Magical Femininity: Womanly Creatures That Kick Ass

Posted on 08/27/2010
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Some people seem to think that the numerous patriarchal and patrilineal societies try to keep their structures in place by ignoring women. However, all throughout traditional mythology and legends there have been “special” creatures that embrace the feminine sex as their only gender-based form. These magical beings may take on the negative aspects of womanhood as viewed by men or adapt certain scary or intimidating creatures into their feminine physique, but the fact remains solid that the special women had a very strong hold over the mystical and paranormal. They may be mean. They may be strange. They may be downright weird or even frightening. Yet, their female power puts these beings in a special category unto themselves where they are powerful women in a male ruled magical, supernatural world.



This terrifying female entity from Greek mythology gets its name from the Greek “gorgos” which means “dreadful.” It is easy to see how they achieved this name (or description as one might claim) for these women with hair composed of living, writhing, venomous snakes. In addition to being quite a sight to look at with this terrifying “hair,” gorgons have a stare that will turn on-lookers into stone. The number of gorgons that roam the Earth varies in different myths and legends. However, the most common depictions of the gorgons present them as three sisters—two immortals (Euryale and Stheno) and a mortal (Medusa, slain by Perseus). Their magical cursed gazes make them a common motif of protection though in art at the entrances of ancient Greek buildings.



Very dangerous and powerful bird women (similar in appearance to the idea of female angels) known as Sirens are seen throughout Greek mythology and epic Greek poetry such as Homer's Odyssey. Their beauty in combination with the mystical qualities of their melodious voices and musical ability made them perfect seductresses. The common pastime of Sirens was luring nearby sailors to shipwreck on rocky coastlines that bordered the islands they tended to live upon. However, even though traditional stories show these temptresses being the bane of many a lonely sailor, the older tales are clear that these women are “daughters of the Earth” who liked to project their voices to the coastline even though they resided in the flower-strewn meadows in the center of the island—not deities of the sea as later cultures would depict them.



Known as the “Death Fates,” the Keres were daughters of Nyx (Greek goddess of the night) and Erebus (the personification of shadows and son of the primordial god Chaos). These women were fierce creatures to behold as they tend to be depicted with a constant shadow over most of their forms with the exception of their gnashing, white teeth and ever grasping claws. The female death spirits called the Keres were also very fond of human blood—enough so that they liked to hover over battlefields in search of dying or merely wounded warriors to feast upon since the weakened men would not put up much of a fight to having these scary women suck their blood.



The name “Banshee” actually comes from the Irish “bean sidhe” that means “woman of the fairy mounds.” This pretty, descriptive name does not necessarily fit the common guise this female spirit likes to take on. Most of the time she appears as a frightful hag, but she can chose to be a young beautiful woman if she wishes. Her goal at keening, moaning, and wailing before the death of a person keeps her in contact with the human realm as she likes to be close enough to be heard to spread her forewarning even if nothing can be done to stop the death. Stories vary though as to whose death she can predict—whether it is wealthy, noble families or a select list of families or even certain classes of warriors.



The female demonic creature called a succubus is the womanly counterpart to an incubus. She frequents the beds of men in the night to seduce and have sex with them as they sleep. Many stories say that a succubus enjoys visiting celibate monks in attempt to absorb their vows of chastity and goodness. Also, prolonged contact with a succubus in the night is thought to lead to a severe deterioration in health or even perhaps death if the demon is not dealt with. Ancient depictions tend more toward the demonic than the gorgeous beauties of today's succubi seductresses. However, even modern visions like to keep to the combination form of having wings (either that of a bat or bird) and a tail (that can vary in form from serpent like to resembling the tail of a mermaid) on the bodies of the lovely female creatures.



Norse mythology has a collection of female figures called Valkyries that are a species unto themselves. They resemble the Keres in that they have a habit of roaming the battlefields after a fight. However, these mythical warrior-seekers were very benevolent souls. The soldiers that they sought out were those who bravely perished, going down in flames of glory. The souls of these courageous warriors were carried off by the Valkyries to the mythical Valhalla where they rest, relax, and drink mead for displaying their fearlessness in the face of death and almost certain mutilation when battling it out with an opposing army. Occasionally, a Valkyrie would fall in love with a special hero and become his lover until she carries his soul to his everlasting rewards in Valhalla.



The sphinx is an interesting feminine creature from mythology. They are first seen in Old Kingdom Egypt in the form of statues and other sculptures by the combination of a woman's head and the body of a lioness. This version of the sphinx was supposed to be linked to two Egyptian female deities—Bast (who is most commonly seen as a cat) or Sekhmet (who was a lioness). What the ancient Egyptians called the creature modern cultures know as a sphinx is unknown because the name “sphinx” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “strangler.” The Greeks used the depiction of this creature in their own mythology after encounters with the Egyptians but referring to it in their own language which makes the original name for this feminine feline become lost to time.



One of the most fearsome mythological creatures from the legends and stories in the Philippines is the aswang. Even when the Spanish colonized the collection of islands in the 16th century, many native peoples still feared encounters with this evil vampire-like being. While there are a few male aswang, they are almost always female. Depictions of this creature can vary throughout the many islands where this tale is frequently told (altering its name as well from aswang to tik-tik to soc-soc). However, the idea of these women possessing wings to fly around in search of dead people to eat is common. Aswang are considered to be somewhat of a mix between a witch and a vampire in their powers and habits but are always inherently evil—without pity or compassion for the lives of their mortal victims.

Author: Brooke Windsor Copyrighted ©

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