Episode 2 Show Notes
Source: West African Mythology
This week on MYTH, you’ll learn that sky gods are asshole, that spiders can’t be trusted, and that invisible fairies take courtesy very seriously. This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory. Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them. This is Episode 2, “The Amazing Spiderman.” As always, this episode is not safe for work.
- This week’s story centers around Anansi, a trickster hero from African folklore.
- Originated in present day Ghana from the Ashanti people
- He often takes the appearance of a spider (his name means spider), but often a man, and is the spirit of knowledge and stories
- In the early days of the world, Anansi sat in his web (he’s a spider right now) and watched the people
- During the day, they were busy with their lives and industrious, which was good, but at night, they would sit around their fires and be bored (you can only fuck so much, and without birth control, it can result in a bunch of kids you can’t feed), which was bad.
- He liked people (which didn’t stop him from tricking them from time to time), so he decided to help. There weren’t many entertainment options, or any really, so he decides they need stories. Then some could tell stories and the rest would listen and it would be something to do between fucking and sleeping.
- In other versions, Anansi decides to get the stories because he thinks he can do a better job of telling them.
- Nyame, the sky god, kept all stories in a beautiful wooden chest. In other stories, he is called Nyankopon, which means “he who knows and sees everything.” His right eye is the sun, which he opens during the day, and his left eye is the moon, which he opens at night. Since he wanted all stories for himself (prick), he kept the box close to him at all times. Anansi, being a trickster, would normally use stealth and trickery to get what he wanted, but he wasn’t sure it would work this time.
- The next morning, Anansi spins a thread up to the clouds and goes to talk to Nyame. Since this was the sky god (and as we’ve already seen, sky gods can be easily offended and very dangerous), he’d try being on his best behavior. He put on his best shit-eating grin and went to talk to Name.
- He tried the direct approach: “Nyame, great and powerful sky god, the people are bored and I feel sorry for them. I want to share your stories with them to make their lives suck less. What’s it going to cost me to get some of those top-quality stories?”
- Nyame, being a dick, laughed in his face and his voice boomed like thunder (literally, because sky god). “Get real, little Anansi. You’re poor as shit. Super rich princes and even entire villages have tried to buy my stories with gold and jewels and women, and no one has been able to afford it yet.”
- Anansi thinks “fuck you asshole”, but he’s trying to be polite so he says “Seriously, Nyame, what’s the price? I can pay. What do you want?”
- Nyame laughs again, because he’s really enjoying making Anansi, famous for making powerful people and gods look like idiots, be nice to him. “Alright then, little spider. If you want my stories, you have to bring me four things (since Nyame had all the stories, he should have known the fucking rule of threes, but whatever): Onini, the python that can swallow an entire goat; Osebo, the leopard with teeth as sharp as spears; Mmoboro, the hornets whose sting is like red hot needles; and Mmoatia, the bitchy fairy that no one can see (not sure why we suddenly broke the pattern of nasty but real animals for a fucking magic fairy, but again, Nyame doesn’t seem to give a shit about story rules even though he has all of them). In later versions, they remove Mmoatia, because she really doesn’t fit, but her story has inspired others, so I’ve kept it in.
- “Fuck me”, thinks Anansi. “This fuckstick is trying to get me killed.” Out loud he says “O…okay, Nyame, I uh I can totally do that,” try not to let the asshole see him rattled. This was going to suck.
- Because, and I can’t stress this enough, sky gods are dicks, Nyame laughs at Anansi’s mortal peril and waves him out of the room/clouds/whatever. He thinks the idea of Anansi actually trying to take on these very dangerous creatures is hilarious.
- Anansi asks around, and finds out that he is not the first to try and pay the price (no surprise there) and that everyone who had tried had never returned (also not really a surprise). Unlike the Olympians, Anansi is not immortal, so he’s totally worried about dying at the hand (paws, claws, fangs) of these four awful sounding monsters.
- He goes back to his wife Aso, and tells her all about the people, the stories and the price, and she agrees that he needs to help. She doesn’t show up in all version, but I like that we have a myth were a female character isn’t super sexist, so I’ve used that version. Together, they work out a plan to take down Onini, the python that can eat a goat, probably because he was the least terrifying (lots of pythons can eat a goat, but that’s still more than enough to eat an annoying spider, even a very big one).
- The next day, Anansi goes into the forest with a long stick and muttering to himself about he knows his wife is wrong, gods dammit. She’s definitely fucking wrong and I am definitely right.” He keeps up a constant stream of muttering as he approaches the main watering hole in the forest.
- Above him, from out of the underbrush, the large, sleek head of Onini the python appears. “What the fuck, dude. I was trying to sleep. What the fuck are you going on about? And it better be good, Anansi, or I’m going to swallow you whole for waking me the fuck up.”
- Showtime. “Oh great and mighty Onini, my wife is an idiot. We got into a fight about you, actually. I was saying that you were large and mighty, the biggest snake in all the land. My wife, on the other hand, insists that you are shorter than this stick. It’s crazy, I know. I kept telling her that you were certainly much longer, but I can’t figure out how to prove her wrong.”
- Onini shook his head. “Anansi, you dumbass, it’s really easy. I can’t believe you can’t figure it out.” He slithered onto the ground. “Lay your stick on the ground and I’ll stretch out beside it, and you can see which is longer.”
- Of course, being a python, Onini had trouble keeping stretched out straight. He kept coiling his body up, making it difficult to measure his full length.
- Anansi looked at the situation for a minute, then had an idea. “Tell you what, Great Onini. I’ll use my silk to keep you fastened to the stick so I can measure your full length and prove my foolish wife wrong. I’ll be able to wave your great size and strength in her face. It’s gonna feel awesome.”
- Onini, who loved having whatever passed for his ass kissed, agreed. Once he was bound tightly to the stick, Anansi started laughing and dancing around. “Who’s the dumbass now Onini? You’re tied to the stick and I’m going to take you to Nyame. I have no idea why he wants you, but fuck it. Sucks to be you.”
- He attached a thread of silk to the helpless snake and hauled him up to the clouds. He sauntered in to the Sky God’s cloud room and presented his conquest. Nyame smirked. “That’s just one. You’ve still got three more chances to fucking fail.” Asshole.
- Anansi swung back down to earth and talked to his wife about the next task. They talked it over, and came up with a plan to ensnare Osebo, the leopard with teeth as sharp as spears.
- The next day, he went out looking for a path that the leopard supposedly took every night to the watering hole (everyone needs water, and the watering hole was the place to get it, so it’s not weird that this keeps coming up). He followed the path a ways and found a good place to hide a trap. He dug a deep hole, big enough for the leopard to fall into and too deep for him to crawl out of. It took all day, and Anansi was dirty and tired, but he was determined and busted his ass to get it done.
- He finished the hole, then laid thin sticks across the hole. He covered the sticks with leaves and dirt to make it look exactly like the ground. He was hungry as hell and ready to pass out by the time the sky started to darken, but eventually he was satisfied that the hole was invisible. He went home to a delicious home-cooked meal (no, I don’t know what giant anthropomorphic spiders eat). They went to bed, and Anansi was too tired to even try to fuck his wife. He passed out as soon as he laid down and slept like a log.
- The next morning he woke up, stretched out some of the soreness, maybe had some morning sex, and went for a walk in the forest. It wasn’t long before he started hearing angry screeching and scrabbling from the hole he’d dug. He hurried over to the pit and saw that the sticks had broken and tumbled in on top of a very angry leopard. Osebo was trying to claw his way out of the pit, but it was deep enough and the dirt was soft enough that he couldn’t get more than halfway up without tumbling back down again. By the crooked whispers and dirty claws, he’d been at it for a while.
- Anansi stuck his head over the hole and said “Good morning, Osebo. Why are you hanging out in a hole? It’s seems like a weird choice.”
- “Don’t be an asshat, Anansi. You know damn well that I got caught in some douche’s trap. Are you gonna help me or what?”
- “Oh, Osebo. No, definitely not. Your strength and ferocity is well known. If I help you out, after you’ve been working up an appetite all night trying to get out, you will certainly eat me, my wife and my children, and there’s fuck all I can do to stop you.” He pulled his head back and started to walk away.
- “Anansi, come back! Look, how about I promise not to huh? Then will you stop being a pussy and help me out?”
- Anansi stuck his head back into the hole. “Since you ask so nicely, and since I have your promise, I’ll help. Hold on.” He went to a nearby willow tree that he had spotted the day before. He pulled the top down to reach over the hole and tied it to a stake with his silk. Then, he spun another long, sticky strand down into the pit.
- “Wind the silk around your tail, Osebo.” Tired after a long night of not escaping, Osebo did exactly as instructed. He was ready to make like a tree and get the fuck out of there. After he was done, Anansi cut the thread holding the tree in place. It whipped into the air taking a surprised, yowling leopard with it. He spun round and round the tree, getting more and more tangled up in the spider silk. By the time the tree stopped moving, Osebo was completely wrapped up in sticky thread.
- Anansi went up and neatly snipped the thread from the tree, dropping Osebo on his face. “Motherfucker, that hurt. Alright, Anansi, let me out, and try not to take off too much fur.”
- Anansi shook his head, chuckling. “Sorry, Osebo, but the Sky God wants you, and I don’t have much choice.” So saying, he took the leopard up into the sky too. Nyame smirked. “That’s just two. You’ve still got two more chances to fucking fail.” Seriously, what an asshole.
- Anansi was starting to feel a little better about his chances. He swung back down to his home and again consulted with his wife. Together, they came up with a plan to trap Mmoboro, the hornets whose sting is like red hot needles.
- They hollowed out a calabash (a large gourd that kind of look likes very large anal beads) and filled it with water. He went out and cut down a leaf from a plantain tree, then carried both items off to a tree where he knew there was a hornets’ nest.
- Anansi poured half of the water from his anal bead gourd over his head so that he was dripping wet, then threw the rest of the water over the nest until it was soggy and disgusting (hornets’ nests don’t hold up well to water, because apparently the gods figure the little bastards weren’t mean enough already), then held the leaf over his head to pretend to use as an umbrella.
- The Mmboro flew out, and hell hath no fury like a swarm of pissed off hornets. They had spotted Anansi and were about to take out their collective dickery out on him since he was the first thing they saw capable of hurting, but Anansi called out “Oh, dude, the fucking monsoons came early. That fucker Nyame can’t keep on a schedule to save his life. If your wings get wet, you won’t be able to fly and will definitely get eaten by something. Tell you what, I have the calabash that I was going to get some water in. Why don’t you all take shelter in there until the rain passes?”
- The hornets were grateful. “Thank you, Anansi. We should have known we could trust another insect.” And they flew in. As soon as everyone was inside, Anansi wrapped the hole in his silk so that there was no opening left. “Idiots. Don’t you know that a spider isn’t an insect? Now i’m going to take you to Nyame. I’m starting to see why he set such a ridiculous price. I could be dead three times over by now.” And so saying, he swung back up into the clouds.
- Anansi presented the angry, buzzing hornets to Nyame, who again smirked. “That’s just three. You’ve still got one more chance to fucking fail.” What a royal asshole.
- He swung back down to his wife and again, the two of them talked long into the night devising a plan to capture Mmoatia, the bitchy fairy that no one can see.
- He carved a doll from the wood of a gum tree, then plastered it with sticky gum. If you’re familiar with the story of Anansi’s spiritual cousin Br’er Rabbit and the tar baby, you already know where this is going.
- His wife, Aso, pounded yams into a paste with eggs and oil, to make a dish known as ano, which fairies apparently love.
- They knew where the fairies like to play and dance because even though you can’t see them, you can totally fucking hear them. You know those creepy disembodied giggling children in every horror movie about possession ever? They sound like that.
- He went out in the middle of the day, when the brutal sun convinced everyone not on a crazy quest from the sky god to find shade and rest rather than die of fucking heat exhaustion. He crept sneakily up to a lovely clearing and sat the doll on the grass with the dish of yams beside it, smelling heavenly. He wove a very fine thread from the dolls head back to his hiding place in the bushes. Then he waited.
- Nothing happened all day, but as the sun set behind the trees, and the sky faded from orange, to red, and on to purple, he heard a voice say “Hello, little gum baby. That ano smells delicious. Can I have some?” Anansi twitched the thread, and the doll nodded. “Awesome sauce.” The dish floated into the air and he watched in disgust as she proceeded to devour the ano in a tornado of half chewed food (think Taz the Tasmanian Devil, and you’ll be close). Once the food stopped flying and she stopped liking the bowl clean, she dropped it on the grass. “Thank you.”
- Anansi said nothing. There was a pause. She said it again, louder. “I said thank you!” Now she was pissed. “I said thank you, you miserable sack of shit. If someone is being polite, have some gods damned manners and say you’re welcome! I could have just taken the yams while you were blinded by your own fat face, but no, I asked because I’m not a bitch. Either you say thank you nicely, or I’ll beat it out of you.”
- When confronted with more silence, Mmoatia screamed wordlessly and punched the doll in the stomach. Her hand stuck. “What the fuck? Let my hand go, or I’ll knock your fucking teeth out!” After a beat, she did just that. And her hand stuck. She screamed wordlessly and put both feet into a massive kick. And got them both stuck. She began to roll around on the ground with the gum doll, getting hopelessly stuck.
- Anansi leapt out of hiding, wound her and the doll up in thread, and picked her up. “That was fucking stupid, Mmoatia. But it works for me, and now you’re coming with me up to Nyame.”
- When he presented this last figure to the sky god, who looked surprised to see him. “Well what do you know. You actually pulled it off. Alright, fair is fair.” He took the sticky ball of fairy and placed it with the others. “Princes and rich villages tried and failed (and quite a few died wonderfully bloody deaths), but you are apparently not a complete fucking moron.” He raised his voice. “Listen up, everyone. Kwaku Anasi has paid the price for the Sky God’s stories. They belong to him now, and they will now be known as spider stories.”
- He handed the beautifully carved box to Anansi, who upended it and spread to over the entire earth. And that’w why people have stories to tell. Though not even Anansi knows what the sky god did with the poor sacrifices.
With stories made safe for the world, it’s time for Gods and Monsters. This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story. This week’s monster is the Popobawa. This monster is particularly fucked up for two reasons: attacks by this monster have been reported as recently as 2007, so it’s still active, and it’s far more likely to attack you if you don’t believe in it. The Popobawa originated on the Tanzanian island of Pemba, but has spread to Tanzania and to other East African nations. It is an evil spirit, and it’s name is a combination of the Swahili words for bat (popo) and wing (bawa). In some stories, the creature does in fact have bat wings, but in many, the name refers to the shape its shadow casts on your wall at night when it attacks. The creature is a shapeshifter, which can take any human or animal form. In it’s human form, it’s described as having a stunted but powerful body, pointed ears, inch long talons, and a single cyclopean eye.It sometimes attacks in the day, but more commonly appears in your bedroom at night, often accompanied by the stench of sulfur.
It can attack men, women, and children, but its favorite targets are skeptical men. Often, it attacks every member of a household in turn before moving on to another household in the neighborhood. Its attacks can range from the harmless to the truly terrifying. If you’re lucky, it will just cause poltergeist type shenanigans, such as moving your shit, writing on mirrors, or knocking things over. If you’re less lucky, it will physically assault you or wake you up by sitting on your chest. And if you’re really unlucky, or don’t believe in it, it will rape you in the ass. You heard that right.
Apparently, the Popobawa is deeply offended that more people don’t believe in it, which is why it attacks skeptics. It has been known to urge victims to spread the word about the assault, and to threaten to return for another round of surprise sex if they do not. During panics, people have been known to sit outside their door all night to guard against a visit.
The Popobawa is of fairly recent origin. The first sightings occurred on the island of Pemba in 1965, but it didn’t really gain traction until 1970, though it has been making appearances every five to ten years up until as recently as 2007 (so we’re about due for another round of assaults).
The most popular story of the creature’s origin says that during the 1970s, an angry sheikh released a Jinn, which is a middle eastern demon that gave rise to the story of the genie, to take vengeance on his neighbors. The sheik, who’s identity varies depending on who you ask, lost control of the jinn, and it returned to it’s demonic ways, wandering the countryside and raping villagers.
The most likely explanation for visits from the Popobawa is a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis or waking dreams. It is a hallucinatory state that can be entered when falling asleep or waking up; the brain has already disabled the body’s ability to move in preparation for sleep (a defense mechanism to keep you from hurting yourself while dreaming) but the brain is still partly awake. It’s usually accompanied by a sensation of weight on your chest (hence the stories of it sitting on people’s chest). The dreams that accompany hypnopompic or hypnogogic hallucination (depending on whether you are falling asleep or waking up) or usually extremely vivid and bizarre or terrifying. Witches, demons, and succubi have all been reported to sit on your chest, along with a whole host of other monsters. There’s no real defense against it, so if you are visited by the Popobawa in the night, my only advice is to promise to tell everyone about it and pray you don’t get fucked.
That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated. Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth. You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com. If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes, since it helps increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists. If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line. I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated. The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.
Next time, in honor of Halloween, I’ll be telling the legend of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It’s a real life ghost story complete with suspicious disappearances, mysterious clues, and no definitive explanation. This story walks the line between history and myth, as all good legends do. It’s a fun, creepy story, perfect for All Hallows Eve. That’s all for now. Thanks for listening.