Women In Myth Who Represent Man's Fear Of Women

What's up with the patriarchy and its ancient obsession with women being the embodiment of fear? What are men so afraid of? Why do they feel so threatened? A look back into the mists of time and myth reveals some startling, and interesting, answers.

Legendary tales about the mythical women who represent men's deep-seated fear of their own mortality and startling myths about the immensity of female power are the norm rather than the exception. Ancient stories that reveal men's fear of women are found throughout history and in all cultures around the world. Nearly all of these fears are irrational and ridiculous, yet they still have a strong impact on today's social culture and even on the relationships held between men and women.

Photo: Blackbirds / Wikimedia Commons

  • The Spider Woman Who Seduces Men To Their Doom

    The Spider Woman Who Seduces Men To Their Doom
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Western culture celebrates Spiderman - an entity who works for the good of all. But in Japanese culture, the ancient spider woman, Jorogumo, is definitely not out to help anyone. She is an enormous spider, yet has the power to transform herself into a beautiful woman. Sometimes she even mixes it up and goes around as half woman, half spider. What a frightful prospect! But that is exactly Jorogumo's intention.

    Her job, as she sees it, is to attract men and lure them into her web where she wraps them up in silk threads, poisons them, and then eats them - much like a regular spider treats its prey. When Jorogumo is feeling particularly festive, she appears to men in her human form as beautiful as ever - only this time she's carrying a sweet baby in her arms. She then approaches the man of her choice, and asks him to hold the baby for her. If the man obliges, he is in for a tremendous shock, as the "baby" turns out to actually be a mass of thousands of spider egg. The eggs suddenly burst open and in moments the man is covered in tiny spiders. That's enough to give anyone the creepy crawlies!

  • Night Hags Torment Men With Nightmares And Paralysis

    Night Hags Torment Men With Nightmares And Paralysis
    Photo: Public Domain/Henry Fuseli / Wikimedia Commons

    Variations of the night hag story appear in cultures throughout the world and concern the frightening and somewhat unexplainable experience of sleep paralysis. This is a condition in which the individual is trapped in a state somewhere between actual sleep and conscious awareness with no way of pulling themselves out of it. It has been described by many as waking up and feeling as though something heavy is sitting or pressing down on one's chest.

    Traditional cultures have maintained that it is caused by the presence of some sort of evil spirit, or demon, that is preventing its victim from moving. Of course, female spirits are typically blamed as the culprits, though some cultures do tell stories of male night hags as well as sexless hags.

  • The Deer Woman Has Sealed Your Doom

    The mysterious (and sometimes deadly) Deer Woman comes to us from eastern Native American cultures - particularly the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muskogee, and Seminole tribes. Other American tribes also tell similar tales - some even including a Deer Man rather than a woman.

    The Deer Woman's purpose has to do primarily with fertility and the preparation of young people for the seriousness of marriage. In some of the Deer Woman stories, though, a beautiful young woman appears to a young man, seduces him, and tempts him into sexual experiences. The young man is then so overwhelmed that he may have no desire to return to the real world, his community, or his family. He also often fails to notice that the beautiful woman actually has hooves for feet. The men who remain lost in the world of the Deer Woman eventually fall into despair and die in their isolation.

  • Beware The Siren Song Of Death

    Beware The Siren Song Of Death
    Photo: Public Domain/Gustav Wertheimer / Wikimedia Commons

    History has not been kind to women - and heaven help a woman if she is beautiful, because beautiful women (bearing in mind that beauty is highly subjective, so really this applies to every woman) are frequently accused of deceiving men to their death and doom.

    One of the most popular instances of this trope is found in the image of sirens, who made their first big appearance in the Iliad, when Odysseus and his men attempt to pass by the island where the sirens live. Odysseus makes his ship's crew plug their ears with wax so that they will not hear the alluring voices of the women, while he has himself tied to the mast so that he can still hear their songs, but cannot escape and join them. What torture he endures! Odysseus survives, barely, but had he been able to, he would have sailed straight for the island's shores where the beautiful, lyrical sirens would have utterly devoured him and his crew. And not in a pleasant way, either. Such is the power of women!

  • The Vampirical Witch, Aswang, Shows No Pity For Men's Souls

    Nearly always female, the vampire witch, Aswang, hails from the Philippines and is not one to be underestimated - ever. On some islands in the Philippines she is known as "tik-tik," or "soc-soc," but whatever you call her, she is all bad ass. She has a frightful, demon-like appearance and has wings that allow her to fly great distances in search of dead human flesh. However, if none of that is available, she is happy to consume living human flesh and shows zero pity or compassion for anyone she encounters.

  • Baba Yaga Judges, Enslaves, And Eats Her Captives

    Baba Yaga Judges, Enslaves, And Eats Her Captives
    Photo: Public Domain/Viktor Vasyetnov / Wikimedia Commons

    Baba Yaga (pronounced Bahbah Yah-GAH) is essentially the wicked witch of Russian folklore. It's interesting how pretty much every world culture has their own version of an evil woman who goes about causing trouble for others.

    Baba Yaga is like most wicked witches: she casts spells, roasts and eats children and adults, and is a general troublemaker. But rather than using a broom, she flies through the skies in a mortar, using the pestle to steer. She also has three male knights for servants - one who brings the morning, the afternoon, and the night. She enjoys collecting human skulls to use as lamps, and the fence around her house (which walks about on chicken legs) is made of human leg bones. If she likes you, she might let you work for her awhile, then free you. But she never suffers a lazy fool - male or female!