Hey everyone. It’s a bit quiet around here, isn’t it?
Just wanted to pop in and let everyone know that I’m not dead and that there is, in fact, a contest going on. One where YOU can win MONEY.
Well, sort of money. Money at Amazon. The bookstore.
As part of the Anti-Bully Project, I’ve donated a 25$ Gift Card. Click HERE for the entry rafflecopter.
Good luck, and be sure to check out the rest of the Anti-Bully Project. There’s even merchandise. I bought myself a snazzy hat this year!
Just a quick note that I’ll be interviewed live over at Shelf Stacker on Blog Talk Radio tonight at 5:00 PST.
Click here for the link.
My non-writing work has picked up lately, which is good. Means I get to buy a bunch of pre-made covers. Unfortunately, it has decimated my mythology posts and writing time.
Rest assured that I’m working to get both back up and running!
Hope everyone is having a great summer!
As you may know, July 1st marks Canada’s birthday. 146 years ago, Canada began as a dominion of three provinces under the British Empire. Now, there are ten provinces and three territories. The last territory, Nunavut, was made official in 1999. The last province, Newfoundland, joined in 1949.
Above shows the shields of the provinces and territories in mostly geographic order. From the left, we have the Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The province throws a big party on the lawn of the legislative buildings, closing down the nearby streets to traffic so people have room to move. Live music on two stages around the harbour.
In celebration of Canada Day, I’ll be adding some extra, Canada-themed mythology throughout the
week month (yeah, that week didn’t turn out like I had planned, haha!). Possible subjects include…
- Canadian Cryptids: Ogopogo, Manipogo, Cadborosaurus and others.
- La Corriveau
I was considering doing an American folklore-themed post for July 4th. Perhaps Paul Bunyan and Babe or the Jersey Devil.
Archie helping us run the police barricade (at 9km/h). What a good boy.
I first learned about La Chasse-galerie in my high school’s french class. La Chasse-galerie, known also as The Bewitched Canoe or The Flying Canoe, is a legend from Quebec. According to Wikipedia, it has its origins in The Wild Hunt stories, particularly one where a man, Gallery, was so fond of hunting that he skipped Sunday mass. As punishment, he is forever hunted by The Wild Hunt.
The tale changed as French settlers swapped stories with the First Nations and adapted it for the portage lifestyle. There are several versions of the story now, but the one I learned goes like this:
On New Years Eve, men from Gatineau sat around a fire in a logging camp, missing their loved ones who were back in the village, far away, and undoubtedly celebrating New Years by dancing and singing and being merry. Alas, the village was one hundred leagues away, so they were unhappily resigned to stay at camp for the night.
Until one man spoke up.
“I’m going to see my girlfriend,” he said.
“What? Impossible. How?”
“I will run the chasse-galerie.”
Running the chasse-galerie meant making a pact with the Devil so that he would bewitch their canoe to fly. Yes, it would work. It would get them there and back before morning. Everyone, however, was less than comfortable about making a pact with the Devil. Could they risk their eternal souls in order to see their loved ones?
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. We have to avoid crosses on churches and cannot blaspheme on the journey.”
After some convincing, they all decide to risk it. They get into a canoe, and chant:
Satan, roi des enfers, nous te promettons de te livrer nos âmes, si d’ici à six heures, nous prononçons le nom de ton maître et le nôtre, le, bon Dieu, et si nous touchons une croix dans le voyage. A cette condition, tu nous transporteras, à travers les airs, au lieu où nous voulons aller, et tu nous ramèneras de même au chantier. Acabris! Acabras! Acabram!….Fais-nous voyager par-dessus les montagnes.
(Satan, King of Hell, we permit you to have our souls if, in these six hours, we say the name of the Lord and if we touch a cross during the journey. Under these conditions, you may transport us through the air to where we want to go, then take us back to this site afterwards. Acabris! Acabras! Acabram! Let us go through the mountains.)
The canoe immediately begins to lift. At around 600ft above, they begin to paddle. The canoe shoots forward like an arrow.
Fifteen minutes later, they saw the lights of the city. They skirted around Montreal, then on to Gatineau. Although they saw people on the street, no one noticed them. The canoe moved so fast that they were gone in the blink of an eye.
Five minutes after Montreal, they reached in Gatineau. They landed in the field of one of their relatives, left the canoe on the edge of the forest, and walked into town.
Eventually, they found where the party was at. In order to keep their heads clear, they decided not to drink. They knocked on the door and were welcomed with open arms.
They danced and made merry. When it was time to go back to the canoe, it was clear that the navigator had had a drop too much to drink. Instead of leading them back around Montreal, they took a river in to the west of Montreal. They narrowly missed hitting the Grand Cross of Temperence. Then they crashed the canoe into a snow bank.
Luckily, it was not broken. However, the navigator then began to swear like a sailor. He then decides to go have a drink in Ottawa.
The rest of the crew unanimously decide to tie and gag him for the rest of the trip.
They hit a pine tree near their camp and crashed again. When they woke, they were back in their cabins, safe and sound but hungover.
Other versions of the story involve an Acadian myth where, instead of a flying canoe, it was an axe-handle that stretched to allow them to see their loved ones. Sometimes it is the Devil steering, trying to trip them up on the return journey. The men could be loggers, explorers, trappers, portagers, etc.
The National Film board of Canada’s version:
Photo courtesy of Ee Shawn on Flickr and used under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives License.
I’d bumped into these pair of demonic underworld guards in a few temples during my travels in China. Alas, as their statues were located within the inner-sanctum type area of the temples (one of those temples being the same temple that provided such excellent murals for my Diyu post) where they would be worshiped, I do not have any personal pictures of this pair.
Ox-head and Horse-Face (Niutou Mamian 牛头马面 literally, “Oxhead Horseface”), known in Japan as Gozumezu, are two demons in Diyu who act as guards and retrievers of souls. Although many stories are told of them directly escorting the dead to Diyu and it is said that no soul can escape them, the responsibility of soul-retrieval appears to fall more on another, higher-ranked pair of Underworld inhabitants: the Black and White Guardians/Messengers (Heibai Wuchang). Those two sound fairly interesting. Maybe I should do a spotlight on them for around Ghost Festival time.
Photo by Major Clanger on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike License.
As their names suggest, Ox-head and Horse-face have the bodies of men with the heads of their respective namesake animals. Their origin story is a bit difficult to find. One story says that they were an ox and a horse in their previous lives, and King Yama rewarded them for their hard work by making them guards. Another says that they were worked to death by their masters and King Yama took pity upon them.
Either way, they are now very loyal to King Yama.
Perhaps the most famous tale of them comes in Journey to the West, the famous Chinese epic in which the Monk Tripitaka, accompanied by The Monkey King, Monk Pig, and Friar Sand, travel to India to retrieve the sacred Buddhist scriptures. The pair are sent after The Monkey King, who either tricks them or overpowers them, thus scaring them away.
The Monkey King then gatecrashes Diyu and crosses his name and the names of all his monkey followers from the record of souls.
Photo by Major Clanger on Flicker and used under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike License.
Photo credit to Richard Hopkins on Flickr.
King Yama can be found all throughout Asia. Originating in Hinduism, some myths make Yama the first man, with a sister, Yami or Yamuna, as the first woman. Others do not. Whichever the case, Yama was the first man to die. This is what made him the God of Death.
Photo credit to James Trindade on Flickr.
Yama has two dogs, which serve as guardians and messengers.
As Buddhism came along and reinterpreted deities in Hindu belief, spreading across through South-East Asia (where Hinduism had previously spread), China, Korea, and Japan (where it mixed with folk religions), the figure of Yama changed.
In South-East Asia, which (except for Vietnam) is predominantly Theravada Buddhist (meaning there isn’t the saint-figures of the Bodhisattvas to help you attain Nirvana), Yama judges a person’s character after death and sends them to the appropriate rebirth (either on earth, heaven, or hell, depending on their Karma). He also sends old-age, disease, and other misfortunes to remind people to behave well.
In Chinese mythology, King Yama is both King and Judge. Although the photo at the top is of a Japanese depiction, it fits with the Chinese image of him: large, bulging eyes, scowling face, red skin, beard. On his hat is the character 王 wang, meaning king. One difference is that the Chinese version may have a veil of beads dangling from the hat.
Yama presides over the other Kings/Judges, who rule various parts of hell and judge different types of sin (thieves and murderers, rapists, etc.). The magistrates that work under the Kings are the Panguan I’ve been looking for.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Yama is called Shinje and has a different creation story. According to this myth, Shinje was an ordinary man in search of enlightenment. He was told that if he meditated for 50 years, he would attain enlightenment. So he went to a cave and began his meditation. After 49 years of meditation, he was interrupted when two thieves broke into the cave with a stolen cow. Although he asked to be spared, the thieves killed him. In his near-enlightened fury, he became Yama, the God of Death, and killed the thieves. He used their skulls as cups to drink their blood and took the cow’s skull for his own. He then decided to kill everyone in Tibet.
Thankfully, he was thwarted when another God answered the Tibetan people’s prayers.
Except for the last, wonderful public domain image, all images in this post are used under the Creative Commons attribution noncommercial license or the Creative Commons attribution non-derivative license.
Starting now, Into the Fire will be free on Amazon until the 19th. I will be taking Into the Fire out of the Amazon Kindle Select program after that, and it will be available on all platforms starting the 20th. This is the last free run it will have on Amazon Select, so be sure to pick up a copy!
Warning: the images in this post may be disturbing to some. They are from the inner wall of a temple I stumbled across. I have cropped the torture out of those directly visible, although clicking on the images will take you to the original, torture-ridden photos. Although the images directly visible do not contain explicit torture, they do contain nudity.
Can’t really call this Monster Monday, now can I? Ah, well. At least it’s here!
Today, I introduce Diyu, the Chinese version of Hell.
China is a bit special when it comes to its beliefs. Diyu is not made from any one religion, but rather an amalgamation of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Chinese folk beliefs. And the re-incarnations and renewals of all those beliefs, because Chinese history is long.
Diyu, translated directly as “Earth Prison”, is closer to Purgatory than Hell. Since Chinese beliefs about death center around reincarnation, confinement to Diyu is not eternal. Diyu serves to “punish and renew” souls for the next life, and everyone goes there (time spent in Diyu depends on how much one has sinned). Sinners can feel pain, but cannot die. After each bout of torture, their bodies are restored for the next round. Once the sinner has atoned, they are given the Drink of Forgetfulness and reborn into their next life.
The location of Diyu, like a few places in Chinese mythology, is based on places in the real world. Mount Tai, one of the Five Great Mountains, is a place where dead people go. As is Fengdu. Diyu theme parks exist around these places.
The structure of Diyu combines ideas from China’s different time periods and popular religions. In Buddhist beliefs, Diyu is very loosely based on Naraka–a temporary hell for those who sinned in their life. Chinese folk beliefs combined with Buddhism to make a story where the Jade Emperor (a figure from the Folk belief/Taoist pantheon who is basically China’s Zeus) put King Yama in charge of Diyu. Originally, there were eight dark hells, eight cold hells, and 84,000 miscellaneous hells, but King Yama reduced that number to ten, later turning each hell into a court overseen by its own “Yama King”.
These “Kings” have also been referred to as “Judges”, with Yama as the overseeing Judge. I think these may be the Panguan/Banguan that I have been looking for, although I will examine it more closely next week. Some of these Kings/Judges are even thought to be certain historical rulers from China’s earlier dynasties. One can sometimes runs into these Kings/Judges in Taoist temples.
Hell even has a capital city, Youdu, which is thought to be like a traditional Chinese walled city, except surrounded by darkness and with a few more demons. Many deities also keep official offices here.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Buddhism and Taoism had equal influence and power in Chinese culture (until later in the Tang when Buddhism became persecuted). It was then that another concept of Buddist hell developed: Originally conceived as 134 levels of Hell, it was shortened to 18 levels, with each level specific to the type of torture it meted out (or which sin was committed, depending on what article one references).
Common tortures include: being cooked in a cauldron of oil, dismemberment, being mashed, pounded, or ground into a pulp, burning, having boiling liquid forced down throat, being frozen until one shatters, hanging from hooks, disembowelment, being forced to climb a mountain of knives, induced bleeding from… places, trampled and run down, stung, bitten or mauled by animals, and many others.
Expanded images of those used in this post, showing these wonderful torture techniques, can be found here, here and here or by clicking on the images themselves.
There is one hell where the sinners are not reborn (Arguably. Some scriptures say anyone can be reborn and that, although time spent in Avici is usually incalculable, it is not eternal as the sinner will eventually be rid of all his bad karma), but instead are in for eternal torture. It is called Avici or Avichi. One way to get in is to commit one of the Five Great Offenses: patricide, matricide, killing an enlightened being, hurting a Buddha, or creating a conflict in the community of Buddhist monks and nuns.
Next week, we’ll take a closer look at King Yama.
My laptop is currently in the shop for a simple diagnostics check. They said two-three business days, so I’ll see you then!
Edit: Laptop is back and better than ever. Hooray! See you on Monday for a tour of Hell. It’ll likely be a two-parter. Hell is big.