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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This month we shall discuss the study of Angels and Demons, beginning with various names, provinces and hierarchies of Angels, then those of Demons, before looking at the ways in which Diabolists, Diviners and other Nigromancers have attempted to utilize this information.

A note before we begin: Given that this concerns the work of hundreds of scholars, theologians and questers over several centuries, we have striven to provide representative, if not exhaustively complete, information. Believe us when we say there is almost as much information that we have not included as there is that we have, and most definitely far more that we have not uncovered. As always with our articles, we suggest you take this as your starting point for further research. Enjoy!

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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. We apologise for the slight lateness of this month’s last article (it being the 2nd of August), and in order to get a fresh start and add a little spice to the proceedings, we are serving up a hot batch of original sources on Witchcraft and Sorcery. As previously stated, we shall most likely devote a month to each of this month's topics so as to cover them more thoroughly.

Enjoy!

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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This week we explore another well-known creature from European Folklore - the Vampire. What we in the modern era consider to be a vampire - the corpse of an evil man, which rises immaculate from the grave to feed upon the blood of the innocent for eternity until it is burned alive by sunlight or impaled with a stake through the heart - is as much a composite of many different local legends as it is a product of romantic fiction. Over the course of this article we shall examine scattered accounts and reports by officials, shed light on creatures from the corners of Europe and the distant past, to answer the question of what the vampire truly is.Read more... )

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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. For this month’s series of articles, we take a look at the origins and incarnations of three staples of nightmares worldwide – the Werewolf, the Vampire and the Witch. For our first article, given that most of these accounts come from folk-tales, and are scarcely recorded in books in some cases, let alone illustrated, rather than providing the same tired illustrations of Werewolves (or –heaven forbid– contemporary depictions) we have instead provided a plethora of original quotations and sources for one to follow up oneself. Whether we can maintain this quantity as we proceed along the month remains to be seen.

The story most commonly associated with the “origins” of werewolves is Lycaon of Arcadia in Greece. King of that region, he sought to please the god Zeus by making a sacrifice of one of his sons. However, as in the tale of Tantalus, who invited the gods to a banquet and served the flesh of his son, Lycaon was punished, either for the insult that human flesh would appease the gods or for daring to assume the power to take human life as the gods do, by being turned into a wolf. Thus was founded the Lykaia cult, who sought to replicate the process via wild hedonistic ritual, much like the Bacchanals, and worshipped an aspect of Zeus – Lykaios, or “wolf-Zeus” – although in some versions he is the first priest of this cult. However, it is in the North of Europe where the true roots of the Werewolf as we know it can be found.

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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. For the last (for now) in our Japanese Creatures articles, we’re departing from the previous format and discussing one creature in particular – the Yurei or ghosts – and the various forms in which they appear.

Ghosts ( – Rei) in Japan come under a variety of names. The most common is Yurei (faint spirits), although Borei (ruined spirits) and Shinryo (dead spirits) are occasionally used. In some popular culture, Ayakashi is also sometimes used, although this is technically only used for those who have drowned at sea. The process of becoming a ghost was, to the Japanese, similar to the one most people who believe would subscribe to, in that it arises from complications in “passing on”. Japan, like many Asian countries, maintains a strong belief in Ancestor Spirits, the ghosts of departed family members and historical clan members, some of whom over time may be promoted to the status of minor deities, particularly if they were the clan founders. Furthermore, the spiritual dimension of the afterlife was distinct from that occupied by gods and spirits, which overlapped closely with the material realm. This then necessitated a “crossing over” that the spirit (Reikon) must achieve in order to depart the mortal realm, a process aided by the prayers and offerings of incense given at funerals. However extreme emotion, usually of anger, hate and so forth, though sometimes of simply things like envy or grief, can cause either the person’s spirit itself or a part of it to remain behind, either seeking vengeance for its being wronged (assuming it can even remember the life it had) or simply expressing its fury and grief to anyone who crosses its path. Some are simply a “loop” of such anger that lashes out at bystanders, and as such are extremely dangerous. In some cases, too, the spirit of a living person can enter this state as an Ikiryo, similar to Astral Projection, as the result of great rage or hate, in order to deliver a curse to the object of their feelings.

As one might expect from a feudal (and therefore patriarchal) civilization where hardship was a common factor of the majority of the population’s lives, women faced a hard life and thus many of the more popular archetypal Yurei have been of women wronged by husbands, lords or just the simple facts of life. This is so prevalent that many associate the term Yurei exclusively with such female spirits (perhaps due to its similarity to the feminine name Yuri or Lily). Below we have illustrated some of the most well-known of these wronged women and their origins.

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Hello, and welcome once again to The Obscuritan. We continue our tour of supernatural Japan with a look at the Henge, or monstrous animals. Many of these creatures have whole volumes worth of stories associated with them, and would require entire articles each to do them justice, but for now a summary will have to suffice.

Often classed as either forms of Yokai or Bakemono, the HENGE are different enough so as to deserve their own category. Much like the Bakemono, the Henge are initially ordinary creatures of their own type. However, it is not extreme emotion that usually leads to their transformation but extreme age – usually reaching the age of 100 is seen as bestowing supernatural powers and a malevolent consciousness upon an animal. These powers are apt to vary from creature to creature, and in different regions such individual creatures may be venerated in dedicated shrines much like minor Kami spirits, for fear that they should be angered into a destructive rampage.  Read more... )


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Hello and welcome to The Obscuritan. This week we continue our tour of the critters of supernatural Japan with the Bakemono and, because we're so nice, the Tsukumogami as well.

What distinguishes the Bakemono from creatures such as the Yokai is that, rather than born-and-bred creatures of a certain species which in some cases happen to appear human (mostly in order to prey upon or mock them), the Bakemono are initially ordinary humans or objects. However, the residue of strong emotions, particularly violent ones such as hatred, causes these creatures to develop in strange ways. In the case of humans this emotion is one that drove it in life or tainted its death. While objects can’t feel these emotions, they can, in certain circumstances, absorb them.

 

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Hello folks, and welcome to The Obscuritan. Our port of call this month is Japan, where we’ll be taking a look at some of the Ghouls and Ghosts of Feudal Japan – the Yokai (Goblins), Bakemono and Henge (Shapeshifters and monstrous animals) and Yurei (Ghosts) and Tsukumogami (Living Objects). The terms Yokai and Bakemono (“thing that changes”) are often used interchangeably. For the time being, we’ll be using the name Yokai to talk about the “species” of creatures – namely, those that are born as monsters – and Bakemono for creatures or objects which have become monsters. Expect more on these in the next 2 weeks.

YOKAI

Simply put, the name Yokai (Yōkai, Youkai) is equivalent to Goblin or Monster, but just like the English words, this label encompasses thousands of different creatures. And, just like the Goblins and Monsters in the popular consciousness, stories of the Yokai include many thousands of miscellaneous “Goblins” for which there are no name, and indeed many entirely invented by the many artists such as Toriyama Sekien who popularized them (of which I have included a few). Nevertheless, there are many that have become popular characters, and we’ll explore some of them here. Some appear to be explanations for various phenomena, others are merely creatures who enjoy doing (or are forced to do) such things. Some are mischievous, some are dangerous, and most are utterly bizarre.

 

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