an advanced art challenge. While we encourage people to do the challenge on their own, we will only post pictures of those we feel are of an excellent quality in terms of skill and/or creativity. If you feel you are qualified, please read the rules to find out how this blog will work and how to apply and e-mail us your applications and submissions! We will put them up as we receive them.
Jul 5, 2011
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May 25, 2011
Kitsune, our letter K, is possibly one of the most well known of all Japan's many many beasts and spirits. The name Kitsune literally means "Fox" and its reputation for trickery and cunning is the stuff of legends. Folklore speaks of these foxes as shape-shifters who possess all sorts of strong magic. Typically Kitsune are separated into different types based on magic and behavior. The most common being the Zenko (literally good foxes) and the Yako (literally field foxes). The Zenko, also known as Inari foxes, are spiritual creatures associated with Shinto shrines and rice harvests. Yako foxes on the other hand are mischievous monsters who use their powers to play pranks and cause trouble where they can.
In Kitsune age and magic are closely related, the older the fox the stronger the magic. At around 100 years of age they gain the ability to take human form. The older and more powerful a Kitsune becomes the more tails they will grow, after the ninth tail its fur will turn gold or white.
Once able to take human form Kitsune's will often pose as beautiful women or elderly men. They are not limited however, and can duplicate the shape of anyone they encounter. The only way to spot a Kitsune in human form is a misplaced tail, fox-like facial features or a fox-shaped shadow.
Sometimes a more dangerous demon Kitsune will possess a victim (usually a woman), causing them to go completely mad.
One famous legend tells of the marriage of two Foxes which happens when the sun shines on a rainy day. The Sunshower or Kitsune no Yomeiri is the only condition in which the Kitsune will hold their sacred ceremony. A sunshower is considered a sign of good things to come...but be warned. A fox will always seek revenge any any human who catches a glimpse of the wedding procession.
Links: There is so much info on Kitsune's I barely scratched the surface.
The Obakemono project
Below I've embedded "Sunshine Through the Rain" a short from the movie Dreams by Akira Kurosawa for your Kitsune viewing pleasure.
Apr 12, 2011
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The Jorōgumo, our beast for the letter J, is part of a group of Japanese creatures know as Yōkai. The term Yōkai describes a broad variety of supernatural monsters that range from ghosts to giants to sentient sandals. The Jorōgumo, whose name literally means "binding woman" or "whore spider", is demonic in nature. Like so many beasts with seductive feminine charms, it spends much of its time seducing and eating men.
The Jorōgumo first appeared in Japanese folklore around the Edo period (an era ruled by shoguns that lasted from 1603 to 1868). Legend has it that a spider that lives to be 400 years old can gain magic of its own. This ancient spider can grow to the size of a cow and develops a knack for shapeshifting. To attract a meal the monster will disguise its web as a false house, shrine or inn then wait patiently for a passing traveler. Transforming all or some of its body into a beautiful woman, the Jorōgumo will sing or play an instrument called a Biwa to lure the innocent in. In some versions of the tale the monster might go so far as to serve the victim tea or sake. Distracting him with music and conversation as she begins to wrap his feet with deadly silken thread. Accounts differ but most agree that the Jorōgumo will almost always live near water, particularly waterfalls and be surrounded by thousands of her tiny arachnid children.
In our modern world the Jorōgumo is the name given to a real spider. Its scientific name is Nephila clavata and this beautiful brightly colored golden orb-weaving spider is found in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. Although not particularly magical, it is easy to see how it could inspire fear and awe in the superstitious and the odd arachnophobe.
The Obakemono Project's nice informative entry on the Jorōgumo
Mar 17, 2011
You can find the rest at Sammy's blog!
Mar 16, 2011
Mar 15, 2011
Mar 13, 2011
Congratulations to Miisa who as of this post is the first artist to complete every letter assigned so far!
Mar 12, 2011
Mar 8, 2011
So the contest for the Beast's book is officially closed and I am currently trying to figure out how to declare a winner. There were many good entries and I hope to do another contest like it in the future. If anyone knows a good way to conduct an online poll it would be welcome knowledge. It might just end up with me and Toby deciding if I can't figure out a better way.
Also if you can please keep telling others about the Alphabeastiary. I would love to have more watchers as well as artists to keep the community strong and the creative juices flowing.
Thanks for participating and contributing to our wonderful blog!
Posted by Kasey at 12:14 AM
Mar 7, 2011
The Ijiraq ( ee-yee-roc ) is a monster from Inuit mythology whose name literally means "shapeshifter". They can come in a range of different shapes and sizes, even going so far as to copy the appearance of other monsters. The Ijiraq is a gruesome shadowy phantom that can appear as various arctic animals. Among these are the polar bear, arctic hare, raven or even the Tariaksuq (a half-man half-caribou monster). Some versions of the myth claim the Ijiraq and Tariaksuq (most often described as a great shaggy man with a caribou's head) may actually be the same creature in different forms.
Using tricks and disguises the Ijiraq steal children, hide them, then leave them out in the wilderness to die of exposure. Along with this gruesome hobby these creatures love to scare hunters and try to get them hopelessly lost or trapped in bad weather.
It is said that the Ijiraq lives in a strange no-mans land somewhere between the world of the living and the world of the dead. If an Ijiraq does manage to trick an unfortunate soul into following it into this strange frozen purgatory, they will be trapped forever and condemned to become an Ijiraq themselves.