european folklore

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?

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?

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!

G is for Gnome

Gnomes are a more recent addition to European folklore. The earliest mentions of them date to the 16th century. Male gnomes wear red pointy caps, have big beards, and usually have a tool belt, which relates to the fact that they’re technologically inclined. Female gnomes tend to wear more muted colors, has her hair in braids, and begins to grow a light beard when she reaches 350 years of age. They are very small in size, usually ranging from 5 inches to 2 feet tall depending on the source. Both genders have a very long lifespan.

German Garden Gnome

Gnomes are considered more human than their more unluckier cousins and fierce rivals, goblins. Both are viewed as a type of a earth spirit, but gnomes are known as inventors and alchemists, while goblins use crude but effective tools. Gnomes also tend to be capable of earth-related magic.

There are several different types of gnomes. Woodland gnomes, Dune gnomes, House gnomes, Farm gnomes, Garden gnomes, and Siberian gnomes. Woodland and Dune gnomes avoid contact with humans. House and Farm are good-natured and more likely to interact with humans. Garden gnomes enjoy living in older gardens and telling depressing stories. The Siberian gnome is meaner and takes revenge for even the smallest of offenses.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • The origin of the word gnome comes from Latin word gēnomos, which means “earth-dweller.” In the 16th Century, a Swiss alchemist named Paracelsus first wrote about gnomus omitting the “ē,” which the OED noted was a blunder. The word as we know it today came about in the early 18th century, but it became popular in the 19th century due to their popularity in children’s fairy tales.
  • In Scandinavian mythology, they’re thought to have always existed but were mostly considered related to other beings, such as fairy or fey.
  • During the 20th century, due to the popularity of 19th century fairy tales, gnomes became synonymous with other domestic spirits, which protected the residence and did household chores, losing their distinctness of being tied to earthy, subterranean lives.

Here’s a fun video from the video game Fable 3, which features a gnome hurling insults at the main character. It’s pretty darn funny.

Who are your favorite Gnomes? What books, movies, or games have you enjoyed with them in it? Has anyone seen the newish movie Gnomeo and Juliet?