The world is filled with monsters. We only have to see them for what they are. Every culture around the globe has its fair share of creatures that lurk under the bed or slink through the shadows. Rarely do we cast a light on the denizens of our nightmares.
Often monsters are a product of our own overworked imagination. Take the work of the Linares family and the “Alebrije”, which translates to woodcarving. In 1936, an artist named Pedro Linares succumbed to a high fever, causing him to hallucinate. In these fever dreams, he saw a forest with rocks and clouds, each transforming into wild and multicolored creatures with wings, horns, tails and fierce teeth. After he recovered, Pedro created the creatures he saw, using papier-mâché and cardboard. The Linares family kept this art form alive. The Alebrije pictured above was created by Miguel Linares.
Looking back through history, it’s easy to see similar nightmarish figures sprung from out imagination. Take the Singha for example.
Not all monsters need to be bad. The Singha is a temple guardian in Thailand. Half-man and half-lion, it guards temple entrances such as Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok. The name derives from the Sanskrit “simha” meaning lion.
The Fen Huang is another guardian monster, though this one heralds prosperous times. The Fen Huang only appears to mark the beginning of a new era—the birth of a virtuous ruler. During peaceful times, the bird will nest, but if trouble or war arises, it vanishes to its celestial abode.
The Chinese compound term Fèng Huáng means Phoenix. The Feng Huang controlled the five tones of traditional Chinese music, representing the Confucian virtues of loyalty, honesty, decorum and justice. Artifacts show that the the Phoenix (female) as associated with the Dragon (male). The two are mortal enemies or blissful lovers. When shown together, the two creatures symbolize conflict and wedded bliss, and are a common design in many parts of Asia.
鳳 = Fèng, Male Phoenix 凰 = Huáng, Female Phoenix
The Leshy is another guardian spirit, though you’d never guess it by looking at its fearsome appearance. This creature lives in the forests of Eastern Europe, specifically near the Slavic countries like Bulgaria and Czech. The Leshy’s hair and beard are made of leaves and grasses. It protects wild animals and will play tricks on any who wanter into the forest.
Look at this skull. What do you see? A monstrous cyclops? Then your imagination would be on par with the ancient people of the Mediterranean. The big round space in the center of the skull, which looks like an eye socket, is actually the nose hole of for a mastodon. We so want to see monsters, that sometimes our mind creates them where they don’t exist.
What sorts of monsters inhabit your dreams? Are they there for protection or to haunt you?