The Curse of the Mummy

The Curse of the Mummy-By Angelique Duncan

When one thinks of classic Halloween monsters, and costumes the mummy will certainly come to mind; gauze wrappings on decayed skin representing the preservation of the physical body, acting as a vessel holding the deceased until their passage to the afterlife. Petrified and mummified human bodies have been unearthed on nearly every continent. Often associated with Egypt, numerous mummies have been found in Asia, the Americas and even Europe. Mummies have always had a mystique surrounding them and evoke the fear of ancient curses, or the notion that the preserved corpse still holds life that once disturbed will return.

During the Middle Ages mummies were highly sought after for varied and unusual purposes. Many mummies were taken from tombs in Egypt and Africa for the pharmaceutical trade. Until the 16th century it was believed that ingesting powder made from mummies had grand healing powers. People believed that the rituals and rites of the Egyptian burial practices endowed the mummies with immortality that would transfer to the living when ingested. Another popular belief was that powdered mummy would stop bleeding and heal wounds. Some unscrupulous “Medicine Men” would sell the ground up corpses of suicides and criminals that were stolen from graves and sell the remains passing them off as authentic Egyptian mummy powder.

After the medicinal demand for mummies ended and despite early Arabic translations of warnings of curses surrounding disturbed mummies, the powder made from the bodies remained in demand until the early 19th century for paint pigment. The paints that were made from the remains created a brown tint that was called “mummia” or “deaths head”. Many of the great masterpieces that hang in museums today were painted using paints made from mummies. The practice was eventually ended and the color “mummia” was made from ground frankincense mixed with other elements.

Thousands of mummified cats were found throughout Egypt. It was common for these cat corpses to be taken and used for all kinds of purposes, one common use was as fertilizer. Rumors and myths exist that mummies were also used as fuel and the wrappings as paper, however these claims have never been substantiated. During the 19th century the practice of desecrating tombs for profit became frowned upon, as archaeology and the study of civilizations became a prominent science. This however, did not detour wealthy Victorians in England from purchasing mummies illegally for entertainment. The Victorians were fascinated by the romanticism of the occult and magic. Egyptology had become the rave and the stories of ancient curses had made their way into the mainstream. The wealthy would hold parties to observe the unwrapping of the mummies and hold séances with mediums in attempts to awaken the deceased they believed incased in the mummy corpses.

Curses were written or depicted on the walls of tombs in Egypt and were originally interpreted by the Arabs who seldom risked tampering with Egyptian magic. As archeologist studied the Egyptian language and imagery the warnings left in tombs were substantiated. A new study emerged from Egyptology, the history of the curses and their validity through documentation of those associated with the digs and their artifacts suffering from strange illnesses and even unexplained deaths.

Later the widespread belief in the reality of the curses was perpetuated as several famous instances of them coming to fruition were spread through news media. The most famous curse being the deaths surrounding the disruption of King Tut’s tomb when it was excavated. Six people died who were on location at the tombs opening. It was reported by the New York Times that the lead of the project, Howard Carter’s pet canary was found eaten by a cobra. This was pertinent in that it is the imagery of the crest of the Egyptian monarchy. Later six of the team all died from mysterious causes. Rumors at the time stated that the number of deaths was much greater, up to twenty-six deaths, which helped fuel the hysteria and fear surrounding mummy curses. When objects from King Tut’s tomb, including his coffin where exhibited around the world in the 1970’s, many refused to go see the exhibit for fear of the curse and deaths surrounding the discovery.

Another famous curse was documented when Walter Byran Emery took a small statue of Osiris from a tomb dig site. When Emery returned to his room his assistant found him paralyzed on the right side of his body, he was taken to the hospital and by the next day Emery was dead.

In another case when two mummies were removed from their resting place and transported over seas the ship encountered an unpredicted bad storm that tossed them over board. A year later on the anniversary of the excavation 3 family members of the head archeologist all died from mysterious causes.

A recent incident documenting an ancient curse involves an artifact of a ten-inch statue that has been housed in a glass case in Manchester England. It began gradually turning on its pedestal by itself in June of 2013. After staff realized that piece had been shifting direction significantly in a 180-degree turn without any visible assistance, the museum ordered that the case not be touched, the room closed and a camera set up to observe the piece. The footage proved that the piece was indeed moving. Some believe it was the spirit of the deceased whose tomb it was taken from living through the statue. Experts who were brought in to study the artifact say that the phenomenon was caused by vibrations of heavy foot traffic and vehicles on the road outside pivoting the statue on a bump found on the bottom. Some still do not believe the explanation is that simple and hold that the artifact is haunted and cursed.

Science offers that many of the deaths that have surrounded mummies and their artifacts can be explained. It is believed that those who have fallen ill or died were exposed to toxins commonly found in the caves and tunnels where the tombs were housed. Modern science can now identify the dangers of molds, bacteria’s and toxins that early archeologists were not aware of and claim exposure to these things is what caused the mysterious illness and deaths, not the curses left on walls by ancient relatives protecting their dead.

It may be true that there is a reasonable explanation for why so many who disturbed a mummies grave have died or how an artifact pivots on it’s own. However when one is dealing with the dead and curses from antiquity, it’s always best to err to the side of caution
and leave a resting mummy alone. If one shows up at your door on Halloween night be sure to throw in an extra piece of candy, lest you will suffer the curse of a mummy!

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.


Foxes-By Angelique Duncan

After the rise of Christianity and the abandonment of animal spirits and totems, many animals once held in high regard for their enchanted qualities were reduced to suspicion and even thought of as evil. The fox has been a victim of this fate. In literature and fables they often take the role of trickster or antagonist, depicted as treacherous and dishonest creatures. At times they are synonymous with deception, cunning and manipulation. However the fox wasn’t always painted in such a negative light.

Once upon a time foxes were held in great reverence. The fox has its place in mythologies ranging from ancient Greece to numerous legends from Asian and the Orient. They are prominent in the folklores of Nordic, Gaelic, Celtic and European cultures. The Native Americans and Eskimos acknowledge foxes for their magical qualities in their story telling. Pre Christianity, they were considered Gods of the Forest, symbols of prosperous agriculture, protectors and punishers of wrongs and loyal companions held with respect.

Foxes in ancient tales were often helpers who used their high aptitudes to guide humans or assist other animals. They were associated with intelligence, adaptability and rationing skills. Often depicted as finding a clever way to assist in a dilemma or out smart an adversary. The term to be “sly like a fox” comes from these observations of fox behaviors.

It was thought that a fox could out wit opponents by anticipating and planning for their next moves well in advance. Foxes have been said to be one of the most strategic of animals in their ability to evade predators and hunters. Foxes will seek shelter when they smell or sense danger long before of a predators approach. Foxes will use their tales to cover and disperse their own tracks and will leap in zig -zags touching their paws to low and high places to throw off their scent. Foxes have been attributed with psychic powers for their ability to foresee inclement weather by baying and whimpering before signs of rains or snowstorms.

The term vixen is used for a female fox, and in modern times has become equated with women of trickery. It was believed Foxes were shape-shifters. Often taking the form of a beautiful woman. To be “foxy” comes from the Celtic folklores of sleek attractive women, often referring to red heads of high intelligence, who would change into foxes. In many of these romantic legends as well as friendship tales, the fox is loyal and often will either save or change their companions life to the better as a way of showing gratitude for a debt or righting a wrong.

Due to the belief Foxes were shape shifters with high intelligence and psychic ability it was thought that they were companions to witches; or perhaps themselves witches. Foxes have historically and in almost every culture been attributed to have magic powers. A Finnish belief is that an enchanted fox is responsible for the aurora borealis or foxfire. The legend is told that a magical artic fox runs each night so fast in the snow that as his tale swishes back and forth it creates sparks that are captured with snow crystals that fly up into the night sky creating the Northern Lights. Another legend says that the lights are caused by a fox who leaps and runs over the mountains tossing snowflakes into the air changing them to the lights in the sky.

Who knows if the foxes are actually Gods watching the forest, shape shifting witches or magical creatures? Only they truly know. Should you make the acquaintance of a fox, be kind and respectful for they may become your next loyal companion or they may even save your life. However, do not cross them it is likely you will not out wit a fox.

Illustration “Twilight in Fox Hollow” provided by and Copyright Art By Sarada. To see more of V.Sarada Holts art and where to buy, visit her artist page Art By Sarada.

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 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 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.

Please DO Feed the Ghosts

Please DO Feed the Ghosts
-By Debbi Decker

We are in the midst of a pretty dire season. We’ve only just made it past the dog days of summer and are thinking thoughts of fall, cooler weather, football, and our favorite of all holidays, Halloween. Don’t get too ahead yourself though. Right now you better be feeding the ghosts.

We are smack dab in the middle of a period that is recognized by the Buddhist tradition as the “Hungry Ghost Month”. Based upon the lunar calendar, this period usually starts in July. However, this year (2015) it started on August 14 and will end September 12.

Hungry Ghosts are believed to be the souls of the evil dead that reside in Hell, condemned, due to the sins they committed, to suffer eternity feeling hunger. Some souls will be hungry for wealth, some revenge, and some simply for food. Once a year, during the seventh lunar month, the gates of Hell are opened and these souls are released to roam the earth.

So, you are probably thinking that you have already missed half of the month and are saying “so what?” It is never too late to get on the right side of these spirits. Just as you ward your homes against the usual bad actors, you need to up the stakes during Hungry Ghost Month. Here are a few tips and things you can do to be sure that everyone is happy, both corporeal and incorporeal:

Burn fake money. Called “Hell Notes” or Joss paper. Do this in front of your home, your business, or anywhere else you want to protect. Never ever pick up any money you find on the ground during this period. That money belongs to the ghosts. Give money freely to charities and to the living during this time period.

Leave offerings of food and drink outside your home (be nice and use good plates and glassware). This should be left far enough away from your normal pathways so that you do not encounter any of the local wildlife that may investigate that tasty chicken leg. Never ever chase away any animals or bugs that might be near or on the offerings, and never touch the offerings after you have left them out for the spirits until the Hungry Ghost Month is over. Then you may clear away whatever is left. Do this respectfully, perhaps putting the remains in a compost pile. You may either destroy or ritually cleanse the plates and glassware and put all away for next year. I personally think it would be nice to have a small selection of pretty dinnerware and glassware to be used solely for rituals such as these.

Burn incense inside and outside the home. Rock salt sprinkled at doorways and on windowsills will keep the spirits from entering. Try not to conduct new important business or start new projects during this time. However, if a project or business venture was started before August 14, you can continue to move forward.

Never ever kill an unusual insect or bug inside your home during this time (roaches being the exception). It is believed that those unusual creepy crawlies could be reincarnations of your ancestors and they are simply stopping by to check things out and to say hello.

No whistling, going out alone at night, or hanging laundry out to dry. Any of these activities will bring attention to you and the spirits may decide they like you and move in. If that happens, you might have to have your home cleansed or exorcised by a professional. Wear a protective amulet during this time and have it cleansed when the period is over.

Following these tips will leave you unscathed, and the Hungry Ghosts will, with toothpicks in their mouths and money in their pockets, travel back to lounge on their couches in Hell to bet on a little after dinner football.

Sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of Crazed Poppet Creations Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

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.

Trick or Treat!

Trick or Treat!
-By Angelique Duncan

Trick or Treat! The practice of dressing in costumes and going door to door for treats is as old as the holiday of Halloween it’s self. It survives as a traditional custom in modern times from its origins in ancient Gaelic history and the holiday Samhain.

There are varied yet similar thoughts on why trick or treating has been practiced, however despite region and era, there has always been a common thread; costumed people asking for some sort of treat on October 31st.

The ancient Celts believed that on October 31st a veil was lifted at twilight allowing magical forms of beings to re-enter the mortal world for one night. Some believed that this opening was also extended to the spirit world of the dead as well. In the Middle ages it was thought that ghost were allowed to pass from the “otherworld” through openings in sacred grounds that acted as gateways.

Common practice in the 1400’s was to leave plates of sweets and food for faeries and elemental creatures in ones garden or porch. This was done in hopes that passing faerie troupes would take the offerings in exchange for not making mischief or tear up ones crops. This may be the first inclination of sweets used as a bartering tool to avoid tricks.

Spirits who had returned on Halloween night were also left offerings of food. Some documentation from the 15-1600’s suggest that folks would leave food for weary souls as they traveled looking for their loved ones. Samhain was considered New Years and it was customary during this era to hold huge elaborate feast. At these feast plates would be set out and a chair at the table reserved for those who had passed away.

Just as departed loved ones could pass through gateways on Halloween night, it was believed that the wretched could return as well. To pacify these ill intended spirits folks would leave sweets on their porches to appease bad ghost to not haunt them and move on from ones home to the next.

The earliest documentation of Halloween costumes comes from the 1600’s. Men would dress in scary spirit costumes to scare away evil ghost and enchanted creatures. In return for the service of shooing away the bad spirits to make way for the visiting family ghost, people would offer ale and breads to these men. As the practice grew in popularity some would sing or perform for beer and treats. This became known as “guising”. Folks would become opportunistic in the practice and dress as monsters and scary ghost, threatening people’s homes with mischief if treats were not given.

In some regions it was customary for men to go “guising” door to door to farms to gather food donations for Samhain feasts. If the farmer obliged then his home would be bestowed with good fortune through the coming year. If He did not, then he would be met with a curse of misfortune.

With the rise of Christianity the churches advocated the celebration of All Souls Day in lieu of Samhain. All Souls Day falls on November 1, or 2nd depending on region. All Souls Day began as a day set-aside for monks to pray for the souls that were trapped in purgatory. The holiday expanded as a day to pray for all souls of the dead. Folks would go to cemeteries and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Not completely willing to let go of superstitions, the practice of leaving “soul cakes” out for the dead became a common practice. Children would go “Souling” through out village’s carrying candles or lanterns singing and offering prayers for the dead in exchange for soul cakes. It was believed that when a soul cake was eaten after a prayer a damned soul was released from hell.

As immigrants from Scotland and Ireland migrated across Europe and to North America during the 1700-1800’s, the Gaelic Samhain traditions followed. In some regions boys would dress as ghost and demons going house-to-house demanding food and drink otherwise they would wreak destructive havoc and mischievous mayhem. Livestock would be let free from their stockades, crops destroyed and broken windows were common on Halloween night. Although it would be much later in history before the term “Trick or Treat” would be used, the practice of giving treats to ward of “tricksters” was in full swing and in true form of its more modern practice.

The practice of knocking on doors on Halloween night carried on into the 1900’s. Halloween was very popular in the 1920’s as it lent itself for fancy dress up parties and lavish festive feast that were popular during the era. In England and North America the poor would dress in costumes and go into wealthier neighborhoods begging for money and food. Halloween became known as “Beggars’ Night. Soon it became commonplace and children of all ranks would go door to door festively in costumes to receive treats in exchange for not playing pranks. During the mid 1930’s the Term “Trick or Treat” was born and Halloween had become a children’s holiday.

However during the 1940’s with sugar rationing and a generally somber mood created by World War II the festive revelry of costuming and asking for candy became frowned upon and Halloween made a return to Beggars Night. During this conservative era it was believed that Trick or Treating was the practice of poor immigrants and not behavior for dignified, proud American and British children.

After the war ended and the American economy became strong along with upward mobility of immigrants socially, the practice of Halloween parties and Trick or Treating returned in full force. The tradition of knocking on doors in costumes and yelling “TRICK OR TREAT” for candy was the norm. The tricks were not violent and usually took the form of knocking over trash bins, applying dark polish to windows, throwing bath tissue in trees, throwing eggs or other devious deeds of vandalism like smashing pumpkins.

In the late 1980’s efforts were made to take the “trick” out of Trick or Treats. Children older than 12 years of age were discouraged from dressing up and going out on Halloween. Adult chaperons were encouraged and churches and retail establishments would host organized Trick or Treat events. Group Halloween parties for children held indoors in lieu of taking to the streets were commonplace. By the mid 1990’s virtually all the trick was removed from Trick or Treating and Halloween night had become all about the treats. Trick or treating through out neighborhoods made a come back in the early 2,000’s and is holding strong as an annual children’s holiday and night of nostalgia for adults and is widely celebrated in the United States and gaining popularity through out the world.

The acts of wearing costumes demanding treats under threat of tricks still exist as an integral tradition to Halloween. As October 31st approaches remember to leave your porch light on and to have plenty of sweets at the ready. For that knock at the door may be a whimsical child out for Tricks or Treats or it may be a wandering ghost or faerie spirit set free to roam on Halloween night.

Images “Set free on Halloween” and “Trick or Treat” 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.