malevolent dead

marcus.banks at marcus.banks at
Tue Dec 21 09:52:37 UTC 1993

>I am working with someone on a project concerning monsters and 
>malevolent spirits, etc.  During my studies of this wholesome topic over 
>the years I have seen references to the churel--the spirit of a woman who 
>has died in childbirth or as a result of some other polluting event.  Some 
>sources say that the churel has her feet on backwards, a motif I think I 
>have encountered in the folklore of other cultures. Does anyone know the 
>significance of this anatomical oddity other than the obvious fact the 
>footprints would be misleading?

The fairly orthodox anthropological explanation would be that the backwards
feet are just one more (arbitrary) sign of reversal. The churel or bhut is
a woman who is malevolent and powerful, where 'normal' women are (supposed
to be) benificent and subordinate; she often sucks the blood of babies
where 'normal' women nurture them with milk; and so forth. There is a
smallish anthropological literature on such things in the Indian context.

Marcus Banks, Oxford


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