Thursday, 6 March 2014

menagerie

Beyond mermaids and unicorns—and even enjoying less widespread popularity than rarer chimeras like griffins, harpies or the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary (cotton, not so much a monster), there is a neglected bestiary, which the marvelous Atlas Obscura pays tribute to. My favourite creature enrolled here is the odd Lidérc from Hungarian folklore—a sort of familiar, hatched as the first of a brood from a black hen, after being incubated in a human armpit—according to some traditions.
This newly-hatched imp, industrious and loyal, eventually becomes also a curse and a liability. Though always at their master's disposal, such congress becomes a dangerous thing, but can be gotten rid of through a variety of equally specific rituals, like giving one's Lidérc an impossible task, like a logical feed-back loop that will eventually cause a fatal-error. It reminds me of the notion that vampires exhibit arithmomania and are compelled to count whatever is cast out in front of them, like grains of rice, or the Greek custom of setting out a colander during the Christmas season to trip up evil spirits, since they are obsessed with numbers and will try to count all the holes. They only make it as far as two, however, since three, the Holy Trinity, makes them disappear and start all over. It's interesting that monsters are framed with compulsions and I wonder what that means.