From small and mundane rituals to dark and scary ones, myths and superstition are a powerful motivating factor in the lives of humans. We tend to downplay the power of fear, but it was that same fear that led us to this ‘Golden Age of Humanity’.
The North Eastern part of India is definitely shrouded in mystery. Not much has been documented about the region and most of what the rest of us hear is through second-hand accounts and hearsay.
Well, fear not, for we’ve got a doozy of an article for you guys.
Today, we’ll take a brief look at one of the scariest and most disturbing mythological creatures from the North Eastern state of Meghalaya.
Known locally as U Thlen, which means ‘The Thlen’, it’s believed to be a malevolent and evil spirit that takes the form of a huge, man-eating snake.
The myth of the creature could also be an exaggerated offshoot of a snake such as the boa constrictor or python, which are regularly found in that area.
Legend has it that back in the day, in the village of Langhiang Kongkhen, there existed a market that was only accessible using a sacred bridge. In what is now modern day Cherrapunji, there existed a series of caves that dates back to pre-historic times. In one of these cavernous caves was the lair of The Thlen. For people to get to this market as well the bridge, they would inevitably have to cross these series of caves. Can you imagine the fear that gripped people when they had to traverse this path?
And, sure enough, The Thlen would be there, waiting for them. The strange things about this spirit was that it would only attack and devour half the people passing by.
If 10 people were passing by the caves, 5 would surely be killed and eaten. The only way to avoid this fate was to travel along that cursed path alone.
After years of living in fear, the people of the village got together and decided that enough was enough. They enlisted the services of ‘U Suidnoh’, a fearless loner who didn’t really care about the dangers of messing with The Thlen. He came up with a plan and befriended the beast. He would regularly feed it goats and pigs.
Then, one day, when the creature was comfortable enough to let its guard down, U Suidnoh shoved a red hot piece of iron down the giant snake’s gullet. The creature thrashed around in pain until it could take no more and died.
The villagers then celebrated with a giant feast where they cut up The Thlen and feasted on its flesh. But according to legend, an old woman saved a piece for her son who could not attend the festival. But she forgot to give the piece of meat to her son and threw it away. From this forgotten piece of flesh arose many more Thlens to infest the residents of Cherrapunji and its surrounding areas. This could also be related to the legend of the earthworm that could essentially regenerate lost parts of its body.
As time passed, The Thlen was relegated to a powerful house spirit, able to be captured and worshiped in return for untold riches.
It is believed that the later version of The Thlen demanded human sacrifice. The people who reared The Thlen were known as Thlen keepers and were feared by the populace.
The family that housed the spirit would then hire a ‘nongshonoh’, which can be loosely translated to ‘the one who beats’. This man would then stalk his prey and incapacitate them when they were alone. The nongshonoh would then cut off the tips of the hair and the fingernails of the victim with silver scissors. These would then be offered to The Thlen who would then consume the victims soul through their hair and nails. In turn, The Thlen would bestow great riches on the people who fed it.
As I’ve said before, the North Eastern region of India is a strange and mysterious place. We will continue to shed some light on this wonderful and enigmatic area.
All images used are for representational purposes Feature Image: www.walldevil.com