Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Daily Ghost Post – C is for Churel

Old Man at Ravangla Market, India


The churel is a supernatural badass. A female ghost, the churel can slap back at those who wronged her in life.

In India, it is said that if a woman is treated badly by her family or dies under unnatural circumstances, then she can return after death to settle up. A bit of a vampire now, she can turn the blood of the men in her family to powder. A churel can also suck the youth out of people. According to vampire expert J. Gordon Melton, if she offers a young man some food and he takes it, then he is hers for the night. When he returns to his own life the next day, he will be a withered, old man.

That’s one powerful play date.

Although she can trick her quarry into believing she is a regular everyday woman, her actual physical appearance is hideous – thick black tongue, long dangling breasts, pointy teeth, slimy mouth – you know, your basic monster. Some sources indicate that churels are the ghosts of women who died in childbirth. Rosemary Ellen Guiley indicates that a churail (note different spelling) could have been either pregnant or menstruating when she died. With so many ways to spell her name and so many variants in what she is capable of, there is agreement on at least two points: 1. that she is a ghostly vampire woman known in India, and; 2. you don’t want to meet her in a dark or day lit alley.

This ghost fascinates me for several reasons. The first reason is that the churel is empowered in death. This is in contrast to whatever situations in life wronged her. Like the closing of a circle, the churel represents cosmic justice. I also wonder if the existence of the churel offers spiritual hope to those who suffer in life.

Another reason for my churel fascination is that her actions and their consequences are somewhat parallel to those of the Irish fairies. The risks of accepting food from the fairy folk is well known in Irish lore. Those who do are whisked off to the fairy world. Because time passes differently there, a homesick inter-world traveler may pine to return to the land of living humans. If he or she returns, hundreds of years may have passed. Once that person sets ancient foot on earth, his or her body cycles through the years until it reaches its actual age and finally crumbles to dust (you can read a version of such a legend here).

Parallels abound in world folklore, and the similarity of churel and fairy consequences are fun to note even if they are completely and totally unrelated.

The final reason why the churel intrigues me is that she robs her quarry of two things that humans hold dear – youth and the future. To be killed outright is punishing in and of itself. But wouldn’t it be even worse to go to sleep full of youthful fire and promise and wake up the next morning barely able to function, and living, albeit not for long, with the knowledge that your most of your life was stolen?

But you can avoid the churel’s trouble, as far as I understand it, by being observant of those around you. You see, the churel has an unmistakable characteristic that gives her away – her feet are completely backwards. So if a woman approaches you heel first, you might want to turn on your heels and hoof it in the other direction.

What do you think about the churel? Do you know of parallel spirits in other cultures? Can you add more information about churels? I’d love to hear from you and will write back!

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2011). The Encyclopedia of Vampires and Werewolves, 2nd Edition. Facts on File, Inc. Melton, J. Gordon (2011). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd Edition. Visible Ink Press.
Wikipedia – Churel entry.

PHOTO CREDIT: By Sukanto Debnath (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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20 thoughts on “Daily Ghost Post – C is for Churel

  1. I though exactly to the travel in the fairy land in Irish lore when I read about this ghosts. And do I remember correctly that there is a fay in Irish lore who also has her feet turned completely backword? I’m sure I’ve read this before.

    • The Irish hero Cuchulain, when in a war frenzy, would change in appearance, and that (sometimes?) included a reversing of his lower legs – I believe that includes the feet. Is that what you mean?

      • Yes, that’s true, now that you mention it.
        But I think it was afay, a woman. I googled it… and there are so many creature with this feature. Maybe I was thinking to a fay from my parts, connected to a river, or running water? I really can’t remember the details.

      • A fay from your parts… where are you located?

      • I’m from Verona, the North of Italy.
        This fay I’m thinking of might be one from the Alps, maybe the Dolomites. I know I read something about these intersting people.
        Uhm… if something occurs to me or if I find the book, I’ll let you know 😉

      • Northern Italy is beautiful, lucky you. And I just found your blog Sarah – you like ghosts! But I also enjoy your theme a great deal, can’t wait to have more time read more posts.

      • I love ghosts, and spirits and fays and all that world. That’s why I like legends and myths.
        I think your blog it’s just the place for me 😉

  2. I didn’t even know of this one, let alone of some in other cultures. Okay, yeah, I know you are not supposed to take food given to you by strangers. And of ghostly women, who drive you mad.

  3. Super cool! This is another new one to me, and very interesting because I absolutely love India. There are so many story ideas in these tales. wow! 🙂

  4. I’ve come visiting through the A to Z Challenge blogs with less than 100 followers and am delighted to have stumbled into your theme – ghosts & ghouls were always on my reading list when I was younger. I’m signing myself up as a follower so I don’t miss out 🙂
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

  5. Tarkabarka on said:

    “Empowered in death” is an interesting idea. There are many female demons and ghosts like that. Many times, one can’t really blame them for returning to get revenge…

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  6. I’ve forgotten the name of the practice in India of the wife being thrown on the pyre of a deceased husband, but, in my mind, that would give rise to churels galore. Very interesting. I’ve learned a new word and I’ve enjoyed your post.

  7. If she is the ghost of a woman wronged I hope she gets her man! He deserves it. Not so much those around him, but if the men in a dead woman’s family end up dead themselves due to powdered blood, everyone should be checking feet really carefully.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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