atozchallenge

U is for Upier

Upiers, are from Eastern European folklore. Mainly from Pomerania, a region of modern Poland. These vampires, differ from the rest of their kind in a somewhat drastic way. Unlike normal vampires, upiers are awake between noon and midnight, giving it an extended period of awareness during the day and protection against mortal threats. Having an unquenchable thirst and vicious nature, the upier steals and devour the hearts, which it probably values as much, if not more, than the blood itself.

While still being vulnerable to the classic decapitation and stake through the heart method, the upier is less affected by clerical measures, and it has a degree of indifference towards charms or crosses, which is typical to Slavic tradition.

However, one can protect himself by baking bread that has vampire blood mixed in with the flour before baking. This apparently makes the person smell partially tainted or appear less desireable to the upier. To prevent a person from becoming upier, one must bury the corpse facedown with a cross of willow near major arteries, such as neck, armpits or chest.

Interesting tidbits:

  • It has a barbed tongue that allows it to pierce its victim’s skin. In addition to its sharp teeth, of course.
  • They can walk in sunlight during the day.
  • The Russian version of this vampire, the Upyr, is known to be very vicious. It attacks children and then their parents.
So, what are your thoughts on Upiers? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

T is for Troll

Trolls are originally from Norse mythology. They later moved into general Scandinavian folklore. Hideous, deformed, dimwitted, very old and strong, trolls are giants compared to normal men. Trolls have always been the unkind kin to the jötnar.

They live alone or in very small packs, usually in the countryside or a mountainous area. Trolls are lonesome and rarely friendly. Also, they tend to be highly suspicious of anything new in their surroundings. The age and wisdom trolls have give them an uncanny edge to magic, allowing them to control the primal forces of nature and the elements. While powerful, their magic is unsophisticated and sometimes even clumsy.

Trolls hide away from the deadly sunlight that can turn them to stone, spending time in caves during the daytime to rest. Many odd mountains and rock formations are said to have been trolls either caught in the daylight or hit by the lightning, turning them to stone right where they had stood.

The trolls were societies way of explaining formations of rock, mineral deposits and even disappearances of people and livestock. Their appearance and size as well as brutish behavior tended to be used as a deterrent to children inside before the woodlands got too dark. It was also a way to ridicule bullies with younger children, and to coax them away from their bad behavior. Scandinavian tales speak of multiple breeds of trolls. There were forest trolls, swamp trolls, ice and fire trolls as well as mountain trolls, who were giants even to other types.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Very strong magic can be used to wake up a troll that has become stone. However, it usually involves a sacrifice or two.
  • Trolls are rarely cannibals, but they eat humans very eagerly, viewing them as a lesser than species.
  • When trolls migrated, they take on characteristics of their new home, for instance a forest troll can become swamp troll-like if it moves to a swampy forest after a while.

So, what are your thoughts on Trolls? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

S is for Selkie

Source and more Selkie stamps

Selkies are from Irish, Icelandic, Faroese, and Scottish folklore. They are shapeshifters that change between seal and human by shedding, or putting on, their seal skin.

Originating from the Orkney and Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland, where the word selkie is Scots for “seal,” the myths were spread by fishermen and traders across the rest of England. Similar stories of these creatures are found in Norway, Sweden and with the Chinook people of North America with some variations.

Most of the stories involving selkies are mournful love stories and ballads. The summation of the most common is a fisherman sees a selkie, and he takes for her as his wife, while secretly hiding her seal pelt. She thinks she’s lost it forever and is sad because she longs for the sea and life as a seal, but they live happily and have several children. One of the children find the seal skin and ask what it is, and then the selkie puts it on and rushes back to the ocean. She’s sorrowful again, but this time because she misses her husband and children. A very interesting Faroese variation is located here.

Other variations include male selkies who have great power to seduce women. For women to come into contact with them, they have to cry seven tears into the sea. Typically, the children of these couplings have webbed fingers and toes as an indication of their origin. Also, according to Wikipedia.org, “The MacCodrum clan of North Uist claim descent from selkies and have been known as Sliochd nan Ron, the ‘Offspring of the Seals’ for many generations.”

Examples of selkies in literature, games, songs, and television & movies are located here. These include the movie Ondine, which I haven’t seen yet but now I really want to!

So, what are your thoughts on Selkies? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

R is for Revenant

Unlike most undead, the Revenant, from Medieval European Folklore, is a returned spirit that possesses a corpse, typically its own, while retaining its intelligence and scraps of its humanity. Some classify revenants as vampires due to a certain characteristics, like occasionally drinking blood, but they are much more closely related to zombies overall.

Depiction of a Revenant.

While the revenant wears the outside appearances of the body it inhabits, it has a particular aura of dread and unease about him, making those nearby edgy. Another attribute they have is the ability to continue their (im)mortal business while retaining most of their sanity. However, their urge to obtain release by means of revenge plague their mental faculties. Nearly impervious to pain, revenant are usually eradicated in the old fashioned method of cutting off the head then staking and burning the heart.

Various outbreaks and poor medical knowledge probably contributed to the growing tales of revenants. Diseases traveled and hit multiple villages, easily creating an image that something was wrong in the area. The way people generally “found a solution” to their issue was by finding the offending undead and putting it out of its unlife. A white feverish person could be mistaken as a revenant and was usually dealt with as eagerly a buried corpse.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Revenant comes from the Latin word revenans, which means “returning.” The French word revenant means “coming back.”
  • In Medieval England, the revenant was simply considered a corpse that haunts and terrorizes those around him. Although, they also were noted as seeking revenge or harassing people like friends and neighbors for specific reasons, such as avenging his murder.
  • Medieval Historians documented several stories of revenants, which usually were personal and about a specific person’s who had died.

Have you heard of the Revenant before? If so, where?

Q is for Qiqirn

Today’s letter for the A to Z Challenge was a challenge. There aren’t a lot of mythological creatures that start with the letter Q, and the ones that do are pretty obscure!

Anyways… The Qiqirn is from Inuit mythology. It is a large, mostly bald dog spirit that roams the wild arctic. The only places where the dog has any hair is on its ears, mouth, feet and the very tip of its tail, which should alert anyone to become suspicious about them from afar.

If the animal is approached, the person will suffer convulsions, perhaps even epileptic seizures, that lead up to death. It will run away if you call out its name from a distance. It also will run away from other dogs since it’s considered to be rather foolish and shy.

Interesting tidbit: While the arctic has less cases of rabies, mange, and similar diseases, the Qiqirn seems to be the embodiment of dog-related disease and illness.

Link with drawing: http://hundredmythologyhaiku.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-li-qiqirn.html

Have you read or watched something with a Qiqirn in it? If so, what was it?

P is for Piru

Piru, from Finnish mythology, is considered to be a variety of things. Traditionally, the word has meant anything from a lesser devil or evil to Satan. The word has its base in the word perkele, which is tied to the old Slavic thunder god, Peru. While usually meaning the Devil himself, the word is also used for trolls, ogres, hiisi‘s (Finnish form of demon), and a variety of elves and gnomes that are evil or have characteristics of lesser evils.

In Finnish mythology and shamanism, pirus (both demons and devils) are roaming spirits that actively pursue their prey and the potential victims, unlike bound spirits, such as ghosts. Striking with little or no warning, they can cause illness, insanity, change the victim’s personality, or even possess the victim. (Interesting side note: the state of the person being possessed is known as riivattu. The base word is riivio, which means gremlin, so the connotation is that the person being possessed has a gremlin controlling their actions.) The piru can also possess, haunt and live in buildings themselves, as opposed to normal ghosts.

Shamans and priests may exorcise the piru out of the person, which sometimes cures the illness, but it usually takes years for the victim’s psyche to recover. Folklore mentions a multitude of different spells and methods used to expel such unwanted presences, ranging from using salt to a full-scale exorcism, and sometimes burning down the building.

Due to their roving personalities, pirus have been said to crash occasions, such as weddings or baptisms. Sometimes, the piru kidnapped children that were not being watched, taking them as their own. In these occasions, the child also became an invisible roaming spirit, only able to eat and drink accursed food. For instance, the piru might have knocked a jar of milk over, after which, if the maid cursed, the piru’s child would have a few moments to drink what milk had spilled. If the maid said a blessing, the child would have been punished and left without sustenance.

During the early Christian era, the piru was seen as a corrective spirit that replaced the wrongs. If a household master cheated the workers out of pay, he would eventually end up in the piru’s clutches and driven to insanity. But it didn’t end there, the piru would also tell the workers where the master’s money and goods were hidden.

Interesting tidbit: Don’t fall asleep in a sauna overnight. The piru would become upset enough to kill you.

Interesting Link: http://www.paranet.fi/paradocs/keskustelua/tikkala1993.html

Sorry, I couldn’t get hold of a picture today! Have you read or watched something with a Piru in it? If so, what was it? Also, is there a mythological creature you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

N is for Nix/O is for Ogre

Hey everyone! Sorry for not posting N on Saturday. I had a busy weekend. To make up for it, today I’m going to have two posts in one, N and O.

Theodor Kittelsen’s Nøkken (Norwegian form of Nix) from 1904.

Nix, or Näkki in Finnish mythology, is a water spirit in Scandinavia responsible for luring in and drowning young children and pregnant women with the occasional man every once in a while. The nix is usually a man who plays enchanting violin music in streams, waterfalls, or in the middle of the lake. He will initially have fun and play with the victims before suddenly pulling them down to the water’s depths.

There are female nix, but those are rare. Usually, they have a fishtail and lure men into the water to drown. Sometimes, the nix shapeshifts into the form of a river horse. The latter of which will take the rider to the freezing depths of the lake as soon as it is mounted.

With multitude of streams and rivers, ranging from the fjords in Norway to the swampy lakes of eastern Finland, the nix has plenty of hunting ground. It’s said to be most active during festivities such as Midsummer’s Night and Christmas Eve, and also on Thursdays.

Interesting Tidbit: It resembles the Banshee in the characteristic that it sometimes screams in a particular area of a lake or river where someone later drowns.

Giovanni Lanfranco’s Norandino and Lucina Discovered
by the Ogre
(1624)

Ogres are from European folklore and described as having bulging big heads, strong muscles and unending appetite for human flesh. Nearly all mythologies have ogres as being huge, hairy, and having a large stomach. They are malevolent and dimwitted. It’s said they can shapeshift, and they typically live underground.

There is also a female ogress. She is connected with water and less vicious than male ogres.

Ogres are generally viewed as a fear of cannibalism and the degeneration of humans. They show what humans are without their humanity.

Interesting Tidbit: The word ogre is French in origin. Also, it’s thought that these creatures are based on the two mythical giants Gog and Magog, which are found in the Bible (in the Book of Genesis, Ezekiel, and 1 Chronicles) and the Quran.

Have you read or watched something with a Nix or Ogre in it? If so, what was it? Also, is there a mythological creature you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

M is for Misty Night

Hey everyone. Sorry for the tardiness of this post! You may notice that it’s not a blog post describing a creature of mythology. But, it is on a mythological being all the same in the form of flash fiction for the Blogaversary Blogfest and the A to Z challenge.

I hope you enjoy this piece. Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Misty Night
by Sarah Mäkelä

I swam through the sea, exploring my surroundings as fish mamboed around me. Popping my head up out of the water, I noticed the moon shining through the misty night sky. My attention swerved to a nearby island, and I gasped as my gazes met with a huge dark mongrel of myth. His musky scent drifted to my nostrils on the soft sea breeze. A splash sounded from behind me, and I turned away for a moment. But nothing was there. When I looked back to where the large dog had been, it was gone.

L is for Lamia

Lamia (2nd version) by John William Waterhouse
(1909); Note the snakeskin on her lap.

Lamia are half-snake, half-woman vampiristic beings from Greek mythology. They eat children and seduce young men. Unlike Medusa, who has hair of snakes, the lamia usually wears snakeskin along her waist and her right forearm, giving hints of her actual characteristics.

According to the Greek mythology, Queen Lamia of Libya had an affair with Zeus. However, Hera found out and killed the children Lamia had already given birth to. Driven mad by this act, Lamia began eating other children and slowly became hideous and corrupt.

Mothers used to tell their children stories of Lamia to warn them of slowly awakening sexuality and to generally make the children behave. Some also used these stories to explain why certain questionable women, and their male companions, were rarely seen after they had met during the night.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • While both the lamia and Medusa share Greek roots, the lamia is described as more human of the two.
  • In modern stories, Lamia is considered a more remote creature, similar to Baba-Yaga, living in a tower or a house far away from people.
  • Considered magically adept and excelling in deception, lamia were said to have hid among the populace and wreak havoc until finally being hunted down.

Have you heard of the Lamia before? If so, where? Also, is there a mythological being you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

K is for Kraken

The sea with its vast size has always created stories and lore of its own, ranging from whirlpools the size of small islands to magical creatures and even stories about the ends of the earth. However, few things strike seafarers with as much fear as the Kraken.

It is a massive squid capable of sinking warships and dragging them to the bottom of the sea, meanwhile creating a whirlpool that sucks down other nearby ships for miles around.

Kraken is viewed as an intelligent force of nature and the embodiment of the raging sea. It is one of the oldest and most often referred sea monsters throughout history. Its origins are tied to the Norway and Iceland, but similar stories of Kraken exists throughout seafaring cultures.

Sure, Kraken sounds like it could merely be a legend of old, but not so, there have been multiple sightings of giant squid across the globe, particularly throughout northern hemisphere and trade routes once used by Vikings. An even larger subspecies of squid, the colossal squid, has been found in the wild and reaches 33ft and possibly longer.

These recent findings suggest that there is something more to this mythological creature than meets the eye, or tentacle. Harr… harr… *grins*

Interesting Tidbits:

  • It has been the inspiration for a variety of books and movies. Here’s a link to some of those. 
  • It is usually described as being the size of a floating island and has a flotilla of smaller fish accompanying it, which makes it attractive to fishermen despite the danger. A common saying when one has great catches is, “You must have fished on Kraken.”
  • Seaworld Orlando has a roller coaster ride called Kraken. Although, their version is of a huge “dragon eel.” Regardless, it’s very fun!
So, how about you? Have you read a book, seen a movie, or been on a roller coaster ride based off the Kraken?