Monday, February 23, 2015

Forests in Fantasy Worlds Part 2

Read Forests in Fantasy Stories - Part 1

Forests and the Realm of the Dead

In Siberia a man stumbles upon a hut in the forest filled with the spirits of the tormented dead, in Germany a forest spirit boils the souls of the wicked in a massive pot, while in Ireland a monk is lured by a beautifully singing bird into the forest which turns out to be an other world. 

The forest in the lore of nearly all people had gateways to the spirit world within it. Thus it wasn't just forest spirits one encountered in the forest but lords of the dead and undead as well. In Northern Italy this often took the form of Orco, a remnant of the Roman god of the underworld (Orcus). Indeed in the Italian version of Little Red Riding Hood it's orco who the little girl meets in place of a wolf.

Few, perhaps have such creepy tales as those of South America. The Warao of South America believe that Death gave humans their bodies so that their souls would no longer be able to dwell within the heavens, and only shamans could send their souls out into the world again. With their new found flesh, humans became weak in many ways. They also became the target for hungry monsters including Hoebo, a spirit who takes the form of a red macaw. So tasty were humans to this spirit, that he made humanity his food of choice. He dwells in the spirit world which can be reached through the forest, in an iron mansion where the macaws drink human blood and feast on human flesh from a thirty foot long iron canoe.Within this iron fortress everything is made of human bones, including wind instruments and jewelry. And the stench of rotting flesh fills the air; the ground is covered with coagulating blood. 

There are a few dark shamans who seek to serve Hoebo. To gain power and become one of his servants go into the woods and smoke massive amounts of tobacco, and learn the secret chants which allow them to find and gain victims for their dark masters. When they have learned enough, their teacher blows a hoebo (evil) spirit into a cigar which the prospective shaman then smokes into himself. This spirit then leads the shaman up into the sky to meet with The Hoebo (in this case hoebo are the evil spirits which serve The Hoebo who is also known as the Red Macaw). The Hoebo rests in hammocks made of curdled blood and on furniture made of human bone. The Red Macaw's wife is always caring for their little child. 

Once the shaman is in the spirit world, Hoebo (who is also covered in blood) inspects the shaman’s mouth and chest. If he is found worthy, he is given two hoebo spirits to live within his upper body and a snare of power to dwell within his chest. When he returns he continues to smoke until he is so intoxicated with nicotine he nearly dies. As death comes upon him, a beam of light comes down through a coffin he's trapped in, and he slips out to be reborn as a dark shaman. 

From this point on he and his wife and children are creatures of the jungle, stalking around the edges of the villages and with his magical snare he strangles victims from a distance, causing them to pass out so that his spirit helpers can enter the man or woman’s heart. They then carry their victim to the otherworld, his or her head dragging on the ground and bouncing against the shaman’s heels as they walk through the forest; a sign of supreme disrespect and disregard for the human who is about to die. 

In the lore of many Central African people's the jungle is filled with unclean dead and forest spirits which crave human blood, much like the forest vampires of Central Europe. Dark cults will seek to lure these spirits to them, offering them a continuous stream of human sacrifices in return for wealth and luck.

Oddly enough, in all these cases, the forest was where the people lived. They saw it as a home, as a provider of life. Forests in lore are a place caught between worlds, between the realm of the living and happiness and the realm of the dead. 

Spirits of the Forests

Kunnotar (Finland) 
The patroness of foxes who was asked to bring them to the hunters traps

Kuutar (Finland) 
Every lake and stream, forest and swamp, even the flowers and trees are living beings with intelligent souls or so went the philosophy of the ancient Finns. These spirits often known as haltia (a term meaning governor or steward) act as rules over some aspect of nature such as the back woods, or the mountains. Prayers to the haltia were extremely common as people sought their help in protecting the cattle, finding the treasures which were buried underground, successfully hunting for game and more. In addition to being the spirit of the forest every persona has their own haltia “a wizard in working himself into an ecstasy invokes his haltia to rise from its hole, from under a fallen tree, or stone, or moss, or wherever it may be, and mentions its brilliant eyes and spotted cheek, as if he had a snake in his mind's eye. The technical term for being in an ecstasy (olla haltiossansa l. haltioisansa) means literally 'to be in one's haltia or among one's haltia,' in other words, 'to be in the spirit or among the spirits.' From the above examples we see that the heavens, the earth, the forest, the mountain, and individual men, have each their spirit, ruler, or guardian. Such an idea goes back to the earliest times.

Leshy (Russia) 
The forest king, he controls animals and throws wild parties which uproot trees.

Lisovyk (Ukraine) 
A shaggy old forest spirit which could appear naked or dressed in brown and a cap of marten fur. They could appear normal size or as tall as a tree, with hairy hands and feet. In one tale he appeared as a little old man with a green beard. They were shape changers however and so could appear as a moss covered tree, an animal, a drunk man, a fungus, or anything else. It can also appear as fiery serpent and attack people in this form. They are often considered to be dangerous beings which knock people over in the forest, or at times kills them. He likes peace and quite in his forest and thus hates people who whistle at night or do other loud things in the forest. Though he himself is a mischievous creature. In order to escape him him one needs to turn their shirts inside out and wear their shes on the wrong foot. Still it could also be helpful, it would provide people with knowledge of the future, help to find lost cows. Further hey protect the forest animals acting as a hereder of the wild. It was also believed that if you offered him rye flour or eggs at forest cross roads he would help to keep wild animals from eating your farm animals as well.

Mazarol (Italy)
 They are old men with a sturdy build which dress in red, with a turquoise jacket and a large hat. He is vindictive against those who betray trust. In one tale a girl trampled over his path, angering him so that he breathed in her face causing her to forget her previous life. He than brought her back to serve him, teaching her how to make butter and cheese while promising to teach her how to make wax. Before this could happen a hunter recognized her and brought her home, they tried to revive her memory but failed until at last an old lady gave her milk form a white goat at which point her memories returned. She was the one who taught her people how to make butter and cheese

Mielikki (Finnish) 
Goddess of the forest and one of the primary creators of the sacred bears she is at various times the wife or daughter in law of Tapio. She is asked at various times to help with haunts or to protect cattle grazing in the forest or those who are seeking to gather mushrooms and berries. She heals animals through healing, or by treating baby chicks which have fallen from their nests and occasionally she’ll train a human in her healing arts.

Wood Wives
Tiny forest fairies that were at times allies and at times enemies with humans. They often had moss for hair, wore leaves as clothes, etc.