Flying Head (Cannibals)

Iroquois Demon, Also known as Big Head, Great Head, Kanontsistóntie’s, Konearaunehneh, Kunenhrayenhnenh

Beware the low-flying ravenous head

Not a nice thing to be heading in your direction. A flying head with flaming eyes, hair streaming in the slipstream — and huge fangs for munching up livestock. Worst of all, the head was forever hungry as he had no body to fill.

An old woman roasting chestnuts caused his downfall. “Aha — hot chestnuts,” said the Flying Head to itself, “they smell delicious.” And being so gapingly greedy he bypassed the tiddly little things the woman was baking and gulped down the great big ones — along with the fire they were roasting in.

Big mistake. They were not large chestnuts, or even baked potatoes. They were hearthstones — containing all the heat of the fire. It was all too much — the Flying Head internally combusted and was never seen again. And that’s an old Iroquois chestnut.

Article last revised on May 19, 2019 by Rowan Allen.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders

There were many evil spirits and terrible monsters that hid in the mountain caves when the sun shone, but came out to vex and plague the red men when storms swept the earth or when there was darkness in the forest. Among them was a flying head which, when it rested upon the ground, was higher than the tallest man. It was covered with a thick coating of hair that shielded it from the stroke of arrows. The face was very dark and angry, filled with great wrinkles and horrid furrows. Long black wings came out of its sides, and when it rushed through the air mournful sounds assailed the ears of the frightened men and women. On its under side were two long, sharp claws, with which it tore its food and attacked its victims.

The Flying Head came offenest to frighten the women and children. It came at night to the homes of the widows and orphans, and beat its angry wings upon the walls of their houses and uttered fearful cries in an unknown tongue. Then it went away, and in a few days death followed and took one of the little family with him. The maiden to whom the Flying Head appeared never heard the words of a husband’s wooing or the prattle of a papoose, for a pestilence came upon her and she soon sickened and died.

One night a widow sat alone in her cabin. From a little fire burning near the door she frequently drew roasted acorns and ate them for her evening meal. She did not see the Flying Head grinning at her from the doorway, for her eyes were deep in the coals and her thoughts upon the scenes of happiness in which she dwelt before her husband and children had gone away to the long home

The Flying Head stealthily reached forth one of its long claws and snatched some of the coals of fire and thrust them into its mouth-for it thought that these were what the woman was eating. With a howl of pain it flew away, and the red men were never afterwards troubled by its visits.

— told by the Seneca leader Cornplanter

Defense Against Flying Head: Flying Head demon was defeated by accident one day when it was silently stalking a woman to eat. The woman was roasting acorns on hot coals. Flying Head watched her retrieve something and eat it. Flying Head then confused the hot coals for acorns, gobbled them up and suffered severe internal burns. He then flew away and was scene no more. Another story goes that Flying Head saw the woman eating acorns and mistakenly believed she was a more powerful demon as he assumed the acorn was a hot coal. He then flew away in fear and was seen no more. Flying Head may have died from it’s wounds or it may still be somewhere out there. Currently, Flying Head only seems to appear to people in dreams and not in the waking world. If one dreams of Flying Head then it is an omen for a coming illness.

********

In days long past, evil monsters and spirits preyed upon humans. As long as the sun was shining, the monsters hid unseen in deep caves, but on the stormy nights they came out of their dens and prowled the earth. The most terrible of all was the great Flying Head. Though only a scowling, snarling head without a body, it was four times as tall as the tallest man.

Its skin was so thick and matted with hair that no weapon could penetrate it. Two huge bird wings grew from either sides of its cheeks, and with them it could soar into the sky or dive down, floating, like a buzzard. Instead of teeth, the Flying Head had a mouth full of huge, piercing fangs with which it seized and devoured its prey. And everything was prey to this monster, every living being, including people.

One dark night a young woman alone with her baby was sitting in a longhouse. Everybody had fled and hidden, because someone had seen the great Flying Head darting among the treetops of the forest. The young mothers had not run away because, as she said to herself,” Someone must make a stand against this monster. It might as well be me.” So she sat by the hearth, building a big fire, heating in the flames a number of large, red-hot, glowing stones.

She sat waiting and watching, until suddenly the Flying Head, appeared in the door. Grinning horribly, it looked into the longhouse, but she pretended not to see it and acted as if she were cooking a meal. She made believe she was eating some of the red-hot rocks, picking them up with a forked stick and seeming to put them into her mouth.

(In reality she passed them behind her face and dropped them on the ground).

All the while she was smacking her lips , exclaiming: “Ah, how good this is! What wonderful food! Never had anyone feasted on meat like this!”

Hearing this, the monster could not restrain itself. It thrust its head deep inside the lodge, opened its jaws wide, and seized and swallowed in one mighty gulp the whole heap of glowing, hissing rocks. As soon as it had swallowed, the monster uttered a terrible cry which echoed throughout the land. With wings flapping the great Flying Head fled, screaming, screaming, screaming, over the mountains, streams and forest, screaming so that the biggest trees were shaking, screaming until the earth trembled, screaming until the leaves fell from the branches.

At last the screams were fading away in the distance, fading, fading, until at last they could no longer be heard. Then the people everywhere could take their hands from their ears and breathe safely. After that the Flying Head was never seen again, and nobody knows what became of it.

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