10 February 2011

Say hello to the demons in my head

(Wrote this some nights back but forgot to publish so doing it now)

Despite dear Blackestred's suggestion to unite Minotaur and my dignified cow, I feel, as an artist, I must explore my artistic spirit and graze away from my bovine fixation. Therefore, in this project, we will do demons instead.

Being the descendant of overly superstitious ancestors whose mountains and forests abounded with spirits, it's inevitable for one to grow up without a fairly obsessive interest in the supernatural. Stories from those days of yore thrilled and excited me when I was a kid, and I have these images firmly embedded in my head of what each spirit would look like. Funny thing is, I find even after all these years those images stay the same as they were first pictured in my head. And these are drawings of some of the spirits the way I've always imagined them to be.

First on the list is the tau. Male spirits I think. In the night, much akin to typical behavior of the human male, the taus like to hang out with their buddies. Accompanied by a very strong animal scent, very like the human male gathering. But the similarity ends there.

The taus, instead of chugging beer, spend their nights carrying torches and doing aerial acrobatics in perfect synchronization. Of course, humans can see only the torches, as the carriers are not visible in the dark. It's supposed to be quite a show, and those of us who never got lucky enough to witness something so mysteriously beautiful should realise that our lives are that much less richer because of it. This is what they would look like with night vision -


The tau, who is quite a social animal in the night is a loner during the day. When the sun comes up, they like to loll around on the branches of trees growing out of steep and inaccessible cliffs and sun themselves all day. In my head, the tau sunning himself always looks benign as he sleeps contentedly on his branch.


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Next we have the pheichham. This is a female spirit, and it's main job is to grant people wishes. Of course, just like today's corporate world, it insists on the longest and troublesomest process to get her work done.

When a human sees it, the shy pheichham will bats its eyelashes and run away. The human has to be brave enough to not run away screaming at its horrendous appearance, should be fast enough to catch the hoppity-hopping spirit, and be strong enough to hold on tightly and not let go because it will try to shake you off like a bucking bronco.

The pheichham will then ask him, not unlike a job interview, 'What do you see for yourself a few moments from now?' Then the brave soul will say all the things he wishes for himself, but all in one breath. If he takes a breath in between, his wish is immediately null and void, and the pheichham will jump away cackling.

The books always describes the pheichham as an old woman, horrible to behold, scraggly hair, drooping, saggy breasts and has only one leg. For some reason, in my little girl's mind, I saw her as an entire leg with a head, like so -

Pic 1.


Even now that I'm all grown up and I know now that this (Pic 2) is what a pheichham should look like, I can only picture her as Pic 1 in my mind.

Pic 2.
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Third on the list are the khuavangs. They consist of both genders and like humans, marry, reproduce and even spoil their young. They live underground. They're generally quite harmless except in the Kungawrhi story. My old school books didn't really describe their appearance but in the Kungawrhi story, they had black faces. But again, because I sort of connect them to fireflies, this is how I picture them -

They appear out of the darkness as glowy, pale faces, with a sort of a humming sound. They look sad all the time - most likely because of the drabness of their living conditions.

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And last but not the least is the khawlhring. Now this is a bad spirit, up to nothing but mischief. The khawhring's main occupation is to covet the possessions of the humans it shares its habitat with, with a particular fondness for gongs. In order to get its sickly hands on these coveted items, it makes people sick and then makes its demands through the sick person - "I want so-and-so's gong," and if this so-and-so refuses to part with his gong and its demands are not met, the sick person would never recover and eventually die.

The khawhring is a drippy, sloshy spirit, oozing with the slime of centuries old sicknesses. And of course, that's only in the pages of the picture book in my head. No one's ever given a clear description of a khawhring, and I have a feeling no one's going to find out any time soon.
It mostly afflicts its victim with terrible stomachaches. So next time you're stricken with that nasty stomach pain, think twice before you blame your poor ulcer.

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Bonus item: On the bonus item we have the tualsumsu. Personally, I think no other spirit is capable of striking as much terror as this one, the thought of it fills me with intense fear, even though it isn't in the habit of harming anyone except the poor soul it possesses. But I believe the mere sight of it would surely be worse than taking a few bops to the head. So being harmless doesn't really do much for its reputation in my opinion.

Well the tualsumsu is not actually a spirit but a possessed female human being. This woman will live a normal life and go about her daily routine during the day, but when it's night and the dark settles in and evil awakens all the dark forces, the spirit will flip this poor person upside down and proceed to make her roam around the empty streets inverted. The afflicted person might complain of a dull pain on the head the next morning, but won't remember her upside down romp from the night before.

A friend once told me this story of how when she was a baby, her dad was posted in some remote village. According to the village people, there apparently was a tualsumsu in the village, and at night people were scared to venture out, locking themselves in their houses. My friend's mother, obviously more enlightened than the simple village folks called it balderdash and paid no attention to it.

But then one night, as she was sitting by a window nursing the baby with only a candle burning and everyone else had gone to bed, out of the stillness of the dark night, she heard a thumpity-thump-thump sound coming down the lonely road. 'What could it be?' she wondered, and looked out the window - and behold! on the street was a young woman on her head, legs up in the air, slowly hopping down the street.

Now doesn't the very thought of that fill your heart with dread?

The tualsumsu somehow seems related to the Chinese hopping spirit. I saw it in some Jackie Chan movie once, this hopping spirit. Arms outstretched, hopping around and all I could think of was the tualsumsu. Maybe they're related. Or like the male/female versions, a bit like the succubus and the incubus.

I just don't like this hopping business. Normally-walking spirits are bad enough, I don't see where the need to hop arises. It's just not a nice thing to do.

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You can see I'm totally jobless. I am trying really hard to stay in more and go out less, so unless I do something, anything to do with my time, the restlessness monster will catch up with me.

5 comments:

baruk said...

awesome, thank you! while i knew we had spirits, i didn't know of such a variety. and these 'superstitions' seem to suit me more than the christian ones we have exchanged them for, lol.

thanks again jerusha!

ku2 said...

I haaaated the Tualsumsu stories! Would be absolutely scary to see a friggin upside-down woman hopping along towards you one dark night. 'Zun dawt' creeped me out too. Imagine peeing and theres a person there, cupping your um..flow in its hands (and the joints apparently glow in the dark too,) aaand drinking your pee :D
Once went camping at a family farm and while exploring the woods, we saw a bobbing light in the distance. My male cousins screamed, "TAU" and ran away, leaving us sobbing. Anyway, the Tau turned out to be my uncle searching for crabs, but we didnt venture into the woods at night anymore :)

Jerusha said...

Muchos welcome Baruk! We had two chapters in high school that were only about the different spirits of the past. The good ones, the bad ones. The ones I've written here are only a very small, tiny percentage of them. I didn't add more only because the post was getting too lengthy. Very interesting subject!

Kus - Tualsumsu hi chu tiraw, awm lo tawp mahse a pawi lo. Kan tet laiin Mission Veng ah, Sikulpui kawn a kawng te reuh te chhuk thla pakhat ah hian tualsumsu an hmu an ti thin a, chu kawng chu ka rap thei bon.

Zun dawt hi keipawh ka rap, and I don't know what to believe but the modern-day explanations just make them out to be obsessive stalkers, minus the glowy joints (or nails). Just drinking the pee of the woman they are so obsessively in love with haha I still hope to see the tau meichherchhi some day. Thingtlang ah chuan hmuh tur an la awm an ti

caribou said...

Ramhuai chi hrang hrang pawh i hriat tam fu hi le. A lehpek ah chuan Phung leh lasi te pawh rawn ziak tel rawh. I rilrua i suangtuah dan leh mitthla dan tak hi a ngaihnawm khawp mai.

Jerusha said...

Caribou - ziah hnem kan tum em em khawp a, mahse keimah hi ka tawng hnem leh lutuk a a thui hma ltk thin a, ka pawt tawi ta mai anih kha. Lasi ho chu next list ah top priority :)