Folklore/Myth

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.

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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.

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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 it...so, 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?

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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.

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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 hoof...run 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.

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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.

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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)



The Rusalka





Sirens, mermaids, fish-people...notions of humanoids that live in water pervade many cultures throughout the world. The Slavic peoples are no different and their own mermaid myth. They call them a rusalka.

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The folklore of the rusalka has been dated back to the eighth century although it was probably a part of the oral tradition for quite some time before it was written down. In fact, the rusalki are said to be descended from Bereginya. Bereginya, in Slavic folklore, is the great goddess and creator of the world. According to the Slavic Chronicles, “Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself,” although some consider her to be a spirit.

Unlike some stories of mermaids, the rusalka are made from human choices and do not seem to be a race of creatures independent from humanity. What I mean by this is the idea that rusalki are created, not made. It is said that a variety of circumstances can transform a human into a rusalka, although many have to do with death. For example, if a young woman dies a particularly violent death related to water she may become a rusalka. Other times it deals with suicide, such as a young woman drowning herself because she has become pregnant by wedlock or rejected by a lover. Others say that any young woman who dies a virgin is bound to become a rusalka.

Another interesting fact, if one considers these potential origin stories, is that the rusalki are said to have a finite time in the world. According to Ancient Origins, “These souls linger on in water until their allotted time on earth is complete (this version of events usually accompanies the violent death or suicide origin stories). Others must remain until their death is avenged (this version of events usually accompanies the murder or jilted lover origin stories).”

As folklore has grown and mutated throughout the centuries so do the rusalka looks. In the earliest stories regarding rusalki their hair and eyes are described as blue and green while later stories their hair is described as red, the color of sin. However, their shapeshifting powers seem to remain constant with their ability to transform into animals related to the water such as fish and frogs. Another constant is that they are not half-fish, they appear as typical human women with feet. However, they do have the ability to survive in and manipulate water.

Like sirens, it is believed rusalki are predators. They tempt people, in particular young men, by her voice or physical appearance. Once tempted, she traps him and pulls him under the water. In folklore stories of heroes the rusalka often represents a ‘test’ and if abused or if the hero fails the test he will be cast into a watery grave.

However, they do have some protective power and don’t seem to be all bad. For example, during harsh storms, hail, and other intense water-related weather if they are worshipped correctly, they will protect the people. It is also believed that rusalki take revenge very seriously. According to Slavorum, “In other stories a rusalka may fall in love with a man from the world of the living but they always end in tragedy. No good may come from such a love story and there is no happy ending for the poor rusalka’s damned soul: she’ll haunt the river forever with her sorrow and vengeful fury. Even almighty Slavic Gods Perun, Svarog, Veles and many other couldn’t stay indifferent to a beauty of Rusalka.”

Today, some places still celebrate Rusalka Week, also known as Green week, which occurs after Easter. It is said that at this time the rusalki are supposed to be at their most powerful and they sing and dance in the woods bringing with them water to reinvigorate life.





The featured image is Załaskotany (cykl Rusałki). Olej na płótnie. 38 x 109,5 cm. Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w Krakowie and is liscensed under the public domain.


Gjenganger

A Gjenganger, hailing from Scandinavian folklore, is not your typical ghost. In fact, many Scandinavian people fear that when they die they may come back a Gjenganger. A Gjenganger, at its most basic, is a ghost that has been revived from death to purposefully haunt the living.

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The word “Gjenganger” is a combination of the words ‘again’ and the word ‘ganger’ means ‘foot’ or ‘walker’ so Gjenganger translates to ‘walking again.’ This is even more fitting because Gjengangers usually look wholly corporeal and real and not at all “ghostly.”

Typically, Gjengangers are those who died before their time, usually a victim of murder, suicide, or another crime or accident. These revenge-motivated ghosts are extremely vicious and with the goal of seriously disturbing the lives of those who wronged it in life.

Gjengangers mostly commonly attack in the dead of night while their victim is fast asleep. The Gjenganger will then pinch the sleeping person and flee the scene. When the victim awakens they’ll notice a strange, blue spot where the Gjenganger pinched them. This is a sign of coming sickness and death for that person.

In addition to attacking specific people who have wronged it, Gjengangers also seem to enjoy wreaking havoc among all the living. They are adept at spreading sickness and, if it touches you, even if it is just a brush, your flesh will soon begin to slough away as the virus reaches your heart.

To avoid Gjengangers there are some practices that can be put in place to avoid the creation of them. A person who has the potential to become a Gjenganger must be buried in a specific way with a specific runic inscription being written inside the coffin to prevent any waking up and walking around.

Interestingly enough a lot of the symptoms caused by the Gjenganger seem to mimic real-life diseases that were common at the time. Could the skin sloughing disease be necrotizing fasciitis which often occurs after an injury or even simple abrasions or cuts? Furthermore, could the pinching-based disease be a symptom of cancer or other internal issues?

The above image is entitled Porteous Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia PA. It was taken by Flickr user Thomas. It is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).


A Brief Overview of Crossroads

Crossroads factor into many stories of the occult, strange, and astonishing. But, why? And who are these strange creatures that seem to be pulled towards to them to interact with humans? Like many special places in folklore such as bridges, dusk, and stairwells, crossroads act as a liminal space. Every magical being from fairies to Old Scratch himself has been rumored to be available to call upon or see at a crossroads. Crossroads also represent the need for a choice - if you are a traveler you must make a decision, which road will you take? And how could this direction change your life?

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There are crossroads myths that date back to well before there were any roads for carts or cars and can be found all over the world from Africa to Europe to Asian. Crossroads myth and folklore also dates incredibly far back all the way to America in the 20th century, and perhaps even more recently.

Before I begin diving into the crossroads and the beings that guard, appear, or interact at the crossroads I do want to stress not that all aspects of the crossroad are necessarily or inherently evil. In fact, crossroads play an integral part of all sorts of magic. Commonly, an offering of food, wine, silver, or lavender is made at a triple crossroads when asking for advice when you are a metaphorical crossroads in your life. Many magical practices, such as a wash, also need to be poured out or completed on a crossroads to finish and solidify the magic.

Let’s begin with what Icy Sedgwick calls the “Daddy of crossroads legends”, the Devil. The Devil appearing at a crossroads is quite a popular through-line of the myth, however, Old Scratch appearing at a crossroads and offering fame, knowledge, power or fortune is one of the most popular crossroad deals you’ll hear in American myth. In America, he sometimes appears as a well-dressed man (typically white or black) offering you a wily deal that’s bound to end in disaster and, of course, with him getting another soul to add to his book.

One of the most infamous crossroads myths in America is that of Robert Johnson. In this story, Johnson does not begin as the great talent we recognize today. Frustrated as gig after gig landed him nothing and being asked to stop playing multiple times, he decided to make a deal with the devil...literally. The story goes that late at night Johnson made his way to a crossroads and expressed his intention and desire for a deal in the middle of them. Summoned, the devil took Johnson’s guitar out of Johnson’s hands and into his own, while strumming a few nearly unlistenable chords. When he was done, he handed back the guitar to Johnson. However, when Johnson played the notes came easy and talent flowed from him. Some of his lyrics are often nodded to as “proof” of this deal, such as “I got to keep movin’, blues fallin’ down like hail… And the day keeps on worrin’ me, there’s a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.” -- Hellhound on my Trail, Robert Johnson (1937)

Robert Johnson died early at the young age of 27, joining the infamous 27 club. Was his death the work of the devil, or simply bad luck?

In addition to devils, there are also animals of the crossroads. Oschaert, from Belgian folklore, was a black dog that haunted crossroads. A bit of a trickster, this creature often played tricks on those who are unknowingly wandered into one of his crossroads. Luckily, you could be saved from his trickery by standing in the dead center of the crossroads and waiting for Oschaert to leave, tail between his legs. Never fear cat-lovers, there is also a crossroads cat, often called the money cat. In order to conjure the cat, you must leave a food offering, particularly a dead hen until it shows itself to you. Then, it will allow you to take it home. Once in your house, it must be trapped in a box or corner of the house until it is tamed. You must take diligent care of it, including feeding it well and offering it treats. If you let it out early or if you do not take proper care of it, it will flee your home and curse you with bad luck.

Another figure of the crossroads is Papa Legba, an African trickster god, and the god of the roads. Like the crossroads itself, Legba is also a liminal being with the power to open the way between the world of the living ad the world of the dead. Gerdès Fleurant, a sociologist focusing on music and folklore, noted that without Papa Legba, “nothing can be done. No ceremony can take place. He is the one who opens the gates of the universe.” Unlike the devil at the crossroads, Papa Legba is typically helpful and kind, despite being a bit of a trickster. He is willing to help as long as you honor him with his favorite things (like candy) and treat him with respect and he will teach you what you wish to know or lead you to a choice when you are at an indecisive mental crossroads.

As mentioned before the crossroads are a powerful place to perform magic. According to Danish lore on midnight on New Year’s Eve if one stands within a rectangle formed by horse-cart tracks a ghost of any dead person can be summoned and will be forced to answer three questions of your choosing. It is said in German lore that if you’d like to hear the names of the people that will die in the coming year you simply need to visit a crossroads between 11p, and midnight on New Year’s Eve to hear the names called out by the wind.

Without a doubt, the crossroads are a place of great, time-old folklore, mystery, and myth. We urge caution when driving or walking through at night. And, if someone asks you to sign a book in a crossroads in exchange for fame and glory...we highly suggest you close the book and keep on moving.


The featured image is Crossroads by Flickr user Jacopo. It is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Qalupalik

When you think of a mermaid, a few different images may cross through your mind - images of kind-hearted, beautiful half-fish, half-human maidens or perhaps sirens that may be beautiful but once they have you in their clutches turn to heinous beasts ready to kill you. But, the Qualupalik is a bit different.

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The legend of the Qalupalik comes from the Inuit people and their icy, arctic waters. Unlike many other mythical mermaids, there is nothing attractive about the Qualupalik. They are described as aquatic humanoids with scaly, bumpy skin. They are often depicted as having fins coming out of their heads, backs, and torsos. Their hands, though webbed, are clawed and made for the hunt. The Qualupalik are also rumored to smell like sulfur and wear eider duck clothing. Most hauntingly is what they carry -  an amautik. Amautiks are commonly worn by Inuit women to secure their babies to their backs. They carry amautiks so they can snatch small Inuit children.

Inuit parents warn their children frequently about the dreadful Qualupaliks. One of the warning signs if they are near the shore and hear a humming noise. The humming is a warning that the Qualupalik is near. The humming is meant to entice curious children to come closer to the edge of the shore so the Qualupalik can steal the child away. However, the threat does not vanish if you’re away from the shore. Sometimes the Qualupalik will knock under the ice drawing a child to a weak part or hole in the ice to steal them away.


But what do the Qualupalik do with the stolen children? Some say they eat them but other legends say they take them away to a cave and put them under a sleeping spell. They feed on the young, innocent energy to remain immortal.

Like many creatures from folklore Qualupalik serves a utilitarian purpose in the harsh environment of what is now Northern Alaska and Canada. By scaring the children out of wanting to be alone or going too close to sea ice or the shore they lowered the chances that the child would venture near those dangerous places.

The above image is Pink floyd88 a. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.


The MacLeod Fairy Flag

At Dunvegan Castle lays a treasure that was, allegedly, bestowed upon the MacLeod family by fairies themselves. Behind this curious artifact lays a story of romance, loss, and, surprisingly, luck. In Gaelic, it is known as Am Bratach Sith.

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The fairy flag is a treasure your eyes might pass over if they should ever come through the doors of Dunvegan castle. In this age, it appears tattered and brown and quite a ruined object. However, in its heyday, this object protected Clan MacLeod time after time.

Like many magical objects, there are a few origin stories of the fairy flag. The second one is the more romantic (and more popular) tale so that is what I’ll be telling you. Legend has it that a fantastically noble, young Chief of the MacLeod clan fell in love with a fairy princess. The pair, just like Arwen and Aragorn, planned to marry but the fairy princess’ father would not hear of it. However, the king of the Fairies saw how distraught his daughter was at the idea of never being able to marry her dashing MacLeod...so, he offered her a deal. He would allow them to “Hardfast.” Hardfasting was a common practice in the Scottish Highlands in which a pair could be trially married for a year and one day. However, the King said, at the end of this time the princess must return and take nothing human with her.

Their time together was nothing short of blissful and soon enough a baby boy was born to the couple. Each day the new family’s time together dwindled and dwindled until there was none left. Honoring her promise to her father the princess returned and the couple parted with great sadness in their hearts at the fairy bridge that connects our world to theirs. She made Chief MacLeod promise that he would never allow their son to cry. The princess claimed that these cries would follow her into the fairy realm and cause her untold amounts of grief. The good Chief kept his promise and his son was never left unattended or given the chance to cry.

Although he still had his son as time went on the young chief continued to mourn the loss of his fairy wife. The clansfolk desperately wanted to lift his spirits so they decided they should throw him a grand birthday party to take his mind away from the fairy princess. This idea worked...for a spell. The young chief enjoyed himself alongside his clansmen and the merry-making lasted well through the night. However, the nursemaid tasked with watching over the little baby soon grew restless and jealous of the other partygoers and went to the edge of the room to open the door and observe the festivities. She was so entranced by the wonderful party that she did not hear the little baby begin to whimper.

The fairy princess heard his cries from the fairy realm and instantly appeared by his crib. She took him into her arms, cradled him back to sleep, and wrapped him in her own shaw. The maid returned when she heard the princess singing. The maid ran into the room, picked the baby up, and ran to the chief to alert him.

Years later when the baby became a young man he told the tale of his mother visiting him in his infancy and deemed that the shaw should be a great talisman of luck and good fortune for the MacLeod clan. He claimed that his mother somehow communicated to him that if they waved this flag in battle the fairy legions would rush forth to ensure their victory. The only catch? This flag could only be waved three times and only three times would the fairy legion rescue the MacLeod’s. So, they both agreed to share this tale with the clansfolk and keep the flag in a safe place.

According to the legend, the flag has been used twice.

First, it was used when the MacLeod clan was outnumbered by their most hated enemy, the MacDonalds. The Chief took the flag from its case and waved it. It was at this point that the battle took a turn in favor of the MacLeods, despite being outnumbered.

It was used a second time when the entire land of the MacLeods was plagued and the cattle continued to get sick. Because of this, many of the MacLeod clan were dead or dying of starvation. The Chief at the time waved his flag and the cattle were raised from the dead and the plague ended.

The legend has continued to have great meaning to the MacLeods in the centuries since. In fact, many MacLeod men carried a picture of the flag in their wallets in WWII. Additionally, Dame Flora MacLeod during WWII offered to bring the flag to Dover and wave it, in the event that the Germans should invade.

The flag remains encased at Dunvegan castle.

A photo of the Dunvegan Cup, Fairy Flag, and Rory Mor's Horn. This image is a cropped version of the photo which appears between pages 38-39, in the book The Macleods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the End of the Seventeenth Century. The photo is credited to Roderick Charles MacLeod. It is the public domain.

Blå Jungfrun

Blå Jungfrun, which translates to Blue Maiden, is off the coast of Oskarshamn, Sweden. Today, it is an abandoned island. Blå Jungfrun primarily inhabited by all sorts of birds, including eagles and eider ducks. The island itself is thought to be around 570 million years old. It is spotted with giant burrows, smoothly rounded rocks, and herb-rich woodlands. There is even a labyrinth, known as the Trojeborg labyrinth, that no one knows who built it. Most interestingly, according to lore it was home to witches.


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The island itself is a little more than a half mile long and is dome-shaped. In 1926 Blå Jungfrun was named a national park. Blå Jungfrun has been an ominous, small island for generations. In fact, many people avoid saying its full name which is Blåkulla. Sailors who were near it avoided saying it aloud or even writing it down as it was believed if it was uttered a storm would instantly fall upon the vessel. So, that is why it is now known largely as Blå Jungfrun.


According to 16th century Swedish ecclesiastic Olaus Magnus, Blå Jungfrun has been a home to witches, rituals, and magic for centuries. In 1555, he wrote that witches openly worshipped the devil every Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). In addition, the island is thought to be generally cursed and any who remove even a small pebble from the site are said to endure a lifetime of bad luck.


It was also a common practice to leave votive offerings on the shores of the island in hopes of avoiding its wrath or cruse. Many of these offerings were female clothing.


Although many people have feared the strange island before recently archaeological evidence brought to light compelling proof that rituals may really have once taken place on Blå Jungfrun.


The archaeological team from Kalmar County Museum and Linnaues University began their fieldwork in Spring 2014 and found “extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age.” Which is quite interesting, especially since its believed to have always been largely uninhabited.


The most compelling sites were two caves. The first of the caves has a sizable hollow about 2 feet in diameter which was purposefully hammered into a wall. Underneath this hollow, there is a fireplace. The layout of the cave is also strange, "The entrance to the cave is very narrow, and you have to squeeze your way in. [However,] once you're inside, only half of the cave is covered and you can actually stand above the cave and look down into it, almost like a theater or a stage below," said Papmehl-Dufay.


The second cave provided equally interesting artifacts. The proof of human use of the space was found in the form of a hammerstone and an area that the archaeologists believe was dedicated to grinding up materials. It is believed that the room could have been used to give some sort of offering or serve as an altar-like structure.


In between these two strange caves the archaeological team also found a rock shelter that held stone tools and remains of seals. Radiocarbon believes that the seals were prepared and consumed by people about 9,000 years ago.


Papmehl-Dufay notes, “A few people could have been sitting or standing, perhaps just resting or spending the night during sporadic stays on the island...However, more-specific activities with ritual elements to [them] cannot be ruled out, such as feasting in connection to the rituals performed in the nearby caves." This is interesting because it seems to further promote the idea that the area was used primarily for some kind of ritual and not permanent human habitation.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Stick Indians

The Northwest Indian tribes, particularly the Salish, have a tale of a particularly malevolent and dangerous being that dwells deep in the forests of the Northwest. They are known primarily as Stick Indians. Physically, their description changes from tribe to tribe. Many legends acknowledge that they at least somewhat resemble other Native Americans. For example, the majority of tribes describe are about as tall as any other Native Americans. However, this isn’t universally true for example the Nez Perces call them little people. The Salish and several other tribes say that Stick Indians resemble our idea of Bigfoot.

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The Stick Indians are seldom seen, they are almost completely nocturnal, and it is said that their language does not mimic human speech but instead sounds like birds and other animals. They primarily hunted and fished to feed themselves and seemed to not have any permanent settlement. They were clothed with deer skins or other fixings from the forest.

It is believed these creatures got the name Stick Indians because they dwell in the forest and share many traits with animals of the forest rather than typical tribes. Other inspirations for the name Stick Indians are believed to come from their puckish habit of thrusting sticks into teepees, lodges, and individuals while they slept.

Similar to the Pukwudgies, these beings were not a problem...until they are. Many Stick Indians will play pranks on villages during the night when they come across them. These pranks, while annoying, were fairly mild. For example, they would steal fish from nets, take off with food, and removed men’s clothes.

However, when threatened by other tribes or when tribes interfered with their lives the powers of these creatures would soon be on display. Stick Indians were incredibly vindictive and always sought revenge.  It is believed that the Stick Indians have some powers of mental persuasion. Although the range of the powers differs (some believe they have the power to hypnotize or cause instant insanity) almost every tribe agrees that they are able to induce dread, confusion, and anxiety to humans, especially humans wandering alone. One of the ways they accomplish this is through disorienting a travel by whistling and mimicking animal noises.

Many people who disappeared were thought to have been taken by the Stick Indians as a punishment for disrespecting them. Children, specifically, were warned of the Stick Indians and wandering into the forest at night because the Stick Indian’s stole them away and brought them up to act as wives and slaves.


The above image is unrelated to the story and is from flickr user Mrs. Gemstones and is liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Fetch

You may have heard of Doppelgängers before, but did you know the Irish have their very own version of the Doppelgänger? Well, it isn’t quite a Doppelgänger but a Fetch is an apparition of a living person and typically classified as a wraith.

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The fetch is typically depicted as a mere shadow that resembles a living person, including their clothing. Fetches are usually seen not by the person the fetch resembles, but by a close friend or family member. Fetches are only seen for a short time, usually at a bit of a distance, and fade away shortly after being seen.

Fetches are not substantial nor are they made of matter. They are often described as being airy or not “all there” indicating to those who see the fetch that they are not the person they think...merely a portrayal of that person.

Encountering a fetch doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, if you saw a fetch (even your own fetch) in the morning it meant good luck was coming your way. However, if a fetch was seen after nightfall it almost guaranteed death or catastrophe was close. Seeing a fetch while the person was ill was also typically a bad omen.

In the Book Haunted England, folklorist Christina Hole recounts the story of Sir William Napier, “who stopped at an inn while traveling from Bedfordshire to Berkshire. When he was shown his room, he saw a corpse lying on the bed. Upon closer inspection, he was astonished to see that the corpse was himself. Shortly after arriving in Berkshire, he died.”

Fetches do not appear to have specific power or interaction with the warning world besides as an omen (good or bad). It is silent, little seen, and does not seem to directly interact with the humans that encounter it.

Fetches classifications as a wraith make sense, especially considering Wraith translates to “dark shadow.” If we believe Fetches to shadows of people currently living, it tracks that they would fall under the larger category of wraiths.

So, if you think you see a ghostly representation of a close friend or loved one make sure to give them the warning that the fetch carries.

The above image is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864.’ It is in the public domain.

Pukwudgies

Pukwudgies are a magical, humanoid race of people that feature prominently in Algonquian folklore. To different tribes, the Pukwudgie acts and looks differently. For example, in the Ojibwe tribes they are described as a mischievous but mostly good-natured being that may trick people but rarely has malicious intent. The Wampanoag and many other tribes of New England know the Pukwudgie to be both a trickster but also dangerous. They are known to play tricks but, in some cases, help out a human who has encountered them. If you wrong them or somehow offend them they are known to steal children, commit acts of terror, and can even be deadly.

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Pukwudgies are usually likened to the Western European fairy or gnome. While almost all accounts note that they are tricksters accounts vary on whether or not they have malicious intent. They are typically described as being about knee-high to an average height human. They have large hands, sagging shoulders, a stooped appearance, and a tendency to hunch forward when they walk. Despite this, they still appear to be agile and quick. Although they are small they are typically carrying arrows (which sometimes have poison arrows), knives, or spears. They also can attack in unison to kidnap people, push them off cliffs, or otherwise intimidate.

Their name denotes they habitat. ‘Pukwudgie’ translates directly to ‘person of the wilderness’ and they are often revered and respected of protectors or spirits of the forest. They are also known to have special powers. These powers vary depending on the tribe speaking about Pukwudgie lore, but they usually include the ability to become invisible, confound people, shapeshift, and bring harm to people simply through their gaze.

Native Americans believed that if you were to cross the path of a Pukwudgie you should avoid it as much as possible and not interact with the being at all.

The Wampanoag legend of the Pukwudgie is particularly interesting had a connection to Maushop, the creation giant who is believed to have created the land which is now Cape Cod. He was a beloved god and the Wampanoag people often felt they were blessed and especially taken care of by Maushop. The Pukwudgies felt forgotten and tried to help out the Wampanoag people so the Pukwudgies could be as revered as Maushop. However, their efforts often backfired or their tricksy nature got the best of them and the Wampanoag people were not, at the time, grateful for them.

Sensing that they would never be as beloved as Maushop the Pukwudgies decided to fire back. They became more and more malevolent. They played tricks, scared Wampanoag people, and did nothing to improve their daily lives. One day they Wampanoag were fed up with the feud and decided to visit Granny Squanit, Maushop’s wife, for guidance. Maushop, on his wife’s orders, collected up as many Pukwudgies as he could and flung them all around the area - from New England to the Great Lakes and even as far south as Delaware! He hoped this would lessen their power and if they were more spread out it would be harder for them to have such a big impact on humans’ lives.

Satisfied but exhausted from the work Maushop and his wife took a short sabbatical. However, during this time the Pukwudgies snuck back to Massachusetts. Infuriated that the Wampanoag were behind their scattering they elevated their attacks on them. Instead of just being nuisances and tricksters, the Pukwudgies began stealing children, burning villages, leading those lost in the woods to their deaths, and other horrible misdeeds.

Maushop was aware of this but did not want to fully return yet so he sent his five sons to fix the Pukwudgie problem. However, his sons were not a match for the Pukwudgies and they tricked them, ensnared them, and killed all five of them. Maushop and Granny Squaint were furious over their sons’ deaths and they attacked and killed as many Pukwudgies as they could. However, many escaped to the lands of New England.

Many still survive to this day and, according to some stories, a group of Pukwudgies overwhelmed Maushop and killed him.

It is interesting to note that after this story takes places Maushop largely disappears from the Wampanoags’’ mythos.

The folklore of the Pukwudgie is so pervasive that The Song of Hiawatha, an epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, includes a brief section on Pukwudgies. It was published in 1855 and you can read it in full here:


“Far and wide among the nations

Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;

No man dared to strive with Kwasind,

No man could compete with Kwasind.

But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,

They the envious Little People,

They the fairies and the pygmies,

Plotted and conspired against him.”

Eyewitness accounts of the Pukwudgies and their good (and bad) deeds have been around for centuries. Although running into a Pukwudgie is always a scary situation because of their power and capricious nature it is not necessarily a death sentence. However, it is important to be wary of them and their intentions.

One of the areas with the most activity is in Freetown-Fall River State Forest in Massachusetts. It is on this land that a 227-acre Watuppa Reservation, which belongs to the Wampanoag Nation, is located. In fact, reports in the Freetown-Fall River State Forest forest rangers have put up a ‘Pukwudgie Crossing’ sign. Although this may be in jest, it does reflect the large number of calls, stories, and experiences with Pukwudgies that emerge from this area.

One of the most famous encounters occurred in the Forest. A local named Joan was walking her dog along a path in the forest, something she had done many times before. Without warning her dog began running excitedly off the path and into the forest. When the dog finally stopped running and Joan caught her breath she raised her head and found herself face to face with a small, humanoid creature. According to Joan, the being was roughly two feet tall, with pale gray skin, and short, stocky legs. It had large lips, a canine-like nose, and a human-like face.

The creature did not make a move towards Joan and her dog and Joan simply stared. Soon her dog began pulling her back towards the path and Joan followed. Unsettled by this strange and unexplainable experience Joan tried to forget it. However, this did not seem to make the Pukwudgie very happy. Later that night, and for a number of weeks, the creature would appear at Joan’s bedroom window in the middle of the night and wake her up.

Does the Pukwudgie crave human attention, or perhaps need it in some way? It is important to remember that previous to the Wampanoags’ run-in with them and the fight that erupted between Pukwudgies and Maushop, they enjoyed at least respect and acceptance of the Wampanoag people...they just wanted more. Although sightings are somewhat rare and scattered over the years I wonder if Pukwudgies make themselves known after they have been out of the news for some time. If they didn’t need or care about human interaction...why not just disappear deeper into the woods? If they have the ability to make themselves invisible why would they ever let themselves be seen? For this reason, I believe there is some kind of cross-over or necessity of human attention directed towards Pukwudgies...good or bad attention.



Thanks to Fallyn E T for the #blogstonishing topic suggestion!


The above image is unrelated to the story and is entitled Road through the Forest (Berkshires), Scenic. It is made available under the public domain.

Wampus Cat

A Wampus Cat might sound like the name of a cartoon cat but in reality, it is something much more complex and much more sinister. Although Wampus Cat legends can be heard throughout the South in the United States they seem to be predominantly prominent in Appalachia and has its origins in Cherokee lore.

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There are several different version of how the Wampus Cat came to be. One of the most prominent legends behind the Wampus Cat says that a group of Native American men set out for a long and grueling hunting trip. Because of the nature and duration of this hunt, no women were permitted to accompany the men. Both the men and the women of the tribe were incredibly upset about this order. One particularly spirited wife decided to secretly follow the men along of their hunt.

In order to camouflage herself, the woman decided to wear the hide of a cougar and hang near their campfire. She listened with rapture to the tales of the hunt, the rites of the hunt, and the conversation of the men. However, she soon made herself known. Perhaps she coughed, or gasped, or repositioned herself and broke a stick. But, whatever happened the men discovered her and were infuriated. They brought her back to their village and let the shaman decide her fate. The shaman punished this woman by turning her into the animal she wore on a back.

Thus, the Wampus Cat was created. The Wampus cat is half-human, half-cougar and is cursed until the end of time to walk the woods alone. Because of her terrifying experience, all those who cross her path are terrified of her and typically run screaming, thus preventing her from ever having positive human contact.

It is said the Wampus Cat has the ability to walk on her hind legs and has the snout and ears of a feline. The Wampus Cat likes to stalk campfires, especially those only with men, perhaps as a way to avenge her situation. Sometimes she simply steals food, but other times she attacks those around the campfire.

Interestingly enough, the Wampus Cat is where the term ‘Catawmpus’ allegedly comes from. Catamountain was a common way to say ‘Mountain Cat.’ Catawampus was used to describe an atypical or strange cat that those in the mountains believed they were seeing.

Thanks to Stacy C for the #blogstonishing  topic suggestion!

The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken on the trail leading up to the Appalachian Trail. It was taken by MaciEej and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication.


Church Grims

It is known as the Church Grim or the Kirk Grim in English, Kyrkogrim in Swedish, and Kirkonavki in Finnish. No matter where you may hear the story the lore surrounding this particular creature is fascinating. Church Grims are popular in both English and Scandinavian folklore. Despite its ominous and frightening appearance many believe the Church Grim is an attendant spirit, sent to oversee a church.

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Although they are an attendant spirit, Church Grims are not some dapper gentleman dressed in clothes of old or a gentle animal. Instead, Church Grims usually appear as intensely fierce black dogs ready to protect the church. In some stories, the dogs can also be rams, horses, roosters, or ravens. In Scandinavian legend it is also said that they can also appear as pale, human-like ghosts who were once parishioners.

The Church Grim may not be as cute and cuddly as our beloved Greyfriars Bobby, it does not call forth evil. Instead, the Church Grim’s one goal is to protect the church safe from the devil. It is a guardian spirit and some people believe this was because early Christians may have sacrificed animals when a new church was built and bury them on the north side of the land. Why would they do this? Well, it was once assumed by several different religious traditions, including early Christianity, that whoever was the first and/or last being interred in the Church’s cemetery would be forced to serve as its guardian for all the years to come. So that this tough existence wouldn't be granted to some poor soul at random, an animal was sacrificed and buried in the churchyard or on the church grounds. Some of the more gruesome traditions suggest that the animal would be buried alive.  

However good its intentions may be, you don’t want to bump into the Church Grim. Church Grim’s are often an omen and herald doom and death to those who witness it.

Thanks to Luke C for the suggestion!




The above image is unrelated to the story and is by Flickr user Matthias Ripp. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


The Nain Rouge

The Nain Rouge, also known as the Red Dwarf, a legend that has shaped Detroit, Michigan for decades. The Nain Rouge is also known as the ‘The Demon of the Strait’ and is believed to be the first bad omen for an upcoming disaster. One of the most infamous encounters of the Nain Rouge was when the founder of Detroit, Cadillac, found him sitting on the bank of the Detroit River. Suddenly, he jumped up and thrust a stick at Cadillac. Frightened, Cadillac drew his own sword in response and beat the creature away until it ran. After his experience he lost his entire fortune, went back to France, lost his trade monopoly, and was bereft of the wonderful benefits that had accompanied him throughout life.

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The Nain Rouge doesn’t just have Cadillac to thank for his French name. In fact, French folklore has long depicted trouble-making creatures that hold a grudge and wreak havoc if disturbed. As the decades wore on and Cadillac’s story was told again and again the Nain Rouge also took on several characteristics of Native American folklore.

It has been witnessed right before many of the city’s lowest times. For example, it was spotted by several people racing through the streets on 1805 mere days before much of the city burned to the ground. It was spotted again in 1812 when the British began bombarding the American forces at Fort Detroit.  When General Hull finally accepted the British unconditional surrender, he reported that he saw the Nain Rouge leering and laughing at him through the fog as it cleared.

He has also been seen in the 20th century during the police raid that sparked the race riots of 1967 and, ten years later in 1977, was seen by Detroit Edison lineman while on lunch break shimmy up a utility pole. They screamed at him to stop and when he reached the top dropped to the ground without a scratched, leered at them and ran away. The next day a historic ice storm left roughly 400,000 residents without electricity.

Detroit has been an American city that has seen more downs than ups during its long and storied history. However, much of this is blamed on the Nain Rouge. So much so that for over a decade the city holds a parade to banish the Nain Rouge for another year. “He’s a necessary villain,” said Shane Stroud, one of the marchers from Dearborn, MI. She continues, “He takes the blame for us.”

Interestingly enough, the Wall Street Journal notes in a 2016 article, “The Nain-bashing has coincided with the city’s recovery. While much of Detroit is still troubled, pockets of the city are starting to see new life. Detroit’s downtown, where visitors could once see trees growing on the rooftops of abandoned office towers, has begun to flourish with restaurants and businesses locating there. Investment is pouring in, and in some neighborhoods, rents and home prices are rising.”


Thank you Brad L for the suggestion!

Representation of "Le Nain Rouge", or "The Red Dwarf", the mythical figure that haunts Detroit and is cause for all of the problems that plague the city by Fujiwara06. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.


Ghost Lights: An Overview

From centuries-old folklore to contemporary sightings, ghost lights seem to play a part in many paranormal experiences and remain a constant thread of unexplained phenomena through the ages. They have been reported around the world and remain a constant and haunting element whose purpose and intent we can only guess at.

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Many of the earliest mentions of ghost lights call them Will-o’-wisps. These are phantom lights that hover in the wilderness, specifically away from human settlement. Many popular stories of Will-o’-wisps take place in the moors and bogs of England. Will-o’-wisps are simple things - they are balls of light typically described as blue, although red and yellow have also been reported.

Will-o’-wisps, despite their whimsical name, seem to have quite dark and evil intents. They are said to appear as a beacon to lost travelers or children lost in the woods. The victims, thinking they may have found another soul in the marshes or a nearby village, follow the light. However, the light almost always leads them to a deep hole, a deadly muddy part of the bog, or just deeper into the woods leaving them more lost than over. In some cases, the lights are carried or controlled by vicious fae who plan on taking the follower captive in their kingdom.

In addition to being misleading signs of hope, it is also said that these Will-o’-wisps act as powerful omens and warnings of tragedy and death.

Today, they aren’t called Will-o’-wisps as regularly. There are several popular places in America alone that are notorious for ghost lights - Marfa, Texas, Brown Mountains, North Carolina, and the Paulding Lights of Michigan!

The mysterious lights of today seem to move in a similar way to Will-o’-wisps - they bob, change their speeds, weaving through the air, and are rarely still or are on a clear path. They have also been assigned new names like spook lights and corpse candles.

But what are ghost lights? Are they the same vicious fae of Will-o’-wisps lore? Are they intent on confusing travelers? Or, are they something else? Some theorize that they may be ghosts or even UFOs. On a skeptic level, many believe it is methane gas that has caught fire and appears to float due to fumes rising or headlights of cars that have been distorted..

Thanks to Kimbery G. for the suggestion.

The above image is from The Public Domain Review and is  entitled will o the wisp. It is licensed under the public domain.


Hungry Grass

Hungry Grass, also known as Fear Gortach, is popular in Irish folklore. So, what makes it so different from normal grass? Well, it is said to be indistinguishable from a normal patch of grass, but if you stand in a patch of hungry grass you’ll immediately be overtaken by hunger, sleepiness, and you may even faint.

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What causes hungry grass to spring up in otherwise normal fields? Some say that it arises when someone dies violently, others say it happens when someone starves to death. Even more, believe they are the victims of the Irish famines. In reaction to these painful realities, the land responds.

Another theory of hungry grass springing up is it is a fairy curse. Recently, I was learning about Fairy Paths. Fairy Paths typically connect the various places where fairies frequented, including their hills, raths, gathering places, and meadows. People tended to avoid taking these paths, building on them, or otherwise obstructing them. If you did obstruct them or even walk there, the fairies might get upset and punish or play with you. Perhaps the hungry grass is a reaction to those messing with common fairy paths?

Whatever causes hungry grass to spring up, almost unnoticeably, once it does the grass becomes predatory. Anyone who walks across it feels a deeply insatiable hunger, even if they just ate. People who live near known patches of hungry grass try to keep some extra food on hand for those walking and who don’t know to avoid certain parts of the meadow.  

Today, the threat of hungry grass seems to have abated. However, a common phrase is "The fear gortach is on me", which means ‘I’m very hungry!’ so it isn’t wholly missing from cultural consciousness.

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion! This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0

Thanks to Brenden K. for the suggestion!

This image is entitled “Mowing grass at Bridge-end Pasture The path from Crook Hill Farm provides some splendid views of the Hope Valley, Snake Pass and Derwent Edge (On a clear day !)The conifers on the right are at the edge of Hagg Side Plantation. Forestry Commission have just started major tree-felling work here” by Peter Barr and is licensed under cc-by-sa 2.0