haunting sound follows them everywhere they go.
The Obakemono Project
The Gaijin's Guide to the Fantastic Folk Monsters of Japan.
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