DEVIL POD or BAT NUT
The Devil Pod, also known as Bat Nut, Goat Head, Bull Nut, and
Buffalo Nut, is the seed pod of Trapa bicornis, an aquatic
Asian plant. Glossy and black, it averages 2 1/2 - 3 inches from
tip to tip, and when dried and oiled, its surface texture is similar to
that of a chestnut or buckeye. However, depending on the
way it is viewed, this naturally sculpted botanical oddity looks
like nothing so much as a leering goat-horned devil, an enraged
bull demon, a flying bat, or an alien chupacabra! The illusion of
an evil face appears on both sides of the pod, and the two faces
are usually quite different in visage.
In China, the Bat is a lucky animal, because the name "Bat" (Fu) sounds
just like the word for happiness (Fu), so to the Chinese, who know
this plant as the Ling Nut, the image it shows is of a Bat and it is
considered a lucky food to eat.
Although the seed inside the pod is edible when cooked, the Bat Nut's
rarity in the United States and its bizarre shape have led to its
use as an offering on altars to some of the darker gods. While it
is not native to Africa, Europe, or South America, it would not
be out of place on a modern altar dedicated to cthonic tricksters such as Eshu-Ellegua-Legba
of West Africa, Hades-Pluto of the ancient Mediterranean, or Maximon of Guatemala.
A more positive use for the Devil Pod is to ward off evil, and for
that purpose it can be placed above a doorway, facing outward
as an apotropaic guardian, much in the manner of ancient Tibetan door demons. Likewise, it makes a splendid
inclusion in mojo bags of the types
commonly known as "Jinx Breaker," "Keep Away Enemies," or "Run
Order Devil Pods from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
For more information on devil-related folk-magic, see these illustrated pages:
A few botanical footnotes:
Trapa bicornis is a member of the
the water caltrop family, the Trapacaea. The name caltrop is
Latin and refers to an ancient four-pronged spiked iron device
that Roman soldiers threw into the paths of horses to injure their feet.
The common water caltrop, Trapa natans, has four spiked
prongs, like the weapon; introduced from Asia, it has
become a pest plant in the southern United States.
another plant called a caltrop that makes a four-spiked seed
pod; its common name is puncture vine and it is in the caltrop
family, the Zygophyllaceae.
Both Trapa natans and Trapa
bicornis are occasionally and erroneously called "water
chestnuts," but that name more properly belongs to Eleocharis
dulcis, a vegetable whose crisp and crunchy white tuber is a
common ingredient in Chinese food. Strangely enough, when
roasted, water caltrops taste more like chestnuts than water
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