Friday, December 20, 2013

Reindeer Tales of Shamanism and the Spirit World

Want to write a Christmas story about magical reindeer? Here are a few strange, important points to keep in mind about the "Little Reindeer" of the northern spirit world.

1-Reindeer and their kin are sacred, metaphysical animals in lore. In some tales they and their relations are the sun, fleeing from a hunter. In Sami lore this magical flying reindeer had glowing antlers, and should he ever be caught by the hunter the end of the world would begin as chaos followed (possibly darkness as the light of the sun went out). This sun reindeer is often depicted as white with massive horns of gold.

2-Shamans among these northern people would send their souls out in the form of reindeer to battle each other and the evil spirits which dwelt in the darkness, for reindeer are about 400 lbs of mussel and with the power of the shamans soul involved they could be much, much greater. Though the shaman wasn't safe in these battles for if their soul was injured in the form of a reindeer so too would the shaman be, if it died, so would the shaman.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

8 strange things you didn't know about Santa, Christmas, and Winter Fairies

Father winter by alexson1
Ravens Shires guide to Christmas. Chirstmas is a liminal Holiday, a time which like the fairies themselves exists betwixt and between. For it is a time of both death and rebirth, of transformation, when society is symbolically destroyed in war and reunited in peace. A celebration of the gods and times that came before, the original Winter Solstice Celebrations are likely more beautiful and strange than you likely ever imagined. As always my hope with this list is to give you inspiration from lore to create unique and engaging stories;

1-Christmas was originally very much like Halloween, as it was a time when the spirits of the dead and the fairies could visit, haunt, and hunt humanity. Among some people's this was mostly positive, ancestral spirits would come and visit and feast with them. Though not all dead spirits were good, nor were all fairies. For example, Russian vampires which came from the spirits of still born children known as Drekavac would be especially active at Christmas time, flying about the countryside in the form of birds looking for victims to drain the blood from. Thus people would often prepare for Christmas by hanging herbs, signs and other things that would drive away evil spirits. Similarly Draugr, undead corpses, were more active in Germanic and Scandinavian countries during Christmas as well. These undead beings were very much like witches, and may have been the spirits of those who had learned such magic in life or in death. They may also initially have been the nightmares of the dead (souls could leave the body during dreams, so the souls of the dead could also leave when they dreamed).

Friday, December 13, 2013

What are Dragons? Creating a Definition for Dragons



What is a dragon? 

Art by Anne Stokes
http://www.annestokes.com/dragons/
It might seem like a silly question, we all know what dragons are. Yet as I find myself preparing to write a series of articles on dragons I realize that there isn't a good definition for what they are.

Google Searches definition is "A mythical monster like a giant reptile. In European tradition the dragon is typically fire-breathing and tends to symbolize chaos or evil, whereas in East Asia it is usually a beneficent symbol of fertility, associated with water and the heavens"

This of course gives us what people most commonly think of as dragons, which are two very different types of beings. That is; 'European symbols of greed which breath fire,' and "Asian serpent deities of water and sky.' Such designations are problematic because they cause us to miss many other important types of dragons and aspects of folklore. For example, one of the oldest local Kagura (sacred dances) we know about, Susanoo, the kami of wind and the underworld is depicted as battling two fire breathing 'dragons.' While in Europe there were many dragons which were clearly water spirits, growing in wells, that didn't have the ability to breath fire. One of the most famous stories of a dragon kidnapping a princess involves such a 'dragon.' In other words both Asia and Europe had multiple things we would consider dragons.