Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day LXVIII - Kushtaka

Shapeshifting mammal,
Alaska's icy waters,
Otter by the shore.

Believed to be swimming about in the cold waters around Southeastern Alaska, the Kushtaka is a shapeshifting creature from the mythology of the indigenous Tlingit and Tsimshian tribes. Unsurprisingly considering its name means 'land otter man', the Kushtaka is a shapeshifter that can switch between human and otter forms and may be helpful or deadly for the humans who encounter it depending on the tale. With its ability to transform people into Kushtaka (and thus have a body that can survive the cold), it's claimed that the creatures come to the aid of distressed sailors, stopping them from freezing to death by distracting them with visions of their loved ones. Alternatively, the supernatural otters may perform their metamorphic methods out of malice and are looked to as lethal critters that can lead humans to their doom. Legend has it that tricksy Kushtaka imitates the cries and screams of women or children to lure victims - chiefly small children - to the shore where it either turns them into an otter or rips them to shreds. The native folklore figure of Alaska is thus a dangerous proposition, but you can allegedly protect yourself from it with fire, copper and urine. Here's to the incredible otter-man of Alaska.

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