Kaw kaw

Kaw kaw

In Maltese mythology the Kaw Kaw (also "gaw-gaw") is a 'slimy greyish bogey man' who strolls the streets at night. [Zarb, T. "Folklore of An Island", PEG Ltd, 1998] He is able to smell a person's guilt and is capable of entering their homes by extending and contracting his snail-like body through any crack or fissure. Once inside, he would grin with a toothless gaping mouth at his hapless victim.

Another version of the creature exists in Wardija, where the Kaw Kaw is described as a massive giant who could traverse the Maltese islands in a few steps. The Kaw Kaw was believed to favour hunting for guilty individuals between Christmas and the first week of February, as shown by a Maltese proverb: "Il-Gaw-Gaw johrog lejlet il-Milied f'nofs il-lejl; jekk isib mustaccih miblula, jghid: Ix-xita ghaddiet; jekk isibhom nexfin, ighid: Ix-xitwa ghadha gejja", "The Gaw-Gaw comes out on Christmas Eve at midnight and if his whiskers are damp, he says, 'Winter has passed', if he finds them dry, he says, 'Winter is still to come'". [Bezzina, J. "Il-Qarinza u l-Gawgaw" in "Il-Qawmien", Nov/Dec, 1972 (no.555)]

The Kaw Kaw's female counterpart is called l-Imlejka, and often appeared as an old woman. Flowers were placed on windowsills during the New Year, to placate her as she passed by. [Lanfranco, 'Some Local New Year Customs' in "The Times of Malta", 23/12/76]

All variants of Il-Kaw Kaw are identified with "bawbaw", another monster who attacked Maltese children. The name Kaw Kaw (and similarly "gaw-gaw") is possibly onomatopoeic and refers to the barking of a dog.


ee also

*Culture of Malta
*Ċikka l-Mewt

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