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Strange and obscure folklore and sayings relating animals

Discussion in 'Zoo Cafe' started by Onychorhynchus coronatus, 19 Nov 2020.

  1. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Human beliefs, traditions, historic incidents and folklore around the world regarding animals can often be as strange, diverse, amusing and fascinating as the natural world itself.

    These can reveal a lot about perceptions of the natural world and the human condition in equal measure. Similarly they can be either incredibly useful or destructive for the conservation of biodiversity.

    This is a thread that I've been meaning to create for a while and I thought this could be a place where I or you can post strange and fascinating folklore, ethno-zoological beliefs and sayings relating to wildlife from around the world as we discover them.

    So go ahead and share an obscure or interesting saying, proverb, piece of folklore, history or cultural belief regarding an animal species that you have learned about here in the comment section below.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2020
  2. Carlos M

    Carlos M Well-Known Member

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    The first thing that comes to my mind is the perception of owls in my country. Here, people associated them with death, and when owls sing at night, its singing is perceived as a bad signal. Sadly, this has led to people killing owls :(
     
  3. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    In Haiti the hutia is apparently known as the "zagouti".

    There is an old saying in Creole "Ou semble ak zagouti" which translates as "You are like a hutia".

    This refers to a poverty stricken peasant living up in the mountains trying to scratch together a life on the barren slopes of the deforested mountainsides.

    The saying seems to be quite apt considering that the hutia is endangered in Haiti in large part due to the catastrophic deforestation levels and the fact that the ones still extant in the country like the people of haiti have to resiliently cling onto survival under desperately challenging environmental conditions.

    Source : "Last Endemic Mammals in Hispaniola", Charles A. Wood, 1981.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2020
  4. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing @Carlos M !

    This is a belief that is sadly present throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and it leads to a lot of owls being needlessly killed by people who believe they are bad omens.

    I've seen some of these animals that have been injured by being attacked by people in sanctuaries and it is awful to witness.

    Is there a particular folk saying relating to this in Guatemala ?
     
  5. Carlos M

    Carlos M Well-Known Member

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    Not exactly as long as I remember. It's just that when people hear an owl singing, it is like everybody thinks and says the same thing "someone is going to die". As I understand, at least here, the idea comes from an ancient maya myth where owls were the messengers from Xibalbá (tha maya underworld). I find intriguing that the same belief is applied to some black big moths.
     
  6. DaLilFishie

    DaLilFishie Well-Known Member

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    Apparently, in Japanese folklore, an Oarfish washing up on the beach is said to be a sign that an earthquake will happen. The cool part is that there is truth behind it, as the tiny tremors that occur before an earthquake are not noticeable on land, but in the deep ocean they are stronger and more noticeable, which can irritate the Oarfish, making them swim to the surface to escape. Because they are poor swimmers, once the Oarfish reach the surface they are easily carried towards land by waves and wash up on the beach.
     
  7. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I think that it could have been a belief that came from the Mayans and the mythology surrounding Xibalbá. Interesting to note that the Aztec and Toltec civilizations of Mexico also associated the owl and particularly the horned owl with the underworld and the feared god of darkness and discord Tezcatlipoca.

    However, I also think that a lot of European mythology surrounding owls as omens of darkness and witchcraft probably got put into the mix with the Spanish colonization of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean too. I mean owls were often considered to be a symbol of witchcraft (as the familiars of witches), misfortune and the devil.

    To add to that in areas of Latin America where African slaves were brought in large numbers like the Caribbean (Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico etc), South America (Colombia,Peru,Venezuela, Brazil etc) traditional beliefs surrounding the owl could have also arrived. As in Europe, many West African cultures associate the owl as an evil omen of witchcraft and ill fortune.

    It could well be that still present beliefs and superstitions about owls as evil omens in Latin America and the Caribbean are a mix of all three of those cultural influences.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2020
  8. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    In Madagascar there is an expression: "Mangatambo hita, miseho tsy tsara." The translation of this statement is "If (the aye aye) is seen, there will be evil".

    In rural areas it is believed that if an aye-aye is seen in the forest then either the person who saw it or someone in their family will die. It is also believed that if an aye-aye comes into a village someone will die.

    In some regions it was even believed that if an aye-aye comes into a village ill fortune would impact everyone in the village and therefore that everyone in the village should leave to avoid this dark fate. The phenomenon of whole settlements of people moving due to the arrival of the aye-aye in a village was documented as recently as the 1960's by cultural anthropologists.

    In some areas of the country there is a "fady" (Malagasy folk belief) that if an aye-aye is seen it must be promptly killed to avoid bad fortune. The dead animal should then be hung by its tail on a pole by a crossroad because a traveller passing by will take on the curse and carry the bad luck away with him / her away from the area.

    Source: "Folklore and beliefs about the aye-aye" (Journal "Lemur News"), Elwyn L. Symonds & David M. Meyers, 2001.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2020
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  9. CheeseChameleon2007

    CheeseChameleon2007 Well-Known Member

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    While this isn't a horrible perception of one, everyone here just hates toads so much because people think they give warts, which is simply not true. I've seen some cool burrowing toads, and named another toad I saw under a slide Murphy.

    EDIT: 1000th post.
     
    Last edited: 19 Nov 2020
  10. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Exactly and very true, a Malagasy (or indeed from any other culture) folk belief that we perceive to be ignorance can easily have an equivalent / analogous one in Western culture and even in the developed / 1st world.
     
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  11. Nandito

    Nandito Well-Known Member

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    There is a story about a corpse-eating tiger in the Gunung Kidul Regency, Yogyakarta.
     
  12. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    The Dagomba ethnic group of Northern Ghana, Africa, have a curious folk belief regarding the aardvark.

    They believe that aardvarks have their own complex villages and societies in labyrinthine networks of underground tunnels beneath the ground of the savannah and deserts. There are even markets believed to exist in these tunnels where aardvarks go for a stroll and to purchase food.

    Numerous myths exist of hunters who have encountered an aardvark in the bush and been invited down to the subterranean cities and later emerged with stories of visiting these mysterious underground aardvark societies.

    Source : "Aardvarks go shopping: Dagomba concepts of living things", Roger Blench, 2012.
     
  13. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    That sounds fascinating @Nandito ! The tiger has a very strong association in Indonesian and South-East Asian culture.

    Please share more about this story in a comment I would like to hear about it.
     
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  14. Nandito

    Nandito Well-Known Member

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    I don't really know much of the story. From what I heard, the tiger lived around the limestone hill forest in the Tanjungsari region. In the 1990s, a resident saw a tiger pick up a corpse at night. It is said that, whoever saw the tiger, they would get sick and then die. This tiger is more of a supernatural being rather than a surviving Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica).
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2020
  15. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Thanks @Nandito for reminding me of another one to share on the subject of tigers in Indonesia although this one has a darker tone.

    The term "amok" as in "running amok" in English actually derives from an Indonesian term "Amuck".

    The term Amuk in Indonesia refers to a sudden episode of violent and bloodthirsty madness that leads to a mass assault on many people and killings by a young man.

    This usually happens after they have gone through a period of intense brooding / depression and was often historically carried out using swords or spears.

    Traditionally in Indonesia this condition was believed to have been caused by the possession of a young man by an evil tiger spirit / entity known as "Hantu Belian" (something like or analogous to the European concept of the werewolf).

    Because the individual was believed to be acting outside of his own control through being possessed by the tiger spirit traditional Indonesian society sometimes tolerated or forgave the assailant though they may have killed or harmed many when in the state of "amuck".

    This is an example of a culturally bound mental illness which is a psychiatric disorder that is found only within one culture / cultural context.

    Source: "Running amok: A Modern Perspective on a Culturally Bound Syndrome", Manuel L. Saint Martin, 1999.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2020
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  16. Nandito

    Nandito Well-Known Member

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    There is also myth story based on the melanistic chicken, Ayam Cemani.

    According to the myth, this chicken is believed to have magical powers of its own, Ayam Cemani is often associated with black magic. It is said that if someone wants to perform an occult ritual, Ayam Cemani is often a prerequisite for the ritual. There were various rituals that are believed to required a Ayam Cemani, starting from summoning the genie, building construction, and even pesugihan (Pesugihan is a way to get wealth instantly without having to work hard like working people in general. In the process, pesugihan is a form of covenant cooperation between humans as the perpetrator of the pesugihan with a supernatural beings).

    Many people believe that if someone kept a Ayam Cemani, it can bring bad luck to the owner. Not only that, raising Ayam Cemani is also believed to attract spirits to come. According to the myth, Ayam Cemani can also be a tool to get supernatural powers. It is believed that if you perform a certain ritual while eating the Ayam Cemani, that person will become powerful. Not only magic, people who do perform this ritual are believed to have nine lives and will even have the knowledge of immunity to all types of weapons.
     
  17. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    That is fascinating @Nandito ! Thanks for sharing this !

    Do you think that in a cultural sense this supernatural tiger being that believe in is the same "Hantu Belian" spirit / demon that people believed caused young men to "run amock" ?

    By the way, not saying I believe in evil tiger spirits, I definitely don't, but I am interested in this kind of cultural anthropology and folklore.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2020
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  18. Nandito

    Nandito Well-Known Member

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    Almost every supernatural stories in Indonesia is pretty dark.
     
  19. Onychorhynchus coronatus

    Onychorhynchus coronatus Well-Known Member

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    Wow, this is another really interesting one, thanks very much for sharing this @Nandito !

    That sounds like a very sinister chicken indeed :confused: I'm not sure I would like to run into an Ayam Cemani pecking around in the dust of some farmyard.

    It reminds me of the great old 80's film "Angel heart" with Mickey Rourke (before he went crazy) and all of the occult chicken symbolism and the protagonist hating chickens too.
     
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  20. Nandito

    Nandito Well-Known Member

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    All supernatural beings in the Indonesian folklore is a different entity.