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Groups :: World Mythology : Asian Mythology

Asian Were-Cats

Japan

The most popular werecreatures in Japanese folklore is the kitsune (fox) and the tanuki or mijina (raccoon dog or badger). The kitsune is usually a female, and the tanuki, a male. The terrible tengu is also a shapeshifter (a bird). Collectively, shapeshifters are called henge.

India

The rakshasa or raghosh is a huge creature that can shift into any type of animal that it wants. It is characterized by its large size and its red or blonde hair.

The Nagas are snake-people of Asian countries, especially India & Nepal; they may appear either as transforming between human and snake, or as a cross between the two (such as the upper torso being human and the lower torso being serpentine); some Nagas may also assume the form of dragons like in Cambodia or Thailand (Khmer).


The weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock who might at any time turn to man-eating.


Philippines

The aswang is a vampire-werewolf who transforms from a human to a canine form at night, and eats human flesh. The aswang also manifests itself as a decaying corpse that has been severed at the waist (in other words...it has nothing from the waist down)... with batwings. They are very closely related to the Berbalang ghouls of legend.

The southern Filipino berbalang are a sort of ghouls or vampires who fly through the air in their astral bodies in the form of a swarm of reddish fireflies in search of human victims to devour and kill.

When not flying through the air as swarms of reddish fireflies making a horrid howling or moaning noise, they look like ordinary human beings distinguishable only by their cat-like eye pupils. The berbalang were described in 1896 by a Hong Kong based English anthropologist named Ethelbert Forbes Skertchley, who had spent a few years on Cagayan Sulu in the extreme southern Philippines studying local customs and beliefs, in a paper on "Cagayan Sulu, its Customs, Legends, and Superstitions," in the _Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal_, Vol. LXV, Part III, Np. 1, 1896. Skertchley even claimed to have had a personal close encounter with the berbalang in their moaning firefly-cloud astral phase! Rupert T. Gould summarized and quoted Skertchley's paper in his chapter on "The Berbalangs of Cagayan Sulu" in _Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts_ (1928). Most subsequent popular 20th century accounts of the _berbalang_ have basically been rehashes of Gould's summary of Skertchley.


China

Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either heredity or a vindictive ghost. Ancient teachings held that every race except the Han Chinese were really animals in disguise, so there was nothing extraordinary about some of these false humans reverting to their true natures. Alternately, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers would become malevolent supernatural beings, devoting all their energy to making sure that tigers killed more humans. Some of these ghosts were responsible for transforming ordinary humans into man-eating weretigers.


Indonesia (Bali)

The layak is a spirit that shapeshifts into people, animals, or objects and causes mischief, illnesses and even death.

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