Myths and legends have always been a part of human history since time immemorial. And as humans spread far and off the planet, the stories continued to diverse, suiting their own surroundings and cultures, but if there is something that all of these myths and legends have in common, it is the fear of darkness, death, and encounter with supernatural.
We have grown up hearing our very own folklores, relevant to our own localities and regions, here are but 6 myths and legends from around the world that you might not know but can take your sleep away tonight.
1. Umita, Argentina
Umita, in the Argentinean legends, is a head that floats in the air, close to the ground, in the night along dark streets and lonely abandoned paths. Umita is just but a head with long careless hair, pointy nose, and big eyes. It is believed that she approaches lonesome travelers in nights with a heart-trembling loud shriek that would frighten the travelers so much that they would just run away from her. But she doesn’t mean to attack anyone. She just wants the travelers to listen to her and pray for her trapped soul in the world, but her voice would just freak everyone out and thus she is destined to wander in the world for eternity.
2. Banshee, Ireland
In Irish folklore, Banshees are spirits of women who appear and make bloodcurdling cries or haunting songs whenever someone is going to die, especially if the person belongs to a high rank. They have different origin stories but one of the most common stories about their origin is that they are but ghosts of women who were murdered or had seen much suffering in their lives and thus are very sensitive to grief. They are creepy, but harmless nevertheless. They appear just to warn people. It is believed that they can look like anything from an enchanting young woman to a naked headless body carrying a bowl of blood.
3. Kuchisake Onna, Japan
Kuchisake Onna, which literally means ‘the slit-mouthed woman’, is perhaps one of the most well known Japanese legends. According to the origin of Kuchisake Onna, she was the wife of a samurai who was very beautiful and thus would attract the attention of many men all the time. She also enjoyed the attention and used to ask people to rate her beauty. When her husband learned that she was cheating on him, he slit her mouth from ear to ear in anger. She soon died and became a vengeful spirit who would now approach travelers in the night, wearing a mask and carrying a pair of scissors and ask them if she is beautiful. If the travelers tell her that she is, she would remove the mask, revealing the cut and frighten the travelers and ask the same question again. If the travelers still say she is beautiful, she would cut their mouth similarly to her. If they tell her she is not, she would cut them in half. There is no escape.
4. Manananggal, Philippines
Manananggal, which has its origin in the Philippines, is a vampire like mythical creatures that feed on human flesh and blood. But unlike the vampires, they are more hideous and scary. A Manananggal is also said to have the capacity to detach half of its body from the remaining half. The upper half sprouts wings like a bat and flies in search of victims, while the other half remains rooted to the ground. It particularly feeds on sleeping pregnant women with the help of its long tongue but it also doesn’t spare others too. The only way to kill it is to find the lower half of its body and bury it with salt, ash or crushed garlic. This stops it from reattaching the two parts of its body and dies with the sunrise. Much like the vampire, it is believed that someone becomes a Manananggal after being infected by another Manananggal.
5. Yuki Onna, Japan
Yuki Onna, in Japanese legends, is a resentful mythical woman who dwells in high altitude areas where it snows. It is said that she can appear in a variety of forms from a young girl with deep violet eyes to an old woman with pale hair. It is believed that she leads the lost travelers in the snow astray to ultimately kill them for the purpose of devouring them or just kill them for her sheer pleasure. She appears to be very pale in complexion and cold as ice. In other variations of her story, she is believed to freeze her victims with her icy breath. In yet another, she appears with a child in her arms in the snow before the travelers. When they try to help the distressed woman by taking the child from her arms, they freeze instantly.
6. Petni, Bangladesh
Petni, which is almost similar to the Indian version of Churel is the ghost of an unmarried woman or even married who died of unnatural causes while still having some unfulfilled desires from her life. It is believed that Petnis live in trees, particularly tamarind and near ponds and possesses those married women who come near their dwelling places so that they can enjoy the pleasures of married life. They are believed to have the power of shape-shifting and can take the form of anything, while in their own form, they are generally hauntingly ugly and are clad in white or red sarees. They are heard often making unearthly laughter. The only way to ward off them is to do the proper post-death ritual of them or they continue to haunt people.