Monday, March 23, 2015

Fairy Wars

'There is an old abbey on the river, in County Mayo, and people say the fairies had a great battle near it, and that the slaughter was tremendous. At the time, the fairies appeared as swarms of flies coming from every direction to that spot. Some came from Knock Ma, and some from South Ireland, the opinion being that fairies can assume any form they like. The battle lasted a day and a night, and when it was over one could have filled baskets with the dead flies which floated down the river.'

Fairy wars were such bloody and devastating events because were embroiled in Medieval politics long after humans had left it behind. In many ways one can see their fairy courts, their wild parties as being similar to the parties of knights, of soldiers unwinding. They had their own codes of honor which they were willing to kill and die for. Indeed, it can be argued that honor was more important to fairies than it was to nearly any human. Their emotions as a general rule seem to be much stronger than ours do.

Worse still, because fairies were fertility spirits which gave life to the land their wars and deaths would reshape the very land and throw the country off balance. The potato famine in Ireland was that killed millions of people was said to be caused by a fairy war which disrupted nature and the fertility of the land. In this case people could see the fairies flying over the land going to war with each other. Another fairy war left the world awash with so much blood that the moss where the battle took place turned red.

So what do fairies fight wars over? The same things humans fought wars over. Land, food, honor, a desire for power, to kidnap women or men or because their women were kidnapped. Fairies also fight wars to protect and help humanity. "The War of the Trees" was a liminal war between fairy beings in the other world (including Arthur) which was meant to obtain a golden hind and dog for humanity. What purpose these served humans isn't clear given that the poem is a fragment meant to remind people of something they already knew when it was written. Still, what's key is that the fairies lead an army of trees into the underworld in order to win treasure for humans.

One interesting fact about fairy wars for fantasy writers is that fairies often needed humans to help them with their battles. In Japan, for example, Mountain Kami would often ask humans for help with their battles because humans had the ability to defeat certain things they couldn't touch (kami are made weak by the presence of unclean things such as blood, urine, centipedes, etc).

In Wales the fairy lord Arawn asked King Pwyle to help him with his war against Hargan. In this story Pwyle and Arawn switch places for a year, each pretending to be the other. After ruling the fairy realm for a year "the time for the battle in single combat between Powell and Hargan had fully come. The two warriors met in the middle of a river ford, and backed their horses for a charge. Then they rushed furiously at the other. Powell's spear struck Hargan so hard, that he was knocked out of the saddle and hurled, the length of a lance, over and beyond the crupper, or tail strap of his horse. He fell mortally wounded upon the ground."

This story isn't too surprising considering that it was believed that "when the fairy tribes under the various kings and queens have a battle, one side manages to have a living man among them, and he by knocking the fairies about turns the battle in case the side he is on is losing."

Joseph Jacobs has a fairy tale about a man named Paddy O'Kelly who finds himself in fairy land.He was ultimately led by this lesser fairy court to the high fairy court of King Finvara and Queen Nuala here he was greeted warmly with Finvara who tells him "We are going to play a hurling match to-night against the fairy host of Munster, and unless we beat them our fame is gone for ever. The match is to be fought out on Moytura, under Slieve Belgadaun." The story goes on to point out that; "it is necessary for the fairy host to have two live men beside them when they are fighting or at a hurling match, and that was the reason that little Donal took Paddy O'Kelly with him. There was a man they called the "Yellow Stongirya" with the fairy host of Munster, from Ennis, in the County Clare.

They were hurling away, and the pipers playing until Paddy O'Kelly saw the host of Munster getting the strong hand, and he began helping the fairy host of Connacht.

The Stongirya came up and he made at Paddy O'Kelly, but Paddy turned him head over heels. From hurling the two hosts began at fighting, but it was not long until the host of Connacht beat the other host.

Then the host of Munster made flying beetles of themselves, and they began eating every green thing that they came up to. They were destroying the country before them until they came as far as Cong. Then there rose up thousands of doves out of the hole, and they swallowed down the beetles.

That hole has no other name until this day but Pull-na-gullam, the dove's hole.

When the fairy host of Connacht won their battle, they came back to Cnoc Matha joyous enough, and the king Finvara gave Paddy O'Kelly a purse of gold, and the little piper brought him home, and put him into bed beside his wife, and left him sleeping there.

Because of the strong fairy emotions what begins as a sporting event turns into a serious battle in which hundreds if not thousands of fairies die.

The fact that fairies need humans in order to be victorious in battle leads us to one of the most important battles in fairy history, that in which the Sons of Mil (humans) defeated the Tuatha De Danann and drove them underground. Once underground the fairies began to exercise some control over humanity by becoming the gods of fertility and the harvest. They also continue to occasionally wage war with humans. Typically such wars are fought when the humans take some piece of important land from them or the fairies kidnap the wrong woman and so anger a man who has the resources to wage war on them. When going to war with the fairies there are three important points to remember;

1-Human druids, holy men, and wizards are frequently more powerful than the fairies. Indeed it was through the power of the druids that the fairies were defeated in the first place.

2-Iron hurts fairies and can break their magic.

3-Fairies can't repair damage done to their hills and castles if salt is put on these. In this way particularly farmers have been able to successfully wage war on the fairies in return for their wives.

More often fairies attempt to alter the outcome of human wars, choosing the side they want to win and aiding them in victory. Thus treaties with fairies were extremely important if one wished to survive wars with other humans. In this way the fairies were able to rebuild their power base from behind the scenes.

There is a tradition among the Glamorgan peasantry of a fairy battle fought on the mountain between Merthyr and Aberdare, in which the pigmy combatants were on horseback. There appeared to be two armies, one of which was mounted on milk-white steeds, and the other on horses of jet-black. They rode at each other with the utmost fury, and their swords could be seen flashing in the air like so many penknife blades. The army on the white horses won the day, and drove the black-mounted force from the field. The whole scene then disappeared in a light mist.

There is another interesting point about the fairy armies which is that over time they began to include the ranks of human ancestral spirits. It seems that when humans die their souls went into the fairy hills and became, in essence, fairies. They were then under the command of one fairy king or another. This likely means two things; firstly the fairies have grown in strength since their initial defeat. However, at the same time this increased strength comes from the spirits of humans who care about their decedents and hate the kingdoms they were enemies with in life. This in turn likely explains part of the reason why fairies become so involved in local politics.

As always I'd like to leave fantasy writers with a couple of writing prompts;

1-The fairies kidnap a farmers wife, children, or cattle as is common. This time, however, the farmer decides he isn't going to take it and so he declares war on a small hill of fairies leading to a kin based feud similar to the one between the Hatfields and McCoys

2-Fairies from a neighboring distract attempt to steal the fertility of the land in order to make their fields more fertile. The local fairies declare war in order to defend the human farms and seek human help.

3-Tell a story of two fairy clans which declare war on each other as a point of honor which has nothing to do with their desire to preserve a forest. Bonus points if you can make this interesting without involving humans.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fantasy Writing Prompts from Micro Fantasy Tales

(As context for this. Fairies needed humans to forge metal
to have less sickly children, and do other tasks. On May Day 
boys would be kidnapped to help with these things)

When ice forms on the river the water fairies nested in the trees like squirrels. 
Now the Trees are gone, leaving only attics and rafters.

Christmas carols and the smell of garlic permeate the the streets.
Christmas is the time when vampires come to town.

The lonely servant girl draws a baby dragon up from the well.

Owls hooting, crickets chirping. Someone screams, then the night goes quite.

The river tumbled down the mountain,
cooling the dragons burns, cleaning her wounds.

The old ladies cat yowls at the werewolf circling the tree. 

Christmas carols echo through the streets as people spread garlic on their doors and windows.
For Christmas is when the vampires come out in force.

 A scream disturbs the night, followed by unnerving silence.

 Hiding from the cold rain under their umbrellas no one sees the dragon flying overhead.

Sounds of tiny battle cries in the night
In the morning the streams are filled with the bodies of armored fairies

Monday, March 16, 2015

How to Survive an Encounter With the Fairies

Article by Ty Hulse

Those who've studied fairies know that they can be extremely dangerous. Indeed, many fairies are akin to vampires, seducing them to drain their blood. As Purkiss points out in her book "Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History" most people today wouldn't know how to survive if they actually met a fairy.

Of course Purkiss's concern is only partially true, for many fairies are kind. They give people gifts and knowledge. Indeed, everything from the secret of making cheese to the art of weaving cloth was taught to people by fairies.

So on the one hand you should want to meet the fairies. On the other hand, before you or your characters do you need to understand how to survive such an encounter.

7 major types of encounters

1-Testing Morality

Fairies are the enforcers of morality, so they will often appear to people to test their generosity and kindness. During such encounters they typically disguise themselves as a beggar or other person in need. Those who help them are given blessings, while those who refuse can be punished, sometimes very severely.

Fairies have been known to bury villages in avalanches, drown them in floods, and worse when they are displeased.

2-Seeking to work with a human

Many fairies seek to work with humans. Those who accept the fairies call become shamans, those who refuse are often tormented by the fairies until they are either driven mad or give into the fairies demands.

There are a number of ways this encounter plays out. One of the most common scenarios is for a person to meet a fairy when they are in a desperate time of need. On their death bed, starving, lost in the woods,  after someone they love had died, etc. During this time the fairies come and offer to help the person, though in return the person then works for them ever after.

Other people will encounter the fairy by picking up a rock or some other object which contains the fairy. After this they are bound to the fairy forever after.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that while the fairy might be demanding and hard, it's nearly impossible to get rid of them by normal means so you shouldn't try as attempting to get rid of them will lead to a terrible punishment. There are stories of people beaten, battered, pinched, and ultimately killed by the fairies for refusing to work with them.

Exorcists have been used to get people out of a contract with the fairies the world over, so there is a way out of this relationship if it proves impossible for a person to handle.


Fairies love to cause mischief. One of my favorite stories of fairy mischief comes from Italy where a fairy harassed some sleeping workers. He pulled the blanket off of them, pinched them, ran about laughing, etc. In another story a fairy disguised itself as a lump of gold so that it could yell at an old lady who picked him up.

The first thing to keep in mind with these encounters is that you must be careful not to insult the fairies.

Second, if you aren't in your home you should try moving to a different location. Fairies tend to harass people in specific locations. However, fairies are sometimes attached to specific people, in this case moving will do no good and you must instead figure out some way to deal with the fairy.

Third, you need to figure out what kind of fairy you are dealing with, especially if the fairy causing you trouble is in your home. This is challenging as there are hundreds of different types of fairies. Some of these fairies are pure mischief, they are bothering you merely for fun. Others are upset because your home is in the way of their paths, in which case drilling small holes in the walls or leaving the windows open (or possibly a doggy door) may placate them.

Sometimes the fairy just wants attention. In this case one might deal with them by not acknowledging them. A man in Italy ignored the fairy, pretending everything the fairy did could be explained by something natural. The fairy knocked over his shelves, pulled the blankets off of him, did everything he could to get attention but the man didn't give it. Finally in desperation the fairy appeared to the man and offered a deal in which the man would acknowledge the fairy in return for the fairy bringing him luck.


Some fairies are simply dangerous. They want to drink a persons blood, take them as a slave, hunt them for sport, etc. The best defense in such cases is knowing what fairies you might encounter in a given area so that you can gauge whether the fairy you are encountering is potentially dangerous or not. There are, however, a few rules of thumb;

Iron is one of the most common means of combating fairies, not just in Europe but in Northern Asia and even Japan. Throwing an iron knife before a fairy can cause them to vanish or keep them at pay. Holding iron in your hands can keep many different fairies from taking you away. But iron isn't full proof.

One of humanities many magical powers is our ability to use symbols and objects to break magical power. Horseshoes, rabbits feet, clothing turned inside out, crosses, pictures of the Japanese Emperor, and more have all been effectively used to keep fairies at bay.

Evil Eye
Another power humans have is that of the evil eye. We can hurt some fairies merely by looking at them. Other fairies can't use their magic, so long as we gaze steadily on them without averting our gaze.

Never, ever, ever accept a dangerous fairies hospitality. Indeed, avoid accepting fairy hospitality as a general rule, unless a fairy has attached itself to you as your familiar.

Once you eat a fairies food, begin dancing with them, allow them to comb your hair you are within their power. This means that they can kill or enslave you as they wish. What's more, even if the fairy doesn't try to kill you, accepting their hospitality puts you into the fairy realm. Returning to the human realm after this is difficult. There are many stories of people who are forever caught between the fairy world and the human world. Forced to wander as phantoms, to never again know happiness because they ate fairy food or went to a fairies party.

Again there are exceptions to this rule but most of these involve someone who already has an existing relationship with the fairies, or whom the fairies need help from. If a fairy comes to you and says that they are at war and they need a human to help them fight odds are that you will be able to enter fairy land without negative repercussions (surviving the war is another matter, however).

Be hospitable
Just as accepting a fairies hospitality can put you in their power, you can gain power over them by getting them to accept your hospitality. Getting them to let you comb their hair, for example, is especially effective in North and East Eurasia. Of course, how effective this is depends on the type of fairy, which is why it all comes down to knowing what fairies you are likely to encounter in a given area.

5-Stumble Upon
Some people stumble upon fairies, without the fairies or the person having really planned the encounter. This is when people capture leprechauns or other fairies to try to force them to give up their treasure. How well this works and whether the fairies seek revenge afterwords depends on the individual. One person who robbed the fairies was never able to leave his house afterwords. Others were able to live happily with their ill gotten gains. These stories don't say exactly what the difference is, but it is established that it's very, very difficult to steal a fairies treasure and attempting to do so can get you into a lot of trouble.

6-Needs Help
Some fairies need a humans help. In Germany wood wives might come under attack by The Huntsmen (a deity/fairy/ghost) and so need humans to draw a cross on a tree so that they may hide safely within it. In Japan a water kami (deity/fairy like being) might need a person to help it kill a giant crab. In this case helping the fairy comes with a certain amount of risk. Aka, The Huntsmen or the giant crab might kill the human who helps the fairy. On the other hand, helping the fairy in such cases may simply be the right thing to do and can lead to their gratitude.

Other people find lost fairy children, and helping these is always a good idea.

Finally, fairies sometimes seek to hire people to clean their fields, giving birth, feeding their child, watching their cattle, baking their bread, etc. As a general rule when a fairy offers to hire you for a job you have to accept it, as refusing will incur the fairies wrath. Those who prove themselves hardworking are usually generously rewarded. Though some fairies (Baba Yaga) give people impossible tasks in hopes that they can punish them. In this case you need to seek help from some other fairy like being.

People often encounter fairies when the fairies wish to punish them. Sometimes this punishment is for some immoral behavior on the part of the person, other times its for desecrating their homes.

While it's possible to overcome this fairy with iron or the help of exorcist, the best way to deal with this is avoid doing anything that would lead to the fairies punishing you in the first place.

Before Encountering Fairies
The fairies are always watching us. They live in trees, bushes, and even inside your house so whether you see them or not you are in constant contact with them.

Never say you don't believe in fairies or that you are smarter than they are.
While fairies don't drop dead when someone denies their existence, they are easily offended. There are a number of tales about them punishing people for saying they don't believe in fairies.

Another big no no is saying that you are more clever than the fairies, because they will prove you wrong with a series of tricks that could end in your death or at the very least some form of agony or embarrassment.

Be kind and moral.
Fairies are the enforcers of morality. They particularly hate people who are greedy, lazy, messy, and don't have fun on holidays, etc. You should also try to be culturally appropriate, especially around house fairies who tend to have very strict rules about what's acceptable behavior.

Avoid damaging the fairies home, or entering a place that used to be a fairies home. Sometimes a fairies home was bulldozed in order to build a house or a road for example, and these are best avoided.

In another case a girl broke a twig while walking in a sacred wood and so was possessed by a fox spirit.

Research the fairies of the area you are going to be in to understand them specifically. Of course in the modern day there are Japanese Tengu in the mountains above Seattle. Scottish fairies in Vermont, and French fairies in Georgia, because as people moved the fairies followed them. This means that some places have a complex hodgepodge of fairies, making it difficult to be prepared.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

LadyBug - Concept Art

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Japanese Fairy Tales You Should Know

Article by Ty Hulse

When Miyamoto set out 70 years ago to interview the oldest Japanese villagers he could find he encountered one man who told him;

“People from my grandfather's time interacted with animals and humans in much the same way, and they imparted these feelings to us as well. Until I was eight or nine, I slept in my grandfather's arms. During this time he told me many old tales...”

Japanese fairy tales were very often lessons meant to teach people about the spirit world, the world of kami and yokai which they believed existed all around them. Often it was presumed that their survival depended on understanding these stories. Further, as with nearly all people's they often believed these stories to be a true accounting of people's relationship with the spirit world.

Consider, for example, the tale of "The Bear Guardian" in which an entire village benefits because a lumberjack was kind to a bear. A bear whose spirit later became a kami, a tutelary deity which protected the people from harm. There are also stories of cows whose spirits are enshrined and so cure skin disorders, of dogs who bring luck to their families, of cats, and more.

Consider also the fairy tale of  the "Cat Guardian" in which a magical cat is sent by the kami (deities) to protect a young girl from evil spirits.

It's important to keep in mind that most tales about cats seem to have been much more negative. In the story of the "Vampire Cat" for example, the cat is portrayed as being very much like a classical vampire. It drains people's blood, it hypnotizes people, etc.

There are many, many tales of similarly dangerous cats seeking to kill people.

There are thousands of tales relevant to the nature of animals, however, and humanities relationship with them, but in the interest of time I'll just give you a few more.

Prince Jaschima and the Fox

A samurai battles two hunters in order to save a fox who later becomes his wife. This story, of someone willing to fight to protect an animal, or buy an animal from hunters is perhaps one of the most common in Japan. In one case a young boy fights some bullies who are bothering a sea turtle, in another someone offers to buy a fox from a hunter who is chasing it.


A prince encounters an animal spirit disguised as a girl and kills it.

Can't Outsmart of Fox

A classic tale about a man who thinks he can't outsmart a mischievous fox and is proven wrong.

This story is of interest because it shows the massive extent of the foxes illusion powers, their ability to hypnotize people into thinking entire worlds exist which don't.

There are similar tales about foxes who make people think they live in a castle for years, when in fact they only spend a few days under a shed. Of foxes who lead people into castles that aren't there and more.

A few more tales of interest include

The Snow Woman

Cursed to forever haunt humanity a Snow Women freezes one woodsmen to death but falls in love with the other.

This is a sad fairy tale but it's also very telling about the secret lives of Snow women who see to be someone's prisoner in it, though whose isn't clear.

Jiraiya the Bandit King

Sort of a Robin Hood like tale in which a young prince becomes a bandit in order to get revenge on the man who killed his father.

A tale with magic and war and most important of all, tragedy.

Japanese fairy tales are filled with beautiful tragedies.

The Farmer and the Thunder Kami

When drought strikes an old man and his granddaughter seek help from the kami on the mountain.

Koremotschi and the Oni

An oni uses magic to disguise itself as a woman in order to seduce a samurai.

Read even more "Japanese Fairy Tales"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Forests in a Fantasy World / Part 1

Article by Ty Hulse

From Satyrs to Pixies, the forests of our imagination are filled with strange creatures. These are perhaps the most magical of all realms, a place of fear and wonder.

Near at the end of the Paleolithic era forests began expanding across Europe, overtaking the boreal grassland, bringing starvation and desperation in their wake. For humanity had learned to live by hunting large plentiful game in the wide open plains, where mammoths, buffalo, and other herds could live. So well we often view ourselves as destroying forests, there was once a time when the expanding forests destroyed many human tribes. That's when farming began to push into Europe, began to push back against the expanding forests.

Writing Prompt - Most books have humans driving out elves and fairies, but once, it seems that it was the other way around. Tell the story of a human which is being taken over by the forests.
by Witold Pruszkowski

Dark Forests 

For the Tlingit, a Native American tribe of hunter-gatherers, forests were a dark place, the realm of the unclean dead. It was the ocean, the provider of food which they clung to.

Europe was oftentimes very much the same way.

The reason people in Medieval Europe believed that the devil lived in in the forest, and the devil in European lore often looks like the earlier forest spirits, is because there was something devilish about the nature of many forest spirits. Forest spirits loved to lead people astray, loved to torment people. In Eastern Europe the kings of the forest would at times kidnap people and torture them for days, even years at a time. While in Russia they might tickle a person to death. In Japan the Oni and Tengu would spirit people away to devour them.

As I point out in my upcoming book;

Many people will go out into the wild and never return and often no one will ever know what happened to them, they will just be gone. Leaving behind only whispers, rumors of what might have happened..... One Nenets tale for example begins; " At the fork of a river was a chum (teepee) where a woman lived with her two sons. One day the woman went to gather food and never returned. What had become of her no one knew, perhaps a bear and eaten her or she drowned in the river. The only trace of her was her two little sons alone in the chum."

Other tales tell of people coming across empty villages, not knowing what happened to the people who had lived in them, only knowing that the forest is now taking them over.

It makes sense then, that in any culture the forest would be regarded with a certain amount of fear, even when it was sacred.

The Roman ethnographer Tacitus says of one sacred grove;

Every man who enters it must do so bound with a fetter, as a mark of humility and an avowal of the power of the divinity. If he happens to fall down, he may not lift himself up and rise to his feet, but must roll himself out along the ground. This wood is the center of their whole superstition, being looked upon as the cradle of the race, and the god of it as the universal ruler to whom all other things are subject and obedient.

Forest Spirit - The Vörsa

The Vörsa, in Komi folklore, were the personification of the forest and so tobacco or fishcakes had to be left on a tree stump for him if a person sought to use his forest. Those who did not leave him an offering would meet with misfortune.

The Vörsa would most often appear as a bear, though their voice could be heard in the cry of the owls. They could also take the form of a bird in order to fly away from people in a great woosh, or when he was angry he could take the form of a whirlwind. On occasion they would appear as a tall man in a coat made of black wool. They lived in houses deep in the woods, and were typically accompanied by their dog.

Forest Spirit - Cakən (Mari-El)

When someone dies in the forest they can only go free when they kill another so they haunt the forest hoping to do this. They have cloaks which make them invisible and cause humans to get lost so that they may murder them.

Writing Prompt - Tell the story of a person who has become a Cakən

A Place of Freedom

Forests were also a place of freedom and food. The earliest Slavic people depended on the forest for nearly everything, even a large portion of their diet was gathered from it. What's more they used it to protect them from their armies rampaged across the steppes the early Slav villages were sheltered deep in the woods.

In Selkup lore, when a woman was abused by her husband, neglected by her village she might meet a Mul Qip. A satyr like being who would teach her to be a highly skilled hunter, who would teach her what she needed to survive on her own in the forest so that she could at last run away from her village. Japanese lore is also filled with people who flee into the wilderness in order to escape the harshness of their lives, who marry an often dangerous forest spirit.

Robin Hood, and many other peasants throughout European Lore also found freedom in the forest and in the service of the Fairy Queen who lived within it. The fairies often called on people throughout Europe to Rob from the Rich and Give to the poor. To rebel against the nobility... (read my article on this here)

In Japan the forest spirit
Tengu were at times believed to be
 the teachers of stealth, combat, and
 the magic which ninjas used.

Portals to other worlds

In mythology forests were portals to the spirit world. Even in the smallest bit of woodland a person could find themselves in the land of the dead, elfland, or some other strange place.

Indeed you could easily hide your entire kingdom of elves in a city park. You can read my short article on this here.

You can read about Europe's last pagans, one of the most interesting forest people here.

Check out more Writing Prompts Here

List of Fairy Creatures of the Forest

Aghoy (Philippines)
Appearing as beautiful humans they are forest dwellers. They come out of the forests at night to cause mild mischief such as moving things around or occasionally taking food. They are friendly, however, and will guide people to things which the person has lost. Further they will give humans plants with medical properties.

Albasta (Mari-El)
The spirit of the bathhouse, a shape changer it may appear as a man or as a women or as an animal, yet it travels in the form of a shooting star sending. They have a strong relation to the forest spirits living in the swamps and ravines and at times are said to be the same beings. They often attempt to have sexual relations with humans and their kiss is the cause of cold sores. Yet at the same time they punish sexual impurity in women and men by killing or sickening them. 
Its power is in the little finger of it's left hand which if broken causes it to loose all its magical power.

Anjana (Spain)
A female fairy creature which foils evil beings. They live in the forest and rest on sides of banks where they can speak with the water. They also often  help injured animals and plants.

Bayan Ahaa or Bayan Hangai (Mongolia)
A spirit who rules over the forest, and so is the one hunters often pray to for success. Their figures are often carved into the sides of trees, or snowmen are build or from a stick with a human face carved onto it to represent them. People are careful not to throw things into the woods as this might insult the Bayan Ahaa and cause him to curse the person.

Ворса (Komi)
The bopca could appear as a giant (often nude) with shaggy ears though he could also appear as a whirlwind, however, he was a shapeshifter and would often take the form of a cat or other small animals.
They would often attack people or steal from them, unless the hunter made offerings to him (such as tobacco), in return for which the bopca might even tell the hunter where to find game. 
As a joke he would lure people into the woods, and cause them to get lost. Sometimes he would give people riddles which they had to solve to be able to return home. Other times he simply kidnapped them. Those taken by him aged rapidly, thus a child taken might return a few years later as an old man. 
The Bopca were at constant war with the vakula (water spirits), thus it was dangerous for people to come out at noon when these two powerful forces would fight each other.

Diwata (Philippines)
Beautiful and often benevolent nature spirits. Although there are numerous and varied accounts as to what they should look like, a general trend may be observed in that they are normally human in appearance—beautiful and seemingly ageless at that—save for some distinct characteristics. This may take the form of not having a philtrum or having continuously smooth and supple skin that somehow resemble fingernails, without any wrinkled parts in the elbows and knees. They also tend to be fairer than average, as pale skin has been associated with the supernatural even during pre-colonial times (for example, the "white lady" belief is prevalent in the East and Southeast Asian regions).
The Diwata can be called upon ritually for positive crop growth, health, and fortune. However, like most such fairy creatures the Diwata also caused illness or misfortune if not given proper respect. They are said to reside in large trees, such as acacia and balete and are the guardian spirits of nature, casting blessings or curses upon those who bring benefits or harm to the forests and mountains. 

Fata Pădurii (Romania)
'The forest girl,' A beautiful spirit of the forest which tries to lure men into the woods with her. If one refuses her advances she may at times tell them "Stay than, you do not know what you are missing." After this she often turns them into flowers. Though if a man accepts her offer, and doe
s not please her she may turn them into a tree. Other times she might actually attack and rape young men in the forest. 

Hulder (Norway)
A supernatural female being which live underground in the forests. They are young beautiful woman who act as sort of wood or forest nymphs. She can at times have lynx ears, or be hollow in the back like an old tree stump. 

Kapre (Philippines)
Appearing as a nearly eight foot tall hairy man who smokes a big ganja pipe and wears a belt which allows them to become invisable to humans. The Kapre can befriend people, though they often would play pranks on them, typically by causing travelers to loose their way in the mountains or forests. They could cause people to become confused even in familiar surroundings. Thus people affected by the Kapre might forget that they are in their own yard or fields. 
As nature spirits they can cause the trees to rustle, smoke to rise from a tree. They also cause abundant fireflies in forests (which come from the sparks of their pipe). Often those tricked by the kapre will hear laughter but see no source for it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fairy Mischief and Kindness in Italy

Article by Ty Hulse

When human cities expand into the fairies wilderness trouble begins brewing.

A team of workers was repairing the road to Irsina, along the Bilious (Italian Coast). During the hottest time of the day came the workers entered one of the many caves of the valleys to sleep. Tired the workers started to doze off quickly, however, there was a monachicchio (small fairy like being) hiding in the cave. When they fell asleep the monachicchio came out and grabbed the workers noses, tickled them with straw, threw rocks about, poured cold water on them, hid their shoes, and caused all manner of mischief.

Knowing they could gain control over the  Monachicchio if they got his red hat They tried to catch him, but he was faster than a cat, more cunning than a fox, and try as they might they couldn't catch him. So they tried taking turns keeping watch while the rest slept, but they still couldn't keep the  Monachicchio from teasing them.

Finally they sent for the engineer, he came with a shotgun. The  Monachicchio laughed at him and made fun of him. The engineer shot the  Monachicchio but the bullet ricocheted off him, and nearly hitting the engineer in the head. The  Monachicchio began, laughing as went bounding about the cave filled with mad joy.

The engineer and all the workers fled in horror. Since that time no workers dare to sleep in the caves around Irsina.

Irsina - Southern Italy

The fairies of Italy are very often wild sprites, living in nut trees, in caves, in forests, etc.Thus they have animal features, some look like monkeys, or have cat like features, or the faces of rats, squirrels, etc. However, they are prone to creep into human homes and barns where they cause mischief for those who live within. In fact in Naples laws were passed in the 1600's which allowed people to leave their apartments without paying rent owed if they claimed that a fairy known as a Munaciello was haunting the home.

There were a number of methods of keeping these spirits away, people would keep the Buffardello out of their homes, for example, by putting up brooms or hanging juniper branches. The broom is especially interesting as a method for keeping fairies out because before they even ruled an empire the Romans would use brooms to drive away the troublesome spirits of nature as well (perhaps as a way of showing the power of civilization over that of the wild).

As wild spirits the Italian fairies are often hunters, some will drink blood (most often from animals but perhaps on rare occasion from people as well). Like cats they love to tease their victims and are known to ride cows about until they are exhausted, tying their hair into knots, etc.

There is a story which takes place in Via dei Tribunali in which a student rents an apartment that is discounted for the fairies which live within it. Soon after he moves in the fairies begin to cause mischief but he ignores them no matter what they do. Eventually this drives the fairies so crazy that they agree to make him wealthy if he'll just acknowledge them.
 Via dei Tribunali

So while it's true that these fairies would cause no end of trouble. Running up and down the stairs, breaking dishes, hiding objects, jumping on sleeping people's chests, pinching their noses so they wouldn't be able to breath and so would freak out, tickling feet, pulling off blankets, and more. The fairies could also be kind.

Many would hide coins and other objects of value around the house for the family to find. They would bring prosperity to the poor, and protect families from other dangers. It's always possible to try to befriend this spirit by leaving it food, by keeping the house clean and harmonious, or by talking and pleading with it. In one tale a woman tells some of the spirits how she and her child are starving and soon after she finds loaves of bread left for her, and her harvest that year is the largest it's ever been.

Often these spirits would fall in love with maidens, would whisper in their ears and follow them about, teaching them secrets, helping them with their tasks, etc.

Others loved to play with children, which was both good and bad, for they would protect the children from harm but would sometimes try to kidnap them to keep them for themselves

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Irish Magic for Writers

Article by Ty Hulse

Piseog is a difficult concept to understand. As with many ancient magical terms it has no similar word in modern English, nor do any parallel concepts still exist with which to compare it. At it's most simplistic level it can be thought of as superstitions surrounding supernatural events. This meant that it could be anything from the fairies theft of milk to spells to steal the fertility of a neighbor's fields. An event from a little over a hundred years ago will give some idea regarding one particular piseog based concept that could be useful for writers.

"A cattle drover named William Murphy, of Rahill, near Cahir, was brought forward in the custody of the constabulary on a charge of having unlawfully entered the lands of John Russell, of Coolapoorawn, Ballyporeen, for the purpose of performing an act of witchcraft on the latter's cattle. Old tradition affirms that May morning was the one particular morning of the year on which sorceries of this kind - called - Piseogs - could be practiced with the most success. Those who dread such evil influences on their cattle and property frequently remain up all night on guard."
Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society

Writing Prompts
Write a scene with a person sneaking onto a farm to steal it's fertility or about people waiting up to catch someone seeking to steal their fields fertility.

People often make the mistake of focusing only on the dark aspects of piseogs, for example. "The Indendent" stated that;

"Piseogs were a kind of pagan curse, applied mainly by women that could wreak havoc on the unsuspecting farmer. They caused hens not to lay, crops to fail or butter not to keep. By putting rotten meat or eggs on a neighbours' land, it was ensured he had no produce. Putting them in the barn resulted in dry cows. Eddie Lenihan described them as the Irish equivalent of Caribbean voodoo. "People used to believe that there was only a certain amount of luck to go around. "Piseogs are evil magic, the working of badness on your neighbours or the taking away of his luck to add to your own luck," he explained. He revealed that on May Eve between midnight and dawn the women would creep on to the neighbour's land and use a cloth to skim the dew from the grass, which she would use to do her bad work. Placing raw eggs on the neighbour's land was said to reduce his crop and increase your own. Placing raw meat on another man's crop would ruin his crop."

The Independent is both right and wrong in their depiction of piseogs, however. On the one hand piseogs can be used for evil purposes. They are not, however, "evil magic." Piseogs are simply magic and magical ideas. Piseogs include the notion of carrying a rabbit's foot for luck or a badgers tooth to improve your chances of winning a competition. As the Irish Examiner points out;

"Piseogs, or superstitions, are an extension of folk medicine and the Doctrine of Signatures applies also to them. If an animal or plant resembles an organ of the body, then, according to the famous Doctrine, it offers a cure for ailments of that organ. Likewise, the special qualities of an object will be transferred to a person who carries it. Oaks live to a ripe old age; keep an acorn in your pocket and some of that longevity will rub off on you."

The problem is that people typically only write about the darker aspects of piseogs, just like the news now focuses primarily on negative events. But as already stated piseogs could be about medicine, about helping people, and perhaps most significantly, they were a way of making good food, a way of growing food, of helping cows and more. Often Piseogs were passed along from mother to daughter through generations as women were the one's who traditionally handled the milk and therefor controlled the magical knowledge of transforming it into great butter and cheese. Traditional Irish Butter is so much more then a chemical process it's a magical one as well.

Perhaps what's most interesting for fantasy writers is the hundreds of little things people did to ward off dark influences and gain luck. Tying a red ribbon around a cows tail, dressing boys up as girls on May Day Eve to keep the fairies from harming them, putting shoes on the wrong feet to make wild fairies think you were one of them.

Each of these things is more than a cultural antidote, these ideas tell us something about the fairies as well, from their relationship to the color red, to the fact that they were particularly likely to kidnap boys to be their children when they were free to roam the countryside in force, and the fact that they lived in a world which was backwards from our own.

The part where boys art kidnapped speaks both to the ancient Irish culture and to the nature of fairies. Fairies needed to add strength to their bloodline and they needed humans to help them fight wars. Strong boys in old Irish customer were believed to be better for these two purposes as shown by this superstition.

Writing prompt

Create superstitions or piseogs for your world which speak to the character of your worlds deities and magical beings and the cultures which have to deal with them.

Girls, when they were kidnapped were made into witches, for girls it seems were often better at magic. Of course, as already mentioned many girls learn magic from them mothers, and it was believed that some of these women would change into hares to celebrate May Eve or other holidays. Leaving their clothes behind they could play about with their friends in the form of an animal, running free over the fields, through the woods. Imagine that as a slumber party activity. Bouncing about the country, playing pranks as they hopped from human to animal form. Going into animal burrows to feast with the fairies, hedgehogs (also witches in animal form), badgers (magical shapeshifters), foxes (dogs from the other world with magical luck), and other animals.

More Fantasy Writing Prompts