Alrunes: “Hun-ey, I’m home”

When the Germans and Scandinavians first saw the Huns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hun), they said to themselves, “Holy crap, these guys have got to come from demons or something.”

They figured the Huns’ moms were the Alrunes, demons/sorceresses who were plugged in to the secret knowledge of the world. The Alrunes were all shape-shifty, morphing into animals of any kinds–the only thing they couldn’t change was their gender.

Right up until last century, some people kept small statues of the Alrunes in their houses, treating them to food and drink, and even the occasional change of clothes. In gratitude for these offerings, it was said that the statues could tell you the future. Just ask a yes or no question and the Alrune might nod its head.

But there was a catch (there usually is). If you didn’t keep your Alrune statue happy, they would get pissy on you, yelling out how much you suck and bringing bad luck into the house.

Source: Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2nd Ed; Shepard, Leslie A., ed. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 3rd ed.

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Holda and the Wild Hunt

''Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo, d...

''Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo, depicting the Wild Hunt of European folklore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned the Wild Hunt in Herne the Hunter, in a really simplified version. But there’s nothing simple about the Wild Hunt.

It’s a legend that spans most of Europe, in various formats. Boiled down to its essence, the Wild Hunt is a group of midnight spirits on a ghostly hunt. If you see the Wild Hunt, it’s a Very Bad Thing(tm). It presages disaster. Sometimes you can escape the disaster by, of all things, joining in with the Hunt and riding with them hell-bound for leather.

But sometimes that’s a very bad thing to do because time passes differently in Faery–a few hours with the Hunt could mean a few centuries in real time.

Just as the Hunt’s riders change depending on where you are in Europe (the Faery, ghosts, spirits), and the object of the hunt changes (wild women, mythic beasts, the souls of the unbaptized), the leader of the Hunt also changes.

In some Germanic traditions, it’s Holda. She’s a fierce sky goddess, and her Hunt is made up of shrieking witches. But it can’t be all bad–she was once a fertility goddess, so all the land she rides over gives up double the produce at harvest-time.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Hunt

Hinzelmann the Kobold

In 1584, the inhabitants of the castle of Hudemuhlen began to hear strange noises. Knocking where they shouldn’t be any. Rattling.

And then the voice came. The servants would hear someone talking in a soft voice, like a young boy or a lady, then turn around to see who–and saw no one. Naturally, this freaked everyone out. And then they got used to it and started chatting back. The spirit revealed that he was a Kobold.

Eventually, the same thing happened to the master of the castle. He was a bit more freaked out. The spirit often played tricks on him. So he tried to escape it by riding to another one of his residences. What he didn’t notice was the white feather floating along after him. Once he got to his other house, the spirit started to laugh at him, saying that it could go anywhere he did.

So, the guy saddled up his horse and rode back to Hudemuhlen. After that, the Kobold was more friendly to him, though.

The spirit revealed that his name was Hinzelmann, and that he lived in the Bohemian mountains with others like him. He even had a wife named Hille Bingels. But he’d had a fight with his friends and decided to stay at Hudemuhlen for a while.

He earned his keep–a daily bowl of milk by one account, occasional dishes of bread soaked in milk by another–by contributing to the household chores. He scrubbed pots and cleaned the kitchen. He also kept the maids and servants company while they worked, encouraging them to do a good job–sometimes using a stick to get his point across. He also worked in the stables, grooming horses.

He worked so hard that the nobleman gave him his own room in the castle, complete with chair, table, and bed.

Hinzelmann liked to cause fights between drunken servants by hitting them at opportune moments, so they would think another servant did it. But his tricks were pretty mild. Even a Curé who tried to exorcise him only got dumped in a ditch.

Unfortunately, if Hinzelmann liked you, it could be as big a problem as if he didn’t. He liked Anne and Catherine, the sisters of the master of the castle very much, and frightened away all their suitors. They both died unmarried.

Hinzelmann had foreknowledge of the future, and would warn favoured folks of disaster. He once tried to warn a visitor by telling him not to fire his gun while hunting with the master that day. The visitor, an army colonel, ignored Hinzelmann. That day, while hunting, the man’s gun backfired, blowing off his thumb.

There are many more stories told of Hinzelmann, both good and mischievous. You can check them out here< http://books.google.ca/books?id=PgMMAAAAYAAJ&gt;: and here< http://books.google.ca/books?id=PMoFAAAAQAAJ&gt;.

In 1588, Hinzelmann left the house of his own will, and never returned. Today, the castle lies in ruins.

Sources

Thomas Keightley, The fairy mythology: illustrative of the romance and superstition of various countries, G. Bell & Sons, 1850

Donald Grant Mitchell, Fresh Gleanings; Or, A New Sheaf from the Old Fields of Continental Europe, Harper, 1847

Melville, Francis; The Book of Faeries: A Guide to the World of Elves, Pixies, Goblins, and Other Magic Spirits, 2002, Quarto Inc

Kobolds: The kind of spirit you want to invite home

A woman aided by a house kobold.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s rare that this blog features a helpful spirit–even if he’s a bit on the mischievous side. (And what’s the point of being a spirit if you don’t have a mischievous side, I ask you.) But the Kobold is a spirit you want to take home with you. To do your laundry.

Kobolds are house spirits, who love doing household chores, a real boon if you happen to live in Middle Ages Germany, where laundry day means first boiling the water. And making the soap yourself.

Kobolds can look like animals, humans, or they can be completely invisible forever. Though they’re beneficial when given their way, they don’t like people being too curious about them, and there are many bad stories about what happens when people try to see what a Kobold looks like against its will. In fact, all the Kobolds of Cologne, Germany, left the city because a tailor’s wife set a trap for one of them, to trip it so she could see it. Kobolds have also appeared as naked children with knives in their backs, and drowned babies.

Most sources say that Kobolds make their own decisions on choosing houses. If you come home and there are wood chips on the floor and cow dung in the milk, a Kobold might be testing to see if you’re a good master. Drink the milk and leave the chips, and the Kobold will stay. But Benjamin Thorpe said that you can take a bag into the forest between noon and one on June 24 and look for an anthill with a bird on it. If you say the right incantation, the bird turns into a person and jumps into the bag. Then you can carry it home.

Not only will the Kobold do the dishes, keep the floor clean, and keep unwanted pests away, it might also bring you food and gifts from unknown sources. It might turn out those unknown sources are your neighbours, though.

Don’t cross the Kobold. If it takes a dislike to you, it’ll make your life wretched. And it might take a spontaneous dislike to some of your guests. It’s just like that. If a Kobold decides it doesn’t like someone, it will play pranks on that person until they leave.

Never mock or disrespect the Kobold. See the previous paragraph. The Kobold expects to be fed at the same time, in the same place every day (though some only eat once a week). They enjoy grits, gruel, and bread soaked in milk.

Come back next week to hear about a famous Kobold from Hanover, Germany.

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobold

Donald Grant Mitchell, Fresh Gleanings; Or, A New Sheaf from the Old Fields of Continental Europe, Harper, 1847

Melville, Francis; The Book of Faeries: A Guide to the World of Elves, Pixies, Goblins, and Other Magic Spirits, 2002, Quarto Inc

Seriously Fishy Characters 13: Klaubautermann

News

A few weeks ago, Filmmassacre requested I do Strix for my next vampire post. Well, on Saturday, his wish will be fulfilled.

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Klaubautermann

The Klaubautermann

The Klaubautermann

Northern German sailors believed in a sort of ship’s goblin called a “Klaubautermann.” (The ‘baut’ part in his name doesn’t mean boat. The word translates from the German as ‘knocking man.’) He supposedly looked a lot like a dwarf, being a little guy and a smart dresser–he wore riding boots, yellow trousers, and a tall hat. He had red hair and bad dental hygene, as you could tell from the green teeth.

Like the Kobold, he helped around the place, doing ship-board chores. He would also play tricks on lazy sailors (again, like the Kobold), to goad them into pulling their weight. In a good mood, he would protect the ship and also entertain the crew by singing songs, which the sailors would join in with.

If he wasn’t happy with the crew, he would make lots of noise–which is how he got his name. If he really wasn’t happy, he would let all kinds of bad things happen to the ship.

Despite his stylin’ appearance, no one wanted to ever see the Klaubautermann. It meant you were going to die.

  • Benjamin Thorpe, Northern Mythology: Comprising the Principal Popular Traditions and Superstitions of Scandinavia, North Germany, and the Netherlands, E. Lumley, 1852
  • Melville, Francis; The Book of Faeries: A Guide to the World of Elves, Pixies, Goblins, and Other Magic Spirits, 2002, Quarto Inc
  • Simon J. Bronner, Crossing the Line: Violence, Play, and Drama in Naval Equator Traditions, Amsterdam University Press, 2007

Seriously fishy characters 8: Nixie

A Nixie is a female Nokk, a species of Germanic merfolk (The men are called Nix).

They are river creatures, as opposed to living in the sea, and are closely connected to both the Rhine and the Danube.

Nixies can ‘walk’ on land, but are identified by the wet hems of their long dresses. The fish tails don’t really dry off easily, I guess.

In addition to marketplaces, Nixies also show up in tragic German operas, like Wager’s Ring Cycle. In those operas, the Rhine maidens who guard the Rhine gold that starts out all the ‘ring’ trouble are comparable to Nixies.

Sources

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits

by Carol K. Mack, Dinah Mack

Vampires we know and love #3: Nachzehrer

Think vampires are all the same? Think again! Vampires come in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins ice cream. So, this special DotW feature, Vampires we know and love, spotlights different kinds of bloodsucking fiends from around the world.

Nachzehrer

Like the krsnik/kudlak, the German Nachzehrer starts out as a cute little baby born still in his amniotic sac. And like the kudlak, that kid is doomed to become a vampire after death, a Nachzehrer.

I did my best to figure out the German (mine is a little rusty) and the best I could do was ‘after devourer.’ If anyone out there has any more info, I’d appreciate the help.

While in its grave, the Nachzehrer keeps its left eye open and holds one thumb in the other hand.

The Nachzehrer has an interesting diet… even more interesting than your usual vampire fare. Before starting out of the grave to drink the blood of its family, the Nachzehrer needs a little snack, some fiber. The Nachzehrer eats its own graveclothes before it can rise. And as if that’s not enough, it also takes a bite out of… itself. A little nosh here and there gives it the strength it needs to get up and go.

Once it has finished on the kinfolk, the Nachzehrer climbs the nearest church belfry and rings the bell. Anyone who hears it will die.

Use garlic against the Nachzehrer, and put a pair of scissors under your pillow, with the points toward the head of your bed. This will protect you, but you’ll still need to do an exorcism ritual to get rid of it completely.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, come back for the next thrilling installment of live-action demon hunting!

Sources

  • Rosemary Ellen Guiley,The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
  • Jonathan Maberry, Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings That Haunt Us, Hunt Us, and Hunger for Us, Citadel, 2006
  • Matthew Bunson, The Vampire Encyclopedia, Random House, 2000