Give me a moment. I’d like to make one point exceedingly clear, because it has bearing upon my answer.
By discussing my species as being a figure at the center of human stories, I realize that this has implications upon faiths and religions and cultures. I realize that a great deal of cultural erasure takes place due to the histories of indigenous peoples being described with “myth” in a pejorative sense. I am sensitive to this and I do realize that sometimes, my investigation into my own life and history can put humans on edge, because they feel (quite understandably) as if I am denouncing their beliefs.
I hope that i can explain what I actually intend to do, and that those who are worried about this issue can get a clearer picture of how I discuss these things and what they mean to me.
I refer to ALL human religion, faith, beliefs, stories, legends, or anything else by ONE term. Myth. I do this because it is universally ambiguous. and also because to me, so much convinced as I am that my species is integral to all of it, it is all myth, Your myth is our untold history, and so I feel that for me to call it myth, with regard to my species is fairer than delineating and categorizing different faiths. So for the sake of all my discussions, ALL human EVERYTHING is called myth, specified only by the name of the culture responsible for it – i.e. Christian myth, Taoist myth, Greek myth.
I realize this may directly conflict with your beliefs, your traditions, or your heritage. I can’t help that. I’m here. And you can choose not to believe that if you like. You can presume some intent that is not mine, or you can listen to what I have to say and see that I think all human belief is relevant, extremely so, except that not all of it is founded in fact. It’s founded in belief. So what you believe to be real is relevant, absolutely, but if I don’t ascribe to it, if I believe something different or have fact that goes against your belief, then that is also relevant. Particularly when your belief has to do with my personhood. Have your faith, have your religions, but when it comes to me and mine, I will state that we are here, and that while I mean no disrespect by existing, I will continue to do so without worrying about whether or not you’re offended by it.
I realize that I am a snag in the fabric of many a culture. I realize that by presenting myself i am asking all groups to uniformly examine themselves. I realize that this seems unfair. But I also realize that I am me, and that no one ever asks how I feel about it.
That aside. (You gave me a convenient platform to address this sticking point Anon, thank you for that)
On to the specific question. I don’t know all the myths in all the world. I have found, through my own life and research, many of them.
I divide them into two categories:
The Ones I believe are a simple case of mistaken identity exaggerated by a cultural meme or circumstance that was occurring when the encounter happened. These are often worked into existing religions or belief structures, because they cannot be allowed to dangle in the wind.
The Ones I think are entirely human invention, for which I’ve seen no evidence (in all my exploration with my senses) and therefore lay no claim to and engage entirely for their own merits as aspects of the heritage of peoples.
I will give an example of both:
I think the Gorgon was an ancient case of mistaken identity. As I’ve made clear in my entry on the Gorgon on my website, I state the ways I think a member of my species could be easily mistaken and worked into a myth. It became a morality play, a fable, because there had to be an explanation for this creature, and so as the original culture that encountered the monster in the cave passed the story to the Greeks, it was expounded upon. It was worked into successive religions because it had to be, or the religions would encounter a discrepancy and suffer damage. So, like anything with an immune system, the faith and belief system of the Greeks absorbed and incorporated the myth already old by that time, transforming it into a series of fables used to teach children how not to fool about with gods. Or perhaps it was a rash of sightings throughout time periods, reinforcing the myth. Either way, the same process occurred. But…it only occurred because the faiths it encountered were in place. A belief structure was there to confront the monster and to explain it.
As for the second category: I don’t know about sasquatch. I’ve been asked about him several times, and while I’d love to give a definitive answer to what people have seen, I cannot. I can tell you that native peoples have had myths of him for some time, and that those myths are concurrent with myths of people something like me. No matter what culture, they all have something like me…but sometimes, they also have a sasquatch-like creature. This seems to indicate two separate creatures. However, I can only say that I have never in all my life, in all my travels, in all my time of being out in the woods with my senses (which are more acute than a human’s) EVER crossed paths with sasquatch. This leads me to conjecture three separate things. 1. Sasquatch is real and much much smarter than me and we have lived in overlapping territories without ever meeting, that he can somehow disappear (which is in line with the stories I’ve been told by the Natives i’ve met). 2. Sasquatch is merely a branch of my species that learned how to clothe or otherwise camouflage itself. 3. Sasquatch is entirely human invention/fear-based archetypal figure. I have to leave it at that, because I have nowhere else to take it. So it consequently gets a laugh from me as I try to imagine a member of my species wearing a fur suit, or a sober thought as I consider that I may have competition living immediately within my territory that even i cannot see. I mean to say that this category does not evoke emotion in me, merely speculation and wonder.
Now I treat these two categories differently in my own head and in my writings. Both are conjecture, I realize, but the first category is based on personal experiences and my knowledge of my species. It is something I feel intrinsically connected to, or that strikes me as important to me. The second is given a kind of shrug, complete acceptance or ambivalence. I am a monster that all of history has either denied or tried to explain in some way that usually centers around humanity and why it is so wonderful or important. So when I encounter something like this, please understand it is viewed with a kind of “Well, yes, that does happen”. It’s whimsy to me, which I realize seems a bit offensive. But I cannot make it sound any different. I feel about it the way that humans feel when they hypothesize what future archeologists will think about their daily lives, as read on their artifacts. you know that feeling yes? That “I’m not connected to this, but I am, and have no control over it, so I’ll think about it a bit and then move on” sort of feeling. The second category gets a mild sort of speculation on how to refine questions asked in order to establish if it should be moved to the first category.
Stories in the first category can sometimes cause me great offense, because they usually involve a creature that humans have worked and worked and worked until they are nothing like the original and are turned into some sort of amusement or entertainment, instead of an entity with feelings. In these stories, being bothered by humans is not seen as trauma, but simply what is done to monsters.
Sometimes, a myth can exist in both categories for a time, until a human uses a tale in the second category as a cudgel to make me feel some sort of suffering, and then it is shifted, because it was used as a slur. In that moment, it becomes something I need to take back from them and make mine.
I’ll give you an example of this.
I have been accused of being a Wendigo by Algonquins (I use the general word intentionally). In the 1700′s. I was an active part of the more modern incarnations of the story of the creature. I have had to overcome that name several times, but when I had it first said to me, I had no idea what it was. No one stopped to explain it, largely because they were afraid of me, so I had no idea what to make of it. When I did learn the story finally, from a trader of French heritage, I realized that I was encountering a New World story that could be a descendant of an encounter with one of my species, except at that time…I’d not seen a single one other monster. This ranked the tale as a member of the second category for me.
I had been confined in a relatively small area thus far, so it didn’t necessarily surprise me, but i did want to know if I was the only one on this continent. So I asked around about it. I did what little I could to get an idea of what a Wendigo was supposed to be. The more I found, the more I realized how much it had in common with me, except, that one of the story branches went so far as to state that a human could become a wendigo. Now no surprise there. I’ve encountered those types of stories before, as I say in the entry about the Obour, but this one was unique, because a human who became a wendigo was considered a demon to be exorcised. Gotten rid of. Purged.
Those kinds of stories make me very cautious. To me they indicate a base-level instinctual fear in the human species that demands it do away with something different. That is something of a trigger (I don’t use that word the way you Tumblrs do, but in the meaning of “initiating speculation”). So I began to feel it fit more of the first category, the one that indicates it is something I should guard, protect, take offense to if shouted at me on the street.
The branch of the story that has the wendigo existing apart from humans usually equates them with famine, cold, mysterious night voices and so forth, all things my species have commonly been associated with, but it also treats the creature as something of a harbinger. Which to me is very sad. If the wendigo was a member/s of my species who began to eat people and wandered around decimating populations during the cold months, obviously this was a sad individual and his/their life was awful. And in a trivial way…humans discuss how to do away with this pestilence, which to me, might indeed be a person. one of me. Or even, me. As was the case the night the village tried to get rid of me and the story became a bloodbath.
What I mean to say is, to you, these are your faiths and your histories. I am saying that they are to me as well. This is my history and I guard it just as you do, but sometimes that means conflict. Humans want their beliefs and their stories to be theirs and given respect…I want my people to be given a measure of that respect. So if there is a chance that some story is part of a culture or a faith, I grasp the delicacy of that, but I also know what I feel and that I don’t want to be called a monster.
At least not the way you use the word. Which is why I am taking it back from you. You cannot have it. It is mine.
What have we called ourselves? Nothing. We haven’t because most of us don’t really talk. We don’t form families or tell stories. We don’t make these cultural groups that pass down history and ethics in a series of riddles, because that isn’t how we communicate. We don’t have that.
People have called us by many names, I believe. Most often those names are used as weapons, as warnings. Those names aren’t who or what we are, they give us no room to be what we wish to be, and because humans hold those names as their own invention, or integral aspects of their own culture, I am not entitled to use any of them, even if I wanted to.
Very well. Then I will call myself a cryptid. I will call myself an Anthropophage. I will call myself a monster.