Straight Outta Swamp-ton

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 is the final part of a 2020 Trilogy loosely themed around water, a topic dear to my heart as the water is up there with trees when it comes to nature based peril. We’re going to take the definitely only metaphorical dive into Miscellaneous Waterways. Part one was the oceans, part two was lakes. Part three is swamps, bogs, marshes, and otherwise still trying to kill you smaller natural water features. I actually did a bog witch on the Halloween special! It’s such a common trope I don’t expect to ever struggle to find more though, it’s a solid trope! Anyway, on with the Miscellaneous Waterways show covering terrible things you’ll find not specifically in the ocean and lakes. Always remember the GSG PSA on Nature folks. Stay away from it! Especially trees and water. Or you’ll be sorry. SECTION BREAK The Strangle Happy Bukavac I feel like I’m cheating a little with this Slavic monster as they can also be seen reported around lakes, but pools and swamps may also contain one. They kind of get around. Signs of a Bukavac occupying a nearby waterway are similar to that of a Chupacabra, only with a different murder MO. The dead animals that show a nearby resident Bukavac turn up strangled. Not even fed upon, which links with multiple references to a Bukavac as “demonic”, it may not even need to feed so instead is existing on a diet of mischief and malice. Being described as a large lizard with three pairs of legs, also frequently depicted with a serious looking set of horns plus some nasty looking teeth to back them up, that the Bukavac chooses to strangle its chosen victims is a worrying insight into its motivation.

It wants to feel the life slowly drain from its chosen casualty. It’s a chonkin great demon lizard! It doesn’t need to strangle things to death. It’s not a constrictor hunter, it’s a devilish looking crocodile monster with bonus pointy bits. Yet goring to death or simply biting for the finish isn’t what the Bukavac wants. It’s not a hunter at all from the look of it, not appearing to feed from the corpses it creates. This thing is killing for fun.

Whenever I see something referred to as a “demon”, I tend to dismiss that out of hand as a default Christianised stamp of disapproval and dig deeper to see what kind of creature this may be. But this creature is sadistic, and may not require mortal sustenance given how it leaves strangled to death victims around for others to find and be horrified at. The Bukavac well and truly deserves its label as demonic.

Very much an ambush predator, found lurking just under the water, this is one of the nastiest feeling ones from around the world. Not that Jenny Greenteeth or an angry Kappa are somehow nice in comparison, but just like bloody kelpies something about the Bukavac got under my skin. It’s setting off my folklore instincts as one of the really bad ones. Something that in turn is also fascinating to me, so I may be back to look at the Bukavac in further detail at some point. SECTION BREAK – The Dartmoor Witch Well, I wanted a bog witch for this episode, and I sure got one! On Dart Moor, at Vixen Tor. This is the legend of Vixiana the bog witch. Now, the name Vixiana may bring to mind pleasant images of a foxy lady.

Don’t allow your mind to drift there. It would end about as well hugging the bath ghost from the Shining. Vixiana is somewhat of a classical hag, with a few twists. 6 foot tall and thin as a rake, with two teeth to her name and supposedly always stinking rather strongly of sheep urine. The sheep urine thing being quite impressive, by the way, as every living thing including the sheep would flee her presence as she would carry a massive gnarled gorse stick to club animals with for fun.

Although pretty imposing in size and club happy, Vixiana wasn’t especially a physical threat to people (although I wouldn’t really fancy my chances). Where she became dangerous would be with the horrible, and if all goes right for her fatal, prank with her magic. Perched on the top of Vixen Tor the cantankerous witch would watch for travellers straying too close to her territory. Once spotting a poor fool getting too close, Vixiana would raise fog from the moor to blind the traveller and trick them with magic to wander ever closer to the base of the Tor. Neither the magic itself nor the gorse club are what will end the life of a traveller though, the witch played a different game.

At the base of Vixen Tor is a deceptively deep patch of bog where seemingly solid ground will swallow you up in filthy waters too thick to swim in, and too thin to find purchase upon.

Once bewitched to their doom Vixiana banishes her fogs so the sinking traveller can see what’s happening to them. The disgusting bog waters that seemed like solid ground only seconds above swallowing them up, with the cackling hag pointing down at them from her perch revelling in their bad end. Giving her poor victims full clarity right at the end, so they can die not in confusion but in a terror born of full clarity.

Eventually a local folk hero took it upon themselves to kill the vile witch in her own trap. Oakey the Moorman let himself be caught up in Vixiana’s tricks up to the next to no point of return, using his knowledge of the moors to avoid the final steps into the bog then putting on a magic ring to turn invisible and hide.

The witch waited a moment, still listening for the splashing and struggles that mean it’s time to banish the magical fog and gloat in her victim’s final moments. Yet all was quiet…

Confused, and her brutal club at the ready in case a final bit of encouragement was needed to have her fun, she banished her fogs. Only there was nothing there. No one about to die to point and laugh at. No traveller to be seen at the edge of the lethal bog needing a quick whack on the head to get them in there.

Oakey, free of the magic mists and unable to be seen, circled Vixen Tor and climbed up behind the witch to give her a shove off her perch and into her own trap.

Screaming and cursing, only not for long before she was under, the bog witch was dragged down to be the freshest bones on top of her pile of trophies under the treacherous stagnant waters at the foot of her favourite Tor.

Some stories suggest her terrible body odor nearly saved Vixiana, as the man of the moors physically struggled to get close enough to push her because of it!

Vixen Tor is there to see for yourself on Dartmoor, although it is barred from public access. Years of issues with trespassers leading to a crackdown starting in 2003, the giant granite mound being cordoned off is controversial and still nets protests as people want to visit the giant mound of granite. Now, this may just be some mean Tory landlord hoarding natural wonders for themselves. But this is an ex-witch, after all! She was famously defeated! What are the odds that the ghost of Vixiana lurks there even now, waiting to lure in travellers and have the bog swallow them up alive to smother on mosses and brackish water. Surely all these anti-trespassing measures aren’t a public front for supernatural danger to try and keep people safe, right? SECTION BREAK – The Guardian Beast of the Billabongs The Australian Bunyip is an odd one to discuss. The word Bunyip now is a shorthand for a devil, or evil spirit, or imposter. Something with a distinctive identity very different from the original aboriginal myths which I’m looking towards today. The name can vary by region, but the appearance even more so. What ties original Bunyip stories together is that they are a large aquatic creature that is black in colour, and they make their homes of the assorted swamps and billabongs of the continent. The descriptions can vary wildly from there covering assorted big cat style creatures that get weirder and vaguer, all the way up to a giant starfish in at least one region. The descriptions could be down to regional variations, but could also relate to the Bunyip as a shapeshifter. I honestly need to look deeper in to that!

The key aspects to watch are where you are, swamp or billabong, the colour of the creature being dark black, large in size, and an aquatic nature. If nothing else, better safe than sorry.

Obviously, it can kill you. It’s from Australia. The regular wildlife is on Hard Mode, so I don’t know why you would expect the paranormal fauna to be safe to hug. But the Bunyip is a natural force and important guardian, not a rampaging monster, so as such needs treating with respect.

There are plenty of stories originating in pre-contact times that warn of the dangers of messing with a Bunyip, as you’re very likely to get cursed for your troubles. In one such story, two brothers thought it would be fun to steal away a Bunyip calf.

It was not fun.

Their whole village got washed away in floods, and for good measure the two offenders got transformed into black swans.

This seems to track with other aboriginal Australian folklore I’ve encountered, people and the creatures themselves have rules they’re expected to follow or else risk being punished by spirits. The Yara-Ma-Yha-Who from the Australia LukeLore episode, for example, would be turned to stone by tree spirits if they broke their rules for feeding on humans. The main takeaway here is that as scary as a Bunyip may be, they belong in these swamplands that you should be staying away from anyway, and as fearsome as they may seem just leave them well alone. This is an incredibly shallow overview of the Bunyip, so expect me to return to them some day. Possibly on future Australia based outings, but if not there then on later instalments of Misc Waterways. These assorted billabong guardians, and the later usage of their name, has me very curious for a deeper dive. SECTION BREAK – A fearsome cave guardian in Africa When I set out to do a miscellaneous waterways episode, I didn’t really consider underwater caves. Then, as they popped up in research, of COURSE they are terrifying! They don’t even need monsters! This one definitely has a monster, though.

This is the Grootslang of Africa.

While there are stories of this elephant sized, and in some depictions including aspects of elephants, serpent turning up in rivers to terrorise people; it seems to have a distinct and well known home in a well know deep cave at Richtersveld, South Africa. The “Bottomless Hole” or “Wonder Pit” is an incredibly sized water filled cavern network that connects to the sea 40 miles away.

This is an immediate hard pass for me, even before you add a giant aquatic serpent. 40 miles of dark water, deep beneath the earth? No thank you!

Now let’s make it worse, and discuss who calls the “Wonder Pit” home. The ginormous elephantine serpent the Grootslang has a no nonsense approach to humans. You’re dead. Whether from the caves it calls home or the warm lakes and rivers it may holiday across to from there, the Grootslang is a killer.

Should the obvious choice of staying the hell away from it no longer be an option, you have one way out. The Grootslang is something of a Western style dragon in nature, for they covet precious jewels. A sufficient offering of them will buy you leave to take your chances another day, as the happy hoarder will take a sufficient offering home. None of your dumb human shiny metals, neither. The Grootslang is discerning, and it needs to be glistening gems to satiate their greed. Their home in the Richtersveld Bottomless Hole is said to be naturally filled with diamonds, and is likely to be part of why the Grootslang calls these caverns their own. Good luck going down their trying to steal from the Grootslang though, even if they aren’t currently in residence. Their long, convoluted underwater caverns leading to the sea sound terrifying even when they’re monsterless. Then, should they not be monsterless? The Grootslang will kill people for no more crime than existing in its path. I dread to think what it does to thieves… SECTION BREAK – Lincolnshire’s angry guardian of the fans Back to Britain again, for what has been quite a globe trotting episode. And back to the shows old friends the fae, by the looks of this one! Tiddy Mun is described as an old man with an overabundance of long tangled white hair, who is no taller than a three year old child. Alarm bells at this point should already be ringing for regular listeners. Tiddy Mun is also well known for his laughter which sounds like a peewit bird’s call, and the region also has folklore of Tiddy Folk who are implike mischief makers who are generally known as benevolent, so long as you don’t mess with them. So, on the topic of not messing with the nature spirits of the British Isles, let’s talk about when people tried to drain Lincolnshire fenlands to make more farmland in the 1650s, messing with the marsh Tiddy Mun calls home.

While a far from uncommon practice, and in fact a key one in wiping out malaria in Britain along with pushing the agricultural revolution that in turn supported the industrial revolution, this particular Lincolnshire project wasn’t handled too well. As the fenlands were drained in a haphazard way, they led to some unintended areas drying up and some others flooding in alarming ways.

One of the flooded areas then being Tiddy Mun’s marsh. Enraged by their home being upended by incompetent humans, Tiddy Mun cursed the nearby villages with a deadly pestilence.

In doing this, Tiddy Mun lashing out hurt a lot of people not directly responsible for the floods. The unfortunate villagers being collateral damage when some idiots elsewhere screwed up and enraged a fairy creature. The villagers understood this though, and understood the nature of Tiddy Mun. Knowing he is not without mercy, and it being the fault of their rulers in the first place for ruining the local fens, the villagers went to the overflowing marsh Tiddy Mun called home and chanted his name. Begging for help, relief from the curse Tiddy Mun laid and help with the floods that are also destroying the villages. Hearing the cries of the villagers, and their chanting of his name, Tiddy Mun relented. His signature peewit bird sounding laugh rang out and the floods receded along with his pestilence curse. Once again, the moral of the story is not to mess with the fair folk. Even the nice ones. SECTION BREAK That’s all for this episode. And, a Trilogy of Aquatic Terror is done with for now. A lot of fun to make though, so give me at least half a year and I may well circle around to another Oceans/Lakes/Others series. Something like The Bunyip though you may see elsewhere, with a return to Australia or even an episode of their own depending on how much I can find for them. I’m definitely very open to tips and leads, if not whole stories, you may have on the folklore lurking below the water’s surface waiting for unwary humans to blunder too close.

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