Greetings fellow A to Z bloggers! A warm welcome to you and to everyone else stopping by. I wish I could say I was writing this from the warm tropical beaches of Mexico, but alas, I’m whiling the hours away on a plane headed back home instead. My only consolation is the fun month of blogging I have ahead of me and all the wonderful folks I’ll be meeting along the way!
I’ve been poking around in the gloomy places of the world seeking stories of monsters, beasts, and mythical creatures. Bookshelves, heavily guarded with bastions of eight-leggeds, weighted with books that’ve not felt the touch of human hands for decades. Perhaps millennia. Strange transitory zones between sea and land with creatures both webbed and legged. In places with darkness so absolute I began to wonder if the sun had yet been birthed or if it were only some strange dream I’d had. And I’ve found things.
Today’s entry I found deep within the bole if a giant baobab tree.
In some areas of Africa the spirits of wood and tree and forest are said enter the womb of a woman, to be born attached to her child and to dwell on earth, die, and be reborn into the same family. It ‘brings the child to it’s forest home’ before the child reaches puberty, a euphemism for causing the child’s death before the age of eleven.
In some areas of Africa the term abiku is used to describe the spirits of those children who have died young, spirits that linger with the family they were born too, befriend any new children, and lure them, too, to their early deaths.
Within folklore it is rare for a child to survive possession by abiku. Desperate parents and village medicine men would ring bells around the child, a sound said to drive off the abiku. Parents would tie heavy iron weights to their children’s feet in an effort to keep them in this world. Those most desperate would maim, disfigure, or torture their children in the belief that such pain would drive the abiku away.
In the fantasy genre tree and forest spirits are often depicted as beneficent and wise. I find the story of the abiku a fascinating counterpoint to this trope. The abiku myth was likely born out of the desperate grief felt by those who lose their children before birth or while very young. In today’s world, though, humanity’s relationship with trees and the forest is one of violent antagonism, making the story of the abiku an interesting plot nugget to explore.
A short story called Abiku.