Basilisks

The Basilisk is a mythological creatures, sometimes described as a serpent, a lizard, a dragon, and occasionally as a giant snake with wings and the head of a chicken. What makes this odd combination more fearful is the reported poisonous breath and glare–both of which can kill. Such a charming creature!

“A Hiss and a Fire”

by AJ Skelly

I smelled like basilisk poop.

And Tatianna Everblaze was coming towards me with her gaggle of friends.  She was the most beautiful girl at Magik Prep Academy.  Her golden hair was tied back with a red ribbon that matched the occasional flames that rose in her eyes as her inner phoenix flashed.  We were seniors this year, but I’d watched her from afar since I was a freshman. 

I’d been entranced the first time I saw her eyes flicker with her inner fire.  Her eyes were gorgeous when they kindled.

I groaned.  My eyes were still covered by stupid protective goggles.  One peek from basilisk eyes and you’d be seeing a whole other type of flames.  As in, a poof of smoke and you left nothing but ashes behind.  While the goggles protected me from any accidental basilisk glaring, they did nothing for my facial features.  The strap of the unwieldy glasses went around my head and made my pointed ears stick out nearly parallel to the floor.  I looked more like a devil than an elf. 

I leaned my shovel against the pen where I’d been cleaning out the basilisk stalls.  Scholarship students had to earn their keep.  And if I wanted to graduate with the credentials to go on and study mythological biology at university, I had to pay my dues and scoop the poop. 

But why did I have to do it in front of Tatianna?

“Owen?”  Her voice sent shivers down my spine and mortification rushing to my face.  I was the only one on duty at the stables this afternoon.  I sighed.  There was no hiding.

“Owen, are you back there?”

“Coming!”

I squared my shoulders and took a breath and ignored the acrid smell of the scat on my boots.

“Hi, Tatianna, Savannah, Sloane.  What can I do for you ladies?”

Savannah tittered.  “Owen, your eyeballs are bigger than a cyclops’ in those goggles.”

Because I wasn’t self-conscious enough already.

Tatianna elbowed her friend and glared.  A flash of flames flicked in her irises.

“Ignore her, Owen,” Tatianna said.  I nodded, unsure.  “I heard the baby basilisks were starting to hatch.  I was hoping to take a peek.”

She was speaking to me.  My tongue froze.

“I’m writing a paper on the life cycle of the basilisk, when they develop their venomous glare and stuff.  Is it okay if we go back to the nesting area?  I promise we’ll stay far away.  I just want to observe a while.”

“I,” I cleared my throat.  “That should be fine.”

Awesomely brilliant thing to say.

“Come on, I’ll take you back.”  I reached under the counter by the entrance and pulled out several pairs of goggles.

“Ugh.  Really?” Savannah grumbled.  “The babies aren’t even dangerous.”

“Rules are rules,” Sloane chimed in.  “And who knows when the mother will make an appearance.”

The girls followed me down the hay strewn aisle to the back corner where the nest of eggs was kept.  There’d been a few hatchlings today and they weren’t much bigger than large earth worms.

“Wow.  Why did you choose to do your report on these little squirmy things?” Savannah asked as Tatianna crouched to get a better look.

“They’re interesting!  How many other creatures can destroy you with one look?” Tatianna shot back.

“Uh, anything spawned by Medusa?” Savannah shot back. 

Tatianna rolled her eyes.  “Owen, do you know how many hatched this morning?”

I swallowed as her red-brown eyes tracked to mine behind the hideous goggles.  Even with the eyewear, she was stunning.  The goggles magnified her eyes, their natural glimmer enhanced.  It made my knees weak.

“I think three this morning.  A few more this afternoon,” I stammered.

She nodded and we fell silent as we watched the baby basilisks.

Savannah grabbed the shovel I’d been using earlier and used the wooden end to prod a clump of hay out by itself in the nest area.   “Is that a pile of…?”

“Stop!” I shouted.

Suddenly a loud hiss broke through the quiet of the barn and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

“What is…” Savannah broke off with a scream as the mother basilisk launched herself straight at Savannah.

She flailed, catching me just under the goggles.

“No!” I gasped as the momentum of her arm took the edge of the goggles off.  I could smell the venom emanating from the creature.  Scales appeared in front of my naked eyes as the creature catapulted towards me.

Sloane screamed.

“Oh, no you don’t!”  Tatianna’s voice sounded far off.

She whipped off her goggles and a stream of white-hot flame jumped from her eyes and startled the mother basilisk. 

It was the hottest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

The basilisk slithered off, hissing and spitting.

Without words we legged it back to the barn entrance, quickly leaving the goggles on the desk and moving into the open air of the meadow beside the barn. 

“Are you alright, Owen?” Tatianna asked, her flickering eyes full of concern that sent heat straight to my toes and had nothing to do with the inferno hiding inside her.

“I am, thanks to you,” I admitted.  I attempted a smile that she returned. 

“You girls go on back.  I’ll catch up,” Tatianna nodded to her friends.  Savannah still looked significantly shaken while Sloane looked smug as she glanced at us.  She took Savannah’s arm and led her back towards the dormitories.

“That was an impressive display of flames back there,” I said.  “Thank you.  You probably saved my life.”  The gravity of the situation was not lost on me.

Tatianna shrugged and tucked the corner of her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“I feel kind of guilty.  You wouldn’t have been in that position at all if I hadn’t wanted to see the baby basilisks.”

“It’s fine.  They’re not off limits.  Besides, didn’t you want to research them?”

“Well, yes.  But that’s not the real reason I wanted to come see them.”

“It’s not?”  My eyebrows hitched up my forehead.  She looked up at me shyly under her long lashes.

“I actually just wanted to come hang out with you.  The basilisks were an excuse.”

My mouth fell open like a drop-jaw ready to consume its prey.  

“Say something, Owen.”

“You don’t need the basilisks as an excuse.”

Tentatively I reached out and brushed her fingers.  Hers tightened around mine and her eyes lit with an entirely different kind of fire as her mouth tipped up.

“Although maybe I could wash off the basilisk poop before we hang out?”

 

 

 

The Krakken

The Krakken (also kraken and cracken) is a mythological beast said to terrorize sailors and destroy ships.  While this giant cephalopod may be mythological, there’s a decent amount of evidence to suggest it could be a giant squid.  We’ve only just started finding these massive beasts in the deep oceans in the past decades.  What if the Krakken is actually a real monster and not just myth?

Beautiful Krakken depiction by @_art_enthusiast–check out their other artwork on Instagram!

“A Simulation and a Proposition”

By AJ Skelly

I hated Krakken class.

But my mom made me take it anyway.  We came from a long line of Krakken Hunters, she said.  I had to learn what I was meant to do, she said.

The trouble was, I didn’t want to be in the family business.  I didn’t want to grow up and become a Krakken Slayer.  

Honestly, I was kind of taken with the little beasties.

I sighed down at the tiny pool at my feet.  Magik Prep Academy had one of the best Krakken courses available.  We learned everything there was to know about them.  I swished my finger in the pool and a baby tentacle wrapped around my finger.

I pried it loose with a gentle tug.

I thought maybe they could be useful.  They had hidden talents.  Possibly.  Maybe they weren’t just mindless killing machines once they reached adulthood.

I sighed again as I went to the simulation studio.  It was my turn in the sim today.  Everyone in the class had to take turns in the simulations.  It was a major part of our training.  Today I was bait and Kyle “Krakken Killer” (because everyone needs an alliterated nick name) was the slayer.  We nodded to each other.

It didn’t matter that it was all a simulation.  My heart pounded every time.  The locations and entrapment situations changed with each sim.  The magic flicked and I found myself wedged underneath the fallen beams of a ship.  My legs were stuck.  I couldn’t even wiggle my toes.  

“And START!” someone shouted.  Magic shimmered again and I was suddenly surrounded by seawater, smoke, and there was a rubbery tentacle flying towards me.  I bit back a scream and ducked my head under the fallen mast as the Krakken tentacle missed me by inches, shattering the deck and sending splinters shooting into my hair and embedding a few in my arm.  

Gritting my teeth, I looked through the haze, my heart in my throat.  Where was Kyle?  The wood groaned beneath me and water flooded over my feet.  Panic seized me and I desperately tried to kick my feet loose.  Even though it was all a magic-induced sim, I would still feel the pain of drowning, or being eaten, or any other number of horrible Krakken-related disasters the sims produced.  

The water rode up over my hips.

“Kyle!” I hollered.  

A yelp pierced through the smoke and the Krakken shrieked.

Heavily suctioned and swinging with vengeance, a tentacle wrapped around my waist and hauled me skyward, far above the ship.

I cried out as my legs were wrenched from underneath the heavy beams and grunted as one boot came off and nearly took a toe with it.  

“Hang on, Eiryn!  I’m coming!” Kyle’s call was far below and lost in the frothing sea and columns of smoke. 

The Krakken screeched and the rubbery mass around my waist tightened painfully.  Barely able to reach my foot, I gripped the little dagger still sheathed in my remaining boot.  Yanking it out, I plunged the tiny weapon into the flesh surrounding my middle as it began cutting off my air supply.  The blade didn’t do much damage, but the creature loosened its hold enough that I could draw a full breath.

“Kyle!” I shouted again.

“Almost there!” 

I hated being the bait.  

But I hated killing the sim Krakkens, too.  I wondered if the beasts were inherently evil because all we ever saw them do was take down ships and eat sailors—or did they do that because we blundered into their territory and sailors were tasty?

A scream tore from my lips as the tentacle suddenly released me and I went plummeting.  

“Kill it before I hit the water, will you?”  I screamed as I plunged through the air.  The water raced to meet me, and it was going to hurt like nobody’s business if I smacked into the surface.  It might even kill me in the sim, which would mean Kyle would lose his points, too.  It would be bad for both of us.

The water was inches from my face, and I covered my head with my arms.

Just as I should have been obliterated on the surface of the sea, I fell heavily onto the rubber mats covering the sim room floor.  

My chest was heaving and the stench of burning ash still clung to me.  

Kyle was bent over, his hands braced on his knees, breathing hard.

“Sorry, Eiryn.  I was right in his beak when the sim opened.”  He swiped a hand through his black hair.

“It’s alright.”  My voice was weary.  

He glanced at me, his eyes blue like deep water.

“You hate the sims, don’t you?” he whispered.

It wasn’t a secret that I didn’t like them, but it wasn’t something I broadcast around.  Didn’t want the family name to be sullied with my dislike.  

I nodded.

He looked at me, really looked at me.

“Have lunch with me today.  I want to talk to you.”

“Alright,” I agreed, curiosity piqued.

I slid my tray next to Kyle’s and swished the purple threads of magic off my chair before sitting.

“So.  What did you want to talk to me about?”  I asked him as I cracked the seal on my Ambrosia juice.  

He finished his bite of kelp salad sandwich and pierced me with a look.

“I want to recruit you.”

My eyebrows shot up my forehead.  “Recruit me for what?”

“It’s an experimental thing.  There are several of us here on campus and a few professors who have been doing more research into the Krakken as a species.  We want to set up a breeding program and breed Krakkens that exhibit certain traits.”

“To what end?”

“To see if we can’t train them to help in rescue missions—retrieve sailors and ships that are in trouble instead of causing the catastrophes.  Train them to retrieve artifacts, to go places we can’t with our limitations.”

I was hooked.

“Why do you want me?”

“I’ve seen the way you look in sims when you’re the slayer, the way you handle the baby ones.  I think you’re sympathetic, even though your grandfather was the most famous slayer ever to graduate the Academy.” 

I smiled.  

“Count me in.”

Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this, please consider sharing this with your friends or telling someone about it this week. Let me know in the comments if you want to read more mythologically inspired short stories!

Creative Writing Prompt:

Do you think the Krakken is a real creature, or purely a mythological creature?

Book Recommendations:

Seaweed by Lee Strauss

Everblue by Brenda Pandos

Fathom by Merrie Destefano

Magical Curses

Magical Curses.

Is it even possible to have a fairy tale without one?

Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White…

Gorgeous rendition of Snow White by artist Krishnakhi Hazarika. Check out more of her art on Instagram @krishnakhi_h14

It seems that nearly every fairy tale has at least one cursed person (usually a princess) and that there’s always another person (usually a prince) that must come, break the curse, save the princess, then rule the kingdom with justice and wisdom.  But where did the idea of the curse come from?

The Cambridge dictionary defines cursing (paraphrased) either as saying rather naughty things to someone else, or, “to say magic words intended to bring bad luck to someone.”  The idea of the malevolent curse is ancient.  Egyptian tombs had curses chiseled into their entryways and on tablets scattered throughout their winding passageways (www.ancient-origins.net).  When Howard Carter found the tomb of King Tut, of all the original excavators, Carter was the only survivor.  Everyone else bit the dust.  Even Lord Caernarvon, the benefactor of the dig, perished at the hands of mysterious ailments after visiting Tut’s resting place.  Many chalked it up to the Curse of the Mummy.

Many cultures world-wide have beliefs in magic—both good and bad.  Sometimes it’s the same magic and it’s the wielder who causes the good or the bad, other times it’s the magic itself.  Even the Bible mentions curses.  In Exodus (chapter 20), it talks about generational curses—that the LORD will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children for multiple generations.  But the next verse also offers the way to “break the curse.”  Repentance and turning to the same LORD breaks the curse and brings restoration (www.bible.net).

On an excavated 1,600-year-old Italian lead tablet, an inscribed curse was found wishing for the destruction of a man and his wife.  The curse specifically asked for their hearts, livers, and buttocks to be destroyed.  Yes, please destroy the rear ends of my enemies.  That will show them (www.ancient-origins.net). 

Curses seem to have changed over time (and really, don’t most things?). They’ve gone through the changes of the medieval-type fairy tale, enacted by vengeful stepmothers or nasty witches.  Today they’re still most closely associated with witchcraft or superstition.

What do you think?  Are curses real then and/or now?  Pop up to the grey “comments” button and let me know what you think.  Also, make sure no one gives you the evil eye!

Book Recommendations

Midnight for a Curse by E. J. Kitchens

Anwen of Primewood (Book 2 of a series—can be read alone, but better if you read Book 1 first) by Shari L. Tapscott 

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (awesome protagonist with cerebral palsy)

Creative Writing Prompts

The curse fell upon me, heavy, stifling, suffocating.  I was going to die before the enchantress finished her work.

Are you kidding me?  It’s the twenty-first century.  People don’t get cursed.  Do they?

Unicorn poop.  I had been cursed to shovel unicorn poop until I found a way to break this horrid spell.

The Quintessential Curse…
Such a great, under appreciated song! From the movie, RIgoletto
One of my very favorite fairy tales.

The Baen Sidhe

“Quit screaming like a banshee!”  Anyone else’s parents ever say that to them?  No?  Just me?  Apparently, I had quite the lungs.  I could holler with the best of the banshees.  But I hope my similarities with the banshee ends there. 

There are actually three different types of Baen Sidhe, as it’s spelled in the Gaelic.  They’re part of the extensive fae family (we’ve talked about the fae—fairies—before.  That post is still in the archives).

The Banshee always wails by water

The Baen Sidhe is the traditional Irish or Scottish spirit who moves around, singing a lament and crying tears of blood, grieving the death of one to come.  A foreshadower of imminent death.  Sometimes she’s old and haggard, other times she’s young, beautiful, but always horribly grieved.

There are several old clans in both Scotland and Ireland that claim to have family members who became part of the Baen Sidhe.  These relatives then come back among the living to herald the coming death of family members—a warning to prepare for the inevitable (www.differenttypes.net).

The second banshee is the Baen-Nighe—a gnarled old woman who sits by the side of a body of water (usually a lake or a river), doing her washing.  But the clothes she’s washing are full of blood.  Of the doomed.  She’s a precursor of death that shows up when somebody is about to die.  She wails as she washes.  What a charming job.  It’s also said that if one can get between a Baen-Nighe and the water before she sees you, she’ll grant you second sight (knowing the future before it happens).

Original Artwork by @_art_enthusiast_ Check out other pieces on Instagram!

The third banshee is the Baen Chaointe.  This banshee remains hidden among the banks of running waters.  There she mourns.  Frequently these banshees are associated with soldiers coming home from war—they mourn the fallen.  It’s also said that Baen Chaointe showed up to warn Clan McDonald before the Massacre of Glen Coe (www.differenttypes.net) in 1692 (www.britanica.com).

It’s said that the common barn owl may be cause for belief in the banshee’s wails.  Perhaps the cry of a Highland cat may be a culprit? Perhaps the scream of a dying animal?  But it does stand to question—where did the links between the wails and the deaths come from?

Highland Wildcat

What do you think?  Pop up to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button and tell me—do you think the Baen Sidhe still wails her warnings? 

Book Recommendations

Creepy Hollow Series by Rachel Morgan (the first three are this week’s giveaway!)

There are lots of books on myths and legends of Irish lore, and there are quite a few paranormal featuring the Banshee, I just haven’t read them. ;). If you have a good one to recommend, let me know!

Creative Writing Prompts

There.  The hag sat by the river.  Her hands and her washing red with blood.  I needed the second sight she could grant.  Now was my chance.

I heard the wail of the banshee.  My blood ran cold.  Did she wail for me?

“It’s true.  I heard it last night.  The cries of the Baen Sidhe.”  We looked together down on our dead friend.

Sea Witches

Seaweed tangles as the winds thrash.  Waves decimate the shoreline dragging sand, shells, driftwood—anything its dark fingers can reach, dragging it to the bottom of the ocean, never to see daylight again.  Rain pelts the sea grasses, tearing roots from the earth, pummeling the ground.

Tropical storm?  Maybe.  But it could be the doing of a sea witch.  

There are many stories of sea witches, particularly in old Norse mythology.  They are malevolent spirits of the water, sometimes shown as mermaids or selkies (see the archives for posts on these creatures!) that can control the waves, the tides, and often times, the weather (www.ancient-origins.net).

Original Artwork by DreadD @Drea.D.Art on Instagram

Many legends of sea witches focus on the lunar cycle and the tides.  This is especially true in British mythology.  Many a tale has been brought back by a sea-fairing sailor about dangerous sea witches out in the open water or storms and damage they caused (www.themystica.com).

There’s not a ton of information out there about sea witches in particular.  Their legends often blur with other similar sea myths.  Most frequently, tales of these wicked mystical creatures have their roots in siren lore, oftentimes mistaken for a mermaid (more on sirens on a future post…did you know sirens originally had feathers and wings, not tails and fins?).

Sea witches may have gotten a nasty rep simply because they’re very forgetful (I mean, I forget things all the time, and I don’t have all that water pressure sitting on my brain).  In desiring a hunky sailor, the sea witch may take him down to the depths of her ocean city, but drown him in the process because either they forgot he needed oxygen, or didn’t realize he didn’t have gills (although I’d think a quick scan of the neck for gill activity would suffice?).  What a way to go, poor sailor.  Other tales claim that men jumped overboard to save what they presumed was a drowning woman, only to drown themselves as the mermaids/sirens/sea witches swam away to safety (www.gods-and-monsters.com).

Original Artwork by Julia Ruprecht @julruprecht on Instagram

The story of Thessalonike may be the best go between for the siren/mermaid and sea witch stories. Thessalonike was the sister of Alexander the Great, and as I’m sure any caring older brother would do, when he obtained a jar of water from the Fountain of Immortality, he washed his sister’s hair with it.  Because, isn’t that what we would all do with water from the Fountain of Immortality?  Sign me up for some of that hair care.

Alexander the Great, brother of Thessolonike

At any rate, when Alexander died, Thessalonike was so beset with grief, that she flung herself into the sea, wishing to join him in death.  But because of her immortally-washed tresses, she transformed into a mermaid.  It’s said she roamed the Aegean Sea for ages.  When sailors passed her, she’d ask them if Alexander was still among the living.  If they answered yes, then she let them pass.  But if they told her he was dead she transformed into a hideous monster and drowned the lot of them.

The sea witch seems to have some pretty murky origins, mixed and matched with different mermaid and siren stories from different places in the world.  But as a rather murky dangerous sea creature, I imagine that’s just the way most sea witches would prefer things.

Original Artwork by Rilee Belnap @Bella_ran_art on Instagram

What would you do if you found a flask of water from the Fountain of Immortality?  Pop up to the top of the article, click the grey “Comments” button, and let me know!

Book Recommendations

Fury by Merrie Destefano (read Fathom first—it was recommended on Selkie week!)

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

Of Song and Sea by Chanda Hahn (also this week’s giveaway!!!)

Creative Writing Prompts

I clasped my hands and wailed.  Where was my brother?  Where was Alexander?  The seaweed tangled about my tail, mocking my grief.

Anger burned through my veins.  How dare the humans disobey me.  I’d show them who had the power.  With a twirl of my fingers, I set the clouds to gathering and darkening with my brewing anger.

Oh.  Oh dear.  The man.  The beautiful man.  He wasn’t breathing.  I brushed his skin with my tail, but nothing happened.

Because you can’t talk about sea witches without mentioning the most famous of them all:

Vampires

Vampire.

Sparkly heart throb, demon blood-sucker, or something in between?

Vampires are steeped into historic legends around the world.  And they’re the subject of major world-wide story phenomenon like Dracula and the Twilight series.  Why are we so fascinated with these creatures of the night?  They seem suffused into our collective memories…and our fears.

Vampires are reportedly only active at night, have fangs, drink blood, seduce young women, are shadowless or reflectionless, and sleep in coffins.  Sometimes they sparkle.  

There are a surprisingly large number of stories in folklore around the world featuring bloodsucking ghosties, so pin-pointing the birth of the vampire legends gets a little iffy. 

 

The most prevalent vampiric stories date back to old Europe where common diseases may have contributed to superstitions.  Tuberculosis causes victims to cough blood, porphyria causes extreme sensitivity to light, rabies makes victims practically feral and induces biting (www.britanica.com). 

Also interesting and totally morbid, hundreds of years ago, before the body and modern medicine were properly understood, it wasn’t really uncommon for the dead to be buried alive (good heavens!).  This gave rise to the superstition of the dead roaming the earth.  When they weren’t supposed to.  Nothing like spending a day or two panicing inside a coffin, then clawing yourself out with your bare hands.  I’m pretty sure that’d make a person look like the undead.  And it would scare the wits out of me to see Great Aunt Feefee out and about three days after we’d laid her to rest.   

In fact, accidentally burying the living was so common, that people started tying a string to the finger of the dead and attaching it to a bell above ground.  Someone would stand watch and if a bell rang, they’d come running with a shovel.  Thus, the birth of the grave-yard shift.

May 26, 1897 saw the release of a book that has since rocked the world.  Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  What is less known, is that Stoker actually wrote his masterpiece, not as a fictitious story, but as a factual story to act as a warning to any who read it.  When he submitted it to his publisher, he was met with a flat No.  The publisher was afraid of inciting panic.  Why, you might ask?  Because only a few scant years earlier, Jack the Ripper had laid waste to public peace and safety.  Dracula had too many undercurrents of the devil.  Stoker had to revise much of his book.  The first 102 pages were cut, and many modifications were made as well.  So, what the world read as fiction, the author meant as warning (www.time.com).  Scary.

To conclude, I feel it only best practice to include several reliable methods for killing vampires, should you happen upon one of the unsavory sort.  

  1. The Stake.  Do make sure that it’s solid wood.  My sources say any sort will work, provided it’s solid and very pointy.
  2. Silver.  Silver bullets, silver daggers, silver swords, I suppose a silver coin would do if wielded properly.  I might suggest you start wearing tall boots for the purpose of concealing a silver dirk.  Go ahead.  They’ll look smashing with your summer short shorts.
  3. Holy Water.  Any water blessed by a priest will do.  It’s always best to carry a vial of it on your person.
  4. Beheading.  A good way to use the aforementioned silver sword.  Whack that vampire’s head off.  He’ll fall down dead as a doornail.
  5. Blood.  Mind you, it has to be the blood of a Bigfoot.  Ergo, this is a lesser-known method of vampire termination (www.mysticinvestigations.com).  Largely because Bigfoot blood is very hard to come by.  Even on the black market.  I know.  I checked.

Who is your favorite vampire and/or your favorite method of killing?  Pop up to the top to the grey “comments” section and tell me what you think!

Book Recommendations

The Immortal Descendants series by April White (Sorry Edward, but I think my favorite vampire is in this series!)

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Creative Writing Prompts

I held the stake in my hand, blood pounding in my chest, surely attracting the beast.

She rose, wilted, weathered, and fanged.  My blood turned to ice as her eyelids cracked under the layers of dirt encrusting them and glowed red under the midnight moon.

Impatiently waiting for the moon to rise, I sat on the couch, longing for my immortal friend to make an appearance. 

The next clip is fascinating, but there are some creepy images–it’s a PG-13 clip.

Skinwalkers

“Yee naaldlooshii.”  “With it, he goes on all fours.”  (www.legendsofamerica.com)

These are the Navajo words used to describe a most feared and dangerous witch.  The Skinwalker (Seriously.  Cue the shudders as I’m typing this).

Skinwalkers are prevalent in Navajo legends as a form of dark witchcraft.  For the Navajo, good and evil powers merely are—it’s the same power, but with two sides.  The way a man harnesses the power depends upon the man.  There are other tribes that have legends of Skinwalkers, and all of them includes a nasty witch capable of taking on the form of an animal (www.legendsofamerica.com).

The permeance of these dreaded creatures runs so deep that many refuse to speak of them today (yes, in 2020!) for fear a Skinwalker may come after them or a loved one.  It is believed that these terrifying beings walk among the tribe during the day but secretly transform into the beast of their choosing once the moon is up and the skin is donned (creepy, much?).

According to Navajo legends, most Skinwalkers were once medicine men who achieved the ultimate level of spiritual power.  And then chose to use those powers for evil (www.navajolegends.org).  A lot like Star Wars, the Jedi, and the Sith.  One power, but two sides:  good and evil (I know I’m not the only Star Wars fan here…).

It’s reported that Navajo men only wear sheepskin or buckskin, and only for special ceremonies.  This is one reason the Navajo have become famous for such intricate textiles (and they are stunning—I own a set of Navajo-made clothes). They believe the Skinwalkers must don the pelt of the animal they wish to transform into—so the wearing of hides is taboo (www.navajolegends.org).

There’s nothing nice that can be said for these creatures of the night.  According to tribal legend, they must kill a sibling or family member to become a Skinwalker.  They wreak havoc.  Make people sick.  Commit murder.  They rob graves and are necrophiliacs (ahem, doing naughty things with dead people).  Even so recently as the mid-70’s, legal proceedings were brought against a nameless witch (reported to be of the spiritual level of the Skinwalkers) by attorney, Michael Stuhff (www.rense.com).  Skinwalkers are very real in the minds of many from the cultures who hold tales of these evil men who twist themselves to evil’s desires.  I’m certain I never want to meet one.

What do you think?  Are Skinwalkers real?  Or are they only legends?  Pop up to the grey Comments button at the top and let me know!

Book Recommendations

Shadow of Time: Dark Dreams  by Jen Minkman (intended for mature readers)

How the Stars Fell Into the Sky: A Navajo Legend  by Jerrie Oughton

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez

Creative Writing Prompts

“Shhh!” My mother shushed me with more vehemence than normal.  “Never speak that word.”  Chills tingled down my spine at the fear in her eyes.

The moon rose and with it, the hairs on the back of my neck.

Something moved in the shadows.  Malevolent eyes glittered red.  My blood froze. 

The video clip below contains some mature content. Viewer discretion is advised. It’s creepy and dark, but very interesting.

Selkies

Though the stories of selkies are often romantic, in the end, someone always ends up with a broken heart.

The most popular of the Selkie legends (although it does vary some from place to place) start with the finding of a seal pelt.  Occasionally, Selkies come to the shore and shed their furry skins simply for the enjoyment of being on land for a while. If a human man happens upon the seal skin while it’s unattended, he can coerce the Selkie woman to become his wife.  Most stories hold that Selkie women make excellent wives as long as they cannot find their skins.  Once they find their pelts, they are compelled to escape to the sea, leaving their human life behind forever.  Some legends even have the Selkie’s own children accidentally discovering their mother’s seal skin and returning it to her, and consequently, robbing themselves of their parent.  It’s a tragic tale that never ends well.  Someone—sometimes someones—are left bereft.

Selkies are sometimes mistaken for mermaids or lumped together with them.  However, Selkies are said to be beautiful women (occasionally men, but most legends refer to them as women) who wear magical seal skins in the water but who become women on land once their seal skin is removed.  Fur, not fish scales on the lower half.

Original Art by Stuart Higgins. See more @limbo_artwork on Instagram

Legends of these creatures are popular in Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia, and particularly the Orkney Islands.  In fact, the term selkie is the Orkanian (from Orkney) word for seal (www.orkneyjar.com).  To this day there are selkies all over the place in the cooler climates of Orkney and Scandinavia.  However, Selkies might be a bit harder to spot (they don’t like to make a fuss, you know.).

Looks like a good Selkie habitat

It’s thought that hundreds of years ago, people used stories to explain oddities or strange happenings.  Often these stories involved gods or goddesses, or unfamiliar (some maybe real?) creatures to explain such things. The Selkies have their own descendants in this way.  In the Outer Hebrides, there is a clan who claims they come from a line of Selkies due to the hereditary webbing of skin between their fingers (the condition is called Syndactyly) (www.conollycove.com, www.cinncinatichildrens.org).    I think that’s a pretty logical explanation for a child born with scaly-like skin (like psoriasis) or for the webbed digits—we must come from these revered creatures of legend.  See?  Here’s our proof!  

What do you think?  Would you rather meet up with a mermaid or a Selkie for afternoon tea?  Go up to the top of the article, click the grey Comments, and let me know!

Selkie by Julia Ruprecht. Find more of her artwork @julruprecht on Instagram

Book Recommendations

Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

The Little Selkie by K. M. Shea

An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Fathom by Merrie Destefano. (Fathom is going on sale for .99 this week!!!)

Creative Writing Prompts

The sun feels glorious on my skin as I shiver in the light breeze that flits off the ocean.  I peel the rest of my seal skin from my legs, reveling at my toes that wiggle into the rough sand.

“Your mother must never touch the skins kept in this trunk.  Do you understand?”  I nodded my wee eyes, terrified at the vehemence in my father’s voice as he locked the cedar trunk.

I stared at the webbing between my fingers proudly.  It proved I was kin to a Selkie.

Contains some slightly mature content

Mermaids

Water is mysterious.  Water is life-giving.  Water is deadly.  Water is home to merfolk.

Mermaids have taken many faces over the centuries.  Some accounts say they are beautiful women that occasionally come on land and marry human men (more on Selkies next week!).  Others have mermaids as omens of bad luck and bringers of destruction (we’ll visit Sirens later this summer).  Disney says they’re rebellious teenagers with phenomenal pipes.  So, where do the legends come from?

“Mermaid” by Tamsin Bridge ©
Follow her @mnemosynes.dream on Instagram or find more of her artwork here.

Stories of half-fish, half-human people have abounded in cultural stories for thousands of years. Even the Bible has a merman!  The god of the Philistines, Dagon, was man on top, and all fish on the bottom (www.biblegateway.com).  Merfolk appear in other ancient cultures as gods or goddesses like Ea, the Chaldean god of the sea, or the Greek Triton, the son of Poseidon (www.britanica.com).  England and Iceland have their fair share of mermaids tales as well.  It’s believed that early settlements near water, possibly where the tails of large fish could be seen breaking the surface of the water now and then, may account for some of the mermaid tales that have circulated (www.realmermaids.net).  It has also been suggested that sightings of dugongs or manatees—mammals that nurse their young, and that from afar, have a (notably plump) humanoid shape, could have been mistaken for these mythical maidens (www.britanica.com).

Statue of Triton
Photo credits to @warriorphotographer

As most early civilizations formed near water, it’s only natural that there would be legends that sprung up from their surrounding environment.  It seems that most of these “Mer” deities were male to begin with, only later veering into more female counterparts, starting with Astargatis, an Assyrian goddess.  Astargatis reportedly killed her human lover (www.legendsandmyths.net) and then escaped to the sea.  Only in her vanity, refused to give up all her beauty, and kept the upper half of her body human.  Greeks later took Astargatis and made her Aphrodite (www.realmermaids.net).  Interesting!  But what is even more fascinating is the mapping of these stories.  Nearly every ancient culture in the Mesopotamia area has stories of merfolk.  It does make one think…

Statue of Dagon, the Philistine god

Mermaids became wildly popular with the (rather grim!) story of “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837.  Though it was changed significantly by Disney to give us Ariel and her singing backup (sha-la-la-la….), it became an enduring part of modern culture and brought about a resurgence of mermaids.  

Even more prevalent in today’s culture, though perhaps less realized, is the logo that graces every Starbucks cup (www.northernstar-online.com).  This is the representation of Melusina—a girl cursed by her mother and betrayed by her husband and fated to remain a lonely woman with two fish tails (sometimes serpent tails) for the rest of her near-immortal life (www.pitt.edu).  Kind of a downer mascot for a pick-me-up drink?

Why do you think we’ve remained so fascinated with mermaids?  Go up to the top of the article, click the grey “comments” and let me know!

Book Recommendations

“The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen

Everblue by Brenda Pandos

Seaweed by Lee Strauss

Creative Writing Prompts

“I see it!  Look!  It splashed again!” I swore it was a mermaid.  The very thing we’d been searching for the past four months.

The creature writhed on the beach.  Shimmering scales dimmed and fell off, littering the sandy shore with iridescent pebbles.  Was the sea girl dying…or…transforming?

Either I was going crazy, or I’d just seen a plump woman plunge beneath the surface of the water carrying an infant with her.

Kiss the Girl…because no post about mermaids is complete without this song.

And because I like this version, too…

I thought this last clip was superb speculation and story telling in a short snippet. What do you think?

Additional Sources

www.tamilandvedas.com/tag/dagon/

Dragons Part IV

What could a world-wide flood possibly have to do with dragons?

What do Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Sumerian, Islamic, Buddhist, Babylonian, Aztec, Judeo Christian, Australian, Chinese, and Hawaiian myths all have in common?

Give up?

Each of these vastly different, widespread cultures (in addition to many other cultures) has stories of dragons and a story of a world-wide flood (www.mythoreligio.com).  That’s lovely, but what does a giant flood have to do with dragons, you may ask?  Excellent question.

Sir Reginald III aboard the Ark, enjoying a lovely cuppa. Original artwork by Julia Ruprecht. Check her out @julruprecht on Instagram.

In doing my research for the past few dragon-themed articles, I kept coming back to one question—where did all the stories about man killing great, hateful beasts originate?  Dragon stories populate every major culture in the world.  Surely, they can’t all be symbolic stories.  There’s too much evidence of early people interacting with and fearing these giant creatures (check out the past three dragon posts for more details.  They’re in the archives).  To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, “No survivors?  Where do the stories come from then, I wonder?”

This led me to the great Flood.  The most widely known and accepted flood story is found in the Bible in the book of Genesis.  To recap things quickly:  In the beginning, God created the world, and created man to rule over it (starting with Adam and Eve).  Over time, man became evil, and God was grieved that He’d ever created them.  God brought judgement to the world by way of much (MUCH!) water.  Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, were found to be righteous.  God commanded Noah to build an ark (think 500-foot-long, multiple storied sea-faring vessel).  At the appointed time, God sent two of every kind of animal into the ark.

Now, going further into the Biblical account, God made Adam and Eve and all land-dwelling creatures on the sixth day.  Including dinosaurs…ergo, dragons (www.answersingenesis.org).  So.  If we can set aside that modern science has told us that dinosaurs were extinct millions of years before humans evolved to walk on land, could this be the link that brings humans and dragons together?

If dinosaurs/dragons were created with man at the very beginning, what if they were still roaming freely about during Noah’s time?  And if God told Noah to take two of each kind, then it stands to reason that Noah could very well have brought on a few pairs of different kinds of dragons.

If this could have been the case, then it stands to reason that man and dragons did live together—maybe even up into the middle ages.  Perhaps some of those tales of knights hunting dragons were real.  There are an awful lot of them.  Look at Bishop Bell’s tomb from the late 1400’s (www.creation.com).  Look at the temple at Ta Prohm.  The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon.  Persian artifacts depicting dragons.  Sumatran art showing warriors hunting a dinosaur-like creature.  China is inundated with dragons in every walk of life.  Ancient Greek pottery shows Hercules rescuing Hesoine from a dragon.  North American Anasazi rock depictions show a convincing Apatosaurus-like animal (www.genesispark.com).

Top Left: Dragon on the Ishtar Gate. Top Right: Stegosaurus from Ta Prohm. Bottom: From Bishop Bell’s tomb.

The point is, every major culture has stories of dragons.  Stories of great floods.  Most of them have stories with interactions between people and dragons.  World-wide coincidence? 

So where are all the dragons/dinosaurs now?  Obviously, they’re extinct.  Although there are still rumors of large dinosaur-like creatures roaming in the forgotten parts of the world like the Congo (www.livescience.com) Australia, and Papua New Guinea.  But what if they became extinct through natural causes?  Like loss of habitat.  Like over hunting.  Like low birth rates. Like any number of things that can and does cause extinction of species today. 

Plesiosaurus Fossil

Is it possible that ancient cultures simply found fossilized bones and concocted their stories from them?  Maybe.  It is just as likely—possibly more so—that they lived with these giant creatures of legend?  You tell me.

Pop up to the top, click the grey Comments, and tell me what you think—Did dragons and people exist together?

Book Recommendations

Fossils by Gary Parker

Flood by Design by Mike Oard

Evolution: The Grand Experiment Vol. 1 by Dr. Carl Werner

Noah:  Man of Destiny by Tim Chaffey & K. Marie Adams (recommended for 16 and up)

The Flood of Noah: Legends and Lore of Survival by Bodie Hodge & Laura Welch

Creative Writing Prompts

The waters rose.  With a heavy heart I watched, safe inside the ark, while our village flooded.  Soon it would just be the eight of us and the animals.  The baby dragon roared beside me from his pen.

I readied my spear.  I’d only have one shot to take down this fearsome creature!

Dragons did/did not live with man.  

Additional Sources

www.mid-day.com

www.hoshanarabbah.org

www.christiananswers.net

www.lyntonlevengood.deviantart.com