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By: Alex Postrado
The Vengeful, Disease-Bringing Spirit Of Indian And Native American Lore
We see harbingers of death appear in the folklore of practically every culture.
They take several forms, ranging from fearsome monsters to strange phenomena, and — typically — their main task is simply to forewarn people of impending doom.
Some of these supernatural beings, however, like to add a sinister twist to that.
As if the message of death isn’t enough, they also actively seek out victims to harm — more so, to kill.
And what’s scary is that, occasionally, they present themselves as unassuming and innocuous figures, lurking within the very communities of their unfortunate preys.
Making their direful agenda even faster to carry out.
Take the Acheri, for example.
At best, a mere omen of death.
At absolute worst, a plague-spreading demon in the guise of a helpless child.
If that isn’t disquieting enough for you, wait until you learn about its full story.
What is the Acheri?
We are no stranger to menacing children in modern pop culture — especially in the horror genre.
We have Damien Thorn of The Omen franchise, the children from the 1984 movie Children of the Corn, and even Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin.
But, to think of children as evil — or at least, likely to cause harm — in real life is admittedly sort of far-fetched.
After all, aren’t they supposed to be “innocent“?
Well, that particular notion about children has been around for ages now.
So, when malign, youngster-posing entities enter the folklore of any region, without a doubt, they will scare the wits out of local people.
That was the case for Acheri.
Acheri are malevolent creatures with roots pointing to both Hindu mythology and Native American folklore.
Because of this, somewhere along the way, the lore started to become associated with both — ultimately causing uncertainty that was never really made clear even to this day.
Still and all, arguably most of the original Acheri lore remained preserved.
To be precise, the creature’s physical description, what they do, and why they were popularly scary.
But, as for other elements of the myth, they are now largely reminiscent of the two influences.
Ghost of a Little Girl?
Knowing what Acheri are, is — first and foremost — knowing what they look like.
Due to their untimely demise, these spirits seek revenge and come back to the mortal world to torment the living.
The sad part about that, though, is that they often target other children in their plan of vengeance.
And they do this by disguising themselves as frail little girls.
When around other children, Acheri would play with them to gain their trust.
When around adults, they would act as if in danger or in need of help.
Once in contact with potential prey, the Acheri would cast its shadow over them. And it is not just any other shadow, but one that brings sickness to whoever is under it.
Unfortunately for the victim — and their community — the disease caused by any Acheri’s shadow is highly contagious.
In fact, people generally categorize it as an extremely infectious respiratory disease that can spread around the villages in a blink of an eye.
Killing as many people as it could — dooming children to suffer the same fate and transform into Acheri, as well.
That is, of course, to back the idea that Acheri — indeed — used to be humans before having their lives cut off too early.
But, other scholars argue that Acheri are not past-humans, rather spiteful, elemental beings — at times, even demons — with a simple agenda that is, to spread plague in the physical world.
Some even call Acheri “hill fairies” — a nod to the lore, typically portraying them as dwellers of caves, coming down from the mountains and hilltops.
It is said that they typically hunt at dusk and the little girl form is only a disguise to get sympathy.
Also with the help of this shapeshifting ability, they control specific features of their appearance to match what they think appeals most to their victims.
Yet the real and hidden form of the Acheri is what’s truly feared.
It is of a “hideous monster with a skeletal frame“, dark eyes, and long, claw-like fingers.
For the most part, Acheri — unlike other supernatural portents of death — deliberately hunts down victims.
This is because the lore has it that they feed on human misery and taking the lives of children in a drawn-out, often excruciating process is the most effective way to do that.
From time to time, they also — only — forewarn illness when they march down the hills and around villages while singing and drumming.
And as they go, death is to follow.
To Defeat or Appease?
There really is not much information out there as to how people could kill Acheri.
That remains unproven, though, because getting that close to Acheri without falling ill — or worse, dying — is apparently near-impossible.
Still, other ways to ward off these evil entities are by wearing amulets, lining properties with salt, and tying a red ribbon to one’s body.
Even wearing anything with red beads or red embroidery allegedly works, according to some.
However, all of that would only suit those with the intention of mainly preventing Acheri to pay a visit.
But what if the plague has already started?
In Hindu mythology, the solution to that is to appease the Acheri.
Vigorously beating a brass dish until the victim falls into a trance where it learns about the Acheri’s demanded sacrifice is one way to do that.
And making a movable altar — complete with cakes, candles, and torches — worshipping it, then taking it to an isolated place with the hopes of the Acheri following it, is the other.
The Truth About the Acheri
Nowadays, especially with the steady advance of medicine and technology, the bulk of these methods would likely sound strange — maybe even funny.
But the Acheri was once a seemingly real horror that plagued the lore of local villages.
All the while knowing that it is easier to defeat — or appease — a singular “villain“, instead of widespread sickness.
In the end, though, it all boils down to human’s innate need to survive — a trait that we still possess today, as we continue to grapple with the effects of a global pandemic.
And having to live in a more developed world during a time like this is already something.
So, if the belief in Acheri was what provided people with answers when there was almost none, then maybe the lore of the baneful, girl-disguising spirit isn’t so strange after all.
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