BEWARE THE CHANGELING

A Changeling is a creature that is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child.

Changling 1

In honor of my upcoming trip to Scotland, I thought I would try to find some folklore specific to that country, which is what led me to the Changelings. But, as I’ve been discovering with most of the creatures that I’ve been looking into, there are many diverse countries that have their own version of a Changeling, including Spain, Poland, Ireland and Scandinavia, to name just a few.

The theme of the swapped child reflects concern over infants thought to be afflicted with unexplained diseases, disorders, or developmental disabilities, and can be found in literature as far back as Medieval times. A human child might be taken due to many factors: to act as a servant, for the love of a human child, or malice. Most often it was thought that fairies exchanged the children.

According to common Scottish myths, a child born with a caul (part of the amniotic membrane) across his or her face is a changeling, and will soon die (is “of fey birth”).

They also believed that the fairies could spirit away children, and even adults, and take them back to their own world. Often, it was thought that a baby would be snatched and replaced with a male adult elf, to be suckled by the human mother. The real baby would be treated well by the elves and would grow up to be one of them, whereas the Changeling baby would be discontented and wearisome.

I loved this little story and had to share it with you. ‘A mother suspected that her baby had been taken and replaced with a changeling, a view that was proven to be correct one day when a neighbor ran into the house shouting “Come here and ye’ll se a sight! Yonder’s the Fairy Hill a’ alowe.” To which the elf got up saying “Waes me! What’ll come o’ me wife and bairns?” and made his way out of the chimney.’

But the sad reality behind many changeling legends was often the birth of deformed or developmentally disabled children. Among the diseases or disabilities with symptoms that match the description of Changelings in various legends are spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, Down Syndrome, regressive autism and cerebral palsy.

It has also been hypothesized that the Changeling legend may have developed, or at least been used, to explain the peculiarities of children who did not develop normally. Interestingly enough, it has been suggested that autistic children were likely to be labeled as Changelings or elf-children due to their strange, sometimes inexplicable behavior. It might, for example, explain why fairies are often described as having an obsessive impulse to count things like handfuls of spilled seeds.

Changling 2

Changelings are creatures known all over the world and are often very mischievous growing up. As they get older they tend to calm down and are more helpful. But, due to their mischievous behavior, they are often depicted as evil creatures, sent by the devil to take the place of a human infant. Many people feared Changelings and often would take great measures to make sure that a Changeling never took the place of their child.

Some of the stories were quite brutal but, in some cases, the Changelings grew up being very loyal and caring to friends and family despite what they were. It was often believed that a Changeling was put in place of a very sick or dying baby so that the mother would never know the heartache of losing her child. The Changeling’s parents would then take the sick or dying human infant in place and keep it safe. The Changeling’s true parents were said to watch them as they grew, helping them along the way.

In Scottish folklore, the fairies were often called elves.  Their fairyland was known as Elfame and they were believed to live deep within the heather of Fairy Glen on the northern edge of the Isle of Skye.

Fairy Glen on Skye

Unfortunately, I’m not going to get a chance to visit the Isle of Skye or experience the magical Fairy Glen on this trip to Scotland, but, hopefully, I will at some point in the future.

I will be taking a cruise on Loch Ness this time, so I may have something completely different to talk about next month. Hope you’re ready for that.

Thanks for joining me.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.yolasite.com

 

THE BLACK GHOST DOG

Harbinger of Doom or Benevolent Protector?

The nefarious Black Dogs are considered spectral or demonic entities which, in most cases, are portents of death. They are most likely to be found on the British Isles, although I was able to find bits and pieces of information about them for Mainland Europe, Latin America and the United States.

Some believe them to be associated with the devil and they are sometimes described as a ghost or a hellhound, larger than a dog and often with large glowing eyes.

black dog 2

A black dog is said to haunt Ivelet Bridge near Swaledale, Yorkshire. The dog is allegedly headless, and leaps over the side of the bridge and into the water and can be heard barking at night. It is considered a death omen, and reports claim that anybody who has seen it died within a year. The last sighting was around a hundred years ago.

Then there are the Gabriel Hounds, dogs with human heads that fly high through the air and are often heard but seldom seen. They sometimes hover over a house, and this is taken as a sign that death or misfortune will befall those who dwell within. Popular conceptions of the Gabriel Hounds may have been partially based on migrating flocks of wild geese when they fly at night with loud honking. In other traditions their leader, Gabriel, is condemned to follow his hounds at night for the sin of having hunted on Sunday and their yelping cry is regarded as a death omen. They are also sometimes said to be the souls of unbaptized children wandering through the air until the day of judgment.

The Black dog is said to haunt the Hanging Hills of Connecticut and is described as a death omen. It is said that, “If you meet the Black Dog once, it shall be for joy; if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time shall bring death.”

“Black Shuck” seemed to be the most widely known Black Dog. “Shuck the Dog-fiend” was first mentioned in print by Reverend E.S. Taylor in 1850, “This phantom I have heard many persons in East Norfolk, and even Cambridgeshire, describe as having seen as a black shaggy dog, with fiery eyes and of immense size, and who visits churchyards at midnight.”

One of the most notable reports of Black Shuck is of his appearance at the church in Blythburgh in Suffolk on 4 August 1577. Black Shuck is said to have burst in through the doors of Holy Trinity Church to a clap of thunder. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation, killing a man and boy and causing the church steeple to collapse through the roof. As the dog left, he left scorch marks on the north door which can be seen at the church to this day.

In 2014 archeologists discovered the skeleton of a 7 foot long dog in the remains of Leiston Abbey in Suffolk and some are claiming that they are the remains of Black Shuck. There have been movies made about him and, in fact, another Black Shuck horror movie is being released in October 2018.

Although the Black Dog is generally considered a death omen, there are stories where they are simply protectors of the weak and innocent.

black german shepherd

The Gurt Dog of Somerset is an example of a benevolent dog. It is said that mothers would allow their children to play unsupervised on the Quantock Hills because they believed the Gurt Dog would protect them. It would also accompany lone travelers in the area, acting as a protector and guide.

Guardian Black Dogs refer to those relatively rare black dogs that are neither omens of death nor causes of it. Instead they guide lost travelers and protect them from danger. Stories of this type became more widespread starting around the early 1900s.

In different versions of one popular tale a man was journeying along a lonely forest road at night when a large black dog appeared at his side and remained there until the man left the forest. On his return journey through the wood the dog reappeared and did the same as before. Years later two convicted prisoners told the chaplain that they would have robbed and murdered the wayfarer in the forest that night but were intimidated by the presence of the black dog

And last, but not least, Hairy Jack, said to haunt the fields and village lanes around Hemswell. Ethel Rudkin, who claimed to have seen Hairy Jack herself circa 1938, formed the impression that black dogs in Lincolnshire were mainly of a gentle nature, and looked upon as a spiritual protector. Hairy Jack was also said to haunt lonely plantations, byways, and waste places where it attacked anyone passing by (which doesn’t sound all that gentle to me).

I am currently in the process of putting together the third novel of my series. I hadn’t planned on using the Black Dog as the supernatural foe in that book, but there are so many intriguing stories about them that I may do a little more research and see if I can’t fit one into my storyline. After all, if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could make it work in The Hounds of the Baskervilles, then so can I.

In the meantime, I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind. Is the Black Dog a shape-shifting sorcerer, a death omen, the devil incarnate or a just gentle creature, looking only to protect and guide us? 

Black dog collage

Thanks for joining me.

 Debbie Boek
debbieboek@yolasite.com

 

DEVIL’S RETRIBUTION

This time it’s personal.  I hope you’re ready for the sequel to Devil’s Bait because it is just about ready and will be published in early July.

Although Devil’s Retribution is a stand-alone book, some of the characters from Devil’s Bait are back for more adventure and I think you might appreciate them, and the storyline, even more if you have already read the first book.

The story takes place at a ski lodge in Vermont where the Devereaux brothers get snowed in due to a blizzard. While there, they discover that a nefarious bootlegger is operating out of the ski lodge. He isn’t willing to risk being exposed by the brothers and they race to uncover his identity before he is able to get them out of his way permanently.

Bigfoot Crossing

And then, of course, we have Bigfoot, with vengeance in his little heart and blood on his long, sharp claws. It doesn’t take long for Scott and Tim to realize that the creature is hunting them, and it will not hesitate to destroy anyone that gets between it and its prey.

I think you’ll have fun with this book. It’s filled with suspense and action, there is danger at every turn, both inside and outside the lodge. There is personal drama as the characters have to work through issues in their relationships and try to find what might lie ahead for them in the future. But there are also some light-hearted moments and some new quirky characters that you’ll want to get to know.

Bigfoot with Nessie

This is the second installment of the Devereaux Chronicles and I’m looking forward to having many more adventures with these characters. I hope you’ll join me. Please feel free to send me a message with your email address if you’d be interested in getting an update on the release date or you can check my website at debbieboek.yolasite.com. Thanks for all of your support and Happy Hunting.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.wordpress.com

 

THE RISING OF THE PHOENIX

“Hope rises like a phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.” – S.A. Sachs

In honor of spring, which has finally decided to make an appearance, this month’s blog is about the Rising of the Phoenix. I was fascinated to discover that The Phoenix exists in the mythology and legends of many different cultures. Its meaning differs somewhat, but they are similar and all relate to rebirth, resurrection or regeneration.

Only one Phoenix exists at any given time and, depending on which legend you believe, it can live as long as 500 to 1400 years. The Phoenix represents the sun itself, which dies at the end of each day, but is reborn the following dawn.

In ancient Egypt, the Phoenix was associated with immortality. The Egyptian Phoenix was said to be as large as an eagle, with brilliant scarlet and gold plumage and a melodious cry. As its end approached, the Phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic The and a melodious cry. As its end approached, the Phoenix fashioned a nest of aromatic boughs and spices, set it on fire, and was consumed in the flames. From the pyre miraculously sprang a new Phoenix, which, after embalming its father’s ashes in an egg of myrrh, flew with the ashes to Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”) in Egypt, where it deposited them on the altar in the temple of the Egyptian god of the sun, Re.

Phoenix 1

At the close of the first century Clement of Rome became the first Christian to interpret the myth of the Phoenix as an allegory of the resurrection and of life after death. The Phoenix was also compared to undying Rome, and it appears on the coinage of the late Roman Empire as a symbol of the Eternal City.

In Islamic mythology the Phoenix was identified with the ʿanqāʾ, a huge mysterious bird that was originally created by God with all perfections but, thereafter it became a plague and was killed.

Phoenix 2

In Greek mythology, a Phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or born again. Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. The Greeks and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to the Greeks, the Phoenix made its home near a cool well and would appear at dawn every morning to sing a song so enchanting that even the great sun-god Apollo would stop to listen.

Phoenix 3

The following is a quote from The Feng Shui Handbook: “A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration.”

In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is the symbol of high virtue and grace, of power and prosperity. It represents the union of yin and yang. It was thought to be a gentle creature, alighting so gently that it crushed nothing, and ate only dewdrops.

Images of the Phoenix have appeared throughout China for well over 7000 years, often in jade and originally on good-luck totems. Its feathers were of the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow and was said to represent the Confucian virtues of loyalty, honesty, decorum and justice. Depictions of the Phoenix were placed on tomes and graves.

The Ho-Oo is the Japanese Phoenix, the Ho being the male bird and the Oo being the female. It greatly resembles the Chinese Phoenix, the Feng-Huang, in looks and is often depicted as nesting in a paulownia tree. It was thought to only appear at the birth of a virtuous ruler and was said to mark a new era by descending from the heavens to do good deeds for people, only to return to its celestial abode to await a new era.

Phoenix 4

This is just a little taste of the information that I found about the Rising of the Phoenix. There’s much more to it but, to me, it represents our ability to change who we are. We have the capacity to kill off those parts of ourselves that aren’t healthy, the ones that keep us from enjoying the best lives that we can have.

To me, the Phoenix represents our rebirth, our choice to improve ourselves and to be the best that we can be. I guess that’s why I’ve started doing these blogs and am finally dedicating myself to writing my books and learning how to market them. It’s quite a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity and I’m going to make the most if it.

I try to keep these short and sweet but I’m going to leave you with this quote from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which is a little long, but well-worth reading.

Becoming the Phoenix
Egyptian Book of the Dead

“I flew straight out of heaven, a mad bird full of secrets. I came into being as I came into being. I grew as I grew. I changed as I change. My mind is fire, my soul fire. The cobra wakes and spits fire in my eyes. I rise through ochre smoke into black air enclosed in a shower of stars. I am what I have made. I am the seed of every god, beautiful as evening, hard as light. I am the last four days of yesterday, four screams from the edges of earth – beauty, terror, truth, madness – the Phoenix on his pyre.

In a willow I make my nest of flowers and snakes, sandalwood and myrrh. I am waiting for eternity. I’m waiting for four hundred years to pass before I dance on flame, turn this desert to ash, before I rise, waking from gold and purple dreams into the season of god. I will live forever in the fire spun from my own wings. I’ll suffer burns that burn to heal. I destroy and create myself like the sun that rises burning from the east and dies burning in the west. To know the fire, I become the fire. I am power. I am light. I am forever. On earth and in heaven I am. This is my body, my work. This is my deliverance.

The heat of transformation is unbearable, yet change is necessary. It burns up the useless, the diseased. Time is a cool liquid; it flows away like a river. We shall see no end of it. Generation after generation, I create myself. It is never easy. Long nights I waited, lost in myself, considering the stars. I wage a battle against darkness, against my own ignorance, my resistance to change, my sentimental love for my own folly. Perfection is a difficult task. I lose and find my way over again. One task done gives rise to others. There is no end to the work left to do. That is harsh eternity. There is no end to becoming. I live forever striving for perfection. I praise the moment I die in fire for the veils of illusion burn with me. I see how hard we strive for Truth, and once attained how easily we forget it. I hold that fire as long as I can. My nose fills with the smell of seared flesh, the acrid smoke of death, so that years from now I might look on that scar and remember how it was to hold the light, how it was to die and come again radiant as light walking on sand.

I change and change again, generation after generation. I find anguish then peace. I am satisfied with my birth and the faith to which it led me. I do not regret the discomforts and terrors of my mortality any more than I regret the company of angels. I have entered fire. I become invisible; yet I breathe in the flow of sun, in the eyes of children, in the light that animates the white cliffs at dawn. I am the God in the world in everything, even in darkness. If you have not seen me there, you have not looked. I am the fire that burns you, that burns in you. To live is to die a thousand deaths, but there is only one fire, one eternity.”

– The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day

Thanks for joining me. I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear any comments you might want to share.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.wordpress.com
debbieboek.yolasite.com
amazon.com/author/debbieboek

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER

James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Anyone who is a fan of Diana Gabaldon will recognize that name. Outlander is one of my favorite novels and Jamie is, by far, my favorite character, ever. Diana Gabaldon has done such a wonderful job of making him human, while at the same allowing him to be our hero, bigger than life and someone that every woman wishes she could be with. In fact, he may even be one of the reasons that I’ve never remarried, although maybe I just use him as my excuse.

I was drawn to him because of his selflessness. Even knowing the price that he may have to pay, Jamie always does what has to be done to protect his loved ones and those in his care. And he has paid, sometimes dearly.

I was a little hesitant about watching the Outlander television series when it came out. I loved the books so much that I was afraid they wouldn’t be true to story, or that the characters of Jamie and Claire would disappoint me and wouldn’t mesh with my vision of them.

Outlander

To Diana’s credit, after reading her books, we know how both Jamie and Claire look, how they act, and how they think. I assume that is why the producers of the show were able to do such a great job of casting Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. Both of them do a wonderful job and I can no longer picture Jamie and Claire as anyone other than the two of them. The show itself is staying true to their story and is bringing back fond memories.

In the Outlander series of books, Diana Gabaldon has found a way to make, not only her characters, but Scotland itself, come alive for me. In fact, I plan on visiting Scotland for the first time this fall and can’t wait to experience as much of it as I possibly can. I may even take the Outlander tour and follow along in Jamie and Claire’s footsteps.

Outlander series

 

Diana’s novels have taught me the importance of character. The storyline of a novel is irrelevant if the reader can’t connect with the people living it. I always try to keep in mind what I’ve learned from her novels and really focus on the characters in my own books. I want to make them believable, someone that you can relate to, someone that gets you involved and keeps you reading because you need to know what happens to them next; maybe even someone that you’d want to go out and have a beer with. If I can even come close to developing my characters as well as Diana Gabaldon does, then I will consider myself satisfied with the effort.

If you haven’t read any of her books yet, I would strongly recommend it. And, as soon as you’re done with them, I’ll bet it won’t be long before you are binge watching the Outlander TV series, trying to catch up before the next season begins.

Here’s tae the heath, the hill and the heather,
The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek.yolasite.com

QIQIRN AND MAHAHA THE TICKLER

Happy January, everyone. In honor of all the lovely weather that we’ve had this month so far, I thought it would be fun to find some creatures that are specific to snowy or cold areas and share their information with you.
I found a couple of really interesting ones, however, I couldn’t find very much information on either of them. They are both creatures from Inuit mythology.
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska.
The first creature that I’d like to bring to your attention is the Qiqirn (or Quiquern). Handsome devil, isn’t he?

Qiqirn

The Qiqirn is a large, bald dog spirit that terrifies the Inuit people. It is a frightening beast, but also skittish and foolish. It has hair on its feet, ear, mouth and the tip of its tail. The mere presence of a qiqirn around men or dogs causes them to suffer fits, a state which ends only when the qiqirn leaves. One way to scare it away is to shout its name.

The qiqirn is also extremely scared of humans, and will run away if an angakoq sees it. An angakoq is an Eskimo shaman, or medicine-man; the repository of lore, the judge in matters of tradition, and the means of communication with the spirit world.

Qiqirn 2

 

MAHAHA THE TICKLER

Another creature from Inuit mythology that I’d like you to meet is Mahaha the Tickler. How can you not love that name?

Mahaha

This was the only description of it that I was able to find:
Mahaha is a maniacal demon that terrorized parts of the arctic. This creature is described as a thin sinewy being, ice blue in color and cold to the touch. Mahaha’s eyes are white and they peer through the long stringy hair that hangs in its face. This demon is always smiling and giggling. It is strong, very strong and it is always barefoot.
Mahaha is usually seen with almost no clothing on, yet it never seems to be bothered by the cold. This cold demon takes pleasure in tickling its victims to death with sharp vicious nails attached to its long bony fingers. Many elders have remarked on the expression of the dead victims Mahaha leaves behind. It seems all of the victims have a similar expression on their dead faces – a twisted frozen smile.
Although this demon is depraved and evil, most of the stories told about Mahaha end with it being fooled. Usually Mahaha is tricked into leaning over a water hole to take a drink and is pushed into the open water and swept away by the currents.
So, if Mahaha ever corners you alone, ask it to have one last drink with you by the water hole before it tickles you to death.

Mahaha 2

I hope you enjoyed making a couple of new frigid weather friends. I’m sure there are many more out there and maybe we can meet them soon.
Until next time, stay safe.

Debbie Boek
debbieboek@yolasite.com

 

KRAMPUS – THE ORIGINAL BAD SANTA

Long before Billy Bob Thornton, there was a real bad santa, Krampus, the yin to St. Nick’s yang, and what a riot I had learning about this half-goat, half-demon creature that beats people into being nice. I had no idea that Krampus was anything more than an evil Santa that someone imagined and then made a movie about.

Turns out our friend, Krampus, has been around for centuries. While St. Nick is leaving sweets for the good children, Krampus is punishing the naughty ones by beating them with a birch branch or stuffing them into his sack and taking them to his lair where they will be tortured or eaten or possibly transported to hell.

Krampus

This antique greeting card depicts one version of what Krampus looks like. He has a basket to take bad children away with him. The German text reads: “Greetings from Krampus!” PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

In fact, Krampus’ roots have nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, they date back to pre-Germanic paganism in the region. His name originates with the German krampen, which means “claw,” and tradition has it that he is the son of the Norse god of the underworld, Hel.

The legend is part of a centuries-old Christmas tradition in Germany, where Christmas celebrations begin in early December. He is also known to accompany St Nicholas in other countries, including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, South Tyrol and parts of Northern Italy. 

There are variations as to how Krampus looks, however, he generally has dark hair, fangs and the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. The anti-St. Nicholas comes with a chain and bells that he lashes about, along with a bundle of birch branches meant to swat naughty children. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to hell.

According to folklore, Krampus purportedly shows up in towns the night before December 6, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night. December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when German children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they’d left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behavior) or a rod (bad behavior).

Krampus celebrations were suppressed for years by the Catholic Church, which forbade them, but he has made a comeback in Europe, and to a certain extent, in the United States. In addition to an appearance in local family homes, usually along with St. Nicholas, Krampus and his cohorts also gather to put on a wild show in the streets of many Austrian and Bavarian towns. The “show” is known as a Krampuslauf (Krampus run). Customs vary by locality, but the tradition goes back hundreds of years, and far, far beyond a mere lump of coal in a kid’s stocking.

In the early evening winter darkness of November and December, in towns and cities across Austria and southern Germany, you can see young children, teenagers, and adults being intimidated and scared out of their wits by people dressed as demonic, horned, goat-like, masked creatures running around with torches and instruments of torture that include twig switches and whips. In most cases, the Krampusse are running rampant, without any “good guys” around.  In Austria and elsewhere, these ugly masked Krampus figures actually lash out at people, young and old, sometimes inflicting physical injury (scratches, bruises) and always imparting a degree of mental anguish.

Some Americans have even turned to European Alpine folklore and customs and Krampusfests occur in U.S. cities from Los Angeles to Tampa, Florida. They are more family friendly and fairly tame compared to the events in Europe. In fact, I understand that one city’s Krampus event site notes: “Do not scare anyone who does not want to be scared!” That’s definitely not how it works in Austria.

If you are interested in learning more or locating a Krampusfest in your neighborhood, there are websites and Facebook pages galore to help you out. You can even buy a Krampus in the Corner instead of the Elf on a Shelf and join in the heated debate about which one is creepier.

Krampus in the Corner

Merry Christmas! I hope your Holidays are wonderful and completely Krampus free.

Debbie Boek

debbieboek.yolasite.com