I was surprised to see food taboo and the barnacle goose presented as a potential origin or foundation for animal transformation.

Not sure why, single point origin is not exactly uncommon, it should not induce surprise, but it always does.

Reminded of one of the first issues I has classifying wild men. I was reading a paper conducted by interview. As part of conversation a story was told, a narrative used in children’s wrestling match’s to describe the loser.

The description fitted my check list of what a wild man looks like minus two descriptive details, the figure was not named as such, no visual description was asked for or offered.

Name is easy to deal with, not being able to see if the subject had a feathered or hairy appearance seemed to present more of an issue.

In the end I determined it was a wild man, but classification and naming here is highly social, requires education and a perspective that identifies the subject as socially significant and of value.

Conversely I could argue the subject should be viewed as transforming into something like a fairy or brownie.

Its a creature with a role in social dispute and cultural argument. It can be used to make a difference and identify the cultural and social identity of the speaker.

Its not one thing.

The most important lesson was learning that the inclusion of one simple direct question makes a world of difference.

In this case, what does it look like?

With the Barnacle Goose or animal transformation in general the additional question I always want to see but rarely find is, what does it taste like?

Tells me little about origin but tells me something in regard to one aspect involved in reinforcing these narratives.

The processes of transformation resulting from raw to cooked. Changes in taste, smell and texture.

It may tell me nothing in regard to why the barnacle came to be seen and sensed to be such a thing but it tells me something in regard to why the narrative survived and continued to move from mouth to mouth over a significant period of time.


A review of evidence bearing on utilitarian or functional explanations for Nage transformation beliefs yields a negative result. Writing on New Guinean society, Bulmer…… suggests that dietary and culunary restrictions may explain transformation beliefs insofar as the beliefs provide ways of circumventing such restrictions. Interestingly, such a use of transformation beliefs is familiar from the European rationalization of eating barnacle geese during Lent, on the ground that the birds grew from barnacles and were therefore not ‘flesh or born of flesh’……. However, no animal in Nage transformations is absolutely or contextually forbidden as food.



G. Forth, On Deer and Dolphins: Nage Ideas Regarding Animal Transformation

Note (A Box of Silk & Dogs) : Cut and Paste

Of Things (Difficult to Determine)


Every nation has certain things that it makes use of as symbolic acts of the soul (rumuz an-nufs)

No condition lasts for ever, for it changes like the changing shape of ghouls


All these categories shift back and forth and merge into each other. For example, when she cannot be seen but can make her presence felt, a ghouleh resembles a supernatural being.


the sex is only feminine, she has a foot as the ass’ hoof, and a foot as an ostrich. She entices passengers, calling to them over the waste by their names, so that they think it is their own mother’s or their sisters voice……..



Many other wonderful things are also related of the animal; and the strangest of all, that it imitates the human voice among the stalls of the shepherds; and while there, learns the name of some one of them, and then calls him away, and devours him.


The Age of Christ, 690….. A battle between the Osaighi and the Leinstermen, wherein Faelchar Ua Maelodhra was slain. It rained a shower of blood in Leinster this year. Butter was there also turned into lumps of gore and blood, so that it was manifest to all in general. The wolf was heard speaking with a human voice, which was horrific to all.

Introduction (As Shooting Stars fall to Dust)

By weaving the super-real into the fabric of the real, folk narrative asserts the primacy of the imagination, creating a dialectical relationship between the supernatural and the physical. It also closes the door on facile or one-dimensional interpretations, lending the action a timeless quality by placing it neither fully in the real nor in the realm only of the supernatural. Of course, the jinn, ghouls, and other supernatural beings who inhabit these tales are derived from the general Arabic folk tradition; there is, however, a specifically Middle Eastern dimension to belief about the supernatural as well, which must be addressed.

Village peasants in Palestine do not distinguish between official religion and its teachings on the one hand and the beliefs and superstitions of folk religion on the other. Naturally, then, no sharp distinction exists between the domain of the supernatural and that of everyday life, or between the realms of the spiritual and the material. All these categories shift back and forth and merge into each other. For example, when she cannot be seen but can make her presence felt, a ghouleh resembles a supernatural being; yet she may also appear as an animal, a human being, or a combination of both (Tale 19). Likewise, the soul of a dead person may be heard, imagined, and felt; but it can also materialize and stand next to, talk to, or even touch someone. A religious or holy person may be very real—a relative perhaps, with whom one shares food and engages in conversation—but that person is also thought to have the ability to disappear and then reappear a few minutes later in another town or village.


I. Muhawi and S. Kanaana, Speak Bird, Speak Again, Palestinian Arab Folktales.


A specifically Middle Eastern dimension?

For my eyes are stauls and my hands lime twigs

Haem: Sure ’tis the end of all things! fate has torn

The lock of time off, and his head is now

The ghastly ball of round eternity!

Call you these peals of thunder, but the yawn

Of Bellowing clouds? By Jove, they seem to me

The world’s last groans; and those vast sheets of flame

Are its last blaze. The tapers of the gods,

The sun and moon, run down like waxen-globes;

The shooting stars end all in purple jellies

And chaos is at hand


My Lord………

In a playhouse, everything contributes to impose upon the judgement; the lights, the scenes, the habits, and, above all, the grace of action, which is commonly the best where there is the most need of it, surprise the audience, and cast a mist upon their understandings; not unlike the cunning of a juggler, who is always staring us in the face, and over-whelming us with gibberish, only that he may gain the opportunity of making the cleaner conveyance of his trick. But these false beauties of the stage are no more lasting than a rainbow; when the actor ceases to shine upon them, when he gilds them no longer with his reflection, they vanish in a twinkling. I have sometimes wondered, in the reading, what was become of those glaring colours which amazed me in “Bussy D’ Amboys” upon the theater; but when I had taken up what I supposed to be a fallen star, I found I had been cozened with a jelly; nothing but a cold dull mass, which glittered no longer than it was shooting; a dwarfish thought, dressed up in gigantic words, repetition in abundance………………………..


John Dryden, The Works of John Dryden, Volume 6

Note ( Im `Awwad and the Ghouleh)


Sansil or stone walled terrace.

Threshold of the house.

Third location not named, away from the town where cloths are washed. A river, stream or ford.

This is the classic location for an encounter with the supernatural just as supernatural entities are generally foiled at the threshold to the home.

Deceptive Qualities 

The ghouleh is seen before it is heard. It can imitate the human voice and human appearance although its not perfect.

Im `Awwad has to ask who is at the door, the voice is not immediately familiar. The ghouleh while she can assume a physical resemblance to the villagers, is identifiable, her feet, ‘spark’ as she walks.

I want to turn to an English sources where deception is the key ingredient. I also want to determine the quality of  sound produced by ‘hollow voices.’

In the late 17th century examples sound is going to emanate from a hollow tree or wall or cavity, although its sometimes difficult to determine where exactly the sound comes from.

Projected sound that dramatically fills the space. Its disconcerting and difficult to determine the nature of its production.

  She was in adversity at first. She used to go only to the door of the house. “Woe to thee, Mor!” said a voice from the air above them.

Its not a voice from the sky, although  both seem to share the quality, both are a projected and heightened form of speech.

Im `Awwad and the Ghouleh

Once upon a time there were some women who agreed to meet on a certain day to go wash their clothes at the spring on the edge of town. As they were discussing the matter, a ghouleh who had hidden herself behind a retaining wall nearby heard what they agreed to do that day. On the appointed night, toward dawn, she came to the one among them whose house was on the outskirts of town and made as if she were one of the women who had promised to go to the spring. The woman to whose house she had come was called Im `Awwad. Calling out from the outside door of the house, the ghouleh said, “Hey! Im `Awwad! Let’s go! Tie your dirty clothes in a bundle, and let’s go do the laundry!”

“Who is it?” asked Im `Awwad.

“I’m Im So-and-So,” answered the ghouleh.

“All fight (I think this may be a typo.),” said Im `Awwad.

It was the middle of the month, and the moon was bright. Thinking it was daylight already, she put her laundry in a tub and lifted it.

“Bring your son with you,” suggested the ghouleh. “We might be a while.”

She brought her soft with her, and the two women walked, with the ghouleh in front. When they had gone just beyond the last houses in town, Im `Awwad looked and saw that the feet of the woman walking in front of her were making sparks. Realizing the woman was a ghouleh, Im `Awwad was afraid.

“I want to go back,” she said.


“I forgot my husband’s tunic, she replied, “and he’ll kill me if I don’t wash it. Here! Take this boy and go ahead, and I’ll catch up with you.”

Putting down the washtub, and the boy by its side, she went running back to her husband. “Heat up the oil, you whose house is in ruins!” she cried out, knocking on the door. “Now she’ll come and eat us before anyone can come to our help.”

By the time the ghouleh had finished eating the boy, she came back to eat Im `Awwad and her husband. “O Im `Awwad!” she cried out from behind the outside door. “Here’s `Awwad’s little prick! Make it into a little wick!

When the man heard this, he said to his wife, “What you’ve been saying is true, damn your parents! This is a ghouleh!”

The ghouleh dug under the door until she could stick her head and neck inside, and Abu `Awwad poured the boiling oil over her head.

“Do it again!” she cried out, and he answered, “My mother didn’t teach me how.”

The ghouleh’s head exploded, and she died.

Its dust has scattered, and now for another one!


I. Muhawi and S. Kanaana, Speak Bird, Speak Again, Palestinian Arab Folktales.

Note (Space: A Hollow Behind A Wall)

No condition lasts for ever, for it changes like the changing shape of ghouls

Ka ab bin Zuhayr

During a recent visit to Palestine, I visited some fields laced by sanasil, stone wall terraces, in the West Bank. For millennia, these sanasil have protected the land they are built upon from erosion and farmer’s crops and orchards from flooding or grazing wild animals.

Sanasil, stone wall terrace, forms the starting location of the story ‘ Im ‘ Awwad and the Ghouleh.’


She entices passengers, calling to them over the waste by their names, so that they think it is their own mother’s or their sisters voice


Presumably, the ghouleh can take any shape she wants.