Monthly Archives: April 2012

Ghouls

Today is my mom’s birthday. So first off I’m going to say this: happy birthday, Mom! You can disregard that. It’s not for you. Unless you’re my mom. Then it is.

Moving on!

Today’s lovely topic in the supernatural world is ghouls. Ghouls originated in Arabic legends. Besides being a really awful word to spell, “ghoul” came from the Arabic word ghul, which came from ghala, meaning “he seized” or “demon.”

Ghouls are undead creatures who first appear in One Thousand and One Nights. They feed on the flesh of corpses, but are also willing to kill for flesh. Ghouls tend to hang out in cemeteries, where there are plenty of corpses to feed on. They are also known to live in deserts, abandoned oases, old battlefields, or other remote places. That way, they can feed without being disturbed.

They prefer fresh meat, and will search for the recently deceased to feed on. It is a misconception, though, that they prefer to dig up corpses. They would rather kill the living so long as there is minimal risk involved.

Ghouls vaguely resemble who they were in life. They tend to be thin and muscular, with long arms and short legs. Their hands and feet end in sharp talons that are capable of cutting through most things. There are rows of razor sharp teeth that line their mouths, as well. Their skin is thick and can be anywhere from a sickly yellow to an ashy grey. They are often completely naked, but sometimes they can be seen sporting the tattered remains of the clothes they died in.

Cowardly by nature, ghouls tend to hunt in packs of three to twelve. At night, they will lure a child or sickly adult into the darkness and kill him/her by cutting his/her neck with its talons. If it can’t find a living victim, it will settle for a corpse.

When it is confronted, a ghoul will typically hiss and run away. If it is backed into a corner, though, it will fight back with its talons and teeth. Ghouls’ speed and agility make it hard to strike back. This also makes it hard to escape them on foot. Their senses have been heightened, as well. They can see in the dark, hear footsteps from several yards away, and smell living or dead flesh from a mile away. Ghouls are masters at stealth, and can move from shadow to shadow without being detected.

Arab folklore says ghouls are shape shifters who are able to transform into hyenas at will. God forbid someone is ever bitten by a ghoul, they will waste away in a few days because a ghouls bite is disease-ridden. At midnight, this individual will rise up as one of the undead ghouls. Ghouls are immune to pain, aging, extreme cold, drugs, toxins, or volatile gases. While they can be injured by blades or firearms, these weapons cannot kill a ghoul. They can even withstand small explosives.

Their major weakness is the sun. Since they spend most of their time out at night, the sunlight can disorient them enough to be killed by a human. They are also vulnerable to fire. In fact, the only way to kill a ghoul is to burn it to ashes without the hope of regeneration. It is recommended that you decapitate the ghoul before you burn it, though, and then scatter the ashes in the wind.

In the show Supernatural Sam and Dean come across a ghoul who has taken the place of their long lost brother. According to the show, ghouls can only be killed by decapitation or the destruction of their heads. They can also shape shift into the form of the last human they consumed.

If you want to protect yourself from ghouls just don’t hang out in cemeteries, and don’t be dumb. If you hear a strange noise in the night, don’t go looking for the source. Walk away.

Seven Deadly Sins

Even if you know nothing about the supernatural, there’s a very high chance that you know about the seven deadly sins. I learned about them when I was about 12, and I’ve been obsessed with the concept ever since. I know, it’s weird, but I find them so intriguing. Don’t judge me.

A Greek theologian called Evagrius of Pontus first made a list of eight offenses and wicked human passions: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride.

Later, in the late 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great reduced the list to seven: pride, envy, anger, sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust.

The seven deadly sins do appear in the Bible, but never as a list. They occur many times individually.

Dante Alighieri, a Catholic layman, wrote “The Divine Comedy,” which is actually three epic poems combined: “Inferno,” “Purgatorio,” and “Paradiso.” In “Purgatorio” Dante puts each of the sins on a level. The higher levels are closer to paradise, and lower levels are closer to hell. He organizes the sins based on their offenses against love.

The sins have influenced a lot of works other than “The Divine Comedy.” They are mentioned in the “Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer and “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe among others. Hollywood even took a stab at the sins in its thriller Seven.

There is still some variation in the exact names of the seven deadly sins. I’ve heard the individual sins called a few different sins, so I’m just going to explain them using the terms I learned.

Lust: Obsessive or excessive sexual thoughts and desires. Dante’s criterion was “excessive love of others,” thus putting love for God second. In Hell, the lustful are smothered in fire and brimstone.

 

Gluttony: The overindulgence and overconsumption of anything to the point of waste. In Christian religions, it is said to be a sin because of the excessive desire for food, which withholds food from the needy. In Hell, the gluttonous are force fed rats, toads, and snakes.

 

Greed: The excessive desire for material wealth. Avarice is another term that might be applied to this sin, but it is a term that can describe other forms of sin, as well. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, and treason. In Hell, the greedy are boiled in oil.

 

Sloth: Acedia and sadness have also been used for this sin. Acedia is defined as a spiritual apathy that discourages a person form fulfilling his/her religious work. Sadness is simply a feeling of discontent which causes unhappiness with one’s current situation. Now, though, sloth is described as pure laziness, indifference, and unwillingness to act or care. It is seen as being considerably less serious than the other sins. In Hell, the lazy are thrown into snake pits.

 

Wrath: Uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath is the only sin not associated with selfishness and self-interest. In Hell, the angry are dismembered alive.

 

Envy: Characterized by an insatiable desire for things that others have, which they perceive themselves to be lacking. Dante said envy is a “love of one’s own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs.” In Hell, the envious are put in freezing water.

 

Pride: Almost always considered the original and more severe of the seven deadly sins. It is characterized by a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments, and excessive love of self. Probably the most well-known example of pride is Lucifer. His pride caused him to fall from Heaven and transform into Satan. In Hell, the prideful are broken on a wheel.

 

In Supernatural, they tackle the subject of the seven deadly sins, as well. In the wake of opening the Gate to Hell, Sam and Dean are attacked by a group of demons who embody the seven sins. In the end, as always, Sam and Dean come out victorious and the demons are sent back to hell.

Changelings

I know I promised you a weekly video to go along with my blog post, but my camera broke last week. I literally have no idea what’s wrong with it, and I can’t take it to get fixed until after the semester is over. So the rest of my blog posts won’t contain a video, unfortunately.

Today, dear friend, I’m going to be telling you all about changelings. They’re actually quite terrifying like most of the other things I’ve been posting about. If you’ve seen the Angelina Jolie film Changeling you know what I’m talking about. I haven’t seen it, though, so I don’t know exactly what happens apart from a general overview.

Changelings are found in European folklore and a usually described as the offspring of a fairy, troll, or elf that has been left in the place of a human child. Usually, these legends are connected with fairies, but sometimes trolls or elves are involved, as well.

There are a few reasons why a fairy would trade its child in for a human baby. Apparently, fairy/troll/elf babies can be a bit on the ugly side, so they steal humans because they want a pretty child. Other theories are that they want the child to act as a servant, they want the love of a human child, or they just want a toy to play with. In some cases, fairies would show some compassion and take away a human baby that was being abused by his/her parents so that he/she might have a better life in the fairy world.

The theft of a human baby would always take place at night while everyone in the house was asleep. Most times, fairies would leave their own child in the place of the human child. Sometimes though, they would simply leave a piece of wood.

The parents of the human child usually didn’t even notice the switch. They just went about their normal lives until the characteristics of a changeling began to manifest themselves in the child: voracious appetite, malicious behavior, mood swings, or wisdom beyond his/her years.

In Irish folklore, left-handed people were thought to be changelings.

In Welsh folklore, the changeling starts out resembling the human child, but gradually becomes more unattractive, bad tempered, and starts to scream and bite. According to the Welsh, if you suspect that your child is a changeling, cook a full meal in an eggshell. I’m not exactly sure how that would work, and nothing really goes into detail about it. Apparently, though, the changeling will become incredibly confused at the meal and just disappear. The human child will appear in its place.

Some other methods of exposing the changeling for that it is are much more violent. Parents would put their children in the oven or torture them in the hopes of the fairy/troll/elf who made the switch coming back to take away its child and return the human baby.

A Scandinavian story warns against doing harm to the changeling child, though. It is said that a couple realized that their child had been switched with a changeling, but the mother refused to mistreat the child. Eventually, the father leaves the mother and runs into their true child. As it turns out, this child has been well cared for by the trolls as thanks for the good treatment of their changeling child. The human child explains that every mistreatment done to the changeling by the human parents is done to the human child by the fairies/trolls/elves.

The legend tends to blame the human parents for being too complacent and fawning over their child’s looks. The fairies/trolls/elves produced ugly children and wanted to punish the humans for focusing on physical appearance so much. An unbaptized child was more susceptible to being switched, as well.

There are a few methods of protecting your child from being switched with a changeling. Laying a steel object such as scissors or a knife in the cradle of an unbaptized baby was thought to ward off changelings.

It is possible that this legend stems from the misinterpretation of autism or birth defects in the Victorian era. There were various murder cases in the Victorian era that were the result of parents thinking that their child was, in fact, a changeling.

Supernatural  approaches the legend of changelings in its third season in “The Kids are Alright.” As always, the show alters the legend a little bit to fit in with their plot. In the episode, human children are switched with changelings. The switch doesn’t happen when they are babies, though. It takes place well into their childhood. These switches aren’t being made by a fairy/troll/elf, they are being made by an alpha changeling mother. While the human mother is sleeping, the changeling children drink the synovial fluid found in her joints until she eventually wastes away. According to Supernatural, the only way to kill a changeling is to burn it.

I don’t know about you, but I find changelings pretty terrifying. That might just be my mama bear instincts, though. What do you think?