Halloween is drawing nearer and the air is thick with ghosts. After yesterday I can’t even go into the bathroom without checking the ceiling for creepy women clinging to the corners. Seriously. The only thing worse than being haunted by malevolent spirits is being haunted by malevolent spirits who attack when you’re pooping!
So far we’ve checked out Canada, Serbia, the British Isles, and Korea. The terrifying tour of world monsters continues and today we’re stopping off in Persia. Thank you to my friend Marisa for this suggestion! You can check out her writing at Marisa Fink Blogs or her Instagram where she shows of her amazing makeup artistry!
Now, onto the monsters…
The Jinn and Peri of ancient Persian mythology are not evil creatures. They are decidedly neutral in the ever present battle between good and evil. The Peri are depicted as tiny winged spirits similar to the more commonly known fairies. They are thought to be the spirits of creatures who are trapped in these bodies as punishment for past misdeeds, though never human souls. The Peri are mischievous creatures and cause all kinds of daily frustrations by hiding objects, tugging hair, tripping people, and the like. The sometimes delivered messages from the gods, but they were just as likely to be lying as telling the truth, so ancient Persians mistrusted the funny little sprites.
Jinn were more powerful creatures, and usually avoided human interaction. They could be found hiding in caves, far outside the city limits. Jinn have the power to grant wishes and sometimes they did. Sometimes, though, they would twist the dreamer’s words and cause a world of suffering. They are neither good nor evil, and one never knows what kind of mood you’ll find a Jinn in, so it’s best to avoid them.
The Manticore is another familiar mythological beast. It has the head of a man, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion (or a tail with poisoned quills that it can shoot at you… I’m not sure which is worse) These creatures love nothing more than hunting and devouring people who wander too far away from their cities. It’s hide was impenetrable and the Manticore was largely believed to be invincible. It could run faster than any living thing. The only thing it couldn’t eat was an elephant.
These creatures stalked the roads between cities, crouched in the grass, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting travelers. People who disappeared on journeys were thought to have been attacked by one of these beasts. When a Manticore did decide to eat someone, it left nothing behind except perhaps a smear of blood.
#3 Azhi Dahaka
This three-headed dragon is about as evil as they come. Dragons in Persian mythology existed as a balance to law and order in the world. They embodied all that is negative and chaotic, spreading disorder wherever they roamed. Azhi Dahaka was the fiercest of them all. This beast had the supernatural ability to pinpoint exactly where its foe was located. You can’t hide from it. You can’t kill it. Basically all you can do is run screaming and probably die. Although Azhi Dahaka was eventually defeated by one of the great Persian heroes, it was never killed. The creature is kept in chains until the end of the world when another resurrected hero will have to finish the job. Hopefully no one unwittingly unleashes him in the meantime…
One of two giant mythological birds, Kamak is the embodiment of all things awful. It is said to have been so large it’s wings could block the rain from fields, causing drought. It feasted upon livestock. It snacked on people. It basically spent its entire existence flying around wreaking havoc.
Fortunately, this particular baddie was killed by the great Persian warrior Karsasp who filled it so full of arrows it looked like a pin-cushion. Karsasp is the hero we are waiting for to come back and rid the world of Azhi Dahaka, too. But by then the world as we know it will be over anyway, so at least he took care of the evil bird for us, right?
The Al is a particularly horrifying monster. So far I haven’t come across any other creatures that have specifically set their beady little eyes upon pregnant women and infants, which is surprising since pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy were a pretty tough go back in the day. Perhaps the Al are responsible for the hardships of motherhood all around the world.
The Al is a night stalker. She appears as an old woman with pointed teeth, thin, stringy hair, and claw-like fingernails which she used to tear into pregnant women to get at the fetus. The Al was invisible unless she chose to be seen so she can attack in broad daylight without anyone being the wiser. At night, you are more likely to see her terrifying face before she attacks.
Worse than that, the Al had a taste for newborn babies. She was blamed for miscarriages, stillbirths, and what we now call Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and was the most feared of all demons in the Persian pantheon because the effects of her evil nature were inescapable. Whether or not you can see her, she is always there, waiting…
What do you think of the Persian monsters? I have never studied Persian mythology before, and it was interesting to see how many versions of these ancient tales persist today. Another giant bird creature called Simurgh, for example, is a precursor for the Pheonix. The Azhi probably influenced the dragon myths that later spread across Europe. The Peri are almost exactly the same as the fairies and sprites of the British Isles, but their history reaches much farther back.
What else might we discover on our exploration of myths and monsters? Where to next? Let me know in the comments!