Our ancestors would have found the fairy tales we tell our children incredibly tame. These days, we keep our stories censored—devoid of sex, devoid of the disgusting, and devoid of the bizarre. When people first started telling folktales, though, they were trying to make sense of the world around them—and the disgusting and the bizarre are a big part of our lives.
We’ve already poked fun at the legends of the Romans and the Egyptians, but disgusting stories weren’t just part of any single culture. Every group of people left behind some bizarre stories that we don’t repeat today.
Before you read on, be warned: The stories that people used to tell to put their children to sleep aren’t necessarily appropriate for children today.
10 The Flying Vagina Of The Goddess Kapo
The natives of Hawaii told stories of a goddess known as “Kohe-kohe-lele,” a name that, roughly translated, means “Kapo with the Traveling Vagina.”
Kapo’s flying vagina was her superpower, and she used it to save lives. One folk story tells about the day her sister was being assaulted by Kamapua’a, a half-man, half-hog fertility god. Kapo rushed to the rescue the only way she knew how: “Kapo lifted her Hula-skirt with one hand, and grabbed her crotch with the other,” the story tells us, “detaching her vagina.”
Kapo’s winged vagina flew past Kamapua’a, who was so excited that he started chasing after it. He followed it all the way to edge of the country, where it landed and left an imprint, a crater that the Hawaiians called “Kohelepelepe” and believed was the imprint of Kapo’s flying vagina.
Oddly, even though she’s literally named for her sexual organ, Kapo hates that part of the body. When a Hawaiian shaman tried to channel the spirit of Kapo, she would have to wear a ti leaf as protection. Otherwise, she’d have a vital part of her body torn to shreds by a goddess.
9 The Death Of Maui
Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
If you took your kids to see Disney’s Moana, you’ve seen the legendary Maori hero Maui. The movie has received a few criticisms for not representing the real legend of the man himself. And it’s true: Disney left out some major details, like, for example, the part when Maui gets crushed to death in a woman’s vagina.
Maui, the story goes, was determined to win immortality for all of mankind. Before he went out on his quest, though, his father warned him that he was destined to die before he succeeded, killed by Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of the night.
Determined to stop the prophecy, Maui goes out to kill Hine-nui-te-po, accompanied—appropriately enough for a Disney character—by a flock of cute little bird friends. When he finds Hine-nui-te-po, she’s gigantic, and she’s sleeping with her legs spread wide open.
Maui climbs inside of her, determined to kill her from the inside. The sight of him climbing into a gigantic woman, though, is too ridiculous for Tiwakawaka bird to handle. The bird bursts into laughter, waking up the goddess while Maui is climbing inside of her. She squeezes her thighs together, and Maui gets chopped in two.
This, according to Maori legends, was the first death on Earth. And the reason all men must die today is because, before he could bring immortality to the world, Maui was crushed between two gigantic thighs.
8 ‘I Am Only Shit’
Some Inuit folktales were passed down to share stories, but some were just written to make people giggle. Because of that, they’ve left behind an incredible oral treasury of stories with titles like “Him-Whose-Penis-Stretches-Down-To-His-Knees” and “The Spirit of the Shit-Pile.” Perhaps the greatest story of all, though, is “I Am Only Shit.”
“A woman was menstruating,” the story begins, “and thus no one would give her anything to eat.” Her luck changes, however, when she spots a whale out in the sea, and she resolves to catch it.
“She waved her hands and exclaimed: ‘I am only shit! I am only shit!’ And the whale began to swim toward her,” the story continues. “Soon it swam out of the water and onto dry land, right beside her. ‘I am only shit,’ she said. And the whale died.”
It’s not entirely clear what this story means—whether it’s a joke or whether it’s teaching some old magic trick. The story ends, though, with a proclamation about the power of telling someone you’re only shit: “Such holy words!”
7 How Kokopelli Won His Wife
Kokopelli is a Native American fertility god, which, if you know anything about fertility gods, means this story is going to get a bit weird. He is defined by his incredibly long, detachable penis, which he can send out to impregnate women.
The best-known story about Kokopelli is the Hopi story of how he won his wife. Kokopelli has fallen in love with a pretty, young girl. He tells his grandmother, who, never one to mince words, laughs in his face and tells him he’s too humpbacked and ugly to have a chance.
Still, Kokopelli insists that he knows how to win her love: by stalking her and watching her while she pees. He follows her around in the bushes until he figures out where she relives herself. Then he digs a long trench from there to his home, waits until she has to go the bathroom, and sends his magical detachable genitals in.
The girl gets pregnant and has his child but has no idea who the father is. The people decide to present flowers to the baby, agreeing that whoever’s flower the baby takes is the rightful father. The baby, of course, takes Kokopelli’s, and instead of calling the police, the woman marries him on the spot.
6 The Creation Of The World
The Cherokee creation myth is a weird combination of total weirdness and diligent fact-checking.
For the most part, it’s full of the incredible, magical moments that fill every creation story. In the beginning, it tells us, everything was water, and the animals lived in the sky. Then the Water Beetle went down and created mounds of soft mud that became the Earth.
“Afterwards this earth was fastened to the sky with four cords,” the legend tells us, but apparently worried that they might be getting some of their facts wrong, they clarify that “no one remembers who did this.” The Cherokee are willing to say that beetles made the earth, that buzzards made valleys and mountains by flapping their wings, and that the sky is made of stone—but they’re not ready to make any definite claims about who tied it to the Earth.
After this, life filled the world . . . somehow. The story glosses over this completely, just saying, “We do not know who made the first plants and animals.” Once they were there, though, the first man and woman came to Earth, and humanity began.
“There was only one man and one woman,” the story tells us. “He hit her with a fish. In seven days a little child came down to the earth.”
And so the world began.
5 The Wandering Vagina
We didn’t try to fill this list with stories about moving vaginas; they just show up in these myths so often that they’re kind of hard to avoid.
The Hawaiians might have believed that one goddess had a flying a vagina, but the Mehinaku of Brazil took it a step further. “In ancient times,” a Mehinaku story begins, “all the women’s vaginas used to wander about.”
This legend tells the story of Tukwi, whose vagina “was especially foolish.” While she slept, it would crawl about the floor of the house, looking for food. One day, though, it was clanging inside of a pot of porridge so loudly that it woke a man up. He came out, torch in hand, to see what was making that racket. As he peered into the pot of porridge, he brought his torch too close and accidentally burned Tukwi’s vagina, sending it scurrying back home.
The next day, Tukwi called all the women in town together and told them: “All you women, don’t let your genitals wander about. If they do, they may get burned as mine were!”
And that, the story tells us, is why, today, women’s genitals no longer go wandering about.
4 The Moon Is Chasing The Sun
The Sun and the Moon, according a story told by the Inuit in Greenland, are brother and sister. When they were young, they lived and played together happily. After they went through puberty, though, that changed—because the Moon sexually assaulted the Sun.
The Sun ran away from the Moon and into the sky, but the Moon chased after her and continues to chase after her to this day. The Moon is so determined to catch her that he forgets to eat. He starves himself in his lust, growing thinner, creating the phases of the Moon.
That means that today, when you look up in the sky and see the movement of the Sun and the Moon, what you’re really seeing is a victim running from an unrelenting sexual predator. Hold on, though: It gets worse. Every time there is a solar eclipse, the Moon has caught up to his sister, and he’s doing something that you might not want your kids watching through a pinhole in a shoe box.
3 Jaguars Ate Everybody On Earth
According to the Aztecs, we are not living in the first world. There were four worlds that came before us, each one destroyed by the great elements of the world: one by rain, one by water, one by fire, and one by jaguar attacks.
The first world was destroyed by the god Tezcatlipoca. The people of the Earth had not shown him enough respect, and so, in his fury, he had everyone eaten by jaguars.
The second world was destroyed by Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca turned his precious humans into monkeys, and Quetzalcoatl, apparently not being a big monkey fan, wiped them all away with a great hurricane.
The third world was destroyed by Tlaloc, but again, this was mostly Tezcatlipoca’s fault. He stole Tlaloc’s wife, and while Tlaloc was upset, the people of the Earth kept bugging him by praying for rain when he was in a very delicate point in his life. So, Tlaloc sent them a rain of fire to teach them to stop bugging him with their stupid prayers.
The fourth world was destroyed when Tezcatlipoca hurt the water goddess’s feelings by telling her that she only pretended to be kind so that people would say nice things about her. She got so upset that she cried until her tears wiped the whole world away.
And then the fifth world came. But if we don’t make enough human sacrifices, the Aztecs believed, Tezcatlipoca will rid the world of us all with an earthquake.
2 The Legend Of Inuvayla’u
The Kwabulo people of Papa New Guinea told the story of Inuvayla’u, whose “penis was like a long snake”—and yes, this is going to be another weird one.
When the men of the village went fishing, Inuvayla’u would poke his penis through a hole in a house and send it off in search of women. He’d use it on anyone: his brother’s wives, his nephew’s wives, and anyone he could find.
In time, the men of the village got suspicious, so they hid outside of Inuvayla’u’s hut and watched him. He sent out his genitals and assaulted his brother’s wife, which you’d think would be the moment the men lynched him, but oddly, they seem to have decided that they needed to watch for a while to see where all this was going. The story tells us that the men stood there and watched, getting gradually angrier, until he’d assaulted every woman in the town.
When they got bored, they tried to drown Inuvayla’u in a creek. Inuvayla’u survived, but, dejected, he went home and chopped off his genitals with an ax. This, apparently, was a moment to be commemorated. “Large white coral boulders lie in the creek,” the story tells us. “They are the token: they show where Inuvayla’u cut off his testicles.”
1 The Rain Is God’s Sperm
The Bamana people of West Africa believed that the Earth is a goddess named Lennaya, and the sky is her husband. That’s a standard enough belief, but it’s one that has some weird implications that most cultures didn’t think about—and the Bamana did.
Since they believed the Earth was a goddess, they were really worried about hurting it. Digging a hole in the ground was, essentially, stabbing the goddess in the face. Every time they wanted to plant a seed, they had to ask the goddess for permission and apologize for hurting her.
Rain, the Bamana believed, was the sperm of the Sky God fertilizing his wife. Every time it rained, the gods were making love—and making a huge mess all over their homes.
That doesn’t mean they tried to stop it from happening, though. The Bamana would regularly hold masquerades with headdresses to pray for a good harvest. Since a good harvest needs a good rain, that means they were praying for the Sky God to get busy all over their backyards.