Today’s Monster Monday post comes from Robin Rivera, who is trained as a professional historian, but now puts those skills to use writing speculative fiction for young adults. Robin is culturally from a mix of mostly Latin American cultures, and she writes about Hispanic myths for her contribution to Part-Time Monster’s Monster Monday column. She blogs full-time at Write On, Sisters about fiction writing craft.
October always makes me dream of monsters and the monsters I love best are the classics, particularly vampires. There is just something about vampires and the fact that they live off our blood that makes them seriously scary creatures.
Vampire lore is often pretty universal, but there are exceptions to the norm. About a year ago, I wrote a post about a collection of Latin American vampires that didn’t act like traditional vampires at all. But that trio was just the beginning. Latin America has so many unusual vampires, that I decided to introduce you to another one today, the Azeman.
The Azeman are a group of female vampires found only in South American. They are best known in Suriname, a small country located on the northern tip of the continent. It’s sandwiched on the east by French Guiana, on the west by Guyana and the south by Brazil. It was once part of the Dutch colonies.
The myth of the Azeman says they are shape shifters, creatures that turn into something otherworldly but only at night. The women often take one of two preferred shapes; they will become a bat creature, or something like a wolf. Part of the Azeman myth is the woman wraps herself in a long animal skin cloak, and it’s believed that the cloak is part of their transformative process. During the daylight an Azeman will pass as a normal woman. This double life aspect of the Azeman marks her as very different from the traditional undead vampires. Although the Azeman will not shun the daylight hours, some versions of the myth say she will avoid full sun.
At night, while in her non-human form the Azeman will search for victims. The preferred method of attack is to find someone sleeping with their feet exposed. The Azeman will zero in on their juicy big toe and suck away. I image it’s not the best location for taste, but I do love a monster that knows what she likes. The Azeman bite is seldom fatal, however she can spread diseases and her bite will leave the victim weak, while she glows with new vitality.
Only woman can be an Azeman, and some versions of the myth closely resembling other vampire lore, and suggest biting is how the Azeman creates more sister monsters. However, in other version of the creation story, a mature Azeman must mate with a human man while in her nighttime form and give birth to another Azeman. The mating process is a bit fuzzy. One version says she bewitches the man, makes him forget the encounter and sends them home once she is pregnant. The other version is she becomes her bat like creature self and draws the man into the folds of her leathery wings. This method leaves the man conscious of his peril, but trapped. The Azeman keeps the man this way until she grow tired of him, gets pregnant and/or possibly eats him. As I said, it’s a bit fuzzy.
Lucky for us, there are several ways of defending yourself against the Azeman.
The Azeman, like many other vampires, loves to count. It’s rather an obsession. Survivors of Azeman encounters say they threw coins or large bags of seeds in front of the advancing vampire. When she stopped dead in her tracks to count ever single item, they were able to run away.
This is also why people are advised to place a broom with a lot of bristles across the threshold of their home at night. The Azeman will never cross a broom without counting every bristle first. This either gives the people inside the home time to get away or if they are very lucky, the Azeman will still be standing there counting in the morning. This is suggested as the best way to unmask an Azeman and prove she is not a normal human.
Another method advises snatching off her animal skin cloak and destroying it. Some believe the cloak is the only magical source of the Azeman’s power and without it she will return to her human form permanently.
Another method says you should coat the Azeman with pepper. They are known for having sensitive skin and the pepper will cause an immediate reaction similar to being allergic. The pepper will also interfere with the absorption of power from the cloak making shape shifting and feeding impossible. Unable to feed, the Azeman will starve to death. While in her human form the Azeman is susceptible to every lethal means, but starving her is supposed to be the only way to kill the creature in the nighttime form.