Seriously Fishy Characters 13: Klaubautermann

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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
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Seriously Fishy Characters 12: Ponaturi

Late twentieth-century house-post depicting th...

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The Maori of New Zealand believe that a race of evil spirits live in the water off the coast–the Ponaturi. The Ponaturi walk on land, but they only come out when the sun is down. Their bodies glow in the dark–pretty cool, if you ask me–and they have long talons at the end of their fingers.

Sunlight is fatal to them. According to legend, many Ponaturi were destroyed by the hero Tawhaki, in retaliation for the death of his father. With the help of his mother, who had been captured, Tawhaki convinced them it was night when it was day, and the sun killed all of them.

According to one version of the legend, the mother was transformed into a carving, which was a craft the Maori had never seen before. The people picked up the skill from that carving. So, here we have another example of water spirits inspiring the creative arts (See the Wahwee.).

Sources

  • Sir George Grey, Polynesian Mythology, Forgotten Books, 1961

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

Seriously Fishy Characters 11: Mbulu

You can’t be blamed for mistaking the African Mbulu for a human at first glance–but it’ll be a costly mistake. Look closely at this amphibian river species and you’ll note the scaly skin and the prehensile tail. And you just might pick up the fact that there’s a mouth full of teeth at the end of that tail.

The Mbulu doesn’t have control over that tail, in fact. It has a will of its own, and is always, always hungry.

That’s how a clever girl once defeated an Mbulu who stole her clothes and her identity. She dug a hole and poured in some milk. Every person in the village agreed to jump over the puddle, but when the Mbulu did it, the tail popped out from under her dress to lap up the milk. On seeing this, the villagers recognized they had an Mbulu and killed the monster.

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

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

Seriously fishy characters 10: Vodanyoi

The Russian Vodanyoi inhabits millponds and millponds only, making him a unique guy.

A millpond is a pond that’s attached to a mill–a building that houses a device for grinding grain. Waterpower runs the machine. It was an important part of life in the days when you couldn’t run to the store for a bag of Robin Hood.

An old man with a scummy green beard, the Vodanyoi has a fishy tail and is responsible for local drownings. Some say he used to be an angel, but was cast out by the Archangel Michael. Now he lives in a shining palace built at the bottom of the pond.

Not all humans are on his bad side. He will take to the mill owner, and maybe some local fishermen if they behave themselves, sometimes offering him bread, salt, tobacco, and vodka. Or maybe a live chicken or rooster.

Sources

  • Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick; A history of pagan Europe, Routledge, 1997

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

Seriously fishy characters 9: Nuckelavee

So…

This week, the Demon of the Week blog got its 10,000th visitor. I want to thank everyone for coming out to visit me!

To celebrate, on Wednesday, scientists will prove vampires don’t exist. Come back then to check it out.

Until then, you’ll have to settle for a truly monstrous demon, the Nuckelavee.

The Nuckelavee

There are few demons more terrifying than the Scottish Nuckelavee. It’s probably the most grotesque thing in this blog so far (but we are far from finished, yay!), having a monstrous three-foot wide head that’s too heavy for its neck, and so rolls from side to side on its wide shoulders.

No one has gotten a good look at the Nuckelavee in daylight, so it is unknown whether it rides a horse when it’s out of the water, or if its bottom half is equine itself. Its mouth protrudes from its face, like a pig’s, and its breath comes out like the steam of a kettle. One fiery red eye looks out from the center of its forehead.

To make the Nuckelavee shoot up to eleven on the Richter scale of gruesome, it does not have any skin. So when you see it, you can see its black blood flowing through yellow veins, the muscles moving with each step of its body.

The Nuckelavee likes nothing better than to do whatever evil it can find. Killing, kidnapping children, blighting crops with its fiery breath, anything.

It lives in the sea, but can’t stand fresh water. So if you run into the Nuckelavee, boot it for the nearest lake, or pray for rain, which they just hate.

Sources

  • George Brisbane Douglas, Scottish fairy and folk tales, Forgotten Books
  • Katharine Mary Briggs, The fairies in English tradition and literature, Taylor & Francis, 1989

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

Elemental Water: Undine/Ondine

Paracelsus, a Medieval alchemist, identified four magical creatures that symbolized the elements that make up our world: air, fire, water, and earth. Today’s DotW brings you one of them.

An undine or ondine is a beautiful female water nymph, an elemental spirit that lives in water, and in a symbolic way, represents the spirit/idea of water. Phillip von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, was the first to identify elementals, in his works about alchemy. The concept of the undine is Germanic in origin.

Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouqué wrote the first novel about an undine in 1812, appropriately titled “Undine.” Also, that was the name of our water elemental heroine.

In Undine, the water nymph heroine meets and falls in love with a noble knight, who promises that his every waking breath will be a promise of loyalty and faithfulness to her. Well, that sounded pretty good to Undine, so she married the guy and had his baby. (In fairness, he’d been pretty clear about the fact that he’d had a thing for another woman, name of Bertalda, before they met.)

As a water nymph, Undine was soulless, ageless, and beautiful. As a wife, she grew a soul, which of course brought her no end of trouble. She had to make a noble sacrifice to protect her husband. She had to go back to living under the waves, but her husband assumed she was dead. She could protect him so long as he kept faithful to his promise.

And then he broke his promise by marrying Bertalda.

Though she still loved him, Undine was forced to kill him for his faithlessness. She had to come back through the well that Bertalda uncovered and kiss him to death (his request).

I know this sounds pretty dumb, but the book’s good–much better than described here. Check it out on Google Books.

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

Undine, Or The Water Spirit, a Romance
Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouqué
Published by J. Miller, 1881

Seriously fishy characters 7: Rusalka

The Russian Rusalki are one of the few classes of spirits/demons/elementals who actually have a whole week celebration in their honor. Check it out.

Rusalka are a variation of your standard mermaid myth, though with some differences. They can go around on land for long periods thanks to her magic comb that she uses to get the tangles out of her sea green hair. There are different theories to the origin of the Rusalki. Some say they are the spirits of drowned women, or unbaptized babies who died. Others think no, they were never human at all, but elemental spirits who were born as princesses of the water.

Everyone pretty much agrees that you don’t want to go on a date with one. She’s always on the lookout for someone to join her in her games, but being a little short in the brain department, she forgets humans can’t breathe underwater.

Plus, green hair.

If you do end up ‘playing’ with a Rusalka, make the sign of the cross and she’ll let you go. Rumor has it you can also catch one in a magic circle if you’ve got the magical chops.

Sources

  • Keightley, Thomas, The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People. Avenel Books, New York, 1880

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

Seriously fishy characters 6: Kelpie

Coming up on DotW…

On Wednesday, I will finally have the last episode of Demon-hunting Adventures for you.

And come back next Saturday for another episode of the most popular DotW feature, Demonspotting.

The Kelpie

There are water-horses all over the world, though the British Isles seem rife with them. In Orkney, there’s the Nuggle and the Tangie. In Iceland, the Nykur. In Wales, the Ceffyl Dŵr. In England, the Kow… It goes on, but I won’t. (Partly because I might check out some of these other liquid equines someday.

In Scotland, the fresh water water-horse is the Kelpie.

Respectfully stolen from Encyclopedia Mythica (www.pantheon.org)

Mostly, Kelpie (Most often male. Don’t much hear about female ones.) goes out finds someone who looks like he might need a horse, and looks enticing. When the horseless person gets on the Kelpie’s back, its skin turns glue-y and the rider can’t get off. The Kelpie then rides back into the loch, or lake, or stream, or wherever it was from. In some stories the Kelpie is carnivorous and consumes the person. I can’t see why else it would do this, except to be a bit of a jerk.

Some say the Kelpie has a special fondness for doing this to children, and can even lengthen its body to fit up to twenty on its back at a time.

The Kelpie will also hide in the water, just waiting for someone to wander alone by the bank, then pop out and snatch them.

There are stories of Kelpies who can shape-shift into gorgeous young men with a taste for female flesh (uh, in the figurative sense, not literally). If the woman discovers the true identity of her lover, he will drag her into the loch with him. In one tale, a clever woman actually earns such a Kelpie’s love and he takes a potion that makes him human for her.

You can catch a Kelpie and make him work for you if you’re particularly sadistic. When caught in a bridle marked with a cross, he will do the work of ten horses in a single day and can carry a rider all day without tiring. But at the end of the day, you’ll have to feed it one human. If you’re the only human around, that’s you.

To avoid the Kelpie, don’t approach any wandering horse, no matter how friendly looking. In fact, the friendlier it looks, the more your warning signals should go off.

Kelpies are particularly powerful in November.

Do not cook meat near running water. The smell will draw the Kelpie.

Carry some still water. Kelpies love running water, but hate still water and can’t be exposed to it.

Sources

  • Harry Mountain, The Celtic Encyclopedia, Published by Universal-Publishers, 1998

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

Seriously fishy characters 6: The Wahwee

At thirty feet, the Australia Wahwee is possibly the biggest creature featured on this blog to date–but hold onto your seats, it won’t be our last supersized buddy!

The Wahwee isn’t technically a demon, but he’s got six legs, a froggy head and a massive serpent tail and frankly, who’s going to argue with him?

This amphibian lives in deep water-holes in Australia and will dig himself a burrow in the muddy banks where he will live happy as a clam. Part of the reason for this is that his wife and offspring live elsewhere.

The Wahwee will eat everything in sight. Three or four dozen humans are just an appetizer for him.

According to R.H. Mathews, Aboriginal wise men go to the Wahwee to bring back new songs for the tribe. First, the wise man paints himself with red ochre before swimming into the Wahwee’s burrow. The monster then teaches the wise man the new song, repeating it until the human can sing it by memory.

I’m just noticing how many of these water spirits are associated with creativity and inspiration. Maybe it’s because the human creative spirit ebbs and flows like water.

Sources

  • R. H. Mathews, Folk-Lore, vol. 20 (1909), pp. 485-87.

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