Fairies in Folklore

woman-1489175_1920Even though we live in a world where belief in fairies is considered quaint at best, they still capture our imaginations. From Disney’s Tinkerbell movies to the elves in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to creatures in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, magical beings still have the ability to draw us in and hold us captive. But what are these elusive creatures so prevalent in our folklore and literature? There is no simple definition.

The word ‘fairy’, or ‘faery’, calls to mind tiny beings with an ambient glow, iridescent wings, and a trail of fairy dust, but the word actually encompasses a much wider range of creatures.

The most well-known body of fairy lore comes from Ireland. Here, the Fair Folk are descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, a race of god-like beings who arrived in a cloud of mist from islands to the west. They had mastered the use of magic, which helped them defeat the Firbolg in the first battle of Mag Tuireadh and the Fomorians in the second battle of the same name. However, while their dealings with the Firbolg were fairly straight-forward, this was not the case with the Fomorians.

The Cath Maige Tuired, The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, speaks of the Tuatha de Danann’s dealings with the Formorians, including trade and interbreeding. When the Tuatha de Danann were later defeated by the Milesians, they moved into underground hills and formed vast kingdoms where they lived peaceably unless harassed by humans.

While Ireland has the largest collection of fairy lore, the Little People are not restricted to the shores of the Emerald Isle; they are found in some form or another in cultures around the world.

In general, fairies are divided into two main groups: the aristocracy and the peasantry. The aristocracy, said to be descended from the Tuatha de Danann in Ireland, are tall and beautiful with power that far outstrips that of humans. Called the Daoine Sidhe and the Seelie Court, among other things, they live in their kingdoms and tend their cattle. When provoked, however, they react violently. Their arrows cause paralysis and death, and their touch can sicken and kill people and animals. They will damage crops and cattle, the same ones they help propagate when left alone.

The peasantry are more solitary and live in the wilds of nature. They are nature spirits who occupy the dark places of the world. One such place is the taiga forest, which stretches for thousands of miles across Russia. This is a cold place filled with wolves that howl in the night and elk who roam the frozen paths. It is also home to the leshy.

Descriptions of the leshy vary. Some accounts say they are tree-like in size and appearance, while others state they are tiny creatures that can scuttle by unnoticed. Like most fairies, they can change their shape at will, though their natural form is said to be human-like in form with leaf-colored hair and the horns and hooves of a goat.

In Zulu culture, there is a tiny creature known as the abatwa. This being is said to be a hunter who is small enough to hide under a blade of grass and live in an ant hill. They are self-conscious about their size, so if one comes across an abatwa while hunting, it is polite to tell him he was spotted from a good distance away. To insult an abatwa is a death sentence, much like insulting the fairies from Ireland.

If we move on to the folklore of Spain, Portugal, South America, and the Philippines, we find the duende. This creature ranges in size from eighteen inches to three to four feet tall and inhabits houses. While they are neither wholly good nor entirely evil, the duende is a trickster who enjoys tormenting humans. They will steal and destroy property when angered, and their tricks are anything but humorous. They will also torment villages when the mood strikes them.

From Native American folklore, we have Coyote, who might be more accurately considered a god. This spirit is seen as a nature spirit among other things and is known for his trickster attitude. While he’s credited with giving man artwork and fire, he is often portrayed in his more malevolent form. In this form, his tricks come close to being evil, and it’s said he caused misery and sickness to come into the world.

In Italy, there is the Monaciello. This creature is said to resemble a tiny monk similar in appearance to a leprechaun. These creatures supposedly guard wine and treasure. While the typical friar’s clothing is brown, the Monaciello’s is bright red. He lives in houses and takes pleasure in pinching the residents and stealing their clothing. Should the human resident take the Monaciello’s hat, he will be able to claim part of the creature’s treasure in exchange for its return.

On the more malevolent end of the spectrum is the Orculli, also from Italy. These creatures are masters at shape-changing and most identifiable by their stench. They are also cannibalistic and stories tell of them grabbing humans for a snack.

The list of fairy species is enough to fill several volumes, and many have been written, but, in general, they are creatures of magic who are very much connected to the natural world. As man has moved into these natural places, the Fair Folk have been pushed away, as they have no love of industrialization and the trappings of modern life. However, they live on in our stories and imaginations and have a special place in our hearts.

 

FURTHER READING

Appenzeller, Tim. The Enchanted World: Dwarfs. Time-Life Books, 1985.

Appenzeller, Tim. The Enchanted World: Fairies and Elves. Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse. A Field Guide to the Little People. Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Mythology. New York: Dell Publishing, Co., 1959.

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology. New York: Penguin Compass, 1991.

Cole, Joanna. Best Loved Folktales of the World. New York: Anchor Books, 1982.

Hollander, Lee M, trans. The Poetic Edda. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1962.

 

 

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For Those Who Like the Mythology

IMG_20160131_181120_975I’ve done a couple of posts about Aradia and the mythology behind the goddess, though it’s been a while. With Aradia’s Secret coming out this week, I thought it would be a good time to list a few links for those who enjoy studying mythology as much as I do.

These are only a few sources, just something to get your feet wet. There are other sources, though not all of them agree on Aradia’s parentage or even if she was actually worshipped.

Best wishes!

http://www.lissadobbs.com

The Internet Sacred Text Archive: I love this site! They’ve got just about any religious and mythological text you could imagine available to read for free. There are also a number of other texts, particularly those written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I can spend hours just playing around here.

Aradia’s Birth from Heaven

Ancient Origins

 

Chimera

The chimera is a creature from Greek mythology. It has the head of a lion, with a goat’s head sticking out of its back, and a snake for a tail. It was said to be the child of Typhon and Echidna, and it could breathe fire. It’s mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and Hesiod’s Theogony. In short, it isn’t a nice creature to meet while travelling.

In the world of Grevared, the Chimera lives mainly within the forests of E’ma Thalas, though it can be seen in the mountains of Moirena as well. It is a reclusive creature and will attack on sight. It’s primary diet consists of other creatures, with asacon and yeasacon being its favorites. It doesn’t hesitate to attack the elves and wizards of E’ma Thalas, and both of these groups tend to avoid it.

In Moirena, the creature is sought by the demons for breeding purposes, for they believe that each chimera can only be bred once before it loses ferocity. Demons who can capture the chimera and bring it home unharmed gain status among the community and have a greater chance of survival.

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

Dream Gods Woes

img_20150505_200403We spend almost a third of our lives asleep, and while we sleep we dream. We get images of things from our waking lives, and we also see images that seem to come from somewhere else altogether. Some dreams are pleasant, restful experiences, while others are nightmares that leave us stumped as to their origin. This has been the case for humanity throughout all of recorded history. Even as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, people have recorded their dreams and tried to glean meaning from these nocturnal visions.

One of my current works in progress deals with a dream god, but I’ve had some difficulty deciding how to represent the god. While there are lots of different night deities, there are actually few that specifically represent dreams. I found this extremely odd simply because so much importance is placed on dreams and their meaning throughout history and mythology.

Most of us have heard of the Sandman. This mythological creature puts sand in the eyes, particularly of children, to help them fall asleep at night. (http://www.sleepdex.org/legends.htm). However, this benevolent creature did not begin as a benign friend of children. In the original folklore, he’s a gruesome character that will punish those who don’t fall asleep right away with nightmares and other horrid punishments. There is even one tale of him taking the eyes of naughty children to the moon to feed his own offspring. (https://vanwinkles.com/the-twisted-history-of-the-sandman).

The Sandman is said to have originated as a transmutation of the Greek god Morpheus. More than any other culture, the Greeks had dream and sleep gods, and Morpheus was the dream messenger of the gods. It was his responsibility to provide glimpses into a person’s future and to shape their dreams to reveal truths. Morpheus was chosen for this task because he was the most able to transform himself into any human and mimic their traits more exactly than the other Oneiroi. (http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/morpheus-the-god-of-dreams/)

There are many mentions of prophets and wise men interpreting dreams, and there are tons of tales of gods who created while asleep – Vishnu being one of them – but these weren’t really what I was looking for in the research. What I finally settled on for my own work was to name the dream god Yukamalu and have him as an amalgamation of other dream gods. In Grevared, the gods battled for dominance when the universe exploded, and only the strongest survived. Those who were mostly destroyed combined into single deities, so Yukamalu came into being as a deity with multiple traits. Now I just have to figure out just what those traits are and whether he’s going to be a benevolent god or a more malevolent one.

 

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

Populating the Kingdom of Emerell

Moirena and the Kingdom of EmerellThe Kingdom of Emerell lies in the western quadrant of the continent that also contains Moirena in the world of Grevared.  Its primary port is the city of Flameport, though there is a secondary port in Bruihull.  Ravenhost is the largest city, capital, and the center of government.  While The Kingdom of Emerell is ruled by a monarch, it is an elected monarch rather than one who rules by divine right.

The Everstone Mountains separate The Kingdom of Emerell from Moirena, but, in spite of this range, Emerell is mostly flatlands.  This allows for plenty of farming along with mining in the mountains.  The primary exports are metal and minerals along with weapons and other smithed goods.  The Kingdom of Emerell is a prosperous and peaceful place, despite its close proximity to Moirena, which is inhabited by demons.

The Kingdom of Emerell is populated by dwarves, and here’s where I had some difficulty deciding which versions of the myths I wanted to pursue.  In Tolkien’s works the dwarves are short and stocky with long beards.  They are excellent metallurgists and love all things to do with metal and jewels.  They are creatures of the earth, though their creator stepped outside the will of Ilúvatar when he created them.  However, the dwarves exist in mythology, particularly Norse mythology, and in most of these myths, they are nothing like the creatures in the world of fantasy.

In Norse mythology the giant Ymir is slain by Odin and his brothers, and the giant’s body is used to create the world.  Maggots form on the body, and it is from these creatures that the dwarves are formed.

In The Poetic Edda there is a list of dwarves found in the poem Voluspo.  In this poem a witch is called up from the dead to speak about the creation of the world.  The first few stanzas describe this, but the dwarves don’t come into play until stanza 8.  At this point giants rise up from Jotunheim, and the gods met to decide who is going to raise up the dwarves.  In stanzas ten through sixteen there is a list of dwarves, though most scholars think this is interpolated, and there is mention of the dwarves leaving the mountains to seek a new home.  As to the list of names, it is one any Tolkien fan will recognize.

The Poetic Edda isn’t the only mention of the dwarves in mythology and legend.  In one legend they were seen by a peat cutter who noticed a glow while winding through a series of boulders in search of peat.  The peat cutter peered into the cleft in the stone and saw small creatures about as tall as his waist working their forge.  According to this story, the dwarves were difficult to see because their skin and aprons were as gray as the rocks around them, and their bodies resembled boulders more than men.

Dwarf legends aren’t restricted to Europe, either.  They are also present in Central America, South Africa, and North America.  In all of the legends, however, they are associated with the earth and the things that dwell within it.  They are harsh and vengeful creatures when crossed or wronged, and they are superb artisans who imbue their creations with magic. The Poetic Edda is filled with stories about them, and we see them in the folklore of just about every country.

If we return to the European side of the world, we have the leprechauns of Ireland, who became prominent in folklore in the middle ages.  Modern descriptions speak of tiny creatures who wear green, make shoes, and hoard pots of gold, but prior to the twentieth century, these beings were described as wearing red, and their wardrobe differed according to locale.  According to Yeats, the solitary leprechauns wore red, while the trooping fairies wore green.  Now, another difference between these leprechauns, who are often considered to be a type of dwarf, and the dwarves of Norse and other mythologies, is their origin.  The leprechauns are said to be some of the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann, who are the progenitors of the fairies.

So, when it comes to deciding who will populate the Kingdom of Emerell, I have tons of options and myriad folktales on which to draw.  I’m thinking I may go with the majority of the population based somewhat on the Norse mythology and create branches of the population from other mythologies.  I think this will give me the variations and richness of culture that I’m looking for in my countries.

 

Sources:

Appenzeller, Tim.  The Enchanted World: Dwarfs.  Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse.  A Field Guide to the Little People.  Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda, 1936 at sacred-texts.com

 

The Kingdom of Emerell

 

 

The Kingdom of Emerell lies in the western quadrant of the continent that also contains Moirena in the world of Grevared.  Its primary port is the city of Flameport, though there is a secondary port in Bruihull.  Ravenhost is the largest city, capital, and the center of government.  While The Kingdom of Emerell is ruled by a monarch, it is an elected monarch rather than one who rules by divine right.

The Everstone Mountains separate The Kingdom of Emerell from Moirena, but, in spite of this range, Emerell is mostly flatlands.  This allows for plenty of farming along with mining in the mountains.  The primary exports are metal and minerals along with weapons and other smithed goods.  The Kingdom of Emerell is a prosperous and peaceful place, despite its close proximity to Moirena, which is inhabited by demons.

The Kingdom of Emerell is populated by dwarves, and here’s where I had some difficulty deciding which versions of the myths I wanted to pursue.  In Tolkien’s works the dwarves are short and stocky with long beards.  They are excellent metallurgists and love all things to do with metal and jewels.  They are creatures of the earth, though their creator stepped outside the will of Ilúvatar when he created them.  However, the dwarves exist in mythology, particularly Norse mythology, and in most of these myths, they are nothing like the creatures in the world of fantasy.

In Norse mythology the giant Ymir is slain by Odin and his brothers, and the giant’s body is used to create the world.  Maggots form on the body, and it is from these creatures that the dwarves are formed.

In The Poetic Edda there is a list of dwarves found in the poem Voluspo.  In this poem a witch is called up from the dead to speak about the creation of the world.  The first few stanzas describe this, but the dwarves don’t come into play until stanza 8.  At this point giants rise up from Jotunheim, and the gods met to decide who is going to raise up the dwarves.  In stanzas ten through sixteen there is a list of dwarves, though most scholars think this is interpolated, and there is mention of the dwarves leaving the mountains to seek a new home.  As to the list of names, it is one any Tolkien fan will recognize.

The Poetic Edda isn’t the only mention of the dwarves in mythology and legend.  In one legend they were seen by a peat cutter who noticed a glow while winding through a series of boulders in search of peat.  The peat cutter peered into the cleft in the stone and saw small creatures about as tall as his waist working their forge.  According to this story, the dwarves were difficult to see because their skin and aprons were as gray as the rocks around them, and their bodies resembled boulders more than men.

Dwarf legends aren’t restricted to Europe, either.  They are also present in Central America, South Africa, and North America.  In all of the legends, however, they are associated with the earth and the things that dwell within it.  They are harsh and vengeful creatures when crossed or wronged, and they are superb artisans who imbue their creations with magic. The Poetic Edda is filled with stories about them, and we see them in the folklore of just about every country.

If we return to the European side of the world, we have the leprechauns of Ireland, who became prominent in folklore in the middle ages.  Modern descriptions speak of tiny creatures who wear green, make shoes, and hoard pots of gold, but prior to the twentieth century, these beings were described as wearing red, and their wardrobe differed according to locale.  According to Yeats, the solitary leprechauns wore red, while the trooping fairies wore green.  Now, another difference between these leprechauns, who are often considered to be a type of dwarf, and the dwarves of Norse and other mythologies, is their origin.  The leprechauns are said to be some of the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann, who are the progenitors of the fairies.

So, when it comes to deciding who will populate the Kingdom of Emerell, I have tons of options and myriad folktales on which to draw.  I’m thinking I may go with the majority of the population based somewhat on the Norse mythology and create branches of the population from other mythologies.  I think this will give me the variations and richness of culture that I’m looking for in my countries.

 

Sources:

Appenzeller, Tim.  The Enchanted World: Dwarfs.  Time-Life Books, 1985.

Arrowsmith, Nancy, and George Moorse.  A Field Guide to the Little People.  Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda, 1936 at sacred-texts.com

 

 

Golem

Golem JuiceMention the word ‘golem’ and most folks think of the creepy little critter in The Lord of the Rings, but the mythological creature is actually, to me at least, much more terrifying to consider.

The most famous golem in mythology is the Golem of Prague. This creature was created by Rabbi Loeb around 1580 when the Jews were threatened.  This site provides one version of the ritual that brought the creatures to life, but I know there are others.  There are also several versions of the story, and some alternate stories can be found here.

A number of years ago, we won’t say how many, I was doing research into the golem and came across one of the rituals.  I wish I could remember where I found it, but it basically stated that the golem had to be created out of soil that had never known human touch.  There was a period of purification that came before the creation, and the incantation for the ritual took about thirty hours.  If even one mistake was made in the incantation, then it had to be begun again, which could extend the time needed to create the golem.  Now, this isn’t something I’d have the time to undertake, no matter how nice it would be to have a creature that obeyed commands.

Golems do not have the ability to think for themselves.  All they can do is follow the commands of their creators.  This being the case, the creator has to be extremely specific with instructions, for the golem won’t infer from anything said.  It will follow instructions literally.

The book Sefer Yezirah supposedly contains the instructions for creating the golem, but the instructions have to be interpreted, and each Rabbi who has decided to make a golem has interpreted it differently.

Golems are said to be great creatures for manual labor and defense.  However, over time they become unstable and will rampage and possibly harm others.  For this reason, it is important that golems only remain active for a short period of time for a specific purpose before being deactivated.

 

 

 

 

http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/golem.html

The Trimurti

Coming SoonI’ve been working on a YA story about three girls, and I’d been having some issues determining just what weapons they would carry.  I finally decided on using the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, just to give a different feel to this story.

At this point, I have one series that’s used mostly Greek mythology, the ‘story that never ends’ uses Irish mythology, and the shorter stories that I’ve been working on to sort of introduce the characters use folklore and legend as much as mythology.

I’m hoping that “Wolf in the Shadow” will be available by the end of June, and I’m hoping to have another one ready by the end of August.  I’m hoping to release the one about the girls in maybe September or November, it just depends, and the third Ethan book will be out in October.  So, I’ve got my work cut out for me.  But, on to the Trimurti.

The idea of the Trimurti states that Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer.  It seems that the idea of the Trimurti is that there is one Supreme and the others are manifestations of this deity, with each form having a different function.  In some instances, Vishnu is viewed as the Supreme with Brahma and Shiva being aspects of Him.  In other cases, the Supreme is Shiva.

Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva is not the oldest Trimurti.  In older texts, Surya replaces Brahma, or this God is seen as an Absolute over the others.

The idea of the trimurti isn’t present in the Rig Veda.  In this text, the primary god mentioned is Indra, who was a warrior who brought the world into being.  Another god mentioned is Agni, who is the god of the sacred fire and is responsible for taking offerings to the gods.  There is the idea of a triple-aspected deity, but not the specific trimurti most of us are familiar with.  This doesn’t occur until the Puranas.  In the later works Brahma replaces Indra, and Shiva is associated with Agni.  Vishnu, however, seems to remain the same regardless of the time period.

Other texts look at other aspects of the gods, and these texts can be found at Internet Sacred Text Archive.  I highly recommend the epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) to anyone interested in these topics.

Best wishes.

 

 

 

Werewolves

SpookyI’ve been working on a short story for the past few weeks that deals with some of my main adult Shadow Walkers about twenty or so years before the ‘story that never ends’ (I actually plan to finish mapping out what will now be book one tomorrow).  I got the idea from one of the scenes in what will become book three (when I get there) and decided to investigate what led up to that scene.  Believe me, I had no idea where this was going when I started, and I surely didn’t intend for it to end up with werewolves as part of the problem.  But it did.  So I’ve been brushing up on some of my werewolf lore.

The most popular book on werewolves is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves, and in it he goes through a good deal of mythology somewhat based on the idea of the werewolf.  There’s a lot of other stuff in there that deals with cannibals and serial killers and whatnot, but the actual werewolf stuff is pretty interesting.  He talks about different cultures that used animal skins as part of their wardrobes in battle, etc.

However, none of that was really helping me, so I looked into some of the skinwalker legends in Native American lore.  These, too, are fascinating in the idea that someone can, through ritual, gain the ability to transform into another person or animal.  According to the legends, the person (considered evil) must make a ritual kill in order to gain the power.  However, in more modern sighting stories, the skinwalker’s behavior is more puckish – chasing cars, knocking on windows, etc.

The idea of shapeshifting into another form could go as far back as the cave painting known as ‘the Sorcerer’.  This painting shows both human and animal features, so some scholars have suggested that his position is indicative of the process of transformation.  It’s always looked to me like he was in the middle of a ritual dance of some sort.

Another story that most of us have heard at some point goes back to Ancient Greece.  Here we have the first instance of the transformation of a human into a wolf (though Zeus himself didn’t seem too picky about what form he took).  King Lycaon supposedly cooked up one of his sons and served him for dinner when Zeus was a guest.  Needless to say, Zeus wasn’t too thrilled with this and turned Lycaon into a wolf as punishment.  Most of what I’ve read points to this as the first story about werewolves and the origin of the legend.

Werewolf legends abound in just about every culture in the world, and wolves were not the only animal men transformed into.  I find the concept interesting and often wonder about its origin.  At what point did mankind get the idea of shifting into an animal shape?  And, perhaps more importantly, if ancient people truly possessed this ability, why can’t we do it today?

Best Wishes!