A kind of psychic vampire, the tikoloshe (or tokoloshe) is a creature of the Xhosa people of Lisotho and the southernmost African plains. Like many supernatural beings in Africa, the tikoloshe is a mixture of vampire and demon, and has a strong association with witches and sorcerers.
In many Xhosa legends the tikoloshe is a demon that looks like a baboon and has a connection to water. It’s described as short, bulky, and has a high forehead and balding head, it walks around during night or day swinging its long arms like a monkey. But, it has many powers and can shapeshift if it chooses to. It can take human form, which will make is look almost normal since some of its monkey-like traits will still show. It may also take the form of a big black bird-like creature with a skull head so that it can fly over villages in search of victims.
The tikoloshe is known for its ravenous sexual appetite, so most of its victims are women. This creature doesn’t feed upon blood, instead on the energy of a person, leaving them weak and sickly. If the tikoloshe feeds too often on a single person it can result in the victim’s death.
When it’s feeding time, the tikoloshe will approach a village woman at any time of the day in human form. It will greet her in a friendly (sometimes overly friendly) manner, maybe offering to help her carry something in return for sexual favors. If she says no, the beast reverts to its original horrific form and leaps on her before she even has time to react (the tikoloshe are very fast), then it proceeds to rape her and feed on her life force.
Like other creatures, the tikoloshe can be used by magicians against their enemies. Such partnerships are usually the result of a pact made between the witch and creature. In return for helping the witch, the tikoloshe may ask for her cow’s milk, food, lodging or sex with the witch as payment. If the witch is male, the creature will ask for the same items, but instead it will want the man to find a woman for it to sleep with. Sometimes when doing the magicians evil deeds it will take on the form of the skull-headed bird (hili) instead, spreading disease wherever it goes. It’s said that the touch of the creature’s claw can create a lingering sickness that even the most powerful magician can’t dispel.
In some versions of the legend it is said that one can catch a tikoloshe by luring it with blood and milk. Once it is close the local witch-doctor or herbalist can then trap it and destroy its powers.