Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Things That Go Bump in the Night–Xing Tian, the Headless Giant

X is notoriously a difficult letter to make work during an A-Z Blog. Fortunately, there are freaky critters all over the world!

Xíng Tiān  is a creature in Chinese mythology.

The giant Xíng Tiān followed his master into exile after a bitter defeat at the hands of The Yellow Emperor. After this Yellow Emperor caught up and executed Xing Tian’s master, Xing Tian issued a challenge for a duel.

Xíng Tiān and The Yellow Emperor fought a ferocious battle with sword and axe all across the countryside, coming at last to the ChangYan Mountain. The Yellow Emperor decapitated the giant whose head rolled to the foot of the mountain and disappeared into a gorge. The Yellow Emperor raised his sword and the gorge filled in with earth, burying Xíng Tiān’s head for all time.

But Xíng Tiān refused to die—and here’s where it gets weird— he continued fighting using his nipples for eyes and his navel for a mouth.

A Blemmyae from Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
A Blemmyae from Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

In Chinese mythology, Xíng Tiān symbolizes the indomitable spirit which refuses to surrender, resisting the enemy no matter what the odds.

Other  headless men were rumored to live in less civilized parts of the world. The Greeks called them akephaloi (Greek ἀκέφαλοι, headless ones) or Blemmyes (Latin Blemmyae.) They were described as having a mouth in their chest and eyes in their shoulders.

Blemmyae, 1544woodcut in the Cosmographia bySebastian Münster.
Blemmyae, 1544woodcut in the Cosmographia bySebastian Münster.

Libya, Ethiopia, and Guiana also have stories of headless men with their heads between their shoulders or with eyes and mouths in their chests.

Seems familiar—in a strange kind of way!


Tomorrow: Yawkwawiak, the Giant Bear

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