beasts

The Aspidochelone is creature, found in medieval bestiaries, that appears to be an island with trees, dunes, and rocky crevices—but is in reality a giant whale, sea turtle, or other sea monster. Sailors who unwittingly explored the ‘island’ found their ships and themselves in peril. Image: JaniceDuke

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Familiars are spirits who assist witches and other sorcerers, either by being conjured or mutual agreement. Depending on who they serve, they’re considered demons, fairies, or other spirits. They appear ordinary, usually manifesting as animals, and sometimes humans.

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The Italian manuscript Lusus naturae, Human and Natural Monstrosities, 18th Century, contained 54 watercolor illustrations of beasts and men with medical conditions or deformities, along with unworldly creatures. Source: John Rylands Library

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The Beast of Gévaudan was a man-eating creature, sometimes identified as a wolf-dog hybrid, that attacked and killed citizens of Gévaudan, France in the late 18th century. Over 600 attacks were recorded, some victims having their throats torn out. Image: Gallica Digital Library

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The hypnotist Walford Bodie claimed he could hypnotize animals as well as humans, and tells of an demonstration at the Dundee, Oregon zoo where he supposedly hypnotized wolves and hyenas. While the incident did make it into the local paper, many regarded him as a charlatan. Image: The Bodie Book, 1905, Wellcome Library

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Here’s one yokai you don’t want to help with your spring cleaning: the Akaname is goblin-sized creature, with slimy black hair, from Japanese folklore whose tongue is twice as long as its height—that it uses to lick toilets. Image: Edo shokoku hyaku monogatari, 17th Century

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Cynocephaly or “having the head of a dog” is a characteristic found in many mythological and folklore traditions across the world, such as ancient Egypt, India, Greece, and China. These humanoid, dog-headed beings were often described by travelers coming back from far off lands. Images: Saint Christopher by Anonymous, 17th Century | The Egyptian Book of the Dead, 1550 BCE | Kievan Psalter by Unknown, 1397 | Man with dog head by Hartmann Schedel, 1493.

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Balor was the leader of the Fomorians, a group of demonic beings from Irish Mythology. He was a giant with a poisonous eye wreaked havoc in battle. The eyelid was so heavy, that it took the strength of four warriors from his army to lift it. He was killed with a sling-stone to the eye by his grandson. Image: JFarren on Deviant Art

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