Region of origin: Finland
An oceanic deity of Finnish mythology, Iku-Turso is heavily associated with evil, considered a god of war and a bringer of pestilence, literally fathering all diseases into existence with another god known alternatively as Loviatar or Louhi*, daughter of the queen of the Finnish underworld and a god of death and disease in her own right. He is thought to live in the depths of the waters to the far north, near a frozen, evil land called Pohjola; in the epic poem the Kalevala, he was summoned by Louhi to guard the Sampo, a vaguely-defined magical artifact, before being beaten by the demigod hero Väinämöinen and his crew and is banished back to the bottom of the sea and told to never return.
*In some versions of the stories the two names seem to be used synonymously, others identify them as separate figures.
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Region of origin: China
The pixiu is a hybrid creature renowned for its ferocity and capability of flying between the earth and the heavens. It was used to ward off evil spirits and disease and is primarily associated with hoarding and protecting wealth. It has various origins, but the elements they all seem to share is that after some transgression the beast (sometimes formerly a person) is cursed to eat only gold, silver and jewels and then has its anus sealed up to prevent it from expelling anything it consumes, allowing the wealth to accumulate. Depictions of the pixiu are often used in architecture and feng shui to help bring wealth and safety to a household, and are usually kept in pairs known as Tiān lù (the male, shown with one antler) and Bìxié (a female with two antlers).
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Region of origin: Venezuela
A vengeful spirit, la Sayona is said to attack men who have been or are considering being unfaithful to their wives. Her story has numerous variations, but many state that she was told her husband had been cheating on her with her own mother (in most versions, this was a lie told by another man trying to break up the marriage), and in a blinding rage she set her house on fire with the husband and their child sleeping inside before going after the mother with a machete. As the mother died, she cursed the woman to forever atone as a guardian of women whose husbands committed or were tempted by adultery. She would appear on the side of the road or near the edges of forests to the men who had been marked and seduce them, leading them away before revealing animal-like or skeletal features and either violently dismembering their genitals or afflicting them with telltale rashes and boils, or in some cases the men were simply never seen again. She is considered a more violent counterpart to la Llorona, the weeping woman.
Region of origin: Japan
Living near shrines in Japan’s more isolated forests, waira are thought to be toads who lived long enough to magically become a yokai, taking on a more bovine appearance with single scythe-like claws tipping their legs. With names derived from the word kowai, or “frightening,” they function alongside the otoroshi to safeguard the shrines they inhabit, scaring away wicked individuals who might try and enter, using their flat bodies and coloration to stay camouflaged against the forest floor to make up for their slow speed. Their claws, however intimidating, are primarily used to dig up and pin down food, feeding on moles and other small rodents.
Region of origin: Thaton, Myanmar
The manussiha, literally a compound word meaning “man-lion”, was a guardian creature with the upper body of a man and the split lower haunches of two lions. It was said that every time a child was born inside the palace of the golden lands of Suvarnabhumi, believed in Myanmar to exist near the modern-day city of Thaton, demons would rise from the sea and besiege the city to kidnap and eat the child. This continued until Buddhist monks Sona and Uttara arrived as the queen was giving birth, and the two monks created the manussiha, monstrous and twice the size of the attacking demons, to scare them off and protect the city. Since then, the image of the manussiha has since been used to ward off danger, and statues of the creature are placed at the four corners of some Buddhist shrines and stupas facing outward for similar protections. They are also known by the Sanskrit or Pali word narasimha, also meaning man-lion, but as this term is alternatively used for an avatar of Vishnu some people not wishing to conflate the god with these monsters will use the word rakkhasimha, or “demon-lion”, instead.
Region of orgin: Japan
Large, furry beasts that functions as the guardian of Shinto holy sites, otoroshi perch themselves atop the torii gates that lead in to the temples and shrines. Despite its bulk, the otoroshi is a master of stealth, and will remain unseen until they descend onto their victims from above, attacking and devouring the wicked or profane who attempted to cross the torii’s threshold onto the sacred lands and supplementing their usual diet of small birds or animals that alight upon the tops of their gates.
Originally posted on Tumblr on August 6, 2016
Region of origin: Japan
With suspected ties to the Hindu Makara and the orca, the shachihoko is a giant tiger-carp said to have control over the weather, specifically the summoning of rain. Statues of them are placed on buildings and temples to function as a guardian against fire damage.
Originally posted on Tumblr on July 25, 2016