This was originally posted in August of 2011 – as Halloween approaches, it seems appropriate to repost.
I’m not sure why, but I’m fascinated by ethnographic monsters. I visit a country and I ask “What kind of monsters do they have?” I’m a big fan of legendary monster stories. In Turkey, I heard about the story of the Lake Van monster and in Morocco, I revel in the stories of jin and Aisha Kandisha. In Bulgaria, I heard about a few new ones. One old guy I asked simply replied “The only monsters we have here are the criminals” – fair enough, but that wasn’t what I was looking for. Another old man on the bus told me about the Loch Ness Monster of Bulgaria which is known as the ‘Water Bull’.
The water bull lives in a Lake Rabisha near Belogradchik, a small picturesque town in the Bulgarian Northwest. You might have actually heard of the town since the now famous Belogradchik Rocks did pretty well in the competition for the New Seven Wonders of the World or because of the Magurata Cave with its prehistoric paintings.
The legend says that a bull-man lives in the lake which was once thought to be bottomless but now is known to be about 40 meters deep. The head of a bull, the body of a man – yes D &D friends – it’s a Minotaur. The story goes that they used to kill off the most beautiful girl to keep the monster at bay. They would row her out in a boat and throw her off of it. Eventually, the most beautiful girl in the world was born there and taken out in the lake where the water bull fell in love with her and they lived happily ever after. It’s a crap ending to a story that includes Bull and a word that sounds a lot like Rubbish, but at least it’s a monster story.
My friends Tim and Peppy in Sofia, told me about Baba Marta. Baba Marta, an old lady with the touch of death. She is like Jack Frost but an angry old woman and if she doesn’t get treated right, the cold Bulgarian winter just keeps on. The sun only comes out when she is happy. Snow is sometimes referred to as the feathers from her mattress.
Each spring Bulgarian girls make ribbons and when they see the first signs of spring they put them on trees or under rocks. This is all to make Baba Marta happy and bring a nice year.
The monster which sounded the most interesting to me was a tribe of ghouls called Karakoncolos or Kurkeri who stalk people in the dark and then they jump on the victim’s back, causing them to lose their way home. There are annual festivals where people dress up as these monsters and dance.
And finally there was Torbalan who carries kids away in his pack if they don’t do what their parents tell them to.
Happy New Year! 2019 is going to be an amazing year where the only constant is going to be change! I have declared this theme both to prepare you for the unbridled pace of innovation and global change – as well as to prime the pump for all of us to make the most healthy and beneficial changes we can in this brand new year.
My Hat’s Off to You in 2019! I’ve freshly shaved my head for 2019 so the answer to the question that no one is asking “What does a vagobond keep under his hat?” Is now revealed – “Nothing!”
I am making a number of personal and professional changes this year. As a part of that, I will be making some changes to Vagobond too. I will be keeping my focus on my home island of Oahu and the State of Hawaii but will be easing my editorial schedule a bit. There will be new articles and blog posts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Fridays will continue to be ‘Flashback Friday‘ and Saturday will continue to be the Saturday Slideshow. Flashback Fridays will be looking back at my past global travel adventures and Slideshow Saturday will be a mostly visual post focusing on pictures I have taken or will take in my travels. Friday and Saturday posts will be all over the globe. Monday and Wednesday posts will be focused closer to home.
Also, even though I have mixed feelings about social media – in 2019 I will be putting a renewed focus on Vagobond’s social media. I’ve neglected creating a decent YouTube channel for over a decade now and I’d like to correct that this year. My podcast Vagobond Podcast Adventures will continue with more of a travel focused theme. I will also try my hardest to give some energy to Facebook, Pinterest, and whatever the newest social media might be. My Instagram (@vagobond) and Twitter (@vagobond) accounts are way too far gone as personal accounts for me to be able to reign them into a tight niche – so you’re stuck on those with my art posts, political commentary, and whatever else I might want to throw up there. I will also be making some aesthetic changes to the way Vagobond.com looks – so don’t be surprised if the site looks different from time to time.
One more note about the year of change – this year, I am going to be taking all of my spare change and putting it in my daughter’s ‘share’ bank. When the bank is full, she and I will be deciding how to donate it or use it to help others. This is a bit of an experiment on my part because I want to see just how much a little change can actually add up to over the course of a year and whether it is enough to do some serious good. Welcome to the YEAR OF CHANGE and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Sincerely and wishing you happiness and joy in 2019,
Christopher ‘Vago’ Damitio Founder and Chief Balderdasher, Vagobond.com
1/1/19 5:00 a.m.