Saturday, September 6, 2014

Oniate (The Dry Hand)

Tales of disembodied hands seem to exist all over the world in cultural folklore. One such legend is that of the Hairy Hands, a ghostly entity that haunts the backroads of Dartmoor, England. Another is Mexico's La Mano Pachona, the Demon Hand. This severed clawlike appendage hides under beds and inside toilets, where it waits to strangle unsuspecting victims and drag them to Hell. Among the Iroquois is the legend of a mummified hand whose touch brings blindness, disease, and eventual death to its victims. They know it as Oniate, the Dry Hand.

The word oniate is derived from both the Seneca and the Cayuga languages, and literally means "dry hand" or "dry fingers" (onya meaning "fingers," while te means "dried out"). The legend is especially prevalent in the folklore of these two tribes, where it appears in two different forms. In one version of the legend, Oniate appears as a mummified bogeyman that brings terror to those who enter deserted places or areas that are forbidden. But more commonly, the Oniate appears as a disembodied, desiccated floating hand (which is sometimes attached to a forearm) with diseased fingers. Although sometimes called a ghost hand, it is unknown if this entity is a spirit manifestation or if it is in fact a flesh-and-bone undead hand.

According to legend, the Dry Hand can be summoned to punish those who don't behave themselves in an agreeable or otherwise respectful manner. In other folktales, the Oniate makes itself known as a vengeful spirit that punishes those people who would speak ill of the deceased, who sow discord among family and friends, or those who would dare to stick their noses into the affairs of other people. It appears as if from thin air, flies towards its chosen victim, and then proceeds to touch them with its mummified fingers. And while the effects can vary from one story to the next, the end result is always terrible. A single touch from one of the entity's withered fingers can strike a man with blindness, while other tales say that it can infect the victim with a horrible withering disease that will eventually kill the intended victim. And yet other stories say that a single touch from the Oniate will kill a person instantaneously. It would appear that the only way to avoid the attentions of the Dry Hand is to behave oneself and to think before speaking, just as parents have taught their children for generations. Not exactly a "helping hand," is it?


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Dalhan

The Dalhan (pronounced dah-lan) is a carnivorous demon from Islamic mythology that inhabits the deserts of the Middle East, but it is also said to inhabit the many islands on the seas off of the Arabic coastline. The Dalhan appears to be vaguely human in overall shape, but its skin is almost black. It wears filthy rags in place of clothing, and course hair grows through the rags. Its face features a sloping brow, a flat nose, and its mouth is a wide gash filled with sharp, rotting teeth that it uses to tear the flesh from the bodies of its victims. Its fingers and toes are tipped with cracked, jagged nails. The creature's body smells of decay and the filth of the grave.

The Dalhan possesses unnatural strength, speed, and endurance. Furthermore, the creature can let loose a horrible cry or a scream that causes disorientation in everyone who hears it. These abilities make it easier for the demon to hunt and kill its prey. It preys on travelers who are foolish enough to wander in the lonely places of the desert, as well as those who are shipwrecked or marooned on desert islands inhabited by this creature. It will even attack ships that venture too close to its home, especially if the creature inhabits one of the many islands.

The Dalhan is said to ride a demonic beast that, rather oddly, appears to be very similar to an ostrich. This creature has glowing red eyes and is purportedly able to run faster than any horse. It is practically impossible to escape from. When the Dalhan is in pursuit of its prey (who is usually mounted himself), the demon attacks the rider while the demon-ostrich delivers a devastating slash to the throat of the rider's mount (which is usually a horse or a camel) with long, sharp talons not unlike those of a velociraptor (making the Dalhan's mount very strange indeed). Once the rider and his mount are dead from blood loss, the Dalhan and its pet are free to feed on the fresh corpses at their leisure.

If the Dalhan is truly a demon, then it may be vulnerable to traditional apotropaics (salt, iron, prayers, holy water, holy medals, etc.). An iron weapon may be able to harm or even kill this creature. And when it comes to dispatching monsters, decapitation is always the best bet. A long, sharp blade such as a sword or a machete are invaluable for decapitations. Swords with wide or curved blades are best, while a machete should have a wide blade and a thick spine for strength. And decapitation should always be followed by burning the corpse to cinders. The ashes should then be scattered to the winds.

It goes without saying that the Dalhan is extremely dangerous, and not just because of its appetite for human flesh. The primary danger of encountering this desert demon is the creature that it rides upon. This flightless demon-bird moves faster than any beast of burden, and trying to run from it on foot is an utterly stupid idea. Even mounted on a swift horse, there is no guarantee of escape or survival. It is unknown if this monstrous ostrich-thing can keep up with modern-day vehicles, although it seems likely. Either way, it is best to stay as far away from areas where the Dalhan is said to reside. Anyone who tries to pass through these regions alone or unarmed is most likely doomed.


Bane, Theresa. Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc., Publishers. Copyright ©2012 Theresa Bane.

Maberry, Jonathan and David F. Kramer. They Bite: Endless Cravings of Supernatural Predators. New York: Citadel Press Books. Copyright ©2009 Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer.