Picture by Leasa Renee Thomas
Today’s mythology post, the first of the new year, was suggested by Chris. The langsuir is a sort of vampire from Malaysian lore, said to take her hideous form forty days after both a woman and her baby die in childbirth. The langsuir is an ugly creature with red eyes, long hair and claws, and terrifying fangs.
She also has a hole in the back of her neck, which she uses to drain the blood of her victims, usually infants. Attempts by langsuir to whip their hair back and forth to cover the hole have henceforth proved futile. The creature is also said to be able to fly, and to turn into an owl.
In order to prevent women who die in childbirth from taking this form, funerary rites would include stuffing glass beads into the corpse’s mouth. This page adds other details, specifically that pins have to be placed in the body’s palms, and hen’s eggs under her armpits. If a woman does become a langsuir, there is a way to defeat her, although it sounds quite difficult. You would have to pull off the hair and nails and stuff them into the hole in the langsuir’s neck, thereby domesticating the creature.
Since I’m writing about the langsuir, I suppose I should also say a bit about a related myth, that of the pontianak. No, that’s not a vengeful car that kills people; you’re thinking of Christine. The pontianak is usually said to be the ghost of a woman who dies while pregnant, rather than in childbirth. Other legends, however, claim that it’s a langsuir’s stillborn baby. It seems that the latter might have come first, but the former is much more popular, at least from what I’ve found on the Internet. Unlike the langsuir, the pontianak is not physically ugly, instead being quite beautiful and able to seduce men. It’s only after luring in her victim that she reveals what a monster she really is. That sounds like a lot of relationships, actually. They are said to dwell in banana trees, and a pontianak can be temporarily stopped by having a thorn or nail driven into her neck. While the pontianak presumably counts as a vampire because it does drink blood, it does more than that, also eating a victim’s entrails. They often prefer to eat babies, but when they entice men, they sometimes tear off their sexual organs.