The Origins of the Christmas Elf

Origins of the Christmas Elf-By Angelique Duncan

Legends, traditions and stories about elves have existed for centuries. They find their first mentions in Norse, Scandinavian and Celtic folklore. However the Elves and their associations with the Christmas season is a fairly recent holiday tradition, becoming part of our popular contemporary culture of the United States only within the late nineteenth century.

As with many of the lost magical races; the Elves have shared traits and qualities that mingle with and confused with other enchanted species. Depending on the region and type of Elf, their descriptions and purposes vary. The imagery of Elves range from older bearded men to young and hairless, some have said they have eyes that glow when it is dark and some say they have one eye like that of a Cyclops. Consistently they are described as having pointed ears and being of small stature. Some legends say they are shape shifters and even capable of becoming invisible.

They are believed to be supernatural in their powers and capable of magic. Some believe that nature Elves have unique youthful beauty with slender bodies and narrow features. It is believed that Elves are ambivalent towards humans and may choose to help, sabotage or ignore them upon their whim. Most mythologies consistently tell of Elves as protectors against evil who guard over innocence, such as small children and animals and often bearing gifts.

In Scandinavian folklore the Elves are known as Tomte, Nisse, Tomtenisse and are often confused with gnomes. They are said to have long white beards, wear comfortable clothing or tunics and most always have a hat, usually of bright red or blue that is pointed or knitted. They are said to have pointed ears and eyes that can reflect light giving the illusion of glowing eyes. At tallest, reports say that they stand 3 feet, while some say they are of the same description but not more than 5 inches tall with smooth hairless faces and big round eyes, with four fingers

It is said that like gnomes or brownies that the Tomte live in barns or in hidden places within a homestead acting as a guardian over the home. They protect small livestock, pets and the children from any evil that may try to enter the family home. It was widely believed that the Tomte or House Elves are spirits of relatives who returned to help guide their family, some saying that they are the collective spirits of ones ancestors embodied as one small being as a reminder you are being watched over and protected.

When treated with dignity and respect they will help around the house and yard bring good fortune. It is customary to leave a bowl of buttered porridge out for ones Tomte as a sign of appreciation. Also it is common etiquette to always give warning when something is spilled or fallen to “look out below” to the Tomte as so they won’t get hit or spilled upon. The Tomte reward their family with small gifts if they were considered worthy in virtue.

Tomte are offended by ill behavior such as swearing, laziness, crass or lewd humor and tackiness. They do not accept gossip or lies and absolutely will not tolerate disrespect or harm to animals. To do so results in retaliation. If witnessed by a Tomte or Elf he will fight to defend the animal. Many believed that a bite from a Tomte is poisonous and results in going mad and that the only method to heal such a wound is from a magical healing source.

Many would keep a small figurine or statue of a Tomte or Elf on their mantle or bookshelf to remind the household that their ancestors were watching and to invite the spirits or relatives in. However after the rise of Christianity the practice of leaving invitation to the spirits of deceased ancestors became frowned upon. The figurines were seen as keeping false idols and an invitation to the devils spirit. People began hiding the Tomte or abandoning them all together for fear of persecution. Some say that the Tomte and Elves went into hiding during this era, abandoning their homesteads and human families.

The Tomte were associated with the Winter Solstice and became the Swedish and Norwegian equivalent of Santa Claus. The Tomte were depicted often with or riding a pig or goat. The pig was considered a symbol of fertility and good luck and the goat was the Tomtes predecessor to the Yule holiday, known as The Yule Goat. Tradition had it that the Yule Goat would knock on doors delivering presents. It is thought that the Christmas gift bearing Tomte combined the two mythologies to preserve Pagan folklore of the ancestral spirits visiting the home.

Around the 1840’s in Denmark the Tomte or Nisse Elves took on the name of Julenisse, a singular Elf-gnome like creature who is said to live in a forest and comes riding a goat door to door to deliver gifts at Christmas. With the rise of the Santa Claus tradition, Julenisse eventually replaced the Yule Goat and took on a more Santa like appearance in his depiction. Following with the tradition of the Tomte, it is customary to leave a bowl of porridge for Julenisse in gratitude for his gifts.

It was during the Victorian era that Elves became associated with Christmas in the USA, the United Kingdome and Canada. In the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas written by Clement Clarke Moore, St. Nicholas is referenced as an Elf. St. Nicholas gradually was replaced in popular culture by the jolly image of Santa Claus and there after Elves became popular in Christmas literature and imagery. The legends arose out the many stories and folklores of the existence of magical Christmas Elves that lived at the North Pole. They are usually described as very dainty with pointed ears and clad in green. The magical Christmas Elves are said to live in Santa’s workshop as toy builders. They tend to Santa’s flying reindeer, bake, and over see all things Christmas through out the year until Christmas Eve when the toys are delivered by Santa.

So perhaps the Elves find their place in Christmas through literature and fairy tales as the stuff of myth. Or maybe they are the spirits of our ancestors who try to protect us, unseen. The Elves, as we call them, seemed to have evolved from the Scandinavian Tomte traditions of long ago to find their way into popular European and American holiday culture.

There are those however, who believe that the Elves are real and still here, just in hiding. Studies done in Iceland in the last decade by the University of Iceland’s Faculty of Social Sciences reveal that overwhelming as a nation, the Icelanders believe that ghost are among us and that the Elves, known as the huldufolk or hidden folk, roam the country side, hiding in rocks and caves safely obscured to most humans.
Perhaps they are still here and maybe once a year on a cold winters night they return to check on us. When you leave out the plate of cookies and milk for Santa Claus set out a little bowl of porridge with butter, just in case to invite them in and let them know you still believe.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Turkey

The Turkey-By Angelique Duncan

When one thinks of Thanksgiving images of the proud, plump turkey is immediately to follow. The nostalgic symbolism of this magnificent bird at Thanksgiving is so synonymous with the celebration that the holiday is often referenced as “Turkey Day”. How did the turkey become our national symbol of Thanksgiving? The bird has a rich and noble history worthy of acknowledgment as one enjoys their harvest feast.

The turkey was once revered by Mexican and South American tribes as a sacred bird and in some tribes like the Aztecs, Toltecs and Myans was appreciated as a God. The mythologies and symbolisms varied from tribe and region based on observations of the turkeys’ traits and behaviors.

In some Native North American cultures the turkey symbolized fertility, virility as well as pride. The male turkey will show it’s decorative plumes and strut in an elaborate mating dance to attract the female of the species. The dance of the turkey is seen as prideful and arrogant with grand confidence. This mannerism was often imitated by tribes before battle with the wearing of full turkey feather robes and headdresses.

The turkey was also known for being a bird of great wisdom and a messenger of warnings. The turkey has been said to have a sixth sense for awareness of its environment and can warn of danger and predators. They will fluff their plumes and take an aggressive stance if they feel threatened; well before the danger presents its self. The fowl will become intensely protective and never holds back in attack or when confronted with battle.

Turkeys will roost in trees and elevated spaces away from predators and to have a vantage point to oversee their territory. In the sleeping flock one turkey will be “appointed” look out to give warning of danger. Turkeys have very specific calls, gobbles and screams that have meaning for communication among the flock, creating a fairly sophisticated bird language of signals.

To many tribes the turkey was considered a rain spirit for their ability to predict the change in weather. When rain is eminent turkeys will puff their ornate plumes and fluff their feathers and give calls and dance. The rain dances of many North American tribes are an emulation of the turkey’s rain dance.

Tribes attributed the turkey with the symbolism of bounty, sacrifice and generosity. The turkey was given between tribes as a gift of bounty and goodwill. Being one of the hardest of the large fowl to successfully hunt and its ability to feed many when caught, the wild turkey was often the game of choice for ritual and celebratory meals of the Native Americans. Unlike the modern domestic turkeys raised for quantity of meat who are sluggish and cannot fly, wild turkeys can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour and can fly short distances at 55miles per hour. Making them quite the challenge to catch for a predator or hunter. The turkey was present for harvest meals as a special bounty, well before the arrival of the pilgrims to American soil.

The turkey arrived at its namesake as a matter of mistaken identity from Spanish explorers who discovered the bird thinking they were returning to Europe with Guinea fowl from Turkey. Given the bird was acquired unknowingly from the wrong continent; it was named for its origin of discovery. And so the name was given to the North American fowl after a country the bird had never traveled from.

It is widely accepted that turkey was served at the first documented Thanksgiving meal, although there is no concrete evidence of this. It has been documented that beef and fowl were served at the first Thanksgiving feast, but no bird is specified. Turkeys are natural to the southeast and southwestern states and would not have been prevalent on the eastern seaboard at that time. Some historians say that the intent was to find and hunt a turkey, but the pilgrims were unsuccessful and stories tell that humble crows and fish were eaten instead. There is a historical letter that was written during the era of the pilgrims that mentions a turkey being served as part of a feast, however the document is not in reference to the legendary supper of Myles Standish fame that is romanticized in the Thanksgiving tradition.

Although turkey may have been served at some feasts, it has been accepted by modern historians, that the turkey did not become the traditional meal of the holiday until much later. Many Americans would serve goose, chicken or quail in lieu of the turkey as the centerpiece of the traditional meal. Turkeys may have become popular due to the aforementioned letter written by a pilgrim, Edward Winslow, which referenced a turkey hunt before a Thanksgiving meal. Some equate the popularity of Turkey at Thanksgiving from a proclamation by Alexander Hamilton that “no citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving day”. The turkey was a symbolic bird in the nations beginnings and was advocated by Benjamin Franklin to become the national emblem instead of the bald eagle. The historical quote follows:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labour of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country…

I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

How the turkey became the official sacrificial meat for the modern Thanksgiving meal is truly unknown. However it is now a mainstay of the holiday and one could not imagine Thanksgiving with out turkey. When celebrating all you are thankful for this year and counting your blessings, remember to give thanks to the turkey, a bird of noble and rich history worthy of its own American holiday.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

For many of us we long for the first snap of a cool front and the spiced scents and pumpkin flavors of fall. The first fallen leaves are a welcome signal that it is coming. We notice the sun begins to set differently in the late afternoons and the moon hangs more prominently with a greater glow in the night sky. The call of a distant crow and the grackle comforts us. The orange and black is our banner and the grinning carved pumpkin our friend. We are Autumn people and we carry with us, a love for Halloween.

We wait all year to unlock our spooky decorations from their captivity and set them free displaying them about in our homes. To us, those figurines and die cut window cut outs are our familiar family come to visit for a while. We carry out the ritual of selecting the greatest pumpkin; one that is not too tall, not too round but the perfect canvas upon which to carve a creepy or cleaver face to scare costumed knockers who dare grace our porches and stoops. For those who do dare; we fill large bowls with candy treats and give generously to those who will scream “Trick Or Treat”!

Why do we love Halloween? We just do. It is something inside us that is inherent, like the beating of the heart or taking breath into our lungs. We don’t expect others to understand it, and often they don’t. However for us, Halloween is special. It can not be separated from who we are.

To some it is a day of merriment and amusement. It is the joy of hosting costumed parties and Trick or Treat adventures. For children and adults alike, it is a time to dress in masquerade, hide behind the mask and for one night be something one is not. There is something magical to a child, that for one night to be whomever they want to be, staying up late to run the streets in the darkness of night knocking on doors demanding crazy amounts of candy; and the satisfaction that adults must comply with the child’s demands of treats for threat of trickery.

Maybe for some of us celebrating Halloween is a way to capture the exhilaration of childhood memories of happy Halloween’s past that we just don’t want to let go of. October 31st is all the innocence, mischief and wonderment of youth wrapped in one orange glowing holiday.

Perhaps it goes further than childhood back into the antiquity of man to Samhian. Could the love of Halloween route back over 2000 years ago to a slumbering knowledge of ancient bonfire rituals on hilltops that stirs and wishes to be awakened? Maybe some never really forgot the ties to seasons and moon cycles. Perchance the need to celebrate what is now Halloween is a vestige to long gone practices and insights into the spirituality of this realm.

Halloween is second most popular holiday in America, second only to Christmas. The fascination with the day is gaining popularity in other countries as well. Possibly as a passing fad or it is a part of our collective history and culture that demands to be acknowledged. Through out time in some form or fashion, under many names whether as Samhain, Witches night, Beggar’s Night, All Souls Day, Hollow’s Eve or Day of the Dead or Halloween; it has been celebrated. From bonfires and carved pumpkins, sheet ghost and costumes, crepe paper and wax to sugar skulls it takes it’s form.

Autumn people take comfort that that we are not alone, there are others out there. Others who feel the tug of an October wind and come the 31st, they will keep their Jack o lanterns lit for the love of Halloween!

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Owls on Halloween

The Owls on Halloween-By Angelique Duncan

Owls have always been associated with Halloween. Often they are depicted as secondary characters in vintage postcards and decorations to other Halloween symbols. Owls can be seen circling overhead or in the skyline with witches, ghost and others familiar spooky icons. However, in recent times they have become more prominent and have become a popular main character in the cast of Halloween imagery.

By virtue that they are nocturnal, they carry an air of mystique. Their appearance has all the features of something mystical; large oddly blinking eyes, a head that turns in an unnatural fashion and sharp claws on their feet. Some scream and screech, some hoot and coo with voices that drift over darkness often heard, but never seen. Depending on the culture and era owls have been perceived to be scary creatures of the night or as wise messengers and protectors.

Owls are thought to be one of the oldest of the bird species and perhaps their association with wisdom comes with the inherited age of the species. The notion that owls are wise may also come from their association with Athena the Greek Goddess of wisdom. In many cultures they are seen as intelligent, observant and helpful messengers.

Owls and an association with Halloween go way back to ancient Celtic times and Samhian. Owls could be seen flying and swooping near Samhain bonfires. It is reported to have been a common scene. Given the nature of midnight celebrations and the association with the “witching hour” and the presences of the nocturnal creatures, owls became connected to witchcraft through their frequency in legends and symbols of witches.

One folklore states that if one sees an owl flying or circling low during the day they are bringing an omen or news that will affect the person who see’s them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is a warning to prepare the person and an action of protection, although foreboding.

Some believed that an owl perched on a house or in a tree near a house is a warning that someone will die in that home or that something evil will happen there. In other folklore it is believed that an owl perched on ones roof is offering protection from evil. Many believe that to see an owl during the day is an omen and to take heed. It is said to see an owl at midnight is bad luck.

It has been thought that owls, due to their wisdom are the familiars of witches and they will carry messages for them. Other myths state that owls are themselves witches that have shape shifted to travel undetected under the cover of darkness.

Over the centuries and continents there have been numerous legends and stories of owls as deities, demons or gods, some benevolent and some of ill intent. Two popular folklores originating from Mexico and Texas is sightings of the Lechuza and of the Aswang. Often in the Autumn and near Halloween. The Lechuza became a popular image during the romanticized Victorian era. It has an unusually large owl body with a human women’s head. The Aswang is just the opposite having a human woman’s body and an owls head. Both are said to be a form of witch transformed. Both are also said suck the blood of their victims. The Aswang is thought to attack pregnant women and steal their unborn child. Rumors have also risen that both the Lechuza and the Aswang steal children out after dark. Some legends report that when one hears an owl screeching or hooting at night they are trying to lure small children out of the house to take away to the woods.

Images of owls exist in almost every culture and the stories attached to them are wide and varied. Sometimes the evil villain, some times the voice of reason, a protector or warrior or wise sage. The owl wears many hats and only they know who they really are and their intent. So when you hear the haunting hoot off in the distance be warned, the owls may be talking to you.

Illustration “Wilbur” Copyright Intricate Knot. To more of Intricate Knots art and where to buy visit her artist page Art For A Gloomy Day.

Illustration “Owlie On The Moon” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan. To see more of Twilight Faerie’s art and where to buy visit her artist page Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

Featured Artist Interview June 2015 with Twilight Faerie

To find where Twilight Faerie sells her wares visit her artist page on HAB. 

Interview with Michelle Angelique Duncan of Twilight Faerie:

What inspired you to start the Halloween Artist Bazaar group?

There are those who are Halloween people. At some point they fell in love with that day that falls on October 31st. For them Halloween isn’t just a holiday that comes once a year and then it is done. For Halloween people it is part of who they are. They surround themselves with, and some have a passion to create, Halloween. Halloween Artist Bazaar was started to preserve the spirit of Halloween for those people who create and those who collect. What we do is a very special niche in the art world.

You are guiding this group into being much more than just an Etsy team, where do you see HAB headed?

Halloween Artist Bazaar was never intended to be Etsy-centric. When the group was formed it just happened that a lot of contemporary Halloween artist were selling on Etsy. Forming an Etsy team for the group made sense as a valuable tool. Halloween Artist Bazaar was always intended to be a cross-platform group with members who sell from all kinds of online venues and our own selling catalog. I hope that HAB will be able to establish itself as an online shopping catalog where Halloween collectors will find one of a kind handmade Halloween works that embody quality craftsmanship, unique character and sincerity.

What is your fondest Halloween memory?

I can not say there is only one fond Halloween memory, more of an amalgamation of Halloweens from childhood. Growing up in the 1970’s Halloween was a big deal in my neighborhood. Nearly the whole neighborhood participated. All the houses would be decorated with a least a lit Jack o Lantern or a sheet ghost. Kids and grown ups all dressed in elaborate costumes, most of them home made. At dusk the streets would fill up with the excitement of trick or treaters, screams and music could be heard from makeshift yard and garage haunted houses. It was as though the entire neighborhood magically transformed into something different and we were all celebrating on Halloween.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

I used to throw elaborate Victorian style costume parties complete with silly party games, costume contests and an Autumnal feast. My situation is different now, so gone are those days.

I still dress in costume, usually as a cat. The yard gets decorated and house get decorated. We carve pumpkins and I bake Autumn treats. A few friends will come by for the evening. We burn a fire in the fire pit, grill sausage wraps on the smoker and give out bottles of water to neighbors who stop by. There is a huge bucket I fill with candy and hand out to kids. My rule is to get the candy the kids have to yell TRICK OR TREAT as loud as they can, and they must have on a costume of some sort. We host a food drive on Halloween night where folks can drop off donations in big decorated boxes that I set out in the yard. The neighborhood I am in has a lot of kids and some years we have a huge turn out. Most of the houses are decorated and folks hand out candy.

When did you start creating in your medium and what training have you had?

My family was filled with artistic people, so I was always around art and art supplies. There isn’t a time I remember in which I wasn’t drawing, cutting paper or gluing glitter on to things. I received a lot of instruction from my family when I was very young. I took art classes through out junior high into college. My floral work comes from 15 years in the floral industry; the decoupage comes from a love of cutting and gluing. The joke I make is that the floral work supports my glittery Halloween habit. Even when I was very young I painted; however, it wasn’t until 2014 that I finally got brave enough to try and sell the paintings. I created Twilight Faerie and started selling the Halloween and floral pieces in 2003.

What was the inspiration to create what you create and when did you know you wanted to create Halloween?

The inclination to create Halloween came back when I was nine years old. Deciding the household did not have nearly enough decorations (and my parents didn’t see the necessity of buying more), I decided to create my own to hang about.

There were tissue paper ghost and construction paper bats that dangled from yarn and paper Jack o lanterns with cut out tissue eyes that hung in the windows. I had started constructing a scarecrow from scratch. He was drawn in pencil and colored with watercolor markers. He stood about 4 feet tall and his head arms and legs where cut out and attached to brads so that his joints would move. Making these decorations for the house became a huge project that lasted for three weeks building up to Halloween night.

The scarecrow was an undertaking. It took me a very long time to get him just right and time was running out. I worked feverishly as soon as I got home from school that Halloween to get him finished to hang on the door before the trick or treating started. Somehow I felt he had to fulfill his Halloween destiny and be displayed before dusk. It was that Halloween, when it got dark and I was hanging the scarecrow on the door that I knew some day I wanted to do something to contribute to the world of Halloween.

All my life I have loved Halloween and the imagery of folklore and fairy tales. I was inspired to create ornaments and decoupage pieces as a way to preserve the imagery that is so dear to me. I didn’t want those magical images to be lost to the world. It was as if the images from the past had to be put out in the world for another foray. Back when I started there were only a handful of Halloween artist and only a scarce few who where creating pieces from vintage images. The paintings I paint echo that love of Halloween and fairy tales; there is always a need to get the images that frolic around in my head to paper and out to the world. I suppose I am hoping that Halloween and whimsical imagery might mean as much to others as it does me, and might give those images and creations life that is passed down through generations to come.

The Boogieman and the Monster Under the Bed

The Boogieman and the Monster Under the Bed-By Angelique Duncan

The sound in the dark, that scratching at your window, the shadow that moved in your peripheral vision; that feeling of knowing you are being watched while you lie in your bed. You call out asking who is there. There is no answer. Silence. You turn the light on and check once again. Under the bed, in the closet, peer into the corners and under the clothes in the laundry basket, nothing is there. You turn the light off and as soon as you lie back down, you feel it again. He is watching you. He is never seen and his voice is never heard, but you know he is there. He has a name; it is fear. He is the Boogieman.

Some form of Boogieman legend exists in nearly every culture and on every continent. Although his name may be different and his description varied he is intrinsically the same. He is feared. He is known as the Boogieman, boogey, Boogie Monster, Bogyman, Sack man, Booger Man, Boggart, Der Schwarze Mann, Bubak, the Bagman and a host of other names depending on where you are on the globe.

His description changes form region to region. Some believe he is a shape shifter and can take the form of any living thing, particularly animals and creatures. In most mythologies he is identified as male, although in some countries he is a she and takes a female form.

The Boogie Man has been described many different ways. He has been said to be small and hairy with deformed limbs, big red eyes with claws and sharp fang teeth. Others say he is tall, gaunt and abnormally thin. Some say he has hooved feet and devils horns. Others say he wears a dark hat and a cloak or a black hooded robe. Many legends tell of a scarecrow like figure, telling that he has a Jack o Lantern head, or no head at all. Descriptions vary from a lizard like creature to being animal like or even being seen as a demon. In each culture he takes on a different description, each more hideous and scary than the other, always somewhat humanoid yet a monster of some type and most often thought of as a shape shifter.

It is not clear where the Boogieman comes from. Some believe he originates from the warning tales of Goblins in the British Ise and stories of him migrated with the Scottish and Celts to Germany. However, some sort of established Boogieman mythology existed in every culture well before European migrations. Some believe he comes in with fog. Legends are told of a green fog associated with the Boogieman’s appearance. It is thought by many that he lives in shadows and dark dusty musky places. The Boogieman can move through houses unseen, living in basements, attics and cellars or between walls and floorboards. He can maneuver under beds, into closets and under laundry hampers undetected.

He thrives on darkness, only stalking at night and will retreat from light. He watches in the dark and waits until one is alone to terrorize. It has been told that that he will only attack those who are not asleep while other telling’s state that sleep is when he attacks. In most folklore he will only stalk one specific victim at a time and will wait until they are defenseless in bed.

Some believe he is a punisher much like Krampus, the devil like creature who disciplines naughty children during the Christmas season. In many cultures he is used as a threat by parents to children who misbehave. The concern of a visit from the Boogieman is used to curtail every offense from sucking ones thumb, not finishing ones dinner to not going to bed on time. The punishment being that the offending child will be taken away by the Boogieman at night.

Legends abound of the Boogieman hiding in shadows and snatching children and travelers who are out too late after dark. The most common folklore that appears in European, Asian and South American folklore is that he carries them away in a sack to be tortured and eaten. A legend in Czech and Polish regions claims that the Boogieman, under the name Bubak, drives a cart drawn by cats and looks for victims at night, piles them on the cart and takes them away to be skinned and fed to the cats.

Although many stories tell that the Boogieman appears as a consequence of ones actions as a disciplinarian or for being out too late, other myths tell that he picks his victims at random out of a sinister cruelty. That one never knows when or why the Boogieman will take a victim, he just does out of spite.

Theories have been told that the Boogieman is an evil spirit or an undead entity wandering the earth. Other theories say he is a demon unleashed from Hell. Stories exist that the Boogieman was a tortured and abused child who was unwanted and unloved. His parents killed him and he came back from the grave to torture and punish other children as a result. Another legend is that he preys on adults who are bad or abusive to their children as retaliation for his own parents’ misgivings. A modern explanation for the Boogieman is that he is an amalgamation of irrational fear. A trick of the subconscious mind settling at night while dealing with stress or worry that has manifested as a “stalking monster” that will not let one rest. One constant is that the Boogieman is always associated with fright. It is widely held he will take on the shape of his victims’ worst fears. It is rumored he feeds upon terror and needs his victims scared in order to feast.

It is not known if the Boogieman exists. He may be made up by adults to scare little kids into being good. The stories have passed down so many generations and been retold so many times that he has become “real”. Maybe, collectively we keep him alive. He may exist because we allow him to by perpetuating the myth. Given that so many of us at some point in our lives have been afraid of the monster under the bed or felt there was something hiding in the closet; perhaps he is real and is feeding upon our shared consternation.

For good measure, before you go to sleep at night, check under the bed and make sure the closet door is closed. Check under your laundry, keep the bedroom door cracked open and a keep a night-light on. If you hear that scratch at the window, bumping in the night and the shadows begin to move, it is probably your imagination or perhaps it is just your fears…

Sleep tight and don’t let the Boogieman get you.

Illustrations “The Boogieman” and “The Monster From the Closet” Copyright Michelle Angelique Duncan.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Goblins

The Goblins-By Angelique Duncan

The Goblins

The Goblins are related to the Brownies and Gnomes of the British Isle. Often they are called Knockers, Kobolds, Bogart, Boogey or Boogey Man interchangeably. Goblins come from the ground and live in marshes, under bridges, abandoned farms and mines. They are the mischievous and sinister cousin species to the benevolent Good Folk, however the Goblins never learned or refused, to live in harmony with mankind.

Goblins have been described differently depending on region and era. Usually they are said to be humanlike and small in nature. Some folklore says they are under a foot tall while others state they are the size of a small child. Often in ancient stories they are said to be hairy with long arms and large feet or distorted features. Sometimes they are described to have hoofed feet and horns or pointed ears. Some say they have large round eyes that are red or yellow. In modern illustrations they are depicted as humanoid, hairless with greenish or grey skin and with devil like features.

Once it was popular belief that Goblins inhabited caves and mines. Some stories tell that the Goblins would knock to warn the working miners of cave-ins or poisonous gases. However some folklore suggests the opposite, that the Goblins would cause the mines to cave and that they were actually responsible for creating the poisonous gases to get rid of the humans so they could keep resources for themselves.

Folklore surrounding the Goblins states that they are responsible for abducting travelers on dark roads and for stealing pets and children, especially around Halloween. Some believe that Goblins looking for a new dwelling would follow people and take over their homes.

It is said that one should never invite one into your home or adopt a Goblins company. They are destructive creatures that cause misery and ill fortune. Goblins are the ones who make things go wrong. If you find sand in your bed, milk that sours too soon, knocked over things, pulled up plants from the garden, untied shoes and stained linens regularly in your home; you may have a Goblin.

At night Goblins will torment the people they have attached to by pulling the sheets off the bed and rearranging pillows. They have been reported to pinch or poke people while they are sleeping. Other tactics of the Goblins is to put cold hands on people’s feet, tug on their ears or nose or slap ones face while one sleeps.

Their behavior can escalate beyond acts of inconvenient mischief, to acts of terror. Goblins have been said to steal or endanger livestock and ruin crops. They cause harm to small animals and can make them disappear. Goblins are known as thieves and can bring financial ruin. Once it was believed that when a horse gets skittish and spooked or if a dog growls or barks when nothing seems to be there, the animals are aware that a Goblin is present.

Once a home is invested with a Goblin they can be near impossible to get rid of. Goblins are said to follow a family or individual if they attempt to abandon it, often increasing their acts of ill intent out of anger. Popular deterrents to prevent Goblins from entering the home are to hang a horseshoe over ones door or to keep a bowl of salt next to the door. One must be careful to never allow their shoes to lie upside down, as this invites Goblins to your home. Many folklores state the only way to rid oneself of a Goblin is to either outwit them by extreme trickery or by ultimately killing it. Be very careful when traveling near abandoned buildings, bridges or caves. Pay attention when your dog seems to bark randomly. Goblins may be near.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Brownies

The Brownies-By Angelique Duncan

With the coming of Spring comes Spring cleaning. If one is fortunate they will have some help with this annual task from a Brownie. The Brownies are a kin to the gnomes and tomte of Scandinavia and often mistaken as such, however they are a different species of mythological creature.

Brownies originate from the British Isles and regions of Scotland. They are small in stature anywhere from a foot to 3 feet tall. Most stories tell of them being male with varied appearances depending on their region and clan of origin. Some tell they are portly with beards, others say they are slim with pointed ears and small facial features. Other reports are that they have unusually round eyes and noses. They are often seen wearing simple brown or earth tone clothing usually well worn and sometimes tattered from years of work. They prefer to wear some sort of hat. Hence, the name “Brownie” comes from their brown attire and appearance.

There are different types of Brownies who have taken on different responsibilities in the world. Some are tasked with protecting lakes and waterfronts and are known as Kelpies or Shellycoats. The name Shellycoat was given for the seashells they wear as armor. Some Brownies, known as the “Brown Men” are protectors of small woodland animals and wild flowers. They are considered wild brownies and have very rarely been seen by man, as they avoid humans at all cost.

Some varieties of Brownies have taken to living in harmony with humans, if they feel that human is worthy of their service. Some will take residence in a barn and help with the chores and labor outdoors of tending to gardens and livestock and take pride in overseeing the crops. They are content to make a bed of hay and live among the barn animals, to keep a watchful eye over them.

Others are more domestic and will take on household tasks indoors. They help with the general cleaning and washing tasks, mending clothes and watching over family pets. The domestic house Brownies prefer to work at night as to not be seen or have interruptions while they work.

Brownies are noble creatures with a strong work ethic. Generally Brownies are good natured and happy in spirit. In some regions they are known as the “Good Folk” for their high moral standards and values. A brownie will only take up residence in a home with a family they feel is high in virtue. Often they will create a special bond with one family member and pay particular attention to assisting and protecting that person. In some homes the bond is with a pet that they have a special relationship with. Sometimes the Brownie will let their existence be known to only one family member or pet of the home, other times the entire house is aware of their presence.

In return for helping in the home Brownies welcome their own designated place by the hearth for them to enjoy snacks and naps by the fire. Often a Brownie will be content with offerings of sweet bread, porridge or thimbles of honey. They have a particular fondness for cream and will remain loyal for years if it is offered on a regular basis. They are content to make a space in a corner or nook of the house. Brownies will live in attics; between floorboards or under stairs until they are certain they are staying and accept a room of their own. Once a Brownie has been with a family for many years and feels they have a permanent home they will accept their own “room” in the house. They will make a space for themselves in a broom closet, pantry or storage room, making a permanent bed and gather knick-knacks and sparkly things for decoration of their space.

Although the Brownies live a life of solitude away from others of their kind, folklores have been told that twice a year the Brownies will gather with their kin, at the Spring Equinox and again after the fall harvest. It is said the Brownies will gather in a wooded place to have meetings and festive social celebrations. Brownies are highly protective of their females. They will bring back their wives and children to their home once they have established it is safe. The household may never be aware of the female Brownie presence.

Brownies expect respect and acknowledgement of their service to a home, but do not want fussy compliments or praise. They seem to operate under a mutual respect relationship. They are finicky about taking gifts and will become highly offended if offered clothing. It is believed that it is a matter of pride for the Brownies, in that the offering of clothing is an insult to their appearance. Another theory is that to offer clothing is to insinuate that the Brownie is now more human than Brownie and an offense to their heritage of simplicity. Some have thought that once the Brownie has new clothes that they leave because they got what they came for, however this seems unlikely given their high moral fortitude.

Brownies do not approve of lying and stealing. They will not tolerate manipulation or acts of deceit. Brownies are highly offended by gossip and most offended by cheating. If they become aware of such acts they often retaliate with acts of mischief and will try to sabotage the act to prevent it. If the family they have taken up with commits these acts and do not head their mischievous warnings the Brownie will leave in disappointment. Brownies have an expectation that humans operate by the Brownie code of ethics and trust. Once breached, it is very difficult if not impossible to gain back a Brownies trust.

Brownies do not trust established churches. A Brownie will discontinue service to a home if the family they live with tries to have them Baptized or attempt to convert them to the church religion of the house. Brownies will not take up residence in overly religious homes. Brownies distrust anyone who does not enjoy drinking the occasional ale, meade or beer, breaking bread with friends and dancing. They feel that those who are overly religious or pious are usually disingenuous in their righteousness and not to be trusted. It is thought that the distain that Brownies have for the church ties back to their heritage and the history of their ancestors and humans who defended them being persecuted and drove underground during the establishment of Christianity in Europe. Most Brownies are said to view organized religion as hypocrisy, as the Brownies believe that strong morals and values are innate to individuals and come from within.

Brownies are known to be fickle and can be offended without one ever knowing what they have done to offend them. Once offended a Brownie will leave without warning, never to return. Stories have been told that once a Brownie has left a home, ruin will come to that home. Misfortunes will afflict the livestock, crops will become diseased, and the house will begin to fall apart. It is said that fixtures and tools within the home begin to break; important documents will go missing, and troubles of debt or of legal nature will bestow the home. Some say it is a hex that is put on the home by the Brownie for the family’s breach of trust. Others say it is the Karma created by whatever ill action the family took that drove out the Brownie. Some seem to believe that the decay of the home occurs because the family no longer has a Brownie to keep order and protection and is a natural result of loosing the Brownies immaculate services and organizational skills.

So this Spring when you start your annual cleaning if you notice that things are bit tidier than you remember and tasks are finished that you thought were undone; it may be the work of a Brownie. Feel honored if you have been chosen. Not everyone has the good fortune of a Brownie in his or her house. Be mindful though; leave out some cream or cakes for as quickly as a Brownie arrives they may leave.

Artwork “The Brownie” appears courtesy of Twilight Faerie

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Vampires

The Vampires-By Angelique Duncan

The Vampires

Many of us know of the Vampires. Cloaked undead revenants that have returned from the dead to suck the blood of their victims and spread misfortune to those they infect. They roam through the night searching for their victims in flight as a Vampire bat shifting into human form to seduce their victim for that bite upon the neck. Swiftly they return to their coffin before daybreaks and the sun rises. Where did they come from? Did or do they exist? Or are they the stuff of imagination and hysteria to explain what was misunderstood and couldn’t be given explanation?

Through out history there have been documented cases of bizarre murders and bloodlettings that have been officially classified as the work of Vampires. Individuals who committed heinous and brutal killings have been either identified in records as, or self proclaimed as Vampires. Up into modern decades, serial killers have mimicked Vampire style murder.

Vampire is a word of Slavic origin. In Turkey the translation is literally witch. Often they are referred to as revenants. Stories of Vampires, under different names, first appeared in Slavic regions in the 11th century and in European history after the 1400’s. The term Vampire began to appear in the English language around the 1700’s. It was used to describe those who it was believed had escaped from the grave after burial. Stories have been recorded and passed down of graves that had been unearthed and the remains moved or in other positions than they were left in that led people to suspect that Vampires would leave their graves by night and return to them by day.

A possible explanation for the unearthed graves of earlier times is that graveyards were not as secure as they are today making it easy for grave robbers to dig up graves to riffle for jewelry and valuables. Some in the scientific and medical community would dig up graves for the opportunity to work with human remains as cutting cadavers was considered a morbid practice and not approved of. A more gruesome explanation for the altered positioning of bodies might have been the result of patients who were buried too soon and had not completely expired at the time of burial. The disturbed coffins were the result of their desperate attempt to release themselves form untimely burial.

Though some believed that the explanation was that the deceased had become a Vampire. Efforts where made to contain the undead from returning by loading rocks upon the gravesite. Another early practice was staking corpses that were believed to be Vampires into their coffins so that they could not leave the grave at night. This may be where the belief that Vampires can only be stopped by a wooden stake through the heart stems from.

The superstitious held that that Vampires would return to the home or family they came from to settle scores or execute revenge on those closest to them. It was further believed that Vampires would retain their sexual appetite, seeking their spouses to continue their relations after death or to infect the spouse to take them with them to the grave. If a member of a household had died from disease and shortly there after other family members had fallen ill, it was believed that the member who died first had returned and infected the home. It thought as well that a household who recently experienced a death suffered from misfortune, it was a curse left by a Vampire. Today many believe that households that suffered mass deaths from a particular disease did not occurred from corpses returning from the grave, but from a lack of sanitation and proper understanding of the containment of infectious disease.

Early descriptions of Vampires were that they were pale, bloated and swollen with sunken eyes. It was thought that they drank the blood of live humans to nourish themselves after death. Those who had been bitten would suffer the same fate, to become a Vampire. These physical descriptions of vampires may have been based on people of earlier decades limited knowledge of decomposition of the body after death.

Corpses would be buried in unsealed wooden boxes and often not as deep or well covered as modern burial practices. As the body decays the stop in blood flow to the capillaries ceases, causing the skin to turn pale. The stop of oxygen flowing through the blood stream causes skin to have a gray or bluish tint. The under the eye cavity begins to sink and become purplish. Decomposition of intestines at a greater rate than the rest of the body causes bloating and in some cases can push blood up the intestines to the mouth. Bodies buried in winter tend to decompose slower and if buried right before a frost of freeze, a body will “preserve” given the appearance that the dead is not decomposing. All these elements would make for the common descriptions of undead, blood feasting revenant. The bloating would be mistaken for being well fed, and the blood seeping from the mouth evidence that the subject had been sucking blood.

Folklore tells that not all Vampires dwelled in graveyards. It was believed that some existed among the living. Those with strange unexplained appearance and behaviors was suspect of being infected as a Vampire. Accounts of people who were accused of Vampirism may have been suffering from medical disorders that were not well understood that fit the descriptions given of Vampires. Possible diseases that could have been mistaken for Vampirism were rabies, severe anemia and Photosensitivity.

Another disease associated with possible Vampirism is anemia, a condition in which the blood lacks iron. Those who suffer from anemia can become pale often with dark circles under the eyes and marbling of the skin. In some severe cases, anemia can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, left untreated can cause one to spit up blood. An early treatment for anemia was the consumption of blood to replace the needed iron.

Photosensitivity is a condition that causes an inability for an individual to go out in sunlight without ones skin blistering or burning. The lack of vitamin D would cause folks affected to be pale lacking pigment. This would add to the belief that a person affected with vampirism could only maneuverer at night.

A commonly held belief was that Vampires were shape shifters who could transform into nocturnal animals, often the animals associated, as Vampires were owls and wolves. It would not be until 1897 that the belief that Vampires shifted into bats would become a part of the folklore. The idea came from Bram Stokers tale of Count Dracula. Although Europe does have a bat population, the iconic blood feasting bats used in Vampire mythologies was not discovered until explorers identified them in Central America. The bats were named after the undead creatures of the night and Stoker evidently felt it would be a good fit for the character of his book. The link between Vampires and Vampire bats has been in place ever since*.

Cultures have had a fascination with the Vampire for centuries. The mythology of Vampires has been driven by ancient folklore, written history, fiction writers and moviemakers, who keep the legends alive. In the modern era Vampirism has become a fashionable fad. Less the gruesome bloated monsters of their origins, Vampires have become romanticized as something attractive and mysterious. The modern Vampire is sleek, debonair and seductive.

The existence of the Vampires has never been proved or disproved. Perhaps they lie waiting in their graves to rise again. Maybe they walk amongst us disguised as everyday people. Who knows if the bat that flies across the midnight sky is just a common bat or a mythological shape-shifting Vampire looking for blood.

* Although vampire bats have been referenced in this entry in association with Vampires please do not fear or discriminate against them. For more information and facts about vampire bats as a species visit BatWorlds to learn more about them.

Artwork “Dissolution” appears courtesy of Chad Savageand may be purchased through his Etsy shop.

Artwork “Emeraude Feels Festive” appears courtesy of Art By Saradaand may be purchased through the HAB catalog.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.

The Full Moon and the Wolves

Copyright Angelique Duncan

The Full Moon and the Wolves
-By Angelique Duncan

The full moon of January is the Wolf Moon. It was titled by Native Americans who named each moon in the calendar for attributes that occurred in nature during that lunar cycle. While other animals take shelter and hibernate during the harsh cold of January, the wolves remain active, searching for food. It was considered very dangerous to go out during a full Wolf Moon for fear of wolf attacks. The January Wolf Moon was given its namesake for the baying of wolves that could be heard over the silence of Winter.

Wolves in mythology have been seen as leaders of the animal realm. Revered for their intelligence and tremendous hunting skills, relentless loyalty to protect their pack, nurturing instinct to their young and feared for their strength and ferocity in attack. The wolf in Native American, as well as Norse, Germanic and Slavic cultures was seen as a magnificent warrior, either to be respected or to be feared.

Many Native American tribes believed that if one were to wear a wolf pelt in battle they would channel the wolves fighting instinct and technique to be as the wolf. Those who wore animal pelts in battle were known as “Skin Walkers”, guided by their animal spirit.

The concept of “Skin Walkers” that existed in other cultures may be where the legends of the Werewolf beginnings. Although there are many possible origins and mythologies surround the half man half wolf legend. None seem to be confirmed and the history is cloudy. The stories exist in European regions of wolf warriors, half wolf- half man predators, werewolves and changelings, however recorded historical documents prior to the 13th century have either been destroyed, lost or suppressed from the public sphere of history. As Christianity spread across Europe much of what had been believed to have been recorded in Pagan histories was either left out or re-written by the church and became the stuff of myths and rumors.

Some of the earliest recorded wolf legends go back to the Greek mythology of Lycaon, who was changed into a wolf as punishment for eating his child. The Romans had many myths linked to wolves as both nurturing mother spirits and as predators’.

The wolves are a prominent figure in Norse mythology, most originating from the story of Fenrir. Fenrir was one of three sons of Loki. It was feared he would devour the rehlm and was captured. However he continued to grow huge in captivity. As the legend goes, dwarves where commissioned to create a special chain to bind him to a boulder were a sword was placed in Fenrirs jaw to keep him form attacking. From his frothing saliva a river was formed.

Stories of Werewolf like beings appear in legends from Germanic Pagans and Slavic regions as well in Norse mythology. Like the “Skin Walkers” of the Native American tales, stories are told of vicious Wolf Warriors. Men who would wear the skins of wolves and transform into wolf creatures who were animalistic in their fighting, and said to be stronger and resilient to pain. It is written that they were nearly impossible to take down in battle as if immortal.

In Irish folklore stories are passed down of the Laignach Faeland. They were half man half wolf beast who acted as mercenaries for hire. They would fight for a bounty of the flesh of small children and babies. Much fear and destruction was associated with the Laignach Faeland. They were large, fierce warriors who were unrelenting in battle.

Through out the history of Europe during the 14th through 16th centuries reports were made of Werewolf or shape-shifter attacks. The accusations were of wolf creatures that hunted humans. The victims were brutally attacked, often dis-membered, gutted and left for dead. In some instances the blood had been drained from their bodies. No wolf creatures were ever identified or confirmed and the predators never caught in these mysterious deaths.

During the witch trials in France of the 14th to 15th centuries accusations were made of shape shifting witches. Allegations were also made of witches consorting with Werewolves. In Hungary trials were set against Werewolves as late as the 18th century. It was believed that Werewolves, Witches and Vampires were responsible for bazaar deaths of humans and the mass disappearance of livestock.

In many early Werewolf legends it is believed that the wolf shape-shifting and transformation happened most prevalently during the Winter Solstice and during Ostera or Easter during a full moon. Mythologies from France, Italy and Germany stated that one could be metamorphosed into a wolf by sleeping outside in ta full moon on a designated Wednesday or Friday during the Summer months. It was believed that one would transform into a Werewolf by becoming naked and wearing a wolf skin pelt or belt. Some believed drinking rainwater collected in the track of a wolf would bring on Werewolf changes. Legends were spread that drinking water from enchanted steams during a full moon or a beer specially made from enchanted spring water would cause the affliction of wolf transformation. Some stories tell of witch spells that were cast to change the victim.

The commonly accepted way to stop a Werewolf is by use of a silver bullet or silver weapon. This comes from 18th century folklore of Germany and was reinforced by 19th century literature. The notion became popular and has remained part of Werewolf lore. Early beliefs were that scolding an infected victim or running it to the point of exhaustion could stop a Werewolf. Others believed that looking the beast in the eye and repeating their Christian given name three times would exorcise the wolf out of the infected. Some held that the only cure to Werewolf-ism was to fully convert to Christianity.

There are scientific explanations that could explain what may have been confused for shape shifting by an uneducated populace of the earlier centuries. Such conditions would include hypertrichosis, a condition in which one experiences abnormal thick hair growth that covers the body. Some victims of the condition experience adult onset, which would give the illusion that they are changing into an animal from their human form since they did not have the hair growth in childhood. Another misunderstood medical condition was photosensitivity in which one cannot go out into sunlight. A full moon would offer someone suffering from the condition an ability to move at night with out harm and bolster beliefs of nocturnal animal behaviors attributed to humans. Infection with rabies may be another condition that would have been confused with possession by wolf. The symptoms of a bite received from a rabies infected animal could have been confused for transformation by one who did not have an understanding of the disease.

We do not know if Werewolves existed or still do. The evidence is not conclusive or well documented to make the case either way. However the legends and stories do exists and are a part of our modern culture. Wolves are a deep seeded component of the history of such great cultures as the Norse, the Italians as well as France and Germany and an important animal in Native American beliefs.

Be warned, the next Wolf Moon occurs January 5th 2015. If you happen to about outside and you here the distant howl of a wolf take heed. It could be a transformed Werewolf, the ancient cry of a forgotten Wolf Warrior or the ghost of a noble animal Wolf Spirit calling for his pack.

Illustration “Full Wolf Moon” appears courtesy of Michelle Angelique Duncan-Twilight Faerie.

Angelique Duncan is proprietor of Twilight Faerie Nostalgic and Capricious Objects. Check out her artist page to find links to her shops and vintage inspired traditional holiday art. Visit again next month for more traditions and folklore.