蛊or Gu is the use of venomous creatures such as worms, centipedes, scorpions and extracting their poisons for different uses, the most well-known are probably in sorcery and in traditional medicine. It is supposed to originate from Southern China and the most well-known ethnicity who use this are the Miao people (Hmongb/ Hmub/ Xongb/ Ab Hmaob people) who live primarily in the mountains of Southern China such as Guizhou, Hubei, Guangdong, Hunan and can also be found in Vietnam, Burma, Laos and Thailand.
The preparation process
However the venomous creature that will be used has to be rigorously selected. First, the person who is planning to use this, they are usually a village doctor/ shaman (usually a woman) of the tribe will place many different venomous creatures in a clay plot. This clay plot would have been made by wet clay that had been soaked with their blood before it was made into a pot. The shaman would then feed these venomous creatures with their blood everyday. Everyday they will look for any dead creatures and burn them and chant spells at them, (although this is believed to still be practiced by the tribe, however anyone who is not trained properly may feel the deflections of the spell and may die as a result of it).
As Zhan Shi Li mentioned, because all the bugs were poisonous and had a limited food supply, therefore the one that was the strongest and most poisonous would survive in the end by eating the rest of the bugs and because it would be the most powerful it will be the best to be used in magic/ sorcery. He uses it as a comparison as the person who survives until the end will be the strongest son and his most effective weapon.
Apparently, the more deaths it induces, the more powerful this creature would be.
The practice of Gu has been recorded in many historical records. A Song dynasty description of the creatures used in Gu as:
“a gold caterpillar is a caterpillar with a gold colour, which is fed with silk from Shuh. Its ordure, put in food or drink, poisons those who take it, causing certain death. It can draw towards a man the possessions of such victims, and thus make him enormously rich. It is extremely difficult to get rid of it, for even water, fire, weapons or swords can do it no harm. Usually the owner for this purpose puts some gold or silver into a basket, places the caterpillar also therein, and throws the basket away in a corner of the street, where someone may pick it up and take it with him. He is then said to have given his gold caterpillar in marriage.” (translated by Groot)
Gu -induced sorcery will allegedly result in psychological hallucinations, seduction, great pain and death. To cast the spell, the poison from the Gu creature must be consumed by the victim and the shaman would have to chant a spell for the effects to be induced.
Another use it may have maybe in moving corpses. As many civilians in Ancient China in the past, may move out of their hometowns to find work but they must be buried in their hometown, therefore it was necessary to move their bodies back home from where they died. Because it was an arduous and expensive process to move the bodies of people who had died outside their hometown back to their families, there are legends that claim that Gu may have been used to essentially control the bodies so that they can “walk” back home. (You might have seen this in some chinese horror dramas).
An alleged way of protecting yourself is to squeeze your middle finger with your thumb and forefinger of your other hand once you see the shaman angrily whispering something and get away as soon as possible.
There are many antidotes that have been written down in the record such as eating the meat of the creature who’s poison was used, or drinking the venom of another creature for example, according to the 8th-century pharmacologist Chen Cangqi:
“Against gu of snakes that of centipedes should be used, against gu of centipedes that of frogs, against ku of frogs that of snakes, and so on. Those varieties of gu, having the power of subduing each other, may also have a curative effect .”
However, for strong spells, only the person who cast the spell can lift the spell off you once the spell have been successfully cast. This is often the case if it was a love spell. The spell can be broken if the person who cast it is killed in an intricate, painful and horrific process. There are stories where the creature who’s poison was used in the spell must be swallowed by the person who cast it in order for the spell to be broken.
Of course there is no scientific way to prove whether such practices work it really is up to what you believe but I always think that it is better to give it the benefit of doubt, just in case it exists. But I believe that if you show respect to everyone, then it will greatly decrease your chance of running into things such as this.
Does anyone have any interesting tales about magic that you are happy to share with us? Please comment below 🙂
Picture of some girls from the Miao ethnicity above.