Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Real Tickle Monster...not so funny!

 "A-maze-ing Laughter" by Yue Minjun, Vancouver, British Columbia-
photographed  by Antony Stanley via Wikimedia Commons
As we swelter in the deadening heat of summer, my thoughts return again to the colder regions of the far north-- Canada and Alaska (although I hear it's been a long, relatively hot summer up there as well this year!) In researching Inuit legend and lore, I ran across a particularly diabolical creature aptly named "Mahaha."

Why aptly named? Well, because Mahaha tickles his prey to death. Literally! Any of us who have ever fallen victim to aggressive ticklers who were unrelenting, even when we gasped for breath and begged them to stop, can imagine the unique horror of being tickled into twitching oblivion. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it. Those murdered by malicious Mahaha are usually found with agonized, twisted smiles contorting their faces. 

So, as a public service announcement to those of you lucky enough to go wandering the cooler lands up North, this summer, I am posting this all points bulletin, below.

Perpetrator's Name: Mahaha
Perp's Warning Sound: Giggling (usually from behind the victim)
Perp's Build: Scrawny with long bony fingers and razor sharp nails
Perp's Skin: Blue and icy cold
Perp's Eye Color: White
Perp's Hair: Long and Stringy, hanging over his face
Perp's Clothing: Nearly none and always barefoot
Perp's Strength: Powerful muscles
Perp's Weakness: Easily tricked
Last seen: Being swept away downstream in a strong current after his intended victim invited him to lean over for a drink of water and then pushed him in. 
Author and Husband, Kenai Fjords, Alaska, 2011

Enjoy your respite from the heat, fortunate northern adventurer, but be on alert. That giggle you hear sneaking up behind you just may be the excited delirium of Mahaha, the real Tickle Monster! 

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Now You See Them, Now You Don't...Shadow People of the Inuit

"Shadow Person" photographic illustration by K.L. Wood
What was that? Did you just see something flicker beside you but when you turned your head…it was gone? Optical illusion? Ghostly apparition?

The native Inuit people of the far northern climes of Canada and Alaska might say it was one of the shadow people. Among their many legends is that of the tarriassuit, the shadow people, who live alongside the Inuit in a kind of parallel universe. The origin of the tarriassuit is said to be of Inuit who strayed too far north on hunting trips and found themselves in a strange land halfway between the living and the dead. They could not leave this odd plane of existence and became beings with one foot in the visible and one foot in the invisible world.

The tarriassuit cannot usually be seen by humans but can sometimes be glimpsed from the corner of one’s eye. When they are, somehow, visible they are said to look and act just like contemporary Inuit…same clothing, hairstyles, hunting equipment and modes of
Map of Inuit Dialects per Wikimedia Commons
transportation. (That means snowmobiles in the 21st century.) Some Inuit say you can only see their shadows, hence the name shadow people, but can sometimes hear their footsteps and voices. There are Inuit legends that claim the amorphous creatures become visible when they die.

Although rare, it is said that sometimes humans can cross over into the land of the tarriassuit and even marry shadow people. There is the story of a woman who was wed to a shadow man but after some time she became frustrated with her inability to see her husband clearly. She grabbed a hunting knife and plunged it into the place she thought he stood. The shadow man fell dead to the ground, materializing into a handsome young man.
"Eskimo Figure, near Wrangell St. Elias Ntl Park, Alaska" photograph by Wm. Ahearn

The tarriassuit are thought of as kind, gentle, and helpful beings. The ending to the story of the murdered shadow husband is that, although the tarriassuit felt the need to seek revenge, they restrained themselves, believing it unfair to attack people who could not see them to fight back. This concept of benevolence is in sharp contrast to the tales of fear and horror associated with sightings of what current American ghost hunters call shadow people. I see the difference as how one society accepts and venerates that which is beyond our five senses versus another society (ours) that pushes other-worldly experiences into the realm of superstition and fear.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!