Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A fantasy Writers Guide to Fairies, witches and vampires.

My book on fairies, witches, and vampires is now up on Kickstarter, please check it out.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/768022427/strange-dreams?ref=live

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Baba Yaga - Queen of Darkness

Baba Yaga by Wiggers123

There is a point in folktales where the forest changes into the other world of spirits, a point where one steps from the world of the living into the land of the dead. It is at this point, between life and death, that Baba Yaga dwells.

For Baba Yaga can at times be considered a Queen of the Land of the Dead, the guardian to the gates of the dead. As such it's her job keep the dead from returning to the world and to protect the living from the dead. Although seemingly similar jobs these two things are emotional opposites. For on the one hand she will snatch away someone to devour, yet at the same time she'll help someone rescue a lost love from other monsters that dwell in the spirit world.

What we see than is that Baba Yaga is both the one who kills unworthy humans trying to pass into the world of the dead, and at the same time she's the one who helps worthy heroes enter the land of the dead to save a lost love.

Those who go to her, such as Vasilisa the Beautiful must pass certain tests, accomplish certain tasks (most often with the help of the shamanistic familiar spirits) in order to escape the land of the dead. Should they fail in their task Baba Yaga will devour them.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Elves - Lords of Nightmares

Cute prancey dancey little wisps of beings, or funny nosed cartoon characters, or wise and beautifully stoic
Druid by Damascus 5
lords...

Elves have been portrayed in many ways by popular culture, but they have almost never been portrayed the way they are portrayed in fairy tales.

In "Childe Rowland." The Elf King calls out the famous lines Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an English Man, at which point he threatens to make the mans brains into a delicious pudding. (Yum.....?)

This is of course after the elf king kidnapped a beautiful mortal girl in order to force her to be his slave in fairyland.

In the ballad of "Lady Isabel" an elf knight plays the part of a serial killer, seducing woman away with him, than after making them undress he drowns them.

Elves stalked the night much as vampires.

In Germany Elf's (known as Alp's) were the cause of nightmares, for they enjoyed attacking people in their sleep in order to terrify them. In addition to enjoying the flavor of fear in their victims these elves had a taste for blood which they would drink from the nipples of children and men. But their favored food was milk which they would drain from cows and the breasts of woman. (Which is actually much like the vampire monsters of Eastern Europe which would drain milk from cows as well).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Strange Things About Witches You Probably Didn't Know

1-The term witch or cunning originally meant something akin to "Those who work with spirits (fairies)." So
Witches and shamans are different words
for essentially the same thing.
Picture is Female Witch Doctor by Arsenal 21
most of the witches spells were actually rituals to help them communicate with the spirit world. Many times they had no real magic themselves, rather their primary job was to act as mediators between the human and the fairy realms. (Or to help wicked spirits cause trouble in the world).

Witches and Cunning were very much like shamans. That is they got their power by entering the fairy realm or by asking for help from fairies, not from themselves.

2-Witches and Cunning worked for the familiar spirits (fairies), not the other way around. Though often the relationship between a witch and familiar became fairly symbiotic.

While some familiars took the form of animals many of these familiar spirits were spirits of the dead, One witch from Italy's familiar spirit was her dead father.

The Familiar Spirit themselves often had a master 
who was the devil or a fairy queen.

3-Almost no one ever chose to be a witch or cunning, rather the fairies or evil spirits chose them. In fact many people tried to resist becoming a witch or a cunning. But the familiar spirits would come to them and force them into the relationship, sometimes even possessing them, causing them to into a wild hysteria until they agreed to do what the spirits wanted.

A woman named Elizabeth Chandler even prayed to god to help her be rid of her two familiar spirits, but they kept appearing to her anyways. In the English Fairy tale "Yarrley Brown" a young man gets stuck with a familiar spirit who helps him while invisible, which freaks out everyone around him so that soon the young man is alone and friendless. When he at last tries to get rid of "Yarrley Brown" the familiar fairy replies;

"but I never said that I'd leave thee alone, Tom, and I never will, my lad! I was nice and safe under the stone, Tom, and could do no harm; but thou let me out thyself, and thou can't put me back again!"

Many fairies and spirits wanted to have a relationship with humanity, 
to be able to influence the world. Witches and Cunning 
Were their method of building this relationship.


Witch Fall by Anotherwanderer
4-Despite these potential problems most witches were close friends with their familiar spirits. At times a witch and a fairy could even become lovers. For example one young girl in Scotland was given the secret to magically divining the truth of things in return for becoming the lover of a fairy man.

5-To do their job witches often sent one of their souls out of their bodies to travel the human world or the spirit world. They would often do this through; extreme cold, fasting, sleep deprivation, and various forms of meditation.  While on their 'spirit journey' the witches body goes comatose and appears near death or to actually be dead.

During this time the witches soul is free to wonder the human and spirit worlds. Often times this Journey was undertaken to;

Gain magical knowledge
Familiar spirits would often guide their witches to ceremonies where they would meet a Fairy Queen, the Devil, other witches and other magical beings in order to increase their magical knowledge.

To fight illness and blight
Many witches throughout Europe would battle evil spirits in the spirit world. In the Baltic lands some people would fight evil spirits that wanted to blight their fields in the form of wolves.

To gain mystical enlightenment and philosophical understanding
Christian Saints would often leave their souls to have conversations with angels and see the afterlife (think "Dante's Inferno." Knowledge of various other philosophies besides the Christian one were also gained by those who went on spirit journey's, however, Christian Journey's were by far the most common.

To gather information on this world or cause mischief
Witches might also leave their bodies in order to find thieves or become thieves. Their soul could go about in the form of an animal (such as a cat) in order to cause mischief and attack people in the night.


5-One of the most important tasks of a cunning was to retrieve stolen or lost goods. This was a dangerous job, however, because if a witch accused someone who was found innocent of a theft than the witch could be liable for falsely accusing the person and punished accordingly

6-Good people might inherit evil spirits, and thus be forced by these spirits to become an evil witch. At the same time of course this means that a greedy person might inherit good spirits and so be forced to become a good cunning.

7-Evil Witches were most often motivated by revenge, by a malicious hatred of humanity (often times they especially hated men and or beautiful women).

8-Witches were often revolutionary figures. One man was told by the spirits to rob from the rich to give to the poor and he gathered thousands of followers to help him do this. Of course the rich didn't like this and he was soon killed.

9-It was dangerous to talk about ones relationship with fairies and familiar spirits. In a Welsh Folk Tale (Kaddy's Luck) one girl told her husband how the fairies had aided her when she young her baby was stolen away. This is one reason we have so little information on witches, because they were always reluctant to tell anyone about their relationship with the fairy world.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Russian Vampire Lore


In the lore of ancient Russia the souls of all people, not just vampires are trapped in their graves, going mad with the weight of the earth on them and the cold of the winter.

There is a Russian Folk Funeral Song which laments that; “Dark and joyless is our prison-house,"

When folklorists would ask about this, or where the souls of the dead lived people answer;


How long would it take for you to be trapped in the freezing
cold earth before you went insane and would do
anything to escape?
Vampire Painting by Vyle-Art
"Stone and earth lie heavy on our hearts, our eyes are fast closed, our hands and feet are frozen by the cold." 

"Especially during the winters do the dead suffer; when the spring returns the peasants say, "Our fathers enjoy repose," and in Little-Russia they add, "God grant that the earth may lie light on you.” (Ralston, 1872)

The soul in Russian folk belief is complex and difficult to understand as there was likely to some extent the belief that there was more than one soul, and that the soul was clearly separate from the body. Consider for example the following; a man "said to his wife the night before his death:

 "What a beautiful bird I heard singing by my bedside to-night." "I well believe it," she replied. To which he answered: "It was my ghost; I cannot live long.”

What we see than is that a person's soul could leave their body just before they died, although presumably the
There were some vampires that took the form
of birds, especially owls.
Picture by Emily Fiegenschuh
bird form of this soul indicates that the soul the man saw in the above tale is the soul which flies off to heaven. (Though this is debatable given other fairy tales in which souls in the form of a bird remain on earth). What's important, however, is that everyone has a soul which stays in the ground and which may potentially come up to haunt mankind.

In "The Dead Mother" a mother comes back from her grave to suckle her baby and eventually drains  away it's life. She than takes the baby's body and it's soul to stay with her in her grave.

It's sorcerers who are truly terrifying, for they have an astounding array of powers and abilities. Indeed Russian peasants often drew very little if any distinction between living and dead sorcerers, for both wrecked havoc upon them in a similar fashion.

Vampires than can be living sorcerers, astral projections of the dead which take solid form to attack people (which is why the  vampire doesn't have to dig their way out of their grave), or they can be risen corpses. The challenge to understanding vampires and any similar idea is that folk beliefs are not usually clear and often confusing as many different people had various ideas about the same thing.

Vampires Rarely Worked Together
In the "The Two Corpses" a poor soldier is walking home on leave when a corpse begins to chase after him, he of course flees as fast as he can and eventually the corpse chases the soldier into a church where another corpse is waiting for the soldier. Rather than eat the soldier, however, the two corpses, being territorial, begin to fight with each other over who the soldier belongs to. Luckily for the soldier they argue for so long that the cock crows in the morning and the two vampires collapse unable to move in the daytime.


Vampires Often Relish Cruelty In all its Forms
It's true that there were elegant vampires
but many were described simply as corpses
Picture by Chris Anyma
Vampires didn't just attack people, they went after people's food source as well, that is they would drain cows of their milk, for without this milk a peasant family could easily starve to death. Vampires would also blight crops to leave a family starving.

In general vampires are fairly vindictive and very cruel creatures, so starving peasants and blighting crops are just two of the many wicked things they love to do beyond simply drinking blood. We can see their cruelty and vindictiveness in “The Fiend” in which a girl falls in love with a charming and suave man (who is really a vampire like creature in disguise). Eventually the man proposes to her and she is of course ecstatic to be marrying the charming man, however, she grows curious about where he lives because she wants to know where she'll live when they are married. So one day she follows the vampire home and discovers that he lives in a graveyard where he eats corpses. Terrified she runs off hoping that he didn't see her, but of course he did and he is furious that she followed in. In revenge he begins to attack and kill her family in order to get her to confess that she followed him, but she continually refuses to say anything and so her family is killed off one by one.

This story provides a dark depiction of a vampire courtship in which the vampire is not attacking the girl he sought to marry directly but is killing off the ones she loves. As her loved one's die around her  the girl finally seeks advice from her grandmother, who tells her that she can die and come back to life on the condition that she can never enter a church again. In this way the girl is able to hide from the vampire who presumes that she is actually dead. Of course, this sort of trickery never works for long in fairy tales and eventually the girl must confront the vampire more directly.

Vampires are Nearly Impossible to Kill
Defeating vampires in Russia usually isn't very easy to do as shown by the story of “The Sorcerer and the Soldier.” In this story a poor soldier is returning home when he encounters a man who convinces him that there will be some good food at a wedding. Hungry the soldier goes with the man to the wedding where he discovers that the man is in truth a vampire figure who kills the wedding guests. In order to prevent the vampire from killing again the soldier hunts him down and battles him until at last day comes and the vampire can't move. At this point the soldier burns the vampire but rats, worms, and other creepy crawlies begin to form from the vampires ashes. Should just one of these things have escaped it could have reformed into the vampire, so in order to slay the vampire the soldier had to capture each of these things and throw them back into the fire.

Other sorcerer type vampires would seek to kill a family member when they died so that they could come back to life. Thus even when a vampire died they usually had a chance to come back to life.