Posted in faeries, tagged christmas, european traditions, grumpus, hooves and horns, krampus, little boys and girls, little devil, paganism, St. Nicholas on December 23, 2011|
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Everyone knows that around Christmas time you have to be extra good, because if you’re not Santa won’t bring you any presents. Well… what if you were treated to a punishment rather than the reward system for bad behaviour? What if in fact there were serious… life threatening… consequences for being bad. In such a case we would meet the Krampus.
The Christmas Krampus is a mythological figure that appears in some mountainous-regioned European traditions. The Krampus accompanies Santa on his night long journey, and while Good Ol’ St. Nick gives good little boys and girls presents, Krampus on the other hand punishes bad children and warns them to be good. If he finds any particularly bad children, he stuffs them in a bag and steals the children away to maybe eat them later on. I bet you’re wishing for the coal now aren’t ya.
The Christmas Krampus looks kind of like a little devil. Some interpretations have sort of a yeti look, others a more traditional devil, complete with hooves and horns.
There are some histories and further information on these pages here.
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Tengu are Japanese bird spirits of the wilderness that guard the forest. They are shape-shifters, and may not show their true form, but if you do happen to see it, there are two different true forms Tengu take. One is called Karasu Tengu, or Crow Tengu, has a human body with a crow head and are covered with feathers. and their hands and feet are tipped with claws instead of digits. The other kind of Tengu is called Yamabushi Tengu, or Mountain Priest Tengu. These have human form, but have bright red faces and longer beak-like noses.
Tengu play the role of the trickster and are known to start arguments, start fires, steal children, or drop things on people from above. Think of the evil flying monkey in the Wizard of Oz and you kind of have an idea, kind of.
They aren’t always bad however. Tengu are called upon to help locate missing children. Also, if they favour you they can transfer their powers to you, which is good if you’re the warrior type. Tengu are master weapon smiths and are very skilled in both Kendo (fencing) and ninjitsu (ninjas). They are also very skilled magicians and occultists and are able to control the weather.
Tengu predate Buddhism in Japan and openly resist it in legends. They often symbolize a resistance to Buddhism. Many of their shrines are in the mountains and a common offering to give is sake, mochi, or rice cakes, but they’ll take what they can get.
Here’s a page with a little bit more information http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/tengu.shtml And here also http://totaljapandemonium.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/yokai-report-tengu/
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Oni are defiant spirits of chaos and mischief from Japanese folklore. The word Oni can be translated to mean ogre or troll, but unlike the trolls we see in traditional western belief, these trolls are very intelligent and have magical powers. Some believe their magic is so powerful that their limbs are able to instantly re-attach themselves to the Oni’s body once removed, making them very formidable opponents. Not all Oni are evil either. Since they love a good battle, some may take it upon themselves to banish evil spirits just for the fun of it.
Some sources say that Oni like the taste of human flesh, and from this belief came the belief that Oni are spirits of death. In Buddhism, the Oni guard the gates between various hell and death realms (watch out Dante, there are 18 levels). Here’s a link with some pictures of the different stages of hell, and you can see Oni torturing the people here. Some sources say that Oni predate Buddhism in the far East however and were later incorporated into Buddhism to assist with assimilation. Their role changed from guardians to evil beings with the rise of the samurai class in Japan. Stories then featured samurai facing off against the evil Oni (knight vs dragon).
While there are supposedly female Oni (and they are supposedly growing rarer and rarer), Oni were originally pure spirits who did not keep up population by sexual reproduction. As legends have it, when men die while they are overwhelmed by excessive anger, they transform into Oni.
Oni have horns, tusks, and fangs. They have either red, blue or black skin and are often clad in a tiger skin of sorts. In more recent times, Oni statues are used to keep out bad spirits, kind of like gargoyles in the West.
There is a legend about a man named Shoki who would battle the Oni, and you can read more about that here
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As some of you may know, it is currently the hockey playoffs and the Vancouver team is in the finals. I was with some friends while they were watching a game and all of a sudden the camera focused on these two guys covered from head to toe in bright green spandex. They call themselves the green men.
Apparently these two are supporters of Vancouver and show up to games and entertain/ taunt the players and crowd to support their team. Here is a video of an ESPN interview
Now you must be asking yourself… what do these two hockey geeks have to do with faeries? Well. As I have absolutely no interest in hockey, when I saw these guys the first thing I thought of was the Green Man.
Chances are you’ve seen this face already, it’s a pretty common sight.
There are hundreds if not thousands of variations and artistic interpretations, but it is essentially a face composed of or peeking out from a cluster of leaves.
The Green Man is a figure in the Celtic tradition that probably had some significant pagan meaning pre- Christian colonization, but has now been reduced to a fancy lawn ornament. The Green Man motif can be found inside of many old, famous cathedrals and churches, one of these being Exeter Cathedral in England. Here is a link to a page on their website dedicated to the many depictions of the Green Man http://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/history/greenmen.ashx
Though I’ve known of the Green Man for a long time, I was never 100% positive of it’s significance. As the origins of the symbol are lost I don’t feel too badly for my ignorance. As I was searching for some sort of reference to refer to in this post I found that not too many other people knew what it meant either, and few sites other than Wikipedia took any stabs at a description (Wikipedia focusing more on architectural relevance than mythological description). Even the several reference books I have on faeries and mythology in general, some focused specifically on Celtic mythology, seemed to leave the Green Man out of their collection of mythological figures. I finally found an entry in The Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes. In this book, the Green Man is explained to be the spirit of irrepressible life and the regenerative powers of nature. Think weeds growing out of rock or cement. It is also a symbol of decay, or of returning to the earth.
This face has always fascinated me. A face hidden in the foliage. There is a wonderful element of mystery and secrecy in magic and fantasy. A sense that there is something unknown, something to be discovered; which I adore. I have also always felt a strong connection to nature, and have always associated magical creatures like faeries with natural settings. Faeries turning into foxes, birds or bugs. Faeries living in trees and flowers or underground. Faeries always choosing nature to hide themselves in when humans are passing by. The two have always been connected in my mind. Even now when I pass by a small cluster of trees or walk through the woods, me being fantastically minded, half of my brain is looking for hidden faeries. For myself, the Green Man is just as valid and powerful a symbol for fantasy as is the dragon or the unicorn… with maybe a little more focus placed on the little people.
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Nereids are sea creatures in Greek mythology. They are the 50 daughters of the sea-god, Nereus and the sea goddess (and half-sister of Nereus), Doris. They are beautiful women who are friendly to sailors and are said to have the powers of prophecy. They live in the Mediterranean sea and are often depicted riding a dolphin or seahorse or another sea creature. They are also in Poseidon’s retinue, which we see reflected in astronomy. Nereid is the name of the third largest moon for the planet Neptune (the roman name for Poseidon).
This is a good site with a lot of information including where Nereids can be found in literary epics such as the Iliad and other mythological sources. http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html
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One of the most well-known fairies of the season are of courses Santa’s elves. There have been many different versions of elves over the years in as presented in movies and other media.
Most of what we know about elves we know because of movies or books. Here are some of the more popular films that have created what we know about Santa’s little helpers.
Elf– The story of a human who was raised by elves.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town– The elves take in Kris Kringle.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer– Hermes the elf doesn’t conform to ‘regular elf behaviour’ and wants to be a dentist. (So we see a little bit about what elf behaviour is by seeing what it isn’t)
The Santa Clause– elves don’t really play a large role in the film, but are essential in creating the mood of the north pole. They are also presented as children instead of little old men as others have done in the past.
There’s also a song by the Barenaked Ladies about how elves aren’t so happy doing what they do called Elf’s Lament. The whole album is pretty fun, it’s called Barenaked for the Holidays. http://barenakedladies.com/music/barenaked-holidays
here’s the band’s page on the album
I recently discovered this book at a bookstore that comes with a little doll called Elf on the Shelf. The idea behind it is you put up the doll on the fireplace mantle or somewhere visible and the elf watches the children’s behaviour to tell Santa whether or not they’ve been naughty or nice. This seems just slightly creepy to me, and I have a feeling that I would have been more frightened of the doll than enchanted. It also seems like a cheap way to make your child behave by causing psychological trauma, but that might just be me. The doll also looks rather creepy. It comes with a book. http://www.elfontheshelf.com/#/home
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As it is the Christmas season I thought I’d feature some Christmas faeries. Namely, the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Sugar Plum Fairy is from the popular ballet, The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. The story of the Nutcracker is about a young girl named Clara who receives a nutcracker from her godfather as a Christmas present. That night she wakes up to find that the nutcracker has come alive and is fighting an army of evil rats. Just as the rat king is about to kill the Nutcracker, Clara throws her slipper at him to distract him and the rats retreat. The Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince and takes Clara through the trees and across a lake in a nutshell boat into the land of the sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy. After the Nutcracker prince tells the Sugar Plum Fairy of how Clara saved him from the mouse king and the court puts on a performance to honour the heroine. They then make Clara and the Nutcracker prince rulers of the realm. In the movie versions of the story Clara wakes up thinking that it must’ve been all a dream and then meets either an apprentice or a nephew of her godfather’s that looks strikingly like the Nutcracker prince and there are hints that they’ll fall in love.
Many of the songs from The Nutcracker are recognizable, and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is one of them, if not the most recognizable.
There are a couple of Christmas films or tv episode specials but my two preferred movies are the 1993 version of The Nutcracker, which has Macaulay Culkin in it and is basically a filming of the ballet.
The second is Barbie in the Nutcraker. Many people may feel hesitant and superior to the Barbie movies, but they are great movies with strong heroines and actual orchestras for the soundtrack. In my opinion it is one of the best film series for your average young girl, and the Christmas films are no exception.
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