Region of origin: Surrey, England
First described in 1912 in Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder, insomuch as no physical description was provided, gnoles were strange aggressive creatures who occupied houses in desolate woods far away from human society where they hoarded gems, emeralds in particular. It was never made clear if the dwellings they inhabit were their own constructions, abandoned structures they came upon or acquired from a previous human homeowner through presumably nefarious means. It was known, however, that once a group of gnoles took up occupancy it was no longer safe for a human to venture onto the premises or the surrounding woods, where they hollowed out trees to use as observation posts. The gnoles would capture and horrifically torture anyone they caught before eating them. Margaret St. Clair expanded on Dunsany’s tale in her 1951 short story, The Man Who Sold Ropes To Gnoles and provided new details to their appearance, describing them as like a large, motile Jerusalem artichoke with multiple faceted eyes that they could remove and keep on a shelf. St. Clair’s gnoles were not without a capacity for communication and even hospitality, but are still driven by their baser instincts.
The gnoles would provide inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons race of gnolls, backwards engineered to be a compound of “gnome” and “troll,” but would go through multiple revisions before the game’s release where they became the humanoid hyena creatures they’re more commonly thought of as today.
Region of origin: Scottish Highlands
A fairy creature taking the form of a large black cat with a white patch on its chest. They were said to steal the souls of mortals who had recently died before they could be properly interred and sent on to the afterlife, resulting in people employing methods of discouragement and distraction, such as catnip, riddles and music to dance to, to keep them from the body before the funeral. During Samhain, saucers of milk would be left on the doorstep for cat sìth, and in return they would bless the house, cursing homes and livestock of those who neglected an offering. An alternative telling, some folklore claimed the cat sìth weren’t fairies but witches that had assumed an animal form; they would be able to do so eight times before being trapped in the cat’s form on the ninth; this possibly serving as the origin to the belief that cats had nine lives.
Originally posted on Tumblr on October 7, 2016
Region of origin: Java, Indonesia
The result of a black magic spell to gain material wealth, the person casting the spell is possessed by a demon and cursed to take on the form of a large boar, the Babi Ngepet. While a boar, they will wander by or into nearby homes at night, magically collecting money and jewelry as they pass until they can return home and safely resume their human form. It is thought the concept likely shares some origins with cèlèngan, a Javanese term associated with piggy banks.
Originally posted on Tumblr on September 12, 2016
Region of origin: Romania
Fairies who have an association with the summertime, the sânziană have become the Romanian namesake for both a yellow flower and a festival celebrated on the solstice. It is said on the evening before the festival, the fairies come out when the separation between mortal and ethereal realms is at its weakest and bless crops and people with boons of health and good luck as well as imbue the plants bearing their name with magical attributes, making them especially potent for love spells. Etymologically, the sânziană are tied to Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and nature a protector of women; if any men see the sânziană as they go about their work, they may be struck lame, deaf or mute or driven insane.
Originally posted on Tumblr on August 8, 2016
Region of origin: Thailand
One of a group of spirits that appear as young women who inhabit specific trees, the Nang ta-khian is tied to Hopea odorata, or, locally, ta-khian, trees. The spirits and the trees they inhabit are revered and, in some areas, shrines are created around the tree, and offerings such as food, small carvings and clothing are left for the spirits. In return she may provide luck and wealth (with a particular connection to lottery winnings). If the tree is to be cut down, a ceremony may be performed to let her know to move on to another home or else she will remain tied to the timber and anything made from it, bringing misfortune or otherwise haunting the structure, often heard wailing in the night. Like most spirits taking on an attractive female form, she is also said to lure men in with a beautiful or mournful song and steal their life-force.
Originally posted on Tumblr on June 29, 2016
Region of origin: Western Africa, possibly modern-day Liberia or Nigeria
A water deity (or class of deities) of the Vodoun religion, the Mami Wata is venerated throughout communities in Africa and brought with the African diaspora to the Caribbean islands and surrounding regions. They often appears as a mermaid or serpentine figure and are said to live in a kingdom under the ocean, but will also come on land in the guise of a normal human. A creature of dual natures, worshipers believe that she can grant them great luck, great wealth and assist with health issues such as fertility, but she can also bring destruction, water-related deaths and disease, with many ailments being blamed as a result of the Mami Wata’s displeasure. This duality is represented by followers in the use of white and red in their clothing and iconography.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 27, 2016
Region of origin: Thailand
“The Golden Fish,” Suvannamaccha is a daughter of the demon Ravana from versions of the Hindu epic Ramayana told in southeastern Asian countries. The monkey hero of the story, Hanuman, is sent by the god Rama to rescue his consort Sita after she was kidnapped by Ravana and kept prisoner on an island. To reach the island, Hanuman and his helpers began building a bridge but each day they would come and find their progress undone by Suvannamaccha and her fellow mermaids who had been sent by Ravana to hinder their progress. Instead of becoming angry, Hanuman began falling in love with his adversary and, eventually enticed her to stay and parlay, explaining why he was building the bridge. Learning the truth, Suvannamaccha reciprocated Hanuman’s love and ordered the other mermaids to return the rocks as well as assist in finishing the bridge. The two would have a son, Macchanu, who would go on to have his own adventures differing between versions of the Ramayana. In modern usages scrolls depicting Suvannamaccha are hung in Thailand as a good-luck charm.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 24, 2016