Thursday, June 25, 2015

Notes on Werewolves

Werewolves are some of the most captivating characters in lore, though most of the original tales about them were short encounter stories, (i.e. A wolf attacks someone and rips off a piece of their clothing. Later the person meets a friend who has bits of their clothing in their teeth.)

As with everything else, however, there are many aspects of werewolves which can be understood by piecing together these many tiny pieces of lore. For example, there seems to be some connection between werewolves and the Forest King and or water spirits. I've state previously that the idea of the devil appearing to someone and bargaining with them for their soul is based on previous ideas about forest fairies or water fairies. These fairies often needed human workers for various tasks and so would pay them in advance for this work, which was often hellish in nature.

These same forest spirits seem to have given people the magical belts they used to turn into wolves. In France werewolves would transform by going into fairy pools during the full moon which would also seem to indicate that the fairies were involved in this transformation somehow. Finally there were werewolves who were clearly shaman figures, again connecting them to the world of fairy. However, despite a few vague connections it's hard to say exactly what this relationship was at what time. All we truly have is 19th century understanding of the idea of werewolves, which pretty much ignores the existence of anything but devils.

Still there is something to be said for 19th century beliefs, and in the spirit of that I'm providing some of my notes on werewolves in this blog.


Categories of Werewolves

Werewolves are among the most complicated of mythological creatures because they have so many backgrounds and types. Indeed, just as every person is unique every werewolf is unique as well. Further each village could be said to have some of their own traditions regarding werewolves. For example, silver bullets were one common way to fight them but in some places a gold bullet was required, in others the silver had to be blessed, while in others a person could force a wolf to turn back to its human form by using its name. Just as there were different ways to kill a werewolf there were different reasons a person might become one which I’ve broken down into a number of different types.


The Serial Killer

There are some few bloodthirsty humans who choose the darkness willingly, people who enjoy doing evil. It was believed that such people would at times study necromancy in order to give themselves body and soul to the devil in return for the power to commit murder. It was said that one such man desired neither wealth nor promotion, instead he wanted to find a way to cause suffering and pain to all people. Seeing the evil in his heart the devil granted the young man his wish.

Yea, often it came to pass that as he walked abroad in the fields, if he chanced to spy a company of maidens playing together or else milking their kine, in his wolfish shape he would incontinent run among them, and while the rest escaped by flight, he would be sure to lay hold of one, and after his filthy lust fulfilled, he would murder her presently. Beside, if he had liked to known any of them, look who he had a mind unto, her he would pursue, whether she were before or behind, and take her from the rest, for such was his swiftness of foot while he continued a wolf that he would outrun the swiftest greyhound in that country; and so much he had practiced this wickedness that the who province was feared by the cruelty of this bloody and devouring wolf. 

Stories about such serial killing werewolves aren’t common, however. Indeed its difficult to find many. More common are stories of people who become a werewolf in order to kill specific targets.


Vengeful

There are some people who learn necromancy and gain the power to become a werewolf in order to get revenge on specific people. In one story a man was courting two sisters, cheating on one with the other, but he wasn’t really interested in either and eventually he left them both. Shen they found out what he’d done they got together and swore revenge. In order to get their vengeance they studied magic until they were able to turn into wolves at which point they sought the man out and devoured him.


Cursed

The most famous type of werewolf are those who are cursed to become one. Such people might be cursed to become werewolves for a number of reasons. Some would inherit the magical belt that allowed them to become a werewolf, once they put it on, however, they wouldn’t be able to take it off for seven years and and would have to remain a wolf for that entire time. Other times the act of putting on the belt seems to have been an addition, for while some people seemed to dislike putting on the belt they couldn’t help but do so every once in a while. Finally there were some few people who were cursed to become werewolves by a jilted lover, angry rivel, or the devil/forest spirit. One girl in Japan, for example, began to act fox like and dangerous after being cursed by forest spirits for damaging a sacred tree. Oddly enough the only place I know of where the full moon factors regularly into such stories is Southern France. In “Le Folklore de France” Paul Sebillot says that;

The fountains are related to lycanthropy. Around 1820, a writer of Perigord reported a superstition that was common in this country and in neighboring provinces that some men, including the sons of priests, were forced every full moon to transform into werewolves. 

In this case the people don’t just transform into wolves, however. Instead when the power of the moon takes them they go running into one of the fountains of water, jump in and come out in their animal form until day time. Exactly how or why they are cursed to become werewolves isn’t said nor is it explained exactly how the sacred fountains are involved. These fountains, however, were home to the most important fairies and goddesses in France so there may in this sense be some connection between the often jealous fairies who were very much like nymphs and werewolves.



Shaman

At one time werewolves in Northern Europe were believed to be the enemies of witches and the servants of the devil. One old man told how he and an army of others would send their souls from their bodies in the form of wolves in order to fight the devil and evil spirits who were trying to blight people’s crops. Another picture depicts an old man with wolves claws fighting Baba Yaga, (the guardian of the underworld) which may mean that previously to the devil these wolves protected people from other underworldly beings. In another case a young man had seziers during a feast, after which he said how an invisible witch had entered the room so he’d sent his soul out in the form of a wolf in order to kill her.

Berserker’s and certain Celtic warriors were also said to be able to send their souls out of their bodies in the form of wolves or other animals in order to do battle.


Desperate

Starvation was the greatest villain in fairy tales. There are many stories of parents even eating their own children because of starvation, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that some desperate people would turn to darker powers in order to get food. In the form of a wolf a peasant could eat the cattle and sheep of the wealthy or steal other food. These people didn’t always seem to have complete control over themselves, however, and so would, at times, attack other people, even those they loved.


Born

There are some people who are born and raised as werewolves. In Ireland there is a story about a man who helps a young wolf. Later when this man gets lost in the forest he comes across a hut of people who turn out to be werewolves. They promise not to harm him, however, for while they normally would eat people in the forest it turns out that one of them was the wolf the man helped. In some ways I view these werewolves as a bit like the family of cannibles in “Texas Chainsaw Massacure.” They grow up in isolation, their culture built on the idea of eating people, while they develop their own twisted form of honor.



Further Notes on Werewolves

Sagen, märchen und gebräuche aus Meklenburg, Volumes 1-2

 A young woman whose husband was often absent unknown reasons, became suspicious that he was Werewolf. One day when they were working in the fields he left her again. Suddenly a wolf came out of the bushes, running toward her. It grabbed her red skirt and began ripping at it. She managed to drive it away with her pitchfork, however. Some time later her husband came out of the bushes and notices that he has pieces of her dress stuck between his teeth. 

This story about someone finding out that someone is a werewolf from the bits of cloth between their teeth is one of the most common stories about encounters with werewolves. Unfortunatlly as you’ll see most stories with werewolves are very, very short, and lack in any detail about the werewolves themselves.



Certain people may be by means of a folded belt, which is cut from the skin of a hanged man and is held together by a buckle with seven tongues transform into a wolf. Such wolves are black and the size of a calf. If someone can break this buckle the werewolf will turn back into a naked man
In Erichsburg the balif kept many old things which had been confiscated includingrifles taken from pochers. There was also a belt that was said to be able to turn a person into a wolf. Once the baliffs servant was wondering with another man if the belt could actually turn someone into a wolf. At last he decided to find out, he strapped the belt on and immediately turned into a wolf. In the form of a wolf he began chasing his friend. The ballif who had seen this got on his horse and chopped the belt buckle so that his servant stood before him once more.

During the seven years war seven men were stayin in a farmhouse with a farmer, his wife, and their child. During the night the woman noticed that one of the soldiers got up, put on a belt and turned into a wolf. He went to the cradle to devour the child, but having been suspicious the woman had put the sleeping child somewhere else where it would be safe. Eventually the werewolf gave up, took his belt off and went back to bed. Later when he and the soldiers where leaving she reminded him of that night. 

Several men were reaping the fields. When they were done they lay down to rest. Not far from them a horse was grazing. One of the men got up and by means of belt he turned into a wolf and fell on the horse devouring it. He then turned back into a man and layed down as if nothing had happened. One woman had seen everything, however. Later when the man awoke he complained of stomach pain, at which poin the woman told him that if she’d eaten a horse her stomach would hurt as well. 




Sagenschatz des Luxemburger Landes, gesammelt von N. Gredt. By N Gredt

One day a boy noticed that an Austrian soldier passing through his town was in fact a werewolf, so the boy stole his magical book. The Austrian tried to find out where the book was, but no one could tell him anything so he had to leave without it. The boy zealously read the book in order to lure the art of turning into a wolf. A few years later he would turn into a wolf and creep into people’s houses in order to steal their ham, butter, eggs, etc. 
At home he told a maid that if a wolf came at her she should throw her skirt at him and it would leave her alone. One day a large grey and red wolf came running at her and she throw her apron at him. The wolf fell on the apron. Later she noticed that the boy had a bit of this same apron in his mouth. When the boys mother found out about this she grew enraged and threw his book into the fire. 
After this the boy disappeared intoe the forest and wasn’t seen again in his village. There was talk from a neighboring castle that a Baron had started to loose many sheep to a wolf which couldn’t be killed as each bullet would fall harmlessly to the ground without hitting the animal. Finally  the Baron got a silver bullet which had been blessed. At last eh baron was able to shoot the wolf, which turned into an injured man who begged for his life. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cute Fairy Art

Cute pictures improve productivity, that has been scientifically proven. It's also likely that they increase happiness. In other words, while most art is meaningless, cute stuff does something to make our lives better and the world a better place.

This is my buffardello singing with a bird.

Having grown up in a Yupik village in Alaska with no roads for 200 miles I learned a very traditional style of art. Although I have since studied other forms of art I am still very inspired by this traditional way of drawing.






familiar Spirits - Witches and Fairies

No witch would be complete without a familiar spirit, for in ancient lore a witch was someone who a fairy had become attached to.

From Cinderella's helping spirits to Puss in Boots, familiar spirits are hidden throughout fairy tales and lore. In many ways they are the most important part of folk religion, as at one time the cunning folk (good witches) were more important to the spiritual life of people in rural England than even the priests.

The relationship between each witch and their familiar spirits is unique. One woman from the Amur river had children with a tiger spirit after which her own magical spirit children became her familiar spirit. Another man found a wife while on a spirit journey and she became his familiar spirit, while in Italy a girls familiar spirit was the soul of her dead uncle. In England and Germany, however, most familiar spirits are servants of the Queen of the fairies who can take human or animal form.


Gaining a Familiar Spirit

In lore, there were always some few who sought out the fairies in hopes of becoming a witch. In Russia, for example, there were some people who sought the goodwill of the unclean dead by offering them eggs (Russian Folk Belief). Yet, in most stories, these people are attacked by the spirits or grow so frightened when they encounter them that they flee. As a consequence their aren't very many records of people gaining power by seeking out the fairies, even though it was sometimes considered to be very easy to become a witch. One unique exception to this is the case of Ann Jefferies, a servant girl who did bold things that even boys were afraid to do. For example, she would go out into the wild;

"Turning up fern leaves, and looking into the bells of the foxglove to find a fairy, singing all the time. “‘Fairy fairy and fairy bright; Come and be my chosen sprite,”
 She never allowed a moonlight night to pass without going down into the valley, and walked against the stream, singing: ‘Moon shines bright, waters run clear, I am here, but where's my fairy dear?"

At first, the fairies ignored her, then one day, after she'd finished her chores for the morning in the household where she worked as a servant, and she was sitting in the garden, when six little men in green with “charming faces and bright eyes” came.
Anne's case is fairly rare; however, more commonly, a person inherits their relationship with the fairies from someone else (a mother, an uncle, etc.) or they are chosen by the fairies during a time of grief. As Purkiss puts it; "Fairies are the fantasies of the dispossessed. They do not come from wealth and privilege. They come from the deeps of misery. People whose lives are a perpetual struggle to survive suddenly faced with one burden too many..... A fairy story is a story about hitting rock bottom – in that sense a story about dying..."

So very often, the first encounter took place when the future witch lay dying or found herself in a time of desperation.

Saint Selvija from the village of Sveta in the vicinity of Demir Hisar offers an interesting example. Despite being married for ten years, Selvija was not able to give birth. According to her story, that period was “a great burden” for her... The story continues to state that because she was not able to have a child, her husband stopped loving her and started trying to force her to leave. She refused to do so as she had no other place to go. In the last four years of her “childless experience,” Selvija stopped eating everything, even bread. In this period of self-starvation, she often prayed to God to give her a child, vowing that she would be his servant. One day when, in an extremely weak and depressed condition, she sat down to rest, St. John appeared at her door and instructed her to go to a certain monastery where there was healing water that would make her healthy and able to have children: and finally, she had a girl... After having her children, Selvija became “weak” again until one day she fell into a coma. She was “like dead” for three days and three nights. That was the first time she visited both Heaven and Hell. After coming back, she started to heal and continued to heal until the end of her life.... (Petreska,2008)

In England, a starving man named John Webster was returning home from work with a heavy heart, for he couldn't think of a way to get food for his wife and children. That was when he met a fairy (who appeared as a woman dressed in fine clothes) who offered to help him escape his poverty. Meanwhile, Bessie Dunlop meets the fairy Tom Reid when she is starving to death and weak from having just given birth to a child, yet she still has to drive the cattle out into the field and home again by herself because her husband and child are even worse off than she is. Adding to all of this, one of her cows has just died, leaving her even more impoverished than she was before. As with most such stories, the fairy offers her comfort and aid so that she can get through her hard times (Wilby, 2006).
In the German fairytale, “Puss and Boots,” a boy’s father dies, leaving him so poverty stricken that he thinks his only recourse is to eat a cat and then starve to death, until the cat speaks to him and promises to make him rich (Jacob Grimm believed this cat to be a household fairy). In the story of “Godfather Death,” a poor man has no means to provide his son with a christening and so is desperately seeking any aid he can find when he encounters death, who offers to stand as godfather for his child (and who later aids his child in performing magical healing).
The miller’s daughter in “Rumpelstiltskin,” encounters the fairy Rumpelstiltskin when she has been locked away by her “fiancé” with the order that she weave straw into gold. At this time, she is between her father’s house and that of a potential husband, between being free and a prisoner, and it is then when the fairy appears to her. In “The Old Woman in the Wood,” everyone that a young girl is traveling with is murdered by bandits and, although she manages to escape, she is lost and soon finds herself starving. Sad at the loss of everyone she knows and so weary from starvation that she can't go on, she at last sits down to die. That is when a white bird comes with a magical key to a tree filled with food.


Into the Fairy Court


It was common during this first encounter for the relationship between fairies and witches to be formalized with their familiar spirit taking the witch to the fairy court to stand before the devil or the fairy queen. A witch named Isabell Haldane was taken when she was lying in her bed and carried to a hillside, which opened up for her to enter. She stayed there for twelve hours in the fairy court before being brought home again by a man with a gray beard.
Although Isabell says very little about her experience in the fairy court this first time, most people were given assignments to spread mischief or to help the poor as the kinder fairies were very often obsessed with helping those in need. Both these tasks were hard as helping the poor could mean fermenting a rebellion against the nobility. Such rebellions rarely ended well, as Joan of Arcs story shows. Even when a witch was asked to simply heal the sick and poor with magic they   but more commonly, it involved healing the sick and poor with magic the witches tended to live thereafter in poverty. After all, one doesn't become rich by serving the poor.

In the case of Alison, her brother returned from Egypt to find her on the verge of death, so he healed her and took her to Fairyland. There, he introduced her to witches and the Fairy Queen (Linton, 1883). In an odd take on this idea, a man named Andrew Man was promised power by his mother, then, some twenty-eight years later, the Fairy Queen came and killed all his cattle. “and it was then that their guilty, albeit poetic and loving intercourse, began.” From this time on, he also gained many powers (Linton, 1883).


The Life of a witch

Since witches are very rarely in control of their own lives, how they live depends largely on the fairies which they end up serving and as I stated at the beginning of this article their are a near infinite number of relationships a person can have with the fairies. Some familiar spirits view their witch as a slave others as a pet, a lover, a sibling, a friend, a partner, and more. One thing is clear, however. If you want to tell the story of a traditional witch, you should perhaps begin by figuring out the personality of the familiar spirit they serve, for their life depends on this.

Monday, June 1, 2015


There are millions of fairy tales so writers haven't even begun to scatch the surface of all the posabilities. This book helps you explore the most interesting characters in fairy tales, those of fairies, witches, and vampires.
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A book on the history and transformation of folk religion and human belief in fairies. Explaining such things as Europes forgotten Shamanistic traditions,  and the evolution of our relationship with the fairy world.

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