Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hawaiian Mythology - The 4 Big 'Uns


In Hawaiian mythology, Kāne is considered the highest of the four major Hawaiian deities, along with Kanaloa, and Lono. He represented the god of procreation and was worshipped as ancestor of chiefs and commoners. Kāne is the creator and gives life associated with dawn, sun and sky. No human sacrifice or laborious ritual was needed in the worship of Kāne.
The 1907 book, “Legends of Hawaii,“ has the following account of creation involving Kane. The author says that there are several versions of this story, probably due to waves of immigration from different areas of Polynesia at different times, but generally they agree on the major points.
It says that in the beginning, there was nothing but Po; the endless black chaos. Then Kane, sensing that he was separate from the Po, pulled himself free of Po by an act of sheer will.
Sensing Kane's presence, Lono and then Ku also pulled themselves free of Po. Then Kane created the light to push back Po. Lono brought sound to the universe and Ku brought substance. Between them they created all the lesser Gods. Then together, the three Gods created the Menehune, the lesser spirits to be their messengers and servants. Next they created the world to be a foot stool for the Gods. Finally they gathered red clay from the four corners of the world; they mixed the clay with their spittle, and moulded it into the shape of a man.
Then Kane took special magical white clay and formed it into a head. Then the three Gods breathed life into the statue and created the first man. The first man was created in the image of Kane.
There is a parallel legend that says that Kane alone breathed life into the man-statue. At the same time, Kanaloa tried to duplicate Kane's feat, but his statue failed to come to life. So he challenged Kane, saying something to the effect, "that man will live only a certain span of time, and then he will die. When he dies, I will claim him as my own."
This seems to tie in with his position as ruler of the dead as an entity separate from Kane. Some versions say that Kanaloa is the alter ego of Kane, the dark half so to speak. Others say he is a lesser God who was created to be in charge of the dead. Prior to about 1100 A.D., there is no mention of Kanaloa. It is generally belived  that Kanaloa is therefore, an addition from some later wave of immigration to the islands.
There is another, completely separate, legend about the creation of man. In that version, the first-born son of the sky father and the earth mother is stillborn.
When the son is buried, the first Kalo plant springs from his navel. The second born son is man. Hence the two sons are eternally connected. Man tends his brother the Kalo, and the Kalo feeds his brother the man. In that version there is no mention of Kane.
Aloha, the traditional greeting, was originally spoken while touching foreheads and exchanging a breath of air. This is possibly a reflection of the legend, exchanging the breath of life, originally given by the Gods.


In Hawaiian mythology Kū or Kū-ka-ili-moku is one of the four great gods along with KanaloaKāne, and Lono.
He is known as the god of war and the husband of the goddess Hina. Some have taken this to suggest a complementary dualism, as the word kū in the Hawaiian language means " to stand " while one meaning of hina is " to fall ".
Feathered god images or 'aumakua hulu manu are considered to represent Kū. Kū is worshipped under many names, including Kū-ka-ili-moku (also written Kūkaʻilimoku), the "Seizer of Land".
Kū-ka-ili-moku was the guardian of Kamehameha I who erected monuments to him at the Holualoa Bay royal center and his residence at Kamakahonu. Rituals included human sacrifice, which was not part of the worship of the other gods. One feathered god image in the Bishop Museum, Honolulu is thought to be Kamehameha I's own image of his god. However it is still unclear whether all feathered god images represent Kū.


In Hawaiian mythology, the deity Lono is associated with fertility, agriculture, rainfall, music and also peace. In one of the many Hawaiian legends of Lono, he is a fertility and music god who descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry Laka. In agricultural and planting traditions, Lono was identified with rain and food plants. He was one of the four gods (with Kāne, and Kāne's twin brother Kanaloa) who existed before the world was created. Lono was also the god of peace. In his honor, the great annual festival of the Makahiki was held. During this period (from October through February), war and unnecessary work was kapu (forbidden). In Hawaiian weather terminology, the winter Kona storms that bring rain to leeward areas are associated with Lono. Lono brings on the rains and dispenses fertility, and as such was sometimes referred to as Lono-makua (Lono the Provider). Ceremonies went through a monthly and yearly cycle. For 8 months of the year, the luakini was dedicated to Ku-with strict kapus. Four periods (kapu pule) each month required strict ceremonies. Violators could have their property seized by priests or overlord chiefs, or be sentenced to death for serious breaches.


The traditions of ancient Hawaii, Kanaloa is symbolised by the squid or by the octopus,
In legends and chants Kāne and Kanaloa are portrayed as complementary powers. For example: Kāne was called upon during the building of a canoe, Kanaloa during the sailing of it; Kāne governed the northern edge of the ecliptic, Kanaloa the southern; Kanaloa points to hidden springs, and Kāne then taps them out. In this way, they represent a divine duality of wild and taming forces like those observed (by Georges Dumézil, et al.) in Indo-European chief god-pairs like OdinTýr and Mitra–Varuna, and like the popular yin and yang of Chinese Taoism.
Kanaloa is also considered to be the god of the Underworld and a teacher of magic. Legends state that he became the leader of the first group of spirits "spit out" by the gods. In time, he led them in a rebellion in which the spirits were defeated by the gods and as punishment were thrown in the Underworld.
However, depictions of Kanaloa as a god of evil, death, or the Underworld, in conflict with good deities like Kāne (a reading that contradicts Kanaloa and Kāne's paired invocations and shared devotees in Ancient Hawaii) are likely the result of European missionary efforts to recast the four major divinities of Hawaii in the image of the Christian Trinity plus Satan In traditional, pre-contact Hawaii, it was Milu who was the god of the Underworld and death, not Kanaloa; the related Miru traditions of other Polynesian cultures confirms this.

Tiki - 20th-century Polynesian Pop Culture

Tiki culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, being an American kitsch form and not a Polynesian fine art form.
Tiki culture in the United States began in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood. The proprietor was Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a young man from Louisiana who had sailed throughout the South Pacific; later he legally changed his name to Donn Beach. His restaurant featured Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches, with a decor of flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis, and brightly colored fabrics. 

Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland, which eventually grew to become a worldwide chain. The theme took on a life during the restaurant's growth in the Bay Area. The Trader Vic's in Palo Alto even spawned architectural choices, such as the concept behind the odd-looking Tiki Inn Motel, which still exists as the Stanford Terrace Inn.
Tiki culture of mid-century America was primarily born in the restaurant industry. Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood, California, is largely credited as being the first tiki restaurant from which all other eateries and bars "borrowed." Donn Beach, the founder of Don The Beachcomber, is also credited as having created the tropical drink genre singlehandedly. Donn was the first restaurateur to mix flavored syrups and fresh fruit juices with rum. These drinks were called Rhum Rhapsodies and made Don the Beachcomber's restaurant the hot spot for Hollywood elite and stars from the 1940s well into the 1960s. By the mid to late 1950s, many restaurateurs had begun to copy, and in some cases, steal Donn's theme, food and cocktails. Many eventually created their own cocktails and signature food dishes based on Asian themes. Donn Beach is credited for having created some of the most memorable exotic cocktails such as the Scorpion and the Zombie. Howard Hughes was a regular at the

Hollywood Don the Beachcomber.
Victor "Trader Vic" Bergeron was a Donn Beach contemporary and the founder of Trader Vic's restaurant chain. Both created a variety of "Polynesian" dishes, including crab Rangoon and rumaki.
The Mai tai is considered to be the quintessential tiki cocktail. A protracted feud between Donn Beach and Trader Vic erupted when both claimed to have invented the mai tai.
Most tiki-themed establishments served at least some of their cocktails in ceramic mugs depicting tikis; also known as tiki mugs. The styles and sizes varied widely. Most restaurants offered their signature drink in a tiki mug that the patron was able to take home. This led to a large number of tiki mugs surviving as souvenirs. Today, the tiki mug is a highly prized find and is considered to be as much a symbol of the Tiki culture as a tiki itself.
With the resurgence of tiki culture in the later part of the 1990s, resurgence in the interest of the original exotic cocktails has grown as well. Jeff "Beachbum" Berry released several drink books containing the recipes for many of the signature drinks from long lost tiki restaurants and bars, as well as classic tiki cocktails from Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcombers.
Today, Trader Vic's is the only major restaurant chain still in operation. However, a new Don the Beachcomber was opened in Huntington Beach, California in 2009—having taken over Sam's Seafood Restaurant/Kona. Sam's was also a long lived tiki-themed restaurant that dated back to the 1940s. It was sold in 2007 and the name was changed to Kona for a short period before the current owner of the Don the Beachcomber corporate name took it over.
Get Tiki Farm Mugs at the Wunderkabinett online store 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sideshow Shenanigans - Girl-To-Gorilla Illusion

Girl-To-Gorilla illusion, a show in which a young lady would seem to morph into a gorilla as you watched. This popular and mystifying illusion was invented in the 1800′s, originally consisting of a statue in the form of a ballerina; she would appear to come to life, leap from her pedestal, dance, and return to the pedestal and once again become a statue.

The modern version of a girl changing to a gorilla, was developed in the late 70′s and added a horror factor in which the “gorilla” would leap out into the audience, scaring on-lookers out of the tent. The audience’s exodus in panic was a

built-in bally for the next show.
The girl-to-gorilla trick is an old sideshow act based on the principles of the vintage Blue Room or Pepper’s Ghost illusions. For decades it mystified eager crowds in dimly lit tents as one of the top-grossing grind shows on the midway.
The audience would gather in front of a large cage. Inside was a beautiful girl dressed like a wild jungle lady, usually just recently captured in some remote and primitive region of the world.
Is she the result of some freakish evolutionary blunder?

Was she the subject of bizarre and cruel experimentation?
The talker begins to lull the ape girl into a trance and beckon her through her metamorphosis. Before the crowd’s very eyes she would begin to grow hair and fangs, slowly transforming into a large, raging beast.
When the transformation was complete, an angry gorilla stood growling inside the cage. Then it would burst through the iron bars and send the horrified crowds screaming from the tent.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Amazing Feejee Mermaid

In August 1842, a sensational new curiosity called the Feejee Mermaid was exhibited at P. T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City. P.T. Barnum was a man to be reckoned with.  Born July 5th 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut. He moved to New York City in 1834 and at age 25 found his calling in the world of exhibitions. P.T. Barnum became the Greatest Show Man in the world.  His ideas, his creativity, and his expert manipulation of the press made him a household name
Though it was advertised throughout the country with pictures of traditional, topless female mermaids, the real Feejee Mermaid looked more like an unnatural amalgam of dissimilar species. Which, in fact, it was. Instead of seeing an alluring full-sized mermaid of legend, visitors to the museum found a small, taxidermically preserved specimen with the withered head and abdomen of a baby monkey, grafted onto the tail of a fish and a papier-mache bridge in between them. It was described by one critic as the “incarnation of ugliness. “It was, dried-up, black-looking specimen about three feet long . . . that looked like it had died in great agony.
The Feejee Mermaid was not new when Barnum introduced it. The mermaid had been on display for months in a museum in Boston and had been exhibited twenty years earlier in London. It took the showmanship and promotional skill of P. T. Barnum to make the Feejee mermaid a star.
Barnum had leased the mermaid from Boston showman Moses Kimball (who, in turn, had bought it from a seaman), but before doing so Barnum had consulted a naturalist to inquire about the mermaid's authenticity. The naturalist had assured him it was quite fake. Nevertheless, Barnum realized that it wasn't important whether or not the mermaid was real. All that was important was that the public be led to believe that it might be real. So he hired a phony naturalist (Dr. Griffin) to vouch for the creature's authenticity, placed pictures of bare-breasted mermaids in the newspapers, and thereby manipulated the public into wanting to see it. As Barnum's biographer A.H. Saxon puts it, the Feejee Mermaid was a classic example of Barnum's ability to "take a mildly interesting object that had been around for some time and to puff it almost overnight into an earthshaking 'event.'"

Not everyone believed in the mermaid’s authenticity. The Feejee Mermaid had as many skeptics as it had avid believers and heated debates went on wherever it as exhibited. P. T. Barnum did not care whether people believed in the mermaid or not, as long as they came to see it. As he (allegedly) said, “The bigger the humbug, the better people will like it.”
For the next twenty years the Feejee Mermaid split her time between Kimball's museum in Boston and Barnum's museum in New York. Her biggest adventure occurred in 1859, when Barnum took her with him on a tour of London. When Barnum returned from London in June, 1859, he brought her back to Kimball's museum.
According to one theory, she was destroyed when Barnum's museum burned down in 1865. But this is unlikely, since she should have been at Kimball's Boston museum at that time. More likely, she perished when Kimball's museum burned down in the early 1880s.
Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology does possess a mermaid that some have speculated might be the original Feejee Mermaid. According to their records, this mermaid was saved from the fire that consumed Kimball's museum and was later donated to Harvard by Kimball's heirs. The problem is that the Peabody's mermaid doesn't look anything like what we would expect the Feejee Mermaid to look like. It's much smaller and far less skilfully crafted. So the real Feejee Mermaid probably met her end in the 1880s.
But although the original Feejee Mermaid is gone, it lives on lives on in popular culture it has also appearances in episodes of the X-Files and Scooby doo. Furthermore the name “Feejee Mermaid" has become the generic term for the many fake mermaids that can be found around the world in sideshows, behind bars, or at the back of curiosity shops.
  • Barnum, P. T.. Struggles and triumphs, or Forty years' recollections of P.T. Barnum written by himself. Author's ed. Buffalo, N.Y.: Warren, Johnson, 1873.
  • Boese, Alex. The museum of hoaxes: a collection of pranks, stunts, deceptions, and other wonderful stories contrived for the public from the Middle Ages to the new millennium. New York, NY: Dutton, 2002.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Lepus Cornutus - Jackalopes, Wolpherfingers, Skvaders

The actual history of antlered rabbits or Lepus cornutus goes down the centuries. The descriptions and drawings of similar animals can be found as far back in time as 16th century (Albrecht Durer). Those animals as a separate species were included in the encyclopedias of different European countries through 18th century. Horny rabbits were seen in Germany (as wolpertinger and rasselbock), Austria (as raurackl), Sweden (as skvader) and Switzerland (as dilldapp).
It is quite possible that immigrants from those countries brought their creatures with them in America, at least in legends.
Lepus Cornutu

The lepus cornutus or horned hare is a type of hare or rabbit that in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was believed to exist

Horned hares were described in medieval and early Renaissance texts, both as real creatures and as farcical or mythological ones, e.g. by Rabelais in his Gargantua and Pantagruel. But the first mention of the lepus cornutus as described here as a real animal comes from Conrad Gessner in his Historiae animalium, mentioning that they live in Saxony.
Many other scientific works on animals repeated this or similar claims, often with the same depictions. These include John Jonston's "Historiae naturalis de quadrupetibus libri" from 1655, whose illustrations were reused in e.g. the 1718 "Theatrum universale omnium animalium, piscium, avium, quadrupedum, exanguium, aquaticorum, insectorum et angium" by Ruysch.

The Jackalope

The jackalope is an antlered species of rabbit, unfortunately rumored to be extinct, though occasional sightings of this rare creature continue to occur, suggesting that pockets of jackalope populations continue to persist in its native home, the American West.

The jackalope is an aggressive species, willing to use its antlers to fight. Thus, it is also sometimes called the "warrior rabbit."

Jackalopes possess an uncanny ability to mimic human sounds. In the old West, when cowboys would gather by their campfires to sing at night, jackalopes would frequently be heard singing back, mimicking the voices of the cowboys. Jackalopes become especially vocal before thunderstorms, perhaps because they mate only when lightning flashes (or so it is theorized).

When chased, the jackalope will use its vocal abilities to elude capture. For instance, when chased by people it will call out phrases such as, "There he goes, over there," in order to throw pursuers off its track. The best way to catch a jackalope is to lure it with whiskey, as they have a particular fondness for this drink. Once intoxicated, the animal becomes slower and easier to hunt.

Jackalope milk is particularly sought after because it is believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac (for which reason, the jackalope is also sometimes referred to as the 'horny rabbit'). However, it can be incredibly dangerous to milk a jackalope, and any attempt to do so is not advised. A peculiar feature of the milk is that it comes from the animal already homogenized on account of the creature's powerful leaps.

The jackalope is now most commonly sighted in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. However, the jackalope does appear to have a European cousin, which in Germany is known as the wolperdinger. In Sweden, a related species is called the skvader.

Bavarian folklore tells of the wolpertinger (also called wolperdinger, poontinger or woiperdinger), an animal allegedly inhabiting the alpine forests of Bavaria in Germany. It has a body comprised from various animal parts — generally wings, antlers, tails and fangs, all attached to the body of a small mammal. The most widespread description portrays a horned rabbit or a horned squirrel.
Stuffed "wolpertingers", composed of parts of actual stuffed animals, are often displayed in inns or sold to tourists as souvenirs in the animals' "native regions". The Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum in Munich, Germany features a permanent exhibit on the creature.
It resembles other creatures from German folklore, such as the Rasselbock of the Thuringian Forest, or the Elwedritsche of the Palatinate region, which accounts describe as a chicken-like creature with antlers; additionally the American Jackalope as well as the Swedish Skvader somewhat resemble the wolpertinger. The Austrian counterpart of the wolpertinger is the raurakl.


Skvader- Part Bird/ Part Rabit
Skvader- Part Bird/ Part Rabit
The skvader originates from a tall tale hunting story told by a man named Håkan Dahlmark during a dinner at a restaurant in Sundsvall in the beginning of the 20th century. To the amusement of the other guests, Dahlmark claimed that he in 1874 had shot such an animal during a hunt north of Sundsvall. On his birthday in 1907, his housekeeper jokingly
presented him with a painting of the animal, made by her nephew and shortly before his death in 1912, Dahlmark donated the painting to a local museum. During an exhibition in Örnsköldsvik in 1916 the manager of the museum became acquainted with the taxidermist Rudolf Granberg. He then mentioned the hunting story and the painting and asked Granberg if he could re-construct the animal. In 1918 Granberg had completed the skvader and it has since then been a very popular exhibition item at the museum, which also has the painting on displ

Real Life Jackalope

Jackalopes Actually Do EXIST in Nature!!

The most curious thing about antlered rabbits or Jackalopes is that they do exist. The cause of the “antlers” like growths in rabbits is a Shopa papilloma virus. This disease is very common in rabbits and is called papillomatosis. 
These sick rabbits might be as much responsible for the legends and stories in European and American folklore.

Real Life Jackalope

Real life Jackalope - Poor bunny infected with Papillomatosis.
Check out the WunderKabinett online Store for your very own replica Jackalope

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Mummies of Venzone

The sweet, intoxicating scents of lavender emanates from within the old castle walls of this charming little village of Venzone.  Quaint boutiques and shop houses are all dressed up in lilac and violet hues; flaunting their wares in such striking styles which inevitably pulls you in and only lets you go when you have emptied the contents of your wallet.  The lavender of Venzone is highly prized and is used in the production of cosmetics, aromatic oils, bath salts and culinary products.  The lavender is extremely important for this small community and the harvesting of the shrubs is celebrated each year in a delightful, aromatic festival held here in August.

But beneath this fairy-tale like veneer lays a dark and morbid past practice. For the town folk of Venzone (a small fortified town in the province of Udine, Italy) have an unusual connection with their dead?

In the town you will find the Cathedral of Saint Andrea.  Directly opposite the church is the small Chapel of San Michele where for a small fee of €1.50, you can wander down into the crypt and view the five mummies found in 1647
For hundreds of years, mystery surrounded the mummies because instead of decomposing normally, the bodies buried in the tombs beneath the cathedral were perfectly preserved.

There are two schools of thought on the how and why this mummification occurs. The most popular is the claim that scientists finally traced the source of this wonder to Hypha tombicina, a microscopic, parasitic fungus that rapidly dehydrates the body in one year and makes the skin parchment like before decomposition can even begin. 

The other believes that the phenomenon occurs because Venzone lies atop limestone bedrock. Groundwater in such regions is usually alkaline, an environment hostile to putrefaction. During floods, alkaline waters likely seeped through dirt floors in tombs and drained quickly through the porous limestone, the  water-soaked bodies dried rapidly into mummies due to the aridity of the region.

Regardless of the how the mummies came to be, what's most interesting to me is not the mummification per se, but the way locals treat the mummies. Some of the photos show the mummies displayed in display cabinets, and indeed some of them were taken out of Venzone to the University Laboratory of Padua, Museum of Vienna and to the Church of the Invalides in Paris. But the respect and connection afforded to the mummies by the villagers runs deeper than just money making tourism gimmick. 

The fact that the bodies were and still so “perfectly” preserved and recognizable decades later, led the townspeople to periodically retrieve and commune with their dead loved ones for some quality time. That’s right….” Hey it’s Great Great Great Great aunt Maria’s birthday let’s roll here out for cake and some family happy snaps” type of outing. 

And that’s what i think makes this such an awesome story, not that there are mummies, but  because the documented photos of the villager’s poses with their dead ancestors are just so damned creepy.