Creatures of the Heat

Hello everyone, welcome to LukeLore. A quick deep dive into a folklore topic, where I share some of the stories from around the world that have piqued my interest. This episode, in honour of how too damn hot it has been, I wanted to look up sun and Summer folklore, or else from deserts and other hot areas. Since this is a show you listen to, there may be people who haven’t seen any pictures of me. My physique can best be described as yeti-like, and I am most certainly am not built for the heat. Give me the cold instead any day, I’ve not been doing well in this weather! Not that this is a show averse to warning you of the dangers of the outside. We’ve already done Lady Mid-Day in Episode 22: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Baba Yaga, but as a way to cope with weather utterly antithetical to my existence I present to you this episode an assortment of heat related stories. SECTION BREAK – A flaming great bird Cultures around the world have tales of a great bird so linked with fire and flames it can be a very part of the bird’s body. The analogue closest to me in European folklore being The Phoenix, although it appears to originate in Egypt if not from even further into the Middle East. This is hardly obscure folklore, I would expect basically everyone to know of a Phoenix in some way or other, if only from Harry Potter. Most well known as a symbol of death and rebirth, common depictions being that a Phoenix shall be consumed with flames at the end of its life for a new chick to be born from the ashes, the Phoenix is also inexorably linked with the sun. Middle Ages depictions even including a halo not as a symbol of divinity but to emphasise the sun, Christians liking the death and rebirth aspect of the creature helping it to spread and endure, although a Phoenix was viewed by Egyptians as a symbol of immortality. A difference in distinction that best suits the respective faiths involved. Aaaand… That’s kind of it, weirdly. Phoenix legends seem very matter of fact: There’s a phoenix, here’s what it does. They’re a powerful enduring symbol that has been with us for millennia, but they don’t seem to have a prominent tale about them. At least not an easily dug up one. But their very appropriate enduring nature has them pretty much everywhere across a wide range of cultures, and they are pretty pop culture relevant. SECTION BREAK – A new Yokai for Summer lunchtimes Okay, be forewarned on this one that we’re in Creepypasta territory here, similar to the origin of Slenderman. The Kunekune emerged around 2003 on message boards asking for made up scary stories, and it certainly has a lot of them based on it. There’s also a breed of pig with the name, which isn’t too important a detail but enjoy the cute pig pictures that pop up if you run your own searches on this Yokai. The first thing to take note of with the Kunekune is that they will only appear to people at a certain time, around lunchtime on a sunny Summer’s day, and that they will first appear at a distance. They are vaguely humanoid, at a glance appearing to be made of cloth or paper. They are most commonly spotted among fields and countryside appearing pure white in colour, while rarer sightings of urban Kunekune report them as pure black. There is a lot of counter-speculation that Kunekune sightings are all simply scarecrows spotted far enough away to be confusing. Supposed photographs especially get explained as this. Yet there is more to these stories. They are said to constantly be moving, even when there is no wind at all or in defiance of the direction in which the wind is blowing, which is how they got a name that means “to wiggle”. This unnatural movement is your warning that this is no mere scarecrow. While they appear at a distance, there are stories of people foolish enough to want a closer look. To get close to a Kunekune is supposed to mess with your mind, delirium and madness can follow from being in close proximity to one. To touch one is even worse, apparently resulting in death! Even staring at one for too long, no matter how far away, is supposed to be bad for you. As with all Yokai, it’s about knowing what to do to deal with one. They don’t appear to be aggressive at all, so just leave them alone and they will extend the same courtesy back. Don’t stare, don’t creep up for a closer look, and especially don’t attempt to play tag with one! While for all intents and purposes this is a recent addition to folklore, it remains an interesting one. Besides which, the spread of a story online doesn’t necessarily mean the tale originated as online fiction, only that this is how the story has reached the mainstream. There’s no confirmable creator for the Kunekune that I have seen for a lot of other creepypasta, so should a strange maybe-not-a scarecrow pop up around noon in the sun, maybe leave well alone and mind your own business just in case. SECTION BREAK – What came between man and angels Okay, this is a really interesting one I’ve been putting off for a while. The Djinn of the middle east are a pretty deep topic to really dig down into, so I’m going to keep this one as a high level overview for this episode. Their desert home and their fiery nature makes them a good fit for a hot Summer folklore list though. First up, the obvious disambiguation: They’re not genie’s looking to give you three wishes, or be a cute magical domestic housewife. They are a complicated race of beings usually set aside from that of human civilisation, and are incredibly powerful should you cross one. The most common origin for them in Arabic cultural folklore is that God made them after the angels but before creating humankind, a middle step between the divine and the mundane. They have a feel of Yokai or the European Otherworld, in that they are not a direct part of any simple Good vs Evil morality and are not safe for people to mess about with. They stand slightly aside from the world as we experience and understand it, although there are different classes of Djinn and the ifrīt are supposed to be malicious to the point of being evil by nature. They are spirits of the wind and flame. While they can take on the appearance of people or animals, especially to mess with unsuspecting humans, they are usually non-corporeal. Either manifesting as cold flame and black smoke, or just inhabiting objects or areas completely unseen to mortal eyes. An extremely common way to fall foul of a Djinn is to blunder into their territory. Abandoned buildings may be taken up in residence by one, and remote areas people don’t inhabit are especially risky. You may even manage to hurt a Djinn by accident, REALLY angering one. A common way to deal with an angry Djinn, or else just a bored one you had the poor luck to catch the attention of, is to find another Djinn that is willing to deal with the mess for you. This has a high risk of a harsh bargain, but there are also Djinn who you can throw yourself on the mercy of. You may get lucky and they like either you or humans in general, there’s also the chance they like the idea of messing with the other Djinn (although still avoid the efreet class, you’re just liable to double your Djinn problem that way). Even the most destructive Djinn likely still has an intellectual bent, if anything the fact they are so smart is part of what makes them so dangerous to deal with. They’re older than you, they’re wiser than you, and they’re naturally more cunning than you. The number one way to deal with a Djinn is to not mess with them. Again aligning them with European fairie creatures and Japanese Yokai in fundamental nature. Honestly? This is another huge area of folklore in which I have most definitely bitten off more than I can chew. I’ll need to do a lot of research before I can do the topic approaching anything like justice, so while it won’t be any time soon I will be coming back. But Djinn are far too interesting to not at least mention and a primer on them to spark the imagination feels right here. SECTION BREAK – In the sky are two wolves… This bit of mythology caught my eye as I was looking for sun related folklore, and it is how the Norse mythologised eclipses. The sun Goddess Sol (SOUL) is said to draw the sun across the sky, but at all times they are in conflict with the wolf Sköll (SKOHL). Sköll is constantly chasing Sol, and the eclipse is when the Goddess is nearly caught by the cosmic wolf in pursuit of her. Sköll has a brother called Hati (HAHT-ee) who chases the moon in a similar way to their sibling, chasing Sol’s counterpart the moon god Mani (MAH-nee), this mirrored pursuit across two sets of siblings representing lunar eclipses. Come Ragnarok, the cosmic wolves will finally defeat their chosen gods. The One Who Mocks and the One Who Hates, Skoll and Hati respectively, will finally and inevitably win this game as all things die in the end. There doesn’t seem to be any direct relation with Fenris, another wolf involved in Ragnarok, that I could see. But it’s suspicious that this many wolves are active in eating Norse Gods, so as with a lot of things in Norse mythology it cannot be ruled out that these wolves are Loki’s fault if not directly the God of Mischief’s children. But whatever their origin, and despite how ultimately dangerous they are doomed to be, cosmic wolves are pretty cool. Plus, Skoll The One Who Mocks wants to eat the sun, and I’ve definitely been on their side at times in the ongoing heatwaves. SECTION BREAK – An extra deadly desert cryptid Okay, this is one I had heard of but never actually read in to much until this episode. Mongolian Death Worms. Around a hundred years ago word began to spread West of these Gobi Desert dwelling monstrosities thanks to a book called On the Trail of Ancient Man by the explorer Roy Chapman Andrews. Andrews was no sensationalist chasing quick attention, he was a pioneer in Paleontology who went on to run the American Museum of Natural History, this was simply a case reporting back stories as he was coming across them. As he was traveling across Asia researching his book he began to encounter word of these creatures. Everyone local to the Gobi Desert had the utmost conviction that the Mongolian Death Worms are out there, although the people he was talking to had not claimed to have encountered any personally. There’s even a quote in On the Trail of Ancient Man from then Mongolian Prime Minister Damdinbazar about the appearance of the Worms: “It is shaped like a sausage about two feet long, has no head nor leg and it is so poisonous that merely to touch it means instant death. It lives in the most desolate parts of the Gobi Desert.” Having never found physical evidence for the Mongolian Death Worm, Andrews is on the record as not believing in them. Something about the story and cultural impact of the Worms made its mark on him though, he even returned to the subject in a later book called The New Conquest of Central Asia. So… We’ve had a brief description, let’s look at this cryptid a little closer. They’re said to inhabit the sands of the Gobi Desert, and as well is writhing around on the surface being a poison laden hazard they are supposed to be able to tunnel underground effortlessly. Think the creatures from the movie Tremors, only instead of being massive they’re small enough to miss coming for you and just brushing against them as they surface to attack is enough to kill. As if being so deadly poisonous to touch them is fatal wasn’t bad enough, they can reportedly also spit venom. The projectile venom being just as lethal as the contact poison, so if there’s skin contact with either there’s a corpse. Should you think you are succeeding to get away from a Mongolian Death Worm, keep going. Don’t turn back to gloat from rocks you ran up off the sand from, the Death Worm is more than equipped to get the last laugh. Searches for the Worms began in earnest in 1990s and have continued through to the current day. Well, searches by international cryptozoologists armed with cameras and other gadgets, locals do the opposite of searching for Mongolian Death Worms and try to avoid the chance of encountering them, which should probably be taken as an important warning. But that sort of thing just attracts foreign explorers with more enthusiasm than common sense. As yet no Mongolian Death Worms have been found living, dead, or fossilised. The lack of any remains is what had Andrews dismissing the stories, but given the fact that these are supposed to be highly localised sand dwelling invertebrates which double up as toxin factories - remains may just be hard to come by. The level of danger they represent may explain why no one has come back alive from searching for fresh specimens. The name alone of this cryptid is incredibly evocative, “Mongolian Death Worms”, and they’re pretty terrifying sounding. They definitely deserve more mainstream attention, I may go track down some of the programs made by people searching for them and get a little more info for my own satisfaction yet. SECTION BREAK That’s all for this episode. Anyone out there with more information on Djinn folklore absolutely hit me up! I will definitely be digging deeper on that topic, anything occupying a sideways otherworld always catches my eye.