Tuesday, July 9, 2024

The Wampus cat: lore and legend

 A few famous cryptids are discussed in lecture 2. Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Chupacabras are all very famous and widely discussed creatures. I want to discuss a lesser-known American cryptid that I had recently heard about. If you visit the Appalachian area, you will find many superstitions due to the eerieness of the forests at night. One local legend is that of the Wampus cat (sometimes known as the gallywampus or whistling wampus). The Wampus cat is a mythological cat-like creature in American folklore. Originating in Cherokee legends and now widely believed in Appalachia, the Wampus cat ranges from comical to tragic depending on which story is told. Within southern American culture, the Wampus is a terrifying beast with yellow eyes that can pierce the souls of those who are unfortunate enough to cross paths with it. It is known for its impressive screams that are said to be spine-chilling. It sometimes is said to be a half-dog half-cat creature, and sometimes seen as having six legs instead of four. The Wampus cat is said to be a cat-like embodiment of a woman who was punished for practicing witchcraft.

In Cherokee lore, however, the story is a little different. It is said that an evil demon called Ew'ah, the spirit of madness was terrorizing the village of Etowah. The war chiefs agreed to send their strongest brave, Standing Bear, to fight off the spirit and bring honor to his family. Weeks went by without word from Standing Bear, until all of a sudden, he came back screaming and clawing at his eyes. His wife, Running Deer, knew immediately her husband had been driven mad and sought to avenge him. She visited the shamans, who gave her a mask of a bobcat's face. They told her that if she could surprise the demon, the spirit of the mountain cat could stand against Ew'ah. Following footsteps to the river she successfully found the demon and pounced when it wasn't looking. The Ew'ah spun around and saw the bobcat mask and began to writhe and tear at itself, as the spirit of the mountain cat turned its magic against itself. Falling back into the pool of water, the Ew'ah disappeared, and Running Deer returned home a hero to her tribe. Some claim that the spirit of Running Deer resides in the Wampus cat and that she continues her mission of protecting her tribe's lands from evil spirits.

The Wampus cat is so popular in the South that several schools have elected it to be its mascot!


                                    (Statue of a Wampus cat at Conway High School, Arkansas)


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