Friday, November 22, 2013

Bigfoot, Satyr and Forest Spirit Legends for Writers - Part 1

Once upon a time when a Selkup women of Northern Siberia faced severe abuse at the hands of her husband there was often no one to whom she could turn, for she was an outsider in his village. She had married into his clan from another, one which may even have been an enemy previously or on whom the clan may just have declared war. As an outsider she had few rights. So when she went to weep she had to do it alone in little glades within the Taiga, away from the her mother in law and the village that didn't care about her. Here on the wet bed of moss under the shade of the trees she must have longed for someone who could come and take her away, and or who could teach her to survive on her own. For women were forbidden from learning how to hunt, how to use bows, or do anything which would give them the ability to survive on their own.



During the Romantic Era the push to return
to nature, and the beauty of old mythology
came to forefront.
Every generation uses spirits of the
forest for something different.
Into her sorrow might appear the Macil Qup, a forest spirit of hunting. A spirit with small horns and fur, one who while lusty in many of the stories about him would at times take the women away from their sorrowful lives. In one such story the woman doesn't leave right away but becomes pregnant by the macil qup who takes the child away when it's born. Yet the Macil Qup doesn't abandon the woman, he teaches her how to hunt until she is skilled enough to escape and live on her own.

Here among the Selkup the forest spirit, the satyr like being could serve the purpose of being an escape for those who were trapped within society. Though female forest spirits and similar being would also take away husbands and mothers, breaking up and destroying families, or other forest spirits might commit murder, for among the Selkup the forest was the provider of food, an escape, and something to be feared as some people who entered it never returned.

Over two thousand years before the tales of the Selkup were written down and over a thousand miles to the Southwest the Greeks would tell stories of similar horned spirits of hunting, the satyr, though by this time in their history the Greeks had become shepherds and so like many pastoral people's the gods of the wilderness became gods of the flocks, protecting their sheep from starvation and wolves. Yet unlike the macil qup the Satyr and Pans advances are only occasionally accepted by anyone so most of the time they are at best rapists. The wilderness for the ancient Greek farmers and pastorals was not an escape but something which surrounded society, an fearful outside world. Here the notion of the freedom of women to love a supernatural being the way men would love a nymph was too abhorrent to the Greek sensibilities.

In a cross between these notions, far away in Japan the wild spirits of the mountains and forests of Tono would take women into the wilderness, women who could not return home, who patched their clothing with leaves, who became 'the others.' Those who dwelt outside of society because they could not fit into society. One of these women would hint that she could no longer return to the village where she had lived because of a disagreement with her husband, which given the abuse some women suffered likely meant that she had eventually fled for her life.

In modern day America the dream of escaping to the wilderness or the fear of it is all but gone, vanished into industrial knowledge. And while I'm always excited about the knowledge which science brings, and many aspects of society today I can also acknowledge that the we need to dream of the wilds, of the strange. This need has settled into Bigfoot for it is Bigfoot who now serves to add mystery to the wilderness, to create a dream within our now tightly regulated lives. Yet as the hunter gatherer spirits of freedom and the hunt morphed into spirits of pastoralism and violence, Bigfoot is now the transformation to loose his fairy nature all together and become an animal, explained away by those few who believe in him still as an evolutionary hiccup. Yet it should be obvious that if such a mystery exists it can't be explained by such simple means.

Within the stories of the Muci Qup, the Satyr and Bigfoot we see the transformation of ideas about forest spirits, for every people who has lived in the forest has gazed into the trees and wondered what was deeper in the forest. And even when we don't believe in these stories people still long for a mysterious being to help them escape, for a strange being of the wild to come and take them away from their lives as shown by the film and modern fairy tale "Pan's Labyrinth."







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