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What is an Aswang?

Wanda Albano
Wanda Albano

An aswang is a creature of Philippine myth. Sometimes called a tik-tik or a wak-wak because of the sound they may make as they approach, the aswang is typically a therianthrope with the appearance of a shy, elusive person during the day, and a monstrous, slightly anthropomorphic bird or bat at night. In some legends, the aswang is also capable of transforming itself into other animal forms, such as a pig, cat, or dog.

Aswangs are drawn to blood and raw flesh, particularly organs like the heart and the liver. In human form, most aswangs can be found working as butchers, morticians, or gravediggers. The beast hunts at night, preying on most people that cross its path if they appear to be particularly vulnerable. Inebriated men and women, lone commuters, and small children are all said to have been preyed upon by the aswang. Its favorite victims by far, however, are pregnant women. Some stories about the aswang describe winged monster-witches perched on top of a roof under which a woman with child may reside. When it chances upon its mark, it will extend an uncommonly long proboscis into the female's belly and suck the unborn baby from the mother's womb.

An aswang may take the appearance of a pig.
An aswang may take the appearance of a pig.

Aswangs are said to lead incredibly long lives and are credited with all sorts of powers. These powers come from a special kind of stone, which is passed on from generation to generation. Aswangs usually come from witching families, and siblings may share one stone among themselves. The effects of the stone on normal human beings is unspecified.

To detect an aswang in its human form, one must look at a person's eyes. Due to the aswang's nocturnal hunting activities, the aswang's eyes will be bloodshot. An aswang's eyes are also said to reflect images in an upside down manner.

To fight an aswang, one must arm one's self with a buntot ng pagi, or the tail of a stingray, holy water, and salt. These "weapons" are the only things that can effectively inflict wounds on an aswang.

Discussion Comments


@medicchristy -- There are so many different stories about the Aswangs and different Aswang sightings. I read an article by Micha Lindemans that says that the most common Aswangs are the female variety. She says they appear looking like an ugly old woman with long, tangled hair, long nails, blood-shot eyes, and a long, black tongue.

It is also said by some that the Aswang can be revealed by using special oil made of coconut and other plant parts. Supposedly, special prayers are said and when an Aswang comes near the house at night, the oil with start to boil and keep boiling until the Aswang leaves the area.


Can anybody give me more detail on what these supposed creatures look like? They sound creepy, but I'm having kind of a hard time picturing an anthropomorphic bat in my head. Anyone else have any details?

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    • An aswang may take the appearance of a pig.
      By: il-fede
      An aswang may take the appearance of a pig.
    • When in human form, an aswang will have bloodshot eyes.
      By: JGade
      When in human form, an aswang will have bloodshot eyes.