Tempestarii: Magical weathermen

Witches concoct a brew to summon a hailstorm.

Image via Wikipedia

The Tempestarii are a race of beings who control the weather from their magical land of Magonia. Because they live in the clouds, naturally they can’t grow crops. So, they cause magical storms–the crops ruined by these storms are in fact taken back to Magonia on great sky-ships.

In Medieval Europe, fake wizards would pretend to be able to control the Tempestarii, and charge the population a certain portion of the crops to keep these weather pirates away.

In 815, in Lyons, France, such a storm occurred. The local population discovered three strangers just after it, and immediately realizing they were Tempestarii who had fallen from their ship, threw them in prison. The local Roman Catholic bishop, Agobard, argued them out of jail before the livid population stoned them to death.


Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Harper & brothers, 1887

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempestarii (Please note that–at the time of writing–the Wikipedia article confuses the Tempestarii and the fake wizards who took money to keep them away. But I used it as a source, so I’m referencing it here.)



Here there be Dragons: Gargouilles — The dragon that turned to stone

Like guivres, gargouilles prowled medieval France. You can tell the difference between the two species because guivres are the ones with the poison breath, and gargouilles are the ones that spew water.

Gargouilles are big enough to swallow rivers, which they then expel through massive jaws, drowning villages and crops under great waves. Gargouilles also ate sailors and capsized boats on the Seine.

The archbishop of Rouen, later St. Romain, had had enough. He decided to go talk to his local gargouille, to make it see reason. Unsurprisingly, no one volunteered to go with him, except for a condemned murderer, in exchange for his freedom if he lived.

When the guys got to the dragon’s lair, it appeared. The monster seemed more likely to eat them to talk, and Romain reacted instinctively, holding up two fingers in the sign of the cross.

The gargouille laid down, subdued by sacred symbol. The murderer could then bind the monster using the archbishop’s stole and together they lead it back to the town (for some reason). The townspeople then burned the dragon alive.

To commemorate the occasion, the archbishop of Rouen is allowed to pardon one prisoner every year on Ascension Day.

And the monstrous stone waterspouts put on medieval French buildings are named ‘Gargoyles,’ which comes from the same root word as gargouilles–both of them mean ‘gargler.’

Here there be dragons — Guivre: The Embarrassed Dragon

Lots of towns in medieval France were bedevilled with a particularly nasty species of wingless, serpent-like dragon called ‘Guivre.’ But now they’re extinct. So what happened?

Guivres had toxic breath that poisoned everything, devastating entire villages, taking out fields, costing farmers their crops. They also carried disease. One breath could cause a plague that could kill thousands.

As it turns out, guivres have a fatal flaw. Which one young farmer discovered in a unique way. By taking a swim.

It was a hot day and no one was around, so our hero stripped off his clothes and jumped in the nearest river to cool off. When he stepped out of the river, naked as the day he was born, he heard something big coming through the woods. He froze in terror; normally a fatal mistake, this time it saved his life.

The huge ugly head of a guivre popped out from between the trees.

The dragon took one look at the naked human and, amazingly, blushed. Instead of attacking, the guivre drew back and slithered away.

The astonished farmer dressed quickly and got back to his village, where he spread the news of his adventure. At last, the people knew how to defeat their worst enemy–the guivre, for all its poison breath, was embarrassed by humans without their clothes on… which lead to some very interesting fights between humans and guivres. In the end, naked humans extinct-ifed the guivres.

A good year for werewolves

On December 14, 1598 in Paris, a tailor was burned at the stake.

This guy could have given Sweeny Todd a run for his money. He was known as the Chalons werewolf, and he had a taste for flesh–any kind, so long as it was young.

His MO was to lure kids into his shop (You have to figure there was some candy involved because what kid would go into a tailor’s shop?), where he’d slit their throats and then chop them up like meat. You can guess what he did with them after that.

You’re probably wondering where the ‘werewolf’ part comes in–right here.

Apparently it wasn’t enough for this guy to keep barrels of drying bones in his basement, he was rumored to have roamed the woods outside Paris in the form of a wolf. Just for fun, he’d attack people and rip out their throats.

After his trial and execution, something even stranger happened.

This guy’s crimes were judged to be so awful that the court ordered all records of them, and of the trial, to be burned.

Now that would all be odd enough, except for one more little thing… Actually, make that two.

Our Demon Tailor was not the only werewolf around that time. 1598 was a bumper year for les loups-garou in France.

One Jacques Roulet had been caught with the fresh blood of a fifteen year old boy under his fingernails, earlier that year in Angers, less than 300 km outside Paris, to the east. Roulet was sentenced to death, but he appealed and was sent to an insane asylum for a couple of years instead.

And an entire family of werewolves, the Gandillons, were identified in St. Claude, in the Jura region, also that year. They were all burned at the stake, despite the fact that only one of them was proven to have killed somebody.

Now here’s the thing. If you plot Angers, the Jura region, and Paris on a map, you’ll notice something. It makes a nice little triangle. If you had a car (which would wouldn’t have in 1598), you could get to each of these places in a single day.

Now maybe the tailor was just your average serial killer, Roulet merely crazy, and the Gandillons had rabies. Or each of these people were visited by someone just passing through…

Since those court documents were destroyed, we’ll never know.

Next week on Demon of the week–Vampires we know and love: Baobhan sith. Scottish vampire fairies (So cool!)

– Teresa

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