Storytelling Matters

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Archive for the tag “ghosts”

Daily Ghost Post – E is for Engkanto

Some Engkantos are found in Balete trees.
This is the biggest one in the Philippines.

E is also for Encanto. It depends how you spell it. Either way, it spells enchantment, but not necessarily the kind one wants.

In the Philippines, Engkantos are elf-like beings who are often thought to be the spirits of dead ancestors. Religious scholar Francisco Demetrio characterizes them as mysterious, dreadful, and fascinating. They live in natural places, like trees or boulders. Sometimes they are considered benevolent, but mostly they are tricky.

In the first place, if Engkantos fall in love with you and you spurn their love, they can be malicious and spiteful. They throw rocks. They turn into balls of fire (even great balls of fire) and chase you – talk about being hot on your tail. Secondly, people who meet these creatures disappear for a period of time, possibly spirited away to the legendary land of Biringan. Finally and most notably, those who meet them often experience the sudden onset of madness or delirium.

That is why the enchantment of the Engkanto is not always so enchanting.

Engkantos are singular in appearance. They are tall with smooth, fair skin, even in the all the wrinkly places. Their facial structure differs from humans in that their noses have high bridges and they have no indentation on their upper lips (new word alert, that indentation is called a plectrum). And boy do they like to party! It is said that Engkantos who live inside trees, like the large Balete tree pictured above, live the high life. Their tree homes feature lavish furnishings, gorgeous food, and lots of other beautiful people. Sounds a bit like a Hollywood party, only more dangerous.

Are Engkantos like Irish fairies? Well, some say they are elementals or nature spirits, which is like Irish fairies. Yet there is a key difference. When people go to fairy realm, time doesn’t pass like it does here. Upon returning to the human world, they are generations older. In contrast, the return from Engkanto contact doesn’t affect the kidnapped person’s life timeline – but it does affect the person’s life.

Encounters with Engkantos can result in madness. In traditional Filipino culture, some of those who experience such madness become shamans. By connecting with the spirit world, people are called into a new role as healer and spiritual mentor.

Many cultures around the world share a similar process for how people become shamans. Francisco Demetrio explains that such calls to service typically involve a disappearance and sudden onset of madness. It is almost as if the future healer must endure death and resurrection in order to do healing work.

And then there is another view. The depiction of Engkantos corresponds to how indigenous people viewed Spaniards when they first arrived in the Phillipines. Think about it – lighter skinned people from another land who fall in love with natives, cause strange things to happen, and wield unusual powers…hmmm.

So. Did Engkanto lore serve as cautionary tales for indigenous Filipinnos about the Spanish? Did such tales preexist European travel? Are the Engkantos indigenous nature spirits that took on some European characteristics over time?

What do you think? Have you heard Engkanto stories? There is a little comment box far below, let’s chat it up!


Copyright 2015 The Storyrafters. All right reserved.

Demetrio, Francisco (1969). The Engkanto Belief: An Essay in Interpretation. Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, 77-90.
Wikipedia – Engkanto

PHOTO CREDIT: By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – D is for Draugr

Viking burial mounds.

Burial practices have a way of coming back to haunt us.

Nowadays we say you can’t take it with you. But in times of old, people took it with them everywhere they went, including the grave. In Egypt, pharaohs were buried with their organs in jars, plus food and furnishings to enjoy in the afterlife. One Chinese emperor was buried with a clay army of thousands to protect him in his post-life future. And in Scandinavia, it was common practice to bury Vikings with their treasure. And boats.

Not all Viking dead like to stay dead. But Viking hauntings were (are?) different from you might expect. Viking ghosts weren’t disembodied spirits returned from Valhalla. No. Viking ghosts came in the form of reanimated corpses called draugrs.

Norse scholar Hilda Roderick Ellis says,

…the haunting is done by the actual dead body itself, which leaves its grave-mound and is possessed of superhuman strength and unlimited malice. (Ellis, page 100, full reference below)

Draugrs are big, strong, mean walking dead.

It is thanks to the Viking sagas that we know what these creatures were like. Grettir’s Saga (also called Grettir the Strong) tells of a physically strong (and also rather headstrong) red-headed Icelandic man called Grettir Asmundson (strength is a definite theme here). One of Grettir’s notable adventures was when he bravely chose to battle a draugr named Glamr, a horror show who was terrorizing the countryside. Every night, the local people trembled in their beds as Glamr marauded over their thatched roofs. Every morning they woke to find dead farm animals, every bone in their bodies broken. And not always animals.

When Grettir finally had his chance to do battle, he met Glamr inside a farmhouse.

Now meeting a draugr is a drag. Literally. They are extremely heavy and can drag you down. Draugrs can crush you, which is one of their favorite ways to kill. Not wispy, wimpy ghosts, they are undead corpses who have been reinvigorated with enough life spirit and unearthly bloating to make them larger than “unlife.” They can even expand at will.

Glamr must have undergone some serious expansion because when he and Grettir fought, they tumbled out of the house together. And Glamr was so big that he broke down the front door and the roof.

At the same time.

Ellis suggests that draugrs wield control over nature because they can bring light or darkness to the sky. They possess other eerie powers as well. Just before he was killed, Glamr foretold that Grettir would become an outlaw, get no stronger, and that his fortunes would go steadily downhill.

Glamr was right on all counts.

As powerful as draugrs sound, they are not all-powerful. Draugrs can be killed. After hearing his unfortunate fortune, Grettir cut Glamr’s head clean off. What a way to respond to bad news.

But the good news is that when the draugr is killed, so is its power. Phew.

After Grettir sliced off Glamr’s head, he burned the corpse and head to ash. Now, killing a draugr seems like a superhero victory – but in actuality it poses grave danger to the victor. You see, it is not clear if a draugr’s prophecy is a foretelling or a curse.

The draugr’s fortune cookie is one I would not like to open. That’s one reason why you won’t catch me hanging out near burial mounds.

So… is this a supernatural parallel to the Egyptian curse over tombs? I mean it is a gross violation to bother the dead, and draugrs come to “unlife” when someone, even an animal, lurks near their mounds. Maybe draugrs are undead security guards protecting their stuff. But doesn’t it seem like they overreact? What do you think? Other comments and thoughts so appreciated!


Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Ellis, Hilda Rderick (1968).Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature by Hilda Roderick Ellis, Ph.D. Greenwood Press, NY. p. 100 (quote).
Grettir’s Saga
Wikipedia – Draugr

PHOTO CREDIT: By Kevin Wells from Halifax, Canada, upload by Herrick (Viking Burial Mounds in Gamla Uppsala) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Daily Ghost Post – A is for Adze

Summer Night Riverside Drive – painting by George Wesley Bellows

A is for Adze. And I don’t mean the carpenter’s tool.

In Ghana and Togo, there a folkloric creature called the Adze. It is nothing short of a vampire. And it could ruin the joys of summer if you let it.

Ah summer. One of its great delights are the delicious summer evenings. Sometimes they are so perfect that they lure you out of your home. Sitting outside in your yard or a park, it is easy to smile when a gentle evening breeze brushes your cheek. The scent of green foliage is as rich as dessert. Blissfully soft, the summer evening is just right for the companionship of friends and margaritas. Or blessed silence (and margaritas).

The cherry on that summer evening cake is the moment when you see the playful, blinking lights of fireflies in nearby bushes. The firefly light ignites your inner child, so you jump up, hands cupped like shells, and chase them. All you want to do is to see the little creature up close and watch it make your palms glow.

The moment you catch one, your heart leaps. Quickly, you glance down to see the gentle light inside your hands. But at the exact same moment, your hands are forced apart by a tremendous weight. And there, standing before you, is a hideous creature whose head thrusts forward, right toward your face! Before you can open your mouth to scream, it opens its mouth and sinks its sharp teeth into your neck and sucks your blood.

From that moment on, the creature causes you and your family a world of misery. You see, once it bites, the Adze is in charge of your very existence.

If you try to possess the Adze, the Adze will possess you.

According to African folklore, the Adze is a vampire spirit that can live in a firefly. Perhaps such stories are told as cautionary tales – it is cruel to catch and imprison creatures in your hands or jars, so leave them be and all should be well and summer is safe. It only makes sense, right? Trouble is, even if you don’t catch an Adze, it can still bite you. Yup. In its original firefly form, the Adze can squeeze in under doors or through holes in window screens and suck your blood while you sleep. That’s some good night kiss.

Pleasant dreams.

Have you heard of this creature? Have I ruined fireflies for you as I have for me? Please comment below!


COPYRIGHT 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

PHOTO CREDIT: George Bellows [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bunson, Matthew (1993). The Vampire Encyclopedia. Grammercy Books.
Wikipedia – Adze_(folklore)

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015 Theme


Ready, get set, and almost…… Go!

It is time once again for April’s A to Z Blogging Challenge! This year, my theme is Ghosts From Around the World and Around the Corner – or, Daily Ghost Post, for short. So starting April 1 with the letter A and finishing on April 30 with the letter Z, I will share folklore and stories and more. I hope you will join me for this foray into the world of supernatural folklore.

In thinking about what to write for this year’s A to Z, it occurred to me that I would have a blast researching ghosts. Barry and I love to tell ghost stories, and it is always a treat to learn more about them. My friend Donna Cleary posts a daily photo of an undead monster every day during October. So I thought, “Maybe it would it be fun to do a narrative, ghost-focused variant of Donna Cleary’s ‘fiend of the day’ on my blog!” The series will include ghosts and phantoms, maybe a few fiends, and definitely an undead or two.

You see, the ghost story genre embraces more than just the invisible spirits of the dead…

Barry and I actually enjoy thinking about ghostly creatures. But when it comes to our storytelling work, we chew on the metaphorical undercoating of ghostly characters. (Metaphorically speaking of course). I plan to do some chewing here and hope that you will chew too by commenting and sharing your tales and views.

Some of these spooks are ones I’ve known (not personally, thankfully), and others are brand new to me. I am very excited to share them with you.

Here’s hoping that my daily posts inspire your creativity and imagination as much as they inspire mine.

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