Besta-fera

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Besta-fera

Region of origin: Brazil

With roots in stories brought over by Portuguese colonizers, the Besta-fera, often translated as Bestial Beast, was an centaur-like evil spirit who rode the earth on nights when the moon was full. On these nights it was said to ride out of hell and collect the souls of the damn, galloping loudly through towns until it ended its route in a graveyard, returning with its bounty to the underworld. The Besta-fera was usually thought to never directly threaten mortals, but hearing or seeing it could incite temporary fear or madness. In some versions it was said to be accompanied by a pack of hounds, and may itself have a wolf-like head; in other versions it is missing its head entirely. There is some belief the Besta-fera may be an incarnation of the Devil itself, and it has some connotation with the beast mentioned in Revelations. The term has also come to be used to describe particularly ill-tempered or fearsome people.

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Mara

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Mara

Region of origin: Scandinavian counties

An evil spirit that plants itself on a sleeping person’s chest, feeding off their life-force while “riding” them, causing bad dreams and anxiety along with the sensation of being pinned down. Signs of a mara attack in the night include waking still feeling weary and drained, and tangled hair known as martovor or mare-locks. Mara may also attack livestock and other animals, especially horses, and even trees with particularly tangled branches are said to be victims of the mara. There was some belief that mara were distinct creatures or demons, but other origins labeled them as humans with familial ties to curses or witchcraft, whose spirits would leave their bodies at night. While traveling in this way, mara could take the form of fog, sand or will-o’-wisps that allowed them enter through impossibly small cracks and sneak into their victims’ homes. Mara are primarily female; it was thought a pregnant woman who practiced svartkonst, a form of witchcraft used to ease labor pains, would result in the children being born as mara if female or a werewolf, or varulv, if male. Rarely some male children would be born as mara or possess features of both, known as a marulv.

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Daimajin

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Daimajin

Region of origin: Japan

Literally “Giant Demon God”, Daimajin is a massive stone statue inhabited by the spirit of a vanquished demon king, Arakatsuma, who has been kept dormant by the prayers of the inhabitants of a nearby village, his struggles against his imprisonment manifesting as occasional earthquakes. When compelled by the villagers or the statue is put under physical assault, the spirit can animate the statue and wreak havoc throughout the region, often destroying the forces of some evil warlord but also proving to not be particularly discriminate about what or who gets trampled once awakened, although it seems to show some leniency towards children or the pure of heart. After his purpose has been served, the statue will return to normal there are instances of Arakatsuma turning into a hitodama-like ball of fire before flying away, but he seems to remain bound to the statue. Despite being a carved idol, Daimajin is shown to capable of bleeding even in its dormant stage and some promotional material shows it possessing a strange array of organs and nerves.

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Rakshasa

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Rakshasa

Region of origin: India

Alternatively a class of demons or nature spirits in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the male Rakshasa and female Rakshasi are not as a species considered universally evil but are primarily known for their bloodthirsty behavior and tendency to eat human flesh. They were believed to have been accidentally created by Brahma in his sleep, and immediately attacked the god as he slept, resulting in their banishment to the Earth. The Rakshasa were depicted as large, bestial humanoids with long curling fangs and horns, but as they grew in power and age they may develop extra heads and arms, such as their king Ravana, who had ten heads and twenty arms. The Rakshasa were powerful warriors skilled in forms of armed combat and magics such as illusion and shapeshifting. They were often used in stories as threats for a hero to overcome and armies of Rakshasa were said to feast on their victims on the battlefield as they pushed forward, but some were depicted as heroic and aided the various protagonists in vanquishing whatever evil they faced.

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Dip

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Dip

Region of origin: Catalonia

A black dog myth from the Catalan region, but unlike other stories of black dogs who serve as death omens but rarely directly interact with the people who see them, the dip is a vampiric beast in the employ of the Devil, descending in packs from the mountains and attacking anyone they come across to drink their blood. The dip has become particularly associated the town of Pratdip, coincidentally named but etymologically distinct, where the dog is featured on their coat of arms and an annual celebration, the Pratdip Llegendari, is held just before the weekend of All Saints, featuring stories and games symbolically hunting and rounding up the creatures.

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Belphegor

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Belphegor

Region of origin: The Kingdom of Moab

One of the seven princes of Hell as described in de Plancy’s nineteenth-century Dictionnaire Infernal, Belphegor was said to represent the deadly sin of sloth. He did this through granting an individual who made a pact with him, often after appearing to them as a beautiful woman, some clever thought or invention that would result in them gaining great wealth from as little effort as possible, becoming lazy and degenerate as a result. The name Belphegor is derived from Ba’al-Pe’or, or “Lord of Mount Pe’or”, and he was believed to be the patron deity of the nearby Moabites. He became associated with debauchery and orgies, and, with one taken meaning of “Pe’or” being “opening”, flatulence and feces resulting in him often being depicted as sitting on a commode. In more modern tales, Belphegor was sent to earth by Satan to learn if marital love in fact existed, and while he never succeeded in confirming this he did become enamored with Paris during his travels.

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Matagot

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Matagot

Region of origin: Provence, France

The matagot or mandragot is a household spirit or familiar that can take on the form of various animals but is most associated with black cats. There are a flurry of regional variations regarding names,  methods of acquisitions and specific behaviors, but largely they are associated with luck and wealth, bringing coins each day to owners who keep them well fed. It was said they could be found one night a year (specifically believed to be the eve of the feast of St. John on June 23rd in the Béarn region), and could be lured to a crossroads with a plump hen, at which point you could capture it in a sack, though you must return to your home silently and without looking back. If provided for, the cat would leave in the night and fetch the money for its owner; believed to be demonic spirits or fae creatures they were able to slip between realms to reach otherwise inaccessible places. A well-kept matagot is a boon to a household, but when poorly-treated or otherwise injured or malnourished may turn on their masters, attacking them or causing them to be stricken with agonizing pain, and even the behaved ones are thought to come at the cost of your soul, associating owners with witchcraft and sorcerers. The story of Puss In Boots was thought to be inspired by matagots, and the mandrake root takes its name from “mandragot”, believing the figure-shaped plant has some relation to spirit’s magic or may be themselves some early stage of the creature’s growth.

[Sources referenced: X | X | X ]