Creature Compendium

Creature Compendium: The Engkanto / Engkantada

The creature compendium is back! Here’s another bit of mythology from the Philippines.

The Engkanto (m) / Enkantada (f)

Engkanto Encounter by jbballaran

The engkanto are described as a race of beautiful forest spirits, who are fair skinned, fair haired, have light colored eyes, are tall, and lack a philtrum. They are also mortal, appear to age and die. Their presence can cause terrible side effects: madness, fever, boils. They are also said to be able to possess humans and can lead people astray in the forest. However, they can also be generous and offer blessings to the humans that they favor. Albino’s are said to descend from the engkanto.

To protect yourself from the engkanto, you must wear an Agimat, a magical amulet. You must also say ‘excuse me’ if you take a bath in a river, and never laugh at or cut down a balete tree. To cure yourself of an engkanto curse, you must call a local shaman.

Similar to Irish faeries, they can appear in human form, frequently live in trees or underground, but also have magnificent palaces that they sometimes show to humans. Some say that they are fallen angels.

There are several theories about their mythological origin. Engkanto is sometimes used interchangeably Diwata. The Diwata are considered benevolent nature spirits invoked to promote a good harvest, and treated simiar to minor deities. Belief in the Diwata predates the Spanish Colonial era, and originates in the Hindu Devata. Another theory is that the engkanto are a mistaken description of the first European missionaries who appeared in the Philippines.

Engkanto is also used as a general term for all forest spirits. In Tagalog, ‘kuwentong engkanto’ means fairytales (literal translation: stories about the engkanto).

Further reading:

Related creatures: elf, forest spirit, faerie

Region of origin: Southeast Asia, Philippines

I snuck this one into my last novel along with the dwende, and after typing in the word a hundred times… I thought it might be fun to explain where they came from.


  1. I instantly recognized them. You have done an interesting spin on them, while at the same time have kept very faithful to the original description and legends, surrounding these creatures. Also, it’s good to have the Compendium back. 🙂

  2. Since I didn’t finish reading your book, I didn’t get a good look at the Enkanta in your book… but what I did read didn’t give me an impression of fair-skinned forest spirits… 😉 (Then again, fairly early, I openly wondered whether the first depictions I’d seen of them in your book were obfuscations.)

Comments are closed.