The Golem of Prague

You may be familiar with Golems from other parts of folklore. If you are not, golems originate in Jewish folklore is a being animated by humans created from entirely inanimate matter, typically clay. The figure is brought to life by magic and bound to its creator to mindlessly fulfill their whims. This brings us to a peculiar entry into the golem mythos, the Golem of Prague.

Source Source Source

The story begins with Rabbi Judah Loew, who was a rabbi under the reign of Rudolf II. He decided to create a golem, despite its potential dangers, to help protect the Jewish people of Prague who were being continually attacked.

The golem Rabbi Loew created was from mud gathered on the banks of the Vltava River. Rabbi Loew made the creature monstrously huge, ensuring it would a great protector from the dangers that lurked in dark alleyways and preyed on unsuspecting people. Some reports say it was between 8 and 9 feet tall and appeared human-like.  After its creation, Rabbi Loew spoke the final incantation and bid the golem to protect the Jewish people of the Prague ghettos. Before the golem left his care, Rabbi Loew carved into its forehead the word ‘emet’, which means truth.

As the golem set out on its task, it became stronger and more violent. The golem was typically placated when it was corralled back inside by Rabbi Loew and allowed to rest on the Sabbath. However, one Sabbath day Rabbi Loew forgot to bring the creature into rest.

Sadly, this made the creature all the more violent and aggressive. Soon, the maker of the creature was revealed to be Rabbi Loew, several aggressors that were violent towards the Jewish people approached him and promised the violence would stop if the golem was destroyed.

Rabbi Loew agreed, fearful of what his creature had wrought, and set out to destroy the golem. When he confronted the being, he removed the letter ‘e’ from the golem’s forehead. This transformed the word to ‘met’, which means death. This de-animated the golem and its reign of terror was ended.

However, it was said that Rabbi Loew did not destroy the golem. Instead, he heaved the now lifeless mud being into the attic of the synagogue. He let the aggressors know that if the hatred toward the Jewish population continued, he would not hesitate to re-animate the fearful being.

Thanks to Rima M for today’s #Blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is entitled Rabbi Löw oživuje Golema and is licensed in the public domain.

The Simonside Dwarfs

The Simonside Hills rise up against the Northumberland town of Rothbury like green jewels. To this day, these hills remain part of a national park and so their natural beauty, and isolation, weighs heavy against the surrounding towns. It is a place where, even in the 21st-century one can find solitude, wonder...and perhaps something a little closer to myth than some people would like. You see, people and animals may not be the only things inhabiting these hills.

Source Source Source

In fact, it is likely that the history of the hills goes back before written record existed. Burial cairns have been found among the hills, along with ring rock carvings and other offerings. It seems that although no permanent settlements were ever established in the hills, people visited them quite often and for specific, usually reverent, reasons. 

The legend of the Simonside Dwarfs have been part of local legend for generations, as beings to respect and fear. They are said to live within the hills and, for the most part, they stay away from the local towns that remain close by. However, if a traveler wanders through the hills or if someone dares to trespass on their lands...they may not return.

Their history, and the respect locals have for them,  is centuries old and have been recorded for quite some time. For example, the Morpeth Gazette noted in 1889 that “it was dangerous for the solitary wanderer to venture” among the “tribe of ugly elves and dwarfs.”

They have multiple ways of accomplishing their terror. Sometimes, like spooklights or Will-o-Wisps they are said to mislead travelers by creating lights in the distance that resemble a home’s heart, thus leading weary or lost travelers deeper into the hills and closer to their death.

Simonside Dwarfs didn’t just rely on misleading lights, though. It was also said they used a whole host of glamours they would enact upon unsuspecting travelers. For example, one story highlights a man who, while lost, roamed into the hills and, near exhausting, was able to find a small cabin where he could rest and light a fire. Relieved at being safe for the night, the traveler soon settled in. However, as he was about to nod off his eyes suddenly fluttered open and he realized it was all an illusion and that he was about to roll off a high precipice.

Like other fair folk, you must be aware of their wily ways. If you see any small beings you must work hard to avoid them. Even if you are near danger, you must avoid their offers of food or shelter...lest you end up their victim.

Thanks to Kevin R for today’s #blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is of a Simonside Crag by JohnDal licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Wendigo

Wendigos intersect many of the stories of America’s strangest places. But what is the folklore behind these strange creatures? Although Wendigos exist in several different Native American tribes, the most infamous of these stories seem to hail from the Great Lakes Region, all the way up to central Canada. Although the stories paint the Wendigo in different ways, there always seems to be one similarity: they represent what happens when you break society’s taboos. 

Source Source Source 

According to some legends of the Wendigo...they don’t exist outside of humans. In fact, becoming a Wendigo is the punishment for very human failings...failings so intense that they fundamentally make humans inhuman. It is believed that a Wendigo is created whenever a human being consumes human flesh. The act of consuming human flesh creates an insatiable hunger for human flesh and Wendigos then are compelled to hunt humans. 

These creatures are incredibly malevolent, terrifying creatures. They are usually associated with greed, murder, and cannibalism. It makes sense that one of the most horrific creatures in Native American folklore focuses on these three traits, especially given the difficult winters the Great Lakes Region is known for. A single person displaying these traits could have the power to bring down an entire hunting party or even an entire community.

Physically, the creatures are quite revolting. They are said to be humanoid creatures with some animal-like features, like long yellow fangs, claws, and lolling tongues. Wendigos are always depicted as being bigger than an average human but woefully underweight, which is a nod to their constant state of never being sated with enough human flesh. Their eyes also purportedly glow red, which makes them easy to identify in the dead of night. But their eyes are their only hindrance in hunting humans. They are said to be stealthy, have excellent tracking skills, and, in some cases, can even use dark magic in their hunt for humans.

If one becomes a Wendigo, or if people suspect someone is in the process of turning into a Wendigo there is only one answer: to kill the Wendigo. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a reverse to the curse of becoming a Wendigo. However, the bit of person that remains inside the horrendous body of the Wendigo does have a chance to have their soul saved. It is believed that by ritually killing a Wendigo, you can save the human soul that resides within it.

Although it is not always heavily discussed or represented in art regarding Wendigos, they are often believed to be coated in ice. In particular, their human heart would be displayed in ice - the only reminder that this beast was once a person. 

Ultimately, the Wendigo myth seems to promote community and urge others to avoid gluttony, murder, and cannibalism even in the face of a cold winter. 

Thanks to Brandon W for the suggestion for this blogstonishing topic!

This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Attribution: Paul LaRocque. It is of Wendigo Lake.


Spriggans are said to be the security force behind the fairy worlds. Unlike some fairies which serve to treat or trick humans, the Spriggans are said to measure out justice to humans who have unduly crossed fairies. They would dole out punishments, both big and small, to anyone who dared mess too much with the otherworld.

Source Source Source

Although Spriggans are said to be quite small, that doesn’t mean their punishments are any easier to escape. They typically appear to humans as small, wizened creatures lurking in the ruins of castles. However, don’t let their initial appearance make you feel more is said they have shapeshifting abilities can quickly grow to gigantic proportions. 

Spriggans are naturally hateful and wary of humans. Unlike some other fairy folk that can help humans or even bestow gifts upon them, Spriggans usually have nothing but ill will towards humans. But, you can’t really blame them. As the bodyguards and justice-bringers of the fairy world it is their job to avenge their brethren. 

The punishments they dole out are similar to what other folkloric creatures can bestow upon humans if mistreated. Some of the punishments are seemingly small, such as sending storms on inopportune days. However, they can also be gut-wrenchingly tragic such as stealing their children, blighting their crops, or cursing those who mistreated the fairy world with unstoppable bad luck.

In addition to righting the wrongs of the fairfolk, Spriggans are also often tasked with guarding fairy treasures. If you attempt to steal fairy treasure or just happen to accidentally stop by a hiding place, they will punish you.

If you want to avoid being punished by the Spriggans, the easiest thing you can do is make sure not to offend any type of fair folk in any way. The second thing you can do...avoid tempting them. Even if you haven’t initially done something to offend the fair folk...the Spriggans may still be tempted to enact a little pre-revenge, just in case you were to wrong the fair folk. They are said to lead lonely travelers who are lost into swamps, near crumbling cliffs, or to the precipices of broken castles they inhabit. 

 As guards to both standing stones and hidden treasures, they correspond very closely to the Breton korred. They are also busy thieves and expert kidnappers of children.

The above image is of a ‘Green spriggan sculpture by Marilyn Collins, in an alcove of the wall at the footbridge before the former Crouch End station. According to a local urban legend, a ghostly 'goat-man' haunted the walk in the 1970s and 1980s. The sculpture, and Parkland Walk generally, provided the inspiration for Stephen King's short story "Crouch End". By Peter O’Connor licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Baba Yaga: An Overview

For centuries, stories of the famed Baba Yaga have frightened children across the globe. Her origins in Slavic folklore is of a wild, wicked witch who is often accompanied by frightening companions and an even more frightening house. Her name, “Baba” is often ascribed to a mother-figure, although children cower from Baba Yaga. In some countries, like Poland, “Babica” connotes cruelness and ugliness. The origin of the ‘Yaga’ is not entirely clear but, it has been compared to words meaning abuse, horror, witch, and pain. Baba Yaga has been a staple in Slavic folklore so much so that stone statues and altars are often discovered dedicated to her, hoping to keep their children safe.

Source Source Source Source

Unlike typical depictions of witches, one of the most interesting things about Baba Yaga is how she gets around. Instead of a broom, she moves around in a low-flying mortar. Historically, mortars were used for cooking and other domestic tasks so it is just a slightly weirder broom...if you think about it. She steers this giant mortar, sitting at the top, with a large pestle that can also be used as a weapon. Although in some versions of folklore, she can fly...many acknowledge this stranger form of travel. She also moves thanks to her mobile home. Her home is similar to Slavic stilt homes...except instead of wooden legs, Baba Yaga’s house is supported on chicken legs which dance her and her home through the forest, allowing her access to new victims every night.

However, if you are pure of heart you have no reason to fear Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga seems to prefer to prey on those who have a long list of misdeeds or naughty children. It is said, though, that if she does decide to make you her may at first seem like salvation. Though her appearance may frighten you at first, she will bring you to her home after you have been hopelessly lost in the forest. Then, she will warm you up by he fire and feed you. However, you won’t realize that you’re sitting on a giant shovel...which, at your moment of highest comfort, she’ll jump on to throw you into her stove.

Baba Yaga, depending on the story or origin of the folklore, is usually believed to be different things. In some stories, she is a witch (this is the most typical) and something for children to be afraid of. In some stories, she is a manifestation of winter and represents the harsh reality of what happens to one when they are lost in the woods. In others, she is some sort of hag-like goddess related to weather. Despite the question of “what” Baba Yaga is, her physical description remains fairly consistent. This is surprising for a being whose origin changes from story-to-story. But one thing is for certain, no matter what Baba Yaga you meet in the woods, she’s going to physically frighten and disgust you. 

The header image is by Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov - and is in the public domain.


You might have read ‘Kodama’ and thought instantly of Princess Mononoke. While Kodamas appear in Princess Mononoke, they are stories Yokai with a rich folklore history in Japan. These spirits are known as protectors but, if wrong, can bring ruin to a person or even an entire town

Source Source Source 

Kodamas are closely associated with trees and typically reside in them. Although they rarely leave their tree-homes, when they do they are typically said to look like small humanoid orbs of light. Some people believe they are the very soul of the trees. Other folklore says they are the gods of the trees and use their presence to protector the forest, especially the older trees. 

If taken care of appropriately, the Kodamas will bless the forest and the land with fertility. Additionally, they are said to be able to bring good luck to those near them. Some of the oldest trees had small shrines built at their base and nearby villagers would come and pray to them and tend to the forest.

They are said to prefer the oldest, largest trees in an area and stay inside them to protect the ancient tree and the forest as a whole. If you ever come across an older tree in the forest you should pause before you cut it down. First, check to see if there is a rope tied around the tree. This rope is a sacred, blessed rope called a shimenawa that denotes that Kodamas are living in the tree. If you don’t see a shimenawa, it is still suggested you cut into it a little. If the tree bleeds it is a sign that Kodamas are currently inhabiting it. 

However, if you decide to just hack into a tree or ignore the blood warning the Kodamas will seek their revenge. How? You may have bad luck for a few days, or years...or perhaps forever. In some cases, an entire town is cursed. 

The above image is of inside Kasugayama primeval forest in Nara (Nara prefecture), taken by CK Tse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Throughout the world, there are many myths regarding humanoid creatures that dwell in watery depths (we’ve even covered some on the blog, like Rusalka and Qalupalik), so it is no surprise Celtic mythology has their own spin on the mermaid myth. Finfolk hail from Orkney and are sorcerers of the sea and fathers of mermaids.

Source Source Source 

Finfolk, like many sea-dwelling humanoids, generally resemble humans in shapes and forms, and do not have a fishtail like other mythical mermaids. However, their bodies are draped by fins which are said to resemble cloth and clothing, so they can just barely pass as typical humans and can even be difficult to tell apart at a distance. The closer you get, though, the more obvious their fins become.

Finmen were said to be athletically built and have brooding faces with sad eyes. Finmen often made deals with human fishermen and would help them for an exchange of goods, or sometimes even currency. However, one would have to be wary of where one was fishing. Finwomen were known to be haggard and swarthy. However, in their youths they were always beauties. Unlike Finmen, Finwomen began their lives with a fishtail and would live out their maidenhood as mermaids. During this time, many of these young Finwomen/mermaids would feel compelled to marry a human man. If they were to marry a human man, she would remain beautiful. However, if the mermaid married a Finman she would turn into an ugly Finwife. 

Although they often haunted the shores of Orkney and even human towns near the sea, the Finfolk did have their own kingdom and town named Finfolkaheem. This was located in the bottom of the sea and was known as an underwater paradise, described similarly to opulent fairyland. The town was centered around a gorgeous coral palace with sprawling gardens and dozens of Finfolk. The houses were often laden with pearls, some rumored to be the size of boulders, and due to the number of pearls said to be around Finfolkaheem many humans attempted to find it.

Certain locations are reserved for Finfolk only and if a human is found fishing in one of these locations, the FInfolk would show no mercy. Finmen would often place a small hole in the boat in a place that would be unnoticeable until the fisherman was out to sea with little hope of saving his boat, or even himself. 

Some Finfolk were also said to be sorcerers and were much feared. They were often known to steal away humans, to keep as husband and wives, in their underwater palaces or the magical, unfindable islands they called home. Unexplained disappearances and sudden deaths were often attributed to Finfolk, particularly Finmen who often stole away human women to avoid the fate of marrying a Finwomen.

The Light at the End of the World Shadowgate from Novara, ITALY - The Light at the End of the World liscensed under CC BY 2.0.

Second Sight in Scotland

The Scots are well known for being a culture enmeshed in folklore, fate, and fairies. One of the less-discussed traditions is that of the Second Sight. Although this is in no way unique to the Scots, their seemingly endless stories of prophets and seers make the version of the Scottish Second Sight quite interesting. Often, those with Second Sight have to live with the burden that their knowledge usually foretells destruction and disaster. But how does one get Second Sight, and what are some of the most popular tales from the Highlands?

Source Source Source

In Scotland, it is usually called “an da shealladh”, which translates to “two sights.” 

The knowledge of the Scottish Second Sight reached beyond the Highlands, though. The first professor of mathematics at the University of Glasgow, George Sinclair, wrote in his book Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, “I am undoubtedly informed, that men and women in the Highlands can discern fatality approaching in others, by seeing them in waters, or with winding sheets about them.”

Although in some cultures, having second sight is considered a gift in Scotland it is regarded as a misfortune and heavy burden. In fact, it is even to be feared as it is believed Second Sight comes entirely from the ‘otherworld.’ In Scottish lore, the otherworld is a realm of supernatural beings that exist beyond the bounds and constraints of the human world. Additionally, Scottish Second Sight is not wholly related to fortune-telling, it is largely only able to see the outcomes of those far away and/or about to die. 

In some cases, Second Sight was given to people by otherworld creatures or randomly shared with at birth...and in some rare cases, there were even ways one could win the Second Sight for themselves. A ritual called Taghairn was one way to achieve Second Sight. This is a surprisingly intense ritual and involves ritualistic sacrifices of cats. You have to roast a number (usually 5-7) live cats over multiple days. The person performing the ritual would not be able to eat, sleep, or take a break from constantly turning the spit over the fire. Once a cat died, another would replace it and the ritual would continue. In retribution for their horrible deaths, the spirits of the cats would slowly begin to return to haunt the person performing the ritual. The goal of the cats would be to drive the ritual performer mad and end the ritual. 

Eventually, the Cat-Sith, a powerful cat demon, would arrive to bargain with the torturer to end the killing of the animals. In this exchange, you could request Second Sight and be given it. However, you will eventually pay a heavy price. According to lore, everyone who carried out this grisly, heinous ritual would die in painful or horrendous ways. 

However, stories of those who received their Second Sight without the help of a ritual often became as legendary as the Second Sight itself. Kenneth Mackenzie, also known as the Brahan Seer, is one of the most well-known Highlanders with Second Sight. Kenneth’s Second Sight was not born out of random chance and, instead, comes from the actions of his mother. Mackenzie’s mother met the spirit of a powerful Danish princess and promised to lead her back to her a thank you, the princess declared her child would have Second Sight. Kenneth, a young child at the time, awoke the next morning with a strange stone with a hole cut through its middle in his bed. He picked it up and peered into the hole and was instantly overcome with visions. As time wore on, he began to be able to control his gift which made him a powerful tool to powerful men, since he could make predictions for his own clan and the Highlands as a whole. In fact, he even saw the downfall of his own clan.

One day, he described what the Second Sight had shown him...and it was very specific: “When the big-thumbed sheriff officer and the blind man of the twenty-four fingers shall meet, then MacNeil of Barra shall prepare for a flitting“ (flit, in this case, is slang for moving). While strange, this specific prophecy came to fruition in 1838 when the last of the MacNeils of Barra left Kisimul Castle behind bankrupt and left the seat of the clan. Most of his predictions follow this vein, with many being very specific and a little macabre.

Although the lore of having second sight is not unique to the Scottish Highlands, there is no doubt that the Highlanders have their very own specific version of the power and burden of premonition.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Keith Ruffles.

El Silbón

El Silbón, The Whistler, is a legendary figure that hails from Colombia, specifically Los Llanos. The legend of El Silbón was born, allegedly, when a vindictive young man murdered his father out of rage when he did not bring home the groceries he requested (a deer heart). The rest of his family was horrified at this cruel act and his brother punished him by whipping him and spreading hot pepper on the wounds and chased him out of the family home with a dog. It is unclear how he became the legendary El Silbón, seemingly ageless and with great power, but he has been doomed to carry a bag of his father’s bone and torture the living ever since.

Source Source Source

Although El Silbón was once human, his appearance has become warped and changes from his years hunting in the plains. He is said to be alarmingly thin and surprisingly tall, towering above all others at seven feet tall. He wears a tattered white suit, a wide-brimmed hat, and shoes that are close to falling apart. It is said the dog his brother sent after him is still after him, and whenever El Silbón slows down too much he bites and attacks him. 

But how did he get his name? El Silbón, which translates as The Whistler,  because he whistles as he makes his way slowly across the plains. The tune is said to be the musical notes C,D,E,FG,A,B (in that order). It is said his whistle, in particular, catches the ears of drunks and angry men. Whistling alone would be upsetting enough, but El Silbón likes to toy with his victims and changes the distance of his whistling. It is said that the whistling sounds close when he is far away and out of sight, and far away when he is right on his victims back.

He is said to particularly hate womanizers and drunks. If the El Silbón runs into a drunk, it is said he will suck the blood and alcohol from them, wizening them and killing them. To womanizers, he tears them limb from limb and adds their bones to the sack on his back, along with his father and other victims.

However, it is said that by the time you notice the whistling at all you are already doomed. Although some are said to have escaped El Silbón, very few live to tell their tales. One can escape by carrying around a whip, having hot peppers on their person, or even making sure their dog is near them. These are the only earthly things that El Silbón fears and could keep him at bay.

This image, taken by Alejo Rendón (David), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


The Dybbuk

Don’t worry, you read that title correctly. This blog post isn’t about the infamous Dybbuk Box, but rather the demon and lore of Dybbuks at large. Before the name became synonymous with a cursed object, a Dybbuk was a spirit. The name ‘Dybbuk’ translates from Yiddish to ‘cling’ it’s safe to say Dybbuks are hard to shake.

Source Source Source

According to lore, it is believed that Dybbuks escaped from Jewish purgatory (known as Gehenna), or were barred from entering Gehenna due to evil acts in life. They are believed to be an animating force that lingers after death to seek out and then possess the body of a living person for evil purposes. The kind of person a Dybbuk seeks out to possess seems to vary. In some tellings of the lore, the Dybbuk specifically seeks out an evil person to possess as some kind of punishment. However, other lore seems to suggest that the Dybbuk is capable of possessing almost any kind of person, although those with weaker wills are easier to take over.

Whoever the living host may be, one thing is for certain: Dybbuks are hell. 

For example, a Dybbuk that died alone may inhabit a person and drive them to isolate themselves further and make them as miserable as the Dybbuk was in life. Or, a Dybbuk with certain vices like drugs or alcohol may also turn those who they possessed into drug addicts or alcoholics. Even worse, Dybbuks who died before they could finish what they had started on earth may force their will and evil actions on who they possess.

However, if a person was possessed by a Dybbuk there were exorcist rites that could be taken up in order to rid the person of the clinging spirit. However, the rites are anything but simple and painless. Ceremonies would have to be conducted within a synagogue and be witnessed by ten men wearing white corpse shrouds, arms bound with sacred parchments. Prior to this, these ten men would have had to have purified themselves (usually with rituals and fasting). 

Then the exorcist and leader of the ritual would enter the space wearing all black and immediately address the Dybbuk and not the victim. As the exorcist approached the Dybbuk he would begin listing all the crimes that the Dybbuk had made the victim commit. Once the Dybbuk was faced with its sins and the strength of those backing up the ritual, it may be convinced to leave the body it's possessing. If it was more stubborn more rituals would arise, curses would be made, incantations to rid the Dybbuk would be read aloud, and different combinations of the 42-letter name of God would be pronounced. Eventually, the Dybbuk would be shamed and ritual-ed out with a lot of warnings to never inhabit another living person again.

Why does shame work? Well, Dybbuks are believed to be the souls of humans and thus were once they are still likely to fall prey to the same things as any person like shame, fear, and fear of consequences. 


The above image is in the public domain and is Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) - Book of Job, appearing in Die Bucher Der Bibel.


Owls and the paranormal seem to have gone hand-in-hand for centuries. Native Americans across North America, in particular, have bountiful lore about owls and their powers and prowess. One of them is the Stikini, of Seminole folklore, which is also known as the Man-Owl.

Source Source Source

Stikinis were said originally be human witches that grew more terrible and powerful the more evil they bestowed upon people and the world. One of their most notable powers was the ability to transform into owl-like humanoids to terrorize local villages.

It is said that by day the Stinkini looked like other Seminole people, but by night they changed completely. Unlike a vampire turning into a bat which seems like a seamless transition, the Stikini had more of a werewolf-like transformation. Once the moon came up they would vomit up their souls, internal organs, and blood and transform into undead owl-monsters that feasted upon human flesh.

Based on my research, I cannot tell if this transformation was purposeful or forced by the coming moon, but either way it does seem wholly unpleasant. There seems to be some routine to it, though, as it is often said that they would purposefully travel deep into the woods to transform away from prying eyes. Furthermore, it was also said they would hang their internal organs high in trees to prevent wild animals from snatching them. This also means that if you are in the forest late at night and spy some organs dangling above should leave them alone and head to safety. It is believed this transformation represents the spiritual being of the Stinkini and the ‘human’ appearance it wears during the day is simply a mask.

It should be noted that in its human form, while resembling Seminole people, it also rejects cultural norms and may seem standoffish or strange to the people it comes in contact with.

The owl-humanoids have tremendous strength and power and can rip a grown man apart with ease. The word itself is so powerful that among some Seminoles it is believed simply speaking the word aloud would attract Stikinis to you, or that you yourself would risk becoming one. Often, Stiniki lore was only spoken aloud by powerful Medicine Men and Women in the community, as they could protect themselves against these hateful creatures.

In addition to their habit of eating hearts, they also take on a banshee-like role. It is said the cry of a Stikini is very guttural and horrible. If you hear the cry of one, it is said to be an omen of coming death.

There are some ways to protect against the Stikini. For example, if you fear one is using your town as hunting grounds venture into the forest and try to find where they hung their organs. Once found, you can destroy them leaving the Stikini unable to return to its human form. They, like vampires and other creatures of the night, will be killed or grievously harmed in direct sunlight without the option of retreating to their human form.

The above image is from Flickr User Katja Schulz and taken on the Kolokee Loop Trail in the Seminole State Forest. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Sluagh

You might think fairy world sounds whimsical and romantic but fairies are fickle creatures and exist on a spectrum of good and evil. Tonight, we’ll be exploring the Sluagh, which are said to the manifestation of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is typically depicted as chaotic, overwhelming, and even be a forewarning to catastrophe. So, you can imagine the fae that embody this fearsome event are equally intense.

Source Source Source Source

The Sluagh are unrestful fae that are, at best, troublesome and at worst malevolent and destructive. These creatures are the most dreaded of the fairy world and are feared by all who run the risk of seeing them. In fact, the Sluagh are so frightening it is said Death himself is frightened of these creatures.

The Slaugh have quite a frightful appearance. Sometimes, they have great wings or shapeshift into fearsome birds. When in their human-like form they appear haggard and old. Their skin sags and seems to nearly fall off the bone. Their appendages are long and gangly, ending in sharp nails. Their leathery wings give them the appearance of wearing a cape or cloak when not in use.

What the Slaugh are is up for some debate. Some believe they are unrestful souls of the dead, specifically people who were exceptionally evil and cruel during their lives. Others believe the Slaugh are actually a form of fae gone horribly wrong (think of the theory that Orcs are corrupted Elves in Lord of the Rings). Whether they were human at one point or not, the Slaugh certainly consider human beings their prey.


Well, they exist and gain power from human souls, especially the souls of the dying. They are said to group together in great clouds, usually compared to birds or insects. They are most active during the night and usually hide in dark, forgotten places during daylight hours. They are said to steal the souls of the dying by flying through west-facing windows. Others believe that the brood of these creatures pick up unsuspecting travelers who are out and about late at night. They are particularly powerful during Samhain.

In addition to feeding on humans, they also seem to get power or joy from tormenting people and animals. They are said to have poisonous breath that they use to poison fields, kill livestock, and spread sickness.

Despite Death being scared of the Slaugh and their wild power, it is not impossible to evade their clutches. Simple measures can be taken, like trying to be inside after dark and obstructing west-facing windows. Like all fairy folk they are also susceptible to iron and salt.

The above image is not directly related to the above story and is an image of The Wild Hunt of Odin by Peter-Nicolai Arbo. This work is in the public domain.

Witte Wieven

As noted in our Resurrection Mary series, Women in White seems to be a folklore tale that spans the world. In particular, the Netherlands has an interesting take on these kind of specters. They’re known as the Witte Wieven and, instead of ghosts of women wronged, they are portrayed as fairy-beings or the ghosts of wise women past.

Source Source Source

Similar to Women in White of American lore, Witte Wieven has a type of uniform. They’re usually describe as ethereal beings that are dressed in veils and seem to produce fog that keeps them largely hidden or obscured. As mentioned above, what they are does allow for some debate. Some believe they are the healers of folk religions that have passed and others believe they are a kind of fairy, wight, or elf. Personally, I find the idea that they are the ghosts or remains of wise women to be quite convincing simply because ‘Witte Wieven’, though it literally translates to White Women, also is connected to Wise Woman. How? Well, in Dutch Low Sax ‘wit’ means wise.

Witte Wieven don’t appear to wait by the roadside, but instead inhabit dolmens, passage graves, and other tombs in addition to motte-and-bailey castles. Although, it appears they did have some freedom of movement and would sometimes travel outwards to the fields and forests surrounding their domain. In some tales, they would dance and temp those who came across them to follow them. Although it is not clear where they would be led many were never seen again. Like banshees, sometimes seeing them was believed to be a bad omen or even a sign of looming death.

In a story close to what happens when one enters a fairy ring, the Witte Wieven of Monterflan drove a farmer quite mad. “A farmer called Gert van Beek was sitting in tavern was ordering beer after beer, at the end of the evening he was totally drunk and decided to leave, but the other people in the tavern advised him to stay a little longer because this was the time when the White Women were roaming the forests; "Don't you know that the White Women are on the prowl at 12 oclock during full moon? Just wait a little longer before you go!" the farmer laughed about this and said; "if I encounter any of them I will ask her for a dance!", and he went outside. On the way back to his house in the village of Beek he took a shortcut through the forest and suddenly he saw strings of mist appearing between the trees, he could not see a thing and all around him was the grey shroud of the fog, he saw figures being formed in the mist and suddenly three White Women appeared in front of him of which one approached him. Gert was still very drunk and impudently he asked her to dance with him; the White Woman grabbed him and started dancing, she continued through the entire night and would not stop, Gert desperately tried to free himself but he had no control over his body anymore and had to continue with the White Woman's death-dance, the sweat was pouring from his face and he begged the White Woman to stop, but she continued and made him dance like he had never done before. The next morning Gert's body was found by some villagers after he had literally danced himself to death.”

Johan Picardt, a 17th century Dutch doctor and historian, wrote about them in 1660: “Among the mounds, one can find a few that have sunken in and which used to be hollow. Wherever you go, you will hear the people say that they used to be the homes of the white women, and the thought of their various works is still so fresh in the memory of many grey heads as if it had all happened only recently.

In some places where one finds these dwellings of the white women, one will hear the inhabitants declare that in some of those great mounds the white women used to live; that they used to be haunted; that they used to hear terrible cries, moans and laments of men and women; that day and night the white women fetched and helped women during labour, even when all seemed desperate; that they predicted people their good and bad fortune; that they pointed out the hiding place of things that had been lost or stolen; that the people honoured them and recognised all that was godly in them; that some of the inhabitants had on a few occasions been inside these mounds and had seen and heard incredible things there but had been made to swear on their lives not to speak of it; that they had been quicker than any creature; that they had always been dressed in white and were called not white women but simply whites because of it.”

So, it seems these creatures are complex and have a more detailed background than one might initially guess. Although they fit into the Woman in White legend, these creatures seem to bridge the spirit world and the other world, landing them in a unique place in the wider Woman in White mythos.

This image is from Flickr user Rosmarie Voegtli. Licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Beware the Fairy Ring

Beware the Fairy Ring

Have you ever seen a gathering of mushrooms in the shape of a near-perfect circle and been drawn to it? Well, do your best to take care because that might just be a fairy ring. While it may seem like a harmless, everyday occurrence of nature according to lore this spot marks the boundary between our world...and theirs.

Source Source Source Source

To many, it would seem that these rings would appear overnight and their quickness was a sign of an otherworldly presence setting up shop. Sometimes, one can even see the creators of these rings dancing around them. Other origins have them linked to fairies dancing and/or parties from the night before or burned into the ground by their dancing feet. Fairy rings, as inviting as they may seem, often have malevolent intentions.

If you dare to enter the ring there is no telling what could happen to you. In some cases, it is mere humiliation. For example, Fairy Room reports that anyone who enters a fairy ring may be “welcomed and have fun at first, but the dance will start to move faster, and then faster until the speed confuses his human senses and he falls to the ground exhausted. The playful fairies, riled by the unconscious body, throw him high into the air through the combined effort of many tiny, magical arms. The unhappy human interloper wakes in the morning to find the fairies gone, the merriment over, and himself covered in bruises.”

However, the effects of fairy rings can be much more harmful and intense than mere humiliation and a handful of bruises. Some people spend a night in a fairy ring and are driven insane or even whisked away to fairyland permanently, with no hope of ever returning home.

Fairies sometimes feel as if the humans are imposing when they cross the boundary. To protect their portals, they often curse those who intrude. For example, the fairies would forever plague you of visions or even premonitions that would slowly but surely ruin your life. Or, if you ate while in fairyland it is said that as soon as you eat human food, you will crumble into dust. Others warn of plagues of disease, bad luck, and even early (and eerily unexplained) death.

However, fairy rings weren’t all bad. As long as you respected the rings they were seen as a good omen. If one popped up on your land they were said to bring good luck to your household for however long they remained. In parts of Africa, they were also believed to be the souls of dead or symbols of the human soul and also seen as a positive.

Fairy rings do naturally occur. The fungi create a ring or arc within the soil which affects the grass and, in turn, grows up through the greenery creating a circle of fungi. They vary in size from just a few inches to 100 feet. The grass within the ring can sometimes die and wither, which leaves an even more permanent mark in the land. They seem to pop up overnight because the tops of mushrooms represent a huge network of subterranean mycelia. Interestingly enough, perhaps with some understanding of how fungi work, it was believed in Wales that seeing a fairy ring indicated an underground fairy village that should not be disturbed.

This image was created by user Sporulator at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Wulver

Werewolves have long been associated with horrible power, blood-thirstiness, a lack of control, and unbridled rage...but are all werewolves like this? Perhaps the bulk of them are and in movies, film, and books more often than not the werewolf is depicted either as a terrifying monster or a terrifying, yet tragic, figure. The Scottish werewolf, the Wulver, challenges some of our worst assumptions about the werewolf in folklore.

Source Source Source

Wulvers are said to hail from Scotland and specifically the Shetland Islands. Unlike typical descriptions of werewolves, wulvers seem only to have the head of a wolf while maintaining a human body. Although the wulvers have human bodies those bodies are covered in thick brown hair. Furthermore, it may perhaps be wrong to include wulvers in the ‘werewolf’ category in the first place. Why? Well, it is believed that wulvers were never human in the first place and do not go through a change or transformation.

Wulvers appear to live together and seem to have a desire to help human beings. One of the ways they show their support and love towards humans is through leaving gifts of freshly caught fish on the windowsills of the poorest families or those who need help the most. This practice is so widespread and it was so common to see the strange profile of the wulver fishing for others that there is a huge rock in the Shetland Islands named ‘Wulver’s Stane.’ Wulvers prefer to be left alone so it is wise to avoid approaching them, despite their kind demeanor.

Wulvers seemed to enjoy being near water and often lived in isolated caves that were not easy to discover or traverse. In a way, it seems like the wulver is also a symbol of hope for the poor in the area who were helped by these strange, kind creatures.

Interestingly enough, many Scots believed the wulver to be an evolutionary bridge between humans and wolves. I find this quite interesting because it seems to link wolves and humans in an interesting and intimate way. So often, wolves are seen as adversaries to humans (and vice versa) which is why I think ‘evil’ werewolf lore is so prominent. However, I think this “evolution” from wolf to human and the wulver being this kind soul in between shows that wolves, however ferocious they might be, have several qualities that humans find admirable - their power, their connection with nature, and their pack instincts. I feel as though the wolf’s connection to the pack and human’s connection to other humans is given a kind of ‘perfection’ through the wulver that strives to help those most in need.

There may an interesting answer to why the wulver was so highly documented. There is a disease called hypertrichosis, also known as werewolf syndrome, where a human is covered in short, brown hair. Perhaps this person, or even a family who was genetically predetermined to get this disease,  lived in isolation due to their affliction and, being human, still craved human interaction and kindness and so fished for himself and gave his leftovers to the surrounding community.

The above image is of Aith, Shetland and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license by Wolfgang Schlick.

Feverfew Folklore

Now that spring has sprung (at least in my neck of the woods) I thought it might be interesting to learn about some flower lore that goes back as long as the seasons. In particular, Feverfew. If you don’t recognize the name ‘feverfew’ you might know it by the handful of other names it goes by like featherfew, featherfoil, devil daisy, flirtwort, bachelor's button, maid's weed, midsummer daisy, missouri snakeroot, nosebleed, prairie-dock, vetter-voo, wild chammomile, or matricaria. Its scientific name is Tanacetum parthenium.

Source Source Source Source

Feverfew is a woefully short-lived plant that is native to southeastern Europe but can be found as far-flung as Australia, Greece, Egypt, and North America. In fact, there are records of the Feverfew plant being used in Ancient Greece and Egypt to cure ailments like menstrual cramps, inflammation, and general pain.

In Medieval Europe, especially during plague years, the feverfew flower was an essential part of cottage gardens. Local lore said that planting feverfew flowers by the house, especially near the door, would help protect those inside from the disease. Interestingly enough there is some data to support that this may have actually worked. While the plant’s magical qualities are up for debate it is believed that the rats that carried plague did not like the smell or taste of feverfew and avoided munching on, planting it by the front door may not have been a bad idea at all for those wary of the plague.

In addition to safeguarding against aches, pains, and perhaps even the plague feverfew was also known as a cure for elf-shot. If you’re not familiar, elf-shot was a common ailment in Europe and especially in England. It was believed that elf-shot was caused when invisible, ne’er do well elves shot invisible arrows into a person or animal. The invisible arrows would shoot localized and intense pain to wherever they stuck. Today, it is believed elf-shot might have been what we call today ‘muscle stitches’ or even arthritis. It is believed the spear-shaped leaves of the feverfew flowers are natural markers of cures against elf-shot.

Because of its links to curing aches and pains, it is also believed to be a powerful cure for those suffering from heart-sickness or rejection in love.

Today, there has been a fair amount of research done in how feverfew is used to treat migraines. According to the NCCIH, “Some research suggests that feverfew may help to prevent migraine headaches, but results have been mixed. However, evidence-based guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society suggest that a feverfew extract may be effective and should be considered for migraine prevention.”

The above image is of feverfew. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license by Zeynel Cebeci.

Why Do You Throw Salt Over Your Shoulder?

Old Wives’ Tales are among my favorite topics to delve into. Many people that I grew up with on the East Coast of America were familiar with the idea of throwing salt over your shoulder, especially if you accidentally spilled salt in the first place. I realized that I often perform this action mindlessly...but why do we do it and how did this old wives tale get its start?

Link Link Link

There seems to be an association with accidentally spilling salt and bad luck. This association makes sense when you realize how powerful salt would have been to people in a time before refrigerators, electricity, and grocery stores. Salt had the power to make food last, to cleanse, and was an important ingredient in many dishes worldwide. So, wasting salt by spilling it would likely be considered unlucky. If that’s the case...why do we waste more salt by throwing it over our shoulder? Well, one idea is that bad luck is given to you by the devil, a demon, or some unseen but horrific creature. If that’s the case throwing some salt over your shoulder may temporarily blind, confuse, or cleanse the creature and avoid it from touching you with bad luck.

Some tie it back to biblical times and relate it to the story of Lott’s wife who looked back onto Sodom (a place of great sin) when she was being led towards a moral place. In act of anger, god turned her into a pillar of salt. This places the devil ‘behind you’ and the good before so you throw salt behind your shoulder when you do something bad or perhaps are being tempted to blind him. It is believed throwing it over your left shoulder has become a popular addition to this old wives tale because your left side is the ‘sinister’ shoulder.

This practice goes back a significant amount of time and one can see that in the famous The Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. If you look closely at Judas in the painting you may notice that he is in the process of knocking over a small salt cellar. This action is meant to be a metaphor for his coming betrayal of Jesus.

Salt is often considered a powerful mineral because of its close associations with the ocean, purification, and preservation. Because of this it is often considered incorruptible or has the power to fix corrupted things. To me, it is unsurprising that is has power and folklore-inspired action behind it that is meant to stop evil or bad luck.

Do you know of any other folklore surrounding salt? I’d love to hear more and see how they connect!

The above image is by Flickr user Clifford.rhode and is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Kelpie

Kelpies were mentioned on our Gremlins episode and I thought I’d provide a bit of a deeper background on these strange creatures of lore. The Kelpie hails from Scottish myth and they may just be among the strangest beings you’ve ever heard of.

Link Link Link

Kelpies have one of the great powers of folklore, shape-shifting. Although they usually take on the shape of a horse, but can also take on the appearance of a beautiful young woman or man. Kelpies have one goal - to kill you.

As horses, they may appear as darling ponies to little girls or strong, battle-ready horses to men. They are kind, tempting, and personable and, eventually, tempt the unsuspecting victim enough to get them to ride the Kelpie. Once their victim is securely on their back the kelpie’s hide grows sticky and unable to get off of. Then, the Kelpie will ride into the river and drown whoever was unfortunate enough to ride it. In addition to killing one person at a time, they also maintain the power to cause floods.

If a Kelpie lures you in human form, they also try and tempt you. Except, instead of being a beautiful horse they are a beautiful young woman. They appear to men in rivers and lakes and lure them from the water’s edge. Interestingly enough, there is a way to tell if you are being lured by an evil Kelpie or a young woman. How? Well, check for hooves. If possible, try to catch a glimpse of the young lady’s hands or feet above water and if you see a glimpse of for the hills. If you are particularly unlucky there is also a hairy, aggressive human that lurks by roads near rivers to crush them to death and drown them.

It is believed that Kelpies are a kind of demon or devil and the horse isn’t it’s true shape. And, like other demons of folklore, it can be overcome by human force. In addition to checking for hooves in the water, it is said if you suspect a Kelpie in horse form to hit it. It will be so surprised, it will ‘glitch’ and drop its horse form. Interestingly enough, Kelpies could also be forced into marriage. If a young woman stole the bridle of a Kelpie the Kelpie, in his handsome human form, he would be forced to be her husband.

One question you might be asking yourself throughout this brief overview is...why a horse? Horses aren’t typically aquatic creatures and have, for most of history, been an aid to humans. In Scottish mythos, horses represent pure and unbridled power that demands respect. Perhaps the kelpie adopted the horse as a way to gain trust and respect from the Scots. Or, perhaps the Scots invented this creature in horse form as a way to highlight its fearsome power.

The above image is from Flickr user Shando. It is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Gwrach y Rhibyn

Translated as the Witch of Rhibyn, the Gwrach y Rhibyn is a Welsh spirit that warns that death is fast approaching. Often compared to an Irish banshee, the Gwrach y Rhibyn takes on a hideous appearance. She often appears as quite ugly with long, black, knotted hair, black teeth, bone-thin arms and legs, a pallid complexion, and, in some cases, leather wings.

Link Link Link

Many stories of the Gwrach y Rhibyn seems to place her in or near a water source and she seems particularly enjoy suddenly leaping and scaring the victim. Other times, she will silently stalk her victims. The victims may feel a tingle or as if they’re being watched but the Gwrach y Rhibyn will not reveal herself until they pass a water channel or a crossroads.

When the victim is finally able to lock eyes with her she presents herself in all her horrible glory and shrieks. The person who sees the ghost is being warned of their imminent death, or the imminent death of someone close to them. Once the Gwrach y Rhibyn has revealed herself she utters one of a few different cries.  For example, f the person who is going to de is a man she yells: “Fy ngwr! Fy ngwr!” (which translates to My husband! My husband). Or, if the soon-to-be-deceased is a child she’ll yell “Fy mlentyn! Fy mlentyn bach!” (which translates to My child! My little child!)

In addition, to be a frightening harbinger of impending death, she also has other elements that make her all the more frightening. Despite her misleading calls mourning a child who is about to de, it is said she actually enjoys capturing and drinking their blood. She never kills the children, though. Instead, she terrifies them and takes a fair amount of their blood leaving them to find their way home alone. They often appear pale and sickly when they finally do arrive home. It seems she may even feed on the blood of babies by directly visiting them in their cribs. If a babe was healthy and strong when it was first born but grows to become more sickly and pale it is said that the Gwrach y Rhibyn must be feasting on it.

The blood stains her teeth black and adds to her horrendous appearance. Some descriptions of her also note that her mouth is caked in blood or she has one particularly long, a hollow tooth that she uses to drink the blood of the children.

Like small children and babies who are often defenseless, it was also said that she would drink the blood of the old and bedridden because they could not stop her advances.

Although strong, Gwrach y Rhibyn can be fought off with physical force. That is the only way to ward her off or remove her from feasting on another human.

The above image is of Bunworth Banshee, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker, 1825. It is licensed in the public domain.

The Tokoloshe

Today we visit South Africa for a story about the Tokoloshe, a small and terrifying creature that seriously messes with your ability to have a restful night’s sleep. Tokoloshes are a creature from Zulu mythology that inhabit South Africa. These creatures attack you in your sleep and are said to be a part of the reason while many people in the Zulu culture used to sleep with their beds raised off the floor.

Link Link Link

Tokoloshe are described physically in a large variety of ways. One constant seems to be their small size. Sometimes they are described as small humanoid creatures (like gremlins or brownies) and other times they are described more primate-like.

These creatures are malevolent and very dangerous. They are said to crawl into sleeping people’s rooms and cause all kinds of havoc - from simply scaring them all the way to choking them to death with their long, bony fingers. It seems to particularly enjoy scaring children, often leaving them with long scratches on their bodies. One way to keep the Tokoloshe at bay is to put bricks beneath the legs of one’s bed. This will you put you out of reach, and hopefully out of harm’s way, of the Tokoloshe.

Tokoloshes are creatures called upon by those with magical abilities (like witches) to wreak havoc and pain in a community.  One of the ways the witches are able to keep them docile is to cut the hair out of their eyes so they can see and feed it curdled milk.

If a Tokoloshe continues to terrorize a household or a community a sangoma (Zulu witch doctor) is summoned to exorcize the area and/or the home with the use muti, a kind of traditional magic practiced by the sangoma.

But why was the Tokoloshe such a promintent and terrifying creature? And why did it only attack the sleeping? Well, there might actually be a very real, terrifying reason for the creation of this creature.

Let’s back up to the sleeping arrangements quickly. As mentioned above, raised beds are an important way to combat the Tokoloshe. Traditionally, many South Africans in areas rife with Tokoloshe myths slept on grass mats encircling a warm, wood fire that would keep them warm during the bitter winter nights. However, sometimes healthy people would inexplicably be found dead come morning.

Why? Well, the Tokoloshe of course.

But, there is a theory that sleeping close to the fire in their homes may have depleted the oxygen levels and filled the home with carbon dioxide. As it is heavier than pure air, it would sink to the bottom of the home where people slept. Thus, seemingly healthy people and sometimes entire families would be found dead. A parallel was found between elevated sleepers and a lack of death so the Tokoloshe was told as a story forewarning those who slept close to the ground (and the fire). While it might not be an actual malevolent creature, what kept away a Tokoloshe would also keep away death from carbon monoxide.

The feature image is by Flickr User Jason Rogers, entitled Day 466 / 365 - Reach for the Light and liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)