Thursday, December 19, 2019

Frozen 2 & The Fairy Mythology

Frozen 2 poster.jpg
Frozen 2 gets a shocking amount about lore right, or at least proximal to right.

If you haven't seen the film than be warned, there are potential

Spoilers Ahead.

Frozen 2 nailed the idea that tutelary beings (spirit owners and protectors of the land) will at times become poltergeist like when they see violence. In Iceland the spirits that dwell within a cluster of rocks become dangerous when the see a man get murdered, such that no one can safely go near those rocks. Fairies/nature spirits are extremely sensitive, and prone to changing into wild beings when they become upset. Some of them even go so far as to change shape when they grow angry. Building a home or bridge on the property of these spirits, especially without a sacrifice to them, could also lead them to become destructive. They were after all the original owners of the land, and disliked having their homes disrupted. 

One aspect of the lore of land spirits that Frozen 2 doesn't touch on is the notion that the spirits of the land often depended on humanity for their very survival and so often wanted people to build certain things on their land. For example, the hulde of Aurland attacked any building people tried to build on a hill, pulling the buildings down and tormenting animals and people in them. However, they did allow people to grow hay on these hills, as the fairies needed hay for their own cattle, and milk from human cattle (Flom, 1949). There are similar reasons for nature spirits to have been pro mill, dam, and the like. This isn't to say that they always wanted these thing constructed. Though they usually did something about construction or gave some sign during the construction if it upset them. There are many stories of people trying to build buildings, only to realize that they needed to build these buildings elsewhere, because the fairies kept stopping the construction by moving the stones, breaking the equipment, etc. There were, of course, people who didn't take the hint, and typically these people and their families were very specifically punished. Of course, fairies might also choose to haunt the house after this instead. 

Another interesting piece fairy lore that Frozen 2 got right-ish, was the notion that one could calm wild spirits by defeating them. Fairies, spirits, Japanese kami, and more were in essence tamable beings. People often tamed them through veneration and celebration, but sometimes heroes needed to step in and defeat them so that they could calm down. Of course, overcoming the spirits, giants, and other beings of lore rarely changed them as quickly as "Frozen 2" depicted, but it was still nice to see this idea on screen. Some of the only other times I've seen it depicted was in "Moana" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" 

Salamanders and Water Spirits
As with Frozen 2, in European lore one of the most common forms for water spirits to take is that of a horse. The horse in general seemed to symbolize the deities of the water. Poseidon in Greek Lore was god of the ocean and horses, for example. In Japanese lore the water kappa were connected with horses as well. Ishida Eiichiro drew parallels between the kappa and the water deities throughout Eurasia, specifically discussing the fact that water deities have a tendency to be connected with horses and afraid of iron. 

Less commonly attested to is the notion of salamander. There was an idea repeatedly presented that there were magical lizard/salamander like beings who could magically put out fires, came from fires, or were the product of fire. 

Wind was an interesting character in Germanic and Nordic fairy tales, but it was also one that is hard to pin down, because it appeared with different personalities in different fairy tales. In one story the wind keeps stealing a man's lunch and so the man goes off to confront it. As it turns out, the wind was mischievous, and generally unaware in the way a child might be, so the wind felt guilty when it realized it had been hurting the man. In other tales the wind would act like a crotchety old man, yet one with romantic notions of love, for it would help women seeking those they loved. 

I discuss the trolls from Frozen 1 who make another appearance in Frozen 2. One additional aspect of their nature I should mention, however, is that even Odin, god of wisdom, often sought the fortune telling powers of land spirits and shamanesses. 


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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas and Household Goddesses

Article by Ty Hulse
The woman's face is filled with an ancient beauty, like the grandmother you love and the stern school teacher your fear, all rolled into one. She lifts her pillow high over head and shakes it from the mountain top. A gentle snow flies from that pillow, falling and swirling onto the villages below. She is Holda, and tonight she will fly through that fall snow, an army of phantams and witches in tow. She will check on the spinning and cleaning of each girl, Those who have finished their work will be given gifts, and those who haven't will be punished. For Holda is the Goddess of domestic work and the spirits of the dead. A goddess that is found again and again, across Eurasia, from the far North of Asia to the hills of France. In Europe these witch/goddess figures would give gifts near Christmas. In Italy Befana will come on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) filling children's socks with candy. Befana appears as a classic witch old, long nosed, and riding a broom.

File:Das festliche Jahr img021 Frau Holle (Perchta).jpg
Holda Leading the Wild Hunt

Befana's legend specifically refers to her as the best house keeper in her village (when she was human), and was too busy with her house work to join the magi on thier journey to find the baby Jesus. There are other stories about her origin (also Christian in nature), yet I want to focus on the concept of housekeeping because it is such a common theme for many of the most important goddesses.

First it's important to note that household industries, especially spinning and weaving which Perchta, Bertha, Holda, Gyre Carling (in Scotland) and many more focus on is an important part of any economy. Leigh Minturn (1996) states that;

"Cloth has been an important trade item in a number of societies from ancient times to the present. Therefore, women spinners and weavers made significant contributions to the labor force and economies of many societies, which have often been unrecognized."

The women of the Middle Ages were the ones who turned goods into useful products. They made milk into butter, grain into flour, flour into bread, barley into ale, wool and flax into yard, and these into clothes. In general this meant that many of the magical traditions in Ireland, for example, were passed along from mother to daughter, to insure that these processes worked as they were supposed to. Failing to carry out this work meant that a family would starve. People's lives hung in the balance with regards to these choirs. Thus it made sense for one of the most important goddesses, and at times the most important goddess, to be concerned with them. This was true among Hunter-Gatherer and Pastoral Societies as well.

Consider the Selkup goddess Ilinta Kota, also known as "Living Old Woman." She is the patroness of all living beings in Middle World (Earth).  She dwells in a heavenly home and plucks duck feathers which turn into ducks for Selkup hunters. She also cares for the souls of the unborn childen in a huge iron house or in the cave under a seven rooted tree. Yet in addition she provides cedar for the coffin of the dead, for she is also a goddess of death, as well as birth. She is also the one who watches over the upbringing of young girls until they are married. 

In the book "Selkup Mythology" it is stated of her that: "her residence is located underground; a “hole” in the forest is the entrance to it, and a “filthy road” leads to the hole. The wife of the son of God had to go on this road in order to bring food (a sacrifice) to her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law awards the hard-working and hospitable woman with a bucket and scraper, gall for tanning skins and sinew threads – a distinctive initiation of a young mistress"

So in the figure of Ilinta Kota we have the goddess who is the mother of the primary deities, both the good and the evil one, and who is the goddess of birth, death, and of household choirs, who lives both in the heavens and underground. This in turn is similar to the figures of Holda, Bertha, Perchta who live at times underground and in the heaven. Travel with the spirits of children yet to be born and those dead, and of course reward those who work hard at cottage industries and punish those who don't. T

Baba Yaga, the Russian hag in fairy tales will reward those who work hard, that is those who visit her, often taking liminal paths simialr to the one people took to reach Ilinta Kota. Baba Yaga is often interprited as living on the edge of the land of the dead. A hard worker would be rewarded by her, while those who were lazy would be punished, often in horrible fashion. Baba Yaga had other features, dangerous features, but that is often the nature of deities. She would kidnap children in stories, but so would Hermes. She would bring suffering to people, but so would Zeus. Deities and shamanistic figures are complex, often seemingly amoral. Of course, Baba Yaga doesn't have as much to do with Christmas as her Central European neighbors, but like them she also has connections with the idea of the tooth fairy. 

None of this is to say that these were all the same goddess. People of the past had multiple religions and cultures, that could influence each other, but still maintain differences. Further, weaving was extremely important to many people, so it would make sense for every culture to have a goddess of this. In Greek lore, the patron of Athens, Athena is the weaving goddess, and she has little in common with the other household goddesses other then that she was extremely important to the people who believed in her. So while we often forget that people's survival was dependent on cottage industries that women oversaw, the people of the past didn't. Thus their  most important goddess oversaw such industry as Athena Holda, Baba Yaga, and Illinta Kota did. What's more, in Central Europe this goddess would take on the role of Holiday Gift Giver.  

It is interesting to note here that the household spirits who brings gifts to people on Christmas in Scandinavia are male fairies/ancestral spirits who protect each house and oversee/help with the choirs. In other words, sometimes the domestic deity could take the form of a male, but in Western Europe, they still brought presents to people. 

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The Economic Importance and Technological Complexity of Hand-Spinning and Hand-WeavingLeigh MinturnFirst Published November 1, 1996




Monday, December 9, 2019

Bestiary- Malign Spirits

Scroll to the bottom to see the quest and malign spirit for your game.

By Ty Hulse
Disease, depression, poverty, were all believed to be spirits or demons that could be threatened, persuaded, or fought. This idea is especially seen in the magic charms which were used to deal with illness in Europe's past. Grendon (1909) states of Saxon charms to deal with disease that ;

"the attempt is made to expel mischief-working demons by flattery, threat, command, or even by nauseation and physical violence, the patient's body serving as the spirit's proxy in the last two methods of treatment. In the bee charm, the evil spirits possessing the swarming insects are coaxingly addressed as sigewif ("victory-dames"), a title of honor belong ing to the Valkyries. Whether experience had taught that a soft answer turneth away the wrath even of demons, or whether the belief that a demon might be conciliated by fawning had become deeply rooted, it is certain that the coaxing treatment was applied by sorcerers, and has indeed not been entirely abandoned by professional witches, thaumaturgists, and necromancers, even at the present day. When the exorcist believed himself powerful enough to cope with the hostile spirit or conjurer, he abandoned flattery' and resorted to threats."

Romanian charms emphasized a connection between najit, demon figures eventually associated with the devil, and the diseases which infect human beings. 

The Balkans had chants in which the healer would attempt to banish the evil spirits to the earth or distant and lonely lands. The healer Baba Vuka would use the following chant to cure Jaundice; "Yellow, yellow, pass out of Radisav and disappear. Disappear into the earth! Disappear under a stone! You have no place here!" (Bennett and Karras)

A Slavonian Charm to banish disease goes as follows; "Be you male or female scrofula, go you out of this man to the mountains, from the mountains to the green forest, cook without fire or water, eat without desire, shit without an ass, you, scrofula, piss up my ass. go out, go out!" (Conrad, 1990_
The person performing this charm uses forbidden words in a sacred ritual, at the end of which they call on the trinity which Conrad states "is another means of increasing the afflicted's confidence in her."

While Finland often summoned one spirit to deal with another as seen by the following chant; "Short maiden, Tuoni's girl, take from the teeth this 'cur,' this Lempo from the jaws; press down thy maladies, force down thine injuries, fling down thy filthiness into an iron baking-pan, at the end of Piru's tongs, ’mong Hiisi's coals, in the fire of the evil power. Thou'lt frizzle, Tuoni's grub, thou’lt simmer, worm of earth, thy head will be badly scorched, thy despicable tongue will swell in the iron baking-pan, at the end of Piru's tongs, ’mong Hiisi's coals, in the fire of the evil power."

Tuoni, in this charm, is the lord of the underworld and the dead in Finnish mythology, and so this poem asks Tuoni's girl, likely his daughter, to take the Lempo from his jaws. Lempo being another term for demon. Obviously, as time when on most charms and chants call on Christian figures for aid, but the general notion was the same. People asked to destroy the malady that was causing them trouble. 

I've also seen efforts to defeat problems with depression in ritualistic ways, with the idea being that depression was an actual spirit which could be chased off. Indeed, nearly anything could be thought of as having a spirit that caused it. Why doesn't butter churn properly? Fairies. Why is it that you're poor? A spirit of poverty, who often appears as an old man. 

This idea offers an interesting notion for both fantasy writers and game masters. After all, characters could encounter such beings. What would your character say if it met the spirit of poverty? Or perhaps one of the characters could be a witch/cunning folk whose job it is to deal with the spirits of poverty, disease, and sadness. There are stories, after all, of people wrestling with the spirits that cause disease in the herd animals, or who have to drive away the disease of an epidemic. In the last case the spirit of small pox was so powerful she often killed many of those fighting her, and even armies of shamans couldn't necessarily defeat her.

What's important to keep in mind is that certain people are essentially gifted with the ability to see the malign spirits. This 'gift' comes from spirits that seek to help humanity and so allow some people the ability to see the things that ail humanity. This could be similar to a Magic Girl story, in which the character has a familiar that aids them. It could also simply be a psychic gift that they have. Whether they appreciate this gift or not would be up to you.


In 5th Edition and Pathfinder
The ability to see the malign spirits wouldn't be a class ability, skill, or feat, but a gift given to certain adventurers, perhaps only temporarily, to help them see the malign spirits. This could be done as part of a quest in which a cunning folk or kindly fairy gives the PCs the ability to deal with the spirits that are attacking a town. Although one could come up with a specific way this worked, in lore it was often simply an ability that certain fairy like creatures and deities had.

Quest Idea
A goblin shaman spotted a pride of Red Cat Fever spirits, making their way along a human road. Realizing whatever village they entered would be easy pickings for him and his fellows, he followed them to a human village, than ran to get the rest of his goblin band. As the disease spread among the people of the village, the goblins crept into town, searching out the homes of the sick, and moving into these. For now, most of the people of the village have so much to worry about they haven't noticed the goblins flitting from house to house, taking up residence in some, and simply looting the others. 
The PCs will be hired by a fey/fairy to drive away the Red Cat Fever. The goblins, however, may come as a surprise. While in town the PCs will have to deal with goblins hiding in people's homes, the Red Cat Fever Spirits, and people who attack them because the fever has taken hold.


Red Cat Fever Spirits
Red Cat Fevers are born from the bitterness of those who died in poverty. They aren't entirely undead, however, as they are a manifestation of emotions, rather than the soul of the individual. As with many such bitter spirits they seek to harm those who are poor as they were. They stalk the world in small prides, searching through villages of people for those who are weak from lack of food, or exhasted from work. The Red Cat Fevers may stalk a village for days or weeks before striking their first target. Once they do, they move quickly from target to target, until they have each caused a person to become sick. 

Appearance 
The Red Cat Fever appears as a tiny red lion, with a flat face, almost like theirs was smashed in, and jagged teeth that almost appear like broken glass. 


Persuade and Intimidation
One can persuade a Red Cat Fever to remove their curse from a target by offering them butter, which they love but can only eat if it is given to them by a mortal being. 
The Persuasion DC is 15.

One can intimidate the Red Cat Fever by calling on the spirits of the underworld, for they are afraid of entering there. 
The intimidation DC is 15


Tiny Malign Spirit, chaotic evil
Armor Class 13
Hit Points 22 (5d8)
Speed 40 ft.

STR     DEX     CON        INT         WIS          CHA
5 (-3)   16 (+3)  11 (+0)   10 (+0)    10 (+0)    11 (+0) 

Damage Resistances acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained, unconscious
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages common, fiendish
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Invisibility: The Red Cat Fever is invisible to most people, except those who have been blessed with the ability to see it, can see invisible creatures normally, or that it has chosen to attack. In order to attack someone the Red Cat Fever must make themselves visible to their target for 1 round before attacking. While visible the Red Cat Fever can remain hidden using Stealth, or as per it's favored tactic, simply attack those who are sleeping with the help of their pride.

Cling to target: The Red Cat Fever can make themselves weigh nothing, allowing them to ride on people undetected, in order to sneak into people's homes. The target of this ability might feel an unexplainable prick of pain as the Red Cat Fever grabs them with a spiritual claw.

Actions:
Life Drain. Melee Spell Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: (3d6) necrotic damage.


Disease Bred: The cat feeds off the spirit energy of those suffering the Red Cat Fever's Curse. If the target of this curse fails their first saving throw after 5 days, the Red Cat Fever gives birth to a new Red Cat Fever. This malign spirit is born at full strength. If a target dies of the fever, the Red Cat Fever gives birth to a second Red Cat Fever. 
The Cat cannot move further than 50 ft. from the target while the disease runs it's course, or the target begins to recover in 2-3 days. 

Red Cat Fever's Curse: If the Red Cat Fever reduces a target to 0 hit points, they can instead choose to deal no damage. The target then suffers red cat fever and forgets their encounter with the Cat. After about 1-3 days the target gains one level of exhaustion and a rash that causes them to suffer a -2 to wisdom, charisma, and intelligence checks. After an additional 1-3 days the target begins to act erratically. They attack things that aren't there, weep, laugh, and scream randomly. There is a 1 in 6 chance that they will attack any person they encounter.
The target gains a Con Save DC 12 after having the Red Cat's Fever for 5 days. If they succeed they loose the erratic behavior after their next long rest. The exhaustion and rash disappear after 3 more long rests.
If they fail they gain 1 more level of exhaustion and become even more erratic. They have a 1 in 4 chance of attacking anyone they meet.
The Red Cat Fever can only have one target cursed at a time. 
After 3 more days the target gains another con saving throw. If they succeed they loose one level of exhaustion every 3 days and become less erratic after they take a long rest.
If they fail a third time the target will die within 24 hours. 





References

Conrad, J. (1987). Bulgarian Magic Charms: Ritual, Form, and Content. The Slavic and East European Journal, 31(4), 548-562. doi:10.2307/307051
Grendon, F. (1909). The Anglo-Saxon Charms. The Journal of American Folklore, 22(84), 105-237. doi:10.2307/534353
Slovene Studies 1211 (1990) 55-66. , SLOVENE ORAL INCANTATIONS: TOPICS, TEXTS, AND RITUALS Joseph L. Conrad
The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europeedited by Judith M. Bennett, Ruth Mazo Karras

The Power of Words: Studies on Charms and Charming in Europeedited by James Alexander Kapal¢, ?va P¢cs, William Francis Ryan
Magic Songs of the West Finns, Vol. II, by John Abercromby, [1898]

Friday, December 6, 2019

Festivals and Holidays for Fantasy Writers


Article by Ty Hulse
Something we often forget in the modern era is that most festivals of the past were built around the belief that spirits and deities were physically present at the celebration. Halloween, Easter, and Christmas were times when spirits both good and bad were unleashed upon the world.

Given this there are two important aspects to many holidays in a fantasy world;

1-Holidays and festivals are built around the desires of spirits, fairies, and deities. What people do during them depends on the personality of these beings. What's more the spirits want humans to celebrate and have fun on these holidays. Indeed, they'll punish those who work on them, who don't eat, drink and make merry as it were. They also punish those who force their workers to work these holidays.

2-Historically many holidays were both a celebration and a way to deal with the fact that so many potentially dangerous creatures were roaming the land. So they were a happy and scary time. People would leave offerings for the spirits to keep them calm, would travel in masks either to pacify them or scare them away, or sometimes would avoid going out all together.

Tschäggättä Festival in Switzerland, a sort of reverse haunted house
in which the monsters visit you. 

Types of Celebration

Although there are many different aspects to folk religious holidays I'm outlining some of the most common;

Dead come home or roam the world.
There was a typical belief that the spirits of the dead would return to the land of the living, often on multiple holidays of the year. During this time they would be provided with many of the comforts any living traveler would be given, such as warm beds, food, drink, etc.

These spirits of the dead could bring blessings to their loved ones, but they could also be dangerous, especially if not provided for. Many of them would also take part in "wild hunts." Lead by deities they would roam the countryside, hunting either for human victims or souls of evil spirits, depending on whether they were good or bad.

In some places there were very specific notions about these spirits, such as that the female fairies didn't want to be seen by men, so on certain holidays men would all stay in doors. In other places clean water was left out so that they could wash their children, or food was left on roof tops so that they could there, rather then coming into the house.



Feast
Feasts are an important part of fairy lore, as it was often believed that the spirits would share in feasts with the celebrating people. Often portions of sacrificed animals would be put out for the spirits to feast on, or placed into fires so that fire spirits could carry these away. Oatmeal, vodka, or other items might also be poured into the water for the spirits within.

What's important to understand, however, is that in most of these cases it was believed that the spirits wanted to take part in the feasts of humans, wanted to be a part of the community, even if they were invisible or hidden in some way. Though there are tales of them taking a much more direct part in such feasts, in which people actually saw and spoke with them at the tables where they ate.


Topsy Turvy
The spirit world is a topsy turvy place, and the celebrations and holidays are often meant to be an equally topsy tuvey time, when serfs and slaves could tell their masters anything without repercussions. When many of the rules of morality went out the window. When men dressed as women and women as men. Twisting social conventions is an important part of many holidays. Often this was because it was believed that the world of the dead was the mirror opposite of the human world. In Rome the topsy turvy celebration was to remember a better time, before Jupiter had taken over, while in other places it was to honor freedom loving spirits.

In the province of South Tyrol, Northern Italy, there remains a chaotic, 
topsy turvey festival, filled with remnants of gender bending shamanism, 
I have a short discussion of this festival here.


Performances
Dances, plays, parades, and other performances were put on in honor of the visiting spirits and gods. In one Japanese festival a play was put on to honor Susanoo's battle to save their village from fire breathing dragons. In Greece plays and the Olympics were also ways of honoring the gods.

In some places people would dance with a scarecrow like figure, or bundles of sticks which they believed the spirit had possessed.


Trick-or-Treating
Mummering, or as we now call it "Trick Or Treating" was a part of many holidays, in many different places, though it's purpose could vary from place to place. Some times it was very much like caroling, in which the mummers would put on performances, singing, dancing, even plays would be done for the people of the home, and presumably at one time even the spirits who were visiting.

Other times the mummers would seek to scare away the spirits, for example, in Mari-El the men would go about dressed in animal costumes beating walls, fences, steps and women's clothing with switches in order to chase away evil spirits. While still other times the mummers would placate the spirits by dressing to honor them. The Mummers might also have been taking advantage of the fact that spirits demanded generosity, by begging from door to door.



Gift Giving/Luck Bringing
There were historically many gift givers and luck bringers, from animal spirits, to fairies who left money in shoes, to beings who promised to make a home wealthy and prosperous during the year., or house spirits who would give gifts to the children. The exact nature of these gift givers was highly variable from place to place and holiday. So have fun with the idea of gift givers. Think of many beautiful, or odd creatures that could bring gifts and luck to people during the holidays. 


Divination
Celebrations often involved numerous forms of divinations. Coins might be placed in the bottom of food, with those getting them being promised the best year. Around Christmas Russia girls would stand with their backs facing the bath house and their dresses pulled up over their heads. The spirit of the bathhouse would then either pinch or pat their bottoms, which would let them know if they would have good or bad luck through the next year. Others would dance in front of mirrors on Christmas in order to see the face of their future husbands, or bury something at the crossroads. Indeed there are so many ways of gaining divination from active spirits during the holidays that it would be impossible to fit all of them into a book.  


More Holidays then the modern era
There were no Saturdays off, or vacation days. Instead people often made up for this by having a dizzying array of holidays and ceremonies, some of which lasted for some time. The Twelve Days of Christmas, for example, was a real thing.



Examples of Celebrations

Kueca - Mari-El

A spring holiday which involves multiple days of celebration.

The first day involves preparing food and brewing beer as offerings to the spirits of the dead. Then people go to the bathhouses to bathe. When they are finished they leave food and everything the spirits need to bathe in the bathhouse so that they may bathe the next day.

The next day when the dead come out to the land of the living in order to bathe people may see them by sitting on the roof with their clothes inside out. On this day no one is allowed to work with their hands. They kick fodder for the animals with their feet, they don't light the oven, they don't even comb their hair. One of the few things they can do with their hands is place a spoon in the window for each family member, should one of these spoons fall, the person it represents will die within a year.

The food which was prepared beforehand is placed out in the home for the dead to share in with the family. The offerings for the dead and the deities which rule over them consist of; pancakes, bread, pies, eggs, etc. Just before the feast begins the people say prayers to their visiting 'guests,' aka, the spirits of the dead.

The next day a Juniper tree is brought into the home and lit on fire. The people then jump over this flame while asking the spirit of the fire (fire mother) to cleanse them of evil. More food is eaten in another feast of rooster, fish soup, bread, colored eggs. before which more prayers are said to the dead. Once more the spirits might take part in this.

Then the next day people go to the bath houses and bath with the spirits of the dead, while placing candles out for the lords of the underworld.

Finally on the last day they celebrate as a village, and the priests go from bath house to bath house saying prayers and throwing beer in the hearths.


Christmas - Austrian Alpine Villages

At Christmas time a goddess named Perchta, either appearing as a lady in white or a horrifying hag with an iron nose (two forms depending on her mood and purpose) would come, leading an army of the spirits of dead children (and in some places living children whose souls had left their bodies in their dreams). People would leave them food, and her gifts that were white (salt, eggs, flour, etc.).

People would also be expected to clean their homes and finish their spinning before Christmas, for Perchta would punish disorder and laziness, sometimes with an insane degree of ferocity, as one of her nicknames was "The Belly Slitter."

Though she was also generous to those who had been good. For girls who completed their tasks would get silver pennies, and villages would get blessings. In addition, children might get rewards for clean homes.

Equally important was her demand that people feast on Christmas, that they have fun, for those who did not could be subject to punishment as well. Servants, master, no matter their place in society they all feasted together in her honor.

Before Christmas day, young men of the village would dress up as both the beautiful and hideous. They would rush about the versions of her. They would rush about the village shouting for joy, ringing bells, and cracking whips, as a way of honoring her and celebrating the festival.

Perchta was also believed at times to hunt down evil spirits, with the spirits of the children in the form of dogs, goats, or fairy like beings they would search out evil vampire like beings, as well as other dark influences in the village.



Kusa - Mari-El (Summer Festival)

A sacrifice to the important deities in a sacred grove, this begins when the priests from multiple villages will at times meat to discus which gods should receive sacrifices for this ceremony, and which animals should be sacrificed to them, and which priest should do what for the ceremony. Money is then collected form the households to buy the animals for the sacrifices.

Animals are then chosen and cloth is tied around their neck, and the priest prays that the animal be acceptable to the deity it is meant for.

The priests assistants bake bread, pure maidens prepare mead, and evil spirits are exorsized from the village.

The morning of the ceremony the priests go into the grove, as the whole ceremony takes a week they will sleep in this grove, in a small hut built for them. Fires are kept burning the entire time.

A log is palced up by the sacrifice tree, with a candle wedged in a crack in the top. Fresh linden twigs are spread out and a white cloth is placed over these. Then the loaves of bread, along with bowls of mead are placed on these. Usually eight small loaves and one large one, though the number can vary. These are for the spirits that are in the grove.

The other villagers bathe outside the sacred grove in a brook, or in water warmed in pots near the grove. They also wash white clothes and drink tea while waiting for these to dry. When they are ready they change into them and enter the grove.

The sacrificial animal is tied to a long pole about ten feet from the fire. The priest holds an ax over a bowl of water and prays to the deity. An assistant pours molten pewter onto the ax plade which runs intot he bowl of water, and the priest observes how it solidifies to see if the diety is pleased with thanimal.

The priest appraoches the animal with a fire brand, and the assistant follows strking an knife against the ax three times.

The priest then touches the animal with the firebrand on the head, neck, and back.The priest takes the knife, goes to the tree and prays once more to the deiiy to accept the sacrifice.

He then circles the fire clockwise goes to the animal and prays again to the deity, all those present kneel and watch the animal. Water is poured over the animal until it shudders. When it at last does people rise to their feet thanking the deity. The feet of the animal are bound and it is laid on its side, head towards the tree, The animals throat is slit and the priest catches a few drops of the blood on a wooden spoon which is taken to the fire. Spoonfull after spoonful of the blood is taken to the fire. The animal is dressed out. Some of the animal is cooked for the diety and some for the people. While people wayt for the three or four hours for the feast they go outside the grove (except the priests who stay to do the work).

The people are called back into the grove, and they give offerings to pay for the ceremony (poor give less, rich more).

The priest then prays for blessings. He then speaks to the people, asking them to live good lives. Meat is thrown into the fire for the deity and everyone sits in a ciricle. First they eat porridge and mead, then the meat is distributed to them.

The priests will then stay behind to make further sacrifices over the course of the next few days under different trees for different deities.


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A half hour documentary on Japanese festivals. Discussing their purpose, history
and relation t the deities and magical world.

Witches and Vampires

The below are pieces of my treatise "Dark Shamanism" from by book "A Writer's Guide to Spirit Journey's, Fairies, and Witches."


Article by Ty Hulse

Dark Shamanism and the Cannibal Spirit Journey

Cannibalism and the consumption of blood have been associated with shamanism all over the world. This isn’t to say that even the majority of shamanistic traditions include such ideas, rather, it’s to point out they are common enough to show up in traditions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. One of the foremost experts on witch mythology and folk religion, Emma Wilby points out that indigenous cultures often associated shamanism with cannibalism. She goes on to quote Ste’panoff’s encounter with Tuvans shaman’s that would proudly clam to have eaten several people himself, yet not enough to be a “great shaman.” Further:

It has long been recognized that psychophysical compulsion is a feature of most shamanistic traditions, typically emerging in the context of possession and initiation (in the latter case, acceptance of the shamanic vocation often being likened to profound surrender to an overwhelming force). Anthropologists studying dark shamanic traditions have noted that similarly compulsive urges underpin the shaman’s need to journey in subtle body to hunt down and consume human flesh. In this respect, with regard to his random killing sprees at least, the shaman is believed to be fundamentally innocent of the murders he commits.

….
Keep in mind that despite the danger posed by such shamans they were often tolerated within their communities, for their devouring of life gives them the power to help their community and protect it from the greater dangers of other shamans or human eating spirit sand deities. In order to do this latter job the shaman would need to befriend these cannibalistic spirits in order to steer them in specific directions. Further, such dark shamans would often leave their villages and only devour the enemies of their people, at least until they died at which point their spirit might no longer be able to tell friend from foe. Again, Wilby quotes Ste’panoff that:

In Siberia, shamans’ cannibal practices are not seen as a bad habit of a particular category of ‘‘evil’’ or ‘‘black’’ shamans, or as a lapse contradicting their benevolent mission of healing. Rather, it looks like an inevitable expression of what makes them shamans. Humans are just one of the numerous objects of their appetite, besides hostile spirits and simple presents of meat and alcohol . . . the shaman’s body is from birth (as opposed to by will) an active channel, and that is why, traditionally, ‘‘devouring’’ is not precisely understood as a ‘‘bad action’’ from an ethical point of view.

In this context, even when a shaman is lynched or ostracized the process may be strangely devoid of blame, with Ste´panoff, noting that in Siberia, ‘‘Cannibal shamans are killed or abandoned in order to preserve lay people rather than as a kind of punishment.’’ From this perspective, dark shamanistic traditions are sustained by the profound fatalism that thrives in any preindustrial culture required to endure a high incidence of sickness and death.

Ste’panoff’s and Wilby’s observation is that societies that had to endure a high incidence of death and fear of their own destruction almost all developed dark shamanism is likely true. After all, the peoples of Siberia, South America, and South East Asia all suffered conquest by foreign armies and rampant plagues before anthropologists began recording their religious beliefs. It shouldn’t be surprising than that stories of shamanism in Europe cropped up during the darkest days of the medieval eras. In Chipley Lavicek’s book “The Black Death,” he quotes a writer who lived through the plague;

In many places in Siena great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead. And they died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in those ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura, called the Fat, buried my five children with my own hands. And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with ear that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city. There was no one who wept for any dead, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.

Such a world produced fatalistic notions related to magic and witchcraft. Eramus as quoted by Niehoff (1966) stated that:

Life, in a sense, is cheaper among many of the underprivileged people of the world because they have a much higher expectation of death than we do. If no one is to be blamed or made the scapegoat for illness and death, as is the case in areas where witchcraft is greatly feared, fatalism will probably be common.

Witch hunts can be a survival mechanism by communities who feel powerless. Yet, it’s interesting to note that the most famous witch hunts in history didn’t occur during horrific plagues or other massive tragic events, but after them. The greatest growth Europe had experienced in over five hundred years occurred between 1400 and 1500, the very time when witch hunts began to rise and the “Malleus Maleficarum”, the  manual of witch persecutions was written. These events occurred a hundred years after the Black Death and after much of the violence of the medieval era had petered off (thus the reason for the explosion in population).  McGowan (1994) similarly points out that Rome’s witch hunt against Christians occurred during what was generally “a rather stable and successful period, that of the Antonine emperors.” During this time of relative stability, the Roman’s began accusing the Christians of learning to heal sickness using human blood, and of holding wild celebrations with orgies in the presence of donkey headed spirits, during which they would drink blood and eat human flesh. One can’t help but notice the similarity between such tales and stories of later witch’s sabots. This similarity exists because the idea that there were cannibalistic and dark witch figures is an ancient one in Europe. Christian’s likely didn’t engage in these activities any more than the people burned as witches did in later times. What’s important to take from this is that during times of relative instability and suffering people started to believe that members of their community were engaged in dark shamanism, but they accepted this because they believed that these ‘wicked witches’ were necessary for their survival.

Again Wilby’s article states that

Kieckhefer notes that in central Italian trials from the fifteenth-century women accused of being bloodsucking witches were ‘‘regularly if perhaps not professionally engaged in the mediation of supernatural powers’’—mediations that could include love magic, assault sorcery, and healing.

As Briggs has argued, ‘‘the relative acceptance of witches who doubled as healers must be one partial explanation for the reluctance of families and individuals to press home what were effectively murder charges.’’ For some, the witch’s protective abilities may have been seen as a communal asset worth tolerating…
…. 
Magic has long been associated with death and cannibalism in Europe. According to Richard Sugg, in 25 A.D. an epileptic patient might drink blood from a wounded and dying gladiator. “He and other suffers, we are told, were wont to drink from gladiators’ bodies.” Sugg’s book also points out that this history of drinking blood for its magical properties lasted into the modern era. “In Germany and Denmark, poorer citizens paid whatever they could afford to drink human blood at execution scaffolds. “Skulls too were powdered as a medicine, and these skulls needed to come from people who died a violent death. Such procedures weren’t performed in back allies, but by the permanent doctors and chemists of the early modern and even Victorian eras.”

The idea of deaths association with power goes back even further, certainly the Celts seem to have sacrificed people in order to obtain victory in war. Dr Horton in an interview with The Independent states that; the evidence for cannibalism (among British Celtic sacrificial victims) is irrefutable.” Interestingly enough the remains of these eaten sacrifices are mixed with the remains of dogs, who are grim reaper figures in Celtic tradition, leading people as they do to the land of the dead. It shouldn’t be surprising then that later witch Sabbaths often included dogs in Britain or that these were the most common familiars of witches.

Iping-Petterson (2011) stated that violence was believed to create an energy by people performing sacrifices. Violence and torture were often part of sacrificial rituals. Such violence was community sanctioned because it benefited the community as a whole. It was believed that victory against enemies, safe buildings, and abatement of disease couldn’t be obtained without such violence.

Blood especially was believed to have magical properties. Matteoni (2009) points out that;

the witch was likened to a supernatural creature, the vampire, and was considered a bloodsucker… According to the Italian philosopher of the Renaissance, Marsilio Ficino, human blood naturally attracted human blood. The old women, called witches, were believed to drink the children’s blood to have their youth back... Blood was, then, considered as a remedy for old age and decay…


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