FOLKLORE

Ghosts, Demons and Genies

The monsters of Supernatural, Season 2, Episodes 19-22 include a jinni and acheri.

Are you part of the 45% of the population who believes in ghosts?

Are you part of the 45% of the population who believes in ghosts?

S2E19: “Folsom Prison Blues”

Monster: Ghost

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: How can you tell if a ghost is around? “The clock stopped, the flickering lights, cold spot — I mean, he did everything but yell, ‘Boo,’” Dean says.

What it does: This ghost causes its victims to have a heart attack. Maybe this isn’t so farfetched. A 2012 YouGov poll found that 45% of respondents believe in ghosts, and about a third think that ghosts can harm or otherwise interact with the living.

How to defeat it: You know the drill: The all-powerful salt can dispel it, but burn her bones to get rid of it for good.

Jinn are mentioned in the Quran — in fact, Allah created them to worship Him

Jinn are mentioned in the Quran — in fact, Allah created them to worship Him

S2E20: “What Is and What Should Never Be”

Monster: Jinni (or as Dean says, “a frickin’ genie”). No one can seem to agree on the spelling: The plural is, alternately, jinn, jinns, djinn or djinns. I guess it’s like Hanukkah/Chanukah.

Where it’s from: the Middle East

Description: “My God, Barbara Eden was hot, wasn’t she?” Typical Dean line. Jinn can change shape at will. This one prefers to appear as a man with a shaved head and tattoos all over his body.

Jinn are supernatural tricksters from Arabian mythology that are below angels and devils in the hierarchy. They’re creatures of air or flame who dwell in inanimate objects. They delight in punishing humans for any harm done. If you know the right procedure, you can force a jinni to do your bidding.

Jinn are actually mentioned in the Quran. As this verse attests, they were created before mankind:

Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire. (Quran 15:26-27)

What’s a bit surprising is that Allah (as God is known to Muslims) created them to worship Him:

“I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Quran 51:56)

Jinn, or genies as most Americans know them, are powerful creatures who can change their shape and love to trick humans

Jinn, or genies as most Americans know them, are powerful creatures who can change their shape and love to trick humans

There are five types of jinn, according to Alif the Unseen:

  1. Marids: They’re the most powerful jinn, described as “the classic genies of folklore, often portrayed as barrel-chested men with booming voices.” They’re associated with water.

  2. Effrits: These fiery creatures possess spectacular magical powers and are quite cunning. In the Quran, King Solomon gained control over a tribe of effrits, who performed various tasks for him.

  3. Ghouls: Zombie-like, these undead creatures haunt graveyards and prey on human flesh.

  4. Sila: Most often portrayed as female, these talented shapeshifters are known to seduce their victims and are the most intelligent type of jinni.

  5. Vetalas: Vampiric creatures that possess human corpses, they can see the future, gain insight into the past and read thoughts.

What it does: The jinni has created an alternate world, where the Winchester boys’ mom wasn't attacked by a demon. Sam’s a sporty wuss studying law and is engaged to Jessica. And Dean gets to mow the lawn!

You can make a jinni do your bidding — but be warned: He’s not gonna like it!

You can make a jinni do your bidding — but be warned: He’s not gonna like it!

He’s also scored a dream girlfriend, prompting him to ask, “How’d I end up with such a cool chick?” His girlfriend is so freakin’ cool she’s got a wicked sense of humor. She replies, “I’ve just got low standards.”

There are hints that all is not as it should be, namely visions of a grimy girl in a dowdy dress.

If it all seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. The jinni can alter reality, shaping the past, present or future as it sees fit. The catch to this tempting alternate reality is that the Winchesters aren’t hunters, so all the cases they’ve solved never happened, and all those people weren’t saved.

“Why do I have to be some kind of hero?” Dean wants to know. “Why do we have to sacrifice everything?”

This jinni doesn't actually grant you a wish; it only makes you think it has: You're really tied up somewhere as it feeds upon your blood, slowly draining your life away.

How to defeat it: A silver knife dipped in lamb’s blood. Perhaps it has something to do with the most gruesome of God’s plagues during the time of Moses. Yahweh (the name God went by in the Old Testament) wanted to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. So he sent a variety of plagues. But turning water into blood, frogs, lice, wild animals and flies, diseased livestock, boils, horrific hail, locusts and darkness for three days still wasn’t enough for Pharaoh to give up his free labor. So Yahweh decided He’d kill every Egyptian’s first-born son. So the Angel of Death knew which houses to pass over (hence Passover, get it?), the Israelites were told to smear lamb’s blood on the thresholds of their doors:

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)

If you don’t have a sacrificial lamb handy, we can personally attest to this efficacy of this protective chant.

The acheri casts a shadow of death upon sleeping children so they can suffer a long, painful illness as it did

The acheri casts a shadow of death upon sleeping children so they can suffer a long, painful illness as it did

S2E21: “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One”

Monster: Acheri

Where it’s from: North America

Description: There’s a demon that disguises itself as a little girl. She’s an acheri, the ghost of a girl who died a horrible, drawn-out death, often from sickness but sometimes the victim of abuse and murder. The monster comes from the folklore of the Chippewa tribe of North America. It returns from the spirit world to live in the hills and mountaintops, flying through the valleys at night to bring a plague of pestilence to sleeping children. No wonder kids get sick so much.

Its daytime guise is that of a frail, gray-skinned girl who’s so pitiful looking you just can’t help but feel sorry for her. But its true form is a hideous monster with a skeletal frame, demonic red eyes and long clawed fingers.

What it does: The acheri suffered a long, painful death, and it wants to inflict that same misery upon others. It doesn’t even need to touch children to pass on its trademark fatal respiratory disease — its shadow merely needs to pass over its victims.

The more lives it claims, the stronger the acheri becomes.

The acheri suffered a long, painful death, and it wants to inflict that same misery upon others.

In this episode, the psychic 23-year-olds all smell sulfur when they awake in the ghost town of Cold Oak, South Dakota, supposedly the most haunted town in the United States. The Yellow-Eyed Demon has gathered the “best and brightest” and wants soldiers in a demon war to bring on the apocalypse. Oops — he really just wants one soldier. A leader. So he’s set up this Hunger Games-like competition. The kids must off each other until only one is left standing.

We meet Lily, a new psychic who kills whoever she touches, including her girlfriend. She tries to leave…and ends up hanging in a noose from the rickety windmill, killed by the acheri.

Ol’ Yellow Eyes says he’s rooting for Sammy. In a high-def dream, he shows Sam the night his mom died. The demon stood over the crib, cut itself and bled into Sam’s mouth. “Better than mother’s milk,” he says. Eww.

How to defeat it: Salt, not surprisingly, is once again the miracle cure. But when a young woman named Ava breaks the protective salt barrier, she lets in the acheri, which tears open a hole in Andy’s chest.

Acheri are also vulnerable to the color red. Amulets, clothing and ribbons of red act as a ward against a visit from this evil demon. Parents would weave red necklaces for their children to wear for protection from the illness the acheri spreads.

Ava, who can control demons, declares herself the “undefeated heavyweight champ” and attempts to kill Sam. But superstrong Jake snaps her neck. She’s undefeated no more. Yet good old’ Sam can't bring himself to kill Jake — and is literally stabbed in the back. And…dies?! Thing is, there are like 18 more seasons, so I’m not too worried.

Being attacked by a demon is no fun at all

Being attacked by a demon is no fun at all

S2E22: “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two”

Monster: Demon

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: They’re perversions of nature, though the ones on Supernatural tend towards hot chicks for some reason.

What it does: Demonic omens include cattle deaths and lightning storms.

In this episode, Dean turns out to be a big softie after all; he’s willing to make a huge sacrifice to get Sam back.

Demons can’t resurrect people unless a pact is made. “I know, red tape,” the demon says.

He wants to make a deal with a demon with the trusty crossroads pact we covered here. He exchanges his soul after one more year of life for Sam to come back from the dead. If he tries to welch out of the deal, Sam will turn back to “rotten meat” and drop dead.

You’ve got to be careful, though: How sure are you that the Sam you brought back is 100% the old one? the Yellow-Eyed Demon asks.

Supernatural  likes its demons to be hot chicks, but most of the time they’re freaks of nature like these fellows

Supernatural likes its demons to be hot chicks, but most of the time they’re freaks of nature like these fellows

How to defeat it: If you’re not sure if someone’s possessed by a demon, make them do a shot of holy water. That’s what they make Ellen do. (They’re nice enough to follow it up with a shot of whiskey.)

Also consider the trusty Devil’s Trap. This one is supersized, constructed of iron lines (e.g., railways) and frontier churches built by Sam Colt, the guy who made that monster-killing gun. It’s all to protect a Devil’s Gate, “a damn door to Hell.”

Well, the gate opens, but the good news is that Daddy Winchester escapes Hell and battles the demon. Dean shoots it with the Colt, it dies, and their dad glows and disappears in a poof of smoke. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t head up to Heaven.

The bad news? The hunters have unleashed 100 to 200 demons. “The war has just begun.” Gulp. –Wally

Ghosts, Werewolves and Necromancy

The monsters of Supernatural, Season 2, Episodes 16-18: the Poltergeist curse, how to turn into a werewolf and rituals for summoning spirits.

More than four in 10 Americans believe in ghosts. Do  you ?

More than four in 10 Americans believe in ghosts. Do you?

S2E16: “Roadkill”

Monster: Ghost

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: A ghosts is the spiritual remains of a human who’s dead. They often appear much like the person they once were, though typically stripped of color and substance.

A perhaps surprisingly high number of people believe in ghosts: 42% of Americans, for instance, according to a 2013 Harris poll.

Apparently, there are eight different types of ghosts, as described by Roger Clarke in Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof.

You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness.
— Dean Winchester, to his brother, Sam

This episode deals with the spirit of Jacob Greely, who haunts the road where he was killed on the anniversary of his death.

We learn that spirits are like wounded animals, lost, in pain. They remain because of their remains — or unfinished business, Sam says. Jacob is trapped in a loop, replaying the same tragedy over and over.

What it does: This one speaks through the radio, disappears in cloud of smoke and kills an innocent person in punishment.  

How to defeat it: Salt, again. “In most cultures, salt’s a symbol of purity, so it repels impure and unnatural things,” Sam says. “Same reason you throw it over your shoulder.”

So the boys are off to dig up another corpse and salt and burn it. They need a new hobby.

But there’s another option: Get the ghost to accept its fate and let go.

Fun fact: It’s an old country custom to plant a tree on a grave, Sam exclaims.

“You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness,” Dean replies.

When a woman from Chesterville, Illinois spoke out against the conservative views of the Amish and Mennonite faith, she was accused of witchcraft and found dead. The townsfolk planted a tree over her grave to trap her spirit inside and prevent her from taking revenge, according to Mysterious Heartland.

Her ghost is said to haunt the area.

 

Lycanthropy, the fancy word for turning into a werewolf, happens during the full moon

Lycanthropy, the fancy word for turning into a werewolf, happens during the full moon

S2E17: “Heart”

Monster: Werewolf

Where it’s from: Many parts of the world, particularly Europe

Description: “I’m sorry, man, but what about a human by day, a freak animal killing machine by moonlight don’t you understand? I mean, werewolves are badass,” Dean says.

The ones on Supernatural tend to keep their human form (maybe for budgetary concerns) — just with more hair, longer nails and sharper teeth.

In some cultures, individuals born during a new moon or suffering from epilepsy were considered likely to be werewolves, according to an Imgur post.

That’s a good question. Have you been bitten by a werewolf lately? Eaten wolf brains? Made a deal with the Devil?

That’s a good question. Have you been bitten by a werewolf lately? Eaten wolf brains? Made a deal with the Devil?

There are various means to become a werewolf:

  • Getting bitten by a werewolf

  • Making a pact with the Devil

  • Suffering from a family curse

  • Drinking water from a wolf’s pawprint

  • Eating wolf brains

  • Wearing a wolfskin

What it does: On the week leading up to full moon, the werewolf mauls people to death, removing their heart. Then the werewolf wakes up as a human again, not remembering anything that happened the night before.

“Like a really hot Incredible Hulk?” Dean wants to know.

The connection between lycanthropy and the full moon goes back to the ancient Greeks, according to Werewolves.com:

They noticed the way that the weak gravitational pull of the moon affected the ocean tides and figured that since the human brain contains moisture that the moon could also screw up someone’s mind in the same way, which would cause savage feelings to come forth. The “civilized man” might be gradually transformed by the pull of the moon into a raging, irrational creature — a lunatic. Many of the well-known Greek scholars, such as Aristotle and Hippocrates, agreed with this theory. Then taking in account one of Greece’s moon goddesses, Selene, was often portrayed as a wild and unpredictable woman that would dance unrestrained in the woods, the Greeks felt that they had further proof the moon made people wild and crazed.

Turns out they were on to something. A study performed at the Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital in Sydney, Australia stated that some of its emergency patients admitted with very violent and dangerous disturbances were similar to werewolf behavior. And a quarter of those happened during a full moon — double the number for the other phases of the moon, according to Leonie Calver, a clinical research nurse in toxicology.

This fellow won’t even remember this in the morning

This fellow won’t even remember this in the morning

How to defeat it: Tie them up — you can’t let them go on an all-you-can-eat buffet, as Dean says.

Lycanthropy might be cured if you can kill the werewolf who bit you. You can sever the bloodline. So posits Daddy Winchester’s theory.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t pan out. So a silver bullet to the heart it is.
 

Necromancy, which comes from the words for “dead divination,” is a fun, if dangerous, pastime

Necromancy, which comes from the words for “dead divination,” is a fun, if dangerous, pastime

S2E18: “Hollywood Babylon”

Monster: Spirits raised from the dead

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Certain movie productions are said to be cursed or haunted.

As if the movie  Poltergeist  wasn’t scary enough — it’s also said to be cursed, with some of its stars suffering untimely deaths

As if the movie Poltergeist wasn’t scary enough — it’s also said to be cursed, with some of its stars suffering untimely deaths

There are some freak deaths associated with the Poltergeist series, for example, including one of the stars being strangled by her ex and the little girl who played Carol Anne succumbing to a sudden illness.

And there’s a famous shot in Three Men and a Baby in which you can make out an image of a young boy…who supposedly is a ghost. (It did give me the chills when I first saw it.)

Three Men and a Baby …and the ghost of a boy?!

Three Men and a Baby…and the ghost of a boy?!

In this ep, studio executives fake the death of a crewman to drum up publicity.

But then a black and white ghost lures a jerky producer up the scaffolding, puts a noose around his neck and throws him down to his death. It seems connected to a starlet from the ’30s. She was used by a studio exec and hanged herself from the rafters.

Then a ghost from the ’60s of an electrician who died on set caused the same thing to happen to a producer — he was sucked into a giant fan that chopped him up like a blender.

What it does: Turns out a screenwriter named Walter is pissed at the people who ruined his movie. He’s using a necromantic summoning ritual to call forth vengeful spirits.

You can try summoning a spirit to do your bidding — but it’ll attack you if you don’t have the proper protection

You can try summoning a spirit to do your bidding — but it’ll attack you if you don’t have the proper protection

Rituals to Summon the Dead

Here’s how you too can raise the dead to do your bidding, according to Rituals of Magic. (Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?) Perhaps it’s best that the ritual is all rather vague:

First, draw a series of concentric circles of power on the ground, on which you’ve inscribed crosses and other symbols, together with the holy names of God. The circle should be blessed and consecrated — be sure to stand in the center so you’re protected from danger. Then, with your wand in hand, call for the dead to rise, using names of power.

Some sorcerers like to strengthen the connection between the living and the dead by using a portrait of the deceased or offering a piece of bread for the ghost to consume. In this invocation, you call the dead by name — and, if it succeeds, you’ll be rewarded with a screaming ghost full of rage at having been forced against its will to return to the realm of the living. Sometimes the dead materialize as furious beasts threatening to tear you to pieces.

Necromancy is a serious business. The dead don’t want to be disturbed.

 

Here’s another invocation that sounds promising, from Encyclopedia Satanica (gulp):

Perform this ritual at midnight at the grave or crypt of the dead person you’d like to summon.

Burn asafoetida incense and use a “dagger of art” and black candle of summoning.

Ia! Shub-Niggurath!
I invoke thee, spirits of the flame!
I invoke thee, spirits of the air!
I invoke thee, spirits of the earth!
Hysorga! Teamon karazan!

Spirits of the earth,
Give up thy secrets,
Release them from the cold grasp of thy bosom!

I invoke thee, spirits of the earth!
Hysorga! Teamon karazan!

By the unholy name, I thus invoke!
From the grasp
Of the roots that choke.
By the name of the She Goat of the Wood,
Who hast a thousand young!
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!

Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Orkazonar
Zerlkktrayr
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!

Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee.
I now do call thee forth from the abyss.

Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee,
Come now to this place,
Into this circle I call thee.

Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee.
Come unto me, and show thy self.
For thou shalt answer fully and truthfully
And be compelled to do my bidding.
So it is!

Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Orkazonar
Zerlkktrayr
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!

How to defeat it: You can create a magic talisman to protect yourself. As mentioned, the dead don’t like being anyone’s slave. Be sure you always have the talisman that controls them. Silly Walter breaks his, setting the spirits free — and they can’t wait to pounce on him and pummel him to death. –Wally

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 13-15

Are angels real? Meet Archangel Michael, Archangel Raphael and Beelzebub as well as tricksters like Loki, Anansi, Hermes and Reynard the Fox.

Angels, like Raphael, aren’t typically depicted in artwork as badass and intimidating like the Bible describes them

S2E13: “Houses of the Holy”

Monster: Avenging angel

Where it’s from: Israel and other parts of the Middle East

Description: There’s no such thing as angels, Dean argues. But Sam points out that there’s more folklore about angels than anything else they hunt.

“You know what?” Dean responds. “There’s a ton of lore on unicorns, too. In fact, I hear that they ride on silver moonbeams and they shoot rainbows outta their ass!”

“You mean there’s no such things as unicorns?” Sam jokes. These two should take their comedy act on the road.

“There’s some legends you file under bullcrap,” Dean says.

Despite this contention, 72 percent of Americans said they believe in angels, in a 2016 Gallup poll. I don’t know why that high number surprises me: After all, most Americans think a woman who never had sex gave birth to a man who came back from the dead.

The angels known as seraphim actually have six wings

We have a conception of angels as humanlike creatures with large feathered wings sprouting out of their backs. But there are different orders of angels described in the Old Testament, with seraphim, “the Burning Ones,” at the top of the hierarchy. They’re often depicted as red-skinned and wielding flaming swords. Seraphim have six wings: two for flight, two to cover their faces (for even though they fly above the throne of Heaven, they can’t handle looking upon God’s face) and two to cover their feet (so they don’t step on holy ground — though some scholars think this might actually translate to “genitals”), according to whyangels?com.

This illuminated manuscript depicts a six-winged seraphim above the crucifixion of Christ

In another Bible verse, Daniel 10:5-6, the prophet describes an angel in this manner:

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

This doesn’t look like the cute little cherubs we’re used to!

And we know cherubim, or cherubs, as Cupid-esque chubby toddlers with wings. Turns out they’re actually powerful guardians that also carry flaming swords.

Angels are neither male nor female, though they always appear with men’s bodies and never women’s, according to What Christians Want to Know.

Dean’s not buying Sam’s claim that they’re hunting an angel. “You didn't see any fluffy white wing feathers?” the smartass asks.

Many angels, Raphael included, are God’s means of justice and punishment

What it does: When someone’s visited by the angel in Supernatural, the surroundings shake, and the person is filled with religious ecstasy. They’re then driven to kill because it’s “God’s will.”

That’s actually somewhat in keeping with biblical lore: Angels are God’s agents for “bringing punishment and displaying His holy wrath,” according to What Christians Want to Know.

Take that, Satan! The Archangel Michael defeats the Devil

How to defeat it: In the church, Sam points to a painting of Saint Michael, the slayer of demons. He’s almost always depicted in artwork as stepping on a cringing Devil.

In this episode, Father Gregory died a violent death, and the other priest didn’t get a chance to administer last rites.

Father Gregory’s grave is covered in wormwood, which we learn is a sign of a spirit not at rest. Wormwood is a bitter herb that’s a key ingredient in absinthe, which has been banned because it supposedly causes hallucinations. In witchcraft, it’s used to increase psychic powers and perform exorcisms.

If you want to communicate with spirits, a séance is the way to go

Sam performs a séance ritual based on early Christian rites that involves white candles and a large black candle. It’s in Latin, of course.

In the end, Dean just might be right: This isn’t an angel at all. It turns out to be a vengeful spirit that thinks it’s an angel.

Father Reynolds finally performs last rites and puts the spirit to rest. “I call upon the Archangel Raphael, Master of the Air, to make open the way,” the priest chants. “Let the fire of the Holy Spirit now descend, that this being might be awakened to the world beyond.”

Raphael’s name translates to “God Heals,” from the story in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (the apocrypha are the stories that for some reason didn’t jibe with those who chose what would go into the official Bible.) In Enoch, Raphael heals the Earth after it was defiled by the fallen angels, according to Catholic Online.

So maybe there really aren’t such things as angels. It’s still OK for me to believe in unicorns, though, right?

 

I’ve warned you that demons are usually horrifyingly disgusting

S2E14: “Born Under a Bad Sign”

Monster: Sam?! (Possessed by a demon)

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Demons are powerful perversions of nature. We’ve covered them before here and here.

Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, spreads disease and rules Hell

One of the most famous demons in the Judeo-Christian tradition is Beelzebub. He’s usually depicted as a monstrous giant fly, which goes along with his title, Lord of the Flies. Because flies are nasty creatures that hang out on shit and corpses, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Beelzebub spreads disease.

He’s also associated with tempting people with the deadly sin of pride.

In the Gospel of Nicodemus, another apocryphal text, Jesus gave Beelzebub dominion over Hell because the demon freed Adam and other unbaptized saints, allowing them to go up to Heaven. Satan was not pleased.

What it does: Demons like to possess people, manipulating them like puppets. And while the Yellow-Eyed Demon doesn’t seem like much fun, some demons are better to be possessed by than others.

Even ol’ Beelzebub has been known to possess people now and them. Back in 1611, in Aix-en-Provence, France, a Father Louis Gaufridi was accused of making a pact with the Devil, in which a group of Ursuline nuns were possessed by Beelzebub.

The priest was burned at the stake. His executioners used bushes instead of logs because they burn slower and hotter. During the execution, onlookers said they saw flies rising from Father Gaufridi’s body.

How to defeat it: Holy water will burn that mofo. If you can slip it into a beer, all the better!

Watch out for a binding link scar. (The one Sam’s got looks a whole lot like a Q.) To break it, destroy the connection. You could try branding over it with a hot poker — just know it’s gonna hurt!

What’s the secret to fighting off a demonic possession? The answer is surprisingly simple: “If I told them to swing a black cat by its tail over their head at midnight, they would do that,” said Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana. “People think they have to do something extraordinary, but it is actually the very ordinary things that build up graces and offer protection. If a Catholic is praying, going to Mass and receiving the sacraments, then the Devil is already on the run,” he told the National Catholic Register.

Loki, the tricker god of Norse mythology as played by Tom Hiddleston, is one of the best villains in the Marvel universe

S2E15: “Tall Tales”

Monster: Trickster

Where it’s from: All over the world

Hermes, the Greek god of travel and thieves, is also a trickster

Description: Religions and folktales all around the globe include a trickster deity. The Norse had Loki, while the Greeks worshiped Hermes. In West Africa, there was the spider Anansi. European folklore includes tales of the mischievous Reynard the Fox. And Native Americans tell stories of the Raven and Coyote.

The African trickster Anansi is the star of a well-known children’s book

“Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster-hero of some kind,” the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell said in An Open Life. “And there’s a very special property in the trickster: He always breaks in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He’s both a fool and someone who’s beyond the system. And the trickster represents all those possibilities of life that your mind hasn’t decided it wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn’t respect the values that you’ve set up for yourself, and smashes them.”

Sounds like they’re essentially rebels, eager to disrupt the social order. No wonder I’ve always had a soft spot for Hermes.

Reynard the Fox is surely up to no good, preaching to these birds

What it does: In this episode, urban legends are coming true. A girl’s ghost seduces a lecherous professor, then sends him out the window and down four stories to his death. A sexed-up ET abducts a hazing-crazed frat boy, who’s anally probed again and again. (“Some alien made you his bitch,” Dean says. But it got worse, the boy adds: It made him slow dance to “Lady in Red.”) A shiny watch down a drain lures a researcher who tests on animals to end up mauled to death by a crocodile in the sewers.

Thing is, it only happens to dicks who you could argue deserve punishment. The trickster is getting his ideas from Weekly World News. These deities thrive on chaos and mischief. And it played the boys like fiddles, fellow hunter Bobby tells them.

Loki, like many tricksters, is able to shapeshift

Tricksters are shapeshifters, sometimes taking human form. They can conjure anything out of thin air.

In a climactic final battle, lingerie-wearing vixens on a round bed with red silk sheets toss Dean around while Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” plays. Meanwhile, Sam and Bobby get attacked by chainsaw-wielding psychopaths like something out of a horror flick.

There goes Reynard the Fox, showing off again

How to defeat it: Try tricking the trickster. Sam and Dean fake a fight and then end up staking the trickster. The reality it has constructed fades away.

But this is only temporary. After all, tricksters, being gods, are immortal. –Wally

The Ghost of Mae Nak Phra Kanong

Thailand’s most popular ghost story tells the gruesome tale of a woman who dies in childbirth but returns to her unsuspecting husband.

The ghost of a mom and stillborn baby have caught the Thai imagination, as seen in this 2012 movie poster

Everyone loves a ghost story, and Thais are no exception. The country’s most enduring ghost story features the spirit of a woman named Mae Nak and her baby. Her tale is so popular it has been told in numerous films, comic books and even a musical.

According to Thai folklore, this tragic tale took place in the village of Phra Khanong during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV). A beautiful young woman named Nang Nak was pregnant, when her husband, Nai Maak, was summoned to battle. Due to complications during labor, Nang Nak and her unborn child both perished.

He returned home to greet his wife and child — not realizing that they were both, in fact, ghosts!

Nai Maak, though, never heard this news. After a long period of absence, he returned home to greet his wife and child — not realizing that they were both, in fact, ghosts! Her powerful spirit had lingered and created the illusion that she and the baby were still alive. At this point, she became known as Mae Nak, with mae meaning “mother.”

A dead mother and her baby pretend to still be alive in the Mae Nak legend

Concerned neighbors who tried to warn her husband of the deception met untimely demises at the hands of the furious ghost.

One day, as the phantom Nak was preparing a meal, she absentmindedly dropped a lime. It slipped through the floorboards to the ground. In her haste, she extended her arm right through the floor to retrieve it. Maak witnessed this and finally realized that the woman he thought was his wife was actually a ghost.

The infamous ghosts haunt this 1959 movie as well

That evening, filled with a sense of dread, he wished with all his being that he could forget what he had seen. Heart racing, he excused himself to go to the bathroom, but instead ran to the safety of the nearby Mahabut Temple; he knew he’d be safe because a soulless spirit cannot enter consecrated ground.

Finding Maak gone, the ghost pursued him, and in her grief terrorized the village. However, a powerful forest-dwelling ruesi, or shaman, captured her spirit. He confined it to an earthen jug and tossed it into a canal.

Like any good story told in the oral tradition, there are actually several versions as to how Mae Nak was eventually captured. In addition to the ruesi tale, there’s one in which the venerated monk Somdet Phra Phutthachan performed an exorcism. He obtained a buckle-size piece of bone from the skull of the exhumed remains of Mae Nak. He then confined her spirit to the skull fragment, which he wore on his waistband until his death, when the relic was given to a member of the royal family.

Yet another film adaptation of Thailand’s fave ghost story

Mae Nok’s Shrine

A shrine dedicated to Mae Nak is located within Wat Mahabut in Bangkok, where she is worshipped as a benevolent mother goddess. Devotees make offerings of dresses and children’s toys in hopes of ensuring health and prosperity. Worshippers also pray to Mae Nak for winning lottery numbers, and in the days before the drawing, the shrine is active with ticket sellers, fortune tellers and merit-offering vendors.

Mae Nak’ s name is also commonly invoked as a boogeyman to make a child behave, as in, “Be quiet or Mae Nak will come and eat you!” –Duke

Be quiet or Mae Nak will come and eat you!

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 10-12

Predictions from sibyls, psychics and the Oracle at Delphi. Hoodoo practices, including quincunx and voodoo doll spells. Plus, how to kill a werewolf.

 

One of the first recorded psychics in the world was the Oracle at Delphi, whose cryptic messages were much sought after

One of the first recorded psychics in the world was the Oracle at Delphi, whose cryptic messages were much sought after

S2E10: “Hunted”

Monster: Psychics

Someone's hunting the psychic young men and women whom the yellow-eyed demon is enlisting as soldiers in the coming war. Sam’s one, as is Ava, his new acquaintance, who has seen a horrific vision of things to come.

Are all the “special children” ticking timebombs, sure to turn evil at some point? Ava’s financé lying in a pool of blood with his throat slit seems to point to “yes.”

Where it’s from: Cultures from all around the world have believed in psychics, but perhaps the first mention are the sibyls of Ancient Greece.

The sibyl at Delphi sitting upon her tripod and inhaling those potentially hallucinatory fumes

The sibyl at Delphi sitting upon her tripod and inhaling those potentially hallucinatory fumes

Description: Only a woman could be born a sibyl, which translates to “prophetess.” As a kid, I dreamed of what it would be like to visit the most famous, the Oracle at Delphi on Mount Parnassus.

The temple of the Oracle at Delphi in its heyday

The temple of the Oracle at Delphi in its heyday

What it does: These psychics would work themselves up into an ecstatic frenzy. There’s some debate as to whether or not the priestesses were helped along by natural gas emissions in their cave (think of them as the first huffers!).

Either way, once in this altered state, the sibyl would become a conduit for a deity and would speak a somewhat cryptic response to a petitioner’s question.

Emperor Nero was one of the many who visited the Oracle at Delphi, stopping by in 67 CE, when he was 30 years old. Even at that relatively young age, he’d already ticked some things off his bucket list, including having his own mother killed. The sibyl’s unforgiving prophecy went:

“Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back, matricide! The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!”

Needless to say, Nero wasn’t too pleased and had the poor woman burned alive. He assumed he’d live to the ripe old age of 73 — but there’s typically some ambiguity in these psychics’ predictions. Instead, the emperor was defeated during a revolt by a man named Galba…who happened to be 73 at the time. Nero then committed suicide.

When the original Oracle at Delphi died, legend has it she became a disembodied voice that would wander the world, whispering prophecies. I’m sure you’re happy to learn the reason behind the voices in your head.

How to defeat it: They’re still humans. Killing them just because they might go bad one day — or because you don’t like their predictions — seems extreme. (Though the trail of corpses left behind on Supernatural might speak otherwise.)

 

Would you stay at an inn that had a murderous spirit?

Would you stay at an inn that had a murderous spirit?

S2E11: “Playthings”

Monster: Spirit

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: A little girl named Tyler lives at an inn, where she plays with her “imaginary friend” Maggie. Turns out this friend isn’t so imaginary after all; she’s the spirit of her great aunt, Margaret, who drowned in the pool when she was young. Maggie haunts the inn and prevents it from being sold so she doesn’t have to lose her playmate, Tyler.

What it does: There’s a giant dollhouse that’s a scale model of the inn, and the position of the dolls, which seemingly move on their own, reveals a death as it happens. The first to go is a property appraiser who is found hanging in his room.

When Dean sees all the dolls in the house they’re investigating, he says, unconvincingly, “They’re not super creepy at all.”

A quincunx symbol can connect a spell to a place and make it stronger

A quincunx symbol can connect a spell to a place and make it stronger

How to defeat it: Take some cues from the innkeeper’s Creole nanny, who used some hoodoo tricks to protect the B&B and its inhabitants, including the quincunx, or five spot symbol. It looks like the five you’re familiar with from dice: four dots in each corner of a square, with one in the middle. This is a technique to fix a spell to a specific location and empower it.

On the show, a quincunx amulet filled with bloodweed becomes a powerful way to ward off evil, Sam tells us.

You can also bind a spirit with a poppet. (I did one on President Trump, but it really doesn’t seem to have done much good.) You can find the spell in this previous Supernatural post.)

If you’re more inclined to curses or bodily harm, there’s the option of using a voodoo doll on your enemy.

I’d hate to think what someone did to get this voodoo doll treatment!

I’d hate to think what someone did to get this voodoo doll treatment!

Voodoo Doll Ritual

Take some sort of doll (you can buy them all over New Orleans, make one out of wax or cloth, or even borrow someone’s Barbie for these nefarious purposes).

You’ll need some part of your victim, ideally a strand of hair or a fingernail clipping — though a photograph will work in a pinch.

Create a magic circle. Take your voodoo doll and chant, “I command you; I control you” four times. Then: “Hear my voice! The pain you have caused me I shall cause you!”

Here’s where you can get creative with your punishments. Take a needle, candle or something else to poke, prod, burn or create general mayhem upon your doll. Note that you won’t kill your victim, but they should feel the pain, stinging, burning, cold or whatever you’ve subjected the doll to.

Repeat if necessary.

(Adapted from SpellsOfMagic.com)

When all else fails, you could try striking a deal with the spirit. In this case, Grandma Rose offers her life to spend eternity playing dollies with her dead sister. Who says there’s no such thing as Heaven?

 

A Werewolf in Geneva , 1580

A Werewolf in Geneva, 1580

S2E12: “Nightshifter”

Monster: Not a mandroid! It’s a shapeshifter

Where it's from: Europe

Death of the Werewolf.  I hope that arrow has a silver tip on it!

Death of the Werewolf. I hope that arrow has a silver tip on it!

Description: The Winchester boys tell us werewolf stories come from these shapeshifters, even though their methods don’t match up.

Believe it or not, there were stories of werewolves even before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books.

A werewolf attacks a village in this woodcut from around 1512

A werewolf attacks a village in this woodcut from around 1512

Werewolves are humans who morph into the shape of a wolf during the full moon. The inflicted don’t remember what they’ve done during their wolf phase — which is probably a good thing, since it tends to involve mauling people to death.

One of the first written accounts of werewolves comes from Herodotus in 440 BCE, who described a tribe in Scythia who seem to have gotten stoned out of their gourds and transformed into wolves once a year.

A werewolf enjoys a tasty treat — but it’ll probably regret it in the morning

A werewolf enjoys a tasty treat — but it’ll probably regret it in the morning

In her book Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth, Carol Rose writes, “In ancient Greece it was believed that a person could be transformed by eating the meat of a wolf that had been mixed with that of a human and that the condition was irreversible.”

Centuries later, the methods said to create werewolves expanded colorfully to include “being cursed, or by being conceived under a new moon, or by having eaten certain herbs, or by sleeping under the full moon on Friday, or by drinking water that has been touched by a wolf.”

What it does: You never know who to trust. The Supernatural shapeshifter sheds its skin in a goopy mess and keeps jumping bodies.

“God, it’s like playing the shell game,” Dean exclaims. “It could be anybody. Again.”

How to defeat it: It makes sense that silver, associated with the moon, seems to be the only thing that can end a werewolf’s life. (On a somewhat silly side note, if werewolves were to travel to the moon or touch a moon rock, it’d be even more harmful than silver — at least according to Ask Mystic Investigations, that is. The same site insists that silver can kill werewolves “due to cleansing away the demonic DNA that dwells in them.”) Ruff life. –Wally

 

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The Monsters of "Supernatural," Season 2, Episodes 7-9

What is a banshee? How can you make a deal with the Devil like Robert Johnson? Hellhounds (black dogs), Roanoke, goofer dust and death omens all get covered in this roundup.

An illustration from The English Dance of Death, drawn by William Combe. I’d say a skeleton lounging in front of your fireplace is a pretty strong death omen

S2E7: “The Usual Suspects”

Monster: Death omen

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: This particular figure is pale, with dark red eyes and a slit throat. In his typically eloquent fashion, Dean describes the death omen as “Casper the Bloodthirsty Ghost.”

La Belle Dame Sans Merci, or The Banshee by Henry Meynell Rheam, 1901

In Irish folklore, a banshee is a female spirit, and when people hear her horrific wail (one tradition holds that it can actually break glass), they know someone will soon die.

What it does: Like the banshee, death omens foretell that someone will perish in the near future.

I love black cats…but some cultures believe them to be harbingers of death — especially if one meows at midnight

Death Omens

In this episode, the printer keeps repeating the name Dana Schulps. That’s creepy, but here’s a shortened list of some famous death omens, according to Superstition Dictionary:

  • A black cat meowing at midnight
  • Bees swarming a rotten tree (there will be a death in the family owning or living on the property within a year)
  • A bird entering the bedroom of a sick person and landing on the bedpost
  • A pigeon flying against the window
  • A sparrow attacking another swallow and throwing it from its nest near a home (a son will be born and a daughter will die)
  • An owl hooting in a tree right above your head (a relative or friend of yours will die within a year)
  • A dog persistently howling under your window
  • A mouse running over your foot
  • A white rabbit crossing your path
  • A cow giving birth to twin calves
  • A cedar tree you have planted dying in your yard
  • A peach tree blooming early
  • A clock striking 13
  • A portrait falling off the wall
  • A rainbow over a house (sounds more gay than scary, to be honest)
  • Seeing your shadow without a head on New Year’s Eve

How to defeat it: At first the boys think this is a vengeful spirit. In true Winchester Brothers fashion, Sam says, “We have to salt and burn her bones. It’s the only way to put her spirit to rest.” To which guest star Linda Blair, famous for her head-turning performance in The Exorcist, replies, “Of course it is.”

Thing is, why would a vengeful spirit lead Blair to her remains? Turns out it’s not a vengeful spirit after all. As a death omen, she wants to warn people, and she’s finally at rest once the murderer is killed.

You certainly don’t want to be a victim of a hellhound attack

S2E8: “Crossroad Blues”

Monster: Black dog or hellhound

Where it’s from: England and Scotland

The Black Dog of Newgate has haunted the prison for 400 years, appearing before executions

Description: They’re larger than your average pooch and are covered in shaggy black fur, though some reports say they can have white, spotted or brown fur as well. Glowing red eyes, long fangs and saliva reeking of sulfur complete the look.

Sam describes them as “demonic pitbulls.”

“I bet they could hump the crap out of your leg,” Dean adds

What it does: Hellhounds collect souls that are due in payment for deals made with the Devil. One man wanted to be an overnight musical success. This calls to mind Robert Johnson, who is said to have made just such a deal. He supposedly came across Satan at a crossroads and offered to sell his soul in return for becoming an amazing bluesman. He went on to write and perform some popular songs, including “Cross Roads Blues,” “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Hellhound on My Trail.” But he died mysteriously, choking on his own blood, at age 27 (like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and others) in 1938.

The blues musician Robert Johnson is one of the most famous people (Faust aside) to sell his soul to the Devil

With another person they’re investigating, Dean wants to know why the man made a pact with a demon: “What’d you ask for anyway, Evan? Never need Viagra? Bowl a perfect game?”

“My wife,’ Evan says.

“Gettin’ the girl,” Dean nods. “Well, that’s worth a trip to Hell for."

You can supposedly get your heart’s desire if you make a pact with the Devil — but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea

How to Sell Your Soul to the Devil

If you’d like to make a deal with the Devil (and we really can’t recommend doing so), here’s how to do so.

Plant yarrow flowers in the corners of a crossroads to summon the Big Guy.

Get a tin box and fill with the bones of a black cat, graveyard dirt and a picture of yourself.

“That’s Deep South hoodoo stuff,” Dean says.

How to defeat it: Sam and Dean think one of the people they visit has grabbed the wrong shaker (those boys are completely obsessed with salt). But the man made no mistake. He’s keeping away demons with another hoodoo trick: goofer dust.

Be warned that the goofer dust will affect anyone who steps onto it. Victims will develop a chronic illness that may result in death.


Goofer Dust Recipe

This recipe comes from Raven Conspiracy:

  • Sulfur
  • Salt
  • Skin or head of a venomous snake, dried and ground
  • Black pepper
  • Graveyard dirt

Optional ingredients:

  • Red pepper
  • Ground bones
  • Ground insects
  • Sage
  • Mullein
  • Anvil dust

 

Here’s another version, this one from SpellsOfMagic.com:

  • Graveyard dirt
  • Black salt
  • Ground sulfur
  • Snake skin
  • Magnetic sand

Optional ingredients:

  • Dried pigeon feces
  • Ground insects
  • Powdered bones
  • Black pepper

Sounds like there’s some leeway with the recipe. Mix what ingredients you can find together. But be sure not to touch the powder after you’ve made it.

Sprinkle it in a place where you know your target will definitely walk onto it. Be warned that the goofer dust will affect anyone who steps onto it. Victims will develop a chronic illness that may result in death.

 

If you regret having made a satanic pact, use a Devil’s Trap to ensnare the demon or devil and strike a deal by threatening to exorcise it.

 

S2E9: “Croatoan”

Monster: Demonic virus

Where it’s from: the United States

Description: There’s a telltale sulfuric residue in the virus.

What it does: Those infected turn murderous. They’re also fond of spreading the love: The virus is passed by by blood to blood contact. The infected like to cut themselves and then slice open their victim so they can drip blood into the wound.

The boys find a reference to the Lost Colony of Roanoke (it was also a theme in American Horror Story: Roanoke). The colony was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585 in what is now North Carolina. Five years later, all 115 or so settlers had vanished mysteriously — the only clue being the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost. The Croatoan were an Indian tribe, though Daddy Winchester had a theory that it’s the name of a demon also known as Deva, or Resheph, associated with pestilence.

That’s Resheph off to the right, the personification of plague. He’s hanging out with his friends Min (the fertility god with the big boner) and Qetesh (the goddess of fertility and sexual ecstacy)

How to defeat it: You’ve got to kill those infected. Guns work. And Molotov cocktails would do the trick, too, one imagines, as the Winchester boys were planning.

It also helps to be immune, like Sam. –Wally

I bet they could hump the crap out of your leg.
— Dean Winchester

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 4-6

A zombie attack, hypnosis and H.H. Holmes all make appearances. Learn how to talk to the dead and prevent corpses from becoming revenants.

Not all zombies want to eat brains. Some go right for the guts

Not all zombies want to eat brains. Some go right for the guts

S2E4: “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”

Monster: Zombie

Where it’s from: This type hails from Greece

Description: While there are zombie traditions from around the world, this episode deals with the Greek version. Sometimes called revenants, they’re people who have returned from the dead. They still inhabit their old bodies, so they’re often subject to decay.

What it does: The idea of Greek zombies might relate back to the Keres, female spirits of violent death. Their mother is Nyx, the goddess of darkness, and they’re aligned with the Fates, a trio of goddesses who determine people’s destinies (indeed, the Keres are sometimes referred to as the Death Fates).

“Murder Castle,” a massive boarding house, had labyrinthine hallways and secret rooms — including a gas chamber and a large kiln convenient for disposing of bodies.
Zombies are corpses come back from the dead — and they’re not the brightest of the undead

Zombies are corpses come back from the dead — and they’re not the brightest of the undead

This graphic description of a battlefield from Hesiod shows their mad fury for blood and gore, a key part of our modern takes on zombies (such as The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later):

The black Keres, clashing their white teeth, grim-faced, shaggy, blood-bespattered, dread, kept struggling for the fallen. They all wanted to drink black blood whom first they caught, lying or fallen newly wounded. Around him they threw their mighty talons, and the shade to Hades went, in icy Tartarus. Their hearts were glutted with human blood: They threw away the corpse, and back to the tumult and fighting rushed, in new desire.

You can tell a person has returned from the dead from the unholy ground around their grave, revealed by a circle of dead grass.

How to defeat it: Dean: We’ve got a full-on zombie running around. We have to figure out how to kill it.

Sam: Our lives are weird.

There are many reports on how to kill the walking dead — set them on fire, or Sam’s personal favorite: cut out the heart and feed it to a wild dog — but the Winchester Bros. decide to go with silver bullets. Trouble is, this hardly slowed her down: “Damn, that dead chick can run,” Dean says.

In the end, they go with nailing the undead creature back into its grave bed. This means of stopping zombies has been practiced for centuries.

“Ancient Greeks on the island of Sicily had a fear of revenants so dire they weighed bodies down with rocks and amphora pieces to keep them from rising from their graves to haunt the living,” Ancient Origins reports.

On Supernatural, a divination ritual brings the corpse back to life, but divination is really a way to predict the future.

Who hasn’t wanted to speak with the dead? Well, we’ve got just the ritual for you!

Who hasn’t wanted to speak with the dead? Well, we’ve got just the ritual for you!

Necromancy Divination Ritual to Speak With the Dead

Make a figure out of dough to represent the person you want to talk to. Dress it with a few bay leaves and some fennel.

Dig a ditch deep enough to stand in and surround it with incense. Pour in a mixture of wine, honey and milk. Then nick your finger and squeeze a few drops of blood into the mixture.

Work yourself into an ecstatic state (“a few cans of Red Bull will probably do the trick,” jokes the blog’s author) before finally speaking to the dead.

Source: Creating Weirdness on a Daily Basis…

 

Ever done something you regret? Blame it on mesmerism!

Ever done something you regret? Blame it on mesmerism!

S2E5: “Simon Said”

Monster: Mind control

Where it’s from: Germany

Description: This episode focuses on a young man with a strong power of suggestion (think about the famous Jedi line, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”). In fact, he doesn’t even have to speak — he can make you do something just by thinking it. Yikes. That’s quite a power, and would be easy to use for evil.

What it does: Mesmerism, the idea that a person could be healed via thought while they were in a trance, became all the rage in the late 1700s.

Franz Mesmer, for whom the practice is named, was a German physician who devoted his life to the study of energy transfers (or “artificial tides”) he called animal magnetism. It wasn’t until later that mesmerism focused on hypnosis.

Hypnotism is a powerful tool — just imagine getting people to do whatever you want!

Hypnotism is a powerful tool — just imagine getting people to do whatever you want!

How to defeat it: Perhaps the best way to steel your mind to hypnosis is to know how it works. Learn how to put people under your hypnotic spell from the Hypnosis Training Academy.

 

S2E6: “No Exit”

This charming gent is H.H. Holmes, one of the worst serial killers in history

This charming gent is H.H. Holmes, one of the worst serial killers in history

Monster: Spirit of H.H. Holmes, America’s first (and potentially most prolific) serial killer

Where’s it’s from: Holmes lived in Chicago in the late 1800s, during the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Description: This man was truly a monster. Born Herman Webster Mudgett, he went by numerous aliases. He’s infamous for having created what became known as “Murder Castle,” a massive boarding house with labyrinthine hallways and secret rooms — including a gas chamber and a large kiln convenient for disposing of bodies. He admitted to 27 murders, but the death toll could actually be in the hundreds. His gruesome tale is told in Devil in the White City, which is pretty much required reading for Chicagoans.

Holmes’ spirit leaves ectoplasm, which the Winchesters say is only generated by extremely angry spirits.

What it does: Why let death stop you from killing? Holmes’ murderous spirit captures and murders innocent victims.

A rare image of Holmes’ Murder Castle, a boarding house for single women on Chicago’s South Side — quite close to the Columbian Exhibition

A rare image of Holmes’ Murder Castle, a boarding house for single women on Chicago’s South Side — quite close to the Columbian Exhibition

How to defeat it: Stab him with a pure iron dagger to make his pervy hand disappear. And trap him in a circle of salt. It might be a good idea to entomb the spirit in concrete as well, even if that means “borrowing” a cement truck like Dean does. –Wally

The Bizarre Origins of Phra Upakut

Upakut wears a lotus leaf atop his head and was born from a mermaid swallowing the Buddha’s sperm. We visit his temple in Chiang Mai — and potentially save it from destruction.

Did you know that if a mermaid drinks sperm she can get pregnant? At least according to Buddhist folklore, that is! That’s how Upakut, seen in the middle here, was born

When I first read of Upakut’s bizarre origins, I was instantly drawn to him. So perhaps that’s why fate presented his temple as the first one we stumbled upon on our trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Wally and I walked across the Ping River via the Nawarat Bridge on Tha Phae Road, one stretch of the main thoroughfare that bisects Chiang Mai and leads to the East Gate of the Old City. A large attention-grabbing digital billboard stands on the east corner, and it’s  a challenge to cross the busy street — it’s worth going a bit out of your way to use a crosswalk.

Upakut was conceived when a mermaid ate some of the Buddha’s semen that came off while he washed his robes in a river.

Tha Phae Road is lined with handicraft boutiques, antique shops, banks, restaurants and hotels. Not far from this intersection, we encountered our first temple, Wat Upakut. The temple was built in 1300 and predates the former ancient capital.

Upakut pops up in many of the temples in Chiang Mai. Here he is at the base of the chedi at Wat Lok Molee. Make a game of seeing if you can spot him at the Buddhist temples you visit

Phra Upakut is an important figure in Burma, Northern Thailand and Laos. He is a benevolent deity who protects against all evils and physical harm and is an auspicious attractor of wealth.

There are many different stories regarding his origin. According to Sanskrit legend, he was the son of a perfumer and one of the early adherents of the Buddha. Before the Buddha entered nirvana, he asked Pra Upakut to remain alive until becoming Maitreya, the second coming of the Buddha.

With his lotus cap, alms bowl and upturned smiling face, there’s just something Duke found so appealing about Phra Upakut, seen here at Wat Sang Kaew

Thai Buddhists believe that Upakut is still alive to this day, residing in the middle of the Great Ocean, with a lotus leaf on his head. On the ninth full moon of the year, he roams the streets of Chiang Mai as a monk seeking alms. The first devotee to make an offering will be blessed with good fortune.

 

Under the Sea — and also on Fire

The most colorful story, and my personal favorite, claims that Upakut was the son of Buddha and his mother was a mermaid. He is also known as Bua Khem, whose name means “Needle-Sharp Lotus,” referring to the stem that appears like a point atop the floppy lotus leaf upon his head. According to this version, he was conceived when a mermaid ate some of the Buddha’s semen that came off while he washed his robes in a river.

This unusual offering at Wat Upakut had caught fire — and Wally ran off to tell the monks and save the day

In the wat complex, we meandered to the whitewashed chedi located adjacent to the monks’ living quarters. An offering of a pig’s head and feet sat alongside a black plastic laundry basket with cling-wrapped fruit. Wally was mesmerized by the strange setup, as was I — until I focused and realized that a votive candle had caught the basket on fire and the plastic was half-melted.

“I don’t think that’s supposed to be burning,” I said, and Wally came out of his daze and yelled,“I’m going to see if I can find a monk to put it out!” and dashed off.

After trying to pantomime flames and a melting basket (the monks looked at him like he was crazy), eventually one followed Wally over to the chedi. Not long after, they had found a hose and put out the fire.

Here are some pictures of Wat Upakut, the temple dedicated to him:

My Patron Saint

I purchased a statuette of Upakut, which a monk carefully wrapped and packaged for us. He excitedly told us of the upcoming Phi Ta Khon, the Festival of Ghosts, where an invocation of Upakut takes place at the temple in the wee hours of the morning. Both our eyes lit up as we asked the monk to tell us when this was happening. He seemed bewildered by our question, smiled and placed the small box with Upakut into my hands. We later learned that the festival does not take place until the end of June.

I quickly adopted Upakut as my patron saint, pointing out his likeness at the different temples in Chiang Mai. There’s something comforting in the cross-legged figure with an upturned head, eating from his alms bowl with a serene smile on his face.

Wally couldn’t seem to remember his name and jokingly referred to him as Ipecac, a syrup used to make a child vomit after swallowing poison. Whenever he did so, I tried my best not to smile. –Duke


Wat Upakut

164-166 Tha Phae Rd.

Tambon Chang Moi

Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Thailand


The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 1-3

In which we’re visited by the Grim Reaper, the original vampire baddie Vlad the Impaler and the Hindu shapeshifter rakshasa. Plus, we play with a Ouija board and learn how to make Abramelin Oil.

What’s a Halloween party without a Ouija board? It’s the best time to talk with the dead

We had a phase in college when we’d whip out the Ouija board and try to talk to the spirits we were sure roamed our dorm. A group of my friends was sitting around the board when I walked in one night. Nothing was happening.

I took a seat — and suddenly the planchette started darting around, spelling out a story of a young girl who had drowned.

Vlad is said to have invited a large group to dinner, had them stabbed and then impaled their still-twitching bodies.

Of course everyone thought I was nudging it along, so they had me sit the next round out. The planchette didn’t budge.

“See?” one of them said. “He was totally pushing it.”

“I’ll tell you what,” I replied. “I’ll go back in, but I won’t touch it.” And I left my fingers hovering an inch or so above the planchette. It started darting around again. Everyone freaked out — and my connection to the spiritual realm was undisputed.
 

A reaper reveals itself

S2E1: “In My Time of Dying”

Monster: Reaper

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: The reapers of Supernatural can alter perceptions. So this one appears to Dean as a pretty girl since he didn’t like her natural (spectral, freakyass) form.
Typically, the Grim Reaper is depicted as a skeleton wearing a black hooded robe, often carrying a scythe.

We covered reapers in a previous Supernatural roundup.

The ep also mentions fetches. These creatures from English and Irish folklore look just like you, but the time you see them makes all the difference. If you see your double in the morning, good news! You’re going to have a nice long life. See a fetch at night, and you’re soon to be a goner.

Queen Elizabeth I of England was shocked to find a corpse lying on her bed. Upon closer inspection, she saw that the body was identical to her own. She died shortly thereafter.

Queen Elizabeth saw a fetch lying on her bed — and she died not long after

What it does: What do you think the personification of death does? It kills you, duh.

If you’d like to communicate with someone who’s died, do like Sam and break out the Ouija board (oh, I’m sorry, I mean the Mystical Talking Board).

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a couple using a Ouija board for a cover of  The Saturday Evening Post

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a couple using a Ouija board for a cover of The Saturday Evening Post

The Ouija board debuted in 1891, and for $1.50 you could have the opportunity to answer questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy,” according to an ad at the time.

Victorians were obsessed with spiritualism and occultism.

Victorians were kind of obsessed with spiritualism and trying to speak with the dead

Communicating with the dead was common — it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” explains Robert Murch, who has researched the history of Ouija boards.

How to defeat it: You can’t kill death, silly.

The fellas mention a couple of items they learn are used to summon a demon. Oil of Abramelin is on the list. It’s a hoodoo formula named for its inclusion in a medieval grimoire called The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, written by a man with the unfortunate appellation Abraham of Worms. He was a 15th century Jewish Kabbalist who adapted from the Jewish Holy Oil of the Tanakh. Moses whipped up a batch in the Bible’s Book of Exodus.

Abramelin the Mage. I’m sure he’s slathered in his namesake oil

Abramelin the Mage. I’m sure he’s slathered in his namesake oil

Old Wormy said that the oil is a part of rituals that involve “the gifts of flight, treasure-finding and invisibility, as well as the power to cast effective love spells.”

The sex-crazed ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley believed Abramelin Oil “consecrates everything that is touched with it.”

There’s a lot of talk about variations on the recipe, some of which resulted from a French dude’s mistranslation. Here’s one that seems legit (and not overly archaic).


Abramelin Oil

  • 4 parts cinnamon bark quills, reduced to powder
  • 2 parts myrrh resin, finely ground
  • 1 part calamus chopped root, reduced to powder
  • half of the foregoing total weight olive oil


The mixture is macerated for one month, then decanted and bottled for use, producing a fragrant oil suitable for anointing the body. It may be applied liberally, after the manner of traditional Jewish holy oils, such as the one that was poured on Aaron’s head until it ran down his beard. 

Daddy Winchester also wanted acacia. And though he had lied about the reason he wanted those ingredients, acacia is more likely to be used for protection than for summoning a demon. The bush has become a symbol of renewal, strength and purity, as well as immortality due to its evergreen nature, according to Building Beautiful Souls. It was common in Hebrew tradition to plant an acacia at the head of a person’s grave. The instructions for Noah’s Ark were written on acacia wood. And in Tibet, acacia incense wards off evil spirits.

The only way you could really beat death is to make a swap — a life for a life. John sacrifices himself to get the reaper off Dean’s back.

 

The Hindu demon rakshasha is known for tearing people apart

S2E2: “Everybody Loves a Clown”

Monster: Rakshasa, a Hindu monster

Where it’s from: India

Description: These demons can shapeshift into any animal or monster they wish. Sculptors were told to carve them with a “terrifying appearance, complete with fearful side tusks, ugly eyes, curling awkward brows, and carrying a variety of horrible weapons.”

In the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, Hanuman, the monkey god, enters a town full of rakshasas:

“Some of them disgusted the eye, while some were beautiful to look upon. Some had long arms and frightful shapes; some were very fat and some were very lean; some were mere dwarfs and some were prodigiously tall. Some had only one eye and others only one ear. Some had monstrous bellies, hanging breasts, long projecting teeth and crooked thighs; whilst others were exceedingly beautiful to behold and clothed in great splendour. Some had two legs, some three legs, and some four legs. Some had the heads of serpents, some the heads of donkeys, some the heads of horses and some the heads of elephants.”

What it does: Well, they devour people. And sleep on beds full of insects.

Ravana, the 10-headed King of Rakshasas kidnapped the lovely Sita in the Hindu epic the Ramayana

Rakshasas are ruled by their 10-headed king, Ravana, arguably the main villain in the Ramayana. “He was possibly a wonderful leader,” writes Vampires.com. “He was also a murdering rapist who ate people.”

Ravana makes an appearance shaking a mountain on a carving in a temple in the Angkor complex in Cambodia.

We probably don’t even want to know what this rakshasa is up to

Rakshasas are notorious for disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, possessing human beings and so on,” according to the New World Encyclopedia.

Rakshasas can shapeshift, enjoy devouring people and always fade away at the start of a new day

How to defeat it: A rakshasa’s power grows in the evening, and they’re at their strongest during the dark of a new moon. But they disappear with the rising of the sun.

The rakshasa page from the AD&D Monster Manual

On the show, they must be invited in, like some vampire legends.

The Brothers Winchester kill the rakshasa with a dagger made of pure brass.

If you play D&D, here are the stats for a rakshasa. Not only can you fight them, you play a rakshasa character!

They don’t give out medals for dungeon masters extraordinaire…but if they did, my friend Mike would receive one. I asked him what he thought about rakshasas in the world of Dungeons & Dragons.

“Rakshasas are one of my fave monsters!” he said. “They focus on stealth and deception, they possess both powerful magical abilities and immunities, and they can more than hold their own in physical combat. If you’re looking for a big bad for a story arc, rakshasas are the perfect masterminds.”

Wally has always secretly wanted to be a vampire

Wally has always secretly wanted to be a vampire

S2E3: “Bloodlust”

Monster: Vampire

Description: You all know what vampires look like. For more background, we first covered vampires on Supernatural in this post.

What it does: Here’s where we get into moral ambiguity: What exactly makes something a monster? Are vampires inherently evil? What about the ones in this brood who don’t hurt humans but instead drink cow blood? (Does it matter that they do so mostly so there aren’t missing people that will lead hunters to them?) Discuss amongst yourselves.

Vlad Tepes, a Romanian prince from the 1400s, became the infamous Dracula

As for our modern vampire folklore, many trace it back to the man who became Dracula: Vlad III, known as Dracul (Drăculea in old Romanian). He also earned the name Vlad Tepes (which translates to “the Impaler”). That gives you an idea of his favorite hobby.

Born in 1431, Vlad was the prince of Wallachia in what is now Romania. He might not have been the monster we’ve all been taught to believe.

“His preferred method of execution, impalement, wasn’t just a sadistic way to get rid of his opponents; it was also a good way to scare them away,” Florin Curta, a professor of medieval history at the University of Florida, told Live Science.

Vlad the Impaler is said to have enjoyed dining amidst his eccentric décor (bodies impaled upon stakes)

Vlad the Impaler is said to have enjoyed dining amidst his eccentric décor (bodies impaled upon stakes)

His habit of impaling Ottoman invaders was a form of psychological warfare used to level the playing field with an army much larger than his own. It doesn’t quite explain why he used that horrific means of death on Saxon merchants and local nobles he feared would question his authority. (He’s said to have invited a large group to dinner, had them stabbed and then impaled their still-twitching bodies.)

Some say his cruelty went even further. “He would impale women for nothing, his reason being they weren’t working hard enough. Some say he took sexual pleasure from this. He even impaled the children and the elderly because to him, they were useless,” according to The Good, the Bad and the Monstrous.

Apparently, it wasn’t the only way Dracula punished his enemies, according to the website Vlad the Impaler. He also was fond of “cutting of limbs, blinding, strangulation, burning, cutting off noses and ears, mutilation of sexual organs, scalping, skinning, exposure to the elements or to wild animals and boiling alive.”

Are vampires inherently evil? Would you slay one if it only dined on animal blood?

There’s evidence that Vlad would insert the spike through his victims’ rectums and angle it to avoid hitting the vital organs so the person would live as long as possible.

One of the myths surrounding Dracula is that he drank the blood of his enemies. Turns out the original source, a German poem, actually says he really just liked to wash his hands in the blood of his enemies before he ate dinner. Bon appétit!

How to defeat it: If you’re in danger, cut its friggin’ head off. –Wally

He was possibly a wonderful leader.
He was also a murdering rapist who ate people.

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 1, Episodes 20-22

Many of the legends about vampires aren’t true. Learn how to make holy water and the exorcism prayer to fight even the most powerful demons. Plus: the Devil’s Trap!

The rite of exorcism and the secret to making holy water will come in handy to defeat vampires and demons!

Dracula bores me. I’ve tried reading it twice and gave up pretty quickly.

But Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That’s another story. My friends and I were so obsessed with it, we’d have viewing parties every week, gathering at one of our homes, ordering pizza and drinking beer and watching one of the best shows on TV.

Before Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fighting all sorts of evil — and doing so while dressed fabulously and making clever quips

Most vampire lore is crap.
— John Winchester

Vampires finally make an appearance on Supernatural, and it’s a moment of comedic gold that Dean and Sam, after all the crazy shit they’ve seen, still think vampires are a myth. Turns out they were wrong. Dead wrong.

 

S1E20: “Dead Man’s Blood”

Much of what we know about vampires turns out to be wrong

Monster: Vampire

Where it’s from: Legends of vampire-like creatures date back to the ancient civilizations of Persia, Greece, Egypt, China and Japan. But the vampire we’re familiar with today comes from Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe.

If you’re interested in finding a vamp, the Romanians have an interesting method, according to LiveScience: Take a 7-year-old boy, dress him in white and put him on a white horse. Let them wander a graveyard at midday — whatever grave the horse stops at houses a vampire!

Description: Babies born with a third nipple in Romania were thought to be vampires.

Much of our modern-day depictions of vampires were solidified by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Bela Lugasi’s take on the famously charming bloodsucker.

We can thank Bram Stoker and Bela Lugasi for our modern-day versions of vampire lore

They’re undead humans, with pale skin (caused by an aversion to sunlight, one would imagine) and sharp fangs (so they don’t need a straw to consume their favorite beverage). Unlike zombies, which are more savage and don’t seem to retain any of their humanity, vampires keep much of the personality of the person they once were. They tend to be pretty intelligent and can pass as living humans.

What it does: Some vampires are said to be able to turn into bats or wolves or smoke. In some legends, vampires cannot come into your house without being invited. Some are said not to reveal reflections in mirrors. They’re supposed to have supernatural strength. They don’t age and can be immortal. Some have hypnotic mind control they can exert over humans.

Some legends say that vampires have the ability to turn into a bat at will

But the one thing that pretty much every tale agrees upon: Vampires vant to sock your blood.

On the show, the vampires take their victims back to their nest, where they bleed them for days.

How to defeat it: “Most vampire lore is crap,” Daddy Winchester tells his sons.

So take this advice with a grain of the salt Dean and Sam are so fond of.

Supporting this take is Thought Catalog, which reports that the idea of a vampire being harmed by sunlight is a fairly recent literary invention.

The jury’s still out on crosses and holy water as well.

Europeans would stab certain corpses through the chest at burial to prevent them from returning from the dead. This led to the belief that a stake through the heart would dispatch a vampire.

Decapitation also seems to work well. Play it safe and stuff the mouth full of garlic for good measure.

If you’re being chased by a vamp and happen to have a bag of salt handy (and after watching Supernatural, who doesn’t?), LiveScience reveals this neat trick: You need only spill the salt on the ground behind you, and the vampire is obligated to stop and count each and every grain before continuing the pursuit.

According to Supernatural, dead man’s blood is like poison to vampires, though it wears off after a while.

In addition, you can hide your scent from vamps with this trick: Burn trillium, saffron and skunk cabbage. Rub the ashes on your clothes, and the suckers won’t smell you coming.
 

S1E21: “Salvation”

Not all demons are horrific distortions of nature — some take the form of a beautiful woman

Monster: Demons, including murderous Meg and the Big Baddie, the main villain of Season 1

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Most demons are grotesque, but there are a few that are actually hot like Meg. Upon closer inspection, though, you’ll usually note some sort of perversion of nature — they might have hawk claws, for instance, or maybe a serpent’s tail.

What it does: The demon that killed the boys’ mom and Sam’s girlfriend has strong telekinetic powers and can make bodies fly through the air with its mind. It also has a penchant for burning women on bedroom ceilings and torching houses on the night a child turns six months old. We all have our fetishes.

How to defeat it: You know the demon is coming if there’s been a pattern of electrical storms and cattle deaths. It’ll soon be upon you when there are electrical disturbances like lights flickering and you smell traces of sulfur.

If you’re fighting a minor demon, hallowed ground could protect you. But as this Big Bad says, “Maybe that works in the minor leagues, but not with me.”

Try creating a huge batch of holy water by dropping a rosary into a vat of water and say this prayer in Latin:

Prayer to Make Holy Water

Deus, qui ad salutem humani generis maxima quæque sacramenta in aquarum substantia condidisti: adesto propitius invocationibus nostris, et elemento huic, multimodis purificationibus præparato, virtutem tuæ benedictionis infunde; ut creatura tua, mysteriis tuis serviens, ad abigendos dæmones morbosque pellendos divinæ gratiæ sumat effectum; ut quidquid in domibus vel in locis fidelium hæc unda resperserit careat omni immunditia, liberetur a noxa. Non illic resideat spiritus pestilens, non aura corrumpens: discedant omnes insidiæ latentis inimici; et si quid est quod aut incolumitati habitantium invidet aut quieti, aspersione hujus aquæ effugiat: ut salubritas, per invocationem sancti tui nominis expetita, ab omnibus sit impugnationibus defensa. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

If you happen to have that magic Colt gun, aim well — and aim quickly. That sucker can dematerialize before being shot.


S1E22: "Devil's Trap"

You, too, can trap demons in elaborate magic summoning circles like King Solomon supposedly did

Monster: Demon

How to defeat it: Peruse The Lesser Key of Solomon, a 17th century grimoire filled with sigils to call forth and control demons.

The Key of Solomon’s magic circle and triangle from the manuscript of Sir Hans Sloane, a famous collector who bequeathed his books to the British Museum

The Devil’s Trap is a great way to trap powerful demons

The Devil’s Trap, as Dean says, is “like a satanic roach motel.” Draw it on the ground, lure in a demon — and it will be unable to leave it.

Make sure not to smudge it, though. “A devil’s trap loses its power if its lines are erased or partially erased,” according to Reference. “The circle must remain intact in order to keep the demon trapped inside.”

In this episode, we learn that Meg is actually an innocent girl possessed by a demon. (Demons are obsessed with possessing people, remember?)

The fellas decide to perform an exorcism, even though her body sustained fatal injuries from a previous fall, and the only thing keeping her alive is the demon’s spirit.

Here’s what you need to say if you want to try your own exorcism, from The Hunting. By the way, it seems like it’d be a good idea to learn Latin if you plan on being a hunter like the Winchesters.

Practice your Latin — you’ll need it for exorcisms and making holy water

The Rite of Exorcism

Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica
Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica, adjuramus te,
Cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque æternæ perditionìs venenum propinare
Vade, satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciæ, hostis humanæ salutis,
Humiliare sub potenti manu Dei, contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili Nomini quem inferi tremunt
Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine.
Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica
Ergo, draco maledicte et omnis legio diabolica, adjuramus te … cessa decipere humanas creaturas, eisque æternæ perditionìs venenum propinare
Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus,
Audi nos.

If someone looks like this, there’s a pretty good chance they’re possessed by a demon

And here it is in English:

We exorcise you, every impure spirit, every satanic power, every incursion of the infernal adversary, every legion, every congregation and diabolical sect.
Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you.
Cease to deceive human creatures and give to them the poison of eternal damnation.
Begone, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man’s salvation.
Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, tremble and flee when we invoke the holy and terrible name which causes hell to tremble.
From the snares of the devil, deliver us, O Lord.
We exorcise you, every impure spirit, every satanic power, every incursion of the infernal adversary, every legion, every congregation and diabolical sect.
Therefore, accursed dragon and every diabolical legion, we adjure you … Cease to deceive human creatures and give to them the poison of eternal damnation.
That Thy church may serve Thee in secure liberty secure, we ask Thee,
Hear us.

You’re all set to take on even the most powerful demon. Just watch out for projectile vomiting of pea soup! –Wally

Babies born with a third nipple in Romania were thought to be vampires.