Spiritual Landscapes

The Javanese Tuyul

(from first-hand accounts, writing structure inspired by Angela Carter’s Sermerssauq)

Tuyuls are so stealthy they can lie in a shaman’s lap and count his rings without being noticed. They can consume six breast-fulls of milk through the straws in their canines. They can slip a wallet free from any miser using the slightest touch from a sticky finger, leaving their targets none the wiser and with no afterbirth left behind. Once Bu Andri confronted a Tuyul in the middle of the night without her clothes, and it spit up a jug’s worth of blood before it confessed that it was Bu Andri’s neighbor who sent for the steal. Most men Tuyuls can dupe with a small bite that leaves victims’ minds vacant as their small bills slip into the Tuyul’s toddler-sized claws. When these Tuyuls are finally captured in translucent bottles, they say, “Why did your mother trade your brain for intestine?” Sometimes these Tuyuls look twice at their genitals when they are discovered, as if wondering if they are human enough for shame. Their umbilical cords, hanging between their legs, are so shriveled that they might be used to tie balloon bouquets. And to think: before they prowled the ether they were raised among us!


Sumerian Votive Figurines


Carved of limestone or gypsum, these pious babies were left along the walls of the temple sanctuary dedicated to the ancient near-eastern god of fertile harvests, Abu. Like human beings, the figurines displayed different forms and features, but they all had two things in common: 1) they were tucked in the the soil of present-day Iraq until U of Chicago wrenched them for their own in 1905, and 2) they’ve been looking up at either dirt or sky since 2900 BCE.


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